Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Wish...

Because of the title you probably think you are about to read a noble thought or two about peace on earth or some other equally important matter. Sorry, this is me remember. I'm not a deep thinker. My Christmas wish involves a gift I received two years ago. I wish I had taken the time to return it. It's been driving me crazy for nearly two years. Oh sure, the cost of replacing the gift is minimal and the time to make the correction could be counted in minutes, but I am a firm believer in wearing out anything I own. I don't replace it until its worn out or broken. It's really hard to break a pair of house shoes so I must wear them out before buying, or receiving as a gift, a new pair. Here's how it all came down:

Late Christmas night, the family has gone home, the litter has been cleaned, and its time to sit and rest...reflect on a wonderful day with the kids and grand kids. I take a small gift given to me from Deb and slip them on....

Me: Hey Deb, did you look at these slippers before buying them?
Deb: Of course I did.
Me: Did you actually open the box and look at these slippers?
Deb: Well no. I looked at those on display and then found a box with your size. Why do you ask?
Me: Because they are both for the right foot.
Deb: Don't be silly. They're house shoes.
Me: Well look at them...two right feet.
Deb: I don't see it but if it bothers you take them back.

Those were the magic words, "take them back". She knew I wouldn't go to that much trouble. I put my old house shoes back on and set these in my closet. After a while the old shoes grew weary and died. After my grieving process I dug out the gift from the previous Christmas. I tried them on and to my surprise they felt pretty good. They were soft so my feet kind of formed the shape. I enjoyed them until I set down in my recliner and saw the shoes. Two right shoes staring back at me. I complained again to Debbie about two right footed shoes....she felt no sympathy at all....hardhearted woman! I've worn these shoes now for well over a year. They are very comfortable but I can't stand to look at them. We had unexpected company a few nights ago and as Debbie walked to the door I ran to my closet, kicked off the house shoes and put on some nice left foot, right foot shoes.

This is my Christmas wish for each of you: Enjoy peace and prosperity this coming year. Take time to pray and reflect on the joys of life. Always check out your gifts closely and return them if they are both right-footed.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Uh, I'll think of a title later....

The last two meetings of the Procrastinator's Club were insightful and helpful in many ways. I can't remember exactly what was covered but I hope to get the minutes out to everyone soon. I will have to find my notes on this desk...eventually....but not now.

Debbie used to ask me to do things for her with, "When you have a minute will you...?" Over the years the request has changed from "Someday soon, I hope you will get this done" to "I know you never plan to do this but I still need...". I feel bad about this and hope to correct my failure as soon as I can.

Just this morning I was reflecting on my first year of retirement. I thought back to my plans for all my free time and resolved to never be lazy. I may have been lazy a small amount of this past year but I did accomplish a few things. Unfortunately, most of the things shown on my first official "to do" list are still on the list. It's not that I'm lazy, I just have not had a chance to get to those items. Guilt forced me to dig around on this desk until I found the list. I got busy and did two of the things she had requested so long ago. She hasn't noticed yet but once she does she will be one happy old girl.

I'm embarrassed and slightly claustrophobic over the condition of my study. So many projects many projects left undone. Over a year ago I resolved to clear out my old CD's by listening to one each time I used my rowing machine. The two I listened to and chose to toss out were still sitting apart from the others on my bookshelf. Shame caused me to pull them out again last night. I decided to keep all of them so I cleaned them and put them back on the shelf. It will give my grandkids something to laugh about some day when they are going through the things I left behind. My notes for partially written stories are stacked on a stool next to my desk. I accidentally kick the stool on occasion and scatter the notes so its not that I haven't touched them this year. I am going to sort and file these today. I am also going to finish cleaning all my old 78 records which are in four stacks....'clean' stack, 'to be cleaned' stack, 'Christmas' stack, and 'what ever possessed anyone to buy this' stack. This is a slow process so it wont be done for a few days but I will get it done...probably.

I can see the neck of my banjo over in one corner. I played it about two days ago so I don't really know how it got so buried back there. I hope to rescue it before the day is out. I did take my guitar off the wall the other day. I hadn't touched it in over a year. After a good cleaning and tuning I found it to be in good condition. I played it for a while to make sure I was still as mediocre as I have always been. Cody received a new Fender guitar as a gift from Cayce a few months ago so I figured I better brush up. Who knows, we may go on the road....but I seriously doubt it. He is gainfully employed and will probably say, "Someday dad, when I get around to it". I wish I could say I didn't understand.

On a positive note, I have stayed busy in my wood shop (some people refer to this as a garage). I opted to park the old truck outside so I could set up my tools permanently. It has worked out well and I love to spend time out there. Some days I actually make things.

I recently attended a six weeks seminar on the business of writing. I thought it would inspire me to really get busy and get published again. Evidently, it takes more than two published stories to survive as a writer. Thankfully, I don't have to depend on my writing for survival. It's a hobby and if I tried to go into it seriously I would be back to the stress I was so anxious to get away from with retirement. Actually, I'm kind of lazy and don't seem to have the drive to excel in this field...hopefully someday I will but no time soon....too busy, way too busy. I do have several stories nearly done....when I say nearly done this means I have figured them out in my head and have scribbled senseless notes on notepads, old receipts, and napkins. All I have to do now is take this information and put it together on this screen. I will do that some day....soon I hope...but not too sure exactly when.

I would write more now but I obviously don't have anything of relevance to say. I need to wrap this up because its past time for my nap and I don't like to put things off.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Windy days...

Whew, the wind sure blew yesterday. I loaded up an antique chair I had restored for a friend and worried it would blow away before I got it delivered. While strapping it down I watched a neighbor try to rake his leaves and my kind neighborly thought to him was, "You are an idiot my friend!". All my leaves blew at least three lots down....of course I got all the leaves from three lots up plus various litter from the main road....but I didn't try to rake them....what an idiot....

No one seems to like the wind. I don't mind it. In fact, I rather enjoy it, especially at night when I can hear it whipping through the trees or whistling around the eaves. I think its peaceful and makes the indoors more cozy. Call me a poet...or crazy....either one works for me.

My favorite memories concerning the wind are of living in New Mexico for a year. Glenn and I had never seen tumbleweeds before so the first few days we were there we tried to catch and save every tumbleweed that blew across the yard. We didn't realize what we were seeing was commonplace and there was no need to save those tumbleweeds....also, our dad made us clear them out of the garage so he could get his car inside.

Years ago Debbie and I volunteered to help some friends move into a new house. We were still young enough to do the work but old enough to know better. It was a terribly cold February day and the wind was merciless. By the end of the day we were both completely worn out. As we drove the forty or so miles back home that night we ached in all our collective muscles. Since I was outside the whole time I also moaned about my dry chapped skin. My lips were in terrible shape and getting worse. I asked Deb if she had any Chapstick in her purse. She said she didn't but she had an "off-brand something" that might work. She handed it to me and I smeared it on my lips. It felt great! I asked her if she was going to use any more of it and if not would it be okay if I used it on the rest of my face. She said, "hey, if it works go ahead and use it however you need". She is so sweet. I smeared that stuff all over my face and boy oh boy did it ever feel good. As we neared home Debbie asked if we could stop for a loaf of bread. I pulled into a convenience store and ran inside for the bread. When I got back to the pickup I mentioned to Debbie that the guy at the counter sure gave me some odd looks. She broke down laughing....she had given me red lipstick for my chapped lips. I'm surprised I didn't get arrested.....she's a sweetheart.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Long or never....

It was a beautiful morning. I woke to the sound of birds singing outside my open window. A soft northerly breeze wafted through the curtains and across my face. Yes, it's true, I should have been a poet. I would have too but I couldn't pass the test to get my license (get it?) so I was a mediocre businessman instead. I got up and did the morning ritual and while brushing my hair noticed something I've never noticed before in the mirror....a BALD spot. That's right, there is a bald spot right there for all the world to see. No way to cover it up either. Believe me I tried. This is the beginning of the end I'm afraid.

It's not fair that I should lose my hair
While still in my middle years.
I guess it's not really going away
But moving from head to ears.

See, I should have been a poet. This stuff just pours out of me. Anyway, back to the hair problem. I really don't mind losing my hair. After all, I've worn the closest thing to a buzz cut for years now. But it just doesn't seem fair for it to happen so unexpectedly. I know guys from college who were losing their hair way back then. Some of them are still in the process. My hair has always been so thick my barber had to thin it regularly. Now all of a sudden....BALD SPOT.

In college just about everyone grew their hair long. Due to respect (fear) for my military trained dad and pressure from a very conservative grandfather, I never even tried to let mine grow. While long hair and beards became the norm I still wandered around campus with the close-cropped look. Beads and baggy clothes were against the rules too. Even my blue jeans were starched and neatly about anti-establishment. Everyone thought I was in ROTC. I always wanted to see how my hair would look long. I did grow a beard in 1977 but it was conservative. I looked pretty silly actually....short hair and beard, pale yellow button down cotton shirt with starched blue jeans.

As I neared retirement I thought I might just let it all go. I figured real long gray hair and beard would make me look like I still had it...whatever "it" is. I could see myself on stage with Willie and the boys knocking it out on my banjo while holding my hair back with a red bandana. You can see that, can't you? Great look, great look indeed. There is really nothing holding me back from making that image come true...well, except the part where I'm playing banjo on stage with Willie Nelson. That's just crazy. I can't play the banjo that well. Debbie would agree to my craziness...I think. All that's holding me back now is my lack of nerve, my impatience with messy hair, a scratchy face needing a shave, and now a stinking BALD spot. It's just not fair.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Aunt Cricket and the Great Race...

I'm working on a story about my uncle Bill but it isn't quite ready yet. Instead I am going to pass on a story I wrote a while back, aka 14 years ago, about my aunt Cricket. You remember reading about aunt Cricket's involvement in the Hurst golf ball caper. I wrote it in February of this year. This story happened earlier in the same summer. It goes like this....

The summer I learned to mow marked the end of my freedom. I found myself working every spare moment to make a couple of extra dollars. I have no idea where all that money went but I sure remember all the hours spent behind that mower.

The summer before I learned to mow was my last toss at the simplicity of childhood. That was the summer my aunt Cricket and uncle Wayne moved to Hurst from Tyler. Their baby boy, Bruce, was Glenn's age and we rode our bikes over to visit every time we could sneak off. It wasn't so much the fact that Bruce was all that entertaining. The really fun person was aunt Cricket.

Cricket liked to get out and explore the countryside in her shiny new Pontiac. We felt it prudent to accompany her on her wanderings because a stop at the Dairy Queen for a nickel ice cream cone was nearly always included. One day she decided it would be a good idea for each of us boys to build a soapbox derby race car. Their house was at the foot of a steep hill which would be perfect for racing as long as we didn't get run over by a real car in the process. That might have spoiled the fun somewhat.

We drove to the city dump that morning because Cricket figured we could find everything we needed to build these cars for long as we didn't mind digging through the city's trash. Of course we didn't mind...good grief!! We found so many wheels off old lawnmowers and toys we wondered who could possibly have thrown away this perfectly good stuff. We also found pieces of 2 x 4 boards, plywood, and enough old nails to straighten that we were in business in no time.

Later in the day, after minutes and minutes of meticulous production, the three cars were ready for the race of the century. Unfortunately, it was about five in the afternoon so Cricket decided it would be best to let all those crazy working people get home without having to dodge us. The race was rescheduled for nine the next morning.

It was a beautiful race day at the corner of Irwin Drive and West Cheryl Avenue that morning. The sun was shining bright, Cricket had fed us donuts and chocolate milk until we shook, and Mama, Cindy, Julie, and Debbie Sue were sitting in the grandstands, aka the curb, in eager anticipation of the race.

The three of us towed our racers to the top of the hill. The air was filled with the electric thrill of competition. We lined up on Cheryl Ave. We glared at each other as we waited for Cricket to drop the checkered table napkin she held in her hand. The napkin dropped, we released our brakes (lifted our feet off the pavement), and plummeted to the bottom of the hill with a speed that would have made lesser men cry. We were moving so fast it scared us. It evidently scared Cricket too because she began to run for the safety of her front yard, well behind the race fan filled grandstand. What we didn't see from our perspective, but obvious from Cricket's view was the flimsy rope we were using as steerage snap off of Glenn's car. Because of her ability to see pretty well for an elderly lady, she was able to avoid the pile up. Glenn plowed into the side of my car which immediately lost the front 2 x 4...I mean axle. I hit Bruce and sent him into a spin. With the nose of my car grinding into the asphalt and Glenn's broken machine coming apart next to me, we both became airborne. Glenn didn't fly far. He landed on the back of my car bringing it to an immediate stop. I completely cleared the front of my car and finished the race on my chin. It doesn't hurt often now unless the weather changes abruptly. Old Bruce sailed through the intersection like a blur with three wheels still attached. An unfortunate participant was a door to door insurance salesman who happened into the intersection at the same time as Bruce. That salesman had reflexes to write home about let me tell you! Both he and Bruce had to go home and change their underwear but it was all worth it to see the jubilation in Bruce's freaky winner's dance. 

I guess...and I hope life is still that simple in some places of these United States. The neighborhood of the great race is now too congested to safely walk along the side of the street. An unofficial derby race on that stretch would be suicide. Hurst has turned into a terribly traffic congested thoroughfare between Fort Worth and Dallas. Growing up there was so simple and peaceful. I miss the days.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Party Lines...

Have you ever heard of "party lines"? Oh sure, there has probably been a dance or something named party line but I'm talking about community phone lines.

Back in the fifties when I was young enough to run around in my underwear without embarrassment we shared a party line with several other equally poor families. There was no privacy with a party line. If you picked up the phone to make a call you could very easily listen in on a couple of frumpy old neighborhood women complaining about the kid in the neighborhood who ran around in baggy underwear....or something else equally important.

There is an old picture of me standing on a chair in the dining room holding a huge telephone up to my ear. I really liked listening in on old ladies' telephone conversations. Like I said, it was easy to do and hard to get caught. However, I had a tendency to join in after a few minutes and this always seemed to end the conversation. My mama met several of the neighbors this way.

One time we needed to get in touch with my dad. He was off in Mississippi for two weeks of reserve training and mama thought she needed to share the good news with him that another child was on the way. Every time she picked up the phone she heard two old biddies gossiping about something or someone. She kept trying and not having any luck. She was getting a little frustrated and I feared she would take her frustration out on Cindy and me if I didn't do something quick. She left the room for a minute so I picked up the phone and listened just long enough to make sure these old girls weren't talking about me. Then I started singing to them. I sang all the words to the Ballad of Davy Crockett...all the words I knew anyway. The ladies didn't care much for my singing and told me I started again from the top. The lines were clear when my mama came back in the room. My work was done so I hitched up my droopy underwear and headed out the backdoor.

I miss the good old days!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How to replace a ceiling fan...

There are many reasons to replace an existing ceiling fan. It could be the fan wobbles and freaks out the grandchildren when they're visiting. Or maybe the old fan squeaks at times. Possibly the fan is inefficient for the size of the room. None of these are reasons for us to systematically replace every stinking ceiling fan in our house over the past few years. Our fans were replaced because of a more serious reason...they were tacky. I did not know they were tacky. Debbie pointed it out to me each time. I have always replaced the fans myself being the son of Leroy L Mihills. He was a DIY guy before it was stylish and taught his sons to be the same. When I was recovering from my accident and still promising to never, ever climb another ladder, the ceiling fan in our den became tacky all of a sudden. I didn't hear a thing but then again, I was on some pretty heavy meds. Debbie told me that although the timing couldn't have been worse, it had happened. There was no time to lose. We had to buy a new fan and we would have to hire a non-clumsy younger person to hang it for us. This was a mistake. Not only did she replace the world's fastest and most efficient fan hanger ever (me) with someone she didn't know, she did it over my loud protestations. Her argument was this: You can hang a fan from a standard height ceiling but you can't hang a fan from a raised ceiling. If you were to fall you would get hurt. She didn't take into consideration the fall that landed me in ER was from the second step of the ladder. And most importantly, this non-clumsy younger person expected to be PAID.

I do admit it was nice having the fan installed for us. The guy did a great job and only charged us a minimal labor amount. If you need a ceiling fan installed I can recommend this guy if I ever remember his name. But back to my story. I'm going to tell you how to install a ceiling fan. First of all, after the existing fan has been dubbed "tacky" waste no time in getting it down and out of the house. You don't want to be known as the guy with tacky fans. Grab a ladder and set it up just off-center of the existing fan. Climb the two steps necessary to reach the fan. Note: If operating in a room with a standard height ceiling two steps are sufficient. If you can not determine if your ceiling is standard height please reconsider doing this work yourself because you are a dummy.

Step two is simple. After you have climbed the ladder carefully remove the two set screws holding the housing thingy. During this process you should remember that this is really step three. Step two should have been, Go to the breaker box and shut off the electrical power. If you don't remember, there will be a built-in reminder.

Step four is a bit confusing. You must first carefully disconnect the three colored wires and the ground wire. This is where the built-in reminder is installed. Hopefully you have avoided it. If not, I will look for that non-clumsy younger guy's name for you. Next, carefully lift the old fan from its hangy down thing which is attached to the electric box. This is a simple process if someone besides me has told you how to do this. A smart instructor would have told you to remove the blades and the light attachment before removing the fan. I never seem to remember this step until I am fumbling with a heavy mass of stuff with long arms sticking out while I make my way down the ladder. I strongly suggest you include these two optional steps in your project.

Now that the old fan is removed and carted out to the curb you should take a nice long break. We will proceed tomorrow. And don't even think about trying to sell the old fan in a garage sale. No one will buy it. It's tacky. Goodwill doesn't want it either. They try to resell more upscale stuff.

Okay, another day! Let's finish this easy DIY project. Your ladder should already be in the best position for install so climb on up and attach that new hangy down thing to the electric box. Next, take the new fan body and install it into the hangy down thing which will support it and free up both hands for you to proceed.

Your next step is to rewire the three wires to the electrical wires coming down from the ceiling. Just take the blue and black wires and attach to the black wire with a wire nut.....HAHAHA! Gotcha. You forgot to check to make sure the power was still turned off didn't you?!?! Normally if you are the only person working in the room this won't be a problem. However, if you are married to a Type A woman such as my wife, you can never make any assumption. While you are resting up from yesterday's work your wife might see a speck of dust under your ladder and decide to vacuum the whole room. Finding no power and not wanting to wake you from your nap, she will quietly go to the breaker box and return that room to full electrical power....whew, that was funny! Anyway, after you have the wires reattached to the main wiring climb down the ladder and casually look at the remaining parts to install. Climb back up the ladder and disconnect the wiring, lift the ball of the fan out of the hanger, climb back down the ladder and slip on the outside housing as instructed in the "Easy installation steps" no real man ever reads.

After repeating all of the previous steps your fan is ready for completion. Attach the light kit and tighten all three of the impossible to align mounting screws. Next try to install the blades. I say "try to install" because you will find you can't do that with the light kit already installed. You must take the light kit off while remembering the two hours spent lining those stinking mounting screw holes up. Now, attach the blades. There are normally five blades. When you count only four, take a look into the grandkids' toy closet. Install each before re-attaching the light kit.

Now then, you are nearly done. Put light bulbs in their sockets, attach the glass light deflector and turn on the power. Beautiful! You can bask in the glory of a job well done....but hurry. As soon as your wife takes a look she will notice one of the blades is installed with the wrong finish side up. Scurry on back up that ladder and fix it....quick before the whole fan becomes tacky.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Play your banjo well...

The title is from a song written in the sixties. One of the world's great philosophers, Johnny Cash, recorded it in response to all the anti-war songs of the time. The phrase goes (and forgive me if I sing it in the wrong key):  "Let this be a lesson if you want to form a folk group. Don't go mixing politics with the folk songs of our land. Work on harmony and diction, and play your banjo well...and if you have political convictions just keep them to yourself!"

Johnny probably didn't think about it at the time but I am a deep thinker....if everyone would buy a banjo and learn to play there would be no more stress and friction in the world. It is a proven fact that you absolutely can not play a banjo and stay in a bad mood. Now of course, if there are those around you who hate banjo music you can cause them to be in a bad mood. As far as I know though, there is only one person who hates banjo music and I'm married to her so you should be safe to strum away!

If you are now thinking, "Hey, I need to get a banjo but where oh where can I learn to play?" don't fret. Anybody can play the banjo unless maybe you don't have any fingers....and my apologies to anyone out there who might have that condition. Don't think you have to pick and grin like the pros. You can strum chords and have the time of your life. You can bring joy to any room when you enter with your banjo....or if not, you can bring joy to that room when you leave. Either way, you are going to make somebody happy.

Did you know there are three chords that will allow you to strum along with most songs? Well listen to this...if you can learn to fret the C and D chords you will know those three chords. What? Did I miss one? I most certainly did not. As soon as your shiny new banjo comes out of the case it will already be tuned to the G chord. Just pick it up and strum it without touching the fret board. You just played a G! How about you!! Now work on those other two chords and you will be strumming along and singing with the big boys. Make sure the big boys know you don't want to do any breakdowns of any kind. You don't like to show off. When I first started playing I was invited to sit in with a bluegrass group. I was having the time of my life and keeping up with them better than I thought possible. All of a sudden the music stopped and everyone looked at me. My first thought was that someone had tooted and they thought it was me....turns out they were waiting for me to play one of those complicated breakdowns. One of them hollered, "Take it Russ!" to which I responded, "Take what where?" After explaining my error one of the musicians took my banjo and played the appropriate breakdown for me. I had no idea my banjo could sound so good. I went home and practiced, practiced, practiced. I discovered all this practice of the same round over and over was not something Debbie wanted to hear. That leads to what I was going to write about in the first people have a way of getting me off track!

I have always loved guitar and banjo music. I have a grainy black and white photo of me at four years old serenading the girl next door. I was wearing a torn t-shirt, baggy shorts, and my purple and yellow cowboy boots with my Roy Rogers guitar hanging around my neck. I must have swept that little girl right off her feet. When I started junior high school I took a music aptitude test for the band director. He said I scored higher than anyone he had ever tested. He also said as a result I could play any instrument I wanted to play. Since I knew there were no banjos in marching band I chose the drums. He said he already had too many drums and I was going to learn to play the cornet. So much for thing I knew I was trying to learn to play something that looked like a sickly trumpet. Now I did enjoy this because I was playing least that's what I thought. One Saturday afternoon I was working my way through the various chords when my bedroom door swung open. There was my dad with a crazed look on his face. He grabbed a stray sweat sock and shoved it up the bell of that horn. I never built up a lot of confidence on that horn after that.

When I was fifteen my folks bought me a beautiful electric guitar. It is hanging on the wall of my study now. Its still beautiful. When they gave me the guitar they promised they would buy the amplifier for it as soon as I could play. That amplifier never appeared but I enjoyed hours and hours of playing it quietly in my bedroom. A friend of mine played with a band and he borrowed it a few times. He already had an amplifier. That guitar sure looked and sounded good up on stage. I could see it and hear it clearly while standing in the crowd.

After Debbie and I were married she asked me one year what I would most like to have for Christmas. I jokingly told her I would love to have a Gibson acoustic guitar. I knew she couldn't afford it. Sure enough on Christmas morning there was a large odd-shaped package for me under the tree. I was stunned. I couldn't wait to get that box opened so I could see my brand new Wizard guitar which she bought for $19.95 at the local Gibson's Discount Store. Bless her heart. I tried to play it for two years before giving it to one of the neighborhood kids.

I continued to want a banjo. One day a friend of my two sons told me he had a banjo he wanted to sell. He played bluegrass so I knew the banjo was a good one. I bought it right then. He brought it to me and I fell in love immediately. It took me no time at all to learn the basic chords so I could enjoy it. (Note: Refer to earlier comment about anyone with fingers being able to play the banjo). This led to sitting in with the mentioned bluegrass band, which in turn led to my constant practicing, which led to.....well, it's hard to put into words. I was honing in on the Cripple Creek run after weeks of practice. My bedroom door swung open. There was my wife with a crazed look on her face. She looked for a stray sweat sock but couldn't find one. She then told me she hated hearing banjo music....she then corrected herself and told me she only hated hearing my banjo music. She reaffirmed her love for me but said the banjo had to go. I sold it the next week. I really missed it. I plucked around on my newer, and better than Wizard guitar for a couple of years but she could see the loss and hurt in my eyes...and yes, you can in fact play the guitar while in a bad mood.

Debbie's guilt in insisting I sell my beloved banjo got the better of her a few years ago. One Christmas morning I was surprised with the nicest banjo I could ever hope to own. It was fairly old but she had given it to a specialist to overhaul and check out. He told her it was a keeper. Let's hope so. I try to play softly in my study and I never ever play the Cripple Creek breakdown.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Not to beat a dead horse but....

...many of you have asked how I'm doing so....I feel like an old, old man who has been run over by a bus, then left out like roadkill on a West Texas blacktop in the middle of August. In other words, I'm feeling much better. I still haven't gotten all the test results back and I have an appointment with the infectious disease doctor on Wednesday. Maybe then I can end my self-imposed quarantine. Thank you all for your concern.

I am writing a story right now about my sole surviving uncle. Uncle Bill is 96 years old. He lives on his own in the same house he's owned for over 60 years. His five sons and two daughters take turns spending the days with Bill. He is nearly deaf and legally blind yet he still spends six out of every seven mornings each week working in his wood shop from 6:30 until noon. He builds furniture....beautiful furniture. It has gotten to where he has to do the finish work by feel. Right now he is building footstools that are his unique design. He mass produces them twenty-five at a time and is nearing six hundred in number. He originally made a stool for every family member, signed and numbered. That was a feat in itself. I can't count all the family members. He not only can count them but he remembers their names. Each stool is signed. Mine has this written on the underside:

#146    12-10-2010
To: Russell Mihills
From: Bill Hallmark who was born in Burnet County, Texas 11-9-1919

Debbie's is the same except hers is #142. He always liked her better!

Bill has made custom cabinets, china hutches, hope chests, tables...the list goes on an on. He has even made his own casket. Its a work of art. It will be a shame to put it in the ground someday. Because of his failing eyesight he pretty much sticks to the footstools and hope chests now. He doesn't sell his creations. He gives them away! He gives the stools and chests to the Cherokee Children's Home. They auction them off for fund raising.

This isn't the story by the way. I have some colorful adventures to tell but I'm waiting to complete Bill's story until I can get down to Llano and hear about the past from him. Everything I know so far came from my mom's own storytelling and she seemed to add to her stories every time she told them...must be where I get it. Keep watching and I hope to have the story posted within the next three weeks.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Not to beat a dead horse but....

...many of you have asked how I'm doing so....I feel like an old, old man who has been run over by a bus, then left out like roadkill on a West Texas blacktop in the middle of August. In other words, I'm feeling much better. I still haven't gotten all the test results back and I have an appointment with the infectious disease doctor on Wednesday. Maybe then I can end my self-imposed quarantine. Thank you all for your concern.

I am writing a story right now about my sole surviving uncle. Uncle Bill is 96 years old. He lives on his own in the same house he's owned for over 60 years. His five sons, all retired, take turns spending the days with Bill. He is nearly deaf and legally blind yet he still spends six out of every seven mornings each week working in his wood shop from 6:30 until noon. He builds furniture....beautiful furniture. It has gotten to where he has to do the finish work by feel. Right now he is building footstools that are his unique design. He mass produces them twenty-five at a time and is nearing six hundred in number. He originally made a stool for every family member, signed and numbered. That was a feat in itself. I can't count all the family members. He not only can count them but he remembers their names. Each stool is signed. Mine has this written on the underside:

#146    12-10-2010
To: Russell Mihills
From: Bill Hallmark who was born in Burnet County, Texas 11-9-1919

Debbie's is the same except hers is #142. He always liked her better!

Bill has made custom cabinets, china hutches, hope chests, tables...the list goes on an on. He has even made his own casket. Its a work of art. It will be a shame to put it in the ground someday. Because of his failing eyesight he pretty much sticks to the footstools and hope chests now. He doesn't sell his creations. He gives them away! He gives the stools and chests to the Cherokee Children's Home. They auction them off for fund raising.

This isn't the story by the way. I have some colorful adventures to tell but I'm waiting to complete Bill's story until I can get down to Llano and hear about the past from him. Everything I know so far came from my mom's own storytelling and she seemed to add to her stories every time she told them...must be where I get it. Keep watching and I hope to have the story posted within the next three weeks.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Yeah, I'm Rich...

I've never measured wealth in and silver yes, but not dollars. I'm just kidding. If my worth was measured in the value of my assets I would be lacking compared to that of many of my peers. However, when we measure our wealth to the majority of the world, the poorest among us are wealthy beyond impossible dreams. I'm not writing this to talk about material wealth though. I'm writing to say how touched I am resulting from the overflow of well-wishes from friends and loved ones....shouldn't separate that really....all my friends are loved ones too.

When it was determined last week that this old body was in serious trouble and the emergency room was my most logical decision, I was in a terrible valley emotionally. I couldn't think about having to talk to anyone so I asked Debbie to keep the situation to herself and our two sons. She agreed knowing many of our tribe and village would be hurt. I didn't think of them though. In fact, I don't remember thinking at all. I didn't think of how it would feel to know my brother or best friend was suffering and I didn't have any idea. I kept these loved ones from caring, praying, and thinking good thoughts about me during this time. I kept them from dropping a note or card in the mail. I kept them from loving. This was very selfish of me and as I write this I feel shame and hurt of my own for causing them to hurt.

I hope everyone reading this has the blessing that surrounds Debbie and me. We have so many caring souls watching out for us that we never have to fear loneliness. We will never be without a home, or food, or community because we are blessed by the Lord God. His blessings are passed on to us through the loving hands and hearts of our friends, our family...all of our loved ones. During my hospital stay I did need the quiet in order to cope but their were times when I became lonely. The Lord has a way of taking care of old fools like me. He figured out a way for word to leak out about my condition and I was blessed at the most needed times by visits from a few family members. A phone call from one of our elders came at just the right time as well.

I have been lovingly reprimanded several times yesterday and today. One of those beautiful ladies punished me by sending over a tin of my favorite cookies fresh from her oven. She taught me a lesson let me tell you!
If any of you feel I still need to be disciplined in this way I will humbly accept your punishment.

I love you all. I'm sorry and I'm so thankful!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

So, I was admiring the flowerbed when....

I was standing out by one of Debbie's flowerbeds thinking I really needed to help her clean it up. I could trim along here, pull that out....and that's when it hit me. I felt the world start to spin. Then the world stopped spinning but I kept on. I turned to go inside and fell to the ground and lay there for a moment thinking, "Never even saw that bus coming..". I worked my way back up on wobbly knees and tried to walk. Three steps later I fell again. I thought this is where I'm going to die. My strong will alone made it back up only to fall a third time. I lay in the grass until my breathing slowed down and made it to my feet once more. I staggered into the door before collapsing a fourth time. Debbie ran over and helped me to a chair.

Debbie began washing my face and neck down with a wet towel while I drank water. I was soaked with sweat yet trembling from the cold. It took nearly an hour for some sense of normalcy to return. I was left with weak, sore muscles and a terrible headache. I spent the rest of the evening in my chair drinking water and changing back and forth from shivering cold to searing heat. Finally Debbie helped me to bed where I slept thirteen hours. When I woke up my head felt like it could explode and my whole body ached. Debbie checked my temperature and it was 103. She called Cody and he sent me straight to the ER since "sixty-six year old men shouldn't have 103 temperature".

The emergency room was busy but I didn't have to wait too long. As I lay there answering questions and watching an amazing team worked to make me feel better, I wondered just how long this was going to take. I wanted to go back home and sit in my chair. As it turns out, I had to give up on an early release. The more the doctors conferred, the faster the nurses worked. They couldn't come up with an easy answer and suggested I stay overnight "for observation". Before assigning me to a room they needed to run just one more test....a spinal tap. Before they could do the procedure I needed to provide a small urine sample. I was obviously dehydrated. A simple little sample was going to be difficult. They left me alone with a weird looking plastic jug and waited....and waited...for over half an hour. Eventually the nurse came in and told me if I didn't get with the program he would need to introduce me to Mr. Catheter. That did nothing to speed the process. An hour later I managed to provide the needed sample. As the relief flowed I noticed a dampness on my feet. The plastic jug had a hole in the bottom. I ran to the door and yelled. This is an emergency room at a large hospital. There was absolutely no one there. I sat the jug on the floor and laid back down. When the nurse finally returned, he had to scramble to salvage enough of a sample. I had nothing more to give. (As a side note, Debbie had left to charge her phone during all this. As I related the story to her later she asked what it was I had yelled. I answered "Help, because Pee didn't sound appropriate".)

After I got to my room I found out I was being tested for several spooky scenarios, the worst of which was bacterial meningitis. They were also treating my dehydration with bag after bag of saline solution which would rebuild my internal water supply. I would need to make several bathroom breaks during the night "so we brought you a plastic jug". They needed to measure my intake else can I say it? And to make the evening more entertaining, I would need to have a nurse with me each time I peed. Did you know when your body is force-fed water it insists on getting rid of it without warning? I would hit the little red button and the nurse would come help me to the restroom, wait outside the door, then help me back to my bed. If she was even a minute late I was forced to go on our date without waiting, no grace factor. On the first solo trip my original weakness had returned and my hands shook. I filled the little jug and promptly dropped it on the floor. I was too weak to bend over so I did what I did best...went back to bed. The same thing happened two more times that night. They were very sorry for not being there to help me.....very sorry indeed.

What started out as an overnight observation turned into a five night ordeal. My temperature was continuing, my headache couldn't be relieved and all my muscles were sore and weak. I had confusion, memory loss, and constant dizziness. As more and more blood was drawn to test other possible diseases I began to worry I would never leave the hospital. These things do happen. On Friday afternoon it was determined I was definitely sick....but no one had any idea why. They had enough blood drawn to keep the lab busy for several days and meningitis had been ruled out so.....I could go home the next morning and be miserable there for free. The next morning I anxiously waited for my release. As a nurse checked my blood pressure she looked down at my legs. They were covered in a rash. She checked my arms, back, neck and yes, a new symptom had come along. My trip home was cancelled. Luckily, they could draw more blood and start over on my problem. Yea!! An infectious disease doctor was called in. He went through all the previous tests and added others to cover every known infectious disease. He quickly ruled them all out and started asking about insect bites. He immediately started an antibiotic IV drip even though I couldn't remember any insect bites of any kind. Within hours my headache was gone and I was beginning to feel less "flu like". I stayed on the antibiotic while they tested for a culprit. Although no exact insect was found to blame the doctor agreed to let me come home late Sunday afternoon. He would continue to research while I rested. I am to meet with him in a week or so.

I'm feeling much better now. The headache comes and goes but the severity isn't what it had been. My strength is slowly returning so I can begin my "no, I am not too old to take care of the lawn" campaign soon. The only test result we're still waiting to hear about is for West Nile Virus. Maybe that will be the one. Whatever it turns out to be, it's awful. I hope no one else is bitten by a similar evil culprit.

Monday, August 15, 2016

C.G. Mathews

I try to keep this blog upbeat and humorous. I was trying to write something this morning to make you laugh but my heart just isn't into it right now. I'm sad because a family I love is sad. The Mathews family is actually Debbie's sister's in-laws. They have seemed like family to us though since the mid-seventies when we first met CG and Jenna Mathews. They are the parents of my brother-in-law Thomas Mathews. I consider Thomas one of my best friends. We decided years ago to be "brothers-in-law" even though according to the official rule makers we weren't. Thomas was Debbie's brother-in-law, not mine.

When we met the Mathews our boys were little. Thomas and his soon to be wife Katrina often babysat for us since we needed free babysitters and they needed a comfortable place to make out. One Christmas CG and Jenna brought presents for our boys! They gave them cowboy hats and cap guns. We were touched by this and saw the kindness of this wonderful couple then and over and over again throughout the years. We always felt completely welcome in their home and we always welcomed them into ours.

I won't go into a lot of detail about CG. I'll leave that to those who knew him best. His three sons can talk for hours about what they learned from this gentle man. I'll just say a few words. CG had a quiet wit that never changed, no matter the situation. He was always calm and knew just what to say. He loved his family and especially his grandchildren. They dearly loved him in return. He worked all his life and right up to a few weeks before his death. His work ethic was an example I tried to follow...but failed at miserably. He always loved his work. I somehow never grasped that blessing. As far as I know his sons share that trait even though I know Thomas' work is especially taxing. My parents spent their last ten years in a house owned by CG and Jenna. My parents had sold the house we grew up in thinking they were ready for a retirement community. They discovered living with "old people" was depressing so CG offered them a beautiful place under the oak trees in south Hurst. They loved living there and CG always kept tabs on them assuring their safety and comfort. Despite tremendous growth in home values in this area over the years he never changed their monthly rental rate. He had offers to sell the house but refused to do so while my parents lived there.

Although I know CG is resting without pain in a much better place right now the lump in my throat doesn't seem to go away. I hurt for Thomas and Kat for their loss. I hurt for Jenna, Steve, Kent, and all the family. Most of all I hurt for the grandchildren. Leigh, Kat's oldest daughter, said it best on a notice she posted on Facebook, "CG always said, 'I'm glad you got to see me'....and I was".

Rest in peace Mr. Mathews...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Lookin' for worms....

You know, if a bird goes out every morning looking for worms and doesn't find any he or she probably stops looking, right? Well of course not. To stop looking for worms is to start the starvation process. Birds search for worms...its that simple.

In a similar example if a blogger goes out searching for followers and doesn't find any he or she probably stops blogging, right? Well of course not. To stop blogging would start the exploding brain process. A blogger blogs...its that simple. Even when a blogger has nothing to say he or she continues to write things down so the brain of said blogger doesn't go into fail safe mode from random thought overload.

I tend to go days on end without posting to this blog. Its not that I don't enjoy posting to it. I LOVE writing....whether anyone reads it or not. I sure would like to find a few followers on the way though so if you haven't....and only if you WANT to, please sign on as a follower. Then I will be more inspired to write on the blog rather than the tattered old journal I keep hidden in my roll top desk.

Ha! You didn't know about the journal? I've kept a journal for longer than I've had a computer....and everyone knows computers have been around for like forever. I've heard the pilgrims brought them over from the Old World in their search for a land where they were free to blog without persecution. When I say "journal" I don't mean some wimpy little thing like you find at Barnes and Noble and write in with a purple or green ink fountain pen. Noooo, this is a stack of spiral notebooks that are tattered and falling apart. They are old and well-used. They are written in with whatever I am holding when I have a random thought I want to hold onto...sometimes black pen, blue pen, red pen...I even used a purple pen once but I threw it away because I felt a bit effeminate using it. I've used ball point pens, roller pens, pencil, charcoal...not really charcoal...its too messy. The wonderful thing about my journals is this. No one can read them but me. No, there is no code and no there is no foreign language. The simple answer is that no one can read my handwriting but me!

I don't post to my journal every day either. I just don't seem to have the time. The random thoughts continue though throughout every day and night and I'm sure the same is true for you. Most are insignificant and not journal worthy. Some are gems though and should be captured if at all possible. Years ago, when my handwriting was beginning to fail I decided to practice my handwriting each day. What better way to practice than in my ongoing journal. During this time the real me became known to.....well, just me cause no one else has read it. Each day I wrote down the first thought I had before starting my day. I will just say this....most early morning random thoughts are not journal worthy.

I just pulled out my first journal to give a couple of examples of my ramblings. As I did, about two dozen pages fell out....and here all this time I've felt foolish for posting the date on the pages. Guess I was pretty darned smart after all. I'll stuff all of them back in here and sort them "some day". Here are a few daily entries:

  • I think being fat makes people more friendly towards me.
  • As I get older I tend to say things without thinking. This worries me.
  • Debbie and I ate Mexican food last night....way too much. I sure feel it right now.
  • I wish Debbie wouldn't try to talk to me from another room. I can't hear her when I'm in the same room.
  • I wish I could lose a pound every time I tooted.
Okay, maybe these are shallow thoughts. I never said I had deep thoughts...just random thoughts. And, this example comes from the era of writing my first thought each day regardless of its depth or interest. I did cheat a little bit though. My first thought every day back then was "Crap! It can't be morning already!"

So you can see that you don't have to have any talent at all to write. I have proven that over and over through the years but I continue to write. It makes me feel relaxed and happy. When I'm writing a short story my mind is moving much more quickly than my fingers can work the keyboard. I occasionally have to go back to read what actually wound up on the page. I have even written short stories that have been published and I had no idea what I was going to write when I sat down at the computer. That's how much fun it is to unburden your mind by writing. Start writing...start a blog! I promise if you do, I'll tag myself as a follower!

Friday, July 29, 2016

If you're happy and you know it.....

...clap your hands!! I'm in my study listening to Carter, Charlee, and Mammy sing Bible school songs in the den. Several years ago Debbie made a song bag. In the bag were small toys which represented all the songs her Bible class sang. For example, a plastic alligator to sing "Big Fat Alligator", a big happy face for "If You're Happy"....and on and on. She loves this bag and the little "students" love to grab into the bag to see which song they will sing. Her grandchildren love it too and haul it out of the play room real often so they can sing songs with their Mammy.

Debbie is so talented and creative. She is a perfect Bible school teacher for little kids. She also plans crafts, shopping trips, and nature "studies" when she knows the grandkids are coming. I think the Lord kept Debbie healthy after 51 years as a diabetic just so her grandkids could be with her and learn from her.

Of course I know the other half of Debbie since I've been around her for 50 years and married to her for 45 of those years. She does get worn out. She gets frustrated. I've even heard her say "CRAP" on more than one occasion....but never around her grandkids. One of her frustrations is her backyard flower beds. They are beautiful but there are way too many of them for her to give them the care they need. I guess I could help her but I did repeat over and over when I was turning the ground for all of them, "I will not work in these things!" My job is mowing. I never ask her to help me mow so it just isn't right for her to ask me to help with the flowerbeds. Don't you agree? Of course you do. After all, it takes me 30 minutes to mow that backyard. Then I have to trim which takes another 10 minutes. Then I have to put the mower away....we're talking about nearly an hour of work in the Texas heat. And all during this time what is Debbie doing? She's sitting in one of her flowerbeds pulling weeds, trimming off dried flowers, taming the Texas Lilacs. You know, simple stuff. I think she sits out there for hours on end just so she won't have to help me with the mowing. I do make sure she comes up on the patio with me every hour or so to cool off and drink some water. I worry about her while I'm sitting there watching her. She's a sweetheart!

One day Cody and I were sitting on the patio talking over the world's problems. Debbie was out in one of her flowerbeds. She had been out there for a couple of hours and I had kind of forgotten about her. She came walking up with mud all over her jeans, sweat sticking to her shirt, dirt across her forehead, and a red face resembling someone in heat stroke. She likes to scare me that way. As she walked up Cody said, "Mom, you look terrible!" I corrected him and told him she was the example of a perfect woman. They just don't come any better than that. She wasn't impressed. She thumped me on top of the head as she continued on her way to the shower.

I have suggested we let the flowerbeds go natural. It is too hot in Texas to have that many flowerbeds...without a professional staff to tend them anyway. She feels she has worked too hard to let them go. She responds, "You wouldn't let the lawn go would you?" I say "no". But I would. If we weren't interested in holding on to the property value I would let that yard dry up and blow away. We are too old to have a nice yard. We should be living in a retirement community where everything is done for know what I mean?! A nice place to sit and watch the world go by while our arteries clog and our waistlines grow. That would probably get boring and we would start looking for another that needs a yard....and flowerbeds. "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands..."

Monday, July 25, 2016

Religious Jokes...

Some days it's hard to find anything humorous going on in the world. I can typically take a mundane situation and find something funny about when Ted Cruz was in the middle of his speech when the 'booing' started. We know what he was saying but what was he thinking? Maybe his thoughts were "Well, that was stupid. How am I gonna dig myself out of this one? Sure wish I had gone potty before getting on stage." We don't know. It could have been what he was thinking.

I try to not get all stressed and out of shape when things go wrong. You have to visit the valleys in order to really appreciate and enjoy the mountains. With the news broadcasts daily showering us with "Republican this" and "Democrat that", it's easy to let yourself get caught up in the drama. You need to do the best you can, pray for wisdom, and vote for your candidate of choice. Try to not lock yourself into a party vote but support the best candidate. Well, enough about politics. I promised myself when I started this blog I wouldn't use it for political purposes. A person has to really work at finding the humor in politics....and I'm just too lazy to look for it.

Now it's easy to find funny stuff in religion. Sometimes the humor is subtle. Sometimes it slaps you right up the side of the head. I'm not talking about doctrine. I would need to start another blog to tell you about my faith...and I'm thinking about doing that. But this platform is for humor. What could be funnier than church stories?

When I was about eight and my brother Glenn was six we always looked forward to visits from our cousins, Jamie and Donnie. These two guys were the funniest people I had ever known. I could write a really long story about "Jamie-isms" but I'll do that later. What we enjoyed most was their combined ability to remember every joke they had ever heard....and they were always happy to pass them on to us. Generally after we were sent to bed for the night the show would start. Glenn and I laughed so hard we were constantly getting into trouble and told to "GO TO SLEEP IN THERE!"

One Sunday morning we had a hard time getting up and ready for church. We were so tired from laughing into the wee hours of the morning. I asked Donnie to please not tell me anymore jokes until after church. He just grinned. When we got there I asked him again to please not tell any jokes during church. His comment to me was, "Rusty, what kind of sinner do you think I am to be telling jokes during church?" He said this with such a weird look on his face that I started laughing. We made it okay during the song service but as soon as our preacher, Joe R. got up to preach Donnie leaned over and whispered, "Hey, I got a joke for you." Now, let me explain the situation. For some really stupid reason Jamie, Donnie, Glenn, and I were on the front row right in front of the preacher. Joe R. was a "hell and brimstone" speaker and really got into his talk. My uncle Frog had been coaxed to church by my mom that morning and was sitting behind us....and Donnie decided to tell me a joke.

I begged Donnie to not tell me a joke during church. He told me it was okay because it was a "religious" joke. That alone started my uncontrolled know what I'm talking about. It was one of those "hey I'm in church and shouldn't be laughing" giggles that just won't stop even if you hold your breath. Anyway, the giggles were full blown, which got Glenn giggling and Jamie and Donnie smiling like Cheshire cats. About that time preacher Joe slammed his hand down on the pulpit and told the crowd they needed to repent or face the fiery lake of hell. Full blown laughing erupted from my throat. I was embarrassed, Glenn was turning red holding his breath, Donnie was laughing, and (unknown to me at the time) my mom was....seething...yeah, that sounds like the right description. I got it stopped finally and took a deep breath. Preacher Joe had given me several serious looks before I got the laughter under control. I figured he was sending me to that fiery hell in his mind. Okay, it gets worse.....

As soon as I stopped laughing Donnie leaned back in and TOLD ME THE JOKE!!!! I won't tell it now but it involved an old time preacher, a kid, candles, and matches. It was already funny and he hadn't even got to the punchline! When he did get to the punchline, which was a sing-song "And the rats pee'ed on the matches", I completely lost it. I held my breath but the laughter came out my sealed lips in the form of spit. My shoulders were bouncing and I was doing everything I could to keep from doing my own peeing. Glenn was turning red and holding himself (you know where and why). Jamie and Donnie were sitting there piously listening to the sermon.

After church, but just before my mom grabbed me by the ear and dragged me out of the building, my uncle Frog told me, "You boys embarrassed me so much I doubt I'll ever be able to go to church again". As far as I know he didn't...sorry uncle Frog...but if you had heard the joke you would have laughed too.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Tongue in cheek...

First of all, thanks for my three new followers!!! I hope you don't regret signing on after you read this entry. It's just a thought I had while driving through the...uh....more affluent area of town to my north. I have to go through this part of town regularly because I live just along the border between poor people like me and rich people like the homeowners in the above-mentioned neighborhood. I am not a resident and therefore have no member handbook on how to behave in this exclusive area of town. After living here for many years and because I have to make more and more trips into this Promised Land, I have finally figured out all the rules for getting along where I'm not welcome and certainly not wanted. If you will follow these strict, yet simple rules you will be able to maneuver through the area without drawing undo attention to yourself.

1. All pickup drivers are idiots. Avoid them when possible. Snub them when you must.
2. All vehicles must be spotlessly clean, even in inclement weather.
3. Larger vehicles have the right of way unless said vehicle is less valuable than a Lexus.
4. Lexus drivers always have the right of way. (Special note here: Most BMW drivers incorrectly assume a higher ranking in the order of things. Mind your manners BMW owners or you will be asked to upgrade to something nice.)
5. Drive slowly through all neighborhoods. This is not for the safety of our children. They are too special to play outside. Drive slowly so we can stare at you and make you aware of your lower station.
6. Stay away from neighborhoods unless you have been invited by a resident. This is not a difficult rule to follow because all neighborhoods are gated and guarded by retired Navy Seals, none of which can afford to actually live here.
7. If you are invited to visit our town, have the courtesy to at least rent an acceptable vehicle for the trip. It has been reported that an outsider actually drove a twenty year old pickup, with dents AND rust through our neighborhood. The police have been informed and an APB is out.
8. Four way stop signs are mere suggestions for the residents. Be aware and proceed with extreme caution. BMW drivers won't see you.
9. Roundabouts were designed for the residents. They are not for the outsiders enjoyment. Find alternate routes or else you will be stared at with animosity by all Lexus drivers having to wait for you. BMW drivers won't see you.
10. If you try to go through the neighborhood in an American made vehicle, it absolutely must be the largest box ever designed for the road. Any American vehicle other than this is an obvious sign of outsider wannabees.

I hope these rules help you along the way. I also hope no one has been offended. If you have, I apologize and promise to keep my pickup on the poor side of town.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Where was I?

My old computer crashed and burned a few days ago and I know all seven of my loyal readers have been sitting in eager anticipation. Well, the new computer arrived about an hour ago and I think I'm going to like it. Enough about that. Let me tell you about our last cruise.

Our son Cody planned a cruise for this summer for two of his children and himself. He wanted the kids to have a vacation and knew it wouldn't be possible with a newborn. He thought a few days with the kids in tow would give Cayce a chance to rest and bond with Claire. Andy, his oldest, was way too cool to go on a cruise with little kids so he immediately found another important opportunity. Cayce would stay home with the Little Cricket because she (Claire) was too young to go on a cruise. Cody would be taking Carter, a lovable little four year old, and Charlee, a sweet little 'girls just want to have fun' who had just turned three. Luckily for Debbie and me, Cody felt nervous about a trip alone with two toddlers so he invited us to go along. We had no expectations. We knew we were going as babysitters but who cared??!! We were going on another cruise!

We left Hurst really early on a Saturday morning and drove to Galveston. The kids were sleepy but excited. Debbie was sleepy and...well, just sleepy. Cody was anxious to get on the road and I was a grinning old man with no responsibilities other than to keep Cody from falling asleep on the way down. You may have heard the sonic boom that morning because we made it to Galveston really fast. I think it was about twenty minutes but I'm not sure. When we left Hurst it was warm and muggy. When we got to Galveston it was one hundred and forty-seven degrees with one hundred and twenty per cent humidity.

Nothing much happened on the way to Galveston so there isn't much to tell. Well, I guess I could tell how we lost Carter at a Buc-ees only to find him in the parking lot putting on a Power Ranger demonstration. Or I could tell about Charlee throwing up all over herself as we entered the Galveston city we had to burn her clothes and find a pharmacy. Or maybe I could just start the story with us getting lost in the parking lot at the pier and wandering aimlessly with seventeen bags, a tired four year old and a three year old who kept saying, "My tummy hurts" in one hundred and forty-nine degree weather. No, I think all those things would bore you so I'll start the story after boarding.

Boarding was a piece of cake. We sped through the process like pros. It didn't hurt that Charlee kept repeating over and over, "Daddy, I need poopy". We have learned that condensing five hours driving into a twenty minute trip tends to upset Charlee's tummy and gives her gas....bad gas. We just moved through the crowds so easy!!

Once aboard we tried to go to our cabins but found out we couldn't get them until 3:30. It was about noon. We found a restaurant on board to wait. Debbie and Charlee visited most of the restrooms on that deck during our wait. All false alarms. Finally we were allowed our cabins and settled in. Debbie and I unpacked, had a refreshing beverage, watched all the activity at the port from our spacious balcony, took naps, and read. Cody sat in the bathroom with Charlee. Someday she will understand the difference between "poop" and "toot". Until then, I doubt Cody will take her on another cruise.

Before we sailed everyone had to attend muster. If you haven't been on a cruise I'll explain. Muster is required by Maritime law. It is a short meeting at your assigned lifeboat to learn how to calmly gather and board your lifeboat in an emergency. In other words, it is important to know where to freak out in the event the ship begins to sink. Muster on our last cruise lasted about five minutes with much camaraderie and laughter. This muster was not like that. This muster lasted nearly an hour, most of which time we were squeezed together like cattle in one hundred and fifty degree weather....waiting. And waiting...for one moronic passenger who was hiding. He didn't want to go to muster. During this time Carter got lightheaded from being pressed into strangers'....body parts. It ain't no fun being thirty-two inches tall in a crowd. I picked him up and put him on my shoulders where he played bongos on my head for the duration. Charlee also overheated and "needed to poopy". Cody picked her up and as she arced over his head to go on his shoulders she smashed her face into a window and busted her lip. She did not keep her discomfort to herself. Passengers on all decks heard her wail. To top off the activity the ship was "dumping the diesel". I have no idea what this means but I know what it causes. Strong fumes accumulated around our heads and everyone on our deck got sick. The captain later said, "dumping the diesel during muster was probably not a good idea".

Okay, maybe the first day was a bit all in all we were having fun. As the ship left port all the celebrations began. There were dozens of things to do and they would have all been fun. It has been determined by many observers that Debbie and I do not have a clue how to have fun. Everyone on board was either dancing, swimming, gambling, or playing organized games and activities. I wanted to try a trivia contest but Debbie didn't so we compromised and didn't do it. Even though I bought a new swim suit for the trip there was no way I was going anywhere near any of the pools. I was too old to mix with that crowd. I have never seen so much skin in my life. As a side note here, one day Cody, Debbie, and I were strolling the decks looking around. Cody saw a gate at the top of some stairs which led to yet another pool. He climbed the stairs and walked through the gate. A moment later he came back through the gate running all the way down the stairs and muttering, "topless pool, topless pool".

We stopped at Cozumel and Progresso. Cozumel was a day long stay with the kids. We went to a resort where the kids could play on the beach or in a pool. They did both. We watched a trained seal show and shopped. It was a great day. Progresso is a fairly new port still in development. It was very interesting to see the construction of the piers and the work the people of the city are doing to turn their hometown into a popular tourist attraction. Cody checked the kids into "cruise camp" for the day so the adults could roam about freely. Debbie got an open air massage (behind a curtain) for $10. While she was doing this Cody and I wandered the city and scoped out restaurants for us to try out later in the day. Before we left Progresso's downtown area and headed back to the ship we sampled some of the many shops. Debbie and I found ourselves in a jewelry store negotiating the price on a diamond ring. It was a small band with tiny diamonds wrapped around it. The opening price was $975.00. Debbie was amazed at my bargaining skills and beamed with joy when I finally got the price down to $675.00. I said "SOLD!" and Debbie walked out with a new ring. We had it appraised at our jeweler's in Hurst. I was quite the negotiator in Mexico. I paid $675.00 for a ring worth $425.00 here.  (Editor's note: Debbie swears we bought the ring in Cozumel. I am pretty certain we bought it in Progresso. It's my stays in Progresso.)

We spent a good deal of the cruise on the ship while it was moving from port to port. I watched Cody win and lose....and win and lose in the casino. Debbie and I did a lot of people watching and boy oh boy did we see some sights! Cruise ships seem to lower inhibitions in people. A man I met while boarding seemed like a librarian when I met him yet I ran into him several times on board. Let's assume his name was William. Librarian William was Wild-man Willie during the cruise. We loved all the music, the on board shopping, the FOOD!!!! Most of all, we enjoyed spending time with Cody and the kids. It was a great cruise....even though Charlee finally told her daddy "I need poopy" and meant it....she had a blow out on the sofa in Cody's cabin. The next day she threw up all over my shoes while we stood in line for pizza. She finally felt good....tummy ache gone. Good times!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


I have been typing for quite some time this morning. I had written a fascinating summary of our second cruise for the summer. It was really good....I mean it was REALLY good!! I laughed, I cried, I enjoyed the trip all over again and then....THIS COMPUTER, YES THIS ONE RIGHT HERE, DELETED THE WHOLE THING!!!!! I'm not giving up. I WILL continue to write. But I will never write with this cantankerous piece of worn out machinery again...never...that's it!

Please be patient and watch for my next post to the blog. It may take a few days but I need to go shopping for a new computer. Wish me luck!


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Been Cruisin' Grand Finale

Let's pretend today is yesterday. Now let's pretend I didn't forget to post yesterday's post. Let's pretend I didn't take a long nap instead. Okay, I feel better now.

If you'll remember, our four travelers have left the hotel and headed for new adventures aboard the Explorer of the Seas. We enjoyed our short stay in Seattle. Debbie even got to use a gift card she had been saving for a Seattle Starbucks. She and Nancy wandered into one of the seven thousand Starbucks shops to order coffee. Debbie ordered a caramel, cinnamon, deluxe, super-duper Frappuccino and handed over her card. Nancy ordered next and decided on the same thing. Debbie was feeling generous so she handed her gift card to Nancy and said, "hey, this is on me." There was twelve cents left on the card. Okay, back to the cruise.

After an hour and a half working our way through lines we were finally able to board the ship. Here we were told our rooms wouldn't be available until 3:30 in the afternoon. It was suggested we walk around the ship or get a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants. We decided to try the Windjammer restaurant at the top of the ship. Lugging our carry-on luggage behind us, we found a bank of elevators and squeezed into one of the cars. We soon discovered everyone who had boarded ahead of us were doing the same thing. Windjammer is a buffet style, all you can eat eatery. Evidently the mindset on this first day is to see just how much a person can eat on the first day of a cruise.

We finally found an empty table and left Debbie with all the luggage while we worked our way through the various feeding frenzies. The experience wasn't at all what we expected for a classy cruise. It was more what one might expect on a college campus 'free food' day. After we polished off our 'light meal' we asked an attendant if there might be a place we could leave our luggage for a few  hours. He politely recommended we leave them in our rooms. It seems our rooms had been ready for us before we boarded.

As I mentioned in the first part of this story, our rooms were very nice. 'Plush' is the word that comes to my mind. Of course my mind had conjured up an image of a steel tank with a bunk bed. After enduring muster, which is a mandatory meeting of all passengers aside their pre-assigned life boats in order to scare the bejeebers out of us, we were free to "start the party". We were all tired so we went to our rooms for a nice long nap. Party on dudes!

We decided we would avoid Windjammers and try out one of the classy restaurants for dinner. We were assigned to a table next to the windows, in a corner with two very efficient and pleasant attendants. Carlito introduced himself as our headwaiter who would be assisted by Rommel. He took our drink orders and was pleased when Nancy ordered a bottle of semi-expensive wine for herself and Mike. Debbie and I ordered iced tea which immediately told Carlito we were the lesser half of the group. Moments later Rommel arrived at our table and introduced himself as our headwaiter assisted by Carlito. Rommel read off the chef's recommendations and left us to decide. We decided the chef was either sadistic or insane. We chose our meals from the menu. Carlito brought us an assortment of breads while we waited for our meals. When time came for dessert Rommel brought out dessert menus. We each ordered something different with plans to share. When the desserts arrived I made the mistake of saying, "Oh man, I wish I had ordered that". Rommel took off and returned with a second dessert for me. A classy guy would have chuckled and said, "Ah, thanks Rommel but I don't really need a second dessert". I said, "Wow, thanks Rommel! Can we do this every night?".

Nancy had to sign a tab for the wine she ordered for dinner that first night. She felt she had been given great service from Carlito so she added 20% gratuity before handing it back. She didn't realize the cruise policy is to automatically add 18% gratuity to any purchase made on the ship. Carlito was thrilled with his 38% tip and gave Nancy especially good service the entire week. In fact, he appeared to be so fond of Nancy we considered trying a new restaurant out before the week was over.

One more mention of food on the cruise then I'll move on. I went to the Windjammer early one morning to get a coffee. I found the frenzy to be over and folks were acting human again. I sat at a table by myself and watched people come and go. An elderly woman walked up to the table next to mine with her little granddaughter in tow. She told the girl to sit and wait while she went through the line for their breakfast. She asked if the little one had any special requests. The girl said she wanted bisgetti and milk. As her grandmother rolled her eyes and walked away the girl held up a finger and yelled, "Make that chocolate milk". I don't know...I just found that to be humorous

Our first stop on the cruise was Juneau. A lovely city with lots of charm. We were scheduled for a whale watching tour so we didn't get to see much of the city. What we saw made me want to move to Alaska. Debbie said no. The tour into the fjord was cold and choppy. I prided myself on being the only member of the group not needing a motion sickness pill. I hope to add a couple of photos here to show at least one of the many humpback and orca whales we saw. I doubt I will be able to because I am naturally incompetent and lose most photos I try to post.

We were thrilled to see so much beauty around us and experience whales closer than we expected. The guide told us we were lucky too to see humpbacks and orcas swimming together since orcas normally eat humpbacks. I think we would have been darned lucky to have seen that. The whale watching was probably the highlight of the trip for me.

Our second stop was Skagway. This little town had more jewelry stores than I've ever seen on one street. It seems the tourists who arrive for three months out of the year really like jewelry. We took a tour to the top of a summit, the name lost in my defunct memory bank. The tour guide was funny and filled us with more history and stories than we could possibly remember. The highlight of this tour was the bear that came right up to the road. The guide stopped the van about twenty feet away so we could get pictures. As we were parked there a car pulled up and a woman jumped out and ran toward the bear to get a close up. We heard the guide whisper to himself, "here's your lunch!" Luckily for the woman her fast approach startled the bear and he ran off. I loved Skagway and the people living there. It was a really laid back town. I told Debbie I could live there. She said no.

Our last stop was Victoria, British Columbia. This is without a doubt the most beautiful city I've ever seen. We took a tour of the city and fell in love. It is so clean and remarkable we were spellbound. Debbie took pictures nonstop until her battery finally gave out. Pictures couldn't possibly do justice to the beauty of this city anyway. Victoria is situated in a "rain forest" range. Because of its location anything will grow there. The temperatures year round are between 58-78 degrees. We enjoyed high tea at the historical Empress hotel while watching people stroll the streets. I told Debbie I could easily live there. She said she thought she could too if we could convince our sons to move the grandkids up.

I know I've gone on too long about this trip. You may be thinking, "Good grief, I hope he never goes on a European river tour". If I do I promise I won't go on and on about it. This trip was special because it was on Debbie's bucket list and because I dreaded it for so long. I was so impressed by it all that I felt the need to share. We are going to the Caribbean next week. I promise I won't tell you anything about it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Been Cruisin' Part Two

As we sailed along the coasts of Alaska and British Columbia I wondered how my meager words could describe the beauty all around us. On one occasion I was so overwhelmed by the spaciousness and awesomeness of it all that I began to tear up. Yes, it was truly that beautiful....and since I am not a man of many words and knew I couldn't do justice to what we enjoyed I was very thankful to see my wife Debbie's Facebook post this morning. She spent a good portion of last night downloading and commenting on about seventy-five photos. Had I known my wife of forty-five years was an accomplished photo journalist I would have provided her with a quality camera. What she recorded with her cell phone and tiny little pocket camera was amazing. Rather than try to describe the beauty, why don't you go to Facebook and view her photo album? It's worth the effort.

In the meantime, I will do what I do best...relate the odd, and sometimes humorous things I saw and heard during the cruise. As I said before, we had a day and night in Seattle before our ship sailed. I loved Seattle. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt in the middle of downtown. We walked everywhere. I think if I lived in downtown Seattle I would disobey my wife, doctor, and sons and go buy myself a neat little scooter to get around. Debbie wasn't in favor of wandering too far from the hotel as the day wore on so we settled on a restaurant next to the hotel. We did not know until the bill was brought that we had picked the most expensive restaurant in town. I hope to have my personal loan in place before that credit card statement arrives. As we were leaving the restaurant we asked the waiter if he could suggest a good place for breakfast the next morning. It just so happened that since his establishment was right next to the hotel, management felt it prudent to offer a breakfast buffet. Not to be offensive but to hold on to enough money to finish our trip, we asked for an alternative. He gave us a suggestion with location which we thought sounded good. Debbie and Nancy were tired and wanted to go to their rooms but Mike and I decided to walk for a while and find the little recommended café. It was two blocks away on Union Street. We walked.....and walked....and walked a little more before giving up and returning to the hotel. We thought maybe we would find Union Street and the café the next morning.

The next morning we started out from the hotel with two starving wives. They had all kinds of confidence in our ability to hunt and secure food. After walking for half an hour and passing several eateries offering the breakfast we sought, their confidence began to lag. It became apparent to all that we could not find Union Street or the neat little café we had been told about. We decided to go back to one of the earlier choices but evidently made a wrong turn. No little eateries anywhere. We eventually went to the Chamber of Commerce building because we did find it. We thought maybe they could help us out. They did. They pointed out a little snack bar down the hall that served "the best coffee in Seattle". Our quaint breakfast in Seattle consisted of premade pastries and coffee in Styrofoam cups enjoyed amid the quiet ambiance of the reception hallway of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

After breakfast, we were supposed to meet our shuttle at 10:30 at the taxi area in front of the hotel. We were there early. The shuttle wasn't. We waited a good while inside and then another fair amount of time pacing the sidewalk outside the hotel. No shuttle for us. Finally a well dressed gentleman walked up to see if he could help us. Debbie explained our situation. He asked for our copy of the shuttle confirmation. Debbie, in her calm and efficient manner screamed, "WHAT CONFIRMATION?!?!!?" It seems our confirmation had been slipped under our hotel room door during the night. Debbie, in her calm and efficient manner, had noticed a piece of trash on the floor and threw it in the trashcan. Had it not been for a very understanding and courteous driver, our ride to the ship may have been fairly quiet. As a side note, as the shuttle pulled away from the hotel and made one turn we found ourselves on Union Street.

In order to keep at least a couple of readers from falling asleep I will stop here. Tomorrow I will tell a few things of interest anyway....that I saw and heard during the cruise.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Been Cruisin' Part One

I've lived for 65 years and never once felt the need to get in a boat, whether it be a rowboat or a huge ship. I have given in to peer pressure and gone out on ski boats with friends occasionally and actually got out on skis once. Awful experience...absolutely awful. Debbie has been pushing a cruise on me for years now and I've always been able to avoid it. After I retired though, Deb got busy and planned an Alaskan cruise for us and it finally came to fruition last week. I did not want to go and planned to make life miserable for any poor soul I encountered along the way. Everyone kept saying, "Oh, you'll love'll be'll want to go on more...". I was not convinced. Finally, Debbie called on help from my cousin Mike and his wife Nancy. They are seasoned travelers and agreed to make the trip with us. It was nice to know I would die among loved ones.

We left DFW Airport early one morning and flew in to Seattle, Washington. I had always wanted to see Seattle so I agreed to go that far. We had a wonderful day there touring the city, sampling great food and drink. We visited the Pike Marketplace and went by the original Starbucks. I say "went by" because our plan to go inside for a cup was thwarted by a line reaching halfway down the block. Our hotel was beautiful and made even better because it was a gift from our son Cody. The boy has good taste in hotels. I kind of enjoyed cruising so far....

The next morning we loaded up and headed for the pier. As we drove up I saw this mammoth ship rising from the water up to...well, I don't know was absolutely huge. My first comment to Debbie was, "I'm not getting on that thing!" She laughed...I was serious. Things began happening so fast though that before I knew it I was committed. The cab pulled up, everyone piled out, bags were grabbed, taxi driver was paid, and the groundswell of people joyfully lining up to meet their doom encompassed us and away we went. By the time I found my senses I was in a long line waiting to get to another long line that led to security checks, that led to another long line that led to the ship. It was mind-numbing which I figured was necessary to get most first-timers on the ship. After a grueling hour and a half we made it to our room. I was impressed. I expected steel walls and bunk beds and maybe a little porthole to watch the ocean rise and consume us. What I found was a beautifully decorated place with king size bed, carpet, nice amenities, and a very nice balcony from which to fall into the ocean and drown.

I was still feeling uneasy about the situation until Mike and Nancy talked me into exploring the ship. I thought it would be best to sit in our rooms safely belted into our seats while the ship was actually moving but Debbie coaxed me out for the walk. I was amazed. We were in a floating city. An hour into the cruise I had forgotten I was actually in a ship. By the end of the day I was on the top deck checking out every view I could see. I wanted to soak up every minute of the experience of sailing. The wind blowing across the deck, the clouds moving about as the waves slowly moved below was more than I ever imagined. The feeling of being alone on an ocean stretching out as far as I could see in any direction left me humbled and so thankful for the opportunity to appreciate a yet unseen part of God's creation. We were one day into the cruise and I wanted it to never end.

Tomorrow's post will give more details. For now, we're home. It's hot and humid. We're asking ourselves why we continue to live in Texas. I would get back on that ship today if I could.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Uncle Frog

If you are blessed at all, you have a favorite uncle. I don't care how wonderful your uncle may be mine is better. No one, except for about a hundred cousins, has a better uncle than mine. Frog was my mother's little brother. He was single when my memories started and he lived with us on three different occasions. The first time was when I was just a few weeks old and my dad was invited to join the war in Korea. Frog moved in to help my mom with one baby and one toddler. Unfortunately I didn't keep good notes back then so I have few memories of his stay. I do have one memory but its probably because the story has been told to me. I'll pass that story on later.

The second time Frog lived with us we were living on Sam Calloway Road in Fort Worth. One of the things I remember most about living in this house is Frog teaching my cousin, Mike, and me to smoke. As a side note, Mike is my cousin and best friend. We were born within three days of each other and together learned most of everything we ever needed to know. Mike and I equally idolized our uncle Frog and we had a huge appreciation for his willingness to share his vast knowledge of things our dads thought we were too young to know. At the advanced age of four, Mike and I were ready to smoke like every adult we knew.

I remember that day as if it were yesterday. Frog was sitting on the couch enjoying a good cigarette break. Mike and I wandered in from fighting Indians and bad guys and climbed up on the couch on either side of him. Purely out of a sense of discovery we asked Frog what cigarettes tasted like. He said he couldn't explain it. We would just have to find out for ourselves. I thought that would be the end of it because I knew Frog loved his cigarettes and was reluctant to share. Mike had a more inquisitive nature and continued to pester him for a valid answer. It never took much to wear Frog down. In about three minutes he produced a cigarette out of his pack for each of us and kindly lit them up before handing them over. The three of us had barely settled in for a good smoke when my mom walked into the room. You would have thought we were doing something dangerous or wrong the way she reacted. I don't know if my aunt Ramona ever knew that Mike got a spanking from my mom. I do know both of us got a severe beating and Frog would have got one too had he not been just a shade faster than my mom getting to and out the front door.

Mike and I gave up smoking after that. We saw no sense in getting beat for doing something that made us want to throw up. Uncle Frog is gone now as are all but one of my wonderful aunts and uncles. The Lord did answer our selfish prayers though and uncle Frog lived a good long time. He never changed....thank you Lord!!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Tree Surgeon? Can I hear a "Quack Quack"?

Well, I tried to add a photo but it appears I'm a bit...uh, stupid. I have no idea where my pic went but trust me you would have laughed. I few weeks ago a crew of "tree surgeons" came through our area. They had been hired by the power company to trim branches away from power lines. Nice idea and proactive but I might suggest hiring someone who actually knows how to trim trees before this happens again.

The photo I hoped to include showed a tree down the road from us which had been "trimmed". It had been a beautiful shade tree at one time. Now its....well, its indescribable. This same desecration occurred all around the area. Some areas look like war zones. A drive down Glade Road used to be a pleasant trip under mature oak and elm trees. Now its more like driving down Kindling Row. Its a sad scene which I will try to avoid for a couple of years.

I happened to be on my patio the day the surgeon made his way to my back neighbor's place. He had a huge tree which I've never been able to identify. It has, or had, about eight trunks coming up from one spot. It was weird but pretty. It shared its shade with us at certain times of the year. When the job was completed the tree had morphed from a multi-dimensional piece of art to a two-dimensional abstract. I hate it. While the job was going on I walked out to discuss the job with the surgeon. Unfortunately, he no hablar ingles. I started to talk to him using my vast Spanish vocabulary. I explained to him I had no problem with the job he was doing other than he was destroying my neighbor's tree. I made suggestions like "leave that limb alone", "if you have to take that limb, cut it at the trunk and not six feet out", and lastly, "touch any of my trees and I'll shoot you". While I was speaking, the man's supervisor walked up behind me. I turned and asked him if he thought his employee understood me. He spoke to the employee in Spanish and got a response. The supervisor then told me, "yes sir, he understands you would like to order a large chicken burrito, rice and beans".
I guess it has been a while since I've used my Spanish and could probably use a refresher course. I explained to the supervisor that I didn't want any of my trees touched by his butchers. I said it in a nice way of course. He explained he had to trim away anything closer than six feet to the power lines. I got out my tape measure and checked my trees. They passed my yard up and continued their carnage further down the road. I'm still heartsick over the damage done to our beautiful trees but thankful I had trimmed my own trees a few weeks before these guys showed up. Maybe I can bid the contract with the power company next time.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Haunted House on Elm Street

I've told this story many times but have never taken the time to write it down. It's a true story. The events are as I remember them. Some of my siblings remember different things in different ways but these are my memories of the haunted house on Elm Street.

We moved into the house in 1955. It was new and in an unfamiliar area. My long life of five years had been spent in the River Oaks section of Fort Worth. This new house was way out in the rural town of Hurst, Texas. The first several years in the house held no surprises for us so its confusing even today how or why the haunting began. We know exactly when it began though.

Daddy had been transferred to Roswell, New Mexico in the early sixties. He was with a team of men responsible for the electrical wiring of the underground missile silos installed to defend our country against the evils of the Cold War. Rather than sell our house in Hurst my parents chose to rent it out in case we wanted to come back to it some day. They rented it to three college girls and off we went to our new adventures. After the project was completed in Roswell, General Dynamics decided my dad was needed in San Diego. Because of five young children and a Texas born and bred wife, he declined the transfer and moved us back to Hurst. The renters still had a few months left on their contract so we moved into another rent house a few miles south of there. When the lease was up on our old house we moved back in. It was soon after this move we were introduced to the ghost.

Mama was the first to see the ghost. It was a Saturday afternoon late in the summer. We had wrapped up the weekly yard care and house chores and had cleaned up to go shopping for school clothes. All of us were piled into the 1960 Pontiac and as we backed out of the driveway mama told daddy to stop the car. She had left her purse on the dining room table. She hopped out of the car and ran up to the side door of the house. This door opened to the dining room which was next to the kitchen. As she stepped up into the house she froze then quickly slammed the door and ran back to the car. She told us someone was standing in the kitchen. Daddy got out and told us to stay in the car and lock the doors. He then went to the side door and stepped in. He was gone for what seemed like an hour but was surely just a few minutes. We didn't know what to expect...maybe a burglar running out the front door with daddy in hot pursuit. Eventually the side door opened and daddy stepped out carrying mama's purse. He had checked the entire house and found nothing. Mama was sure she saw someone but when asked to describe the person she couldn't even tell us if it had been a man or a woman.

As the years passed the ghost appeared to mama several times. She would never see enough of it to describe but she did determine the ghost was a woman. Her sightings were always in the kitchen or hallway. She occasionally found pictures moved on the hallway walls. One evening while standing at the kitchen sink she felt she wasn't alone in the room. She felt a hand gently rest on her shoulder. She quickly turned to see.....nothing. The feeling of a presence was still there but nothing more. None of the rest of us saw anything until 1968. We had all heard various sounds over the years but no sightings. The sound I remember most was kind of like a television set off in a distance. You can hear it but can't understand what's being said....does that make sense? I heard this for years late at night. The first time I saw anything was during one of those "sounds". Unlike before, the sound began to rise in volume until I woke up enough to sit up in bed. I looked out my bedroom door and saw a pulsating light in the hall. The sound increased and decreased in volume as the light pulsated. After a few seconds the light faded along with the sound. I would have written it off as a dream had it not been for our conversation over breakfast the next morning. I started out the story with, "Now don't any of you laugh but let me tell you what I saw last night". I then described to the family what I had seen the night before. Glenn laughed at me and Cindy rolled her eyes but my mom set her coffee cup down and said she believed me because she had seen it too.

Not long after the pulsating light thing, I started having nightmares. The dreams were always the same. The television sound would start down the hall and all of a sudden someone would grab me by the ankles and try to drag me out of bed. I would wake up holding onto the headboard and scared half to death. I didn't tell anyone about this though. I didn't normally have nightmares but they were just dreams....nothing interesting. Then one night the dream started again. The sound started and I felt the fingers wrap around my ankles. Just when the pulling would normally start, the music stopped and the fingers went away. It woke me up and as I sat up in bed I saw a woman sitting at the foot of my bed. I started to say something...probably something stupid, but before I could say anything she smiled and slowly faded from sight. I never had the dream again.

As all of us kids grew up and moved away mama would occasionally mention seeing her ghost. I had long since decided my own experiences were brought on by some medication I must have been taking but mama was persistent. The ghost was real. She had seen "her" so many times she could describe the clothes she wore. Her stories were so regular I began to feel a little bit creepy when I would come home to visit. In fact, I was checking on their lawn one summer night while they were away on vacation. It was hot and I was craving a glass of cold water. I hated like everything to go into the house the dark...but a cold glass of water on a hot August night sounded just too good to pass up. I went in and turned on the lights in the kitchen, opened the refrigerator and got the cold water. I poured a glass and stood at the sink sipping on it. I felt someone walk up behind me and place a hand on my shoulder.....I am not making this up. I just got goose bumps remembering it after all these years. I never turned around to see who my visitor was. I dropped that glass and ran for the door as fast as my legs would carry me. I never spent another minute in that house by myself.

The last couple of years my folks lived on Elm Street the ghost didn't make any appearances. I asked my mom one day if she had seen "her" and she shook her head 'no'. She said she kind of missed her, too. A few months before my dad passed away we were sitting together at the nursing home talking about old family stories and such. He got quiet at one point and seemed to ponder what he was about to say. Then he looked up at me and said, "You know Blanch's ghost? I've seen her several times over the years too."!