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.