Thursday, December 28, 2017

Gentle Annie....

...I apologize for that outburst just now. When my grandpa got upset he would yell "Gentle Annie". We had no idea who Annie was, why she was considered gentle, or why our grandpa always mentioned her when he was agitated. My grandpa didn't use profanity and he raised all his kids to avoid the same. All his kids followed his advice....except for Uncle Frog of course. Uncle Frog could weave a line of cuss words together better than any poet could ever put the words together to create a beautiful poem. But, I'm getting away from why I'm agitated and had to blurt out those foul words.

I had determined to write an eloquent story today. It was going to pull at your heart strings and probably cause tears to fall. At the end of the story I was going to wrap it all up as a lesson for all and possibly offer an idea for an excellent New Year's resolution. That's what I was going to do. And I did. The problem came when I tried to transfer the story from an unfamiliar publishing software to my blog page. The entire story transferred just as it should with one exception. The whole thing printed out as one line. I scrolled as far as I could to find the end of the story but eventually another blogger told me to get my words off his page. (That's not true....I made it up.) I tried to edit the job by pulling it up and resetting it in parameters for my own page. This took half an hour. When I tried to check the edited version, the whole thing had printed out in four lines reaching to the neighbor's blog again. At this point I cursed the computer with a good, strong "Gentle Annie" and deleted the whole thing.

I may write that story again someday....I promise, it made me want to laugh and cry at the same time if you can understand that. It was one of my better stories I must say...and I must say since evidently no one else will be able to read it any time soon. Before I rewrite the story I need to spend a little time removing some irritating software from my computer.

Have a wonderful and prosperous New Year. Please remember that prosperity isn't measured in dollar signs.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Present Building Past....

The last of the Christmas orders have been picked up. The tools have been cleaned and put away and the sawdust swept. It's quiet in this Santa's workshop today. Every year about this time I promise myself I will never make Christmas presents on order again. Around the approach of spring, which usually occurs around March 1st and lasts until the 2nd, I start looking forward to having a busy shop again. I have other orders to fill but nothing required before Christmas. I will start on the new projects after a short break until the first of the year.

Today I had planned on focusing my attention on the tons of fallen leaves in my yard. The neighbors would appreciate it and I would enjoy being outside. As luck would have it, today is the coldest and wettest day of winter for us so far this year. I guess just sitting here next to the fireplace is as good a place as any to waste time. The only thing better would be if Debbie would go out to the wood pile and start us a fire. That would be just wonderful but I'm not expecting it to happen. Since it's been so warm we've had only one fire this year so Deb stacked Christmas presents on the hearth. I guess I'll hold off on that fire until Christmas day when everything has been distributed to the little...and not so little grandkids.

I was sitting here reflecting on my 'Christmas present building past' with warm memories. I kept saying during those stressful days just before the deadline that I would look back on those days someday with fondness. I didn't believe myself at the time but now I do enjoy thinking back. Mainly because the days are past and I don't have to relive them ever again. My mailman asked earlier this week how I learned to make things out of wood. That started the memories. I'll give a quick summary:

It all began on a hot day in August, 1950. The place was All Saints Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas.....

oh, sorry....Debbie told me not to go that far back.

It all started in 1979 when my doctor told me if I didn't learn to live with the stress of my job I wouldn't live to see 30. I was 29 at the time. Since I wasn't interested in starting a new career, he suggested I find a hobby to be accessible to me every day of the week. I could do anything as long as I did it daily. That ruled out most hobbies. No one....well, no one back then could play golf every day and fishing was out of the question. I could learn to cross-stitch and help Debbie with projects or I could learn to do something manly. Hunting was my first instinct but the city didn't think that was a good idea. I explained there was plenty of wildlife that needed thinning out around us but they said "no". Then I remembered my grandpa and how he let me help with his woodworking projects. Even though most of my help involved sweeping sawdust I enjoyed the time spent and thought, "Hey, that's what I'll do! I'll sweep!" Then I decided actually doing the woodwork would be more enjoyable. I came home from the doctor's office and told Debbie exactly what I had been told: "Go immediately to the hardware store and invest way too much money on quality woodworking equipment or you will be dead by your 30th birthday." It may have not been those exact words but that's the message I received from the doc.

After my first investment I had the basic tools to create tremendous volumes of sawdust. The tools looked wonderful in my garage and I hoped to actually turn one of them on eventually. Since grandpa wasn't around to supervise my ignorance I was a little bit scared of the tools. It took about two days to get enough nerve to turn them on and another week before I actually cut some wood. My first projects were Christmas presents for my unsuspecting family members. They were so kind. A few years later after I actually learned how to use my tools I offered to replace every gift I had given with something less fireplace worthy. My sister Julie took me up on the offer and after I made her another gift we agreed the stupid, lopsided "fern stand" would be tossed in the fire. It was a grand experience.

Learning to work with wood is a dangerous undertaking if you are teaching yourself. Too many times the self-taught have to make notes to themselves about things like not to get too close to the blade while it's rotating...and they usually have to make that note with the less dominant, and less bleeding hand. I was lucky to have spent time with my grandpa because even though my only functioning tool was a broom he drove the safety issues home to me regularly. So far, I've never bled from a cut. I have bled over a few splinters but that just adds to the mystique of a quality woodworker.

A few years into my woodworking saw the building of a shop for my hobby. All my tools laid out in permanent positions with built-in workbenches, overhead lighting, and a lock on the door. I had made my place in the prestigious world of "really good woodworker". Of course there is no award for that status, and I just made it up while writing this.....oh, and the status itself was in my own mind but darn it, I was proud of myself. People actually wanted me to make things for them rather than politely accepting the offered nightmares. I had arrived. My job wasn't slowly killing me anymore and my hobby was completely satisfying.

As I sit here in retirement and laugh at all the stress and worry I put into things that no longer matter, I'm glad I put some time into learning how to work with wood. I enjoy it and yes Debbie, I also enjoy complaining about it. It's all part of the hobby!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Year We Scared Santa Off...

Christmas traditions come and go as we age and our kids age even faster. It was fun to share the wonder and excitement of our boys when they faithfully believed Santa Claus gave them everything they wanted under the tree. I miss those times but you can't hold onto them forever. I know my parents and Debbie's parents weren't ready for us to leave their Christmas traditions and we held out as long as we could. We would have Christmas Eve with Debbie's family then come home late and get the boys to bed. Then we would begin assembling all the gifts "Santa" was going to bring them. We would finally make it to bed around 2:00 a.m. just to be roused around 6:00 a.m. by two very excited little boys. After we finished our own Christmas we would hurry to get to my parents house early enough for gift-giving with them. After that, Christmas lunch with Debbie's parents followed by Christmas dinner with my family. By the end of the day I hated Christmas. I got over it pretty quick each year.

It was on one of those schedules that my brother Glenn planned a special event for our boys. He was at his own in-law Christmas Eve but left it dressed as Santa. I called him right before we left to head home. When we pulled into the driveway and our headlights swept across the front of our house, there was Santa on our front porch about to walk in the front door. Debbie yelled, "look boys, there's Santa Claus!" They jumped up and looked just as Santa showed surprise and ran away. Jamie and Cody both let out a howl like I've never heard while screaming, "daddy, you scared off Santa Claus!" Although I assured them he would come back after they were asleep they were convinced he would be on the other side of the world by then. There was no comforting their broken hearts.

As Debbie herded the boys inside and got them ready for bed, I took off to find my brother. I had to get him back to our house to calm those boys down. I wandered the street yelling "Santa Claus! Santa Claus!.....Glenn?" He was no where to be found. I went back home telling myself the Lord would understand all the lies I was about to tell my boys. I walked into their room while Debbie was tucking them in. Jamie had manned up and become very quiet. Cody was still crying as hard as he could. I whispered to Debbie that I couldn't find Santa anywhere. She didn't know what we should do. Our boys thought we had chased off Santa Claus. But suddenly there was a Christmas "miracle". We heard a tapping at the bedroom window and looked over to see Santa peering inside. I opened the window and my brother's magic words calmed them down. "HO HO HO, you boys don't cry! I wouldn't let Christmas pass without filling your tree with presents. Go to sleep as fast as you can and I will come back after I know you are asleep". Thank you Glenn!!

I think that was the best Christmas the boys ever enjoyed as little fellas. The only bad part of it was the experience convinced them beyond doubt that Santa Claus really did exist. We worried as they grew older that they were holding onto that belief too long. When I felt the time was right, I casually mentioned one day how memorable it was when Glenn dressed up as Santa and got scared off our front porch. Cody said, "oh man, I knew it had to be something like that!" Jamie said, "SAY WHAT?" I'm just glad it happened before he left for A&M.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Random Thoughts....


It's cold enough to have a fire going in the fireplace. Earlier this week our AC was still keeping us comfortable. Now the heater is warming the house and I made the first fire of the year this morning. I should be out in my shop finishing up my Christmas orders but it's just too nice sitting here by the fire and sipping on a second cup of coffee. After all, it's still like forever until Christmas and I work better under pressure. I think I'll just sit here for awhile.

It probably won't be long before we are all complaining about the cold and anxious for summer again. We Texans are a fickle bunch. I admit, the cold does affect my leg but other than that this cooler weather is a welcome relief. When my leg starts aching too much I'll be thinking about those good old 100+ temperatures with fondness.


I'm amazed at how much the Lord has blessed Debbie and me over the years. Aside from the fact that the prettiest girl at Bell High School agreed to marry me nearly forty-seven years ago, we have two fine sons who have now grown to mature and successful men. It was touch and go with Jamie for a while. He wanted to be an English major. I would have been proud because I know he would have been the best English teacher in the history of education but I am so thankful he took that one accounting course as a "test". He changed his major to accounting and is now a CPA and partner in a well-known accounting firm. He will now be able to support us in our old age instead of the other way around.

Cody told us when he was five that he planned to be a doctor. We gave him the "uh huh" response and didn't think too much about it. As the years progressed it became obvious to us he was serious in his pursuit. He worked so hard and was so broke as he went through med school, internship, and the opening of his own small practice. Now he enjoys a large successful practice in Southlake, Texas. He too can support us in our old age. It makes me wonder why I bothered to save for retirement. As much as I love my two daughters-in-law, and how blessed my sons are to have their respective mates, I'm pretty sure they are thankful that I did save for retirement.

More importantly than my sons' success in their career fields, Debbie and I are amazingly blessed by our sons' faith in God and their active work in the Lord's kingdom. So very blessed....

I won't even begin to tell about each of my eight wonderful, talented, and beautiful grandchildren. I might just brag about them individually in separate posts. Hey, it's my don't have to read it. (Just kidding. It would break my heart if you didn't read it!)


No one knows what the future holds for us. The clowns in Congress do their very best to assure their future is secure at our expense but we still live in the greatest nation in the world. Those who served and those who continue to serve in the various branches of the military have given us peace and safety in a world that 's crazy at it's best. We owe them all a tremendous debt and it breaks my heart to see pictures of homeless veterans. That should never happen...ever! Money funneled to those who aren't even citizens should be used to help and protect our opinion, don't get mad at me. It would be nice for the USA to be able to help the whole world. We've tried. We can't.

As for my and Debbie's future all I can do is trust in the Lord. We will continue to do that and I hope we are just as faithful if, or when, things go bad for us.


I write stories about my past and the past of those I love. I have been trying to update some and write more about the present. There just isn't that much funny stuff going on in our lives. I could write about daily stuff but I would probably lose my twenty-three faithful followers. When I was a kid my granddad used to buy old houses to restore. He was one of the first flippers. When he would buy a new project house my brother and I or one of the other grandsons would go over to help him clean it out and get it ready for renovation. Glenn and I were assigned the attic on one of these old houses. We found all kinds of free stuff. Our grandpa said we could keep it all and our dad said we absolutely could not. I found a diary written by a teenage girl probably fifty years prior. I was excited to read about the wild exploits of a teenager in the early 1900's. It was exciting:
Day 1: Got up. Ate breakfast. Went to bed.
Day 2: Got up. Ate breakfast. Looked out the window. Went to bed.
This is not made up. The whole diary was this same thing. Finally the entries just stopped. I figure she probably shot herself. I promise I won't post entries like this. If nothing happens I'll make something up, which several of you have accused me of already.

Thanks for bearing with me and my ramblings.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Listening to the oldies....

I've gotten to the point where I try to avoid listening to the music of my youth because the grandkids think I must have rocked with the dinosaurs. I sometimes get nostalgic which easily leads to depression over a youth not appreciated but surely missed. I couldn't wait to get past the teens. I craved being all grown-up. Maybe I thought I would receive some respect from my dad. That didn't happen til I was in my late fifties so if that was, in fact, the reason for my craving I should have craved a red Corvette.

Sadly, I chose to listen to the music from the early sixties this morning. There was some wonderful music back Candy Girl by the 4 Seasons....and there was some not so great stuff. I won't mention any of those though because they might possibly be your favorites. In order to keep from drifting off into depression I will tell about a day in the spring of.....well, I don't remember. It must have been '62. My sister's best friend was a girl named Cathy from down the street. I secretly loved Cathy and planned to marry her if she would promise to never see her insane brother, Gary, again. Since I never revealed my love, she never had to make that promise. I am sure she would have agreed if the subject ever came up.

My sister, Cindy, was a shy girl without an ounce of rebellion in her body. Cathy was wild and crazy before wild and crazy was cool. I never knew how they could be best friends but I was glad they were. Cathy was always at our house....probably to avoid the insane brother. If Cathy came to see Cindy I made it a point to be in the same room. Cindy was a pretty good older sister. She rarely threw things at me to drive me off. Looking back, I was for sure a royal pest.....I did not care.

Cathy loved to dance which was another contradiction to their close friendship. Cindy didn't dance. None of our family danced. My mom was certain dancing paved the way straight to....well, you know.

I loved to watch Cathy dance to whatever Top 40 was playing on that little AM radio. As a side note here, and Cindy might correct me if I'm wrong, she and Cathy made matching moo-moos. Cindy's was modest and conservative. Cathy's was amazing. She was wearing her moo-moo when some Llano cousins came to visit. My cousin Roy fell in love with Cathy ten seconds after they arrived. We were in Cindy's room listening to music, laughing, and having a great time. All of a sudden Chubby Checkers suggested we all get up and do the Twist. We all jumped up and started working out to the only dance my mom didn't condemn (no touching). We all danced like the good Christian children we were. If you've ever watched an old movie where the kids were dancing to the Twist, you would have noticed the nerd in the corner grinning like a goof and barely moving his hips to the music. That was us. Cathy did not have that inhibition. She got so revved up she split the side right out of that moo-moo. If Roy and I hadn't already been goofy enough, we sure raised the bar then. We both started giggling and ran from the room. As we ran I asked Roy why we were running away. He didn't have a clue so we turned around and ran back but it was too late. Cindy had already helped Cathy out with something else to wear....stupid sister.

Sigh....yep, I sure should have taken the time to be a kid.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween....

For years Halloween has been a holiday to endure and not necessarily enjoy. You have to cash in a CD to have enough money for candy and the whole night is spent getting up and down to answer the door. Before we had the ability to freeze the screen it was impossible to watch any TV that night. When I was a kid Halloween was thrilling because of all the preparation and expectation....or maybe it was because it signaled the upcoming holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I didn't try to analyze it. I simply prepared myself, my costume, and my extra heavy duty bag for collecting candy from the neighbors. Call me weird but my favorite candy was the peanut butter flavored taffy wrapped in orange or black paper. Good times.

My daughter-in-law, Cayce, asked Debbie and I the other day if we could remember our favorite Halloween night. I had a hard time thinking of one but finally remembered. I was on the edge of proclaiming myself too old to Trick or Treat. It would be my last year because I lived with the fear of embarrassing myself while running into the love of my life. I won't mention her name because she might possibly read this and I would be embarrassed again.

I decided to make the most of this Halloween night. I dressed up in my black cape with top hat (I was into old movies set in London) and I hoped the weather would hold off for a few hours. A cold front with rain was headed our way and I didn't want my cardboard top hat to turn into mush (I never told anyone but I loved that top hat). I also decided for the first time ever that if I came to a house with no treat I would leave a trick. I looked all over for a piece of chalk or a used piece of soap to create havoc. I could never get away with taking eggs or toilet paper. Yes, my mom did keep count of them! I finally found a piece of purple crayon so I was armed.

I stepped out of the house to start my culinary collection finally. My parents made us WAIT UNTIL IT WAS DARK to start Trick or Treating. The oncoming front had pushed in a thick blanket of fog. My dream of stalking the streets of London were complete. My sisters and brother met up with Sharon and Kelly, other neighborhood kids whose faces are in my memory but unfortunately the names are not. We hit the first three houses next to ours with huge success. The fourth house was dark and quiet. I boldly walked to the door anyway, rang the bell, knocked....yelled "Trick or Treat" in a threatening way and nothing happened. That's when I did it. I broke the law for the first time in my short and innocent life. I pulled out my purple crayon and DESTROYED the front door! BRUHAHAHAA!!! Actually, I only had the nerve to put a small mark on the door bell but it felt good...REAL good!

The next house we visited was answered by a wide-eyed foreign man. He looked at our costumes and said, "Hello?" We all yelled "trick or treat". He didn't move. He stared at us for a moment longer before asking, "So, vat is dis trick or treat you speak of?" I explained the whole tradition of hand it over or suffer the consequences, thinking the whole time this guy must be kidding. He wasn't kidding.....he threw his hands in the air and ran off yelling for his wife to find some treats quick!! He and his wife came running back carrying some apples and bananas asking if that was okay. We thanked him and turned to leave. I turned back around and warned him that about two hundred more kids would be ringing his door bell before the night was over. I don't know how they handled that.

The next morning I was so filled with guilt I walked back up the street and cleaned the purple mark off the offending neighbor's door bell.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

This exercise thing is working....

Oh sure, I don't work out for very long but I'm going three times a week and I must say I am looking pretty good for an old man who has never exercised in his life. Seriously, I never took a PE class until I was a freshman in college. I was in the band and the school administration knew band guys got enough harassment without PE. This is why on the very first day of PE in college the coach told us to hit the track and show him how fast we could complete the mile. I was so proud to be the first to finish. I strutted up to the coach and asked him what he wanted me to do next. He told me he would like for me to run the extra three laps to make a full mile.

Anyway, I'm now making up for the years spent thinking I was in good shape. An oval is a shape but I don't want to be that shape anymore. I have some upper body strength and it feels good to pick up my little granddaughter Claire without having to sit for five minutes. I've also toned up the muscles in my mid-section. Now I can bend over and tie my shoes without passing I can SEE my shoes. I'm not saying I am where I want to be but I'm on the right road and as long as my old pal Charley keeps going with me I think I can stick to it.

Charley doesn't need to work out. He's at least a wait, he's seventy-one and he doesn't carry an ounce of body fat. He is retired from American Airlines. We retired the same year. My hobby has been sitting in a quiet, still position and pondering life. Charley's hobby is cutting down trees and splitting the wood. We're a lot alike that way. Charley goes to work out with me for two reasons. First, I asked him if he would because I needed the encouragement to keep going. Second, Charley doesn't want to get old. Bad news Charley, we don't go to the Senior Center because of the location.

We each have our own workout routine.  Mine is different than his because I can't use any of the equipment requiring pressure on my leg. I ride the bike for half an hour and then go through the upper body sets. Charley looks at the bike for about fifteen seconds and then hits all the weight sets. As a result I'm usually finished before him. I go down the hall for a cup of coffee and wait. After a few minutes Charley wanders in and pours a cup of coffee along with three or four donuts.

Charley is married to a beautiful, sweet lady so don't take this the wrong way. The first time we went to the center we were drinking coffee and watching members walk the track. (Four laps is a mile, you know!) Charley said, "You know, if you were a single guy this would be a great place to meet girls." I decided right then that old Charley is older than he thinks.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Uncle Frog II

When I was seven there was no person on earth cooler than Uncle Frog. He was kind enough to come live with us for a second time and shared the bedroom with Glenn and me. Of course had it not been for that unfortunate loss of his funds at the Jacksboro Highway Bar, Frog probably wouldn't have agreed to move in and entertain us kids when he did.

Frog drove a brand new GMC pickup. Back then no one drove pickups except farmers and construction workers. Frog was no farmer. I still remember that pickup as if he were driving it today. It was gray with white hubcaps. He built a toolbox for it and painted it bright red. Did I not say Uncle Frog was cool?

Frog came home from work every day covered with mud and cement dust. He did come home on time though because my mama insisted on everyone being around the dinner table at the same time. Before dinner Frog would clean up good and replace those dirty work clothes with freshly starched Levi's, white shirt, and pointy-toed cowboy boots. Then we would have dinner. He tried to come to the table once without cleaning up and mama marched him right out of the dining room. Old Frog never crossed my mama without paying dearly for it.

Frog made a promise to mama that he would stay as far away from the Jacksboro Highway Bar as he could while living with us. As far as anyone could tell he stuck to his promise. It was during this time of severe sobriety that Frog got his life together, saved his money, and moved to Irving.

Frog must have saved his money pretty well by sleeping in the bedroom with Glenn and me. The first time he came to visit after moving he was driving a brand new 1957 Cheverolet Bel-Air coupe. It was white on black with a red interior. Life couldn't have been better for old Uncle Frog until the day he met his beautiful German wife, Frieda, years later.

I was happy for Frog but I sure missed him living with us. I did find myself getting in less trouble after Frog moved away but that didn't ease the loneliness. I missed finding quarters on my closet floor that Frog would "drop" for Glenn and me to find. I missed waiting on the porch for Frog to drive up in his gray pickup after work to hear about his day. I missed watching him polish those cowboy boots till I could see my face in them. I missed the water gun the house! I missed watching him use the cuff of his jeans for an ashtray like a real man would do.....couldn't wait to be old enough to smoke and use my jean cuff as an ashtray.....but mama wouldn't let me. Thinking about it, I still miss all those things. When I was seven and Frog was living in our bedroom it was a good time.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Yeah, I'm buff...

I mentioned last week I had joined the Senior Center in Hurst in order to have access to their gym. It's a great gym and I enjoy my three day a week workouts. I start out on the stationary bike and ride 5.5 miles which gives me a good warm up and burns calories the equivalent of a Snickers bar. Since I don't eat Snickers bars anymore I'm already ahead for the day! Since joining I think I've ridden to downtown Dallas and in the coming weeks I should be able to ride home. I didn't even think of the side results of the stationary bike. Aside from burning off the residue of hundreds of Snickers bars, the exercise is actually helping my leg improve. I'm going more and more without my cane now and hope to give it up completely soon....please do not mention this to Debbie.

When I first started my workout regimen I was warned to ease into it. Although the fire department is next door it would still take precious minutes to arrive if my heart seized up on me. I started with the lowest possible settings on the computer. As I gleefully road along, the screen kept repeating, "Hello! Is anyone actually riding me? You can go faster if you wish but don't hurt yourself fatso!" I eventually turned on the TV instead of reading rude computer comments. I've worked up to a fairly aggressive setting now. I plugged in the parameters today and turned on the TV. Instead of watching Mayberry, RFD, a large message appeared on the screen that said, "No TV for you today fat boy. We're going cross country". Thirty minutes later I had covered 5.5 miles of the worst terrain in Texas. My heart rate got higher than I've been able to achieve in any of my earlier activities of eating nachos and watching reruns, I was gasping for oxygen, sweat was pouring off me and I still worked off only one Snickers bar.

Before the ride got too hard I noticed a new face walking into the gym*. He walked kind of like Fonzie on Happy know the subtle strut I'm talking about. Although he appeared to be about a hundred and had not a hair on his head, he was still in amazing shape. All the ladies started yelling, "Hi Coach!"....a disgusting display. He walked around and greeted all the women. He seemed to ignore the men. As he walked past my bike I made eye contact and spoke. He looked at me for a second and said, "Eh."....not "Eh?" like "excuse me I didn't hear you" or even "EH!" like "I don't know you but feel I should respond". It was just a him the benefit of the doubt I should say that although my comment to him in my mind was structured, "Good morning my good man. How are you today?" it came out of my mouth as "doin?" All in all our short conversation said everything each of us was interested in hearing.

No one introduced me to Coach so I had to make assumptions based on events. Coach walked over to the weights and started pumping iron. Slowly several ladies gathered around him and picked out weights for themselves. Coach then said, "Welcome to class ladies! Are you ready for your workout?" From these actions I assumed Coach was actually a real coach and not some pervert cruising the center looking for hot chicks. As they worked out I also developed the additional assumptions, 1) Coach's name is probably Muffin....Stud Muffin....Coach Stud Muffin. Yeah, that's it. 2) I have a lot more hair than Coach and that is why I don't have as many muscles. 3) I'm beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable from all this fixation on Coach. Fortunately, about that time I hit a large hill in the program and had to concentrate on not dying.

Wednesday I'm going to back up my parameters a bit before my ride. Hopefully if it's cross country again it will be in New Mexico instead of the Texas hill country.

*Editor's note: Although Mr. Mihills referred to a 'face' walking into the gym, he actually meant to say 'someone walked into the gym I had never seen before'. Mr. Mihills has been notified that faces cannot walk anywhere.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

So then....

....there I was, dragons to the left of me and dragons to the right of me. I swung my double bladed sword like a madman, sweat pouring from my fantastically trim body, fear consuming my heart.....and then I woke up. My dreams are much more colorful than my every day. I really need to be more selective about my evening meals.

I have been having really weird dreams lately. Sometimes I'm an amazing guitar player wowing the crowds with my vintage electric guitar. I guess even in my dreams I can't play the banjo well enough to dream about it. Other times I'm back at work and scrambling to get a project done on time. That dream is actually worse than dreaming about dragons because the project is always impossible. I'm rarely the hero in my dreams. Usually I'm the dumbo in need of help. But boy oh boy, I slayed some dragons last night.

I've been plagued with insomnia and bad dreams since I retired. I really don't have enough to distract me during the day. It's just too hot outside. My indoor activities like writing short stories, reading, and watching oldies on TV cause me to get I nap. Then I lay awake half the night and have odd dreams the other half. Its a maddening cycle I've fallen into. When fall finally gets to Texas I'll be back outside working the yard and creating sawdust in my shop but for now I am slowly going crazy.

I remember seeing a movie years ago in which Michael Keaton was a resident in an asylum. In one scene he escapes and on his first morning of freedom, he breathes deeply the fresh air and says, "Ah, its a good day to be insane". That scene struck me as interesting because I was in a stressful situation at work and wondered if life would be better if I was crazy. I can say with certainty now that it is not!

I feel rather useless to the world right now and would love to improve the situation. Unfortunately, I have nothing to offer the world. I did try to volunteer at the hospital. Through LifeLine Chaplaincy I made visits to patients in an effort to boost their spirits and help in any way needed. While learning this I was told to never sit down in a hospital room unless invited. Sick people do not care if you are standing. They never invite you to sit down. They are sick for crying out loud. I could make the visits okay but all the walking and then standing in one spot bothered my leg so much I had to quit. I really can't do anything else.

I got a membership at a gym....well, to be honest it was a membership at the senior citizens center in Hurst. They have a top notch gym though and that's why I joined. I don't want to learn how to line dance. I don't want to learn how to make quilts. I just want to use the gym and at $20 a year it's the best deal in town. I go three times a week to work out. I feel great after a good workout. I go on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Today is Thursday.....I feel rotten. I would work out every day but Debbie would miss me if I was gone that often even though she's asleep when I go and asleep when I get back. I know she would miss ME though because too much exercise and I would turn into wonder man and she would long for the old flabby me. I would never do that to the love of my life.

Well, that's all I have to say. It was a good ten minutes but now I have to finish my crossword puzzle, eat a light lunch, and take my nap. Have a good day!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How to Build a Toothpick....

The weather has been extreme this summer in Texas. My two hobbies have been shelved until fall gets here and I'm about to go stir crazy. I can't work in my yard because of the heat and humidity and working in my wood shop is impossible. I thought about installing air conditioning in the shop but decided Norm on New Yankee Workshop would shake his head in disgust if I did.

It rained last night and into the morning so the heat was abated somewhat. The humidity was awful but I thought I could use the fan in the shop for a while and work off some of the cabin-fever blues. I wandered around for a few minutes and then dug some wood out of the 'inventory'. I thought I might make a nice box. For some reason everyone loves a box if its made of wood. I designed the box in my mind and sorted out the necessary wood. I turned on my table saw and cut everything to length. I wanted to dado the boards for a nice finished look at the joints. Debbie bought me a new dado blade for Christmas and I have used it a few times already. Unfortunately, a few months ago I was digging through an old tool chest in my shed and found my old dado blade. I couldn't remember why I stopped using it and then stored it away so efficiently. I decided to use it today.

The old blade is really cool. You don't have to measure or add shims. You don't need to use up scrap boards testing for proper depth and width. You just dial in the measurement you want, install it on the shaft, and get to work. Why did I ever stop using this thing?!?! I dialed in 3/8", installed the dado, and turned the saw on. I then remembered why I had buried that old dado so deep in the tool chest. The saw started vibrating and dancing around. I hadn't locked in the wheels so it started rolling toward me, tools were falling off workbenches, neighbors were dialing 911 to report the disturbance. It was awful. I wanted to run but realized I was a man and I had to face my challenges like a I walked over to the wood pile, selected a nice, straight, 4' long dowel rod, and carefully reached the off switch. I wasn't to be outdone by a stupid dado blade so I locked down the wheels, removed all remaining tools from attached work benches, grabbed a scrap piece of wood, prayed, and turned the saw back on. It started the crazy vibration again but I reminded myself I was trying to use a professional grade dado blade with a tiny little 40 year old table saw. It wasn't possessed. It was not possessed. I took my scrap of wood and fed it into the blade. Oh my you remember how the Cookie Monster ate cookies on Sesame Street? That's how the dado attacked that poor piece of wood. I ran for the door, pulling the plug to the saw as I ran past. I didn't slow down until I was in the kitchen. Debbie asked what was wrong and I calmly said, "I need a drink of water and there's a monster out there in the shop!". She laughed....I laughed....I sipped on water until it was gone....finally I went back outside. I tiptoed over to the saw, grabbed my blade wrenches and took that dado off the shaft as fast as I could. I carried it back out to the shed and buried it deep in the old tool chest......then I locked the chest, locked the shed, said another prayer and went back to my shop. As I started to clean up the shop I noticed a splinter on the table of the saw and it was a perfect toothpick. I carefully picked it up and carried it inside. Debbie asked me what I had made today. I held up my prize and said, "I made a toothpick! I think I'll stop for the day".

Monday, August 7, 2017

I love a road trip....

I bought new tires for the car. I love new tires. New tires make the whole car seem new all over again. Debbie couldn’t care less about new tires but I do. I really like new tires.

Debbie’s birthday was last week. I asked her what she would like for her birthday. She said she really didn’t need anything. I asked her if she would like new tires because I had already bought them. She told me no. She said she would like to visit Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. I said that was a wonderful idea since we hadn’t been on a trip in a while and after all, we do have new tires on the car. I made the plans and we left last Wednesday.

I did not realize Pawhuska, Oklahoma was so far away. It took us six hours to get to the neighboring town of Bartlesville where I had reserved a hotel room. Pawhuska was another thirty seven miles away. Whew. As we left the Metroplex area and got up to speed on I-35 I noticed a slight vibration in one of the wheels. I mentioned to Debbie that as soon as I got past 70 mph the vibration started but below 70 it was fine. She said no one in their right mind needed to drive faster than 70 so I stuck it in cruise control and forgot about it. It was a nice drive, light traffic, beautiful scenery. We got to our hotel around 2:30 in the afternoon and checked in. I was beat. I fell asleep almost instantly and Debbie sat and planned out our stay…..a little bit of shopping in Bartlesville, nice dinner and early bedtime. She had to drag me out of the bed and slap me around for a while before I was conscious enough to take her out shopping.

The next morning we got up early and headed for Pawhuska. Debbie wanted to have breakfast at the Mercantile. I have to admit, I really enjoyed the Mercantile. Great food, wide variety of merchandise, unbelievably high prices which discouraged Debbie from buying too much. Oh yeah, the restrooms were exceptional. All in all, our six hour drive up there was surely worth the two hours it took to have breakfast and shop the whole store. Debbie thought we would spend the rest of the day shopping in Pawhuska….there is no shopping in Pawhuska. By 11:30 we had seen it all and had no other plan than to head back to Texas.

I like to plan ahead for any trip I take by car. I like to use my road atlas and highlight the roads we will use. I have done this ever since we first started traveling early in our marriage. It’s entirely possible that if I’m ever elected President of the United States and then have a library in my name, all my road atlases will be displayed for posterity. Anyway, I had the return trip planned to cross Oklahoma on state highway 60, hit I-35 close to the Kansas border and fly like the wind south to Fort Worth. As I pulled out of the parking lot Debbie asked if I was sure my route was best. I said, “Of course! If you have doubts ask the Google lady.” Debbie asked the Google lady for the best route to Hurst, Texas. She said to get on state highway 99 and head southwest. I happened to be on state highway 99 heading for highway 60 at the time. Losing confidence in my plan I decided to follow Google Lady. Google Lady must have been laughing her electronic head off for suckering me into this decision. Her instructions took us two miles, turn left, go ¾ miles, turn right, turn left, go 100 yards, turn blue…..and then it really got bad. This is the honest truth. Google Lady had us turn into a residential neighborhood and drive around for a while before landing us back on…..yep, back on state highway 99.

As the day dragged on highway 99 became less like a highway and more like a game trail. It was a horrible situation and I had no idea how to change things. We were wandering around Oklahoma completely lost while Google Lady laughed maniacally. After two and a half hours we passed over what looked like a decent highway going west. I pulled to the side of the road and got out my atlas and saw that the road shot straight as an arrow west to I-35. I found the entrance to the highway and got moving. An hour later we were on I-35 headed south and nothing was going to slow us down….except being sleepy. I had to have a break so I asked Debbie to take over. I pointed her south, leaned back in the passenger seat and fell asleep. The vibration is what woke me up. The vibrating wheel….that only vibrates over 70 mph. I jumped up...or I should say I tried to jump up. The G force we were in kept my head plastered to the back of the seat. I strained my eyes to look left and saw Debbie hunched over the steering wheel blasting down I-35 so fast the car felt like it was coming apart. I tried to speak but my lips were pressed against my teeth and wouldn’t move. All I could get out was “BIBLP BIBLP’, which is pronounced BIBLP BIBLP. This sound disturbed Debbie long enough for her to let up on the accelerator. I was then able to ask her (in a calm, reassuring manner) if she didn’t think she should slow down to...oh, I don’t know, maybe 70? She explained she had to go fast because a truck had passed her twice and was about to pass her a third time. She couldn’t let that happen. I told her to go ahead and let the truck go on by. She could slow it down a little. A few minutes later the vibration started up again. I asked her why she was going so fast. She said, “You know I hate to drive behind trucks hauling pipe!” I looked up the road and saw a small blip of a truck on the horizon. I told her to let it go. I didn’t think she would be hit by any falling pipe unless she managed to catch up to the truck and ram it from behind. She suggested naptime might be over and maybe I should drive.

It was a great trip.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Danny and the Bear...

We spent a while in Roswell, New Mexico in the early sixties. My dad was with a team from General Dynamics sent to build underground missile silos during the height of the Cold War. His job was involved with all the wiring…..hmmm, I may have just spilled a huge pile of top secret information just now. I guess since these silos have now been filled with dirt I am fairly safe  from prosecution….but if not, HEY, I WAS JUST KIDDING! What’s a missile silo anyway??

We had a house built in a new neighborhood close to the old Walker Air Force base. This location was absolutely perfect for eleven and twelve year old boys to wander the countryside, chase tumbleweeds, sneak onto farmland, rearrange survey markers for new roads….you know, innocent stuff. Another new family moving in about the same time as ours had two boys close to Glenn’s and my age. One of the boys, Danny, became my best friend for the short time we lived there.

Our families became close almost immediately since no one knew anyone else in the neighborhood. Over time we started going on camping trips together up around Ruidoso. On one of these trips Danny and I begged our parents to let us set up our own campsite a few hundred feet from theirs. Danny had an old Army surplus pup tent and I had….well, I had nothing but my trusty cub scout knife. They agreed to let us venture off as long as we stayed in sight.

Our chosen site was down a low spot which we called a valley and back up a small rise which we referred to as “the next mountain over”. We found a clearing with a fairly level spot and spread the tent out. We figured and studied and then figured some more. Finally, Danny decided we should stretch the tent out and he would crawl inside it to set up a pole while I held the tent up and in place. It sounded like a plan so we got to work. Danny was in there for the longest time pushing, grunting, kicking, and so forth. After a while my arms got tired and I was bored. I began to slack off and started “studying the terrain”. That’s when I heard the thrashing noise behind me. I turned as much as I could while still holding the tent in place and saw a bear coming through the brush. I handled the situation calmly by screaming like a girl, dropping the tent on Danny while running right over it, all the while waving my arms in the air yelling, “B-E-A-R!!!!”. Danny poked his head out of the tent yelling, “WHAT?” I yelled it again, “BEAR!” while running, pointing behind me, and waving my free arm in the air. Danny saw the bear and after he got his eyeballs back in their sockets, caught up with me doing an imitation of an adolescent Tarzan… ”ARRGGGHHH!”. All this activity took the bear by surprise and he ran off in the opposite direction, waving his arms in the air and yelling, “CRAZY KIDS!”.

We stopped running after about a mile and circled back around to our families campsite. We calmly told our story….both at the same time with high pitched voices. After they finally understood our frantic babbling they believed us which, in hindsight was a real stretch of faith. They suggested we go back to the site, load up the tent, and come stay with them in the popup campers. We weren’t about to go back alone so our dads went with us and helped carry everything back. We acted like we were really put out having to stay in a dumb old camper instead of camping on our own mountain…..Danny may have been disappointed but I was tickled to death to sleep in that warm, safe camper.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


I had a cousin on my dad’s side named Michael. He was a year older than me and a lot bigger. He used to pick on me. In fact, it was standard procedure for him to hit me solidly in the stomach as soon as he saw me when the families got together. After I got my breath back we would have a pretty good time but that punch in the stomach always took a little bit out of me. One day my mom told me Michael and his family were coming over for dinner. She said she wanted me to let him have it as soon as he stepped out of the car and if I didn’t she was going to spank me after they left…...true motherly love….

I was scared to death when I saw their black and white Oldsmobile pull into our driveway. As it rolled to a stop I positioned myself where I thought Michael would step out of the car. As soon as he had both feet on the ground I placed a perfect punch into his stomach. He went to the ground gasping for air and groaning. I figured my uncle was going to finish me off but he just smiled and stepped over his son. I helped Michael up off the ground and we went on our way playing the day away. He never hit me again and we got to be pretty good friends.

I spent a couple of days with Michael one summer weekend. We wandered up and down the hot tar and gravel roads around his house, threw beer bottles at rocks as we found them along the road, and collected coke bottles we could redeem for cash at the convenience store. He taught me the art of getting the most out of my recycled change. I would have bought a nickel Coca Cola and a nickel Snickers. He introduced me to Topp Cola, which was twice as much in volume as the Coca Cola and Big Hunk, which was huge next to a single Snickers. It didn’t matter that these substitutes tasted awful. It was more for the money and we had a few cents left for comic books. We needed to stock up on comic books because we were going to camp out that night in his backyard.

We had a tent set up in the backyard and as soon as the sun went down we went out there. Only young idiots would want to sleep in a canvas tent on a summer night in Texas. We qualified! Our plan was to read all the comics we had bought ourselves and then trade. I have always been of the opinion that a comic book should be funny…..hence the name comic book. I bought Archie, Donald Duck, Little Lulu, and Beetle Bailey. Don’t laugh at me. This was quality stuff. Michael bought Thrills, Death Angel, Quilt Man, and Tales of the Crypt. It took me about half an hour to read all my books. Michael spent nearly two hours getting through his. I read mine two or three more times before getting to trade. After a while they weren’t funny anymore. Finally it came time to trade. I have never read anything more incredibly scary than Tales of the Crypt….and as fate would have it, this was the last one I read….in a dark backyard….that backed up to a deserted country road….at a tent….did I mention it was in the dark? Michael slept peacefully dreaming about Betty and Veronica. I didn’t sleep at all. I saw mummies on the road, zombies sitting on the patio, and one or two ghosts drifting across the backyard. I was sure glad to see the sun come up and my beautiful aunt Evelyn wandering out to see if us boys were ready for breakfast. She was a saint!

Monday, July 10, 2017

I couldn't stop writing....

so please bear with me as I continue to pass on stories from my family to yours...

The Brassfields...

We didn’t go as often as we would have liked but when we did make a trip to the Brassfield’s farm in Missouri we knew we were going to have a grand old time. My aunt Irma and uncle Tom had about a dozen kids it seemed like and everyone of them enjoyed life to the fullest. From my earliest memory of hand feeding the calves, jumping from the loft in the barn, and causing my sister to fall face first into the pig pen, to the later visits when we were all mature teenagers…..and played “Piggy Wants A Signal” til it was time for bed, every visit was a memory maker.

I can remember being told one day that we were going to go visit Irma and Tom. I was just a kid not too far removed from running around the neighborhood in baggy underwear. I didn’t know Irma and Tom and I wasn’t too interested in meeting them. My mom told us we would have a great time because they had kids our age and they lived on a farm. I dreaded getting to the farm, and if I’m not mistaken the first farm was in Nebraska….I could be wrong. I guess I could call one of my cousins and ask them but that would be too much like “research”. Anyway, the trip seemed to take forever.  When we got there all six of us (Debbie Sue hadn’t joined the family yet)  climbed out of the car and stared into the faces of a dozen cousins staring back at us. It had rained most of the way up and even though a bright sun had broken through the clouds there was still mud everywhere. I didn’t like mud….not Nebraska mud anyway. It wasn’t the same as Texas mud. I gave those kids my most effective scowl and they didn’t even flinch. They were actually glad to see us. Evidently they remembered seeing us at some point that was lost on me. They immediately started making us feel right at home. Even all those girls were friendly to Glenn and me. I fell in love with one of them inside of five minutes but she was too old….and we were related after all.

After all the hugging and laughing at how much everyone had grown was past, we made it into the house. I never liked being in houses where I didn’t know anybody so I was ready to get back outside. Besides, who wants to be inside when you live on a farm? As I started back out my mother warned, “stay out of the mud”....well shoot, that kind of limited my options. Luckily, my newfound cousins followed me out and since they didn’t have the mud limitation I was able to follow them around. After just a few minutes I was thrilled to death to be there and loved being around my newfound cousins.

The next morning one of my older cousins, Bill, was told to get busy with his chores. Aunt Irma suggested he take me along to help. The look on his face was troubled but he tried to hide it. As the day progressed I figured out that his chores took twice as long for him to accomplish with my help. This was one thing I learned real quick about the Brassfields. They never complained. They just kept on smiling and going about their business. I felt like I was a real farm hand by the end of the day and Bill probably hoped I would be assigned to one of his brothers tomorrow. Bill had two older brothers, Kenneth and Leon, along with a younger brother, Cecil. Kenneth and Leon also had daily chores but I didn’t get to ‘help’ them. Glenn was assigned to Cecil. Cecil didn’t have anything to do except run around playing. He was good at that….Glenn was a happy guy. Poor old Bill got me again the next day.

My sisters were busy with all those girl cousins I had met. I figured I would never learn all their names so I just referred to them as the girls. I figured they were busy cooking, cleaning, mending socks, and such….you know, women stuff. I felt sorry for them being stuck inside working like that as I followed Bill around the farm. I was sure surprised when I saw one of my sisters in the hayloft giving serious thought to jumping out onto a huge pile of hay. All of a sudden one of those Brassfield girls came up behind her, grabbed her, and jumped out of the loft. They screamed with joy as they fell and disappeared into the hay. Then they climbed out and headed back up. Those girls weren’t doing women work at all. They were having fun! I left Bill with his chores and headed for that loft. As it turned out, Bill was able to actually get his chores done without me helping and was soon in the loft with us. Man oh man, what a day. I am scared to death of heights but jumping out of that loft was pure joy.

The only other memory stuck in my mind about this trip was saying something to my older sister Cindy and getting her to chase me. There was a small pen enclosed with an electrical wire where the baby pigs (piglets?) were kept. This was more than just mud. It was smelly, slimy, really disgusting mud. I knew about the pen and my sister didn’t. As she was chasing me I headed for that pen and jumped over the corner of it. She was right at my heels and tripped on the electrical wire getting herself a nice couple of jolts on her lower shins, all while falling face first into the middle of that pen. The spanking I got was well worth it although I did feel bad about the electrical shock.

I remember so little about this trip I’m surprised I was able to write so much. I have many more memories of later trips to the Brassfield farm in Missouri. I will write about them soon.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

So long for now....

I'm a story teller. I've always told stories and many years ago I decided to write some of them down for my future grandchildren. In the beginning I shared the stories with co-workers and then started showing them to my wife, Debbie. After a while she convinced me to compile the stories into a book for my siblings as a Christmas present. I printed off enough copies to give one to Glenn, my three sisters, my parents, and a copy for my cousin, Mike Cooper. They all seemed to enjoy the book so I started a blog to write more stories to share. I am a bit of a procrastinator and let several months go by (about twenty-four of them) without posting anything on my blog. Because of this I completely forgot my password and due to my procrastination I hadn't yet gotten around to writing the password down. That particular blog is now somewhere out there in cyberland full of forgotten stories.

I started this blog a few years ago and tried to stay somewhat regular in posting to it. I also wrote down my password which is something I highly recommend to everyone.

The stories I've written are just that....stories! All of them are based on true events but have never been intended as historical fact. Historical fact is usually boring. I've tried to enliven the past with humor. Hopefully the humor added has always been at my expense....oh sure, I have used Debbie as the victim on occasion but that was covered under the marriage vows, "Do you promise to not get mad at Russell when he tells stories about you?" "I do".

These stories are about the past as seen through my eyes. I'm not interested in writing anything to be published. I don't think any of my stories will ever be used at future reunions...."this is the way it happened according to our great ancestor Rusty Mihills". They are just stories, written mainly for my grandchildren to know what it was like when I grew up. I would rather they read a colorful story than thumb through a box full of dusty old photographs.

If I've recorded an event incorrectly I'm sorry. It wasn't intended to be offensive to anyone.

For now, I will write down my memories and store them away in a file for eight blessings in my life: Gracie, Nathan, Andy, Sam, Lily, Carter, Charlee, and Claire.

Thank you all for reading!

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Case of the Drowning Cousins....

When I was about seven I loved to hang around my cousins Mary Wayne and Peggy. They were older than me but rarely chased me off. Peggy used to read to me and Mary Wayne was just cool. She was funny and never seemed to get tired of a snotty-nosed little cousin following her around like a shadow. I also liked all of their friends and always tried to be a part of things.

One day Mary Wayne, Peggy, and their friends decided to go swimming at Lake Worth. I got all excited and told my brother Glenn and cousin Bruce (Mary Wayne and Peggy's lanky little brother) to "Go get your swim suits. We're going to the lake!" Now this is why Mary Wayne was so cool. She had not invited us to go with them but since I assumed we were included she never said a word. She acted like that had been her plan all along.

As we left the house aunt Cricket reminded Mary Wayne and Peggy to keep an eye on those boys since they didn't know how to swim. Silly talk...we were nearly grown. We could take care of ourselves just fine.

If you are familiar with the area you know Lake Worth is a very old lake. The history around its shores is varied and colorful. What used to be Carswell Air Force base was a Strategic Air Command base throughout the Cold War and fighter pilots got their touch and go hours in constantly, flying just over the lake. Convair, now Lockheed Martin, tested fighters over the lake daily. There were rumors the Mafia had people working out of a floating restaurant/bar on the lake with tales of unsolved mysteries buried deep in the silt.

When we were kids there were a few slabs of old buildings beneath the surface of the lake and fishermen loved to work their lures along the slabs. We liked to walk on the slabs because the water came to our knees and there were no "surprises" to step on from below.

On the day I invited Glenn, Bruce, and myself along on the girls outing the three of us were walking along one of these slabs while the rest of the group swam out to a floating pier. I was in front with Glenn and Bruce following close behind. We were having a grand old time wading around while Mary Wayne and Peggy had a grand old time completely forgetting about us. As we walked the slab playing follow the leader I suddenly took a step off the slab into deep water. Taking follow the leader to an extreme, Glenn and Bruce followed me into the deep. I never saw or felt Glenn fall in but Bruce fell right on top of me. I grabbed him and pushed up to the surface. I quickly told him I would hold him up and he should scream and wave for help. I then slipped back down until my feet touched the bottom. I didn't know if Bruce's head was above water or not...if it wasn't he didn't have a prayer of saving himself because I wasn't letting go of him. I pushed myself up two or three times to gulp down some air then went back down. Eventually one of the girls looked over and realized we were gone. I feel like one of them saw Bruce and they all swam over faster than I'm sure they've ever done since. Bruce was grabbed and then me. No one saw Glenn until Peggy got a glimpse of his curly hair come to the surface. She grabbed his hair and yanked him up. They saved our lives without a doubt.

The water we fell into was probably only five or six feet deep but when you are four feet tall that's a lot of water. I've been afraid of the water ever since and didn't learn to swim until I was a sophomore in college. To this day I avoid swimming in a lake or the ocean. I try to stay away from pools but occasionally peer pressure....and avid swimming grandkids causes me to venture in.

Friday, June 9, 2017

What to do, what to do......

Here's how the day was supposed to happen: I would get up around six, drive over to borrow Cody's post hole digger, dig four holes in the backyard, place four posts in pre-selected spots, and build a small deck to hold our backyard swing....complete job in one day.

Here's how the day actually happened: I got a text late last night from my daughter-in-law Cayce asking that since I was coming over so early the next morning could I sit with two of the grandkids while she took a third to a speech therapy session. A small delay but quality time with grandchildren. Debbie offered to keep the kids here so I could keep my schedule (taskmaster that she is). We woke up to rain which voided my schedule so I called Cayce to tell her I would make the trip over there....too late, the kids were loaded and she was on the way. While we watched Sesame Street Claire got sleepy and went down for a nap. Carter wanted to pal around with me so we "worked" in the garage and watched the rain. Eventually Cayce came back and while waiting for Claire to wake up fell asleep herself. When she fell asleep Debbie and I both got sleepy. I drifted off while Debbie kept Carter and Charlee in check. After I woke up Debbie fell asleep. I thought for a minute I should check for gas leaks but figured that would be wasted time.....we have an all electric house. Around 11:30 everyone was awake so Cayce took the kids home......and I fell back asleep.

During all this sleeping the rain stopped. Our house is built on a hill so the drainage is great. An hour after a rain I can mow the lawn if I need to do such a silly thing. I could have gone out and dug those holes and started the project. That would have saved a portion of the day. Instead Debbie and I decided to watch reruns on Netflix.....and snack. We also decided since we had experienced such a difficult and taxing day we deserved a night out. We haven't had Tex-Mex in well over a week and that isn't looked on favorably in Texas.

All in all the day was non-productive. I got absolutely nothing done I had planned but sometimes a person just has to stop and listen to the rain...or smell the roses.....or toss it all out the window and play with the grandkids. Cayce complimented us wonderfully by feeling close enough to us to fall asleep in our home and dream away two hours in carefree abandon.

I am well known as a dyed in the wool procrastinator and I may find good reasons for not finishing that deck for another week or two but today....ah, today was bliss.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Scarborough Fair

I was about to write about the woes of owning a twenty-one year old pickup when I sat down at my desk this morning. As I turned on Pandora the speakers on my desk poured out the Simon Garfunkel canticle, Scarborough Fair. All of a sudden memories flooded back to my senior year in high school, graduation, and the summer before starting a college career that would last years longer than I originally imagined.

I heard this song for the first time when I watched the movie, "The Graduate" with Dustin Hoffman. I identified with the main character in so many ways....other than his graduation was from college, mine from high school; he was rich, I didn't have two nickels to rub together; and of course, his neighbor was Mrs. Robinson, mine an old widower named Mr. Smith....he absolutely did not try to seduce me at any time whatsoever. What we did have in common was having no idea what to do with our futures. He needed to find a career and a wife. I needed to find a major and a plan for my future. He found a wife although it was the bride of another man. The last scene of the movie was of him and the wayward bride sitting on the back seat of a bus headed nowhere with the realization of what they had done, and what they faced etched on their faces. Actually, I guess I had nothing whatsoever in common with Hoffman's character except graduating at about the same time.

I try to not think back to my senior year in high school. It wasn't a good time for me. I do remember vividly the day I drove away from LD Bell for the last time. It was a beautiful late spring day, all the windows were down on my Chevy, the 8-track tape deck had the Beach Boys blasting from it, and I felt as free as one seventeen year old can feel. I knew I was starting college in the fall so I didn't have to worry about the jungles of Vietnam for a few more years, I had graduation money in my pocket, and I didn't have to show up for work for two more days! Boy oh boy, those were some mighty fine days of freedom and they lasted all of two days. Then I had to go back to work and start packing money away for college.

Throughout the summer I struggled with what I would do in the fall. I really wanted to be an architect but several "educators" had advised me to find a nice quiet degree with as little math required as possible...maybe Old English Lit. or, how about a nice degree in Philosophy? (As a side note, I didn't discover until late into my college years that I was very good at math. All it took was an excellent Business Analysis professor to eradicate the fear I had of it....fear instilled by countless math teachers who were too quick to judge based on comparison with "talented" students. I could sure fill a blog page on this subject but I won't.) As a default I took a major in business management. I wouldn't be the architect I dreamed of...thank you Mrs. Thrasher and a host of others.

That summer was filled with news reports of war demonstrations, days at the lake getting sunburned, and of course girls....lots and lots of girls. Even though I knew in my heart the love of my life was still in the process of growing up I dated a lot of girls that summer. I met them at my job at Six Flags....a wonderful idea formed by rich people to create an atmosphere for high school and college kids to meet and fall, or in some cases, lust....not me though, I kept it at like. It was during this summer I discovered that dancing would in fact not send you straight to hell as I had been taught. This false information had been a bane throughout my junior high and high school years.

It was toward the end of this wonderful summer that one of my dearest cousins was killed in Vietnam. Reality hit me right up the side of the head. Jamie had been so full of life and loved every minute of every day. The sadness and subsequent depression following his death haunts me to this day but his short life was a lesson to me. There are no promises about the future. I tried, and succeeded somewhat to stop worrying about the future so much. I tried to start living in the present and life got better...even with a crummy degree in business management.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Aunt Dovie...

I'm not sure if its the noise coming from the kitchen or the smell of frying bacon that wakes me up on this particular Sunday morning. As anyone in the family can attest, a Sunday morning at the Wardlow's is a much loved memory. My mom is with Dovie scrambling around trying to get a huge breakfast set while JD shaves and sings "Bringing In The Sheaves" or some other hymn as loud as he can. All seven kids are trying to avoid getting ready for church while my dad sits nervously in the living room, hiding behind the Sunday paper, hoping against hope that JD wont light into him for not going to church. Its a wonderful experience and the breakfast....ah, the breakfast...biscuits, more bacon than we ever see at home, and all the fried eggs you can eat. Of course we can only eat one because "that's enough, don't be rude". The eggs are courtesy of the hardworking chickens wandering around outside and the bacon is courtesy of an unlucky hog who met his maker the year before.

The Wardlow's lived on a few acres outside of Belton, Texas. To us "city kids" it was paradise. They had chickens, hogs, woods to one side and open fields to the other. A large front yard with thick St. Augustine grass was shaded by huge oak trees. All this and the added bonus of cousins, Jamie and Donny, who taught Glenn and me more corny jokes over the years than all the other cousins combined.

Our home today is known as "Mammy's House" because Debbie is 'Mammy' to our grandchildren and she is the one who has made our home so special for them. The Wardlow home should have been known as "Dovie's House" because she was the one who created what we all so lovingly remember. She didn't get out and roam the fields and woods with us or play ball with us in the front yard. She got tired easily because she had a severely damaged leg from a childhood injury and had to get around with a cane. Her temper was short on occasion because her two sons gave her a real run for the money, hence the piercing "DONNY RAY's" that sometimes filled the airwaves. She was hands down the best cook I've ever known and ruled her kitchen like a kingdom. Hours and hours were spent sitting around the kitchen table snacking on things she had made. One thing that was so special was the constant variety of foods and desserts available. She just kept on making stuff and it was never off limits. We could have anything we wanted any time we wanted it. She even made her own peanut butter which amazed this always hungry ten year old. She kept a loaded shotgun leaning in one corner of the kitchen. Jamie told us it was to chase us kids off when we got in the way but I don't think that's true....I hope that's not true. We used to sneak off with it and wander the fields shooting anything dumb enough to get in our cactus, leaves, or the occasional snake.

I loved to eat fried chicken at Dovie's house. I was used to having one piece of chicken at home for any given meal but when Dovie fried chicken it was a feast. It broke my heart when I found out where those chickens came from though. Glenn and I were chasing some nervous hens around the yard one day when Donny warned us not to let Dovie catch us. She was about to come outside to "select" dinner and she didn't want us making the inventory all skittish. Good old Donny also offered to let us wring their heads off if we asked real nice. I think I ate vegetarian that night.

Aunt Dovie was beautiful....just like all my aunts. My mom loved her older sister and told us kids more stories about growing up with her than I can remember. I hope future generations have the joy of remembering a special place and a special least one. I'm blessed with many.

Dovie was a wonderful aunt and I loved her dearly. She was the first aunt I lost to cancer. She died too young but in a way she was blessed with an early death. She died a year before her oldest son, Jamie, was killed in Vietnam. She didn't have to suffer the terrible loss experienced by JD, Donny, and all the family and friends who loved Jamie so much.

I think back on all our visits to the Wardlow's with warm and happy memories. Sometimes when life gets stressful my mind wanders back to the hectic Sunday mornings and the smell of breakfast in the kitchen and JD singing "When We All Get To Heaven". At times it seemed like we were already there.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Two tiny flaws....

....that's all they were. I painted my house about a year ago and shortly afterwards scratched a couple of places on the porch....hardly noticeable. They bothered me though and I promised myself I would touch them up "next weekend". Debbie has guests coming today for a baby shower and as I swept the porch I decided I would touch up those spots. You know, I should realize by now that nothing goes easy for me. It is a giveaway when neighbors gather in my yard when they see me start a project. They sip coffee and eagerly wait for the disaster to occur.

I found a small paintbrush and looked around for the partially used paint I had left over from the house painting project. (Side note: This project resulted in a week's stay in the hospital.) I found the can, dusted it off, and shook it like crazy to mix up the old paint. I set the can on my workbench and carefully opened it. The paint was still good but while checking it the lid slipped from my fingers and landed upside down on my garage floor. I said, "Oh ____!" (insert your own 4 letter word here cause I don't use profanity), and bent to pick it up. Here is where I dropped the paintbrush out of my pocket and into the paint puddle. Forgetting the mess on the floor I grabbed the brush and wiped it down. I decided I would go ahead and paint those spots before cleaning the mess on the floor.

After touching up the porch walls I complimented myself on being a really good homeowner and walked back to the garage. I got the lid off the floor and put it on the can. I took my hammer and gave the lid a good whack to seal it and shot paint all over my very favorite Hawaiian shirt. In a panic I ran inside so Debbie could save my shirt.....I did not know I had stepped in the paint puddle but Debbie pointed it out to me. Thankfully the trip through the laundry room, down the hall, and into the kitchen took off most of the paint on my feet. By the time I got to the carpet in the den all was well.

After discussing the brevity of life with Debbie for a few moments I went back out to clean up the paint puddle. I have taken physics in college but I"m pretty sure we never had a lecture on paint puddles. There should be a formula for it....X = diameter of puddle, multiplied by Y = amount of time scrubbing it, equals Z = extended diameter of X. The spot just grows and grows until you give up and place a mat over it.

Project done, I stepped out of the garage and after thanking the neighbors for their generous applause, came inside for a well-deserved nap.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dancin' Julie

When we moved to Hurst there wasn't much there. It's only bragging right was having better bad roads than Bedford's bad roads. One thing we liked though was the ability to light it up on July 4th without worrying over city ordinances. My dad loved the Fourth. We may not get to wear PF Flyers because Sears had a cheaper alternative but by golly no expense was spared at the firecracker stand on the Fourth. He put on such a show the neighbors stopped buying their own fireworks so they could watch ours. We were so proud of him! He would smoke his one cigar of the year and light off the fireworks with the hot ash. He would buy us those little round things that popped when you threw them to the ground and always included a batch of sparklers for the little girls. Good times indeed.

As we grew older Glenn and I would talk him into a few packages of Black Cats. He bought little sticks which would stay lit for an hour or so and we would light off our Black Cats one at a time. He wouldn't let us have a cigar which was probably a good decision on his part. We would blow up anything we could find with those Black Cats. Sadly, as is the case with most good things, the city decided explosives in the hands of the general public was not a good idea. Ordinances were passed and the good times almost ended. Our dad was not happy with this decision and blamed the Communists. However, he did follow the new rules....partially. He still took us to the fireworks stand but bought only the sparklers and those wimpy throw down thingies. What a let down.

The next year we talked him into some Black Cats but his warning to us included arrest and probable prison time if we got caught setting them off in the city limits. We obliged him by walking out into the street to set them off thinking they wouldn't arrest two little boys...and since we weren't on our property they wouldn't know which set of parents to imprison. We were cautious. Every time a firecracker went off we would hide and watch for the police to show up. My mistake was the decision to set off a complete package of fifty firecrackers at one time. Glenn's mistake was to launch a used tomato can into space.

I had a huge bag of Black Cats. There was no way I could go through all of them in one night if I set them off one at a time. I opened up a package of fifty and adjusted out the wick so I could set them all off at once. Using the wisdom only a twelve year old boy can muster, I lit the package off in my hands. The hiss of the wick and the speed of the burn toward the package scared me half to death. I immediately tossed the whole thing behind me and ran. Unfortunately for my little sister Julie, the package landed right at her feet. Fifty powerful Black Cats started going off as she jumped and danced in a feeble attempt to get away. I discovered that fifty firecrackers tend to dance around when they go off simultaneously and they went everywhere Julie tried to go. Julie was a skinny, and somewhat clumsy little thing and she put on quite a show. She jumped, waved her arms in all directions, screamed, just went on and on and on. I couldn't help it. I started laughing. Then Glenn started laughing. We laughed so hard and just couldn't stop. The parents heard the commotion and tried to get to Julie's rescue. Their faces were contorted in what can only be described as hilarious mad. They were trying so hard not to laugh. When they arrived on the scene Glenn and I adopted the same expressions on our faces. There we were. Four people with skewered up faces staring at each other while Julie finished her performance. I never enjoyed a better Fourth.....AND I didn't even get spanked for it. I was banned from ever touching another firecracker but it was well worth it. Julie forgave me a few years ago so all is well between us.

As this show began to cool down, Glenn slipped back into the street to light off his remaining firecrackers before they were confiscated. He put a used tomato can over the load and lit it off. It sailed high, hovered in the air for a second or two, then began its rapid descent back into the atmosphere....and landed right on the hood of the police car that had pulled up due to a call in about firecrackers going off in the city limits. To Glenn's credit, he walked right up and told the policeman he was the guilty party. Even so, my dad was the one receiving the lecture and promise of a fine if it happened again. Our days of celebrating the Fourth the way the founding fathers intended had just come to an end.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The rest of the story....

We eventually left River Oaks and moved to Lake Worth. We lived at 6101 Graham Street. It was a corner lot and a good sized yard. Daddy always kept the yard so nice and had rose bushes. He was very proud of his yard. We moved there at the end of my fourth grade in school. If my math is right, and that’s questionable due to memory lapses and not math skills, I was eleven years old. Peggy would have been nine and Milton almost fifteen.

When daddy bought the house it was a prefabricated house. It was basically nothing but a shell. Everything had to be finished out and daddy, Ed, and Milton did most of the work. If daddy was working on something, Ed and Milton would be pitching in on anything he wanted including digging lateral lines for a septic tank drainage. Ed and Milton could have their room any way they wanted and, as you remember, they painted the room a light brown with two walls decorated with dark brown cow brands. The brands were worked into the texture before it dried. Grandpa Walker had an old radio the boys inherited and they built it into one wall….sure wish we had thought to remove it when we sold the house.

Peggy and I decided...well, I decided because I was older to paint our room Paprika!! It was really the color of paprika spice, loud!! (I just now stopped writing this to go to the kitchen. I can’t believe they were allowed to paint their room that color!!)

Milton and I used to get in trouble for dancing on the old hardwood floors. We loved to dance to rock and roll. It was called something else by adults back then. (I felt it prudent to leave that name out of print.) Mother would make us stop only to get far enough out of earshot so we could crank it up again.

When Milton was a teenager he was friends with a young man in school that was responsible for Milton going to church and being baptized. That led to mother going back to church and daddy going with her to eventually being baptized himself. (Years later uncle Wayne would serve as an elder in the church.)

I will insert a bit of information on Ed now because it falls in place before Mary Wayne’s next memory. Ed married Mary Lynn. I was their ring bearer. I was told by my mom I had no desire to be anyone’s ring bearer. She said I made the comment, “I don’t wanna go to no marryin’”. I did have a terrible crush on Mary Lynn though so I went through the process without too much urging. I have a brief memory of being pushed down the aisle at the actual wedding but that is all I remember of that ceremony.

Milton married at a very young age and fathered two beautiful children. He and Linda divorced and Milton married one more time. Her name was Judy. He and Judy had a little girl, Gloria, about the same age as my Kevin. (Milton was killed in a car accident when Gloria was an infant.) I communicate with her through Facebook. I rarely get to talk to her or see her. She has two beautiful daughters and I can see Milton in all of his children.

This ends Mary Wayne’s wonderful story. I’m so glad she put her memories into words. You may notice more information was included on Milton than the other sibs. This is because his son, Don Walker, asked for as much information as I could gather about his dad. He was just a little boy when Milton died. He wants to know as much about him as anyone can provide so cousins, pass your memories on!

I told Don all I could remember about Milton and my favorite memory was of seeing him drive down River Oaks Blvd one day in his 1950-ish Ford coupe. It was white with red wheels, chrome rims and baby moons. I was about six and waiting in the car for my mom. I saw Milton and leaned as far as possible out of the car window and started yelling at him as loud as I could. Even though he was stopped at a red light right in front of the parking lot where I sat, he did not hear me. I mean I yelled his name, I waved my arms...he never even moved. Even his friends in the car heard me and punched Milton over and over while pointing me out. He continued to stare at that red light and never heard me. I’m pretty sure he had hearing problems.

I could tell more memories but I guess this has gone on long enough. I will tell the story about Mary Wayne and Peggy trying to drown my brother Glenn, Bruce, and me on a later post.