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.