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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Creeks and Crawdads

My elder daughter posted on Facebook today about one's favorite thing to do when age ten.  Being that was somewhat over fifty years ago I had do to pause and consider.  But, first, let me tell you something about my world at age ten.

That would have been the year of 1964.  I know I was in the fourth grade for the '63 - '64 school year as I can clearly recall sitting in the sun on the porch in front of Mrs Hazelett's fourth grade school room and thinking about President Kennedy's assassination in November of '63.

Other than being historically significant with the assassination it was a watershed year for me as well for, as I recall, that was the year I made the acquaintance of three men who were to be a great influence in my life from there on out.

They were Isaac Isamov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein. In case you are not familiar with those names they are three of the greatest luminaries from the golden age of Science Fiction.  Plus all were scientists themselves as well as being writers.  I suppose Asimov was the most prominent as he was assuredly the most prolific.

By the time I reached the fourth grade I was reading at an adult level.  And I was a voracious reader.  It was not just that I loved to read it was that I was also pretty much ostracized from the social activities of my peers at school and not allowed to "associate" with them when not in school.  One of my parent's few shared beliefs was anyone whom I were to associate with would be a bad influence on "their little angel".  So, books had quickly become my best and, mostly, only friends.

But, when I was not in school and did not have access to the book-mobile my reading material was pretty limited.  But, during the summer and and on many weekends my dad and I would catch the passenger train at West Van Lear and ride down to the Patrick station.  From there we'd walk up the creek and across the gap to the Nat's Creek side and follow the foot path to my grandparent's house.  I don't think my dad bought me my own shotgun and took me squirrel hunting until the next year.  So, my most common past time was playing in the creek down in front of grandparent's house.

It was not a large stream but it seemed pretty big to me.  I guess the deepest part was about mid shin on me at that point in time.  The part right in front of my grandparent's house was the deepest and slowest flowing and it had a sandy bottom.  But just above and below that were rocky shallows where there were crawdads under almost every rock of any size.

So that is what I responded to her Facebook with as my favorite activity when I was ten.  Playing in the creek and catching crawdads.  Or crayfish if you prefer.  They will always just be crawdads to me.

Being a long way from the bayous we never thought at all about eating them but they did make really good fish baits.  Bass would "tear up" the whole ones and most any fish would bite on a peeled tail.  Maybe we should have taken a note of what the fish ate and tried them ourselves.  I know I was certainly hungry enough all the time in those days where I'd have tried almost anything anyone put in front of me.  Well, except vegetable.  Was never much for vegetables when I was a kid.

That creek is wildly different now though.  It seems much smaller than in memory and the strip mines dumped so much sand/silt in it all the fish, minnows and , probably, crawdads died out.  In the years after the strip mines left it has been recovering though.  A lot of the sand has washed out and the life is returning though it is mostly overgrown as people no longer use it for a road.

Yep, I reckon at age ten playing in that creek and catching crawdads would have to rate as my favorite thing.  Unless I had a good book.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pie Crust and Oddly Shaped Biscuits

These two things may not seem to have much in common but they were both a part of my childhood I look back on with fondness.  See, when I was growing up it was back in the time when all moms were "stay at home" and all moms cooked three meals every day.  Plus assorted baking and all the household chores.

From the time I can really remember until my late teens I helped my mother with cooking a lot.  Two of my favorite treats from those times were the baked trimmings from the "made from scratch" pie crusts she made and the oddly shaped portions of biscuit dough after the biscuits were cut out.

Mother would put the pie crust trimmings in a separate pan and bake them in the oven until they were nice and brown.  I think I liked those almost as much as the pies themselves.  Same with biscuits.  Mother made "scratch" biscuits every morning and used an old jelly glass to cut out the biscuits.  As for the jelly glass that was what the biggest part of our "water" glasses were.  Mother never had a real set of drinking glasses.  We just made use of what we had.

But cutting out the biscuits this way left little strings of dough between the holes from cutting out the "real" biscuits.  Mother would group these at the end of the pan and those are what I'd eat at breakfast while mother and dad ate the regular biscuits.

I guess the reason I liked those "left over" biscuits was the greater crust to biscuit ration.  Plus they were smaller and got done quicker so they were browner than the larger biscuits.  That was the good part.  One of my (many) faults with the biscuits I get when eating out these days is they are never browned enough.  And, let me tell you this, butter on top will never brown a biscuit the way bacon drippings (grease) will.  Nor will the biscuit taste as good.

In the years between my marriages I did, on rare occasion, make both biscuits and pies from "scratch".  Mostly my biscuits were pretty good and so were my pie crusts.  Now, the "whop" biscuits (store bought in a cardboard tube.  Whop comes from a Jerry Clower comedy routine.) and refrigerated pie crusts have become so good we never bother to do it the right way.

Nothing spectacular or important about it but those two things are something from my childhood I recall with fondness.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Question Which Occurred to Me Today

It is purely theoretical and, thankfully, no one will ever have to make this decision. But, I was wondering if a group of aliens from space or one of the many "gods" people seem to believe are out there came to you in real life and told you we/he/she/it feel there are way to many humans on your planet and we intend to wipe 50% of the from the face of the earth.  But, we/he/she/it does not know who deserves to live and who deserves to die.  So, you have been chosen to decide.

Latest stats say there are approximately 7.125 billion people on this planet.  That would mean you would have to decide which 3.5625 billion people who were going to die.  How would you decide?  Who would you decide on?  What would be the criteria?  On what basis would you decide how to select over three and one half billion people who would not see tomorrow alive?

Do you do it on personal bias and hatred?  Do you take the easy way out and just name the few countries with the highest populations?   How would you decide who dies and who lives?

What if you had twenty-four hours to choose?  What if you had one hour?  What about ten minutes?  Or you have to say now?

Do you try to protect your friends, family and those who are most like yourself?  Do you kill off all the old and infirm?  What about all the children who are not perfectly "normal"?  Do you give everyone an IQ test and kill off the half who score the lowest?  What about a physical fitness test and kill of the half who score lowest on that?  Do you include yourself in the criteria?

Three and a half billion people.  That is an awful lot of people.  Honestly, I could only come up with maybe a hundred thousand who would be easy,.  That is a drop in the bucket to three and a half billion.

Maybe you tell them to just leave us all alone or wipe us all out that you are not going to choose who lives and who dies and put it back in their hands?

Think about it for a while.  No matter how many things you think you hate about this world or who you think you hate for whatever reason that is three and a half billion people.  Real, live, people with minds and bodies.  People who love, hate, have dreams for tomorrow.

Then, if you can't come up with an answer.  Ask yourself this, "If I can't come up with a list of people I hate enough to mark for death then how many of them do I really hate"?  Like I said I could come up with around maybe 100K with no problems.  I could think of a couple of other categories I'd have no problem with getting rid of.

I'm quite happy it is only a theoretical question.  I'm glad I'll never have the power to make those kind of decisions.  But there are people who have that power and it follows them around every day.  Those are the people in control of all the nuclear weapons on our planet.  Think about that for a while.

Then, maybe, think about that at the polling place.  Who would you trust to have that kind of power at their fingertips?  Think voting is not important?  Well, I think it is important to have a say who has their finger on that button.  Maybe the most important thing in the world.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

This Country Does Not Take Mental Illness Seriously

I wonder why.  Most physical illnesses I might have mean I'm going to die.  My mental illnesses mean I could die and take out a few or a few hundred people with me.  Yet it seems our country does not take mental illnesses seriously.

I just got a call from a "mental illness" facility telling me they had just received my referral request from my family doctor which was supposed to be sent THREE WEEKS ago.  The nice young lady on the  phone said they were not making an appointment for me but some "student" would be "touching base" with me to "find out what I need".  What I need?!?  I'm supposed to tell  THEM what I need?  How effed up is that?  Isn't that what I'm seeing them for?

Kind of seems relevant right  now since some depressed SOB just deliberately crashed a jet liner into the mountains and took out 150 innocent people along with himself.  Wonder if someone told him, "Someone will touch base with you to see what you need"?

OK, my problems are not dangerous to others.  But, they might be.  How would anyone know who does not at least talk to me?  Tell them what I need?  Yeah, right.  "Oh, I'm thinking of climbing to the roof where I work with a high powered rifle and a few boxes of ammo and seeing how many I can take out before I go".   I'm not.  But, I might be.  Who's to know?

OK, when I was in my teens I went through a "mass murderer" phase.  I read everything I could find on mass murderers.  My favorite was Richard Speck.  He kidnapped nine nurses and butchered and dismembered eight of them.  But the dumbass lost count and the ninth rolled under the bed and escaped because he was too stupid to know how  many he killed.  Then he went downstairs to a bar and tried to sell the knife pretending to be a Vietnam vet who used the knife to do away with VC.  Dumbass.

I'm not dangerous to others.  I'm not even dangerous to myself.  But, were I so inclined I guaran-damn-tee you I would not lose count.  And, I'm a damn good shot.  They nick-named me "Rambo" when I was in the Army for the way I shot on the range.  I can burst a fist-sized rock every shot at 200 yards with a 30-06 without a scope.  I know how to get into my office without anyone knowing.  I know the way to get to the roof.  You think I could not take out at least fifty before they got me?  You're dreaming.  I won't do it.  But, the point is, I could.  Any day.

And, if I did, you all would go, "tut, tut, isn't is a shame nobody ever helped him?"  THEN you'll go out and vote for the bastard politicians who promise to cut spending at the expense of the poor, down trodden and mentally ill.  Then guess who's to blame.  Is it the person who crashed that passenger liner, climbed to that roof, butchered those nurses or is it YOU?  You who deny the mentally ill treatment because you're more concerned with your pocket book than your fellow man? (or woman)

I have news for you.  A lot of mental illnesses are physical illnesses which affect the mind.  There are a  lot of people who have them who are embarrassed to admit it, to ashamed to seek help, too stigmatized by a society which does not understand a lot of mental illness is no different than having TB, or CANCER, or other physical illnesses we cannot help.  And, in their ignorance they just write us off as "crazies" until one of us (who could have been helped) climbs that high building or crashes that  jet plane into the mountains.

And still they go out and vote for cutting fund for mental health.  Remember babe, you reap what you sow.  And remember, I'm not going to climb that tall building with a rifle... but I could.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Something From an Old Classmate

I recently reconnected with an old classmate on Facebook.  Guy I went to school with from 1961 - 1967 at West Van Lear (Ky) Elementary.  He posted these fifty things and I thought it might be interesting to post my thoughts and memories about each of them.  That is what follows.

1. Mumbly Peg (using pen knives)
**** Yep.  Did that.  Lacey Waller taught me that  when I was around five.  I have lots of interesting memories of Lacey and one of his brothers which I may have talked about in the past and might talk about in the future.

2. Whittling

****  Yep.  Never was very good at it and never saw much point in it but I did do it.

3 Marbles

****  Another childhood endeavor I absolutely SUCKED at.  'Nuff said.
4 Jacks 

**** Tried it with the girls but mostly just 'cause I loved girls and it was a good excuse to hang with them.  Things which required  (or require) hand/eye coordination are things I suck at.
5 Hop Scotch

****  Surprisingly, I was not horrible at this.  Unfortunately, I found it boring so I did not do it.
6 Hula hoop

****  This one is almost before my time.  I can recall my elder sister doing that but it never interested me at all.
7. Kick the Can

**** ONLY time I can remember  playing this was at the Preston's Gap one-room school I attended in first grade.    Was not very good at it.
8. Tiddly Winks
**** Nope. Never.  Not any absence in my life I want to fill, either.
9. Jump rope ( especially double Dutch )

**** Rarely tried this. Sucked.
10. Stretch (using pen knives both with or without shoes)

**** I don't recall ever hearing about it.  Anyone who knows about this, please explain it to me.
11. BB guns

**** Oh year, lots of BB gun experience.  Never owned one as a kid but the oldest son of the family my mother baby sat for did and he enjoyed having me running away from him and shooting me in the a... nether regions.  Doggone, I was stupid.
12. Red Rover

**** Now, this was one game I was pretty good at.  I never tried to run through the interlocked hands but jumped on them an let my weight do the work.  Surprising how much of sports is mental.
13. Checkers (non electronic )

14. Slinky

**** Never owned one but loved the commercials.  :-)
15. Silly Putty

***** Came in a plastic 'egg'.  Still fascinates me to this day.
16. Hens and chicks

**** Another one I don't recall at all.
17. Who could eat the most disgusting thing? (Bug, grasshopper, etc. 

**** Never ate bugs.  I was big on rocks though.  Those really thin, crunchy ones were the best.
18. Handlebars with Streamers on bicycle 

**** Remember them.  Can't remember if I ever had them.
19. Balloons and baseball cards in spokes of bicycle to make motor noise.

**** Darn.. I loved this one.  If I had a bicycle now I might still do it.
20. Tie string to the leg of June Bug so it would fly around and round until 

**** Not exactly.  Still do remember catching them though.
its leg came off.
21. Little girls having tea parties with their toy dishes.

**** Did that really happen?
22 Playing horse while playing basketball with friends.

**** OK, played that until I was 32 and joined the Army.  My best 'horse' move was a drive to the basket and jump over the baseline and flip the ball over my head over the top of the backboard and in.  Can't say how much I practiced that.  :-)
23. Playing 21 while playing basketball with friends

**** Not sure of this one.  We used to play "make it/take it" to 21 win by 2.  Same thing?
24. Hacky Sack

**** Nope not me.  My elder daughter would be familiar with this though.
25. Real Jarts you still have before they were pulled from the market 

as too dangerous
**** Played some as an adult.  Never as a kid.
26. Played chicken with a coming train or car.

**** That was something some I knew might do.  I understood the math.
27. Croquet

**** Believe it or not I did a lot of this.  My mother did a lot of this and I would help her a lot.
28 Whiffle Ball 

**** Oh yeah!!!! Not so much as a kid but more as an adult with my nephews.  Wow, you could make a whiffle ball do tricks.
29. Cake Walk (To Raise Money)

**** OK, I was very unpopular in school and did not have a lot of the same experiences others did but I did do the cake walks.  In the fifth grade I won three in a row.  My teacher (Mrs. Mollette) gave me a dime to enter the fourth and I did not win.  I was crushed.  Crushed.  Still hate losing on her dime.
30 Darts

**** Darts was something interesting.  My elder brother taught me to make darts from a long "kitchen match".  Use a sewing needle for the point and folded paper for the vanes.  Played that kind of darts until I was in my 20's.
31 Solitaire (non electronic )

****  Big thing.  Hours and hours killed.
32 Hide and go seek

**** Oh, yeah!  We also had a hide and seek game called "whistle or holler".  We'd do this at night and go hide somewhere and when "it" would yell whistle or holler everybody had to.  That is where I learned to hide in plain sight.  I'd find a pool of shadows in the middle of an open space where no one would try to hide and just lie there and blend into the shadows.  Never did get found.  :-)
33. Peg Board
34. Key Punch

**** Peg Board and Key Punch?  Aren't those the same thing?  When I was in my single digit years my dad and I were walking to my grandparent's house and stopped at Sherman LeMaster's store.  He had a peg board/key punch for a cedar chest of candy.  There were only like five punches left and in my naive state I thought if we bought them all we would win.  I convinced my dad to buy them all and... WE WON!  Gave it to my mother.  I still have it.  Over 45 years old now.
35 Brill Cream (A little dab will do you)

**** Yep, I remember that.  Of course right now a zero dab will do me.  :-)
36 Race your friend just for the fun of it. 

**** Yep.  Never raced a lot but lost a lot when I did.  :-)  I remember once Susan Watkins had just gotten a new pair of Keds and we raced from the street where the church was beside our school down to the driveway of the stone church down by the 'S' curve.  She smoked my a$$.  :-)  I love her anyhow.
37. Black Salve

**** Not just back salve.  Salve and lineament of every kind.  Mostly Vick's Salve or something my grandfather concocted.
38. Refuse to buy bottled water

**** Never saw the point until recently (relatively) when I saw all the awful crap in our municipal water system.
39. Buying a whole friar and cutting it up yourself.

**** When I was younger we always raised our frying chickens.  After we moved to West Van Lear my dad would send me to Victor Conley's store on Saturday afternoon to buy a chicken (could not cost more than a dollar) for our Sunday supper. (Yes SUPPER.  Dinner is what you eat in the middle of the day!)
40. Using a meat grinder that clamps that clamps to your kitchen counter.

**** Nope never used  a meat grinder.
41. Painted your bald head with paint put out by Ronko

**** Nope... Did people do that?
42. Not shopped at Wal-Mart for 30 days

****  I might not shop at Wally World for thirty days but my wife is there about five times a week.
43. Easy Bake Oven

**** Never had one but I sure do remember them!
44. Had three days of total rest.

**** Sometimes I do that now.  Our company's silly vacation policy sometimes mandates  I do that.
45. Asked an obnoxious neighbor or family member to leave.

**** Not me.  That is what hand guns are for.  LOL.
46. Men generally are the ones who usually ask women out on date

**** Always.
Have any of you ladies ever asked a man out on a date.
47. What is the most annoying thing your husband does?

48. What is the most annoying thing your wife does.?

**** Remind me (LOL) repeatedly of something I did not do or did not up to here satisfaction.
49. What would you change about yourself if you could.

**** Health.  Really, your parents probably told you that and you did not worry about it.  Hey, it really is the most important thing.
50 What do you see as your greatest asset?

**** My complete indifference to what other people think.  Most people as really just too stupid ot live so why in the world would I be concerned with anything they think?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

I Can Only Write When I'm Crazy

I remember an episode of "The Beverly Hillbillies" from the '60's,  Jethro (played by Max Baer Jr.) was going to be a beatnik poet.  One of the things I recall from the episode was of him saying, "a poet has to suffer".  If I call correctly he placed himself in several unrealistic places trying to suffer so he could be a good poet.  Looking back on it I find it is true in some ways and not true in others.  A poet does  not have to suffer but he/she has to live in a way there are things inside that have to be outside (other than gas after eating beans or cabbage) and,  it seems, most of those things come about from our less than pleasant experiences.

I used to write a  lot of poetry.  In fact I still have a fairly thick folder of print outs in my desk drawer. That was years ago.  Back when I was crazy.  Back when the only reality in my life for the most part was pain.  Then I could write poetry even though most of it was truly horrible.  Maybe all of it was truly horrible.  :-)  I don't know.

I finally was able to talk about it with my doctor and I've been taking various medications ever since.  Something around eighteen years now.  Since then I might write two or three poems a year.  Its not that I don't like poetry any longer it is just now, there is nothing inside which needs to come out.  Lots of the time there is just nothing inside at all.

It is a strange trade off.  Being crazy and full of pain and being able to write reams or being on medication and feeling little or nothing about anything and having nothing to say.  Then life is and always be a dichotomy.  When I start writing poetry again I know it is time to get my doctor to increase the dosage of my medication.

Now, I'm on the strongest dosage she can give me.  I've decided to allow her to refer me to a psychiatrist.  I'm kind of looking forward to that.  After telling him about my my childhood, parents and all the other crap he might write a monograph about me.  :-)  I just don't expect to be able to write afterwards.  At least, I hope not.  I can only write poetry when I'm crazy.  Having been crazy for so long I can tell you being dead inside is definitely better than a life filled with nothing but pain.  Even if I can't write poetry any longer.

The Indian's Footprint

When I was young I spent a lot of time at my grandparent's house.  I recall one time my grandfather took me up the branch (small creek) past the old barn, outhouse and chicken pen to a fairly large rock  beside the water.  On the top of the rock was a depression shaped exactly in the shape of a foot without toes.  It had a clear heel and ball of the foot.

My grandfather told me it was an Indian's footprint.  Being quite young I believed him.  it was about half a century and a lustrum ago.  For those who did not watch the original "True Grit" with John Wayne, a lustrum is five years.  But, to this day I think of it as the Indian's footprint.

Over the years I have gone back to that rock again and again to just sit on it and look at the "footprint" and think in wonder about past times.  I have always thought I'd love to be able to see the country where I grew up before the white people came and, in their greed, destroyed many of the people who lived there and their way of life.

All of that is gone now, of course.  The old barn was torn down and cut up for fire wood.  They eventually put a bathroom in the old house.  The chicken lot was there until after I graduated from high school but where their garden was was leveled out and one of my older cousins built a house there.   If I remember correctly the back of that house is just about even with where the footprint rock is on the other side of the branch.

I've not been back there for well over thirty years now.  I'd kind of like to go back once before they discard my empty husk just to sit by the Indian's footprint and wonder again.