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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Living on Stafford

Tell the truth I really don't know why that area is called Stafford.  Maybe it is t he name of the creek.  Who knows?  Anyhow we moved there when I was around two and lived there until I was around four.  Lots of memories from those two years though.  Pretty disconnected with no real flow.  Just episodes.

Stafford is the first time I heard of Santa Claus and when I learned he was not real.  I was in the bed in the "back" room with my brother on Christmas eve and he told me to go to sleep and Santa Claus might bring me something.  My mother heard that and made it very clear there was no such thing as Santa Claus. 

That was the place I learned my ABC's.  I remember being upstairs while my mother was ironing and my sister was doing something or other.  They would not let me leave until I could recite my ABCs perfectly.  I had some serious problems with some of the letters I recall but I don't recall which letters they were.

I remember my sister watching American Bandstand so we must have had a TV.  She would have it on and dance with the broom as she was sweeping the floor.  She also swept up my brother's playing cards and dumped them in the stove.  Of course they were not "playing cards" they were "poker cards" and gambling was verboten.

I remember we had neighbors "Junior" and Alka (pronounced Alkie) Hall.  They had a daughter named Delilah.  I was not interested in girls yet (was not long though) but I did see here later in Walter's grocery and she had turned into a darned nice looking girl.  Last I ever saw or heard of her though.  Kind of wonder what happened to her.

My brother made "rockets".  He would whittle a rocket from a piece of wood and cut a notch in the side.  He would tie a piece of string (twine) to a stick and tie a know in the end of the string and place the string in the notch so the know held it in place and fling it upwards into the air.  At that age it seemed to go up for ever.

I remember my sister's dog being penned up in a shed across from the kitchen to see if it had rabies.  It did.  Somebody killed it.

I remember the outhouse was across the creek and there was a bridge to it.  One day my brother was in the outhouse for the usual purpose and I'd been over there bugging him and he times my hands behind my back with some twine.  I'd go running across the bridge to the house to get someone to untie me t hen go back to the outhouse so he could time me up again.  I have no idea how many iterations this sequence had.  More than one or two though.

I remember when my aunt Dixie's daughter (Phyllis Jean) died in child birth and they brought the baby down for my parents to see.  We were in the same "back" room where I learned there was no Santa Claus and my mother was holding the baby and went to sit down and I pulled the chair out from under her.  I did a lot of things like that.  I was not really a "bad" child but I surely did not understand the possible results of a lot of my actions. 

I remember on the day we moved from Stafford to Spring Knob a little, red sports car went flying up Route 40 toward the Spicy Gap and when the truck with our possessions made it's way up that road the care was lying on it's top in the ditch at the foot of the hill.  My brother does not recall that at all so it may not have happened but I sure remember it.  Just goes to show you all the things your mind tells you happened did not necessarily happen.

My cousin, Elizabeth (known as Lizzie) stayed with us for a while to go to school with my sister.  They were in elementary school but today would be middle school.  Around thirteen or so.  They made a date to meet some boys later in the evening just before getting on the school bus for home.  When they got home and got off the bus my dad told them if they thought they were meeting those boys later they had another think coming.  (Watch Bill Cosby's routine on parents)  Nobody ever figured out how he knew but parents do have ways of knowing things children do not understand.

She married Johnny Borders.  I loved him.  He always did his best Bugs Bunny impression (Eh, What's up doc?) for me whenever he came over to see Lizzie.  They are both long gone now as is my sister.  Just more memories which are all that remain.

I'm fifty-eight now.  My brother is seventy.  I wonder just how many things that reside only in our own memories will be lost when we are no more.  A whole section of the life of our family that will become inaccessible forever more.  Should anyone even care to wonder.  I guess that is a big part of this blog, to try to leave as much as I can to anyone who might be interested later in what I did and what I remember.  Though, there are a lot of things I did and a lot of things I remember that will never be written down.  Someone once told me, "There are some things you take to the grave" and I agree.  There are some things I will take to the grave. 

Poppy and Granny's House

I have so many memories of that house.  It was a part of my life from birth until well after I got married at age nineteen and we moved in there with my father and my dog.  I've mentioned before it was a whitewashed, clapboard house but now I'm going to pass along some more memories about it and the yard and other buildings.

The house sat on a flat area on a rise up from Nat's Creek.  Behind the house was another little rise then a garden are (flat) and behind that was an old barn.  On one side of the barn was a little out building  (left) and on the other side was the foot path and a raspberry patch.  Past the barn was the chicken house and fenced in area and the outhouse.  On the other side of the branch from those was another garden area.

On the edge of the rise behind the house were three or four chestnut trees.  On either side of the house were a large apple tree.  I don't recall the apples were anything special but the trees were fun to climb.  On the up creek side of the house right on the edge of the fall off to the creek was the well.

I've always feared "dug" wells.  I keep imagining falling into one and being head down and not able to turn around and right myself.  Of course, I've always feared drowning more than about any other method of dying.  Yet I do love the water and especially the ocean.  I feel, in a past life, I must have been a sailor who drowned in the ocean.  It is such a love/fear thing with me.  I feel no more peace anywhere than I feel being alone in the woods sitting beside a flowing stream of water.  I wish they could put that feeling in a pill because I'd be OD'ing on it all the time.

The house had three rooms down stairs and one big loft up stairs.  Standing with one's back to the creek and looking at the house there was a set of concrete steps up to the front porch.  (I really miss having a real porch).  On the left side of the porch was the porch swing.  On the right was Poppy's rocking chair and the old trunk where he kept coal to be used in the house.  I used to come once a week and carry coal up from the coal house to fill the trunk on the porch.

At the front of the porch there were troughs where Poppy would crumble left over biscuits and corn bread for the birds to come and eat.  In fact, granny had to make extra bread each day to feed his birds.  I remember him crumbling the bread into the troths and calling, "Pee, pee, pee" to call in the birds.  I guess they must have known what it meant because they flew in from everywhere to eat those bread crumbs.

When you went in the front door you entered the living room/Poppy's bedroom.  Straight in front of the door sat a dresser and beyond it a small closet.  To the right of the front door was a second (granny's) bedroom.  Granny also had her old, foot treadle, Singer sewing machine in that room as well as her quilting racks.  I've spent many an hour in there helping her make a "tacked" quilt.  When I stayed with them I mostly slept in that room with Granny.

In the living room, Poppy's bed was to the left of the door and a chair was between the front door and the door to the kitchen with a pot bellied stove in the middle of the room.  That stove served more than one purpose.  Yes, it provided all the heat in the house but during the day when the fire was going anyhow there would be a big kettle (pot) of soup (pinto) beans on top of it simmering.  Man, we ate a lot of soup beans, corn bread and onions.  I hated them back then but now I could eat them every day.

In the evening Poppy would shut the "dampers" on the stove to shut down the fire then put lumps of coal in the stove with kindling wood on top of it.  When I was not sleeping in the bed with Granny I was in the bed with Poppy and of a morning I had to jump out of bed and go dump a healthy amount of coal oil (kerosene) on top of the kindling wood then light a kitchen match and toss it in to get the coal oil burning then close the stove door and  jump back in bed until the fire got going good and took the worst of the chill out of the air.

Beyond the living room was the kitchen/dining room which ran the entire length of the back of the house.  On the left of the door was the kitchen table, the refrigerator and (I think) a cabinet.  Directly across from the door was a cabinet with a flat surface.  That is where Granny rolled out the dough for everything.  Biscuits, dumplings, pie crusts, ginger bread.  Just to the right of the door between the living room and kitchen was the door to the stairway to the upstairs. 

It was not much of an upstairs.  It was one big room with one bed in it.  There was also a dried out and stiff deer hide from a deer one of my cousins had killed.  Before Poppy moved it to the front porch to use for coal there was the old trunk that was full of black walnuts.  I loved sleeping in the bed up there.  It did not have any frills at all.  It was just bare rafters with a tin roof nailed on.  It was  not very large and on the sides the roof sloped down where you were really close to the roof when you were in the bed.  There is nothing like lying snug and warm in bed listening to the rain pounding down on a tin roof that is only a couple of feet over your head.  Maybe that is where I learned to love storms.  There and the cabin on Spring Knob.

To the right beyond the door to the stairs were a couple of tables.  One held a wash pan and a bucket of water.  On the left was the wood/coal fired cook stove.  Even though they had electricity my grandfather would not allow my grandmother to have an electric stove.  She cooked on that old cook stove until after my grandfather passed away in 1969.   And, she cooked well.  She could do more on that old stove than most women can do on a modern one with all the gadgets.  She made the absolute best gingerbread.

Beyond the stove and tables was the back door to the house.  There was a big apple tree on that side of the house and the "smokehouse" built about half way up the rise and the cellar underneath it.  In the cellar was shelf upon shelf of canned vegetables and a bin with potatoes piled in to last through the winter.

There really was nothing in the smokehouse to tell you it was a smokehouse.  That is just what it was called.  When you went in the door just to your left were two coffins my grandfather had made from poplar trees from the hills there.  I was told when they were made he got in his and tested it out to see how comfortable it would be.  He was, in fact, buried in that coffin. 

On that side of the house there was a window in the loft and there were long strands of string tied to nails on the window sill and to stakes in the ground.  There were morning glory flowers planted there and they would climb all the way up the string.  The were very beautiful in the mornings with the dew on them just as the sun was raising.  I miss morning glories and honeysuckles. 

In the front of the house there was a drop off to a flat garden area next to the creek.  That little hill was where all the ashes from the stove were dumped.   It was a big ash bank and you could sink up in it.  On the flat area was a small mulberry tree.  I can remember my brother and some of my cousins putting kitchen matches in the bark of that tree and sitting on the porch steps and trying to light the matches with .22 rifles.  Shooting was a big thing in my family.  I'm not a bad shot but I was probably the worst shot in my family.

My mother, when in one of her crazy spells, would take the .22 and go shoot walnuts off a tree and sing at the top of her voice while a pair of our dogs would howl along with her.  When I was near my teens and we lived in West Van Lear my sister and I were shooting across the road at a target in the chicken lot and she out shot me by a large margin.  My brother was a better shot as well though I was not horrible.  We used to stand in the yard of that old house and shoot near a pop (soda) can down by the creek.  If you hit the can you lost.  You had to shoot as close to it as you could and see how far you could make it jump.  When we both worked for June Hayes we bought identical 30-06 rifles and once we got them sighted in we could each bust a fist sized rock at about two hundred yards. 

In the front yard there was a small quince tree.  I think a quince is something like a pear but the tree never bore fruit.  But it had a horizontal limb placed just perfectly for me to "skin the cat".  That is where you grab the limb with both hands and bring both feet up over your head through your arms and do a flip backward.

There is a lot more I could write about that house and all the memories I have associated with it but I guess it is enough for now.  The house itself is long gone in reality but it will always live in my memories.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Crawdads, Doodle Bugs and a Clapboard House

When we'd visit my grandparents during the summer when I was a kid one of my favorite things to do was to go play in the the creek that was in front of my grandparent's house.  The house was not all that old though you would think it was just to look at it.  I was told the house that was originally there had burned and that was when this one was built.

It was white washed (Think Tom Sawyer and the fence) on the outside and it would get on your cloths or body if you rubbed it.  It was also a "clapboard" house.  On the outside was made of planks about six to eight inches wide (as I recall) with a narrow slat of wood on top of that to cover the seam where two of the boards met on the side.  I guess these clapboards served the same purpose as the mud or concrete chinking in between the logs of the two log cabins we lived in.  Keep the cold out and the warm in.

When you first walked in the front door, just past the doorway to the bedroom on the right sat a dresser.  On that dresser my grandmother (known just as granny) had a picture of me that was taken just up the creek from their house.  I don't remember when it was taken but I for sure remember the place.

The foot path between my grandparent's house and where the road came out of the creek on the up creek side was right beside this place.  There the creek was shallow and narrow and the creek bed was rocky.  I liked playing around there because of the rocks and how may crawdads (crayfish) one could catch.

In the photo on the dresser I am dressed only in my little pair of "tightie whities" and holding out my cupped hand toward the camera.  For many years I've assumed I was holding out some water but now I wonder if I was not holding our a small crawdad. 

That picture was not in a frame it was on the frame.  The back of the frame was just cardboard with a little flap that would fold out to support the photo.  I have that picture now and it sits on a night stand in my bedroom.  The little flap fell off a year or so back so it just leans up on the base of a lamp.   Every time I see that picture I think of that little boy and how I wish I could return to those innocent days when getting to play in the creek was the greatest joy.

Unfortunately, strip mining run off filled the creek with sand and I'm sure the place changed.  I have not been on that spot in  almost forty years.    I don't think anything at all stands where Granny's house  was.  One of my cousin's had a small house trailer there but I think it is gone.  Well, it is gone from reality but it is there firm and clear in my memories.

I think there were some doodle bugs up by the old barn.  My mother told me you could sing them out of their hole.  A doodle bug hole is generally in a sandy or dusty area.  I don't ever remember seeing one in harder dirt.  They are shaped like a small funnel and the doodle bug sits out of sight in the bottom covered with a layer of sand or dust where it can't be seen.

I don't know why the doodle bugs would come out of there hiding place if you sung to them but they surely did.  If you had the patience and sang softly enough for long enough you could draw them out of their hiding places.

Did not take much to amuse me at that time.  Neither we nor Poppy and Granny even owned a TV.  We were living out at Spring Knob tower at that time and had no electricity so, at home, even listening to the radio was limited as it was run by a battery and it was difficult to get the battery recharged.  So about all we listened to was the Grand Ole Opry on WSM on Friday nights.  That made a creek full of crawdads and some curious doodle bugs a great adventure.

Some Thoughts on Clothing

I was looking on FaceBook this morning before leaving for work and say my daughter, Carrie, had posted some new photos of my grand daughter, Eliza from Christmas.  I don't think I mentioned it but Eliza seems to have gotten every 'shortness' gene from both sides of her family.

I'm a little under 5' 10" tall.  That is not too bad but my mother was 5' 2" and my father was 5' 4".  My late sister was around my mother's height as best I can recall.  Carrie has told me that most of Andrew's (her husband) family is also short.  Comes as no surprise then Eliza is a short child. 

One of the photos posted was of Eliza in a red outfit and the sleeves were so long you could, maybe, see the tip of one finger sticking past the cuff.  That took me back to my childhood for some reason.  My dad had retired from the Navy and really never worked after that so we grew up on a limited budget.  So, there were two rules when it came to purchasing clothing for a growing boy.  First and foremost it had to be cheap.  Second it had to be way too big for me as we could not afford to buy new clothes when I grew out of them unless they started out a few sizes too large.

So, when one starts out with overly large clothing one spends a lot of one's time in clothing with rolled up pants and shirt sleeves.  Seeing Eliza in that outfit with the sleeves a little too long reminded me of those days so very many years gone.  Seems more like last month than around fifty years.  Now I know why the old folks around me would tell me they could remember things from fifty years ago like it was yesterday but could not remember what happened "five minutes ago".   Now that I'm getting within spitting distance of sixty myself I am understanding a lot more about a lot of things than I once did.

I just hope, one day, to get back to knowing as much about everything as I did when I was fifteen.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Does the Future Hold?

I just saved a new photo from my grand daughter's first birthday party as my Windows Desktop background.  I also have two grandsons.  One will be turning ten soon.  Double digits.  I think back to the world I knew when I was ten and I wonder what kind of world they will have when they look back on their youth.

Everybody in every time has had the same problems it seems.  Quotes for a couple of thousand years ago mirror today's problems.  I honestly do  not know if things are worse now or if it is just so much information is available to us we hear all the bad things and think things are worse.

My 58th birthday was last week and my youngest grandchild turns one this week.  What is she going to go through in the next 57 years?  I think of all the happy occasions she will see.  I think of all the sadness she will experience.  All the joys and pains of growing up.  And, it saddens me to some extent I will probably never see her as an adult.  My health is deteriorating too quickly to expect that.  I may make it to see my grandsons as adults but even that might be pushing things.

It all makes me hope I have had some influence on my own children so they will let their children grow and develop without all the chains I was burdened with in my childhood.  Parents obsess too much about raising kids.  They focus on the details too much.  It is hard not to do so.  But, all that children really need is parents who love them and let them know they are always loved.  Even when (maybe especially when) they make mistakes.

Allow them to think for themselves and support their thoughts even when they do not entirely agree with your own.  And, when a child asks questions the worst possible answer you can give is, "Because I say so".  When a child is old enough to ask a question that child is old enough to receive an honest answer.  Maybe you don't need to go into graphic detial but give an honest answer. 

I really do not think I have much to worry about.  Both my children are good mothers and both my sons-in-law are good fathers.  In that way I am a very lucky man and I am very thankful for that.  So many people in this world have so much less.

I don't know what the future does hold but I'm sure it will surprise me from time to time.  :-)  It will disappoint me and amaze me on different days.  But, I sure would like to see all my grandkids have kids of their own some day.  Not likely but I'd like for it to be so.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Its a Family Thing

That was one of my favorite movies.  Robert Duval and James Earl Jones find out they are half brothers late in life.  Very interesting story.  Now my elder daughter has taken up a passion for our family history.  While not quite as convoluted (to my knowledge) as that one was ours does remain "interesting"

You know all those old jokes you hear about Kentucky and other back wood area about people marrying their cousins?  Well my parents were first cousins.  Gives a little deeper meaning to "kissing cousins" doesn't it?  And, I can attest to the damages this can do to the offspring of such a marriage.  My sister (who was ten years my elder) died at age 36 of Lupus after a ten year struggle.  My elder brother is still living at age 70 though he has severe lung problems as well as other physical ailments.

Up until recently my ailments have all been mental.  But, of late, I'm making up for lost time.  I had Graves Disease in my late20s and have been taking thyroid supplements since then.  Around 30 years now since drinking the radioactive iodine.  Finally got around to telling my doctor about my depressions after I got almost completely non-functional.  That has been a little over fifteen years ago.

Diagnosed with diabetes about fourteen years back.  Due to that I'm taking oral meds, two kinds of insulin, cholesterol meds and about three different drugs for my bad stomach.  Fun, fun, fun.  Especially when I see the total amounts on my credit card statement.  I'm already attached to them for life and this wonderful state of affairs only makes it better.

Just a suggestion for future reference...  Cousins can be very good friends (with benefits even) just make sure that genetic heritage does not get passed on down the line.  It purely is not worth it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Being Torn

Having read some posts and some articles I feel inclined to relate one experience I had while in the sixth grade.  At this time we lived in the "big" white house in "Burgler" hollow (holler) in West Van Lear.  I always sat at the dining room table to do my homework.  My bed time was only 8:30 but I was not allowed to go to go bed until after my home work was finished.

This particular evening was one where my parents were fighting.  And, as usual, it was over me.  So many times I can recall my mother telling me she was going to take me and go a way and it would just be she and I.   On other occasions it was my dad telling me basically the same thing.  At this point in time I guess I still loved both my parents and had not learned the futility of loving anything.  By this time it should have been growing "like a weed".  I can't recall just exactly how old I was then other than being in the sixth grade.  I recall I had done all my other homework and was doing my math.  It was getting pretty heated and all I really wanted was to be out of there and in bed.

That next day I turned in my homework as usual.  Now, at that time, things had not really "clicked" with me yet but I was still not a bad student.  Mostly A's and an occasional B.  Heaven help me if I brought home anything like a C or a D and death awaited for an F.

My teacher, Tom Hummer, called me to his desk after having graded our math problems and wanted to know what was wrong with me.  I went from getting everything right to getting nothing right.  He said it was not like me.  I guess it wasn't.  But, it was the result of my desire to just escape no matter what.  So, I told him the truth.  I could not leave until I had my homework done so I just put down anything so I could say it was done and I could get away.

I really don't know what happened from that but afterward my parents were much less prone to fight about me while I was around.  May Mr. Hummer talked to them.  I don't know.  Nobody ever said anything at all about it afterwards. 

I grew up in a time and place where teachers were feared rather than loved or respected.  I think Mr. Hummer was a pretty decent person though.  Most teachers really are that or they would not be teachers.    I guess parents only want the best for their kids though, sometimes, the disagreements on what is best can take a toll on everyone involved.  Just that adults are more equipped to deal with those conflicts than children are.  And, adults don't always understand that.

And, for sure, children do not understand that.  It is only many years later when looking back they/we see things as they were at the time.  Maybe we never do for we do not have the ability to experience the childhood of our parents and that is so much responsible for the way they are.  I know the way my parents were is responsible in a great way for the way I was with my own children.  We either become as much  unlike our parents as we can or we just become them for another generation.  I hope I was different for if I just became my parents I have failed my children miserably.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Dozen School Memories

First grade at Preston's Gap (one-room) School.  Playing 'kick the can' at recess and being so frustrated I could not "catch" anyone because they were so much older (and faster) than me.  Bragging I was going to make straight A's but Mrs Cooper giving me a B in 'effort'.  LOL...  Is that a compliment?

Second grade at West Van Lear.  My first year there.  Mrs. Green grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking the crap out of me for something.  Back then teachers were pretty physical.

Third grade with my teacher, Gay Bailey.  Getting my first 'paddling' in school for running in class.  Hey, there were people running but I just jumped over my desk and did not even take a running start.  I felt a little picked on but the whipping did not hut.  The one from both my mother and father once I got home and they found out was much more worrying.  Luckily I did not get one or both. 

Fourth grade with Mrs. Hazlette.  This was where I was when President Kennedy was assassinated.  The fourth grade class room had the "front porch" of the school as a main entrance.  I remember sitting out on the porch (right side coming out of the building) in the November sunshine thinking about the assassination.

Fifth grade with Mrs. Mollette.  That is the class where I asked everyone what animal gave milk but a cow and then told them it was a woman.  Mrs. Mollette was NOT impressed.  It was also the grade I made a notebook saying exactly what I thought of each of my classmates.  That did not go over very well either when the one person I trusted to show it to passed it around to everyone including the teacher. 

Sixth grade with Tom Hummer as teacher.  Sixth grade was complicated.  I got my first filling in a 'permanent' tooth.  I got my second paddling for not filling out my "Weekly Reader" questions because the teacher told us not to to them before they were assigned but I was working in the kitchen when he assigned them... so I did not do them.  oops.   He was also the teacher who told me I enunciated my words very clearly.  Oh wow!  Praise for something!  Since then I've been somewhat of a grammar/pronunciation Nazi.  Not ashamed of it either.  It is either right or wrong and I always preferred to be right.

Seventh grade... Mr. DeLong.  He was the nephew of my soon-to-be brother-in-law and our principal.  I was terrified of him.  But he really introduced me to sarcasm as an effective tool for communication.  By this time I was reading Asimov, Heinlien, Clarke, Anderson, Norton and many other "adult" authors but when the time came for book reports I would grab one of those little, blue covered, biographies to do it on.  I always hated any kind of public speaking and always took the easy way out.   He commented on how "some people" would read books at one level then make their book reports on a book at a much lower level.  So? Sue me.

We moved from West Van Lear back to Nat's Creek at the end of my seventh grade year.  I got my report card about two weeks early as we were moving and I would not be able to go to any school at all for those two weeks.  We were having a contest on who would read the most books that year.  I had something like a twenty seven book lead when we moved.  I hope the kid who got the award appreciates it a great deal because it was (and IS) rightfully mine!!!

When school started again my cousins were all going to Cherryville school.  It was another one room school and I fully intended to go there myself.  But I did not get off the bus.  On down the road was the Chapman school.  A two-room school house.  I did not get off there either.  I stayed on the bus until the end of the line at Louisa High School.  At that time it was in town and was grades eight through twelve.  That is how I got to Louisa in the eighth grade.

There is a lot I can say about that year and will in time but  That was my introduction to being one of the "mean" kids.  As well as one of he most "picked on" kids at the same time.  That was the first school where we changed classes.  When the bell would ring we would all leave and as we would go out the door we (boys) would all run our hands up under the girl's dresses.   I suppose that might appear crude but they  never made any effort to leave the class room in any hurry so I think they probably enjoyed it as well.

I had a varied and interesting group of teachers in the eighth grade and I'll talk more in detail about that  at some future time.  That was a very good and a very bad year.

Sophomore year was the year I got to read novels in class without teachers bugging me.  Mr. (Greenville) Cordell was my social studies teacher for several years.  This year it was Economics and Sociology.  On test days we would have the first thirty minutes of class to study then the second thirty to take the test.  When he told us to study I pulled out my western novel and started reading.  Mr. Cordell saw that and asked me, "Frank, are you going to make a 100 on this test".  I told him, quite honestly, "of course".  He said no more.  I made a 100 on the test and he never questioned my reading habits again.  But it was such an absurdly simple course.   NOT making a 100 would have been the hard part.  But it did give me some extra reading time.

My junior year had a great English teacher.  Funny I can't remember her name at all.  But she said she always knew she had to give her tests twice.  Once to the rest of the class and once to me when I bothered to come to class.  I think her name was Johnson.  And,  I would not have made it these days.  I missed over forty days of school my sophomore, junior and senior years.  Back then it was all about grades and I made the grades.  Pissed my future wife off no end.  She worked her butt off in class and I played when I bothered to show up and still made better grades.  :-)  A mind may be a terrible thing to waste but it is also a terrible burden when you spend your entire life bored to distraction.

I forget if it was my freshman or sophomore year when I first took my stack of books from the library (boy, a school library!  What a wonderful thing) to the desk and the librarian would not let me check them out because they were all on the senior reading list... I had to go to my English teacher and get a note stating I had a brain and could safely be allowed to read a book with more content than "See Dick.  See Jane.  See Spot."  Even with that it did not take too long for there to be darned little left in the library to read I had not read.

Senior year was interesting.  At that time we needed eighteen credits to graduate.  I took five each of my first three years so I could only have to take three my senior year.  I has three classes and three study halls.  I had one to do all my homework, one to read my novels and one to play "flip football" and other games with my friends and just generally goof off. 

That year my English teacher was Imogene Butler.  She only had one lung and in the winter missed even more days than I did.  But she had a little red head substitute I loved to sit in the back and flirt with.  She was ugly as a mud fence but she was a very nice young woman and not really all that much older than me. 

That year I had two required classes (English IV and American Government) and had to pick up one elective.  I took Art the first semester with Mr Cheek (the Principal) as the teacher.  Our "student motto" was "Our school is like an ass; it takes two cheeks to run it".  Jim Cheek was the principal and his brother Bill Cheek was the superintendent.

Anyway, the second semester they decided to offer a French class and I signed up for it and dropped art.  I had zero artistic talent anyhow.  Our French teacher was Mz Bunch and I imagine she wished she had never seen me.  LOL.

At that time I was reading a lot of porn novels.  One of which was called the Coxman.  It had a lot of sexual terms in French so I was continuously asking Mz Bunch to translate them for me in front of the class.... "Miss Bunch, what is a 'manage a troi'"? 

All in all, school had a lot of fun things involved with it and not just the painful things I've talked about before.  Sure wish I could have spent some time with that redheaded substitute out of class...

Paper Airplanes

For about as long as I can remember I loved making and flying paper airplanes.  There were all sorts of designs, sizes and types.  The needle nosed rocket, the wide winged soarers, many in between.  When I went to school at West Van Lear (6 room school for grades 1-8) we had a large (to me then HUGE) front "lawn" to play on at lunch and recess.  My friend Paul Mike Howard and I would, at times, go out and fly our paper airplanes.  He always seemed to have more talent at making them than I and that fell in line with all Else as he seemed to have more talent for everything than I.

We would make the basic designs and experiment with folding flaps on the wings for guiding them.  We either wanted to make them turn or keep them from turning to force them to go straight.  How long has that been now?  I think we were in the fifth grade then in Mrs. Mollette's class.  That would have made me around eleven years old.  Aging did not take away my love for paper airplanes.  Once we moved to the old "Blessing place" when I was thirteen (late Spring 1967) I still loved to experiment and fly my airplanes.

This place had a big, old (very old) house that sat up on a bank a good ways above the creek.  I can remember getting out in the front/side yard and hurling my planes up into the air.  Mostly they just circled a bit and came back down but, every once in a while, a special gust of wind would catch one and propel it out over the decline and it would soar for a few minutes like a kite without a sting.  I loved those times.  It is really the most simple pleasures in life that are the most important and leave the most lasting memories.

My brother taught me to make paper planes.  He made them differently than most everyone else did.  Rather than a one-piece folded piece of paper he would make a plane with a separate front and tail with folds that looked like two engines on the front. 

Trying to figure out just how long it  has been since I made one.  I don't think I even made them for my own kids so it has to have been a good many years.  But, they were great fun. 

I don't know what got me thinking of all this.  Perhaps it was Heather's descriptions of Haydn's origami.  When I was growing up we would not have know the meaning of origami though we did a lot of "paper folding" making airplanes, paper drinking cups and "fly catchers".

I think some part of us (or at least the most fortunate of us) never grows up completely and remains a child with that childlike wonder for discovering new things.  Discovering new things about out universe, our world, our people, ourselves is the most constantly interesting thing I can possibly imagine.  How poor is the life of a person who already "knows it all"!  How boring life must be without those daily discoveries.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How to Skin a Cat

I guess we've all  heard the old saying, "There is more than one way to skin a cat".  Sounds kind of cruel but from what I've read this refers to the many ways of skinning a cat fish and not the "meow' kind of cat.  But when I was growing up there was another kind of skinning the cat. 

It was pretty simple, like a basic gymnastics movement, but it was fun for a small child.  To skin a cat you grab a tree limb with both hands then bring your feet up between your arms and turn on over to bring your feet down toward the ground. 

At my grandparent's house on Nat's Creek they had a Quince tree (look up Quince.  I believe it was something like a pear thought this tree bore no fruit to my memory) that had a limb just the perfect size for me to use for skinning a cat.  :-)  And, I did use it extensively.  I've spent many a morning when I should have been in school playing on that tree.

It was on the corner of the bank on the left side of the path that went down past the coal house and towards the creek.  There was some kind of "brushy" bushes behind them though I cannot recall what they were.  Then to the right of the path was a big apple tree.   I think my grandfather had 'spliced' two or maybe three different apples onto this one tree.  I really don't remember for sure but it seems I do remember being told of this.  The apples pretty much sucked but that is what it was.  I preferred them when they were 'green' (un ripe) with salt.  I still must have (lots of ) salt to eat apples.  But, green apples have a special flavor.  Green apples and June apples.  Two of my favorite things.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


I was a complete chicken.  I probably still am but in different ways.  I was one of those children who was "afraid of the dark".   Everybody told me there was nothing in the darkness that was not there during the light but I was skeptical.  What if there was and I could not see it coming?  Not that there was a whole heck of a lot I could have done.

I continued to be afraid of the dark until around the winter of '67-'68.  We moved back to Nat's Creek to the old Charlie Blessing house.  I had to walk about a quarter of a mile (maybe farther) from the house up the creek to the "main road" (such as it was) to catch the school bus.  In the winter that meant leaving home before daylight. 

The place we (My cousin Helen and I) waited for the bus was just below a large graveyard.  Helen and I had lots of interesting conversations there waiting for the bus  until they moved and I was on my lonesome in the dark of a morning.

It is really amazing how things change over time.  In time I ceased being afraid of the dark and started loving the dark.  I still do.  I find the night, the absence of light to be comforting.  There truly is nothing there in the darkness that is not in the light.  Well, except for those people who think the darkness may hide their evil.  But, I'm more at home in the night than I am in the day.  Ask Jimmy Ray.  When he and Danny and Jim Bob were teens we'd play war games and I could hide in the shadows where no one would think to look.  I love the darkness.  Isn't amazing how people and their perspectives change? 

There are times I will sit at home, here with my PC, and turn out all the lights and just bask in the darkness around me.  Darkness is not just the absence of light but it is a cocoon of comfort around me that I cherish.

But, I never got over my fear of the dark because anyone told me how harmless it was.  I got over it by enduring it and enduring my fears and finding them pointless.  Sometimes we come to love what was once hated.  There is so little difference between the two anyhow.  Now, give me the choice of spending the rest of my life in only the daylight or only the night I'd pick the  night with no hesitation.

Torturing a Young Child

Grown ups get a lot of pleasure out of torturing a young child.  Not that they consider it torture or anything but "fun" and that is what the adults in their lives did to them.  It is just the young kids who think of it as torture.

Aunt Burnices' son, Jerry Lee, loved to "beard" me to no end.  And, EVERYBODY loved to tickle me.  I was so highly ticklish as a child you could just look like you were going to tickle me and I'd start squirming and laughing even though being tickled was no fun at all.

But, through sheer VanHoose stubbornness I learned to deal with it.  Just an effort of will like I was used to making in other areas.  I WILLED myself to not react to the "bearding" or to the "tickling".  Just like most bullying.  If you can ignore it long enough and not give in to reacting it will soon get boring for whomever is doing it and it will stop.  Not particularly pleasant but worth it in the end.  I've found in my live,  no matter what the situation, the best response is none at all.  Especially to any kind of harassment.  If the teaser, the torturer, whomever cannot provoke a reaction from you they will get bored with it and stop.  Or, at least, slow down gradually.

I learned this from bearding and, mostly, from tickling but it came in very handy with  my relationship with my mother.  I learned to just "disappear".  I would sink deep inside myself and refuse to speak or react in any manner.  I just let her rant on until she was finished and went away.  Much simpler that way.  There is no productive way you can argue with a crazy person. 

I wonder if my "torture" was really a bad thing.  I learned very valuable lessons from it.  Now, it does not matter what I might feel inside (and usually that is very little) you will never know it from my outside.   I can still "disappear" if I need to.  It is not that hard to become invisible.  The secret is learning not to care.  That is hard for most people as it is quite natural for people to care about parents or those who claim to be friends and other relatives. 

It is a sad, but true, fact though, "Nobody will screw over you like your family".  Safest all the way around just to lock yourself inside and everyone else out.  Remember, only those you love have the power to hurt you. 

Listen to Art Simon and Paul Garfunkel's 1960's hit, "I am a Rock".  I think it says it perfectly.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Second Greatest Gift

I have said on other occasions the greatest gift a parent can bestow on a child is the love for the written (and spoken) word.  But, there is a second gift which is nearly as important and one, like reading, I had to discover on my own.

Before I disclose the nature of that gift I need to provide a little background.  If you have read my previous memories of childhood you will realize my relationship with my parents was not the most wonderful thing.  But, that relationship (such as it was) did help shape me into the person I have become today.   Both the good (if any) and bad parts I owe to my parents and my struggles to survive the damage done to my psyche by that relationship.

My parents were perfectionists where I was concerned.  I was NEVER praised for any success I might have but was vilified for any failure no matter how small.   I don't recall when I actually developed any self-esteem but I'm quite sure it was not until my late forties.  From my earliest childhood on, any time I would start feeling good about myself something would happen to utterly crush it.  I often wondered, "Why is it I'm always such a failure?".  Is it any wonder Charlie Brown is my favorite?  Even Charlie Brown had more self-esteem than I.

I always made good grades in school.  That was expected.  Not once did either of my parents say anything like, "good job".  "A's" were expected.  "B's" might be tolerated.  Heaven help me if I brought home anything else.

My father's favorite phrase should I do something less than perfectly was, "Can't you EVER do anything right?".   Being a "mentally retarded accident" did not help.  If my parents did anything successfully it was to make me feel inferior to every person on earth.   

I don't think they did it out of malice as that is just the way they were.  I could not have survived my dad's childhood.  It was rough.  My mother?  It probably was  not good either.   I inherited a lot of my laziness from my maternal grandfather.  I was told he would sit in the shade of a tree and read Jehovah's Witness literature while the wife and daughters worked in the garden.    But, laziness is not necessarily a bad trait.  I've always said, "If you want something done right the first time get a lazy man to do it.  He does not want to do it the first time but he damn sure does not want to do it over".

So, ok, what is the second great gift?  My parents did not give it to me.  I did not even discover it for myself late in life and it might not even be possible to give it to someone.  Maybe we all have to figure this out on our own.  But a parent can offer encouragement and support instead of constantly trying to tear down any pride, ego, self-esteem a child has.

The second greatest gift?  Self-reliance.  The realization that as a "whole" person we do not need anyone else.  We can be complete withing ourselves.   I suppose there is a certain amount of arrogance that has to go in this and a little, well earned, arrogance is not a bad thing.

But a complete person does not give in to "peer pressure" to do things that are bad for oneself.  A complete person realizes no one who is a real friend will ever try to get you to do something that would be bad for you.  A complete person realizes he/she will probably not ever be entirely understood and is ok with that.  A complete person has only one person who's standards they need to live by.  Their own. 

I love my wife, my children, my grand children but I no longer NEED anyone else.  I can recognize my own value, my own worth and the opinions of others matters naught.  As we said when I was much younger, "Eff'em if they can't take a joke". 

The second greatest give may be one you cannot give and one that must be arrived at on one's own but you, as a parent, can help by not tearing down everything your child builds.    Think before you act.  Think before you say something out of anger or frustration.  Realize that no matter what the one person a child really wants the approval of is their parents.  Praise good results and criticize bad results with the understanding that sometimes, "shit happens".    No matter how much effort you put into it, "shit happens".  

A final note.  Neither of my parents ever told me they loved  me.  I supposed I was just supposed to know this and accept it without having been told.  Tell your kids often that you love them and mean it when you say it.  They truly are the most precious things you will ever have in your life.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

November 24th, 2011.  Thanksgiving day.  I wonder how many people are giving thanks for what they have and how many people are just doing what most do on holiday? 

So, let me count my blessings.  Health?  Not hardly.  Hypo-thyroid, clinically depressed, diabetes, massive pain in my lets and hips, stomach that won't keep much of anything down.  Money?  Hardly.  Barely paying my bills every month and the bills are growing much faster than my pay days. 

So, what is there to be thankful for?  So far in this life I've always had  a roof over my head and food on the table.  There are an awful lot of folks in this world who cannot say the same thing. 

I have two beautiful and wonderful daughters whom I love very much.  And, now that they are both mothers themselves they can, perhaps, understand just how much I do love them both.

I have three grandchildren and one step-grand daughter.  I don't see them as often as I should nor as often as I would like but that is life.  Still, I love them all.

I have a wife who puts up with me though she loves to quarrel at me.  I guess that is just a wife's function in life.  Or, maybe I just provide so many opportunities to be quarrelled at....  I'm good at that, if nothing else.

I don't have good health but, so far, I have had the money to pay my doctor bills.  I have a job that bores me to death but they are still paying me. 

Today is a day to give thanks for what we do have not a day for dwelling on those things we may have missed out on.  It is not a day to dwell on problems or "issues".  It is a day to realize we are truly blessed in this country.  We have freedom few in this world know.  Even in the worst of times we have opportunities to better ourselves.  We have opportunities to better the lives of others around us.

Just turn on the news for one night and really pay attention beyond what Justin Beiber has done and look at the world we live in and then look around you.  The USA has many problems but it is still the best place in this world to live. 

I'm thankful for my children, my grand children, my job, my life and my country.  How many people in this world have so much less to be thankful for today?  Too damn many.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The World I Was Born Into

I entered this Vail of Tears at 3:15 PM on December 08, 1953.  That is what my Dad always said.  I was born at our home.  It was a small, log cabin in extreme Eastern Kentucky.  As best I can recall it was only one story and had very low ceilings.  There was a front porch that ran the length of the front of the house and a back porch on the side of the kitchen.

It seems when one entered through the front door there was a bedroom to the left and a living room to the right with the kitchen being directly behind the living room.  I suppose that bedroom was where I was born.  I was delivered by my grandmother, a midwife, who delivered most of her grandchildren and at least one of her great grandchildren.  Going to a hospital at that point in time and at that place in the country to have a baby was unheard of.  Just get Grannie VanHoose to do it.

I was told they could not get me to cry by smacking my bottom and were getting worried  when Gracie Ratliff (a woman who lived farther up the creek) walked in.  Dad always said I took one look and her and started crying quite loudly.  If the story actually happened it had to just be coincidence as I doubt I could see that far as a newborn.

My parents were 'older' when I was born.  My mother was forty-one and my dad was fifty-one.  They had planned on having two children and I already had a brother and a sister.  I knew for as long as I can recall knowing I was an unplanned accident.  They both thought my mother was too old to get preggers.  Wrong.
Being an accident must be kind of like being adopted.  You just never really feel a part of the family.  Then, the incident of not being able to make me cry caused my mother to always say I was mentally retarded because they did not get me to breathe quickly enough and, therefore, became brain damaged due to lack of oxygen. 

We lived in that house until I was two years old and I have, surprisingly enough, several memories of that place.  Others find that strange and doubt I really do remember anything from those days but I'm sure some of what I remember is really a true memory though others might be "induced", false memories.

Back then my dad was big into politics.  My very first memory is of going off with him and some politician somewhere down the road past Virgil Boyd's house to put up election posters on trees. 

I also remember going to Louisa and being bought a little toy car.  It might have been a police car.  It was made of tin and probably in Japan.  Back in those days Japan bought a lot of used tin from the USA.  I remember one toy train engine that came apart and the inside of the cover still had Maxwell House Coffee on it.  But, back to my little car.  After we got through with "our" business we stopped to see 'Zoobie' Boyd.  I think her real name was Azuba but I never heard her referred to as anything but 'Zoobie'. 

I don't remember anything about the time frame.  It could have been hours, days or weeks later "Bub" and "Frances" (her real name was Anna Frances) Boyd brought my cousin Stevie over and while they were in the house he and I were outside playing with my car.  There was a mud hole in the yard and we would repeatedly run the care through it until it got all filled with mud and muddy water.  I can remember going to a wash tub full of clean water for the laundry and swishing that car around in the tub trying to clean it out.  I don't think if ever worked right after that.

I also remember having a tricycle and my older brother (William) taking me to the top of the hill by the Wash Rock and letting me ride down the hill on my trike by myself.  I did not make it very far before falling over in a rut.  (It was just a dirt road after all and not very level.)

I was told  my sister (Mary Jane) rocked off the back porch with me and it seems I can remember being rocked by someone and watching one of the rockers moving around every time the chair rocked.  They tell me I can't remember that far back but....   I was also told when I was about six months old my brother held me up by my heels to the kitchen ceiling and dropped me on my head.  That, along with the fact my parents were first cousins and that I was mentally retarded should go a long way toward explaining me in the years to follow.

My dad had spent thirty years in the Navy and had retired in 1952.  I can remember hearing when he retired he was drawing about Forty-four dollars a month in retirement.  Out of that meager amount of money he supported the five of us plus my mother's mother and father.  Poppie and Grannie VanHoose lived next house down the creek from us.  And  when I say down the creek that is what I mean.  That dirt road that went past the front of our house entered Nat's Creek and ran in the creek for about a half mile.  To get to my grandparent's house one either waded the creek or followed a narrow, weedy path beside the creek.

That is how a lot of the area around where I was born was.  Going on up the holler (hollow for those too civilized to know) from our house the road ran in and out of the creek bed many times.  At the time I was born there were not many people who lived up the creek from us.  Burnard (?) and Gracie Ratliff and their passel of kids lived up the right fork and Burns and Julie Ratliff lived almost to the head of the left fork.

On the down creek side were my grandparents then the Charlie Blessing place (We lived in that old house from the time I was thirteen until I was nineteen and got married.) and below that was where my Uncle Jerry and Aunt Bernice (pronounced Bur Nes') lived along with Uncle Jerry's son Joe and my cousin Helen.  All in all there were not a whole lot of people in that 'neck of the woods'.

After dad's monthly trips to the nearest store the store owner would put our (and my grandparent's) supplies in a mule drawn wagon and deliver them to us.  I really do not remember any of the stuff about groceries but I've heard the stories often enough.

It is difficult to believe my dad supported two families on less that fifty dollars a month but back then that was a pretty fair sum of money when you owned your home and had almost zero utility bills.  Dad owned one hundred and twenty seven acres including the house where I was born and the  house my grandparents lived in.  Also, prices were nothing like they are now.

Postage stamps were four cents.  Postcards were two cents.  Bazooka Joe bubble gum was two for a penny.  All the candy bars, ice cream novelties were a nickle.  Pop (soda) was a dime.  There was no sales tax on anything.  We had electricity and that is all.  Mother cooked on a propane gas stove and my grandmother cooked on an old coal cook stove.  We had a well for water and an outhouse (toilet) for other purposes.

A gallon of gas was around a quarter. 

And, society there was just different than it is now.  I can never remember us locking the door of any house where we ever lived and never had anyone "break in" or steal anything.  Nobody ever locked their car doors and most times left the keys in and engine running when they had to run into a store or back to the house to get something they forgot.   If you left your headlights on (we had no warning bells back then) and someone noticed it they would open your door and turn off your lights so you did not come back to a dead battery.

Those times and those types of people do not exist much these more modern days.  I started my life in a much simpler time and place.  It was a time and place where people were pretty civil, considerate and helpful to one another.  While I am completely addicted to my comforts and modern conveniences I do miss the simplicity of those days and the general civility of the people.  We knew (and were mostly related to) about everybody who lived within ten miles of our house.  Right now I have no clue what the names of my next door neighbors are. 

Why Now I Wonder?

I grew up helping my mother in the kitchen.  I've never been afraid of trying out something new in the food line either by making it myself or by trying it while eating out.  But, for the past decade or longer I've felt no desire at all to do things in the kitchen.  Even when I'm home alone I don't cook.  I go for some fast food, order a pizza or eat cheese and crackers.

But, here in just the past couple of months I've developed an urge to do things in the kitchen.  First it was home made bread.  I bought a moderately priced bread machine (with excellent reviews) and have tried several different kinds of bread.

Then I decided I wanted to make some home made jams and/or jellies and found my bread machine has a 'jam' setting on it.  So, I tried out some mixed berry jam.  I think I had too many berries for a  single envelope of pectin as it came out a little on the runny side but the taste is great.  Much better than any store bought jam I've tried.

I've even been thinking about taking a stab at a home made apple pie.  I don't know if I want to make the crust (though I have done that before) or just use a frozen one.  Probably the latter though I will definitely use fresh apples and not any apple filling from a can.

Then I started thinking of making home made sausage.  I don't know why since I don't particularly even like sausage.  I've been perusing all kinds of sausage recipes.  I looked at grinders but I don't want to invest in one right now.  I can just get ground pork or turkey or whatever.  I even saw one recipe for home made bologna.

I'm making myself hungry for breakfast right now.  Have a couple of farm fresh eggs over medium, some fried potatoes (not hash browns),  a couple of sausage patties and hot from the oven biscuits..... I'd be sick as a dog if I ate it but it sure sounds good.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Living a Life of Solitary Contemplation and Endless Adventures

In a previous post I mentioned becoming a hermit.  I attributed that in part to the ostracism I felt in school because of my mother's religion.  However, that was not the only cause and, perhaps, not even the chief cause. 

My parents did not agree on much at all.  But two of the things they agreed on right down the line were 'spare the rod and spoil the child' and ANYBODY anywhere near my own age would be a corrupting influence on me.  As a result of this I was never allowed to have any friends or associate with any other kids unless they were younger than I and under my parent's watchful eye.

So, at school, I had no friends.  Well I did have one.  Nice guy.  Son of the man who owned the Ford dealership.  Arty type.  Played classical piano.  Last I heard (many years ago) he was doing biological chemistry research in Tampa, Fl.  And, of course, one girl.  Girls were not nearly as mean to me as boys so I hung around girls whenever I could.  Still do. 

Up until my eighteenth birthday I had only much younger boys as friends.  On my eighteenth birthday my parents stopped telling me what I could or could not do.  On December seventh I was firmly under their thumb.  On December 8th I was free as a bird.  That was a situation made for disaster but we won't go into that right now.

I'm not sure at what age I was when I discovered books.  I mean 'real' books and not "See Spot Run" kind of things.   I guess my first books were those little, blue covered, biographies.  Then I moved on to biographies of all the great NY Yankee players.  Then were were 'The Hardy Boys" mysteries and the "Chip Hilton" sports series.  I think it was in the fourth grade I started on Western Novels.  I loved reading Zane Grey.  He was a poet who wrote prose.  He had a gift for creating a picture of the time and place with words. 

I'm not sure when I first discovered Science Fiction but that was a huge find for me.  Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C Clarke, Phillip K. Dick, Clifford D. Simak, Poul Anderson, Andre Norton and so very many others.  I discovered books could take one any place and any time at all. 

It is a wonder my mother did not forbid me to read as she forbade so many other things but I guess she figured books would corrupt my virgin young mind far less than friends would have so books were the lesser of two evils.  For that I am eternally thankful for I cannot imagine what life would be like without books.

Books could, and did, take me everywhere in the world.  Places that existed in geography and places that existed only in some author's imagination.  I could adventure along the Nile with the Egyptians and fly among the stars in the far future with earth men and aliens.  I could move westward with the pioneers or make voyages of discovery with the Spanish explores or visit ancient Cathay with Marco Polo.  While I was not allowed any flesh and blood friends I had more friends than I could possibly begin to count.

It was not until much later in life I really discovered Fantasy.  My home room teacher when I was a sophomore loaned me a copy of JRR Tolkien's "The Hobbit".  Once I had a chance to read the "War of the Ring" trilogy I was really hooked.  I still read (and still do) a lot of things from other genres but nothing attracts me like the world of Wizardry and heroes (and heroines).  Especially those (many) books of the young lad (or lass) from humble beginnings who becomes a legendary hero (or heroine).  Kind of like Charlie Brown turns into King Arthur and Merlin rolled into one.

Much, much later on I discovered Terry Pratchett.  His novels were set in a fantasy setting by he was very adept at commenting on the human condition and skewering humanities hypocrisies.  He quickly turned into my very favorite author and I anxiously await each new adventure on the Diskworld.  Where would I be without Rincewind, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Magrat Garlick, Captain Carrot, Sam Vimes and all the rest?  I have re-read his books so many times I've lost count.

And, I have found books make you think.  Books make you dream.  Books let you realize you have little need of other people and you no longer feel the pain of early rejections.  You have a good friend always ready at hand to console you, to stimulate you, to make you laugh or cry.  And, if you're like me, you become pretty much of a hermit and prefer the company of a good book to all others.

So, what am I reading now?  "Snuff" by Terry Pratchett, my new Smithsonian magazine, "The Dragonbone Chair" by Tad Williams.  My new 'Discovery' magazine.  A "National Geographic".   Probably a couple of others I have forgotten.  How anyone can only read one thing at a time I do not know.  I used to have a book in every room so I never had to hunt for one; I'd just pick up whatever was in that room and continue the story.

Aren't the Holidays Wonderful?

For me, the answer to that question is a resounding "NO"!   I expect that is mainly due to my childhood.  The first thing was my mother was a very devout Jehovah's Witness.   They did not believe in celebrating (or even participating) in any holidays.  Not even birthdays.  Christmas was an especially big 'no-no'.  My dad, on the other hand, hated the Jehovah's Witnesses with a passion but he was in favor of anything which kept him from spending money when he did not want to.

Then, add to it the fact I was the only child who had a Witness for a parent in the whole school and we come up with some very painful memories of the holidays.  But, let us take a quick review.  No birthday cake, birthday presents, birthday party, Christmas presents, trick-or-treat on Halloween, no valentines, no Easter baskets, could not even bring eggs to the Easter egg hunt.  On top of that I could not even say the Pledge of Allegiance or be in the Christmas play.

This was one of the reasons and, perhaps, the biggest reason I was such a misfit in school.  Kind of embarrassing when everyone gives you a valentine but you have zero to give back.  Kind of embarrassing on the first day of school after Christmas vacation when everyone is talking about what presents they got and ask you and you have to say, 'nothing'.

Then there was the "drawing of names" to exchange gifts with your classmates.  For some years I just did not participate but then I hit on the idea of twisting my name up in such a way as I could tell it by feel and always drew my own name so I could escape that way.

I guess Halloween was not too bad.  I had to stay home but I got to share some of the candy the kid mother baby sat for got.  It was not such a big thing at school either.  Much easier for a kid to deal with than Christmas and Valentine's Day.  Even Easter was not as difficult.  Even though I did not get to contribute eggs I still got to do the Easter egg hunt.  I just had to eat all my eggs before going home.

I remember my mother often saying (and it was the Witness 'party line'), "We don't wait until a birthday or Christmas to give our children things.  We give them all through the year."   I guess they just did not often feel like giving to  me.  Other than lectures and spankings that is. 

And, being the only Witness child in the school I had to endure an awful lot of torment just for that.  Just one of the many reasons I have such a low opinion of organized religion I guess.  That and the utter hypocracy of most of the ultra religious people I've known.

It is amazing how our childhood can have such a lasting impact on us.  I always wanted to make sure my children enjoyed having birthdays and looked forward to Christmas or exchanging Valentines.  I guess it is natural for a parent to want to spare one's children all the pain he or she can. 

Now the kids are all grown up, married and have kids of their own so I guess it will be mostly for the grand kids now.  I hope they always have something to look forward to for the holidays.  Being an outcast is not a lot of fun until one gets older and realizes he has become a hermit and really does not particularly like having people around.  I hope my kids never get that way nor allow my grand kids to get that way.  Though, I must admit, we VanHoose's make pretty good hermits.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fires... I LOVE Fires!!!

A post from Heather on Facebook reminded me of all the fires I've been a part of in my life.  Most of them I've set myself.  LOL.  Some, like when we lived at Spring Knob I was maybe six years old and "manning" a fire rake to make fire breaks during the fire season.

When I was around eight I set fire to the sage (sedge?) grass by my cousin Stanley's house and put it out and repeated until I could not put it out and his dad came out and managed to stop it before I burned the whole hillside down.

When I was around ten or eleven and we lived in the big, white house with the concrete cellar in back I'd pour the lawnmower gas on the floor and throw matches in it.  I loved fires then and I love them now.  The flames are so beautiful.  The heat is so enticing.  The colors are like flowers and the aroma of burning wood and/or leaves still takes me back to my younger days.

I suppose my love of fires may have  been genetic as when we moved back to Nat's Creek, when snows came my dad and I would travel the hill tops and set fire to all the leaves and wood piled up beneath the rock cliffs.  Those rocks and cliffs are now, sadly, gone.  Victims of strip mining for coal in my childhood hills.

I still love fires.  If the world ends in fire and smoke I want to be around to see it!!!

A Nice Memory From Spring Knob

I've mentioned my time at Spring Knob more than once but I suppose it deserves a revisiting.  It was four and one tenth miles from route 40.  The one road between Inez in Martin County and Paintsville in Johnson county, at the time.  I remember this because my dad always referred to it that way. 

We moved there when I was around four years old.  We stayed there until I was seven years old and only about three months short of eight. 

It is difficult to describe that place.  We were there because there was a forestry tower there and my dad worked for the Ky Dept. of Forestry for those years.  Only job I ever knew him to have.  That place is full of stories and I'll try to tell most of them as some date but this one revolves around a cart.  I guess that is what you would call it.

My dad and a man named Ed Eldridge were good friends.  Ed ran a government surplus store in Paintsville and my dad bought a lot of stuff there.  Guns, ammunition, shoes... only place he could find the Navy shoes he had worn for thirty years in the Navy.  Always wore them.  Ed's wife Maxine was also a good friend.  I loved to just wander around that store looking at all the neat things they had there.  

This particular time we were there they had this "cart" up on a high shelf.  I thought it was one of the most wonderful things I had ever seen in my life.  It had four wheels and in front of the seat there was a handle you could move back and forth to propel you forward and back. 

I don't know how they sneaked it but dad bought it and hid it in the trunk of the car until we got home then he gave it to me.  That little cart is one of my favorite memories.  We did not have any grass at all.  Just a dirt road as a front yard and a dirt patch on the side of the house between the porch and the well.  I would leave all kinds of black, rubber marks in that area as I loved to send it backwards then forwards and make the wheels spin.  I'm afraid I've never outgrown the love of making the wheels spin but that is another story.

I can't remember how long that thing "fit" me or what ever happened to it but I can surely remember being on it between the porch and the well and all those black marks on the dirt.

Crochet and Trash Cans

When I was in my pre-teens I used to help my mother crochet things.  It was fun.  We had the smaller crochet hoops I would use.  I guess back then I had some semblance of patience  unlike today.  In fact my wife says I have "negative patience".

But the favorite thing I ever did with my mom (other than gathering greens from the roadside when I was much younger) was making garbage cans.  We'd make them and she'd sell them for like a dollar each.  I guess that was good as our only monetary investment was a bottle of "Elmer's Glue".

I can't remember where she would get them but she would obtain empty ice cream buckets and clean them out.  She would also obtain a stack of used magazines.  So we would sit and make tubes from magazine pages and gluing them to the outside of the ice cream bucket and make garbage cans.

Pretty simple but look at a magazine page and imagine rolling it on the diagonal in a tight roll.  The colors make a wonderful pattern of light and dark.  Have to "wet" your fingers to get the roll started correctly and really keep the roll tight... Then glue them on the ice cream bucket.  Once the glue has set you trim the top and bottom of the magazine page rolls and you have a quite attractive (small) trash can. 

I can remember sitting in our living room and doing this for, what seems now to be hours.  Probably was not as I did not have that much attention span for anything but Loony Tunes and books.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Brief (I hope) Word on This Blog

My elder daughter sent me an email response to one of my posts and stated she hoped I would be around for some time to come as she wanted her sons to have their Papaw influence their lives.  That, in it's own way is kind of scary as who in their right minds would want me to influence anyones's children.  Then, who said anyone in my family was ever in "their right mind"

And, it came to me, this is the whole purpose of this blog.   I really do not think I'm going to live long enough to see my grandchildren as adults, let alone have great grand children.  My grandsons live a good ways away from me and I am not at all able to drive the distance to visit them though I would love to.  My granddaughter lives just across town and I still am not able to drive over there like I wish I could.

I'm afraid my grandchildren are going to know me only from the stories of their parents and the writings I leave here.  And, there are many things I will not write about here and those things must remain mine alone.  A friend once told me that there are some things you take to the grave and I have a few of those and that is what will happen.  Some things  you DO take to the grave.

But, all in all, this place will be for stories of my childhood and stories of the stories I heard from my elders.  I do not propose to say than anything is 100% true but it is as I remember it or as I remember hearing it. 

I do this because I wish I had listened more to my parents and grandparents about their lives instead of just thinking they were just too stupid to live.  Kind of a young person's disease and I had it bad.  So, when they have time and if they have the interest they can read this and see life somewhat from my perspective.  Though, I would not blame their mothers if they forbade this until at least PG mode.  LOL.

But, I love all my grandkids.  May not be around that much but it does not change the way I feel.  And I hope all of them accomplish more in this world than I have and set the bar high for those who come after.

I love you Haydn, David, Eliza and whomever might come after. 

Sitting Here All Aches and Pains

After my post on perspective I had an interesting email conversation with my elder daughter.  Unfortunately email is how I have most of my conversations with my children and an occasional text message.  That is not their fault at all as I really do hate telephones and consider them just a necessary evil.

I have lots of good telephone stories but they are probably beyond the experience of the modern age.  When I was young the only phone service we  had was a "party line".  Not to be confused with lots of booze and loose women (More the pity) but with multiple people sharing one phone line.  So, if you needed to make a phone call and someone else was on the line  you had to convince them to let you have the line to make the call.  That often did not work out well.

The other facet of "Party Lines" was the entertainment value.  My grandmother (Victoria or Victorie as she was called) loved to eaves drop on other people's conversations.   She was well know for it in fact.  Nobody had a phone conversation without Granny knowing all about it.

Some Perspective

Anyone who knows me know I'm not in the best of health.  Sometimes that gets a little depressing.  But, there are times when things happen that really put one's own problems in perspective.  One of those moments happened to me this morning.

There is a woman (though I can't help thinking of her as a girl) whom I attended technical school with back in 1984-1985.  She was in the same program I was where they paid us to go to school.  Mine was due to a health problem and hers was due to having an aunt in charge of the program.  *wink*  But, she started school several days late and after all the lockers were taken so I asked her if she would like to share mine.  Ok, I'm a nice person, but  this was mostly because she was a sexy, blonde with all the right curves in all the right places.

She and I were pretty good friends all during school but she decided to leave school early after completing the Computer Operator part of the course while I continued to finish the Computer programmer course.  Just before I left for the Army in 1986 another friend of mine (yes another girl... sexy redhead this time) and I went to visit the lady at her home.  That was the last time I ever saw her.

That was like twenty-five years ago.  A few months back I got a Face Book message from her wanting to know if I was the person she had gone to school with all those years ago.  Of course I was happy to hear from her.   Over the past few months we have done a lot of catching up and I must say times of late her life has been a lot more hectic and stressful than my own.

She just recently lost her husband and the toxicology report showed nothing in his system except his prescription medications.  Apparently, just a bad reaction or interaction to his medications.  Even more recently her father-in-law passed and  her (adult) son has been really distraught.  She has not been much better.  Got to be rough.

Got an email from her this morning after an endoscopy and they found "something" on her esophagus.  Said it had been there a good while but they were afraid it had turned cancerous but she won't know until after the biopsy.

Those kind of things tend to make one stop and reassess things when one starts feeling too sorry for oneself.  So very many people in this world have so many more problems and difficulties to deal with than even the worse off of us in America do. 

I wish we cold all keep some perspective all the time without having to have all these sorry reminders of how much worse off other people are.    We need to just stop bitching and feeling so sorry for ourselves and look around us and we'll see so many things we have to be thankful for and so many people who have so much less.

Perspective.  We all need to have a little better dose of that.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I think we are all familiar with the material outlook of the inhabitants of this world.  I expect that would explain the expectant materialism of the next world as well.  But it has always presented a conundrum to me.  Tell me what good are streets of gold and sumptuous mansions in the afterlife?

I think it is kind of silly but it seems to be an idea that persists inside and outside religion.  But it seems one constant about religion.  Our rewards in "heaven" are going to be materialistic. (Or at the very least 72 virgins.  Though what good virgins are, I could not tell you.  I'd rather have 72 experienced women.  But, that is just me.)

Man's idea of  heaven, in my opinion, is a mirror to man's failed expectations in life in the real world.  And religion is just a tool of those in power to keep the masses  pacified and subservient.   Seems like to me all religions tell you to be "meek", "obey those in power", "your reward will come AFTER you die"....  How better to enslave a whole population?   How better to keep a downtrodden people from rising up and demanding respect, equality and a share of the good life NOW?

I have stated,and I firmly believe, religion is the worst thing that has ever happened to the human race.  Why we go on screwing up our home (earth, in case you didn't know) and expecting some "Big Daddy in the Sky" to step in and save us from our own greed and stupidity I just don't know.  Maybe it is because I don't make enough money to be a Republican.  Some day (I hope) the people of this planet will come to realize if anything is to be saved for our children and grandchildren then we have to, at least, start it.  NOW.

But we won't.  Americans are wonderful people.  We are inventive, dedicated, innovations people.  But we seem to be content to sit on our thumbs until it is crisis time before we act.  Why?  Why does it have to be a matter of life or death before we will act?   Human nature I suppose.  The American personality for sure.  We always wait until the last minute then rush to fix something with a massive effort when it could have been prevented all together.  Greatest and most powerful nation in the history of this planet but the most self absorbed, selfish and short sighted one as well.

I have grandchildren I hope get to grow up in a world that is not totally effed up beyond all repair though I hold out little hope for that.  I just hope they have an opportunity to survive and advance even though it may not be with all the things our generation has come to know.  I won't be around to see it.  Sometimes that saddens me.  Sometimes I'm grateful.  I love all my children and grandchildren and I wish them all the best.  I just don't hold a very optimistic view of what they are going to have to endure.  Why should I?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Prince William of Orange II

Growing up I had a lot of pets.  Mostly dogs as my dad hated cats and immediately killed every one he possibly could.  This, of course, only meant the dogs lasted marginally longer.   See, my dad's solution to every problem was "shoot it and if that does not work shoot it again".  This included my dogs, my mother's dogs and any dogs that just might be within shotgun range.

It was a lesson I learned quite early in life, "Don't love anything because it will soon go away".  Much easier to just not care.   I suppose this lesson in life still impacts me today. 

Now, on a (seemingly) completely unrelated subject, I always loved Charlie Brown.  The comics, the person he represented and his dog, Snoopy.  I always saw a lot of myself in Chuck.  Chronic loser but always trying his best and always falling for Lucy's football scam.  And, Snoopy, the dog who was always on top of the situation.  "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is still one of my very favorite TV shows. 

Now, to bring these two, seemingly unrelated tales together.  Because of Charlie Brown and Snoopy I always wanted a beagle.  So, one day I came home from school and found my parent's had heard a beagle puppy advertised on the "Swap Shop" (local radio buy and sell show) and had gotten my cousin Virgil to drive them to the place to buy it.  The puppy was the cream of the litter and had been meant for stud duty but the guy decided not to raise more and sold him instead.  In fact there was another man waiting to see if my parents showed up when they said they would so he could buy the dog.

I was kind of surprised (put it mildly) and, in spite of knowing better, instantly in love.  Charlie Brown had found Snoopy.

The pup was an AKC registrable eleven-inch beagle.  Sad to say this breed no longer exists and the smallest beagle you can get anymore is a thirteen-inch one.  We had his papers so I filled them out and when it came to a name I was in a quandary.  But, we were studying one of the many British internecine wars and one of the people involved was Prince William of Orange.  So, that is what I put down as his name.  When the registration came back I found I was not the first one with that name so he ended up as Prince William of Orange II.  Mother just called him "Bill Bill" and that is the name that stuck.  In fact, even now, I still just think of him as Bill Bill.

Bill Bill was a very unusual dog for many reasons.  Not least of which is that he survived my father.  That in itself made him a miracle to induce awe.  But, he also had the most distinct and unique personality I have ever witnessed in an animal of any kind. 

I guess it was on a Friday when we got him so I could spend the weekend with him and I would feed him then take him outside to do his business.  I honestly cannot remember one single 'accident' in the house ever.   He pretty much had free run inside the house at all times and when he needed out he'd go to the kitchen door (never either of the front doors (yes, we had two)) and make it plainly known. 

I don't remember just how old he was the first time we all went to 'town' (Paintsville, Ky) together and left him there alone but we left him shut up inside the house.  I think this probably irked  him somewhat as he drug all of mother's freshly washed clothes off the spare bed into the floor and pulled down several of the curtains from the windows. 

I'm really surprised my dad did not go ballistic but he didn't.  Next time, though, when we all left we shut Bill Bill outside the house.  When we got back he was sitting in front of the kitchen door howling to get inside.   So my dad made an impromptu 'doggie door' in our screen door by cutting out one of the lower corners so that when we all left he could go in and out as he  pleased.

OK, two things to point out here.  First it was summer and we did not have air conditioning so leaving the door open did not waste energy.  Second, it was a different time and place.  I cannot EVER remember us locking a door  until after I was fully grown.  We left the door open and never worried about it.  And Bill Bill was much more content.

In the winter our house was COLD.  We had one very small heater in the living room.  I mean SMALL.  I'd lie in front of i t with the side towards the heater burning up and the side away from it freezing.  We hung quilts over the open doorway to the kitchen and to the downstairs bedroom to try to contain all the heat we could.  That still was not much.  So, in the winter all our daytime activities took place in the living room.  When bed time came one would race upstairs and switch on the electric blanket then race back to the living room. 

The reason I mention this was because Bill Bill was cold too.  Even though he slept on my bed (or even  under the covers) every night he would not just jump up on the bed.  He would put both paws up on the side of the bed and whine until I told him it was OK.  Most times I had to help him up.  Those old beds were quite high and he was quite short.

He also had two great loves in his life.  Running rabbits and running deer.  He would only run them by smell though.  I have many times watched him running rabbits and one would find something to hid in and stop and he would keep his  nose to the ground tracking them and barking.  When he would get right on it the rabbit would take off running and Bill Billl would stand there with one front leg raised like a pointer watching it until it was out of sight then put his nose back to the ground and go back tracking it.

Unfortunately, he was only good for one rabbit a day as when I'd shot one rabbit he would not leave my side.  We went out to get a rabbit.  We got a rabbit.  He wanted to make sure he did not miss out on his share.  He might run one for five minutes but before you knew it he'd be right back by my side ready to head home.

He also loved my sister's boys.  Any of  us could tell  him, "Bill Bill, Mary Jane and the boys are coming" and he'd go sit on the back of the sofa looking our  the window if it was cold or go out and sit on the corner of the porch looking up the creek until the got there. 

I got married in 1973 and moved to Paintsville and Bill Bill stayed with my parents.  It did not take him long to learn who was who either.  When we'd come to visit he'd completely ignore me and run to my wife and howl, and roll around on the ground and cavort around like she was the only person in the world.  But, that still did not keep him from "putting her in her place".  Once night she got up for the bathroom and when she came back Bill Bill was lying  under the covers with his  head on her pillow. 

At this time my mother was bed fast.  When Bill Bill would come home from running rabbits or deer he'd come in the front door and head straight to my mother's bed and prop his feet up on the mattress to check on her then he'd go to  his food and water bowl.  He was out running the night she passed away and when he came in everything was gone.   She was gone and even the bed she used had been removed.  I guess he was lost after that.

Several days after she died he went out chasing whatever (I could hear him barking on the chase on the hill across the creek) and just never came back.  We never did know what had happened to him.  Did he get hung up in a hole?  Did someone kill him?  Did he just go off in search of my mother? 

That was in 1974.  It's been thirty seven years and I still miss that pup.  If someone killed him and was still alive... even now it would  not do for me to find out about it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Funeral

I've attended way too many funerals in my life and I've just about seen it all.  Simple family goodbyes to the absolute travesty the little homosexual prick of a minister made of my wife's father's funeral.  Trust me, I'm highly in favor of a small affair and mostly family and NO preacher.  Hey, the person is dead and no amount of preaching is going to make any difference then.  Say goodbye, get over it and move on.

My wife, in fact, does not even want what one could term a funeral.  She wants a very short graveside service and that is it.  Me, I think I want a funeral.  Just not what one might call conventional.  I don't want to be buried so no graveside service.  I'm going to be burned to little, white ashes and bone fragments and stuck in an urn.  After that you can dump me in a ditch beside the road for all it will mean.  The body, or it's remains, are nothing at all.  The mind, the soul and the heart (metaphorically speaking of course) are the person.  The body, once it has ceased functioning, is just so much wasted space and no need worrying overly much about it.

What I think I want, though, is music.  There is so much music I love and "identify" with I could plan a funeral week of  nothing but music.  That would be rather an imposition though, don't you think?  So, I'm trying to come up with about thirty minutes or so of the "best" music of my life.  Those songs that just have a special meaning to me.  Some about me, some about others, some I just like that have no special meaning at all.  Wish I could be around to hear everyone trying to guess which on was which and who it might refer too. 

There are some I almost feel HAVE to be included.  Bob Seger "Against the Wind".  Kansas "Dust in the Wind".  The Who "Behind Blue Eyes".  Black Sabbath "Paranoid".  TG Sheppard "I Loved Them Every One".  But there are so very many more that mean a lot to me.  Michael Bolton "Missing You Now", Peabo Bryson "Can You Stop the Rain", Tony Rich "Nobody Knows it but Me".  Then there are others on a different note like Alice Cooper "Poision" and "Love's a Loaded Gun".  Nazereth "Love Hurts".  And damned near any Gary Stewart song.  A guy I went to high school with in Lousia Ky, Mr Keith Whitley "I'm No Stranger to the Rain", "Miami, My Amie", "Til Each Tear You Cry Becomes a Rose". Garth Brooks "What She's Doing Now".  Alabama "Love in the First Degree".  Simon and Gafunkel "I Am a Rock", "Sounds of Silence", "Kathy's Song".   So many more I cannot even think of them all.

Words of one kind or another, written and read or written and sung, are such a great importance to me and my life.  Well, when you're dead you can't control anything.  Least of all the words someone chooses to speak at a ~memorial service~.  I find that kind of laughable because in this world there are not a handful of people who actually know/knew me.  Now, there are people who think they do but that is not possible because for most of my life I have not even known myself.  Some days I still don't.  Family tradition there I guess.  :-)

If I never get around to putting together a "play list" to subject people to instead of someone who never knew me standing over my corpse and pronouncing judgement on me I'd rather just not have any ceremony at all.  Pointless really.  Changes nothing. 

Pretty melancholy today, huh?  LOL.  Well, welcome to my world.