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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.