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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Idle Thoughts Before Hip Surgery

I am scheduled to have a hip 'refinishing' surgery on my left hip the day after tomorrow.  It has been scheducled for a while and, like most things far off in the future I never gave it any thought.  No operation is 100% safe and being a diabetic does not help either.

If things go well I should be up and about without hip pain in four to six weeks.  But, what if everything does not go well?   What if I drift off to sleep prior to surgery and just never wake back up?  At one time that thought would have terrified me.  It no longer holds that feeling.  Perhaps it is just the fact and I've come to face the fact I will die sometime.  I guess when we are young we know in our mind that death awaits us all but it takes an older person to to look at death not as a great enemy but as a prospective friend.

Ok, I'm not depressed and I am not having suicidal thoughts.  Personally, it is my belief that suicide would be the one unforgivable sin.  Per the Bible all one has to do for forgiveness is repent and ask for it.  That would be rather difficult if you're dead.  Then I'm not much of believer in the Bible.  But, I still think suicide is not an answer except for those so far gone in illness that nothing will stop the pain.  I think we should let those people choose to die with dignity and end their own suffering.

Still, I can't help thinking how peaceful it would be to just gradually fade away and be at peace then just fade away entirely.  It certainly would have it's advantages.  Not having to deal with the stress at work and always wondering when the higher ups decide to cut the work force again.  No more feeling like I can never do anything right at home.  No more pain, physical or emotional.  I have a decent amount of life insurance so my survivors would all get something.   No more worries at all.  Shame what with one being dead one could never realize that peace.

Since I don't have a living will or have not given anyone a medical power of attorney I have to fill our an "advance directive" at the hospital so the doctors know what to do should things go completely awry.  What to put on it is quite simple to me.  If something were to occur to cause brain damage then just let me go.  Without my mind I would not be me anyhow.  No 'heroic measures' to save me and lave me lying like a vegetable in a hospital bed for however long it would take. 

Everyone I've talked with who has had this surgery tells me they wonder why they did not have it done sooner.  A woman in one of the offices of the company I work for told me yesterday she had the same surgery done last year and now could run, ride a bike and even play tennis with no pain.  That 'no pain' thing appeals to me. 

It seems my body is dead set against having this surgery.  First I have had a devil of a time getting all the medical releases sent.  Then a couple of weekends ago I suddenly got a rash on top of my left foot and a rather large place on my right leg just above the ankle.  I went to my doctor on that Monday and he gave me a prescription for some cream to put on it and for Lyrica.  He said Lyrica would clear up about any kind of rash.

I had an appointment with a kidney doctor a few days later and when I told her about the Lyrica she burst out laughing.  She said Lyrica would do nothing to help those places.  But, I'm still taking them as prescribed since they give me a nice buzz.  So, my rash is almost totally gone and the place on my right leg is considerably smaller.  So NOW I have taken somewhat of a chest cold.  I definetely have to slide that by the surgeon lest he reschedules the surgery.  Thank goodness for DayQuil and Tylenol.  Plus the whatever it is I  have to coat the inside of my nostrils with for four days leading up to surgery.  I think it is an anit bacterial agent.

They are really paranoid about getting and infection in the hospital and I understand they will be loading me up with antibiotics prior to and after the surgery takes place.  I don't want an infection but they said to not even have a dntal cleaning before surgery. 

So, I'm sitting here hoping my cold and that spot on my leg gets well by tomorrow morning when I have to see the surgeon for the final OK on my surgery.  If he cancels and reschedules it then it will cost me another $2,600 or so out of pocket due to an sinsurance change.

Well, time for more DayQuil.  :-)  Keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sleeping at Poppy and Granny's

I have  a lot of memories from times spent at my grandparent's house when I was a young child.  Several of them center on bedtime.  In the summer my grandparents slept in separate beds and I always slept with Granny.  She'd always tell me to make my mind completely empty and I would go to sleep.  That generally worked then.  It does not work these days though.

I remember she always smelled of lineament.  I think Poppy made it himself as he was an "herb doctor".  I remember it was white and was kept in a large bottle.  I don't know if it was any good but they both used it liberally.

When I would awaken of a morning I'd have "matter" in my eyes.  I don't know exactly what that is but during the night my eyelashes would become glued together and I'd have to rub them vigorously to be able to open my eyes.

In the winter we all slept in the "living room" where the pot bellied stove was located.  Not only did we all sleep in that room but all in the same bed.  Poppy on one side and Granny on the other with me in the middle with my head down at the foot of the bed.

Being winter, Poppy and I wore "long johns".  I can't remember for sure but I think the ones I wore had footies on them which was welcome as it got pretty cold at night.  At bedtime Poppy would let the fire burn down in the pot bellied stove then put fresh kindling wood in it to be ready for next morning's fire.  When morning came it was me who had to jump out of bed and rush over to the pot bellied stove and open the door, splash some coal oil (kerosene) on the kindling wood and throw a lit kitchen match in to get the fire going.  Once the kindling was burning well I'd put in a few small lumps of coal then slam that door closed and rush back to bed until it warmed up in there.

There is nothing as welcome as a warm bed on a cold morning.  Especially in the old houses where I grew up.  They had zero insulation so it was generally just as cold inside as it was outside (if not colder).  When we'd finally get out of bed (don't get the wrong idea, this was generally along about 6 AM) Granny would fire up the wood/coal burning cook stove in the kitchen and break the ice in the water bucket.  Between the kitchen stove and the pot bellied stove in the living room it kept that small house reasonably warm.  Relatively speaking I guess.

Goodness knows I would not want to have to do that now but those things one grew up with seemed perfectly normal at the time.  Nobody else around there had any better heating arrangement.  When I was older my parents and I always had electric blankets and those were absolute heaven in the winter as we had very little heat in the house otherwise.

Funny how such hardships seem like the "good old days" when looking back from decades in between then and now.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Obvious Truths

I was sitting here a few minutes ago waiting for the PC to finish booting up and looking at the desktop background I have of my youngest grandson when he was a little under one month old and one of those epiphanies (which should be an obvious truth) struck me.

I've always said all a parent can reasonably hope for his or her children is for them to be happy.  I had all those common hopes for my two girls:  graduate from college, marry a fine man, have healthy and happy children.   Now, neither of them graduated from college but the rest of it has all been fulfilled.  They both have married good men who have yet to do a single thing to make me believe they could have done better.  Both are good husbands and good fathers and both my girls seem to be happy with them

I have four grandchildren now, three boys and a girl (who will without fail be very spoiled).  While two of the grandsons have some issues health wise there is nothing horrible going on.  My grandchildren have been born into loving, two parent homes and whether they appreciate it now I'm sure the time will come when they realize how fortunate they have been.

My first obvious truth of the day is I dearly love my family and I'm content with how their lives are going.  Does not seem to be something one would have to think about does it?  I guess that is what and obvious truth is though it might be obscured by everyday events in life.

The second obvious truth is (and this one I've realized for quite some time) I'm not a particularly good father or grandfather.  I love my kids and my grandchildren but I do not see much of them.  My daughter lives in Mississippi and I have never gone to see them there.  I did go to see them when each of the boys were born but now I only see them for a brief while when they come to South Carolina.  My other daughter only lives across town and I do not see her and her family much more often.  I wish I could say my life is so busy I don't find the time to make a forty minute drive.  But, I cannot do that and remain even remotely honest.  The fact is though I have been on depression medication for the past fifteen plus years I still have most day when I find it difficult to even get out of the house.

My depression and introverted persona have been something my kids have had to deal with though they may not have understood it.  I look at the photo of my youngest grandson and realize how much of my children's lives I missed and how much of my grand children's lives I am missing.  And, even as I realize this I know I will still, mostly, be unable (or unwilling) to get out of the house.

I have many physical problems but I think, over all, my mental ones have been more harmful to myself and those I love than any physical problem I have had.  And, I know for me depression is not something one ever gets over completely no matter what those silly, happy television commercials show.  One takes one's medication to stay at least minimally functional but...   Depression is always there bringing it's darkness and building a cage around me that I cannot escape.

I guess that might not be an obvious truth though it probably should be.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Water

I'm not sure what the reason is but being in or around water has always made me feel better.  From my earliest days wading the creek in front of my grandparent's house, through those winter days of skating on the ice of that same creek frozen over, to the later days of being by a lake or a river fishing to being on a beach watching the ocean, feeling the ocean breezes and smells, lulled into a sense of peacefulness by the sounds of the waves rolling up on the beach I've always loved being in or near water.

Even rain makes me feel better.  I don't mind being out in the rain.  In fact, while growing up. I rather enjoyed being caught in storms while out wandering the woods.  To this day I love storms and like to sit on my (very small) porch when there is a storm and watch the rain, listen to the thunder and feel the wonderful, freshness of the air around me.

Some years ago, my brother owned  a house on the river bank up in Kentucky.  When I had something on my mind I'd drive up there (a good 425 miles) and just take a fishing pole and go sit on a sandbar and watch the water and think.  What the fish did or did not do was purely secondary.  Several important decisions in my life were made on that sandbar watching the water of the Big Sandy River roll past.

We've  not been able to go for the past several years but my wife and I used to go to Myrtle Beach or another beach every September.  We'd walk to our favorite place for breakfast then walk that breakfast off down to the end of the boardwalk area and back to the hotel up Ocean Boulevard.  We'd sit in the hotel and watch TV (we always got the rooms with two TVs) and read and drink wine until the shadows came over the beach.  Then we'd go for long walks on the beach.

I'd get out in the edge of the ocean and my wife would stay farther up the beach and run from the encroaching waves as the tide came in.  We both loved to watch the little birds following the receding waves looking for food then running, helter skelter, in front of the new waves coming in to avoid being covered up in water.

I always felt a sense of longing when we'd pass a fisherman or two sitting on a bucket with two or more fishing rods with lines way out in the surf, relaxing and waiting for a fish to come along and feel like making itself available for supper.  I guess those days are over for me now though.  I can't visualize my left leg ever getting well enough for long walks on the beach any time.

When I lived in Florida, my brother had a 23 1/2 foot inboard/outboard boat that we used to take out into the Atlantic most every weekend.  Let me tell you there is something different about being way out in the gulf stream and looking around and there is no sign of land in any direction.  And, if you have not seen  a sunrise and/or sunset over the ocean with no land around you have really missed something.  I can really understand why men fall in love with the sea.  And if you've never had really fresh saltwater fish you've missed out on the best fish there is to eat.  We'd go out and catch all the fish a restaurant patron pays though the nose for and feast on a large fish fry on Sundays.  We'd use three hooks on each line and most times catch at least two fish at a time and lots of times have a fish on each hook.  I'd get so tired from reeling in the fish at times I'd just leave my pole in the holder and crack open a beer and sit back and just enjoy being out on the water.

My wife and I took a cruise for our wedding/honeymoon and I would highly recommend a cruise to anyone thinking of taking one.  Not so much for the stops as those were so orchestrated and limited one too much to the places, shops, tours that had deals with the cruise lines they were not that great.  But, the sea days were wonderful.  Grab breakfast early then grab a book and go to one of the areas in one of the lounges and just lie on the ledge by a window overlooking the ocean and read.  Or, go out on deck where the wind was fierce (top deck was hard to even stand upon) and soak in the wind and ocean smell and the view. 

I have two really morbid fears of ways to die.  One is by hanging and the other is by drowning.  I can't say where hanging came from but the love for the ocean I have and the fear of drowning that goes with it makes me believe I may have been a sailor who ended up drowning in one of my past lives.  That and women.  With all my problems with woman in this life I must have treated an awful lot of women really badly in my past lives to warrant it. 

That is one reason, when I am beyond drowning, I'd like the remains of my cremated body dumped (no there is no need for a kinder way of saying it) into Nat's Cree, Ky near where I was born.  The symmetry appeals to me for some reason.  The completion of the circle.  Ending up in those waters where I spent so many happy days of my  youth.  I know it is really meaningless as I won't know anything about it at the time but while I'm still here to think about it, it does appeal to me.

In my next life I want to live on an island somewhere with lots of mountains and rushing streams of pellucidly clear, clean, running water.  Miles of beaches to relax on with loads of fresh seafood to dine on each day.  Maybe throw in not being insane as well. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Being a Parent

There is one word, to me, that describes the life of being a parent.  Put as many "grands" in front of that as you will.  That word is FEAR.  It seems to have changed a lot since my young days since parents have so many more things to fear these days it seems.

Recently, my middle grandson was caught in a rip tide and had to be rescued.  I can feel my daughter's terror as she ran towards him with no thought other than saving the life of her son.  A little over a week ago my youngest grandson was born and had/has some problems breathing along with some heart issues.  I can imagine my daughter looking at her new son with so much love yet there has to be some fear there in the background.

I know when my kids first started driving I listened to the traffic accident report every morning and cringed each time there was an accident on their side of town and the constant fear they might be involved.

My older daughter lived with me for a while and whenever she was out it was constant stress waiting for her to get back home safely.  Maybe go to bed and maybe go to sleep but most often not until I heard the door open and her footsteps in the hall.

I would call fear the flip side of love for a parent but it is not that.  It is not one or the other.  Where there is love there also is fear.  Fear of something bad happening to one's loved one.  Fear of losing one's loved one for whatever reason.  Fear of not being a good enough parent to give one's children the proper grounding to be successful in life. 

Love and fear are the two things a parent lives with constantly.  I try to not show it as it would show no purpose but I still feel it every day of my life.  Love and fear.  For my children and their children.  Nothing special in that.  Just what it means to be a parent.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pizza

Pizza is something I did not immediately like when first exposed to it.  I was not exposed to it until my ex-wife and I started dating.  She loved pizza but could not eat a whole one so when we went out to  little place just outside Louisa, Ky she would order and eat as much as she could and I'd finish the rest of it.  That is how I came to love pizza.

After we were married we moved to Paintsville, Ky and I was attending Mayo Vocational and Technical School (as it was known then).  Across the street from the school was a little pizza place called Giovanni's.  It was owned by a man named Hobart (and I don't recall the last name) whom my older sister had once worked for at his downtown restaurant.  At lunch I'd go there and get a 10" pepperoni pizza.  It was great.  Thin crust, lots of cheese and pepperoni and none of the modern health concerns.  There was pepperoni grease in large puddles on top of the cheese.  It was wonderful.

They also made the best baked spaghetti, but this is about pizza. 

That is my baseline pizza.  Every pizza I have in this world is going to be compared to Giovanni's pepperoni pizza from the early 70's.  And none of them measure up.  Where I live now we have every chain pizza known to man and none of them are nearly as flavorful. 

The closest I've been able to come to that pizza was Hobert's Pizza in Prestonburg, Ky and that was a good many years ago.  It still had the right flavor but it had been subverted by the health nuts.  Why can't I just get a totally unhealthy pizza like I grew up with?

They put so many odd things on pizza now.  Nothing is pure and simple like it used to be.  And, nobody loves their pizza the way I do anyhow.  Now for convenience its Papa Johns.  Go on-line and put on all the tasteless toppings you want then go pick it up.  I used to get it delivered until they wanted to know my complete family history with every order.  So I go (all of three minutes away) no and pick it up myself.  No ridiculous questions, not driver tips, just my pizza, hot and ready.

My wife likes ground beef and onions.  I get pepperoni, onions, mushrooms and olives.  It is just so-so pizza but it fills the empty spots.  And, if we go out for pizza we go to Pizza Hut where I get a veggie personal pan pizza and she gets the wings. 

Things have sure changed over the years.  And, I'd love to have a good, old-fashioned, unhealthy, pepperoni pizza with lots of pepperoni grease puddled on top.

Tyrus Lloyd Young

On Friday 08/24/2012 Tyrus Lloyd Young came into this world.  He is the first son of my youngest daughter and makes me three grandsons.  That adds even more to my disbelief that I'm a grandfather.  It just does not seem possible.  My tiny girl children are having babies.  Where was I when they got that old?  Where was I when I got that old?

My family has been blessed with healthy babies.  This time, little Tyrus, had some issues though.  He was a little early though he was still a healthy 7 lb 5 oz.  But he was not breathing completely normally and his heart showed some "abnormalities".  I visited the hospital twice and my wife once and we barely got to see the little man because they had him in the nursery so much of the time to run tests.   But from our short time together as well as his photos on Facebook I can tell he is a handsome young'un. 

He has some problems, some of which should correct themselves shortly, one which may require surgery but even so I'm thankful as so many parents and grandparents have so many tougher things to deal with.  At least Mr T.L.s problems are correctable.

Makes me think back to my own children and how thankful I am for them and that they were healthy and intelligent and grew up to be such amazing women.  I tell them I love them often but I don't think they understand that until they look at their own children sleeping.  A quiet time when one realizes, despite the troubles of the day, just how much love a parent has for his/her child.

When my two girls look at their own children they might come close to understanding how much I love them.  They might come close to understanding how much I love my grand-children.  Though I am not the best ever was at expressing emotion. 

Even more I'm happy each of them has married a man who appears to me to be a good man, a good husband and a good father.  I know I don't have to worry about my children and my grandchildren as they have a good husband and father to do the worrying for me.

A lot of people want a lot of things in life and I guess I'm the same.  But, when I stop and look at it I realize how much I've been blessed and how undeserved those blessings are.  I would not trade my daughters, my sons-in-law, my grandchildren for anything.

Pee, pee, pee

Pee, pee, pee is the way my grandfather would "call" his birds.

My grandparents lived in a small house on Nat's Creek in Lawrence County Kentucky.  They had electricity but little else of what we, now, would consider "normal".   They had a "dug" well for water and an outhouse up the branch for a toilet.  It was a "two-holer" as I recall.

Heat in the home was a pot-bellied stove in the living room/bedroom and cooking was done on a wood/coal stove in the kitchen.  I'm still amazed at the quantity and quality of food my grandmother produced from this stove.  She made huge meals and the best gingerbread I've ever had on that old stove.

There was a front porch with concrete steps down to the ground around the house.  The porch did not quite fill the length (or width, whichever) of the house but it was an important part of the house.  There was a porch swing, my grandfather's old rocking chair, a big trunk where I'd put enough coal to last them a week and, between the porch posts, there was a couple of boxes, like flower boxes, where my grandfather would spread bread left over from breakfast or supper for his birds.

I can still see him coming out the front door with bread in his hands calling, "Pee, Pee, Pee" and spreading the crumbled bread in those two boxes and the birds would come from all around to partake of his largess.  There were birds of every type and color that were native to the area.  They never seemed to mind him as they would flock all around to get their share of the bread crumbs.

That may have been the foundation of my fascination with birds of all kinds.  I love watching birds and enjoy having lots of them around.  I don't have a bird feeder or anything but I think I'd enjoy having one (or more) where I could put seeds and stale bread then sit and watch the birds come from all around to take sustenance.  I'll like to have flowers that attract butterflies and humming birds as well as a humming bird feeder.

When I lived in Kentucky birds seemed to be everywhere all the time.  Here in South Carolina I don't see nearly as many birds as I'd like.  That might be due to living in a "community" instead of out in the wilds of the country.  Sometimes I miss those wilds.  Actually, most of the time I miss those wilds and would love to be able to live out in the country away from everything.  Everything except for such things as paved roads, electricity, indoor plumbing, satellite TV...  I'm afraid I've been irretrievably spoiled by civilization.

Spoiled though I am, I still remember those simple days and the simple pleasures to be found in calling birds around to feed on our left overs. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Squirrel Hunting in Kentucky

I've talked before about eating squirrel for breakfast and supper.  Now, as an aside to anyone not familiar with the country and the time, there were three meals of a day.  Breakfast, then as now, was the first meal and quite large.  The noon time meal was dinner and was quite large.  The evening meal was supper and was minimal.

There is a good reason for this.  People needed a big breakfast to fuel them through the hard work of the morning and people needed a large meal for dinner to fuel them through the afternoon.  And the work day was, as they used to say, "From can see to can't see".  Now that was for the men.  The women had to wake up early enough to cook all this before the men got out of bed and stay up late enough to do the dishes  before they could get in bed.

I'm not sure where or when "dinner" became the name of the evening meal but it is a "city" think I guess.  I know my wife has told me she missed a lot of good meals because someone would invite her to dinner and she would show up in the evening.  There is a reason it is called a "dinner bucket".

But back to the subject at hand.  Squirrel hunting was a big part of my childhood in Kentucky and a big part of the life of all the adults in my life.  There are a lot of people today who find the idea of eating a squirrel to be repugnant.  They just don't know what they are missing or they just have never been really hungry.  Or, they have never had a chance to eat my mother's squirrel, squirrel gravy and homemade biscuits. 

Country squirrels and city squirrels have some very distinct differences.  City squirrels have gotten used to people not shooting them and have gotten quite lazy.  Sometimes coming from work to my truck I can barely get them to move out of my way on the sidewalk,  Country squirrels are always vigilant knowing inattention leads to an appointment with the cook pot.

This leads to another area of difference between my wife and I.  She calls a container in which you cook things and it has high sides is a 'pot'.  To me it is a 'kettle'.  And a frying pan to her is a 'pan' while to me it is a skillet.   Squirrel is really good cooked in a kettle or fried in a skillet.  Or a pot and pan as one prefers.

Another difference between city and country squirrels is you are liable to see a city squirrel roaming around any time of day where country squirrels are up before dawn and finished roaming by ten AM.  Then they will come back out for an hour or two in the late afternoon.  In between the hours of ten in the morning and around five in the afternoon you're only out in the woods because you just like it or you were never taught much about squirrel hunting.

Squirrel season comes in in mid August (though when I was growing up hunting season was a foreign concept)  and the days were still quite warm.  But, the mornings were wonderful.  Daybreak was around seven AM so one would need to get up around four AM to get dressed and head out to where he was going to be hunting.  You'd need to be there and have time to move up the hill through the darkness to where you wanted to start your hunt before the sun came up.

My favorite place was the hill between where I grew up on Nat's creek and Burgess Branch on the Chestnut side.  I'd park my truck beside the road and move up the hill, past the graveyard and slip through the fence until I came to a fairly large rock in the path.  I'd sit there very still and just listen.

At that time of year the leaves would be dew covered and, in the stillness, the swishing of squirrels jumping from limb to limb could be well heard.

Now, moving up there in the dark had it's problems as you really could not see and big, old spiders loved to weave webs across the path which you'd run into if you were not careful.  I always lead off with the barrel of my shotgun clearing the path for me.  But once we got to where we (mostly me by myself) was going to begin the hunt we just sat, waited, listened and enjoyed the morning coolness and the anticipation of a good squirrel supper.

Then there'd come the swish of a squirrel moving around and one would perk up and make out the direction from which the noise came.  Move slowly, as noiseless as possible, in that direction until one could see the leafy, limbs moving.  Wait hardly breathing until one could see the squirrel then take aim and ... miss or have one for the kettle.

Most of the time squirrels were old enough to need to be stewed but if you hunted "out of season" which we all did, you could get young squirrels that were great fried.  Same with young rabbits.  In fact if you fried them in the same skillet you could not really tell the difference.   And, no, neither tasted like chicken.

When it grew to be around ten o'clock it was time to make one's way back to the road and drive home (or just walk home if you lived that close) and clean your kill, cut it up and put in in the refrigerator in salt water for some hours or days before cooking.



I can't explain that feeling really.  It is very calm and peaceful and at the same time one is tense with anticipation, ears straining for that faint sound which will set one off on the stalk.

It has been a good number of years since I've had a squirrel to eat.  I'd give a lot for some fresh squirrel, squirrel gravy and home made biscuits for breakfast now.  *sigh*

Monday, August 13, 2012

Teenagers Should Rule the World

That is because teenagers already know everything.  For some we're pretty dumb before we make it to our teens then all of a sudden we know every thing.  Then we spend the rest of our lives realizing how little we know.  Schooling does not seem to matter.  After age fifteen we all get dumber and dumber as the years go past.

I was just as guilty as anyone in this.  At fifteen nobody could tell me anything.  I already knew it.  This brings to mind one particular day, summer vacation as I recall, a salesman came to our house and I got a chance to show just how smart I was.  LOL

We lived way out in the country.  From the dirt road you came down a small hill and crossed a little creek then came up a little path past the barn and up to the house.  Only problem was that little path past the barn became a quagmire (look it up) after a rain.

As it goes the salesman's car got stuck trying to come up from the creek, past the barn before going up the hill to the house.  My dad and the salesman were trying to pus it forward and having little success.  I meandered down from the house and sat on the edge of the bank and watched for a few minute.  I finally asked why they did not just put the car in revers and back down the hill.

I was informed the car had no reverse gear that worked.  So I asked if the car had a 'neutral' that worked and the salesman indicated it did.  So I asked them why they did not just put the car in neutral and get in front of it and push it down the hill until it hit the creek?  Then the salesman could jump in and turn the wheels when it was in the creek then drive it forward up the other side (which was dry). 

They looked at each other and tried it.  It worked splendidly and I never lifted a hand to help them.  I felt quite smug about it all.  Knowing my daddy as I do it is a miracle he did not beat the crap out of me after the stranger left.  But, we fifteen-year-olds know everything so it would not have mattered one iota.

I find it amusing at just how dumb I've become in the intervening forty three years.

Hot and Cold

I grew up in a lot of places which had zero A/C and limited heat.  Let me tell you I appreciate some wamth  on a cold day and come cool on a hot day.  If you've read any of this blog you should realize I grew up in Eastern Kentucky during the fifties and sixties,  a little bit of the seventies.  I grew up without indoor pluming for the most part and never any air conditioning and mostly without even an electric fan.  That was summer though.  In winter heat varied from a wood/coal fireplace to a gas heater the heated most of the house to one that heated about five feet around it.

In summer, in most times, I bathed in the creek and used sand for soap.  In winter I'd heat a wash pan full of hot water and take a "Whore Bath".  It was not the shortness of time between customers that drove me as it was the doggone cold and trying to wash all the "stinky places" before the water got cold. 

We lived at the 'big' house in West Van Lear for about three or four years and that was the only time I can recall having a real bathroom and enough heat in the house to spend enough time naked to take a good bath.

Then going to sleep at night was another adventure.  In the summer I'd have all my windows open with no sheets on me just waiting until it got late enough for the night to cool down to where I could sleep.  In the winter it was a rush from the living room where the small amount of heat was upstairs to my bed, stripping clothes in a hurry and jumping into bed under the electric blanket.  Thank goodness for an electric blanket in the winter.

Now a winter trip to the bathroom (outhouse) was also a "treat".  :-)  From my bed, down stairs to that bedroom, though the living room and kitchen, out the door and across the porch for a fifty foot run to get there and then a shivering stay with the trip reversed.  Want to know how good an electric blanket feels after that adventure?

Heat, though, was pretty much a "just deal with it" kind of proposition.  No changing it, no ameliorating it except for a dip in the "swimming hole".  The swimming hole was not really deep enough for swimming though.  It was just deep enough to submerge one's whole body under the water and it took one heck of a walk to get there. 

I recall working for hours and hours in the hot, summer sun loading bailed hay and stacking it in the barn just so my two cousins could go to the "Hack Hole" with me to cool off.  That was a day I'll never forget.  I can recall bending over and grabbing a bale of hay by the bindings and lifting it up to the truck bed and my vision would go completely blank with the effort.  But, let me say, that dunking in the creek was a wonderful thing.

Being outside in the cold was not so much of an issue as we had to wear coats and "long johns" inside as well.  Outside we, at least, had exercise to help warm us.  I stayed outside a lot in cold weather for that and other reasons.    In the summer I'd just lie on the porch swing and read.  I hated the heat then more than the cold.

Think of it.  In the heat you can only take of so many pieces of clothing but in the cold you can put on innumerable items to help keep warm. 

Still I hate the very hot days of summer and the very cold days of winter but mostly for different reasons.  I'm blessed now with a good heat pump for hot and cold weather but I have to walk a long way from the parking lot to the building where I work and both the heat and cold make me sick so I'm trying not to throw up until I get into the heat or A/C of the building.  Not a lot of fun but sure is better than when I was going to school when I don't think we even had A/C.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Baloney (bologna)

Too many years ago when I was around the age of fifteen I took the job of mowing down horse weeds (Ok, I don't know what they are really.  When they were green they were horse weeds and when they died and dried out they were stick weeds.) from around her born.

She was not like a next door neighbor, 30 second hike of neighbor.  She lived in the head of the branch of Nat's Creek known as "The Julie Fork".  Places tended to be named for people who lived there.  The ones this was named for was Burns and Julie Ratliff.  Burns had passed away some years earlier but Julie still lived up in the head of that hollow (holler).

I got up bright and early and took a borrowed mowing scythe and headed up the hollow to her house.  Goodness, I have so many memories surrounding that hollow.  Half the time one was wading the creek because that is where the road was at the time.

I'm not sure how far it was to her place or how long it took me to make the walk but I did and began mowing down all the horse weeds.  Now remember I had not had any breakfast either.  By noon I was starving and she called me in for lunch.  I still get queasy thinking about it.

She had one cast iron skillet on the stove that had old grease in it.  When she got the grease hot she sliced of some bologna from a large roll she had.  One edge was paper-thin while the other edge would have choked a hog.

She fried that thing up until the thin edge was coal black and charred yet the thick edge was still cold.  This is what she served me for lunch.  I was starved so I ate it with gratitude and went back to cutting down horse weeds.

As I recall she paid me $5.00 for that day's work (along with my lunch, of course).  I can't really remember when the day's lunch became irrelevant but I know I did not keep it down all the way home.

I can never even hear the word bologna since then without thinking of that event.

During the day it was not very much fun at all but, in hindsight, it was one of those "good old days" moments.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thinking About Small Children

I know I'm getting old and I've been jaded pretty much my whole life.  Makes me wish I could go back to being a very young child.  You know, way back when everything was a discovery on par with a trip to another planet.  Everything was so new and so wonderful.

Sometimes I can't help but feel a trifle jealous when I watch one of my grand kids at play.  Or any other small child, really.  Their happy smiles and giggles are, well, just so doggone happy.  The innocent pleasure they take in the smallest things are beautiful beyond describing.  I wish I had the power to convey to them just how wonderful this time of their life is and how much things will change in the much to near future.  I wish children could all realize just how good they have it and appreciate this time in their lives.

When a small child is happy their smiles are things of pure beauty.  Just happiness.  There is no buried hate, envy, disdain, hypocrisy, hidden motives and agendas.  There is just joy in the moment.  And the reason does not have to be anything an adult might consider special.  Just seeing a butterfly or humming bird, getting that music box to play, learning to tie one's own shoe.   Children can be so happy for so many simple reasons.  That should be a lesson to us all.  It really is the small things in life that should (and mostly do) make up the happiest.

Children, unfortunately, must be scolded when they do unacceptable things and parents seem to be much better at that than at praising them when they do something good.  That something good does not have to be much in the eyes of an adult but in the eyes of a child it is a wonder and if not praised that wonder loses some of its glory and the child loses some of that precious ability to be happy for such small reasons.

One example from my own lie is learning to tie one's own shoes.  My shoe laces seemed to come undone on their own and I was forever trying to get someone to tie my shoes.  The adults got tired of it fairly quickly and tried to teach me to tie my own shoes.  I just could not get the hang of it then though it is such a simple thing now.  They grew frustrated and quit.  I grew frustrated and rebelled and just ran around with shoe laces flopping.  Though I kept trying it on my own.

I clearly recall the day I first tied my own shoes correctly.  I was elated, on cloud 9 and could not wait to show everyone I could time my own shoes now.  Nobody cared.  It was like, "Oh, fine.  Now I don't have to mess with it any more."   I was devastated.    It was one of my first lessons in the way life really is that lead me to be an introvert.  My successes were always kept inside and always treated with indifference to other people. 

Of course my parents were the type that expected perfection (according to their beliefs) at all times and since perfection was expected, success was never praised.  Heaven help me though should I fail at something.  Imperfection was quickly punished.  Verbally, physically or both.  And since my parents had such widely varying ideas on perfection I was always going to be wrong to at least one of them.  It could be quite stressful and probably one of the big reasons I tried to spend as much time away from my parents as possible.

I guess that is why I love to see the innocent and pure joy of a small child enjoying a small victory or just the fact they are alive and its a wonderful day.  I tried to not do  those things I suffered to my own children and I hope they will always praise every success their children have and realize perfection is only a goal and we are all fated to fall short of it.  Quite often.

I love seeing a smile on the faces of my grand children.    Something simple that pleases them.  Some small success that seems so important at the time and elates them.  I enjoy those same things with other small children.  It is a time that should be the most magical and wonderful years of their lives and I wish more adults realized that and took the time to praise and encourage them instead of ignoring or dismissing as unimportant all those small steps a child must take on his/her way to adulthood.

You just don't really know how long lasting one word of praise at the right time might be.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Things When I Was Very Young

We all know how things change and how inflation drives up all of our costs of living.  Just to not the cost of a few things when I was around ten years old.

Postcards were still a penny and first class postage was four cents.  Bazooka Joe bubble gum was two for a penny.  Candy bars and ice cream novelties were a nickle and sodas (pop) were a dime.  As I recall lunch at school was a quarter a day.  Gasoline was somewhere around a quarter a gallon and a lot of times people would drive up and ask for just "a dollar's worth" and it actually meant something.  And, all gas stations were full service.  Someone else pumped your gas, checked your oil and washed your windshield no matter how much or how little gasoline you purchased.

Fast food did not exist for us except for TV commercials and the one Dairy Queen in Paintsville that closed for four months in the winter.  They had the very best hot dog sauce EVER.  Even today I have never been there when it was not crowded.  I recall the first time I ever went to a McDonald's I was on my way to Florida.  I had seen so many McDonald's commercials I decided to try it out.  Talk about culture shock!  I went in and ordered my usual, a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and mayo.  They politely told me the had none of that.  I asked them what they did have and they told me pickles, onions and mustard.  I just turned and walked away.  Today I've changed my toppings to include onions and pickles but I still have to have my lettuce and tomatoes (and if I'm feeling reckless, mayo).

Hamburgers were thirty-five cents at a 'sit down' restaurant.  Coffee was a nickle and a fountain soft drink was a dime.  They had the very best hamburgers though.  No quarter-pounders but those small meat patties tasted the best.  Sonic is the closes one can come these days to the flavor of those old burgers.

My sister worked at one of those old places and once got a dime tip on a nickle cup of coffee and was on cloud nine.  Such simple times and simple things.  We have gained a lot in the intervening years but we have lost a lot as well.  Our innocence, civility and appreciation for small things seem to have disappeared.  It has been crushed by the isolation we now feel from our neighbors, technology which allows us to do almost everything on our own and communicate without ever having a face to face conversation, the civility and respect we treated all people with until they proved they did not merit it.

You know I could go anywhere at night and be out playing and my parents never had to worry about where I was.  Now you can't even leave your kids unattended during the daylight hours.  I have fond memories of playing "whistle or holler(hollow)" during the warm, evening hours with lightening bugs lighting up like embers in the night all around. 

Back then pop bottles had a two-cent deposit on them if you did not bring them back.  Most people just tossed them out the window (yes littering was rampant then) rather than going to the trouble.  Keith, the boy my mother babysat, and I would roam the roads and railroad tracks looking for pop bottles.  Since pop was ten cents it only took ten bottles to get each of us a pop(soda).  Most every day we could find that many bottles in an hour or so.

I even remember when Kentucky did not have a sales tax.  Sales tax and inflation ruined my personal economy.  Candy and ice cream went to six cents and pop to twelve and if you spent sixteen cents or over sales tax kicked in.  It was horrible.

Playing Hearts

No it is not the game of love.  *smile*  It is a card game with a few simple rules.

1.  Deal out the cards, 13 to each of four people.
2.  No partners it is every one for themselves.
3.  Each heart counts as 1 point and the queen of spades as 13.
4.  Pass three cards you don't want to the person on the left.
5.  You get one point for each heart and thirteen for the Queen of Spades you "win".
6.  However, if you get zero hearts or the queen you get to take twenty six from your score or put twenty six on every one else's score.

My brother and sister-in-law and myself and my (ex) wife would play for hours.  I wonder now how she put up with us. She was the only non-smoker at the table and the language was a little on the rough side.  And the competitiveness between myself and my brother was high.

7.  When someone reached 100 points the game was over and whomever had the lowest score won.

Since it was everyone for themselves, if you had the lowest score, you could be assured everyone else was going to try to 'feed' you hearts and the "bird" (biddy or bitch) as the queen was known.  Just so long as someone else took a heart.  If you thought someone else was running them you'd try to get just one heart to stop them.  The worst part was when someone got 13 hearts and the queen was there and you had to decide whether to 'eat' it or let the other person run the hand.

Since we passed to the left I always tried to sit to my brother's right as he enjoyed running the hand more than anyone else and I loved giving him twenty five points and taking the other one for myself. 

There was no rancor or anger involved but we both hated to lose with a passion.  I've mellowed as I've gotten older but I was that way for sure when I was younger in every endeavor.  I hated losing.  That was when the game (whatever it was) was going on.  Afterwards, it meant very little to me and everybody was friends again with not hard feelings.  At least, as far as I know.

There were three "big" card games when I was growing up and a young adult.  Rook, Rummy and Hearts. 

And there was one other game my brother and I (and later nephew Jimmy) played.  It had now name but it was seeing if you could catch the other person unaware and knock the bejesus out of him.  You should have seen us all in the same room.  *Laugh*  The three of us all with their back against a wall and head on a swivel making sure we knew where everyone else was at all times.

One time I nailed my brother up at my sister's trailer and he was waiting to ambush me by the fridge and Jimmy came bee-bopping around the corner and caught it head on.  And one time after he nailed me I caught him from behind and nailed him in the shoulder.  Sent us both to the doctor and I still have no knuckle on the little finger of my left hand where I smashed it on his shoulder.

Ah, those days gone by.  My sister has been gone for about thirty four years now and my brother just turned 71 this week.  I'm only  four months from 59 myself.  Somehow those days of being young and full of "piss and vinegar" seem like they happened to a different person.

I'd love to have a good marathon session of Rook or Hearts again with people I love.  Or, catching my brother or nephew unaware and nailing them good.  But time moves on and we grow old.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Sister

I wonder how someone who knows they are going to die soon, unlike all of us who have some idea we are going to die somewhere in the future, cope.  My sister was diagnosed with Lupus at 26 and died at age 36.  In those ten years she knew she was dying soon.  Every day had to have been a trial for her.  Yet she was a person of utmost faith and utmost consideration.  I have no idea at all I could have handled her burdens in such a graceful manner.

I loved my sister.  My (now) ex-wife and I spent a lot of time with her and her family.  At the time I just thought her reactions were "normal".  It is only now I realize how much she must have put into living for today and not worrying so much about tomorrow.

It is unfortunate my sister left our home so soon (could not deal with my father) and I have so few real memories of her as a girl or really young woman.  My memories are so few and far between.  I recall her rocking off the porch with me at the age of several months though everyone says that is impossible.  I remember her dancing with the broom around the living room to Dick Clark and American Bandstand and throwing my brother's playing cards in the pot bellied stove.

I wonder if Jimmy and Danny could ever envision their mother dancing with a broom while doing house work and listening to American Bandstand.  Don't matter if you could because she did.  One reason why memories are lies.  We remember too little and forget too much.

She was not around much as I was growing up.  She left home early and was gone most of my childhood.  I wish I had gotten to know her better.  At the time it did not seem such a big thing as I did not know it was different than most families.  Just another casualty of the war between my mother's religion and my father's hatred of it.  Then my father hated most every thing. 

After I got married we spent a lot of time with my sister and her family so we got to eat a lot of her cooking.  She made a couple of things I really loved.  One was goulash.  Ground beef, elbow macaroni, tomatoes and garlic.  Tacos with fresh heated corn tortillas, ground beef, diced tomatoes, onions, lettuce and a bottle of hot sauce.  Good stuff.  I miss that horribly.

When I was with a friend and co-worker in Norway for six months I  used to make those tacos on a regular basis.  I never tried the goulash but I do miss it.  It had a special flavor.  Probably was the garlic which I was not familiar with at the time.  I still cannot eat a Taco Bell (or other) taco without whining how it sucks compared to those tacos from my sister.  Nothing like hot, fried, corn tortillas.  Flour tortillas suck rocks.

I can't hear about goulash or tacos without thinking of her and those long, lost days.  Food then clearing off the table and a long evening of Rook or Rummy.  Such simple things yet so very important.  I really miss them.

Chicken and Dumplings

For some reason I've had chicken and dumplings on my mind today.  Not just any chicken and dumplings either but those made by my grandmother.  Even my mother could not do dumplings like granny did.  Like the biscuits that go with them.  Mother always rolled the dough our flat and used a biscuit cutter (a water glass or a tin can) to get nice, round biscuits.  Granny just pinched off a hunk of dough and dropped it in the pan.

I used to make chicken and dumplings ever once in a while but could never do as well even though it is not a complicated process.  Dumplings are the same dough as the biscuits are so just make a double portion of what you would make for biscuits.  I rolled my dumpling dough out into a thin, flat disc and cut that into strips then cut the strips into short pieces.  Granny just pinched small portions of dough and dropped them into the pot.

The best chicken and dumplings are made with a fresh killed chicken.  Well, everything is better with fresh ingredients and, unless one lives on a farm, it is difficult to get fresh killed chickens these days.  Then you dismember the chicken and place it in a large pot (we called it a kettle but my wife makes fun of me when I call pots a kettle these days) with lots of water and put on medium high heat.  Cover and cook until fall-off-the-bone tender.

Only seasoning is a little salt and pepper.  Can even skip the pepper if you'd like.  Then remove the chicken and shred all the meat from the bones and put it back in the pot.  Or, if you're like me, you reserve the gizzard, liver, heart and one leg for consumption while waiting for the dumplings to get done. 

Once the chicken is back in the pot and the stock is boiling start dropping the dumplings in allowing the stock to stay at a boil.  The flour on the dumplings will help to thicken the gravy over the dumplings but it is most likely one will need to add some extra flour to thicken it up to where it needs to be.  Cook, stirring regularly, until the dumplings are done.

While the dumplings are cooking put the biscuits in the oven to bake as you want to eat it all while it is hot.  Left overs are good but nothing like when it is fresh our of the oven and off the stove.  Put in a bowl and eat with a spoon so you can get the gravy with each dumpling and sop (soak for you city people) up gravy with your biscuit.  Have a big, cold glass of buttermilk and it is wonderful.

I guess my favorite chicken and dumpling dinner of all time was when the big, red rooster that terrified me at my grandparent's house went into the pot.  I was so very happy to see that bird on the table with steaming hot biscuits and gravy. 

The real treat, though, was when we were allowed to kill a "laying hen" to cook.  Along with the rest of the chicken we got the "egg bag" (womb) from the hen.  This egg bag had eggs from full sized with a shell all the way down to little yolks about the size of a pin head.  It was a fight between my brother, sister and I to be standing by the kettle (or pot if you prefer) when the egg bag was done.  First come, first serve.  I have to say to this day that is my favorite part of a chicken.

When one starts getting a little older one's childhood memories take on more meaning and it seems the ones dealing with foods one loved have the most meaning of all.   It is a true shame someone so young is unable to appreciate the good things they have every day that become nothing but fond memories as one becomes older.  The one thing that made everything better when I was growing up was it was all seasoned with bacon grease.  Without a liberal dosing of bacon grease food is just something to eat and not something to love.

Monday, July 23, 2012

One More Spring Knob Tower Story

When we lived at Spring Know Tower I was from four to seven years old.  That would make my older brother from sixteen to nineteen years old.   For such a short time there were a lot of things happened there I recall.

This one is about a Cardinal (Red Bird) which kept flying into the window.  It happened for days at a time until my Dad who believed that shooting something was the answer to everything decided to kill it.  I was horrified.  I could not understand how anyone would just shoot a little bird.  My mother tried to explain it to me but I just could not understand.

Did not really matter as my Dad shot it anyhow no matter how much I cried and begged.  Crying and begging never had much influence on my parents.  They knew what they knew and what I thought or felt made damned all difference to either of them.

Nothing special I suppose but I still remember it pretty clearly something like fifty-four years later.  Then, I remember a lot about those few years spent there.   It was a place and time built for memories.  Sometimes I wish I could go back there but it is gone now.  I have been back as close as it is possible to come but strip mining has taken the top hundred or more feet from the top of the hill and where the house and tower were are gone.  I guess those few tons of coal were worth all my memories.  At least they were to someone.

Poppy Gap

My maternal grandfather was born and died withing five miles of each other.  I don't know where all they lived except for two places.  They lived on the "main" fork of Nat's Creek when I was a kid and they lived on top of a hill in a gap between the Levisa fork of the Big Sandy River and Rush Fork of Nat's Creek when my mother was born.

Places in Eastern Ky were known by the name of the people who lived there.  I don't know what other people called it but it was always the "Poppy Gap" to members of my family.  It was just down the river from the Tom Price gap. 

An old foot path ran between the two and through and old grave yard and through some dead fruit trees.  When they strip mined that area the strip mine ended just short of the Poppy Gap so it was still there.

Not a lot left to indicate habitation.  A large stone which was the front step to the house and a caved in depression behind it which was the cellar.  There was a row of dead fruit trees along the path and a huge persimmon tree there by the cellar.  I used to sit there, leaning back against the persimmon tree with my shotgun waiting for an unlucky squirrel to wander along.  That rarely happened but I did get to eat a lot of persimmons.

I always wonder where they got their water.  I know they raised gardens and it must have been there where large trees now grow.  I do know that I used to hunt up Mill Branch (across Nat's Creek from where I was born) and there were rows and rows of stacked rocks where people took rocks from their fields and stacked them out of the way.  But, when I was there those stacks of rocks were just there between large trees.  How many years ago the people farmed those hill sides I don't know.

I've heard it was common in those times when a person would be born and die within twenty miles of the same place.  That is difficult to imagine now.  I was born withing a quarter of a mile up Nat's Creek from my grandparents but I live a good four hundred plus miles away from there now and, really, have no desire to go back.  My brother loves those old places and will die withing several miles of where our grandfather was born and died.  I find nothing "home-like" there.  It is hot and humid in the summer and dark, dead and drear in the winter.  One must drive miles to get anywhere.  I am spoiled here in central SC.  I drive five minutes and have anything I want.   I live in a diverse community and cannot imagine living again in a place where everybody looks the same and thinks the same.

I know I am not able and I know I'll never see it again but I'd love to go back to the Poppy Gap and sit again under that huge persimmon tree and just imagine back to the tales I've heard from my family about how it was to live there.   But, life goes on and there are times when time passes us by and the past is something we can no longer get in touch with except in our minds. 

I wish I could take my grand children there and show them where and how their great, great grandparents lived.  I doubt they could understand.  I'm sure they could not even understand how their grandparents lived as both are about the same.  And, I don't know if that is something lost or something gained. 

I suppose my grand kids are much better off for the civilization they have been raised in.  Yet, there is a part of me that wishes they could move to the Poppy Gap and survive living on their own and foraging from the land for food and shelter.  The way things are going in this world it may soon come a day when those people who can do that will be the only people who will survive.

Poppy Gap is just a low place in the hills between the river and Nat's Creek but it means so much to me I cannot explain it.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Row of Peach Trees

When I was growing up there were generally several fruit trees around.  My grandparents had two apple trees in the yard and when we lived at West Van Lear there was a large June Apple tree which dropped hordes of apples on the road.  I'd always take the long way around home to grab a few of those.  I'd so love to have some June apples again.

When we lived in the old Blessing place on Nat's Creek there was an apple tree at the lower end of the garden as well as a huge pear tree in the garden right by the kitchen door to the house.  I ate tons and tons of pears every year.

My grandparents also had Chinese Chestnut trees.  I don't think those are really a fruit but I'm not sure what they would be classified.  Maybe a nut as they most certainly are not a berry. 

But, the fruit trees I most recall were a line of small peach trees growing in a line down the little rise between the house/road and garden when we lived at Spring Know tower.  I recall them not so much due to them producing many peaches but for one spring when the peach trees were loaded with small peaches it came a bad storm.

It was an ice or sleet storm.  I guess it was probably sleet.  Either way all the limbs, leaves and baby peaches were covered with a coating of ice with icicles hanging from all the branches.  Everybody thought all the peaches were ruined for the year but in the end we had the best crop of peaches I remember coming from those trees.

Makes we want some peaches now.  Never really cared for canned peaches but I do love fresh ones.  Not those rock-hard ones one gets at the grocery store but large, soft, ripe peaches fresh from the tree.  I've not been able to go to the local farmer's market this year due to my leg but I bet it won't be long before we have some great, local peaches there.

Past Lives

Some people believe in reincarnation and/or transmigration of the soul.  I'm not sure what I believe in regards to that but there have been some mighty peculiar things happen where small children remember past lives.

I, myself, do not remember any past life but I have thought of some things dealing with karma and past lives that make me believe there are a few things about past incarnations I may have lived.  Mostly it has to do with fears.  Most everyone fears death and it does not matter much how it comes.  Me, I want to go to sleep and just not wake up.  Either that or barbiturates and alcohol.

The first thing I believe I was in a past life was a sailor.  Not just a sailor but a sailor who drowned.  I have this horrible, morbid fear of drowning.  Drowning frightens me more than death it self.  My father and my brother were both in the Navy.  When I joined the military I joined the Army.  You could not have PAID me to join the navy.  I can't swim and I'm deathly afraid of deep water.  If you're drowning and I'm right there don't wait for me to jump into water over my head as that is not happening.

My second great fear is hanging.  If I'm ever found hanged don't let the cops put it down to suicide.  I would NEVER hang myself.  Barbiturates and alcohol, maybe, but hanging... NEVER.  I must have been a murderer or horse thief or something which resulted in hanging.  When a movie comes on which has a hanging scene I have to leave the room.    In fact, executions in general bother me.  Now don't mistake it as I'm not opposed to capital punishment for there are human animals who just need to be put down.  I find no good reason to use my tax dollars to give them room, board, medical care, color tv's etc while I'm working my butt off to provide a home and food for a family.  Fry'em.  But I just cannot help imagining being on death row and knowing that one date on the calendar is the end.  Must be horrible.

The third thing I figure is I must have really treated women badly.  Lord, if that is the case, I have surely paid for that by now.  Enough is enough.  Its not that I've been particularly exemplary in this life time but...  Just how much do you want from me?  :-)

That brings me to the prospect of a next life and what I'd love to be in that.  I guess it depends on whether or not our civilization has been destroyed or has continued to grow and advance.  If it has grown and advanced I'd want to be on the crew of a star ship.  Really, I'd prefer to own my own star ship and see all the wonders of the universe.

Second, I'd love to go to a world where magic is real and be a powerful (the most powerful :-) Hey, dream big) wizard.  Not so much for the pure power but I'd love to be a teacher who was able to help people advance in medicine and hygiene and things like that to help avoid those useless deaths that always are happening in a primitive society.

And last, I'd want to be rich beyond dreams of avarice so I could do precisely what I want without thinking of expense or other hurdles.  Throw enough money at any hurdle and it becomes a minor bump on the road your Caddy won't even notice as it rolls on.

Lives, past and future... I wonder if they exist or if this is all there is and it is like Tony Soprano said about dying, "Everything just goes blank".  I tend to think that is the truth of it.  Still, there are a lot of things that have happened that are not explained by that view.   Guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Digging Tunnels

I was just reading a news story on Yahoo.com where a twelve year-old boy was digging a tunnel in the sand with his brother and the tunnel collapsed and killed him.  That resonates with me though I've never dug a tunnel anywhere.  However I do have many fears of being stuck in a  narrow place with water gradually rising up until I drown.  I suppose that comes from reading where an escaped convict was trying to crawl through a culvert and got stuck just before it came a hard rain.

It also had to do with the story of my father digging his way under an out building when he was a kid.  He said he dug under it and pushed the dirt back behind him until he could not go forward anymore.  Unfortunately, he could not go backward either.  In the end adults had to take up the floor of the out building to get him out.  Talk about something causing claustrophobia.

Then my older brother told me he had dug a tunnel in the side of the creek bank up Nat's Creek from the Wash Rock.  It never caved in on him but I always think how likely it could have.

Then I have horrible fears of falling down a well head first and not being able to turn where my head is up and drowning like that.  Claustrophobia.  I've got it.  I don't like being in tightly enclosed spaces.  That has to be the most helpless feeling in the world. 

Maybe that is why I could never consider being a "deem miner" in the coal mines.  My best friend from high school and I were both called to work at the White Ash coal mine not long after graduation.  He drove us to the mine site and we both got out of the car and stood looking at that hole in the ground.  Then we just looked at each other and got back in the car and drove away.

That is the mine my brother worked in for some time.  He was an electrician and he worked about three miles back under the the hill on his stomach all day.  Lots of things I've done in my life I regret but leaving that hole in the ground is not one of them.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Who Am I?

I have always said, "Who we are today is the sum total of who we have been all of our yesterdays".  That is, perhaps, a little simplistic.  Who our parents and the grandparents we knew has to figure into the equation. 

My grandfather, Leo VanHoose was born sometime around 1882.  That is right, my grandfather.  Comes of being born of very much 'older' parents.  Poppy died in 1969 at age 87.  Do the math.  My grandmother was  Victoria DeBoard and was ten years younger than he and lived to be nearly (or over) 100 so she would have to have been born around 1892.  And this was in Southeastern Kentucky.  Pretty isolated so their experience does not translate to others of that time period who were not living so far back in the sticks.

My Dad was Willie VanHoose and wasborn in 1902.  When he had just turned 19 he participated in "The Battle of Blair Mountain" (look it up) in West Virginia as mine owners fought to stop miners from joining a union.  At age 22 he joined the Navy and stayed until 1952 when he retired after 30 years and made the mistake that produced me in late 1953.

My mother was Stella VanHoose and was ten years younger than my Dad and was 41 when I was born.  I always loved my grandparents and never cared much for my parents which is odd I guess since my parents were first cousins. (My paternal and maternal grandfathers were brothers).  Yes, yes, I know... Kentucky, marrying cousins, etc.  Still it happened and I'm one of the results.

So, I grew up in the sticks hearing stories from the late 1800s and early 1900s.  People born in a more civilized place and time cannot possibly imagine the way things were then.  And when I was growing up it was much better for me than it had been for my parents and, I guess, my parents had it better than their own parents.

My Dad only made it part of the way through fourth grade and my mother only part of the way through the third grade.  My brother and sister both dropped out of school so I was the first of my family to finish high school.  I would have loved to be the first to have finished college but that was not in the cards.  I heartily regret it daily, though.

For the first few years of my life and during my teens I lived in a place where everyone withing miles was one of my relatives.  It was kind of an enclave.  At one time my Dad owned a good bit of the country and gradually sold it off for nothing to cousins needing a place to build.  By the time I was an adult there was nothing at all left.  He gave my grandmother the last 27 acres so she could give it to her daughter to take care of her.  I find that believable as I never did care much for that aunt anyhow.

Now we're getting to the age where all the older generation is gone and the younger generation of cousins are starting to go.  I'm glad I don't live near enough to them to go to all the services as I hate funerals. 

Anyway, that is a short background of how my childhood was and why it was as it was.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Childhood Food

These days I'm getting to where I must be very picky with my food.  I have gotten through the past few years where I cannot even stand the aroma of cooked meat or of meat cooking.  When I was young I was a carnivore pure and simple.  If an animal did not die for it I did not want to eat it.  Bacon then, as now, was my favorite.  And, oddly enough, bacon still does not make me sick.  I'm thankful for small favors.

I was born and raised in a rural setting where you either ate from a garden, animals you raised or animals you hunted and killed along with a few staples from the store such as flower and corn meal.  I not only grew up eating these foods but helping my mother cook them.  Had I the proper ingredients at hand I could still whip up a mean meal of those old time favorites.

I learned to cook from my mother and I never learned to use a recipe.  My mother would tell me to add "ingredient x" and I'd ask her how much to put in.  She'd just tell me to "add it 'til your conscience is clear".  The most precise measurement I can remember was a pinch and below that was a 'skosh'.  Call it half a pinch.  As I got older I learned more units of measurement from my brother in construction type measurements.  I will not specify them here as they are definitely rated at least an 'R'.

There are some things I grew up eating that are quickly being forgotten in this age of processed meats and the "pet-i-zation" of certain food animals.  Let me tell you, the best day(s) of the year were day(s) after a 'hog killing'.  Man, if you have never eaten fresh pork tenderloin, or pork chops or bacon the day after it was walking around on the hog you have missed something.  Fresh pork does not taste anything like that insipid stuff you bring home from the store.

Wake up the morning after a hog killing and you had fried eggs, gravy, red-eye gravy(from fresh ham), biscuits and fresh fried pork tenderloin, pork chops and bacon along with your home made jams, jellies, molasses and honey.  Best meals of the year every year.

Another big difference was the fat content of the meat.  We are deliberately breeding the fat out of hogs now because fat is a 'bad' thing.  Forty-five years ago fat was a very GOOD thing.  All  the fat in the meat added flavor.  All the extra fat was cut off and cut in cubes and put in an old cast iron kettle and put over a fire and rendered out to lard and put in old 25lb or 50lb tin cans and put in the cellar for later  use.  Hog fat was put in everything for cooking.  Beans, green beans, turnips, biscuits, whatever.  And the left over from the rendering was called cracklings.  They'd be put in a gallon glass jar and we'd pull them out and put salt on them and eat them like candy.  Toss a handful into your con bread mix and you have cracklin' bread.  Soooo good.

I've already talked about the garden grown things and canning but there was also the wild game.  When I grew up, 'hunting season' was not even a suggestion.  We knew it existed but hunger took precedence to rules.  I grew up on squirrels for breakfast dinner and supper.  And, yes Virginia, dinner is the meal you eat in the middle of the day and supper is the end of day meal.  I do not know when or where lunch became the mid-day meal and dinner the evening meal but it was surely not such when I was growing up or in the many years before that.

Squirrel, squirrel gravy and home-made biscuits for breakfast was not to be beaten.  Dad would go hunting and bring home the squirrels.  Mother would skin them and cut them up and put them in a gallon glass jar and put salt water in on them to "draw out the blood" then cook them the next morning.

My favorite part of the squirrel was the head.  Some people would not clean the head as they were difficult and I'd like to kick their a$$ for that.  Not only wasteful but it was the best part.  Cook it up good and the little cheeks were really good but the tongue was great and the best part was the brain.  Perfect package, too.  Just hook two fingers in the eye sockets and pull back the top of the skull and suck the brain out whole.  Double YUMMY!!!  I would kill for a good kettle  of squirrel heads right now.

We also had rabbits, grouse, pheasant, quail, groundhogs and I even chased down a chipmunk once and Dad killed it and cleaned it and my mother fried it for me.  Good training for a little, future Nimrod.

I enjoyed hunting when I was growing up.  Nothing like being out in the woods before sunrise and sitting, listening for the tell-tale "swoosh" of a squirrel jumping from tree to tree or the sound of hickory nut cuttings falling like a light rain as daylight gradually revealed the surrounding trees.  No time like that now as everybody has no trespassing signs up so hunting is limited.

I loved it until around 1984 fall.  I went out and killed one squirrel and just sat and looked at it and did not even take it home and clean it.  Never hunted again.  I lost all ability to kill anything that 28 years ago.  I'm not hypocrite enough to say it is wrong because I have NO problem with eating anything someone else shoots.  I just could no longer do it for myself.  And, as little as I can stand meat these days, I'd kill for a good mess of squirrel, squirrel gravy and biscuits.

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Few Comments on Books

I grew up a child of solitude.  I had 'older' parents and my father could not stand much noise going on aoound.  I learned to be quiet our of self-preservation.  When we moved to West Van Lear, Ky I was not at all used to being around other kids.  That did not much matter because I was not allowed to associate with them outside of school as one of the few things my parents agreed on was, "anyone and everyone, would be a bad influence on me".

So, my interaction with my 'peers' was limited to two recesses and one lunch period.  Those two recesses and one lunch period were not happy times for me.  Just another push toward a life of solitude. 

I'm not sure what my age was when I started to 'read for pleasure'.  Maybe the third grade.  But, I can say for sure it was in the fourth grade I started reading 'adult' level literature.  (Also where I fell in love with my first black woman, but that is another story for another time.)  In slow times during class I'd read items out of the encyclopedias or learn new words from the dictionary.

I also discovered the great, unexplored world of the 'Western Novel'.  I'd read anything I could get my hands on but the 'Western' was my first venture into adult literature.  I absolutely adored Zane Grey and read Max Brand more because it was a western than because I enjoyed im.  (Just as a matter of FYI he is the author who created 'Dr. Kildare'.  A popular TV Soap Opeara of the time.)  I read somewhere he averaged a novel every two weeks.

I'm not sure where I was (gradewise) when I discovered Sci-Fi.  The names, Asimov, Clark, Heinlein, Anderson, Dick (Phillip K.) and many others opened up new worlds of the future and a different take on what was and was not popular, to me.  I still feel the need to go back and read some of their classics.  They feel like old friends and home to me now.

Being a social outcast left me plenty of time to read.  Having a high WPM and comprehension skill meant I'd fly through books.    Mostly all the Sci-Fi I could get my hands on but biographies as well.  I read every bio of every Yankee player I could get my hands on.  I'm still a Yankee fan as much as I am a fan of any pro team. 

I read histories and historical fiction.  And when I did not have anything new to read I re-read whatever I had at hand.  I am so devoted to reading I can't go to the supper table without a book (Now a Kindle), I can't even contain myself to one book.  I generally have a book open in every room of the house so I don't have to hunt for anything.

In my later years I discovered heroic fantasy.  My sophomore home room teacher loaned me his copy of "The Hobbit".  "The Lord of the Rings" was a revelation.  One weekend when I was in Norway for work I read the entire triology.  Take away my books?  I'd rather you just killed me.  It would be much easier to deal with.

Even later in life I discovered Sir Terry Pratchett.  I have just about everything he has written and the re's in re-re-re-re reading have become too many to try to keep track of.  Yet I still read history, historical novels, mysteries, thrillers, Spy stories (Len Deighton is the BEST followed by John Le'Carre)  I just cannot get my mind around the idea of people who do not like to read because everything is found there. There is the present, the past, the future, things that might be and things that might have been.  There are the stars of our own solar system and the myriad of stars in our galaxy and throughout the universe.  Everyting that has every been done or even thought of is in a book somewhere.  How can anyone not love to read?  Its beyond me.

So, what am I reading now?  A book I  picked up in the Miami Airport on the way back from Curacao, a book about Daniel Boone, A novel about Nefertititi disappearing, Aesop's Fables, a story of a boy from the Ky backwoods, a novel about Judas and the 'betrayal' of Jesus and several others.  I am unable to confine myself to one book or even one genre' at once.

I can sit for hours with my hands idle but I cannot go five minutes without needing a book in my hands.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An Incident With a Black Snake

When I was in my early to middle teens I nearly always ran wherever I was going.  When I was going to my friend (and cousin) David's house it was closer and quicker to go down the creek, through the old fence, around the hill side and hit the old county road and run as long as I could on it, then go through the fence and around the hill, then across the bottom to his house.

One day en route to his house I was running along the old road and just before I got to the fence across the road where his Dad kept their cattle I stepped across a large (4-5 ft long) blacksnake.  I stopped several steps farther along and turned to look back at the snake.  I expected it to just crawl off.  This one had other things in mind though.

You've seen movies or even photographs of a Cobra standing up on it's tail?  That is what that black snake did.  It raised up so only a foot or so was left on the ground and the other three to four feet of it was standing straight up and the head turned to look at me.

I was looking around for a rock or a strong branch but the section of road where both the snake and I were was over grown with honeysuckle vines.  So we just stood there looking at each other, neither of us moving for what seemed ages.

Then the snake dove over the bank and disappeared.  It did not drop to the ground at all but dove in the air over the bank.  I'll swear the whole thing was in the air for a while.  Afterwards I ran on down to Dan's house but I'll never forget the way it was just standing there watching that snake look back at me for so long.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

About One Song

I fell in love with this song in the late 70's.  I tired to buy it on 45 as I could not afford the LP. (look it up you young squirts)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJJFvXyLV6Y

It is a story about a wild country boy (is there any other kind?) who has a devilish epiphany...

Either way...I love the banjo.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Some Memories of My Teachers (Grades 1-7)

My first teacher was Mrs Cooper.  She and her husband lived in the little cabin where I was born up Nat's Creek from my grandparent's place.  I was staying with them so I could go to school.  Truthfully, I don't remember much about her.  I think she was relatively young.  Had she much experience she would not have been relegated to a one-room school out in the middle of nowhere.

But I do remember she would get out and play (or at least referee) the games we played at recess and lunch.  It was a long time ago but I don't ever remember anyone "acting up" in her class or getting a paddling.  Teaching all eight grades in one room that must mean she was a pretty good teacher.

When we moved to West Van Lear, Ky for my second grade year my first teacher was Mrs Green.  She was a somewhat overweight, thirty-something (at a guess).  She was not much on paddling but she surely loved to grab you by  your shoulders, lift you up out of your seat and shake the dickens out of you.  Made your teeth rattle.  Only happened to me once but I surely do remember it still.

Third grade was Gay Bailey.  I can't recall whether she was a Miss or a Mrs Baily.  She was really young though.  She  gave me my first paddling in school.  It was for running in the classroom.  I always felt a little bit of injustice in that as I was not running.  I did jump across my desk but I did not even take a running start.

Fourth grade was Mrs Hazlette.  I can't remember too much about her in any detail.  She seemed old then, like most adults, but I guess she was on the sunny side of forty.  I can remember the first half hour after lunch she would read to us.  Two of the books she read to us were "The Sword in the Stone" and "White Squaw" which was the story of Jenny Wiley and took place locally.  In fact Jenny Wiley is buried twenty or so miles from where that school house sat.

It was also while in her class President Kennedy was assassinated.  The fourth grade classroom was also the main entrance to the school and had a porch in front of it.  I can remember sitting on the left side of the porch (standing outside and looking toward the school) in the sunshine and thinking about the assignation.  I know it was late November but it was a sunny day there.  I was very sad.  I just did not understand how anyone could kill our President.

We had all kinds of contests which made schooling more interesting.  We had math contests, spelling 'baseball', plays on historical events. The one I remember was Edison inventing the light bulb.  Our group did that one and we ran way short of the time limit and had to improvise to fill the time.  Most enjoyable time I had in a while was that improv.  The other two people on my team were petrified without a script but I had a feeling of being freed up to do what I felt instead of being forced into a rigid script.

I guess that is where my personal insecurities began to show because I can remember her telling me on one occasion to never feel down because there was someone I did not know who looked up to me and thought I was just the best thing ever.  I thought she was talking about a real person and not just an idea and I always wondered who that was.

Fifth grade was Mrs Mollette.  I think she must have been the oldest teacher in the school.  She was the only one I can remember had any grey in her hair.

In her class was where my inability to participate in many activities really hit home.  No valentines, no Christmas play, pretty much no nothing.  Except cake walks.  Do they still do those?  It was kind of like musical chairs.  All the contestants would form a circle and when the music played we'd walk slowly in a circle.  When the music stopped the person on the 'mark' selected before the walk won the cake.  I won three in a row.  On the fourth one Mrs. Mollette gave me the dime I needed to enter for half the cake if I won.  I did not win and was heart broken.

Since I could not be in the Christmas play I had to just sit at my desk and watch everyone else get selected for parts and rehearse.  Long before the play I had memorized every line of every part in the play and used to get so frustrated that people could not even learn just their own lines when I knew it all and could not be in the play.

Sixth grade was Tom Hummer.  He was my first male teacher and also the second one to give me a paddling.  And, again, I felt somewhat abused.  He told us not to do our Weekly Reader questions until he told us to.  Well, at the time I was working in the "lunch room" and he assigned them while I was there.  So, I never did mine.  So I got a paddling for not doing them.  I thought that sucked and was completely unfair.  Of course fairness was something I had already learned not to expect.

I suppose I may owe him for some peace at home though I'm not sure.  I had to sit at the dining room table and complete all my homework before being allowed to go to bed.  One night my parent's were fighting (about me as usual) and so I quit working my math problems and just put down a bunch of random numbers so I could show them I was finished and get out of there.

So, when he graded papers I got about half of them right then the next half were all WAY wrong.  He called me up to his desk and asked me about it and told me that was not like me.  So I told him the truth.  I don't know if he had a word with my parents but I really don't remember than ever having anymore big fights over me when I was around.  If he did something like that then I have a lot to thank him for.  More than makes up for one unjustified paddling.

My final year at West Van Lear was my seventh grade year.  My seventh grade teacher was Larry DeLong.  He was the Principal as well as the seventh and eighth grade teacher and was pretty much feared by every kid in school.  I think he was just pretty much misunderstood as I think he was a pretty good teacher.  The end of that year, a couple of weeks before school  was out, we moved back to Nat's Creek and he had no problem with signing off on my advancement from seventh to eighth grade. 

Those are just a few of my elementary school teacher memories.  Later on I'll have to write some of my eighth grade and high school teacher memories.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Winter Mornings at My Grandparent's House

When I was a small'ish child I spent quite a bit of time staying at my grandparent's house.  (Let me be specific here.  I don't distinguish between grandparents as I only ever knew my maternal grandparents.  My paternal grandparents were long dead and gone before me)

The house was a three room affair.  In the back it had a long, narrow kitchen and dining area that ran the length of the house.  Off that was the "living room".  It was also a bedroom and the place where the pot bellied stove was during the winter.  Then off that was a third room which was also a bedroom and were my grandmother did her sewing.

When I stayed with them during warm weather I'd sleep with my grandmother in the sewing room but in the winter we all three would sleep in the "living room" where the stove was.  My grandparents would sleep with their heads up at the head of the bed and I'd sleep with my head down to the foot of the bed.

In cold weather when it came bed time my grandfather would rattle down the ashes (look it up) in the stove and put in kindling wood for the next morning's fire.  We all wore "long john's" so with all the quilts we had stacked on us we were fairly comfortable.  Until morning at least.  At the crack of dawn I was jostled out of sleepfulness and kicked (metaphorically most of the time) out to rush over to the pot bellied stove, open the door and splash a goodly amount of coal oil (kerosene?) on the wood and fling a match in on top of it to get it lit.  Then I'd start stacking small lumps of coal on the flames until it got going then put a few more larger lumps on before I could dash back to bed to lie until the chill had somewhat dissipated.

When the cold got tolerable we'd haul out of bed and I'd go to the kitchen to break the ice in the water buckets and Granny would get the fire started in the wood/coal cook stove for coffee.  Not that was some kick@$$ coffee.  It was in an old, blue speckled, enamel coffee pot.  It was not a percolator just a pot and they rarely ever emptied old coffee out of it or cleaned it.  Granny would just dump some more fresh 'grinds' into it and pour in some water and put it on to boil for breakfast.

Breakfast at my grandparent's house was some affair, summer or winter.  We'd always have bacon, ham (the kind from those old, oval cans), sausage, eggs, biscuits, gravy, red-eye gravy from the ham, jam or jelly (home made) and sorghum molasses.  We'd always put that on the stove until it boiled up all foamy and hot and eat that with butter my granny had churned.

That coffee would "put hair on your chest" and I cannot ever remember not drinking it for breakfast.  My Dad would put loads of milk and sugar in his but I always wanted mine hot and black. (Somehow hot and black has been a common denominator in my life)

After breakfast it was time to go feed the chickens and collect the eggs.  After that I really can't remember a lot about the winter says.  In the summer I'd "skin the cat" on the quince tree or play in the creek.  In the winter all I can remember doing is listening to Poppy tell stories and cracking and eating black walnuts from the trunk full of them they kept in the attic.

They never had a TV and really the radio was only played on Saturday nights to listen to the Grand Ole Opry on WSM out of Nashville, TN.  Decades before video games and home computers.  I guess it was pretty much if you could not find something to interest yourself in you just sat around and whined about being bored.  Of course, when I was growing up, whining was pretty much a quick ticket to getting an A$$ busted so it was mostly find something to do and shut up.  :-)

My Gradparent's Creek

My grandparent's lived in a house up on a bank and faced Nat's Creek.  This is not unusual as most houses face the road.  In fact, in older places, you can tell the age of the house when you see if it faces the river, railroad or paved road.  It was natural my grandparent's house faced the creek as the creek was the county road in that area and gave a literal meaning to the old saying, "If the good lord's willing and the creek don't rise".  If the creek got very big you were stuck walking around a footpath on the hillside.

This creek had several different characteristics in the short length where it was the roadbed.  Up the creek near where I was born it was a mostly gravel bottom with scattered large rocks I was told had washed out of Mill Branch during a cloudburst.  It was gravelly with enough larger rocks to make it a great place to catch craw fish.  Then the portion in front of my grandparent's house was kind of deep (relatively speaking) and a little overhung by the willows and weeds.  I never was comfortable in this part of the creek and rarely ever was in it.  In fact when I wanted to go between the portion of the creek above my grandparent's and the portion below them I would climb the hill and hike through the yard and down through the field to the creek below.

The creek below my grandparent's house was also pretty gravelly with far fewer larger stones for craw fish.  I think that is where I spent most of my time when "playing in the creek".  And, one could hear a car coming for a long time and had plenty of chance to move out of the way.

Down the creek between my grandparent's house and where the road came up out of the creek was more sandy than rocky and a person needed to know the creek to now which side of it to hold the car on to to keep from getting stuck in the sand.  They called it quicksand back then but I really think it was only thick sand.

I did enjoy walking down that way as one side of the creek bed was above the water and the other side was kind of deep.  Now, deep in this reference was maybe ten inches.  During normal times at least.

This creek was my favorite thing in the world for some years.  I could not wait until it was warm enough in spring to get in it and dreaded the fall when it got too cold.  Except for winter when it would freeze over and I could go ice skating on it.  Never had any skates.  Just in our leather soled shoes we'd take a run and stop and slide and see how far we could go.  Like the intro to Tony Bourdains's show, "No Reservations".  It was never far, maybe ten feet at the most.  But, it was a world of fun.

That little creek gave me a goodly number of happy times when I was a kid.  But, like most of my childhood, time has destroyed those things except for my memories of them.