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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Something From an Old Classmate

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

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

2. Whittling

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

3 Marbles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. Slinky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 21, 2015

I Can Only Write When I'm Crazy

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

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

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

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

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

The Indian's Footprint

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

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

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

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

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

The First Grade

Recently, in a nostalgic moment, I spent some time remembering my first year of school.  That was the 1959 - 1960 school year.  At the time my parents and I lived in a small, log cabin at a forestry tower at Spring Knob.  The tower is long gone now as is about two hundred feet of the hill top due to it being strip mined.  It is all gone down to the level of the big rock which marked the beginning of the path over the hill which lead to the homes of our nearest neighbors.  Sad, really, how many places I recall from my childhood which no longer exist thanks to strip mining of coal.

Due to our remote location my brother would drive me to my grandparent's house on Sundays where I would spend the school week then drive me back to Spring Knob on Friday nights.  I was born to older parents so my grandparents were of the "older persuasion" as well.  Best I can figure my grandfather was born in 1882.  That would have made him almost eighty when I was in the first grade.  Seventy six or seventy seven?  He was still fairly active at that time.

While we were remote at Spring Knob, where my grandparents lived was not exactly urban.  At that time the county road in front of their house was in the creek.  Actually, quite a bit of the county roads in that area were in different creek beds.  So, to get from my grandparent's house to the school house I had to walk the foot path around the hill down to where the county road came out of the creek for a short ways.  Then over the smaller forks of the creek (called branches) and through an old barn in an abandoned field.  The county road had once again gone into the creek so we had to detour to where it came back onto dry land.  Then down past the old Blessing house (Blessing was the family who lived there and not a religious thing.) to another old field,  across the foot log (Yes, someone had just cut a tree and let it fall across the creek to use as a foot bridge.) and up another small branch, through the barbed wire fence and across a completely abandoned road to the one-room school.

The school stood in a gap between Patrick creek and Nat's creek.  All the children from the Nat's creek side were my cousins.  I really never knew any of the kids form the other side of the gap except at school.

One teacher (Mrs. Cooper) taught all eight grades in that one room.  Being over half a century ago now I cannot recall the real size of the class and all the kids who might have attended.  Especially those from the Patrick side of the gap.  I think there were five or six of my cousins of various ages and myself from the Nat's creek side, four to six kids of one family who lived a good ways on up Nat's creek from my grandparent's and several kids from the Patrick side.  I'm going to say there were no more than ten to fifteen kids who attended that school that year.

Mrs. Cooper (the teacher) lived in the small, log cabin up the creek from my grandparent's house.  It was the house where I had been born when my parents lived there.  I don't remember too much about her except she was pretty young and her husband owned a jeep which he used to drive her to as close as one could get a vehicle to the school every morning.  I don't recall if he picked her up at night.  I cannot remember ever actually seeing the man.  I just knew he existed.

I believe that was the only year of school I truly enjoyed.  That is for several non-related reasons.  On the  other hand it was one of the real beginnings of my personal isolation which continues to this day. In my early years it was imposed on me and now I would not know any other way to live.

The first reason I really loved school that year was the fact all eight grades were taught in the same room every day.  I believe that is a superior way of teaching to what more "civilized" areas had and have where we segregate the kids into  grades in separate rooms and teachers instruct only the subjects and subject level deemed appropriate for that grade.  I spent every day hearing material from the first grade level through the eighth grade level.  I paid attention.

I think I learned a lot from that and I know I developed a love for knowledge.  I also found subject matter deemed appropriate for my grade was mind-numbingly boring.  I found I learned things much faster than the other kids in the first grade as well.  First grade bored me so my favorite part of the school day was when Mrs. Cooper was  teaching the older kids.

Finding school boring was something which continued all the way through high school.  I came to hate going to school.  Not because I found it too difficult but because it was boring.  As well as some other reasons I won't go into at this time.  But, back to the first grade.

In fact, I bragged to my teacher I would make nothing but As in school.  She had the last laugh on me but it took a while to appreciate the humor in it.  I did make all As in school except for one B.  In "effort".  (Yes, we did get graded for effort in those days.)  I find that quite amusing now.  The fact is should she have given me a real grade for effort I would have gotten all Fs.  I never did give much effort in school.  It was so easy I didn't need to.

The second reason I found that year so enjoyable was because of the way my grandparents coddled me like I was something fragile.  I did have to walk a good ways to and from school so if it was raining, snowing, too cold or they thought it might rain or snow I was made to stay home instead of going to school.  So, my first grade year was about sixty percent going to school and forty percent staying home and playing in the yard.

The third reason that year was so enjoyable was the absence of my parents in it.  I did not realize it at the time, of course.  Life with my parents was not very enjoyable.  Also, something I will not go into at this time.  Just say all my life I've always been happiest when they were not around.

The last reason is that was the only year of school where I felt "included" rather than isolated and alone.   Games of tag and kick the can at recess and lunch, having one of the older kids take me with him to walk down to my uncle and aunt's house to get a bucket of drinking water from their well, just being treated like I was welcome there.  It was great.

In that part of Kentucky the one-room school was not all that rare in rural areas.  In fact there were two open on my bus ride to the "city" school up through the time I graduated from high school in 1972.  

The Mirror Lies

I'm getting older.  Sad but true fact.  I can tell I am getting older because when I walk by a mirror I think my dad is standing there.  The mirror lies though.  That is  not my dad and it most definitely not me!  I don't feel like that old man I see looking back at me.

OK, I do find myself having the same failings of old age my parents and grandparents complained about when I was much younger and did not understand at all.  You know, favorite topic of conversation is my aches, pains and illnesses; who died; what any one of my plethora of doctors just charged me.

Wow, I can remember things that happened thirty years ago better than what happened thirty minutes ago.  I go into rooms and forget why I'm there.  I dress and (don't) shave in ways that aggravate my wife because, honestly, who is going to give a flying f*&%.

Yes, all that is true.  Still, inside, I'm not that old man in the mirror.  I'm me.  I'm the same person I've always been.  Well,  no, now I lie.  I've changed so many ways from who I was before I practically don't know myself.

Time, how hath thou changed me? Let me count the ways...

For close to thirty years I AVERAGED reading a book a day.  Now I can read for, maybe, an hour without going to sleep.  I used to be GLUED to anything on TV that had to do with a ball that bounced, was thrown, kicked or smacked with a racket or club.  Now I don't even watch any professional sport.  Mostly I only watch my UK Wildcats and then I often just turn it off and read about the game the next day.  Right now I find women's college gymnastics about the most interesting sport and that is not even because of the quite skimpy uniforms on attractive young women.  Just when did attractive young women in skimpy attire lose its attraction?  OK, THAT is a sure sign of old age!

To be  honest there are many things which bring home to me just how old I'm getting and how much my age has changed me.  Still, it comes as a complete shock every time I see myself in a mirror. Surely, the mirror lies.  That old  man can't be me.