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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Getting your eggs scrambled

Greetings to all y'all,

That is the correct plural for more of y'all than just, y'all. Yes, it is true, English is my second language. I was growed up speakin' redneck. My writing may suffer for this.

Fortunately I got help at an early age and through education and exposure to others who had conquered this affliction, I am now fully conversant in American English, such as it is. I am still fluent in cracker-speak and various other southern regional dialects, and have been known to have occasional lapses, especially when traveling among the natives. I try to do my best at all times, but sometimes one's roots do show, in spite of how much Grecian speech formula you use.

The weather forecast for beautiful downtown Fallon is a cloudy and breezy 44 degrees of Fahrenheit, with about ten cents worth of rain chance and gusts of trash can liberating 40 to 50 mph out of the SW. It should back off a notch or two by evening and only blow about 30 mph. If you let the cat out, tie it to the porch railing with some clothesline so you can reel it back in when it starts yowling. Otherwise it will be home late.

Tonight we have a meeting of the Reno Herpetological Society to attend so we will be out in the wild weather in our little Subaru Forester. The weather guessers say that the snow will hold off until after midnight and I hope that they are right on the timing. We should be home well before pumpkin time.

This is the 18th blog entry I have posted and I am putting in a lot of hours writing, which is good. The blogspot feedback system leaves something to be desired though, and I would love to hear more comments and take more questions from the readers. I write for my own pleasure but, it is for your enjoyment that I post these stories and I would love to know what you like and want to hear more about. 

People have commented many times over the years about how detailed my stories are and/or how amazing or scary my memory recall is. More than once people have been unnerved by my telling them personal details such as: where they live, what their family members (including the dog) names are, their telephone numbers, etc. If I am a stalker, I am a mass stalker. Numbers, especially telephone numbers, get stuck in my head.

The term used by medical people who have examined my head over the years is "Eidetic Memory" and it isn't all fun. As the TV character Monk says, "It is a gift, and a curse". You do get overwhelmed by input and it can make you crazy. 

When I get into the writing "mode", I actually relive the experience like I was there, with sights, sounds and even smells. If I was happy, I am happy. If I was scared, I feel the fear again. If someone spoke from behind me, I find myself turning to look for them. I try NOT to think about going to the bathroom...

The good news/bad news, at least for me, is that I am losing it. I still have some ability to pull up crazy amounts of detail at times, but often now, not on demand. It sounds funny to say it; but I don't know what I know. This makes my writing even more important to me. And finding things in my house even harder.

I have been asked many times, (like most people have), what my earliest recollections or memories are. There are brief mental images from earlier than this, but nothing as comprehensive as these. 

Scrambled Eggs

Many years ago, in the then quiet town of Daytona Beach, Florida, a small boy was supposed to take a nap. He was placed on the bottom bunk of the beds his brothers used and was told to go to sleep, or else. Everyone knows that top bunks are way more fun and three year old boys know how to climb.

I was hanging my right arm over the side, just waving it in the free air of top bunkdom when I slipped into slumber. Problem was, slumber wasn't the only thing slippery. The sheets were tucked in nice and tight, military style with the spread just loose over them. My weight was just enough over the edge to send me downward towards the gravitational conclusion that was inevitable. Murphy was around even in 1956.

Waking up on the way down, I forever have the details of that trip etched into my memory.

On the bottom of the top bunk there were wire coil springs hooked into the metal angle iron frames and suspending a pattern of wire shaped into rectangular boxes, just big enough to get your fingers into long ways, but not your thumb.

The wall was painted a tan color, close to the color of chicken eggs from the farm, not the store, and it was bumpy, not smooth.

The bottom bunk had a darker tan colored spread with red flecks and blue flecks that were like colored grains of rice, not like polka dots, or any other kind of dots. That went by faster than the other two on the way to the last stop.

Black floor tiles must be a bad omen, especially when they have yellow streaks in them like paint was spilled and somebody tried to wipe it up with an old rag. Put those over a concrete slab floor and they are not the soft landing place that one would hope for in head first plunge. I saw those tiles right before I hit them.

I woke up in someones arms, I used to know who it was, but now I can't remember for sure. It was either my older sister or my mother, and they said that my dad had been called at work. Even at three years old I knew that I was in big trouble if dad had to come home from work, then I was out again.

A brief glimpse of the gray outside world through the window of a '55 Chevy Belair, which also happened to be gray and white, was all I got and then went unconscious again. It was probably just as well that I was out of it, because I knew that my dad was foaming at the mouth mad from the fussing and growling coming from the front seat.

Some considerable time later I came to in the hospital to the unpleasant intrusion of a thermometer being inserted into my little boy backside. As my eyes popped open in abject surprise at the sensation, I came to focus on a barred window. Had I been a grown man there is no end to the conclusions I could have drawn about where I was, and what had just happened to me, but fortunately I was spared those images. I was in a hospital that used to have a psychiatric ward right where I was parked and they needed to prevent people from jumping out of the window. Maybe they had thermometers shoved up their butts too, that makes a guy pretty jumpy.

My oldest brother brought me a stuffed chipmunk that day, that I held onto for many, many years and it did help me get past the continuous pain in my head.

I was there for a couple of weeks while they waited for the swelling to go down and whatever else they did to me. I had a fractured skull and no bleeding or cuts on the outside, but my brother told me that I "scrambled my eggs", which I thought was hilarious but my parents didn't.

There has been much debate over my lifetime, by others I might add and not me, about whether I am smart because of scrambling my brain, or did I lose what could have been an even better mind to the injury.

I was enrolled in a kindergarten program in Daytona Beach a year or two later, but that didn't go too well. The teacher accused me of doing something that I didn't do and directed me to lie down on big towel and take a nap instead of participating in the activities. I protested and was struck and forced onto the towel. Once the woman left the room, I was out the window and climbed down the wall and struck out for home through some woods across the street. It was two miles through trees and undergrowth that I had never seen before, but I went like a homing pigeon directly to the backyard of our house. I have no idea how I did it, as I had never passed the boundary of my backyard before that. I wasn't likely to again either, after the spanking I got for doing it, but to no avail, the kindergarten wouldn't take an undisciplined troublemaker like me back again. To use their words, "Obviously there was something wrong with his (my) head." 

Beyond the earliest memories

In first grade in West Hollywood, Florida I started off really well, as my teacher was a prolific reader, and as it turned out, an encyclopedia salesperson. I had made a good impression on the librarian right off and enjoyed rare privileges that other kids did not. I was allowed to check out as many books as I wished to, no limits, while the other children could only take two. I read at a ferocious rate and could recite the book back nearly word for word. Then I got sick with pneumonia from my bronchial asthma and couldn't go to school for six weeks. My fevers were at 105 degrees so often they thought that I would fry my brain like bacon in a skillet.

My teacher brought work for me to do, but it was so easy that I did the assignments in a few minutes. The next day she showed up with a full set of the 1960  World Book Encyclopedia, which she had convinced my parents to buy. There were 21 volumes in that set and I read the entire thing in the six weeks that I was stuck at home. There was nothing else to do.

At seven I was tested in school, twice actually, (because my seventy-two year old second grade teacher didn't believe the results), and scored quite high according to the test proctor. My mother was told of my score and didn't want anyone else to be told. I was on the road to the freakdom of being a nerd in redneckville.

My brother just older than I, made up a story about me having a steel plate in my head from the incident when I was three, (and convinced me it was true) and used to break rulers and other sticks over my head to prove it. Of course I had to endure the blows without showing any pain so as to not embarrass my brother. It is little wonder that I have had severe headaches all of my life.

After a lifetime of banging and bashing my head, I am now a member of Mensa and finally have given in. OK, so I am smart, you don't have to hit me over the head any more, I give up.


I would ask those of you who have bunk beds, to never underestimate the attraction that top bunk holds for children of any age. Just because you told them not to, does NOT mean they won't. I was extremely lucky.

And to remind us all that even the smartest among us, can be made to believe the dumbest things, (like a steel plate in your head), and do something stupid (like allowing people to hit you over the head with sticks), by people they trust in a position of authority or power. Live smarter and be well.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dating can be difficult

Today gets busier every time we answer the telephone. New medicines for Mr. S. need to be picked up and delivered to his residence. We have to meet our Mensa group for lunch in Reno, drop off a welder to our son, and stop by the Embroidery Dr in Sparks to place some t-shirt orders. So far we can handle it, but I am hoping that the phone stays quiet for a while.

The weather for beautiful downtown Fallon looks promising with Mostly Sunny, a high of 49F and winds SW at 15 mph. The chance of precipitation is zero for early in the day, but by nightfall the clouds will roll in, the wind be up to 30 mph and all bets are off on what falls from the sky.

Sgt Mikki has been vocalizing all morning at some unseen foe and I wish that she would take a nap. I am happy with the fact that Jessi is not inclined to bark at anything. She will "talk" to us in a yodeling kind of growly sound, but that is it for her and noise.

I have stated that I will not use this blog as a forum for preaching or debating religion. Everyone has the right to believe as they wish, as long as they harm no one else in this pursuit. This is a tale of learning.

On my path to becoming a Buddhist I visited many other stops along the way. Some were not of my choosing, others were a compromise, a few were out of curiosity, and one, was following a girl.

Dating can be difficult 

I met a young girl named Rebecca who was a poster child for natural beauty, with flowing light brown hair that went well past her waist and pale blue eyes. She didn’t wear makeup or even lipstick or lip gloss. She dressed like an Amish girl, only with different colors each day, not the bland uniform of that group. I once made the mistake of calling her Becky and was gently corrected that it was Rebecca, like in the Bible. It didn’t take a neon sign flashing for me to pick up on her lifestyle. She was a “church girl.”

Rebecca had two brothers going to the same school as we did; Mark who was a senior like myself, and Luke who was younger than Rebecca. They had the same hair color and features as their sister, but with a haircut that would make a Marine proud. Unlike the other students of that time they wore plain clothes and always, as in every day, wore long sleeve shirts that were buttoned up to the top.

Coming from the drug crazed world of South Florida, when I saw long sleeves in warm weather I immediately suspected arms with needle tracks. Not so with these kids. They were anti drugs, anti alcohol, anti tobacco in all forms, and didn’t even cuss. They were as “church” as their sister, if not more so. Which was cool, and they weren’t out to convert anyone or hold a revival in the school cafeteria. They were harmless, right?

I was getting along great with Rebecca and worked hard on not cussing, or being too obvious with my admiration of her smoking hot girl shape which was hidden by the “plain jane” clothing, (but not too well.) Her brothers kept their eyes on me and made hushed comments to Rebecca at times, no doubt explaining the evil intentions that they felt I had for her. I wouldn’t call them evil, exactly.

A dance at the school came and went, but Rebecca was not allowed to attend such functions. I was at a loss for how to get some more time with this girl. We talked every day at school and the subject of animals was a frequent topic of discussion. She was surprisingly well informed about reptiles and wanted to hear all of my snake chasing stories. This girl lit up like a Christmas tree when I told her about knowing Dr. Bill Haast from the Miami Serpentarium (which made me grin from ear to ear.) Imagine, a gorgeous girl who likes snakes and knows who one of my heroes was… Incredible!

It wasn’t long after that very conversation that Mark and Luke warmed up to me and quit looking like angry, protective brothers. I still had the problem of getting some time with Rebecca to deal with and was at a loss about how to resolve it, given her restricted freedom.

Then like Divine intervention, the solution appeared. Rebecca invited me to go church with her family. I could do that! I had sat through all kinds of church services and bible studies and figured that if I could handle the Hellfire and brimstones of the First Southern Baptist Church, I could handle any of them.

Their church was one that I had never heard of before, “The Church of Lord Jesus with Signs Following.” I hadn’t lived in the area for very long and told her that I didn’t know where that church was, but I would look it up in the telephone book and meet her there. “Oh no,” she said, “It moves around a lot. We will have to pick you up and take you to the location.”

That should have alerted me that something was different with this church, but my eyes were on the girl. If they had said that we were meeting Satan at 666 Hell Canyon Road, I would have said “Cool, I’ll be there.”

Rebecca said that sometimes they met at people’s homes, or in the back room of a business. When I asked if it was a big church, she said, No, there are only about 70 true believers in this area.” She said that sometimes people did come from other places like Sand Mountain, Alabama where they (her family) lived before, if the minister speaking was a big name.

The meeting place for this Sunday service was not revealed to me before hand and when all three siblings showed up in an old faded red Ford pickup truck (with Mark driving) to pick me up, I just blindly got in the cab with them. Naturally Luke sat between Rebecca and me, so there would be no accidental touching of legs. I sincerely hoped that this "separationist" chaperoning would not go on all day.

When we had driven every back road in the county and even doubled back on a few, we arrived at what appeared to me to be a barn. It was really an old wooden church made out of weathered grey barn lumber. The exterior was as plain as the dress code of the church members … humble and decent in every way.

I noted right away that every woman had long, plain dresses on, and no makeup or hair coloring. The men all had the Marine hair style and to the last male person they had on long sleeved shirts buttoned up to their cleanly shaved chins. I had seen pious and plain before, but these people put the ‘nilla in vanilla!

OK, all good. I had been briefed by Luke on the dress code and had complied, mostly. My hair wouldn’t pass inspection and my shirt was a Western style long sleeve, but with pearl snaps. A little flashy, but not one to get me excommunicated right away I thought.

I kept my hands in my pockets and off of Rebecca, not even daring to touch her arm with every set of eyes in the place on me. The reception out front was friendly and I saw musical instruments being carried in, which I liked. It showed promise of being better than many services I had attended. I was pleased when we were all called to come inside and Rebecca took my arm and held onto me as we went in. We found a seat on one of the long benches a couple of rows from the back wall.

The church wasn’t as bad as it looked from the outside. It even had electric lights and indoor plumbing, and she pointed out the door to the bathroom should I need it. That was the sweetest thing a girl could do at a church meeting!

Services began with the reading of two bible verses:

And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover (Mark 16:17-18)   
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)

This should have been enough for any prudent and aware man to hear and make a wise choice from. The fact that Rebecca’s brothers were named Mark and Luke still escaped me, as did the importance of the statement that the minister standing at the pulpit was Rebecca’s father. It was all just so much trivia going past my hormonally challenged ears.

The greetings to the congregation seemed normal and full of "churchy" stuff, quoting of yet more bible verses and proclamations of true belief. I did wonder when the “true believer” and “protection of those who truly believe” became frequently repeated items. That seemed a bit boring, but the warmth of the leg that I was up against and the smell of her shampoo did have me distracted, I’ll admit.

The music kicked in all of a sudden and that woke me up from my daydreaming and made me pay attention. Then one of the women got up in the aisle and started jabbering in a language that I could not for the life of me figure out. I was pretty good at recognizing languages having grown up in an international community, but this had me stumped.

I turned to Rebecca to ask what language was being spoken, and her eyes were rolled back in her head a little bit. She seemed to be caught up in this act too. Unsure of what to do, I decided to get up and stand along the back wall where I could see. The people in front of my seat were all getting up and dancing around and it blocked my view. Moving turned out to be a good move.

The doors we came in through were now barred and blocked by two huge gentlemen standing with their arms crossed in the classic guard pose. So I just found myself a spot along the wall and leaned there while watching the “show.”

I could see from my new vantage point that there were bottles sitting on the pulpit with the tell-tale skull and crossbones logo of poison substances prominently displayed on them. "Oh sh*t I thought, this can NOT be good!”

The minister then called for the “pure and moral true believers” to come forward and take up the serpents. When Rebecca got up to go to the front of the room, I was inclined to go with her. I liked snakes, and if they were going to play with snakes I was in!

It was a good thing that I was all the way at the back of the room and not up front. There would have been many more people to have to wade through to retreat.

The first serpent out of the boxes (that I thought were full of musical instruments), was a five foot long Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. The second was a very heavy four foot long Water Moccasin, and the third was a Copperhead that didn’t seem happy to be there. I don’t know what they pulled out next because I felt the call of nature and decided it was time to use that bathroom that Rebecca had so kindly pointed out when we came in.

I am certainly not afraid of any snakes, including venomous ones. I had grown up handling them, and always with respect. But I have a real allergy to crazy people. Especially ones who drink poison and play kissy-face with angry death-dealing rattlesnakes. They are the dangerous animals, not the snakes they yank around like sock puppets.

I was able to make my way to the bathroom and locked the door behind me. The window was too small and heavily framed to get through, but looking at the wall on one side I could see that it was that same old, weathered barn wood I noticed coming in. I did stop to go to the bathroom before I started getting all energetic, figuring that I might be sorry if I didn’t when I threw my body against the wall.

Throwing one’s body against things like doors is never like it looks on the TV when the good guy bashes the door in with his shoulder. Feeling the weight of the door when I came into the bathroom I was fairly certain that it could withstand a “religious assault” should my hosts decide that I was being ungrateful, and come to get me to complete my indoctrination or whatever.

It was while “zipping up” that I heard the person rattling the door and calling my name. I wasn’t too worried until I heard the male voice say, “go get the key to the bathroom.” Rats! They were supposed to bash their bodies against the door and give me lots of time to figure this out. I was out of time that quick!

I grabbed up the plunger to use as a weapon, (hey, use what you got, right?) and instead decided to stab the wall with it to see how tough the wood was. The hard oak handle went right through the board like paper. I quickly sat down facing the wall and kicked it with both legs. They went right through the wall!

Hearing the key in the door lock, I reversed direction and hit the wall with my head and hands in a rush that would have made my linebacker coach from Florida very proud of me. I went about ten feet past the wall before I got up off my hands and feet scrambling like I was going for a fumble.

Around the building on a dead run I went, straight to the red Ford truck that we arrived in, because I knew that the keys were still in the ignition. I did glance back as I yanked open the door of the truck and no one was following me, yet.

I did not think twice about taking that truck, as I was purely in survival mode. I cranked it up and twisted and turned my way through the parked vehicles like a snake; a departing snake. I swore that I could still hear those rattles as I hit the gas and swerved into the country lane and headed for the city.

The way back was not as bad as I feared it would be, because I caught a break with a wrong turn and found a paved road with a highway sign on it. I was only twelve miles from town and didn’t waste any time heading for it.

Fearing that I would be charged with stealing the truck, (because I kind of did), I had a bright idea; I would drive the truck to the police station and leave it there with the keys in it. It couldn’t be stolen if the police had it, right? And the owners would report it stolen and the cops would say, “oh no, it is right here, come and get it.”

It was a good plan and my end of it worked out well enough… the rest, not so much. The police did take note of the truck parked outside their door and investigated it. They were a bit upset with the burlap bag with four rattlesnakes in it they found under the seat. No wonder I could still hear the rattling when I peeled out and bounced the truck around.

I didn’t know that religious snake handling had been a felony in Georgia until two years earlier (1968) when that law was repealed. The minister knew that the snakes were in the truck and likely figured that I would have told the police a story about being kidnapped and forced to participate in the rituals. They had a rough time of it with law enforcement in Alabama when people died during snake handling services there.

Rebecca and her brothers never returned to our school and I was told by another girl that they had moved to West Virginia where their church and religious practices had always been legal.

Their old red Ford truck was never claimed and was put up for auction as is the custom there. No one would bid on it due to stories and rumors about snakes inhabiting the truck and crawling out to bite you if you drove it. It was finally sent to the scrap heap. Rumor has it that as it was being smashed in the crusher a rattlesnake was seen by the operator crawling out just before the crush was completed.

I am glad to be a Buddhist. We don’t speak in tongues, or drink poison, or dance around waving unhappy serpents in the air. I do still handle snakes, but always with respect and never, ever, in a church. Amen.

Monday, February 27, 2012

I Heard the Train Coming

Welcome to the work week all who toil onward. I do not miss those days of aggravation at the hands of people who were miserable and sought to share that with me. This gives even more credence to the advice that I so frequently give to teenagers upon graduation. Find a job that you like so much that you would do it for free. Where every day upon waking you are excited to get to work. If you can do this you will have a marvelous life. The reduction in stress from what the common worker faces will make your life seem a great joy to you and everything will just go better because of it.

Fallon weather is forecast to be a bit damp, with a high of 45F, 30 cents on the dollar chance of rain, mostly towards afternoon and a soggy breeze out of the NW at 10 to 15 mph. It might throw a few flakes down in the PM but I wouldn't rent that snow blower just yet.

We have to take Mr S. to a medical appointment and Anna is supposed to tutor at the same time. Something will have to be shifted and I think that it will be the math session. It is hard to keep up with the schedule entries when they come from so many different directions. Tomorrow we have to go to Reno so we can't slide anything local to that day. Where is that retirement thing where you have nothing to do all day?

I have quite a few stories already written that cover the years from the 1950's up to the 2000's, in other words, my lifetime. I hesitate to use those too frequently or this blog will be shortened in duration as I would run out of material. Checking the list of 14 blog entries prior to this one, I find that 4 of them were previously written items. My only other choice is to write fresh material daily, making it a good thing that I have been described as a prolific writer.

I Heard the Train Coming

My introduction to tornadoes (without hurricanes) happened near Ft Rucker, AL in the little town of Daleville. I had married my first wife while I was finishing Army Air Traffic Control school there and we had rented a 12' x 60' mobile home in a small trailer park just outside of the gate. It was the weekend and friends that I went to school with were at the house drinking beer and playing cards as that was about all that any of us could afford to do. Soldiers made very little money in 1972 and if you had any bills at all, like rent or a car payment, you were still broke after you got your check on payday.

The weather was rainy and blowing so cooking burgers on the grill was out, instead we went together for a pizza and just kept the card games going. The storm was getting more violent as we played but we didn't care, we had beer, candles and youth on our side. If, or should I say when the power went out we would be ready for it.

Our trailer was tied down in compliance with state regulations and we were happy enough for that as it didn't shake in the wind. It appeared as we looked around the neighborhood, that compliance was an "Iffy" thing. I believe the key to our particular trailer being secured was that it was owned by the person who lived in it before us and he sold it to the park for a rental when he transferred out. Our trailer had steel cables over it in four places which were then anchored to eyebolts in buried concrete. I did yank on one once to see if it would just lift up, but it was the real thing and didn't move at all.

Other versions of "tied down" were less impressive. The unit directly across the gravel "street" from us had tires suspended from yellow poly rope which went over the trailer, my guess, to more of the same on the side that we couldn't see. Next door had a free standing wooden deck with 2 x 4 uprights next to the trailer that I watched the occupant nail his trailer to from the inside the house one afternoon. Yep, just drove those nails right through the wall into the 2 x 4's and called it good. Did I mention that we were in Alabama?

We didn't own a television, but the radio was on and the local news was issuing warnings about the possibility of tornadoes. A special alert said that any soldiers out on the town should report to the barracks for safety. We knew that meant lock down and mopping floors in the administration building which always leaked.

A quick vote and we decided that none of us were "out on the town", but rather in a private residence. And besides, we had no desire to mop floors for a grumpy Sergeant. To go outside into the storm seemed more fool hardy than staying put. We were winning the battle with ourselves over the piddly amount of duty and guilt we felt, and I credit alcohol with giving us the edge in that competition.

As the storm raged on, so did the beer and the card games. We were warm, dry and happy and didn't care about the weather outside, which showed our youth and inexperience. That area of Alabama was known as "Tornado Alley" due to the frequency and severity of storms that hit it every year. We had discussed the power and abilities of tornadoes and hurricanes early in the evening, offering up what we knew from school and the news items we had heard. None of the five of us there that night were residents of tornado country. I came closest having grown up in hurricane country where small tornadoes often spun off of the massive storms, but seldom did much.

Along about 1 or 2 am the wind abruptly stopped, and I mean like a switch had been thrown and the power cut off. It was so drastic and freakish that we all got up and went outside to look and stretch our legs. Trash cans were blown over and newspaper and other litter stuck to everything stationary. The odd thing was how dead quiet it was. The sky also had a yellow cast to it, like the glow from a big factory or car lot sometimes makes, but all over it. We spoke in very hushed tones like the whole world could hear us and would yell if we made noise. Right before we went back inside I heard a freight train a ways off in the distance and remarked how well the sound carried in the quiet of the night. The others heard it too and nodded their heads at my comment.

My wife gave up immediately upon re-entering the house and went to bed. The card games continued until we were all just too worn out to function. One by one the players folded, until there was just two of us sitting at the kitchen table holding on by abject stubbornness and we could barely see the cards to play them. I called a halt to the proceedings, declaring my opponent the winner and champion and stating that I was going to bed. My worthy adversary replied by laying his head down on the table where he was and began to snore. I checked for any lighted candles and finding none, moved the open beer bottle away from my friend sleeping at the table to prevent spillage, and wandered off down the hall to bed.

The youthfulness of our bodies allowed a quick recovery, the likes of which I truly could not replicate at my present age, and by 7 am we were awake again, refreshed by four hours rest. Deciding to step outside and smell the clean smell that always follows rainy nights, I exited the trailer and was greeted by sunshine and fresh air.

It really did take me a few moments to shake the fog of complacency out of my brain. I am slightly embarrassed to say that what I first noted was how clean the trailer park was. All of the newspapers and litter we remarked on earlier was gone. I thought, how odd that people who never cared before would be up so early on a Saturday cleaning the park. While I was perusing and thinking I had walked out into the gravel street and a short ways away from our house.

It wasn't until I turned around to walk back, and indeed until I started to call out to the occupants of our trailer and stopped mid speech, that it hit me. The trailer next door with the raised wooden free-standing deck; the one with the nails from inside the house, was not there. The deck was there and the nails were still in the posts. The blocks that the trailer sat on were there, undisturbed, which is not possible if you pull a trailer out of a space. Their truck was also gone.

As I was freaking out about that I rounded the corner of our trailer and just past the VW squareback we owned, was another set of blocks and no trailer. The 12' x 60' house trailers on either side of the one we lived in were gone. No wreckage, no pieces, no signs of being pulled out by trucks. Their old beater Oldsmobile was also gone. There was a bedspread on their clothesline soaking wet and hanging low, but there.

I thought that I surely must be under the influence of bad pizza and strange beer, or dreaming that I was awake and not really out of bed yet. I didn't tell the others what I had seen but insisted that everyone, all five of them, come outside whether they wanted to or not. They were all afraid of making me mad so they did it. It took a couple of seconds until the missing unit directly out the front door was noticed to be gone. I then asked them to look on the back side of our house and tell me what they saw there. It was also gone, I wasn't wigged out or hallucinating.

Two of us walked up to the park office to see if there was any word on what happened, but found no one there. On the way back an old man came out of his trailer on a corner lot and said, "good thing they left last night." and nodded his head towards our missing neighbors lots. "Nearly everybody evacuated last night and I thought you did too. I'm too old to run around in the middle of the night and was ready for whatever God had for me." the old guy said.

The tires with the yellow poly rope tied between them were about 40 feet up in a tree wrapped all around the branches. The convertible top was stripped off of the car in front of that trailer but nothing else was wrong.

We thought that the neighbor's trailers would be found a short distance away, but they never did find the trailers that were sucked out of our trailer park. I don't know what happened with the people who lived there because we barely knew them and they weren't military so we had no connection through the base. In about a month we were transferred to Ft Benning, GA and saw more tornadoes but nothing like that night.

I now know what the freight train sound was, I had heard the tornado coming and didn't have a clue. When I told this story to older locals in Georgia they all remarked that we had been extremely lucky. I told them "naw, it just wasn't in the cards."

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Childhood Heroes

Reality keeps getting in the way of what we want to do, doesn't it. Sunday morning has gone swiftly by and I have an increasing list of things to accomplish and problems to solve. I will do them, but reality will have to wait while I write. It's my turn.

The weather for beautiful downtown Fallon is forecast to be mostly Sunny, although they see it as partly cloudy, with a high around 51 F, or 10.5 C if you speak Celsius. Rain is not in the picture for today but has got a quarter and a nickel's worth of chance for tomorrow. Winds are to be SSE at 10 to 15 mph. That is the sneaky direction for storms. They can swing around that way and blow a nasty mess in faster than you can check out at Walmart.

Yesterday we purchased a new shelving unit with the brand name of Gorilla Rack at the local hardware store. I specifically sought this brand out after listening to a number of sterling endorsements for them, the most important of which from my son-in-law who's opinion I value highly. They certainly went together easily and seem sturdy enough. Time will tell as to their durability.

As with anything, one action leads to another and I found myself up to my elbows in cleaning a section of the garage. After all, the new rack has to be installed and the old damaged one needs to be removed, right? We all know the scenario of finding out just what we had stored in places that we seldom go to. What is that? Why do I have this here? Well it was perfectly good when I put it there, no I don't remember when that was. The efforts went on until well after the national news started and darkness had fallen. I did get the rack installed and the old one taken apart. Part of the old unit is still good and the rest had the nuts and bolts removed so that it could be thrown away. Items needing stored on the new shelves are in place.

Job Done! This would be the point where we could go out and play if we were still kids. But instead I found myself thinking about those days, which is what we older children do much of the time now. Think about our youth and what we did, and what motivated us to do things.

Childhood Heroes

Television was still new and watching it was a privilege for children of the 1950's and '60's. It didn't take a lot to fire imaginations that were used to doing all of the work anyway. Saturday mornings were great for heroes like Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger and Sky King. They taught us that good could triumph over evil and doing the right thing was our duty. They also showed us that good guys; got the girls, could ride a horse, play a guitar and sing, had a cool friend named Tonto, and could fly a plane. All admirable qualities to a kid.

There is a lot to be said for being inspired by good guys and it was even OK if you didn't succeed at everything that they did. I found out that I couldn't play a guitar and my singing sounded more like a cat in pain. I could ride a horse because I was raised around them and it was a common thing where I grew up. None of my friends were named Tonto, but several were real Indians, and they all wanted to be the Lone Ranger when we played. Unanimously they said that Tonto sounded funny and didn't want that role, so I was Tonto. But we all liked and respected Jay Silverheels more than Clayton Moore because he was always loyal and trustworthy.

I grew up with a knowledge of aviation due to my father's occupation as an Air Traffic Controller in Miami, so I was more interested in the Cessna 310 that Sky King flew than the plot. It was usually bad guy grabs girl, good guy has to fly airplane to rescue girl, all have a narrow escape and good guy wins. Do you remember the name of the niece? How about the airplane?

Even more dominate in my memories and by far my greatest hero, was a man that I had read about in books, and who didn't appear in the Saturday morning lineup until much later. He was still a movie star and his name was Tarzan of the Apes!

Of those who portrayed the ape man since the Edgar Rice Burroughs books first came to film, my hero was number six and the undisputed king, Johnny Weismuller. The yell heard 'round the world! He was and is still, the only Tarzan for me.

He was an immigrant child, born in what is now Serbia, and suffered from polio at an early age, which lead to his swimming for health and strength. Johnny Weismuller was so good at swimming that he won five Olympic Gold medals and one Bronze medal, won 52 National swimming titles and set 67 world records.

I knew about the swimming accomplishments from reading about him, and hadn't we ALL seen him swim in his films! He could swim faster than a crocodile and was so strong that he could swim upstream against raging torrents.

It wasn't the swimming that inspired me as much as the decency, fairness and strength of character that Tarzan brought to the silver screen. He never allowed anyone or anything weaker to be mistreated. I could relate to that being smaller and weaker than nearly everyone that I knew at the time. The code of personal conduct that Tarzan lived by, and the respect that he earned from all who knew him was a model that I wanted.

That and to live in that really awesome tree house and have all of those animals as my friends. Forget mansions and fancy cars, I wanted to live in the jungles of Africa like Tarzan.

In December of 1965 Johnny Weismuller was to help officially open the Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft Lauderdale, FL., which he also helped to establish. Tarzan was going to be in one spot long enough for me to see and hear him. It was as kids today would say, an OMG moment.

Sure I was twelve years old and knew that Tarzan was a fictional character, but, this was TARZAN!

I tried to get a ride from family; Dad was working, so mother didn't have a car, my older siblings would rather have swallowed worms than haul me anywhere. Even my few older friends were working.

I asked my mother if I could go anyway, if I could find a way. Her answer was, "Don't be ridiculous" and went back to her magazine.  She didn't SAY no, so I took that as a yes.

"Think!" I kept telling myself. "Tarzan wouldn't give up!"

If we were urban dwellers like people in New York City, it would have been so much easier and less mentally painful to solve this, but I was a country kid, albeit ensconced in semi-surburbia. But I did eventually come to it.

The bus! I will take the bus. I had taken the bus to the beach and back hundreds of times. I even had to transfer from one bus to another, I was a pro, in my own twelve year old mind anyway. I could do this. Old ladies do this. Piece of cake!

I am going to shake hands with Tarzan and somehow become his friend and go to Africa and ... oh wait, he lives in Ft Lauderdale now. Well, I'll get him to do the yell, that will be good enough, but if he WANTS to go to Africa, I'm with him!

There were no computers in those days. No easy find it online solutions to which bus runs where and when. I tried calling the city bus office, but being a twelve year old kid who didn't even know which department to ask for, I got the proverbial run around. I also made a big mistake when I stated up front that I was going to go see Tarzan. It became a joke and great sport for the employees to pass my call from one extension to another where they asked me if I knew Jane and could get them a date, or had I kissed Cheetah, or was I "Boy" looking for my ape loving daddy? Finally a supervisor put an end to the sport and rattled off a list of numbers and connections that by that time, I was not prepared to copy down. He hung up the telephone when I asked if he could repeat that, but slower. I was NOT going to call them back. The one part that I caught was go south from Sunrise Boulevard on Atlantic. But how to get there was a mystery.

I grabbed all of the money that I had, which wasn't much and headed out the door towards a gas station near by. There I got a city map and finally found Sunrise Blvd. I was determined to follow the map and hop from bus to bus until I got where I wanted to be. My first leg would be to catch the bus on Hollywood Blvd to Young Circle. From there US1 or Federal Highway as it was called there, would take me all the way to Sunrise Blvd.

The ceremony was set for early afternoon sometime and I was starting out in the morning so in my mind I had extra time. The ride to Young Circle took quite a while and should have been a clue that I was in for a very long day.

I waited at the bus stop for a long time until I finally asked a man if this was the right place to catch a bus for Ft Lauderdale and he told me that he was catching the bus to Miami from there. Panicked, I went into a local business and asked the lady at the counter where the bus stop for Ft Lauderdale was. She looked at me like I was kidding her and said, "You been standing at it for 30 minutes." I ran back outside just as the bus pulled up and the man I spoke to sat back down on the bench.

When it was my turn in line to step up into the bus I stopped at the change box and asked the driver if he went to Sunrise Blvd. He said "no...," and I nearly bolted out the door before he completed his statement, "... but I connect with the bus who does." This was harder than I thought.

Not being a veteran city bus rider, other than my short jaunts to the beach, I had no idea how many stops a route bus makes each day. We stopped at every corner and it took forever for people to get on and off the bus. It was already noon by the time I caught the northbound bus from Young Circle and my concept of distance was pretty much limited to what I could see. How far something was on a map and how long it would take to traverse that distance was rocket science to me then.

It literally took hours for me to get to Sunrise Blvd and Atlantic Blvd, and then I had to go back south on Atlantic. I was down to my last few coins when I got to the spot on South Atlantic Boulevard that had signs pointing the way towards the big to-do. I walked in from the bus stop and that was good, I didn't have to park a car that way. I couldn't see any available parking spots anywhere anyway.

I had no idea that nearly 5,000 other people would also be there and all wanting to be photographed with Johnny Weismuller and the other Hall of Fame inductees, who ever they were. The ceremony for the ribbon cutting, etc., was over. The crowd was definitely in party mode and they were all dressed up and, adult.

The steam went completely out of me at that point and I was overcome with a "what have I done?" moment. It would have become an utter defeat for me had I not been sitting on a folding chair in the right spot, at precisely the right time.

Through a break in the mob of people I see the dark hair, white suit, and broad shoulders of Johnny Weismuller as he leads the crowd to a statue where he and two beautiful women pose for photos. I can hear a voice from the crowd saying that some reporter claims that the famous Tarzan yell is actually a fake, made up of sounds from several people and sound effects.

In response to many repeated requests, the real, true Tarzan tilted his head back and let loose with a yell that stopped every single person within earshot in their tracks. When he stopped, the entire crowd burst into applause, including me. OK, I'm good. The entire trip was officially worthwhile.

I wish that could say that I got to shake hands with Johnny and we were best of friends until he died in 1984. But that wasn't the case. Even more people crowded around him than before and he was swallowed up in the moving throng of humanity.

As it was I was left with no money to get a bus back to West Hollywood and an almost certain beating for what I had done. But it was worth it. I did what I set out to do and I heard Tarzan yell with my own ears!

I called my uncle and asked him to call my house and ask for my oldest brother to come and get me. Which he did and I paid for my brother's gas many times over due to his idea of interest charges. We also concocted a story that explained my absence from home and kept me from getting into trouble, which was a major bonus.

Would I advise twelve year kids to do what I did that day? No. Am I glad that I did it? Oh, Yeah!

--- signed: Still a Tarzan fan!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Let's All Do the Napoleon Rag

Saturday morning brings us dogs defending us from things floating on the breeze and telephone calls from people that we don't know. Who wanted to sleep anyway? Oh yeah, US!

The weather forecast for beautiful downtown Fallon shall be: An extra dose of sunshine with 55 degrees of warm enough for me, with zero cents chance of raining on my parade and winds NNW 10 to 15 mph gusting to there and back. Tornadoes: unlikely, Blizzards: unlikely, Hailstorms: unlikely, Locusts: unlikely. Forecast: Me likey.

Today will be less about stories of the past and more about right now.

I have been taking note of the increasing number of people bringing their little dogs; Chihuahuas, Yorkies, Papillions, Pekinese, mini-mutts, etc., into restaurants and other places. When asked, they always claim that they are Service Dogs. Before you get in my face, I am aware of service dogs for people who have seizures. I have a friend who has a dog which very successfully helps him with his Aspergers Syndrome and dealing with people. I know that there are strange exceptions, but they are rare.

The real service dogs have to go through a certification process and not only wear a vest, but must carry their certification card with them when working. Check with anyone who travels with a Seeing Eye dog, etc., they have it. Those who abuse this privilege afforded to individuals who need their canine companions are doing a great disservice to people who actually do need help. They are also in violation of health codes and in some places it is against the law to misrepresent a service animal.

"Poopsie", does not HAVE to come in with you just because you are a nut and the dog eats off of your plate at home, or like one lady that I delivered mail to, has its own chair and table setting, and wears a bib.

In response to this phenomena of tiny service animals I have decided the following:

I need to make a little bitty blue service vest for Napoleon, and of course keep him on a leash, I AM a responsible pet owner after all! He can help me stay calm and not bump into people (I think they will move when they see the blue service vest), and although he won't bark and yip through the entire meal like a certain chihuahua did yesterday, I feel certain that he will keep the unwanted intrusions to a minimum. He is certainly very well housebroken (only goes once a week), and never bites anyone. Napoleon never ever barks or makes any sound that you can hear, and can curl up in the smallest places and really keeps out of the way. I am sure that people will respect that he is "on duty" and will keep the attempts to pet him to a minimum. Remember kids, "Always ask before you pet a service animal!"

When challenged at the door of the restaurant, (like ALL service animals not leading a blind person along behind them should be) I will attempt to get the teeny-tiny pocket open on that ever-so-small service vest... "Here just hold Napoleon on his back so that I can use my big clumsy fingers to open ... What? Go ahead and sit anywhere I like?" Why yes, Napoleon IS my Service Scorpion!

You get my point. Hostesses and wait staff are afraid to challenge people bringing in their little dogs because it will cause a confrontation and a "scene". But they aren't alone in this.

People who are bold enough frequently get their way. America has become the land of avoidance and looking down. The "Show me" state motto has become the "I don't want to know" country. We have difficulty with our children, especially our teens who need solid rules, boundaries and limitations to guide them. Parents are terrified of confrontations with their own children. The kids learn quickly that they can bully their tired parents and get what they want.

Employers push workers into working free overtime, sales people push buyers into taking "good enough" instead of what they wanted. People come to our doors and get us to buy things we don't want, just so they will go away and the confrontation will end. We eat raw burgers and cold chicken, rather than complain.

Let's All Do the Napoleon Rag!

Confrontation! We need to take back our ability to stand up straight and meet the world eyeball to eyeball. Remember the most powerful tiny word in all languages. NO.

If you are a union shop, you should report any request or attempt to get you to work "off the clock" to your shop steward. This includes taking work home or running errands for work on your own time. If you aren't union you can avoid a lot of this by saying, "just a moment, I need to clock back in before I do this..." Protect your self, the money that you aren't getting, is coming out of your pocket by your own hand. Say NO. You won't be fired for not working for free.

When a sales person tries to manipulate you into taking something that is not what you wanted, that is the time to whip out your ... word. NO! Look them in the eye and say that this is what I want and I will speak to another sales person or take my business elsewhere. Your resolve to protect your own rights will see you through this. A sale lost will bring zero revenue. Who wants to tell the boss that they lost a sale by not giving the customer what they wanted to buy? Your money, your call.

When the waitress/waiter brings you something other than what you ordered, tell them NO. I am working hard on this one myself, but I am doing it. You have the right to get what you are willing to pay for. If the bacon isn't cooked the way you want it, send it back. And send it back again if necessary.

The sales person or religious missionary at the door? Tell them that you are NOT interested and close the door in their face if that is what it takes. This is YOUR space, including your doorway. No one has the right to bully you. If it is the Mormon Missionary boys tell them that you know their mailman and if they don't go away he will tell their Bishop about the Playboy subscription he delivers to their apartment, (It doesn't have to be true, the idea will make them run like rabbits.)

The kids...

I will give the same advice that I gave to my own kids. Children need parents, not more friends. You can NOT guide your children into adulthood by trying to be their best friend. Someone HAS to be the adult. Being the adult quite often means making decisions and rules based upon your experience and knowledge, and can, and WILL be unpopular many times. Too bad. Love means doing the RIGHT thing, not the popular one. Confrontation will happen.

"I hate you" is a popular teenage chant. My answer was, yeah, sometimes I hate me too, but you still aren't going out. Someone HAS to be the adult. It is better to establish rules and stick to them, than try to continuously adapt to the game being played on you. And you ARE being played.

Talk to your children all of the time. Stay in their "business". Trust me on this one, I lapsed in this area and found out that my offspring had taken up shoplifting as a "way to be popular" game. Stay "all up in their bid-ness" or you may learn too late what path they were distracted into. It can and does happen to anyone.

We all want to go to their graduation and not their incarceration, or worse, their funeral. Life is fast and hard these days and choices are tough enough to make for adults. Remember rules, boundaries and limitations, they are the guard rails on the road of life. Kids will push to find the edges but having them established will keep them going forward.

Once more; Someone HAS to be the adult. Make it be you and not your child before they are ready.

A judge once made an adult choice for me and I ended up in a karate program instead of a juvenile detention camp. It was a good choice. I haven't written that story yet, maybe I will if there is sufficient interest.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Only White Boy There

      Today is Friday, new story release day. It is also take Mr S. to lunch day and call my tour contacts to push for completion of arrangements day. I will probably also see if my hemitheconyx caudicinctus and my pandinus imperator want to snack on some crickets.

The weather forecast for beautiful downtown Fallon is Sunny with a projected high of 62F and zero chance of rain. Winds S at 8 mph but watch for that to jump up by evening. The weather is shockingly good for our little chunk of the country. And very strange for February at 4,000 feet elevation.

Sgt Mikki has been raging against some invisible foe for the last couple of days and I would bet that it comes with a grey tiger striped suit. I can't see it, but my "spidey sense" tells me that el gato is behind the doggie rampage. This could also explain the lack of birds around the bird feeder.

I would recommend to all that you keep your anti-virus shields up and beware of strangers knocking on your electronic doors. I have been under an unusually heavy attack by out of country (India and China) spammers and scum seeking to data mine. Just this week I have seen four Nigerian scam letters. How droll. Open nothing that you do not know the sender of, and verify offers supposedly from businesses that you utilize. The "verify your account information" scam is going around again.

My little bit of "been there, done that" wisdom for today is about accepting other cultures. When I was a boy living in South Florida it was a decidedly WASP environment, really a "cracker" culture, which pre-dates redneck. It was still the time when a man could beat his wife for talking back to him, or not having dinner on the table when he got home from work, and people would only shake their heads and say, "won't that woman ever learn." Kids and dogs had no chance.

My mother had been married before she married my father, to a man who believed that every woman needed a regular attitude adjustment and she was not likely to allow a repeat of that mistake. So no wife beating in our house. But the attitudes of my surroundings were stereotypically male dominated and racist, with ignorant beliefs about every race and culture that was not their own. I can go into the reasons in greater detail should anyone want to know, but suffice it to say that my own differences lead me to seek out others, not like my family and culture.

I credit the wonderful families of the boys and girls that I grew up with in Hollywood, Florida, with saving me from years of ignorance, and for giving me such beautiful experiences in their homes and lives. We were a regular United Nations in short pants. Among the races, ethnicities, and cultural differences that I can recall were; Seminole Indians, Cubans, Italian Catholics, New York City Jews, Black Baptists, and the occasional stray other white cracker kids trying to escape their heritage. The mothers of all of these kids treated me like I was their son and fed me and yelled at me to prove it. The different cultural lessons that I learned in their homes has served me well all of my life and I credit them with helping to keep me alive when my military duties took me to strange lands and situations.

The lesson to be learned here is simple. Different does NOT equal wrong. Your way, my way, or our way, is NOT the only correct path. Look, listen, learn.

It is fitting that the winner of the readers vote for the next story is:

The Only White Boy There

When I was about 14 years old, I spent all of my time with some Seminole Indian boys, mostly Ralph, Larry, Sam, and occasionally Raymond, when he wasn't under arrest for something, (which he often was.)

On the day that I am remembering, we were at Sam's house and a woman came up in her car to pick up her granddaughter, Scarlet, who had been there visiting with her cousins. Actually, she was hanging around with us, which I really didn't mind at all. Scarlet was very pretty and the two of us were getting along in a way that I wanted to continue.

After the woman finished visiting with the adults inside she stopped next to us and asked me if I would like to attend the Green Corn Celebration the following week as her guest. I looked at my friends to see what their reaction to this would be, and they looked shocked.

Larry said, "Grandmother (a respectful term used when addressing any elderly woman, not necessarily your own grandmother), he's not Indian. He's white..." This lead to a lengthy lecture about how good her eyes were, and how many white people she had seen in her life and did we think that she was feeble-minded or what, etc. It was a three day celebration and I was to stay the entire time. Yippee!

Arriving at the main camp in the Big Cypress Reservation the first day we parked the truck and transferred to canoes for the rest of the journey into the swamp. As we landed our dugout canoes at the small dock, I saw a young white dog tied to a stake by one corner of the camp and stopped to pet and talk to it. This caused a great deal of amusement among some of the younger children playing nearby. I didn’t know why for sure, but I figured they were just laughing at the white boy.

To describe the camp itself, there was a rectangle of Chic-kees, or open thatch-roofed structures with raised sleeping platforms. They surrounded a central, much larger structure, also open, but without the platform. Instead it had a design like the spokes of a wagon wheel and a central hub. In this center was the big cooking fire with an opening in the roof right above it to let the smoke out. The spokes were actually trees which were shoved into the center as they burned and were used for seating while they lasted, which was a really long time.

The day was filled with activities and going and doing by the young people. The older folks spent a lot of time sitting in the central hut, where a big black cauldron was bubbling away 24 hours a day and the women tended it constantly. Once I realized that I was allowed to join them and listen quietly, I found a spot next to the lady that invited me. I found out that she was the spiritual Chief of the tribe, and that they had another Chief for business. She even translated for me if they spoke in their native languages of Muskogee or Miccosukee. I was overcome with the honors bestowed upon me. Not only was I the only white
boy there, I had a Chief as my personal translator.

The second day I smuggled some meat to the white puppy and played with it before we set off. When I looked up a couple of the old grandmothers were smiling and shaking their heads at me like I was crazy. When we came back for lunch the puppy was nowhere to be found and no one seemed to know where it went.

What Larry had been objecting to before we left Hollywood, I didn't know at the time. On this day while attending the festivities, I learned that white people were not, as a rule, allowed to be present at this event. This was not only a celebration time, but also a "Judgment Day" where Indians were judged for anything from minor indiscretions up to real law-breaking, by the Tribal Elders.

A panel of judges heard the information. The verdict was rendered and punishment decided upon before the violator was even allowed to sit down. If appropriate, the punishment was carried out immediately. While I was there one young man was charged with a very bad crime that I won't go into here. (But, it was bad.) He was tied to a tree and whipped like in the old movies about slavery, and then had to live at the Big Cypress reservation until he was completely healed-up from the whipping. The young man was told that if he ever had to come before them again, it would be his final journey. And they were serious!

On the third and final day, the ceremonial part was concluded by early afternoon and the people gathered for a big meal together. The older folks were sitting closest to the fire and were served first, then the rest, down through the ages until the youngest children not needing assistance to eat were given food. Those with babies or toddlers got food for them when it their turn. Then the Chief blessed the food and the "renewed year," and gave the word to dig in.

The aroma of that food cooking had created a nearly starved feeling in our stomachs and we ate like there would never be another meal. We had sofkee (like grits), baked fish, breads, and berries. But, the best of all was the stew dished out of that big black pot! It had wonderful broth, vegetables, and the most-tender meat that I had ever tasted.

I asked Sam what it was and he just said, "Don't ask..." which puzzled me. Was this some kind of Seminole only recipe or what? So, I asked Ralph and he just giggled like a little girl, something he did when he was nervous. So I figured I'd go right to the top and asked the Chief. When she said, "Dog," Sam said, "I told you not to ask. Do you remember that white dog you were playing with? Well, you just ate it!"

Then I knew that I had to go back for another bowl of stew because everyone had been quietly listening and watching me to see my reaction. If I hadn't gone back for more, I would have insulted the Chief in front of her people. I would be effectively saying that their ways were not good enough for me, by not having more of the food provided for me. So I got another bowl full and ate it with a smile on my face, and tried not to think about what I was eating. (This is why mothers always tell you, "Don't play with your food!”)

Everybody just smiled at me and resumed their conversations, which in their way was a major sign of approval and acceptance. The Seminole people don't waste a lot of words; they leave that to the white folks.

Sometimes it IS better not to know everything.


To follow up on this story: it was years before I learned that I was being both tested, and “pranked.” We did NOT eat the dog; it was rabbit and deer meat in the stew pot. Seminoles don’t eat dogs. Those of you who know any Native Americans well, especially Seminole people, are aware of their tremendous sense of humor and proclivity for playing jokes. The entire tribe down to the toddlers, were in on the prank.

To be thought well enough of to have such an elaborate practical joke carried out on you was an honor all by itself. If the Seminole people don’t like you they won’t pull a joke; they simply will not speak to you and treat you like you don’t exist. I was invited to see how I would behave in a cultural environment outside of my normal lifestyle. Essentially, the test was to see whether I would judge, or accept. I was the Chief's “white lab rat.” Happily I passed and was accepted like a member of the tribe from then on.

Other tribes may have a different sense of humor. I can just hear the Lakota people inviting Custer to a picnic now…


Thursday, February 23, 2012

What Smart Looks Like

      I have been watching the counter totals trying to see what draws readers and what doesn't. It doesn't seem to help so I will just do what I can and y'all keep coming back and every now and then something will tickle your fancy.

People who do not live in beautiful downtown Fallon, seem to want to know what the weather is like here. For Thursday February 23rd the expected high is 56F and zero chance of precipitation. Winds from the NNE at 10 mph.

Hurricane Jessi continues to grow and bounce like a tigger and Sgt Mikki is still just as jealous as ever. I suppose that eventually there will be an understanding between these two girls and calm will return. Aw, who am I kidding, they are Border Collies!

I have been reflecting upon comments that have been made to me over the years and for some unknown reason they surfaced unrequested, (Whomp! There it is!) Comments like calling me Encyclopedia Man and various other tags meaning some kind of know-it-all.

This started in First Grade after I was sick at home for six weeks and having nothing else to read, started at volume "A" and read my way through the 1960 World Book Encyclopedia. They were really interesting and I read continuously day and night, even getting into trouble for reading under the covers with my flashlight after bedtime was declared (which was a funny concept when you are already confined to the bed). My comprehension and retention rates were very high which resulted in a very young boy who knew way more than people were comfortable with. Because of that I was made to feel like something was wrong with me by kids and adults alike. I know now that they were afraid that I would make them look, or feel, less intelligent. At the time it just hurt.

I will take a moment here to ask each one of you to encourage every young person to read as much as possible and praise their efforts. Even comic books have the power to improve reading abilities and literacy. I have assisted in adult literacy programs where comic books made the difference in understanding. No matter what kids read, even the labels on cereal packages, encourage it. And please never make fun of a child that is feeling proud of learning something, it may not seem like it, but one cruel word from someone they look up to can be devastating.

I have never said that I am an authority or source of all knowledge, but I have made it my business to know a little bit about as many things as possible. There is nothing wrong with seeking knowledge and I am no longer willing to stay in the closet. Yes I'm smart and I have a lot of information stuck in my head, what of it? It is time we put learning back up on the pedestal at least equal to professional sports, and in my opinion, above them. How about we give up the gladiator mentality and get on with supporting our best and brightest kids who are going to have to find ways of saving our world... from us.

What smart looks like 

In 1972 we had no children, but we did have a black Persian cat named Sheba and two dogs who pestered the cat continuously. The cat spent as much time as possible above floor level, away from the dogs and always watching them. If she touched the floor the dogs would come out of a sound sleep like a switch had been thrown and charge! They never hurt her, but they mouthed her which got the epitome of yuck, dog slobber, all over her pristine and shiny black coat. To say that she hated that was a serious understatement. Sheba had all of her claws and teeth and had used them on the two not so bright dogs, one pit bull and one cocker spaniel, but it did no good. The drool wars continued.

Sheba was older than the dogs and when they were puppies she would do things like get up on the back of the toilet tank and using her claws, roll the toilet paper down until the dummies would grab it and race through the house with streams of it floating out behind them. At first I would fuss at the dogs and swat them and pick up the mess, trying to recover what I could of the precious paper. I couldn't figure out how they got it started from its high position and carefully made sure that the new roll was safe. A short while later here they came again TP flying! I was really getting upset with their game now, especially since I couldn't figure out how they were doing it. The third time, I finally got a break. There were little slits or snags in the sheets of paper, sometimes just one, other times three. Then the light bulb went on, cat claws! I hid around the corner peeking between the door and the jamb and caught her at it. After I bounced a roll of toilet paper off of her she quit that.

Another time Sheba pulled a plastic spice bottle out of the rack and pushed it through the stack of cook books and canisters until it went off the counter and it hit the floor, where the pitt bull immediately grabbed it and chewed it open. My question: did she know it was red chili powder, or was she just lucky that way? The dog was alternately trying to spit her tongue out of her mouth, and picking the bottle back up to chew it again. Smart power! (The cat, not the dog)

My wife had cooked a pumpkin pie for desert after dinner and it was smelling so good that I had to go outside and go for a walk or I would have been into it. Along comes dinner and the pie is still on the counter with a clean dish towel covering it, safe and sound. My wife uncovers the pie to cut and serve pieces and immediately starts in on me for getting into it when she asked me not to. I knew that I hadn't done it, but how to convince her and get myself out of trouble?

Closer investigation reveals the crust still on the bottom of the pan and the piece gone was irregular along the edges, like a bad scoop job. I still couldn't figure out who had gotten inside the house and why they would only eat one piece of pie. Why didn't they take the whole thing? My curious nature and the desire to solve the mystery finally brought it home. I spotted a stray black hair on the inside edge of the pie, then another with the use of my magnifying glass. Picking up the now purring cat I looked her in the face and underneath her chin, in a spot that her tongue didn't quite get clean, was a smear of pumpkin. The little monster! How could she know to pull the dish towel back over the pie?

One final example of smart, and attitude.

Sheba lived up to her registered name of Queen of Sheba and left no doubt in the mind of man or beast that in her mind, she was the supreme ruler of all she surveyed. In the evening after dinner this cat would assume her lounging position in the saddle, or curved depression on the back of the couch and watch TV. She didn't care what was on, as long as it had movement she would watch it. If the TV was off she went to sleep.

One night a friend came over for dinner. He was an Air Force weatherman at the tower I worked at and a good sized fellow about 6'1" and 200lbs and pretty fit, but on his own. After dinner we turned on the TV and went to sit down and continue conversation as we watched a show. I told the guy, "don't sit in front of the cat whatever you do, she's watching TV." He laughed and said, "I'm not afraid of any cat" and purposely sat down in front of her. Before I could do anything, I watched her lift a paw and I swear it was like she hit the button on switch blade knife and the claws came out and the lightning fast swat was done. The guy yelped like a scalded dog and jumped up grabbing for his neck. I pulled his hand away and there were four evenly spaced cuts dripping blood between the hair line and his collar. I barely managed to clean it up with hydrogen peroxide and coat it with antibiotic ointment before he was on his motorcycle and gone. No one ever did successfully sit between that little demon and the TV. She was a first rate breeder and I sold her for more than I paid for her originally when I transferred to Alaska. I sure hope the new owner had his own chair to watch TV from.

Here are your Friday story choices by title this time:

1. Three Bag Lunch

2. Rockets' Red Glare

3. The Only White Boy There (for those who know this story, it has been newly rewritten)

Please cast your vote either here on the blog comments section, or on my Facebook page, or even by email. You readers get to choose.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Things that bite and sting aren't Always bad

Today's entry was inspired by reactions to my latest house guest, Napoleon, but more about him later.

Fallon, Nevada, USA will be reaching for the crazy temperature of 67 degrees on February 22nd! How well I remember -30F and 18 inches of snow here one crazy winter. I was delivering the mail and slogging through it on foot, because my truck got stuck at every stop. The only thing that you can successfully predict about Nevada weather is that it is unpredictable.

The dogs are quiet and lazy today. Too quiet, I had better look. Stretched out taking a nap, which is great. I would laugh and call myself too suspicious but I know them too well. Like children, when they get quiet you had better check on them and see what they are up to.

One of the errands we had to do in Reno yesterday was to go to the VA Hospital for advice on paperwork for Mr S. (Anna's dad). They (the VA Regional Office) wanted a mess of papers filled out and sent back by March 1st, but they are so deep in government speak and confusing instructions that WE had trouble with them. There is no way that an 86 year old person who is lucky to remember what he had for breakfast would be able to deal with such a nightmare. We are down to getting his signature and driving back to Reno to have the service office at the hospital review them for us and fax them to the appropriate person at the Regional Office. Crazy!

As is the case more often than not, Murphy steps in. Mr S. now says that his foot is all swollen and we may have to take him to the ER. Tough to be both places at once.

So I had better get on with the story.

I have to do what?

It wasn't that long ago, 1994 I am pretty sure, and it was summer. I was alone at my house on five acres in the country, finally getting to pull the weeds from my rose bed across the front of the house. No one else was visible in the neighborhood and it was wonderfully quiet. I was working away, sweat dripping off of me like the sprinkler was running and I was making progress. When I got next to the front porch I was leaning in pulling grass from behind a beautiful Peace rose that grew right up the wall along the siding.

I felt a sharp pain on my right forearm and naturally thought that the rosebush had gotten me. When I pulled the arm back to make sure that the thorn wasn't stuck in me I got a shock. A big black spider was on my arm, right where the pain was coming from. What I said at that point I won't bother to write because it would have to all be in #@%& characters, and a lot of them!

I immediately slapped my hand down hard on my arm, crushing the spider and even though I was pretty sure already what I was looking at, I turned my hand over to see for sure. That was one of those times when you just hate being right. It was a female black widow spider and I had been bitten!

Since I knew that I was allergic to bee sting and had also been bitten by pygmy rattlesnakes as a teenager, I knew that I had to act fast to get the best results and I knew that I would react to the bite, but no idea how. I had never been bitten by a black widow before.

Being alone I had to think and act quickly and logically. I grabbed some benadryl tablets and took a couple of those. We had some benadryl cream so I rubbed that on the bite. Then I did the next thing and called 911, to get their emergency advice and just in case I have a bad reaction.

I got the dispatcher and she connected me to the head ER nurse, (who I knew), right away. Great I thought, I am in good hands now. I explained what had happened and she started questioning me about; how did I know that it was a black widow, and how sure are you that it actually bit you, etc. I stayed calm and didn't start yelling, telling her that I carefully identified the red hourglass and yes, I had been bitten. She was doing something else at the same time and I had to repeat myself with each question and answer. It was frustrating me and I was getting that, "Why did I bother to call feeling?"

She finally responded to my direct question of "What should I do?", with "don't worry about it, nothing usually happens from these bites." I explained again that I was allergic to bee sting and was concerned.

She then uttered the strangest words that I have ever heard come out of a nurse.

"If you pass out call 911."

I may have been a bit fuzzy at that point, but I could not for the life of me, figure out how I could call 911 if I was passed out. I mean, did I push the 9 and the 1 and then hold my finger on the second 1 so if I fell over it would dial?

I hung up and grabbed a bottle of gatorade from the refrigerator and made my way to the bathroom because I was feeling sick and wanted to be there if the need "came up". Which it did, repeatedly. I didn't pass out that I know of, but I did spend the entire time that I was alone there on that bathroom floor, unable to go anywhere else.

Obviously I lived and recovered. No thanks to the over-worked and impatient nurse, (who I delivered mail to at her home and became my neighbor after I moved to town). I asked the nurse what she meant (at a later date), but she didn't even recall the conversation... which concerns me a lot. I didn't even have enough of her attention for her to remember speaking to me. Could I have been in more serious trouble than I knew?

My doctor said the benadryl was the best thing that I could have done and undoubtedly saved me from a lot of misery and possibly from harm. We do not know how much worse it would have been without the triple hit of Benadryl, but I got out of it with just a scar on my arm and a story to tell, so I am good with that; I don't want to try again.

Post Scripts:

Spiders and their venom became a special project from that day forward and I made a pair of notebooks for the ER at our hospital with photographs and information about all of the possible poisonous spiders that could be found in our area. There has been much debate regarding the inclusion of the Brown Recluse Loxosceles reclusa into that notebook, but I believe the verified bite of a local retired school teacher by this spider warrants the addition.

My studies regarding black widow envenomation since I was bitten indicate that yes, I could definitely have been in a life threatening situation. Each person reacts differently to this venom and it is very potent and should be taken seriously. There are also situations of what is referred to as a "dry bite", where no venom is injected. It is better to visit the ER and make sure, than to have a reaction at home alone.

In recent years we have had a black widow living in our garage door and as long as it doesn't move towards the house we live in peace. If it does (moves towards the interior), it dies. It is interesting (in a creepy sort of way), that several generations of black widows have occupied that location catching bugs and living in harmony with the humans.

As I mentioned earlier, my newest addition to the household, Napoleon, is an Emperor Scorpion Pandinus imperator (from Africa) and now lives with us in his own enclosure. Yes, he has a poisonous sting, which is equal to a bee sting in pain and toxicity, but he has never chosen to use it and isn't very likely to. Emperor's have massive pincers and use them almost exclusively to catch their prey or defend themselves.

So as you can see, my painful experience with the black widow has not made me hate all arachnids or even fear them. It is possible to respect them and live in the same world. Would I kill another black widow or scorpion? Yes, if they were a real threat to me or Anna, but I would prefer not to kill anything if I can help it.

 Unfortunately I am out of time and must go attend to the humans now.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Creative Aeronautical Engineering

Greetings people,

I have been as busy as can be this morning with email correspondence. Along with writing this blog, which is my recreation, I am Chairman of an upcoming national convention in July. This takes an ever increasing amount of time to handle and interferes with my writing. So the release time of each new blog may vary. Please bear with me and check back later in the day if it isn't out around noon Pacific Time.

The weather guesser says beautiful downtown Fallon, Nevada, USA should see 61 degrees of Fahrenheit today and rain makes no "cents" at all... nada.

Sgt Mikki has been in good voice this morning and it was amusing to see how little effect it had on the little grey tiger striped kitty sitting two feet away from her through an iron gate. If you look up "nonchalance" in the dictionary I believe there will be a picture of that cat found there. I was obligated by duty and unwritten hearing protection rules, to open the door and ask the cat to vacate the premises, which it did immediately upon the turning of the door handle. Jessi on the other hand was completely unimpressed by the cat and wanted to come inside where her people were. Never a dull moment with these two around.

We have to saddle up and ride to Reno this afternoon to run a couple of errands and then meet up with our local Mensa crew for Supper Club at 6:00 pm.

Where else would you celebrate Fat Tuesday but Bavarian World! OK, maybe New Orleans, but that is not going to happen this year.

Since I didn't have time to write something new this morning, I will offer you this tale of boredom inspired but marvelous good times. Enjoy.

Creative Aeronautical Engineering

       The year was 1975 and it was New Year's Day. We were working the day shift at the control tower at Lawson Army Airfield, Ft Benning, GA. and it was as quiet as I had EVER seen it. The only aviation activity we had seen all day was the standby Med-Evac bird doing his turn-up and checks at 08:00, after that, nada.

    You know how inventive you get when there is literally nothing left to read, you have no television or radio to listen to, and you really don't want to get into yet another card game? We were there.

    I was sitting on the window ledge watching a bird floating on the breeze and got inspired. I would build a giant paper airplane and launch it from the control tower catwalk. We were at 95 feet AGL (above the ground) elevation and the prevailing winds would take it across a large open expanse. It could set a new record!

    The reason that my idea met with little opposition is simple, I was the guy in charge. Oh, my crew did voice some token, "We'll get in a world of sh** if it hits anything" resistance, but it was only for show, they were up for it too.

    One teensy little problem existed though, where to get paper large enough to make said gigantic flying machine? Thereupon enters the resourcefulness of the modern miscreant. I spied the tele-autowriter, which had a continuous roll of paper which might just be wide enough to work.

    For those unfamiliar with such primitive devices of the early days, the tele-autowriter was a machine which was connected to a sending device upon which the Air Force weatherman could write the current and forecasted weather. The pen he used was hooked to a control arm and it turned the movements into electrical signals which were interpreted at each receiving site. No, we didn't have computers for that stuff then.

    Anyway, I rolled off about six feet of paper and commenced to designing. I wanted to utilize the size of the paper without additional weight, but finally decided that I did have to add to the wings to give this eagle enough area to soar. I added wooden coffee stirring sticks in critical areas for strength and very lightly glued the edges of the paper with that old glue we had as kids in the clear bottle with the red rubber top. You know the stuff, you had to mash it down and drag it along the paper to get it to work.

    Two hours later we had a bird worthy of flight and checked the surrounding area. We even checked for inbound flights and any VIP departures which could cause a problem. Nothing, nada, Green light all the way!

    Out onto the catwalk and prepare for flight!

    One of my guys called over to the Base Ops crew and Field Services guys to come out and witness the "World Record" flight. They all poured out of the building and the launch was made. It was a thing of beauty, nearly six feet long and almost 18 inches wide at the wing tips, in a delta swept wing design.

    The bird held altitude really well, much better than the terse comments about calling for the crash crew seemed to indicate. The crash crew heard all of the chatter on the flight line radio and they all came outside to watch too. We were shooting for 100 yards flight distance, figuring that 3:1 would be respectable for a paper airplane, ( 100ft up x 300 ft flight distance), but it kept going.

    The soaring bird passed 100 yards, 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile and was beginning to start a graceful descent to the surface of the empty parking ramp in front of the Operations building, certainly on its way to a full mile flight. All eyes were on that fantastic glide and cheering on the attainment of a full mile mark.

    That's probably why we didn't see the black sedan pull out on the ramp flying the flags on the front fenders. Well, we didn't see it until the paper airplane and the windshield of the sedan arrived at the same place, at the same time.

    My first statement was, "Did it make it to one mile?"

    My crew on the other hand, as well as the entire population on the airfield that New Years Day, vaporized. That's the only way I can put it, they were there one minute and gone the next. They vanished so fast that if one had looked directly at the control tower when that bird & car collided, I was the only one in sight. Of course I always maintained that the car hit the airplane, in spite of what the Colonel said. Besides, powered craft have to give way to non-powered craft, it's in the rules.

    Naturally it didn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out where the paper airplane came from. Colonel Loudman was the airfield commander and walked right by the sending unit of the tele-autowriter system ever day. Even he wasn't buying it was a UFO that made an unscheduled landing at our base.

    The very next morning I had the pleasure of his company at 08:00, his office. The guy with the bird on his collar did all of the talking, but I held up my end pretty well too. I did ALL of the listening. I had a hard time not giggling as I stood with my feet in these cutesy footprints which were painted onto the carpet in front of his desk. What a power tripping egomaniacal clown. Rather than finding it intimidating, I just thought it was funny.

    Of course I did already have a tip off from the Colonel's driver, that the General who was in the car with the Colonel getting a tour of the airport, thought it was a great feat of aeronautical engineering and a super flight. So much so that he suggested that the Colonel not punish the men responsible. When a General suggests something, if you are smart, you consider that an order. So the Colonel huffed and puffed and told me to get out of his office, which I did.

    I transferred to Alaska that spring and had gotten myself established, put on another stripe and was settling in quite well. As is common with the military, we had a change of command for the base, which happens about every two years or so.

    There we were, standing formation at our little base at Ft Richardson, AK and the new Commander decides to review the troops. As it was a General, I gave little thought as to who it might be, that is until he stopped right in front of me.

    Lo and Behold, Colonel, now General, Loudman was in my face saying, "We meet again, Staff Sergeant, and now I'm the General." 

    I spent a lot of time in the field after that, but the General never did cause me any real trouble. He had enough of his own to deal with.

Note: The Colonel/General's name has been changed to protect the guilty.


If you are curious, we did determine that the airplane had actually passed the one mile mark before the collision. I also learned in 1978 upon returning to Ft Benning, GA, that the General in the car had the paper airplane hanging in his office until he retired and it is presumed that he took it with him.

As previously published in the Northern Nevada Mensa newsletter the Neva-Mind, and including the post script on American Mensa website in Bylines