Saturday, October 4, 2014

Golf with a Three-Legged Alligator

I’m a golfer.

Well, I have the clubs and the shoes. Anyone who has seen me play might fairly say, “Hey Buddy, that ain’t golf!”

When I was first learning to play more than thirty years ago I got steadily better during the first six months or so, and then the progress tapered off, but my expectation of progress kept right on climbing. I would get frustrated and angry when I hit shots that were not up to my expectations, and I would come home in a foul mood. My wife, Lorna, said one day, “Isn’t golf supposed to be fun?” She was right, of course, and golf is a lot more fun now that have learned to enjoy playing badly. Now I always come home from the course in a good mood.

I learned to play golf in 1978 during my first Air Force assignment at Hurlburt Field, Florida near Fort Walton Beach. I was reminded of a long-ago day on the Hurlburt course by a fairly recent story in the news about a golfer in Lake Wales who had to be saved from an alligator by his buddies. He was looking for his ball near the edge of a pond when a nine-foot gator leapt out of the water, clamped down on his knee, and started dragging him in. Thankfully, his courageous friends won the tug-of-war, but not before the gator inflicted about three dozen stitches worth of damage.

In the late 1970s/early 1980s the Hurlburt course had a three-legged gator of about eight or nine feet living in the pond by the green on the third hole. I saw the gator regularly sunning himself in various places around the pond, but I don’t think I ever saw him move. One day I hit an errant shot to the right that landed under some pine trees near the pond and about ten or fifteen yards away from the gator. When I located the ball I wasn’t too concerned because I was pretty confident I could outrun a three-legged gator. Upon assessing the situation further I began to have doubts because to set up and hit the shot I would have to turn my back to the gator. I knew I could win a fair race, but all bets were off if he got a head start.

Golf is played by hitting a small ball with a small piece of metal mounted on the end of a three-foot stick, and for the ball to go where you want it to, you have to hit it with a particular, small spot on the metal. It requires a lot of concentration to properly execute a golf shot, and it’s difficult to do even when you’re solely focused on the shot. Splitting your attention between the shot and an alligator is a sure recipe for ball-in-the-pond (I already had a payday’s worth of balls sitting at the bottom of the ponds on that course), and I eventually came to that realization as I set up and alternately looked down at my ball then over my shoulder at the gator.

Golf is a game of decisions. I decided I had the wrong club for the shot and needed to change. I opted for the hand wedge. That’s right: I picked up my ball and threw it across the water and on to the green. I haven’t looked over my shoulder at an alligator since.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Brown Paper Bags

     When I was a kid, they didn’t ask at the grocery store if you wanted paper or plastic bags.  They just put your stuff in a brown paper bag, and that was that.  After we emptied the bags at home, we folded them flat and stashed them between the fridge and counter.  There they stayed until we needed another garbage bag in the kitchen. We would fold the top edge down a couple of inches to keep the bag open, and it stood open on the kitchen floor ready to receive our garbage.  They worked well for dry or mostly dry trash.
     One of my earliest memories involves a brown paper garbage bag.  Why this is so will become apparent. 
     When I was four or five, I was running around the house one day playing in (what I must assume was) my usual state of oblivion. This was before I started school, and being the baby of the family, I was the only child home with Mother.  I stopped briefly in the kitchen where Mother was working, and the next thing I knew she was smacking me on my skinny behind, demanding, “What is the MATTER with you?”
     To this day, I still don’t know what was the matter with me.  The sudden spanking snapped me out of whatever I was in and also completely ruined my aim—I was peeing in the garbage bag.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

You've Been Replaced

     My first assignment in the Air Force was as an enlisted computer operator (from 1978 to 1982) at Hurlburt Field, near Fort Walton Beach, Florida. I was assigned to the Data Automation branch within the 1st Special Operations Wing.
     The computer I worked on was a Burroughs 3500 mainframe. The system consisted of a room full of components including tape drives, disk drives, a punch card reader, a card punch, a card interpreter, a line printer, the central processing unit, and the console which included a teletype. There was no video screen. All the commands were typed into the teletype, and the commands along with the computer's responses were recorded on continuous fan-fold paper.
    That computer handled all the administrative data processing for an entire Air Force base (including aircraft maintenance, personnel, finance, etc.) and yet the computer you're reading this on has more computing power than that room full of equipment had. Such is the march of progress.
    We operated around the clock in three shifts with at least two operators on duty at all times. There was plenty of work to do as we had to change reels of magnetic tape, load cards into the punch card reader, move cards from the card punch to the card interpreter, and take the printouts from the line printer, separate them, and place them in the proper output bins.
     The line printer was amazingly fast at 1100 lines per minute, and with 66 lines on each page, it could go through a box of continuous fan-fold paper in a hurry. Most jobs were printed on single-ply paper, but plenty of others were printed on multi-part paper with carbon paper interleaved so the customer could have multiple copies of the same printout. We were constantly moving boxes of paper.
     There were about 25-30 people in Data Automation, with a captain in charge. We were divided into three sections: Computer Operations (15-20 people) lead by a master sergeant; Systems Control (6-8 people who worked with the customers and set up the computer jobs we ran), also headed up by a master sergeant; and Resource Management (4 people).
     It was a fairly relaxed environment for a military outfit, and even those of us who were junior enlisted called the master sergeants by their first names. Dave was in charge of Operations, and Tom had Systems Control. Dave and Tom shared an office. Nobody called the captain by his first name.
     Dave wore his hair slicked back, and I could imagine him in his high school days wearing a white T-shirt with a pack rolled up in his sleeve. Dave had recently cross-trained into computer operations from another career field and didn't have the same depth of technical knowledge as those of us who were hands-on with the computer every day. His job was to manage us, but we figured his chief skills were smoking cigarettes and drinking coffeeevery time I saw him he had a cigarette in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. No hands were available for getting anything else done.
     Most of us operators were in our 20s with lots of energy and active imaginations. Becoming proficient as an operator took a lot of diligent effort to learn the system with its many commands and complexities. Once we were fully qualified, the work became routine and we could think about other thingslike fun. There are lots of stories to tell, but this post will focus on the day we had CPR training in the office.
     Working around all that high-voltage equipment required us to know CPR, so our bosses scheduled an instructor to come to the office to train us. The instructor brought a training mannequin (brand name: Resusci-Annie) on which we would learn how to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compressions. After the class, the instructor left Resusci-Annie in our office to train the next group. Dave left the office to run some errands, and while he was gone our wheels started turning.
     All Resusci-Annie could do was lay therea skill set not that different from Dave's. So, we put her in Dave's chair, propped her feet up on his desk, put her fingers through the handle on his coffee mug, and put a cigarette between the fingers of her other hand. A lookout watched the parking lot for Dave's return, and on his signal we lit Annie's cigarette.
     We all tried to look busy as Dave walked in. We were dead silent when he entered his office, so we could easily hear him say, "What the h---?" The whole place broke up when Tom answered with, "Dave, you've been replaced."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Motel With A Pool

The family vacation in the summer of 1967 was the only vacation I can remember that didn't involve a predetermined destination. Seven of usmy parents and the five children still at homecrammed into the family sedan and headed north out of Palatka. Paula was a year out of high school, Kathy was a senior-to-be, George was 13, Ava was 12, and I was 10. One of us sat under Daddy's elbow in the middle of the front seat, and the other four made the best of it in the back seat. I'm sure there must have been some discomfort in the car, but I don't remember experiencing any.

I think Daddy's plan was to drive until half the cash in his pocket was gone and then turn around and head home. Our northernmost stop on the five day trek was Asheville, North Carolina. It was a glorious trip. We didn't miss a single tourist trap along the way. I handled every trinket in Cherokee, North Carolina that could be bought with the money Daddy had given me and many that couldn't. I brought home a rabbit pelt.

That trip had three things in common with every other road trip I can remember:

1) My dad could pack a car trunk like nobody else. All the luggage would be on the driveway behind the car with Daddy protesting that it couldn't possibly fit. And yet, he got it all in—every time. He was a master at Tetris before the game was invented.

2) It didn't matter if there was a radio station in range because Daddy had all the hits of the thirties, forties, and fifties in his head. He had the most beautiful baritone-tenor voice, and I somehow took it for granted that everybody's dad could sing like that.

3) When Daddy started talking about finding a place to spend the night, the kids would start clamoring for him to stop at a motel with a pool. He would express doubts about finding such a place or it being affordable if he did find it, and, as if on cue, we would ratchet up the pleading. In retrospect, I don't think we ever stopped at a place without a pool, and Daddy nearly always got in the pool with us. I think he just enjoyed our entreaties, the faux suspense he was creating, and the subsequent cheering when he pulled into the parking lot of a pool-equipped motel. He was our hero again.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet...

Our youngest son, Andy, was a cute little kid. He said funny things, and what added to the fun is that he couldn't pronounce R's. We had the best time getting him to say, "Be vewy vewy quiet...I'm hunting WABBITS!" It was a giggle to have our own little Elmer Fudd in the house, but we pressed "replay" too many times on the "wabbit" thing, and it stopped working. Thankfully, as an adult he CAN pronounce R's.

My father-in-law, Andy McClain, was the best auto mechanic I ever knew. He taught auto mechanics at our high school, and could probably put an engine together in the dark. Our Andy, his grandson, must have gotten a pretty heavy dose of those genes, because he has always been interested in mechanical things. Whenever his mother or I were working on anything, Andy soon appeared. Anytime I raised the hood of my car, Andy's head was under it almost before mine was.

In 1984 when Andy was three, my parents came over to Gainesville to help with painting the house. They never missed an opportunity to be near their grandchildren. My dad had just opened a can of paint, and of course, Andy was right there watching him. Daddy had to go around to the other side of the house to get something, but before leaving warned, "Andy, don't touch that paint."

When Daddy returned he found Andy lying on his stomach, his nose just inches from the paint can. Startled to find Andy so close, Daddy asked, "Andy, did you mess with the paint?"

"I didn't touch it, Gwampa. I'm just weadin' the can."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I Had a Flushmate

Squadron Officer School (or SOS) was, in 1991 when I attended, a six-week course for Air Force captains. It was mostly about leadership, but we also honed our writing and public speaking skills. There were 18 officers in our flight plus our flight commander who was a member of the school faculty.

We came to SOS from our duty stations all over the world; I was stationed in Hawaii at the time. The members of the flight were serving in all kinds of military specialties including pilots, navigators, missile launch officers, aircraft maintenance officers, communications and computer systems officers, engineers, and some others that I can't remember.

We were housed in dormitories, and unlike Officer Training School, we didn't have to share our rooms with a roommate. We did, however, have to share our bathrooms. Each pair of rooms had a bathroom in between, and there was a door into the bathroom from each room.

"Flushmate" was the term applied to the person on the other side of the bathroom. Most flushmates were in the same flight, but the one female in our flight and the odd male had flushmates from another flight.

The guy who had a flushmate from another flight was an F-4 pilot, and he had a million stories. One morning before class started he was regaling us with a story about the peculiar habits of his flushie. It seems the flushie liked to give himself vocal encouragement while "using the facilities" in the morning. He was apparently not shy about it because our guy could hear him clearly through the door. It went something like this: "Alright, you can do it!" followed by some grunting, and then self-congratulations such as, "Good one!"

We thought the story was hilarious already, but we were laid out when he told us his nickname for his flushmate: "Coach."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wait a minute...didn't I just see...



I attended Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) in 1984. That's where, for twelve weeks, they tell you to do seemingly meaningless things and expect you to do them perfectly. Not almost perfectly, but perfectly.

There were two officer trainees (OTs) assigned to each dorm room in which there were two bunks, two wall lockers, two chests of drawers, and two desks with chairs--that's it; no other furniture was authorized. The exact placement of those furniture items was specified. We were also allowed a very limited list of personal items, and the exact placement of those items was also specified.

Instilling "attention to detail" in the trainees is the official reason for requiring that OTs arrange their environment in the specified way. The training was enforced and reinforced by a system of demerits administered by the flight commander--a commissioned officer who was responsible for the training of the 20 or so members of his flight.

Captain Weiss was our flight commander, and he inspected our rooms each day while we were out, giving demerits for each deviation from the standards. Your freedom, or lack of it, for the weekend was determined by the number of demerits you accumulated during the week. If your demerit count did not decline each week you could be "eliminated from training" for "failure to adapt to military training." Nobody wanted to be thrown out as we had worked too hard to get in--there were ten applicants for each OTS slot.

All uniforms, toiletries, etc. were arranged in the wall locker and chest of drawers in a particular way. The only personal item that could be displayed in plain sight was a framed photo that was to be placed in a precise location on the desk. I, of course, had a photo of my family displayed.

Two of the guys in the flight, Dave Cross and Scott Hubbard, were roommates, and neither had a significant other. But neither wanted to forego his OTS-given right to display that one personal item. At their first opportunity they went to the base exchange to buy a picture frame for each of them. As you have no doubt seen, frames come with pictures of models in them with the brand, size, and other information overprinted on the picture. Each of them selected a frame with a photo of a comely young woman in it.

Back in their room, they took the manufacturer-provided photos out of their frames and wrote inscriptions on them. Dave wrote on his, "To Dave, With all my love forever, Yours alone, Barb". Scott inscribed his with, "To Scott, You're the only one for me, Love, Barb". They put the photos back in the frames and proudly placed them on their desks.

Oh to have been a fly on the wall when Captain Weiss noticed that the frames were different, but the pictures were identical.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ahmonmelchu


Growing up I was a "city kid."  That's how I thought of myself back then because I lived in town, and a lot of the kids I went to school and church with lived on farms or ranches or otherwise out in the country.  Looking back I don't know how anybody who lives in a town of 10,000 could be a "city kid." 


I was tall and skinny at fourteen, and hard physical labor just wasn't part of my life.  Nevertheless, an aura of toughness was required at that age, of course, so I played some sports and lifted some weights sometimes.  I just didn't do the kind of daily chores that made a hardened body.

One of the ranchers that went to our church needed help baling hay one Saturday in August, so he hired me to augment his regular crew. (Everybody called him Little Woody, but he wasn't little; he was the firstborn son of Woodrow.)  He picked me up that morning on the way out to Hollister where we would be throwing the hay bales. 

Soon after I got in the truck he looked over at me and said, "Ahmonmelchu," which, translated from Southern drawl into standard English, was, "I'm going to melt you." I knew exactly what he meant--I would be earning every dime of my pay.  I had thrown hay bales before, but never the number I would handle that Saturday. 

When everybody arrived at Osteen's hay fields in Hollister we started loading the trucks and horse trailers with all the bales that could be stuffed in or on them. The driver would follow the path of the baler while the crew walked along behind throwing the bales on the truck or trailer.

A good dry bale of hay might weigh 40-50 pounds. Ideally, they get that light because the cut hay has lain in the field and dried out several days before baling.  If rain is threatening, you might not have the luxury of letting it dry that long.  That day we were throwing fairly wet hay, and the bales were probably 60-70 pounds each.  It was a long, hot day.

I must have done satisfactory work, because Little Woody put me on his crew throwing hay after school each day until the end of the season.  There were five or six boys on the crew, and we had a grand time throwing the bales on the truck and then stacking them in the barn.

Anyway, by the time we finished work that first Saturday it was near dark.  Heading back through town on Highway 17 I told Little Woody he could just stop at 8th Street, and I would walk the three blocks to home.  He said he'd be happy to take me home, but I insisted so he dropped me off there on the corner.  I suppose I wanted to prove to him that I had some strength left in me.

He paid me in cash for the day's labor ($2 an hour), and I started walking. I began to realize on that short walk home that I was seriously exhausted. I don't know whether Little Woody was a master motivator, or if he really believed what he said to me to start the day, but I do know he got his money's worth out of me.

When I walked in the front door at home, I was too tired to climb the stairs to my room, and I lay down on the carpet to rest for a few minutes. That's where I woke up Sunday morning.  Little Woody had melted me that day, but I wasn't going to let him know it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Jerry the Barber

Jerry the barber is one of the friendliest men in Palatka.  He was my dad's barber, and Daddy always enjoyed the culture of the barbershop and the sometimes playful conversation there. 

Before and still after Daddy's passing, when I was home on leave from the Air Force, I would take my two boys with me to have Jerry cut our hair.  Jerry was always interested to know where I was then stationed and if I had been recently promoted.  I thought it remarkable that in spite of the months or years since my last visit to the barbershop, he always recognized me and seemed interested in my military career.

Jerry stuttered, but nobody was bothered by it.  What he had to say was worth waiting for, and people in Palatka tend not to be in a hurry anyway.

One Saturday, Daddy was in Jerry's chair, and they were commenting about some man in town whose behavior they found odd.

Daddy observed, "Well, we all have our peculiarities—except me and you," then quickly adding with a smile, "and sometimes I wonder about you!"

Jerry came back, as quickly as he could in his way, "N-now, HD [Daddy went by his initials], y-you're taking advantage o-of a stuttering man! I-I was g-gonna say that a-about you!"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

In the Lap of Luxury

I lived in a hooch.  A hooch is a simple wooden structure measuring 16x32 feet.  The exterior is unpainted clapboard siding halfway up, screen the rest of the way, and a tin roof.  Sheets of plywood with hinges at the long edges are attached at the top of the screens so they can cover the screens when it rains.  The plywood was propped open at the bottom with a stick when it was sunny.  From inside you could see the bare studs, the inside of the clapboard, and the underside of the tin roof.  It was pretty noisy when it rained. The hooches had electricity but no running water.  Bugs, and plenty of them, came and went as they pleased.

In 1987, as a fairly new Air Force 1st lieutenant, I was assigned to Joint Task Force Bravo at Palmerola Air Base in Honduras for 6 months. While in Honduras, GIs had to observe some rules.  Rule Number One: Don't drink anything that's not from an approved source.  Rule Number Two: Never break Rule Number One.  You could be laid low by disease, and you're no good to the military like that.  

Honduras is a hot place, and you don't want to get too far away from drinking water.  There was one approved water source near the hooches, and it was a faucet at the end of a row of latrines.  Outside the base, sodas from a sealed bottle or can were OK, but ice was off limits.

I spent the first night in-country in a transitory hooch.  The next day I was assigned to my permanent hooch. Four Army officers were already settled in there and in varying stages of their own 6 month tours.  The hooch had a TV and a refrigerator, but what really caught my eye was a water cooler.  It was just like what you might find in any office; it had the clear five gallon water bottle and a tap for dispensing the chilled water.  

I was thrilled to have that water cooler.  No drinking water from the faucet for me!  I had bottled water!  I drank often from the water cooler, and in a few days the bottle was near empty.

One afternoon in the hooch after duty hours, one of my hooch-mates, Captain Salter, said, "DeLoach, it's your turn to get the water."  I was happy to do it.  I had been hitting the water pretty hard and was more than willing to pull my weight.  I'd just grab the empty bottle and go swap it out for a full one.  I asked Salter where the bottle swap was.  My balloon full of Palmerola bliss was soon deflated when I heard him reply, "You don't swap it.  You just take it to the faucet by the latrines and refill it."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is That Boy Green?

My dad loved to have fun. He loved pulling pranks and especially liked hiding and scaring people. I don't think he did that stuff very often when he was at work, but an account of when he once did has become a family favorite.

He usually worked alone when he was out selling insurance and collecting premiums, but occasionally he had another agent with him. On a day when he was out with a wingman he decided to have some fun with one of his customers.

It was during one of his collection stops that this exchange began:

"I appreciate you paying your premiums on time each week, Mrs. Green, and I thank you for your business. Do you have any other insurance needs?"

"No, Mr. DeLoach, I think you have everybody in the house insured."

"What about that dog right there?"

"Are you serious? You insure dogs too?"

"Sure. Let's go sit down, and I'll fill out the application."

"OK."

"Has he ever had heart trouble, liver trouble, kidney trouble, high blood, low blood, the dropsy, or the fits?"

"No."

Daddy's partner had been doing fairly well keeping his composure until this point, but now he had to excuse himself to go back outside.

"Does he chase cars?"

"No, he just lays right there on the porch."

"And what's his name?"

"Boy."

"Is that Boy Green?"

"Well, we got him from Mr. Williams down the street, so I guess it's Boy Williams."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Matter of Perspective

If you've ever been downwind of a pulp and paper mill you know it has a characteristic smell and not a pleasant one.  They use some pretty harsh chemicals to break down the wood into fibers that can be made into paper, and those chemicals have a distinctive "bouquet".

My hometown, Palatka, Florida, has just such a mill, and it has for many years been the largest private employer in the area.  With increasing automation, the number of employees at the mill has declined steadily. While the mill is very important economically in the community today, it was even more so when I was a kid back in the 1960s and early 70s.  

Many of my relatives have supported their families by working at the mill over the years, and some still do.  My dad never worked at the mill, but he put food on our table by selling insurance to many of those who did (see Some of This Might Be True: Inanimate Objects Are Our Real Enemies).

Daddy was going to drive me to school one foggy morning, and as we walked out the front door to the car, the odor of the mill hung in the air like the fog.  The brightest thing I could think to say at that moment was, "Peee-yeww!"  Daddy stopped, drew in a deep breath through his nose, and smilling as he resumed his walk to the car said, "Smells like bread and butter to me."

I have never forgotten that lesson.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Haggis: Ev-il, Like the Fru-its of the Dev-il

One of my kids' favorite movies is So I Married an Axe Murderer.  I confess to becoming quite fond of it myself.  It's really funny and has some very quotable lines.  

I was watching it one night, and in one scene the main character (played by Mike Meyers) stops in a butcher shop to buy haggis for his Scottish parents.  Having never heard of haggis before, my curiosity sent me to the dictionary. 

Yuck!  It's made of ground up internal organs of a sheep and boiled in the stomach of the beast.  I thought, "OK, there's one thing that will never make it into my mouth."

The next morning in the office (this was the late 1990s when I was still in the Air Force), I thought I'd quiz Ray about it.  Ray is one of my favorite people in the world.  He's extremely smart, he seems to know at least a little bit about everything, he's very witty, and he has a quirky sense of humor.  I liked him immediately when I met him, and through the  years, even though we live in different states, we still call each other now and then.  He always makes me laugh.

With the dictionary open in my hand I said, "Hey, Ray, have you ever heard of haggis?"  He said he hadn't, and that surprised me knowing how well-read he was.  I said, "Well, let me just read you the definition from the dictionary."  It went something like this, "haggis: a traditional Scottish dish consisting of a mixture of minced heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep, cooked in the stomach of the animal with suet and onions."

Ray's response:  "Ewwww, onions."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Inanimate Objects Are Our Real Enemies


My dad was an insurance agent. He wasn't the kind that sat in an office; he went out and beat the bushes.

I don't know if anybody sells insurance now like he did then, but he used to go to people's homes and convince them that they needed life insurance. And what seems even more odd now, he didn't wait in his office for the premium checks to arrive; he went out and collected the premiums each week from his customers, usually in cash.

As I write this it occurs to me that some gentle readers may be thinking, "Are you sure he wasn't in the mob?" I'm sure. The first ten years of his insurance career he spent with Life of Georgia. The last twenty-five, he worked for National Standard Life Insurance Company, and its home office was in Orlando. Sometimes he called it Nasty Standard, but probably not around the home office in Orlando.

His routine was the same every week. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday he was out selling and collecting, usually until well after dark. Thursday morning was the last of the selling and collecting for the week, and that afternoon and late into the night he worked on his weekly report. Friday all the men went to a district meeting in Daytona.

Working on the report involved, among other things, sitting for hours at the dining room table with an adding machine adding up what he had and what he was supposed to have. Sighs of exasperation and muttering were common. The adding machine was one of those old mechanical types with an impressive array of keys, and it required you to pull the crank on the side after each entry. With each pull the adding machine went "ka-chunk, ka-chunk", and the wooden dining chair went "creak."

Daddy was a big man. I don't know that he ever weighed less than 250 pounds while I was a kid. That wooden chair had assuredly been earning its keep, but its "creak" was no idle threat. After one particularly vigorous pull, the chair could bear no more, and it all came down with Daddy on top of it. He leapt to his feet in the way that a large man can and began stomping on the remains of the chair, reducing it to even smaller splinters.

Now you may think this was simple rage at and vengeance upon a piece of furniture that had collapsed under him. Rage was no doubt a component of the display, but I know there was a deeper meaning and purpose. That stomping was also for the benefit of those other chairs sitting around the table. One of them would soon be pressed into service, and he wanted them all to see that no repeat performance of the first chair's failure would be tolerated.

I don't know whether the adding machine was paying attention.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Cure for Hiccups


My widowed grandma lived across 14th Street from us when I was little. I used to visit her regularly, and she seemed to be happy to see me every time.

Her pet name for me was Crockett. Even as a teenager, Crockett is the only name she ever called me by. I suppose originally she had called me Davy Crockett, and it just got shortened over the years. That's my theory, but I'm open to correction.

On one occasion before I was old enough for school, I was at her house with a serious case of the hiccups. They just wouldn't go away. She listened to the "hics" arrive every few seconds, and then she told me how to cure them.

Now this was a practical grandma with remedies of all kinds. If you had a loose tooth, she would offer to get her "pullicans" and have that tooth out in no time. While I was anxious to get loose teeth out of my mouth and under my pillow as quickly as possible for the 25 cent payoff, I was also afraid of pain, so I never submitted to the pullicans. In fact, I lost several teeth the usual way before I even asked to see the pullicans. Turns out they were just pliers.

Back to the hiccups.

"Crockett, if you'll drink nine swallows of water without stopping, your hiccups will go away."

"But I can't count that high, Grandma."

"Well, how high can you count?"

"Eight."

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Quick Wit

I am a fan of Cyrano de Begerac. I saw the 1950 version of the movie for the first time in 1996, and I was hooked. Jose Ferrer's performance in the title role was certainly worthy of the Best Actor Oscar he received.

It was the mastery of language and quick wit of Cyrano that made him so appealing to me. True wit is a fairly rare capacity, and I value it when I find it. As Sacha Guitry said, "You can pretend to be serious; you can't pretend to be witty."

Anyway, I thought it would be good for my children to see the movie, but when they found out it was black and white they refused--all four of them. I offered a dollar to any who would watch it with me; still no takers.

In the spring of 1996 my parents were visiting us at our home in Dayton, Ohio. I had taken some leave from work to be with them, and one morning with the kids at school I suggested to my dad that we could watch Cyrano de Begerac. He had never seen it, and furthermore, he didn't hold the mistaken notion that a movie couldn't possibly be good in black and white.

We settled into the couch to watch it and were about 30 minutes into the movie when my son, Jansen, arrived home from his college class. He stood in the doorway as he figured out what we were watching, and said, "So, Grandpa, I see Dad roped you into watching Cyrano de Bergerac with him. Did he pay you a dollar?"

Ever the quick wit, Daddy shot back, "You should have held out for more. He paid me two!"

My Favorite Whipping

One of my more memorable whippings as a boy was when I was about ten or eleven. My dad and I were in the front yard headed to the car one sunny Florida day when he came to the knowledge that I had violated one rule or another. 

We prepared for the peculiar father-son dance that was much more common in those days. My preparation required no real effort and consisted only of mounting dread.  Daddy prepared by unbuckling his belt, sliding it from around his waist in one smooth motion, doubling it over, and taking me by the left arm.

The counterclockwise dance began with Daddy providing the beat while I sang the music. The whipping soon became my favorite when our dog, Skipper, arrived on the scene and started biting at Daddy's legs. I stopped being the focus of attention as Daddy attended to the dog.

After a couple of swings at Skipper, the dog retreated.  I suspect Daddy was at least a little amused at the turn of events, and that was the end of the affair.

I wasn't sure that day if my father loved me, but I knew my dog did.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thanks for visiting

Some of the things you read here might be true.  Some of it might also be entertaining.  If you came here for entertainment, I hope you're not disappointed.  If you're here for truth, what's the matter with you?