February’s End

Posted: February 25, 2017 in free verse, poem, poet, poetry, writing
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We had a February ending,
A time of two beating hearts
but not enough days.
Oh to have just one more evening
we would have arrived into the March of spring
and loved once again.
Refreshed , once again , bloomed, once again.

We must blame the short February.
A time of Valentine hearts.
But there was no sweetness there.
I could have given just one more gift,
if not for just one less day, in February.
just to love once again
And bloom once again,
into that next full March of spring.

DSS

Let’s face it. There isn’t much to talk about while sitting here in a Northwestern Missouri Holiday Inn Express. I guess I can only talk about what I have here. Two Queens, a refrigerator, ground floor, near the exit. That’s my criteria. I like a choice of beds, use one of them to stack my coat and computers on, a solid floor and if the damn place catches on fire, I want a short unobstructed run or crash through the window out of here.

I definitely don’t want to talk about the 4 or 5 hours of restless sleep and endless info-commercials.

How many years have I been doing this?

6:00 seems to be the time for breakfast. Breakfast, round patties or dog sausage, powdered eggs (I think, sometimes they sort of gel together like a solid custard). They will be scrambled or formed into a tortilla shape.I haven’t figured them out, I don’t eat them. Biscuits and gravy seem to be a staple to eat first thing in the morning. Don’t biscuits and gravy sort of settle in your stomach and sit there all day? I have never figured that out, I don’t eat them.

Coffee is good. I mix my own, one half decaf, one half caffeinated, black. I never take a cup or a lid from the top of the stack. Can you imagine how many fingers have handled those? If I have to, I take each from at least three down. My advice, bring your own cup. The yogurt is surprisingly good, Yoplait Original, 99% fat-free, excellent. I usually stumble down the hall at 6, grab my coffee, 2 – 4 oz.cups of Yoplait and spoon, sit down close to the TV, realize it is permanently tuned to Fox News by the three Ditto heads that are sitting close to the biscuits and gravy, get up from the table in disgust, take my yogurt and coffee back to the room. Hopefully the management has subscribed to the weather channel.

Very interesting hotel, it is always warm and dry here, the showers are great, the cable or Sat signals are usually good and the floors always appear to be clean enough that I don’t feel like I have to wear my socks all the time.

I give this establishment 3 and a half stars.

Oh, just a tip, be nice, turn the air conditioning to high cool when you leave. Make sure it’s cool for the housekeeping staff, they work very hard. A hot room is their pet peeve.

Is that a Waffle House or IHOP I see down the street?

Such is the life of John.

It can’t be painted
But can we describe it
by just the smell of the shampoo
or the scent of perspiration
from under the arm
the touch of soft hands
the texture of exposed warm private flesh
the taste
that damn sweet musky taste
melded with strawberry.
The wet smoothness
the tight void
soft voiced sounds of yes and feel good
the loosened hips
and firm thighs’ rhythm and rhyme
the tight tendons
and firm stiffness
and curled colored nail toes
burst of nerves
entwined heartbeats and sated breaths
of entangled sleep and entangled bond.

DSS

When I need love
when I am blind and nothing else will  do
I choose your love
Your sweet sweet love
when love will bind our mind of two
When I feel love
I choose my love
when I’m blind and don’t feel what other lovers do
I choose your love
I choose love, my sweet love, my sweet sweet love of you.

DSS

Snake Facts

Posted: February 11, 2017 in free verse, poem, poet, poetry, writing
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The sun is shining, the moon is waxing
Birds are returning, trees are preparing
Dry grasses will soon turn green.
And we will be wasting our time with Man.
As He wages His petty arguments of power,
reinventing truth and spewing alternate facts.
But when the Moon is full again,
and the Sun is rising overhead again.
the Truth will reign again.
Moving by their lateral undulations,
the vipers will be forced away,
And We will only wonder,
where was the heart of the snake?

DSS

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them” – Hemingway

After his misfortune as a guest of the State of California and the U.S. Penal System, Orie found that he was no longer eligible for a lot of rights most of us have grown accustomed to. At that time in 1954, in most states he could not get a driver’s license, vote, hold a government job or even get a bank loan due to his felony history. He was obliged to be at the mercy of only those that were willing to take a chance on him. Those chances were most easily taken on the farms, fruit orchards and ranches of western Colorado. When Orie first came to the Grande Valley area he picked peaches in the orchards of Palisade and Fruita. He was able to work on the sugar-beet farms surrounding Delta. He stuck to the Bo ethic of always taking the worst jobs on the farm, always willing to work and as trust grew hopefully being moved to a job of more responsibility or if laid off a chance to be hired again.

In a couple of years this led to what he called a decent job as a farm hand on a large farm on the slopes leading to the Grand Mesa where the cattle were raised on the rich buffalo grasses of the leased government lands that encircled the area. He said he was on a horse 12 hours a day for 6 years straight tending to cattle and horses for the farm. He branded calves, castrated little bulls into steers and helped heifers birth their young. He separated cattle by their brand on the slopes of the Grand Mesa and rounded his farm’s animals up to take them to market after they’d put on a few hundred pounds. This all sounded an awful lot like working on a ranch as a cowboy to me but Orie never wanted to be called that. He explained that he and the other hands he worked with were more than that, cowboys were movie heroes, city slicker wannabees and worked on dude ranches.

He passionately said “Everything I wore as a farm hand had a purpose and if I didn’t need it I wouldn’t have carried it. The boot heels kept my feet from slipping through the stirrups, the spurs were to kick the shit out of a stubborn horse I’d drawn for the week, some horses I didn’t have to wear’em, the chaps was for keeping the oak brush from ripping my pants off and the goddamn hat kept the sun off my face and the rain from running down my neck. If I could have worn street shoes, loose pants and a fedora I would have.”

“We weren’t playing at being a fuckin’ cowboy out there, we were workin’ our asses off.”.

He took me to a horse sale once and I met his old friends that he had worked with on the ranch ..er farm. I now know what real cowboys look like and a little about how they think. I’ve seen how broke down men can get from sitting in a saddle all day manhandling a 1500 pound horse and coaxing 900 pound cattle with a rope and a kick. I haven’t wanted to wear a pair of cowboys boots or a hat since.

During this time Orie did manage to raise a family. He had a wife, a boy and a girl. He never talked about his wife. I didn’t know what happened to her, I mentioned it once and it was the only time he totally ignored one of my questions. I met his son and daughter. All that I know is that in the early sixties she must not have been there. During that time is when his friend Ramone made him the offer to marry his daughter. Orie wouldn’t have done that for nothing either. He was somewhat of a business man and I’m sure money was changed hands for Orie to have taken on another wife. After the shooting and the eight months in the V.A. hospital, Orie simply wasn’t able to farm hand on a horse anymore. He was lucky to only need a cane, it was a wonder he wasn’t in a wheelchair.

Millions of chickens are eaten each week in this country. If you don’t know, trust me, you don’t want to know how those birds are processed from the cute Easter chickie to the neat plastic packages we pickup at the grocery store. The poultry processing plants and their methods are not pretty. They are loosely regulated and are the topic of state legislation each session. If we ever plan to eat a nice grilled chicken sandwich again then enough said about that. I say this because chickens were one of Orie Penny’s passions. And talking about the humane treatment of them cannot be avoided here.

Orie wasn’t interested in the eggs, the drumsticks or the quality of the white meat of the chicken. What he was interested in was down deeper in the bird, down in the guts, the intestinal fortitude of the males. He raised, groomed and trained fighting cocks. And he knew how to do it. His birds were sought after all over the western United States.

Now understand, I knew Orie in the early and mid- 70’s. Cock fighting was already illegal in most of the United States. Now it’s illegal in all 50. Louisiana just prohibited it a few years ago. It is not illegal to raise, train or sell fighting cocks in any state that I know of. Orie raised and trained them. I never saw any deals made or money changing hands pertaining to his chickens. That’s a note I want to make very clear here.

Now as I’ve said, Orie’s left hip was blown away and miraculously reconstructed well enough that he could walk with a cane and even ride his adopted pinto mustang horse for a few hours. But sadly the one thing he wanted to do most was being in the cockpit training and handling his latest prize rooster in a cock-fight. But he couldn’t do it because of the hip and energy required to handle a fighting rooster in a fight. This really needs explaining.

You see, a cock fight is to the death. When you enter your rooster into a match, there is a 100% chance one or both of the cocks are going to die due to the needle sharp gaffs that are tied to their legs over their spurs. To win the fight cleanly your rooster will place the gaff squarely through the opposing birds back. It can be very bloody or it can be very quick. It is very expensive in time and money to buy and train them. Huge amounts of money are hanging on each fight. Wagering is the main reason the fights are illegal, not for the welfare of the birds. Consequently each bird has a handler inside the ring during the match. To fight the birds you must have a good handler. After only a few weeks of knowing Orie, he had picked me to begin training as one. A handler has to be able to keep his mouth shut too. Orie was trusting me to do this for him. It has been over 40 years and I feel I am breaking his trust just writing this. So please, consider the next pages as fiction. You know, to totally confuse the reader, the names and places have been changed to protect the innocent.

 

“There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue, there’s just stuff people do.” Casy the Preacher – Grapes of Wrath.

As a guy travels around the country, working on different projects, working with different crews and spending a little time with different kinds of men with many experiences and backgrounds, you learn not to ask any questions of their past. They may be and probably are there because of a past that they are trying to forget or get away from. But eventually a man will voluntarily begin to talk, without being asked.

Over the most eye squinting whiskey that I’ve ever tasted, Orie started talking. It was a very short story. The words seemed to spill from his mouth, slowly draining from his skull. Words that had been festering in his head for years and pushing to get out. It started abruptly with ” San Quintin is a terrible place to be. Men have been in there for years and are just forgotten, no family, no friends, no nothin’! They are in there because they had nothin’ and when and if they leave they’ll have nothin’, nothin’ but their old underwear and socks under a new cheap suit. I spent five years there pounding stones for rock roads. And I left with nothin. I know.”

He went on to say, ” Tin Cup Tim was a friendly sort, sold pencils and pens out of a tin cup. Wouldn’t have hurt anybody. We were on a high speed freight, barreling through Iowa. The train came to a fast screeching stop. High speed Coast to Coasters don’t do that unless there’s trouble. Stuck my head out of the box and I saw silver passenger cars side railed ahead. It was the California Zephyr with her engines down. Our freighter was pickin’ her up for the pull West of Ottumwa. Tin Cup and I stayed put where we were in the boxcar. They broke the train at the rear of our car, side railed and hooked on to the Zephyr. First thing we know we are part of a passenger setup. Unspoken rule was for the Bo’s to stay off the Zephyrs and there we were stuck there.”

“Tin Cup got real worried about this, the Railroad Bulls on the passenger lines were mean sons of bitches and didn’t put up with Bo’s on their trains. The freights were no trouble, hell we were part of the crews, but the Zephyrs got your ass beat and then thrown into the next jail! A few miles out of Osceola and Tin Cup decides to bail out before the stop. But the train wasn’t slowing enough for him to jump. While his head was stickin out the door the Bull on the Zephyr must have caught a glimpse of him and before we knew it the Bull had swung up and around and was on his way into the car. Hell we were still going 70 or 80 mile an hour. Well Tin Cup started a scuffle with the Bull, they both lost their balance and fell out the door. The Bull was alright cuz I saw him land and get up but Tin Cup fell under the train. Must of been drug the two mile to the depot. His body parts were strung the whole way. It was right before school time in the morning. An arm and a foot were dropped right in front of some school kids at a crossing.”

Orie went on to say that he’d stepped off the train unnoticed at the Osceola depot and started walking down along side of Highway 69 and hitched a ride at a big intersection in town with a car going west on Highway 34. He hitched all the way to Omaha.

“I hopped a freight out of Omaha, figured I’d take her all the way out to Emeryville, California.”

Well the railroad took the Osceola incident very serious. They couldn’t have body parts falling off their trains in front of school kids. And so the railroad detectives hunted down Orie and caught up with him in California. He didn’t say how they identified him, probably the railroad Bull. He knew it would be the Bull’s word against his about what happened and that would be used against him.They got him convicted of murder of Tin Cup. San Quintin was taking a few Federal prisoners at the time and he ended up there. I think any crimes happening on the railroads were handled as federal offenses and you could end up anywhere. “Glad they didn’t pick me up in Iowa!” he said as he pulled back his old felt hat and downed another shot, “I could have ended up in Ft. Madison.”

Orie spent most of the time in prison forgotten like so many others. Doing hard labor while working on roads. But he said one day he received a letter from a woman that he had known before the war. They had planned to marry when he returned from overseas. They corresponded all of the time that he had served in Europe. When he returned and went to see her, he found that she had been married for two years and had one child and was pregnant with another. She had mentioned nothing about the marriage in any of her letters and said she couldn’t bring herself to tell him while he was at war. I’m sure this is what first fueled his wanderlust.

She had heard from a friend about Orie being in prison and just couldn’t believe he had done anything to deserve it. Her father was a well known attorney on the East coast. She ask her father to do something to help Orie. Her father somehow got Orie’s conviction reduced to manslaughter and he was released from prison with time served.

In 1954 Orie Penny was given a new lease on life.

Orie, Page 2

Posted: January 30, 2017 in Everyday Life, poet, writing
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Of all the men Orie’s age that I knew, none spoke of World War II or what they had to do in it. Not one glorified their time in the service. I didn’t even know until his death in 1983 that my own uncle had served in a armored Calvary unit that ran reconnaissance behind enemy lines in Europe. His unit traveled in advance of the Allies by 20 miles. He had hand to hand combat with the enemy and was wounded in the thigh but turned down the opportunity to be sent home because he felt at the time that a leg wound was suspicious and used as a free ticket home. For 40 years he never spoke of any of it, I learned of his valor after his funeral while my brother and I went through his personal effects and found his bronze star with V and other ribbons and citations.

That’s how it was with Orie Penny, I knew he served in the War only because of a picture of him in his combat uniform that I spotted in an old photo album. The album was propping up one leg of his leaning end table. What happened to him during the war I never knew but I think he came home a changed man. So changed that after he got back to the States, wanderlust set in and he felt only the urge to travel. The only means were the trains that steamed so frantically coast to coast across the country at the time. And Orie wasn’t buying any tickets.

He spoke of Tin Cup Tim, Plug Nickels, Skeleton Jones, Kid Kicks and Jim Beam Jim. All hobos he had traveled with the four years he spent riding the rails. On a broken slate board with chalk that he kept near the kitchen table, he showed me the “marks”. The code of the hobos made of specialized X’s and O’s, boxes, triangles and hash marks. He spelled out “This woman will serve you pie”, “this man is mean”, “bad dog inside” and “soup around the corner”. As we sat and drank his strong black percolated coffee, he told of the time that Tin Cup Tim fell from a passenger train that they found themselves on and “greased the rails”. Bo speak for being run over by the train.

He spoke of Wild Cherry, Georgia, Paducah, Kentucky, Moscow Mills, Missouri and Ada, Oklahoma to name only a few. He spoke fondly of the cities as if he enjoyed feeling the sound of their names as they rolled off his tongue as he recalled the sway and the sounds of the rides. He said he was taught to always work for the little money he needed and always to take the worse jobs available in town. Like dippin honey, pickin blooms and pushing crumbs, meaning spreading manure, picking fruit and sweeping floors. He said he always took the worse jobs, that way he or a fellow bo would probably be hired again if they came back through town later. I have learned since that’s the hobo ethic.

We stayed up late into the morning hours talking of his travels as Plug Nickels. Remembering the rides and avoiding the railroad Bulls (train cops). But the smiling stopped and the smooth names of cities changed as he began to tell of 1949 and San Quintin.

DSS

“It seems our leaders need reminded, there are those that don’t seem to remember.”  John

Reposted from July 4th

SilentLips

We the People, we who remember.
We are the pushed, the shaken and the torn.
The good are taken from us,
some taken to lead,
some to do our bidding
some to succeed,
some to die.
We the People, we who remember.
We are the hard-working and the builders,
the unspoken, the wholehearted.
We the tolerant, the patient, the taken advantage of.
Quiet with ideals too hard to express,
We the People, we who remember
the good of every man, of every good cause, of every dream.
We, the Children of the Mother of Exiles *,
the mother who speaks with silent lips.

DSS  7/4/2011

*The words “Mother of Exiles” quoted from the famous poem “New Colossus”.

Tuesday October 12, 2010
Chapter 1

Orie Penny was retired, well let’s say not working for anyone, I never knew which occupation he claimed, horse trader, farm hand cowboy or dealer in Colorado fighting roosters. At the time he made his money breeding fighting roosters and illegal cock fights. He was an averaged sized man, with a 3 day beard, rolled his own and still wore Levis and toe worn boots with stirrup scars around the instep. He didn’t call himself a cowboy, farm hand was good enough for him. Walked with a left legged limp because he had a painful rebuilt hip, reconstructed years ago before modern methods were perfected. He never told me how he hurt his hip but his daughter Anita told me the story late one night.

Orie agreed to marry an immigrant worker’s daughter because she was too old for the father to claim as a dependent and she was going to be deported. The father, being Orie’s best friend, asked him to marry her in name only with the understanding that the marriage could never be consummated and she was to be left alone and never live with him. After a few weeks, Orie, thinking consummation would be the honorable thing to do, made an advance at the young lady . The next morning he heard his friend Ramone yelling outside across the street. Orie went out to investigate the commotion  and Ramone jumped up out of the weeds in the bar-ditch and lowered a 30-06 on him. He shot him through the hip. After he fell, Orie got one round off into the weeds from his old Colt model 1901 .38 revolver that he had grabbed on his way out of the back porch. Of course, he didn’t hit anything but stopped Ramone from popping up his head and shooting anymore rounds. That pretty much disabled him and he couldn’t work riding long hours out on the ranch … err farm as he called it. He never did live with her and never did divorce the girl. She is still living in the States. Orie never pressed charges but Ramone and the rest of his family were deported because of the shooting.

I came to know Orie in the early 70’s. Needing work, I found myself in Western Colorado. I got a job on the construction crew building the cable TV  infrastructure through the area. At the time oil drilling was ramping up due to the oil shortages and embargoes and oil shale had just been discovered on the western slope of the Rockies. There was an minor oil boom going on in the area, which meant no housing available. Until I was able to find a home to rent, suitable for a wife and 2 kids, I was sleeping in a tent and showering at a KOA campgrounds. I met Orie through a friend I knew there. Orie and I hit it off well and he told me to move the tent to his backyard, he knew a lot of people in the area and would help me get a house to live in so I could send for my family. That really did help out.

Although his home had running water to his sink, he had no other indoor plumbing so I still needed a place to shower. He had about an acre of land with his old home. We worked together and fixed up a solar heated water tank and made an outdoor shower out near his rooster houses and horse shed. I can still hear the cackling of his chickens and the rustling sound of his adopted thick legged mustang pony as I slept out in the backyard on those starry nights.

I will tell more stories about Orie and the year I knew him. I might tell about his teaching me to handle fighting roosters in the ring. I would also like to tell about his time riding the rails during the 40’s and his five years in San Quintin prison literally pounding rocks into the roadbed building roads and why he was there. I’m telling this just to say that even men who people may think as the lowest of men may let you stand on their shoulders and give you a leg up. Orie did that for me and I really appreciated it.

DSS