Archive for September, 2013

I hope Mother Nature is welcoming us to the first Sunday of the season of fall. This morning it is 45 F. We must be careful here, we must not upset Her. Fall is the predecessor to what may be a comfortable or miserable winter, it may depend on our behavior, I don’t know. So let’s be cautious and just play nice with each other between now and December and not anger Her. As it has been said before, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature”. So for goodness sake, quit calling margarine, butter! If you recognize this quote, you are close to my age.

I’m losing my hearing. Hours behind noisy aircraft engines and extremely good John Mellencamp and John Fogerty concerts have taken their toll. For years, while flying, I have always worn a headset but there have been a few hours when I wore none, I’m paying for them now.  The concerts, who wants to wear earplugs at a rock concert? You want to not only hear the music you want to feel it too. And I always want seats up close, at least within the first 6 rows. Mellencamp did it, from the giant speakers above stage right, “Pink Houses” rattled my skull, sinuses and inner ear. I felt the music, it was so good, but it hurt. When you are listening to something and it is so loud that it hurts your ears , I suggest you cover them with whatever you have handy, like hands, fingers, Kleenex, gumdrops, Crayolas, whatever you can find to fit in there. But cover your ears with something!

On another blog, I am writing about taking time out to smell the roses. In my work, I travel many miles between assignments. I have large fuel tanks on my vehicle and my bladder can be described as larger than a basketball (not really, –  just a figure of speech). I can travel hundreds of miles without stopping. I see many unusual or just plain interesting things during my travels. I have decided that I must take time out for the spontaneous “pullover”. That is, if I see something pullover worthy, I must make the snap decision to pullover and take the picture, read the plaque or buy something from the fruit stand and talk to the locals. So far I have captured a great sunrise and photographed a small herd of scrap metal horses in Oklahoma. And I have only been pulling over for a couple days.

Have you seen anything “pullover worthy”?

DSS.

Morning-Sun-300x184 wildHorses WildThreeHorses

500 Vine Street

Posted: September 25, 2013 in creative writing, Everyday Life
Tags: , ,

I’m not particularly in search of God Almighty.
I feel that being spiritual is more the quest for questions
than it is a quest for answers.
If it is a scientific thing, a firm answer may be found.
If it is a spiritual thing, the answer may be no more than mist
and if we find it as fact, is it spiritual any longer?
The world is round and the planets do orbit the Sun
What if we found God living down the block at 500 Vine Street?
Would he still be an inspiration to us?
If we passed his house each day and he was sitting in his favorite chair on the porch admiring his creations
would we be so amazed?
Would you still pray to credit God for good fortune or
for the courage to survive your hard times?
Or would you just go down to 500 Vine Street and
sit on the porch with him for a while and thank him in person?
Soon wouldn’t you just be passing by and only giving him
a tip of the hat or a shallow curtsy?
No, I am not searching for God or His answers any longer.
It is much more interesting and perhaps more spiritual to search for more questions of the Universe.
Why do bugs have 6 legs?
Why are wheels round?
Why is a thought just a thought?
Where is God?
I know… He’s at 500 Vine Street
If He was there,
it wouldn’t be long before people would be asking,
Is he really at 500 Vine Street?
An answer takes so much explaining
A question can be so short no matter how complicated the answer.
And the Universe never runs out…….
without questions, how empty the void would be.

DSS

Principles Easily Held

Posted: September 22, 2013 in creative writing, Everyday Life

I’m really not sure if I have any principles or not. I sway very slowly to the latest common thought. Oh, I would like to think that I will “stand by my principles” as the going gets rough but frankly I don’t know if I can or not. I guess it depends on what you judge as “rough”. I have lived through many situations that seemed rough at the time but compared to troubles others have had, mine hardly seem mentionable. When things are going favorably, it is easy to say you will stick to your beliefs.
Oh I do OK standing up against the local government offices, like the treasurer’s office, county assessor’s and city council when I have any challenges or problems with car tags, property taxes or how they are managing the local airport. But let’s face it, these offices are not usually headed by the swiftest of personalities. But how would I do against the experts like Castro, Assad, Hessian or Dick Cheney?
I did survive the 8 GW Bush years but again lets face it, hardly a test. He fooled me once then didn’t shame me twice…er…. fooling me… ahhh twice…….Oh fuck it! you know what I mean! hardly a test. Tough times for us liberals but I didn’t let down my principles. My family and I may have been the only people in Central Kansas speaking out against war and the threats to our civil liberties in the Patriot Act. But here again, we were all well employed, had a roof over all of our families’ heads and we weren’t missing any meals. So was it a rough and tough test?
 But we did come out of those years with the same principles. We didn’t let the BASTARDS get us down but we were set back a few years in our plans, pensions and future perspectives.
I don’t know what made me think of this today, probably the headlines of Washington DC, Syria, Kenya, Somalia or maybe the dumb asses threatening to shutdown the economy. I wrote my congressman this week, did anyone else?

E.

( To learn about E, read this Blog’s DistantShipSmoke About )

Field and Stream

Posted: September 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

This is the third in a series of stories about my father that I wrote a year or so ago.  

Field and Stream

A few weeks ago, my company purchased for me a new work vehicle. A new shiny white pickup. It is equipped with all the options, you name it, AM FM XM radio, chrome bumpers, four wheel drive, a nice fiberglass topper. It even has electric adjustable seats, mirrors and windows. I spend a lot of time on the road traveling between assignments. Although I really loved it, after over 215,000 uneventful miles in the old Tundra, a new vehicle was a welcome break and change of pace.

Unfortunately, with only 3500 miles accumulated on this new beast of burden, I had a fatal encounter with a deer. Fatal for the deer that is. Thinking about how the accident happened, I really don’t believe I killed it.  It was broad daylight, it ran out of a deep ditch and squarely in front of me, neither of us had a chance. She was killed on contact and the contact caused a little over 5,000 dollars in damage to the new, shiny white front end of the pickup. I firmly believe that the animal committed suicide after choosing the first fast traveling passing vehicle. I certainly didn’t want to hurt it so I must place some of the blame on the deer. But it did bring back an old memory.

When I was young, I had a memorable encounter with the white tail deer. Growing up in a Field and Stream family, I learned to hunt and fish from my father and older brother. Wild game was a staple of our diet. Fish, rabbit, pheasant, quail and squirrel were not unusual in the freezer or on our dinner table. We always hunted and fished legally, never exceeded the harvest limits and always respected the natural habitat. I saw many deer in the wild and along the side of our roads. The deer population was not as many as it is today. Then the occasional spotting of a small herd of deer was considered a treat or even an event.

But I only remember hunting deer one time with my father. On that occasion, after spotting the deer in the distance and ready to shoot, my father paused looking over the barrel of his slug loaded shotgun and quietly whispers to me, “He sure is a good looking animal, he’ll live for another day” and brought down the heavy Savage 12 gauge to his side. Taking turns, we watched the big magnificently racked buck through our binoculars, letting him slowly wander out of range back into the thick timber of hickory, oak trees and raspberry brier. We never hunted deer again. Some may call that buck fever or weak sentimentalism, I saw it as a father showing his son respect for another living being.

Since then, I have gone on deer and elk hunting expeditions with acquaintances, but in other states where I didn’t have a resident or nonresident license or carry a gun. In places where the shot animals had to be hauled out on pack horses. But I’ve never really hunted, I’ve only observed. So now, after over 50 years, I can say that I have killed my first deer. Not with a slug loaded shotgun or high powered rifle but by the chrome bumper, fender, grille and hood of a shiny, new, white 2012 Silverado Chevy. Not that there is much glamor in either. And certainly not as memorable as it was in the late afternoon on that crisp chilly fall day in southern Iowa when my Dad without shooting, unshouldered his heavy old Savage shotgun while whispering “he’ll live for another day”.

Such is the life of John.

Friday the 13th!

Friday the 13th always reminds me of this story. During World War II my father worked on what they called “defense work”. He built military training camps and airfields, such as Camp Crowder and Fort Leonard Wood and often told me this tale.

In 1942, during World War II, war production  to supply the Allies efforts were ramping up amazingly. All efforts were going into the production of military products from can-openers to airplanes to war ships. But there was one major problem in the shipyards, maritime superstitions were holding up warship production.

The problem was the maritime belief to never start anything on a Friday, it was bad luck. Nothing new in connection with the building of a ship was started on Friday. No keels were laid, no new decks were started, no engines were first ran,  no ships were launched on a Friday. Consequently production was lost because of this superstition. It doesn’t take an efficiency expert to compute one seventh of production being lost.

The military decided the superstition had to be stemmed. So they started Project Friday. They determined to best quell the belief was to prove the belief untrue by building a new ship as an example. All aspects of the ship were to be started on a Friday. Any hint of a superstition would be trampled during it’s build.

Only carefully screened men were accepted as workers on this project in order to suppress sabotage. The ship’s keel was laid on a Friday, new decks were began on Friday, all engines were started on a Friday, pay was raised on Friday and not one day was lost in the production of this ship, not one man’s life was lost. It had a stellar production history. When she was finished, they even promoted a Captain by the name of Friday. Never had the Friday family name ever been given that opportunity.

Of course the day of its launching and first shakedown cruise was on a Friday.  On Friday November 13th 1942, she was christened, HMS Friday. Everyone involved in the project was thrilled with it’s success. Nothing like proving a long held superstition as untrue!

But on that rainy day in November, the third Friday the 13th of the year 1942,  the superstition was not trampled, no beliefs were let go of and production would remain one seventh less. For on that day after the great HMS Friday steamed from harbor, sounding her mighty horn made by the Friday and Son’s Klaxon Company, she disappeared over the horizon. Really disappeared, for after the last sight of Her bellowing black smoke in the distance, she was never seen or heard from again. And there is no official record that she was ever built.

 

 

 

 

DSS

Appointments

Posted: September 10, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

The town has a well groomed courthouse square
surrounded by uneven red brick streets.
Like most towns, 24 times a day,
the clock’s bell strikes the hour and old men check their watches,
As if they have places to go and appointments to keep.
But they sit on the green donated park benches
that have names engraved in brass.
Some whittle, some stuff their tobacco pipes
and some spit into throwaway cups.
And everyone knows the name of the town dog
that runs free, unchained but friendly,
That searches with wildly wagging tail,
sniffing at pant legs, pockets and shopping bags,
Everyone knows that in this town
only the police chief’s dogs are allowed to run free.
While the old men sit and whittle,
smoke their pipes and spit in throwaway cups.
And nervously check on appointments
that have never been made and they will never keep.

DSS

Patti Paige, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash. The Tennessee Waltz, Walkin’ After Midnight, Cry, Cry, Cry, when I hear these songs and voices, I’m immediately taken back to the smells of stale smoke, spilled beer, greasy burgers and the sounds of the shuffle board table in the background. I can hear their voices pleasantly booming from a Wurlitzer or Rock-ola jukebox by the tavern front door.  

I went everywhere with my Dad, it was my preschool. My preschool was construction sites, hunting, fishing and rainy day afternoon beer joints. Sometimes people in our town would call them taverns but lets call a spade a spade, they were beer joints. That was all that was sold there to drink besides “pop”. This was mid 1950’s Iowa, there was no hard liquor in taverns. You had to get that at State liquor stores. So what we had were beer joints, it wasn’t correct to call them a tavern or bar, although they did anyway. And like all good beer joints they had jukeboxes. Marshall’s Tavern, The South Side Tap, The Blue Moon Saloon, I got to know most of those joints at a very young age.

Before I started school, Dad would take me to work with him on the days there was no one at home to watch me. He was self employed so taking me to work was no problem. At a very early age I learned to stay out of the way of cement trucks, bulldozers and men swinging long planks and 2 by 4’s. Very quickly I caught on to not walking under ladders while there was shingling going on overhead. I had the run of a construction site by the time I was four years old, whether it was a new house basement being dug and formed or yards of concrete for a livestock feeding floor being poured.

 But it always happened the same way. We would be at the job site and it would start to rain. Work wouldn’t stop immediately, the rule was, “seven drops to the brick”. That being, if you could count seven rain drops on an area the size of a brick, and usually there was a real brick available to gauge by, work could stop. Work just stopped, we couldn’t leave the job site yet. If it kept raining all morning until noon, we would leave and go home. If it rained that much, it was too muddy to continue work that afternoon anyway. At noon and raining, we’d hop into what I remember as a 1950 Chevy and head ‘home”. But not only did my father “drinks a’bit”, he smoked, he smoked Camels. On the way through town he’d say “got to pull in here, I need some smokes, sit tight, I’ll be right back”. I’d sit and wait for him for 20 or 30 minutes, sometimes he would be right back, if he wasn’t I’d swing open the heavy ol’Chevy door and wander into the beer joint. That’s where it hits me, opening the brass handled bell ringing door, and being blasted in the face by five sensations at once. The smell of stale smoke, beer, burgers, cool air conditioning and hearing the sound of someone like Patti Paige and the Tennessee Waltz from the jukebox.

A little fellow my size walking into the place usually attracted attention from the other patrons. I was bashful and wouldn’t look or talk to any of them until I found my old man and crawled up on the bar stool next to him. I liked this because then I’d be given a big bottle of Coke or Pepsi and a handful of peanuts from the barmaid or bartender. “Treated like gold” would be the expression to describe it as I remember. Evidently not many fellas my size peeked up over the bar like I did. The barmaid would always try to make small talk with me while the old man discussed a new job, politics or fishing with whoever the hell it was that was causing him to forget about his “partner” waiting outdoors in the car. Even as a child it pissed me off that he’d very seldom “be right back”. 

They say that smell is one of the strongest senses that our mind remembers and it remembers it the most precisely. Catching a familiar smell can bring back some of our most obscure memories or some of our most intense. As a young adult I clung to those memories and sought out those smells and found solace in them. It took years to air out those scents from my head. I am a child of the 60’s and I still listen to and cherish the era of the 60’s singers and music. I am not a lover of country music. But there is nothing that takes me as quickly back to my childhood and memories of rainy afternoons with my father as that damn old country jukebox music of the 50’s. I wish I’d never put on that cd of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits this morning.

DSS

Thoughts

Posted: September 6, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Where do our poems come from? What organizes our thoughts into words? How does it all work? I don’t know but sometimes I suspect there is something else working here.

Thoughts

Beyond the shade of evening light
and far from the brilliance of stars
there is a place where thoughts are born
and where they go when dimmed.

It is a place where no man can go
not flesh nor soul or ghost
It is where all dreams are made
and where poems reign as king

Poems within transparent books
Of words from thoughts unseen
When opened the words pierce the poet’s skull
and forms the verse he sees

Books only opened up by love
or peace or hate and jealousy
Pages turned by an emotional muse
Who throws them out at lightning speed

Thoughts caught by hollow porous bone
squarely behind wide green tinted eyes
Thoughts caught by a searching willing soul
Who believes his careful words are all his own

DSS

 

How Hard The Life?

Posted: September 3, 2013 in poetry
Tags: , , ,

What have I to say?
I can say the sweet things, the accepted things
the heart warming, precious things.
Speak of love and the expected things.

But how hard the life?
The road of bumps and gravel dust,
of roadside weeds and ungated railroad crossings.
And always forgetting to look both ways.

The life of pebbles that break windshields
and jiggling of toilet handles to prevent a flood.
Watching dimly lit gas gauges on E
and quickly mown yards with untrimmed edges.

Oh, to notice the perched hawk, saying hello to him and following his stare as I pass
Wanting to remember the first days of the new seasons
and to watch the Sun and the Moon
and to know when and where they will rise and how full it will be on my free Sunday.

How hard the life to forget these things?
How good the life?
To want these, to have hope of these.

I am as much as the beetle stranded on his back.
For even he struggles to right himself and live.
If he, then so will I.

DSS