Archive for October, 2013

The Lake

Posted: October 28, 2013 in creative writing, Everyday Life
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This weekend I will be attending the annual family reunion. Do I look forward to this? Yes. Do I dread this? A little. Am I the only one? I think not. It is so nice to go but it stirs the melancholy of my soul.

We have this event at a beautiful state park in Iowa. A park that has been a touchstone for me all of my life. To me and my siblings it is just “the Lake”, it has always been there. I don’t remember the first time that I came here. I prefer to remember my first visit as from the air.

My father piloted the plane for the photographer that took the first aerial photographs of the park. The pictures were used for years in the displays that the state conservation commission set up at the state fair and other events. I grew up with an original print of that picture hanging above my father’s desk. I think of  “the Lake” and I see that picture.

I rode from a very early age with my father in his Piper Cub. One of the first rides I remember is sitting on Dad’s lap, sharing the space with the control stick, and just being able to peek over the side of the plane , out the open window, and seeing “the Lake” below as he gently banked the plane so I would have a better view. His legs squeezing me tightly and with his arm around my chest. I don’t remember thinking this as unusual until a few years ago when I gave my grandson his first ride in a similar way.

My family were avid fishermen, including me. We were and still are old school. Speeding from place to place in a bass boat as if in a contest is not our style. These are not allowed on “the Lake”. Fishing with electric trolling motors or oars are only allowed. That’s it, no wake anywhere. It’s beautiful, quiet and few visitors. I won’t even mention the park’s name, it is the best kept secret in Iowa. My son learned to bass fish there, and now my grandsons. We learned to “plug” the shorelines.

When I was growing up, before trolling motors, I rowed the boat for my dad and big brother and would only be able to cast in between power strokes and precise maneuvering instructions from them on how far to stay from shore. I didn’t mind but at times wished I was elsewhere. On one occasion, on a windy day, being tired of their irritated comments of my boat handling, I simply exited the boat, overboard and swam to shore. I nearly capsized the boat. And wish I had. Once at shore I refused their pleads for me to get back in and I walked half way around the lake through the woods to get to the car. After that, we all shared the rowing responsibilities and I became a better fisherman.

So today as I travel to our gathering, other memories such as these will be stirred of “the Lake” and  my family growing up. I’ll keep them in mind this weekend as I watch my children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews formulate their own childhood memories and I will wonder about them years from now recalling their own family times at “the Lake”. And I think, what can I do to make their memories as wonderful ?

Nine Eagles

“A person is lucky to have a place that triggers deep memories. This weekend was spent at one. The Lake has been in my family for as long as I am able to remember. It is the University of Nine Eagles as far as I’m concerned. I have learned all the things that are worth knowing at the Lake. How to swim, fish, canoe and row to name just a few. All things un-motorized within it’s boundaries. But I did learn to drive a car behind the wheel of our President Studebaker going there. I learned the laws of game conservation and respect for nature there. I don’t litter, make noise, light fires, shoot road signs, let’s just say make an ass of myself in public, to this day because of my observations and what I learned from that manmade place. I can’t think of a more glorious place for a 10 year old boy to spend a day or the entire summer. Or from better men to learn to share it with than Pappy, Carrier, Craig, Buck, Mike and Joe. So thank you once again ol’ Nine Eagles. You have once more quietly kept my attention and respect and renewed my sole until I’m drawn back to your banks again.”



What music, what drum beat
does this man walk to
What music, what drum beat
is in his head when he wins
What strum of the strings
inspires him to try
to take the chance
to win or lose
to stand up to an other’s tune
What’s inside his head
what ringing in the ears
drives this man
whose voice, whose tin notes
inspires him to not pause
but to win the fight.
What is inside this man
not muscle or bone or blood
but what is it he hears
in his head
this man’s mass of mind.
What music, what drum beat
does this man walk to?


We have already had snow here in central Kansas yesterday. Most is gone now and I hope this isn’t an indication of what we are in for the rest of the year. As many of you know, I am not an enthusiast of winter and what accompanies it.

I have had no spontaneous urges to pullover and smell the roses this week. I have seen three skunks, two armadillos, one cat and two box turtles on the roadway. Sadly, all in various stages of flatness and truly non-photoworthy. I will skip the details, but I caused none of their demise.  So no pullover tales today.

Spent another few nights in Stillwater, OK. Most of the fellows I work with were too far from home to justify the plane ticket for the weekend, they had to change motels, not only motels but cities. The OSU homecoming is this weekend and all motel rooms in town were booked in advance for this. So my Canadian friends moved out to Tulsa, hopefully they got rooms there. They asked me what “Homecoming” was. I explained it to the best of my ability and knowledge but one nerd to another, I’m afraid I may have failed miserably. ( How would you explain it? ) They have no such occasions in connection with hockey or Lacrosse  in Alberta or Saskatchewan. Homecoming is definitely an American football tradition.

I think my Congressman has stopped accepting my E-mails. My name is spam to his congressional mailbox evidently. I am very proud of this. I hope I haven’t been put on an airline watch list but I do see many lost luggage claims in the future. All of my correspondence have been respectful but I may have gone too far in my last letter calling his party affiliation “your ignorant Tea Party”.

Such is the life of John

The Foulness

Posted: October 13, 2013 in creative writing, free verse, poetry
Tags: ,

The foulness that proceeds us,
the stench, the smoke, the half life
the static noise of mistuned radios and burnt out street lights
blown out streets and broken water mains.

lost shoes line the paths
broken wheels and blown out tires
bent and burnt cars with missing hoods and cracked blocks
and children playing with discarded green cans and skinny dogs

The foulness that proceeds us,
the wailing mothers and lost brothers
uncles and aunts now without nephews or nieces
no walls or roofs for their dirt floor gated homes

their minds without freedom left in them
without bread, meal or ovens to bake.
just to be left alone to make the new shoes and robes
and to pound tools from their new found scrap metal.

The foulness that proceeds us,
the despair and unleashed sorrow
and cautious walk of  digital camo soldiers without cause or blame
only yearning to get home to a land more understood.

As the wind blown sand settles into drifts
across arched doorways and blocked exit roads
we hear distant sounds of flying war iron always overhead
we hear the sounds of lost hope, life and future
the sound of the sad foulness that proceeds us.


Well, I know that to be called official, a spontaneous “pullover” can not be planned. But I have been waiting to see just one roadside “Fruit Stand” since I decided to pullover more on my travels. Fruit stands are an essential of life anywhere in the world. We have to have them, not only for the availability of fresh produce, but what would James Bond, Smokey and The Bandit or Hawaii Five-0 chase scenes be without them. So I’ve been waiting for just one to open someplace that I travel this fall. I assumed the Pumpkin season would spark a few rural entrepreneurs to the roadside or busier intersection. Finally at a crossroads in the Fox and Sac Nation of Oklahoma, just where I expected, a family team settled in as locally grown and open for business. The man, wife and young 6 or 7 year old, (the parents said 6, the boy said about 7, so he is 7), were extremely camera shy and vacated the shot of the cellphone camera each scene. Never the less, I did get a few shots of their various pumpkin produce.


Notice the empty chairs. They modestly asked not to be photographed.  (Oh, in the back ground you may see another vendor. A knife dealer, he had very large knives for sale which I was uninterested but understandably very respectful).

Many of the pumpkins were of an interesting French variety.

I was attracted to the flat, greenish orange ones, unsuitable for my taste in jack-o-lantern but I think great for a fall or Thanksgiving center piece.


I liked these little fellows also.


Stackable flat ones and some white minis. Very reasonable prices I think.

You may be wondering why my sudden burst of spontaneous pullovers. But you must first understand just what kind of motivation it takes for me to take even just a few minutes from travel time between work site, motel or home to stop, look, take a picture and talk. 15 minutes means 15 minutes late, 15 more pounds of cargo to find space for in the front seat and most importantly 15 miles less close to home.  My overwhelming case of  “get-home-itis” is very hard to overcome. I am trying to learn to just slow down a bit and appreciate so many things that in the past I have passed up and traded for what I liked to think or judged to be important business. I think that at this time in my life the important business is perhaps just in the traveling there and what you do on the way.


My produce safely home.

Such is the life of John.

The Bird, Fowl Pullover

Posted: October 9, 2013 in Everyday Life
Tags: ,

Well, I’m still on the road and looking for pullovers. It has been very bland traveling. I have my eye out for a “fruit stand” that I passed up a few weeks ago that I hope will open at least one more time this year. Pumpkin and squash season should be this week through Halloween. So on my daily route to my work site, nothin! I’ve had nothin’ ! Until today, but today I was the subject not the observer of a spontaneous pullover.  By this fellow: 

  •  TheBirdIII

     I do believe this is a white homing pigeon. I also believe that he is on his way home and he saw my construction site and decided to take a break and to do a spontaneous pullover himself.


     Look real close at his legs and you can see his bands above his feet.


    Each time I went outdoors this afternoon, he was there, as if waiting for me. He would then follow me while I was outside.  When I went back indoors, he seemed to wait out there, pecking at what ever it is that birds peck at, seeds maybe bugs. Here he followed me down the hill to a small puddle of water. When I left for the evening he was still there. I said goodby and wished him a good trip.

    I may have a new totem animal. I had an excellent time being Homer’s pullover subject.

    Such is the life of John.


As a child my first encounter with human death was at the age of eight attending my grandfather’s funeral. We lived on a farm at the time and seeing the death of animals of all sorts was already common even for a boy of my age. But now experiencing the thoughts all people have of death of a close family member, this was the first personal relationship I had lost and my mind was filled with all sorts of thoughts.  And it was the first that I remember thinking of human death and realizing that someday I may experience it. Even at that age I was skeptical of the traditional explanations of heaven that my mother was telling me. Welcome to a bit of my childhood macabre and a night I spent peering from underneath my blankets and even then making up words for things I was trying to understand.

There are none
None that burn the candle or stir the last dimming coals
that haven’t listened for that noise or peered into the night shadows
listening for that hum and watching for the fleeting movement in the night
while holding breath and staring deeply with squint eyes
hoping it is not there but still anxious to have but a glimpse
as if seeing only briefly would make it less.
Beware the Doombroser.
One that no one has seen but all have felt.
Beware your wish to see that shadow or hear that hum.
For last visions seen and last breaths taken may follow.
From under the protection of blankets I watch and listen
Minding mother’s words, he is only asleep and he has gone to heaven
And remembering the smell of the white magnolias.