Posts Tagged ‘traveling’

I am thinking of the bird’s nest built on the spring season wreath that was hanging on my front porch at home this summer. I thought the eggs would surely be hatched by the time I returned. Perhaps then the young birds, mouth wide open, would still be begging a meal from mother robin and stealing a bug or two from their nest mates. Or maybe if I was long coming  home, they would have flown the nest, placing their trust in the thin air as I am today traveling far from my home.

It is always sunny here on top, above the clouds. As the wisps of mist turn to thin clean air, we break into a hidden world above the cloudy day. Towering columns reach high but try as they may they still are beneath us. Our earth thousands of feet below is now only white vapor and rain and clouds covered by sunshine.

One hundred and five minutes, that’s how long it will take to travel what would take my four-wheeled conveyance eleven and a half hours. I’m traveling seven times faster but there is no breeze to my face or rumble at my feet. And as far as I know, no one on my bumper, to the left or right of my lane or rambling too slow ahead of us. How can others sleep while I am wide-eyed. I have traveled 12700 miles by air this year so far. I have never kept track of the miles in earlier years. Tell me, how many miles does it take until a guy is able to read a newspaper, play a computer game or sleep while being 35000 feet in the air and traveling 535 miles an hour? How many miles until you are deadened to the marvel of it all? Keep the orange juice, forget the pretzels or peanuts, don’t bother me, I’m looking out the window and wishing I was up front.

Nothing better than being on the way home. Check your bags, who cares if you’ll never see them again. No reason to drag your dirty laundry with you in the tightly packed, neatly tagged and tiny wheeled canvas Samsonite. Sure, keep the computer and camera but pack the little black bag so you are traveling lightly. You need at least one hand to drink the Tim Hortons or Starbucks. Worry about balancing the coffee and watching the scenery, not balancing two bags and keeping sight of your replaceable possessions. Don’t waste your time and energy protecting your “stuff”. You are miles from home and seeing things that you may never have the chance to see again, even if it is just a pretty girl or a set of 4-year-old twins each carrying a complete boxed set of Matchbox cars that Dad gave them on his way to war.

DSS

* From 4 years ago.

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We drove into the rain last night
followed skies lit by lightning strikes distant miles away.
We were sprayed by rain raised from the lanes of giant trucks
with bright red and yellow tail light eyes
that streaked across our faces in time with our windshield’s electric rhythm and beat.
And we reminisced of other stormy nights
and recalled long forgotten birthdays and road trips
that may have also been our best of better days.

DSS

I approached a large green intersection sign and it said “Will Rogers Turnpike Next Right”. I have taken that tollway a few times and I have seen it on maps and I have just driven past it as I did last week. But I’ve never really thought about something. What I’ve never thought of but now seems so apparently ironic is this. Did the person that suggested Will Roger as the name for that tollway really know anything about him?

I have read a lot about Will Rogers and I have seen his films. His political satire is the best and very cutting. But he didn’t appear to give any politician a free ticket. Or a free pass or maybe you could call it a free toll ticket. He was the biggest promoter of a free public transportation system. But I now can’t help but think what Ol’ Will would have to say about having his name up in lights not at the movies theater but up in lights in the middle of a big 30 foot green tollway sign. And you may know some tollways in Oklahoma. You are stopped every 20 miles or so to pay another toll. Now I can’t help but think about how Mr. Rogers would be impatiently chewing his gum faster and faster searching for change before and after each one of those damn toll gates. Now that’s funny! I’m sure he would be writing about it in his daily newspaper columns.

Rest in peace Will, there are plenty of other things named after you, like airports. Oh my god! I never thought of that! What would he be writing about airports nowadays? Now that’s even funnier to imagine!

Such is the life of John

If you are reading this and you also watch a little TV, I know that not only do you love and read poetry but you have had a gnawing and nagging feeling of familiarity each time that you may have watched or heard the latest Volvo auto TV commercial.

Even if you have only read or heard just once the poem “Song of the Open Road” you can’t listen to that commercial without saying to yourself or to your pardner, “I have heard those words before!”. And there the “earworm” begins.

Yes, we can thank Volvo for bringing to the front Walt Whitman’s beautiful words again. If only a few small but pungent slices of it.  I catch only the first three lines of the poem and two more separated lines taken from the the 5th Stanza in the short TV version.

It is really tastefully done but considering the cost of the car they are promoting, it would have been much nicer if they would more openly given Mr. Whitman much more credit than a short hashtag at the end.

Find “Song of the Open Road ” here.

Google Volvo Commercial Poem to hear the ad. But they make a little longer extended version for the internet. In it they move the lines around in a different order. It is such a beautiful poem and they only show the poem title for no more than a couple seconds at the end. But it seems to me they have bastardized a great work. They really make it appear that the fellow in the commercial wrote the words. I guess you would have to call it an iteration, perhaps.

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.

“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.

 

Orie, Page 2

Posted: January 30, 2017 in Everyday Life, poet, writing
Tags: , , , ,

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

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

I wake up alone and cold, I check the time, it’s 05:50 AM. I realize, that’s not my clock! I’m not in my own bed. It’s OK, I’m on the road again.

I calculate how many minutes I have before I have to drag out of bed to face the shower. I say face the shower because it is cold in the room and it is dreadful to think of getting cold dripping wet. No matter how hot I make it, there comes a time when I must turn off the hot water, open the curtain and grab the towel. The blast of chilled air as I open the shower curtain is the most uncomfortable feeling of the day. I’m naked, dripping dog wet, chilled and with a primal urge to shake, nose to tail. I plan how in the same motion I will grab the towel and slam the bathroom door shut. What was unnoticed air entering a few minutes ago, now feels like a freezer cold draft. I can’t dry fast enough.

As I shave, I realize I must do the second most dreadful thing of the day. I must make the coffee, hotel coffee. Enough said about that, if you drink coffee, you know what I mean. The first cup of coffee must be drank hot and before you are dressed.  Sitting in your shorts, cup held full palmed, gazing straight ahead unfocused is best. I’ve tried other ways of having the first cup of morning coffee. I’ve put it in a thermos jug the night before, but by 6:00 am it is lukewarm. I have requested room service in the hotels that offer it, it usually arrives late and it is cold or it arrives on time and it is cold. It’s impossible to deliver hot coffee anywhere. It will always lose it’s heat on the trip up the elevator. Even if you have a microwave in the room, reheated coffee is not the same.

Facing the cold vehicle is not at all enjoyable either. Warming up a car at a hotel is different too. First of all, the car is always parked in the farthest available parking space. I must start it up and let it sit to warm up enough to soften the ice and snow. So I either have to start it and sit there freezing my butt waiting for it to warmup or take a chance. The chance is starting it up, turning on all of the heat then locking it up, leave it in the parking lot running, while I run back to the lobby for more luke warm hotel coffee. Doing this at home in the driveway is one thing. Doing this in the outskirts of St. Louis is another. Or are the chances of anyone wanting to steal an ice-covered, frozen vehicle pretty slim?

I guess being on the road is an experience of a lack of warmth.

 

Such is the life of John

Good-bye Columbus

Posted: October 13, 2014 in science
Tags: ,

On this day, Columbus Day 2014, perhaps it is appropriate that in North America millions of its New World population are threatened by a disease,  brought by a people from another continent, that could conceivable wipe them out.

E.