A Coin of Love….

Back on November 9th in 1874, a baby was born.  The only other thing which I know about her was that her Grandfather loved her.  I know this because of a Canadian 25 cent piece which I bought a long time back from a buyer friend of mine who goes up to New England occasionally and brings things back to sell.  I bought the coin from him.

Back in the old days, coins were used a lot of times to transform into keepsakes.  They were used for birthdays, anniversaries, sweethearts, and other occasion’s people wished to commemorate.  They were made from silver, and things being what they were back then, they were objects of value.

This particular coin must have been cherished by its original owner because it is in almost perfect condition.  It still has the original little yellow ribbon which must have been on it the day it was given to “Madgie” which is the name on the back of the coin.  But it’s the little not which came with the coin which is sort of heartbreaking.

It says:  “My Grandpa, it would be great-great Grandpa to Margaret, gave this to me at my birth November 9th 1874”

It breaks my heart that this keepsake was separated from it’s “family” either on purpose or accidentally.  I know if I had a coin from my Grandmother which her Grandfather had given her I would certainly cherish it.  But…sometimes things do happen.

I know today, when I looked at my darling curly haired blonde granddaughter with her darling blue eyes, I wish I had found a silver coin for her back on January 8th 2015 and had it engraved for her. Perhaps I still will….

This coin and the card “provenance” which is with it is a very rare piece.  I’m selling it and I hope to get $75 dollars from it.  If anyone is interested just let me know.  If you know of someone who is named Margaret and who is nicknamed “Madge” or “Madgie” let them know.  I hope I can find a good home for this beautiful coin which was given out of love to a baby a long time ago.  It deserves a new home and not a trip to the scrap pile!

Memories….in the corners of your mind….

I wonder, what is the first memory that any reader can remember?  It’s funny how our mind works isn’t it.

But, that’s my question for today.  What’s your first memory?  That will eventually lead me to my other question.

See, the reason it interests me is that I often wonder if everyone else’s brain functions about the same as mine.  Most of my childhood memories are rather fuzzy around the edges.  Do you know what I mean?

They are sort of like trying to look at something right after you have just woke up, and still have a ton of “sleep” in your eyes.  Or maybe it’s like trying to remember a dream that you had the night before, during which you woke up.  The dream is really clear when you first wake up, but if you EVER want to remember it well you should take the advice of dream specialists and write it down right then.  If not, it’s going to be fuzzy in the morning.  Fuzzy around the edges, just like those earliest memories.

Sometimes I wonder if some of my memories are really dreams.  Or perhaps some of the things I thought I have dreamt, are actually reality. Is that possible?  I think it might be.  As we go through life, and we live through so many different things, it may just be that some of our more vivid dreams get mixed up in our brain with reality.

Well for starters, the very first thing I remember is having to go potty really, really bad.  We lived in a house back in 1953, when I was three years old, which was originally a duplex that had been turned into a regular house.  I remember that it confused me, because both sides of the house seemed to be the same, except the living room furniture was in one side and the bedroom furniture in the other.

I remember thinking that the rooms were the same, and that when I blinked my eyes, or went to sleep (especially if I got carried from one side to the other during that time) that the furniture was rearranging itself!  Strange, no?  But, back to pottying.  I had to go really, really bad, and nobody was around to “direct” me to the correct place, so down went the pants and…..well..you can guess the rest.  The part I remember the most, was getting my rear end tanned by my Pop!   I never, ever did that again!

I also remember having a pair of Easter bunnies that same year.  Dad brought them home in a box, and we took them out back to eat grass and they got away from us and ran up under the car.  It took Daddy forever to catch them, and I didn’t know what some of the words he was using meant, but I used one of them later on when I rode my tricycle down the front steps, and had to go get my head sewn shut.  I can’t remember what happened to those rabbits though.  I think Dad probably got tired of them making a mess and got rid of them one night while the furniture was changing itself around.

Another vivid thing during that same year I believe was during the summer we would catch “lightning bugs” (fireflies to a lot of you)  We would put them in a jar and I would take them to a dark place and try to use them like a flashlight!  Usually, we would let them go before going in for the night, but once we forgot and I came out the next morning, and couldn’t figure out why the bugs wouldn’t light up.  I didn’t realize that after being in a closed jar with no hole all night long, they were never going to light up again!  Dad said they were dead.  I didn’t know what that meant back then.

I know that I lived the first two years of my life at my Grandparent’s house.  My Dad didn’t get out of the Navy until 1952, so my Mom and I stayed with them.  I have seen pictures of myself at that age, but try as I might……try so very hard, I cannot recall any memories of any of those times before 1953 when we moved back to Trion, where I still live today.  I wish I could remember those times.  What would really be neat would be to be able to remember anything and everything that ever happened to you.  To just be able to sit down and say, “Now I am going to remember December of 1956 when I was six years old, and what happened at Christmas that year!”  That would be a miracle wouldn’t it?  There are people who can do this actual thing.  They had a group of them on T.V. not long ago and one of them was actress Marilu Henner.  All I could say when they got through was wow!

Scientists say that everything is stored right up there in that little 3 pounds of gray jelly we call our brain.  That wonderful, misunderstood and not fully explored organ that runs us.  I have tried everything from meditation to “commanding” my brain to remember, to closing my eyes and straining and squinting, like the Japanese guy on “Hero’s” used to do when he stopped time.  I still can’t make it happen!  Are all of you folks like that, or is it just me!!!  I would like to know, so I can claim a deficiency if I am the only one.

Memory and the brain.  They really are a strange thing.  I remember one time when my Grandfather was in his last year of life.  He didn’t know anybody, or anything much.  When we went to visit him, he would just sit around and kind of “babble” like a tape recorder  randomly playing back snippets of conversation recorded over years and years of time.  Nothing made much sense.  He always seemed like he was glad to see us, and sad to see us go…but…things were just not perking right.  My Grandma was sitting there one day and talking about one of their relatives, and Grandpa spoke up all of the sudden and said: “Lloyd’s dead” My Grandma answered him back telling him how crazy he was, because she had just talked to her brother Lloyd the day before.  That afternoon when we took Grandma back home, she found out that Lloyd had died right around the time we were all at the Nursing home.  So…the brain’s an awesome thing isn’t it?  I would have bet you a million dollars that Grandpa couldn’t count to five anymore, but somehow, someway he knew his brother in law had died.

Maybe not being able to recall everything that has ever happened to us is a blessing.  We might not be able to be selective and just remember the good things.  We might also have to remember the bad things too.  There are a lot of those things that I would rather keep shoved back into the tiny recesses and crevasses of my mind.  Yes, my mind.  When all is said and done, it is what we are isn’t it?  Even when Grandpa’s was taken mostly away, he was given a gift of sorts to replace what had been taken from him.  I guess our spirit sort of resides there.  Our soul.  It’s about the only part of us they can’t replace, and never will be able to replace.  Shoot, you can have a ticker transplant and go right on being yourself, but a diving accident can turn you into something you would rather not think about!  It makes you wonder about all those people who do have that kind of damage.  Have their souls, what made them who they were, already fled the premises and just left the empty shell behind?

Well, there’s the challenge for those of you who care to take it up.  Can your remember everything?  What was your first memory?  Would you like to be able to have total recall?  When our old brain is gone, like Grandpa’s was, are we still us?  I think so.

Oh by the way.  Does anybody remember a Science Fiction thriller from the 50’s named “Donavan’s Brain?”  It was about this guy whose brain was taken out of him while he was still alive, and put into this thing that looked all the world like a ten gallon fish aquarium!  They had all kind of wires hooked up to it, and had it connected to a computer looking thing.  Ol’ Donovan’s Brain could still “communicate” and eventually took over some folks, if I remember right, making ‘em do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.  It was scary!  I hope to heck humanity never learns to do that.  I hope they never learn to “store” our minds on computers either.  Never able to “download” the electrical impulses from our brains onto some kind of infernal storage unit, to be put into a program so we can still communicate with the living.  I don’t wanna’ be a machine.  When it’s time for me to go, I want to go.   I wonder, what will my last thought be?  Whatever it is, I won’t be able to share it with any of you guys that are left behind, so I guess I better concentrate on sharing what I want to now, while I still can!!

Big Red Button

I think I had an episode of near insanity a few years ago while I was at work.  I think it was due to what I was doing at the time. It was all so absurd!  I was standing there in some clerk’s office talking about doing DCR’s on CAR’s, and all that kind of techie stuff (and if you know what I am talking about….poor you!) and then I suddenly froze and thought, this is crazy!

What has humanity come to when we place such importance on doing documents on how to produce rugs at the optimum quality to go into peoples bathrooms?  Not only documents but entire manuals, and thick manuals at that!   Heck, the first time somebody puts those rugs down, they are just going to get pee’d on by their six year old son.  It was so stupid, and hit me with such a weird feeling, that I  had to physically grab hold of the desk where I was sitting to keep from jumping up and  running down the hallway howling and whooping at the top of my lungs.  (I restrained myself, however)  It was a surreal experience.  I almost felt like I was in the Twilight Zone, and that I was not really real, but was instead living in a kind of strange and hideous alternate universe.  I honestly hope I never feel that way again!  It was disconcerting.  It made my skin crawl.

Back in my Grandparents time, people worked the land for their food.  They had cows and chickens and other animals to help provide what their family needed.  Grandma made most of the clothes, and a lot of other things that were used by the kids.  There may have been three or four other books in the entire house besides their old worn Bible.  Everyone was kind of left to their own imagination for entertainment.  I guess it was really kind of boring, honestly.  It was simple anyway.  Maybe simple is good!  Maybe simple is the setting for which a lot of us are pre-wired.

I don’t know exactly when the change happened.  I think maybe right after World War II.   Things have surely changed though.  Technology keeps making giant strides forward like some kind of possessed behemoth running amok here on the Earth. It’s like something out of H.G. Wells is trying to destroy us.  It’s like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, only this time WE created the alien technology, instead of it coming from a pod in outer space!

We have gone from the agrarian age, that age of simplicity and “boredom” (which equates to time to do things we can’t find time to do today) to the age of information (which equates to NEVER having time to do everything we think we NEED to do) in a space of 60 years or so.  From my weird experience in that office that day, I am almost positive that our brains (at least some of our brains, mine included) are unable to absorb the pace of technology that has run over us like a steamroller on hot tar.  It’s flattened a lot of us!  I do use a computer.  As a matter of fact I am using one to write this blog.  But if you put a gun to my head and said “tell me how it works or I will shoot your brains out,” I would have to whisper:  “Is pushing the Start button a good enough answer?”  I can’t tell you how MOST things work, I have only learned to use them because I don’t want to be left behind in the dust by the scads of younger folks who are growing up in this “brave new world.”

I am afraid I have plunged deeply into this unreality though.  I use DVD players and Nintendo’s, and Computers to play games, and to work and sell things on EBAY, which is a place for selling things in which the customer never gets to touch or feel the merchandise until AFTER they buy it!  I use Satellite Radio, my car diagnosis itself for problems and tells me when it needs to be fixed; my Mom had a pacemaker that the Dr. could adjust by holding the phone up to it.  And on and on and on we go!!  What a crazy ride!

I wonder, if we could go back 100 years, after having a taste of this electronic age, would we?  Before Jet planes and electric guitars, would we?  Before electric shavers and microwaves?  Before Atomic bombs?

I don’t know about you, but if a Big Red Button was sitting in front of me that said “Go Back”  I don’t think I would even hesitate a second before I pushed it.  Would you?  At least I think it would keep me from running around and around some day, in a fit of insanity hooting and yelping like a hound dog!!

Pity for Potter

A few months back I was thinking of Christmas.  Isn’t it funny how it takes forever for Christmas to get here every year, and then….bang!  It’s gone in a flash.

Every year right after Halloween, I start thinking of Christmas movies.  Usually right after the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade they play “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart.  Most everyone has seen it, and know how it ends.  Stewart’s character George Bailey finds out at the last of the movie because of the way he has helped people, and had compassion for them throughout their lives, he has many more friends to help him out in his time of need than he ever thought possible.  He ends up with more than enough money to pay his debt to the bank off and everything ends up happily ever after.

But…what happened to Potter?  Potter curmudgeonly old rich banker who from his wheelchair was one of the meanest, nastiest characters to ever to grace a movie.   I often wonder about his life after the end of the movie.  Henry F. Potter, the stingiest and most immoral man in Bedford Falls.  Did he repent his ways after George Bailey won back the Savings and Loan?  Did he double down and continue to torment George Bailey and his family?  Did he die from frustration?

I looked up the meaning of pity and it reads as follows:  “the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others.”

“her voice was full of pity”

Synonyms   compassion, commiseration, condolence, sympathy, fellow feeling, understanding;

George’s Father “Pa Bailey” told George near the beginning of the movie that he pitied Potter.  He had been fighting against him for a lifetime to try and keep him from taking over his business, and yet he did not hate him, he pitied him.

I have heard many people say that they don’t want other people’s pity.  The pride that we bear, sometimes false pride, prevents us from accepting the pity of others.  But look again at the meaning of pity.  I know that I have had times when I have needed the sorrow and compassion of others.  Without it I may have been lost.  More people should forget about their “hubris” and accept the compassion of others.  Pity people like Henry F. Potter.  I pity him, even though he is just a character in a movie.

But, more than that, I pity those who are like him in our world today, in our country….in our home town.

My first gut reaction to the “Potters” of the world is often anger and the need for retaliation, but that is my pride…my own hubris getting in my way, getting in my eyes and my mind and clouding my judgment, clouding my need to think things out and do the right thing.  Pity me for that.  And continue to have compassion for anyone and everyone else who needs it.  It’s the only way to really live your life.

Voices of the Past

Of all the qualities which set human beings apart from the rest of humanity, there is our voice.  It was this means of communication which allowed us to move beyond other species and become social animals.

Our voice allowed our ancestors to pass on instructions on how to do critical things to survive.  We began to live less off of instinct and more off of experiences passed down from generation to generation.  Language came long, long before the ability to write and so most knowledge was passed down by oral tradition.  Since early man tended to live in familial situations, with tight family ties, language probably varied a lot, and then as families stretched out and became tribes the group adopted the most useable language form available to communicate within the entire group.

But, the anthropological aspect is not where I want to concentrate.  It’s the spiritual and mystical aspect of the voice to which I wish to “speak”

I’ve had so many wonderful and unique voices which have inhabited the echoes of my mind.  My Dad’s laugh…I can never get it far from my immediate memory.  He laughed a lot and at a lot of things.  He gave me a lot of advice with that voice.  I took some of it, and some I wish I had taken.  His voice was stilled in 2010.

My Grandfather Jervis’s voice.  My voice is a mixture of his voice and my Dad’s, leaning more heavily towards his.  He could sing from bass to tenor and I inherited a bit of that.  I used to sit around in his living room and listen to him sing his “scales”  “Do..do..do……do, ray, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do..do..do..”  I got up in front of the congregation where my Grandpa was song leader when I was four years old and waved my hands around like I was conducting the choir.  Nobody laughed or made fun of me.  I was really proud of myself and I remember it so well.  My Grandfather’s voice was stilled in 1991.

My Mom and my Grandmother had similar voices…and they were both worriers.  I asked my Grandmother on her 100th birthday what she would have done different if she could go back and go it all over again.  She simply said “I’d worry about things less, because all the worrying I did never changed nothing” Her voice was stilled in late 1999.  I still dream of her quite often, most of the time in the kitchen.  She’s always telling me:  “I wouldn’t worry about that, Honey” she’ll say.  I still worry…I guess I can’t help it, I get it from her and Mom.  My dear Momma….she would always say “I love you” and too many times, “I’m sorry” for things which really were not her fault, not anybody’s fault, just fate and fate alone.  Mom’s voice was also stilled in 2010.

In late 1999, I was really scared.  The specialist had found a lump on my vocal cords and he was pretty sure it was cancer.  I went into surgery wondering if I would come out with a voice…..would I come out with a hole in my throat and no voice.  Turned out it was a big lump of scar tissue.  I came out with my vocal cords, but it took a year a rehabilitation to even get back to regular talking, much less singing.  I have had to be very careful since then.  Some days are good, some days not so good.  At least I still have that mechanism of communication to use with my family, my friends… (Although sometimes I bet they wish I would shut up!)

My voice will be stilled one day, as have been the voices of all human beings who ever lived.  I hope I have used it correctly…will use it better, and maybe there will be some memorable phrase “hanging in the air” for someone to remember me by.

Opening Day is a’ coming

Evocative of Baseball Opening Day

I feel like summer is just around the corner. As the calendar starts to near the end of March, I always start to look for it, start to feel it in my bones. Maybe it’s because the days start getting a little longer and a little warmer. Maybe it’s because they start talking about the Baseball trades that are happening on the sports reports. Opening Day is just a few days away! I feel the butterflies start to swim around in my stomach.

 

I tell you, spring and summer were the best times back in the 50’s and 60s’. None of that year round school for us old timers! May 31 rolled around, and it’s see ya’ later to the teachers until the first week of September….Yahooo!!

 

I would go to the old wooden toy box back in my room, and starting digging down to the bottom, looking for my old worn out, smelly leather baseball glove with “Pee Wee” Reece’s name engraved in it. I don’t know how I ended up with Pee Wee, as I never played a lick of ball in the infield. I was always an outfielder.

 

I tried out for third base once, but after I had stopped the first four hard bouncer’s that came my way with my face instead of my glove, the coach thought it might be safer to put me in left field. I agree with his decision.

 

I liked left field. It was one of those positions where you could kind of day dream a little. Most everything that came out that way was either an easy pop fly, or a one bouncer. I was a cinch at catching those. None of that “hot corner” stuff for me.

 

I once was standing out in left field during a game and looking down at the ground trying to spot any four leaf clovers that might be growing there. I heard the loud crack of the bat, and looked up to see the baseball headed over my head. Way over my head. I didn’t want to look completely stupid, so I turned around and stuck my old glove out and ran as fast as I could towards the fence. The ball dropped right into the webbing of my glove. I never saw it until it did. I heard a cheer go up from the stands, and when we came in, I got more pats on the back, and Atta boys then I had ever gotten before. I just said “I had it all the way”

I could never bring myself to disappoint all those people by telling them it was just pure luck.  As my old golf coach once said, “I’d rather be lucky than good any day”  I totally agree.

 

We are afraid….

….of things which are happening half way around the world.  And I know that we have to be cautious.  But, if we live our lives afraid of forces who do heinous things, and dramatically and cinematically record them just to make us afraid, then we have given over the victory to them.

Some members of humanity who are or were madmen have always done things such as this, but have never before had the ability to project them to the entire world on a practically uncontrolled and unregulated new technology.  Two beheadings of innocent men is an inhuman act but, I can’t imagine the kind of fear that Vlad the Impaler would have caused if he had been capable of putting his deeds on the Internet.

We didn’t have the internet between 1958 and 1962 when over 45 million Chinese people starved to death…so very few people even know about it.  The internet wasn’t there when 3 million or so people were tortured to death or hacked to death in the killing fields of Cambodia during the early 70’s.

Stalin’s forced starving of up to 12 million Ukrainians during the 30’s is scarcely known (because the Ukraine wanted independence…sound familiar??  And he was our ally??)   What is Facebook or Twitter had been around then?

Many, many acts of tremendous, inhuman violence have occurred during human history.  Way too many to mention here. Most of these acts are so deeply buried in history books that it is hard to seek them out and find them, and really hard to believe they really occurred. They were only documented on the written page, with few if any photographs.  There were no “viral videos” of them.

If I die in an attack on this country by these crazed terrorists, I will not do it because I am hiding in my house and not living my life.  Screw them, I refuse it!  I hope to make a trip to the beach next month and I’m going to sit around and worry about them.  The hell with them.

Let the countries in the neighborhood of these killers put the boots on the ground, or let them be taken over.  I don’t think they will let that happen.  Saudi Arabia itself has one of the most well equipped and largest armies in the world.  Outside of Israel, they are the strongest in the area.  Maybe they think their army is “just for show” so let them put it to work.  We certainly have provided them enough money one way or the other. Also how about Jordan and Turkey…the countries who want the U.S. to foot the bill and provide the manpower.  Let them do it.  Their excuse is that we caused it, and that may have some truth to it.  They want us in, then they want us out, then they want us in.

There are many more things that I am afraid of, besides the beasts in the Middle East.

I’m afraid of the loss of love within families, friends and communities.

I’m afraid of seeing another child die at the hands of their Father or Mother, because we are unwilling to stop the drug problems in this country or because we are afraid to admit that we need many more facilities and experts to treat mental illness, we need more and better trained workers to help.

I’m afraid of another kid being mistakenly killed in his bed by some “gang” member who is there because he had nothing better to do, maybe nothing to do at all.

I’m afraid we have spent way, way too much money on fighting wars in foreign countries and way, way too little money on creating jobs for young people, and on education.  If we had taken all the money we have spent on war in the last 13 years and applied it to education, not one student would have had to pay for a college education.

I’m afraid we are becoming creatures who depend too much on electronic devices as a way to express ourselves, and not enough time looking into each other’s eyes when we speak.

I’m afraid we are going down the path of sacrificing our emotions, our privacy, our finances, and our freedom to the idol of the “cloud” What happens when we turn so much of our lives over to it, that if a solar flare brings it all down we would be hard put to survive?  Are we there already?

As I was exercising on 911, I was looking out the big window in the front of the room and saw at least 6 jets flying from West to East.  They were not the ones who leave the big puffy contrails, but the ones in a hurry to get somewhere, whose contrail vanishes in a minute or two.  I bet there were a lot of fighter planes in the sky that day.  We have a lot of them in this country.  We have a pretty damn secure country really.  We have a pretty great country really.

It’s going to be a real shame if we let fear mongers, warmongers, professional people dividers, the media, the politicians, the mega financial institutions, or the terrorists scare us into abandoning or giving away the freedoms we have been given in this country.

I really think if anybody with ill intent hits the beaches of our country they will be in for a big surprise.

Hands in my Pocket

I was walking along today with my hands in my pocket like I sometimes do, and noticed some things in there that I couldn’t tell what they were by the feel.  So, I came up to my desk and unloaded my pockets.  I had the following things in there:

A cutting glove and a carpet knife.  An ink pen, my keys, my Swiss Army knife, a small bottle of nitroglycerin, a pill  bottle with some aspirin in it, four receipts for different things, a set of nail clippers, a money clip (no money, just a clip) a Quartz crystal, $2.75 in change and one sheet metal screw.

And they say women have a lot of things in their purses!  It’s no wonder I am 10 pounds lighter when I am not wearing any clothes.  (ok…quit that…)

I remember the strangest thing I ever had in my pocket was when I was about 8 or 9 years old, I went fishing with my Dad.  I was down the bank of the river a little bit from where he was and I caught a little bream about 3 inches long.  I hollered at Daddy, and he told me to throw it back in that it was too little to keep and put on the stringer.  Well, since it was the only fish I had caught that day I was a little jealous so I put it in the pocket of my Jeans instead.  I forgot about it.

A day or so later the laundry started to stink.  My Mom was obsessed with keeping our clothes washed thank goodness or it could have been worse.  When she put her hand down in my blue jeans, I heard her yell, even though I was out in the front yard.  Thank goodness my Dad had a sense of humor about it.  He only pretended to get onto me, winking at me and grinning the whole time!

Me and My Guitar

The guitar and I go back a long way.  I think I was 11 when Dad and I first went to the pawn shop in Rome and looked at guitars.  I wanted a Bass (wanted to be in the band y’know) but I came away with a Kay scroll side acoustical guitar, with strings that were about ½ inch above the fret.

Now anybody who has ever played a guitar knows that the “action” of the strings, i.e. the closer they are to the frets and the neck of the guitar, the easier they are to press down and get a sound out of, and thus the easier the instrument is to play.  ½ inch is a LONG way for a beginner, especially with metal strings.  I found out after I had owned the guitar for several weeks that the strings could be adjusted down.  By that time, I had permanent calluses on ALL the fingers on my left hand…which have never, never gone away.  This is the way you can tell a real guitarist though.  Let somebody pick up a guitar and plunk away on it for a half hour and then they start looking at the tops of their fingers like “damn that hurts”  NEWBIE!  Either that, or they wienie out and go to a Spanish guitar with nylon strings and say “I want to be like Segovia”  Well, if you want to be like Andres Segovia, you better plan on practicing 12 to 14 hours a day and have natural talent to begin with to boot.  There are NOT many Segovia’s, or even Chet Atkins for that matter.  Some people have it, and some people don’t.  You can teach yourself, or be taught to play a guitar, but you can’t be taught to be a Segovia or an Atkins.  That kind of talent has to be in the genes.  But…in any case…as I was saying, the metal makes the man when it comes to guitars, and if you ain’t got the calluses, don’t whine!

I had three guitar lessons before my Dad figured out it was too much of a pain to take me all the way 6 miles down the road to Summerville, especially since I wasn’t much interested in learning how to finger pick “Red River Valley” or any other country tune from the 1940’s.  I finally ended up doing it the way I have done almost everything else in my life…I learned it on my own.  I looked at a book and got the chords down pat and then just started practicing them over and over again.  I watch other people who knew how to play do their thing, and picked up some things from them.  Mostly I did my own thing though.

I don’t pick up any of my guitars as often as I should.  I have three or four of them sitting around.  (And yes, one of them is a Spanish guitar that my wife got me for a Wedding present!  Thing about it is, I HAD the calluses before I got this guitar so when I play it, I don’t feel like a wienie)  This past week when I was feeling like crap, I picked my guitar up off the bed and just sat down and started to play.  For me, at least right now, it’s still comes easy.  My brain sends those long ago learned and practiced chords and notes down through the nerve endings in my fingers and the music starts to come out of the guitar.  It’s like a small miracle really.  I can’t remember what I had for supper last night, but I can still play “Down Yonder” or “Wildwood Flower” like it was 1963!  Over forty years and my brain still remembers!  I think the day I pick up the guitar and I can’t remember the chords or the notes that I learned so long ago is going to be a VERY sad day.  I really hope it never happens.  There is such a bond between a player and their instrument, that if that bond is broken, it would be almost like a death of dear friend.  Oh how much you would mourn that loss!  I know the look in my Grandfather’s eyes back years ago when he would pick up that banjo that he had played for years and couldn’t quite get the music to come out the way it did before.  It was a sad and confused look.  A pitiful look.  It wasn’t too long after that when Grandpa had to go to the nursing home because he really couldn’t remember anything anymore.  Or anybody.  I pray to the creator that I don’t go that route.  One of the first songs I wrote when I took up songwriting was about Grandpa and his banjo.  It’s called “Blue Ridge Mountain Symphony.”  I have a good demo of the song, maybe one of these days I will get it on the site so folks can listen to it.

I really think that the fact that man decided to pick up some pieces of wood and put cat guts on it, or thump on a hollow log and call it music, was one of the things that eventually differentiated us from all the other creatures that our creator made.  I can’t recall seeing any animal but a human pick up a musical instrument and play it.  (ok…they train chimps to do it…but that’s different, they don’t give a hoot….or perhaps that’s an ooh..ooh…ooh…about what they are doing!  Man is the only creature who has made a connection with things musical, and I think that is one of the only real connections we have with divinity.  I really think God enjoys music.  He digs dancing too…remember when David danced before God, and he was pleased?  We sell God short sometimes I think, imagining that ALL he is, is this stern and terrible judge sitting behind a judges bench with a big gavel, ready to convict us of all our sins and send us straight to blazes.

Anyway, I digress.  So the other day when I continued to play, I also started humming some familiar tunes to the chords.  Peter, Paul and Mary were remembered of course, with “Jet Plane,” and “Puff the Magic Dragon”  I covered Peter and Gordon with “I Go to Pieces”  I stepped forward with “The Ones the Wolfs Brought Down”  a song that Garth Brooks recorded which never made to the singles chart, but in my opinion certainly should have.  I went through “Stepping Stone” which Paul Revere and the Raiders, and the Monkees covered.  I did “Friends in Low Places” because that’s just how I felt!   Then I just sat there for half an hour more making up little runs and tunes from the Blues to Rock and Roll.  I found a couple of riffs I really liked and just played them over and over, hoping I might remember them if I ever get near a recorder again, and want to put down something new.  I really wish I had the time.  I feel like I have cheated something or somebody sometimes because I haven’t been as “creative” as I should have been.  When do you have time to be creative?  Seems like back in the 80’s I had a hell of a lot more time to write and create and try to do things that might be some kind of “legacy”  Now I’m not so sure about legacies anyway.  Who’s really going to care?  Is it something my children and grandchildren would REALLY want to sit down and take time to listen to, or will they get into the same rut as I seem to be in now, which leaves you with no time to do anything but work, eat and sleep and a few minutes on the weekend to catch up with your chores.  I swear to goodness, I can never remember the days being so crammed full of stuff that the only time I pick my guitar up and play it is when I am at home sick, and my tooth and mouth are hurting like hell, and I need some solace from somewhere.

How I do go on about a piece of wood with some string pulled across it, don’t I?  But yet, there IS something mystical in our relationship with our instruments, just like there is in our relationships with other people.  I know for a fact, I pick up guitars at stores and flea markets and stuff and strum them and they seem like “strangers” to me.  The sounds that come out are not as comforting as they are from my familiar instruments, especially my 40 year old Classical.  The sounds I get from her are like recordings from years past of all the things, people and places that have I have experience while I have owned her.  (yes the guitar is a she!) Those memories which are stored there could not come from some “newcomer”  It’s like your family.  I know we meet and enjoy new friends…especially those with common memories of things that we have experienced, but no one has the connections that your family has to you.  That’s why my family is so special to me.

Well…I guess I may go pick up the guitar and plunk on it a while.  I hope I haven’t bored everyone to death with my ramblings.  I’ll leave you with this from the late George Harrison:

look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps
I don’t know why nobody told you how to unfold your love
I don’t know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you.

I look at the world and I notice it’s turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps
I don’t know how you were diverted
You were perverted too
I don’t know how you were inverted
No one alerted you.

I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
Look at you all…
Still my guitar gently weeps.

To All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before.

I almost ran over a dog this morning on the way to the store.  The old boy just ran right out in front of me, and if I still didn’t have some of the fast reflexes that I was blessed with in my younger years, he would have been a goner.  I’m glad I missed him.

It got me to thinking, of all things, about Dogs.  They are certainly the creature that is the closest to humans.  Now I know all you Cat people are going to holler at me.  Cats can be good pets too, but they are of an independent and for the most part aloof nature.  They seem to act like they are the ones that own the human instead of vice versa.  Dog’s on the other hand, with the exception of a few breeds, and some few individual dogs, are without doubt “Mans (and Women’s) best friend”

The first dog I can remember having was a Collie-German Shepherd mix breed that I named Bullet.  Old Bullet, as any of you know who have been reading my stuff for a while, was a faithful friend to ME, but didn’t particularly care for the thieving neighbor kids who constantly stole my toys, and threw them up under their house.  Anytime he would catch them in our yard, he would nip at them all the way back to the boundary of their yard, and then stop and let them go on to their house.  He saved me from going out into the road and getting myself in mortal danger by grabbing the seat of my pants and pulling me back into the yard.  I spend many hours on the back steps, just throwing sticks, and balls, and any other thing I could get my hands on and letting him grab them and tote them back to me.  Somebody poisoned old Bullet, and he died a painful death.  He didn’t deserve that, no animal does.

We didn’t get another dog until we moved away from that neighborhood, and those particular neighbors.  The second dog I can remember having was a mix blood Cocker Spaniel and Bird dog, with long white curly hair.  Naturally, his name was “Whitey” (see how cunning our young minds are?)  Whitey was a great dog too.  He loved us kids and my folks so much, he could hardly stand himself.  Anytime any of use was outside, he was right up next to us like….well…fleas on a dog, so to speak.  He loved ALL kids, including the neighbor kids, and would run through piles of leaves with us in the fall of the year, and wallow around in them just like he knew we were all having fun.  And, I guess he was.  He developed a bad habit though, of running after my Dad every time he would get in the car and drive off.  I guess he was sort of trying to stop him from going anywhere, because he wanted him to stay and play!  Who knows how dogs think?  Dad had already hit him a couple of times with the car, because he would just run right up under the front of it.  One day he came back almost right after he left the house, and old Whitey was piled in the floorboard of the back seat of the car.  He was all bloody and whimpering.  He had got up under one of the wheels of the car, and had gotten it bad.  We took him out next to the dog house, and I patted his head.  He whimpered a couple of more times, and licked my hand once, and then he was gone.  We buried him up in the woods just past the cemetery that was right next to our house.

Now Dad got into hunting and bought three Beagles.  Lady, King and Husky.  They were NOT very good pets.  They had to be penned up all the time because they were already adult dogs when he got them, and they had been trained to run rabbits.  There is NO power in the world that is going to stop a Beagle from running a rabbit once he learns how to do it, and these three were no exception.  Dad would take them up above the cemetery, where the woods were, and just turn them out of the car and let them smell around until they caught the trail and then it was off to the races!!  Those dogs would get after that rabbit, or more than one rabbit and would run them until the rabbit backtracked towards where we were.  That was their job, to bring them back by, so that Dad had a shot at them with the gun.  One day they got after a particularly FAST rabbit.  They ran it for a couple of hours, and Lady and Husky dropped out and just sat down next to Dad and listened to King out there still baying and howling and running that long legged buck rabbit.  Finally, he got the rabbit to run by Dad, after about three hours of chasing him.  Dad missed him.  King walked over to where we were, took one look up at Dad, and collapsed in a heap.  We thought he was dead!  It took a bucket full of water, both pouring it ON him and in him to bring him back around.  Old King never had much of an interest in chasing rabbits after that, and Dad had gotten kind of tired of standing around and listening to dog’s bark, so he sold them.  I can’t say I was totally sorry to see them go.  They were just NOT very affectionate.

After that, I don’t guess we really had many memorable dogs, until we moved again, back up to “Hot Town” We got a couple of puppies from a litter that my Uncle “Pinky” had raised.  I named one of them Lobo, after the TV dog.  This was along about the time I was a Junior in High School, and I was interested in a lot of other things besides my dog.  I did keep him fed, and remembered to pet him now and then, but didn’t really go much beyond that.  He was a faithful sort, and hung around the house for the most part.  He was part Husky or something though, and he hated other dogs as much as he loved people.  Just let another dog, of any kind or size walk across his territory, and there was going to be a fight!  Dad kept a bucket of water at the back steps to throw on tumbling mass of teeth and claws that sometimes developed in our back yard.  That dog got hurt so badly sometimes during these fights that I was certain he was going to die.  I used up bottles and bottles of Hydrogen Peroxide cleaning out his nasty wounds.  He always seemed to survive though, and would just add another scar to his bruised up old body.  He was so tough that he was still kicking around after I had gone off to College and gotten married after my Freshman year.  My new wife was amazed at the near gangrenous wounds he would develop that I liberally poured the peroxide onto.  One day when he was about ten years old, he got into it with a big old dog that was part Pit bull.  (Now I know it sounds cruel, but my folks NEVER believed in “house” dogs until much later on in their lives…so please don’t think we were mean, we just didn’t know any better at the time!) The big dog was young and strong, but Lobo had the experience on him, and after a few minutes of tumbling around, with me chasing them with a bucket of water and missing, he ran the big dog out of his yard.  He really got the worse of it this time though.  I cleaned him up and treated him the same as always, even giving him a penicillin pill.  He was too hurt to recover this time though, because of his age.  Lobo, the dog with nine lives, had finally met his match.

My wife and I moved off to Athens Ga., and took up residence there while I was going to school.  We decided we wanted a dog, and so we bought what would be the first in a LONG line of family pets.  This one was a Border Collie; we named “Lady”   We lived out in the “country” in a little brick rental house that had a well, and a little brick well house to protect the well.   The person we rented from didn’t allow dogs in the house, so we had to make the “well house” our dog’s home.  We also had an assortment of other pets, fish, and a gerbil.  The gerbil was an escape artist who got loose from his cage and chewed his way OUT of the house and IN to the well house.  He became a fixture there, as you would see him dart around the well house at times.  I didn’t like the little bugger anyway, because he had bit me, so I wasn’t about to make a major effort out of catching him.  The dog, Lady, was a sweet little dog, but as happens with nature and with kids of barely 19 years old who don’t know what they are doing she ended up with a litter of puppies, (beautiful little fur balls if I remember correctly and I think we ended up keeping a couple of them for a while.  My wife could remember, but I sure can’t, it’s been too long ago) I think we ended up giving poor Lady away when we moved (again) to another place on the other side of town.

We ended up somehow with a Black and Tan Dachshund named “Fritzie” I think we bought him from some women who was moving to Florida somewhere.  As it ended up, she may have been moving away to get away from Fritzes’ smell!!  That’s right, he was one more stinky little wienie dog.  You could give him a bath one night, and by the next afternoon he had the strongest musty “boy dog” odor you ever smelled.  My wife and I conspired, and we gave him to my folks, who were after all without a dog since Lobo had died.  He was the first dog they ever attempted to keep in the house, since the lady who had given him to us had told us he was an “inside” dog.  After about a week though, my Dad walled off the brick patio he had built just outside the Kitchen window and it became Fritzes’ new home.  My Dad would get out there every day that the weather was nice, and hose that dog down with a hose and soap.  The next day he would smell so loud that the cats even stayed out of the neighborhood.  We tried everything, but to no avail.  I think Dad finally ended up giving him away to some really old folks, who loved him to death.  I think their sense of smell had abandoned them.  Either that or they were really lonely.

My wife had a pet Weimaurauner when she was a kid, and so when her brother, who also lived in Athens got a pair, well…we ended up with the somehow.  I don’t remember the exact circumstance, but “Misty and Abend” the silver slobbering hounds, came to live with us.  It wasn’t very long until they were ushered to my folk’s house again.  (Yes, my poor folks, while I am writing this I remember why we now take them out to eat and to their Drs., etc.  they were surely long suffering, especially when it came to taking OUR cast off pets!) My Dad kind of liked these two huge, slobbering girls, and built them a chicken wire fence on one side of the house for a pen, and got them a HUGE dog house.  The only thing about this breed of dog is that THEY CAN JUMP.  These two would jump OUT of the pen and start chasing anything that moved.  I think they were bred to chase stags in Germany, and of course since there are not too many stags in Georgia, they substituted anything they could find.  Rabbits, squirrels, other dogs, kids.  My Dad tried his best to keep them in that pen.  He got taller wire, and they still jumped over it.  He beat the tar nation out of them when he caught them jumping out.  It didn’t work, they were too stupid.  (or…too smart and just tough)  Finally, he gave THEM away to some folks who lived WAY back out in the country.  They guy who ended up getting them told my Dad that those two dogs ran deer to the ground!  Guess that’s what they always were looking for, but couldn’t find around town.

Of course, the best pet that my wife and I had all this time was a CAT.   That’s right, a cat.  His name was Hector, and we had gotten him for a “Wedding present” from one of our cat obsessed friends.  He was a big black fella’ with little white “booties” (booties…guys…booties…) on his feet.  I ended up becoming very fond of him over the five or so years we owned him.  He was actually more like a dog.

He was an “ambler” he never moved fast unless he had too.  He especially never moved fast when you wanted him to come somewhere.  But, when you started to catch him to put him in the car for the 3 hour ride home to visit the folks THEN he moved fast.  One of the memories that stand out the most in my mind about old Hector was on one of our frequent trips from Athens to Trion.  Hector usually slept most of the trip, but this time he was agitated.  I knew what was wrong, and was hurrying every chance I got to get him where we were going.  I knew it was in vain, when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw old Hector doing the #2 right up in the back window.  The people who were riding along behind us at the time were laughing so hard, they probably had to go to the hospital to get their busted gut sewn up!

Another time, we had to stop and get a tire changed that was about to go flat.  My wife was holding old Hector in her arms and he was being pretty patient about things.  All at once “Goober” Pyle who was changing the tire unhooked the connector between two air hoses, and it sounded like an air grenade had gone off.  Hector put two sets of claw marks in my wife’s shoulders and headed for some pine trees out behind the station.  It took us a couple of hours to coax him down out of those trees.  I won’t tell you into what part of “Goober’s” anatomy I wanted to put that air hose..But you know!

Yeah, old Hector.  He was usually pretty wary, but you couldn’t keep him inside.  He loved the outdoors, and would just stand there for long periods of time in the spring and sniff pine trees, and then wallow in the pine needles.  I don’t think he ever even had a flea!  He was crossing South Pond street in Toccoa, Ga., and didn’t make in time past on of the speeding motorists who used to come tearing down that street like it was a NASCAR racetrack.  I found him in the road.  I didn’t want to bury him in the town where he had gotten killed, and knowing how he loved the outdoors, I took him as far out Warwomen road in Rabun County as I could go on the dirt road, and buried him in a grove of Mountain Laurel.  Every once in a while his spirit ambles by and says ‘thank ya.’

After that, we had a succession of pets too numerous too mention.  Some cats, a whole BUNCH of tropical fish.  Guinea Pigs.  Boy did we have them.

That episode started out right after Paula and I got married.  She had a Guinea Pig named Schroeder, after Charlie Brown’s friend in the comic strip.  He was a little old guy the first time I say him.  He grew though.  He was fed well, and boy did he grow.  Well, we had Hector, or course and Hector and Schroeder didn’t get along too well….so, we took Schroeder up to my Dad and Mom’s house.  (You wouldn’t have guessed would you?)  Now my Dad kind of liked old Schroeder.  He built him a wooden pen up above the ground, and put tons of cedar shavings in it for Schroeder into.  Schroeder loved it.  He got about as big as a guinea pig can get.  He also started making these strange ‘brrrrr’ing noises.  We didn’t know what they meant, and we thought he was kind of lonely, so we

got another guinea pig, so he would have a friend.  We thought, what the heck.  Well, the new resident of the “pig pen” turned out to be a girl, and we then were able to finally figure out what Schroeder was “brrr’ing” about.  It wasn’t but a few weeks until there were about 8 little guinea pigs running around in the pen!  Far from being upset, my Dad thought it was a great idea.  We could sell the little ones back to the pet stores, and make some money off of them.  And so we did for a while.  The only problem was that Schroeder was a VERY potent little rascal AND we never really could tell girls from boys when they were little.  Plus, they burrowed down into those damn cedar chips and we could never find all of them.  My Dad ended up with so many guinea pigs that the Pet stores started hanging up the “Closed” sign when they saw him coming.  After a couple of years of  attempting “rodent” birth control, he finally called it quits, and sold off the entire herd.  Another pet experiment that ended up not turning out quite like we had imagined.

Kind of got off the subject of dogs there didn’t I?

Amway, our oldest living daughter was born in 1972, and from there son #1 in 1975, and son #2 in 1980.  Again, with kid’s come pets, and we had a plethora of them.  Mostly we had CATS!  I can’t remember all their names,  help me out here anyone who does!  There was the crazy Siamese cat from hell, who ran from under one bed to another and crapped all over the place.  He didn’t last long.  There was one particularly beautiful dark furred cat, that my daughter named “Menudo” after the Latin singing group.  He was so meek and mild you never knew he was there really.  He ate like a pig though, and grew really fast.  One day he started having ‘fainting’ symptoms, and we couldn’t figure out what was going on with him.  This happened to him over a period of a couple of weeks or so.  I was on the verge of breaking down and taking him to a Vet, when by chance I tried running my hand between his collar and his neck.  He had grown SO fast that the collar was cutting off his air, and probably his circulation too!  I felt so bad about it, I couldn’t stand it.  Of course we immediately remedied that situation, but Menudo never really seemed too smart after that.  He would be walking along, and just run into the wall for no reason.  Believe me, after that I have always checked collars, especially on really furry fast growing critters!  We had another cat that just arrived back home one day after being gone for a little while and had NO tail.  He was acting just as normal as could be, but his big long beautiful tail that he had when had left that morning was GONE.   This one DID mandate a trip to the Vet, who sewed up the cat’s rear end, and told us he would probably get along ok, but might have balance problems.  I don’t think he ever really did, that I can remember though.

We missed having a dog, and I tried to get one for the kids.  We bought a little brown Doxie who was a darling little dog, and named it Frisbee.  Since we still were not able to keep our pets in the house during the day, we penned little Frisbee out in the side yard.  She was a sweet little dog, and we really enjoyed having her.  She was also an escape artist. (as most doxies are)  and kept getting out.  Also, she was a barker, and our neighbors on that side didn’t appreciate her very much.   I don’t guess I can blame them really, but they were not too sympathetic at the time.  After Frisbee had a near miss with a car, (since we lived on 9th street, which was the main thoroughfare for people coming in to the Mill to work)  we found her a home with one of my daughter’s friend’s Grandmother.  The Grandmother loved the dog, and the dog loved her, so that one turned out like a fairy tale.

I guess the dog that we owned the longest when my kids were growing up was “Scruffy”  I used to haul off the trash sometimes to a local dump, and one day while I was there, this little white, dirty mound starting moving towards me.  It turned out to be a dog.  I couldn’t bear to leave here there, so I picked her up, and took her back home.  “What is that”  asked my wife.  “I think it’s a dog”  say I.  After washing her for what seemed like hours, it turned out that she was a miniature Poodle!  I don’t know WHAT she was doing at the dump.  Once she was clean, she pranced around the house like a proud veteran on parade.  We decided we would try to keep her inside and housebreak her.  Unfortunately, she had other ideas.  She wouldn’t go when we took her out, only when she came back in.  She also had the knack of being like Charlie Brown’s OTHER friend “Pig Pen” who could walk out of the house perfectly clean, and have dirt attack him!  Scruffy was unfortunately like that.  She was NOT however a wanderer.  She stuck right to the back porch, only leaving it to go to the bathroom or to explore the backyard a little.  She was really a perfect little dog.  I regret I never really took care of her as well as I should have.  I tried at first, giving her regular baths once a week or so, but within a day’s time, it looked like she had rolled in a mile of cow manure.  A dirt magnet, and she didn’t really seem to mind.  As we get old, we get wiser and I would never have let her get as matted as she sometimes did.  Mind you, she never got neglected and always had a warm place to sleep and plenty to eat.  We had her for about 10 years or so, and I really think she was about three years old when I found her.  She was suffering from arthritis I think, and was weak and could hardly move around, so we had to have her put to sleep.  I watched her eyes as she left, and it was really one of the saddest things I ever had to go through.  My oldest son and I buried her out in the back yard as far away from where the UPS trucks, and Post office trucks ran, as possible.

Oh…the UPS trucks…?? She HATED them and the Post Office trucks.  I think one of the Postmen must have sprayed her one day, just to be mean and from that point on, that little dog would have conniptions when one of those guys would come by.  She got so bent out of shape about them when she was older, that I thought she would have a heart attack and die.  I truly believe she would have eaten them from the ankles up if she could have gotten hold of them.  Never a mean bone in her little body for anyone else, but if you were a delivery person, WATCH OUT!  Good old Scruffy!

Our kid’s have been grown and gone now for a while, and a couple of years ago, Paula decided to go look at Doxie’s again.  We got carried away and brought three of them home!  This time, my oldest son, Ted and his daughter Autumn had gone with us.  I think they “helped” in the decision to bring home a whole crew.  We were thinking about “breeding” them.  Hah!

There was a boy and two girls, and the first time we started to feed them it became apparent that there was going to be problems.  The little boy dog fought the other two off like pit bull over the food.  We immediately began to wonder about the three dog decision.  My daughter, Kirsten bailed us out a little as I cajoled her into taking the little boy dog.  (wasn’t really much cajoling, I think she wanted him)  He was promptly named “Puck” and is about as well natured a little dog as you will find.  I think his family and he both are happy he is there.

As for the two girls, we named them “Fiona” and the little runt who is a “piebald” or Brown and white color, we named “Hoosier”  You can see her picture on my wife’s space.  Interestingly, the lady who we bought her from at first told us we couldn’t afford her, because she was so rare of a color in Daschunds.  But, as it turned out when we were making our final decision, the lady found that she had “Hoosies” papers messed up and didn’t have the right Father down.  We ended up getting her for less because the lady didn’t know who her Daddy was.  Thus the name “Who’s Your Daddy”  became “Hoosier” for short.

We learned about crate training, and at our “advanced” age now, also became more consistent about house training.  We even got a bell, and have trained Hoosi to ring the bell when she has to go out.  Honest, it works!  She is as much a part of our family now as one of the kids!  (sorry guys, but you know I love ya’!)  She gets the tummy rubs, the regular baths, the special treats, and her own chair between my computer and Paula’s.  She knows she is a pampered little lap dog!  I guess it’s an evolutionary process that we have gone through from all those years ago up til now.  And some people say wisdom doesn’t come with age!  Some of it does anyway.

In any case to all you pets that have come and gone, and still remain….thanks for the memories!!