Friday, February 27, 2015

. . . and Unavoidable

A couple weeks ago, we wrote about the "selfie stick."  Seems now it has overtaken everyone, even my heroes.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Found in the Cupboard

 I have no idea.  The can is still more than half full. The object is a solid metal can with a round flip out top like the old cocoa cans.  There is no UPC on the can.  Product was manufactured in Vermont by Bread and Chocolate, Inc. currently dba Burnham and Mills.  This item is apparently no longer available.

Wonder what it tastes like?  Personally, not likely to find out.  I mean, a milk product at least half my age?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Last Period Study Hall

If you are thinking "rogues gallery" please don't do that.

Study hall is a school institution which should not exist as the only excuse for it is to serve as a holding pen for the inma... er, students.  I can testify to the veracity of this statement based on my experiences as a student who was on occasion assigned to a study hall, and upon my experience as a teacher who was occasionally assigned to monitor a study hall.  The time of teachers and students alike could be put to better use.

Go with me all the way back to a study hall to which you were assigned when you were in high school.  Are you there with me?

This particular subset of America's finest and brightest circa mid-20th century was assigned to a sixth period study hall.  Please understand that the young people pictured here were neither the officers of the National Honor Society nor were they the hoods and molls of the school in question.  The former were out running errands for the office staff or had been released early on their own recognizance or were otherwise earning brownie points or serving their community.  The latter we will get to later.

To the upper left of the collage is Blendina Faye Adamson  Upper right is James Jefferson Catt.  Below him is Mary Ann Appleman and in the fourth corner is yours truly.  Mary Ann is the only Junior in a room full of Seniors.  She could hold her own. In the center is the lucky guy who was assigned to supervise the motley crew that met each afternoon in the library.  From his appearance, you might guess that Bill Stradley is not much older than his charges, and you would be right.

Our table was east center of a very large room, and I am guessing that there were usually upward of sixty students assigned to this area from two-thirty to three-fifteen each day.  Kitty and I sat opposite each other with a girl between us on either side, arranged much as the picture above.  The table comfortably accommodated four people and their books and pens and so on.  Do not assume that the books and writing implements got much use.

Give everyone a few minutes to shuffle their stuff and settle in while Mr. Stradley takes a stroll around the room, roster in hand, checking off any absentees.  He settles at the east end of the room, ostensibly grading papers, and probably he was, for he is an English teacher.  The visiting at our table is not excessively loud, but it persists, and Mr. Stradley finally feels compelled to walk over and remind us of our "purpose" in being here.  And the fun begins.  Probably against his better judgment, Mr. Stradley very quickly finds himself immersed in our conversation, he himself being a participant.

"Kitty just installed a set of mean Stromberg 97s," said Mary Ann.
"Really?  What would a pair of those do for my Merc?"  Mr. Stradley.
Kitty squirms a little in his chair, sits up a little straighter.  "It'd fly, but you should install dual pipes and glass packs first."

The first man out the west library door put the stop down so it would stay open.  The hoods are slipping out one and two at a time as we earn our chops with them for distracting the warden.

"Would Mrs. Stradley let you do that?"  asked Blendina.
"She's okay with it," replied our teacher.  I bet you didn't know I met her at a car show, did you?"

Crackling of the loudspeaker, then "James Catt come to the office; James Catt to the office, please."

Kitty said, "Come out to the shop Saturday.  I can fix you up with those glass packs."  He got his crutches from beneath the chair, turned and swung himself up and headed out.  Kitty's lower appendages swing along with him for the ride, but it is his amazing upper body strength that propels the young Catt through his life.  His eyes are only a bit more than five feet above the floor, but his shoulders look to be five feet wide.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Time is of the Essence

"Redeem the time."  This injunction was repeatedly voiced by my male parent.  In keeping with his instruction, I have made some adaptations to my television viewing routines.  I have read after or have been told by numerous people that they save much time by recording their favorite programs, then skipping the commercials when they view.  Most seem to estimate the time saved at one-third the total length of the program.  I believe I have made a major improvement on this technique.

By recording the program then skipping the show and watching the commercials I save twice as much time as my friends save with their approach.  Additionally, another benefit accrues to me.  I get the greater amusement, for the advertisements tend to be much more entertaining than is the programming! 

This one cracks me up every time.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Kate and Tommy

In Springtime, they wander through the flowers, walk in meadows, long, happy hours.  “A year this June,” Tommy said, “in yon church we will be wed.  You’ll meet me at the garden gate.  My carriage comes.  Don’t be late!”

Summer’s languid afternoon found Kate and Tommy on the ground, the picnic blanket spread, their hungry bodies to be fed.  “Not yet,” said Kate, “Mama counselled me to wait.  The pleasures of wedded life to be shared by man and wife.”  “I’ll wait 'til then, don’t be late.  Meet me at the garden gate.”

That Fall needles on the ground from dark green pine trees all around.  “Here, Love, lie with me on the duff.”  “Oh, Dear One,” said Kate, “That’s not enough.  I’ll hold and keep you evermore after we exit the church house door. I’ll meet you at the garden gate.  And, oh, Tommy, don’t be late!”

Winter's winds now harshly blow as Kate walks alone through the snow.  Her heart, though is far away for on this cold December day Tommy’s ship is hast'ning home and nevermore shall Tommy roam.  His last words to her had been, “Don’t be late; I’ll meet you at the garden gate."

And at June’s first full moon breezes aloft softly croon.  Kate in gown of white shimmering in evening’s light was waiting at half ‘til eight at end of lane, at the garden gate.

The moon is high, no longer evening; bright, starry sky.  Tommy’s horse and shay have not appeared this summer day.  Mama comes to hold Kate’s hand.  The girl sobs, “I don’t understand.  He said he’d meet me at garden’s gate; promised he would not be late.”

“Kate,” Mother said, her voice severe, “Each mid-June you have stood here.  Tommy’s ship went down, you know.  It’s time for you to let him go.  It’s now been eight long years.  Get up, sing again, and dry your tears.  Tommy cannot meet you at the gate; life marches on, and you’ll be late.

©2015 David W. Lacy

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Bring on the Dueling

In an article published here a few days ago, the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton was mentioned in passing.  My sister, Vee, commented that ” [The duel] doesn’t fit my narrative of a civilized society.”  So how does the “civilization” of the American nineteenth century compare to twenty-first century America?  200 years ago a public figure shooting off his mouth, insulting an opponent, if you will, might easily lead to the offended party demanding “satisfaction.”  This in turn could well lead to a meeting on a remote river island with pistols at thirty paces.  Someone might die.

In today’s America, insults are bandied about with impunity, the press picking up the duel of words as the offended party responds with what he hopes is a greater insult than the one he received, all done under the guise of exposing the truth, of course.  The louder, then, and more extensive the words, the more the media love it and the pot boils.

200 years ago, the principals and their seconds trudge home from the dueling grounds, perhaps carrying a body, or perhaps not, and the matter is settled.

In what way is that “less civilized” than the character assassinations our current leaders engage in?  In what way is the 19th-century response less civilized than the pot-stirring public display of animosities the press and the public engage in today?

Currently, our biggest problem would be finding enough remote river islands in which to conduct the hostilities.  But perhaps on the Capitol steps in full view of the cameras?

I wonder.  I wonder how long it would take some people to gain control of their tongues and introduce some civility into their discourse were we to revert to some earlier practices.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Old Farm Revisited

Uncle Jep and Aunt Grace had been gone forty years.  I had inexplicably turned into an old man.  Without doubt, this will be my last trip through the Valley.  

My father’s youngest sister, Esther, had passed away.  The funeral was in La Junta. Aunt Esther, at 95, had lived not only long, but well.  I would have made no effort to attend the obsequies were it not for her oldest son, Hugh.  I mean, I thought highly of Aunt Esther, but she is gone.  Hugh, though, is a brother to me.  He is but six months younger than I and we grew up together.  We were best pals from the time we were five until I went to the farm to work for Uncle Jep. Hugh and I maintained our friendship throughout our lives, and now we are two old guys in their late seventies, spouses gone, and most of our friends laid to rest.

I am living in Tulsa now.  I can no longer drive, thanks to tunnel vision, but my son, Marvin, lives nearby and he was willing to make the trip.

The burial and the four-day visit were soon over, and Marv had to be back for work next week.  Hugh and I made arrangements to meet in San Antonio at Christmas.  Marvin and I were eastbound, had an early start on the day.  As we drove we chatted about the days I spent in the area in my youth.  Marvin perceived that I was waxing nostalgic, and it was he who suggested we might drive up to the old place where I had spent so many good days with Aunt Grace and Uncle Jeptha.

We neared Holly and turned north.  It was a matter of a mere three or four miles, and there was the spot.  What memories welled up as I looked around the place!  The old house where I had eaten so much of Aunt Grace's wonderful cooking and fantastic pies, where I had listened to so many of Uncle Jep's yarns, was still standing.  It was clearly well-cared for, seemed to have recently received a fresh coat of white paint.  The old cedar shingle roof had been replaced with modern red tern roofing.  The chimney at the peak of the house was gone, replaced by the PVC vent utilized by modern furnaces.  The propane tank beyond the house gave testimony to modern ways.

The old barn was gone.  In its place stood a much smaller pole barn, its blue steel siding likely to withstand the blasts of winter and the heat of summer for many decades to come. The windmill was no longer present, but a watering tank for the stock was still located where the mill once stood.  As we had passed numerous circular fields it was evident that modern irrigation was being practiced and wind power was replaced by electric power in the barn lot and by diesel fuel in the fields.

Just beyond the barn was a very sturdy pen in which was a lone Simmental bull.  Sudden mental flashback to Uncle's story about Red Hurd's purchase of a bull all those many years ago.  Beyond the bull's pen was a windbreak of Black Hills spruce extending about 10 rods to the east.  On the other side of the trees, a fenced pasture was host to about thirty head of nice cattle. 

Behind the house, we saw an old red Dodge truck, but no other vehicles.  Waal, we parked in front the house and went up to the door anyway.  Knocking brought no response, and as much as I would have liked to walk part of the property, just for old time's sake, doncha know, I wanted even more not to get arrested, or worse, shot, for trespassing.  We returned to the car and drove another three miles to the little knoll on which lay the burial plots for my Aunt and Uncle.  We parked beside the road.  With my pocketknife. I cut six pretty brown cattails from the swale.  These I carried with me to lay on the graves of my departed loved ones.  So ended our brief foray into my past.  We got back on the road and headed eastward.

Marvin was subjected to my recounting of Uncle Jep's tales for the next few hundred miles, but he was a good sport about it.