Friday, November 19, 2021

Virgil's Farm #T

 As Virgil picked up the pen with which to sign the papers the Rep for the developer said, "We'll go another mil for the five acres not included in these documents."

Virgil twirled the pen in his fingers, moved the Skoal a skotch farther back behind his lip. "With this thirty-five acres you will have the entire section but for only this five acres I'm holding.  My great great grandpa settled on this land, cleared 60 acres and lived out his life here.  My great grandpa cleared another 100 acres and lived out his life here.  Grandpa kept up the good work, opened more land, built bigger barns and lived out his life here.  My daddy finished clearing the section, worked himself into an early grave and passed it on to me.

"I've done well here, raised my family and was a faithful steward of this land.  None of my kids chose to follow in my footsteps and here I am selling out.  Selling out the sweat and dreams of four generations of God-fearing, hard working people.  Y'all don't have enough money to get this last five acres.  My home sits on this property.  I know you have big and glorious plans for turning this place into a place of commerce with a "planned community" and only the good Lord knows what all.

Now here's what I'm gonna do.  I am going to live out my days in that house whilst I watch your bulldozers 'n construction crews tearing up and paving over this paradise, putting in your strip mall and your signs will go up touting your hoity-toity development.  I don't know how much you will destroy, or as you see it, "improve" before I die, but I'ma tell you up front that even when I'm gone you won't get your greedy hands on this five acres.

I have already made arrangements and established a trust to provide for keeping the weeds down and the property mowed, so don't expect to have it condemned.  The taxes will be paid in perpetuity and the house and the equipment will sit right here, rust out and melt into the earth for all I care, but a sign and symbol forever that this place one time produced, produced, I tell you; fed people and meant something.  It will be a reminder that something precious and worthwhile was destroyed for the sake of. . . 

"For the sake of what, I dunno.  Have a good life."

Virgil scratched his signature seven times, put down the pen, arose from his chair and strolled out the door, the heels of his boots clacking loudly on the wooden floor.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

A Flashback and an Update #T

 I wrote the piece below three years ago.  Deja vu.  I made a similar trip today for a similar reason.  I attended the funeral of another dear friend and the trip home took me past the same scenery.  I had known Marcus since I was a teenager and asked him to serve as my best man when Frieda and I were married in 1955.  

Like my friend Howard, Marcus was born in 1932.  Like Howard, Marcus's love and service to the cause of Christ was unwavering and unquestioned. Over the course of his life he was variously a missionary, a preacher, and a teacher.  But above that he was a faithful and loving husband to Ruth and a loving and caring father to his children; and above it all he loved his Lord, Jesus the Christ.

As I drove past the little limestone house I wrote about below I was gratified to see that it has been redeemed-- someone with loving care has cleaned the yard of  overgrowth, has planted grass and landscaped nicely.  The trim has a new coat of paint, there are curtains in the windows, and there were lights on in the domicile!

Another mile and there stands School in a Soybean Field.  And it, too, has been redeemed!  It is now the home and worship center of Christ Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church which apparently serves its community well, for as I drove by I noted at least a dozen cars parked  in front, and this a Tuesday afternoon.

Thus here I have touched on three stories of redemption.  Marcus, whose Lord redeemed him to service; the old house which someone loved and invested in to bring back to use; and an old schoolhouse which has been rehabilitated by a congregation of worshipers.

These stories make my heart sing, for I, too, have been redeemed!

Marcus Phillippe  1932 - 2021  RIP

A Life Well-lived and A Mystery

Saturday morning I traveled to a city some fifty miles distant to attend the funeral of a very dear friend.  Although Howard was 86 years of age I cannot shake the feeling that he is gone too soon.  Good friends are all too few and they are leaving much too often these days.

I remarked to the grieving widow that Howard no doubt had more friends than anyone else I know for he worked at being a friend.  It was no surprise that friendship was a recurring theme of the memories-- that and Howard's unwavering love for Jesus and his desire that his friends would all come to know Him.

On the drive home I chose to take a route which I had driven day after day some six decades ago, for I lived in that town back then and drove twelve miles to work each day.   As I passed the little country church, three miles to go to reach the school where I had taught-- I started picturing the lay of the land as I had known it back then.  Coming up on the right and a mile before reaching the old school there would be the beautiful Bedford stone house which I had almost coveted in my youth.  What more could one want?  I thought it the epitome of design in residential structures and it was nearly new, having been built a mere half-dozen years before.   Abiding therein was a family who were patrons of the district, prosperous farmers, hard workers, who had two beautiful little flaxen-haired girls who attended our school.  Patty was in my homeroom, she as smart and capable and industrious as one might hope a sixth grade child to be.

There it is.  Same limestone house, same location.  And yet it looks so much smaller than I remembered it, possibly a thousand square feet, probably two bedrooms.  But that was not what most startled me.  The house was abandoned and clearly had been for some time.  The yard was overgrown not only with grass and weeds, but with scrub bushes. Sorry, bedraggled, and forgotten.

There on my left is the cemetery, then School in a Soybean Field apparently also deserted.  I drove on, pondering the fate of the inhabitants of the house I had once admired.  Why?  What happened? Where were those charming little girls now, little girls who would be in their sixties?  Things I'll never know.  The twists and turns that life takes are often imponderables in the broad scheme of things.

But I still wonder.

Howard Barefoot, 1932 - 2018  RIP

Monday, August 16, 2021

Conversations with Random People --29 #T

 Perfect afternoon for a bicycle ride and I was taking full advantage of it.  Probably the longest ride I've had this year.  I happened upon a Ram truck with a trailer in tow pulled over to the curb.  Gentleman was checking the straps and ties that secured an old pickup truck weather-worn and from another automotive era.  I stopped.

"Nice set of old wheels," I remarked.

"I see you are a Ford man," the gentleman replied.

"Indeed, I had one much like that.  Mine was a '52."

"This one," he informed me, is a '46 or '47, not sure which."

In a flash and without thinking about it I said, "Forty-seven."

"You're probably right."

(You see, without bidding it to happen I was suddenly my thirteen-year old self who would have instantly known the distinctions between the two years even though I had certainly not thought about that in the past seventy years.)

So I deliberately turned my attention to the windshield.  Yep, flat one-piece.  Confirmation, for I was certain for no reason that I can pinpoint that the '46 still used the prewar two-piece windshield.

"Where did you find this one?" I asked.

"Here.  Well, locally.  Elwood, I think.  I am hauling it to Ohio for my brother."

"That's cool."

He pointed out a few features of the old truck, I told him a bit about the one I had.  He slyly drew attention to his tow vehicle, secretly hoping, I suspect, that I would admire it, and I did.

"Welp, I'd better get along," the man told me.  "Thanks for stopping and visiting with me!"

"My pleasure!  Be safe."

(And if you are wondering, yes, as soon as I got home I used the interwebby thing to look at the '46 and the '47. 

 '47, one-piece; '46, two-piece.)

My '52 nearing completion.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Mid-America 47th Annual

 I made it to the Mid-America Threshing and Antique Tractor Show!  I look forward to this each August, make a sashay to the 4-H grounds, then it's over for another year.  For me.  There is yet one more day of festivities.

Things have been changed-up a good bit when compared to previous years, but the old machinery is still proudly presented.  As my bicycle and I arrived there was a on-grounds tractor parade in progress with announcer on PA identifying the machines and giving names of owners and operators.  I stopped and watched a few of them pass, then shot across the parade route and continued to the display of my beloved pop-and-spin engines.  Huge flaw.  I took several pictures but stupidly did so with the so-called smart phone and stupid me, I haven't yet mastered the simple task of transferring them to my blog.  Worse, all the shots I took were videos, unbeknownst to me, rather than stills.  The pictures I show here I took with the old reliable pocket Canon.

This combine was state-of-the-art when I was a young man. Today's combine could probably swallow this one up, chew it into bits and spit it out.

A major difference this year is that rather than displaying tractors in long, neat rows by make they were spread all over kingdom come with RV's interspersed here and there and kiddies playing in their "yards."  Also not only were people bringing their golf carts and zipping around, the promoters were providing carts for people who didn't bring their own.  A veritable battery powered rolling zoo to contend with.  I guess the thing has to move into the 21st century if it is to survive.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

High School, Demerits, and Soapy Water #T

I do have a high school diploma and this is a tiny bit of what I endured to get it.

Deal was this: infraction of rules or annoying the Dean could result in the issuing of demerits which were prominently posted on the bulletin board in the hallway opposite the office.  Accumulation of 20 or more demerits resulted in the loss of "social privileges" and that was a big deal, because social life was severely restricted in the first place and loss of what few privileges there were available meant, well, isolation from any activity other than going to classes.  During my junior year the Dean issued me twenty-five demerits for a single and honestly my first infraction in over two years.

The Dean and the school he represented were wrong, too, but how foolish of me to try to re-argue the case seventy years after the fact.  Well, he had the strict letter of the law on his side. 

However there was an escape clause.  By putting in hours of labor on campus each hour would erase one demerit.  I worked in the kitchen scrubbing the CEILING with soapy water and scrub brush.  Picture the dripping down on my head and the water running down my arms.  And thus I worked exactly six hours thereby changing the posting in the hallway to "19 demerits" and there it stood for the balance of the school year.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Conversations with Random People -28

 Enjoyed my repast, paid the ticket, and exited the restaurant.  As I went through the door approaching me in little half steps much like mine, was a tall gentleman about my height, white-hair, much like mine.  "Looking for the party for Dan," he told me. It is to be at JD."  "This  is the place," I said.  Now knowing this celebration was in honor of Dan's 100th birthday and noting that the old man beside me was a bit creaky, I said, "Are you a contemporary of Dan's?"  "Uh, yes," he said, "I am 86."  "So am I!" I exclaimed. "But I'll be 87 tomorrow."

The old gentleman patted me on the shoulder as though to say, "Don't patronize me; I know I am older than you."   Oops.  On second thought perhaps he was thinking, "No way; you've got to be much older than I."

Friday, May 21, 2021

Toad Song

 I was sitting in the sun room reading;all was quiet and peaceful. Then as the sun dropped lower in the sky I heard just the other side of the screen; Toad Song! Have had toads on the premises for years and I like to hear them sing.

For years I carried a twenty-two dollar flip phone. Had I not caved to the so-called "smart phone" craze, I could have pulled the flipper from my pocket, pushed a button and recorded the music for you. But with this over-priced glorified piece of junk I could only stare at a plethora of icons in frustration.
Oh, well; there is always YouTube.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Dream Big #T

It seems that everybody who is anybody is quoted on dreams.  For example, Walt Disney is quoted as having said, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”  This is patently absurd, as a moment's thought will reveal.  Case in point, as a child I used to dream of being the conductor of a symphony orchestra.  There are so many things wrong with the notion that I will not go into it other than to state that I am basically bereft of musical talent.  I will come back to that presently.

Closer to my way of thinking is Eleanor Roosevelt who is reputed to have said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”  This makes sense to me in a certain way.  In the previous example I recognized my lack of aptitude for fulfillment of the dream, but that does not mean that I did not entertain the dream to the extent that I recognized that one could achieve successes in the realms in which he was gifted. (This all took a long time.  We will not go into that.)

And now my dream, for this is a literal dream that I just had somewhere between one and five  this morning.

I have been invited to sing with a world-renowned choir consisting of 22 black singers whose repertoire is primarily spirituals and gospel songs.  I was flattered and excited, and supposed that I would get to stand somewhere in the shadows and contribute a few notes when I felt comfortable threading in a little harmony.  

 The performers filed onto the stage and took their stances.  The director placed me at the right end of the phalanx and one step in front of the group.  What? And it was not until the first chord of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" sounded and the director nodded at me that I  realized I was to sing the lead.  As I started I realized that the first word, "swing," had emerged from my vocal chords a bit weak so I reached into my lowest registry on "low" and gave it all I had and back into baritone as I sang the "sweet chariot" I heard the strains of the choir as the singers wove an astounding tapestry of trills and harmonies and as we went into the line "comin' for to carry me home" I noted the entire audience as one were looking, not at the performers, but at the ceiling as though their eyes were literally following the progress of the chariot as its wheels turned faster and faster and the two white stallions, nostrils flaring, approached us closer and closer.

I could sense the eyes of every member of the audience watching as I sang "A band of angels comin' after me."  They were seeing, I was sure, the angelic host as it formed around the chariot and the altos were painting in the fluttering of the wings and the flowing of the heavenly garments.  In her own angelic soprano, Sister Serena took the line "Well I'm sometimes up" and immediately Brother Brown in the basement sang "and I'm sometimes down," the choir created harmonies to carry everyone into the heavenly realm  and finally as we sang the tag line "Well now they're comin' for to carry me home" the audience burst into applause and shouting such that for a bit I thought perhaps I had indeed been carried home!

I awakened. I may in reality be at the very best a so-so singer but in my dreams. . . 


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

What does that look like?

 What does it look like

--to have true courage

--to be a racist (nonracist)

--to care for others

--to listen purposefully

--to be a true believer

--to be a Christian

--to love unconditionally

and on and on.  Why is it important to ask (and answer) the question What does it look like?  I actually had to hear it enough times that it truly grated on my sensibilities before I asked myself this question.  I hear it on newscasts; I hear it from the pulpit; I hear it in casual conversations, and I had wondered why people couldn't simply ask, "What is it like?"  Then it finally occurred to me that there is an answer to that question.

 We don't ask what is it like because we either don't really want to know, or we don't care what it is like.  But what we are interested in is the all-consuming concern everyone has to know what things look like.  Why?  Appearances are what matters.  Read that again.  In our society in this day appearances are what matters.  Reality exists only in the mind of the observer and is formed from the impressions we gain from appearances.  Truth is what we perceive it to be.  Please, Rev, don't tell me what I must be like to be a Christian.  Tell me what a Christian looks like and then I can decide whether or not I want others to see me looking like that.  Dr. Sociologist, don't tell me how to be nonracist, tell me what a nonracist looks like.  On and on.  

The crux of the matter is appearances matter.  

"Man," scripture says, "looks on outward appearances, but God looks on the heart."

Monday, March 22, 2021

Embellishing Grandma #T

 Here  is a fun little game for the next family dinner or evening with relatives.  I call it "Embellishing Grandma."  This is how it is played.  Families who pay attention to their roots all have stories about some beloved character in their family tree.  At an appropriate point in the conversation interject, "You all remember how Great-grandma Hepzibah spent her first five years with the Potawatami.  Well, do you recall the time she got involved in the 1884 Presidential election?  Republican candidate James G. Blaine was in a hotly contested race with Grover Cleveland, the democrat candidate.  

So Blaine came out to Indiana to present himself to the people, so to speak.  He was holding forth in the town square attempting to work the crowd into an appropriate state of mind.  "Why," he thundered,"I believe there resides in this beautiful city a lady who in her early years lived with the Potawatami.  She grew to become not only the most beautiful of young women, but she was wise beyond her years and taught the Indians. . . " Here you may fill in the details as you dream them up and to the extent that your auditors will bear.

Following his speech, Grandma Hezzie worked her way through the crowd and confronted Mr. Blaine.  "I," she thundered, insofar as a lady can thunder, "am that girl of whom you spoke.  What a load of cock and bull!"  Strong words, indeed, from a lady of the times.  And besides which women did not have a voice in government in that day, were not permitted to vote, and were supposed to stay home and tend to the knitting, and the children, and so on.  Well, as you might guess, Blaine was quite taken aback,  sputtered and floundered around rather incoherently a bit and rushed from the platform to his waiting carriage.  He lost Indiana's 15 electoral votes and the election by a narrow margin.  Cleveland was installed in the White House as the first democrat president since Buchanan whose term ended in 1861.

If you have done this smoothly enough and with sufficient guile and craftiness, your story will seem quite plausible.  Another approach to gilding Hezzie might go along these lines.

One fine summer day, oh, probably in the late seventies, Grandma's son was in the village square just as the traveling snake oil salesman started his spiel for the greatest product ever created for the health and welfare of man, beast, or plant life.  He couldn't resist, and being a teenager who of course was wise way beyond his years, saw the future for himself and all the family, bought a pint of the elixir with the money his mama had given him for the cornmeal he was sent to fetch.  His mother was quite exasperated, but what could she do?  That very afternoon, being planting time, she built a hill in the garden and poured a drop of the "magic" potion into the hole as she planted the beans.  Well, what do you know!  The beans sprouted and the plant sprang skyward, the vine growing thicker and thicker and taller and taller until it pierced the clouds and veritably reached into the sky!  Naturally, the intrepid Jack made his way up the beanstalk and stepped into the sky.

And thus you have neatly co-opted the story of Jack and the Beanstalk and polished Grandma's legacy with it.

Now a word of advice.  In the first instance should your story be at all plausible you should 'fess up and tell the family that you created that from whole cloth, lest it become a part of the family "history" as sadly I suspect many tales have done over time.  In the second case, you have spun a patently tall tale, so tall in fact, that your listeners may hoot you down before 


Sunday, February 28, 2021

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Green New Deal

 The Green New Deal

I pretty much avoid political discussions in public fora, so take this as an armchair observation on high school physics.  We were introduced to something the teacher referred to as "The Law of Conservation of Energy."  Also there was talk about something called "The Laws of Thermodynamics."

This does not purport to be a physics lesson or a scientific treatise.  Rather we ask that you simply apply some good sense reasoning to a couple of circumstances we are facing.  The proponents of the Green New Deal state that the installation of a few million more windmills and the production of a bazillion more solar panels will solve our energy needs, no more reliance on petrofuels, and voila! Paradise on Earth!

As we say, reflect on this a bit.  What is involved in the building and installation of the aforementioned saviors of our Earth?  Yes, try to imagine the steps in production, manufacture, installation of these behemoths.  Do you have any idea of the mining, manufacturing, transportation, and on and on.  Now, my suggestion, if we really believe in green energy, is this.  Do all of the above WITHOUT the use of any petrofuels!

And may the sun always shine and the winds never cease.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Healthy Lifestyle

 I think we are infested with new tree ants: there B1 right there.  and there B6 more. I've not heard so much talk about vitamins and minerals since I was in third grade.  And trust me, these pills stink.  How could that be good for me? Well, people put lots of stuff past their nose to get it on the taste buds.  No accounting for tastes.  But in this case I try to sneak them past the taste buds.

What's he on about now? you might ask.  Things have changed around here since the meals are prepared by a health guru, a person who eats "clean" meaning everything is as near to 100% "organic" as possible.  I am not complaining.

I do seem to engage in the sin, venial, I hope, of drinking from the tap.  Water is supposed to come in bottles, don't you know?  Not happening.

Saturday, January 23, 2021


 I don't know whether to walk in shame or in pride for yesterday I took a short ride and parked for some reason by AT&T I caved, don't you see? Came home with a cell phone in my pocket but I'm beginning to think I might have to lock it in the house for safe-keeping For trust me my eyes are leaking it won't fit in my pocket dang thing is so big to carry it would drive me out of my wig  Man-purse you say  Get out of here go away  There is no such thing  Ring-a-ding-ding  So grab my flip phone and out the door No bad choices today or forevermore.  I hope.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Little Old Woman and Little Old Man #T

Little scriblets by little old man during their last summer together.  Published elsewhere and gathered here for preservation. 

Little old woman and little old man Cooked their eggs in a frying pan  Took a spin on their tandem wheel And saw the world all too real  Everything a terrible sight Gave them both an awful fright  Back home they hung their jammies on the posts of the beds And pulled the covers over their heads.

Little old woman and little old man  Rock side by side whenever they can  Cracker Barrel veranda or their own place  Life is just better when you slow the pace  What's the big hurry  Why rush and worry  Sufficient unto the day are the cares that we bear  Tomorrow's woes will arrive when we're there  If we live that long 

Little old woman and little old man  Arose from bed turned off the fan  Splashed some water on their faces Headed out to see the races  The horses were huge the bets were small  But still they managed to lose it all  It's not what you bet that makes you lose  But that you bet so try to choose  An entertainment less taxing And your life will be more relaxing

Little old woman  said little old man  Let's go for a ride I think we can  So they got in the car and drove a short way  Let's look and see what we see today  On their right they saw the Moose and on the left the calaboose Into the country and guess what they saw  Corn and soybeans and soybeans and corn  The killdeer flew up and the crow said Caw  And Soybeans and corn and corn and beans  And little old man out the window leans  And shouts  Hoo Rah for Indiana

Little old woman and little old man on Sunday night  Sitting together everything is all right  She reads from the Bible old man listening    For old woman will turn to him her eyes glistening  And ask him a question to test his attention  One thing he gets and feels really blessed  Is that our sins are covered by the blood  We've passed the test  When we believe and confess The Lord  And let Him guide us through His Word.

Little old man said little old woman, Let's go for a ride and no more than said it  And the skies opened wide  It poured and it rained it rained and it poured  The lightning flashed and the thunder roared  It poured some more but then the skies cleared  Look it's sunny not so bad as I feared  Put on the shoes got in the car But had gone only this far When on our own street we ran into this  Literally. [street covered with water knee deep]  We went for a ride anyway.

Little old woman said little old man They are coming to take us away Who When  They Today They are coming to take us away  Hey hey They build cell towers they scramble our brains  They will mess us up worse than derailed trains  There is no escaping They know where we are  They know when we sneeze or get in the car  It's a hopeless case I tell ya Ma  Whether or not we zig zag or yaw  They gonna get us if we hang around here  Oh Wait Maybe SpaceX will take us there  There  Where  Right there he said pointing to the moon  What I think she said is that you are a loon.

Little old man had a birthday today  Little old woman said keep getting older you'll be ancient one day  You are already an antique--mm What rhymes with antique   Never mind you're just an old codger  Here have some more beans and corn dodger. 

Little old woman said, Please button my shirt. But, said little old man, my fingers hurt. They got the job done Though it takes two to do the task of one.

.Little old woman and little old man sit side by side The hour is getting late and I'm sleepy, he said.Well, I'm not, little old lady replied. So he lets his head loll and the shades drop over his eyes. Get up, he hears her say, I don't think it's wise To sleep in your chair until break of day. So he'll get up and toddle to bed but will he sleep then?  Nay.  What light through yon window breaks? Why, it is the sun, he awakes. Nay, not so, for little old man's prophecy came true And no matter clouds or sunlight this day is bound to be blue.

Life in the slow lane--  I heard a young woman mutter, Get out of my way. Yep, My Way, as though she owns the store And the aisle and probably more.

Monday, January 18, 2021

With the Kid at the Zoo


Why is giraffe's neck so long?  It has to reach from her head to her shoulders.

Why does elephant have a trunk?  So he can carry his emotional baggage.


Why does zebra have stripes? So you won't think he's a jackass.