SKID MARKS II

Sam at the wheel.

Back in the day, before he got married, my son, Dirk, had a great dog, Sam. An Australian Shepherd. He was Dirk’s shadow They went everywhere together, except when Dirk went to work.

This is a story, Dirk told me recently about a grocery run with Sam along.

Dirk pulled his car into a space in the grocery store lot. Than, as usual, he turned off the ignition, shoved the gear shift, which was was on the steering column, into reverse gear. A common practice in lieu of putting on the hand brake. He rolled down the window enough to give Sam air but not enough that Sam could squeeze through. Told Sam to stay and went into the store.

Just as he was about to check out, he heard an announcement that the owner of a silver Toyota should report to the policeman outside. Dirk’s car. He went out right away.

The cop was standing there with a scowling man. When Dirk said the car was his, the angry man got in Dirk’s face.

‘Your goddamn dog almost ran me over with your goddamn car!’

Dirk was at a lose for words. He extended his hands, palms up, and looked at the cop, who stepped between Dirk and the man. Dirk’s first thought was the man was off his rocker.

‘Your goddamn dog almost ran me over!’

Before the cop could say anything, the man leaned over the cop’s back and repeated, ‘Your goddamn dog almost ran me over!’

Finally the cop got a chance to explain. It seems the car, which was no longer in a parking space but in the car lane and the dog was the only one in the vehicle.

‘If your goddamn dog can learn to drive, the goddamn dog can learn to watch out for people. He goddamned nearly ran me over’!

The three went to the car. Sam got all excited seeing Dirk. He began to jump around hitting the steering column several times.

‘See, your goddamn dog’s trying to run us all over!

Dirk looked in the window and saw the gear shift was in neutral. Sam must have been jumping around and knocked it into neutral. The parking space had a slight incline so the car coasted down into the driving lane…just as the man was walking by.

Dirk and the cop agreed that is what happened. The explanation didn’t matter to the man. He just walked away and shouted back over his shoulder, ‘Your goddamn dog! Your goddamn dog almost ran me over’

Dirk said he jumped in the car and pulled it back into the parking space and the spent about five minutes laughing before going back into the store. And all the while he was laughing, Sam was trying to lick Dirk’s face. Before he got out of the car, he put the shift into gear and put on the parking brake to boot.

———————————————————————

The Old Hand:

I watched a man trying to back his SUV into a parking space at the mall. There was at least six spaces empty on either side of the space he wanted. He tried about five times, finally just left it. One half of the SUV was in one space, the other half was in the space next to it. I noticed both spaces were posted for ten minute parking only. Since he was parked in two spaces, does that mean he can park there for twenty minutes?

I have a hard time understanding what is accomplished by backing into parking space. You might get out faster but since it takes the average driver seesawing back and forth about three, four times, whatever you gain in time on the exit, you’ve lost on the entrance by a long ways. And then if you want to put groceries etc., in the trunk, you probably have to pull the vehicle ahead. I saw a customer with van at a big box store loading plywood after he had parked backwards in the space. He had to actually pull the van into the driving lane, blocking any other vehicle from using the lane. He got the plywood loaded but he also caused a lot of horns to be honked and fingers to be waved.

I always get a leery whenever I see somebody back into a parking space when there is a bank close by. Is it because the driver might want to make a quick getaway?

Published St. Paul Dispatch- 7/14/13

—————————————————————————————

Another story about a car of Dirk’s.

No, there was no dog driving this time. Fact is there was no one driving it…and this time the car wasn’t just coasting…it was moving under it’s own engine power.

As told to me by my nephew, Rick:

Rick had a few days off from touring with WICKED and stopped off in town to see his folks and family. He had a chance to work a quick easy stagehand call so he went to the State Capital Mall for a quick load out. He said he would go over to Dirk’s for a bit.

But when he got to his car he looked back and saw Dirk standing by his car. He drove over and asked Dirk what was wrong.

‘Won’t start. Won’t even turn over. Dead. Probably the alternator. Get it home and I’ll check it out. I got Roadside Assistance. Might as well use it.’

Something went right that day…the tow truck arrived quickly. Rick and Dirk sat on a bench and didn’t pay any attention to the driver as he hooked up the cable to the rear of the car.

But he got their attention as soon as he pushed the button to start the wench. He swore and jumped back. The car’s engine had started and the car shot up the raised tow-bed.

The large trailer hitch on the car’s rear bumper hit the tow-bed’s front safety barrier with a resounding crash. Luckily the barrier held and the car’s engine died…otherwise the car would have ended up on the roof of the cab.

A perfect storm. Dirk had left the car in reverse and the key turned on. No biggie! The car wouldn’t start anyway.

But the tow truck driver committed two cardinal sins of towing a vehicle. Check the key. Make sure the ignition is not on. Pocket the key so it doesn’t get lost.

Make certain the transmission is in neutral. Had Dirk’s car been winched forward it would have ruined the transmission. Could you imagine if a Jag or Rolls were pulled against their gear setting what the cost would be?

And the fact it was in reverse and winched backward could have really done some bad damage had not the barrier held.

The Buck Stops At the Tow Driver.

Both Rick and Dirk ran over to the truck. But when they got within a few feet of the driver, they stopped and retreated. The driver was frozen in time. His face was ghostly pale and his pants were getting darker by the minute. And, oh, did he stink!

When the driver regained his composure, he managed to lower the flat tow-bed and get the cable taut and then had to get up on it to survey the damage. It was a sore sight to see him move with his loaded pants. Spread legged. Trying to make believe nothing was wrong.

‘The car’s okay!’ he screamed as he reached in and pulled the key and cracked the gear shift into neutral. He didn’t comment when he surveyed the huge dent in the safety barrier. Must have been doing a lot of silent swearing every time he had to move though.

At home, Dirk showed him where to put the car next to the garage and then both he and Rick stepped far back… and upwind of the guy. Nobody spoke as the car was unloaded and nobody said good by as the driver got in and drove the truck away.

‘Hope he stops off and cleans up before he has to explain to the boss about the dent in the barrier,’ Rick said.

‘Or the stink in the cab,’ Dirk added. ‘I guess that’s what they mean when they talk about being shit scared.’

And they both laughed.

—————————————————————–

Old Hand::

Since my wife doesn’t drive, and I don’t shop, I spend a lot of time in nice weather sitting in the car, read a little, snooze a little, observe the life of the parking lot. I see children mistaking the it for a playground, shoppers, with full carts, blindly believing in the right-of-way of pedestrians, and drivers whose only focus is finding a parking space. I see a lot of accidents waiting to happen.

A few lots have speed bumps in their entrance lanes to help counter some of these potential accidents.. Most drivers see the bump, slow down, ease over it, and maintain a sensible rate of speed. Some don’t notice the bump and go flying over it. It’s amazing how, when their tires return to the road, and their right hands can no longer hold onto the steering wheels, their left hands always manage to keep holding the cell phones tight against their ears.

But the drivers that really make me shake my head are those that avoid the bump altogether. They speed up, pull into the wrong lane, then quickly get back into the correct lane once they are past the bump. Such a shame when something that is meant to promote safety becomes an excuse to drive stupidly. But then, some people don’t need an excuse to be stupid when they get behind a wheel, it’s just second nature.

So when you go into a store parking lot, remember the warning of the old sergeant in Hill City Blues TV and

be careful out there‘.

Don’t be a part of the accident that happens.

Pub St. Paul Dispatch 4/23/09

———————————————————————————————————–

Be careful out there is right.

There was 42,915 traffic related deaths in the US in 2021.

That’s almost as many deaths as gun related US deaths in 2021, which totaled out to 45,222.

Auto deaths are confined to roads.

Each year brings stricter laws to safeguard against traffic accidents.

Gun deaths take place anywhere, anytime, with or without a reason

And too often they are not accidental

And gun laws must not infringe on the 2nd Amendment.

There are 285.5 million cars in the US

There are 436.4 million guns in the US

Owning a car like a T Bird was cool

But owning an AR15 is the new cool

Joking about traffic is universal

Joking about guns is taboo

Guns makes the US unique.

SKID MARKS

The Old Hand: On days when it is so hot there are warning to stay inside, it helps to remember, not too many months ago, when there were winter warnings to stay inside. This story, that our friend Paula told us, happened on one of those days several years ago.

Paula had to drive her elderly mother to the doctor. The snow was almost causing whiteout, and sane drivers were taking it slow and careful. But there’s always some!!!

First, the black SUV came up fast, and just a few yards before it would ram her car, it pulled out opposite lane. And naturally, pulled back right, cutting her off. She braked and her car turned into a toboggan, sliding and refusing to respond to her steering. Luckily, as it began to spin, the front wheels hit the curb, and the car stopped.

She said she gripped the steering wheel and tried not to cry, and tried harder not to say anything. She knew any words that came from her mouth would be words that a person should not utter in front of one’s mother.

‘Paula, honey,’ her mother said and placed her hand on Paula’s, ‘Don’t let them bother you like that. Now I don’t know how it helps but try this.’ She held her fist up and then extended her middle finger in the direction the SUV took. ‘This is what they use to do to me when I was driving.’

So enjoy the summer even with the heat and mosquitoes. State Fair and going back to school is coming fast. Next will come raking leaves and prepping the snow-blower.

Bulletin Board 9/2/13

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

I was driving my usual five miles over the limit when a car behind swung out, horn honking, got even with me, and I could make out the driver leaning across the passenger and flicking her hand about something. Naturally I had to keep my eyes on the road, so I just flashed the middle finger salute.

My daughter-in-law called later to tell me she spotted my car and tried to wave hi to me. She said she was excited and told her friend that she thought that was her father-in-law ahead.

When she pulled even and I flashed the middle finger salute, she laughed and said to her friend, ‘Yup. That’s my father- in- law alright.’

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

When my father-in-law’s wife died, my son Dirk asked if my wife and I wanted to ride up to Bemidji with him, his wife, and kids. I didn’t have time to accept because my wife told Dirk we would love to.

‘You know how crabby your dad gets when he drives a long way?’

I was about to say it wouldn’t be so bad if I had a relief driver. (It had been years since my wife decided not to worrying about getting a driver’s license.) But since it was almost time for her to start making dinner, I didn’t say anything more then to tell Dirk we would welcome the ride.

After the church service we all went to a hall and talked, and laughed, and ate. Another son, Danny, couldn’t make the service but made it to the hall. After he gave condolences to his grandfather, he joined us at our table. He mentioned that he ran into a lot of traffic and asked Dirk how the drive was for us. We came the day before and stayed overnight in a hotel.

‘Well,’ Dirk said, ‘It went pretty good.. The kids behaved themselves… pretty good. We took a lot of back roads and stayed of the freeways. Prettier scenery. A lot of horses and cows. We saw a lot of deer.

‘And you know, I never had to swear at a bad driver. Not even once!

Dad did it for me.’

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

If it sounds like I’ve reached the old age of ‘Darn you kids! Stay off my lawn! But I like nothing better than to watch kids playing ball on our couple acres of lawn. Just like my sons did when they were growing up. Memories.

My wife likes the kids playing on the grass also. The geese stay away when the kids are at play.

Now as far as my attitude about bad drivers, I’ve had that since the days when I would be riding my horse on the side of the road and some wise guy would honk the horn trying to scare the horse. And my attitude got worse when I began to drive. And it multiplies in this age of headphones and cellphones.

The wife of a co-worker told me how her husband finally entered the modern age. He now texts on his cellphone. Their daughter texted him to find out the time to meet him for dinner.

He texted her back ‘I can’t really talk right now because I am driving home. And I do not want to get into an accident while I am driving and texting. I could even get a ticket. When I get home I will call you on the phone.’

Since I know that he can’t type, I wonder how long it took him to text this epistle about the dangers of texting while driving.

When my dad taught me how to drive the Model A, he told me to keep an eye on the rear view mirror as well as to the front. And be leery if there’s a car stopped on a cross road. Bad drivers can get you from the back and side as well as the front. And even in those days, road rage was a part of driving. A lot of fist waving. Some mild swearing and never, ever using a dirty gesture’

But road rage has escalated beyond fist waving, swearing and finger saluting.

Today you could get shot.

I have learned keep my one fingered salutes below the dash

and hide my swearing with a fake smile.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Stay Safe;

Be it behind a windshield or COVIC mask

ELTON IN THE USA

@The Guthrie

Elton John is on his ‘Farewell Tour of the US’. But wait, that could change. The multi talented French star, Maurice Chevalier, enjoyed his first farewell tour of the US so much he took two more farewell tours after.

I worked many Elton John concerts in arenas, theaters, and even a private show for the managers of Best Buy stores. The finest was at the U of MN’s Northrop Auditorium. The 1st half was John on piano and Ray Cooper, the fine percussionist from the UK, on a variety of things including a large gong. He was actually on the gong at one point, hanging on and beating time. The 2nd half was Elton going alone. The sound system was a new package of the Clair Brothers, the top audio company on the road. What a concert!

I worked Elton John’s 1st US tour when he came to the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Sue Weill, promoter extraordinaire of the Walker Art Center booked him, and I handled the lighting. Gosh, thinking back I can’t get over how shy and polite this young man was then. Little did anyone realize he would be the UK’s biggest star after the Beatles.

Here’s a reblog from March 2013 of that experience from the Old Hand.

Elton John’s first USA tour was in 1970. One of his stops was the Guthrie. Like all these concerts at the theater in those days, the sound was provided by a local company and the lighting by the Guthrie. Sometimes the acts brought in a lighting designer; but most of the time, I was the designer as well as the electrician. Even if a lighting designer came with the act, I usually ended up designing the show because very few designers knew how to light on a thrust stage.

When Elton came for sound check, I asked him about his lighting needs. He just shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t know and would leave it up to me. He said that he didn’t require anything fancy. Such a polite ‘chap’. He always called me ‘sir’.

As usual, we did two shows that evening. Both were sold out. Elton put on two great shows. In the last show, he loosened up and did things that he didn’t do in the first show. He really attacked the piano. Hands, feet, standing up, spinning around on the bench.

His manager sat next to the lighting board up in the booth. He clued me in on what the next song was going to be so I could think of what kind of ‘look’ would work. At the end of the last show he asked what I thought of Elton. ‘What do you think? Do you think he’ll make it big? I mean really big.’

‘Well’, I said, ‘He puts on a good show, that’s for sure. I really like his Jerry Lee Lewis  piano playing. Good voice. Should do good. Except –  those glasses. Get him contacts. Nobody is going to make it really big wearing glasses.’

We were tearing down the sound and Elton came on stage and thanked us. When he shook my hand, he mentioned his manager had told him that I liked the shows. Nothing was said about my not liking the glasses though.

I worked him many time since, but never again at the Guthrie. He outgrew small venues quickly and played the big arenas like TargetCenter. Like any arena show, big effects were added, often at the expense of music. Nothing like the pure concert he did at the Guthrie.

Although, well after he made it big, he did forego the arena shows and did an acoustic tour. He played at Northrop, at the U of MN. He reverted back to his ‘not requiring anything fancy’. It was minimal, great sound system, and basic lighting. The first half, Ray Cooper, the great percussionist, joined him. The second half it was just Elton. Certainly one of the best concerts I have ever worked. In spite of the fact he still was wearing glasses.

A while back, a very talented cartoonist, Joel Orff, had a weekly cartoon, Great Moments in Rock and Roll, in a local paper called The Pulse. A stagehand, Rich Labas, suggested to Joel that he get together with me and do some of my stories. I asked him to use the name Old Hand on our stories. That’s the Old Hand in the hat. He did several, Elton, Prince, James Brown. And then the paper folded. Joel does his magic for a paper out in California now. Here’s his cartoon of my story.
Joel’s work can be seen at much better at:
http://jorff.com/

http://jorff.com/rock/EltonJohn.html

EltonJohn

For his farewell to the Twin Cities he is playing the Xcel Center, an arena in St. Paul. While I worked his 1st Concert here, I won’t be working his ‘last’ one.

ALL HALLOWS EVE

Reblogged from 10/31/2013

witch mask       The ringing of the bell, the little ones dressed in elaborate costumes, and the little choruses of ‘Trick or Treat’ always reminds me of our not-so-elaborate costumes and our quests for candy on Halloween.

If you could get your parents to splurge, cloth tailor-made half masks, just like the Lone Ranger wore, were reasonably priced at grocery stores. However, most of us wore a different kind of mask, also available at grocery stores. In September, General Mills and Kelloggs would begin to print masks on their large cereal boxes of Cheerios, Kix, Wheaties, Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, etc..

Cereal masks All you had to do was cut on the dotted lines, face, eye and mouth holes, poke the holes that were used for the string to hold the mask on your head. There were a variety of ‘faces’, a girl with blond braids, an Indian, cowboy, clown, pirate, pig and new ones each year. The rest of your costume consisted of your after-school clothes. Flannel shirts, a must.

We never went down into the village. Too many kids and too little candy. And we never went from farm to farm. Too far between stops and too many dogs. Luckily, pockets of Suburbia were springing up in the ‘Heights’. You could hit 5 or 6 houses in a clump and then move on to the next group.

My favorite house was a far walk, and there were only two other houses in the vicinity. Plus the house was right next to a cemetery. But it was well worth it. The president of Paramount Pies lived there and always had a big Halloween party. And he gave out the pies as treats. Those pies were my favorite treats. Individual pies set in cardboard pie tins and wrapped in cellophane. They cost 12 cents in stores at a time when you could still buy a candy bar for a nickel. We’d hit that house several times on our routes. We always got more pies without any hassle, because the person or persons answering the door were celebrating good times. They were always dressed in fancy costumes, and the young ladies always felt sorry for us because of our lack of costumes, only cardboard masks. Didn’t bother us.

Another must-stop was the priests’ house. Not many kids from the village bothered to climb up the church hill, and it was a long walk for the kids from the ‘Heights’. But like the pie house, it was worth the hike. We timed it to get there just before 9 PM because the yard light was turned off at 9, signaling the end Halloween at the house. Mrs. Farr, the housekeeper, would answer the door with the shopping bag of candy. She’d just hand us the bag, which always had a lot of candy; because, even though they never had many kids come to the door, she always bought a big supply of candy just in case. Or maybe she knew we would be ringing the bell and wanted to make sure we got a big treat. Even with our masks on, she always called us by name, warn us to be careful crossing the highway, and  reminding us that ‘tomorrow’ was a Holy Day of Obligation. Then she would stand on the stoop and wait until we were out of the grounds.

The yard light would go out, and we’d head home. Halloween was over for us also.

Except for one more stop to get another pie.

 

The Old Hand of Oakdale

Published SPPP, Bulletin Board 10/31/13

pig mask

TH-TH-THATS ALL FOLKS!

3 DOGS

My Wife and I agree

We really miss the joy of having a dog

My Wife and I agree

We are too old to have a dog

Here’s a re-blog from 10/2013

I always had a way with little children, horses, and dogs. It’s only some adults that I have a hard time with. Here’s three of my favorite dogs.

MAX- The Australian Shepherd:

When my daughter-in-law, Sandy, went into labor, my son, Dave, rushed her to the hospital, leaving their Australian Shepherd, Max, alone in the house. Later, when the mother and the newborn son, Dillon, were resting, Dave called a neighbor and asked him to feed Max and let him out for a short time. Max never left the yard, always obeyed, came when called – but the minute the neighbor opened the door, Max ran past him and disappeared in a flash. The neighbor drove around trying to find the dog but it was no use. He decided to wait a while to tell Dave that the dog had run off, hoping maybe Max would come back on is own.

Later, as people came to the visit hospital, one friend mentioned to Dave that there was a dog outside, right below the window to the room: “He looks a lot like your dog, Dave.”

Dave laughed. He knew Max was at home, quite a ways from the hospital. But he went to the window and looked out. Sure enough, there was Max, lying right below the window of the room. The dog hadn’t run away; he had just run off to be with his family.”

Published 1/1/04, St Paul Pioneer Press, Bulletin Board

CHICO- The Chihuahua:

My grandfather had a Chihuahua that liked a little bit of Hamm’s Beer. Each evening, my grandfather would sit down and open his daily bottle of beer. The dog would sit and whine until Grandpa would pour a little in a saucer and set it on the floor for the dog to lap up.

The dog was fussy though. If Grandpa would pour a different brand of beer in the saucer, the dog would sniff it, bark, and go curl up in his box. His evening was ruined.

Published 3/23/10, SPPP, Bulletin Board

NICE PILLOW

LUCKY- The Bear

We hadn’t had a dog in several years, so when my father-in-law asked if we would take his old dog, we jumped at the chance.

The dog is gentle, burly, jet-black mix of Newfoundland and Chow. He and I have a lot in common: Bad eyesight. Hard of hearing. Both of us walk very slowly, especially where stairs are involved. We would tend to overeat if my wife didn’t keep us on a short leash. And we both like to take naps.

His name is Lucky – I often refer to him as The Bear, because he resembles a black bear cub, and he does the coolest, lumbering circle-dance when he waits for me to catch up and let him into the house. My wife calls him Shadow, because he follows her around so closely, especially in the kitchen. He has this uncanny knack of lying down between you and your next destination – a talent which led our 2 year-old granddaughter to think his name is Move! Move!

He loves people, and his tail is in perpetual motion when any of the grandkids are over. He likes the attention and the extra work they create for him, because his main chore, which he works at without being told, is to see to it there are no stray crumbs or tasty tidbits on the kitchen floor.

Two of the little ones have just been taken home, and Lucky has finished one last inspection of the kitchen floor. I’m sitting and enjoying the summer breeze and fragrance of flowers coming through the deck’s screen door. Lucky is sprawled, in deep slumber, at my feet. The kids wore him out.

I can hear the birds at the feeder, singing for their supper, and an occasional noise from the sleeping dog.

But in my mind, I’m listening to the old song about how old dogs care about you, even when you make mistakes. About God blessing little children when they’re still too young to hate. About dreaming in peaceful sleep of shady summertime, of old dogs and children, and watermelon wine.

Even two out of the three makes it all worthwhile.

Published a few years back in SPPP – Bulletin Board

Dogs are like summer flowers, their lives have all too short a lease. And yet, they bring such joy and leave such memories…

TIPS FROM 59+

Oh, so much to deal with in this new world of the Virus. Now, just consider what an effect it is having on marriages. There will be lot of break-ups. Quarrels that will leave permanent scars. Then too, a great many will struggle through the bad times and become stronger because of it.

Now today you can get tips from every Tom, Dick, and Mary on every aspect of life in the time of the Virus, including how to cope with your spouse.

Here’s a few from Donald. No, not the thrice married sexist, who treats women like something on the bottom of his shoe, and who recently was told he hurt a lot of women with his words, shrugged it off with ‘Ah, they’ll get over it’.

(Believe me, your spouse might forgive, but will never forget.)

No, the Donald I am referring to has been married to his only wife for 59 plus years. This Donald, (well, yours truly), rode the roller coaster of marriage like people do and learned a lot about that institution from trial and error… a heck of a lot of the later. But my wonderful wife, Gina and I made it this far and are looking for many more years ahead.

Here’s a few things I learned as regards my relationship with my wife.

( The examples are from years ago and have been published, under a pen name, The Old Hand, in roughly the same detail, in the Bulletin Board of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, back in the day printed newspapers counted.)

GIVE HER HER SPACE. SHE’S WORKS HARD AND NEEDS TIME FOR HERSELF

I was reminded of a camping trip my wife took many years ago. It was a long weekend for most people and three sixteen hour days for me. My wife called me at work and said that being I wouldn’t be around much during the weekend, she was going to go camping with some of the girls at work. It was kind of amusing since my wife is certainly not the outdoorsy type. I told her to be sure and call when she got to the camping site and let me know the name of the campgrounds and the number of the camping site in case I had to reach her.

The next day there was voice mail from her. She said they were at the campgrounds and were waiting to go up to their site. The name of the campgrounds was the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The number of the site was Room 1313.

COMFORT COMES BEFORE FASHION

Many years ago, somebody decided to stop giving cash gratuities to stagehands and throw them a tee shirt instead. As a result my sons and I accumulated hundreds of the darn things.

I tended to divide them into three categories. The ones fit to wear in public. The ones fit to wear for work projects around the house and yard. And the ones fit only to wear in the garage when working on the car.

My wife on the other hand tended to grab what was handy or what color suited her, without paying any attention to what was written on it.

I can only imagine the look on the faces of the shoppers in the grocery story at the sight of a grocery cart with a fidgety toddler in it, which was being pushed by a sweet-grandmotherly woman who was wearing a tee shirt that proclaimed: I did drugs with Marilyn Manson.

SILENCE IS GOLDEN

ESPECIALLY IF THERE IS SOMEONE TO SAY

WHAT YOU WERE THINKING

My wife had just come back from getting a permanent. She hadn’t had time to comb out the frizzled curls. Two of the young granddaughters just stood and stared at her. She asked if liked her new hair do. Jena, four, was noncommittal… just rolled her eyes and walked away.

Five year old Jada, however stayed, looking up at her Grandma’s hair. She put her hands behind her back and remained silent. She took a deep breath and finally spoke, “Grandma, I…I think maybe I like your old hair better.”

Out of the mouths of babes oft comes truth and sometimes tact.

AND ABOVE ALL

BE PATIENT

THE FIRST FIFTY YEARS ARE THE HARDEST

Hope this tips prove helpful. And also the tips given by competent medical experts on what we all must do to STAY SAFE.

Disclaimer: I am not a certified Marriage Counselor. I have never read a book nor took a class on the subject. My thoughts come mainly from two sources, OJT, (On the Job Training) and SHK, (School of Hard Knocks).

3 LITTLE GIRLS

THREE LITTLE GIRLS

And how fast they are growing up

Another post to help me out of my funk. Just can’t seem to sit down and write anything new without letting my feelings take over. When I first thought of writing a blog, I made a promise to myself that it should entertain, amuse, and above all, not let it become political and preachy. But damn it, it is getting harder and harder to hold to my original premise.

So, like I did with my last post, Coffee with Ali, I will post somethings I wrote before, things that bring me comfort and warm memories.

None of these have appeared before in my blog; but rather, they were published in the Bulletin Board section of the St. Paul newspaper over the years, published under my alter ego, the Old Hand.

SOURCE OF PRIDE

I was sitting by the glass doors watching as the wind played with the tree cotton. My five year old granddaughter, Jada, came and stood by me. “Look at all the dandelion fuzz, Papa,” she said. The she softly added, “Somebody must have made a wish.”

Pub 5/26/2012

One of the birthday presents our 7 year old granddaughter, Jayda, received was a $15 gift card.

The other day, her mother took Jayda and her two younger sisters to the store so Jayda could buy something with her gift card. Jayda knew how she wanted to spend the card, but had kept it a secret.

She took her time, trying to find something that she would not only like, but would fit in with her plan. Finally, she found the perfect thing, a pair of ‘Princess’ sandals for $5. She figured out that the $15 would not only buy her a pair, but would also buy a pair for each of her sisters. Her gift card may be depleted but all three girls enjoy Jada’s birthday present.

Pub 9/10/13

Outside of having her bangs trimmed, Jayda, our almost-eight year old granddaughter, has never had a hair cut. She wanted it to grow long so she could donate it to LOCKS OF LOVE, who make wigs for cancer victims. Today she had her hair cut and made the donation.
Such a sweet caring child.

Pub 7/25/14

SOURCE OF COMFORT

My wife took her two hibiscus plants into the house early last fall. She kept them alive and well in the family room, patiently waiting for the warm weather so she bring them back outside.

The other day she went to the family room and found that our granddaughter, Jena, had taken all the leaves off of both plants and had them stacked in piles on the bench. Naturally my wife was upset and wanted to know why Jena had done such a thing. Jena just bowed her head and refused to explain her actions.

Then, her older sister, Jada, spoke up in Jena’s defense. In one of their Land Before Time videos, Grandfather Dinosaur is very sick. Littlefoot and his friends go to a forest where a certain tree grows. They pluck the leaves from the tree and bring them to Grandfather, who eats them and becomes well again.

Jena was worried because I was in bed feeling very poorly, and she was going to bring me the leaves so I wouldn’t be sick anymore. Thanks to my little nurse, I felt like a new man, and I didn’t even have to eat the leaves.

Pub 4/25/12

SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE

I just got a lesson in horticulture handed to me by Jaycee, our 4 year old granddaughter. I looked out the window and saw that the daffodils in the field were in full bloom.

‘Come and look at all the pretty yellow daffodils, Jaycee.’ She dragged over a kitchen stool so she could see out the window. ‘Aren’t those daffodils beautiful,’ I asked?

‘Yes,’ she agreed with me, ‘But Poppa, most people call yellow flowers dandelions.’

Pub 4/24/14

I got another lesson in nature study from our 4 year old granddaughter, Jaycee. I watched a white heron glide over the trees and land on the far edge of the pond.

‘Jaycee, come here and look. See over there, there’s a white heron.’

She looked and looked and finally saw it ‘That’s a goose, Grandpa.’

‘No. It’s a big white heron.’

‘It’s a goose, Grandpa! A big white goose.!’

‘Okay, it’s a big white goose – named Heron.’

She let out a great sigh. ‘Grandpa,’ she said extending her arms, palms turned upward. ‘Gooses don’t got names.’

Pub 5/10/14

I see babies cry, I watch them grow

They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know

And I say to myself, what a wonderful world

Yes I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

A lot or prayers, a lot of hard work, lot of hope, and may we have a world, a wonderful world to leave to those who will pick up where we left off…Stay positive. Stay safe.

 

 

JAYCEE & THE SENATOR

 

 

the tomboyToday, Jaycee, our youngest grandchild is ten years old. So much has happened since this was first posted. My father-in-law passed away several months ago. Senator Klobuchar took a run at the Presidency. Our WORLD changed perhaps forever.

And since I can not give Jaycee a birthday hug, I am reposting this event.

Happy Birthday, Jaycee. Grandpa loves you. 

 

Old Hand of Oakdale:

My father-in-law was presented, belatedly, with the French Legion of Honor for his service in the liberation of France during WWII. The medal was presented by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.

John and Amy

After the official ceremony there was picture taking and hand shaking. The place was packed. Some of us went out in the lobby where Jaycee, our three year old granddaughter was amusing herself by sliding across the smooth marble bench.

Senator Klobuchar walked by.

‘Hey,’ Jaycee shouted, and stood in front of the Senator, ‘Your shoes are really pretty.’

‘Thank you,’ said Senator Amy. ‘Your sandals are pretty also. And look, your toenail polish matches your outfit.’

‘I know,’ said Jaycee. She shrugged her shoulders and extended her arms, palms up. ‘That’s why I painted them that color.’ Then she went back to polishing the bench with her butt. 

A three year old and a U.S. Senator. – Just two girls talking fashions.

Published BB 7/8/13

As much as I try to avoid politics in my blog, today I must. Please. please, do as the scientists and medical professions are telling us to do. Don’t listen to unqualified and self-centered politicians who are telling us otherwise. Let’s worry about getting the economy back after we take care of the virus that has changed our world. STAY HEALTHY.

PS; As I post this, Senator Klobuchar’s husband is hospitalized with pneumonia and the Virus.

 

OLDE TYME MEDICINE

Another Back-In-The-Day…When medicines were not advertised, just prescribed by doctors…When doctors could safely spend more time on house calls than in their offices…And people were more accustomed to home remedies than using OTC and proscribed medicines.

The Old Hand

Mom’s medicines were fairly normal for the times, Vicks, aspirin, iodine, and lots of TLC. She forced us to swallow a daily dose of cod liver oil as a preventive medicine. Dad, though, had two items that he believed were the most important first-aid items ever made, namely a tin of carbolic salve and a bottle of horse liniment. These products were delivered to the house by the Watkin’s Man, a contemporary of the Fuller Brush Man, and precursor of the Avon Lady. Dad made sure we always had a supply of both medicines in the house and in the barn.

The carbolic salve came in a tin that resembled an oversized hockey puck. It was hard to get the cover off the first time; but you just rubbed a little of the salve on the inside rim of the cover, and it came off like a breeze afterwards. It was a Swiss Army knife of medicines. A cut on a fetlock, a festering harness sore, just slather a glob of carbolic salve on. A skinned knee, a boil on the butt, slather a glob of carbolic salve on.

A family down the road used axle grease for the same purpose. Both products had the same origins, dinosaurs, dead for eons. But the carbolic salve had a strong medicinal odor that lent assurance that it was working.

But it’s odor didn’t compare with the pungent perfume of the horse liniment. That had the potency to mask even the everyday fragrances of the barn. Whew! If man or beast had aching muscles, just rub in the liniment. Not only did it ease the ache, it gave you plenty of elbow room at school. It also worked to cure a horse of a croupy cough, although getting it down it’s throat was a real chore.

And then there was the times that us kids had a croupy cough… Dad made a horse liniment toddy: hot water, a dose of liniment, and lots of spoonfuls of sugar. Mom always pointed out that the label said it was not for human consumption. Dad always countered with, it’ll cure what ails ’em, and put a little hair on their chests. My brothers and I always protested because it had a terrible taste. My sister always cried because she didn’t want hair on her chest. Now I don’t know if it was because of it’s medical value, or because of the threat of having to drink another toddy if the cough persisted; but it worked.

Pub 1/20/12, St.Paul Pioneer Press

ADDENDUM;

Just checked the Watkins web site. Both products are there for the buying if interested.

The old timers around the village had other favorite remedies. The women favored reciting the rosary with the sick person…’Wake up, we only got two more decades to go’… The men favored a pint of blackberry brandy from Judge Shanno’s liquor store. ‘After chores you kill the jug, climb in bed under a couple quilts, and sweat it out overnight. Might not always cure you but you’ll have good dreams.’

WARNING: These friendly tips are for use only in those olde tyme illnesses and should not replace the words to live by today, hunker down, wash your hands, and keep a Social Distance from everyone.

KEEP HEALTHY

MISS FEE;THE DIAL SWITCHER

Another back-in-the-day post:  before we had streaming TV, heck before we ever heard of TV, we had radio, and before we had schools with basketball courts and buses to transport us to these wonderful buildings, we had one-room schoolhouses. One room, one teacher, grades One thru Eight. The enrollment went from 8 pupils one year to a high of 14 another year.

memory07_donaldostertag

The Original Story

Growing up on a small farm, our one radio was the only source of outside entertainment available to me. I hurried with my chores so I could listen to “my programs” – Tom MixLone Ranger, etc.. After supper, Mom controlled the dial (Dad worked nights in the packinghouse), and we listened to comedies like Fibber McGee, dramas like The First Nighter, and music like Your Hit Parade. Sometimes, when she was busy, I would lower the volume and find a crime show like Sam Spade, or a thriller like Suspense. A second radio would have been wonderful but was out of the question.

I went to the one-room schoolhouse across the field. Miss Fee, who lived on a farm with her four bachelor brothers, taught all eight grades as she had for years. She ruled with a stern scowl and a wood ruler.

One very cold early evening, she walked into our kitchen and announced she could not get her DeSoto started and was going to spend the night with us. And she added, that she hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. Mom, who also had Miss Fee as a teacher, would never had dared to offer any alternatives, and did everything that Miss Fee ordered, even letting her control the radio dial.

After that first night, the DeSoto seemed to fail every time the mercury dropped below zero, and we would have our very demanding guest. Mom told Dad that she didn’t believe the “car won’t start” story. “Those Fees are so tight with a buck,” Mom explained, “It’s her way of getting a good meal and a warm bed, having somebody else do the work.” Dad just smiled. “And,” Mom added, “She even has to listen to her radio programs! I go to listen to Kraft Music Hall. She turns on Sunset Valley Barn Dance!”

I saw an opening, “Well, if we had another radio…” Mom cut me off with her “Think-we’re-made-of-money” look. Dad shook his head.

Then one night, a Monday night, Miss Fee walked in. Everything went as usual except when eight o’clock came, time for Mom’s one must-listen-to program, Lux Radio Theater. She had hurried with her work and was sitting in her favorite chair, her crochet materials in her lap, listening to the words, “Lux Presents Hollywood,” her favorite hour of the week, when…Miss Fee turned the dial to Doctor I.Q.!…”I have a woman in the balcony, Doctor. And for three silver dollars…”

Mom stood up, and without a word, went to bed.

The very next payday we got our second radio. From then on, Mom could listen to Jack Benny and Bing Crosby, and I could solve crimes with Johnny Dollar and get goose bumps from the squeaking door of Inner Sanctum except when Miss Fee’s DeSoto wouldn’t start.

    Technically this is not an OLD HAND published newspaper story. It was published in the OLD TIME RADIO CATALOG. They asked for stories concerning old time radio. This was the first they ever published and I received ten CD’s of old time radio for it. Their web site is excellent. If you want to know what old timers like me listened to instead of TV, go to their web site. Not only is it informative, there is free old time radio programs you can listen to. http://www.otrcat.com/

ADDENDUM to the published story.

This was only part of the story. That first night Miss Fee declared she was spending the night, there were three choices, Mom and Dad’s bedroom, the kids’ bedroom, the living room couch. Naturally, Mom put her in her and Dad’s bedroom. Mom would sleep with my sister and Dad would sleep on the couch.

There would be no problem. Every night when Dad came home from work, Mom always woke up. She knew she could intercept Dad when he was sitting at the kitchen table eating a sandwich. She would explain the problem.

But there was a problem! Mom never woke up that night when Dad came home; but boy did she wake up when Dad started screaming and swearing. We all woke up.

Poor Dad. He was clad only in his jockey shorts and was standing facing the corner of the hall by his bedroom, trying to protect his head with his hands.

God damn it, woman,’ he kept yelling over and over, ‘You lost your mind or something? I’m your husband, not a god damn burglar.’

And Miss Fee, wearing long johns and her gray wool sweater was working him over with a broom, this pervert who had tried to climb in bed with her.

Mom jumped to the rescue and grabbed the broom away from Miss Fee at the same time trying to explain to both participants what had happened.

And the three of us older kids just couldn’t stop from laughing at the sight caused by the misunderstanding. The baby of the family slept through it all.

Miss Fee quickly retreated to the bedroom and we could hear her praying the rosary behind the closed door. Dad stomped into the living room and Mom followed, apologizing all the way after yelling for us kids to go back to bed. We did but it took a long time for us three kids to stop laughing and finally go to sleep; and by that time, we woke the baby and it took a long time for Mom to get him back to sleep.

The next day at school, Miss Fee brought me into the back room and begged me not to tell any of the other pupils what happened the night before. I said I wouldn’t, mainly because I had told some of them before school had even started and by then they all knew.

And Mom and Dad arranged for a signal that Miss Fee was spending the night, just in case Mom ever overslept, which she never did again.

SATURDAY’S BATH

The Old Hand

Back in the day when things we now accept as run-of-the-mill were considered a luxury..like a bath..

I had undergone a long period with a medicinal wrapping on my leg. A bath was impossible, and a partial shower was laborious, and unsatisfying. When the wrapping was removed for good, I took the longest and most luxurious bath in years. And I thought back when every common-place bath was a once a week chore and, when Saturday was Bath Night.

Growing up, we didn’t have a hot water heater. Six nights a week, cleanliness was obtained with a tea-kettle of hot water in the sink, or, weather permitting, a soaking down outside with the garden hose. But Saturday night was bath night, with a soup pot of water heated on the stove and carried very carefully to the tub. Cold water, from either tap, tempered the bath water, which was shared by all four of us kids.

My younger sister was first. She was always warned not to dawdle, (which she always did), and let the water turn too cold, or next time, she would be last in the tub, (which never happened). When she finally finished, a tea-kettle of hot water was added and it was my turn. Then next up were the two young brothers, together. They got a tea-kettle of hot water added, but temperature didn’t mean anything to them. They would have preferred a wash-up with the garden hose, weather permitting. But they still managed to make the tub a playground and a big mess for mom.

By the time I got to high school, we had a water heater, albeit with a small capacity. Now we could take baths when we wanted to. Of course, if hot water had been used before for a bath, or washing clothes, or even washing dishes, you had to wait a while for the heater to produce hot water again. The younger brothers still preferred the garden hose, weather permitting.

I didn’t get my first leave from the Army for four months. I surprised the family in the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Naturally, as soon as I walked in the door, Mom wanted to make me something to eat. I begged off, saying what I wanted first was a good soak in a hot bath, since I had not had a bath all the while I was in the Army.

She lost it. “Haven’t taken bath since you went in the Army! I didn’t raise my kids to be pigs! I can’t believe that is the kind of thing the Army…”

I finally calmed her down and explained that there were no bath tubs in army barracks, just showers. And I took one, often two showers, every day.

“Showers,” she said, giving me the mom’s look. “Humph! Like washing off with the garden hose, weather permitting.” She shook her head. “Well, that be the case, you better take a good long soak. Church will be crowded at Midnight Mass, and I want my children to be seen, not smelt. “

Sometimes, a bath/shower is a lot more than just good hygiene.

 Pub 4/14/11, St. Paul Pioneer Press – Bulletin Board

UNCLE ELMER’S GOAT

billy-goat

The Old Hand: Another Back In the Day

 

Most Christmas gag gifts are forgotten by New Year’s. Some however last a lot longer. My great-uncle Elmer and his old friend, Gene, kept one going for years.

A couple acquaintances of Elmer wanted to give their children a pet and they settled upon a cute little billy goat kid. The problem was the kid outgrew his cuteness very quickly. He became a real problem for the parents and the children who wouldn’t even go outside unless the goat was tied up.

Since nobody answered their ad offering a free goat, they did the only thing they could think of to get rid of the animal; they took it out to Elmer’s farm and gave it to him, knowing well he was too nice to refuse it.

I image that the goat had been given a name by it’s former owners, but uncle Elmer named it Goat. He never was too imaginative about his names. He had a border collie that was the best cattle dog I ever saw. Elmer called the dog, Dog. He had several horses with the same name, Horse. He had about twenty cows with the name Cow, except for the one he called Bull.

His first child was a boy and was given a normal name, which not too many people remembered over the years. Elmer nicknamed his son, Boy, the first time he saw him, and the name stuck all the rest of Boy’s life. As their family grew, Aunt Amanda, laid down the law, no more of those silly names, and the other kids grew up being called by their given names. But since Amanda never cared what he called his animals, Elmer gave them names he thought was appropriate.

Elmer got a lot of teasing about being such a softy and taking Goat. He just laughed and defending his action by saying, ‘You can’t look a gift goat in the mouth’. Although there were many times, he wished he had.

That animal was foul-smelling, obnoxious, mischievous, contrary, mean, ornery, and the list went on and on. In fact, if you look up some of the aforementioned words in the dictionary, you would probably see a picture of Elmer’s goat.

The one thing nobody ever did twice was turn their back on Goat. It was as if the critter saw the seat of a person’s pants as one big target. Ram! Bam! And after he played his little joke on the poor sap, you could swear there was a smile on Goat’s face.

Of course, Goat never tried anything with Elmer, one big reason was Dog. Not only was Dog a great cattle herder, he was also a darn good goat trainer. Dog could actually make Goat behave. But, if by chance some poor unsuspecting man turned his back on Goat, Dog was known to look the other way. Dog would never allow Goat to accost a woman or a child though, and Goat never tried to after Dog nipped him a few times for even thinking about it.

Gene, one of Elmer’s best friends had a farm a couple miles down the road from Elmer’s. The two had a lot in common, especially teasing and playing practical jokes on each other.

I  loved  Elmer telling the story about Gene hearing drinking goat’s milk was good for arthritis. When Gene found out that Elmer had just been given a goal and  he offered to buy Goat from Elmer. Elmer had that goat sold until some loud-mouth told Gene that Goat was a billy, not a nanny. ‘Yup,’ Elmer would laugh, ‘I’d a paid money to see the first time Gene tried to milk it.’

After almost getting taken by Elmer on the sale of the goat, Gene teased Elmer about the goat every chance he got. ‘Hey, if you want to get Elmer’s goat, just ask him about his Goat.’  Or when Elmer would stop in at the VFW for a euchre game, and Gene was there already, Gene would holler, ‘Hurry up and close the door. Must be a goat outside. I sure can smell it.’

It was the second Christmas of Elmer having the goat that Gene came home from Midnight Mass and saw lights on in the barn and his pack of dogs barking up a storm at the barn door. When he opened the door there was Goat in the box stall with the team of horses. Goat was helping himself to the hay and the two horses were standing as far away from the intruder as possible.

Around Goat’s neck was a large red ribbon and bow. It didn’t take much to figure out who the Santa was that left the present. Thinking back, Gene should have figured something was up when he didn’t see Elmer at Midnight Mass.

Like Elmer, Gene never looked a gift goat in the mouth and accepted it with a laugh. The only thing was Gene never called the goat, Goat. He renamed it Elmer. If Elmer the goat had any ideas that life would be easier without Dog around, he was wrong. While Gene didn’t have a dog like Dog, actually nobody did, Gene had a pack of dogs that managed to keep the goat in line.

And then come the next Christmas and there was no Gene at Midnight Mass, so Elmer wasn’t at all surprise to open the barn door and see Goat, nee Elmer, standing there with the big red ribbon and bow around it’s neck. Dog jumped around and actually licked Goat’s face. Elmer laughed and commented later that at least Dog was happy to have Goat back.

This ritual went on and on. Whoever it was that was going to get the goat made sure he went to Midnight Mass to make it easier on the giver. The red ribbon and bow was an important part of the gift so it was always kept in a safe place. They couldn’t trust it just hanging in the barn for fear the goat might eat it.

The goat, Goat or Elmer depending on which farm he was spending the year, matured thanks to age and to Dog and Gene’s pack of dogs as trainers. It became actually a pet. The two men found a pony harness and cart at an auction and broke the goat to be hitched up and pull it. Whenever kids would come to the farm where the goat was, it was drive-the-goat cart time. The goat and the cart and the kids were also big attractions in the parades at the various fairs and get-togethers during the summers and falls. And although the red ribbon and bow was also an important part of the goat’s wardrobe, the only time he wore it was Christmas Eve.

It was in the summer of a year when Elmer the Goat was living at Gene’s farm that Gene had the fatal heart attack while milking the cows. The day after the funeral Elmer told Gene’s widow what he intended to do and she thought it a good idea. Later that day Elmer came and took the goat, the harness, the cart, and the red ribbon and bow back to his farm – for good.

Every Christmas Eve, Elmer put the red ribbon and bow around the goat’s neck before Midnight Mass and took it off right after. If the goat missed Gene and Gene’s pack of dogs, he never showed it. He seemed content to live at just the one farm and didn’t seem to mind that no one ever called him Goat or Elmer anymore. From the time he came at Elmer’s to stay for good he went by the name, Gene.

 

Published BB and Word Press 2/13/17

THE CIRCLE EXPANDS

ERIK AT WORK

 

Published 12/2/00 – SP PP, Bulletin Board

The story about the little guy who knew the difference between imaginary monsters and real lions reminded me of taking my oldest grandson, Erik, to the movie, LION KING, when it first opened. He was more than happy to go with me even though he had just seen it a few days before with his parents.

It seemed like we had no more than settled down, when he made a bee-line for the lobby. I quickly followed and asked what was wrong. He told me there was a real scary part coming up that he didn’t want to watch, and he would go back when it was over.

Naturally, I got down on one knee and spouted some silly grown-up logic about it being only a movie, nothing to be afraid of, just images on the screen, etc..

“I know all that, Poppa,” he said, “But what if the glass breaks?”

Made perfect sense to me. We watched the movie in bits and pieces. When he took off for the lobby, I quickly followed without argument.

This is one of the first Old Hand stories. Today, Erik is on the other side of ‘the glass’. After graduating with a degree  from Gustavus,  he got a plum internship in EPCOT Center’s Living Seas Aquarium, the second largest aquarium in the world. His prime job is putting on a wet suit and taking care of the manta rays, although he swims with other varieties of sea life, including sharks.

This in turn led to his present job at Sea World where he performs similar duties.

And on Cinco de Mayo he will be marrying lovely Erin O’Neill in Tulsa, OK. Almost all of our immediate family will be there. With a very sad heart I will be there only in spirit due to some recent health problems. But Erik will know I am standing beside him on this, his special day.

Erik is our oldest grandchild, our only grandchild for several years, our first day-care grandchild, and he and I have a special bond.

I look out the window and I can still see him getting off the school bus, running across the field, and coming directly to my ‘office’ so ‘Poppa Donald’ could read him another chapter of HARRY POTTER.

I bought him a pair of goldfish and he learned how to take care of them. He did such a good job the two fish lived for years beyond what pet goldfish usually survive. His two favorite stuffed animals were Sebastian and Flounder from THE LITTLE MERMAID. When he began to read for himself he studied whales and sharks.

The two us once went to the Science Museum to see a documentary on whales. We leaned way back and watched the movie almost directly over our heads. Not content with the narration of the film, Erik, about five or six at the time, supplied a more complete study of the mammals. Finally an usher came and told me that if my little companion didn’t keep quiet, we would have to leave. Erik stopped talking but would whisper to me some important facts that weren’t mentioned.

He loves all animals but has a special love for marine animals.

He and Erin got together because she had gotten an internship at the Minnesota Zoo. Erik was working as an instructor at the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul. Erik’s mother had a relative living in Tulsa who was a friend to Erin’s mother. Naturally this led to long distance introduction between the two animal lovers. And, well as they say, nature took it’s course.

It is wonderful that they both got work in the field they both studied for in college. And eve more wonderful that they found a partner they have so much in common with

They live outside Orlando. Erik works at Sea World. Erin at Disney World.

Erin at work

Erin at work feeding one of her pets

 

May the sun shine bright for the rest of these two wonderful members of our family.

OUR CIRCLE OF LIFE EXPANDS

   

APTITUDE/ATTITUDE

250px-2009-731-MN-Cretin-Dehram

Back in the day when Cretin High School was it’s complete name, and it’s only students were teenage boys, and it was affordable to working class families, and the great majority of it’s teachers were Christian Brothers, the school had a program to help steer the students toward a good vocation in later life. This program was the bailiwick of a kindly, soft spoken, elderly Brother we fondly referred to as Brother Aptitude.

During your first three years of schooling, Brother Aptitude would periodically pop into your Home Room and give aptitude tests. During your last year, he would have three private sessions with you in which he would explain the results of the aptitude tests and combined with your academic achievements, would try to steer you towards a good vocation in life that would also interest you. I never got passed the first few minutes of the first session with Brother Aptitude.

I often thought that if I had completed the program, I wouldn’t have wandered from job to job until I finally found a good paying one I was suited for and interested me. Like the one that I worked at for 45 enjoyable years, some of them past the time I could have retired.

And why didn’t I complete this important program? Because I was a smart-alec who spoke before I thought!

For three years I had looked forward to my enlightening sessions with Brother Aptitude. I liked him and his tests. I liked his smile when we passed in the hall. I admired the old man. And finally when the day of the first private session came, I was so excited.

Brother Aptitude’s ‘office’ was in a far corner of the Principal’s outer office. Like all the desks of the Christian Brothers, his sat on an 8” riser with the front of the desk about 6” from the front of the platform. The building’s wall was the his back wall. His one side wall was the wall of the main office, with enough space between it and the platform to allow for entrance and exit. The front and 4th side were just bamboo screens. It wasn’t much of an office, but it did provide a small measure of privacy from the work that went on in the rest of the main office.

At the first of my sessions, Brother Aptitude met me at the outer office door and escorted me to his private domain. I sat in a chair on the floor in front of the platform and his desk, which was piled high with stacks of aptitude tests. He began by telling me what the tests showed what I was most interested in.

I placed highest in ‘literary appreciation’, which was no surprise. I always like to read books and write stories. Next he pointed out that I also placed high in ‘music appreciation’, which was also no surprise to me. It was the 50’s, the beginning of Rock & Roll. Not only did ;we teenagers have tour very own music, there was actually radio stations dedicated to play it. Elvis was King and the Top 40 our playlist.

Brother Aptitude made note of the fact, that I even though I liked music, I was not in the school band. I said that I was into sports. Plus, I had never learned to play a musical instrument.

He argued and told me that I shouldn’t be modest about not playing an instrument just because I might not play one as well as I would like. And he asked again what instrument did I play. This time he was much more forceful.

‘Well, Brother,’ I answered, with a smart-alec quip, ‘I do fool around with the phonograph.’

‘There now,’ he said, looking down at his notes on me, ‘I knew you played an instrument. Now if you are going to get anything out of…’Suddenly it dawned on him what I had actually said.

‘A phonograph!’ he shouted. For such a soft spoken old man, he sure could yell when he wanted to. ‘A phonograph!’ he shouted again.

He leapt to his feet and slammed his hands on the desk, trying to push his chair back at the same time. The slap was more of a push and the front legs of the desk fell off the platform which caused the stacks of papers to spill all over the floor, which caused more yelling from Brother Aptitude, which caused me to stand and jump backwards, which caused the screen behind me to fall over, which caused the side screen to follow suit, which caused the principal’s secretary typing away behind the big office counter to scream and jump up, which caused the principal to rush out of his office, and stand there, hands on hips, staring at the mess.

Poor old Brother Aptitude. His face was beet red. He wasn’t screaming anymore but he was stammering trying to explain his anger. The secretary brought him a glass of water, which caused him to cough and choke and spill on his robe as he tried to get it down.

I just stood there shivering, afraid that my action might trigger a heart attack or a nervous breakdown in the old man. I glanced sideways at the principal waiting for whatever he had in store for me. Corporal punishment and/ or tons of homework were a way of life in the school. Finally, the principal spoke in a calm, low voice. He told me I had better go back to my home room. Then he took Brother Aptitude’s arm and led him slowly into the Principal’s office.

Needless to say, my first session to help me find my vocation, ended. And needless to say, the other two sessions never happened. And needless to say, it took me years to find a vocation I was suited for. Three years of taking aptitude tests right down the drain. I never did receive any type of school punishment for my actions except whenever I happened to meet Brother Aptitude in the hall, he looked the other way. That hurt. I really liked the kindly old man and I never even got a chance to apologize to him.

It wasn’t the first time, nor the last, I must admit, that my smart-alec tongue got me in trouble. Sometimes you live and you still never learn.

Published – BB and Beyond  3/12/17

One of the readers wanted to know what occupation I worked at enjoyable for 45 years. Stage hand.  I figured it out that I had worked a mixture of thousands of happenings in those years, most of them in the field of arts and entertainment, although there were some that were in the fields of politics and athletics. In addition I worked on some movies that were filmed locally and did a bit of touring. While I would never say that everyone of those events were enjoyable, as a whole it was an occupation that I liked very much. And Brother Aptitude did steer me the right way when he said that my interests were in literary and musical appreciation.

There was one big downside, the long hours, the having to work weekends, robbed me of watching my  5 sons grow up. I was so fortunate to have a wife who raised them right, with so little help from me.

There was one big upside though, as soon as they reached the age of being able to work as stagehands, I got to work with them, teach them, learn from them, both as a father and a coworker. The 3 oldest paid their way through college as stagehands and have excellent professions. The 2 youngest stayed in the business, their specialty is high steel riggers..

In addition to working with my 5 sons, I also worked with a daughter-in-law, 4 nephews, and a young cousin. Like they say, nepotism is alright as long as you keep it in the family.   

AH ONE

A GIRL CALLED BUBBLES

bubbles

The Old Hand of Oakdale:

It was our Freshman year in college and we had a semester break so Tom and Al and myself decided to get in my car and drive to Chicago to see the Blackhawks play. We stopped in Milwaukee first because there were two girls that Tom and Al had dated in high school attending Marquette University. We caught up with them and several of their classmates at the Student Union.

It was nice catching up and talking over old times with the two girls, as well as meeting their friends, but I had to excuse myself and go to the hotel. My football-knee was acting up after the long drive and I wanted to get back to the hotel and soak it in a tub of hot water.

When Tom and Al came in the room later they informed me the three of us were going to a movie that night. And Bubbles had claimed me as her date.

‘Whoa! Thanks but no thanks,’ I told them. ‘First, I don’t go on blind dates, especially with gals that have silly nicknames like Bubbles…’

‘She’s good looking,’ Al said, ‘And the girls say she is a lot of fun.’

‘I remember who she is. You can’t forget somebody called Bubbles, can you? But forget it. I see the Brubeck Trio are playing at a jazz club down by the lake. No way am I going to blow off chance to see them in person.’

Both Tom and Al argued, using every reason they could think of to make me change my mind. And the more they argued, the more stubborn I got.

Finally I just said, ‘Case closed! I am not going to a movie with a blind date especially one with a silly nickname! I’m going to see Brubeck.’

(A few years later, I broke those two rules and went out on a blind date with a girl nicknamed Georgie. In a couple months Georgie and I will be celebrating our 56th wedding anniversary.)

Driving to Chicago the next morning things was pretty quiet at first. Tom was dozing in the front seat and Al was laid across the back seat. Finally Al sat up and asked me how I enjoyed Brubeck. I told him it was great. Then I asked him about the movie.

‘We should have gone with you, a real tear jerker,’ Tom chimed in. ‘Two of the girls liked it.’

‘Bubbles sure wasn’t very bubbly,’ Al said. ‘I don’t think she’s every been stood up before.’

‘Hey!’ I argued, ‘I never asked her out to begin with, so how could I have stood her up?’

‘Yeah, you got a point’ Tom said. ‘We said you had another commitment that you couldn’t break. And, we sure never told her you didn’t go out with her because her friends called her Bubbles. Wouldn’t want her to think you’re a dink.’

Al leaned over the back seat. ‘Know why they call her Bubbles, dink? Oh, I mean Don.’

‘Bubbling personality?’

‘Well, not last night,’ Al said, and he slapped me on the shoulder. ‘You blew it, man! They call her Bubbles because she’s Lawrence Welk’s daughter.’ He laughed and started singing, ‘Roll out the barrel, and we’ll have a barrel of fun.’

Tom joined in and pretty soon all three of us were singing The Beer Barrel Polka, followed by In Heaven There Is No Beer.’

Published Bulletin Board – 2/22/17

WUNNERFUL! WUNNERFUL!

Stay tuned. The next post will be AH TWO. It will be about the time I worked Bubble’s father and the man who married her.

 

UNCLE ELMER’S GOAT

billy-goat

The Old Hand: Another Back In the Day

 

Most Christmas gag gifts are forgotten by New Year’s. Some however last a lot longer. My great-uncle Elmer and his old friend, Gene, kept one going for years.

A couple acquaintances of Elmer wanted to give their children a pet and they settled upon a cute little billy goat kid. The problem was the kid outgrew his cuteness very quickly. He became a real problem for the parents and the children who wouldn’t even go outside unless the goat was tied up.

Since nobody answered their ad offering a free goat, they did the only thing they could think of to get rid of the animal; they took it out to Elmer’s farm and gave it to him, knowing well he was too nice to refuse it.

I image that the goat had been given a name by it’s former owners, but uncle Elmer named it Goat. He never was too imaginative about his names. He had a border collie that was the best cattle dog I ever saw. Elmer called the dog, Dog. He had several horses with the same name, Horse. He had about twenty cows with the name Cow, except for the one he called Bull.

His first child was a boy and was given a normal name, which not too many people remembered over the years. Elmer nicknamed his son, Boy, the first time he saw him, and the name stuck all the rest of Boy’s life. As their family grew, Aunt Amanda, laid down the law, no more of those silly names, and the other kids grew up being called by their given names. But since Amanda never cared what he called his animals, Elmer gave them names he thought was appropriate.

Elmer got a lot of teasing about being such a softy and taking Goat. He just laughed and defending his action by saying, ‘You can’t look a gift goat in the mouth’. Although there were many times, he wished he had.

That animal was foul-smelling, obnoxious, mischievous, contrary, mean, ornery, and the list went on and on. In fact, if you look up some of the aforementioned words in the dictionary, you would probably see a picture of Elmer’s goat.

The one thing nobody ever did twice was turn their back on Goat. It was as if the critter saw the seat of a person’s pants as one big target. Ram! Bam! And after he played his little joke on the poor sap, you could swear there was a smile on Goat’s face.

Of course, Goat never tried anything with Elmer, one big reason was Dog. Not only was Dog a great cattle herder, he was also a darn good goat trainer. Dog could actually make Goat behave. But, if by chance some poor unsuspecting man turned his back on Goat, Dog was known to look the other way. Dog would never allow Goat to accost a woman or a child though, and Goat never tried to after Dog nipped him a few times for even thinking about it.

Gene, one of Elmer’s best friends had a farm a couple miles down the road from Elmer’s. The two had a lot in common, especially teasing and playing practical jokes on each other.

I  loved  Elmer telling the story about Gene hearing drinking goat’s milk was good for arthritis. When Gene found out that Elmer had just been given a goal and  he offered to buy Goat from Elmer. Elmer had that goat sold until some loud-mouth told Gene that Goat was a billy, not a nanny. ‘Yup,’ Elmer would laugh, ‘I’d a paid money to see the first time Gene paid to milk it.’

After almost getting taken by Elmer on the sale of the goat, Gene teased Elmer about his goat every chance he got. ‘Hey, if you want to get Elmer’s goat, just ask him about his Goat.’  Or when Elmer would stop in at the VFW for a euchre game, and Gene was there already, Gene would holler, ‘Hurry up and close the door. Must be a goat outside. I sure can smell it.’

It was the second Christmas of Elmer having the goat that Gene came home from Midnight Mass and saw lights on in the barn and his pack of dogs barking up a storm at the barn door. When he opened the door there was Goat in the box stall with the team of horses. Goat was helping himself to the hay and the two horses were standing as far away from the intruder as possible.

Around Goat’s neck was a large red ribbon and bow. It didn’t take much to figure out who the Santa was that left the present. Thinking back, Gene should have figured something was up when he didn’t see Elmer at Midnight Mass.

Like Elmer, Gene never looked a gift goat in the mouth and accepted it with a laugh. The only thing was Gene never called the goat, Goat. He renamed it Elmer. If Elmer the goat had any ideas that life would be easier without Dog around, he was wrong. While Gene didn’t have a dog like Dog, actually nobody did, Gene had a pack of dogs that managed to keep the goat in line.

And then come the next Christmas and there was no Gene at Midnight Mass, Elmer wasn’t at all surprise to open the barn door and see Goat, nee Elmer, standing there with the big red ribbon and bow around it’s neck. Dog jumped around and actually licked Goat’s face. Elmer laughed and commented later that at least Dog was happy to have Goat back.

This ritual went on and on. Whoever it was that was going to get the goat made sure he went to Midnight Mass to make it easier on the giver. The red ribbon and bow was an important part of the gift so it was always kept in a safe place. They couldn’t trust it just hanging in the barn for fear the goat might eat it.

The goat, Goat or Elmer depending on which farm he was spending the year, matured thanks to age and to Dog and Gene’s pack as trainers. It got so was actually a pet. The two men found a pony harness and cart at an auction and broke the goat to be hitched up and pull it. Whenever kids would come to the farm where the goat was, it was drive-the-goat cart time. The goat and the cart and the kids were also big attractions in the parades at the various fairs and get-togethers during the summers and falls. And although the red ribbon and bow was also an important part of the goat’s wardrobe, the only time he wore it was Christmas Eve.

It was in the summer of a year when Elmer the Goat was living at Gene’s farm that Gene had the fatal heart attack while milking the cows. The day after the funeral Elmer told Gene’s widow what he intended to do and she thought it a good idea. Later that day Elmer came and took the goat, the harness, the cart, and the red ribbon and bow back to his farm – for good.

Every Christmas Eve, Elmer put the red ribbon and bow around the goat’s neck before Midnight Mass and took it off right after. If the goat missed Gene and Gene’s pack of dogs, he never showed it. He seemed content to live at just the one farm and didn’t seem to mind that no one ever called him Goat or Elmer anymore. From the time he came at Elmer’s to stay for good he went by the name, Gene.

Published BB 2/13/17

TALE FROM AN OUTHOUSE

Back in The Day

outhouse

 

The Old Hand  writes (having changed the names in this story, to protect both the innocent and the guilty) :

“Miss Fisk had a small 3.2 bar just outside the town limits — clean, quiet, befitting the gray-haired, innocent looking old lady. She lived in the far end of the building: a small kitchen/office, and her bedroom.

“She treated the barroom itself as her living room. Wipe your feet on the mat before entering. A small oak bar, 10 stools, three booths, and six tables. There was the front door, and a door leading to her living quarters, and a door with a restroom sign above it.

“But once you went through that door with the restroom sign, you were outside in the parking lot and about a hundred feet from a gray, wooden, two-holed outhouse. There weren’t too many bars left that didn’t have inside facilities, but Miss Fisk did not like the idea of cleaning an inside restroom.

“Her clientele was carefully picked. She allowed no rowdies, no drunks, no one she suspected of spending money on liquor when his family was going hungry, no unescorted females; there was no swearing, no Bible thumping, and no children. And once she banned you, you were banned for life.

“Since there was never many customers in her place, you had to wonder how she made ends meet — but she had her ways. For instance, there were the poker games, big stakes, that started every Saturday afternoon. The house took a draw out of each pot. And when the chaff got separated from the wheat, this sweet old lady sat in and showed the boys how to play poker.

“Then there was the Minnesota liquor law. Only liquor stores could sell whiskey by the bottle, and liquor stores closed at 8 p.m. six nights and never opened on Sunday. That left a lot of hours for thirsty people who wanted to buy more whiskey.

“Now, a 3.2 bar couldn’t sell even a glass of strong beer, let alone a shot of whiskey, and heaven forbid a bottle of whiskey — but Miss Fisk saw a need and filled it. She pushed more illegally sold bottles out the back door during the off-hours than the Judge’s liquor store in town ever hoped to sell legally. And for a bigger profit, tax-free.

Gros Jean, the township marshal, knew of all this, but he would never do anything about her sidelines, because he figured, like everyone, that she was filling some valuable needs for the community. Plus, he had been unopposed in his running for office for almost two decades, and he liked his job. It supplied him with a good living and a new car every few years.

“It was the last new car that got Bantam Denis the idea that maybe there was more to the job than just the salary, so Banty decided to run against Gros Jean. A week or so before the election, he stopped into Miss Fisk’s bar, and even though he had been banned several years before, he ordered a beer. He was refused. So he went and dumped everybody’s glass of beer on the floor as he ranted as to how, when he was elected, he would stop the Saturday poker games and stop her back-door peddling of whiskey, maybe even take away her 3.2 license. Unless! He went and whispered something in her ear.

“In spite of the fact that the kickback he wanted from her was less than what she was paying Gros Jean, she held the door open while several customers threw Banty out.

“Banty held off a few nights before getting his revenge. He waited in the dark until Miss Fisk and Jen, girlfriend of Earl the bartender, went to the outhouse. Once they were inside, he took the board into which he had started four nails, and, placing it crosswise, he hammered it to the door frame, making it impossible to push the door open.

“The two women screamed and tried to get out. He jumped into his pickup and started bumping the outhouse — not enough to tip it over, just enough to scare the . . . etc. Then he drove out quickly. Nobody inside the bar heard the commotion, and it wasn’t until almost a hour later, when someone walked out to use the outhouse, that their predicament was discovered.

“Naturally, everyone knew who had pulled the trick — but as Gros Jean pointed out, there was no evidence . . . and maybe not even a law against nailing an outhouse door closed.

“But come the election results, Miss Fisk had her faith in mankind restored. Twice the usual number of people had voted, and Banty ended up with just two votes. No, it wasn’t his mother who cast the other vote for him. She had made it clear before the election that she wouldn’t vote for her son even if he were the only one running. The second vote was cast by an angry wife of one of the habitual losers in the Saturday poker games.

“And the very next day after getting locked in the outhouse, Miss Fisk used some of her ill-gotten gains to have an addition built on her building: a unisex restroom with all the modern conveniences. Of course, though, the old gray outhouse out back was left standing, because there were some habits her regular customers just couldn’t break.

“The only change in the outhouse was that somebody had found the board Banty had used and painted the words ‘BANTY’S JAILHOUSE’ on it and nailed it over the door.

“The bar and outhouse stood for several more years, until the Highway Department bought it for a highway expansion and knocked it down.

“Miss Fisk started another bar high on a hill which overlooked where the old bar had been, but it just wasn’t the same. For one thing, the building code decreed it had to have both a Men’s Room and a Ladies’ Room inside the building, requiring a lot of cleaning never needed when all she had was the old outhouse.

Published Bulletin Board & Onward       1/14/17

MEMORIES FORGOTTEN AND REMEMEBERED

dick-van-dyke-show

 

 

 

            There comes a time when it is easier to remember what happened years ago than to remember where in the heck you just set down your glasses or your car keys, or you call your grandchildren by the wrong name.

            Joey B. was at that age years before he should have been; but then, his memory failed him even the middle of a story,especially where names were concerned. When he couldn’t think of a name, he would start scratching the top of his head ala Stan Laurel. I found out just recently that Joey B and his memory was responsible for me thinking that Dick Van Dyke was kind of standoffish.

            Van Dyke was playing the lead in a touring company of THE MUSIC MAN. He got to the theater early for the first sound check and went downstairs to the stagehands’ room to introduce himself the hands. I was busy on stage so I wasn’t in the room at the time.

             Dick introduced himself and wanted to learn the names of the hands. As was his custom, Joey B. broke in and started his own conversation with Van Dyke.

            ‘Hey, I remember you. You had that show on TV. The one with that funny guy and that funny woman — always cracking jokes. And you had a wife that was pretty funny too. Can’t think of the name of that show though.’ He began to scratch the top of his head.

            Van Dyke tried to help him out. ‘It was called THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW.’

            ‘NO! NO! Joey B. said in his best gruff voice. ‘That ain’t it.’ Now really stumped, he took off his glasses with his right hand and rubbed his eye. ‘I’ll remember it. I’ll remember.’

            At which point, Van Dyke threw up his arms, turned around and went back upstairs. Naturally, the hands that were present burst out laughing. Dick spent a lot of time in his dressing room during the run and seemed to avoid the stagehands. I can’t blame him after hearing the story of his meeting with Joey B. and his memory, and all these years I thought he was stuck up.  

 

Recently, the Bulletin Board had a lot of stories about people trying to think of the first thing they remembered. Here’s my story.       

How far back?

The Old Hand of Oakdale: “I guess my earliest memory was that of a corpse and a casket. In my mind, I still have a vivid picture of trying to reach up to grab the edge of the casket so I could pull myself into it. What led up to it and what occurred after was told to me by my mother years later.

“I was about 2, the only grandchild at the time — old enough to walk and talk, young enough so I couldn’t understand the concept of death. My favorite uncle, Gilbert, and the youngest in my mother’s family, was just 16 when he died of Sleeping Sickness.

“It was back in the day when wakes were often held in the home of the deceased. Gilbert was laid out in an open casket in his parents’ living room for three days and nights: three days of people paying their respects, bringing food and beverages, sitting around playing cards and talking to old friends and relatives, which on my mother’s side pretty much consisted of everyone in Mendota — both the village and the township and some of Eagan Town. The wake ended each night when the parish priest led the rosary. The visitors left, but most came back the next day.

“Mom and I stayed at her folks’ house during that time. I slept in a bed with my mother. Dad was coming in for the funeral from Lake Michigan, where he was working on the ice pack. On the first night, I managed to sneak out of the bed and go downstairs to where Uncle Gibby was ‘sleeping.’ Luckily, my mother noticed that I wasn’t in the bed and found me before I caused any trouble or somehow managed to achieve my goal.

“In spite of my mother trying to speak quietly and explain why I had to sleep with her and not Uncle Gibby, I did manage to wake everybody up with my loud screams demanding to sleep with Uncle Gibby.

“My earliest memory.”

Published in Bulletin Board  11/4/16

And that’s a wrap for today.

Oh, just found my glasses. They were on top of my head. Should have looked there first.

 

ONLY IN IRISH AMERICA

American-Shamrock-MI

Before the term March Madness was used to describe bouncing basketballs and broken brackets, or even before it was used to describe collegiate binge drinking on Florida beaches, it was used to describe St. Patrick’s Day, a welcome break from Lent.

Lent was SERIOUS! Fasting! Abstaining! Praying the family rosary before supper, which was more often a tuna salad or sardines and crackers than a hamburger or hot dog. No candy for kids during Lent. No liquor for adults during Lent. Sunday wasn’t really considered Lent; but in some of the more conservative homes, it was.

And yet, on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, Lent was set aside in almost all households, Irish or not. This is true in America but not in Ireland, where the day is more of a holy day than a holiday. Just as Christmas seems to help survive the cruel winter, the St. Patrick’s holiday seemed to relieve the ashes and sackcloth mentality of Lent.

Our town was mostly French-Indian descendents of fur trappers and voyagers that came down from French Canada. Growing up, I can remember only two ‘Irishmen’, both of whom married into our tight knit locale. And yet, the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day was honored by all and even sanctioned by the priests of the church on the hill.

Most holidays celebrating a person are held on the day of the person’s birth. The day to honor St. Patrick is held on the day of his death. Even if his birthday was known for sure, the day of his death helped with getting through the Lenten period. Most holidays celebrating a person honor a native son, not a natural enemy. Patrick has about as much Irish in him as I do. He was an Englishman, brought to Ireland as a slave. He escaped and went back to England, where he became a priest. And then he returned to convert his captors.

It seemed like the stricter Lent was observed, the wilder St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated. But that was in the past. The strictness that once was Lent has all but disappeared, and the celebration that calls for green beer, and buttons that proclaim, ‘Kiss me. I’m Irish’, grows bigger and bawdier every year.

I have never really caught the ‘Irish Fever’; but don’t tell my father-in-law, John O’Boyle that. In his mind, my last name, Ostertag, is spelled O’Stertag. He is a true Irish-American.

For instance, while Ireland remained ‘neutral’ during WWII, not so with Irish America. John, for instance, ran away from home just after high school. He joined the Merchant Marine. His ship was torpedoed just off the coast of Argentina. John was rescued and he returned home just before Pearl Harbor. He enlisted in the Army, fought in Europe, was at the Liberation of Paris, and was wounded severely just as his outfit was about to march into the Battle of the Bulge. A true Irish American.

 

The Old Hand:

John, my 94 year old father-in-law, has marched in yet another Bemidji’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. As one of the original instigators of the parade, he has marched in almost every one since its inception.

While other cities argue over who has the most participants, the most spectators, the most celebrants that have at least some Irish in their background, Bemidji has the uncontested claim to having the shortest route of any of the parades.

It starts off in one of the two Irish pubs in the city. The marchers congregate during the late morning, and, then at a predetermined time, or maybe a little after, someone starts to sing DANNY BOY.  They all join in singing, stand up, and parade across the street to the other pub.

Rain or shine, snow or sleet, a good time is had by all, young or old.

Erin go braugh!

Published Bulletin Board, St. Paul Dispatch 3/18/16

 

And then there is the song DANNY BOY, the anthem of Irish Americans and Canadians. The melody has Irish roots, but the lyrics were written by an Englishman!

 

Again with my Irish-American father-in-law:

The Old Hand:

John’s second wife was a beautiful, world-traveled lady, imported from Sweden. When she died the service was held in a Bemidji, in a Lutheran church with a large congregation of people of Swedish descent.

My father-in-law left most of the music up to the minister, but requested one song to be sung. True to his Irish heritage, he requested Danny Boy.

The resident singer was a somber older gentleman with a nice voice. He sang all the hymns without resorting to a hymnal – but when it came time for Danny Boy, both he and the organist brought out the sheet music. He handled it nicely, singing it straight forward without any attempt to imitate an Irish tenor. But, by his deep frown and his body language, the singer left no doubt he thought this song to be highly inappropriate to be sung in this church for the service of a nice Swedish Lutheran Lady.

And he did make one small change in the lyrics that say: and kneel and say an Ave there for me. Instead he sang: and kneel and say a prayer there for me. I can just imagine him putting his foot down on any singing about Aves in his church.

Irish! Humph!

Published Bulletin Board, St Paul Dispatch  5/2/13

 

The dichotomy of the Irish in the New World reminds me of an old story:

Robert Driscoll was the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin. When he came to the U.S. to visit, there was a ticker tape parade for him in New York City.

Among the spectators were two elderly Irish women. One turned to the other and said, ‘Can you imagine! He’s Lord Mayor of London and he’s Jewish!’

The second shook her head and said, ‘Lord Mayor of London, and he’s Jewish! Only in America. Only in America.’

POQUITO SOL

poquito sol

 

 

Lately the news, the local news, (Hate), the national news, (Hate), the international news, (Hate), has been so depressing. 

I needed something to cheer me up.

            Even the weather has been so depressing. Rain and more rain. It finally snowed last week and melted a few days later. Usually I look to nature for solace and even that is depressing.

The grass is still green; but the trees, which, not too long ago, were brilliant with the leaves of many colors, are naked.

I can see the pond easier now that the leaves aren’t blocking the view, but there is no ducks to be seen. Like so many of the old retirees in Minnesota, they have gone south. There’s still two Canadian geese that walk through the field, still getting fat on the grass. They look lonesome out there.

The fawn deer that were so cute a few months ago have lost their spots and now are  just smaller members of the herd. I watch them eating the green grass and feel sorry; because in spite of no real winter yet, that grass will be covered with snow and food will be hard for them to find. They are in for a sad surprise.

The other day I saw a young buck deer, a four pointer, laying back by the shed. He looked to be sleeping even though it was almost noon. Every once in a while he would lift his head and sniff the air. Finally he tried to get up. He had a hard time. He began to walk with great difficulty. He was favoring his left hind hip. I felt for him, knowing first hand how walking can be very painful. I surmised that he had been feeling his oats and decided to take a doe out of the herd; but the head buck objected and taught the youngster a lesson. He managed to disappear into the woods, an outcast from the herd; yet safer than if he had been further north, up in wolves country.

I needed something to cheer me up.

 

I looked at the entries in my blog the past year. So many concerned themselves with old friends and acquaintances who passed away. But when you are my age, you are bound to have many memories of people now deceased. I  just never intended that it should turn into an obituary blog. After all, I subtitled it ‘Laughter In The Wings’.

Oh, yes, I needed something to cheer me up.

 

So I dug in my Documents and found a few incidents that I found funny at the time and am happy to say I think they have stood the test of time. Maybe you will too.

They have a common string, Mexico, a beautiful land of beautiful people, in spite of what Trump and his Brown Shirted Haters would have you believe.

 

From: The Old Hand

My old friend, Joey B. liked photos, liked posing for them, liked taking them. Although he was better at the former than the later.

I remember how excited he was once when he returned from a trip to Mexico. He came on stage with a camera hanging around his neck. “Bought this just before we went on the trip,” he said. “I can’t wait to see the finished pictures. I dropped twelve rolls of film off at the drug store and they told me I could pick them up after work.

“Guys, I got some snapshots there that will knock your socks off!”

He handed off his new camera to show around. Tom, who knew something about photography, took off the lens cap.

What the hell is that?” Joe exclaimed!

Joe never bothered to go back to pick up the “developed” pictures. I guess he figured once you have seen the inside of a lens cap, you don’t need twelve rolls of film to remind you what it looked like.

Published St. Paul Dispatch

Joey B liked Mexico. He spent a lot of the Guthrie off season down in Ensenada fishing. After he retired, he lived down there almost all year long for several years, fishing and he was happy. His long suffering wife stayed in Minneapolis and continued to work as a dresser at the Guthrie, and she was happy. 

 

From: The Old Hand 

            My wife, Gina, and I were sitting in an outdoor café in Oaxaca, Mexico. Naturally, there were a number of cute little kids selling hand crafts like necklaces and scarves, and the local delicacy, roasted ants. One lad, though, had nothing to sell. He just wanted money.

Gina, a Mexican by birth, chided him for asking for money. She pointed out that the other children were industrious, selling things, and he should be ashamed for being just a beggar. He wasn’t.

Senora,” he said, “You give me money. I will go and buy something. And then I will come back and sell it to you. Si?”

Made sense to me, but my wife continued her lecture on how he should try and be more than just a beggar. She stressed that once a beggar, always a beggar. Work hard. Get ahead. “And,” she added, “Who knows? Someday you could become presidente of Mexico.”

Presidente of Mexico!” The lad shouted, “I’d rather be a beggar.”

Published St Paul Dispatch

 

If it wasn’t for the family, we’re lucky our boys and their families all live close by, my wife and would become snow birds. Only instead of wintering in Florida or Arizona like so many Minnesotans, we would head for Mexico. The two coasts are nice; but I would opt for the Colonial Cities, San Miguel and the others. So picturesque and leisurely, and not too far from Mexico City, another of my favorite cities.

 

 

From: The Old Hand

It was during the time when the TV news was filled with the war in Viet Nam. One Friday evening we took the five boys to a double feature drive-in movie. By the start of the second feature they were asleep, or so we thought. The second feature was a Clint Eastwood ‘comedy’ set in WWII, KELLY’S HEROES.

As I was setting the speaker back on its stand, preparing to drive out, Derrick, our third son, five or six at the time, leaned over the front seat and said, ‘Dad, when I get big,’ he said, ‘I am not going to go to Viet Nam. Remember those mountains by Mexico City? I am going to go to those mountains and live there. I don’t want people to shoot at me, and I don’t think anybody wants me to shoot at them.’

Not published. Just kept in my heart.

 

 

The Bible: YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF’

 

The Koran:…FOR ALLAH LOVES THOSE WHO ARE KIND

 

Mein Kampf: Power lies in stirring up Hatred and telling the Big Lie.

 

The Millers: Let There Be Peace On Earth   And Let It Begin With Me