Sunday, October 22, 2017
Barbara has a problem with straight and crooked, something we worked very hard to control while we were in the photography business, with lots of cropping and tripods. When we were in Italy, and finally found the Leaning Tower of Piza, Barbara took a picture. In the photo, it was standing straight up! She quickly deleted it, knowing I would get a lot of mileage out of that little jewel.
When we checked into a little villa in Austria, we could not communicate with the owner, who only spoke German. The only other guest there quickly started interpreting, speaking perfect, even southern, English, as well as perfect German. Barbara just had to know what was going on, and soon found out he could speak pretty well any language, and also regional dialects. Barbara made friends with him and quizzed him mercilessly. He offered to buy us dinner, and we accepted. We never pass up free food. After he had several beers, he finally decided we were harmless, and told us his story.
He was a citizen of the world, he said, claiming no country as his home. He was a free-lance spy. His specialty was, he could become anybody from anywhere. Starting with the first Gulf War, the United States has been the highest bidder, since he looked Arabic, and spoke it perfectly. He told of making a number of military friends while training in Colorado Springs. His scariest night ever, he said, was when he and his friends accidentally wound up on the wrong side of the tracks in Colorado Springs. Seems we had heard many stories similar from visitors to the US, from countries all over the world. The good old USA was a great place to visit, the stories went, until you went to the wrong part of town. And they often did not know where those places were. Some said they had traveled all over the world, but would never dare go to the USA for that reason.
When he went to work in Iraq, he was in his Arabic dress. His friends arrested him one night. He told them, “It’s me, guys.” They would not believe him, and he had to show his USAF pants on underneath his Arabic dress before they accepted his story.
He walked us out to our car as we were leaving the next morning. He had a small lecture for Barbara. “You travel far too lightly about the world. People will entrap you. You should have never have let me in your car yesterday. “
Barbara looked at him a moment, then said, “We had you out numbered.”
He laughed. “I wasn’t worried.” He waved Barbara’s camera away, would give us no phone number, no address, no e-mail address. He said he would e-mail us. We’re still waiting.
While visiting Kenya, we decided to ride a bus to Tanzania one weekend. Upon getting ready to return to Kenya, we were told our visa was a one-way thing. We would have to buy a new one, $200, to get back into Kenya. They would only take US dollars, and we didn’t have enough. I was in the early stages of another panic attack, but Barbara said, “Don’t worry. I’ll handle it.”
When we got to the border, she watched each of a dozen or so border agents carefully. She finally chose an agent who seemed to be friendly, and sometimes smiled. She chose his line. When we got up to the front, she started flirting with him shamelessly. Told him all about us being missionaries, laughed and joked. She passed the old visa, not valid now, over to him with a friendly smile. He was totally won over, and he stamped it, and smiling, said, “You have a good day.”
We got gone quickly. Barbara just seems to have the ability to have her way with any man. Of course, she never uses that ability unless I am at her side. At least, I think so……….just kidding, really!
Arriving in Denmark in the middle of the night, we looked for a rental car we would need for 30 days. Turned out the insurance on the car would be over 1200 dollars. We thought out credit card company might help us out on that, because they did in Ireland, but it was 1 AM. Barbara pulled that company's phone number out of her head, called our son-in-law in Arkansas, he called the company. He soon called back, said they would cover all the insurance. At 2 AM, we had our car and headed out.
When we arrived in Australia, Barbara searched for a way to call home affordably. She found a way, if one did not mind having to dial 30 numbers, to call home all we wanted to that was cheaper than in-country.
Standing in a very long line at a toilet at a festival in Sweden, absolutely nobody spoke a word. Barbara, of course, did. “You Swedish people are an awfully quiet bunch.”
An old man, way up the line, replied, “Yes, we have always been a very stoic people.” That broke the ice, and by the time our turn came, Barbara knew each of them personally, and left dozens of new, smiling friends behind when we left that toilet.
Returning by train from Monaco to our car and motel in one of dozens of little towns on the Italian Raviera, we knew we must be about there, and Barbara asked, “Now, what was the name of our village?” I didn’t have a clue, and it was now getting dark. We strained to see something familiar as the train slowed for a village. “There’s our car!” Barbara screamed, and we bolted for the door. She was well ahead of me, and she had the door open before the train stopped. But she was on the wrong side, and she was about to step out onto a live track. Those trains are totally silent, very fast, and they run about a foot apart. Stepping out could quickly bring about an instant, silent death. The way Barbara remembers it, she instantly realized her mistake, and quickly shut the door. The way I remember it, half a dozen people grabbed her and dragged her back. Funny how each person has their own way of remembering things!
Driving through Australia, we noticed a nice clubhouse with a beautiful green lawn surrounding it. Dozens of old men, all dressed up fancy with broad-brimmed hats, were rolling black balls around on the lawn. We had never seen anything like this. Barbara said, “Park the car. I’ll go see what’s going on.” I stayed in the car, pretty well knowing what was about to happen. Barbara walked onto the lawn, and started asking questions. Every game stopped, and every man gathered around Barbara, all anxious to explain the game to her, many wanting to hold her hand to insure that she rolled the ball properly. Barbara quickly learned a little about lawn bowling, and a lot about old men.
If one just has to travel the world, Barbara is the kind of woman to travel with. Were it not for her, I would probably still be stranded in Italy, begging for pizza scraps to stay alive. Or in Australia, marking lambs for a living.
Thursday, October 19, 2017
My wonderful granddaughter Caylie got married recently. She and Tim have been hanging around together for a long time. They are both still in college, and that can be a problem financially, but they are both very hard workers and they are having a grand time.
Tim is a swimmer. Six years ago, he was a big time swimmer. He swam every day, five hours per day, with an elite swim team full of olympic hopefuls. He had the second fastest time in the country in the mile, somewhere around fifteen minutes. (A fifteen minute mile is a pretty fast walking pace, in case you haven’t tried that.) Also on Tim’s elite swim team were two little girls, ages eight and nine. They were already, at their tender ages, showing great promise for the future, and have continued that grueling training pace to the present. I feel certain that six years ago, Tim was their hero.
The Olympic trials were looming. But as bad luck would have it, Tim had a serious allergic reaction to chlorine in swimming pool water, and had to drop out. Tim manages to stay in good shape, and swims when he can in lake competitions, but the world class level at which he had been swimming had to go by the wayside.
Last summer, Tim and Caylie borrowed my fourteen foot aluminum boat. They floated from Lake DeGray to the Ouachita River Bridge near Arkadelphia, Arkansas. That’s a pretty solid half day float. I drove down to pick them up, and when I was crossing the bridge, I could see they had missed the take-out ramp. They floated by on the far side of the river, and when they saw it, they were already well past.
The lakes were releasing a lot of water due to heavy spring rains, and the river was flowing swiftly. They were both paddling as hard as they could, but were steadily losing ground. I hollered for them to paddle to the bank, where Tim could walk along in shallower water and pull the boat up. They did, but immediately saw a large water moccasin on a limb, grinning at them, daring them to get just a little bit closer. They quickly headed back to deep water. Paddling was not the way to go, so Tim jumped into the river, put the rope around his shoulder, and started swimming. Now, for a normal person, considering Caylie was still in the boat, that would have been impossible. But Tim is not a normal man. He started gaining ground. It still took him a long time, but he got it done.
This past Saturday was a big day for me. For the first time, I was about to see Tim in action, swimming against strong competition. Hundreds of great swimmers from all over were competing at Degray Lake. Tim was entered in the one mile swim. Swimming in the women’s division of that race were two teen age girls. Initially, this really didn’t mean anything to me, I did not know them. But Tim did. They were the same two little girls from his old swim team of six years ago. He knew they had been swimming five or six hours daily all these years since Tim had to quit. He also knew they would be in top condition, and his chances against them would be slim. Not being in the know, I was concerned with the whole herd of musclemen Tim would be swimming against, and I paid little attention to the girls.
Halfway or so into the race, his shoulders began to give him great pain, but they soon went numb. Other than having to throw up a couple of times, everything was going smoothly. But Tim had been right. The two little girls, no longer little, fourteen and fifteen, were first out of the water. Tim was next out, winning the men’s division, at around twenty four minutes. The musclemen I had been worried about were still specks far out in the lake.
Tim’s father Joe is 55 years old. He owns a landscaping business, and he normally gets up very early, riding his bike totally unreasonably long distances. A one hundred mile ride is standard fare for Joe. He then works all day in his landscaping business. Then he goes out after work for a little exercise. Joe is a regular in Iron Man competitions.
Joe was once present at a one hundred mile run event in the mountains. He was not participating in this, so he had not been training for it. A friend who was entered knew Joe always stays in great shape, so he asked Joe to pace him during the last part of the race. Joe agreed. He paced him the last forty miles. That put both of them in the medical tent.
Joe hires several young men, twenty some-odd years old, in his business. Occasionally, they all gang up on Joe and attempt to pin him in wrestling, but have never yet been successful. Joe said recently, “I gotta stop doing that. I hurt one last time.”
In the one mile swim – twenty five mile bike ride event at Lake Degray, Joe placed second. The one man who beat him in his age group also won first overall, and he is number four in the country in that event. Swimming was Joe’s weakest area, but he made up for that once on the bike.
Joe’s father David, Tim’s grandfather, started his physical training early. At two, he was so active he was having trouble walking. The doctor determined he was too musclebound to walk properly. Later, his father Ray hitched David up to the plow to work the garden, instead of using a mule. He went on to become captain of the football team at The Citadel. The University of South Caroline was a major football power at that time, but David’s team managed to beat them, the only time that has ever happened.
David was in the Korean War. He was a forward observer, maybe the most dangerous job in the army. Their job was to move into enemy territory, locate enemy forces, and call in artillery fire.
This was during a time of change and experimentation in the US army. Up to that point, the early 1950’s, black soldiers were normally not highly trained in fighting, being usually assigned more domestic duties. That was changing. David was given a team of thirty men, mostly blacks, and he trained them up to a very high fighting level.
Also along about that time, the Chinese were flooding into North Korea to fight for North Korea against the South Koreans and Americans. They came in very large numbers. They fought with guns, pitchforks, hoes, etc. The large hoards of men more than made up for any shortage in equipment or training.
David’s team, as forward observers, were spotted by one of these very large groups. The machine guns David’s team was equipped with had two barrels. While one was firing, the other would be cooling off. Facing this vast hoard of Chinese, cooling the barrel was a luxury they could not afford. They had to keep both barrels firing constantly. Over time, both barrels melted.
Both groups were running out of ammunition.
Now, it was man to man, hand to hand. David realized they were about to be overrun, so he called in artillery fire right on top of the entire battlefield. That way, the enemy would be taken out also.
Officers, such as David, carried a pistol. They were trained to shoot themselves rather than be captured. David pulled his pistol, ready to do his duty. But he just could not bring himself to pull the trigger. The only other option was to fight to the end. David dimly remembers he and men around him beating each other with fists, and heads being slammed against the ground. After what seemed like forever, all was quiet on the field. There was no one left to fight. Only David and two of his men survived on the entire battlefield.
David’s father Ray, Tim’s great-grandfather, became a professional heavyweight boxer at an early age. He married at fourteen. He and his wife had eight children. His wife finally persuaded Ray to retire from boxing. He always regretted that decision.
Ray went on to become the ski jumping champion of West Virginia. At 55, he was the national skeet shooting champion. Even his bird dogs were national champions.
Ray became a state senator in West Virginia. When the presidential elections rolled around, he played a major role in helping John F. Kennedy get the presidential nomination. West Virginia became a key state in the election, and Ray campaigned tirelessly. Who woulda’ guessed?
When West Virginia compiled a list of the one hundred greatest athletes in the last hundred years, both Ray and David were on that list.
Hopefully, Tim and Caylie will produce the next generation of supermen for the Barnett family. Who knows? Maybe a little of that super manhood will spill over into the Gillum clan.
Look at me. As you can clearly see, we need a little dab of that.
Monday, October 16, 2017
As you know, if you read my column, sometimes I just have to take out from my storytelling and tell you what's rattling around in my head that day. But you're crossing over the line this time, you say? So, take this column with a grain of salt. You're probably right. But, having said that, there still could be a little something here one of you might be able to take away from this, and put to use someday.
Nearly two years ago, something started feeling not quite right in my chest one day. Not really hurting, but I always knew, all day every day, something was different. Since the focal point was right where my heart should be, (never seen it, but I assume I have one) I went to a heart doctor. He put me through the paces. Wearing a monitor for a day, stress test, the whole ball of wax. Starting the same day this started, my heart started doing that little thing where it seems to skip a beat regularly. Not really skipping a beat, but off time a little, so the pulse feels like skipping a beat. I had experienced this before, many years ago. He put me on a pill to stop that. A beta blocker was best, he said, but I asked for something else. I already had heard beta blockers have certain side effects I didn't want. He agreed that was sometimes true. The pill he gave me did the trick, though I had to take 5 other pills every day, to counteract the side effects of it. It did the job, on the skipping thing. But the "different" thing was still there. Dr. Jansen sent me to a stomach man. He stuck his little camera down my throat, and had a look around in the stomach. I told him when it went into the stomach, be sure and turn it around and look at the entrance. My oldest brother died of cancer because a doctor failed to do that the first time. When he did, the second time, it was too late.
My doctor found nothing. I had another test, this time for gall bladder problems. Nothing. I was beginning to look and feel like a hypochondriac. By now, this thing had moved down a little, became a stomach problem, as well as a chest thing. Gas was trapped and building up, getting very uncomfortable an hour or so after I ate.
So, I went back to the stomach man. Gluten problem, maybe. He took me off gluten and dairy for five weeks, and gave me probiotics. Well, something he did this time helped. It was easing off, about gone. After five weeks, it was gone completely, and it was time to test. Barbara and I went out and ate a really big, greasy, pizza, just dripping in gluten. Still no problem. So, I tested getting back on dairy. No problem. Seems I can eat everything now, and after a year and a half of troubles, my problem never came back. I had began to think I had just reached that steep part of the slide. Seems probiotics fixed it.
What with all the bad bacteria we kill out with antibiotics, seems we kill off the good bacteria too. We need those good ones. I now eat a billion good bacteria, probiotics, a day. And they and I get along fine. (That’s not really as hard as it sounds. One pill.)
I asked the heart doc, "Since my heart 'skipping' started the same day this other thing did, can I get off that pill too?" "Might as well try it. Doubt it will work.“
It worked too.
So, 2 years ago I was on 7 or so pills a day. Now I take one. Now, that's going in the right direction!
Barbara got to having dizzy spells. "Positional Vertigo," the doc said. "But that's an easy fix. Joe Wall can fix it quick." Joe wall is not a doctor, he's a physical therapist. But he specializes in this. Well, Joe just twisted her head around for a few minutes, the "Epley Maneuver." Told her to be real still for a day. I walked out thinking we had just been to a witch doctor. But it worked! Who woulda' thought it!? Don't try this at home. Google says it can cause stroke symptoms, if done wrong.
Most of us are allergic to poison ivy. But do you know, a pretty little plant that grows right beside it can take it away? Called Jewel Weed. When the seed pod on Jewel Weed starts to grow, and you touch it, it will throw that seed several feet. But that's off the subject. Anyway, gather that plant up, boil the juice out of it, freeze it in an ice cube tray. Just rub it on poison ivy when you get it. I had a coach friend that was desperate, so I made him up a batch. When I was about to move a few years later, he asked me to make him up a gallon of it before I left.
When I was teaching in Arkadelphia, I found a patch of Jewel Weed out Red Hill Road. Later I needed some, and I asked one of my students who lived nearby to gather up a bag full of it the next day. He was my biology student, and I knew he would recognize it. At class the next day, he was absent. Toward the end of the period, him and his Mama walk in. He had the bag of Jewel Weed, and he also had a cast on his arm. He had a bicycle wreck going down the hill to get it, but he still got that bagful of Jewel Weed for me. I just felt the need to go out to his house after school that day and spend a little time with him. A very special kid. That's what I liked about teaching. So many special kids!
One of my renters decided to clean up his back yard in the spring. Turns out it was covered with poison ivy. He cut it, threw it in a pile with other brush, and burned it. The smoke put his neighbor in the hospital. When that juice evaporates, and you breathe it in, it becomes much more than a distraction real quick. Never do that!
I knew a really nice lady who had a surgical procedure. A one night stay in the hospital was needed, the doc said. She died that night. Nurses are wonderful, but they can't be in every room at once. Nothing like a family member, standing over you, watching everything that happens the first night after surgery. I've never had a surgery, except when I was six, Dad and Mom just loaded all us kids up in our 1948 cattle truck, hauled us to the hospital, and had our tonsils all taken out at one whack. But anyway, like I was saying, if I have surgery major enough for a night stay in the hospital, I want someone who really loves me there, watching me, all night long. Someone bold enough to get out in that hall and scream, louldy, when they think there's a need. If you don't have that special person, and you live close enough, call me. I'll sit up with you. And I can get loud quick! Just ask Barbara. I would do about anything to keep from losing one of my readers.
Another little thing I will do, say, if I'm going to have a leg operated on. I'm going to take a permanent marker, and write on that leg, "This one, Doc!" while I'm still in control of my senses and can do it.
Dads were not allowed in the delivery room when our children were born. I've always regretted that. Now we can, and that's a good thing. I was talking to a retired nurse friend of mine one day, and she just had some things she wanted to get off her chest, I guess, about her career. She told me nurses were not allowed to deliver a baby where she worked. That doesn't sound so bad, on the surface, but what if the doc has a car wreck in his rush to the hospital? She went on to say that she had, on more than one occasion, pushed the baby back into the birth canal because the doc was not there yet. Since then, I have heard of two occasions where the doc was late, and the baby was brain damaged for life, because it stayed in too long. Now, I know that's just something most people don't like to talk about, but it seems to me we all should be talking about that.
Isn't it written somewhere, "FIRST AND FOREMOST, DO NO HARM." or something like that? Knowing what I now know, If I were the daddy, and I was in that room, I would be flinging folks right and left to get that baby out.
I've read a lot of books about pioneer times, about how hard childbirth was, and it was horrible. (From what I hear, it still is.) A lot of babies and mothers did not survive it. But I've never read a passage about those uneducated folks pushing the baby back in. I doubt if any midwife ever did that either. Why do we allow that?