Tuesday, March 20, 2018
I WENT BACK TO YELL COUNTY recently, to visit my Big Bro. He always keeps a project going, and he thinks through each step in detail. This time, his project was to get rid of a very intelligent animal. His house has a small room off the porch where the cats sleep. This mysterious animal was eating the cat food. He expelled the cats for the duration of the project, and had tried a number of ways to catch it, all to no avail. A home-made armadillo trap, then a wire box trap from Walmart. Each time, the bait, cat food, was all gone, and the animal was gone. This animal had carried off enough bait to feed an army.
This is where I came into the picture. We discussed the problem in detail, for the better part of a day. Since this animal had already defeated two traps, designed for larger type pests, such as a stray cat, or a raccoon, or a possum, we determined that it was smaller. And since it had already carried off tons of food, we assumed it was carrying off the food and stashing it in the under part of the house, which was connected to this room. We put our heads together, and over the bulk of the rest of the day, we decided it must be a pack rat. Once we were totally in agreement, we spent the rest of the day on strategy.
Big Bro had a rat trap, a wire and wood thing, like a giant mouse trap. We discussed bait in detail. I suggested a hunk of cheese. He suggested we stick pieces of cat food on the cheese, as this animal had already shown an affinity for that. I tried to convince him that everyone, and everything, just loves cheese, and that a chunk of ripe cheese, alone, would do the trick. After we debated that an hour or so, he gave in. We set the trap right there between the two useless traps, topped with a really nice, ripe, hunk of cheese. Big Bro suggested we must tie that trap down, because if it got caught by a leg or something, it might just drag his only rat trap off. I suggested that it was not needed, because once a pack rat was in that trap, he was going nowhere. But by sundown, he had won out. It was his trap, and his pack rat.
Big Dan, his son, was there temporarily recovering from some medical issues, and he was not about to be left out. Big Dan allowed as how, in case it didn't get caught, it might walk around that trap a time or two, just inspecting that cheese, and we should sprinkle flour all around on the floor in the whole area, so that we might at least get a look at a track or two, and know something about what we were up against. We discussed the merits and shortcomings of that idea, we each had our say. But, in the end, nobody came up with a good reason why we should not to that, so we did.
As bed time approached, we were all excited about what the morning would bring as we visited until bedtime.
Big Dan has led a wild and adventurous life, but he had now found the Lord, and he was anxious to talk about it. Big Dan and I talked more that night at Big Bro’s house than we had ever talked before.
Big Bro was about to go to bed, and I suggested we might just peek in on the situation now, but Big Bro said no, leave it alone. That animal never stirs before midnight, he said. Now, I didn't really understand how Big Bro knew that, because he was always asleep by 8 o'clock. But I didn't mention that, as I knew that would only trigger another round of debates, and we were all pretty well exhausted from debating all day anyhow. Big Bro went to bed at 8 o'clock.
Big Dan and I talked some more. I lived with Big Dan for a time, during the big gas well boom in western Oklahoma. I was working on a gas well one summer, to supplement my teaching pay. Big Dan roared up one day on his Harley, and easily got a job there, when the boss saw how big and strong he was. He made my life there a lot easier. The other Roughnecks stopped pitching chunks of iron off the tower at me, just to see how well I could dodge, once Big Dan was on the scene. And life was sure a lot simpler in that Roughneck town, also, hanging out with Big Dan. He was just a skinny kid then, about 280 pounds or so. Nobody messed with Big Dan, or any of his friends.
When I headed for bed, I stopped for a moment, turned, and held Big Dan's eye for a moment across the room. “I'm proud of you, Big Dan. You're a good man.” He flashed a smile. “Thanks, Uncle Pat. You've ALWAYS been a good man.” That exchange warmed my heart. I slept well.
When I got up the next morning, Big Dan had already been up a long time, and drained the coffee pot totally dry, probably for the second or third time, because you can just never tell about Big Dan. He was now long gone, off to see his friends. Big Bro was up too, waiting at his spot at the table while sweet sis-in-law fixed breakfast. “Just go look for yourself, and see if you can pick a track or two out of that mess,” he said. Well, that told me we had been beaten again, but I rushed out there anyway. The cheese was gone, the trap was thrown, and it was pulled to the end of Big Bro's wire. The animal was gone. There was a lot of scratching and clawing marks in the flour, but it was mostly a mess, and using all my woodsman skills, about all I could read from that was, it sure had some sharp claws. I would have loved to have hung around and seen the end game of this mystery played out, but I wanted to look over the old farm today, so, after breakfast, I headed out. I wanted to grab that last sliver of lemon pie as I walked out, but Mom had long ago warned me about grabbing the last bite of anything. I always tell Sweet Sis-in-Law well ahead when I'm coming, and I always show up around meal time, and she always has my favorite waiting, coconut pie. This time she surprised me, and it was lemon pie. I now think my favorite kind of pie is lemon pie.
As I walked out the door, I could tell Big Bro was already plotting his next move in his mind, and I knew that by now, he was about to pull out all the stops.
I got the word the next day. Big Bro had, indeed, pulled out all the stops and caught a pack rat, using women's nylons and peanut butter. I'm still a little fuzzy about how this all played out, or I would tell you more. Why didn't I think of that, women's nylons and peanut butter? It all sounds so simple, now.
But yet the saga continues. The cat food is still getting gone. And now, that pest has really gone to extreme measures, chewing the cover off the wiring to their car’s computer. Big Bro has that look in his eye that I haven’t seen in a long time. That look always scared me to near death when I was a little boy, and Big Bro was already big. Now, it’s all-out war.
Sunday, March 18, 2018
WE WERE LOOKING FOR A HOSTEL. When we found it, It was way back out in the country, on a farm behind a farm. Lots of people were around when we checked in, so at least, we wouldn't be alone this time, like we had so many times before. It was a huge building. Said it was a converted “Old Folks Home.” Well, we weren't that old yet, but so many younger people were there too, It shouldn't be so bad.
We drove out to town for supper, and when we got back, we realized we were the only LIVING souls in this three story building. Again. Even the woman who had taken our money had disappeared. None of the buildings within sight had lights on. Going up to the third floor to investigate, I saw a light was on in one room, and the door was open. It was full of computers and such. I walked on in to check it out. A very small, tentative voice from a hidden spot said, “h-h-hello?” It was a woman, who, when she began to get over the shock of me walking in on her in this deserted place, said, “My husband rents this room for office space. We have a farm nearby. I'm just up here, catching up on my book work.” I apologized for startling her, and she was nice, but as soon as I left, she locked up and cleared out too. I guess her car must have been out back. We never saw her again.
Barbara reminded me of the history of this building, and mentioned that a lot of those old folks probably died in here. Along about that time, strange, unexplainable sounds started coming up from the basement. We had some time before bedtime, and we busied about to take our mind off all those strange sounds. Barbara took a long, soaking bath sitting up in a bathtub about the size and shape of a washing machine box. Then, we washed clothes in it. In Wing, we always believed in multiple use of a big tub of hot water, but Barbara didn't. Had to change the water after each use. Then, Barbara read while I looked for a book. I had already read every book I brought along. That's one area I have the jump on Barbara. She reads at a book a week or two. One day or so for me, maybe two. Anyway, I found a large color picture book of their Princess Victoria. She was beautiful. Just like Barbara. Perfectly posed in every shot, just like Barbara. Perfectly at ease in the presence of royalty. Perfect makeup, clothes perfectly matching, never a wrinkle. Just like Barbara. I really don't understand how Barbara always looks so perfect on trips like this, since we hardly ever find a place to wash clothes. But she does. All I can figure out is, she was born destined to become a Princess, or a Queen, And I must have came along early, and stole her away, before she had a chance to meet her destiny. I just have no other logical explanation.
We had two single beds, the only kind they seem to have in Europe. But we scooted them close together that night. After a time, we dozed off, in spite of the fact that the who-knows-whats kept playing around downstairs.
The nice lady showed back up and fixed up a good breakfast. She said the radiators had just been turned on, hooked up to very deep wells. The air from that deep in the earth, a few degrees warmer, circulated up and heated the place. Questionable heat in that climate, but the radiators did dry our clothes good. Maybe that explained the noises.
We declined a two night stay. We were ready to move on.
Traveling through the Dairy country, I realized the Swedes had developed their milk cows to an amazing degree. Their udders were often twice the size I had ever seen before, comparable to some we saw at a Fair in Quebec City. Their bag was so heavy, they sometimes just sat back on their haunches, like a dog, to rest their load. Actually, I fear they are ahead of us in other areas of technology. America seems to call them over to do very difficult things, like setting up a computer system for a city.
Barbara had started ragging me about a week ago about getting a haircut. But, they wanted $60! I was just not about to do that. Every town we came to, she tried to bargain them down. We were sitting in a town square one afternoon, enjoying an ice cream cone. Barbara said, “Be right back.” I looked down in the direction she was headed, and I knew she had spotted another salon. Will she never give up on that? Well, actually I knew the answer. No. She stayed in there a long time, then stuck her head out and motioned me down. She had gone through all the operators, one at a time, telling them how little hair I had, how we won't spread the word about a cheap haircut, how we would never be back. Finally, she just wore the youngest, 21, down. She didn't have her customer base built up yet. $20, how could we pass that up? She did a great job, though. We found they have to go to school five years for that. Like a Doctor. Who would guess.
Saturday, March 10, 2018
SKEET WAS BORN JESSE ADAMS in 1944. Somebody mentioned that day that he was no larger than a ‘skeeter’ when he was born, and that name seems to have stuck.
He and his wife of 45 years, Willene, a great lady who babies Skeet much as Skeet babies his boat, his little red cars and his big red truck, have lived their life at Pine Bluff until six years ago. Then they bought a house on DeGray lake, partially to give Skeet’s big, beautiful bass boat a home close to good fishing waters.
Skeet’s big bass boat may very well be the most beautiful bass boat most of us have ever seen; bright red, with pretty sparklies all over it in typical Skeet fashion. He bought it many years ago, but also in typical Skeet fashion, it has been babied and cared for lovingly so that one would think it was bought brand new yesterday. I heard a dealer once tell Skeet that it was probably worth $80,000 today, though it only cost a small fraction of that new.
Skeet fondly recalls the Pine Bluff of his youth, when many people had no locks on their doors, and those who did seldom used them. “Everyone just seemed to get along,” Skeet says. “A Pine Bluff youth of today, transported back to the 1950’s, would think he had died and gone to heaven. Even a child, walking alone down a dark street where the beer joints abounded, with fist fights involving the patrons often going on nearby, was considered safe.” However, some things were scary, such as accidentally falling into a shallow grave onto a pile of bones while running through the woods one night.
Pine Bluff night clubs of the fifty’s, such as the Trio club, were considered great stepping stones for Memphis by up and coming young musicians. Skeet regularly rubbed elbows with the likes of the Uniques, (he dated the drummer’s sister) Jim Ed Brown, and Jerry Lee Lewis. They often played at area schools, also.
Once, a young man came out and played with Skeet and his dog in the street for a while. The next day, Skeet’s dad asked if he knew who the young man was. Skeet said no. His dad then said, “Elvis Presley.” Skeet was not impressed. “So?”
Riding his Cushman[BG1] Eagle scooter back to school to pick up his grades, he accidentally collided with a 57 ford with yellow fenderskirts, (Only Skeet would be admiring the color of the fenderskirts while
getting his leg broken) and his scooter hung up on one of those beautiful fenderskirts. The scooter was pulled out from under him. Skeet emerged with a broken leg. After lying up most of the summer, he went to Dr. Cunningham to have the cast taken off. When the doctor, who was their family doctor, realized his parents were not there with him, he asked Skeet how he got there. “Rode my scooter.” The doctor took him to the back room. The doctor then gave him a good spankin’ and said, “I’m gonna tell your daddy!” He did, and Skeet got another spanking when he got home.
Skeet was a bit wild, at times. He once was driving his buddies around in his car, took a curve a little fast, and the car slid out into a yard and partially under a house. Skeet’s buddy went inside to see if anyone was hurt. As the police arrived, he came running back out, “Quick! Call an ambulance! There’s a woman dyin’ in there!” Seems she was sitting on the commode when the car hit the drain, and the commode suddenly disappeared. She was fine, except for a couple of strategic bruises. She never seemed to like Skeet after that.
At Skeet’s graduation ceremony at Watson Chapel High school, he was called up by the Superintendent and recognized as the only student to ever graduate from Watson Chapel High School with straight F’s in math his senior year. I’ve often said Skeet walks a very thin line in life between being a total genius and totally crazy.
Skeet and I both attended Arkansas A&M and lived in the same dorm, Sorrell’s Hall, for two years. He lived upstairs and I lived down, and we never met. I do know many strange things occurred upstairs at Sorrell’s Hall during Skeet’s tenure, such as a trash can carrying a live skunk appearing in someone’s room as a surprise gift, as well as a limb covered with honeybees arriving in much the same way. Blocking off the community shower with huge blocks of Styrofoam glued into place made a great swimming pool until the dam burst, sending a great waterfall of white water cascading down the stairs one night. Each of these incidents emptied the building for a time, and the culprit(s) were never caught. Skeet emphatically denies major participation in any of these dramatic events, but I do know things settled down up there when skeet left after two years, to start working at the paper mill and signing up with the National Guard at Pine Bluff.
After 42 years working in maintenance at the paper mill, Skeet can fix any broken metal item, making it look new. He’s an artist with a welder in his hand. He’s also a gifted artist with a pencil in his hand. My grandchildren regularly fight over who gets to sit next to him in church. They know Skeet will draw a wonderful picture of a smokin’ hot rod, or motorcycle, or some such vehicle during the service and the closest kid to him will proudly get to take it home. All the college kids flock to Skeet in droves. They know where to find him. He will always be occupying his accustomed place of honor on the back row.
Skeet and Willene have two children, four grand-children, and one great-grandchild.
Life is never dull around skeet. It becomes difficult, over time, to remember just exactly what his face looks like if he is not smiling, laughing, or telling a story. We need a lot more Skeet’s in this world, as long as we keep them spread out a bit. I can just not imagine what a room full of Skeets would be like, and what could happen.
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Forever A Hillbilly: Part Two - The Indian Uprising, and my Kids in Per...: MY MOTIVES, THIS SECOND TIME, WERE MUCH MORE PURE. This time I was in a small village on the outskirts of Cusco. When we arrived ...