Monday, October 31, 2011

The Point of No Tomorrow - Conclusion

    Sport's only son, J.D., was right in the middle of everything with him. And, J.D. carries his genes. He's a lot like him. Once, Sport had loaned Albert, his nephew, his shotgun to hunt with. He handed Sport his gun back just as a Game Warden pulled into the yard behind him. He started ragging Sport pretty good about loaning his gun to that kid. Sport had enough. “Did he hurt anybody with it? Did he damage anyone's property with it?” “No, but - “ “Then get in your truck and get off my property.” The shotgun, still in Sport's hands, added emphasis. He left. Barbara, as a little girl, witnessed this exchange, a rare event. She was scared they were just going to come and arrest the lot of them.
     Sport would just not allow any man to take anything from him. Or push him. If you pushed Sport, there would only be a small number of possible outcomes. Sport would get hurt, you would get hurt, or he would stop you. And Sport always handled that option in such a way that it never happened again. The humiliation prevented that..That is best illustrated by this little example----
      Once, a very cranky old neighbor had two large dogs. They were very bad at chasing and killing livestock. They struck Sport's livestock, and Sport went to visit the man. “That has to stop.” The old man said, “You mess with my dogs, and there will be some killing going on.”
      A few days later, they struck again. Sport had J.D. bring the gun. Sport gave the word as the dog ran by, chasing a calf. J.D., a dead shot like his father, took him out. Soon the other was dead too. Sport loaded them up, and they went to visit the neighbor. Sport threw both the dogs up on the porch, and pounded on the porch with his shotgun. When the old man emerged, saying, “What's going on here?” Sport said, “You told me, if I messed with your dogs, there would be some killin'. I'm here to start it.” Well, the old man wilted. “Now, don't you worry none about those dogs!” They left. J.D. was puzzled. “Why did we not just take the dogs down and throw them in the Bayou? He would never have found them.” Sport answered, “ If we had done that, that old man would have been bad mouthing us all over the country. This way, there will never be another word said about it.” And there wasn't.
      One of Sport's cows wandered off into a neighbor's pasture. He sent J.D., a young boy, to get it. The neighbor man told J.D., “It's in my pasture now. It's mine.” When J.D. told Sport, Sport said, “Let's go get it.” Sport started up toward the man's house. J.D. said, “We could cut the fence in the back and get it out.”. Sport shook his head. “I'll get it.”. He walked up by his front door, into the pasture, got behind it, and drove it through the man's front yard. Nothing was ever said.
      The road grader man started making his turn through Sport's bean field, taking out more and more of Sport's beans. Sport stopped the man, told him to stop doing that. Well, before long, he did it again. Sport ran him off, this time with a shotgun. A short while later, the County Judge found the road grader man a new place to turn around.
      A rich, big landowner bought up some land next to Sport. Told Sport, “The old survey is wrong. You'll have to move your fence back 50 feet.” Sport replied, “That fence has been there since 1927.
It stays there.”
      Well, a while later a couple of surveyors showed up, started setting up their equipment. Sport and J.D. walked down. Sport: “Nothing is going to be changed down here." The surveyor started explaining, “We're doing the job we were hired to do, check these old lines.” Sport said, “I've got a shotgun here that says you're not going to survey anything here.” The younger man wanted to get bad, but JD stopped him. “You just really don't understand the situation. If that old man says you don't, you don't. For your own sake, you best go home.” The older man toned the younger one down, and they went home. They never came back.
      The girls, for the most part, never knew about any of this. Their sweet Daddy could just never have said any of those words. And that fits right in with my daughter Kinley's memories of sitting in his lap, putting rollers in his hair, and painting his fingernails. But in the “wild west” of the early delta country, a man had to stand his ground or just move.     Sport never moved. I fully believe all of this for two very good reasons. First, J.D. is just like him. Second, I've seen those strong genes of Sport's in every one of those girls, cropping up from time to time. They call it “Dunnahoe Nerve.” They are all very strong women, always ready to stand up to whatever life throws at them. All us inlaws were very fortunate to find a member of this family to scoop up and marry. Sport just had that unique ability to be a fun loving, lovable person, always loved dearly by all those around him. But he had rather die than allow himself to be pushed. If Sport Dunnahoe had been my father, I could never have loved or respected him more. When I fished with Sports grandson's, and great grandson's, I came to realize, some of them only know Sport Dunnahoe by his name. I hope, in writing this, they will come to realize what a great man he was. On my “Great men I have known” list, Sport Dunnahoe stands right up there with the best of em'. An ancestor to be proud of.
      Later in life, Sport was diagnosed with dementia, but he never lost his sense of humor. A doctor was interviewing him in his office to determine the extent. “Mr. Dunnahoe, what is today's date?” “Thursday, August 4.” Very good, Mr. Dunnahoe. How did you do that so easily?” With a little grin on his lips, Sport replied. “Its on the calendar, right behind you.” Another time, he was in another doctor's office with a daughter. The doctor came in. She immediately started giving instructions to the daughter, ignoring him. She was saying, “Take one tablet, four times a day, and-” Sport was pulling on the daughter's sleeve, with that little grin.. “What is it, Mr. Dunnahoe?” “Well, that just looks like it would be sorta hard – taking the same pill, 4 times a day.” “Point well taken, Mr. Dunnahoe. The next time I will talk to YOU about your medicine.” Barbara was taking Sport home from the Hospital. At the door, she instructed, “Stay right here while I go get the car. Don't move.” Sport was getting around pretty slow by now, and said, “I could start right now and not get outta' sight by the time you get back.”
      Sport left us all with a vast array of “Sport-isms.”. My favorite is, “being right won't help yore' old haid' none.”
      After Verla Mae died, Sport just couldn't go on without her. He gently explained to all his girls, “I just can't live without her.” Just a few months later, Phyllis found him dead in his bed one morning. The Paramedics said it must have been a heart attack, there was a blue spot on his chest. But we all knew. A broken heart is just one kind of heart attack. Verla Mae's death had pushed Sport to the point of no tomorrow.
Thanks for reading. My next post will be, "Sometimes, its Just Best to Lose."

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Point of no Tomorrow: Part 2

    When Verla Mae's children got married, they always stayed married. None of that messing about stuff. The world needs a lot more mothers like Verla Mae Dunnahoe.
Verla Mae had a very hard time in her last years. Congestive heart failure dogged her for a long time. Once, in the hospital, daughter Patsy was helping her across the room. She just totally collapsed. Patsy ran to the hall, and there just happened to be a team of doctors with a defibrillator walking by. They hurried in. One doctor got to her side, while the other got the machine ready. Right after the first doctor pronounced her dead, the second doctor kicked a can out of the way to get the machine in place. After awhile, the machine brought her back to life.
    Later, she took Patsy aside. “You should have let me go. I was floating above that room. I saw the doctor kick something aside. I saw a bright warm light. It was pulling me to it. I wanted to go. Then I was pulled back, slowly, into my body. I wish I had been able to go.” A year later, she did.
     August Dillard " Sport" Dunnahoe was a one of a kind. A man I will never forget. He was always ready for a fishing, hunting, or camping trip when we got to Watson. Even as an old man, it never bothered him a bit to sleep on the hard ground. If a catfishing trip was in the offing, he hooked up the middle buster, plowed up a strip across the old hog pen, and we picked up a gallon or two of huge buckshot worms. Then we headed for the river.
    If there were games to be played by the children, Sport was always the ringleader. Even in his older years, with arthritis in his knees from so many years of following a mule and a plow, he could always keep up. Once, when he was about 65, we were playing touch football. I was just a few years from running college track, and I thought I was a runner. I went out for a pass. Sport was covering me. I just could not shake him! He stuck to me like glue.
    When the children and grandchildren got rowdy in the house, Sport just looked at the rowdiest one, stuck out his hand, and said, “Come round' by me, boy!” They never “came round by him,” they knew the danger in that. But they all exited the room pronto. Mission accomplished. There were always plenty of rowdy kids. I've seen 10 crawling babies on the floor at once in his house.. And that was just in the living room.
    Once, when Barbara and I were in California, we visited her cousin Albert, who grew up nearby. He said, “When I was a child, every weekend, all us kids showed up at Sport's house. Our own fathers were too tired to play, but Sport never was. He demonstrated to us all how a father should play with his children, and I am a much better father myself because of Sport. He influenced an entire generation of boys, and they are all better fathers because of it.”
    Although Sport was always loving and protective of his girls, He also taught them to take care of their own problems. Once, just after Barbara started driving, she ran out of gas a quarter mile from home. She walked home, saw Sport in the yard, and told him the truck was out of gas, and started walking in the house. Sport said, “Hey, wait a minute! Go out to the tank, get some gas, and go get the truck. You ran out of gas, not me. Next time, be sure there's plenty of gas in the truck before you head to town.”
    The one time Barbara remembers disobeying Sport, he had told her she could take the truck to Watson. Well, when she got together with her girl friends, they wanted to go to Dumas, so she took them. The next day, she was torn by guilt, and she told him. He said, “Well, you shouldn't have.” That was the end of that.
    Sport was endlessly curious. If I showed up at Watson with some minor car problem, the first thing Sport would say would be, “I wonder why a feller couldn't -” and then, he would proceed to tear into the motor to see, stopping when he found out. Or maybe, when the car wouldn't run at all. I soon learned to keep my car problems to myself at Watson!
      Watson, in the old days, not that long ago, was a lot like the old west. A man had to look out for himself, and his family. Nobody else would. Sport had a side to him that I never saw, or heard about, until after his death. Sport protected his six girls from the ugly things in life. They never knew about most of what I'm about to tell.    CONTINUED

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Forever A Hillbilly: Post 53: Goodbye, Saint Paul!

Forever A Hillbilly: Post 53: Goodbye, Saint Paul!: Back to St. Paul. The mountains around there are nearly all hardwood, and they look pretty bland in the winter. But when spring co...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Post 53: Goodbye, Saint Paul!

    Back to St. Paul. The mountains around there are nearly all hardwood, and they look pretty bland in the winter. But when spring comes, they are awesome. The bright fresh leaves! Barb and I roamed the mountains a lot in the spring, going to a new place to picnic regularly.
    We decided not to return to St. Paul, and we moved to Fayetteville. I worked at a factory while looking for a new coaching job.
    The Viet Nam war was raging. I knew if I didn't get a teaching job soon, I would be drafted. Well, if it happens, it happens. The war would probably be over by the time I finished basic training, I reasoned. Little did I know, it would go on for six more years. I applied to Officer Candidate School. If I was going, I preferred to be in the air above it. I did pretty well on my tests, I thought, then I got to the part where you look at a map, then recognize the target from a photo. I was lost as a goose on that part. But, unbelievably, I qualified as a navigator, not a pilot. Me, a navigator? Get real. I decided to take my chances with the draft.
    Well, the draft struck. I loaded Barb and all our stuff up and headed for Watson. She would stay there for the duration. We stopped at Pine Bluff and spent the night with her sister, Sugar, on the way. Somehow, the superintendent at Fayetteville traced me down, and called me there. He asked me if I wanted to coach at Woodland Junior High. I explained I had been drafted and was now on my way to the induction station. He asked if he could check about a deferment. With no real hopes of that happening, I said “Sure.” Ten minutes later he called me back. “Be at Fayetteville at 8 o'clock Monday. You will be the head basketball coach, assistant track and football.”
      I knew basketball and track. But I had never had anything to do with football. It didn't exist at Fourche Valley High.
Football came first. I struggled through, pretending I knew what I was doing. Just to give you an insight into my football prowness at that point, My first 8th grade game was with Rogers. We were ahead 7-6, only moments to go. We were threatening. I called on my deep play calling savvy, and called a tailback throwback. Their little defensive halfback cut it off, and the ball hit in his open hands, and he had only 90 yards of only green grass between him and victory. But, the football Gods smiled on me, (or, more likely, felt sorry for me) and the ball bounced out of his hands, and into my tailback's. He waltzed in for the score. A brilliant play call, a play nobody in the world would have expected at that point. Our two children, Corey and Kinley, were born during the seven years I coached there. Barbara finished her degree at the U of A, between babies. We bought a mobile home, a fancy name for a house trailer. We lived on a small shoestring, and I worked each summer at whatever I could find. A carpenter's helper, telephone line construction, a plumber's backhoe, loaded and unloaded furniture. I worked at Zero Mountain, a maze of limestone caves blocked off and turned into a giant fridge, for storing chickens and turkeys. Whatever I could get.
    Barbara found her sports calling while finishing up her degree. Would you believe----Fencing! Yes! She had great hand-eye coordination, and lightning reflexes. She was the champ. Those reflexes helped her become a really good table tennis player in later years, and Corey, many years later at OBU, relished bringing his friends out to get "Smeared by a mom" in table tennis. Those reflexes enabled her to trigger her camera shots at exactly the right moment in her life profession years later.  Thanks for reading! I will begin THE POINT OF NO TOMORROW next post. While chronologically correct in my life story, It stands alone as a very special little story to me.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Post 52: Scrabble Wars and Dr. Deadlift

      It seems that, in St. Paul, a long way from any town, the coach was just naturally the one who took care of the medical emergencies. Two of my boys burst into my house one day. I was asleep. They woke me up screaming at me. It seems they were playing touch football, and one of my players fell through a shed window, cutting an artery. After I managed to come to my senses and got there, his arm was spurting blood. I managed to get him in the back of a car, held pressure on it while someone, I don't remember who, drove us to Huntsville. He came out OK.
I made a number of fast trips to Huntsville that year. Once, two of my players were thrown through the car windshield in a wreck on a Saturday night, and I loaded them into my Corvair. They were totally covered in blood. Crossing the steep curvy mountains, I checked my speedometer. 95 MPH! Adrenalin can really get a person carried away! Turns out, a lot of superficial cuts causing a lot of blood. But the boy died a couple of years later in Viet Nam.
      To try to build my basketball program up after season, I started having night practices on a voluntary basis. Well, there was not much (no) night time social places for the kids in St. Paul, so they flocked in. Trouble was, some of the local hoodlums wanted to come also, and when some of them started causing trouble, I banned them. One night, a couple of the worst wouldn't leave. I finally bluffed them out into their car, but once in, they wouldn't leave. I knew I had to get rid of them, or just cancel the night thing. If not, the hoodlums would eventually take over. I explained to them if they didn't leave, I would call the law. They laughed and told me to go ahead. The law was 20 miles away, and I had never seen “the law” in St. Paul. I started walking to the gym, to play out my bluff, and one of them hollered, “---- you!” Well, I am afraid I lost my professionalism that night. I walked back to the car, they locked the doors. I walked around it, kicking dents in it, daring them to get out and say that to my face. I knew I was biting off more than I could chew, because I've never been a good fighter, like I said. But so far, nobody in St. Paul knew that. I could always outrun them, if worst came to worst. I started letting the air out of their tires, and they left. After that, the hoodlums stayed away.
A couple of my junior high basketball girls were kinda wild. Once, at lunch, I walked by a car parked on campus. They were in there, with a couple of guys I had never seen before, making out big time. I opened the door, ordered the girls out, ordered the guys to vamoose, and slammed the door. Well, as it turned out, a year or so later, Barbara was working with one of those guys at Howard's Discount. He started telling a story about a “wild man” at St. Paul, she recognized the story, and started paying close attention. He said, “and when he slammed the door, the door knobs on his car fell off!”
      At that point in our married life, Barbara and I already were Scrabble players. I had played longer, and at that point, I had the edge. One night, I beat her pretty good, and we were both really competitive about it. Barb stormed out of the box, said she was leaving, slammed the door, got in the car and sprayed gravel all over the box. Barbara scarcely knew how to get out of St.Paul, much less go anywhere. She drove several laps around town until she settled a little, then came home.
      We continued playing Scrabble a lot, Barbara soon started winning her share. We both soon realized, Scrabble just brought out the worst in both of us.
      A year or two later, we surprisingly got a 17 inch snow in late march, a very unusual event. We were living in Fayetteville. We played Scrabble. Barbara beat me like a rented mule, and I stormed out into the snow. I plowed a path around and around the house, until I wore out. We should have just stopped playing each other, but we both loved the game too much for that.
      Jump ahead with me 40 or so years. Barb, always a word freak and a crossword guru, had taken command. She won about 75%. After I had endured a particularly galling series of losses, I just lost control. I jumped up, grabbed the board at the end of the last loss, and threw the whole mess across the room. Even though Barb kept coming up with new words, we played so much, I soon began to learn them too.
      Finally, once, the Scrabble gods smiled at me, frowned upon Barbara, and I won 7 in a row. After the last win, she jumped up, grabbed the board, and slammed the whole mess upside down on the couch, and tiles went everywhere. All this is noteworthy, because she and I normally don't fight much now. We got most of it out of our systems when we were young. After that, I was content not to play much for a long time. But Barbara would have none of that. You just don't beat Barbara like that rented mule, then walk away from it.
When she got her magic phone, with internet-GPS-everything, she sought out the best players she could find on Words With Friends, and now keeps a couple of games going all the time. When we go to bed, she kisses me good night, then plays with a couple of guys/girls while I go to sleep. I've never been a jealous type husband, but once she accidentally put her picture out on all the Internet instead of just her friends, as she had intended. Well, Barbara looks good in a picture, and soon Dr. Dead Lift responded. Wanted to play scrabble. Said she looked like someone who could give him a good game.  I wondered how he could identify mental ability from a cute picture. He is a world champion weight lifter, a chief in homeland security in his state. Well, that was a little too much. She agreed to take her picture off, and cut off Dr. Dead Lift. I finally realized I was being silly. You either trust someone or you don't. I told her to put him back on, he IS a top scrabble player. But don't be playing with Dr. Dead Lift, in the bedroom, after I go to sleep. With all this computer Scrabble, she soon was far ahead of me. Just left me in the dust. I never play her now. It simply does not matter how lucky I am, how unlucky she is, I'm still gonna lose. And that is the one game I cannot tolerate always losing at. Tip to the wise: Don't challenge Barbara to a game of scrabble unless you are in the top tier. You remember that rented mule?        continued   Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Post 51: We get Married; Can't find New Orleans.

      I had inherited a senior boys team that didn't win a game last year, and my task was cut out for me. However, we had a nice crop of sophomores. I started all sophomores, the tallest being 5' 10”. They worked hard, and we won the first three games. I was the town hero. But that cooled quickly when we started losing one game after another. We won only three more. My senior girls, and my junior teams, were fair. They won enough that all told, the teams won one or two more than they lost, enough for me to proclaim a winning year.
      Frank Broyles flung a major insult at me that year, though we had never met. After a particularly bad Razorback practice, he was so mad he told the press, “We looked like St. Paul out there today.” Well, I was the only coach St. Paul had, and as I looked around to see if maybe he was insulting someone else, I didn't see anyone but me.
Barbara wrote me a letter. She said she was in her dorm room, having just walked in after talking a minute to a construction worker outside. Then she interrupted herself with a new post. “You will never believe what just happened! That guy I was talking to just walked right in my room! I couldn't get him to leave! I had to threaten to scream before he finally did leave!” He seemed to have taken her friendly talk as a positive sign, and was there to collect. That letter worried me some. Barbara was always just a little too friendly and chatty to be so pretty! Was I destined to be constantly defending her honor?
      Well, as it has turned out, I shouldn't have worried. She was young, still 17, and she quickly learned about such things, and mastered the art of the one line turnoff, when necessary. That sort of thing has never happened again.
      We decided to marry during Christmas break. I brought her up in the fall to show her the housing prospects. The first one was right in the middle of downtown, all 3 or 4 buildings of it. It was pretty much a small box. She nixed that quick. For the other one, I drove her way back in the mountains near the Orval Faubus birthplace. No other houses were anywhere around. The only neighbors were in the graveyard across the road. She suddenly got a liking for that cute little box in town.
      We got married on Dec. 26, at the Watson Baptist Church. My good college buddy, now the Rev. Jimmy Draper, officiated. My long time roommate was best man. I think every member of Barbara's extended family showed up. I guess its a good thing that only my mother and brother Harry showed up, because Barb's family about filled up the place.
      Waiting for the ceremony to start, I glanced out the window, as someone said, to get my last glimpse of freedom. Her Dad Sport and her brother JD were chaining our car to a power pole. Well, needless to say, the rest of 1966 was a busy time, and I focused all my attention on Barbara. We spent our wedding night in Vicksburg, then headed to New Orleans the next day. Arriving close to there late at night, I tried to get directions from a cajun dude at a gas station, I couldn't understand a thing he said, and before we knew it, we were on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We found a little motel and spent a couple of days there. We never did find New Orleans. Not that we looked real hard for it. Geographical location was not the main focus at the time. That officially ends my story about 1966, I guess, but being long winded as I tend to be in front of a computer, (never in talking or praying) I want to go on while I'm at it and tell you a few more things that happened along about that time period. Please bear with me!
      Not long after school started back, we had a surprise visit from a ton of my school kids. I had never heard of a Shivaree, but they were still a custom up in the Ozark mountains .While a few kept us talking, others scattered out and put sand in our bed, relocating everything in the house, and just generally causing Havoc. Some of the guys had the idea of throwing me in the White river, right behind our house, just a rushing little stream there. I explained that I knew there were enough of them to do that, then I patiently explained what would happen to the first one who touched me. Nobody stepped forward to be that person. I managed to bluff them out of that. Like I say, I was never a fighter. But they knew I could run all day, and they just connected that strength to general physical ability, thank goodness. Anyway, a man that can run fast and far, and is not too proud to do it, doesn't need to be a fighter. After I thought they had all gone home, I stepped outside and one of my kids was just finishing up letting the air out of all my tires. He started running, and I knew he was faster than me. So I just set a pace to keep him in sight, and after half a mile or so he collapsed. I hauled him back to my car, and extracted a promise from him to come back the next morning to reinflate my tires. He did.      Continued   Thanks for reading!     Judging from your response to post 50, I guess I should have been a romance writer! But since right now I'm trying to tell you about my life, I'm afraid that would run very thin quickly, as you may have guessed by now!                                                                                           

Monday, October 17, 2011

Post 50: My heart is broken

     But we had both moved on, the magic had gone, and I took her home early.
     My job on the pipeline involved setting the hook thingie, the caliper, on the pipe, to lift it in place with the side boom. The side boom driver was fairly new, too, and he was slow. This gave me plenty of time to set the caliper on the pipe perfectly.
      Late in the afternoon, the foreman got tired of our slow pace, so he took over the side boom. I saw the caliper was a little crooked, so I reached down to adjust, just like I had been doing all day. Too late. The foreman was already lifting the boom. My glove got caught in the block and tackle, and when it came loose, half an inch of my left thumb stayed in the glove. I walked over to the foreman and told him I had lost a thumb. He started cussing me good, for messing up his safety record!
Well, the net result was, my Oklahoma adventure was over. I was headed home to Arkansas. Little did I realize, as I drove home, how losing that thumb would affect the course of my life – for the better!
      I drove down to see Barbara, at summer school at A&M. As I expected, she was making a big splash. Pretty, personable new girls tend to do that. Well, she was dating the son of the new head football coach, who was making his own splash, and she still had ties to the Air Force dude, but she seemed, in talking with me, to be leaving the door open for us just a little bit, and I suddenly decided I had best go back to school the second summer term, pick up some chemistry. I signed up and went back to Wing a few days to collect my stuff. I wrote Barb. Told her I met her football jock, and he seemed to me to think he was pretty wonderful. Well, she wrote back and turned my words right against me. She told me she had become convinced he was wonderful too, and another thing or two along that same line of thought.
      That bout' slapped me down. Here I was, already paid my tuition money, and I was getting the royal shaft!
      After thinking it over a couple of days, two very hard days, I decided to go to school anyway, as hard as that would be. I never liked to just throw away money.
     My old pals tried to cheer me up. Didn't work. My buddy Sam, a one legged guy, offered to fight him for me since I was thumb incapacitated. I was kinda hard to cheer up, seeing her all cozied up with him every day.
      Barb and I both worked in the cafeteria. One day while we were working, Barbara asked me if I would take her to church that night. I thought a while, maybe a second, and told her I didn't see why not. I saved my celebrating until I got back to the dorm. Things were looking up! I was in a really good mood, right up until I saw them, right out in front of my dorm, hugging and such. I think he brought her over there to put on a show for me.
      Well, that didn't help my mood much, and I was pretty cool to her at church. When I pulled up in front of her dorm, the jock was waiting. He came storming up. I knew I wasn't in good fighting trim, thumb cut off and all. Actually, I have never been a good fighter, thumb or no thumb. Well, I shouldn't have worried. He did all the fighting, with his words, all aimed right at her, right there in front of me. Barbara very nicely listened to everything he had to say, just rant himself out, then, again very nicely, dumped him..
      They say the meek shall inherit the earth. Well, that night I began inheriting the part of it I most wanted, Barbara. I was a little uneasy, as she very nicely went through the process of cutting off the other hopefuls, one at a time. By the time I had learned a little chemistry, (very little) and I was ready to head to St. Paul and my coaching job, we were engaged! I always made sure, when I saw the jock coming through the lunch line, that I had her hugged up as she spooned food on his plate. He always got mad, red as a beet, but he never said anything.  Continued

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Post 49: Speaking of Life Lessons - -

     I went to the Fourche Valley School Reunion last Saturday, and before I get too far away from that, I want to interrupt my story today to talk a little about some of the old memories it got rattling around in my head. Be back on my story next post.
     I saw Jim Roberson. He had such a strong handshake, It made me feel a little better about what happened to me 47 years ago. I was in the sixth grade, tallest boy in grade school, I could run longer, if not faster, than anyone else, Just generally, one of the big boys.
     A couple of the younger, shorter guys got in a tussle at recess one day. I just sorta felt it was my obligation, as a big boy, to straighten these little guys out. I started pulling them apart. Well, Jim already had his adrenalin flowing, and he turned all his attention on me. It didn't take long to realize I should have minded my own business. Jim got me in some sort of hold that was just squeezing all the air out of me, and as a crowd gathered around us, he said, "Are you going to leave me alone?" I didn't want anyone else to hear, and my wind was gone anyway, so I whispered, in his ear, "Yes." He let me up. The next day, he brought a bunch of his friends around, pointed to me, and said, "There. Thats the guy I whipped yesterday." I told them I didn't remember that at all.
     Life lesson # 1: Being older, and taller, don't necessarily mean you won't get your butt whupped'. And being able to run farther is no help at all. Although It might help you put some distance between you and him, Minimize the damage, and put some distance between you and all those kids laughing at you. 
     A funny thing about memory. I didn't remember a thing about it the next day, only to have it crop back up, 47 years later, when that strong hand started squeezing me again.
     A REALLY young kid got really mad at me one day, I don't even remember why, but he just waded in on me with both fists flying, hitting me about the waist. He just kept on, wouldn't quit. Well, again a crowd was gathering, and I was not about to be seen hitting a really little kid. I was getting real embarrassed. Finally, Monty said, "Pat, just get him in a wrestling hold." I did, and I had to hold him until recess was over.
     Life lesson # two: Looking at the size of the kid tells you nothing about the size of his heart. And he may come after you tomorrow. And the next day.
     I had a friend that was dirt pore', wore ragged, old patched clothes, the kind of guy a lot of kids shied away from. Lived over at Scrougeout. I went home with him one night. His mom was tickled, saying no one had ever done that before. She wrung the neck of her best hen, and we ate it for supper. All their beds were filled with hay, but they gave me the best one.
     In the middle of the night, car lights hit the house. The whole family ran to the front window, yelling, "Company! company!" Car was just turning around.
      Life lesson #three: Buddy up with the down and out kid. Sometimes, they will just give you the best they've got.
     That kid had needed glasses for a long, long time. One day he came to school with a brand new pair. We were wrestling, as kids do, at recess. I threw him down. As he got up, he reached in his pocket and pulled out his new, now broken, glasses. He just turned, put his head down, and headed back to the classroom.
     When I went in, after the bell rang, he was at his desk, head down, looking at those broken glasses. His glasses were soaked with his tears.
     After I got home, and off to myself, I shed some, too.
     Life lesson #four: Go easy with the pore kid with glasses. The will have to last him a long, long time.
     Maybe I can pass one or two of these along to my grandsons. Maybe, just maybe, you can too.
     A really great thing happened to me that day. A nice, pretty lady I had never seen before looked at my name tag, and recognized me! She was not from Fourche Valley, but she married in. I recognized her from my blog, one of my first followers to sign up! Trinity, her name was. It made me realize, I actually had readers other than family and friends! I've been high as a kite ever since!
     Life lesson #five: If you read my blog, sign up! you never know how little it can take to make an old man happy!


Friday, October 14, 2011

1966: Night in a very strange hotel

      Her husband left her all alone all the time, while he was out chasing other women. She was all alone, there every night, she was very lonely, and just didn't know what she was going to do. Well, I WAS very young and inexperienced, but even I could tell where this was going. I sympathized with her a little bit, told her I was sorry for what was happening to her, finished my coke, and told her I had to go eat supper. She walked me to my car, waved goodbye as I drove off. Goodbye forever, it turned out.
      The waitress at the restaurant was about my age, cute, and came over and sat at my table. Said she got off at eleven, and though I was interested, I was too shy to say the right things, and anyway, I had to get up early and go to work. By the end of the week, I had reached the McAlister office. The Boss told me I had really done well, made some money, and next week he had a good route for me, out from the Oklahoma City office toward Lawton. “Alright now. You have made some money. You're set. We have been off this route awhile, and I want you to build it back up.” He offered to ride up to Oklahoma city with me. I could sleep in the office there that weekend, if I wanted. Always ready to save money, I accepted.
      Hanging around the office Saturday, I began to see that strange things were going on. Many women worked there, constantly on the phones. Other women were constantly coming in, asking if they had a check for them. “No, it's not been processed yet.” or, “It's in the mail.” seemed to be the stock answer.
      Out on the new route Monday, I saw right off I was into trouble. Most all regular customers refused to let me spray, “No, you were supposed to be here a month ago.” or some such. Finally, I called the boss and told him the situation. “Tell them we're back on the route regular now, and we will never be late again. Settle them down.” Well, I tried. But I just never did have a very good line of BS.
      I finally got to Lawton, and one customer, a bar, which was a “blacks only” joint, did let me spray, but I kept getting some very hard looks, and a few comments, from the patrons. I just stuck to my work, minded my own business, and never said a word. Nobody really bothered me. The next day, the papers were full of news about a big race riot that had just broken out in that part of town.
      I found a cheap hotel, $2, in downtown Lawton. The money was running thin again. I had a room on the second floor, and when I got off the elevator, I was a little shocked. Scantily clad women were busily leading soldier boys in and out of almost every room but mine.
Like I say, I was young, innocent, and all that, but I finally got the picture. But I had paid my $2, and I decided to just mind my own business and just make the best of it I could.
      I got on the elevator to go downstairs to eat, and was about to push the down button. A woman walked in. I asked, “Are you going down?” she just smiled. Then I flushed very red, and when the elevator stopped, I got gone quick.
      I read the handwriting on the wall. The job was playing out. I was down to my last few dollars I had on me. I couldn't cash a check. I reasoned that if I went to a police station, they would reason I would not dare write them a hot check, so I went. They reasoned differently. Finally, I talked a banker into calling my bank at home. I talked to him.(He had known me all my life.) I finally got some money.
      That weekend, I drove to McAlister, got my clothes I had stored there, wished my now-former bosses good by and headed to Enid, across the state, where a pipeline job was starting. I managed to get a job starting Monday.
     With a little time to kill, I got to thinking. When I was in the 10th grade, my girlfriend who was a 7th grader at the time, had moved to Enid. Almost killed both of us. I got to thinking about the kiss we had shared, after practicing kissing my forearm a few times, at a party at her house.    After my friend Jerry and I started walking home, her mother left to take some of the kids home. Jerry's girlfriend was there too, and we would run back up and just maybe, if we were lucky, we could get another kiss. As I was running up the paved road, I fell, skinned up both my hands and my chin. I was not in much shape for kissing when we got there, bleeding like I was. But she did very tenderly bandage me up. That was almost as good.
     Anyway, I decided to call her in Enid. Sure enough, she was still there. Yes, we could go out.       continued

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

1966: Learning about life: Oklahoma

      I headed out. When I got to Tulsa, after getting lost trying to get out of Arkansas, I decided to rent a room for a few days and check out the possibilities. It didn't take me long to realize that corporate headquarters was not the place to get these jobs. Out in the field, on location was where it was at. But I did stumble onto a sales thing that sounded OK on the front end. Go to Oklahoma City to train. So I headed out, accompanied by an Indian and a sorta wild dude. The company put us up in a hotel. We went to the first training session. It was selling aluminum siding. The sales line they wanted us to memorize went like this: “Hello, are you the property owner? Blah, blah, blah.” We went back to the hotel. I had pretty much realized that wasn't for me. Just sleep on their dime tonight, head out to look for something else tomorrow.
      The wild guy was talking. “Hey, I know a couple of girls. Want me to set up a double date?”. I quizzed him a little. “Well, they're not really the kind you want to take home to mama. And if one of them is busy, the other can “date” both of us.” Well, I was seeing the big picture by then. He wanted me to drive him around for a wild night in my car. “Not interested,” I told him.
      Well, the next day, I left him and the Indian to their own devices early, and soon found a pest control job opening in the paper. I checked it out. They wanted to send me and an older applicant out with a trained man through small towns for a few days, get trained up, then we would have our own route.
      I went to Joe, the older man's house. He had a nice family,and a beautiful daughter a year or so older than me. His family was full of hope for Joe's prospects for a job. I began to get the feeling they had been through all this before. But the daughter WAS awfully pretty.
Billy, the trained man, our teacher, came by. Joe and I followed him in Joe's truck. I left my car at Joe's house.
      Here's the plan. While Billy worked his route, Joe and I went to all the houses surrounding. “We're spraying your neighbor's house. Those roaches will run to your house. Maybe you would like us to spray yours also.” Actually, there was truth in that, but it mainly picked Billy up a lot of extra business. Joe kept a little bottle in his truck, and went to it regularly, at first trying to hide it from me. When he could no longer hide it, I took over the driving. But, as much as he drank, I never saw any visible effects from it, until about the third day, about the time our tour ended. Joe and I headed back to Oklahoma City. We got there very late, and Joe insisted I stop so he could call his AA man.
      Going on to his house, Joe said, “I couldn't stop drinking on my own, but if you had asked me to, I would have.” I felt very guilty. I didn't know much about alcoholics in those days, and I didn't understand the little mechanism they used, trying to spread the blame around. When we got back to his house, he was falling down drunk, and I felt responsible. His wife and daughter came out, crushed and heartbroken, once again. No telling how many times they had been through this before. They all wanted me to spend the night, but I just couldn't look them in the eye because of my role in their heartbreak. I drove off into the late Oklahoma night to look for a motel.
      The boss wanted me to start my own route Monday out of the McAlister office, in southeast Oklahoma. The weekend was coming up, so I headed out. The Boss decided to ride down with me. Passing the prison, just west of McAlister, he talked a lot about it – how good they were to the inmates, etc etc. I learned later why he knew so much about it. He had just finished a term there, for non payment of employees. He directed me to an old hotel, that ran $1.81 per night, for the weekend. This fit my budget. The money I had brought was running thin. Sunday morning I went to a nice little church.
      Monday morning I put a lot of my extra clothes in the office, to make room for all the spraying equipment he loaded me down with. I headed out toward Antlers, Broken Bow, and points east. I went through sawmill towns, and their company houses were over run with roaches. Everyone welcomed me in with open arms. The route had been well serviced, and I was raking in the big bucks. By the weekend, I was very tired, but close to Arkansas, so I headed home for a visit. It wasn't far, and I got a chance to take my buddy Grady out and show off my money. Be the big spender. The local boy who drove off into the cruel world and made good. Monday morning found me picking up the south half of the route. Ida Belle, Hugo, working back toward McAlister. Late that afternoon, I pulled into a small motel.  The nice lady at the office checked me in (while she checked me out.) She was pretty, but old as dirt. Probably 30 or more. I had just got settled in my room when the phone rang. It was the pretty woman at the office, inviting me over for a coke. She sat down next to me with her coke, put the other hand on my arm, and started telling me a very sad story.

Monday, October 10, 2011

1966: I'm in trouble. Senior play, Senior trip.

      St. Paul is a long way from Watson. Almost all the way across the state. But I went to see Barbara every weekend I could, which means every weekend I was invited. I began to realize, her daddy didn't have any rules for this 17 year old girl. She was on her own. I didn't understand that at all, because my Dad was very strict. My sisters didn't date at all in high school. Over a period of time I learned why.
      One weekend, her parents and all the rest of her family still at home, except Barbara, were going to her sister Frances' house for the weekend. But, Barbara invited me down anyway. No problem, Daddy won't mind.
Well, like I said, this sounds like I'm laying the groundwork for a really good part of my story here. But, when we got back to her house after the movie, she soon let me know it was time for me to head out. I didn't have any arrangements made, so I drove over on the levee, crawled into the back seat, and me and the Delta mosquitoes had a big party. Enjoyed more by them than me, I'm sure. Put simply, her Daddy and Mama just trusted this girl completely. And she never gave them reason not to.
      Time for the senior play was coming up, and I was the man. When we started having practice at night, I soon realized I had my hands full. Sometimes, some of them would just not show up. Those that did had not been studying their lines. I knew a disaster was in the works, and I was right. When the big night came, I posted several prompters around behind the curtains. It really was not a matter of prompting, often they just had to read the whole line to them. And sometimes, the wrong actor grabbed onto a line and just ran with it. Halfway through, a very loud alarm clock that some junior had hidden in the couch on stage went off. I still have that clock. You just can't believe how loud that clock was.
Oh well, all's well that ends well. When it was over, they called me out on the stage, told me how much they appreciated my hard work, and presented me with a brand new fly rod.
      The end of the school year rolled around. Time for the senior trip. I was again the man, with a lady out of the community agreeing to go along to watch after the girls. She really didn't do much of anything, I think she was on vacation. I drove to Little Rock and booked us in a big hotel. These mountain kids were awe struck. I began to realize most of them had never been to a city before. Some of them just wanted to ride the elevator, up and down, as long as I would let them. Some of them were older than me, and some of the girls were pretty and flirty. A 21 year old guy just really should not be responsible for them, that long. But my “do-right mechanism” was turned on and kept me in good stead.
      We went on to Hot Springs. We went for a ride on a party barge. I had never driven one before, but I was again the man. As I came into a dock, I tried gracefully to shift into reverse. It would not go. I tried again, desperate this time. No luck. I yelled to the kid up front. “Hold it off, Max! Don't let it hit!”
     Well, I was giving an impossible assignment to that little boy on that great big barge! BOOM! Everyone came running out of cabins, and from everywhere. I had to cough up several bucks to get out of that. I had made another big mistake. I passed out everyone's meal money for the whole trip the first day. Max, and some others, were big spenders – for about a day. Then they begged and starved the rest of the trip.
       Coach Billy Max resigned, and they offered me the coaching job for the next year. I took it.
       Now, I was good at not wasting money when I started to college. Can't waste what you don't have. But college had honed that ability even more. I had $310 per month take home during that teaching semester, lived, made new car payments, and still saved $800 that semester.
      I decided to go to Oklahoma for the summer, maybe get a job on a pipeline, oil well, or whatever. Barbara was about to be off to A&M that summer, I knew what kind of splash she would make there that summer. I also knew she was not ready to put all her eggs in one basket yet, and she still had ties to some guy in the Air Force. But we parted on good terms for the summer, each with no ties on the other one.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

1966: Meeting her family and milking goats

     Following her directions, I headed for Watson on Saturday night. It was a well known fact at A&M, 25 miles away, that a young man just did not venture into Watson, alone, after dark. Watson had 3 or 4 really bad young dudes, they loved to fight, and they were good at it. I slunk down in the seat as I drove down Main street, well, actually, THE street, It was dark, but not nearly dark enough. Watson was like an old western town. In fact, at least one old western was made there. I couldn't help but remember all the men I had seen die in the dust in the street of just such a place, in the movies. Well, I made it through town, breathing easier, and headed for her house, out a winding gravel road three miles out through the cotton fields.
      When I arrived, Barbara invited me in. I thought the whole family must be there, but no. I just barely scratched the surface of the Dunnahoe clan that night. Her little sisters, two squirmy little girls, whispered and laughed to each other about how tall I was, how big my hands were, and would you just look at those feet! Her brother, about my age, was there with his wife and baby. The brother, JD, shook my hand and all, but the look in his eyes was anything but friendly. It wasn't until years later, I began to piece it all together by his stories. I began to realize, JD was actually the one I had heard stories about at A&M. He was not real big, but he had mastered the art of getting three running steps in and throwing the first punch in a one punch fight. Little did I know, the real danger was not on the streets of Watson, but here, in this house, looking at me hard.
      Barbara's dad, I liked immediately. But her mom quickly found things to do in another part of the house when I came in, so I really didn't get a chance to really know her that night.
      Barbara and I got to date a few times, but then student teaching was over, and I was headed to the hills of St. Paul, Arkansas in my 55 Chevy to begin my teaching career.
      The job started in the middle of the year. It wasn't until later, I realized it was because they had already lost so many teachers that year. It paid $2000 for the semester, big money to me. It was sort of a bits and pieces job, just fill in where a teacher had been destroyed and quit, where a senior sponsor had been run off, where another just couldn't take it anymore and walked.  It didn't seem to matter that the subject matter didn't match my degree, my area of expertise. But really, at that point I had no area of expertise, although I was pretty well convinced I knew it all. I did get one physical education class, in my field, and that actually turned out to be my salvation at St. Paul.
I knew the coach, Billy Max, an old A&M grad himself. He invited me to share his trailer. I went along with him to lots of his games. His senior boys team was very short, no good, and would pass up a layup any day for the glory of gunning a thirty foot shot. Just quite naturally, they won no games that year. His junior boys showed promise, and the girls teams were fair.                                                                                                        I was having problems with my old Chevy. The fuel pump shut down on me on University Avenue in Little Rock one day, and a cop showed up and helped me get it towed back to a station. Fortunately, my brother Harold, who I had bought the car from for several cows, had saved an old fuel pump in the trunk. Said it would work in a tight. Well, I was in a tight. I had it put on, Harold was right. It did work in a tight. Long enough for me to get back to the spot where the first one quit.
      As soon as I got a paycheck, I sold it and I headed to town to decide between a 1966 Corvair and a 1966 Mustang. Wouldn't you just know it, I picked the Corvair, brand new, $2,300.
      Teaching went pretty well, everything considered. I had a hard core group of hillbilly boys in my PE class, but I was a hard core hillbilly too. Some of these guys I knew were at the forefront in running off teachers, so I put in a little segment on distance running right off. I had just came from being a college distance runner, so I led them out on a 2-3 mile route. They were determined to not let a teacher out do them in anything physical, and they kept up until they just, one by one, collapsed. They respected physical things much more than teaching ability, fortunately, and we got along OK. One of my boys collapsed to the point that I had to load him up in my car and take him to the doctor in Huntsville, 20 miles away. We were late getting back, he was still pretty much out of it, so I drove him home and milked his goats for him.   Continued

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Post 44: Early and Late in 1966

      I met the woman of my dreams early in 1966. I married her late in 1966. Sounds real simple, huh? Yeah, that sounds real simple. We met and married in 1966. But just let me tell you about the ups and downs in between. There was nothing simple about it. I worked hard at it. I like to think I earned it. But, truth be told, I probably didn't deserve it.
      So many firsts, for me, occurred during that year. Lots of ups and downs, lots of negatives thrown in. But that union, on December 26, 1966, has proven over the course of my life, to be the single most positive event of my life. I started my first real job at 21. I was a teacher. I sponsored my first senior class in 1966. I directed the senior play in 1966. I took that class, 20 or so backwoods mountain kids on their senior trip that year, me and some woman from the community I didn't know, many for their first real trip out of the hills, to the bright lights of Little Rock and Hot Springs. Some of them were older than me.
      Barbara invited me down to her house for the weekend once,early in 1966, when the rest of the family were gone. Sounds like the makings of a very good story, huh? I thought so too. Little did I know.
      I spent my one and only night in a very active house of ill repute, yet emerged untouched and a virgin, in mid 1966.
      I left a body part, crushed and bloody, on the sand dunes of western Oklahoma, in 1966. A very important body part. I bought Barb's engagement and wedding ring from the proceeds of that loss.
      I saw houses that had millions of cockroaches that year. I stayed in hotels that cost $1.81 per night that year.
      Are you sure you are up to reading this story? Hey, this is a tell all story. I cut no corners here.
      Time to get down to the nuts and bolts of this story. It was an early January night. I was finishing up my student teaching in Dumas, I was at the Delta Dip, home of the Ding Dong Daddy (I didn't make that stuff up, its just what they say down there in the delta). I had just got my order, and was walking back to my car. I saw a kid I knew form Arkansas A&M, leaning on the door of a car, and he called me over. He was talking into the car. I looked inside. First, I saw a fairly pretty girl. Back seat, my side, another one. Then, my eyes moved to the far back. And there she was. I almost dropped my burger. There, before my eyes, sat the most beautiful one-eyed girl I have ever seen! (Actually, her hair style only showed one, but a few days later, I saw the other one, and it was just as big and beautiful as the other!)
      My first sensible thought was, “This is the one. I want to marry this girl!” I had this problem. In high school, I never dated much. Not totally my idea, but it just never really happened. I was totally insecure and silent around any girl I liked. I had many romantic entanglements, but only I knew. They were in my head.  So, I headed out to college, determined to start a new dating life (Actually, A DATING LIFE) with a clean slate. Well, I did get to where I could carry on a sensible conversation with a girl, and dated quite a bit, as long as I didn't really like her. If I did, I just froze up. If I REALLY wanted to date a girl, and after finally getting up the nerve, I would call her up and say something really good like, “Hey, you wouldn't want to go out with me, would you?” and then, if she hesitated, even for a moment, I would throw in the clincher. “That's OK. I don't blame you. I wouldn't either if I were you. Bye.”
      Well, you can just see the prospects here, with this girl I wanted to MARRY! Well, this girl was just so bubbly, so outgoing and friendly, she would just not allow me to freeze up. She brought out the real me. Before long, I was invited to sit in the car. Turns out, thankfully for my upcoming teaching career, this girl was a senior in a nearby town, Watson, twenty miles deeper into the delta.
      Before long, Tommy Neeley, a big handsome jock from A&M, walked up. A real chick magnet. I knew Tommy well. I used to rub his legs on a regular basis.(Well, maybe I should explain that. He was a star on the track team, I was the team manager.) Anyway, Tommy started talking to all the girls about going with him to a big, wild party he knew about. Well, my heart sank. They wouldn't turn down a big jock like Tommy, and even if I was invited, I didn't care much for parties and such. I couldn't/wouldn't dance much, except for the Twist. And I sometimes got all tangled up doing/trying that. But, would you believe it, this girl said no! She didn't like parties! I immediately fell deeper in love, and before the night was over, we had a date set up for Saturday night. Things were looking up!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Conclusion - The thing about water

      Neal invited me along on his fishing/floating/turkey hunting trip on the Buffalo river with him, his dad, Travis, and Scott Jackson. Neal is the Baptist Collegiate Ministries Director at Henderson State University. Scott is my pastor, and a professor at Ouachita Baptist University. Travis is retired, as am I. We planned a five day trip, floating the last 17 miles of the river.
      The thing about the lower buffalo. It is relatively calm. Kinda gets a couple of old guys, like Travis and me, over confident. Neal sent out instructions telling us all we could and could not take. But nobody took it serious enough. We wound up at Rush with enough food and gear to keep an army comfortable for five days.
      I was traveling with Travis. We loaded our boat down good. Too good. It was packed to the gills. Hard to find a place for us to get in.
The thing about Neal, is, he is an all around outdoors man of the first order. The best I've ever seen. He scouted the first rapid. He said, “Stay hard left” on the L shaped rapid. Travis and I went first. Me in back, him in front. I was hugging left. Travis said, “Pull right! We have to go right of that bush.” I did. When we got to the bend, I knew we were too close to the middle.
      The thing about a rapid is, the largest waves are often thrown up at the end. In the middle. We hit the big waves, smack dab in the middle,
expecting the front of the boat to ride right up on top of them. This heavy boat went under them. Neal was watching from above. “Hey, they made it.” then later, “but they sure do look awful short!” Our boat floated, just under the water. Our gear was washing out. Our motor was under water..
Fortunately for us, although I would not have wished it upon them, two boats of turkey hunters were ahead of us. One of them swamped also. They were in position, gathering up their gear. They started picking up ours, also. Neal and Scott quickly crossed the rapids uneventfully, and started helping. One of the other boats approached us, turning over to us our gear they had collected. “I've also got a garbage bag, with a backpack in it.” “Not mine,” I said. We weren't planning any backpacking.
We pulled over to a gravel bar, and spread our gear out to dry. The other group took a bar on down river. They finished first and went on. They had lost an expensive gun. Travis had lost a rod he valued highly. I lost two rods, myself, but they were yard sale specials, as is most of my stuff. We decided to spend the night there. Later I realized that all my clothes, including my coat, were gone. All the clothes I had was what I had on, still pretty wet, and it was supposed to be a cold spring night. The river took all my clothes; three days later, the river gave them all back to me.
I always pause here, in telling this story, for effect, to see if anyone will react to that last statement. No one normally does. WHAT ARE THEY THINKING!?? Does that seem like the normal course of events to you? Does the river just normally take all your clothes, and just spits them out, at your feet, three days later!? Good grief! Are they thinking that, since we have two preachers along, we have some sort of Jonah thing going on!? Or, more likely, have they just shut me out, not listening to a word I am saying, at this point. I vote for Jonah, but suspect the latter.
. Actually, I remembered, they were all in a small day pack. The “backpack” the other hunters found. As it turned out, we found out later they were camped way downriver. We finally ran onto one of their boats coming back up river, told him they were ours, and when we got there three days later, they were all dried, and packed nicely, lying out on the gravel bar for us. I was so tired of those filthy, wet clothes I had been wearing for three days. Travis and I had to wait for Neal and Scott there, the other hunters weren't home, so we just stripped and took a bath, right in front of their camp. Other boats going up river ran us into the bushes a couple of times, though.
      After Travis and I had swamped a perfectly good boat, in the first 15 minutes of our trip, I think Neal and Scott now feared we had gone senile. When another fairly large rapid came up, Neal kept coming up with, “How about Scott or I take your boat across?” Or, “Why don't we tie a rope on your boat, and just ease it over?” Travis and I would have died first. Our manhood was being called into question. I was thinking something like, “I was taking boats over much worse places than that, when you pipsqueaks were still sucking a bottle.” I feel sure Travis was too, although we never talked about it.
      The thing about Scott Jackson is, he is a perfectly organized camper. He had every kind of condiment we could have found at home. Every kind of coffee, coffee additive, everything. All perfectly organized in a cute little box.
      A few days into our trip, Scott and Neal were scouting for turkeys. Travis and I, not hunting, were in our usual position, in our chair on a gravel bar. When they got back, Scott noticed a Biological phenomenon. Dozens of beautiful Swallowtail butterflies, both Zebra and Tiger, were swarming around a damp place in the sand. Scott was determined to get to the bottom of this. Why this wet spot, why not others? Maybe a strange spring, bringing some exotic chemical to the surface? He dug in the sand there. He examined it closely. The true, latent biologist was awakening in him. Finally, I could stand it no longer. “Uh, Scott, that's where I urinated.”
      Neal's true nature was revealed on that trip, though no surprise to any of us. Neal is the expert turkey hunter, above anyone I've known. Scott was the novice. The last place they hunted, and the most likely, They sat side by side, full camo', Scott held the only gun. Neal called, a gobbler answered. This went back and forth for a long time. Finally, Neal saw the gobbler. It was hidden from Scott. They waited for it to walk into Scott's vision. It just would not. Turkey hunters know, if you move, the turkey is gone. Finally, the turkey was in the position for a perfect shot – for Neal. Neal could likely have been successful in having Scott pass him the gun, below the turkey's vision range, He just could not. His nature would not allow him to call the turkey in for Scott, take the gun away and shoot it himself. At long last, the gobbler walked away, Scott free, so to speak.
      The thing about my second cat fishing career is, the good stories, and, the 40 pound cat, are still out there, waiting somewhere beyond the next bend of the river.
      Actually, in case you have never suspected it, my lifelong love for the river is not really primarily centered around how many, or how large the fish I catch are. It has everything to do with just being out there.
If you put a 14 foot aluminum boat in the river at daylight, maybe the beaver will be swimming and slapping their tails. You may see a pair of ducks take flight through the mist rising off the river. Perhaps a big cottonmouth will come swimming up, floating like a long balloon on top of the water. You might, hopefully, hear a big bullfrog roar, like his namesake, in the distance. Possibly, a doe and newborn fawn will come down for a drink. Paddle along quietly awhile, then just float. And look. And listen. Then you will know why I love the river.
     I will be off my blog for a week or so, finishing up another story. Thanks for reading!