Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Arkadelphia: Four Weddings in a day

      The school change posed problems for Kinley. Although she was a good reader, the new kids were just automatically put in the lowest reading group. It was not called the “lowest group,”. But kids know. Kids she had been playing with now would have nothing to do with her. Barbara told the teacher about her reading ability,(she didn't miss a single spelling word the year before) and she was moved up. Problem solved.
The move was good for Corey. He had been the leader in a group of very rowdy boys in McCrory. When we got to Arkadelphia, Lon Vining was in his class. His father, Bill, was the legendary basketball coach at OBU. When Corey found out Lon had the keys to the OBU Gym, they became friends Quickly. Lon was a strong Christian, and became a very good influence on Corey. He had an image to uphold at McCrory, and may have had a hard time pulling out of that.
      Barbara always did all the portraits. I did custom framing, some of the photography calling for lesser skill, and all the darkroom, which was a pretty big job itself before digital came along. Barbara quickly taught me the darkroom skills she had learned from the old man while fighting him off, and she never went back into the darkroom again. She had gotten enough darkroom work in, that one day, to last a lifetime.
Barbara did most of the early weddings alone, carrying a very big, heavy case. That finally ruined her elbows, and we became a team. I had the mechanics down by then, and I shot the pictures. Barbara posed the people, ran the show, and hob knobbed with all the people. I was always amazed that, although every person there saw who was taking the pictures, she always got all the credit. “Oh, Barbara, the pictures you made were so wonderful!” That was OK with me. As long as I only had to worry about the camera, I was happy. I was never a people person anyway. We never lost a wedding, but I once made a technical mistake just before the reception started, and lost it all. The family was nice about it, thank goodness, and the couple didn't stay married long.
      Barb developed an uncanny sense of which marriages would not last, and we always put a rush order on those pictures. She was almost always right. The major factor was how the bride treated her mother on the wedding day, and how the couple reacted to each other that day. Selfish, self centered people don't stay married.
      We were a high volume, fairly priced outfit. We once did four weddings in 24 hours. Friday night, 10, 2 and 6 on Saturday. And, we photographed 6 baseball teams in between.
      Running weddings close together like that got me into trouble once. We were finishing up a 2 o'clock wedding, and when the bride and groom came out of the church, some of his buddies “kidnapped” the groom. I realized, that little move was going to delay the “couple driving away shots”, and make us late for the next wedding. Well, I guess I musta' made a face about that, because the bride's mom saw it. The next day, we had just mailed the film off when she called, complaining about how bad the pictures were going to be. She just kept on and on in that vein, and everything else she could think of, and the net result of that was that I banned her from our business for life. We finally met at a different location to exchange pictures and final payment, then we parted forever. At least, I hope so. So far so good.
Barbara learned early on, it was not a good idea for me to be dealing with our touchy customers. Once, a very old lady kept instructing me about how her pictures we made of her should show absolutely no wrinkles, and the net result of her instructions were that she was to look 25 again. I just had to tell her, “Well, we can't work miracles!” Barbara kicked me behind the counter good about that. But even Barbara, the master of dealing with touchy customers, had her limits.
      Once, in the middle of high school senior season, Barbara did a wonderful job of making an average girl look beautiful. When the girl came to view the pictures, she said, as many young girls do in that situation, “Oh, I just know they will be horrible! I dread looking at them!”
      Well, Barbara had seen that attitude one time too many lately. That comment was made as she was opening the folder to show her, but she just folded it back up, put it away. The girl was too shook up by that to speak. “Well, if they're that bad, there's just no need of me showing them to you,” Barbara said. The girl had to get real nice before Barbara hauled them back out.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Arkadelphia: The Most Enthusiastic Teacher

      While all this drama was going on in our lives, Goldie was creating havoc in our house. She had developed a taste for leather, and we would sometimes find a belt buckle in the floor. The belt was gone. We found a baseball batter's glove in the floor. When we asked Corey's friend Brandon if it was his, he said, “No, mine still has the fingers in it.” We bought him another. Midnight was doing fine out in our fenced in yard. I have to admit, to save our leather, we sometimes let Goldie visit Midnight for awhile, sometimes too long. Goldie developed a rash, and her long hair looked a mess. When we took her to a Vet, he gave us a chewing out. “You can't treat a dog like that like a yard dog!” We all felt guilty, and we got her rash cleared up, put all our leather up out of her reach, and took better care of her.
      We had Goldie bred to another Lhasa, and she produced a big litter of puppies. That was a very educational experience for all of us, when the puppies were born. But when the time came to sell the puppies, there was high drama in our house. Kinley loved Crooktail best, he was the smallest and weakest as well as having a deformed tail, and Kinley always loved the “Under dog,” so to speak. The girl whose family provided the sire had rights to the pick of the litter, and she chose Crooktail. Kinley disliked that poor girl from then on.
      Whitey was always the superior one, from the moment he was born. He was larger, stronger, smarter He went next. The family who bought him swore to us he could later count to ten by barking. I never personally witnessed it. Soon, the whole litter was gone, and the kids weren't properly caring for Goldie, again, and Barbara and I were totally distracted trying to make a living. A nice lady who we knew would take care of her wanted her so she went to a new home, another traumatic day in the Gillum household.
     I helped Barbara photograph a beauty pageant. After we had photographed 12 girls, shot a full roll, I started to reload the camera. There was no film inside! I was in panic. I quietly asked Barb, “Didn't you load the camera?” “No, I thought you did!” She quietly started locating each of those girls, brought them around, and we reshot each of them. Nobody ever knew. Not a good thing to be telling around, at that point in Barbara's photography career.
      We were shooting a wedding in Little Rock. Our Hasselblad went down on us while finishing up the pre-wedding shots. That sort of trouble just never happened with that type camera, the most reliable of its day. That was the model taken to the moon for photographs, the one they knew they could count on. We had gotten a little too sure of it, and didn't take a really good backup. We never made that mistake again on any job we couldn't re-shoot. I ran to our bag for the backup camera, a 35mm I used for wildlife photos, covered with camo tape. I ripped the tape off, then discovered a small device needed to hook up the flash was missing. I told Barb, again with panic in my voice, “Get in place for the coming down the aisle shot. I'll go buy a part.” I drove madly to Camera Mart. Fortunately, It was open on Saturday morning. Fortunately again, they had it. When I got back to the wedding, the bride was about to start down the aisle. I walked briskly past her to Barbara, who was standing in position, smiling confidently with an unusable camera. I slipped her the part, she hooked it up, and got a great shot. Again, nobody ever knew.
      Finally, just before school started, a biology teacher in Arkadelphia was moved up to an administration job. I got his job! The next morning, I was in the principal's office, ready to go to work. He laughed. He didn't even know I had been hired yet.
      Corey was in football practice that morning. He still laughs about looking up on the hill, and seeing me waving a biology book at him.
      With my kind of “help” out of her way, Barbara slowly began to turn the business around. And I was the most enthusiastic teacher in town that year, 1982.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

McCrory Conclusion: Eating Runned' Over Deer

      Midnight soon replaced Blackie. He turned out to be a smart dog. I trained him to go out and get the paper every morning. That worked great. For awhile. Then, he began gathering up all the papers in the neighborhood, and tearing all of them up in our yard.
      In a moment of weakness, Barbara and I let the kids talk us into buying a long-haired Lsaha Apso puppy. Goldie sure was pretty, but there was really nobody in our family prepared to properly care for a dog like that.
      When Goldie got away from one of us, Midnight would chase her down, and hold her with his paw until we could get there.
      Corey was large for his age. In 5th grade basketball, he dominated. In one game, his team was ahead, 12-2. Corey had 14 points.
     When he drove to the wrong goal, Barbara was keeping the clock. When our screams to turn around went unheard, Barb was reaching for the buzzer. I had to grab her hand. She was about to cause a lot of trouble. Corey got in the habit of not jumping to rebound. That habit persisted when he was older, a big negative, because now the other guys had caught up with him in size.
      A photography studio was for sale in Arkadelphia. We bought it, and prepared to move. Then we both were hit by buyer's remorse. Especially me.Could we do this? Could I find a job? Could we feed our babies in the meantime?
      I drove down once to make arrangements in my old truck. On the way back, I saw a truck hit a deer. The deer was dead, the truck went on, so I picked it up and threw it in the back of my truck. When I got home, I dressed it and froze most of it. We were eating venison that night, and the doorbell rang. Kinley's eyes got real big, and she said, “Will they be able to tell that we're eating runned' over deer?”
Someone asked me later, “Do you deer hunt?” I replied, “No, but I do enjoy a good roadkill every now and then.”. She said “Oh.” and moved a little farther away.
      When we got to Arkadelphia, we realized the studio was about to go under. We started taking every photography job we could find. Some photographer told her, photographing dog shows can be really profitable. We located an upcoming dog show nearby, and were given the job on a commission basis. Well, as it turned out, this dog show didn't include show dogs, just your average hound dogs and such. We sat there all day and never snapped a shot! The good side of it was, we didn't owe one penny in commission. From that day forward, every time a job flopped, we called it a “Dog show.”
      Corey had thrown a no hitter last year in Baseball, and I was anxious to get him into the program here in Arkadelphia. I called the league director. "No," he said, "We've already had the draft" We argued about it a while, but he stood his ground. Corey had to set out a year, and he never got back to where he was in baseball. I thought about calling my lawyer friend in McCrory, seeing if he could throw a scare into the director. I should have. But I guess I was a little pre-occupied with where our next meal was coming from, at that time.
     Things were going bad. I searched everywhere for a teaching job. I lost 30 pounds. A man with kids to feed and no job is a sorry sight to behold. The first photography job I personally landed was taking group pictures at the HSU band camp, printing black and whites all night in the darkroom, and selling them at the final concert. It turned out good, and helped us get through the summer. Corey, going into the 8th grade, helped me sell. When the concert was over, I told him, ”We made a killing today!” He replied, with deep concern, “Are we rich now?” I had been too busy to notice how much our financial problems had affected our children. Now, 30 years later, I still do that job every summer. It's the only photography job we still do.   It saved us. I guess I am too emotionally attached to it to ever quit it.
     I will always feel indebted to Wendell Evanson, the legendary band director at HSU from that time period, for giving me that job. He never knew he saved us.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Post 112: Mccrory - Dog and Preacher Trouble

     Corey developed a severe allergic reaction while we were building the house. He was finally hospitalized, and they started letting him eat one food at a time to try to pinpoint the problem. He chose hot dogs, then added hamburgers, then ice cream. He missed the County Fair, and got to stand, in his cute little hospital gown, looking dejectedly out the window while his classmates next door had a big time at the Fair. But he got out in time for the last day of the Fair. The doctor suspected cotton defoliants, but this was farming country so he didn't speak up real loudly about it. Then Corey recalled an airplane flying over the school one day at recess, defoliating a crop next to the school. The allergy finally went away, and has never returned.
     Always trying to find a way to make a little money, I drove a school bus. I once made a stop, turned on the lights, and the kids got off and headed across the road. A kid behind me lost his ball, and it rolled up under my feet. I reached down to get it out of my way, then looked up. The group of children were well across the road, so I started moving, just as a small boy, picking up a book he had dropped, stepped into my vision in front of the bus. I barely stopped in time. I still have nightmares about that. Another time, the steering wheel just came off in my hand. Fortunately, I got it stopped, still in the road. I once met a car on a narrow muddy road. I pulled over some, and the road bank caved off, and the bus just slowly lay over on its side. Nobody was hurt. The bus mechanic had to stretch cable come-a-longs down to 3 power poles to pull it back up, and told me, “The next time, let the car pull over out of YOUR way!”
     After I quit driving a bus, they were very short on substitutes. I finally agreed to help them out when they needed me, then noticed every time after a big thaw in the spring, when the bottom just fell out of those roads in the delta, a certain driver, a preacher, “needed” me every time it was very bad. Some places, you just automatically knew when you bailed off into a mud hole, you were going to bury up. There was always a farmer, with his big tractor, waiting to throw you a cable and pull you out, an every day thing during those times. But, you always got muddy halfway up to the knee when you did that. The preacher was a hard man to get your money from, too, so I quit the substituting business.
     Kinley was a sweet little girl. She was very ecology minded, too. Once, coming home from church in her best dress, a gum wrapper blew under the car as we got home. She crawled under the car to get it, ruining her new dress.
     We once noticed she always got bee stung on her leg on Sundays. Always on Sunday. We started investigating. She was wearing a long dress to church every Sunday, one that almost dragged the ground. Walking across flowering clover, she was trapping bees under her dress, and they stung her. A big problem solved.
     “Near the end of our lives, we come to realize, the ordinary is the extraordinary.” (Writer unknown)
That is especially true as I write about our kid's growing up years. Everyday occurrences become the things I remember.
     The summer of 1980 was very hot and dry. 112 degrees F. Was not unusual. Barbara and the kids went to church camp, and they regretted it.  No A/C. While they were gone, I went up to Wing, to set up my camper on the nine acres we had bought from Harold, and planned to fence it. I took the kid's pup, Blackie, along. The hill was high, dry an rocky, and I quickly wore myself down to nothing. I was so hot, I went down to the creek where the cold springs are, and just hung out in that hole awhile, like I used to do as a kid. When I got back to Harold's house, where I had left the pup, the dog was sick. Well, I knew no fence was going to get built that week, in that weather, 110 degrees or so. I took the sick pup and went home. He died that night of Parvo. I worried all week how I would break it to the kids. When they got back, Kinley was first in the door, wanted to know were Blackie was. I had to tell her, and I didn't handle it well. She just wailed, “but I want to play with him!” A bad summer.
     The next time I got back to Wing, Harold had a surprise for me. He had taken his tractor powered post hole digger, dug the holes, and built the fence. That's just Harold for you.

Monday, February 20, 2012

On Seeking a Mate - -

     Sometimes, I just have to get off my story, and tell you about whatever happens to be running through my head. I'll get right back to my story, next post.
     Oh, by the way! I have something to tell you about, that I think is kinda neat! I will be reading my Nov. 2 post, "The King of Fayetteville," on "Tales from the South" tomorrow night, at Little Rock! It will later go out on NPR and onto U tube. I will tell you the details about time, when I find out. I just hope I don't choke up somewhere. Ever since Peru, I just tend to do that. But its not a really emotional story, so maybe I can do it. Cross your fingers for me!
      A guy who has never had a thought about hitting a woman just never speaks of it. If he has ever told you he would never hit you, he has that thought in his head, or he has done it before.
If he tells you that regular-like, plan on being a human punching bag after the wedding. Bust outta there!

      Don't marry for looks; looks will fade. (Barbara's the exception!) Character is what lasts forever.

      Watching how he/she treats their family gives you a good idea how you will be treated.

      If he/she cheated with you, he/she will cheat on you. But then again, we don't even need to consider this one. You two deserve each other.

      If you have gone over the top, helping him/her, and been shown little appreciation, he/she has just gotten into the habit of expecting that of you. He/she is taking you for granted already. It will get much worse, but never gets better.

      If the wild, bad boy/girl is the only one who attracts you, your life will be one long, living nightmare.

      A woman can never change a bad boy. It just gets worse.

      If she expects her parents to go into debt, or steal from their retirement fund, to finance her big fancy wedding, she's selfish and self centered. Get away from her. She'll break you, too, and then you'll be history, anyway.

      If he/she cheats on you before the wedding, it will increase tenfold after the wedding, when the hot passion with you settles down some. Forgiving can, at best, only buy you an insecure future. First, express your appreciation for having given you this little warning sign, then turn and run. Before its too late.

      If you know he/she loves you more than you love him/her, you won't be doing any favors by settling for that. You WILL be doing everyone a big favor by easing out of it now. If the spark is not there now, it never will be. A gentle letdown is in order.
      The dominant person will set the pace, and by now you know where you fit in. If the dominant one is not good with money, and goes through it like slicing hot butter, and If you're not that dominant one, get out fast. Hell on earth is headed your way. Best if both are good with money, but that might be a little too much to ask.

      When all your friends and family say no, you'd do well to go - - fast! Remember, they're the ones who love you the most.

      Watch out for the "Hollywood Syndrome." If he/she requires constant adoration, you won't be able to hold up to those standards very long. And they'll be looking for someone else, who will.

      Beware of the control freak. If he/she tells you they are the only one who loves you, and are always trying to get you away from family and friends, break the door down if you have to. But get away.

      In our wedding photography career, Barbara and I saw a few little tell-tale signs that always prompted us to put a rush order on the pics!

      If the bride gripes a lot at her bridesmaids on the wedding day, just remember. She picked them, like she picked you. Don't expect to fare any better after the wedding. You might want to consider sneaking out the back door.

      If the bride's Mama is a good Mama who has worked hard to bring this thing together, and the bride gripes at HER on that day, she's selfish and self-centered. These people don't stay married. Cut your losses and get outta there, however you can.

      If you see, on the wedding day, that the wedding itself takes priority over the groom, plan on always playing second fiddle, at best. Start running, and never look back.

      If your new husband and your father get into a fist fight at the reception, and yes, we have seen that, It's too late. But you might wish to check about an annulment.
      I'll be back on my story, next post. Thanks for your time, and your attention!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Barbara's big show, Roughnecks, and Big Daddy

Barbara contracted a wedding. The reception was to be held in a blacks only joint in town. Fortunately, it was owned by Ike Brown, a black, a very good man. He was the school janitor, and Barbara's good friend. Ike told Barbara there had never been a white woman in that building before. Told her to stick close to him. She did, and it went good.. Even though this was after school integration, old habits die slowly. Ike told Barbara that a few years ago, a big basketball game was coming up at the white school. Ike was the janitor, and badly wanted to see the game. The superintendent told him he could be there, if he stood on a little balcony at the end of the court, and kept a broom in his hand.
      As summer approached in 1981, I had an idea. The natural gas boom in western Oklahoma was in full swing, and my nephew, Bob Workman, had pulled down the big bucks last summer, working up to 80 hours a week. I decided we could use a strong shot of money, and decided to head that way. I headed out pulling my pop-up camper. I found a park in the middle of the boom area, and soon found a job on a big rig. They were just going "in" when I got there, headed several miles deep. Some of my in-laws were already there. I was in the "Worm's Corner," helping change out the pipe sections as we went deeper and deeper. The first night I was also helping near the actual hole, in the cellar. Right off, I stepped too close to the hole and went into the mud, over my head. When I struggled out, I jumped in a water tank to wash off. That was not just any mud, but a mixture designed to hold the gas down and prevent a blowout. Leaving it on very long could do damage.
      I soon learned the term “roughneck” was given for a reason. That was a rough bunch of people. I rode out to the rig with the driller and the rest of the crew. One morning, the rest of the crew were laughing and talking about what happened the afternoon before, on the way home, after they dropped me off. Seems the driller (the boss) was standing in the cashier's line at a gas station. A woman was in front of him. She suddenly got really mad, pulled a gun out of her purse, yelled, “I'll give YOU something YOU can feel!” Threatened to shoot him, then chased him out to his car. They trailed her when she left, harassed her on the highway. A great group of guys to work with.
      When the 4th of July rolled around, everyone had a good supply of bottle rockets. A war commenced, in the car, front seat against the back seat. Kinda scary, seeing those things circle round and round in the car, knowing it was about to explode somewhere. When I reached home, I had to run real fast and find cover quick to dodge the rockets.
      The job I had was only 40 hours a week, normally, so I never hit the big bucks. And I decided pretty quick I didn't want 80 hours of that! When things slowed a little, as we got deeper, grease gun wars commenced among the crew, and if you didn't watch out, someone might just throw some object off the tower at you. Maybe one that could bash your head in.. Being called a “crazy SOB” was a badge of honor among roughnecks, and everyone tried to be as crazy as possible. My nephew Danny soon came out, and he was hired immediately when the boss was told he was very big, very strong. When astride his Harley, his street name was "Big Daddy." We wound up living together. A small guy was showing off one day by climbing hand over hand up a 30 foot leaning pipe. Danny, weighing 270, crawled right up behind him. Kinda took the luster off the little guy's accomplishment. Danny was a good guy to hang out with, In that roughneck town. Nobody messed with Big Daddy. When Dan was just a teenager, he wanted to arm-wrestle me. Well, he had Harold's strength genes, something I had just missed out on. I saw nothing to be gained by doing that, so I declined.
     When I headed home, at the end of my adventure, I found out I had missed out on a lot. Kinley had learned to swim, and Corey pitched a no-hitter. But Barbara, from what I understood, had out-shown them all, by putting on quite a show on the swimming beach with sister Phyllis, Delton, and the kids. She had bought a Walmart special swimsuit. Coming in from underwater, she walked ashore busily clearing the water from her hair and eyes. Barbara had always hated going underwater for that reason. She failed to notice that one of her two perfectly matching body parts had fallen out, Phillis was too busy laughing, and Delton was too red to speak. She became the focus of the entire beach before she figured out what was going on. When she saw some of those beach people later, she was horrified. But Kinley piped up, “Don't worry. No one will recognize your face!” I missed out on quite a summer.
Kinley went to the Passion Play at Eureka Springs with the church youth group. In the middle of the play, loud thunder and roaring came up, but most people thought it was just sound effects at a critical point in the play, right when Jesus was ascending into the clouds. Golf ball sized hail started falling, and everyone tried to find cover. A leader gave Kinley a chair to put over her, It quickly blew away, and she came home with knots on her head and big bruises on her back. 14 people were hospitalized. Kinley's unnatural fear of storms may have started at that point, but that fear may have saved her life when an F4 tornado put her in its cross hairs a few years later.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

McCrory: Marijuana in the classroom

       Anyway, let me get back to our story. I think we were at McCrory, Arkansas, when I got off on that house-building tangent.
      A few light moments occurred, over the years, regarding the plants in my biology room. Once, at the end of the school year, I was getting ready to carry out my plants, and Barbara and coach Hart were in my class room. Knowing coach Hart was always open to any kind of physical challenge, I said, "Coach Hart, I'll bet you're not man enough to take this little cactus plant in your hand, and squeeze it into mush." The plant had thousands of tiny, hairlike spines all over it. Had Barbara not been in the room, I figure he would have passed. But he was too much of a man to back off from a physical challenge in front of any woman. He took that plant in both his hands, and squeezed the life clean out of it. He showed no emotion, at all, but I did notice he walked around the next day with both hands open, and turned out.
      I had a large plant stand at the back of my room, just full of plants. I got to noticing at one point, lots of my boys were really getting into plants, stopping by the plant stand and looking them all over good when they came in each day. The interest was spreading. Soon, a large group gathered around it each day. I must really be a great teacher! They were really getting interested in biology! I was so proud.
      One day my student aid took pity on me and clued me in.(Thanks)
She pointed them out. Several small marijuana plants were coming up! Not really knowing what to do with this crop, I pulled the plants and took them over to Mr. Trammel, the principal. When he saw what I was handing him, he pulled his hands back and backed off. "I don't want them!" he said "all right," I said, "You're my witness, and I'm yours!" I said as I tore them up and dumped them in the trash can.
      When I was young, a certain type of Nettle plant was common in the field I had to cross to go swimming in the creek. Every time I accidentally touched it, I just itched for hours! I remembered that plant, when I was teaching biology at McCrory, and transplanted one to my classroom, along with a big sign, DO NOT TOUCH THIS PLANT. Several of the guys just went by it, slyly, and rubbed against it. I could always identify those, because they scratched all period.
      An elderly Doctor's house was robbed in town once, and a human skull was stolen. I, as the biology teacher, and the logical one, was asked to advertise for a human skull in hopes of trapping the thief.Well, I didn't want to, but I finally did. I was tickled when nobody showed in class, a skull in a bag, asking for payment. In my worst nightmares, I could just imagine a student going out and digging one up to make a few bucks.
     I gave Barbara a good camera for her birthday, and our lives began to change forever. She loved it, found out she was good at it, and before long she wanted to do it professionally. She located an old photographer who was retiring, and bought his stuff. He agreed to teach her how to handle the darkroom, and portrait photography in general. “Come back tomorrow, and we will start. It may take several days.” Well, I had to go back to work tomorrow, and I hesitated. Then he said, seeing my doubt, “I'm 70 years old. You don't have to worry about me.” Well, she went back alone, and she learned some about the darkroom, and a lot about old men. When she came home, she said, “I'm not going back alone. You've got to go with me.” We went back together, and he finished up his "teaching" in one day.
      Soon she was doing a lot of photography out of our converted garage. She was too busy, with a full coaching load. She asked to drop her coaching, but keep her teaching job. The boss smiled with satisfaction, then said no. He had finally made her pay the price for her victories regarding girl's sports. She resigned, and he immediately hired a replacement lady to teach her classes, then turned the coaching over to the men.
      I went to have a talk with the superintendent. Asked him why he would not require the new girl's PE teacher to coach, but required Barbara to. He really didn't have a good explanation for that, but we both knew why. After I said a couple more things, he said, “Pat, you're making me mad!' I told him he had already made ME mad. He threw a sheet of paper and a pen to me, said, “If you don't like what I do, write out your resignation.” I told him if he wanted to get rid of me, he would have to fire me. Otherwise I would resign at a time of my choosing. That about wound up our conversation. He didn't fire me. He left before I did, as it turned out.

Monday, February 13, 2012

McCrory: I Don't Do That Kind of Work Anymore

      Some of the finish work I saved for the pro's, like the cabinets, carpet, and brickwork. I knew I couldn't hide my lack of skill there. I found a little trick that worked well. After a contractor had been on the job one day, I went over his work until I found a flaw. Then I ragged him until he re-did it. His work quality now moved up a notch. Most contractors will only do their best work if they are pushed to it by picky people. It's all about speed with them. Many will go too fast if you let them.
      When it was finished, we turned $3000 back to the bank. A 1710 square foot, three bedroom brick house for $22,000 dollars. Including the lot. But, that was 1978. Prices have changed some since then. But the labor expense saved amounted to close to half. It took 10 months, after school, weekends, and a summer. I wound up building the next two housed we have lived in, too. But not for that price. $38,000 in 1983 out in the country, a two story frame house. Our new banker was very hesitant about lending money. He just said most people who set in to build their own house were soon overwhelmed, and quit. But, I had done it once already, so he finally relented. When the house was finished, and he came out for the final inspection, he told me I should build houses for a living. No thanks. Once the banker does his final inspection, and declares it finished, I take his word for it, and just quit right there. I'm sick of it by then, and I have never finished up every little detail.Who am I to argue with a Banker? Usually, it's part of the garage that is eternally unfinished. After our kids grew up there, Barb wanted back in town with city water and cable TV. That third one, 20 years ago, cost $68,000, the one we still live in. But this time, the soreness in my body did not end after a few days. It was there, every day, for 10 months. I was getting too old for this.
      A sheet rock hanger guy, in his mid 50's, lived next door. He kept a close check on my progress awhile, then told me I was going to make it. His son told me one day, “I never want to be old. I want to die by 50.” I asked why. He said, “ I never want to hurt as much as my father does, every morning when he gets up.” A few months later, his father died suddenly, no one seemed to know why. But I did. Hanging sheet rock every day, for an old man, is a man killer..
      The city inspector was the bane of my existence while I built that last house. Although it was legal to buy permits and build one's own house in our city, He was just determined that you just can't build a house like that, alone. He was there, nearly every day, finding things wrong.
     I pulled a fast one on him once. I had the under- the -slab plumbing finished, uncovered in a 4 foot deep trench, and he was getting out of his truck, coming to inspect. I noticed a drain curve turned the wrong way. I knew he would say, "You can't do that! That will cause the drain to stop up every couple of weeks! Pull it out and redo it!" I threw a shovel full of dirt down on top of that joint as he walked up, gambling he was too lazy to get down in the ditch and check it. He didn't, and twenty years later, it has never stopped up.
A couple of times, I had to bring him an engineering book to prove my point. He once decided that 2x6 studs, 24" apart, would not hold a two story house. Told me to put another stud in between. I finally convinced him that 2x6's spaced that way could carry more weight than 2x4's spaced 16" apart. I let him read it right out of the engineering book But the last time he came out, as I was finishing up, he was different. He smiled and said, “You know, a man should never have to do what you did, on this house, like that, but once in a lifetime.” And I was doing it for city water and cable TV, for Heaven's sake! I decided that day that he and I finally agreed on something. This was my last house.
      Then we started buying old, rundown rent houses, and I fixed them up. After the first one, our banker realized I would quickly fix it up, make it worth more. “Sweat equity,” he called it. I never had to make a down payment on another one. I even made a profit on a closing once, because rent was due. But like I say, that was then, and things have changed in banking. We made sure our credit rating stayed around 800. And I have changed. I've got to renovate a trashed apartment next week, and what I really want to do is write. I wouldn't mind if I never saw another hammer and saw. Anyone want to buy 16 old houses and apartments? Have I got a deal for you!
ABOUT TODAY'S TITLE: When nephew Ken Gillum was about to leave the farm and go off to college, he was about sick of that farm work. A neighbor called him one day, offered him a job hauling hay.  I chose Ken's reply for my title, because I now agree with him!  Thanks for your time, and your attention.

Friday, February 10, 2012

McCrory: The Rock Star

      Others in the athletic department seemed to resent the presence of girls involved in athletics, too.
The boys basketball coach just kept the good basketballs locked up in a special closet, only he had a key. Barbara asked for the key one day. "Those balls are for the boys." "Did you personally buy those balls?" "Well, no." "Then give me the key." He did. But Joe Hart, the legendary football coach, and, I realized when I got to Arkadelphia, a legendary player at HSU, was the Athletic Director, and very supportive of Barbara, as well as helpful, and he was a key figure in solving those kind of problems.
      We went to Wing for a visit, staying at brother Harold's. Shortly after lunch, we noticed Corey, Kinley, and Ken, about Corey's age and Harold's youngest, had just disappeared. We got to looking, and I finally discovered their trail, headed down into the bottoms. My kids were city kids, and I knew they could get into a lot of trouble in the Wing bottoms. I started tracking them. They were headed toward the Little Lake. I ran 50 steps, walked 50 steps, a method I used as a youngster to cover a lot of ground in a hurry. When I got close to the Little lake, the trail turned west. After 5 miles of trailing, I caught up with them. The boys were still slowly moving forward. but Kinley was wandering around in a road ditch, totally worn out. Barbara had put Harold, on his tractor, on my trail, and He soon caught up. They were glad to give up their adventuring for that day.
      Ken was always a gadget geek. He's a computer expert today. He had a new gadget that day, a lie detector. Kinley, about 5, agreed to be his subject. First question: "Do you eat buggers?" Kinley was shocked. "No! I have not!" Ken studied the detector. He finally declared, "She's lying." Everybody had a good laugh, and Kinley refused to answer any more questions.
      All this time, I was quietly teaching biology. All the excitement was in Barbara's court. I often took my classes around campus, studying the plants. I pointed out many edible ones. When they saw me eat one, they did too. One sharp youngster ran over to a row of tall plants. They already knew this one was edible, so everyone munched away. “Why are these so much taller here?” “That's because that's where the septic line runs.” Kids were spitting plants everywhere.
Like I said, my teaching life was pretty quiet now. I had to create some excitement where I could. Once, I had my class working on an assignment, and I quietly went around through another classroom to the outside. The younger kids were all sitting around or playing right outside of my classroom door. I called them over and asked a small favor. Getting back to my class, my students were finishing up. I asked them, “Why do you guys not treat me like the younger kids do? They treat me like a rock star.” They giggled and rolled their eyes. Some gagged. I said, “Here, let me show you.” I walked to the door, opened it, and the kids outside all started jumping up and down and screaming. First, extreme shock, then more eyes rolled, lots of gagging When the bell rang, many left with a very puzzled look. Over the years, it has proven out that those fun moments are the ones that stick in their mind a long time. Too bad I could never make biological facts stick that well.
      I had always thought, in the deep recesses of my mind, some day I will build my own house. Mostly by myself. I decided, this was the time. We borrowed $25,000 in 1978, and I set in. I didn't know how to build a house, but I knew how to use a saw and hammer. The rest I learned along the way. If I got to a point where I was stumped, I went and looked at other houses under construction, and just did like the big boys did. When I first started, and was doing the dirt work, a friend said, “I don't know how you ever make any progress. Every time I come by, you're leaning on your shovel.” Actually, I was very busy thinking. Trying to figure out what to do next. Actually, I dug the footing, with a shovel, in one day. Lots of sand, no rocks.
     It was pretty well framed up, and Kinley was sitting in the front yard, playing in the sand. She had a spoon in her hand, and dug up a spoon full of sand just as we saw the mosquitoes were eating her up. We scooped her up, along with her spoon full of sand, and she quietly reached down and pulled a gold ring from the spoon. We figured that was a good omen for the house.
      I was working on the master bathroom, when Barbara and Kinley came over with the news. Elvis Presley had just died.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Visit Back to Her Childhood - -

     I'm going to interrupt my story today. This is one of those times when a story, long forgotten, comes flooding back suddenly. This time it was brought back when a wonderful young lady sang a song she had written. I've just got to tell it to you before it fades back away. I'll be back to my story, next post. Thanks for reading!

     In my early days at St. Paul, I often went to Fayetteville, 35 miles away, to buy groceries and wash. Once, I was on the way. When I passed where a dirt road came into the Pig Trail, an old, old woman was standing on the roadside, and waved her arm up and down with authority, as if commanding me to stop, yet I could see fear in her eyes, as if afraid I would not. I turned around and went back. As she was getting in, she was saying, "I was beginnin' ta' think, I was jest' agona' have to lay out tonight." She then went on to say, She had been visiting kin, and lived in a little community half a dozen miles back toward St. Paul. When we reached Combs, I believe the community was, she pointed with authority up the road through town into the mountains. We passed a couple of young boys I recognized from school, and when they saw she was in the car with me, they pointed at us and just died laughing. I thought that was sure strange. She went on awhile about how those children were always scaring and annoying her. We passed through the village, but still she pointed on up into the mountains. A couple of miles into the hills, she pointed to a side road, little used. We went on until she pointed to a field, with a couple of bare, old tread marks across. A path that had not been traveled in a long, long time. Finally, the ruts came to a spot where a rushing creek cut the trail. I could not cross it, and I knew no one else had either, in my lifetime. She didn't say a thing, but I could see confusion and disappointment in her eyes.
      Well, all I knew was to go back to Combs, and ask around. I began to realize, she was taking me back up a trail to her past, where she was most likely now living, in her mind.
      When we got back to Combs, we were passing the spot where we had seen the two youngsters as we came up. Suddenly, a light seemed to flash on in her eyes. "Why, that there's my old house!" I let her out, I said goodbye, and she never said a word. As she went in the door, I headed out for Fayetteville.
      Over the years, I had forgotten this story. Then it all came flooding back to me a couple of days ago, as I listened to Anna Hartley, of the Hartley Family Bluegrass group sing a song she had written, inspired by one of many older ladies her and her family visits, who had Alzheimer's and was now living in her childhood.
      Whether you like Bluegrass music or not, you need to know Anna, and her family. People like the Hartley's are likely to come along only once in a lifetime, and then only if you are very lucky.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

McCrory: Coach Barbara

      After three years, Barb was ready to start teaching. She substituted almost every day, but that didn't pay much. No full time job was to be had. We both signed a contract at McCrory, Arkansas. When I went in to resign at Hannibal, they said they now had a job for Barbara. Too late. We were headed back to Arkansas.
Our children, Corey now seven, Kinley three, called the big moving van the “Arkansas Truck.” We backed it up our steep drive to load up, and as it filled, It just settled down onto the sidewalk that was sticking up. Wes brought his jeep over, with a giant rubber band, and just jerked it off like a slingshot.
      When we pulled into the new duplex we had rented, it was late. We hauled some mattresses in and went to bed. The duplex was alive with mosquitoes. We thought we knew mosquitoes; Barbara was from the Delta. But this was rice country. This was a totally new experience. Our kids cried for Hannibal.
      Barb was starting a new athletic program for girls under the new title nine program, Equal Opportunity for Girls. This was a turnabout – she was coaching, I was not. Once I was refereeing one of her girl's basketball games. She disputed one of my calls, and stormed onto the court. This was clearly grounds for a technical foul. I started making the "Big T" signal, then I looked into her eyes and saw THE LOOK, and, as I already knew of the “Dunnahoe nerve,” I thought better of it, and let it drop.
      Barbara didn't coach like me. She asked the most of her girls through love, not fear. I kept telling her she had to be tougher. She listened, then did it her way. During one of her games, they were trailing at halftime. Its tough, bringing a group of beginner girls against a team that had played for years. I sent a sheet of written advice down to her by Corey, as they walked to the dressing room.
      He handed it to her, she opened it and glanced at it, looked up at me, wadded it up and threw it away.
Over the years, I came to realize, Barbara's approach was the wave of the future. Many successful coaches, especially with girls, now base their success on firm love and respect. My type of coaching was on the way out. I think the new wave was destined with passage of Title Nine, Equal Athletic Opportunity for Girls, and Barbara was one of the pioneers.
Barbara was constantly fighting for equal equipment and treatment for the girl's program, and the superintendent was of the old school. He was bent on spending only what he was forced to by law on the girls. They butted heads constantly. Girls had no business playing sports anyway, to his way of thinking. Fortunately, enough of the parents and enough of the board supported her so that she usually got her way. But the boss filed each victory of hers away in his head. Eventually, she would pay the price for that.
      In one particular case, gymnastics safety was the issue. I walked into the gym one day as one of Barbara's gymnastics girls was finishing a running flip of some sort. The mats were old mattresses, that didn't fasten together. Her hand hit at the end of one mat, the next one slipped, her hand went to the floor, and her arm broke. In another case, they had no crash landing mats for the vault. They had to stack up the mattresses, and Barbara had already asked the principal for a crash mat three times. A girl landed from a vault, the mattresses slipped, and the girl's arm was dislocated. Parents came to Barbara, “Why do we not have proper protection?” Barbara was frank with them.
      The next school board meeting, a group of parents came in, and brought this up. The next day, the superintendent called Barbara into his office. He put his hands forward, on his desk, stood up, and put his face close to Barbara's. “Mrs. Gillum, let me remind you, I only offer girl's sports because I am required to by law.” Barbara stood, put her hands on his desk, and leaned forward into his face. “Let me remind YOU, You are also required by law to make it safe.” “Why did you not go through proper channels?” “I did. I went to the principal 3 times. You turned it down.” One just does not intimidate a Dunnahoe girl. Not if you're a human. A snake or a big wild animal can easily intimidate her. But not a human.
      Word spreads quickly in a small town. By the end of the day, every school board member called Barbara, and asked, “Mrs. Gillum, are you OK?” “Yes,” she said. “I handled it, and its fine.”
      Within a few days, she had all the proper mats she needed. And the boss was stewing in his own juices, just waiting for the day he would make Barbara pay the price for that.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hannibal: Our Nightmare Winter

      Right in the middle of our Hannibal life, Barbara was pregnant again. This was not a planned one this time. We still needed Barbara's income. She was using the Dalcon Shield, a birth control device that was later found to be flawed. The time was getting very near, but Barbara was not doing well. I took her to see her doctor. He kept his stethoscope to her abdomen a long time. Finally, he took me aside. “We may be in trouble with this baby.” When I went back in with Barbara, she wanted to know what he said. I didn't know what to say, I couldn't tell her the truth at this point. The baby was full term, and very large. A hard delivery was still ahead of her. So I lied. “He may have to take the baby.” She was still fretting about that when they came for her. It was a long, and very hard delivery. The Baby was dead, and we were crushed. I had a call to make, and right now. I called one of our friends in our neighborhood, who was in the middle of throwing a big shower for Barbara, right at that moment. Everyone at the shower took their gifts back, and gave us the money.
      When I walked by the waiting room, it was full, and people were standing. Our whole church, it seemed, were just there. Silently.
      Another couple in that hospital at the same time had twins. I was thinking, “Now, where's the justice in that? They have two babies, we have none.”
      I had to take care of things, and our kids, while thinking of arrangements for the baby, while still staying with Barbara as much as possible. She still was not doing much of anything except crying.
      I went to the funeral home the next day. The director smiled and told me, “That's about the biggest, prettiest baby I have ever seen.” I didn't need to hear that, but I guess, in his job, you just get hardened. But I still think of that big, pretty baby, wondering what her life would be like today if she had lived, and the big, pretty grandchildren she would now have for us.
      The church had arranged for a small plane to fly me and the baby to Wing. Harold picked us up at Russellville, 35 miles away. After a nice graveside service, attended by a lot of the old timers around Wing that I had known growing up, we buried her at the foot of Dad's grave.
      When I got back to the plane, the pilot confided to me, “You stepped out on the wing when you got out, a big no-no for a small plane like this. I've been checking it over all the time you were gone, and it seems like it's OK.”
      Barbara was not doing well. In spite of the hard delivery, the doctor thought it would be best if we took her home. She, and I, have just never gotten over that hard time.
      That was a very hard winter. Barbara had to go back into the hospital again, then again with bronchitis, and while she was there, both kids got a bad stomach bug. They were standing in front of me, and when Corey threw up, I just pushed them back a couple of steps out of the mess. Then I had to push Kinley back out of her mess as she threw up. I pushed both kids, two steps at a time, all the way across the room before it was all over that night.
      When we first arrived at Hannibal, they were just beginning to recover from the Great Flood of 1973. High water marks were on the downtown buildings, chest high. They endured an even greater flood, years later. Since then a Sea Wall has been built. To my knowledge, it has not been breached.
      We loved Hannibal, except for the very long winters. Barbara threw me a birthday party once, on May 31. It was so cold we had to move it inside. A Hannibal friend told me recently, “We have never had any winters since that were as cold, with as much snow, as those three.” They're equipped for snow there, and school is not called off when it snows. Corey walked close to a mile to school and back, his first grade year, with a bunch of neighborhood kids. Up and down two of the tallest, slickest hills in town. So when he starts telling that old story that so many old timers love to tell, "When I started to school, I had to walk through knee deep snow, and" --- you can believe him.
     After three years, Barb was ready to start teaching. She substituted almost every day, but that didn't pay much. No full time job was to be had. We both signed a contract at McCrory, Arkansas. When I went in to resign at Hannibal, they said they now had a job for Barbara. Too late. We were headed back to Arkansas.