Holiday Memories

A great deal of traffic this week on folks reflecting what the Christmas Season means to them.  Heavy emphasis on “memories of past holidays” and how it all seems to stick with them, over the years, and never goes away.  This is just that type of story, and at Christmas time in the Heartland.  

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Lord Help Us

i_love_country_music_throw_pillow

There was a period in my life where I listened to nothing but Hank Jr., Waylon, Willie, Johnny, Merle, David Allan Cole, etc. All of those hard-living, dope smoking, living on the ragged edge mainliners of country music. 

Then came social responsibility, a family, a house,
the car on the other side of the garage.

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Tommy B. Lemmer

imgresA big portion of my life was spent riding the rails, so railroaders come to mind quickly.  Crazy bunch of guys. 

Tommy B. Lemmer was a guy I worked with on the Santa Fe Railroad.  Knowing full well that there are some six billion people on this planet, I will shamelessly declare that, “Tommy was unique.  He was one of a kind.  He was my friend.  I have not spoken with him in years, don’t even know how to get ahold of him, but he can still make me smile. Continue reading

The Great Baked Potato Incident of Nineteen Fifty-Five. 

images-1My mother, like most mothers, had rules, expressions, little day to day sayings that we as children were to follow.  One of the rules of the home (as she called them) was to “eat everything on your plate.  If you do not, you go to bed.

My father would occasionally back her up with “Eat all of them beans, there are kids in China that do not have any rice.  And I would think to myself “What the hell does he know about China?  He is from Watonga (Wuh-tong-guh) Oklahoma.

My basic problem was I did not like baked potato’s, nor was I a big fan of liver and onions for sure. Continue reading

Regrets … Looking Back

One of my all time favorite movies is “Bucket List.”  I watch it often, and I never tire of the storyline or the characters.  Bucket List is a movie about living life and fulfilling your hopes, your dreams, all those little things you neglected to do on your journey thru time.

Bucket List is also to some extent a movie about regrets, all those little things that did not make the grade, items that fell off the agenda because you were too busy making a life, to enjoy life.  Those magical moments in time, now relegated to the back burner of the stove.

Today I thought we might take a moment or two, so we could talk about regrets, have any?

Some will tell you that a man (or a woman for that matter) will have more regrets toward the end of their life.  Regretting what it is that should have been, what could have been, all the things they wanted to do, but somehow did not get around to doing it.

Then there are those that will say that regrets come at the beginning of life, when you want to do something, but are for some reason too timid, shy or afraid to do so.  I suppose we all have our own share of regrets.

Some folks are of the school of thought that suggests that if you are at peace with your own soul, then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.  I regret that it was not I, that said that first.

Here is my short list …..

  • One of the things I regret in life is the fact that I did not do a lot of skinny dipping with all those young, supple, well endowed, bow-legged women in high-school, and now much older and graduated, wish I had done more of that.  Her clothes and my clothes, hangin from the same limb.  Summer breeze and plenty of time … I truly wish I had more good healthy outdoors shenanigans on those Indian Summer afternoons in twelfth grade and regret not doing just that. 
  • I regret not running for President of the United States, I believe I could have “effected a change” or at least done as well as the current elected person that we have now. 
  • I regret not using Dial Soap and wish that everyone else did.
  • I regret always being in a hurry to leave Montana and wish I were there right now.  
  • I regretted not turning off the drivers heat on the bus last week, when I went to use it this weekend, the batteries were dead and I was homesteaded for the weekend. 
  • I regret sending in the VISA payment on the 27th, because it was due on the 26th, and that cost me $25. 
  • When she asked me “Do these pants make me look big?” I regret saying …. Oh, well you get the drift, dontcha?

Comments section is open, tell us what you think.  We promise we won’t beat you up too bad.  What do you regret, other than landing on this site today, and my consuming eight to ten minutes of your time?

OOO

The Short Rows

Don’t really know where the term “The Short Rows” originated, I first heard it as a lad, applied to the practice of plowing a field. When you are harvesting or plowing a field, and you are almost done, you are in “the short rows” which is the very edge of the field.

It also could apply to a person’s life, when you reach that point, where you have more of it behind you and very little of it left in front of you.

And last, I guess we could apply it to the year, being close to November, we are in “the short rows of 2008,” and 2009, is just around the corner.

I remember a long time ago, walking in a graveyard in Livermore, California, I came across a tombstone (head marker) that read: “As you are, I once was. As I am, you someday shall be.” That always stuck with me for some reason. A grain of truth in that believe it or not. What goes round … Comes around … Where I am at, you are some day going to be.

That is, if you are not already there.

There are three things that will eat your proverbial lunch in this life. Most folks would agree with me on this, and they are: (1) Taxes. You have them always, they never go down, and they never, ever, go away. (2) Insurance. You are dammed if you have it and dammed if you don’t. Almost like heroin, it is something you cannot live without. (3) Health Care. Which is of course, a form of insurance, but never the less, something you desperately need. A very necessary economic fact, especially on the downhill side of life.

So, as I am so fond of saying, down the road you go. You work hard, you build something, and hopefully you rest a bit.

Youth has a way of slipping by without your really noticing it. One day you stand before the mirror as you have day after day, but this day it is different. What was youth, is no longer there staring back at you. You get busy working, raising a family, watching the kids grow, spending every waking hour searching for that little extra each month, to kind of nudge it over the top.

You plan and you scheme, you cry and you dream, God smiles,and life just sorta slips by unnoticed.  The weeks into months, months into years, first thing y’know.

Looking back to 1974 (which to me, doesn’t seem all that long ago, but it was) I can remember stretching my monthly dollar value to buy the best possible house I could afford. It cost me and the bride, $118 a month, and at that time, I was really concerned that I would be able to meet that $118 obligation each month. Today the taxes alone, are over that amount. By the time I had finished paying off that house, some seven years early on a thirty-year note. My payment had escalated to over $269 per month. Why?

Taxes and Insurance.

It is almost impossible for me to even wonder where all of this is going to end up in the end. My only consolation being, I more than likely am looking at the short rows on this at this point in my life. So in retrospect you wonder if you made a change. Did you leave something for the next person down the pike?

I am not sure if I have or not, to tell you the truth.

In a way, you want to warn young people of the apparent dangers of government that is clearly running a muck. You want to try and point out the pitfalls of life, and give them a friendly “heads up” on what is really going on. You don’t want them to have to deal with the misery and pain that you have experienced, you feel the need to pass something onto them, so hopefully, their generation can make a positive change.

Most of the time this simply doesn’t work, and falls on deaf ears. As such was the case when my father and those before him, tried to pass it on to me. Generational curse or something I guess.

It is often difficult trying to deal or explain things to someone twenty years old or younger. They see the world in a totally different light than others. The American Dream is totally out of reach or foreign to them in scope or concept and the moral foundation is completely different from people my age. It often screws things up big time, communication is at best, difficult.

Just in case you weren’t feeling old enough today, the remainder of this will certainly change things.  If you have hung in here this far, might as well stick around for the rest.

The people who are starting college this fall across the nation were for the most part, born in 1990. they have no meaningful recollection of the Reagan Era and probably did not know he was shot. They know nothing of LBJ’s Great Society, Nixon’s resignation and shame, Woodstock or Kent State.

They were infants when the Persian Gulf War was waged, pre-pubescent when Saddam went down, more than likely, have only known one Pope in their lifetime. They were children when the Soviet Union broke apart and the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, they do not remember or possibly even know of the meaning of the word, Cold War.

The majority of them are too young to remember the space shuttle blowing up. Tienanmen Square means nothing to them. Bottle caps have always been screw off and plastic. Jay Leno has always been the host of the Tonight show.

Atari predates them as do vinyl albums and hot wax. The expression “You sound like a broken record” sounds foreign to them and more than likely has no meaning. They have never owned a record player. They have likely never played “Pac Man” and never heard of “Pong.” The CD was introduced when they were one year old.

All homes have always had an answering machine, home computer, most have never seen a television with only thirteen channels or a black and white TV. They have always had cable TV available to them. There have always been VCR’s but they have no idea what BETA was. They cannot fathom life without the use of a remote control.

They don’t know what a cloth baby diaper is, or know about the “Help Me! I have fallen and I cannot get up commercial” famous years ago. They were born in the year that Walkman’s were introduced by Sony. Roller skates have always meant “in line” to them. They have no idea when or why Jordache jeans were cool and country music was not.

Popcorn has always been cooked in the microwave. They have never seen Larry Bird play. They never took a swim in the ocean and worried about “Jaws.” The Viet Nam War is an ancient history to them as WW I, WW II, Civil war and Korea.

They have no idea that American’s were once held hostage in Iran. They can’t imagine what a hard contact lens might be. They don’t know who Mork was or where he was from (it was the planet Ork, if anyone cares to remember). They never heard the expression “Where’s the beef?”… “I’d walk a mile for a Camel or “de plane!, de plane! (Fantasy Island ABC).”

They have no idea as to who shot J.R. and more than likely even who he was.

Michael Jackson has always been white (or kind of off white). Kansas, Chicago, Boston, America, and Alabama are places they have heard of, not bands. They never new Cassius Clay but followed Muhammad Ali and have seen the movie of his life and times. There has always been MTV. They don’t have a clue as to how to use a typewriter, have never purchased a 19 cent hamburger from McDonalds or purchased .22 cent per gallon gasoline.

So when you stop and try to explain something to the younger set, you are more than likely not on the same page, level, plain, or neighborhood. It is entirely possible you could not even been remotely close to their zip code.

Having no earthly clue as to which way the wind will blow in this country in the coming years, having no crystal ball to look down the beaten path a ways, I just do my best to pass on what it is that I do know. The future for me is just as hidden as the past I can no longer see.

So in the time that I have, I feel it is my duty to try and pass on something, anything that I can. To humbly explain whenever possible that there should be more to life than just being a tax slave for the U.S. government (or any damn government). The longing of the human condition to search out and find life, we deserve it, we need it.

It seems so necessary now, to just to take the shot, plant the seed and hope it lands somewhere where it will grow. Because as you see …We are all morally challenged (like it or not) to give something back as we pass thru life, we are all designated to try and change it and make it better.

Take time today to stop and consider one important aspect of life.  If you fill your heart with regrets of yesterday and the worries of tomorrow, you have no today to be thankful for.  If you want to make a change for the better … then it is up to you.

As my friend in the U.K. puts it … “Mind The Gap” … Celebrate life, don’t let it grind you down. Before you know it, you could find yourself like me, standing here in the short rows wondering where it all went. If there is one scintilla of truth in all of this it is this … As you are … I once was … As I am … You someday shall be.

Bet your last dollar on it.

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Down The Road I Go

I arose one morning and I went to the mine. Another day older and deeper in debt, St. Peter don’t you call me, ‘cause I am too old, I owwwwwwwwe my soul to the company store. Do-do-do-dum, dumpty dee dum. What was the name of that old Tennessee Ernie Ford Song? The title escapes me at the moment.

Have to be honest about all this, here lately, a great many things “escape me” at the moment. Another year older and Father Time has called my name. Life a thief in the night, he marched right in here and stole but another year of my life.

This morning is my birthday, a friend called and wished me well, and then he started telling me about all these people that he knew who died at my age and the causes of their deaths. I said, “Stop it Bill, I am not interested” but he continued. Bill, bless his heart, never seems to take “no” for an answer. He just figures it might mean “maybe.”

“Stop it! Stop it!” I said. Not to be deterred, he also filled me in on all these people he knew personally our age in his own neighborhood, who had died in just the last 12 months. I finally had to tell him that he was depressing me, to stop it! So much for happy thoughts and birthday well-wishers huh?

So much for the snappy Hallmark Card with the inspirational saying and the cute cartoon. I swear, right now, if I had a Helium balloon, I would suck on it.

I guess it is all relevant, I am just as young as ever, but lately it takes a lot more effort. I am no longer warned to slow down by the Police, but rather, by my Doctor instead. Some people grow up and spread cheer, I just sorta grew up, and then spread! Much like the biblical passage … “All things must pass” … I used to eat like a horse, now I look like one.

Life is so unfair at times.

With age, I find that things eventually change. I am now starting for the house after a night on the town about the time I started to go elsewhere when I was young. Sign of the times I guess, now is the time we learn to watch our step. We are doing that. Except we are not stepping out that much anymore.

The best thing about getting older is the fact that all those things you couldn’t have when you were young, you no longer want. You reach a point where you don’t worry about where the wife goes, as long as you don’t have to go with her. The shapely female figure no longer turns your head, and the Easy Boy Recliner calls your name.

No longer having to worry about avoiding temptation, it avoids me, at least most of the time it does. Lately I have more on my mind, than I have on my head. As my wife and I are virtually the same age, she no longer fibs about hers, she lies about mine instead.

The telephone rings again, it is my friend on the West Coast asking, “Well, how does it feel to be “sixty-one” years old?” Groan, more reminders, causing me to reflect on it for a minute or two. Before this moment, it was truly, just another day.

Am I really this old?

How did I reach this juncture in time? How on earth did this happen? A half a century old and still counting, this can not be possible. Time just sort of run by. Small child, teenager, young adult, you know the rest, I don’t have to ask myself anymore questions, I know the answers.

I woke up this morning thinking: “I might feel something new?” after all, pushing mid sixty is something new to me. I might feel wiser maybe. Clearer of head, stronger of heart. More centered. More …… as I used to say in my now begotten youth ….. together.

But I didn’t feel any of those things. I felt as I do most every morning, pretty good. A little stiff in the knee, aching in the usual joints, physical greetings from my old friend after all these years. You know, a little family arthritis and all right, maybe a little age. “Well, well, I said to myself, if this is what mid sixty feels like, then that is ok.”

I told myself other stuff too.

I said on this day I must remember to be grateful to God. Simply because he was gracious enough to allow me but one more day of life. Give yourself one big hurrah, from the Creator, for a job well done. I have my Salvation, and I am alive in the Lord. Being alive is truly the best gift that will come my way this day.

The only gift I want, the only gift that I need.

Funny how things work out. I have to be honest. Most of the time, I do not understand my brain. Some days I do not understand my heart. I don’t want to be mid-sixty this day, I would much rather be say, seventeen again and starting out on Life’s Grand Adventure. My mind softly tells me that I have always liked beginnings best of all.

So I fool myself into believing that I am just starting out on but one more Grand Adventure. Middle Age. I will announce to all or those who actually care, that I am now “Middle Aged.” Knowing full well that I do not know one solitary single soul over the age of one hundred years of on this planet. I am sure there are some, but I don’t know of any.

Maybe I should just start to fool everyone about my age in earnest? Everyone knows that in America, youth is good and old is bad, right? Women never tell their true age, why should it be any different for a man?

Almost six and one-half decades old, jeez, and no words of wisdom for anyone, not even for myself. If you were perhaps expecting something more, I apologize. Perhaps I’ll have to be Mid-seventy-something a little while longer, before I truly know what it means.

In the meantime, here is what I do know: I am grateful to be alive. I am NOT grateful to be getting older. A contradiction in itself you say, yes, that is right. Check back with me when I turn sixty-five or seventy and I should be inconsolable about the whole thing.

Concerns of the flesh, the human condition, deep thoughts. I am reborn each and ever day that I am here on this planet. However, like most humans, never stop to consider this fact of life. So age really does not matter, it doesn’t enter into the final solution at all, once you stop to pause and consider it closely.

So on my next birthday, I will take a deep breath, blow out all the candles on my cake (hopefully BEFORE the SMOKE DETECTOR goes off) and then silently say thanks to the Lord. Bless his Holy Name and perhaps wish for one thing, and one thing only.

I will wish for but one more year, or one more day, of glorious service to him. If I truly have one wish on my birthday, that is what I wish it to be.

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Bound For Glory

 

 

My telephone rings, in the receiver I hear, “This article your wrote?”

 

“Yes?” I reply

 

“Well, it kind of sucked.”

The voice on the other end says  back to me.

 

So I said, “Didn’t like it huh? 

You want me to put you down on the negative side, that your vote?”

 

A little pause, and then a chuckle, “No.  Put me down on that side TWICE!”

 

 

My Lil Brother John ….. One of the great things about friends, or friendship, is that they (friends, close friends) can tell you things in a way where you understand and you do not take exception to it.  They can, because they are special, step over the line and rub you the wrong way, but you take it, because they are your peculiar treasure in life. A cut above the crowd. 

 

They like you for who you are, warts and all, and that gives them what I call “Special License” and often, I let him slide.  If it came from someone else I would “nail their hide to the barn door” but because it came from John, I always gave him a pass.

 

4:35 a.m. end of the week, it has been a long, long row to hoe.  My friend has been laid to rest and this is the first week of my life without him, unmistakably, it has been hard.  Life can be a cruel taskmaster at times, and I have certainly learned a lesson or two this past seven days. 

 

Albeit, lessons that I would have preferred to have skipped, but was called to attend.

 

His son called me the day before the memorial service and told me that he was going to read the post Goodbye To My Friend John at his internment.  I could not be there (a distance of 1122 miles to his home in Arizona and the time factor coming into play) so it was a comfort to me that something was said to John and it came from me. 

 

I had my part in it, and I got to say, what it is that I wanted to say.  Somehow, I know this is going to sound strange, but I just know that John heard every word.  Ironically it was somewhat appropriate; it was a piece written by a railroader, for a railroader, and presented to his friends, by his son Sam, railroaders all. 

 

From all indications it was well received and it was a fitting send off to a very special person.  Most importantly, above all,  God was there, I know that too. 

 

 

On that day, this website had the highest amount of hits that it ever experienced, over 400 hits in one twenty-four hour period.  From the reading of the article at the service at 930 a.m.to 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon, and then on to the next morning.  Cumulating in a total of 423 in one twenty-four hour period, an amazing amount of visitors and I am completely blown away by it.

 

I cannot explain it any other way; it has to be a God thing and nothing more.  To me, a person who eats, sleeps, breathes with this thing 24/7 it is just short of phenomenal and no other explanation can explain it.

 

Thank you to all of you who responded to me during this time and I want to thank you for your encouraging words, the kindness that you extended to me during this period, has not gone un-noticed.

 

The comments section has been cleared and posted, I chose to not answer any one comment specifically at this time, for obvious reasons.  We will just pick up the ball and start running from here, suit up for another game, and get back to living life the best way we can. 

 

“And yes, some of it is going to suck so git reedy as John would say.”

 

I am truly grateful for all the time that God allowed me to share with this man, John Thomas Wright, and I shall for the remainder of my life, hold in my heart, a special place reserved just for him.

 

One more time, thanks for the kind words, the patience, you guys are the salt of the earth.  I appreciate you.  Time has a way of healing the heart, and as the Bible says, “This too shall pass.”  My friend is Bound For Glory and I know I am gonna miss him, but it will be alright.  It won’t be easy, but it will heal with time.

 

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