Friday, May 31, 2013

A Fishing Story, Two-Holers and Blue-Green Flies

I have often been accused of not being quite right in my faculties of wonder for some of the things that I wonder about. Not only do I wonder about strange things, I also wonder at strange times.  I can’t help it. It just happens.

In the state of Iowa, it is against the law to return a carp to the water, if you catch one. They are considered rough fish and they are an invasive species. You’re supposed to leave on them on the bank to drown. Some parks, where carp are readily caught, have trash cans labeled just for disposing of your carp catches.

I don’t have a problem with killing the fish that I catch if the law requires it. It just doesn’t seem right to simply leave the dying fish lay. What if the situation were reversed?

The bass threw a line up onto the riverbank with a frosted mug of cold beer for a lure. There isn’t a man alive that could resist picking up that cold frosted mug on a hot summer day at the river. Before the frost turned to condensation, the bass felt a hit.

One of the treble hooks in the mug handle snagged the man’s hand and he jerked back in pain, only to set the hook hard. The big man screamed as he fumbled, one handed, to open his belt knife and cut himself free. He dropped his knife, lost his footing and was reeled into the river.

The bass was disappointed with the unhealthy look of what he had caught. There not being a school of piranha nearby to give his catch to, he wanted to throw him back onto the bank. Then the warden, who was a big bullhead catfish, happened along.

“Looks like you got yourself a big lazy redneck there. What did you catch him with?”

“A frosted mug of cold beer that had Eagle Claw trebles in the handle.”

“Yeah, it figures. Those nasty things can’t resist a cold beer. Well, remember… you can’t throw it back onto the bank.”

“It seems cruel to keep it under water until it drowns.” The bass had a kind heart.

“Doesn’t matter. It’s the law.” The warden was seasoned in his work and had no compunction for a drowning white human. “It’s an invasive species anyway. When the brownskins lived above, life was good for everyone. They respected the lands, rivers and lakes. These white ones just take whatever they want and they proliferate like carp.”

“I didn’t realize that it was that bad.”

“Oh yeah,” the warden went on. “You could give these things a beautiful piece of the earth with mountains on one side of a lake and fertile land on the other side of the lake. They would strip-mine the mountains; build factories spewing sewage into the lake and lay asphalt, concrete and steel over the bottom land.”

“No kidding,” said the bass, fluttering his pectoral fins.

“It’s the truth. What’s more, they’d have twin Yamaha engines pushing them all over the lake at ridiculous speeds while they drank beer and complained that the fishing wasn’t as good as it used to be.”

The human had stopped struggling. He hung motionless in the water. The bass twisted the hook from its hand. He would float to the surface eventually and the other humans would find him and pull his carcass from the water. That was about the only garbage that they cleaned up.

Another thing that I’ve often wondered about is the outdoor privies of the days when we didn’t have indoor toilets. I’m not old enough to remember the old Sears catalog or corn cobs in the privy. They always had a roll of toilet paper in my youth. It might have been soggy but it was there.

I also remember that there were some one-holers and there were some two-holers. Why did they make two-holers? I really don’t think the people sat there together and holding hands while they pooped. It also seems unlikely that there could be an amorous dalliance in a little house full of stink and blue-green flies. Could you imagine sitting there, bib overalls around your ankles and taking care business, when Grandpa Walton charged in to do a blow down right beside you?

Many of my privy memories are of when I was a toddler and what was to be eventually a dangler was only a little dilly at the time. That kept one of my hands busy holding the little one southward to avoid peeing down my leg. The other hand was hanging on for fear that I might end my life in a world of shit if I fell through. I could see the practicality for a two-holer if one was child-sized and the other was cut to fit big Aunt Bertha.

Big Aunt Bertha’s privy had seats made of bridge planks so that she wouldn’t break through. The problem with that was the rough cut of the wood. After I would scoot my little butt onto and off of that bridge plank I needed minor surgery to remove the splinters.

The other possibility that I have wondered of is that maybe the two-holers were his and hers. That way the boys wouldn’t pee on the girl’s toilet seat. Then that begs the question of why wouldn’t you color code them pink and blue?

Seriously, think about it. Imagine that you’re a house guest and you’re doing a potty trot in the middle of the night with nothing but a kerosene lantern to light your way. You don’t know which is his and which is hers. What’s more, you won’t be able to figure it out from the dribble stains in such low light conditions. If there is a fresh dribble then you could sense the right side with a touch test. With color coding, however, his and hers would be visible even in kerosene light.

Thinking about outdoor privies makes me think of blue-green flies, too. They were always in abundance around privies because they lay their eggs on fecal matter, in open wounds or on rotting flesh. Their larvae feed on rotting matter. That caused me to wonder something else when I was watching a Public Broadcast channel program about forensics the other day.

They said on this program that vultures can pick a human or animal carcass clean to the bone in only a few hours. If you think about this from the blue-green fly’s point of view it just doesn’t seem right. Here is 200 lbs of fun-time decaying flesh and before two flies can finish with a smile, the vultures have destroyed the mood by consuming the love nest. It seems like flies should have the same rights that vultures do.

Blue-green flies don’t get much of a chance at open infected wounds, from humans or domestic animals, with modern medicine what it is. There aren’t any more outdoor privies and the buzzards can strip their breeding grounds to the bone in just hours. How are they going to proliferate without rotten stuff for their larvae to feed upon?

I was suffering a virus for couple of days last week that put me on the throne more often than usual. During one of those times I had the plastic bathroom waste basket between my knees to accommodate involuntary expulsion from the other end as well. Then it came to me why some people built two-holers in the olden days. They didn’t have plastic waste baskets in their outdoor privies.

Have you ever wondered about the possibility of a garden hose bidet in the days of privies?

Things... They Are a Changin'

My blog, Some Things Funny... Some Things Not, is still going strong. Much thanks to my loyal readers!

Search Warp, a site that I've been privileged to write for in the last nine months, has closed the cyber door to future submissions. It's not all doom, however. Bruce Horst, the great guy who founded Search Warp, will have the site up and running in a read only medium very soon.

As it is said, "when one door closes, another opens." In my case, I have received a twofer. Bruce has opened another writer's site called Soul of Wit. That name, alone, is likely peeking your curiosity. It is all of the same group of awesome writers but on a more manageable platform. The result is fairly invisible to readers except that Soul of Wit has a much more modern and aesthetic presentation. 

For the second half of my twofer, I was very recently invited to write for another site called Muffled Voices from Schools Underground. This site has some work to bring it up to full operation but it should come together by end of summer or early fall, according to Dave Potchak, the founder.

Dave has read some of my stuff and, thus, formed a naive opinion that I have enough understanding of education and learning to write for his education site. I chuckle to the thought that my 7th grade English teacher's face would redden and her jaw would tighten enough to pop her gold fillings, at the mere suggestion. I'm going to do my very best not to fail Dave's confidence. 

Articles and stories from all of these sources can subscribed to, as some of my loyal readers have done already. In addition. upon completion of each one, I will tag a link to FaceBook so that you can readily find it there if that is most comfortable for you.

One more thing, that I almost forgot. I've decided on a title for my novel. It will be called More Than Rubber to the Road. My goal is threefold with this book. First, it has to be a story that reader simply does not want to put down. Second, the readers should finish with a much more than naive or biased concept of the lives of hard working American truck drivers. Last, readers will be asking for a sequel.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Obama Bashers Take Notice

Below is a graph of the changes in the numbers of American jobs and resulting unemployment rates in our president’s first term. For those of you who still need to tell your mama where the big and little hands are on the clock, in order to tell time, I will explain.

When President Obama opened the door to the oval office, for the first time, we had already lost 800,000 American jobs. A president may very well be responsible for this job loss. However, one would best be looking in the direction of the president, who took us into war, for nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

Notice further that, for more than half of President Obama’s first term in office, the job gain has been positive. In addition, the overall unemployment rate is one tenth of one percent lower than it was when the president took office.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It Was a Minor Thing

Kevin once told me a story of being called into the office by one of his Spanish professors for his failure to attend class regularly while he was at Iowa State. After a few weeks of frustration with his peers in the class, Kevin stopped attending class except on test days. It was the end of the term and the professor was forced to take issue with the poor attendance.

“What grade do you think that you deserve for the term?”

Kevin respectfully subdued his normal arrogant tone in the presence of his master.

“Without question, my attendance has been very poor. I needed this class for my minor in Spanish. However, I have no patience for sitting through a level 300 Spanish class, in which, my classmates can’t conjugate common irregular verbs, much less, hold a simple conversation with, even, improper grammar. I have scored near perfect on all of my tests. I believe that I deserve an A-.”

The professor gave up no reaction to Kevin’s response. He quietly looked into Kevin’s eyes for a moment before speaking.

“Your classmates could have benefited from your presence in class. Don’t you feel that you could have been better team player?”

Unlike the professor, Kevin didn't hesitate when he spoke. For his unsatisfactory attendance, he anticipated a lower grade than his ability warranted. However, given this opportunity to take a stand on his own behalf, he was not timid.

“No, I signed up for varsity. I don’t mean to be disrespectful but those students belong in the Little League, at best. They need a mentor, not a classmate. If they want to play with me then they had better know their way around the game before they get onto the field. These students don’t know a pop fly from a base hit. What’s more, I paid full tuition for a class that I could have tested out of, if given the opportunity.”

Kevin wanted to say more but he had the good judgment to rest. He had thoroughly made his point. Whatever happened, he was confident that the professor was not going to low-ball his grade badly, if at all.

The professor seemed to be holding back a smile.

“You have your A-. However, I missed your energy when you quit attending class. If you sign up for another of my classes then we’ll need to have a discussion before the term starts.”

“Fair enough… and thank you for the opportunity to speak before you set the grade.”

The two shook hands and parted with a mutual and genuine respect for each other. Kevin didn't take another Spanish class at Iowa State. With this class, he had what he needed for his minor in Spanish.

Rolling Eyes and a Nickel for Ice Cream

My grandmother picked me up and, with lips like two mini-slabs of fresh calf’s liver, laid slurpies all over my face. I wiped away the wet violations to my toddler face when she finally relented. Then she released me and, likewise, attacked my sister. As soon as I felt the hardwood floor under my feet, I escaped to the living room.

My grandfather was in the living room watching the news. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to watch the news. It was so boring. Howdy Dowdy, with Buffalo Bob and Clarabelle the Clown, was a much more entertaining program. Yet, there sat Grandpa, staring at news on the cube-shaped, black and white Motorola.

He did give us some limited attention, though. We sat on his lap and he rolled his eyes around and around again, in a demonstration, so that we might try. I never could do that until years after he was gone.

When he tired of us, he reached into his pocket for a nickel for each of us.

“That’s to buy an ice cream.”

Forgetting the slurpy monster in the kitchen, we ran to tell our mother that Grandpa had given us a nickel for ice cream.

“Uh huh.”

That was my mother’s euphemism of many meanings. This time it meant, don’t bother me now.

When we left for home I reminded my mother that Grandpa had given us a nickel for ice cream.

“Uh huh.”

As we left town I became concerned and reminded her, again, that we had a nickel to spend for ice cream.

“Uh huh.”

Thirty minutes later, when we were entering our own community, I reminded my mother, once more, of the nickel for ice cream.

“Uh huh.”

This time the tone of voice sent a warning to me that my mother’s patience was waning. Still, this was a nickel that Grandpa intended me to spend on ice cream. I couldn’t let him down.

Our route home took us right past the Dairy Queen. As we neared, I made my final plea.

“Mommy, are we going to stop for ice cream now? Grandpa gave us a nickel.”


“Why? We have the nickel that… “

“Because I said so!”

When she responded in this tone, I knew that the next response would be non-verbal and harsh if I was foolish enough to press. The pain of this injustice sharpened as we passed the Dairy Queen and I watched it vanish behind us. Our grandpa gave us nickels on a few occasions but we never bought ice cream because our mother said so. Uh huh.

The rest of my limited memories of Grandpa are of his battle with cancer. I went with my father to visit him a couple times in the hospital. He didn’t roll his eyes or give me a nickel then. He only talked with my father. He looked strange with plastic tubes in his nose.

My mother visited Grandpa in the hospital many times, also, but we waited in the car, on those visits, because my mother said so.

My final memories are of Grandpa at his funeral. I can’t remember now what he looked like then or before. What I clearly remember, though, are his rolling eyes and the nickels never spent.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Balls and Brass Monkeys

It’s cold enough to freeze the balls off of a brass monkey.  The first time that I heard this phrase, many years ago, it had a vulgar connotation. More recently, I have heard an explanation that allegedly dates back to the days of cannon balls on sailing ships.

The story goes that, in order to hold cannon balls in a neat pyramid stack; a metal base was used to hold the iron cannon balls. To keep the iron balls from rusting to an iron base, the base was made of brass. This brass base was called a brass monkey. When it was very cold aboard the ship, the brass monkey tended to shrink up more than an iron monkey would, and thus, lost the balls all over the deck.

It is my strong opinion that this story is a hoax made up by somebody who didn’t know squat about naval vessels. Further, that person likely had never been closer to wooden sailing ship than a painting, in which, an artist may have taken license to show cannon balls stacked in pyramids. It just couldn't be so.

First, consider the need for a brass monkey, instead of an iron monkey, to keep the balls from rusting to the monkey. To be sure, salt air causes considerable rust and corrosion to many metals. However, what is to keep the iron cannon balls from rusting to each other where they touch in the pyramid stack?

During the 16th through the 19th centuries the British Man O’ War, of 200 hundred feet in the length, was the sizable warship of the era. Anyone who has served on a 20th century or newer destroyer or frigate, of twice that length,  would have to doubt that any monkey, brass or otherwise,  could hold cannon balls in rough seas by virtue of gravity alone. When pitch and roll momentum, of the ship underway was added, the balls are going to tumble at any temperature. On a modern frigate, in rough seas, no sailor is going to set down his coffee cup in anything but a secure cup holder lest he’ll see it shattered on the deck.

Brass, does in fact, shrink when chilled.  Using liquid nitrogen to chill brass, it will contract to 99.6% of the original size. Considering the lack of precision in manufacturing cannon balls in the 16th through the 19th century, less than one-half of one percent shrinkage in the base is not going to release the cannon balls to roll about the deck. Cannon balls were not machined to precision as we might do ball bearings in modern day.

The shrinking brass monkey story simply cannot be true. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Cornering a Chopper

Stretch Willoughby stayed still for a few moments when his lanky frame finally came to a complete rest.  He mentally assessed his condition.   He was breathing without effort.  He could still hear.  The riders on the crotch rockets that had been following him were calling out to him as they parked on the shoulder and began to run in his direction.  He could see the sun bearing down through tinted shield of his full-faced helmet.

Oh yes, that helmet, it had been a gift.  His son custom painted it to match his Harley before presenting it as a birthday gift.  Stretch didn’t like to wear helmets.  He hated full-faced helmets even more.  This one, however, might rather have been a gift from the angels than from his son.  It very likely saved him from massive head trauma.

Stretch was showing off for some riders on crotch rockets that he had met at a convenience store.  Crotch rocket was a common term used by many motorcyclists in reference to the super fast sport bikes that are popular with many young riders.  Stretch loved to brag how fast he could take the curves with his custom chopper.  Today he wasn't satisfied with bragging.  He was determined to show them.

"Just follow me and when I get too far ahead I'll stop to wait for you," he had told them.

The bike crossed the outside white line of the highway while he was going 70 mph in a fairly easy curve.  He knew then that he wasn’t going to hold it.  Somewhere between “uh oh” and “oh shit!” he lost control of the chopper as he left the pavement.

The momentum of the impact launched the tall man’s six-and-a-half foot frame over top of the bars and he started tumbling ahead of the bike.  Fortunately, the seven-hundred-pound bike stopped before he did.  If not, it might have crushed him.

Neither riders nor motorcycles are built for such impacts.  The possibility of surviving a crash had diminished exponentially in the last twenty of Stretch’s sixty-one years.  Nonetheless, though beat up badly, both he and the bike had survived, sort of.

One of the other riders was leaning over him now.

“Are you okay, man?”

“It’s too soon to tell.”  Stretch’s voice was muffled by the chin guard that was built into his helmet.  He began moving his body a little bit at a time to check for function and pain.  First, he twitched his digits.  Then he flexed his ankles and wrists.  Knees, elbows, shoulders and hips followed.  Last, he moved his head about without pain so he got to his feet.

The second that he put weight on his left foot he winced.  He could walk on it but it hurt.  He knew from experience that, even though he could walk, there could be a fracture. That was the way with the many small bones of the feet and ankles.

Stretch took off his helmet and hobbled over to where bike laid.  Two of the other bikers helped him to set it up.  The third was on his cell phone.

“Who are you calling, if you don’t mind my asking?”  Stretch didn't want the cops coming.

“I was calling 911 to get some help for you.”

“Cancel the call for now, please.”

The man touched the screen on the phone and put it into his pocket.  Stretch explained that he made his living driving a truck and, thus, if Barney Fife came out and cited him then his life might get more complicated than it already was.  He couldn't afford to lose his job over being foolish on his motorcycle.

“The bike is pretty beat up.  What are you going to do?”

One of the guys, as it turned out, was a mechanic.  He was assessing the damage critically.

The right side handle bar pointed straight up vertical.  The left was also pointed up but only to about forty-five degrees.  The headlight was on but would be of no use after dark.    The front brake lever was broken off.  The right foot peg was missing.  The license plate and tail light were hanging loose.  Stretch didn't like turn signals any more than helmets.  If he had, some of them would be broken off too.  The wheels were still round and they turned true.

“I’m going to drive it home, if all possible.”

“How far is home?”

“It’s about thirty-five miles.  I’ll try to get hold of my son.  He might be able to start this way with the pick-up and ramp but I’m not going to stay here long either way.”

“Are you sure that you’re okay?”

“I’ll know better tomorrow but, for now, I’m fine.”

The rider who was a mechanic discouraged riding the bike.  Twisting the throttle in the right direction with the grip pointing skyward was challenge.  Shifting with a bum foot was painful.  Stretch had to hook the heel of his right boot into the frame in front of the engine for lack of a foot peg.  The worst part was the seat that was bent upward at the front and caused considerable discomfort to his man parts while riding.

About seven miles from home, Stretch’s son showed up with the pick-up.

“I made it this far without it falling apart,” he said to his son.  “It isn't worth loading it up now.  I’ll just drive it on home.”

Stretch put the bike into the garage when he got it home.  A visit to the emergency room confirmed that his foot was broken in two places.  The next day, his right shoulder and left hip had stiffened up.  Later, it was determined that he would eventually require surgery on both.

The bike was going to need a new frame.  The engine, gearbox, wheels and gas tank could be salvaged.  Most everything else was scrap metal now.

Stretch was telling the story to a fellow Harley rider a few weeks later.  Both agreed that angels must have guided his son in gifting the helmet to him.  Then the friend smiled.

“What?”  Stretch had no idea why his friend was smiling so big.

“You just had to show those crotch rocket riders how to corner your chopper.  What you actually did was give them a story that they’ll cherish telling for a long time.  The story about the big dumb Harley guy that thought that he could corner better than they could will never get old in their circles.  You’ll be another urban legend”

“Yeah, I know.  It’s already getting around.  I guess I have it coming to me.”

Friday, May 24, 2013

Just Hug Her….and Tell Her That You Love Her

Our nephew recently posted a photo of his lovely wife and him on FaceBook. He is pointing at her belly with the caption, Haha, she is pregnant and I did it! This young man has some things to learn. It took two for that dance, my man.

You see, Dude, you came knocking and she allowed the docking. Did you forget that part? Oh the naiveté of young men.

Over the next few months, you’ll learn who really carries the burden from conception through birth. Just in case, you’re not paying attention, it will clearly be pointed out to you, and rightfully so. Knowing the kind of young man that you were growing up, I have no doubt that you’re really an awesome husband and will be an equally awesome father. Just the same, following is a survival guide You WILL need it.

She has a beautiful glow right now but don’t get used to it. When it goes away you may be searching Google for an exorcist but it’s really not that bad. When she seems impossible, you need to comfort her. Just so that you know, she doesn’t find it comforting when you point to her belly and tell your buddies, “Hey! Look what I did!” Right now it’s kind of cute but she’s going get over that soon.

Stay close to her, hug her and tell her how much you love her. Don’t talk too much, though, or you’ll say something really stupid that will make her very angry. The ultimate sin, in this case, is to say something like, “I know just how you feel.” I hope that, if you make that mistake, you’re wearing a well-secured face shield and cast iron Levis, lest your first child will never have siblings and you won’t be much help changing diapers, being sightless, from having your eyes scratched out.

Just smile quietly, when she brags about you helping with the housework while she’s pregnant. You’ll be thinking that you help with the housework all of the time anyway but don’t say it without having an athletic cup securely in place. As helpless as that pretty woman is going to seem, her foot is still like leathered lightning. Instead, just hug her and tell her that you love her.

Do not take notice of her changing physical form. Even if she says that she is getting fat, don’t agree OR disagree with her. If you agree you’re obviously in trouble. If you disagree then you’re patronizing. You can’t win that one, man. Just hug her and tell her that you love her.

When she wants something to eat that you don’t have in the house, go get it. Don’t worry about the time of night. Somewhere in town, or in the surrounding counties, somebody has green olives dipped butterscotch and rolled in shredded Parmesan. When you get back, whether she thanks you or not, don’t forget to hug her and tell her that you love her.

Never forget that it isn’t near as much fun getting that child out of there as it was getting it in there. And, this time SHE is going to do that. Together, learn as much as you can about childbirth. You can never fully empathize with her but you can be there (hopefully) to hug her and tell her that you love her.

If at all humanly possible, be by her side when she delivers your child. Hug her, hold her hand and tell her that you love her.

When the doctor says, “push” you must understand that there is more than one ramification to that action in a delivery room. You might see some things filling the bedpan that the nurse is holding under your wife’s butt that you never imagined as part of childbirth. Just tell her that you love her and squeeze her hand gently, if you have any circulation left in your own hand, that is.

When you see what you thought was only an entrance stretched into an exit of unfathomable size, don’t let the awe show on your face and don’t worry. In a few weeks it will be better than ever. Just squeeze her hand gently and tell her that you love her.

When the miracle of your mutual love emerges and changes from blue to pink as air fills the tiny lungs for the first time, you won’t need to say anything. She’ll know because you’re there with her. Hug her anyway and tell her that you love her.

A Boy's First Wing

The dog jumped out of the car at the start of the long lane to the farm buildings and house and the car took off. Not about to be left behind, she raced after the car. When Duchess caught up, she had the pent of energy of anticipating the hunt ran out of her. This was part of the pre-hunt routine so that the dog would handle easier when the hunters first started into the field.

Snow pack that had partially thawed and then was refrozen overnight crunched under hunters’ feet as they got out of the car.  There was no wind and their breath crystallized in front of their faces. Duchess quartered about the farm yard, with her nose brain, capturing, analyzing and cataloging the scents that she found.

Her owner, Marlin, and his friend, Chuck, sipped at their hot coffee. They were early to the farm.  Marlin’s son, Don, though anxious, waited patiently and drank hot chocolate. As the time neared 8:00, the three broke the shotguns out of their cases and finished off the last of their drinks.

Duchess looked up at them occasionally as if to ask what they were waiting for. Finally, the big hand was on the 12 and the little hand was on the 8.

“Lock and load!”

Marlin handed Don two 20 gauge rounds. He put one into his pocket and chambered the other in his youth-sized shotgun. Chuck and Marlin loaded their shotguns, chambered a round and checked the safeties.

“Let’s go, girl.”

Duchess knew this farm from several years of hunting it. She headed for the field. Marlin hupped her before they got too close to the standing corn.

Duchess was good for holding range with the hunters until she picked up hot scent in standing corn. Glenn, the farmer, always started his harvest by taking down every other ten or twenty rows. The standing corn was inviting for pheasants but, with the rows cut down on each side, it was also inviting for hunting.

With three hunters, the plan was for Chuck and Don to walk to the opposite end of the standing corn and wait. When the birds knew that there was a dog on their scent they would run until they came to the end of the corn rows where Don and Chuck would be waiting. Pheasants won’t fly as long as they have cover, in which to run.

When the other two were set and Marlin and could see Don standing in wait, he pointed to the corn and commanded, “Hunt ‘em out!”

This was what Duchess lived for. She took off into the corn rows as Marlin hurried along side. Glenn was kind enough to set his fields for good hunting but he was adamant that no hunters were to tromp through his corn and, thus, reduce his yield by knocking corn to the ground.

When Duchess picked up scent she started snorting. She was chasing with her nose brain now and would have run into a lamp post if it was in her path. Marlin chirped the whistle to alert the other two that the dog was on hot scent.

Duchess disappeared down the rows, in hot pursuit, when the pheasants sensed her and they started running. When the birds ran out of the cover, their fleeing feet left the ground as their wings lifted them to escape from the dog. The sound of panicked flapping wings was interrupted by two shotgun reports that came almost simultaneously.

There had been two hens and a cock. Iowa law forbids taking hens. When Marlin arrived at the end of the corn rows, Chuck was grinning from ear-to-ear and holding up the fallen cock pheasant.  Duchess was hopping about near him in anticipation of her take in the hunt.

“You got one!”

“No, Don did.”

The look on Don’s face was one of surprise. He had taken a shot but had no idea that he bagged the pheasant. Again, Chuck insisted that Don had dropped the bird. Still looking surprised, Don took the praise that was lavished upon him.

Marlin gutted the bird and gave Duchess the heart, as was the practice for every downed bird. Zipped into a plastic storage bag, Don proudly put the bird into the game bag on the back of his hunting vest. He showed more enthusiasm and walked with a little more spring throughout the rest of the day.

Marlin had a word burning tool for crafts that he used to print onto the stock of the shotgun Don’s name with the words First Wing and the date. A few years later he added commemoration of the first fur, to the gunstock, for one of the younger boys.

As the boys grew into adults Marlin split some of hunting firearms among his sons. At the time, Don had a son of his own and so he got the youth-sized shotgun.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lessons in Hunting

My sons learned safe handling of firearms by starting with BB guns.  Though these air powered rifles are not usually deadly, they are, nonetheless, dangerous. The basic rules of safe gun practices were instilled and enforced in the boys and, even with BB guns, they were never left unsupervised.

As they became old enough to keep pace with my bird dog, I eased them into youth-sized long guns for hunting. The first was a 20 gauge single-shot shotgun. When I gained confidence in the boys’ handling of the shotgun then they would advance to a single shot 22 rifle.

When carrying the shotgun the boys were allowed one round in the chamber and one round in their pocket. They were expected to keep the hammer down until just before they fired at game. A single-shot shotgun will not fire unless the hammer is cocked first.

The rifle was a bolt action with a safety switch. The safety was to be on at all times until immediately before taking a shot. It was always loaded with a 22 Short when my boys were learning to hunt. Shorts are powerful enough to bring down small game but less powerful than 22 Long Rifle rounds. The theory being that, if there was an accident, the person hit stood less chance of serious injury or death from a 22 Short than from a 22 LR. In addition, the short had less range in case of a missed or wild shot.

I always kept the boys near enough to me that I could keep a close watch on what they doing but far enough away that they could safely take a shot if game showed near us. Once when the oldest boy, Don, was hunting with me, I had him on the other side of fence row while the dog worked the cover in the fence row between us. One of the times that I looked over at him I saw that the hammer was pulled back on his shotgun.

The hunt was not over for this transgression of safety but the situation was about to change. I stopped and called back the dog. Don looked at me, wondering what was up.

“Point your gun to the ground and ease the hammer down,” I instructed in a calm tone.

Don looked a little confused but, as a mercury lamp is slow to light, his thoughts of common sense and what I had adamantly taught him about gun safety started to come back.

“Now unload it and give me that shell and the one in your pocket.”

His did so but then attempted a mild protest.

“But what if I need to shoot something?”

“Then I’ll give you a round and you can load and shoot.”

“But it might get away.” Like freshly lit charcoal, Don hadn’t yet warmed up to the notion that he wasn’t ready to do any cooking.

“And so will I.” I paused. “Get a visual in your mind for moment, Don. You just had an accidental discharge and I’m lying on the ground motionless and bleeding. There might be parts of my insides showing that you’ve never seen on a human.” I let it sink in for a moment as he stared at me long enough to get the picture.

“What you going to do then?”

“I don’t know.”

“Okay, I’m dead. Do you want to tell your mother that you shot me?”

“No… “

We finished the day of hunting with Don carrying an empty gun. I didn’t ever have to do that again with him. The other two boys, on the other hand, had to learn the same way that Don did. I could tell this story, with pretty much the same words, for each of them. Thankfully, they didn’t learn the lesson a harder way.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lessons of Fishing

I have never known a young boy who would decline the opportunity to go fishing. There is just something about fishing that draws young boys to the water. It is like an adventure that no matter what happens, it will be fun.

When my three boys were in the range of about seven to twelve years old, a friend of mine, who had a farm where I occasionally hunted, told me of his pond that was back in the woods.  He offered that I could bring the boys to the pond for fishing. He guaranteed that they would catch enough bullhead catfish to wear them out.

The pond also had some channel catfish and bass but the bullheads had proliferated exponentially. It was to the point that my friend either needed to poison the pond or try to seine off the bullheads. Therefore his only requirement, aside from respecting his property, was that any bullheads caught were not to be returned to the pond.

The boys took along a couple of friends the first time that we went fishing at the pond. Everyone had a great time reeling in bullheads. The bullheads were so quick to bite that the boys didn't get a nibble from a bass or channel cat. I stayed plenty busy just freeing up snags and occasionally helping to get a hook swallower off of the line. Small bullheads are known for swallowing a hook.

The boys were not to worn out by this fishing as my friend had said that they would be. Thus, not a single acre of those woods was explored nor were any rocks skipped across the water. The activity of the day was catching fish and nothing else.

As it came time to go home, mild protest was put down with my promise to bring them back very soon. The big issue came in what to do with the fish. We had been collecting them in two five-gallon buckets of pond water and, because of their small size; it was my intent to toss them into the river that was a half mile away. The boys would not have it.

I agreed to let them take some of the fish home on the condition that they would all share in cleaning them. I was NOT going to clean a bunch of little nibblers while the boys played soccer or baseball in the backyard. At my insistence, they also agreed to toss the smallest of the fish into the river. That still left each boy five or six fish to clean.

When we arrived at home, I reiterated the agreement before letting them out of the car. My boys knew better than to change their mind at this point but I wasn’t certain of their friends. After being showed how to skin, gut and behead the fish they all got down to it. Reality started to settle in as they saw what a small accumulation of edible flesh was soaking in the brine as they neared the end of their task.

To the boys’ credit, however, they didn’t complain about cleaning the little fish. They stayed on task until it was done. If they hadn’t learned the folly of bringing the little fish home by the time that they finished cleaning them then they certainly understood it when the tiny appetizers came out of hot oil.

We went fishing at the same pond a few days later. This time, the boys decided to have a bucket for nibblers and a bucket for keepers. The keeper bucket was empty after about an hour of fishing and interest began to wane. After all, the woods were not yet been explored and the surface of the pond had not been rippled by skipping rocks.

Interest in fishing came back when one of the younger boys, who wouldn’t give up, hooked a channel cat of about two pounds. By then, however, it was time to go home.

This was almost thirty years ago and I don’t remember for certain what happened to the channel catfish. It may have been returned to the pond but it seems unlikely that the boy would have allowed that. I certainly don’t remember cleaning it or helping the boy, who caught it, to clean it. One thing was for certain, though, there was no protest about putting the bullhead nibblers into the river before we went home that day.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

When Kids Tell the Rest of the Story: Skipping School

As my kids moved well into adulthood, I began to wonder if we had reared Paul Harveys. As with most active kids, there were events that occurred in their lives that caused us to wonder how and if they would survive to become adults. Now they take delight in telling the rest of some of these stories.

As a teenager, I occasionally skipped school. Sometimes I got away with it. Sometimes I did not. What I thought to be my greatest deception, at the time, turned out to be my biggest bust.

I had friend write up the excuse for absence and sign my father’s name. The theory was that the high school administrators did not have my father’s signature or hand writing on file as my mother had always provided the parent’s signature when it was required. This note was a work of art that was complete with a coffee stain to make it look more real.

Unfortunately, too many people had witnessed these preparations and, in hindsight, I’m quite certain that one of the witnesses threw me under the school bus. My friend, who skipped with me, had an equally creative excuse for his absence. However, when we reached the head of the line to receive our admittance slip, the assistant principal told us to sit on the side until he was ready for us. No questions, no explanation, we were just busted with three days suspension that was spent sitting in study hall staring at the cracks in the ceiling.

When my own kids were in high school, the process for detecting school skipping was a little more sophisticated. A message on the answering machine greeted me one day, when I arrived home from work that advised that Kevin had missed part of the day of the school. It took me a few minutes to get him to tell us why he had skipped classes but he was, nonetheless, busted.

As it turned out, Kevin had gotten himself into some fairly serious trouble with the law. Normally, this type of incident would have required parent involvement to resolve. Being that he was 18 years-old at the time, Kevin could circumvent the parent involvement.  However, he failed to cover all of his tracks. Had he been just a little more on top of things he would have erased the phone message from the school.

Tim, on the other hand, was a little more resourceful. We would never have known that he skipped school as a teenager until he couldn’t resist bragging about it years later as an adult. Tim sounded enough like me on the phone that many people didn’t know which one of us that they were talking to until we identified ourselves.

One on my wife’s aunts was fooled about who she was talking to on one occasion. The conversation went something like this.

I answered the phone. “Hello.”

“Who am I talking to? It was a rude tone and a voice that I didn’t recognize.

“First, who is this calling?”

“Who am I talking to?”

“Who is asking?” My voice showed a bit of irritation.

“WHO am I talking to?” That was enough for me. I was going to have some fun with however this was.

“Well… who do you want it to be?”

“Let me talk to your mother!” Now she was shouting at me.

“That’s not possible. My mother is deceased.”

“Tim!” Let me talk to your mother!” By this time, I had a pretty good idea who the caller was but it didn’t excuse her rudeness, especially since she thought that she was bullying one of my children.

“This isn’t Tim. When you calm down and identify yourself, I’ll do what I can to assist you.”

“Put your mother on the phone right now, Tim, or I’m going to hang up.”

“Well now, don’t let me do anything to prevent that. By the way, if you get a chance to speak with my mother, say ‘hey’ for me as I haven’t spoken to her since she passed about ten years ago.”

She hung up. When the phone rang again, I advised my wife that was for her.

This woman was so certain that she was talking to Tim that she wouldn’t believe my wife when she told her that it was me. For the next few years, she wouldn’t speak to Tim or me at family gatherings. I was okay with that.

I have no doubt that Tim could have called the school and say that he was me in order to get himself excused from school. Our voices were that close. All of the boys always performed at above average level in school so a little hooky, if we had known at the time, would likely have earned fairly light punishment as long as it wasn’t habitual. Now it’s just amusing to tell about.

This is part of a series of When Kids Tell the Rest of the Story.  Click for the first, second and third stories of the series.

Monday, May 20, 2013

When Kids Tell the Rest of the Story: Just in Beaver

As my kids moved well into adulthood I began to wonder if we had reared Paul Harveys. As with most active kids, there were events that occurred in their lives that caused us to wonder how and if they would survive to become adults. Now they take delight in telling the rest of some of these stories.

The first part of this story is subtle. As the boys were growing up, their bicycles occasionally required some repairs. Of course, I would always ask how it happened but as long no one was injured I could usually accept whatever explanation was offered without much more thought.

The boys had quality Schwinn bicycles that stood up fairly well. We took enough business to the bicycle shop that they sometimes would true up a wheel without charging us. As the boys became older they took care of minor repairs themselves.

We lived in a neighborhood that was referred to as the Beaver Creek addition. This was for the somewhat obvious reason that Beaver Creek passed through the area. At a couple of points of the creek there were pedestrian bridges with paved walkways joining the bridge to the nearest street or cul-de-sac.

Tim and Kevin were together near that creek one day when Tim got the idea of jumping his bicycle over the creek without benefit of one of the bridges. The creek was narrow enough, in most places, that a boy eight years of age or older could jump the creek on foot without much effort. So why not try it on a bicycle?

Tim did not actually know of Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion at the time. However, he had a loose concept of overcoming various forms of resistance against the perpetual motion that he might maintain on his bicycle by bearing down fiercely and repeatedly on the pedals as they peaked at top of his power stroke. Kevin stood by in complete awe as his older brother positioned for the take-off.

The strange part about this particular day was that Tim, instead of Kevin, was the one about to make the daring leap. Typically, Kevin came home crying and limping from injuries while Tim pushed two bicycles. Kevin was the sort of risk taker that, if it seemed remotely possible in his mind, would try riding his bicycle backward, down a steep hill, while doing a handstand from the handlebars and seat.

With unfettered determination and zero common sense, Tim was off. He did not hesitate and had maximized to his fullest possible forward momentum when he left the bank of Beaver Creek. It was, however, unfortunate for Tim he had misjudged the influence of gravity on his airborne travel from one bank of the creek to the other. That influence was profound and, unlike Evel Knievel at Snake River Canyon, he did not have a parachute.

Fear gripped Kevin as he looked at his brother’s motionless body lying against the opposite bank of Beaver Creek. He pulled the bicycle, with its new modifications, away from Tim and worried what to do as he tried to talk Tim back to consciousness. This was one of those rare times when an adult might have come in handy, even it meant being busted for doing something stupid.

Tim eventually came around but had only marginal memory of his crash or going home with Kevin at the time. The bicycle, actually, survived fairly well. It was probably one of those times that I had a wheel straightened and accepted a lame explanation for how it happened.

The frightening part about this incident is that Tim could have been hurt badly without knowing it. Since we, the parents, were not told about this for twenty years, it was kind of late to have Tim examined for a possible concussion. I’ve known some people that I wondered if they were dropped on their head as children. Tim did not ever behave the way that they did so maybe he was okay.

Watch for the next story in the series of When Kids Tell the Rest of the Story: Special School Holidays.  Click for the first and second story of the series.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

When Kids Tell the Rest of the Story: The Mark of Zorro

As my kids moved well into adulthood I began to wonder if we had reared Paul Harveys. As with most active kids, there were events that occurred in their lives that caused us to wonder how and if they would survive to become adults. Now they take delight in telling the rest of some of these stories.

In preparation of supper one day, I found one of the large kitchen knives had large nicks in it. This made me curious enough to check the other knives. All of the largest knives had nicks in them.

We brought up three boys so it didn't take me more than a nanosecond to make some very frightening assumptions. I didn't even ask the boys what happened. This time I had no patience for deception.

I tore into the three of them with a no nonsense lecture about playing sword fight with real knives? This was a parent’s nightmare.

“The way that these knives are nicked I know that you clowns could have inflicted some serious wounds on each other. What on Earth were you thinking?” I answered my own question. “Of course, you weren't thinking!”

I turned on Don because he was the oldest of the three. He was four years older than Tim and five and one-half years older that Kevin. He was the one most likely, in my mind, to wound one of the others and deception was always his first initiative when something went wrong.

“One of you could have cut an artery on the other and he would have bled to death in minutes. What were thinking, Don?”

“I don’t know.” That was his answer for everything, if he talked at all, when confronted with a wrong doing.

“You would have been worried about cleaning things up so that you weren't discovered, wouldn't you?”

“Yeah!” That was his second favorite answer.

“You would have been trying to clean up blood while one of your brothers bled out the rest of the way. I probably would have to notice the fresh turned earth in the garden to know what happened to him. It would be your biggest cover-up.”

This one had really scared me. I worked an 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM shift and my wife worked 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM so except for about thirty minutes, in the morning before school, the boys had a parent around. What could happen to reasonably well brought up and generally well-behaved kids in thirty minutes? This incident made it seem very possible to me that they could kill each other.

As an adult, about 20 years later Tim, the second of the three sons told me the rest of the story. In fact, one of them had been cut and, just as I had feared, they simply concealed it. Fortunately, it wasn't a severe cut.

According to Tim, Kevin was standing on the kitchen counter faced off with Don who was standing on the floor. A lunge and slash movement was misjudged and Don was actually slashed on the scalp. The cut wasn't deep enough to require stitches and was behind his hairline.

Just as I had feared, Don led the effort to conceal the wound and nothing was said until I found the damaged knives. It never occurred to Don that, like a crayoned paper patch on a hole in a bedroom door, somebody might eventually notice damaged knives.

Watch for the next story in the series of When Kids Tell the Rest of the Story: Just in Beaver. The first story can be found by clicking here.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

When Kids Tell the Rest of the Story: Joust in Time

As my kids moved well into adulthood I began to wonder if we had reared Paul Harveys. As with most active kids, there were events that occurred in their lives that caused us to wonder how and if they would survive to become adults. Now they take delight in telling the rest of some of these stories.

Our home, when the boys were young, was a basic three bedroom ranch style with the kitchen and living room at one end and the bedrooms down a hall at the other end. I was in the bedroom at the end of the hall one day. I hadn't noticed that the door had been strategically left open for a week or two.

Turning around to leave the room a sheet of paper taped to the hall side of the opened door caught my attention. The paper had been colored solid with multiple layers of different crayon colors before it was taped to the door. Pulling the door away from wall revealed the reason for the paper.

This paper was a very lame attempt to conceal a hole though the door. To my question of what happened to the door came the boys’ favorite answer when they had been successful at concealing something for a time.

“It’s been that way for a really long time,” replied one of the younger boys. I countered this with as calm of a tone as I could muster while my anger meter was red-lining.

“I don’t care if it’s ancient history. It’s still not okay. Now somebody start talking.”

Again, one of the two youngest boys started singing. The oldest boy wouldn't say crap if he had a mouthful when confronted with his crime. Kevin, the youngest boy had been tormented by Don, the oldest, to a point well past sane or rational behavior. Seeing that he had pushed Kevin too far, Don took refuge in the bedroom and Kevin broke the door in an effort to get at his older brother.

Rational thought returned to both boys when they realized the damage to the bedroom door. Kevin was prepared to confess and take the rap but Don wasn't about to go down in a blaze of confessed glory. Deception was always his first choice in the wake of a crime.

It was his ridiculous idea that a sheet of typing paper could be colored with crayon to perfectly match the color and wood grain of the door and save him from suffering for his part in the door damage. Needless to say, the artwork wasn't even a very poor match. Of course, this is why the door was kept open. Being at the end of hall, we never walked by the door so that we might see it without walking into the room.

The rest of story Kevin told years later, as an adult. I assumed that a foot or fist had broken the door. It was just a basic builder’s grade laminate wood door. I put my foot through one once when I attempted to push it open with my foot because my hands were full.

In fact, Kevin was so enraged at his brother, who was more than five years senior, that he took down a steel pipe that I had stored, in the rafters, in the basement. The pipe was jousting length for a young boy and joust he did. He chased his brother with the pipe to the dead end of the bedroom at the end of the hall.

Realizing that Kevin was too enraged to stop, Don slammed the bedroom door shut just before Kevin impaled him. Unable to check his momentum, Kevin impaled the door instead.

Watch for the next story in the series of When Kids Tell the Rest of the Story: The Mark of Zorro.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Tupperware Party for Guys

I doubt that there is a middle class household in America that doesn’t have some Tupperware items. My wife sold the stuff for a couple of years so we had more than our share. One spare bedroom was dedicated to Tupperware. It started out as an office but, in no time there was Tupperware floor to ceiling and wall to wall. It was difficult to get the door open in that room.

The only thing in there except Tupperware was the computer with a little walk path to get to it. I called that room the Tupperwarehouse. When our youngest son moved out my wife was going to Tuppersize that room, too, but I put a lock on it and nailed the door and window shut.

Whenever we were shopping together, I noticed that my wife watched me extra closely when I got near any sort of tools. She just wasn’t about to let me come away with more tools, than I already had, without laying down some obstacles.

Yet, even before she was selling Tupperware herself, she could not go to and come away from a Tupperware party without buying a few things. Not only that, but she would book her own party. When I questioned the rationale of this she would tell me how she saved a bunch of money.

“Okay,” I would ask, “did you save enough that we can go out for supper tonight?”

“Well… no.”

“That’s okay. Did you save enough for carry out pizza and a cold 24 ounce can of Michelob Ultra?” 

All of this happens under the pretext of helping out her friends that hosted the parties. The problem is that many of her friends have the same friends so more party invitations go out and more purchases are made and more parties are booked to “help out friends.” I call it exploitation of friends by Tupperware, rather than friends helping friends, but, hey, it works. It’s business.

When my wife was selling Tupperware I began visualizing the Tupperware party plan of selling for guy’s interests. Before you laugh, think about it. Guys aren’t going to buy much Tupperware but what about a Black & Decker party? For the first time, guys could use the same excuse that their wives used for buying more Tupperware, to buy more tools.

The host of a Black & Decker party wouldn’t meet each of the guys at the door to tell him how delighted he is that his friend could come. There wouldn’t be any coffee and cakes either. A Black & Decker party for guys would go more like this fictional account that follows.

One of the guys rang the doorbell and then heard a loud voice from inside.

“It’s open!” The guy walked in… “Hey Jake! Ya’ wanna’ beer?”

“Sounds good!”

“It’s over there in the big cooler. We got some nachos about to come outta’ the oven, some pickled eggs on the counter and there’s some chili on the stove. I’ll warn you right now though. That chili is some goooood stuff!”

When all of guys arrived the host announced that it was time to grab another beer because the show was about to start. The guys all gathered around and the Black & Decker dealer took over with an ice-breaker game. Each of the guys had the name of classic car or motorcycle taped to his back and had to guess what it was by asking questions of the other guys.

The winner of the game chose a prize from a bucket of small promotional items that included a machinist’s ruler, a carpenter’s pencil, pen knife, mini flashlight, coupons for Bass Pro, a Duncan yoyo, etc. Then after the winner chose his prize, the bucket was placed in the center of the room and the guys were instructed to help themselves to one of the gifts. Guys don’t care much about frivolous freebies, though, so most of them took this as a chance to run for another beer and a plate of nachos. It was kind of like super bowl halftime.

One of the guys did take the yoyo. He said that it was for his kid but, a few more beers into the afternoon, he was going around the world, walking the dog and rocking the cradle with practiced skill. His kid might get the yoyo but Dad was breaking it in.

The show went on and, thanks to a good flow of beer, the sales were good. The featured item was a four-in-one power tool set. The dealer demonstrated how the four units in the set all took the same 18 volt rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack. There were two battery packs in the set.

The dealer sold seven of the sets among a group of eleven guys. The price was inflated about 25% over what Home Depot would charge for a similar set made by Ryobi. What the heck, though?

Home Depot didn’t serve up free beer, nachos, pickled eggs and chili. What’s more, the guys felt good about helping out their buddy, the host. The dealer demonstrated other items also.

There was a reciprocating saw blade that would cut through most everything and, like the little Energizer bunny, just keeps on going and going and going.

“This blade will cut through everything except hot butter in the summer time.” The dealer laughed at his lame joke while guys looked back at him in total deadpan. At least, one person was amused, anyway. Every guy at the party put in an order of some sort to help out the host.

With all of the sales, the host was able to purchase the four-in-one power tool set at 25% off of the regular price. What’s more, there were enough party bookings to get him 10% off of any purchases totaling over $500. It doesn’t get any better than that. The host couldn’t wait tell his wife about all of the money that he saved.

The party wound down and the dealer packed up his demonstration kit. Some of the guys helped him carry his stuff to his pick-up truck. The dealer drove away feeling really great about the sales.

If this level of success kept up then he would be able to do more than make child support payments with his party earnings. He just hoped that his ex didn’t find out that he had found a cash cow. She would want more milk for the babies and would try to skim the cream for herself.

Since the total party sales exceeded $2000, all of the guys in attendance were eligible for a discounted NRA membership. As the guys started filtering out to go home, the host made sure that each of them had an application for NRA membership in their hand, if they weren’t already a member.

Some of the guys were trying to get a poker game together before everyone left.

“I need some winnings to pay for my new four-in-one set.”

“You might end up paying for mine,” challenged another.

One of them called out as Jake was about to leave.

“Hey Jake! Don’t you want to play some poker?”

“Nah, I gotta’ get home before the flatulence sets in from the beer and chili.”

“We don’t give a whip if you blow a few farts, Jake.”

“Yeah, I know but I was thinking of my wife. She always says that I never bring anything back from these parties for her.” Jake grinned at his twisted humor and the guys all laughed.

The guys watched as Jake wobbled out and attempted to fit his key in the door lock of a blue jacked-up four-wheel drive Chevy truck. One of the guys ran out to intercept him. Jake was still fumbling with the key in the door lock.

“Are you okay, Jake?”

“Yeah, man, I’m fine. I only had four or five beers. I can’t get my key into the door lock, though. My key fob wouldn’t pop the locks either.”

“Jake, look at the truck and look at your key.”

The key had a Ford logo clearly stamped onto it. Jake backed up and looked at the truck.”

“Oh, man! I am so glad that you stopped me! This is almost the same shade of blue as my truck.”

“Its okay, Jake. Friends don’t let friends drive Chevys.”

Jake wobbled over to his blue jacked-up Ford F350, climbed in and was on his way home.