NaNoWriMo (huh?)

I have taken it upon myself to do the National Novel Write in a Month Project. The task before me is to produce a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. It is meant to be in draft form without any regard for anything other than the production of a novel of not less than 50,000 words and having some form of continuity about it.

On top of this project it is also my intent to produce a 1,500 word short fiction story for the The Writer’s Digest 11th Annual Short Short Story Competition. That project is due December 1st. November will be a very busy month.

So, why am I telling you this? During November, I may not have time to write something for this space as often as I have in the past. If I am not here when you think I should be, please do not fear that I have run off and joined the foriegn legion. I am writing. I’ll be back. In case you might be just overwhelmed with curiosity, here’s what is coming down the road:

  • The aforementioned novel is very loosely connected to the years that I lived in Amarillo, Texas. Some of those stories you may have already read here.
  • The 1,500 word piece is also an Amarillo story and is true only in the sense that there is an Amarillo, Texas and I did live there once, and I had a brother. Oh, and there was and is a Soncy Road there.
  • I am working on a first person narrative based on the lives of a man and his son during the Great Depression. I hope to have that ready by March.
  • On this website, I am planning on adding video soon so you can see and hear some of these stories.
  • Speaking of stories, I have yet to tell the story of the first cigarette, the first date, and facing death in the principle’s office.

So…Best regards!

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Right through the window

               My sister is two years my senior. I am, in fact, the youngest of three siblings, there being a space of six years between me and my first born brother. You no doubt know that it is the absolute birthright of the last born in the family to torment and otherwise make miserable the lives of the older ones in the house. That and the fact that I frequently got away with any and everything up to and including homicide caused my older brother and sister to regret my existence on a regular basis. I would wager a month’s pay that, at least once during the years we lived under the same roof, they plotted my destruction (and a violent one it would have been too). The fact that I am closing in on fifty-six and still live demonstrates that I was just flat-out too slick for them. Course, I spent twenty-two years in the Army, half of that time out of the country altogether, and the rest living at least three states away sorta guaranteed my survival. I do watch my back to this day.

                The following story may provide part of the reason why my siblings may have plotted my demise.  For reasons I do not remember, my parents left my sister and I alone at home one evening. My brother had long since left for college so it was big sister who took the brunt of my tormenting ministrations. I think I was maybe twelve or thirteen at the time. I had, by now, perfected the art of making my older siblings miserable (which makes me wonder why my parents left us alone in the first place – they probably needed the peace).

                For some odd reason, she got mad at me.  It must not have been very important because I don’t remember why now. It might have had something to do with the TV. Regardless of the reason, the end result of the episode was that I locked her out of the house. She was stuck on the breezeway. It was actually a nice night outside and I thought perhaps she might be somewhat benefited by the cool Texas breeze. Much to my surprise, she was not. She was, in fact, so agitated by her expulsion, that she determined right then and there that she was getting back into the house one way or the other. She chose the other as she put her fist straight through the pane glass in the breezeway door. Realizing that I had made a strategic error and now needed to conceal the evidence of my own actions, I unlocked the door and flung it open. That’s as far as my memory goes with the matter. There must have been one heckuva “go to Jesus” meeting later that evening when Mom and Dad got home. In researching this story, I called my sister who now lives in Carrolton, Texas. She remembered the incident as clear as a bell. Like me though, she has no memory of the aftermath save that Mom and Dad were quite put out with us and that she had to get stitches in her finger. She reports that she still bears the scar of that evening some forty years ago.  

                I bet she and brother are still plotting against me after all these years.  I think I’m safe. For now.

The race to end all races?

 

My first car was a 1958 Chevrolet Biscayne. It was a two-tone baby poop brown and white 4-door sedan. It had a 283 cubic inch V-8 and an automatic transmission. There was a push button AM radio and an overly large steering wheel.  As was typical of the day, it drove and handled a lot like a boat.  The back seat was spacious enough to put an old Volkswagen Beetle in or (more preferably) one girl and me. And….that’s all I’m going to say about that.

                Now, I had this car for about a year before the transmission took a nose dive on me. I think it was about late 1970 or so. I had the wild and absurdly fanciful idea that this car was fast so I looked around for somebody to “drag race” with. I don’t remember the guy’s name but I do remember his car. It was a yellow 1966 Ford Mustang with a 289 under the hood. A car guy would instantly recognize this as a questionable idea on my part. A Mustang versus a Biscayne is kind of like, oh, I don’t know, maybe a racing thoroughbred versus an old mule. I would have none of the ribbing I got from the guys at school when I pronounced that my Biscayne (aka, old mule) would soundly trounce this upstart pony car.

                Off we went to Soncy Road. During the day, Soncy Road served as an informal race track for people like me. At night it served as a place where young people can go where it’s real dark and they can “visit” (this was when my Biscayne and its very spacious back seat far outshined most any other car with the possible exception of a Buick Electra 225). Well, anyway, I had arranged to meet my adversary on Soncy Road after school.

                We met at the head of the longest stretch of the road and spent the next fifteen minutes sitting in our cars and insulting one another. You know, insults like “I can’t believe you actually showed up in that piece of crap,” or “I can run faster than your car.” You know – real original stuff. We got through the preliminaries in one piece and a couple of the guys that had come along to judge positioned themselves.

                The countdown began. I stomped down on my brake while revving the accelerator at the same time. So did the Mustang. The count got to one and we were OFF!! I let off the brake and my old Biscayne thought about things a minute and then decided to ease on down the road. Then it saw the Mustang jump out ahead and decided it didn’t take to being beaten by a Ford. All of a sudden, the transmission took hold and it was off to the races. About the time I was coming up alongside the Mustang, I hit a curve. That meant the race was over. I had lost. My old Biscayne was too tired. The owner of the winning car did a lot of bragging that day and for several days after.

                I thought about it a bit and finally decided that my old mule, though slow, was by far the better car. You know, spacious back seats are a wonderful thing…

All that work….

I have had a small vegetable garden for several years. Well, I say “vegetable garden” but it has been more like a weed garden than anything else. I have to confess that it have been several years since I have had anything resembling a successful vegetable garden.  I had high hopes this year. Please note that I wrote “had” high hopes. They were crushed today along with my pride and dignity.

                Yes, it has been another year of dashed hopes. I did have a very good year with strawberries and blackberries and that was pretty much it. Between the lack of rain and the ubiquitous weeds, the rest was a small disaster.  My final hope of anything close to success occurred today. It is from the depth of depression that I write the following:

                Last winter, I made out my elaborate plan that included corn, beans, acorn squash, tomatoes, strawberries, blackberries, cantaloupe, and potatoes. I was particularly excited about potatoes. For one, because I like them and, two, because I had found a plan to build an above ground potato bin.  The plan called for a four foot square bin built of wood. This plan required several 2×6 boards that would be attached to 1×1” poles tp form a stack. The bottom section was attached and filled with dirt. It was in this first level that the potatoes were planted. As the potatoes grew, a level of boards was attached and dirt filled in. At its top, it was four feet high with a total of sixty-four square feet of dirt.  Here is what it SHOULD look like.

                Well, today was the day that I planned to open my nice bin and watch the expected cascade of potatoes tumble out. I had envisioned at least one hundred pounds (that was the amount the designer said he had harvested). I took off one board and a single medium sized potato presented itself. “Ah,” I thought to myself, “just the first of many.” I took a second board off. Nothing.  A third board also produced not a single spud. The fourth and fifth boards revealed not even the hint of a potato. I removed the bottom board, opening the entirety of one side. There was not a single potato to be seen. “Well, “I said to my wife who was in attendance (and also holding out hope that her faithful husband would be the provider once again), “They are probably all on the other sides.” I pulled the bin up and away from the four foot high mound of dirt with the full expectation that I would be bowled over in a tidal wave of “taters.” The packed mound of dirt revealed….a packed mound of dirt. I dug into the mound while telling my wife, “They are buried in the center where it is better for them.”  I dug and dug. Out popped two very small spuds. I dug some more. I got my shovel and dug even deeper.

                If my wife had not been witness to this miniscule harvest, I think I would have gone to the store and picked up a bag of potatoes and planted them in there just so I could save my pride.

                So now you know the rest of the story. Aren’t you glad I’m NOT a farmer?

Nothing

                  This was one of those weeks when I could not  for the life of me find anything appropriate to write about. I tried to write about almost hitting a deer but it came out too cheesy. Even I have my cheese limits. Then I tried to write about the removal of a large willow tree and a Bradford pear that has been in residence in my back yard some eighteen years.  That was an interesting event but I cannot produce five hundred words about it (at least, not in my present mood). Then there was the field mouse that I spotted in my garden the other morning. I think they have too much coffee in the morning. He was running around like he had too much of something in him. I got tired watching him. I thought about turning my cat loose on him but he would just drag the mouse inside and give it to me as a “present.”

                Well, now, my youngest son came home from college. All he did was study all weekend and empty my refrigerator (he’s real good at that). My older son came home too and finished off whatever food the other one left behind. I swear they are part piranha.

                I did have my five year old granddaughter for the weekend. I took her to a local farm so she could learn about milk cows. What she did learn was that cows are icky and smell bad. She did learn to play corn hole (a good skill to have in these here parts). I learned that my sinuses would never have tolerated me being a farmer.

                It’s a tough week to write. We did get rain this week. First rain we’ve had in most of the summer. It was too late for my garden though.  Out of eight hundred square feet, I managed to get four acorn squash, a handful of beans, and six ears of corn. I’ll dig potatoes this weekend. I am not hopeful. I told you farming would be a bad career decision for me.

                There was just not a whole lot to write about. I suppose I could write about politics but, shoot, everybody writes about politics. There’s too much hot air around here as it is. Forget that.

                I could fuss and carry on about a group uptown that threw a fit with a business who would not fill their order for something to eat. Seems the business did not like this bunch and told them they did not want to do business with them. That hurt the other group’s feelings so they pitched a fit about it. It makes no sense to me when they could’ve just gone somewhere else. It was much ado about nothing.

                See, I told you there wasn’t much to write about.

Lessons from an empty nest

                I recently became an empty nester. It has been twenty-seven plus years since there was just me and the wife in the house. It has been an interesting adjustment with not a few new lessons for both of us.

                One of the first things we noticed was a distinctly smaller amount of dishes to wash. Well, the wife got the idea to hand wash the dishes  when she saw that it took a day or two to amass enough dishes to warrant running the dishwasher.  She presented the idea to me as a way to save on our water bill.  My first reaction was to question the legality of such a move. “Surely”, I said, “there is a law against such an unhealthy scheme.”  She looked at me like I was clueless and then told me that I would wash and she would dry. I decided to humor her. Since that beginning, we have hand washed the dishes several times a week. Guess what happened? I discovered that all the time we spent side by side, washing and drying dishes, we were talking.  We talked about our day and the plans for the next few days, we joked with one another, fussed about the kids that no longer lived with us, and generally had a real fun time catching up. The few short minutes we were actually working in the kitchen together turned into a fun time talking and laughing about our day. We don’t run the dishwasher a lot anymore. Note to guys: DO try this at home for a couple of reasons.  For one, this counts as “talk time” with your wife and she will be less likely to pester you to talk during a game or movie. Secondly, you might actually wind up having fun. Hmmm….

                The other thing I have noticed about being an empty nester is we can go out for ice cream whenever we want and I don’t have to spend a bunch of dough getting five (or more) sundaes or load the mini-van with a bunch of sugar enhanced kiddies who will not hold still or sleep anytime soon.  That has been a huge plus.

                The negative about being an empty nester is I no longer have anybody to blame stuff on. If I leave a glass out or some article of my clothes mysteriously finds it way onto the floor, I can’t hide behind the kids anymore. Even worse, I am the one stuck cleaning the cat box out, doing all the yard work, and getting trash detail. I spent twenty seven years dumping all the work and blame on my three kids and now, I am stuck with all their work and I get all the blame to boot. Life is not fair.

Surgery

                 I was recently out of commission for about a week recovering from surgery. I did not tell too many people that I was going under the knife largely because it was the kind of surgery one does not talk about in polite company. Happily, it was a success. I do have to admit that the aftermath has been a lot less fun that I thought. I am glad it is over and life goes on. I’ll never do that again… (My surgeon predicted that I would not like him for the first three days afterwards. He was right).

                The cool thing about my temporary predicament was the nice things that a few people did for me whilst I was recuperating and that’s what I want to tell you about today.

                One of my co-workers did some of my business this week and asked nothing in return for his time. As I know he is exceedingly busy, I am appreciative of his taking the time to help my customers when I was unable to. He did so on a couple of issues. A good co-worker is hard to find. (Don’t get a big head on me!).

                Another co-worker, with whom I have a passing acquaintance, took the time to send me a goofy card. That may seem small to some but, in this hectic world we live in, it is a nice touch when people let you know they are thinking of you.

                Yesterday though, made my day. I hobbled out to get the mail and there was a card addressed to me. I don’t get cards in the mail very often so this was kind of cool. The return address was “Your M&I Bank Girls!” This is the bank I have used for years and they had heard from my wife that I was out of sorts (there are a couple of stories about them within this blog). It was indeed a get well card with the following verse:

You are feeling down

And so are we

Because you’re not around

Stop being sick

And get better real quick

We miss our favorite feller

Cause he’s the best joke teller.

                Well, now, this just made my day. It was signed by Nichole, Alyssa, Leslie, Sheila, and the security guard Chris. A side note, Chris signed as “Top Flight Security Chris” so as to make sure I would not confuse him with the bank girls (don’t worry Chris – I didn’t).

                Yes, I know this stuff would appear to be minor but, to me, it was not. We would all do well to reach out a little more purposely to one another. It just might make for a little less hostile world.

                Thanks ya’ll!!