Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ON BEING A JERK

I feel that if ever there was an expert at being a jerk, I would at least be in the running.  I have been a jerk more times than I can count over the years to my sisters and little brother.  Most of those times were when we were all still children but there were a few times after we grew up and ventured out into the world.  I know I have been a jerk to friends and class mates while I was growing up.  A lot of those times shame me, but they happened and are a part of my life.

I have been a jerk to my wife a lot.  Mostly these episodes were during our early years of marriage.  I am not like that to her anymore.  I came to realize that she deserves better than that.  I am lucky to have her and she should have the respect that she is entitled to.  This is the story of one of the times that I was a real bad jerk to her.  I will never forget it and I doubt if she will either.  I didn't feel like I was being jerky to her, I felt I was being smart.

It was summer and it was hot.  It was in the days of the huge stadium super concerts where several bands would perform for an almost festival atmosphere.  My little brother went with us to Arrowhead Stadium that Saturday afternoon.  We had arrived early to try to get good seats but ended up in the upper level of seats.  Not great but not bad either.  Of course there is no such thing as a bad seat in either of the stadiums we have here in Kansas City.

It was a party atmosphere and everyone was having a good time when the concert finally started about an hour late.  It was worth waiting the extra hour.  A group called Star Castle came on first to perform.  They had just released their first album and not a lot of their songs were well known.  They had broken into the radio charts but did not have any huge hits yet.  For them being on the same stage as some of the acts that would follow was a big coup for them.  They played for a little more than an hour and did a fairly decent job to get things started.  When they left the stage we had another hour to wait for the next group.  This would become the norm for the evening.  Instead of taking some planning and having some of the following groups stuff set up in advance, they had to completely tear down the one groups equipment and put together the next groups equipment.

It was late afternoon heading towards evening when Firefall took the stage.  What a performance.  They had been around a couple of years and had some very well known songs out on the airwaves.  They were a folk country mix of music and they obviously were perfectionists.  They played for about an hour or so and received a well deserved huge ovation  It was at this time that I thought to myself that this was going to be a great night.  A group like this, playing this well and only the second act on the playbill surely would indicate that this was going to be great.

As evening settled on the crowd a local favorite band that had made it big in the world of music came out to a rowdy and loud response.  The Ozark Mountain Daredevils were simply an awesome band from Springfield, Missouri.  Everyone in that stadium knew the Daredevils and knew the music.  Every song was well known whether they were hits or not.  These guys had started out playing bars in south Missouri and had eventually worked their way up to Kansas City to play the renown Cowtown Ballroom several times.  They had played high schools and anywhere they could find to play.  They played at my High school one evening and I will never forget it.  It was the first time I had heard them and immediately fell in love with their music.  I would later seem them a couple of times at Cowtown.  I was not alone in my experience with the Daredevils.  I imagine everyone in that stadium had a similar story to tell about how they came to love the Daredevils.  Now they were really in the big time.  They were on a stage in front of forty thousand people who loved everything they did.  On the playbill they could either be considered the last of the under billed or the first of the headliners.  I considered them the first of the headliners.  When they finished their concert the crowd demanded two encores from the band before it was decided that they had to move along with the concert.  Yet after they left the stage the crowd still wanted more of them.

One of rocks greatest guitar players was next.  Jeff Beck had teamed up with the Jan Hammer group for this tour.  Now there are a lot of things to take into consideration when talking about what was about to happen.  IT is important to remember the crowd was still very high over the Daredevils and they were still wanting them to play more.  The crowd did not care if Beck was on stage, they wanted the home town boys to play some more.  Second, Beck was not really at his best that night.  I am not sure if he just wasn't on or he was stoned out of his mind or possibly the heat was getting him.  I think it was because he was following a performance that the crowd obviously loved and wanted more.  Perhaps it unnerved him.  At any rate Jeff Beck did not sound like you would expect Jeff Beck to sound.  The crowd was making a lot of noise all during his performance, mostly calling for more of the Daredevils.  When Beck finally left the stage the crowd went wild.  There were cheers and hand clapping, and under the white noise of the crowd was a chant for the Ozark Mountain Daredevils.  Beck must have mistakenly read the crowds response and came back onto the stage for an encore with his hands raised in the air.  The cheers quickly turned to a short wave of boo's and Beck dropped his hands and turned to walk off the stage.  The boo's turned to cheers and the chant for the Daredevils continued.

Beck had played for at least two hours and it was dark when we saw the last of him.  Then we sat through a torturous two hour wait while they set up for the next act.  The chants for the Daredevils had calmed down as the crowd settled in for the wait of one of the top bands in rock of the day.

It was at eleven that night when The Doobie Brothers took the crowd by storm.  It would be their last tour with Tom Johnston at the lead.  Through the years Johnston and Pat Simmons had written some classic songs and they put all their energy into their performance.  This was also the first tour with a little known Keyboard player by the name of Michael McDonald.  McDonald would turn the Doobie Brothers form a hard driving rock band to a soft rock mellow sound that drove off not only a lot of their old fans, like myself, but also Tom Johnston.

They were on the stage for over two hours playing their hearts out on their classic tunes and driving the crowd wild.  Looking back I feel so lucky to have been there that night.  It definitely ranks among the top concerts I have been to.  The Doobie Brothers could have been the only band on the bill that night and forty thousand people would have gone home happy.  They had us in the palm of their hands.

When they said goodnight to forty thousand fans it was after one in the morning.  It was still hot and muggy in the stadium and people were sweating and tired.  It had been a long day that had many ups and downs.  There was the warm up groups of Star Castle and Firefall followed by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils who had worked the crowd into a frenzy.  Jeff Beck and brought the crowd back down but then the Doobie Brothers had the crowd pumped higher then they would be the whole night.  There was one last group to go though.

Barb has been a Beach Boys fan for a long time.  I have to admit that their studio recordings are pretty decent but not really my kind of music.  They came on a little after two in the morning and I was tired.  My little brother was tired and so was Barb.  I sat back in my seat to wait out the concert so we could go home after Barb got her fill of their music.

Now I am not just saying this because I was tired or it was hot or that I don't particularly care for the Beach Boys but let me say this.  They stunk up the place.  In my opinion it was awful.  The harmonies weren't in sync.  They sounded like a bunch of cats on a moon bright night wailing away at two in the morning.  I had heard groups that depend on their harmonies perform live before and most were really good.  It is a difficult thing to sing tight harmonies in a stadium late at night I suppose but as far as I was concerned there was no excuse for the wrenching sounds emitting from that stage, especially since we had been treated to a great set by the Doobie Brothers.

I sat there for three or four songs before the jerk in me kicked in.  I decided I could not stand to listen to this junk anymore and I did probably the most jerky thing I would do to Barb.  I told her that I couldn't handle it anymore.  These guys were stealing my high that I had got off of listening to the Doobie Brothers.  I was going to go on out to the car and when she had enough of this trash she could come on out and we could go home.  I then stood up and started to make my way to the aisle.

Of course Barb wasn't going to stay in that stadium by herself and I knew that when I told her my plan.  She got up and followed us out to the car and we went home.  I was happy.  I had seen at least two fantastic performances and had gotten out of having to listen to the Beach Boys.  I don't think Barb was so happy.

I was a jerk that night.  I was a big jerk.  I am not sure if I ever apologized to Barb for treating her like that on that hot summer night but I can't imagine that I didn't.  Just to cover my bases though I will say this right now.

Barb, I am sorry.  I was a jerk.  I didn't take your desires into full consideration that night and I am truly sorry.

Still the Doobie Brothers were AWESOME and I can honestly say that I really didn't miss not hearing any more of the Beach Boys.   I am very glad that the Doobie Brothers went on before the Beach Boys that night.  Probably saved me a few nightmares in the days following the concert.

Facts are facts.

Rainy Day People - Gordon Lightfoot

Rainy day people always seem to know when it's time to call
Rainy day people don't talk, they just listen till they've heard it all
Rainy day lovers don't lie when they tell 'ya they've been down like you
Rainy day people don't mind if you're cryin' a tear or two


If you get lonely, all you really need is that rainy day love
Rainy day people all know there's no sorrow they can't rise above
Rainy day lovers don't love any others, that would not be kind
Rainy day people all know how it hangs on a piece of mind

Rainy day lovers don't lie when they tell you, they've been down there too
Rainy day people don't mind if you're cryin' a tear or two.

Rainy day people always seem to know when you're feeling blue
High stepping strutters who land in the gutters sometimes need one too
Take it or leave it, or try to believe it
If you've been down too long

Rainy day lovers don't hide love inside they just pass it on
Rainy day lovers don't hide love inside they just pass it on

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DARK EMOTION

I don't claim to be a poet at all.  I am a poet as much as I am a writer.  This is my first attempt at a poem on the blog.  Who knows what it will turn out to be.

DARK EMOTION

Sunny day and everything is fine
Things are normal despite the unseen
The unseen comes quickly and silently
It creeps up from behind and breathes on the shoulder

The darkness grabs silently
It is silent but harsh and hurts
The breath leaves the lungs as it grabs
Not able to breath panic sets in and you leave your body

Feeling outside yourself
You look back and try to find yourself
You can find but you cant get a hold
Your head slips further and further away until you feel lost

The darkness gets darker
You realize you have no control
The heart makes itself know by pounding
Pounding hard enough to feel the pain it is causing

The thought comes into your head
The thought that the heart is pounding so hard
So hard that it will come to a silent rest
You want to stand but you cant.  Your life will never be the same

The thought finally arrives
That a trip to the doctor may help.
They assume it is a heart problem
Because heart problems can do more damage than anything

The wires are attached everywhere
To your chest are attached most of the wires
A couple of wires to the head
Lay back while the machine draws little red squiggly lines on paper

"Everything is fine" is the word
You know it isn't fine because you are still
Disconnected from yourself and the darkness
has enveloped you to the point where you cant think

I am dying and I am dying slowly
The darkness places hands around your throat
Still not able to breather the panic reasserts itself
Causing yet more panic on top of panic until breath is gone again

Panic attack is the new option
The doctors try to explain it to you
and it doesn't make any sense
Your understanding of anything is gone with your breath

Lie down and relax and breathe
cant breath, try to breath, just relax
Your head starts to come back to your body
You feel yourself slowly coming back together again as one

Relax and get back somewhere to normal
Go home and relax more. stay home a couple of days
Scared waiting for the darkness to come even harder
for now though the darkness is beginning to fade just a bit

The darkness never leaves completely
Breath is able to get back into the lungs
And your buzzing and shaking begin to settle down
See the doctor again in two weeks to see if the darkness is still there

Two weeks pass with the darkness
Hanging over your shoulder constantly
It doesn't leave and when you think about it
The panic starts to return and the air leaves for a bit once again

It become a viscous circle of panic and darkness
Afraid to go anywhere for fear of darkness or panic
People are not other beings anymore
People are threats because they can see the darkness inside

Pills are given to you to help
They don't do anything for the darkness
Or anything for the panic.  Try something else
New pills for six weeks, then more new pills for six weeks

Finally the doctor feels you need more
And you have to find a stranger to talk to
But talking to strangers is scary and panic returns
No one understands but you have to talk to someone about the darkness

Every time you talk to the person
It is scarier and scarier. talk isn't easy
They don't know and you cant explain
The darkness that holds a grip on you so tight and firm

Slowly, very slowly you go to talk
And you feel a little comfortable with the person
She has been talking to you for weeks now and suddenly
You start to hear her for the first time and you start to listen

She does understand more than you thought
She makes sense with the things she says
Panic is not automatic anymore
Whenever you go to see her and tell her about the darkness

Pills begin to help finally
Talking starts to set you mind at ease
The panic starts to become less scary
But the darkness never ever leaves and is always there

You learn to live with it
You learn the ways of panic
You learn that people are not all out to get you
and even though she understands, the darkness stays

I have accepted parts of my mind
I accept that panic will hit
I know how to almost control panic
Nothing I can do about the darkness though

Nothing I can do about the darkness
It is always there just under the surface
You hide it in public by wearing masks
you hide it by being someone you are not

People could not handle the real you
You dont want to make them accept you
It is your problem not theirs
They don't have the darkness, it is yours and yours alone.

Monday, June 27, 2011

CONNER MICHAEL

I did not know Conner Michael.  Never set eyes upon the child.  Conner passed away last Friday morning.  He was only six months old.  Even though I did not know Conner, my gut aches and hurts for him and his family.  My way of thinking always seems to be the same when I hear of someone dying.  When a great artist dies that still has a lot to contribute to the world I always find myself wishing I had died instead.  I felt this way when John Lennon was killed.  It seems to me that the world would be a better place with a John Lennon in it than a Bill Clark.  I feel that way about a lot of people who die.  Some are celebrities and some are ordinary folk.  When Alesia Dawn died I felt the same way.  Here is a fourteen year old girl just coming into her own with so much promise and so much to give to the world and she dies while I continue to sit here and take up space.  Sincerely I would trade my life for a number of other's who have gone on in a flash.  Wouldn't have to think about it much.  If someone had come to me the night before Alesia died and said "You have a choice, either you or Alesia will die tomorrow" without hesitating I would say "Me, I'll die."

This isn't a heroic gesture at all.  I sincerely do not think I much left to offer the world while others have so much more to give.  It doesn't seem fair to leave me here going through life on a day to day basis while others go on before me.

No, I didn't know little Conner.  I know his grandmother quite well though.  We have worked together for thirty years.  I know what kind of grandmother she is.  She is a great person that cares for every one and does her best to right wrongs in this world.  She goes beyond the call of duty in her charity work and in helping those that need help.  I have seen her pass these traits to her older grandson.  He will grow up to be a good man just by the fact of having his grandmother as a teacher early in life.

I hurt for her.  Conner's passing was not expected.  They were preparing to go to Jefferson City for the weekend to a convention of the Fraternal Order Of Eagles.  Both her and her husband are very active in this organization that does a massive amount of charity work for children's hospitals and orphanages and the like.  It seems she is always doing something to prepare to raise money for a charity.

Why did this young child have to die?  I ask myself that question over and over again since I found out about it last Friday.  This child deserved a life.  At six months he did not even know what life was.  If only I could trade places with little Conner.  I have nothing left to offer and I have become a slow learner in the new ways of the world.  My thinking does not always track and I have become lazy in my old age.  I do not have the self discipline to do what needs to be done whether in a worldly way or just things around the house.  I have to talk myself into running the vacuum in the house and that may take a day or more before I finally do it.  I am pretty much worthless compared to new life that is just budding and ready to learn a thousand new things a day.

Conner's grandmother does not deserve this.  As good of a woman as she is she deserves to have the opportunity to watch her grandchild grow into a fine young man with many of her values.  She deserves to have the chance to teach and to watch the expression on her grandchild when he suddenly "gets it".  She most certainly does not deserve the heartache and the pain she is going through right now as I type this up.

No, instead tomorrow she will have to sit and watch her six month old grandson buried in the cold earth.  No chance to give the world what he could have given.  No chance to prove himself as a decent human being.  No chance to marry and procreate and become a father himself.  A father that would pass on his grandmothers teachings to his own children and grandchildren.

It isn't right.  How many infants die every day though?  Too many.  They don't know why Conner died.  They did an autopsy and declared it was natural causes.  Natural causes?  There is nothing natural about a six month old dying.  He is gone before learning to walk.  He is gone before learning to talk.  He is gone without the chance to express himself and to discover his own wants and desires for not only himself but for the world.

It just is not fair.  I don't feel it is fair to Conner or to his parents and especially his grandmother.  Again, If I could, If only I could I would exchange places with this child that was loved so very much.  My contributions to the world are getting fewer and far between.  I feel like I just take up space most of the time.  I sincerely think that the world might notice I am gone but it would get along without me for sure.  I don't have much left to give.  But these children like Conner who die every day, the world needs them so badly.

Conner will be missed for a very very long time just as Alesia will be and numerous other people who have passed on before they had a chance to contribute fully to the family of humans that we are all a part of.

It isn't fair.  It isn't right.  It isn't just.  It isn't anything except a tragedy.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

PETRY, FLANDERS AND CLANCY - CH 3

The election for the name of the town yielded surprising results.  The name that would be placed on the charter and sent to Jefferson City would be that of Flanders, Missouri.  A lot of Flanders kin lived in Clancy's Corner and the Clancy Corner People who had no family relationship to either the Petry's or the Flanders had sided with their neighbors by choosing Flanders as the name.  This upset the Petry lan and they began toplan for a recount until the committee offered a possible solution to the problem.

First the committee would divide the town into four sections.  Each section would have two council members and then the town as a whole would elect a mayor.  Two of the sections would be located in Petry Valley as it was now called with the other two being up in the town proper know as Clancy's Corner.  As expected the new council was divided between the Petry's and the Clancy people.  It would come down to the mayors race.

The Clancy Corner General Store was being run now by Gary Petry and Gary held a lot of informal get togethers in the store on Friday nights.  The two men running for Mayor were Howard Jackson from Petry Valley and Gerald Houseman from the Clancy Corner area.  As the debates among the citizenry continued, it became clear that perhaps Jackson may pull one out for the Petry Valley people.  Houseman was an old man with a lot of favors owed to others in town.  This would be just another favor he owed if he won the election for first mayor of Flanders, Missouri.

The election was finally held and to no one surprise, Howard Jackson won.  His first action was to build a combination City Hall and Couthouse.  Everyone in town would be expected to either donate money or labor to the construction of these two very important buildings.  The Mayor needed an office after all.

The council then put put the word that they were looking for a police chief to be sure things did not get out of control in the new town of Flanders.  Not that there had really been a lot of trouble in the past, just a few shootings and fist fights, but the council felt like they needed a lawful presence in the town.  They chose Harold Petry as the chief and Harold began the process of hiring two deputies to help him in his work.  Both of his hires were from Petry Valley.  The city was beginning to have a decidedly Petry look to it in spite of the name of Flanders.  There were fears at first but soon it became clear that the council, the mayor and the law enforcement were for all the people of Flanders and did not show favoritism toward the Clancy Corner people or the Petry Valley people.  The town was off to a good start.

In the mid fifties a flue epidemic raced through town.  It was devastating.   The town had grown to four thousand people by this time and almost a fourth of them died in the flue of 1957.  The flue epidemic prompted the building of a modern Hospital that was built between Clancy Corner and Petry Valley..  Everyone would have quick access to the hospital and it brought five additional doctors and numerous nurses to the small town.

By 1970 both the Petry name and the Flanders name were starting to fade away.  New comers who were looking for a quiet and safe town in which to live had found Flanders to be just the place.  The police force grew and anytime a law was broken, justice was dealt out swiftly and fairly.  They built three schools.  Petry Valley Elementary and Clancy Corner Elementary along with the jewel of the school system Flanders High School.

As more and more people moved into the area and the population grew to seven thousand, the census of 1980 showed only 4 families carrying the Petry name and two with the Flanders name.  Over the next twenty years all of the Petrys would be gone and there would be one family left with the Flanders name.

The head of the last Flanders family was Joseph Jeremiah. He had a family of three sons and two daughters and lived in the main house in Petry Valley when the first major crime in the history of Flanders happened.  Some strangers came into Petry Valley one night and broke into the Main House.  They are still not sure what the motive was or who the people were, but by the way they talked they were not from Flanders.  The gathered up all of the family and marched them outside.  They then went in and trashed the whole of the main house and then attempted to set fire to it.  The fire started in the southeast corner of the house but for some reason died a slow death there and did not bring the house down.

While the fire was burning and things looked as though they were going to the strangers plan the began marching the family into the woods south of Petry Valley.  Joseph Jeremiah did not know what the situation was until one of the men said that by the time they got done walking, the whole family would be dead.  Whoever stopped walking first would be shot and so on and so on.

It was five year old Hannah that fell to her knees first after tripping over a tree root.  The strangers gave no time for explanation shooting Hanna in the head on the spot.  At that second Joseph's wife Sonya fell to her knees in stricken grief wailing over the body of her daughter.  As soon as her knees hit the ground a bullet was fired into her skull killing her instantly.  The rest of the family stood in shock and at the command of their captors began walking once again.

Joseph began trying to make a plan to save what remained of his family but nothing seemed like it would work.  As the marched continued into the next day it became clear that the children would not last much longer, and they didn't.  One by one as they dropped to their knees knowing what awaited them they were killed instantly.  The kids were praying as the bullets entered their heads.

Pretty soon it was only the eldest son John and Joseph still walking.  Somehow they communicated by looking at each other and reading their eyes and head nods.  As they approached a stream they put their silent plan into action.  Joseph bent over to scoop up some water.  The captor pointed his gun at Josephs head waiting for him to fall but instead Joseph scooped up a hand full of water and threw it in the killers face.  While the surprise factor was still in play Joseph went to grab the mans gun and there ensued a tug of war between the two.

Meanwhile John had jumped at his captor knocking the rifle to the ground he began pounding with his fist on the man until the man slowly stopped moving.  John then picked up his gun and fired a shot into the man's head.  John then turned his attention towards his father who was in a struggle for the weapon of the other captor.  John raised the rifle and took aim.  Just as he pulled the trigger, the gun Joseph was in a struggle for discharged.  Both John and the stranger fell to the ground dead.

Joseph mae his way back to Flanders and to the police station where he told his story to the chief.  No one could figure out what it was all about.  Some said that there were Petry's back east who had heard of the Petry land and had heard that a family by the name of Flanders had tricked the Petrys out of the land and they had come back to make things right.  No one really knew though and they never would.  No one recognized the men who had taken the Flanders family captive and had killed them one by one.

The bodies of the Flanders family were brought back to town.  It seemed all seven thousands members of the town had attended the funeral.  Joseph Jeremiah sat by himself as the funeral proceeded and the bodies were laid in the ground inside the Petry Cemetery just behind the Main House.

Men volunteered to fix up the corner of the house that had been burned and women brought food around to Joseph almost every night.  Slowly that began to slow down as people got use to the idea that a crime had been committed long ago and it was never solved..

Now Joseph sits on the front porch, his eyes staring down at Petry creek and still tries to make sense of what happened to his family.  He is an old man now and Clancys Corner Drugstore delivers his foods and medicines every week.

Joseph Jeremiah Flanders - 2008

The town still flourishes and has had a steady population of ten thousand for decades now.  It is still a fairly crime free area with arguments between drunks being about as bad as it gets.  Descendants from either the Petry family or the Flanders family have held the mayors seat over fifty percent of the time.  But there is no one named Petry in the town   Joseph is the only Flanders name in the town.  What started out as a small family place to get away from it all turned into a small Missouri town with a history of both peace and violence.

Now Joseph Flanders sits on his porch watching Petry Creek and waiting for the time when he will finally rejoin his family after all these years.

Friday, June 24, 2011

PETRY, FLANDERS AND CLANCY - CH 2

Jonathan David enjoyed working his fathers land that had now become his.  He and his brothers and sisters had staked out plots of land to call their own leaving a large amount of land for all of them to use for future cattle or farming.  Houses were built around the land and as the children married they moved their families onto Petry Park Ranch.

The siblings all got along very well and disputes were few and far between.  There was an issue that bothered Jonathan David though.  Each month one of the brothers or sisters would have to make a trip to Kansas City to purchase goods for the entire family.  This was becoming a slow project that always found one of the small farms without it's leader for a month or so while they were making the trek to Kansas City.  Jonathan David had an idea to solve the problem.

On the east end of the property there had developed a road of sorts as people traveling from southern Missouri to Kansas City where they would pick up one of the three trails that headed out west.  Often these travelers would stop by Jonathan's place offering to buy goods from him that would last them until they reached the city.  Jonathan decided it was time to grow the ranch into something more.

It was in early March when the whole family gathered at Jonathan David's house overlooking Petry Creek.  Jonathan laid out his idea.  They needed to bring someone else onto the property and set up a store where the road crossed onto the Petry land.  The store would be easy access to all of the family for goods as well as making money from the travelers heading to Kansas City.  All of the siblings agreed that this would be a great idea if they could find someone they could trust.

Jonathan mailed off an ad to be placed in the Kansas City, Chicago and St. Louis newspapers.  the ad was looking for a self starter to move onto an acre of land that would be free and run a general store that would be built on the edge of the land.  Several responses came back but one caught Jonathan David's eye.  It was a store owner in Chicago who was wanting to expand his trade further west.  He was wanting to send his nephew out to the Petry land to begin a second store.  He had already developed contacts where he could purchase goods and would be willing to take some of the food grown and butchered by the Petry's to sell to the travelers passing through the Petry land.

Jonathan brought the idea of giving this Mr. Clancy an acre at the edge of the land to work his way through life.  It was a no brainer.  They all agreed and set about building a store on the road that summer.  It turned out to be a fairly large store with plenty of room to grow.  They also built a nice four room house back of the house for the new member to live.  All was set for the October arrival of one Mr. Ed Clancy, nephew to Robert Clancy of Chicago fame.

Clancy wasted no time getting the store stocked with goods from his uncles contacts and filling the store with goods from the Petry's as well.  This would give some extra income to the Petrys, income that would be welcome indeed.  Clancy turned out to be an overly honest man.  He went out of his way to be sure that everything was on the up and up.  People coming down the road soo began to look forward to stopping at Clancy's Grocery.  Word of mouth had spread along the trail heading to Kansas City that Clancy's was a place where you could get all kinds of goods and at a fair price, something that was rare along the trails leading out west.

Clancy's Corner General Store
 Meanwhile the Petry families continued to grow.  The main house had become Jonathan david's house and would stay in that branch of the family.   As the next generation of Petrys grew older more of the land was divided and more houses were built in the valley.  Jonathan himself built houses for his children on his land that followed Petry Creek through the valley.  His eldest son Robert Would be the one to take over the main house and so after he married, he stayed with his mother and father raising his family there.


At the age of sixty three, Jonathan David passed on.  Robert took the responsibility of taking care of his mother as well as his family.  The valley was started to fill up with not only Petry's but other names as well as the daughters married and took their husbands names.  There were the Jackson's, Gills' and McFarland's along with Smith's, Jone's and Garland's.  The valley was starting to look like a widely spread out town.  While the houses were far apart they were getting closer to each other so that you could see other houses from your own front porch.

Robert Petry in Petry Creek

As the elder generation passed on still another generation was growing up and preparing for life.  Robert Petry had sired four sons and five daughters.  Sadly his wife died while giving birth to their youngest son.  The whole of the family came up to the main house to give their respects to Becky.  She was laid to rest on top of the hill behind the main house.  The cemetery was starting to grow large and after Becky's death, Robert had his eldest son, Eric, build a fence around the graves to set it off as sacred land.  Robert was sixty one when he passed and was laid next to his beloved Becky in the Petry Cemetery.  Eric and his wife lived in the main house and began to start a family of their own.  All over the valley new families were being started but they stayed far away from Clancy's store.  It was still a good six mile ride into Clancy's from the main house.

Eric Petry and his wife Sonya proved to be very hard workers.  The main farm was growing and income was rising.  They bought the first automobile ever owned by a Petry.  They didn't drive it much because they had to go to Jefferson City to get fuel for it.  By the time they returned from Jefferson City they had little more than a half of tank of gas left in the car.  That was gas that would be needed to get to Jefferson City to get more gas.  The car didn't seem to be working out very well.

Over the years the land around Clancy's General Store was beginning to be developed.  The first to purchase land from the Petry's was a doctor who had come driving down the old trail and had stopped in Clancy's for a visit and some coffee.  Clancy had added a restaurant onto the store when he had married a girl that was traveling with her family on the trail.  The family had stayed for a week in one of Clancy's rooms and during that time Ed and Florence and fell in love.  They married and her family had moved on westward.  The last Florence had heard from her family they were in Oregon somewhere.  It was her idea to build the restaurant and after it being a success, Clancy was now in the process of building a small hotel.  He knew that once the hotel was built it would be very inviting for people to stop by and get some rest and a bath.

Doc bought a plot of land next to the hotel from Clancy and they proceeded to build a doctors office.  The Petry's and their off shoots who lived in the valley were thrilled to have a doc close by.  Little by little people would come driving or riding past Clancy's and be taken by the beauty of the land.  More and more people were putting enough cash together to buy a little land from Clancy or the Petry's and build small houses close to the grocery store and restaurant.  Clancy could see that that it was fast becoming a small town.  Clancy would never see the town actually take shape though.  Two years after Florence had died of a high fever, Ed Clancy died in his sleep at the age of ninety one.  The petry's would bury Florence and Ed in the Petry Cemetery, the only non-Petry's buried in the sacred spot.

The little group of houses and the Petry Valley survived the dust bowl of the thirties.  The Valley seemed to be protected from the tragedy the rest of the mid-west was suffering under.  One of the Jackson Boys took over Clancy's general store keeping the name of Clancy on the storefront.  Things were changing fast and it was becoming obvious that they would have to form a town with a mayor and city council before long.  When Eric and Sonya Petry had passed at the ages of sixty eight and sixty two they had not bore any sons.  There were three daughtersand Helen, the oldest had her eye on a man that lived in town, as it was now being called.

His name was Bob Flanders and after courting for a year they married with Helen taking the name of Flanders.  It was her place, she felt, to move into the main Petry house.  This was one of the worst times the Petry family had ever had.  A Petry should live in that house was the argument against Helen moving into her parents place.  Helen thought otherwise.  The main house had been in her family since the beginning and it was her right to keep it in her family.  Lucky for Helen her sisters agreed and so there wasn't much that the rest of the Petry Valley could do about it.  The old Petry house became the Flanders house.  It had been built onto four separate times since it was originally built and now was by far the largest house in all the valley.  The land on the hill that led down to Petry Creek was also very rich and so the house was home to the richest of all in Petry Valley.

Main House at time of Bob and Helen Flanders occupied it
During this time a bar had been built.  The bar brought in painted ladies who built their own house next to the bar.  That, of course, brought in a preacher who built a church to keep the painted ladies business as low as possible.  No matter how hard the Reverend Cooley tried though, the house was busy day and night almost non-stop.

Then it finally happened.  A fight broke out in the bar over one of the girls.  It spilled out into the street and soon someone lay dead in the middle of the main street.  It was a man by the name of Sinclair and his kin folk were not happy about his death.  Soon a small war broke out between the Sinclairs and the Guins.  Each death prompting a rebuttal shooting.  The town was in chaos as the two families were kept apart as best as possible by the other members of the area.  The town had grown to over one hundred and sixty families, about three hundred people.  It was long past time to have a police force and a government put into place.

And so it was that the town all gathered in the church to try to set up a township.  A council of twenty were chosen to write up a charter.  Ten of the twenty were members of the Petry family from the valley.  The other ten were folks who lived in the town area.  They would decide on a police force and how a council and mayor would be chosen.  The first business that needed to be taken care of though was a name for the town.  After names like Winding Creek, and Great Valley along with Kansas City Trail among a host of other obnoxious names, three came to stand out.  The three names that were left to be chosen from were Petry, Flanders and Clancy.  The twenty comittemen decided that they would hold the very first election of the town and that the election would be to name the town.

It was on September second that the election was held with three town names on the ballot.  It would be a close and controversial decision.  People from the Flanders family courted votes and tried to even buy votes.  The Petry clan was no better but larger in number.  They took to bribes and such to try to get people to vote for Petry, Missouri.  The Clancy followers were just plain folk who lived in the town proper.  They had known Clancy and what an honest man he was.  Their plea was to name the town after Clancy as a gesture to the town being clean and honest just as Clancy had been.  When September second arrived everyone over the age of twenty one came to the church to vote then went home to await the final count that would be announced the next day.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

PETRY, FLANDERS AND CLANCY - CH. 1

Joseph Jeremiah Flanders sat on the front porch of the old family homestead in his rocking chair.  He glanced all around him at the beauty of the southern Missouri landscape that had been in his family for over a hundred years.  The house sat midway up a hill facing down into a valley where Petry creek winded lazily through the small hills towards the bottom of the valley.  The creek now stood as the edge of the property that once held hundreds of acres.  Mighty shade trees dotted the landscape going down towards the creek.  It was along the creek where the trees were clumped together giving shade to the small catfish that lived there.  The catfish had not been leery of worms in the water for several years now.  There was a time when a catfish might go for a snack of worm and end up being dinner on the families dinner table that night.  Those days were gone now it seemed.  The old stories that the catfish use to hand down to generation after generation of the dangers of worms had long since been silence by the lack of members being suddenly pulled from the water never to be seen again.

Joseph had other memories of the creek and had stories passed down through the generations of his own family.  He sat and looked wistfully at all that was around him and realized that the days of the Flanders family were coming to an end.  He began thinking back on the stories told him by his father and grandfather about the family and how they came to be here in this little part of Eden known as Missouri.  It was a long tale that had lasted through the years.  He felt a tear well up in his eye as he brought down upon himself the end of a great story that should not have an end.  Then end was near though and getting closer by the months.

Joseph and Anna Petry
The land was homesteaded in the late eighteen hundreds by Joseph David Petry.  Joe Petry had come from Springfield, Illinois to start a new life for himself.  He had left his wife, Anna, in Illinois promising to come back for her once he got settled in Missouri.  Joseph David had stumbled across the land while looking for water to quench the thirst of his horses.  He marked the land and mapped it then went to Jefferson City to apply for homesteading rights to the land.  After an investigation by the sate found that nobody laid claim to the land, the state agreed to sell two thousand acres to Joseph David at two dollars an acre to be paid over a twenty year period.  Joseph David went immediately to the post office and sent a letter to Anna asking her to join him as soon as possibility.

Anna was a city woman born and raised.  She was a little hesitant about moving onto a spread of land where there would be no neighbors for miles around.  She loved her man though and so she packed up quickly and made her way to join Joseph David on the newly acquired land.  By the time she arrived in Missouri, Joseph David had already built a small two room house next to the creek in a valley surrounded by beautiful hills he had also decided to name his land and it became known as Petry Park Ranch.  Anna liked what she saw even though she knew it would take time to get use to living away from civilization.

Within a year the family began to take shape.  The first child was a son who they named Jonathan David Petry.  During the first year of the child's life the family faced their first major disaster.  The spring rains had come.  It was more than your typical Missouri spring rains.  It poured for 4 straight days never letting up.  The creek in front of the little house began to swell and finally overflowed its banks creeping up towards the dwelling.  Joseph David made a make shift lean to and moved as much of the small families belongings into it along with his wife and child.  There wasn't room under the lean to for Joseph David so he sat just outside holding his wifes hand as the rains continued on for a few more days.

During his time sitting in the rain, Joseph David began making plans for a new home.  It would be a larger home and he could build it a safe distance from the creek so that this would never happen again.  When the rains had finally stopped and the creek had receded back into its banks, Anna began the long hard chore of cleaning up the little house so they could move safely back in.  It took her about a week before she was satisfied that it was clean enough to move belongings back.  It wasn't long before the little family was once again settled in the small two room house they called home.

Meanwhile the garden that Joseph David had started had been washed away so he began the laborious task of replanting the garden so that food would be available during the winter.  The second garden was not as large as the first garden but he had saved back some seeds so that all the basics would be represented in the new garden.  They may not have much but they would have variety.  It was about this time that Anna discovered that she would have another child come winter.  The family made preparations for the child and Joseph David, looking about the two small rooms he had built became more determined then ever to build a bigger and better house further up the hill where the creek could not reach them.

During that summer when he wasn't working the garden, Joseph David was working on felling wood for the new house.  He spent time leveling out a place in the hillside upon which to build the house.  Not a day went by that first summer that he did not work from sunup to sundown until he was practically asleep on his feet by the end of the day.  By the time that the first snows came in late December, he had a fairly large piece of land leveled off in the hill side and had started laying out logs for the general shape of the house.  It would have four rooms on a ground floor and be built such that a second floor could easily be added.  It was the beginning of Petry Place, the center of Petry Park Ranch..

The winter was dark and cold.  The Missouri snow fell with amazing consistency once a week keeping the ground covered.  The cold winds from the north never seemed to let up.  When weather would permit during the winter, Joseph David continued work on the new house up the hill.  By March it was actually taking shape and Anna was beginning to get excited.

The work on the new house would have to be put off until all the farming was done.  Joseph David had decided that he need some cattle on his place and he began working on a plan.  There was a family who had some cattle a few miles down the road.  Their land adjoined The Petry land and so Joseph David decided to visit his neighbor.  The neighbor was a young swede named Orie and they fast became friends.  Soon Joseph David felt comfortable talking to Orie about a business proposition.  Joseph David needed approximately ten head of cattle.  A couple of milk cows and some cattle for breeding to give his family some meat over the winter.  Orie, on the other hand had come from a rather wealthy family and had almost two hundred head of cattle along with sheep and goats to sustain his family.  Joseph David offered Orie ten acres of land for each head of cattle making the offer one hundred acres of land added to Ories estate just by giving up ten head.  Orie thought about this and decided that twenty acres per head would be more to his liking.  Joseph David was not in a position to do a lot of bargaining so a deal was struck.  Three weeks later Orie and Joseph David ran Ten head of cattle over close to the Petry house.  The two families then had a celebration at Ories place that lasted two days.  Two days of eating and drinking.  It was the first meat Joseph David had tasted in over a year and it tasted fine.

The Petry's made it through the summer fairly well.  The crop was good and the cattle were providing milk as well as meat for the winter.  Their second winter in Petry Park Ranch would be milder than the previous one and during the winter, with the help of Orie, Joseph David finished the first floor of the new house. It was two weeks after they moved to the new house in late February that Laura Anna Petry was born.  She was a healthy little girl and Joseph David and Anna felt blessed by God.  The family was growing, the farm and ranch was growing and they had made friends with Orie and his family.  Things were looking very good heading into the summer.

The family moved in during April and suddenly Anna had more room and it was easier to keep clean.  The threat of a spring flood was also gone as the house stood halfway up the hill that overlooked the spring.  Anna stood on the front porch holding Laura and let the beauty of their land soak into her thoughts.  When she had left Illinois, she had never dreamed she would be living in such a wonderful place.

Over the next several years, Joseph David would, with the help of Jonathan David and his four younger brothers would build a complete second story onto the house.  A raised front porch that was covered would also be added.  They would acquire more live stock including horses, pigs and goats and they would not go hungry.  Along with the five boys they had also brought three girls including Laura Anna into the world.  They were a family of ten now and the children were growing fairly fast as Joseph David and Anna began to age.

Jonathan David along with two of his brothers had left to go to Kansas City to take some classes and to prepare themselves for life as adults.  They were gone eight years during which time the health of their parents began to show..  Joseph David was still a strong man even at the age of seventy five but Anna's body was wearing out.  She had worked hard along side her husband for fifty five years.  She had born eight children and now it seemed she was always tired.  When a day came when Anna could not get out of bed, Joseph David sent his two youngest sons to the city to get their brothers and bring them home.

Jonathan David would not see his mother again.  The day before he and his brothers arrived, Anna fell asleep for the last time in Joseph David's arms.  Joseph David did not cry nor did he weep.  He instructed Laura Anna to do what had to be done to properly bury their wife and mother.  The children were devastated.  No one had ever thought of death encroaching upon this happy little family.  But nature has a definite plan and man can not change it.

Late that night after the children were finished whispering among themselves of their mother and had fallen asleep, Joseph David strolled down to the edge of the creek and cried.  They would Bury his beloved Anna on top of the hill behind the house and the family would continue on.  The girls would marry and the boys would go out and settle on parcels of their fathers land where they would raise their own families.  When death came for Joseph David, Jonathan David would move into the old family homestead on the hill overlooking Petry Creek.

The family would be here to stay it would seem for many years to come.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

SATCHEL PAIGE PITCHES ONE LAST TIME

When the Athletics were still calling Kansas City their home base they had a tough time drawing a crowd.  The team was not very good during those years.  When you would go see the A's play, you were there to see the players on the opposing teams more than to see the hometown heroes.

When Baltimore would come to town you would see Brooks, Frank and Boog and if you were lucky Jim Palmer would be pitching.  The twins brought with them Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew.  Nolan Ryan would come to pitch for the Angels, which was always exciting.  Al Kaline and Bill Freehan would come into town with the Tigers.  And when New York came to town it was their whole team that impressed you.

The A's had some good players themselves though.  Dick Green and Bert Campanaris was on that team.  Danny Cater played in the outfield along with Rick Monday.  They had the players, but they couldn't quite gel.  Most of the problem was with the pitching staff.  The old A's had no pitching what so ever and they didn't have any long ball power hitters.

The A's owner in an attempt to boost attendance signed Satchel Paige along with some other negro league players to a contract in September of 1965.  Satchel Paige was fifty eight years old at the time and would be the starting pitcher on September 25 against the Boston Red Sox.  Dad decided we would go see Satchel pitch which was fine with me because I loved the Red Sox.  My favorite player of all time Carl Yastrzemski, or Yaz as he was known as, played left field for the Sox.

As the game began Paige sat in the bull pen of the old Municipal Stadium in a rocking chair sipping coffee between innings.  He was cheered loudly as he took the mound to begin the game.  The fifty eight year old ace took some lazy warm ups before facing the first batter.  It was a ground ball that was bobbled and then thrown wide of first base.  The first batter had reached first but it was not Satchel's fault.  The runner tried to steal third on one of Satchels screwy pitches but was thrown out.  The second batter popped up to right fielder Danny Cater.  Then Yaz came up to the plate.

With the A's pitching staff I had not really gotten a chance to see Yaz hit against a legend before.  Although this legend was an old man, Paige still had some tricks up his sleeve.  He could throw a wicked screw ball, a changeup that would have batters swinging at air and a curveball that ended up in the dirt after flying through the strike zone as it dropped off so suddenly.  Yaz was a hitter who was recognized as one of the games best.  I remember my heart beating a little fast as Satchel and Yaz began what to me would be an historic face off.

Yaz won it.  He slammed a double into right center field.  I didn't know whether to cheer or not.  The old man had given up a hard hit, but it was given up to another future Hall of Famer, and my hero.  I think I just sat quietly and let it soak in.  I was watching one of the all time great pitchers and one of the all time great hitters.  Neither of them was a loser in that face off.  It was one of the at bats that would stick in my memory for a lifetime.

Satchel then proceeded to get Tony Conigliaro out to end the first inning.  The next six betters over the course of the next two innings were put down in order by Paige.  After three innings Satchel was done.  Three innings of a pitcher like there would never be again in the majors.  He was tall and lanky.  You would be hard pressed to find any bulging muscles on the man.  He did not throw over powering pitches but rather pitches that moved all over the place.  A batter would be hard pressed to find contact with the ball simply because he didn't know where it would be.  In my mind this makes Yaz's double that more impressive.

It was the last time Paige would pitch.  He would go on to a coaching career with the Braves but his playing days were over.  There were only nine thousand people there to watch the old man pitch and as he left the mound after the third inning they played "The Old Grey Mare" over the public address system.

It was history that night.  So much history that the game was included in Ken Burns PBS series "BASEBALL".  As I was watching the clip of Paige on the mound in Municipal Stadium from that September night in 1965 I couldn't say I really remembered that much of it.  I remember the tall lanky high leg kick that Satchel had.  I remember thinking he didn't seem to throw as hard as most of the pro pitchers I had seen.  I remember Yaz hitting the ball hard.  Other than that it is all pretty much a blur in a fuzzy memory.

Satchel Paige was known for his quotes as much as Yogi Berra is.  The difference is that Satchels quote s made sense.  Here are a few of them for your consideration:

"Age is a question of mind of matter.  If you don't mind, It doesn't matter."
"I ain't never had a job.  I always just played baseball."
"I never rush myself.  You see they can't start the game without me"
"There ain't no man that can avoid being born average.  But there ain't no man that's got to be common"
"Don't eat fried food.  It angries up the system"
And probably the most famous of his quotes:
"Don't look back.  Something might be gaining on you."

Satchel Paige died on June 8, 1982.  He is buried in Forest Hills cemetery,  the same place my grandfather and grandmother are laid to rest.  Satchel Paige was one of many many negro league players who either never got their due or got their due way past when they should have.

September 25, 1965


Mr and Mrs Paige's burial site-Kansas City, Mo.


Detail of burial marker

Monday, June 20, 2011

LITERATURE IDIOT - DAVID COPPERFIELD

Contrary to popular belief I do read some fiction.  My favorite fiction author is John Steinbeck.  I have also read and love the books of Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair and Charles Dickens.  Dickens books were all written in with very similar circumstances to them.  My favorite book of Dickens was DAVID COPPERFIELD.  The character of David seemed to parallel my thoughts and wishes quite a bit.  It is a good story of the life of a boy who grows into manhood and makes something of himself in spite of all odds stacked against him.

Recently I had the opportunity to view the 1935 film version of the novel.  While watching the movie it occurred to me what an idiot David Copperfield really was.  He surrounded himself with people who were con artists, totally mad, or immature beyond belief.  You realize that these people are this way when you read the book but when you see the movie it totally comes at you like a blinding light.

First you have Aunt Betsey.  She is delusional and the one thing that she can not stand are donkeys walking down the road in front of her house.  As far as I know it is a public road but each time a donkey comes by her house she grabs a broom and runs out to chase the animals, and their owner, away getting them away from her house as quickly as possible.  She does not seem to mind any other form of life walking down the road, just donkeys.  Where does this aversion to donkeys come from?  We do not know but it does show that she is a little off by her actions.

She lives with her boarder Mr. Dick.  Personally I think Mr. Dick may be a metaphor of some sort but none the less Mr. Dick is more than a few bricks shy of a full load.  He is a full load shy of a full load.  This is the person that Aunt Betsey goes to for advice on a constant basis throughout the book.  Mr. Dick has to stop and think about the simplest of questions and brings forth the most common easy answer that there could be.  Mr. Dick is a total loser.

These are the two people that begin to raise David as a child.  Soon he is discharged to the services of Mr. Murdstone who is in charge of Davids education.  He is a hard man who forces David to study every waking minute of the day.  If David does not prove that he has learned his lessons, he is whipped with a cane of sorts.  Perhaps this did help David learn but it had to effect him mentally a bit which can perhaps explain why he continues to hang around this cast of outcasts, as it were.  He meets Agnes Wickfield somewhere along in here and she falls in love with David at a very early age. She is the daughter of a man that David goes to work for.  A stockbroker in modern times I would assume.  Agnes will be the most sane and proper person of all of the characters in David's life.

David then meets Mr. McCawber.  In the film McCawber is rightfully played by W.C. Fields.  He is a procrastinator extraordinaire who has an strong aversion to work and is always hiding from his creditors.  At one point he does end up in debtors prison but David is there to get him out.  David spends all of his time during the whole of the book keeping McCawber out of trouble and McCawber never seems to change..

Then there is Uriah Heep.  He is a slimey dog of a character who is extremely manipulative and is the one person that David does not seem to stay friends with.  Not to say that David did not try to be friends with Heep because he did.  It isn't until late in the movie that David realizes what scum Heep is and turns on him to save Mr. Wickfields business.

There is Steerforth who David went to boarding school with, or college we would call it these days.  Steerforth is a very bright man with no morals at all.  He ends up running off with Alice Peggoty, stealing her away from her fiance only to dump her in the middle of Europe when he got tired of her.  Alice tries to kill herself and ends up committed for life in an asylum.  The Peggoty family were another of the few normal characters in the book.  Peggoty was Davids nurse when he was young and living with his Aunt Betsey..  She took good care of David and gave sound advice to him.  Problem was that there aren't many opportunities for her to give David advice so her worth is mostly discounted through out the novel.

Then there comes the lovely Dora.  David falls in love with her at first sight.  This presents probably the best argument for not falling in love at first sight.  Dora was one of the most immature people I have ever read about in a novel.  I am counting Mr. Dick in this novel as well as Lenny in OF MICE AND MEN and a host of other immature characters.  The woman, or girl, that David decides to marry is a total waste of space and she plays David like a fine violin.  When she dies towards the end of the book you almost want to applaud.  It is here where David makes his most intelligent move during his whole life.  After Dora dies, he marries the mature and down to earth, free yet right thinking Agnes Wickfield.  He should have been with her during the entirety of the book.

Now, there is a lot more to this novel than what I have written.  I have just hit upon some of the more obvious things that David went through that really made his life more difficult than it had to be.  He started out behind and down.  He had a long road to travel before becoming successful but he kept hanging around all of these people who dragged him back into the situation he had pulled himself out of.  I determined after watching that movie that David Copperfield was one of the most idiotic success stories ever written in literature.  If he had a half of a brain he would have left and never come back in order to live a sane life with mature people who didn't have half their wits gone.

I know what will be said, it was his strength to hold onto to the love of the people who formed his life and to help those people when they had difficult times.  Maybe so.  How many times is one man expected to continue to bail out those who refuse to do for themselves?  Mr. McCawber is a fine example of that.

What really hangs the crown of an idiot on David's head is marrying that immature baby named Dora when Agnes was right there ready to become his wife at the drop of a hat.  That one event shows the blindness of David Copperfield to reality and what he should have done to have a safe and happy life.

I like to think that after he discovered the immorality of Steerforth, after Dora had finally died, After Heep had finally been put in his place and the Wickfields saved, and after McCawber finally seemed to take a little responsibility, that David and Agnes Copperfield went to England and lived a quiet and productive life together, putting the entire past behind him.  Unless he could put the entire past behind him, he would be miserable on a daily basis worry about all those quirky people he had left behind in his child hood.  I would like to think he didn't even go back to visit Dora's grave.  If he did go back to visit her grave I would hope it would be to put a head stone down that said something to the effect of "Here lies Dora, a totally selfish and immature girl who sucked my soul almost dry before she finally died."

Maybe I am cynical.  Maybe I was just in a bad or strange mood when I watched the movie.  I know I had never seen David Copperfield this way before.  I had always admired him for getting out of his dire situation and making a success of himself.  That is part of the joy of reading a Dickens novel.  But the night I watched this movie from 1935, all I could think of was what an idiot he was and continued to be until the closing credits.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bereft - Poem by Robert Frost

Where had I heard this wind before
Change like this to a deeper roar?
What would it take my standing there for,
Holding open a restive door,
Looking down hill to a frothy shore?
Summer was past and the day was past.
Sombre clouds in the west were massed.
Out on the porch's sagging floor,
Leaves got up in a coil and hissed,
Blindly striking at my knee and missed.
Something sinister in the tone
Told me my secret my be known:
Word I was in the house alone
Somehow must have gotten abroad,
Word I was in my life alone,
Word I had no one left but God. 


Thursday, June 16, 2011

BRETT TAKES TO THE MOUND

Every kid that ever played a game of baseball wants the chance to be the main focus of a game.  The best way to be that main focus is to take to the mound and be the pitcher.  For those few moments in time it is just the pitcher and the batter and the ball.  The pitcher has all eyes upon him as he goes into a windup and makes the motion to the plate.  For that second He is the only one that counts on the feild and he remains so until the ball leaves his hand.  Once that happens it is up to the batter or the catcher to determine what will happen next.

I knew the glory of being a pitcher.  I pitched for Mr. Allard while I was growing up.  I wasn't a great pitcher but I could throw the ball hard and I could throw it straight.  I had a lot of practice pitching at home.  My dad had been a great catcher during his youth and he had somehow passed the catching gene onto my little brother.  I have always felt like it took a certain amount of craziness to actually want to be a catcher.  You sit down between the umpire and the plate.  You then proceed to have someone throw a baseball at you as hard as he can while somebody else is swinging a piece of lumber over your head trying to hit the ball.  Apparently my dad and little brother both had this craziness built into them.  Bob was a good catcher.  When we would play catch in the backyard during the summers and falls he would always squat down to catch while I pitched balls at him.  His insanity of wanting to be a catcher sao bad helped to develop my skills as a pitcher.

Brett, on the other hand, was a natural born second baseman.  He had the body for it.  He had the fearlessness of getting in the way of a hard hit ground ball and snatch it up and turn to throw to first base.  I believe that a lot of good ball players are naturals at certain positions.  I could see Brett's potential as a second baseman when he was very young.  He had the reflexes that it takes to play in the infield.  I have seen this same type of body and attitude in my great nephew Conner, who I also believe is a natural second baseman.

Brett wanted to pitch though.  He wanted to know what it felt like to be in that second of spot light just once.  Trouble was there were other kids that could pitch on every team he had been on and he was the second baseman on all of those teams.  As a second baseman you might get ten ground balls or pop ups hit to you during the course of a game and that is only if you are lucky.  No matter how many times during the game the ball would be hit somewhere else you had to be prepared and focused on every pitch.  If not you might get hurt or worse, make an error that allowed a base runner to advance where otherwise he wouldn't.

Brett was patient for a lot of years.  He played second base flawlessly and with intensity.  He learned to use the bat as another tool to keep him on the field.  He was a good all around baseball player and he was destined to be at second base.  It was obvious to every one who coached him during his twelve years or so of baseball that he had.  But the urge was still in his brain to pitch.

When he was nine years old the team he played on was a very average team.  They lost as many games as they had won during the course of the season.  I was an assistant coach for that team and I had fun watching Brett play second base all season long.  The one weak spot on that particular team happened to be the pitchers.  They were not very consistent.  One day a kid could come out and throw a great game and they would win.  The next week the same kid would try to pitch a game only to somehow not be totally in the game.  They would lose their focus and the other team would end up winning the game.

When we got down to the last game of the season It was obvious that this team was not going to be playing any post season play at all.  Actually they didn't have post season play at the YMCA but if they did, this team was certainly out of contention.  About the second inning it became obvious that this was going to be one of those games that our pitcher was not going to be doing very well.  Brett still had the urge and started asking both the coach and myself if he could give pitching a try.  We typically shrugged it off.  After all Brett was the second baseman.  We didn't have a clue as to who we would put on second if Brett wasn't there and so we pretty well kept putting him off.  But every inning before they went back out into the field, Brett would ask if he could pitch.

By the time we got to the fifth inning of that game it was clear that the game was not going to go our way.  While the team was out in the field we started discussing Brett's request.  Eventually we decided that it couldn't do any harm to let Brett pitch the way the game was going anyway and so the decision was made to let Brett pitch the fifth inning.

The team came in and took their at bat and then right before they were heading out to the field, Brett asked again if he could pitch.  I think he was stunned when the answer came back positive.  I think the rest of the team was stunned as well.  Brett walked out to the pitching rubber and began throwing warm up pitches to the catcher.  I went and stood behind the back stop to watch my kids very first experience on the mound in the center spot light.

I have see thunderstorms and high winds do less damage than Brett did that afternoon.  It was catastrophic.  The first pitch he threw to the first batter was hit hard and over the head of the left fielder  Home run.  Let me rephrase that because it will become necessary.  Home run number one.  The next batter also hit the first pitch some distance for home run number two.  As I recall Brett may have survived three pitches to the third batter before we watched home run number three head out of sight.  Home run number four was hit by the fourth batter on the first pitch as well.  Now Brett had arrived to the middle and lower part of the batting order.  Things should be a little easier from here on.

It took the fifth batter a few pitches and a foul ball before launching home run number five out to right field.  After the sixth batter hit home run number six, we started watching Brett for signs of frustration and/or anger but he showed none.  As the seventh batter ion the order came up Brett had a very purposeful look on his face and went into his wind up looking very confident even after the seventh home run left the playable part of the field.

Since the league had a rule that kept a team to hitting only once through the batting order per inning we decided to let Brett finish it up.  Home run number eight I think was the hardest hit ball thus far as it sailed over the center fielder's head.  Our infielder's were start to relax and let down their guard.  Not a single ball had been hit in the infield and there was no sign that the last batter might break the pattern.

As home run number nine concluded with the opposing player crossing the plate our team came off the field.  The maximum number of hitters had been reached and Brett had, in a way, survived an entire inning.  He did not look to down although I had seen him look better after an inning of baseball.  The coach asked him if he wanted to go out and try it again.. Brett answered quickly in the negative.  He had come to realize that he wasn't a pitcher.  He was a second baseman and he was fine with that.  Let someone else take the responsibility for that baseball for awhile.  He was fine with playing second base thank you very much.

He was a little disappointed after his first outing on the mound but was accepting of it.  Never again would he even consider taking the mound and trying to pitch in a game.  His place was second base and he knew it now.  The good thing out of all of this was that we didn't have to worry about replacing him at second base during that disastrous inning.  The kid taking Brett's spot at second only saw the baseball as it soared over his head nine times.  Brett's pitching fever had been put out for good.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CROSSING KANSAS

"With a sky of blue and a cold ground
And a windmill stalled in mid air.
We head across Kansas
On our way home
Colorado, thank you good bye

Kansas you fooler you're making me smile
Cause I never seen you this way before.
You sure do look better
When it's this way we're headed
Home sure will feel good to me."

Excerpt from "Kansas You Fooler"
Larry Lee/Ozark Mountain Daredevils 1974

We had been on the road over two weeks on our trip around the northwest United States and now my sister and I began our last day of the journey.  The day that would take us back to Missouri.  We had spent a few days at Linda and John's in Fort Collins.  Now we had driven south to Denver to Interstate 70 then turned towards the east and into Kansas.

Western Kansas is as desolate as a desert only with grass, farms and an occasional tree.  It is flat allowing you to see the weather at least fifty miles ahead.  There would not be any thunder storms sneaking up on us.  The road does not rise or fall or curve.  You point the car towards Kansas City and let it go.  You can make pretty good time out there on the prarie as long as your sister remains asleep in the seat next to you.  Whenever she would awake from her nap we would lose a little time but she was not awake for a lot of the trip across the flat lands.

Elaine had decided that she was no longer interested in adventure but I still had a taste for it.  Trouble is that out in western Kansas there isn't a lot of adventure to be found and so I drove along while Elaine snoozed on and off during the morning hours.

It was during one of her awake times that I saw the first sign.  "COME SEE THE TWO HEADED CALF" it begged us and carried a cute little painting of a small calf with an extra head sprouting from its neck.  I immediately took the bait and told Elaine that we needed one more adventure and this just might be the way to end the trip.  She did not agree.  According to her we were not going to stop and go out of our way and slow down the arrival in Missouri to see a freak of nature that may or may not actually be there.  They might just have photo's of the thing instead of the actual thing but I figured that they at least had a stuffed version of the two headed calf.  No matter we were not going to stop to see it.  We were going to get home.

As I drove along the signs became more frequent the closer we got to the exit for the two headed calf.  Each time we came upon a sign I would carry out my duty by waking her up to tell her how many miles we had left to make a decision on the two headed calf adventure.  Each time she would give me a look that seemed to ask the question "Are you insane?" which I probably could honestly answer to a certain degree in the positive but it was her way of say that we would not be stopping.  Still I continued to wake her each time a new sign came up.

We finally came to the last sign. "COME SEE THE TWO HEADED CALF-THIS EXIT!!!" and there was that cute little painting again.  I woke Elaine for the last time saying it was time to make a decision.  According to her the decision was made earlier that morning.  We would not b stopping to see a two headed calf.    She seemed rather agitated and pretty stern about her decision so I decided not to push it and to start looking for another adventure that we might take out in the middle of Kansas.

The new adventure eventually presented itself in the form of a Stuckeys sign.  I had taken many trips with my parents and on my own or with Barb and had seen Stuckey signs every where we went but I had never actually stopped at a Stuckeys.  I looked over and found my sister to be asleep once again.  I began to debate in my mind whether a trip to a Stuckeys would count as an adventure or not.  On the one side it was a place to eat.  Not exactly an adventurous type destination.  On the other hand it was a destination that I had been deprived of for years upon years.

What was this Stuckeys like?  I wondered about that and then I started calculating time by how far we were from the Stuckeys and came to the conclusion that we would be hitting it just about at lunch time.  I decided to give it some more thought and proceeded down the highway.  While I was thinking about the Suckeys dilemma I would keep my eye out for other possible adventures that may present themselves to us.

I came to find out that adventures in western Kansas along the I-70 corridor were few and far between.  After we had left the signs for the two headed calf behind us it seemed the only sign I could find were those Stuckey signs and we were getting close to it.  A decision would have to be made before too long.  I glanced over at Elaine and finding her napping once again decided to think about the situation on my own for awhile longer.  No sense in involving her in a decision excersize when we still had a ways to go until the decision would absolutely have to be made.

Before I realized it The last Stuckey sign showed demanded exit at the next ramp.  I could see the ramp miles ahead and started arguing with myself one last time.  I finally made up my mind that Stuckeys indeed did qualify as an adventure as we were starting to pass the exit ramp.  I turned the wheel hard to the right throwing Elaine into the car Window and out of her sleep as we raced up the ramp that would be our door to adventure.  Elaine was not amused at having be woken up so suddenly.  Believing that my decision on Stuckeys being an adventure that we should take would calm her down and she would see the logic in my thinking I began to explain all the arguments I had been having with myself leading up to the final decision.

She was not amused.  She did not agree with me.  You might even say she was a little angry or at least a little perturbed about the manner inwhich I had awoken her from her nap time.  That being said, while she could have protested the adventure and stayed in the car, she decided not to and followed me into my very first Stuckeys.

Stuckeys, it turns out, was not much when it came to being an adventure.  The closest way it was to being an adventure was that it was putting me in a place that had been off limits to me my whole life until that very day.  The Stuckeys was a cheap fast food place.  That is the best way that I can describe it.  Hamburgers and hot dogs, maybe some eggs and bacon.  Basically it was set up as a place for the truckers to take a break and get some cheap food.  That was half the store.  The other half of the store was filled as a souvenir shop mixed with a Quick Trip.  They were set up to sell cheap gifts to weary travelers with small children.  These parents would be needing a rest from the long straight stretch of highway.  You do tend to get tired driving in a flat straight line so I could understand parents needing to get out of the car and stretch for a bit.  As for myself, I have to admit the trip to Stuckeys was a bust as far as an adventure is concerned.  It wasn't without its value though.  I found out what the elusive Stuckeys was about and now that a trip to Stuckeys is out of my system, I won't be tempted to stop in the future if the opportunity ever presented itself to me again.

As for Elaine and myself, the rest of the trip would be pretty much uneventful.  We would arrive in Kansas City and stop by mom and dad's.  Then would drive out to the ball park where Brett was playing a game and check in with him and Barb.  Following that we would drive up to the airport to turn in our rental car before heading back to mom and dads so Elaine could rest before she headed home in a day or so.

The trip had been great.  It had been full of adventures including some that we weren't expecting to find.  We started with the adventure to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota and ended with the adventure to a Stuckeys somewhere in the middle of Kansas.  It was a beginning to remember and certainly an ending that I am sure Elaine will never forget.  I know I won't forget the last adventure.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ICE ROAD TRUCKER

Okay I'll admit it up front.  I love to watch "Ice Road Truckers" but I have never driven a truck like that much less on ice.  I do admire what those truckers do up in Canada and Alaska as they deliver goods in the dead of winter to people who depend upon them.  I can appreciate how difficult it must be driving a big rig on ice because of my foibles trying to maneuver a car on icy roads.

Here in Missouri we get ice covered roads every winter.  Not a constant road of ice because the Department of Transportation cleans them off within a day or so of them getting icy.  At least twice a year though you will face driving on icy conditions and every once in a while that icy condition will be solid ice.  A lot of times it is such solid ice that you can't tell the ice is there.  It is frozen solid and clear and the road doesn't look slick at all until you hit the ice patch then it looks very slick.  We call that condition black ice.  I am not sure why it is called that because it is really clear ice but anyway that is how it is in Missouri and the rest of the midwest.

As an example of how slick it can get I thought I would give a few examples of driving on ice.  The first example did not involve me at all and I didn't here about it until after the fact so I may get a couple of things wrong in the telling.  My sister use to own a blue Volkswagen Beetle that took her everywhere around the city.  It was in the winter and it was cold.  It had been snowing for a few days and we had a good time sledding down the hill that our house sat on.  The street crews had been through though and the snow was all but gone and so our sledding had come to an end.

Bobby, the kid across the street, decided he had not had enough sledding to satisfy him and so one night after dark he trudged outside.  He got the garden hose out of his garage and proceeded to hook up the line to the faucet before stretching the hose out to the street.  He walked back and turned the water on and proceeded to water down the street like he was watering a garden in the middle of summer.  It wasn't cold enough for the water to freeze on contact but as the street got wet, the surface water did begin to turn into a thin layer of ice.  I can imagine Bobby thinking that tomorrow the sledding would be good.

As he was standing out in his front yard spraying a long arc of water over the street my sister came home.  Now I am not sure what her initial reaction was.  I am sure she saw Bobby standing out there spraying water on the street and then at some time she would be required to bring her car to a stop.  I think she was parking her car in the street so stopping shouldn't have been too difficult.  All she would have to do would be to drive into the front yard and let the snow slow her progression down a bit.  I did here the aftermath though.  She got out of her car and lectured Bobby like a school teacher which turned out to be good practice for her since she would become a school teacher as a career.  She complained about Bobby for what seemed like weeks after that and I don't think she let go of it until spring arrived.  In truth she had every right to lecture the kid the way she did but then again, she was past sledding age.  She was already too old to appreciate a good sheet of ice on the street for sledding purposes.  I think that happens when you start driving your own car and the insurance payments are coming out of your own pocket.

When I was a teenager, I found myself over at Ronnie's house one evening when it began to ice outside.  It came time for me to go home and as I stepped out on the sidewalk my feet came out from under me.  Ronnie's dad decided he would drive me home to keep me safe from sliding cars while I was walking.  It was only a five block drive and he figured he could make it without much trouble.  Ronnie and myself got in the car as his dad began the slow trip over to my house.  He was doing pretty good until he stopped on that hill that my parents lived on to let me out.  As he tried to start up the hill it became obvious the ice was not going to allow that to happen.  He started trying to back down the road and into a driveway to turn around and head home but it was to slick to turn the car and back it into a driveway.  The best solution was that Ronnie and I stood at opposite corners of the car and as Ronnie's dad accelerated at a slow rate, we pushed in opoosite directions turning the car as if it were on a turntable.  Soon we had the car facing down the hill and Ronnie jumped in and they went home.  I swear it took me another ten minutes to walk up that street to my parents house where it was safe and warm.

There came a time when my Aunt Sue had married and moved to Alabama with her new husband.  Grandma and grandpa had driven down south a few times but they were getting older now and if one of their children or grandchildren were heading south they would hitch a ride.  If they failed to find someone to drive them to Alabama they would take a bus to my Aunts house to visit her and her five kids.  When the bus option came into play it was my job to get them to the bus station and make sure they were on their way.

On this particular day they had their bus tickets ready and were set to take the trip.  It had been raining the day before and as the temperatures dropped the rain slowly turned into freezing rain.  This is where black ice is at its most dangerous.  The o moisture is falling as rain and then freezing as it hits ice that had fallen earlier.  It was slick that morning but not overly so.  In my mind as I headed over to their house I felt fairly comfortable driving on the roads.  I got to their house and after loading their luggage in the car I helped them walk out on the slippery sidewalk and into the car.  On the way over to the bus station I began to feel a little too at ease driving on the roads.  That became clear as we started down a curving hill on our final approach to the bus station.  The car slid out from under me and I started working my hands as fast as I could.  The car was in free slide and no matter what I did with the steering wheel it had no effect on the movement of the car at all.  We spun completely around as we slid down the hill and came to rest only when my car hit the curbing on the other side of the road.  After the car had stopped all three of us sat very quietly pondering what had just happened.  Grandma was the first to break the silence.  "Well, that was exciting," she said in a very flat tone.  Me and grandpa smiled at each other and I continued getting them to the bus station without any further incidents.

The last example takes place in early spring.  We were heading to Alabama to visit my sister and the day started out dark but fairly nice.  As we passed Columbia we started getting some rain.  This was of concern because when we had left Kansas City earlier that day it was cold with temperatures hovering right around the freezing mark.  It turns out that it was just a little colder in St. Louis that it was in Kansas City that day and so as we neared St. Louis the rain began to turn to ice.  Soon I found myself struggling to keep the car on the road and it was becoming very apparent that it was getting dangerous.  We saw a McDonalds up ahead and decided to pull in and wait out the storm until it warmed up a little as the day dawned.  We weren't the only ones that had the idea that if you are going to be stuck somewhere, McDonald's is a very fine choice.

I noticed in the parking lot that not only car drivers did not want to take a chance on the ice, but some big rigs apparently had decided not to take the chance as well.  Ice Road truckers would not show up on television for another twenty five years or so but it was apparent looking back on the situation that Missouri truckers probably would not fare too well in the wilds of Alaska and Canada during the dead of winter.