Thursday, May 23, 2013


In the course of making your way through life there are certain rules that should be followed to make it through with those who are around you.  There are certainly more than just three things, but the three that I have pulled out seem to be the most productive in life and relationships.  Unfortunately they also seem the most difficult to achieve.

1.  RESPECT OTHERS IN ORDER TO GET RESPECTED:  There is nothing harder to do than to respect than to show respect to someone that shows no respect for anything or anybody.  Most of us consider ourselves to be pretty good people.  We know ourselves and our thinking better than anyone else and we understand why we think or do the things that we do.  We are a lot more forgiving looking to the inside of ourselves than looking to the outside of others.  Respect from others is something that needs to be learned by them, so it is up to each of us to do what is best to earn that respect.  The thought process that has settled in my mind as I enter my time of getting old is that the best way to get the respect that each of us know without question that we deserve, is to show respect for others.

Treating people with respect is not dependent upon seniority.  It shouldn't matter how old another individual is to show them respect.  Of course, it is a lot easier to show respect to people that are older than you and of the generation before you because they have already been through what you are trying to navigate your own self through and they made it.  Respect goes both ways though.  As I was growing up and entered my teens becoming a not too important leader in the church youth group, I found it extremely useful to talk to and listen to those kids that were younger than me.  For one thing, it won't be long until the age gap between you doesn't seem that big and you will find yourself more or less on the same level.  I remember what it was like to be a young teen and be ignored by the older ones who didn't have time for my age group.  You want to look up to them, you are searching for a role model to help form your personality, and all you feel is irritation at them as well as from them.  I didn't look up to the kids my sisters age and up.

The solution for this, I found, was to treat younger kids as though they are the same age and maturity.  This doesn't always work out because a lot of times their immaturity gets them in trouble, but for the most part they instinctively come to like you.  You listen to them and find out that they have some pretty good ideas.  They might even be more willing to help you with a job or chore if they respect you and they will definite be more likely to listen to you if they have a problem and come to you for advice.  As a matter of fact, they will be more likely to come to you for advice if they respect you.

Little kids are the most important to respect.  Yes they can be brats at times and yes they can be difficult to handle.  If you treat these kids the way you would want to be treated though, they will respect you.  They will be far more likely to follow the rules under you than someone who doesn't talk to them like a normal person, or listen to them as you would a normal person, or let them know that to you, they are all right.  I have a found that when I have dealt with nieces and nephews as well as their children, they will approach you and trust you much easier than if you looked down on them and didn't show them the respect they needed while growing up into adults.

Respect others and the respect that you will get back most of the times will be very rewarding.  The one important part of respecting others, is that it has to be a genuine respect.  That is where it gets difficult.

2.  IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE, MAKE IT RIGHT:  We all make mistakes  Mistakes can come in several different parts of life.  It could be making a mistake trying to help somebody with a project that ruins what was trying to be accomplished or it could be a mistake by just saying the wrong thing to someone that ends up getting hurt by your mistake.  Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can cost you friends and family.

There is nothing worse than being hurt by something that was said and no recognition of the fact that it might have been an improper thing to say.  The hurt sits in your belly, festering, slowly turning to irritation, then to anger, until it is an outright grudge that will not be easily fixed for a long time.  I say things at times that I so wish I hadn't said to people.  Once it is out though, there is no taking it back.  The only way to handle a situation where you have messed up by saying or doing something to somebody is to apologize for the act as soon as possible.  Sometimes you know you messed up the second it happens.  Cut it off with an apology.  Don't let the hurt grow.  It has to be a sincere apology though.  A lot of people can go through the actions of an apology, but if it isn't sincere, the party that is being apologized to can see right through it.  Of course it goes the other way as well.  If someone has hurt you and they sincerely apologize, accept it and move on.  What's done is done, they know it was a mistake and they have done everything they can to right it.

On the other hand, if someone hurts you and doesn't apologize go ahead and let it go as if they had.  I am REALLY bad about this.  I can hold a grudge for years, but it doesn't do any good.  If anything holding a grudge just makes things worse the longer it goes on.  Like I said though, I am a prime example of a grudge holder.  Most of the time holding a grudge is a larger mistake then the event that occurred to bring the grudge about. 

Whatever the mistake is, it is extremely important to do your best to correct it no matter which side of the mistake you are on.

3.  DON'T COMPROMISE YOUR PHILOSOPHY:  Each of us are raised with a set of morals and beliefs by our parents.  Most often this philosophy that you start your life out with mirror those of your parents.  Sometimes the set of beliefs that you are raised with are not a very good set.  Sometimes they are a very good set of beliefs.  When you are young and do not even know that the word philosophy exists, these are the beliefs you live by.  As you grow older though, you begin to hear about other beliefs systems and philosophies.  This is where it gets tricky.  To live life the way you feel life should be lived, you need to live your life by your own philosophy.  The important thing is to remain open minded when you hear of other ideas on how to live and to really listen to what these other ideas are while still holding on to the set of beliefs that you grew up with because those first belief systems are the only ones that you know do work to a degree for you. 

However, you may hear a new philosophy, a new religious or spiritual view, a new political view that goes against most of what you had been living with in your whole life until this point.  To be true to yourself does not necessarily mean that you hold onto what your parents gave you, but to listen and if a different idea makes more sense to you than how you were raised, to give it serious thought and if it becomes clear to you that it is a better way for you to live your life by, then take the new idea and implement it into your personal philosophy.  It then becomes a part of you and you are a little more true to yourself then you were before when you were being true to your parents philosophy.

We all have an individual brain.  We all see things differently.  The exact same rules for life are not exactly the same for everybody.  It is part of growing up and maturing to find your way of thinking and believing, a system that works for you as an individual and then you come to have a set of rules that you can be true to yourself with.

It is okay to change your thinking but don't compromise your beliefs to fit in to society, or make someone else see you in a way that they can accept you easier.  The only time you change your thinking is after hearing a different option, weighing it seriously against what you already believe and then if you feel one way is better then the other, then change your thinking for yourself, and hold onto it.  Do not change your philosophy or compromise it because it is popular, or easier, or allows you access to places or things that your own thinking would not give you access to.

There are an infinite number of lessons to be learned as we travel through life and each of them must be learned by each individual in your own time and at your own pace.  Everyone will come away from all these lessons with a different set of beliefs that they lead each of us to.  I just pulled out three lessons in life that I have been interested in as of late.  The world is constantly changing in the way people think and the way people live and so we are always learning some of these lessons over and over again.  Sometimes it is easy to hear something that sounds very good when in fact, it doesn't fit into your belief system at all.

Three lessons out of an infinite number of lessons that we are constantly learning.  We must be aware and careful when the lessons take us in a different direction than we are comfortable with.   Be true to yourself and your own beliefs as you go through life and perhaps maybe, just maybe, you might find some peace and ease of mind as you go through life.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Every spring they come out of the clouds.  We never know where they are going to land.  Most of these terrors of the sky strike rural areas, but it seems like more often over the last four or five years they have been finding suburbia and cities to land in and they show no mercy.

Two years ago two towns that are pretty close to my heart were struck within weeks of each other.  Tuscaloosa, Alabama where I have spent a great deal of time visiting with family was struck hard.  A few days after that Joplin, Missouri which rests in southern Missouri right down the highway from Kansas City was devastated by one of these monsters.

As I have written a few times before, these tornadoes chill me right down to the bone.  I was raised in a tornado stricken suburban area and my whole life growing up was to spend the spring time preparing for another strike.  Many hours were spent in the basement during the spring time as tornado warnings and watches were released from the National Weather Service.  As a kid, just the mention of the word "tornado" would send me searching for cover.

Growing up in tornado alley gives you a special education.  You can feel it in the air if a tornado may be making a visit soon.  The heavy humidity, the winds churning up varying in speed from minute to minute.  The slightly green hue of the sky as you watch the clouds move quickly across the sky is eerie in and of itself.  Heavy rains come. blowing almost horizontal followed by hail that sounds like the little ice particles that range anywhere from pea size to baseball size  are trying to break into your house through the roof.  The sudden stop of the rain as all goes calm followed by a sudden cooling of the temperatures outside mixing with that fresh smell of rain just having passed.  The rain returning more softly this time as it seems to signal that the danger has passed.  In reality though, you never know if the danger has truly passed.  It could churn itself back up into a frenzy at any second.

The thing about about tornadoes is that if you haven't experienced one, the gut reaction is like any other kind of tragedy.  It happens everywhere else, but it won't happen here.  Then once it does happen "here" you carry with you the thought that it can happen here, and probably will.  There are few places that have been hit by multiple disasters in varying years though.  They will come close to the same area maybe, but actually hit the same place twice?  It doesn't seem to be the case in the history of a tornado.  Unless you live in Moore, Oklahoma.

Moore, Oklahoma is a small town of about 56,000 people.  They were hit by one of the largest tornadoes I have ever heard described.  It tore through the tiny town leaving a path two miles wide and seventeen miles long yesterday, May 20.  It hit at three in the afternoon, while all the schools were still filled with children.  It ripped through one of those schools and heart sickened parents began the task of trying to locate their children, hopefully finding them alive.

Like in Joplin, the hospital in Moore was ripped apart, leaving the residents to set up triage areas where ever they could find that would do the most good.  Today, they are still searching for the missing, and locating the dead.  They have not made an estimate yet as to how many lost their lives on Monday or how many just were injured.  The one sure thing though is that approximately 56,000 lives were affected with in a ten minute period of time.  It is heart wrenching to watch the footage being broadcast from Moore.

It could never happen here.  The thing is it did happen in Moore, Oklahoma.  It happened for the third time in a little over twenty years.  This small innocent town was hit in 1999 with the tragedy that comes with a large tornado.  After spending four years rebuilding the town, the people of Moore were hit by another tornado in 2003.  Then on Monday the mother of all tornadoes hit the tiny town for a third time and still, the forecast says there possibly could be more storms in the region around Moore.

It could never happen here.  Anything can happen anywhere.  I imagine the people of Newtown, Connecticut didn't think they would have to deal with a school shooting.  The people of Austin, Texas walked by and looked up at that tower on the campus of the University not giving a second thought to the idea that a sniper could possibly climb to the top and start picking off innocent citizens one by one.  Even though the idea that these kind of horrific events would never happen "here", when they do happen, you have someone to point the finger at and try to figure out why?

There is no "why" to be answered by the onslaught of nature though.  There is no "why" to be answered by the fact that the town of Moore, Oklahoma will be rebuilding yet again.  There is no "why" when a flood, hurricane, blizzard or a tornado hits and hurts innocent people who just happen to live there.  It happens, you take a deep breath and start to continue with life and that isn't easy.

Every year here in the Kansas City area of eastern Kansas and western Missouri we have at least a dozen tornadoes every year.  There is a lot of farmland out here, a lot of vacant spaces for tornadoes to land and not do too much damage.  It is something you get use to, almost complacent about when you live in tornado alley.  The farm land and rural areas are slowly shrinking though as the cities and their suburbs continue to grow and spread out.   The odds of a tornado hitting a town or city must be increasing every year, or so it would seem. 

When fellow citizens who seem so close to you, like in Joplin, Tuscaloosa or Moore, Oklahoma feel the wrath of these winds of destruction, it feels like they are zeroing in on areas that isn't farmland or rural.  It almost makes you convince yourself that, It won't happen here."  Then you take the case of that little town of Moore.  Three times hit in just a little over twenty years.  It has been 56 years since that huge monster tornado ripped through my neighborhood.  Thinking of Moore makes you wonder, "Maybe we are due for another one?"  Scary thought and one that I sincerely hope won't become reality.

Monday, May 20, 2013


During lunch today I was browsing the news on the internet.  It shouldn't be a huge surprise to anyone that one of my sources for news, along with CNN and FOX is the infamous DRUDGE REPORT.  Matt Drudge could be called a conservative I suppose.  His sight goes out and grabs stories from sources around the world that the mainstream media in the United States largely ignores.

Over the past few weeks, looking at any of the three sites that I browse through has been distressing at best.  Stories of our President possibly abusing the power of his office by stealing phone calls and other notes from the Associated Press makes my skin crawl.  The administration allegedly used the IRS to shut down conservative political groups over the last few years.  And the worst of all is the terrorist attack and murder of our consulate in Lybia.  It is stomach turning stuff.

They are now comparing the Obama administration to that of President Nixon, who resigned the office out of concern for the country.  This is something a Democrat would never do from what I have seen.  You want to see bi-partisan ship and partisanship in action?  When it became clear that President Nixon would face Impeachment, a group of congressmen, led by the powerful Senator Barry Goldwater, went to the White House to tell Nixon it was over,  He would have to resign.  Nixon resigned before being impeached and saved the country a lot of turmoil.  Fast forward to President Clinton.  Clinton lied over and over to the American people.  Clinton committed perjury to a Federal Grand Jury which is a felony.  He stuck it out though and with the Democrats being more partisan than anyone could imagine, walked away without a scratch.  After he was voted innocent by the democratic controlled Senate, He and his proud Democratic congress walked out on the White House lawn to gloat about it.  There is no reason to believe that whatever laws President Obama may have broken or how he may have run afoul of the constitution, that he will leave office in a classy way.  No, he will also take the Clinton way and use partisanship to get himself out of a scandal ridden horrific second term.

However I am not here to gripe about American politics and how the Republicans and Democrats see things differently.  What I saw today on Drudge was much more disturbing than anything Obama could do to wreck the country.

On the southern end of the West Bank near some Israeli settlements this morning there appeared a scary sight.  Near an Islamic Mosque an oversized NAZI flag was seen flying in the wind.  Many Israelis drive along the road to work along with Palestinians who share the area with them.  If ever there was a symbol of how the Israelis are thought of in the middle east, this was it.  That flag is the symbol that screams anti-Semitic philosophy.  The history that follows that flag and the swastika is appalling and horrific.  It stand for mass genocide of a people as well as other groups, such as Gypsies and. homosexual hatred.  It stands for the desecration and elimination philosophy of one of histories most evil of men, that of Adolph Hitler.  It is a direct threat upon the Israelis trying to make a home.

How can anyone see that flag and not at least try to understand why the Israeli Prime Minister talks about preventive action to protect themselves.  This country which was created by a mandate from the United Nations in 1948 is trying to live peacefully, yet missiles rain down on them at any given moment.  Yes, the Israelis do fire missiles as well and sometimes they do it unprovoked.  Usually when it is unprovoked though it is in defensive thinking, in protective mode.  The same thing can be said for the Palestinian people.  This is a most fragile situation and one that has had glimmers of hope for peace every now and then before that glimmer fades off into another round of missiles being lobbed.

The thing that really bothered me though was the lack of coverage of this event by the main stream media in the United States.  Everywhere else in the world is reporting on it, realizing the significance that the NAZI flag has on the Israeli people.  It has nothing to do with Arab culture.  It is simply a grave threat to the Israelis who live along the West Bank.  It should not be tolerated by the world community.

In the United States, the NAZI flag is displayed very little, but all too often.  It is part of our freedom as Americans to display that flag if we want.  It is also our right in this country to counter protest the NAZI flag and that we do.  The members of groups that consider themselves NAZI are far outnumbered by those who are sickened by it.  This flag is a symbol of pure hatred and has no business being flown among a people who were murdered by the millions by those that swore to it.

Somethings are deemed by society as just being unacceptable.  The Confederate "Stars and Bars" is deemed by a lot of the United States as unacceptable.  A lot of our country sees it as a symbol of a past that included slavery and a racist ideal.  Personally, I see it as a part of the culture of part of the country, mainly the south.  I am not offended by it but to those whose families go back to the slave days and the civil rights movement of the 50's and 60's it is seen as a symbol us against them.  Truth be told, during the civil rights movement, a lot of segregationists did use the Confederate flag as a symbol for just that.  A symbol used to threaten those who were looking for equal rights as citizens of this great land.

Today, if a NAZI rally is held in a town or a clash over the Confederate flag occurs, you can be sure that the media will be there covering it.  Why no cover the flying of a NAZI flag over Israel?

Of all the hate crimes I can imagine, this one has to be one of the worst.

Friday, May 3, 2013


It was March 23, 1976 and the Attorney General of the State of Missouri was addressing the Supreme Court of the United States.  It had been a short three years since the Supreme Court had handed down it's ruling in the famous Roe v. Wade case making it unconstitutional for a state to prohibit the right of a woman to seek and have an abortion.  During that three years, the State of Missouri had written a law to comply with the decision from the Court.  The Missouri law, however, was filled with provisions that had to be met before an abortion could be performed.  Most of these provisions dealt not only with a time table for an abortion and how the abortion would be conducted, but with numerous consents from interested parties having say in whether an abortion would be performed or not.  This was the first case that came to the Supreme Court questioning whether it met the constitutionality set out by the Roe V. Wade decision.  This case would set the tone for decades to come as to how laws across the country interpreted the Roe v. Wade decision.

The Missouri Attorney General was an up and coming personality in not only Missouri politics, but national politics as well.  John Danforth was a tall lean man with a soft voice and a slow cadence of speech.  He was always careful with the words he used as to try to get exactly what his meaning was.  He was a communicator.  When Danforth began enforcing the law the pro-choice organizations were ready.  They felt that the Missouri law was too restrictive and was much more stringent than the Supreme Court had intended it to be.  It was under this belief that Planned Parenthood of Missouri sued the State of Missouri and started a long three year march to present the law before the Supreme Court.

It was while I was reviewing the case this week that I came across one of, what I consider, Danforth's greatest talks on his philosophy on what a constitutes a family.  Danforth was a minister in his non-political life and Roe v. Wade did not sit well with him.  He did, however, have a strong belief in his country and the Constitution and he respected the role of the Supreme Court and what their role in government was.  With this love of our Constitution and our government, Danforth went about the task of getting a law that would accommodate the Supreme Court's decision and to implement it and defend it for the State of Missouri.  So he made the trip to Washington, D.C. and now here he was addressing nine of the most powerful people in the country to try to convince them that the Missouri law met all the requirements.

This entry isn't about Roe v. Wade though.  It isn't about Planned Parenthood or the Missouri General Assembly.  It isn't about what my feelings are about abortion, nor is it what your feelings may be about the subject.  It isn't even about the law really.  No, I am writing this because as I was studying this case I came across a few paragraphs in Danforth's presentation to the Supreme Court that made me stop and think.  As I read these words it occurred to me how time has gone by and how the thoughts of a society shift and change as that time is slipping by.  Gay Marriage was not a national issue yet.  The AIDS epidemic had not become a national concern.  School shootings were something that didn't happen, and if they did, it was a shocking rarity, as in the Texas Tower shootings. 

Looking back on the society of 1976 compared to today. I can see how people were responsible, well more so than they are today.  Communities tended to be tight and close.  People knew their neighbors and the notion of a hate crime had yet to be defined.  I think of it like comparing the 70's to the 50's the same as comparing today to the 70's.  The 70's however had society on the edge of a social revolution that we weren't aware was happening under our noses.

So, what did Danforth say that on that March morning in 1976 that captured my imagination?  He spoke of family.  He spoke of responsibility.  He spoke of how an action by a single person can effect so many people because they care and love that person. This was what Danforth said in his remarks to the Supreme Court that made me stop and look back on where we have been and where we are.

"First with respect to spousal consent; the legislature of our State has in effect said through the statute that inherent in marriage is that certain decisions are made jointly by husband and wife or they are not made at all, that this is the very definition of what marriage is all about.

The legislature has done this elsewhere, not only in the State of Missouri, but in other States as well. For example; if a woman has given birth to a child and then decides that she wants to place the child for adoption, if the woman is not married, she alone can make that decision. If the woman is married, her husband must join in that decision to place the child for adoption.

The right to consent is not in the punitive father in the State of Missouri.The right to consent to an adoption is in the husband, because this is fundamental decision relating to what the family is all about.

I believe that the legislature could so provide that has not in this case, I think that the issue becomes elevated to a much different plain when the birth of a -- of a coming child is involved and I would also say that whereas Mr. Susman said that if the husband is not the father of the child, he has no legal obligations.

I think that is just wrong.

I think that is a misstatement of law.

If the husband approves of the wife having the baby, he assumes responsibility for that baby. In fact, there is no stronger presumption in the law than that a husband is in fact the father of any child born of that marriage."  - JOHN DANFORTH Attorney General of Missouri 03-23-76.

As I read those words and listened to Danforth speak them, it was evident that what he was saying came from his heart.  Family is important.  Families are effected by decisions and decisions that effect the family should be made by the family.

I feel that to get the impact of what Danforth was saying, you have to set aside your beliefs on abortion, the right to choose, the idea of being free from a child having to get consent for procedures.  All that political baggage has to be set aside for just five minutes as you read these powerful words from Danforth.  Responsibility.  Family.  Fathers and mothers and children.

John Danforth was my U.S. Senator for many years.  I have heard him talk many times about many subjects.  I always knew where he stood on issues.  He was a good Senator.  One that I was proud to have represent me.

As I said, I am not writing this as a political issue, pro-life or pro-choice.  I am not writing this trying to say that children do need or do not need parental consent.  These words that Danforth spoke that day are given to you here completely out of context but even though they are taken out of context, they can stand on their own within their own context.  That is how I choose to read these words.

I hope that the reader can set aside politics and personal ideals and read the words as they are.  Coming from a man who loves his country, his people, and his family.

Thank you Senator.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


As I have written before, I have been blessed to have a great group of uncles on both my maternal and paternal sides of my family.  They all have a lot in common.  They are all intelligent and helpful and pretty much would help you out of a bind if you found yourself in one.  At the same time, I can not put them in groups as each one of them is totally different from all the others.  This especially goes to the uncle we called Buster.

Lyndon Laclede Hill was the second son and third child of my maternal grandparents.  He was the kid that all families seem to have, the one that seemed to be in trouble all the time.  Most of the part of his life that shaped him into the uncle I  came to know as I grew older is not very clear to me.  I have spent the last twenty five or so years learning little tidbits of the life of Buster.  What follows is what I think of how Buster became who he was from stories and myths of this stubborn man.

He actually had two nicknames.  He didn't want to be called Lyndon or Laclede so he was called given the nickname Buster which fit his personality quite well.  Buster was later shortened to just Bus, making a nickname for a nickname.

From what I understand, Buster was the protector of his sister and younger brothers.  The eldest son, Melvin, who I wrote about sometime ago, was more than able to take care of himself.  Between Melvin and Buster, the two of them could take on just about anyone in the schoolyard or neighborhood with tempers and fists.  While Melvin was fast with his hands and his fists were fast as lightening, Busters temper was what drove his fists to power.  Buster's temper also was the reason he got into so much trouble through his life.  While tempers did seem to run in the family, the tempers were controlled for the most part.  My grandfather could control his temper and he passed this down to all of his sons, except Buster.  Let me correct that.  Buster did learn to control his temper very well but the ability to do so came much later in life for Buster than it did for his brothers.

It has long been debated who was the most intelligent of the four brothers.  That is a tough question to answer.  Each of them had their specialties and could think things through.  Melvin was for the most part calm and a thinker who kept a lot of his thinking to himself before revealing what his thoughts were.  Jack, the third eldest brother, was very bright but from the stories I have heard, followed the lead of his brothers a little too much instead of trekking out on his own, setting himself up for situations that would bring him trouble.  Dan, was the quick one as well as the smallest of the brothers.  He was witty and sharp and could think very fast.  Trouble with Dan was that he often let his thoughts come pouring out before thinking them all the way through.  Once those thoughts came out, he stood by them and he never backed down.  Dan had a hot temper, but wasn't much of a fighter really, at least not compared to his three older brothers.  Dan was the one that always came home with the good grades and never seem to get in trouble much.  He was a master at shifting situations that would be a cause for punishment from my grandfather over to his brothers, whether they were guilty or not. 

Then there was Buster.  Buster was a fighter.  A born fighter.  He had all the tools.  Hot temper that was tough to control, strong and stocky, not afraid to say what he thought of people and not afraid to defend what he said.  If anyone said or did anything to his brothers or sister, they had might as well done it or said it to Buster and he took it personally.  I have no idea how many black eyes wandered back to their homes because of a run in with Buster.  I have a feeling there were a lot.

As Buster grew into a young adult, his temper began to get him into trouble with more than just my grandfather.  He spent time at police stations a lot.  He got into bar fights and could do some serious damage to any one unfortunate enough to have a run in with him.  Eventually, the temper of Buster did catch up to him and he found himself in a serious battle with some police officers.  I have no idea what the details were but Buster ended up in the State Penitentiary for a few years.  Again, I do not how long he was in Jefferson City as a guest of the state but it was for at least a few years.

It is my personal belief that Buster rehabilitated himself while he was in prison.  That is the only explanation that can explain the difference between a kid in Jefferson City to the uncle that I came to know.  While he was in prison he did what those in similar situations used to do.  He got a lot of tattoos.  Now tattoos back then weren't the same as they are in modern day.  Tattoos were not your everyday thing that you would see on several different people walking down the street.  Tattoos back then sent a message to those who saw them.  Do not mess with anyone who had a tattoo, especially as many as Buster had.  I never really looked at his tattoos so I can't describe what they were to you, but he had them on both arms that I remember.  They were faded but still served their purpose of sending that message.  One week, the former boxing champion Sonny Liston came to the prison as a treat for the prisoners.  Liston would take on anybody.  All you needed were the guts to get in the ring with him.  Buster had the guts.  My uncle somehow went three rounds with Liston.  Later while telling the story of how he had fought Liston, Buster would eventually admit that yes, he had been in the ring for three rounds, had somehow managed to stay on his feet for those three rounds but the only thing he could remember of that fight was the first contact that Liston's glove made to Buster's face.

Buster eventually got released from prison, having paid his due to society.  He was married, but again, I am not sure exactly how the marriages went.  I know of three wives he had.  Donna, Jane, and Jane's sister.  Between these three women, he was married several times, most of them to Jane.  They would break up and divorce, get married again, etc etc.  I have no idea what the count is.  One thing Buster did have though was good taste in women.  All three of them were lovely and very intelligent and nice. While I don't really know Jane's sister that well, Jane and Donna made a distinct impression on my life.  They were a couple of very good ladies.  My uncle had good taste.

The Buster I came to know as I was growing up and on into my adult years was one of the best men I have ever known.  He never turned down helping someone in need.  Indeed he would literally give the shirt off his back to someone who was cold.  All it took was to ask and Buster would be there to help with whatever needed to be done.  He was still the protector of the family, but in a much calmer way then when he was in his youth.  I remember that I wrecked my dad's car the first day I had my license and the people that were my victims were very mean, ugly and oppressive to me.  I had no idea what to do so I called dad.  Within five minutes dad came driving up and in the seat next to him was my uncle Buster.  As buster got out of the car, the people were still being pretty ugly until Buster walked up, held his big hands up and started to calmly talk to them.  There was something about Buster, maybe the tattoos along with the many times broken nose, that made people kind of settle down and that is what happened that night.  Things got settled down and numbers and insurance cards were exchanged and Buster had gotten me out of there.

Buster was a storyteller.  Storytelling is in the genes of the Hill family.  Some are better than others.  Grandpa was a great storyteller and I think it would be a close call for second best between Melvin and Buster.  While Melvin's stories were well told and humorous, the way Melvin tell his stories made them real and believable.  Buster on the other hand, would tell stories about real people and real events but would exaggerate the details so far out of proportion that not only was it funny but it entered the realm of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.  By the time the story ended, you had no idea whether to believe him or not.  For the most part his stories were based on truth.  It was up to you to decide which parts were actually based on truth.  I could sit for hours after a Thanksgiving meal at Grandpa's and listen to some of Buster's stories that he was relaying to his brothers.

The thing that is important to remember about Buster though, was his love of family and mankind.  All of my uncles have this gift.  Buster was no different.  Buster would go out of his way to help someone in need.  He would give them what they needed.  It was Buster who came up with the idea of the Oscar and Verna Hill Christmas fund.  He set it up with a mere hundred dollars and invested it so it would grow.  It was a fund that would give donations to the Salvation Army and the City Union Mission here in Kansas City in honor of his parents.  At first, only his siblings were making donations but soon it spread to the whole of the family.  The fund is still alive and growing in honor of my grandparents.  Buster's vision has grown, I think, beyond what he could imagine for the fund.

The last time I saw Buster was at a family reunion.  He was very sick at the time and didn't have long left in this life.  Still, as sick as he was, he was telling stories and laughing  and making sure everyone was doing okay.  That is how I will remember Buster.  No matter what, still smiling, still joking and telling stories, still trying to take care of the people he loved.

My cousin Pete, did my Uncle's funeral.  The opening words of my cousin's eulogy for Buster summed up how we all knew Buster and how he effected our lives.  As the music stopped and Pete walked up to the small podium, you could hear a pin drop.  Buster was gone.  A huge part of all of our lives was gone.  Then Pete stood still, looked at all of us in the room, and said what all of us had thought at one time or another during the day.

"Well, for once, Buster isn't late to a family get together." and we all laughed.  We laughed loud and long.  Buster would have loved that line and would have had a good comeback for Pete.  We can only imagine what that comeback would have been.  It didn't really matter though.

Buster was gone.