Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Toms' Story

It was an unusually hot day in early June 1970, and I had begun my summer job which was mowing yards. It wasn't really that much of a job, because I only had about 3 yards to take care of, but it was enough to keep me out of trouble. I had a pretty good deal with my dad. He would supply the mower and oil for the engine. I would supply the sweat and gas to run the the machine, and I got to keep the money that I made as long as I kept our yard mowed also. One of the yards that I took care of was our next door neighbor Mrs.Kinzelt's place. Now Mrs.Kinzelt had a big yard, or at least it seemed that way to me, and she was very particular when it came to her grass. There had better not be a single blade of grass standing when you finished, or you didn't get paid. I hated it back then, but I have found that later in life it taught me a very good lesson and that was to be pretty thorough, and to pay attention to details.

Anyway, back to my story. One day while I was mowing her yard, and I was at the back side of the property when I saw a pickup pull up to the curb and stop. Now no kid ever likes to see an adult show up unannounced and without warning, so I began wondering who it was, and what  they could want. I immediately started going through my memory banks, what could I have done that would have gotten an adult out looking for me! Nothing came to my mind, since school was out I thought I had managed to stay out of trouble pretty well, at least to my way of thinking. As I pushed the mower ever closer to that pickup a face slowly began to come into view, and I recognized it was Tom McGee. My mind quickly shifted gears, had I done something mean to Tam or Troy. Once again I came back to the fact that school was out and I hadn't seen them since, and I sure didn't remember picking on them in school, at least recently.

I shut the mower off as I reached the curb where he was parked. A cold sweat came over me as I approached the pickup. Time to find out what I was in trouble for this time. I was put somewhat at ease as a big grin came over his face when I got to the pickup. Tom spoke first, and I will always remember what he said to me. "I've seen you mowing Mrs.Kinzelts' yard for a couple of years now, and you always have it looking nice." "Thank you" I replied thinking hot dog, he's gonna want me to mow his yard for him, but then I immediately thought there's no way, Tam or Troy can mow yards, and if they can't, well it's time they learned. "If you can do that good of a job on her lawn I was wondering if you would like to come and farm for me"?

He must have thought I was deaf or an idiot, my brain couldn't comprehend what I was hearing. I told Tom "I don't know how to drive a tractor." "I'll teach you" he said. "I don't have a way to get out to work and back" "I'll come and get you in the morning, and I'll bring you home every evening" he told me. "and I'll pay you $1.25 an hour." Well that one got my attention, $1.25 an hour for all summer, man I won't ever have to go back to school. I wondered if I would be the first 12 year old to just retire from life! "Yes sir" I told him "when do I start?" "I'll pick you up at sunrise in the morning" he told me.

Well sure enough the next morning as I was sitting on the front step waiting Tom pulled up, I got in and away I went on my new adventure. As we pulled up in the field I saw my new chariot, a John Deere model R that was pulling a 3 bottom sweep with chicken pickers. Yep, I had no idea what all that meant either, but that's what Tom told me it was and I had no reason not to believe him. However, it might as well have been the space shuttle. Up to that point in my life I had never driven anything except a bicycle, and most of y'all know how well that turned out! Now, you folks out there that know anything about tractors know that on a model R there are 2 motors. The first one is a small gasoline starting motor. You have to get this one running first, and then after it is going you pull 2 levers that engage the main diesel engine and get it to rolling over. Then you release one of the levers, which is the decompression lever and the main engine will fire up. I will never forget the feeling in my stomach when that bad boy fired up. Like I said the astronauts on the shuttle couldn't have been more excited than I was at that moment.

Tom showed me how to work the hand clutch, what gear to put it in to plow, where to set the throttle, and then off we went. He showed me how to measure the distance between where the front tire was and how far it needed to be so that the sweeps overlapped just enough to get every weed in the field. He showed me how to use the foot brake to make a turn, and how to leave the corners until you were finished and then you can plow them out. I will always remember the most important rule he told me was, that if you got sleepy, stop and take a quick nap, cause he would rather me take a quick nap than him having to come out there and fix fence after I ran through it because I was asleep. When we got back around to his pickup he told me "lesson over, I'll be back at quitten time and get you." I let him out and I was on my own.

I drove that tractor all that summer right up until time to go back to school, ( by the way, I wasn't able to retire either) and for the next 3 summers also. I am pretty sure that I probably tore things up as most kids will do, but in that entire time he never raised his voice to me for anything that I did or didn't do.  I have met, worked for, and worked with people from all over the world, and there are very very very few people that I admire and respect, but Tom was one of them, he never treated me as a kid, he always treated me as an adult. On August 21, 2014 Tom lost his battle with cancer, and although I had not seen him for many years I still remember, and employee many of the lessons he taught me those many summers ago. I guess this is my way of saying goodbye, I will miss you.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Are ya crazy or what!

  How many of you have ever been coon hunting? Well I was fortunate enough to have been many times when I was younger. I happened to be neighbors with ole Bill Back, and friends with Brandon, one of his sons. So when they went hunting Brandon would ask me to go along with them. Some of the best times, and memories I have as a kid was running up and down the creek banks in the dark, listening, and following the bays of Duke and Luke as they tracked a raccoon. Duke and Luke were Bill's coon dogs. They were blood hounds that Bill had trained to smell, and track the coons. They would chase one many miles if they had to until they would finally run the raccoon up a tree, and then they would stay at the base of that tree and bark and howl so that the coon would stay up in the tree, until we got there.

  Those were the only two coon dogs I have ever been around, but to me ole Duke had to be one of the best ever, that dog lived to hunt, and nothing else. After going hunting with them as many times as I got to you got where you knew the difference between  their barks, and it always seemed that Duke would get on the trail first. There was several times when we would get to where they had the coon up a tree, and Duke would be climbing the tree trying to get the coon. Now, your probably saying, that's ridiculous dogs can't climb trees, but I'm tellin ya that this one could! I remember one night Duke and Luke had a coon up a tree, and when we got there Duke started climbing  the tree, and then he walked out on the branch that the coon was on. Duke approached the coon, and got him around the neck, when he grabbed the coon they both fell out of the tree, and into the creek below. After what seemed like several minutes Duke's head finally broke the surface of the water, and he still had that coon in his mouth. Ole Duke swam to the bank and layed that coon down at Bill's feet. Now I don't know who looked more proud ole Bill, who looked like a proud father who's son had just scored the winning touchdown, or Duke who had just scored the touchdown. Like I said the best coon dog I have ever seen.

  Anyway, one evening Brandon came down to the house and asked if I could go hunting with them that night, and after getting permission we went up to his house, and Bill told us to load the dogs. I don't know how they knew, but those dogs knew we were going hunting. They were jumping around, and barking, I don't think I ever even got that excited Christmas morning! So we loaded Duke and Luke into their boxes, and waited. Finally Bill told us it would be a few minutes before we left because we were waiting on someone else to get there. In a few minutes a car pulled up, and a man that neither Brandon or I recognized got out and came over to where we were. Bill introduced us, but time and age doesn't help me remember his name. However, I do remember he was a new preacher in town. I'm pretty sure he was the new Lutheran, or Baptist preacher.

  Bill had decided that the best spot to find our quarry was along the creek South of town, so off we went on our little adventure. When we got to the place that Bill wanted to start the hunt, we unloaded the dogs and started off. I do remember the preacher telling us his life story as we walked along the creek while Duke and Luke searched for a scent. I know he told us that he grew up in a city, and had never really participated in  a lot of outdoor activities growing up. Brandon and I just looked at each other and smiled. About that time the dogs picked up a trail, Bill took them off their leashes, and off into the darkness they went. We all knew that this city preachers education to the country was about to begin!

  I know dogs can run awfully fast, and after just a few minutes those dogs sounded like they were a couple of miles down that creek already. Typically when the dogs get after a coon the coon will do one of two things. They will either run to the first good tree they find and climb it to get out of trouble, which makes chasing them pretty easy because you don't have far to chase them, or they will try and outrun the dogs, which of course leads to a longer chase. Bill, Brandon, and I knew from the bays and barks of the dogs that this one was gonna be a runner, it might be a long night. Every so often Bill would stop, turn off his flashlight, and listen for the dogs to see if they had changed direction, and to see if we were getting any closer. From the sounds they were still chasing the coon, and moving away from us, so on into the night we went.

  After a couple of hours the preacher started asking questions like how far had we come, and how much longer till we caught up with the dogs. So we knew he was getting tired, Brandon and I knew that if he couldn't go on that one of us was gonna have to stay with him and take him back to the pickup, and then we would miss out on catching the coon, and neither one of us wanted that. It didn't matter how far you had gone, or how much farther you had to go, once the dogs were on the trail you stayed out there until you got the coon, or until it got away. There wasn't no going to the house resting, and then coming back out in the morning. After awhile Bill told the preacher that he could tell that the dogs had the coon in a tree just from the different sound in their bays. I'm not positive but to this day I'm pretty sure I heard the preacher saying a prayer of thanks. So after what seemed like a couple more miles of walking we got to where the dogs had a big ole coon up in the top of a cottonwood tree.

  We all stood there looking up into this tree wondering how in the world we were gonna get this coon outta that tree, and listening to the preacher gasping for air. We knew that there was no way Duke could climb that tree. It was way to far up for us to shake the branch and knock it off. Brandon and me started looking for rocks that we could throw up at the coon to try and knock it off the branch it was on, but before we could start throwing any rocks Bill said to wait a minute, he had an idea. Now ole Bill pointed his flashlight up into the tree at that coon, and asked the preacher if he wanted to get a stick, climb up the beam of light up there, and knock that coon out of the tree. Well, that preacher looked at the coon,  then  looked up at that beam of light, and then he looked at Bill and said "Do you think I'm crazy or what?  I'll get half way up there and you'll turn that durned light off!"



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pucker up hot lips!

  I bet if you think hard enough you can remember your first kiss, and if you think just a little bit more you can remember the first kiss that you got from that special person in your life. I know I can, cause mine came with a little pain! No, she didn't bite me,  hit me, or nothing like that. Oh, OK I'll tell y'all the story.

  This is a story about the first kiss I got from the beautiful girl that would eventually become my wife.If memory serves me correctly we were about 13 or 14 years old. We had started seeing each other at basketball games when we played Booker, and whenever her family came to functions in Darrouzett. We would talk, maybe hold hands if nobody was looking, but we hadn't had a kiss yet. So one evening I had saved up some dimes and called her on the telephone. She told me her parents had gone somewhere, and her brothers were off doing something, and she sure wished I could come out and see her. Man my brain went into hi gear. There had to be a way to get the 6 miles it was from Darrouzett out to her house.

  I might could hop on the train that went past her house, but the train only came through 1 or 2 times a week, and it sure wasn't due right now, plus how the heck would I get back home. I could walk, but by the time I did that her parents would probably be home. Then I remembered, Barney had a Honda Trail 50 minibike, maybe I could borrow it, ride out to see Lori, get a kiss, and then ride back to town! Man that sounded like a fool proof plan to me, what could go wrong! So off I went to find Barney, and borrow the scooter. After a little looking I found him and told him my plan, and asked if I could borrow his scooter. He told me that I could, but it needed some gas, which wasn't a problem, and I needed to be back before dark, cause the headlight didn't work, again shouldn't be a problem. So with the scooter full of gas, it was off on the back road I went. As I was leaving town I was sure a hoping everything was still OK to come out, because after I put gas in the mini bike I didn't have any money left to call Lori and tell her that I had acquired transportation to her place of residence.

  As I pulled into the yard I didn't see any vehicles around, well so far so good. As I was getting off the scooter Lori came out the door. She seemed surprised and happy to see me anyway. I asked her if her parents, or brothers were still gone. She informed me that they were and so we went into the house to listen to the radio. As we sat and talked about really important stuff, like who was going with whom, and how much we hated school, and which school had the toughest teachers, the time began to slip away, and along with it my courage to kiss her.

  As we were sitting on the couch and I was trying to gather up enough courage to plant a kiss on her, she musta got tired of waiting on me, and the next thing I know I'm gettin the smooch that I had came after. When she finished kissing me my head was swimming, but I needed to get started back to town. It seems I had taken so long trying to get my courage up that it was now dark outside. We walked out on the steps and I told Lori goodbye, and of course got me one more smooch for the road. I hopped on the minibike, fired it up, and off I went.

  The first part of the ride to town went pretty good. The road is fairly straight, and the white caliche road stands out real good, but further down the caliche runs out, and the road has some long curves, and I was rapidly approaching the longest one on the entire road. So far I had been staying on the road by dragging my feet along the road, and when I felt the surface change I would simply steer the opposite direction slightly so that I would get back to the middle of the road, but in the middle of this curve I didn't feel the the road change until I couldn't feel the road anymore because I had driven right off of the road, and I was soaring over the bar ditch. Well if any of ya'll have ever jumped a bicycle or a motorcycle over anything then you know that when you leave the end of the ramp you pull up on the handle bars. I knew this; however, when you don't know your at the end of the ramp, and you don't pull up, then you crash into the side of the bar ditch, and then you fly over the handle bars, and then when you don't let go of the handle bars the minibike comes with you, and when the minibike comes with you you end up rolling through the ditch with a minibike, and you don't want to roll through the ditch with a minibike!

  I'm sure a whole bunch of thoughts went through my head as I lied there looking up at the stars. Like OK, I'm still alive, and can I move my arms and legs, is the minibike broken, will it start so I can get back to town? Yep, I'm sure all of those passed by my mind, but the only one that I can remember is. I got a kiss tonight!