Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Uncle H a Christmas

Palo Verde tree
 "It was Christmas and I had told my girl friend Nancy that I would come, but when I got to thinking about my situation, I realized it would be foolish. I had no car and very little money. Most of what I earned was going to the school. I would have to hitch-hike to her home, live in their house, eat their food and would have nothing to contribute to their Christmas. I didn’t go.

Since I had planned to go to Nancy’s in Illinois for Christmas, I had not made any other plans. All of a sudden I realized that everyone was disappearing and soon I would be in Hesston alone for the Christmas break. Mom was living in Phoenix, so I decided to hitch-hike home."

Sure why wouldn’t Uncle H hitchhike – that is totally reasonable. It was only three states away and a mere 1,000 plus miles, makes sense to me – NOT!

"A friend said I could ride with him to Guyman, Oklahoma. I spent the night with him at his home in Guyman and the next morning he took me out to the highway. I got a ride before too long and rode to some other town where I again had my thumb out. After a while a guy stopped and picked me up. He was going to Tucson, Arizona. He offered to let me off at the junction leading to Phoenix, but since it was out in the middle of nowhere, I said I would ride all the way to Tucson with him.

We arrived around 10:00 p.m. after dark and he took me to a truck stop. I tried for quite a while to get a ride and when it seemed I might have to give up a man stopped. Once I was in his car and headed for Phoenix, I realized I had made a mistake. He was very drunk and was speeding down the highway in a much uncontrolled manner. I decided I had to get out at the first opportunity. A sign came up indicating some kind of junction, so I told him that was where I needed off. He questioned why I would want off there but I insisted that was where I wanted off.

I found myself out, really in the middle of no-where in the middle of the night. There was no way anyone would stop for me now. Finally a bus came along and left someone off and a car came up to pick him up. They were heading down the opposite road than where I wanted to go so I was out of luck. They did give me a book of matches which proved to be very welcome. It is cold at night, even in Arizona, at that time of year so I soon had a fire going under a Palo Verde tree. This is where I was to spend the rest of the night.

I didn’t sleep a wink however, because before long three men showed up and wanted to get warm at my fire. One had a lot of blood on his head. They said, he had fallen from a rail-road trestle not too far from there because of the darkness. We sat eyeing each other across the fire for the night. I was sitting close to the suitcase I was carrying and every time they moved I must have gotten closer to it because the one said, “ We aren’t going to bother you for what you have there “. I don’t know why I was so protective of it, because there really wasn’t anything in it of any worth. Just a few hand-me-down clothes, but it was mine and I planned to protect it. I was very happy when the first rays of morning began to show. I bid my companions goodbye, left the fire going for them and headed out.

The very first car that came along stopped and I could hardly wait to get in. He was a nice man that was headed for Phoenix, so I was in luck. He dropped me off on 7th street close to Sunnyslope and I began walking home from there. Believe it or not, my brother, W had come home for Christmas and was driving north when I put my thumb out again and he stopped to pick me up. He was really surprised to see me as I was him. No-one knew that I was coming home. Neither did I, until the last minute. I’m sure that I got my bag of candy again, though."

(As poor as they were, his mother always managed a small bag of candy for all of her one short of a dozen kids on Christmas. Gifts were not part of the Uncle H’s Christmas celebrations. Once when he was younger he made up a big story to his classmates of the elaborate Christmas presents he got when he actually only had received a small bag of candy)

"As luck would have it, there was someone in Phoenix from Hesston and agreed to take me back when I returned. I was glad I didn’t have to hitch-hike back. Mom’s house in Phoenix was right next to the Mennonite Church so that is how we made the connection for the ride."

Several things struck me as interesting in this story. My Uncle H thought nothing of hitch-hiking over 1,000 miles to go home for Christmas. The danger of such a journey came to light on his trip and thankfully he made it home safely. The other was, his unwillingness to go to his girl friend’s if he could not contribute – Uncle H was no free loader. The last, here was another time that by his wits, Uncle H always seemed to make things work out.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Uncle H the Man

A childhood forms the man. Uncle H grew up in hard times. He began his work life in the third grade. He had no father but watched a mother whose every effort focused on the family unit and its survival. He always wore hand me down clothes, lived each day under the shame of a broken home that was magnified by the ridged Mennonite religious community he lived in. He was at the tail end of six brothers who set the bar high for hard work. He took on the expectation of individual responsibility that often required extraordinary effort, and this formed the man.

‘Growing up it was always understood that once us boys were 18 and had employment, half of our wages would go to the family until we turned 21. I wanted to go to college and I asked Mom if she would let me keep all the money I made from that point on. I told her that I wanted to go to college and the only way I knew how, was to put all the money I earned towards paying for it. She agreed to this. Up to this time I never saw any of the money I had earned from Mom hiring me out. I had worked every summer since I was in the third grade of elementary school, and many other times. All my money went directly to Mom or to the Mennonite School up to this point. I just accepted this as my responsibility to Mom and to the family. I had no regrets for this and still don’t to this day. Sure, I wished for things along the way and wanted to take part in things at school sometimes, but I felt it my responsibility to work.’

Surprisingly, in reading my uncle’s memoir there is an absence of resentment or bitterness for a childhood that was mostly missed. I read of no lazy summer days traipsing up and down the local creek fishing nor did I read of a child lying on his back watching a kite fly high against a bright blue sky. But, I did notice the deep loss and pain that reflected from his words over the loss of the father he never had. Bewilderment as to how his father could care nothing about him was evidenced by the lack of even a single simple note, card or phone call throughout his growing up years.

Uncle H married in 1956, at age 20. He sang to his bride as she walked down the aisle, I Love You Truly. Uncle H did a lot of singing during his two years of college and still sings for churches, weddings and social groups to this day. He moved to Arizona where he worked a production job at the Pope Lime Company a fruit juice company.

'After a couple years with Pope Lime Company, I decided that I needed to find a better vocation. I always liked working with my hands, and my brother P was working in a woodworking shop, which gave me the idea of becoming an Industrial Arts Teacher. I also remembered the shop classes I had taken and I always enjoyed them.

I enrolled at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. In order to attend classes during the day, I needed a job at night. So before quitting my job at Pope Lime Company I found a new one with Safeway Produce Warehouse. I went to work at 4:00 p.m. and worked until 1:30 or 2:00 a.m. loading trucks. The trucks were backed up to a loading dock and a ramp was used to get from the dock to the truck bed, which was about 18 inches higher than the dock. We loaded produce, milk products, bread and eggs onto the various trucks that would go throughout the valley and surrounding towns. We were to stack our loads for the hand carts as high as possible, hopefully as high as we could reach up and hold in place with one hand while we guided the hand cart with the other up the ramp and into the truck. Right off I dumped my very first load off the side of the ramp and onto the ground below. That first night was the hardest job I had ever had in my life. When I got home that night, I told my wife that I really didn’t think I could continue this job. I was so sore that I thought I couldn’t hurt in that many places. I went back the next night expecting the worst. Believe it or not, I got through another night. Each night got easier and after a while it became a routine.

Our house was about 10 miles north of the warehouse. I had to drive home after work, get a few hours of sleep and then drive the 20 miles to Tempe, where I went to school. Some of my classes started at 7:45 in the morning so I didn’t get much sleep. I learned to sleep between classes and also to speed read. None of my term papers were very long. I did pay a lot of attention in class and took good notes. I was able to get through school this way and graduate from Arizona State in 1962 with a Bachelor Degree in Secondary Education.’

During these same years his family grew to five with the addition of a son and two daughters. He was recruited to teach at a Technical school in Nevada, where he moved his small family. He began teaching metal shop and welding. Even though he never welded, he had done a fair amount of sheet metal work in a past job. That summer before starting his new teaching job he took a course and learned how to weld. When I read this part I thought, who is this guy who takes a job, to teach something he has to go learn, so he can teach it? This is an example of an innate confidence he had in himself that I saw throughout his writings. I have to believe that much of this confidence came from the many tasks he did as a boy. I guess he figured he learned how to do all those other jobs, so how hard could it be to learn something else, which of course, is exactly what he did.

‘When I first got to Reno High to begin my teaching, I found that they were offering three years in Sheet Metal and Welding. I had students in a third year program and a lot of the equipment was foreign to me. My third year class only had about 10 students in it so I divided them up and assigned each pair or group a specific piece of equipment to hook up, test it out, and then demonstrate it to the rest of the class. I told the third year students, that if they were using the equipment for the third year, they should know by now how to use it and would prove it by demonstrating it to the rest of us. Yes, I mean us. I was the best listener in the class. Like I say, I learned a lot the first year.’

To be continued…

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Uncle H… his Father, Uncle and Grandpa

"It was summer and I was working for my brother on his farm. We were harvesting grain and had a break-down with the threshing machine. I was under the machine and had just taken a part off when it dropped and fell on my right foot. It was smarting like crazy and I was hobbling around when my oldest brother drove into the yard. He had another man with him. He said, “H this is your father.” Of course I didn’t know him and besides, I didn’t really care for him anyway. My foot was hurting badly, so I just took off for the house to give it some attention. I guess they stayed and talked I don’t know."

I know little about Uncle H’s father, my grandfather. I personally only remember seeing him once. I have heard a few stories and most of the stories do not flatter him. Recently, my mother recalled to me a scene. She was standing on the porch by the back door and her brother R was in the corral. Her dad was on the outside of the corral swinging a bull whip. My uncle R was agile and doing a pretty good job using the posts and poles of the corral to avoid the long whip. Mom says she was scared and ran inside for help and doesn’t know if her brother was ever hit.

When she told me this story I wondered who else knew the story as I had never heard it before. Families are interesting that way with their secrets. I suppose often the secrets are kept hidden because it is just too painful to talk about, or maybe the shame keeps the secrets hidden under cover. My mother was quite young when this happened and maybe that is why I never heard it.

Every family seems to have at least one quirky uncle, aunt or maybe a grandpa. Uncle H’s grandfather was a Mennonite traveling preacher (evangelist). As he aged he became legally blind, the problem - he refused to stop driving.

“Grandpa was legally blind the last ten years of his life. Even though he could no longer read his Bible, he still preached and could recite scripture from memory. He also still drove a car even after his eye sight was really bad. I remember one time when he was coming to our house to visit Mom and he almost drove over me. I was walking home from school and heard a car coming up from behind but since I was so far off the side of the road I thought all was well. For some reason, I looked around at the last minute and he was right behind me. I dove for the ditch and he barely missed me. When I got home, I asked him why he tried to run me over. He said he never even saw me. He said he always tried to stay far to the right in case any cars were coming his way." Now, there is someone who should not be driving. It seems that a simple act of hiding his keys would have solved the problem after all he was blind and would not have been able to find them.

In a farm community a man is most known by his work ethic. One might hear, “Yip, that Slim Jenkins, he holds his own”. Or one might hear about Larry Loafer, he’s a good guy, just not very dependable. My uncle H talks about his hardest jobs. They were always when he had to follow behind one of his brothers. Uncle H was often hired based on his brother’s good work ethic.

“The only times that I couldn't quite do a job as well as expected was when I was following a job that one of my older brothers had done previously. The employers were so enamored by the work my brothers had done that I had a tough time living up to the expectations. It wasn't for lack of effort.”

One last event to mention before leaving Uncle H’s school years. The family was poor but seemed to find a way to send several of the children to the Mennonite High School in Kansas. This was done a couple of ways. My mother tells how when she was ready to start her ninth grade year in high school the tradition had been for each child to stay out a year to work. The income was always turned over to the family and it helped pay the way for those who were still in school. My mother ended up staying out two years and therefore did not graduate from high school until she was twenty years old. In addition the ones in school usually had after school jobs, especially the boys. With all this effort they were still poor and this fact apparently was obvious, causing my Uncle H to stand out.

“It was during my senior year at Hesston that I was walking across the campus and my cousin, Junior, came out to meet me on the grass and said his Dad, wanted me to go to town with him on Saturday. When I met my Uncle Floyd that Saturday he said he was taking me to town so I could pick out some new clothes. I suppose I looked pretty ragged to him. Anyway, I was somewhat embarrassed and actually didn’t know how to go about buying clothes. I had never done this before in my life. He insisted that I pick out whatever I wanted since he was buying. I finally picked out one pull over shirt. It was blue and turned out to be a little tight for me, since I never tried it on. I was ready to quit, but finally gave in and picked out a pair of pants also. I felt like I was mooching from him and refused to buy any more, even though he wanted me to. We always wore clothes until they were unpatchable or really worn out, so I guess I felt mine were still okay. Mom was quite good at patching clothes. I will never forget this gesture from my Uncle, even though he didn’t remember it when I talked to him about it years later.”

To be continued…

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ginger and my GLB

Ginger and Uncle H were the main topic two posts back. We are about to find out that Uncle H is not the only one to have a Ginger story. My Great Liberal Brother (GLB) also has a story or two, and here they are.
GLB is much older than I. How much older you ask? Let’s just say if I wanted to be mean, I could call him my Great Ancient Liberal Brother (GALB). In my brother’s defense in regards to his antiquity, I also remember Ginger, although I am not sure if they are actual memories or merely impressions fabricated from the stories I heard.
I should also mention, these stories for the most part have been placed into the Urban Legend category. You see my brother is a liberal and it is a known fact, all liberals exaggerate and often tell flat out lies. We might find out later in this short writing that it is not really his fault he’s a liberal, so let’s all have a little grace on the poor fellow for the moment. I realize that there are at least three readers who might disagree with my conclusions, but heck is it my fault they must have got a bump on their noggins somewhere along the line?
The reason is still unclear by the author how it is that our family gained temporary custody of Ginger. If you want to take the word of my GLB, it is all on you. He says, my uncle and aunt were on a trip and they needed someone to watch the large palomino; that reason is as good as another I suppose.
During the said time Ginger was in our custody; my GLB decided to take Ginger for a ride. At the time he was only eight years old and too short to muster a saddle on the tall horse, therefore he rode bare back. It was only to be a short ride which lends creed to the no saddle option. How the bridle was managed, only an eight year old knows for sure. From a fence post, the side of a wagon or maybe a boost from his older brother who was nine years old, my GLB landed on the back of Ginger. Ginger was no dummy and knew an eight year old was no match for his wily ways. Out of the yard GLB took Ginger. They went into the upper field that had been freshly plowed which ends up being fortunate for GLB. No sooner had Ginger turned the corner into the field then he took the bit in his teeth, thus removing all control from the master eight year old horseman. He took off like he was shot out of a catapult. The little boy hung on to rein and mane for dear life. Ginger streaked across the field, dirt flying high from hoofs. At this point my GLB decided it was time for a new plan. With only the courage, I mean foolishness young boys have, my GLB decide to dismount by letting himself not jump, not fall, but slide off the side of the racing palomino, which of course is exactly what he did. The soft plowed earth gave my GLB a good dusting as he rolled to a stop and watched Ginger head off for who knows where. My GLB was unhurt, so the story goes. I do wonder if he might not have cracked his head, after all he grew up and became a liberal.
The actual crack in the head probably happened a few days or hours later. Now my GLB has always been known for being smart but I do have to wonder from this next Ginger experience how smart he really is. If I had slid off a galloping horse because he took off on me, it would be a good piece of time before I got back on him.
My father had the mumps and was in bed. This required my mother and oldest brother to do the milking, leaving free time for GLB to be unsupervised; a very bad idea. He of course, as you guessed decided to ride Ginger once more bareback. This time he was using the horse to tormenting his five year old sister. She was standing on the stock trailer while GLB rode Ginger at a good gallop right at her (gee I wonder how sister came to be on the stock trailer?). At the last minute GLB would veer off and ride on by her. This of course had all the desired effects, much screaming. How many times these moments of ecstasy were repeated, I do not know. I am pretty sure like most big brothers, he wanted each scare to intensify, so getting a little closer each time was a requirement. The last scare ended abruptly. Just as GLB was ready to turn Ginger to the left, Ginger did an emergency stop. GLB shot over Ginger’s head as smooth as if he was a blob of milk being squirted straight from the teat of a cow. GLB’s head stopped his fall when it contacted the steel tongue of the stock trailer.
My mother had a policy, no blood, no doctor. How GLB managed this feat without drawing blood is beyond me. My mother had another policy, no fever or barf, then, ‘get to school’. My mother received a phone call the next day from the school teacher saying GLB’s eyes looked wrong. The teachers report was enough for mother to take GLB to the doctor. Thus a diagnosis and a doctor’s cure – a severe concussion and bed rest for two weeks.
Now a tale has been told and it is clear, my GLB did indeed fall on his head, resulting in him becoming a liberal.
So, here is my question - Dianne, Betty, and Arkansas Patti, did ya’all fall on your head at some point?

Uncle H will return on the next post…I promise.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Uncle H – Wild Horses part 2

A light breeze rustled the sage brush filling the air with its ancient aroma. Each horse was backed out of the stock trailer and the sound of hoofs on the wooden ramp echoed off into the darkness. A nip was in the air and the sky was beginning to lighten signaling the coming sunrise over the South Hills. This was not Uncle H’s his first wild horse hunt, but he was full of anticipation. He was aware of the danger involved in this endeavor but where, when and how it would come he was unaware, maybe that was half of the thrill.
On the last trip they had spotted a special horse, a young sorrel with a white blaze on his forehead. They hoped to find his band today. He was full grown, but still young, powerful and wild. He looked as if he could run like the wind. They knew a horse like this would only be caught using a keen strategy.

It was not that long ago when Uncle H had been told he was either too young or too little for such hunts, but now at 16 years old, here he was expected to hold his own. Today the plan was to get to the shallow valley where the horses came for water in hopes the band would be there. It didn’t take them long to adorn their spurs, tie down some food and make ready their lariats.

The three brothers headed out following a winding route south picking their way through the sage brush. Just as they hoped, it wasn’t long before they spotted the band of about 15 horses and the white faced beauty stood out amongst the bays, palominos and blacks. The mustangs heard the brothers coming before they saw them. The brothers rode south along the ridge of the shallow valley constantly drawing closer to the mustangs. This was a good place for the stallion to bring his band. It offered plenty of feed, water, and a good view of any approaching danger. The stallion watched the three horsemen making their way closer. Drawing closer, restless hoofs could be seen stomping. It was if a line had been drawn and when the brothers crossed it, the stallion began moving his harem away to the east.

That was the signal, Uncle P took his leave. He was a good horseman and born a century too late. If it had four legs, Uncle P wanted to hunt it. He took off at a full gallop. They had found when chasing mustangs, the horses would make a wide circle and return to where they started. At the completion of that large circle that was when the stallion would be caught.

The remaining two brothers had a good 45 minute wait ahead of them. They found a large boulder surrounded by tall sage brush. This combination gave them good cover while they waited.

It didn’t take the mustangs long before the stallion changed his tactic from evade to escape. The group was now moving full out. Up and down ravines they raced. Many of the old mares hooves were as big as platters having never been trimmed, and as a consequence they were not fast, but they all had wonderful endurance. A horse is designed to run and run they did. Uncle P closed the distance pushing the tribe on. His goal wasn’t to catch his prize yet but to wear him down. The stallion followed his band in single file while a dun mare led the band straight to the edge of the plateau. Down a 400 foot steep embankment they went, they took the grade at a full gallop. A ball of dust arose and rocks dislodged making the trail a dangerous path. Reaching the bottom they crossing a small stream, with water splashing, they funneled through a break in the thick scrub brush that lined the gully. Up and over ravines they ran into the morning sun.

The mustangs began a long gradual turn back to the west and north. Eventually just as planned the band returned and broke the high plateau in the east and emerged at the head of the valley. Uncle P’s horse was nearly played out. He had enough left for a uniquely colored grulla colt that would offer him little trouble. Now firmly in the valley his mission was through, he urged his horse on crowding the colt. He sent the loop of his rope around the neck and reined him in.

The band of mustangs piled by and Uncle H and Uncle W now began to move out with gusto charging hard and fast intent on the sorrel stallion. It took little time with a fresh horse for Uncle W to position himself for his first opportunity. He began swinging his lariat high over head. His horse instinctively moved in closer. The young stallion was not yet willing to be mastered by the rope and before the rope was sent flying the stallion veered hard to his left, splitting away from the herd.

Recovering, the two brothers followed at full speed. Sage brush whipped at them stinging their legs. The chase went on with the young stallion attempting to out distance the two horsemen. Rushing on, a jack rabbit popped up and ran left then right ahead of Uncle H’s horse before finding a safe place.

The race lasted for another two miles before Uncle W sent his loop neatly around the white blazed head. A quick wrap of the rope around the saddle horn and by reining in his horse the rope tightened. The stallion fought against the rope jerking his head left and right. Uncle W yelled instructions at Uncle H who was moving in toward the stallion. His first attempt went wide but on his second attempt Uncle H’s rope flew over the stallion’s head. Now with one rider to the right and one to the left the stallion’s capture was insured. He reared up and pawed the air but now the riders were safe and it was only a matter of time before the stallion submitted to the rope.

Two hours later the two arrived at the truck with a tired stallion. There was an old but secure pole corral there. They put the stallion in the enclosure along with the smoky gray colt Uncle P had caught.

The brothers took time for some coffee and admired their catch. Once rested the brothers headed back out to the plateau for some more fun and they added another colt. The day was getting late and it was time to load up.

The wild stallion had regained his strength resting in the coral and was not ready to cooperate when it came time to be loaded for the ride to Uncle W’s ranch. Our truck was backed into a gully, we each got a rope onto him and thought we could safely maneuver him by one of us being on each side of him with a rope fastened to our horse. P was in the front and W and I were on opposing sides. When P got close enough to the truck he got off his horse, unfastened the rope from the saddle horn and fed the rope through the slats and around a sturdy post in the front of the truck. As W and I moved the wild horse closer to the truck, P was to take up the slack on his rope. It was working fine until the horse got his hooves onto the bed of the truck and then spooked. W and I had both moved in leaving slack on our ropes thinking he was in the truck and that P had him secured from the front. Somehow, the horse got loose from P and came charging out at full speed. My horse got excited and made a complete turn which took the rope, I still had fastened to my saddle horn and the other end to the charging horse, in a circle around my mid-section. Thank goodness the rope was still loose enough and I had enough presence of mind to IMMEDIATELY eject myself from the saddle. I hit the ground hard and the wild horse hit the end of the rope fastened to my horse, the rope snapped clean. I would have been cut in half and probably killed had I stayed in the saddle.”

W still had his rope on the horse and P took no time getting hold of the second rope. After dusting myself off, recovering my horse, we again prepared for the load, which worked much better on the second try.

The wild horse population in the US today, depending who is speaking, ranges from 13,000 to 33,000. There have been attempts with legislation to protect and keep a healthy balance to the Mustang population here in the west. To say this discussion is controversial is an understatement. In the mid 1800’s accepted estimates of the wild horse population was between 5 and 8 million. Starting in 1915 a steady decline existed in the US horse population in both wild and domestic horses. It seems we exchanged are horses for our dogs. Approximately ½ million horses each year were sent to the dog food factories. By 1971 it was a crisis and the wild mustang was threatened with extension. President Nixon signed a bill protecting the wild horse population and turning the management of these horses over to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). There is no shortage of critics of the job the BLM has and is doing. In reading some of the critic’s writings, it is hard to argue that BLM’s methods are not indeed cruel, if the reports are accurate. BLM position is that the herds need thinning and so roundups are scheduled about once every four years. These roundups are done by helicopter, often in 90+ degree weather, pushing the horses for miles to holding pens. The result is that the very young and the old sometimes expire from exhaustion and overheating. In an August 10, 2010 round up in Nevada it was reported that 34 horses died. This does seem cruel and over the top and it seems there should be a better way.
In addition, the herds numbers seem low in what the BLM deems appropriate for the size of range these horses have available to them. Granted I know little to nothing about range land and what a correct horse per acre ratio should be, but in Idaho the BLM has established for the 477,656 available acres the appropriate population for wild mustangs is a mere 617.

The wild mustang holds a romantic ideal with those of us who love the stories of the old west. It is a shame that Uncle H was one of the last to be able to hunt and capture a wild mustang.
To Be Continued...

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Uncle H – Wild Horses part 1

Is that Uncle H???
Catching a wild horse was a childhood fantasy of mine. When I was a small child my father bought a wild colt from my Uncle P, caught in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. As a boy I had images of racing through large mountain meadows, a herd of horses ahead, browns, blacks, pintos, and of course the beautiful appaloosa, all there for the taking. In my dreams I always closed in fast. My rope would circle the head perfectly of the lead stallion; he always had wild eyes as he would twist and stare back at me, his captor. Then I would throw on the binders setting my horse back on his haunches stopping the stallion in his tracks. He was always coal black and had perfect lines. Fantasies are great that way. You can ride the fastest horse, throw the perfect lasso, be the real deal, be the Marlboro man. Hmmm… that sounds really wrong.
What was just a fantasy for me was a reality for several of my uncles, including Uncle H. The blond mane of the golden palomino waved in glory as it bounced and waved in the wind along the outstretched neck of the tall stallion. Ginger was a truly fast horse and his gallop would eat up real-estate faster than a land tycoon.
A group of wild horses were ahead and Ginger had been given his rein. With Uncle H on his back the two were soon leading the charge. Two brothers now eating dust urged their horses on, doing their best to keep up. Across the rough terrain they went dodging lodge pole pines.
Uncle H was moving in close and began working a loop into his rope. The loop hung low as he streaked toward his prey and in an unfortunate moment the rope snagged a piece of brush. Immediately the rope began peeling out taking with it pieces of flesh caught between the saddle horn and Uncle H’s fingers. Blood dripped freely down and across the saddle horn.
The rope now whipped about slapping Ginger across his rear flank, startling him. Fully spooked with ears bent back, and nostrils flared, Ginger took off in a panic. Uncle H hung on and realized quickly, reining Ginger in was impossible.
The hot sun shined bright, highlighting the drama. Bright yellow desert flowers streaked by in a blur, while Ginger held a full throttle. Madly they raced down the mountain. Ginger was wild with fright trying to escape the long snake nipping at his back side. Uncle H knew his only hope was to hang on, as all efforts to rein in Ginger went for not.
Down the mountain they flew in a storm of dust, with the wild horses leading the way. They were gaining fast on the brood and it wasn’t long before the two slid past the wild bunch smoother than butter. Desert brush tore at Ginger and whipped at Uncle H’s legs, tearing skin and britches.
A field of loose shale could be seen ahead. Uncle H left a prayer in the dust, in hopes that Ginger could keep his footing. They hit that field at full tilt and sure as anything the footing was lost. Ginger reacted by collapsing his rear legs. The ground look closer to Uncle H then he wanted with the sharp shale now up close. Down they slid. The shale sliced a long gash in Ginger’s belly. The field came to an end and the prayer must have been answered because Ginger was once again up and off at a full sprint.
His neck stretch long as his legs pounded the ground. The invisible demons had not given up the chase and the terrorized horse skidded around the edge of a ravine making his escape. He followed an old trail along a rock overhang. Turning hard he launched down the mountain like a locomotive. Together they ran jumping small ravines, fallen logs, and boulders. In a flurry of dust they came down the mountain. After some time they finally hit level ground. Ginger began to ease up, near exhaustion. His wet withered sides carried a layer of foam and his great chest expanded taking in large volumes of air. He had finally run himself out and Uncle H was allowed to rein him in. They eased to a stop both spent from the race. As Uncle H dismounted to check Ginger’s condition he was never happier to get off a horse. The wild horses escaped capture that day and Uncle H had the arduous task of back tracking the miles they had just covered, coaxing along a still frightened, tired, and wounded horse.
Not all of Uncle H’s trips ended in futility. He tells of another time when he had lassoed a wild colt and again Ginger was in a running mood. It is a sad tale. Few details were given, only that Ginger about drug that poor colt to death before Uncle H could rein him in. In the end the colt healed up and Uncle H had a nice colt.

To be continued…

Monday, November 8, 2010

Uncle H the Early Teen Years

Teenage years bring big changes. The body goes through a metamorphosis. The mind begins to actually have rare moments of rational reasoning. Lessons of cause and effect are in constant bloom and the opposite sex shapes a whole new world. Uncle H was no exception to these changes but other changes were in the works for Uncle H during his early teen years. It was 1949, he just had his 13th birthday, school was out for the summer and his younger sister had come down with rheumatic fever. This illness caused the family to move to Arizona. The doctor said a warm dry climate was needed for his sister to get well.
 A work opportunity was open in a saw mill in Oregon, where an older brother lived. So, off Uncle H went to his brother’s for a summer of working in a saw mill at age 13.
Child labor laws were not completely non-existent at that time. The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act stated that children under the age of 16 could not work in manufacturing and mining. It seems a loop hole was jumped through or more likely a law ignored that allowed my Uncle H to be employed at such a dangerous job. Child labor laws at the time were rarely enforced and the biggest deterrent to child labor violations in American history was the political and societal attitude change that all youth should receive an education, at least up to eight grade. Truancy was easier to monitor than child labor violations. So, when children were in school they were not working. Machinery inventions and improvements in production methods also helped reduce the demand for child labor. The Great Depression was another deterrent because for every child working caused an adult to be displaced from the work force. Resistance to changing the child labor was argued by employers because they found children easier to control, less likely to organize into a union, and required minimal wages.
Uncle H describes his time at the mill. “I went to Oregon to work in a portable saw mill. I lived at my brother’s place. I do remember that someone had to pick me up each day for a ride to work.  The mill was in the forest and they would saw the bark off of the logs, leaving a square log called a cant.  My job was to stack the cants onto the trucks.  The mill was on a platform leaving the trucks at a lower level. The cants were too heavy to lift, but when rolled out onto conveyor rollers, I could get them almost balanced in the center, pivot them and then shove them onto the truck bed.  I remember that it rained almost every day.  Not hard, but a slow rain which would get my shirt soaking wet.  I learned to take two shirts to work so I could have one hanging by the engine, which was under a canopy where it could dry. I would keep changing shirts when the one I was wearing became too wet.  Most of the timber they were working on was not too large, so I could handle it okay.”
All through my Uncle’s writings there is an absence of ‘poor me.’ Note his last line in the above paragraph, ‘so I could handle it okay.’ He was creative and somehow able to handle what he should not have been able to handle.  My uncle was small for his age. He writes of being less than 5 feet tall upon completing the eighth grade. It baffles me that a kid less than five feet tall, probably weighing about 80 – 90 pounds could be doing a job like this. Uncle H was an amazing young lad.
When that summer was over instead of heading back to Idaho, Uncle H met up with his Mother and sister in Arizona. The move did not leave enough money for a cow or maybe the desert meant buying feed year around, so Grandma bought a goat.
‘I wasn’t crazy about drinking goat milk, but I had to learn.  At least there were only two teats to milk instead of the four as with a cow.  Of course, I much preferred to make a pet of the goat and she was soon so tame that whenever I was out she would follow.  I took that goat on hikes up the mountain behind our house, and she would follow just like a dog with no leash.  We had a good time together.  One time when I was pulling some weeds in a ditch by our house she decided to take a bite from my straw hat.  I just reached up and tapped her back a couple of times until finally she gave me such a butt in the head that I fell smack on mine, ‘butt’ that is.  I guess she liked being a pet better than giving milk also and you know what that meant with Mom.  An older brother was in the area at that time, so Mom tapped him to come and help me butcher the goat.  I wasn’t about to help with that and took off on a long hike up the mountain.  Brother was never too happy with me for running out on him, but I just couldn’t do it.
Mom always had a way of finding me a job.  That first summer in Arizona I worked in the melon fields, driving tractors again.  I had to get up at 3:00 A.M. to catch my ride to where they stored the tractors.  We would fill our tractor with gas, check the oil, etc. and then head for the melon fields that were usually several miles away.  We started work at daylight so we could be finished by about 3:00 in the afternoon, since it got so hot.  I remember getting hit in the back of the head by someone who threw a cantaloupe at me while I was pulling a trailer down the field.  I guess I was getting some of my own medicine back for the throwing I had done in Idaho.  Anyway, they thought it was funny, I didn’t.’
Junior high boys are possibly the most merciless breathing critters on earth and Uncle H found himself on the brunt end early teen teasing. He was small and tough and the teasing resulted in more than one fight. His last name easily manipulated to contain the derogatory term ‘shit.’ Thus this was the curx of most of his fights.

He loved basketball and played on the school team both his seventh and eighth grade years. While in eighth grade he played on his eighth grade team, but because of his small stature he often played on the seventh grade team also.

Uncle H’s early teen years were much different than mine but his small size I can relate to. I was never hit in the back of the head with a melon, nor did I ever have to eat one of my pets. Thank goodness, I think cat meat would be horrible.
To be continued…

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Uncle H – A Childhood

I don’t know if I am just a lazy writer or that I enjoy my uncle's own words best. This post are all excerpts from my uncle's writings. This first vignette comes from his early years and seems to me like it could have come right out of the show, ‘The Little Rascals.' You will see in this post Uncle H was a little rascal at times.

"When I was in the first grade I received my first kiss from a girl. I came in from the playground after recess and just as I came into the classroom Constance jumped from behind the door and planted one on my cheek in front of the whole class. I was embarrassed to death. Little did I know the role her family would play in my near future. One day while playing outside during a school recess we were sliding down the slippery slide, running around and crawling to the top as fast as we could and repeating the process. Just as I got to the top and was about ready to slide, I got pushed from behind. Unfortunately, it was to the side and not down the slide. I fell off of the top and landed face down onto a rock knocking all of my front teeth out. The one that had pushed me was Constance’s brother. We all went running to the teacher and she immediately told us to run to the doctor. It just so happened that the doctor was the father of Constance. We all took off running for the doctor across town. As we rounded a corner there was a truck parked in front of the hardware store and just at the last second I noticed a pipe protruding from the back. I ducked just in time to avoid a collision but one of my friends did not. The pipe caught him just under the chin and decked him. Now the doctor had two patients. I will never forget that experience at the doctor’s office. He was a doctor who had served in foreign countries and apparently was used to doing his thing with no pain relief. He swabbed my wounds with something that stung like hell and proceeded to stitch me up with no pain killer at all. That hurt!

“Even though we were quite poor, we always had food to eat. Sometimes it was only bread and milk. We also ate a lot of popcorn. Actually, we had bread and milk quite often. Mom always baked the bread we had at home. By the end of the week, when it was about time to bake again and when the bread was fresh, we would have milk and bread for dinner and that was about the best way to eat it. Mom also made butter and cheese. Her homemade cheese is still some of the best I have ever eaten.

"We always had a garden so Mom canned a lot. Of course we all had to help in weeding and caring for the garden. Nothing seemed to go to waste around our place. During the Second World War many things were rationed. So, Mom acquired some honey bees and we ate honey instead of sugar. She acquired an extractor to remove the honey from the comb. The caps of the comb were cut off and the comb with the honey was placed into the extractor where it was spun to fling the honey out and into a container. My brother Floyd and Mom were the main bee keepers. They would wear face protectors and long clothing to try to avoid the stings. Sometimes they weren’t careful enough and I remember seeing Mom with her lips all swollen and one time her eye was nearly swollen shut. They had a smoker, this was a device that could hold a smoldering fire in which when the back part was squeezed it would force smoke out. The smoke caused the bees to be docile and allowed them to be handled more safely. Floyd was pretty good with bees. He would find swarms of bees catch them and bring them home to place in the extra supers. The honey that was extra Mom would sell to get some money. We all got our share of bee stings.

"Our garden was a large one. There were so many vegetables that Mom couldn’t can everything so she sold the extra to bring in some money. I always liked the vegetables to eat and still do to this day. Shelling the peas was a dull task. To make it faster we would run them through the ringer of our washing machine. When the pod was placed into the ringer, stem side first, the peas would just come popping out into the container. We all got to help put peas into the ringer.

"Since our garden was so large, Mom bought a rototiller. I suppose she figured the tiller should be put to good use and lined up other gardens for us to till. When any of my older brothers weren’t available, I was the one to run the tiller onto the trailer and Mom would haul me to various gardens and I would plow while she waited to haul me to the next one. I still wasn’t old enough to drive a car. We could get our license at 14 years old then.

"I had a bad habit of throwing things when I was a kid. I loved to throw tomatoes at passing cars and at the neighbor’s house. Mom would go get a branch from a tree and blister my butt. I even crawled into a large tree on the corner of the road and would drop green apples onto passing cars. Can’t believe no one caught me for that. I also had fun by tying an old wallet to a fine string and placing it at the side of the road. I would then get back into the garden and lie down between the rows of potatoes and wait while I held onto the end of the string. When someone stopped to pick up the wallet, as they usually did, I would pull it into the garden away from them. Most people laughed and took it for a joke but one time it really made a man mad. He took off after me and I lit out for the barn. I was faster then he was thank goodness. As I rounded the barn I dove into the field of sugar beets we had there and hid between the rows. He looked and looked from but never found me. I think he thought I had gone into the barn. After saying a few choice words he finally left and went back to his car. I was a little more careful after that.

"I was sandwiched in age between two sisters. Above us were four older brothers, all in a row. It seemed like I was never old enough to do what my brothers were doing. It was always, ‘When you get older, you can do this, or when you get older you can participate.’ It seemed like I was never old enough. They would go on hunting trips and I could never go along. I remember one time when they all went pheasant hunting, and of course I couldn’t go. I was determined to have some hunting too. So, while they were gone Ruth and I dug out the 410 shot-gun and we took off along the edge of the corn field that was nearby. Sure enough, a pheasant flew up and I nailed it. I was so proud of myself for getting my first pheasant. I went up and grabbed it by the tail, put my foot on its head and proceeded to pull its head off. The only problem was, I pulled all of his tail feathers out instead. Talk about someone being embarrassed. I had to take my prize home with no tail feathers. It is interesting that Mom allowed us to have guns at home, but I guess it added up to having more food on the table. I do know that we ate lots of rabbits, pheasants and ducks because of the guns. I don’t know how old I was at that time. I was probably ten or eleven and in the fifth or sixth grade. I think we all learned to shoot at an early age and guns were around, but there were never any accidents because of them."

To be continued…

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Uncle H - The Beginning

Recently I received an email from my Uncle H. Attached to the email was his memoir. I was anxious to read these pages and peer deeper into the heart of my Uncle. I did not tell him I had a selfish reason for wanting to read his story but I did. I knew he had gone through several tragedies during his life and I was curious how those experiences had impacted him. His story did not give all the details I had hoped for but when the story was read in its entirety, the composite of the man shouted volumes to me about the man’s integrity and my respect for him grew. It is my hope to give you a bird’s eye view of this man and I also hope his story inspires you as it did me.

Uncle H had a rough go starting out. He came into this world in 1936. At the young age of two, child number ten, he watched helpless as his family fragmented. His father left the home abandoning the family after siring child number eleven. I don’t know all the reasons the marriage failed but repeated infidelity was certainly a big part of the break up. At the time the family was a member of a conservative Mennonite community. For the time, 1938, a failed marriage was rare and even rarer in the strict Mennonite community. Great shame was attached to the family and all in the community knew something dreadful had gone wrong. Every quilting bee, every met up in the market or at the feed store released gossip and suspected evils were soon turned into truths real or not. The cloud of inward and outward shame hovered over the family. Little Uncle H, recalls being referred to as, “Oh, you are from that broken home.”

In today’s society where divorce is said to touch every extended family and occurs in one of every two homes; the tendency is to often gloss over and minimize the individual significance and the accompanying damage. We humans are interesting that way, we quickly attach more significance if something is rare but if the rare becomes common we tend to discount the damage both to the individuals affected and to our society as a whole. The cost to my Uncle was significant. He states in his writings that he never once in his life ever received a single correspondence from his father. I am not totally clear how this loss affected my Uncle but it is clear the loss carried with it obstacles. As I read his memoir the theme I kept reading was he overcame. This became a poignant trait throughout his life and maybe it is what I admire most about him. One thing is for certain, the man he became was great, nothing like his father.

In a family of eleven children I suppose it would be easy to lose track of a child now and then. My Uncle’s own words illustrate this best. “I don’t know how old I was, but I was pretty young. After church one Sunday evening I found myself alone at church and all the rest of the family had gone home. Mom had gathered her brood and gone home without me. There were so many in the family that no one even knew I was missing. I had to walk the two miles home from church in the dark. Needless to say, I was an unhappy camper. They were all eating pop corn and having a high old time. Until I came in, I hadn’t even been missed.”

The absent father did not send any monies to help support the large family and to say they were poor would be an understatement. Uncle H being the youngest boy was way down the list for hand me downs. At times his britches had more patches then pants. My Grandma was a master at stretching clothes.

Bath time was also an interesting affair and you got a bath once a week whether you needed one or not. Again my Uncles own words: ‘Every Saturday night we had to take our bath. I guess to be cleaned up for church the next day. We had a wash tub that was placed in the kitchen and Mom would heat water on the stove to pour into the tub. I remember one time Mom told me to get into the kitchen and take my bath and I really didn’t want to. It was mandatory, so I went in and just stuck my feet in the water and swished them around. When I came out, Mom said there was no way I could have taken a bath that fast. She said she would go check the water. When she came back she said, “well, I guess you did, the water is dirty enough.” Creativity is a strength my Uncle employed his whole life and you can see he came by the trait early.

To make ends meet all were expected to help out. There were many hours of working the family garden, caring for the chickens, and many other duties that Uncle H did at a very young age. The mother, my grandma, was vigilant in finding work for her boys and at the end of my Uncle’s third grade year, Grandma found him work driving a tractor. Uncle H was too small to reach the brake so he had to jump off the seat when he needed to brake. The gas was a manual throttle and employed a hand clutch, thus my uncle was able to do the work.

Today this could never happen because of child labor laws. But, the life my uncle experienced somehow grew him into a man of high integrity and I believe it was in no small part to these early lessons of hard work and doing his part to help his family.

To be continued….

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Going to a Wedding

Are you ever surprised by someone you meet but in a great way? Let me introduce you to one of my Uncles, Uncle H. My discussion of my Uncle H might take more than one post because I have a lot to say about him. If you have read my blog much, you might remember I come from a large extended family. I have certain aunts and uncles that when I see them, I have to say to myself, ‘now think Grayquill, what’s her/his name?’ Uncle H almost fit into that category because I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen him in my life. The biggest reason my Uncle H does not fall into the group of ‘what’s his name’ is because of what you will read next. This experience printed an indelible impression in my brain of him. Another reason I can remember his name, I was named after him and my Grandpa. So, to protect Grayquill, my Uncle’s name for these posts will remain Uncle H. Relax, I am not telling you my real name. Some might say, shouldn’t you be concerned for your uncle’s anonymity? The folks that have such thoughts just don’t know me well enough. If they did know me, they would have already accepted, that Grayquill cares mostly about himself.

My first memory of Uncle H, was when I was two years old. My Aunt Ruth, Uncle H, my mother, and myself were traveling to somewhere. If another person was along I cannot confirm yay or nay because I was only two years old and I don’t really remember. My mother tells me we were traveling to Uncle H’s wedding in Kansas, which may or not be true because I was only two years old and I don’t really remember a wedding.

But, I do have one memory. Apparently after traveling all day, we stopped at a hotel or maybe it was a motel, I was only two years old, so I don’t really remember. In the room or rooms there were only two beds. I should add this one other tid bit of information. It is possible that my Uncle H’s fiancée was also with us but I have been unable to confirm this because I was only two years old and I don’t really remember. But, I do remember my mother wanted me to sleep in the same bed as my Uncle H. I hear the reason was they needed the space for the women. I would have nothing to do with that craziness. She says, I screamed and threw a fit that equaled and possible exceeded any two year old’s fit that has ever been thrown. I doubt this to be true because even though I was only two and I don’t really remember, that would be so unlike me to throw a fit. In defense of my mother’s version of the story, I hear two year olds can throw significant fits.

After much bribery, adult manipulation and possible threats of personal bodily harm, my mother was unsuccessful in convincing this two year old to sleep with Uncle H. I end up sleeping in the bed with my mother and my Aunt Ruth. I was only two years old and I can’t remember everything but I can remember looking out from under the covers to see if Uncle H was going to come get me. I stayed awake for a long time just to be sure that I was safe.

Some say, because of my angry two year old fit, Uncle H and his fiancée ended up that night sleeping in the same bed. But I am sure that is not true because even a two year old knew conservative Mennonites would never do that. I am sure Uncle H slept in the car, or on the floor, or some other appropriate place but I was only two years old and I don’t really remember.

So, if my memory is wrong and church rules were broken that night and great sins were committed – it’s not my fault, after all I was only two years old.

I am sorry, Uncle H if I told any secrets but that is exactly how I remember it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Those Creepy Spiders

Yesterday I did some pressure washing on my house.  I hate painting so years ago I had vinyl siding installed. What I did not know, vinyl siding builds up static electricity much like when a person who still has hair runs a comb through his nest. As a result dust is attracted to the vinyl. I don’t have to paint but I do have to wash.
While washing it seemed spiders were everywhere. Mostly those big brown ones with giant hairy legs – that tells you a lot – I suppose all spiders seem big, brown and hairy. It doesn’t really matter for the story, so let’s forget I even brought up the whole spider type thing.  As I was pressure washing, I was blasting spiders off the wall left and right, wiping spider webs off my face and it seemed I was continually flicking the creep creatures off my shirt, neck and arms.
The whole spider invasion thing was creeping me out. Have you ever felt that light scampering of spider legs clicking across your skin? It is almost a tickle but not really, it is a one of a kind sensation. Well, I had now moved well past itching and now was firmly planted in the world of feeling real and imaginary creepy skitterers dashing across body parts. The trouble with spiders, they are everywhere. You know they are there but you can’t always see them. You just can’t be sure if one is hiding in some crease or fold of your clothing just waiting to bite you.
Here is the problem, itching and swatting at imaginary hair legged spiders at the top of an economy brand extension ladder is a bad idea. I was constantly fighting the urge to itch. I had to let the real and imaginary critters run up and down my arms, across my neck, and over my ears. I guess the fear of a twenty foot fall was for the most part a sufficient hindrance to keep from itching and swatting because I made it off the ladder safely.
By the time I was finished I was totally soaked. Still itching, I headed straight for the shower. As the water began coursing over my head – take a guess how many spiders I saw take a ride down the drain?
Did you guess three? Two? Four? Well I am here to tell you, you are way wrong. Not a single spider came off me. I just wondered if that question would creep you out. One spider did go flying off me when I peeled off my wet shirt in the wash room but let’s not tell Mrs. Grayquill. She is not like me who doesn’t mind spiders and is never really bothered by the hair creatures. You see, she is afraid of the little monsters. I wouldn’t want her to know that hairy creature are somewhere in her laundry room, alive, lurking, and waiting to pounce.
Are you beginning to itch? Don’t worry they only bite a little.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rock in my Backpack

“Grrr….Who put this rock in my pack? Dad, did you do it?” B began stomping around mad as a hornet trying to find out who put the 4-5 pound rock in her backpack.
After a three mile hike to the ocean and another two miles up the beach, my twelve year old daughter B was unloading her pack and discovered the extra weight. The last two miles particularly had been a bit hard trudging through the deep sand. Carrying that extra weight had bent B's disposition into the red zone. The rain had drizzled on and off for most of the way. All of us were a bit heavier from the damp clothing, and I couldn’t blame B for being mad. I was a bit ticked myself.
As soon as we hit the sand my five year old son refused to go any further, so to keep him walking, his backpack was hoisted on top of mine. A half mile latter I inherited my eight year old daughter’s backpack. My friend Buck had also inherited his youngest daughters backpack and these extra loads were now bungee corded to the top of our packs. As we slogged down the beach, Buck commented, “Do you feel a bit like a mule? Yip that’s all we are, mule dads.” The view must have been similar to two high rise buildings waddling up the beach. I dared not stoop or bend to far forward because the balance was askew and my core was doing everything to keep my top heavy pack from toppling me over.
It seemed longer than it was but we finally arrived at our campsite. We soon had all the tents pitched. Buck laughed at me for bringing my huge family dome tent. I reminded him I had brought me family. I found a nice log to rest a minute which was awesome.
The remainder of the trip was uneventful and this is where I should probably consider making up some lies to keep the story interesting. I read once that when the author feels his story begins to lag, it is a good idea to kill off one of the main characters. Well I have not introduced any characters in this story yet that I would be willing to kill. Maybe if B was writing the story she might feel differently.
That first night brought out a hoard of raccoons which of course forced me to accept the mission to kill at least two. Sadly, I was unable to kill even one. Is the story getting more interesting now? Not? Hmmmm…. I know raccoons just do what raccoons do and they can’t help it. I know it’s not really their fault God created them the way He did, but I really wanted them to go somewhere else and to do their raccoon’in behavior. Some would argue that I was the one invading their space. Now don’t get all new age’y on me. Remember I’m the guy who thought it was a good idea to shoot a rooster because I wanted a taxidermy subject. Scavengers during the night are what raccoons do but doesn’t that simply translate into being just lazy. Who respects that?
Sure the little bush balls are as cute as scaditch but who can see them at night? It’s dark out! Let’s think about this a minute. I know it is wrong to question God because I am just a mere human and being created myself but why would he make a cute animal and then make it nocturnal. If I was god I would keep all the ugly animals as the nocturnal ones. Maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on God after all He did get it right when he made the rat, the bat and the possum nocturnal. Gee, I wonder if God feels better that I at least partially approve.
The rain stopped and the sun came out but it never warmed enough for bathing suits or water play. I did abscond a few muscles from a rock formation at low tide. They made a nice treat for dinner one night. One more highlight was the pictographs up at the north end of the trail. I suppose they were made by the Makah Indian Tribe in times past. I found them a little less wonderful than the advertisement described.
Upon repacking to head home B was in for justice but it just did not seem possible. Buck kept repacking his pack and each time finding a huge rock hidden amongst his stuff. The sun was out and with our packs a little lighter, leaving a food offering for the night scavengers, we headed back up the trail. Everyone was in great spirits and laughing could be heard up and down the trial amongst the children. It took us a couple hours coming out to make it back to our vehicles. We had driven separate vehicles so we caravanned down highway 101 out of Forks. Being in the jovial all around good mood I made the decision to use an area designated for slower vehicles to zoom past Buck and wave bye bye. He of course within the next 10 miles did the same thing to me. B informed me that she didn’t think Jesus would have done such an illegal thing.
Pulling into Sequim I needed a quick stop at a mini-mart and being a rule breaker, YES! there were lots of open parking spaces but I pulled into the lone Handicapped space right up front. B informed me once again she didn’t think Jesus would do such a thing.
No other events worth mentioning happened on our return trip. The next day I talked with Buck and he laughed at that little B’ster because somewhere somehow when he unpacked his backpack, way down at the bottom was a huge 5 pound rock. I of course asked B if she thought Jesus would have done such a thing - - - no I didn’t - - - but I am pretty sure He would have.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Guardian Angels

“So what do you think? Is he up to it?”
“Of course he’s not up to it, that’s why we are here. What I don’t understand is why one of your rank was given guardianship of a little baby? Don’t you normally take on higher profile duties?”
“I don’t question the Father’s wisdom and neither should you. Before taking this assignment, the Father opened the book and let me see a glimpse of what’s to come. They are both really going to need our help. You have been with him for 26 years now, isn’t that right?”
“That’s pretty close, a bit longer. Isn't that a little unusual getting to see what’s to come? Why would the Father do that?”
“Who can understand the Fathers reasons but I can tell you we have our job cut out for us. Listen, you better get your game face on and stay focused because what’s coming Grayquill is going to need every ounce of help you and I can give him. Granted my primary responsibility is B but Grayquill from what I have seen is not ready! I will help you out when I can but I better not catch you slacking off. This little one is just too important.”
“Well you can tell me about that latter but right now look at them. I haven’t seen him this relaxed in a long time and she seems very content.
”Listen, don’t get all sentimental on me, if you drop the ball here, there will be hell to pay.”
“Hey, that’s not funny, don’t use that threat on me, I don’t appreciate it.”
Oh my goodness, I am in more trouble than I thought, “Listen, It was a figure of speech you dim wit. Calm down. I just wanted you to know I will be expecting your best and I am not taking this assignment lightly. I will not put up with any nonsense from you. I have heard the stories down through the ages of your less than stellar past performances.
“This little one, B, the Father has great plans for and the evil one is already plotting against her. So tell me, this Grayquill where are the holes, what’s he lacking?”
“Gee...where to start, we don't have time for a complete list but I will highlight a few. Grayquill is how should I say it? My best description is… he’s of the common type. He lacks courage. He is prone to not face trouble head on but skirt around it sizing it up for hours or even days before taking action. He’s a messy. Some think he is pretty funny but honestly, he has never made me laugh, except for some of the bone head choices he makes.”
“Hmmm….that doesn’t sound good.”
“It’s not! He often sticks his foot in his mouth. He regularly speaks before thinking and that has caused him a goodly amount of pain. His strengths are, he has a good strong conscious but he will rationalize it away whenever it serves him. He is a hard worker but his weakness is, when a duty gets boring or mundane, he will begin to falter, then, his best slips to the side. During these times he will be prone to day dreaming and in his school years he had more than one teacher totally exasperated with his lack of focus and I had to come to the rescue on more than one occasion. He is creative which helps him in problem solving. He is both good and horrible with people but that speaking without thinking is a real weakness. He will hurt another’s feelings without really intending to and I have had to help him repair more than one misspeak. But enough about him, tell me about the little lady. What is she going to be like?”
The older wiser angel smiles, “Where to start? Some of whom and what she is to become will remain to be seen by her choices. But, the strengths the Father gave her in the beginning are quite astounding. B has been gifted to see right and wrong at a high level. This will probably develop her into a no nonsense person. She is creative and her passion for life is strong. Her mind is already inquisitive and she loves learning. You will see as she grows if something is unjust she will work hard to make it just. She will have no trouble telling a person who needs to be set straight what is the straight way. She has been gifted with loyalty to those in her inner circle. She is courageous beyond what one would expect and her compassion for those less fortunate will be demonstrated though out her life. Her expectation of herself and others will probably cause her some pain down the road. My task is to keep drawing her toward the Father and his perfect plan for her. I am looking forward to this assignment.”
“Well we got our work cut out for us, I am glad you are here, maybe you can give me some pointers in helping to direct this sleeper. I am a bit worried about him. I still don’t get why the father would entrust such a highly valuable child to one such as this.”
“Trust…love triumphs over all, he does love her.’’
“What else can I do?”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cleaning Fish

"Daddy is that the one I caught? No, that one is not mine. Mine had more red on the sides and I think mine was bigger. Why are you cutting off the head? Does it hurt the fish?”
“No, B the fish is dead, it doesn’t have any feelings.”
“It’s kind of gross, cleaning fish.”
“Yes it is but it has to be done. Why don’t you go wash the fish off in that bucket of water?”
No, I think I will just watch you. Are we going to eat these fish for dinner?”
No, these will be smoked.”
“Oh……. What’s smoked?
“It is a way of making the fish good to eat and a lot of smoke is used in the process.”
“Oh….Why is the fishes eye open? Is the fish looking at us?”
“No, B the fish is dead, fish don’t have eye lids. They can’t close their eyes.”
“You mean their eyes are open all the time? How do they sleep?”
“Yip their eyes are open all the time. Hmmm….I don’t know how they sleep but they do.”
“Daddy, I think you are just making that up.”
"Well, B I might be. Well that is the last one. Are you going to help me wash them off?”
“Sure Daddy, but I think I will let you do the washing.”

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Heart Belongs to My Daddy

The little girl’s face doesn’t seem happy, just doing. Because I know where, when and who is in the picture. There is little doubt that is influencing my projecting of the little girl’s feelings.
Where, when and who: Twin lakes, Colville Indian Reservation, a weeklong fishing trip Grayquill, Mrs. Grayquill, and daughter B. Also along are GQ's brother M and wife D, GQ's sister W and husband T. Neither couple had children. It is about 1983, my daughter B is either three or four years old and she was the only child on the trip.
The picture sends a small ring of sadness my way. If the picture could talk I wonder what it might say? The expression seems to say,”I am playing by myself and there is nothing I can do about it. Lunch is over and I have been told to go play. This is a vacation but it is for my parents not me. I have been brought along only because I live in this family. My feelings were not important. I am bored and I wish I had a friend to play with. The adults are enjoying their precious talk time. I am being ignored. I have no idea a picture is being taken of me. I am putting my egg container in my wheelbarrow. There isn’t even a sand box here. I am a little tired as we were in the boat fishing all morning and I still feel that wavy feeling from the boat. I suppose, Daddy is out fishing with Uncle T and has decided to leave me here. When dad is around Uncle T he seems to love fishing way more than me. I guess my sweat shirt says, My Heart Belongs to my Daddy, which is true, but I don’t feel right now like my daddy is thinking too much about me. I am only a little girl and I can’t do anything about my loneliness, so I will play with the few toys that they brought for me and wait.”