Thursday, December 26, 2013

Grace, Joy, and Family


Christmas Eve 2013. A time when the Beissers came together to give thanks. 



Grace, the gift of God, is what we did not deserve. Jesus, God with us, is what gives us the Joy. The Joy of knowing where our Hope lies, and the joy of giving thanks for our family.

The tree reminds me of my childhood; the tinsels, the the shimmer, the glow of rejoicing.




Dozens of goodies graced our table. This one especially cute. Little Santa hats made with a slice of banana, a strawberry, and topped with a small march mellow, held together with a toothpick.


The highlight for the men is our traditional Weisswurst. It is eaten with a special German potato salad and dipped into course-ground horseradish mustard, toned down with brown sugar and mayonnaise. The pot, especially designed for this sausage, came from Germany.


The grandchildren present that evening:

Chloe, Rachel, Megan, Sarah, Laura, Heidi, Julia.



The grandsons Josiah, and Jacob. The youngest and the oldest of all the grandchildren.


Never loosing an opportunity to show off, Luke and Eli.


And our newest member of the family: Jafar from Nigeria, 6 feet 6 inches tall, and basket ball star for LCA in Lynchburg.


Decked out with Lakers cap and Kobe Bryant shirt. What a blessed day we had.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

We Lost Our Faithful Friend



Sebastien, mighty Mr. “S”, was our little dog. He left a void in our midst after more than nineteen years.

A funny little pooch was he. He made us smile so many times, not only with his antics, but also with stubborn attitude.

I wrote several stories about him previously. I especially love the one where Mr. S wound up at a wedding rehearsal 15 miles from the house while Carol and I went to the grocery store.

I remember him hiding under the bed. The only way he would show his face was when we bounced a tennis ball. He loved his ball, and often slept with it next to his body.

He would get mad when he found his food bowl empty. He’d whack at the bowl until it flipped up-side-down. If that racket didn’t result in instant attention, he’d attack the small trash container near his bowl, dump its contents, and tear to shreds all that was in it.

One time, during one of his rants, he grabbed hold of the toilet paper and dragged a long strand of it, for twenty feet or more, all the way into the kitchen.

One time he stole a box of small chocolate donuts from a grocery bag sitting on the floor. For days, Carol could not figure where the donuts went. Until one day, Mr. S emerged from under the bed with an odd smile on his face. Carol noticed his chops were puffed and she could not see his teeth. He was savoring one more donut in his mouth. One that he, at the time, was unable to consume.

Carol had to reprimand the little fellow once with a fly swatter. It was not long after, that mighty Mr. S attacked the swatter and tore it into a thousand pieces. Nothing but the wire handle was left.

On our cross country trip he gained four pounds; to a whopping total of 18 pounds. I had built for him a pedestal type of box to rest in. The elevated box was in between the front two seats. It had his water and food bowl in front of him. The sorry little pooch didn’t even have to get up to eat and drink. All he had to do was stretch his neck and partake.

He loved to help sing. Whenever I cut loose with a high-pitched diddy, he would chime in like a jackal howling at the moon. The grand kids coaxed him to do the same. He would howl like a mighty wolf. The kids loved it.

Mr. S knew his territory. One time a plumber came to the house. I knew the man. He had two large dogs living with him. It did not take Mr. S long to establish his territory. Mr. S simply raised his leg and peed all over the man boots. 

“Now take that, Mr. Plumber!”
.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Pig In The Doghouse




More than thirty-six years ago we moved to Bedford Virginia. We moved piecemeal, a load at a time. We built a 20x24 outbuilding to store furniture, stuff, and some old printing equipment. We dug a well and septic, moved into a trailer behind the job site until our new house was built.

The summer of 1977, my senior class at the Tech School where I was teaching, presented me with a twenty pound piglet to take to Virginia as a going-away present. The students brought it to the classroom and had a good laugh as they handed it to me. I was tickled to get the gift, and looked forward to providing a good home for it in Virginia.

Now, I knew about bringing an underage girl across state line was against the law. I also heard that transporting livestock across state line was not allowed.

Well, I had a dog once, who teamed up with a stray pack, got into a sheep pasture, and was shot by the farmer. His vacant doghouse made an excellent container, and decoy, to carry the pig across state line.

I drove a Datsun pickup truck at the time. I loaded the pickup with crates, tools, outdoor furniture, and the occupied doghouse. I was all packed, strapped, and raring to go. However, with the pig in the doghouse, I had to nail a board across its opening. The first challenge came just twenty miles down the road.

At Philipsburg, NJ, I had to cross the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. Slowly, I approached to the tollbooth to pay my dime to cross. I kept a lookout at the doghouse through my rearview mirror. The opening to the doghouse was clearly in view and faced the tollbooth. Just as I handed the guy on duty my 10 cents, the sow in the doghouse decided to stick its snout out the crack and let out an alleluia squeal. Like saying, "yippee, I'm in Pennsylvania!"

Oh my! Fear and trepidation struck this old boy. My German upbringing smacked me straight up-side-my-head. I pulled from that tollbooth with one eye glued to the rearview mirror. First thinking that the guard at the tollbooth will surely shoot my tires out. After a couple hundred yards, windows open, I strained for sirens to close in on me. After a mile or two, I looked for troopers to eyeball me from the other side of the highway. For a hundred miles or more, down route 22, then interstate 81, I craned my neck looking for flashing lights.

Maybe the law sent a message ahead to the Maryland boarder, I wondered? Or ahead to the West Virginia boarder? Surely, the state of Virginia will be waiting for me to confiscate my baby sow.

I was shocked at the laxness of law enforcement. Clearly I had been caught. The proof was in the squeal! So, I trucked on, staying in the right lane, making sure I not infringe on any other law.

Then I came to view a new road sign. One I had not anticipated. "Weigh Station - All Trucks Pull Over"

Well, my German regimentation gripped me again. I was not driving our station wagon, I was driving my truck. A truck! Period. Not wanting to antagonize the law any further, I dutifully pulled off, along with the eighteen wheelers, onto the weigh station.

I clearly remember, leaning way over to get a look at the fellow high up in the glass tower, to see if he will let me go on with the heavy load on my small pickup. All I saw was a guy, his head almost pressed against the glass, screaming and frantically waving his hands, motioning me on. - - I didn't know you supposed to hit the scales at forty miles per hour speed. There I sat, feeling like a roach that landed on the wrong pile.

We named the pig "Lisl." I built a shelter for her and a fenced-in lot. She wallowed and basked in the Virginia air for more than a year. At over two-hundred pounds she finally filled two shelves in the freezer.
.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

HORMONES ON THE PROWL



A shorter version of this story is in my book "A TIME AND PLACE The Making of an Immigrant." I have expanded the story and it will be published as part of an e-book in the near future.

None of us had ever heard of a school bus. My sister walked to the same school, but she joined her own friends on the way. The closer one got to school, the more kids were seen walking. My buddy and I mostly stayed a pair.
One girl in our class, named Monika, was a cute fifth grader. She flashed large eyes and slung her curly, dark hair with a come-hither motion. We both must have been struck on her. Moreover, we were quite interested in the showing of her early development to womanhood. Every day we hustled to draw close and walk near her. We knew even at eleven years old, that men who admire the opposite sex do not walk ahead of the girls, but follow so the eye can get its fill.
As we walked close behind we’d crack snide remarks to tease her. She’d turn around and give us a chance to better ogle her noticeably developed front side.
Two young snaps are always braver than one alone. We asked her one day if she stuffed socks in her bra just to show off. Well, that did not set well with her. She got so upset at the insinuation that she approached the teacher and told of the comment we made.
The teacher called us to his desk and asked if the story was true. We confessed, thinking for sure we’d receive the warranted punishment. Keeping a stern face, he simply admonished us not to let it happen again. Monika was not angry with us, she just wanted to set the record straight.
We also trailed Monika walking home. Maybe out of habit, but certainly chemistry may have had something to do with it. We knew we would not be able to keep up an intelligent conversation with a girl that was messing with our mind. So, we stayed about five paces behind. This made us think we were with our girl, and it kept us from making fools of ourselves.
When you are infatuated, you just can’t talk of sports and trucks. The conversations we had in our minds we dare not reveal to the one for whom we had this longing. She was aware of us as we followed and most likely felt very important to have two sprouts interested in her. After she entered her building, we stayed across the street staring at her fourth floor window until she waved at us. Then we went home.
.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

TIME MOVES ON . . .



TIME MOVES ON . . .

Do you ponder? Do you marvel? Do you ever realize no matter how much education and experiences you’re absorbing in life, it does not make an iota of a difference on you destiny. 

From dust you came, and to dust you will return. That is a fact. If you think that fact is the end of life’s struggle, you are most pitied. So, I challenge you to ponder . . . marvel.

In my previous blog post I shared with you a small wonder of nature, titled: IT NEVER CEASES . . .. I’d like to continue with that thought.

The starlings did partake of the trees. One group at a time. They also, in their frenzy, dropped seeds to the ground. Does our Creator think this was wasteful? Consider this question: Did you ever bent down, after the ice and snows are gone, after the leaves have succumbed and had been blown into corners to make mulch, and you picked up and looked at one of those tiny dogwood seeds?

You will find that its shell had been chewed to expose the kernel on the inside of the seed. These kernels contributed to sustain the mice that do not sleep away the cold, but depend on the Lord to feed them. Even every dogwood seed that was not found, and had fallen into cracks in the soil, is in position to become a new seedling trees.

Over the years I have planted maples, redbuds, hollies, dogwoods, and poplars. All had volunteered in our flower beds just begging to be transplanted and given a chance to start a new cycle of life.

Have you ever considered the picture our Creator is giving us when the leaves turn colors, the fierce winds blow, dead branches fall to the ground and are covered by leaves? . . . The Spirit of God is the wind. It removed the dead branches from the living tree, us; our sins removed, covered by the sacrifice of Christ, the leaves.

Although the leaves are dead, the branches are dead, life continues. Termites, grubs, and other bugs feast on the fallen matter. The result is new soil to sustain the undergrowth, new vines, new trees; to feed turkeys and deer.

Nature . . . Time moves on. There is no end. Neither is there an end to your soul. Consider, ponder, marvel, . . . Give thanks.

“Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” Matthew 6:26, KJV

Thursday, October 31, 2013

IT NEVER CEASES




It never ceases to amaze me when I see the workings and discipline of nature. I believe our Creator shows us, in many ways, how we should depend on Him rather than on ourselves. I know He gave us the ability to reason, react, and perform to help to sustain, and to make a living for ourselves. However, mankind, with its selfish nature, cannot rival the harmony and balance among earth’s living creatures.

What I’m about to show is what simple nature has so powerfully revealed to me.

To line our driveway to our house, we have growing six dogwood trees, each more than twenty years old. Two weeks ago they were loaded with seeds, covered with a bright red fleshy hull, very beautiful to look at, especially when surrounded with still green leaves. 

One morning, after the sun had risen to above the tree line, I slowly walked to get the paper from the box. A cheerful clamor of high-pitched chirps fill the air. In the tops of trees, fifty yards away, an enormous assembly of starlings had gathered, readying themselves to fly south. With the brilliant pink and pale blue morning sky behind them, they flitted, hopped, and jumped trying to occupy every available inch of exposed twigs.

I’m sure they passed along a warning to keep an eye on the dude walking in the driveway.

On my way back from the paper box, having passed the first dogwood tree, I heard a sharp increase of fluttering behind me. I turned, and  began to witness one of the marvels of nature. I continued to slowly walk backward not making any sudden moves.

A small swarm, maybe three-hundred starlings, had engulfed the first dogwood and was frantically devouring the red dogwood seeds. As if by command, no more than thirty-seconds later, they all left the tree and reunited with their bothers and sisters in the trees fifty yards away. The birds had stripped all the seeds from the dogwood to within four feet of the ground. . . . I wondered why? For safety sake I suppose; predators could be lurking!

As I slowly continued walking backward, a new swarm of starlings engulfed the second tree eagerly consuming the tree’s seeds in the same manner and timeframe as the first group. The second swarm returned to the  black mass in the fencerow trees, leaving the dogwood stripped of its red berries.

I continued to inch away, giving the birds their space.

This went on, tree after tree, until all the berries of the six trees were devoured. The massive squall of birds had perfectly divided itself into smaller groups so all could partake of the feast in a mannerly way. 

Who directed these birds? Who gave these birds the compassion and willingness to share? Would humans have behaved in like manner?
.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

NEW BOOTS



A shorter version of this story is in my book "A TIME AND PLACE The Making of an Immigrant." I have expanded the story and it will be published as part of an e-book in the near future.


                                             NEW BOOTS
During the summer of 1955, after I started working at a printing plant and earned a few dollars, I found myself in need of a new pair of shoes. If there were any discount stores then, I sure did not know about them. The only shoe store I knew about was downtown Metuchen.
My English was very limited then. Fortunately, the words Schuh and shoe were pronounced the same way in German as in English. I had a time trying to tell the salesman that I wanted to buy work boots. Work boots would do fine in summer and winter. I wanted to buy them bigger than my fifteen-year-old feet measured. I needed boots that would last and I would eventually grow into. This request seemed totally foreign to the man. He may have thought I was a bit dense. Several times I got the impression that he wished I had never come into his store.
At long last, after many gestures, looks, and waving of the arms, I settled for a pair of hefty, leather boots. By using his fingers on both hands he showed me, the cost of the selected boots was twenty-three dollars. I, in turn, showed off my English, also with the support of my fingers, that I only had eighteen dollars. He then motioned that he would keep them in a corner until next week when I then would pay him the balance.
I gestured and stammered back at him that I wanted to take the boots with me. The hardest thing for the sales clerk to understand was that I just offered eighteen dollars––total. All the money that I had to my name. It was all I was going to pay him. He then summarized the deal on a sales ticket. He asked where I worked, jotted that down, and now was ready for me to sign on the dotted line.
When I looked, I saw that he added the five dollars difference in the deal, listing it separately as a balance due. Well, I was not born yesterday. I pointed at the amount due and shook my head; a firm “No.” Taking his pen into my hand, I motioned for him to scratch out the five bucks due and he’d have a deal. In frustration, he raised his arms, then scribbled out the five on the bill-of-sale. I dug out my eighteen dollars and laid them on the counter.
What he muttered, I do not know. He most likely told me to take the blame shoes and get on out of his store. Not waisting any more time I was out of there, shoes firmly under my arm, and debt free.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

ALL IS NEW



ALL IS NEW

Just imagine, you are 16 years old, you’ve just left your country of your birth, and your destination is halfway around the world. You have never been in an airport, much less on a plane. 

My son and his family have agreed to share their home with Jafar, who is from Nigeria, for  the next nine month. He will attend LCA (Liberty Christian Academy).

The young man is all smiles; a true pleasure to have around. At sixteen he is a mere 6 feet and six inches tall. He partakes in all family activities, and is all eyes and ears as this, his new experience, exposes the life in the USA.

At his first stopover in Paris, he had to change concourses at the airport. As he came off the plane he asked the first attendant how to find the predetermined gate. He was sent underground to a shuttle train. Not trusting, he asked another attendant to verify his direction. And then he asked a third. All this within a 20 minutes layover. He told my son he was frightened when the train whizzed underground to a strange new destination. He prayed he was not going downtown Paris.

After fumbling in Atlanta, then finally landing in Raleigh NC, he had spent 27 hours lost in airports and in the air. The only thing the boy ate was what was offered on the plane.

When he eventually met his new folks in America, they not knowing he hadn’t eaten a full meal, they offered him a full tube of Pringles and a Sprite, which he promptly devoured. Neither treat he had ever had before. Yum--yum!

On the way to Bedford, his new home for nine month, he was amazed by the condition of our roads. “So quiet,” he quipped, “And no one is blowing their car horns.”

The first day was all new. He, was introduced to french fries, ketchup, peanut butter, coffee, and a multitude of other American standards.

In a few more days, I will report to you of the many other new things this young man has experienced in just the first week here. My friends, we are blessed. 

.

Friday, September 20, 2013

MY FIRST LOVE



A shorter version of this story is in my book "A TIME AND PLACE The Making of an Immigrant." I have expanded the story and it will be published as part of an e-book in the near future.



In the winter of 1955 when I sped toward the ripe age of sixteen, I mustered up enough courage to call a girl one evening from the place of work. We did not have a phone at home. I had seen the girl only once, briefly, at a gathering of the folks Mom cleaned for.
Of course, I thought she was lovely with blond hair flowing, rosy cheeks, and a coy little smile. I lost sleep over her. I realized that I would never be good enough for her, but maybe . . . we could see each other once and just talk, well, try to talk.
I have long forgotten her name, but I clearly remember the ache in my heart whenever I thought of her. One evening, at the shop I worked at after school, I could hardly do my assigned jobs for thinking about her. I had her phone number in my wallet. Until then, it was that number in my pocket that made me feel close to her. That night a tremendous longing welled up in me. I needed to hear her voice for the first time. I practiced all evening the line I would say to her father or mother when they answered the phone. I was confident that I would be able to express myself well enough to introduce myself and then ask to speak to their daughter.
The lights in the shop were on full brightness, except the front office, which was dark. I mustered up the nerve to sit in the boss’s chair, in the dark office. My heart pounded. In the shadows of the streetlight outside, with a lump in my throat, I stared at the black telephone in front of me. Was I man enough to make the call? Make a call that might round out my life. Possibly include a new part in my life, a part outside my immediate family. A new part in my life that until now had been taken up with nothing but an all-boy school and an every day job. Yes, I was man enough to make the call!
I picked up the phone and dialed. A voice on the other end said, “Hello.” It was a sweet young voice, obviously not the mother. It was her—the girl of my dreams! The shock of her answering the phone totally scrambled my much rehearsed lines. I was speechless, literally. My heart pounded so hard, and my breathing became so labored as the seconds ticked on. I could not utter a word. All I could do was hang up. Such was the world of a young man in love.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

WHEN FOLLOWED . . . KEEP WALKING

.
Well, just follow my thinking here. . . .


I went to the store and bought me a bag of Gummy bears.

On the way home I decided to cut through a neighborhood that had an active community watch system.
It was a shortcut, but I was using public streets.

I noticed I was followed by a man at a respectable distance behind. He was obviously interested in where I was going. The community watchman I supposed.

Well, a little annoyed, I thought to myself, "I did pretty good in hand-to-hand combat while in the army. I bet I could whip that nosy fellow following me."

But then reason set in, and I pondered the possible outcome of such a cocky idea as to start a fight with a stranger that hadn't done a thing to me.

As I kept walking, and he kept following, I visualized a possible confrontation.

I could hide behind a bush and jump the pesky fellow.
I could punch him in the nose.
I could wrestle him to the ground; I'm bigger than he is.
I could smack his head against the sidewalk to knock him out.
However, I also could get shot if he should have a gun.

I could just keep walking. I haven't done anything wrong.
I'll go home and share my Gummy bears.


A chip on your shoulder could get you killed!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

THE HEADLESS SQUIRREL

.
You remember the blog post about my son standing on his mattress with a stethoscope held to the ceiling listening to a beehive in the attic? ("That's My Boy," March 12, 2012.) Well, amazing stuff continues to happen in that family.

After having succumbed to a continuous weasel attack the last time they raised chickens, my son and his family again have decided to get another bunch of chickens. This time they improved the housing and feeding routine to a new level of scientific methods. However, a fox has decided to outsmart their dog and pluck a chicken a week from the flock.

All that said, the chicken feed is stored in a clear plastic washtub and stored in the henhouse. The henhouse fencing now may keep a weasel out, but not the squirrels.

Recently, when feeding time came, the simple activity turned into a backyard disaster. Lo and behold, the see-through feed container contained a squirrel that had chewed its way into the bin. It frantically scooted about inside that container trying to find a way out. As not to confront the varmint inside the coop, the girl feeding the chickens pulled the container into the backyard. This excited the dog into a frantic rage and the squirrel even more into an elevated panic.

When the plastic lid was lifted, the show escalated to a point I would have paid to see it.

The dog jumped into the bin and wrestled the squirmy critter, chicken feed flying in all directions, until the dog had a firm grip on the intruder.

Well, the dog having won the battle, wondered off, with squirrel in mouth, to gloat over his triumph behind the shed.

It wasn't until later in the afternoon, when the dead, headless squirrel appeared on the back deck. Our ever curious three-year-old promptly picked the critter up, and carried it inside the house to show his Momma. The boy, holding the thing by one leg, sashayed into the kitchen, tugged on Mamma's apron, and proudly held his find up for her to appreciate.

At that point a panicked, screeching scream reverberated through the house bringing all occupants to see the cause for the high alarm call. With shattered eardrums, the three-year-old boy dropped the squirrel onto the kitchen floor and ran from the scene.

My son held his wife to keep her from fainting. Their daughter fanned her to catch her breath, their other daughter offered a glass of water. Their son respectfully removed the headless varmint from the floor and pitched it over the backyard fence.

When things settled down, everybody was accounted for except for the three-year-old. Where did he run to? The search posse spread out; to the basement, to the backyard, to the barn, to the bedrooms. No square yard in house or yard was un-searched. Finally, the kid looked up, with frightened eyes, from the corner inside the utility closet.

Whew!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

THE SHOELACE MISTERY


What is it with me, or most men? I would say our hangup is we always need to know how things work.
After all, how can we fix it if we don't figure out how it works in the first place.

I've been trying to deal with a problem for at least a half a decade. Don't snicker. It has nothing to do with a part of my anatomy.

The problem I've been dealing with is more of an aggravation. An aggravation that causes me to waste time and energy, and not always in a suitable environment.

I've been irritated by my left shoe's laces coming untied soon after I put the shoe on. Now you say, "What's the big deal?" I tell you the big deal. Once you step on your loose lace, and your kisser hits the ground, you'll know fast that untied shoelaces do not aid to the composure and dapperness of a cool dude. (Which I am by the way; stretch socks and all.)

Like I said, I've been trying to figure out why only the left shoe's lace unties itself. I do the exact same knot in both shoes. I've tied knots the same way since I was old enough to eat my own soup.

I figured since I was right handed I tied my right shoe tighter. No, that wasn't it.

I figured I shoved my foot further into the shoe, leaving space behind at the heel. No, adjusting that didn't work either.

I looked at myself in a full body mirror and figured my left leg was shorter. I bought a Dr. Scholls insert, tried it out for a week––didn't work.

I decided my stride is not the same with both legs. For several days I did the George Jefferson bop. You know, the cool move where your hip dips a bit at every step. Cool you know! No worky either.

I took notice if I walked pigeon toed. Maybe my left foot sticks further out, or in, than the right one? Not that bad, I noticed. Surely not enough to cause the dilemma.

I tried wearing suspenders and even parted my hair on the other side of my head. No change!

Years I squatted to tie my left shoe. I bent over, blocking other people's way, tying my shoe. I quit going to the Y because I was getting plenty of exercise bending down and bobbing up. I constantly had to make sure my shirt didn't come up and reveal my collectable inscriptions on my souvenir drawers.

Well they thought the earth was flat at one time. They didn't give up. And, wow they actually discovered it was round.

Do you think I, a man with my drive, my stick-to-a-tive-ness, and my nit-picking brain would give up?

I found out, by shear dumb revelation, that had I ever been a Boy Scout, I would have solved my predicament long ago.

I tied my right shoelace doing the first half knot over and under. Did the same on my left shoe for years. However, when I finally figured to tie the problem shoe, doing the half knot under and over, all my problems were solved.

Now I can grin and hoof along with the best of them.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

THE JOY IS GONE


This short story is from my book "A TIME AND PLACE The Making of an Immigrant."I have expanded the story and it will be published as part of an e-book in the future.

THE JOY IS GONE

In late summer of ‘52 on a sunny, crisp day, I strolled to the edge of the rail yard to play . . . all by myself. I settled down at an abutment at the end of a rail track, an elevated area about two meters square. This new spot of play, isolated from scurrying pedestrians, was rimmed with used rail ties which made a perfect ledge to play on. I must have summoned all the imaginations of childhood as I settled in to a wonderful and deeply enjoyable time of play. All was perfect that day. I remember it well.
Looking around that small area I found everything my imagination sought. Every nail, chunk of metal, rock, bolt, and fragment of wood held meaning. All fulfilled my needs of the moment. I assembled, arranged and manufactured, I dreamed, imagined and conquered. It truly was a playtime that fully included my soul and all the wonders of a child’s world.––A perfect day.
For days after, I cherished the feeling and the good that had swelled my young heart that afternoon. Soon chores, homework, and running errands led me back to reality, the regimentation, and the striving to get on with life. However, the remembrance of that perfect day stayed etched in my mind and soul to this day.
A month or so later, I was drawn again to that previous wonderful experience, that personal paradise at the end of the tracks. My heart sang as I approached the spot with great expectations. The weather was sunny and crisp. I found the place, but the world was not still and quiet. . . .The toy wonders still laid where I had left them, meaningless and totally useless as they really were. Now it was a sooty place, a place of rotten timbers and dust. . . .Who had stolen the glee, the power, and magic? . . .It was time. Time itself was the thief. All the good had gone, . . .along with the child in me.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

THE MANEUVER


A shorter version of this story is in my book "A TIME AND PLACE The Making of an Immigrant." I have expanded the story and it will be published as part of an e-book in the near future.

THE MANEUVER
One maneuver I participated in surely takes the cake.
In the early nineteen-fifties various delivery trucks, plus all parcel-post trucks, were battery powered. Many of the old battery powered vehicles had wooden-spoked wheels with solid rubber tires. A big chain, powered by huge batteries, led to the rear drive wheels. The operator sat up front like in any other motor vehicle.
Many Gasthauses, close to the brewery, had their beer delivered in wooden barrels on a wagon drawn by a pair of Clydesdale horses. The battery powered trucks served the more distant establishments.
On level ground these electric trucks easily outran the horse drawn ones. However, going up an incline, the battery powered vehicles really labored. They slowed down to a point where our walking home from school would be considered fast.
My buddy and I had long observed that the battery powered postal trucks had a pullout step in the rear of the truck. The postman used it to step up and back down to retrieve the parcels. We figured if we could run out into traffic, while the cars behind were held to a crawl, we could pull out that step and get a ride home.
Oh boy! As a kid, things always make so much sense. After all, how in the world could an inquisitive kid think things through if he never partook in any such wonderful experiences?
Then, guess what? The day came when everything fell into place. As we moseyed up an incline heading home from school, we noticed a postal truck holding up traffic as it slowed to master the slight hill. “The postman cometh!” We ran out into traffic, pulled out the step, sat down on it, and grinned. Just the perfect size for two boys with school satchels on their backs. We sat there looking kind of proud and worthy of praise as we faced the cars that followed behind the truck. If the postman knew he had stowaways, we could not tell, nor did we even pondered the risk.
After the hill leveled out the postal truck gained considerable speed, but still slowed down traffic. The road was wide enough for cars to pass, if one wanted to fight the trolley tracks in the middle of the road.
We were doing so good that in no time my pal realized he had to get off. We had zipped past his road. With no time to contemplate, he just jumped off the moving truck. I did not know a twelve-year old could be so acrobatic. When his feet touched the pavement, he immediately went tumbling like a frantic rag doll, as the cars that followed blew their horn.
Well, I still sat there. The vehicle kept gaining speed. Soon I too had to get off. To stay on for the duration, only the Lord knew how many miles to the next stop.
The word inertia was never explained to me. Even if it had, what could I have done about it then . . . looking at the cars following.
I was in the process of moving backward. I’ve seen people jump off still moving trolley cars, but they faced in the right direction when they jumped off.
Well, “There I go.” I also made the jump. A good thing the cars that followed kept considerably more distance since the first chap’s sprawl. I hit the pavement so hard that every bone in me rattled. Flopping around and rolling with the traffic, I came to rest at the edge of the bicycle path. I am sure the cars that followed blew their horns and hollered at me. I did not hear a thing. I crawled up onto the sidewalk, my head in a whirl. After a sobering resting spell I got up, pulled my shirt around so the buttons were again in the front, straightened out my breeches, gathered up my satchel, and slowly dragged myself home.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

THE BIG SMOOCH

This short story is from my book "A TIME AND PLACE The Making of an Immigrant."I have expanded the story and it will be published as part of an e-book in the future.

This story happened in 1946

THE BIG SMOOCH


At six years old, the Red Cross sent me, and a few others from our town, to a rest camp in the Bohemian Woods. After we jumped off the train, we joined kids already at the depot. From there guardians chaperoned us through a town. To where we walked I can’t remember.
On that walk through town I do remember a startling, dark skinned woman with long black hair, dressed in black, sitting on the front steps of a row house. As we walked by, she offered me a piece of chocolate. I was shocked at the gesture. I knew I had stared at her. I refused the candy. Had I taken it, I would not have eaten it. My ever skeptical mother instilled that in me. Later I learned she was a gypsy and quite common in the area.
I stayed several weeks at the Bohemian camp. Distinct experiences come to mind.
One of the great-rooms we spent time to play in was covered with ceramic tile. The floors, the walls, and the window sills, all were covered in light green tile. Nothing earth shattering took place in that hall except we, at six, learned to annoy the girls.
Up to the time of the Bohemian Camp, my group of friends, all boys, had stayed away from girls. Girls were weird. They did not carry spears and pocketknives.
In an unfamiliar environment and among new and strange kids, we soon learned who was easily irritated, and who dished it out. We, the young snaps, soon found out that girls were different; and agitate them we did. It turned out the girls shrieked and covered their ears when we, the boys, scratched the tile with a spoon or other metal object. What fun!
The camp insisted that all the children take afternoon naps. This daily routine took place in a large hall with tall ceilings and many windows. Each boy and girl had their own little iron framed bed, and all napped in the same hall. The boys’ beds were lined up along the inner wall and faced the windows. The girls’ beds faced toward the boys and were lined up along the window wall. During nap time we were not allowed to talk, only rest. However, the boys were restless. Girls! The world was too alive, too interesting, and offered too much to experience.
The ever curious boys found that each of the four chimneys along our wall had a small soot and ash clean-out-box near the floor. Apparently during the winter months several coal stoves heated that big room.
Investigating what was behind those little iron doors became a mission of high interest. We found those clean-outs to be full of fine soot. The stuff was pitch black, kind of oily, and hard to wipe off the skin. Remember, all this discovery took place while we “napped.”
Now, there were as many girls in that hall as were boys. Since talking was not allowed, the girls all resigned themselves to truly rest. Some, I’m sure, went to sleep.
We, the boys, on the opposite side along the inner wall whispered, conspired and devised a plan. A plan to agitate the opposite sex. It took a day or so to work out the details. Each boy was assigned a girl strategically located opposite his bed. One girl for each boy. The older boys decided that on the appointed day, each boy would kiss and smooch his designated girl. Soot was part of the plan.
On the chosen day, all the chaps and girls settled in to take their nap. The bright sun lit up the room. Some thirty minutes into the rest period most girls dozed in the warm, sun filled room. We, the men, faked likewise.
When the chaperone finally was convinced a restful afternoon was in the making, he walked out of the room. The boys went to work. Carefully, not making the slightest noise, we opened the chimney trap doors which were spaced about one every three beds. We dipped our hands in and brought forth a good dab of soot. The soot was passed to left and right so every boy had some between their fingers. As previously planned, we took the soot and carefully smeared it around our mouth. . . .The girls rested peacefully.
All quiet, . . . waiting for the signal. Our hearts pounded. We hardly contained our giggles. The prank leader coughed! In one accord we bounded out of our beds, darted across the center aisle, and pounced on the girls. Not along side of the girls, but fully leaped on top of them.
Smooch we did! Good, long smooches. Shrieks and squeals resonated throughout the hall. As quickly as the boys came, so they also retreated to their respective beds.
When the chaperone came to check on the commotion, all the girls were sitting up and really didn’t know what had happened. The boys grinned. Who me? I didn’t do a thing!
I will never forget the sight. The young ladies had black smudges around their lips and face proving that none of the young boys had chickened out. The boys acted very sheepishly. None of us were caught in the act. All of us were obviously guilty. No reprimand was ever issued. The conquest was a success. Thank God for boys and girls.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Chicken's Funeral


Franz's symbol of wisdom
Recently a bit of local news reached my ear. Not a major story, but in my mind one I could mold into an entertaining tale.

To me a chicken is a farm animal. It does not mix with our flower boxes in front of the house. I don't like the residue they leave on the sidewalk, or the porch. I know the white portion of their droppings does wonders to speed up growth in a young man's mustache. However, I don't need that help any longer.

Several of our neighbors raise chickens for eggs, I never was convinced it is worth it.

To give chickens names and become pets, a whole new understanding comes to mind. I have a hard time understanding folks my age talking to chickens and calling them by their name. I guess it is the same as talking to yourself; at least the eye contact is there. When children talk to animals it gives me a warm feeling. I can see a child squatting to feed Darlene the Hen popcorn. I can also appreciate a young'un wanting a chicken eat part of a biscuit out their hand, or having a conversation with the cackling fowl.

Many-a-youngsters have gone to the henhouse in all kinds of weather to collect the eggs. Kids learn to feed them regularly connecting work with the reward.

Most chicken families start out with a dozen chicks. By the time they raised them to adults, everyone had gotten tired of the stink in the house. When they are introduced to the henhouse the folks soon find out that there are at least four roosters in the bunch. Maybe they keep one rooster. The other three will face one of two characters; 22 or AX.

Now the family is down to eight cluckers. No doubt the fox is going to get his share. Down to seven cluckers. The 'possum and the weasel are on high alert and both are going to win a stake. Down to five cluckers. The neighborhood teenager, texting and driving, is sure to whack one. Now down to four cluckers and one cock bird.

You can see after all this drama that the children now have become attached to the survivors to a point where they not only gave them names, but learned to identify them by their cackle, walk, and color of feathers.

Well, Darlene the hen one day overreached her assigned area. She stretched for a forbidden fruit, slipped, and hung herself in the crotch of a lattice fence. Dead as four o'clock.

I surmise at least one of the three children did a little blubbering. The oldest boy, ever the frugal one, suggested they put her in the crockpot.
"Absolutely not," the mother said. "We don't know how long Darlene has been hanging there."

"Dad! . . . Dad! We have to have a funeral for our faithful family member," Nat bellowed out.
"Okay. Get Jon the shovel, he is old enough to dig the hole," Dad said.
"Not just a hole," Bella the youngest cried. "She was my favorite. Us kids want you, Daddy, to have a funeral for Darlene just like they have at the graveyard at church.

Jon lovingly dug the hole. One foot square and one foot deep.

"A little deeper Jon," Dad said. "Deep enough so a dog won't dig her up."

The sun began to set. The sky shimmered pink and purple. The somber procession to the graveyard began. The deceased was placed in a red hearse. Jon the oldest, eleven years old, slowly pulled the three foot wagon to grave site. The younger children, walking single file, hands clasped, followed. Once at the open grave they sat on three chairs they brought earlier to the gravesite. Smitten and heartbroken they quietly waited for their Dad to begin the service.

"We are gathered here to put Darlene, a faithful friend and member of our family, to eternal rest. As the head of our household I'd like to express my deep condolences to the rest of the brood." Dad reached to his face and, unbeknownst to the others, wiped his smile to again match the solemn occasion.

Dad continued. "At this time I'd like to ask the rest of the family present to say a few words."

"I know you'll be happy again in chicken heaven. I'll miss you," said Bella.
Nat piped up and said, "Thanks for your service."
Jon, the oldest, always with the final word said, "Thanks for the omelets. . . Amen."  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

MEDIEVAL PUNISHMENT




This short story is from my book "A TIME AND PLACE The Making of an Immigrant." this story has been expanded and will be published as part of an e-book in the future. 

MEDIEVAL PUNISHMENT
Being a sickly youngster in the middle to late forties the American Red Cross sent me and many other children to summer camps. This story took place at the last camp I attended.

The boys slept in one large hall on single beds. After being told to get into bed, we were allowed to talk and swap stories with a neighbor for a few more minutes. However, the second the light was turned off, all words had to cease immediately resulting in total quiet.
My bed was near the front and close to the light switch. One night, the instant the lights went off, I, being in the middle of a sentence of some tale, finished my words one-second after dark. The counsellor called on me, made me get out of bed, grabbed my arm, and led me away.
I remember having to walk up one flight of stairs with wrought iron rails on the side. Once up at the chosen landing, the counsellor told me to wait there while he stepped into a room.
He returned shortly with a triangular split piece of firewood. He laid the wood on the floor, sharp edge up, and told me to kneel on it. Very adamantly, finger pointing at my face, he told me not to get off or make any loud noises for half an hour. He made sure my bare knees were squarely planted on it. He warned me not to rear back onto my haunches; if he caught me doing so, or getting off the log in any way, he’d make me stay on that sharp edge for an additional 30 minutes.
Outside of his room, there in the hall, no way to ease the unrelenting pain, I suffered. At first I thought I could tough it out. The only solace being that I truly despised that man. All the wishing that he would fall over dead did nothing to my pain and  agonizing mind. I slobbered and huffed in torment. . . .I heard a lady friend in the room with him. Sounds of pleasure and giggles came to my ears. I knelt there and faced the partially open door. I, a beaten slave.
Seconds felt like minutes, and minutes like hours. Suddenly the door sprang open. He checked on me with a smirk on his face. I must have been a pleasing sight, kneeling there, looking up, quiet tears streaming down my cheeks from the unbearable pain. Satisfied, he said nothing and went back to his room.
Frightened anew, the conviction to obey his orders, stabbed even deeper into my heart. I dare not get caught trying to ease the suffering.
How much time had elapsed since this horror began? . . . Did he keep track of time? . . . Will he remember me out here in the hall? . . . Does anybody love me? . . . Will this ever end? . . . God have mercy on me!


Monday, April 29, 2013

ATTACKED BY NATURE



ATTACKED BY NATURE

Being attacked by nature is a challenge. A challenge that has been present since the beginning of mankind. 

Insects attack plants. Plants die and replenish the soil; a good thing. Animals each follow their own cycle.

I consider myself blessed to having lived long enough to find being attacked by animals not only a challenge, but a joy. I’m not attacked by them personally, but in a way that makes me want to outsmart the critters.

I may be able to outsmart the critters, but I’m certainly not smart enough outsmarting the forces of nature. That part is the Almighty’s doing, and I respect that.

Nature bows down in gratitude for the blessings from above.


Nature submits to the One that directs all.


When the squirrels first chewed the lid of the bird feed barrel and shoved it to the side, I placed a rock on the lid. The mice said to the squirrel, “Hey dummies, look at my hole, I can still get my share!”
I smiled and let them have the little they eat.



Then spring sprung, the ground warmed, peonies sprouted. They sprouted just under the bird feeder. Turkeys came along and scratched for morsels that had dropped from the feeder. In their exuberance they wiped out most of the new peony sprouts. I smiled and placed a few stones around the shoots.


The deer not meaning any harm survived the winter’s sparseness by plucking a few morsels from the evergreens near the cabin. Do I really think the Good Lord wants those plants to die? Nah. I smiled and said to myself, “They’ll only get bushier. I may place a net over them next winter.


Then the neighborhood beaver wiggled itself into our pond. He perused the setup and decided that the two year old willow tree would make a good snack. I smiled and said to myself, “I’ll get another one and plant it in the same spot, but I’ll wrap it in chicken wire and see if he’s game enough to use the wire for a little dental floss.”


Well, we did see bear tracks before. That always makes one feel they're living back in the 1800s. 
First we saw the bird feeder on the ground. “Strange,” we thought. No high wind swepped the mountains since the last time we came to the cabin. I was sure I’d mounted the feeder high enough off the ground as not to get whopped by a bear, but there it was, spent, empty. . . .I smiled.


My smile turned to a gasp when I walk around to the deck. There was sprawled the smoker, (my birthday present) all over the deck. “Maybe we did have a little wind after all.” I said to Carol.


“Wind––my foot,” I shouted when I saw the paw marks on top of the grill cover. Good thing the pine pollen gave the culprit away. Without the pollen, no evidence of a bear would have been positively found. The grill stands four feet of the floor. The paw marks obviously showed the brute was taller than the grill; and also tall enough to smack the bird feeder. I smiled. Case solved.


At least we don’t have to deal with evil, rebellious, self-serving, man living in the woods.

This well known creature no longer has the guts to accept the challenges offered and directed by the Almighty. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ear Buds vs Tree Buds


In the past I've made statements like, "I remember when one could hear a bee buzz twenty feet away and could not see it. Today one can see a bee three feet away and cannot hear it."

It is not only the drone of incidental noise in the air that contributes to not hearing, but also loud music, home entertainment, and being self-absorbed in gratifications.

"Stop and smell the roses," has more than one meaning. I know one can bend over and smell a rose, but does anyone see it for its beauty. The same for running, stop, take a deep breath and actually commune with God's creation.

A jogger may run right past blooming dogwoods and simply say,"Ah, nice white." Then just keep moving on.


As we run through life we miss the beauty that is free to see and enjoy. We run with our head down afraid to make eye contact as not to be forced to engage in a greeting, and Lord forbid, a conversation.

Look what one can see if we only slowed enough to walk:


All of a suden we see a painting, a composition, hear a tune in your heart. You have switched from self to something outside of yourself. Realizing you say, "What about that!"


Gee . . . you've stopped running. Now you've made eye contact with nature, a non-threatening image. An image one can easily smile at. You feel free - at ease. You realize this is what is missing in your life. "Be still and know that I am God . . . Ps 46:10" The Scripture says.


Uninhibited, you will want to get close. You will absorb something into your soul that has not entered for selfish reasons. You are open. "Speak to me," you say. 

So is it with God. Quit running, dismantle yourself, and listen.