Sooo Boss

Trying to think of a good Christmas story.

Oh I don’t need much prodding.  I was thinking back to the time when my third son Julius was just born.  1982 it was, I had about $3,000.00 saved and had just bought a Dodge Dart cheap, the plan was to sell it, to turn it into more money.  Bonnie and I had been planning on moving somewhere, for a fresh start, someplace where we didn’t know anybody, clean slate.  I had about $2,400 left after buying the car.  I rented a U-haul trailer, hooked it up to the back of the Maverick and loaded up my family, new born and all, left the Dart at my buddy’s car lot, then headed to Texas, destination unknown.

My sister Glenda and her family had decided to do the same thing, about 2 weeks before us, they got as far as St. Elmo, Alabama, not too far from Tillman’s Corner.  I don’t remember if they broke down or just ran out of money, but we stopped for a visit.  I remember helping them get some of their stuff out of the pawnshop and being fearful of running out of money myself, I started to build a small shed to sell, out of the scrap lumber laying around in the yard.  After the third day, Bonnie told me that I was gonna get her out of there.  Glenda and her family had a small camper, with me and mine, it just made it smaller, the money we had was disappearing fast.

So we headed back out on the road, Glenda said she would be behind us in a week or two, going west, still no final destination.  We drove through Houston and Bonnie freaked out when she saw all of the overpasses and bypasses and stuff.  She didn’t want to live there, so I headed towards Victoria, I just liked the sound of the name.  When we got there, it was a miserable desolate looking place and we were getting short of funds.  We were eating baloney sandwiches in the car to stretch out our bankroll and I was looking at the map and decided to go check out Corpus Christi.  After all it was on the ocean, we had honeymooned on the beach once upon a time and it sounded like a good idea.  We got to Corpus in the late afternoon, the beach wasn’t all that, but to make it worse, we didn’t see any trees.  What kind of landscape doesn’t have trees?  There were bushes I guess they called trees but Bonnie was from Georgia, she liked to rake leaves for fun.  I looked in the newspaper for available jobs and a cheap place to rent and didn’t see either. It was getting dark and I remembered that San Antonio had trees, the streets, highways and byways weren’t all that bad.

It looked like Bonnie was fixing to cry.  I told her that they had pecan trees in San Antonio, there were lots of car lots, we could be there before daylight.  I promised her, that I would get her a place to live and get out of that 4 door Maverick before lunch.  She was ready to agree to anything to get out of that car.  Julius was less than a week old and had been sleeping in a carrier on the floorboard of the car for most of his short life.  San Antonio it was, make it or break it, that’s where we were headed.

The road leaving out of Corpus wasn’t that bad, four lane highway, it was just a desolate, lonely out in the middle of nowhere kind of place.  It got dark on us quick.  I was going kind of slow because the car was running hot, off and on.  I would stop, let it cool down and then drive some more.  Afternoon turned into evening, then finally, around midnight, I heard a spewing sound and hot, hot steam came rising out from under the hood.  The flashlight was buried in the back of the U-haul and this old lonesome highway didn’t have any street lamps.  I knew I needed water, so I grabbed a 5 gallon bucket out of the trailer and told Bonnie I was going to hitchhike to get some water.

I opened the blade to my pocket knife and gave it to her.  “It’s for protection.”  I told her, “Just in case you need it.”  She shook her head and told me that she didn’t know how to use a knife, wouldn’t if she could.  I went around to the back of the car and told my son Michael to follow me to the rear of the car.  I gave him the knife and instructed him that if any trouble came up, he was in charge of security; he was about 9 or 10.  I gave him instructions on how to use it, if needed. Just get up close, shove the knife in as far as it will go and twist it.  I told him to be sure and grip the knife like you mean it, and to be careful not to cut yourself.

I saw approaching head lights coming towards us down the road and turned to face the oncoming traffic.  I saw that it was a semi-truck and told Bonnie, “It’s a trucker, they don’t ever stop to help anybody.”  Just about that time, talking about needing to eat crow, the trucker slowed down, pulled over and came to a stop.  I told Bonnie that I would be back as quick as I could and ran to the cab of the truck and told the driver my problem.

The truck driver was nice, he told me to get in.  He told me that the next exit was about 20 miles, but everything would be closed when we got there.  Looking at his Rand McNally Road Atlas as he was driving, he told me that at the top of the hill about four miles up the road, the map showed that there was a small lake off to the bottom left side of the road.  He said that I might be better off, since I had a bucket, to get off there and check it out.  It sounded good to me, before he stopped, he asked me if I had a flashlight, after I told him no I didn’t, he gave me a bic lighter resting on the dashboard.  Just in case, better than nothing and I agreed.  I thanked him for the lift, he said he’d look for us on his way back tomorrow, I saluted him, in a puff of diesel smoke, he was gone off into the darkness.  It was just me, the bucket and a bic lighter on side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

 

Standing in the moonlight on top of the hill, I could tell that the truck driver was right.  Over the top of the trees, down the bottom of the hill, I could see reflection of the moonlight on a small body of water down below.  I climbed the fence and made my way through the brush and live oaks until I came upon the water’s edge

 

It was plenty dark, even in the moonlight. I thought that I could just go to the shoreline and dip the bucket in it and get what water I needed and be on my way.  Oh, so wrong.  The bottom of the lake was muck, thick, gooey, sticky mud.  I walked out a couple of feet and tried to fill my bucket, but even though I was standing up to my knees in muck, the water was only a couple of inches deep.  I kept going, I knew Bonnie and the boys were depending on me to get back and I figured they were pretty scared; being broke down on side of the road in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by darkness and unfamiliar territory.

 

Looks can be deceiving sometimes.  The moon’s reflection on the water’s fooled me.  Under the water’s edge was nothing but muck, every step I took required a lot of effort.  The suction from the mud pulled the shoes right off of my feet.  Finally I got to where I was standing almost crotch deep in the mud searching for deep water.

Now the distance between the mud and the water surface was deep enough that I could fill the bucket at least three quarters full.  That’s enough I thought, hell I got to carry it about 4 or 5 miles, yeah, that’s plenty of water.

 

The moon went behind the tree tops as I turned to make my way back to the bank.  I sloshed my way slowly, step by step. It was harder coming back with the bucket full of water, than it was going out I promise.  I kept hearing noise all around me, and I got uneasy, a queasy feeling in my stomach that I wasn’t alone.  The closer I got to the water’s edge the hairs on the back of my neck started to rise up.  I reached in my pocket for my knife but grabbed the lighter that the truck driver had given me instead.  I was thankful then, that I hadn’t needed to walk out so deep that the lighter got wet.

 

I held the lighter up like a torch and clicked it, until it lit and with the faint glow, I could see I wasn’t alone.  There completely surrounding the water’s edge and facing me were what looked to be about 300 head of Texas Longhorn cattle.  Standing shoulder to shoulder, staring at me like I was intruding into their domain   They were about six foot high at the shoulder and their horns were at least six feet wide, interlocking with the steer standing next to them, knee deep in the muck.

It was an all of a sudden kind of thing. The creepy part was seeing a vapor cloud, coming from their urine after it hit the ground, rising up behind them, in the moonlight.  I knew better than to act scared, even though I was.  If something happened to me, it might be days before I was found, if ever.  With the moon playing hide and seek with the clouds, the going was slow, plus dragging the bucket and trying to lift my feet from the suction of the muck.

Being from Dinsmore, I had been around dairy cows after dark before.  Going with the premise that they were just curious in the dark, they didn’t know me from Adam.  I just walked right through the middle of them lugging that bucket saying softly, “Soo Boss” and they made way, giving me an opening to walk through.  I felt like Moses parting the Red Sea.  I kept talking to them as I walked among them making it look like I had something for them in that bucket.

Finally, I was out of the muck.  They kept me surrounded but made way for me to walk up the hill and through the trees and brush and then the mesquite “ouch” that stuff hurt through my stocking feet.  It took me some effort, walking up the hill with a bucket filled with water and mud, me barefoot, with muddy britches and soggy drawers.  Can’t tell you what a relief it was when I finally got to climb the fence and put those longhorns behind me.  They were big enough to scare you in the daylight, but when it comes down to it, they are still just cows.

I walked down the highway back towards Bonnie and the boys and that bucket got heavier and heavier.  I started swinging it back and forth to use inertia to carry the weight, it didn’t work.  I counted the stars in the sky in Spanish to take my mind off of how much my arm hurt.  “Uno, dos, tres”…..Every once in a while I would step on something painful in the dark, just to remind me that I had lost my shoes in the mud.  “Cuatro,cinco, seis.”  I didn’t see the first car, in either direction.  It took me a while, but I made it.

I poured the water in the radiator and using the lighter I could see that there was a little split in the hose, about an inch below the hose clamp.  That was easy to fix.  In no time at all we were back on the road.  When we did get to the next exit, all the stores were closed, but there was a light good enough that after I raised the hood to the car, I could tell that it wasn’t leaking anymore, so we got on our way to San Antonio.

When we got to Old San Antoine, we were down to counting change in our pockets.  I took a shower at the car wash for a dollar.  Bonnie even gave me a shot of the “hot wax.”  After my visit with the longhorns, I needed it.  We passed a “Woolco” that was opened early in Universal City that was going bankrupt, selling stuff cheap, so I went in and bought a new shirt, pair of dress pants and a tie, for $5.00.  A new pair of shoes cost $4.00.  I got spiffed up and went to answer and ad in the newspaper, for car salesmen at Jordan Ford.

It was 9 am when I got there, the sales force and managers were all in a sales meeting.  The receptionist gave me an application which I filled out and I noticed a lady looking at a car on the showroom floor.  A nice dove gray Crown Victoria Landau.  She was a retired school teacher from Missouri.  She was on vacation alone, her LTD station wagon had broke down.  Sensing the moment, I knew I had a “live one.”

I grab the keys from over the sun visor, got the porter to give me a hand and drove the car off of the showroom floor.  I took the lady for a test drive and found out that she didn’t owe any money on her trade-in.  Her car was in the shop, it had and extended factory warranty and it was suppose to take a few days to get the parts in to fix her car.  Being a retired school teacher, she had excellent credit.  I had the buyer’s order and credit app filled out; just about the time the sales meeting was breaking up.  I introduced myself to the credit manager first, he took my application, the buyer’s order and the teacher’s credit application.  He disappeared for a minute then came back and told me I was hired, to keep the woman busy then, he and the used car manager went back to the shop to appraise the trade in.

Okay, long story short.  We made the deal.  She drove off in the owner’s wife’s grounded demonstrator, with 8,800 miles.  It paid a cash bonus, 10 cent a mile, plus “cash in fist”, 50% commission.  It was a $1400 dollar deal.  I had made over $800.00 plus a finance and Accident and Health commission.  Oh, did I mention that I got paid cash, all cash?  Then they gave me a light blue Escort wagon for a demo and 5 gallons of gas (they gave you 5 gallons of gas every time you sold a car), and the rest of the day off to get settled.  Bonnie and the boys were still in the parking lot, sitting in the car, waiting for me to finish filling out the job application.  Happy, happy, happy.  Felice Natividad.  Two days before Christmas, we were happy.  Things were starting to look up for us.

I found an ad in the paper about a guy that had a trailer for rent in Cibolo for $300 a month.  It was north of town up on the bluffs that over looked San Antonio, about 35 miles from the north of town.  When you got off the exit ramp on I-35 go right about 5 miles.  If you went left, there was George Strait’s Night Club, “The Blue Bonnet Inn’.  I told the property owner my story, he gave a me a break on the deposit if I would keep an eye on his property.  He lived 30 miles away.  He got the lights cut on for me and a tank of gas to heat with.  We were out of the car, before noon.

We bought a Christmas tree, a ham and the boy’s Christmas, we were set.  I called my friend in Jacksonville about the Dodge Dart.  He said he had sold it for $1,800, I told him to keep 25% and he sent me the rest.  I loved living high up on the prairie, sitting under the stars at night over looking the town, looking at the thousands of lights.  It might sound kind of lonely but to me, it was true Peace on Earth.  We had a very Merry Christmas.

Glenda and her family showed up about a week later. Her husband Bug had sold the shed I was building to two different people, before he could be found out, they pulled up stakes, using the money from the sale of the shed, came on to San Antonio.

We lived there and prospered for two years.  Glenda and Bug went home to Jacksonville for Christmas and her husband Bug died of pneumonia, two weeks later, my little brother Duane passed away from cancer.  It was too much all at once.  We packed up and moved back home, to be near our kin.

There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then.  I miss San Antonio sometimes.  It reminds me of Jacksonville because of the thriving economy and all the military bases.

When I think about San Antonio I look up in the sky, see the stars and start counting, oucho, nueve, dias.

Jaundiced Justice

I’ve been waiting a long time to tell this story. No, not out of fear for myself but of what could happen to my family.

Our first son was born in Feb. 1973.  The maternity ward at St. Luke’s hospital told my wife and I that because he had yellow jaundice that he had to stay at the hospital until it cleared up. This preyed more on my wife’s nerves than mine, but then again her worries increased my own.

To relieve some tension on Sunday morning six days later, I decided to go rabbit hunting. Mainly to create some space and clear my mind.  My mind wasn’t on hunting that day, I never really was an avid hunter anyway, so after a few hours I called it quits and stopped by my parents house for a friendly chat.

My folks owned a trailer park.  Their home was also the office.  The parking spots were filled so I parked near the entrance way.  My 12 gauge was in the back seat, still loaded with number 6 bird shot, ideal for rabbit hunting.

I had walked halfway to the front door when my Dad emerged.  He seemed glad to see me and asked me if I would walked with him to one of his rentals.  He had rented a small apartment to a couple of guys that he later found out were starting a motorcycle club in Jacksonville, the Outlaws.  Once the news became known Dad informed them that they had to leave.  His trailer park was residential for families and retired couples.

Dad intended to return their $60.00 deposit but before he did, he wanted to inspect the property.  One of the two biker’s name was Herbert Witherspoon, I found out later that he was supposed to be opening up a chapter of the biker gang.  Dad told me to wait for him outside while he went in to inspect.  Soon I could hear shouting and raving going on inside.  It seems like they had rebuilt a motorcycle engine inside, on top of the brand new carpet that had just been installed before they moved in.  Dad was mad, I overheard him say that he wasn’t refunding their deposit.

The next thing I know, is I hear some commotion going on inside.  I was standing by the front door but chose to look through a plate glass window to see what was going on.  My Dad was in a tussle with these two bruisers.  In his day, my Dad could more than hold his own.  I remember as a child that he never stopped to consider the odds, but on this day he was outnumbered and outmatched.  As I watched through the window one of the guys had Dad from behind, pinning his elbows back so that he couldn’t protect himself, while the other stood in front of him, swinging a large crescent wrench, striking him in the head several times.  Blood streamed down his forehead, he sagged to his knees, I knew it was time for me to do something.  If I just ran into the apartment it would still be two against one because Dad didn’t look like he was in any shape to help.

My car was parked about two dozen steps away and I remembered that I had my shotgun in the back seat of my Chevelle.  I ran to the car, grabbed my gun and rushed back to help my Dad.  My intentions were to stop these two galoots, to make them back off.  Sure I wanted some revenge because they were messing with my Dad but I would have been satisfied to make them fight him one on one, my Dad was a tough old bird.

When I entered the room I didn’t really have a plan, I just wanted to make them stop.   No one was facing the door when I entered the room.  The guy still had Dad’s arms locked behind him and the fellow with the wrench turned to face me.  Blood was spurting out of the top of Dad’s skull, I could see whiteness of it in patches.  Without thinking about repercussions I stuck the barrel of the gun in the man’s crotch and I said, “You move mother fucker and I’ll blow your balls off.”   It was plain and simple.  Needless to say, that’s pretty much what happened.  My finger was on the trigger, the guy reached down for the barrel of my gun trying to twist it out of my hands.  As he did so, his body shifted so that when the gun blasted, the bird shot ripped through his groin and hip area.  Still, he had a grip on the barrel.  I believe the heat from the blast made him let go.  I still had the shotgun in my control and I told the other guy to release my Dad and raise his hands.  The pellets from the gun blast had ripped through the man’s jeans, blood was splattered on the cabinets behind him, but he was still able to partially stand.  The  bird shot didn’t catch him full center but did cause a pretty good wound considering how close I was at the time.

I  opened the barrel bolt and slammed another shell from the clip into the chamber and motioned with the end of the gun for both men to get outside of the apartment.  I didn’t intentionally fire the first shot but I had to make it seem like I meant business.  Once outside, the bigger man tied a bandana around the top of the wounded man’s leg to stop the flow of blood.  Dad  got his legs under him and followed us outside.

Across the four lane highway from us was a gas station.  The guy that owned the station had been pumping gas when he heard the gun blast.  All he actually witnessed though was two men being held at gun point, one of them was wounded and he saw me holding the gun.  I don’t want to mention his name because even though he was required to testify against us, I still considered him a friend and his grandson later married my niece.

The police came and an ambulance. Nothing more was said or done on that day.  I thought that was it, it’s over, but a few days later detectives showed up with a warrant for mine and my Dad’s arrest for attempted murder, aggravated battery and assault with a deadly weapon.  Needless to say I was flabbergasted.  Dad posted our bond, by this time my son was home from the hospital,  that was my biggest worry.  I knew Dad was better prepared to handle the situation than I was, he was after all, a man of the world.

Times had recently changed though.  The City of Jacksonville had just been consolidated.  The court and justice offices had been moved to a central location.  The jurisdiction of our local Constables and Justice of the Peace had been moved out of our neighborhood to a downtown location where we were lesser known.  There we were just names on a booking sheet.  I thought that the whole story was a joke.  Our side of the story was the truth.  Who would believe these guys over us?

That’s not the way it works though.  The two bikers got a lawyer, they had a case against us.  I wasn’t allowed by law to speak with the only other witness against us.  Dad’s lawyer said that if they got a sympathetic jury they could win the case.  If they did, they could sue Dad in civil court and get everything he owned.  The State Attorney did offer some leniency though.  He said that if we would plead “no contest or nolo contendre,” that he would reduce the charge to aggravated battery for me and simple assault for my Dad.  We would be sentenced to 12 months probation and after it was completed successfully with no other charges, it would be expunged from out record.

As much as I hated to, I had to go along with it.  I wanted my day in court.  I wanted to stand up in front of 12 good citizens and tell my side of it.  Like the old saying goes, “It’s better to be judged by 12 than to be carried by six.”  That’s how I felt and still do, but it wasn’t just my life I had to worry about, it was that of my wife and son that mattered the most.  I had to look out after them and think about the jeopardy I would be putting my father in, if I didn’t play along.

The wounded biker healed up alright I guess. I can’t vouch for his love life though.  I read years later that he was the President of the Jacksonville Chapter of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang and that he went to prison for some crime or another.

The Sate’s Attorney was true to his word, I year later my record was expunged and I was hired to work at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office as a corrections officer.

I think I read years after that that he had been killed.  I don’t remember if he died in prison or on the streets but I have heard how motorcycle gang members relish revenge and I have waited until I was an old man to tell this story.

 

Operation Bone Spur’

Let me write this down before I forget.

Boy yesterday, I had a time.  I was due at the hospital at 6 am to prep for a foot operation.  I’ve been needed it for years. It just got harder and harder to walk.  Finally, even though I dreaded the long drawn out process, I carried it through.

It was still dark when we got to Shand’s Hospital.  We went inside and the very nice receptionist was ready for me.  She knew my name and pointed me in the right direction.  Inside of the surgery waiting room the ladies there gave me a form to fill out wanting to know my name, phone number, next of kin, my driver’s name, their cell number etc.  Oh yeah, do you have a living will?  Like what kind of question is that?  I’m just getting some out patient surgery, minor stuff.

It must have been my lucky day.  My name was the first to be called back to pre-op.  No coffee or food for 24 hours is what they told me.  I’m not one to abide by the rules, but I just figured what the hell, it won’t kill me to do like I am told for once.

Still a little groggy from lack of sleep and without my morning coffee, a small athletic looking black woman escorted me to a booth with surrounding curtains and a gurney.  She asked me if bathed with the medicated soap the night before like I was told to do and I said yes.  She asked about the sanitary pads, did I use them this morning to wipe my body down.  I told her yes, then she said “Good, we’re gonna do it again.”  She held out three packets of medicated sanitary pads, she said “I just heated this up for you, I want you to remove all of your clothes, then wipe down with these pads.  I want you to use 1 pad for each foot and leg, then 1 pad for each arm, stomach and shoulders.  We don’t want to spread any germs.  The she showed me a gown and told me that when I finished to put the gown on and she would be in to help me wipe my backside.”

Aw, it was too early for this crap, I thought but I complied.  The curtains were drawn but I could see a short silhouette and a voice asking me if I was “ready yet?”   I wasn’t sure what she wanted to know exactly, so I let her ask me a second and a third time.  I turned to face the wall away from the curtains and felt the warm pads rubbing up and down my behind and across the back.

A voice said, “My name is Jocelyn, I am here to help you get ready for your surgery this morning.”  Jocyelyn was a short oriental lady, middle aged wearing glasses.  I could tell she was a cut up.  She helped me lay down on the gurney, then started hooking me up to a heart monitor and putting an IV outlet in my wrist.  She read my chart and then asked me my name and date of birth.  Something that I got asked from then on, about every 10 minutes, like I was gonna change it or something.

Jocelyn was very talkative and helped me to ease my fears.  I could see her staring at something over my head and I looked at the reflection in the glass cabinet in front of me.  She was watching my heart monitor, the numbers kept fluctuating some, then she would check my chart, flip some pages and the look back at the monitor.  I said, “Don’t let it bother you, I have always had a low heartbeat, every body else freaks out over it too.  I could see the numbers in the reflection going up from 44 to 47. I told her that I could make it go lower than that.  I started staring at a spot on the wall, lying motionless for a minute and looked up, the monitor read 39.

She was gone for a second and brought back a couple of co workers who stared at the monitor.  It was back up to 47, 46, then 44.  One of the ladies asked me if I was a professional athlete, because only athletes have a heartbeat like that.  Then a real pretty nurse walked by that got my attention and the monitor went up to 50, 51, 51.  After she walked past it dropped back to 47, 46, 45 then 44.

I could tell by the way Jocelyn kept looking at her watch, that we were just killing time, waiting for the doctors to get out of their morning meeting.  Since she had already seen me naked, I thought it would be alright to ask her personal questions.  I asked her how did she like her job.  She told me that she loved it, that she enjoyed helping people.  I said something to the effect of “I bet you get a lot of grumpy people in here, this early of the morning without drinking any coffee.  She said “no, she had drank two cups, she felt fine.”  I laughed and said, “Oh, I meant the patients.”  She that she tries to comfort everyone and to make them feel at ease.  Then she said,  “Sometimes people look at me and ask me do I speak English?”  Then they’ll ask for someone else because I look foreign.  I told her, “Don’t worry about what people say or think, your English is better than mine, I’m jealous.”  Jocelyn told me that she had called for my wife to come sit with me until it came time for the operation but can’t imagine where she is.  I asked, “Did you page the cafeteria?”  Just about that time my wife came walking around the curtain, laughing, “Here I is.”

As we sat there waiting, killing time Jocelyn would walk past the front of the curtains doing a little Egyptian dance, like Steve Martin in one of his movies, she was so funny.  My monitor got up to 47, 48, 49.

A lady came by wearing green scrubs, carrying a clip board.  She introduced herself as doctor so and so, “what are we doing for you today?”  Facetiously, I said you got the chart what does it say?  She asked me to repeat my name and my date of birth.  Then I said, “Well I am here today to have a bone spur remove from my big toe.  Dr. Mock told me that it was the biggest bone spur that he ever saw.  He said that it was so big that even his interns couldn’t miss it.”

She looked at me and said “Okay, which foot?”  For a second I was dumbfounded.  She’s holding my chart, with the old X-rays on it, looking at me laying on my back.  My right leg is wrapped inside of a protective boot, covered with a big sock, with a sheet wrapped around it.  My left foot is protruding from under the sheet, with my big toe sticking out with a bunion the size of strawberry and about the same color.  I got to thinking maybe Dr. Mauk was wrong.  I asked his intern if I could use her marker for a second.  I took her black marker and drew an arrow on my leg, pointing to my toe, just so there would be no mistakes.   I have heard stories.

Then the anesthesiologist came in, he wanted me to repeat my name and date of birth.  Maybe I should be expecting some birthday cards next July.  He was very nice, every one was nice, friendly and I cut up with them.  Every one that came into my cube just stared at my heart beat on the monitor, like “how low can you go?”

An X ray tech came by with a portable machine.  I told her back when I was in high school, that I wanted to be an Xray technician.  She asked me my name and date of birth, then she said “Oh yeah, why didn’t you become one?”  The real reason was because of the many hours I spent taking care of my mom after her car wreck, leg amputation, the cancer and having to administer her morphine shots 3 times a day, changing her bandages and emptying her colostomy bag had just been too much for me.  I didn’t have the stomach for it any more.  Instead I just told her that I heard that there was a lot of math involved and I didn’t think I was up to it.

The crowd in my cubicle dispersed but every time some one would walk by they would glance at my monitor, just to check it out.  I should of felt like a freak, but I was enjoying the attention.  I was cutting up with everyone in earshot.  One of the nurses asked Bonnie, “Is he always like this?  How do you put up with it, do you like it, do you tell him to stop or do you just ignore him?”  Bonnie laughed at that and said, “Yes he is, and sometimes I do all three.”

Finally doomsday appeared on the horizon,  I was almost dreading it.  The crescendo of suspense had built up so much, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for it or not, but I had come this far.  I was wheeled into the operating room.  The hardest thing I had to do was to scootch over onto that little table to be operated on.  I asked, ” If it’s this much trouble to get me on the table, how are y’all gonna get me off?”  Everyone in the room laughed and said almost in unison, getting you off the table will be easy, but you won’t know how we do it.”

In front of me was the anesthesiologist talking up a storm.  I noticed all of the weapons of mass destruction hanging on the wall behind him, dozens of scalpels and knives, small saws, big saws and in between saws.  I asked which one were they gonna use on me and the nurse said they were gonna use a sander.  I asked her did she mean a dremel with a grinder on it, but before she could answer, a mask was put over my face.  I could hear the anesthesiologist telling the nurse about his three different occupations.  One was the anesthesiology stuff, the second was a computer programmer and I can’t swear to it because I was almost gone but in the back of my mind I could almost swear that he said he was a male dancer.

The next thing that I remember was a woman typing into a machine not far away from my bed.  I wasn’t in the operating room anymore, I was in a recovery room.  The lady reminded me of Florida in Good Times.  The first thing I wanted to do was to check my monitor and I glanced around the room until I saw it.  60, 59, 60, 59 58. Wow.  It’s gone up I said.  The lady told me to be quite and be still she was monitoring my vitals.  She said, “My name is Wanda, can you tell me your name and date of birth?  I couldn’t help but think, alright, it’s all over. I kept trying to ask Wanda all kinds of stuff.  I told her that my heart beat was up.  She said really, it should be around 75.”  Then she told me not to talk to her that she was busy and couldn’t do two things at once.

I told her to let that stuff go for now, that I couldn’t think of anything more important for her to do than to talk to me.  She said, “I can’t, this is my job, if you want me to help you, you have to let me do my job.  I told her that, “I could make it go up or down.”  I’m not sure if she understood what I meant.  She said “Stop it, you talk just like my husband.”  I asked her if her husband has a low heartbeat too, and she just laughed and laughed until she started cackling, like I said something funny.

Dr. Mauk came into the room about that time and told me that everything went smoothly, giving me directions to leave the bandage intact until I came back to see him in ten days.  His intern came by to say that they had “blocked” my lower leg, foot and toes, so that I wouldn’t be feeling any pain and to instruct me on taking my pain killers and anti-infection meds, to keep my foot elevated at all times, stay off my feet until my next appointment.

After they left, it was just me and Wanda for a few minutes until Bonnie came in to keep us company. Wanda had been kinda gruff at first but I told her that I could see through all of that and said she wasn’t fooling any body.

I asked her if she had talked to any body who had been on the other side and came back.  Then I went on to tell her that I had done just that before and I explained about being in a car wreck, walking through the tunnel, seeing the light, meeting my loved ones and talking with St. Peter.  He sent me back.  I told her that I had just been to mouth of the tunnel again but there was a line between daylight and darkness, but whatever powers that be wouldn’t let me cross.

She started talking about God and her grandmother, how much she loved her and missed her.  I told her that the ones you love the most, already know the exact time you are going to walk down that tunnel and will be there to greet you.  The people that will be there to speak for you will show their face and the ones that come to speak against you will just be a blur.  I showed her the scar on my stomach and told her that I had been pronounced DOA after the Life Flight ride in a helicopter.  I remembered being in a body bag packed full of ice and hearing one pilot ask the other if I was gonna make it.  I had received the last rites by a Catholic priest.  Because my brother’s driver’s license said that he was an organ donor, and that they had mistaken his wallet for mine at the scene of the accident, they prepped me to harvest my organs.  When they tried to remove my spleen, blood spurted everywhere alerting them to the fact that I was still alive.

I looked at the monitor, the numbers were coming back down 59, 58, 57, 56.  I asked Wanda did she have any tattoos, she said no why?  I told her that I had always heard that St. Peter had a fish tattooed on his hand and when I saw that he didn’t I asked him about it.  He told me that God made man in his own image, you don’t think God has any tattoos do you?  To this day, I refuse to get tattooed for any reason, because when I stand before him again I want to say that “I followed your advice.”  I finished by telling her that my loved ones escorted me back to the tunnel and that I witnessed my own body in an ER facility strapped down to a gurney, with tubes and IVs running every where, before I woke up to a light shining in my eyes so close that I could read the words “Westinghouse” written on the bulb.

She lightened her mood at that and said most people want to complain to her, like what ever discomfort they were in, was her fault.  I told her that I wasn’t feeling any discomfort at the moment but I sure would like it if she would just give me a big old hug.  After seeing the look on her face, I think that was the best medicine for both of us.

 

 

 

CattyKisms 110

Tiger had her babies in Bonnie’s garden.  She was watering her flowers and saw a bush moving.

 

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The little kittens acted like they were terrified.  I don’t think it had anything to do with us, because they were acting scared before we got there.

We watched them for a few minutes, they kept staring at the sky.  I looked but I didn’t see any Hawks flying around.

Cowboy here, he kept coming out into the open, like he was trying to show how brave he was.

Tiger left Rose in charge, she’s telling Cowboy that he’d better come back and hide

until Momma gets back.

 

Norma Jean is staying put.  She’s a follower not a leader.  If Rose says “Momma said stay put”, she’s staying put.

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Bonnie took them a basket.  Just to see if they would crawl in it.  They did, what kitten can refuse a box or a basket?

The kittens wanted to go look for Momma, but Rose thought she saw an owl and told everyone to get back in the basket.

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Do you think Momma’s ever coming back?

Just when things look like they can’t get any worse, here’s Momma to save the day.

 

 

CattyKisms 101

The kitties have decided to let me have a few minutes to myself. It seems they prefer the electric blanket’s company this morning, more than they do mine.

 

 

 

 

Let me try to use this time wisely, In my dreams I remembered this story.  See if you can relate.

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Old school, I know.  Everyone is tired about hearing how we did it back in my day.  Every where you look, people have their face stuck staring at their phone.  I wondered out loud to my son, just how did we get along back in the day, without being able to send text messages?

Duh, back in school, we sent notes, via our friends to our girlfriends, via their friends.  Little folded up pieces of paper, most of the time the notes started out “Hi, whatcha doin?”  I use to fold mine up in a three corner manner like a paper football.  You didn’t want to get caught passing notes.

It was better than the Pony Express, it got the job done.

At church was a little different.  We didn’t pass notes, we used sign language.  My Sunday school teacher, Nell Johnson thought that it would be a good idea to teach sign language in Sunday School.  We had a couple visitors to our Church that were deaf, Ms. Johnson thought that we might get more visitors, if there more people that could sign and also I think she wanted to impress others when we went on visitations to other Churches.

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For young minds, it doesn’t take very long to pick up new ideas, as a group, my Sunday School Class at Dinsmore Methodist jumped on the idea.  We all got pretty good with the alphabet and could spell out our messages in church, without having to pass notes in front of the preacher.

My girlfriend at the time was the preacher’s daughter Gerry.  She and I carried on in front of her Dad, he didn’t care.  He was ex-Navy, a retired Chief.  He seemed to like me because my Dad was in the Navy.  I visited Gerry quite often and got to be a familiar face around the church and across the street, at their house.

During the summertime, I got to where I was slipping over to see Gerry after dark, around bed time.  After her parents said goodnight, she would open her bedroom window and I would slip in.  It started with her having her friend Linda Butler spend the night.  Then me and my friend, Wayne Taylor would sneak in through the opened window.

I really don’t know how her parents slept through all of that, it was a long summer.  I know that Wayne tried his hardest but I’m not sure that Linda liked him all of that much or if he just tried too hard, but their fussing cut into mine and Gerry’s private time.  Finally I told Gerry that Linda was gonna have to stop spending the night with her every week end.

To me, it was worth the wait.  Finally, it was just me and her.  I got to where I was falling asleep at her house in her bed, with her Mom and Dad in the next bedroom, just on the other side of that wall.  Her Dad would get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I would scootch under the cover and Gerry would pull up the blanket, just in case he looked in.  Most of the mornings when he got up to pee, I would gather my things and head back out the window in the dawn’s early light.

Ed, the bread man would honk his horn at me most every morning when I was riding my bike home in my underwear, with my clothes wrapped up in a bundle on the handle bars.

I got my license to drive on my 14th birthday. I got a hardship operator’s permit, because of my mother’s bad health. Soon after that, Dad got me a car. Once I got to meeting all of those new girls at Paxon High School, I sorta stopped seeing Gerry so much, pretty soon, it was not at all.  I kept going to Sunday School but slowed down on going to Church.  Gerry found out about the girls I was dating over in Paxon, I’ll never forget the last message she sent me.sign land 4

Mickey, Chinese Food and the Greater Metro Plex

When you live on the road and your home address is a PO box, you have to make money every day.  Motel room, gas, eating out, entertainment, laundry mats and bar tabs, etc., they all ad up, quick.  We got up every morning at 6 am, had breakfast at 7, then on the road looking to make a sale by 8:30.  Hopefully, you can make a sale early and then you have the rest of the day to goof off.

I sold a load of tools early one morning.  I arrived back at the motel honking my Dixie horn, spinning tires and cutting donuts, as usual.  Maudie was still brushing her teeth.  I asked her if she wanted to go to the baseball park in Arlington to see the Texas Rangers play a game.   She wasn’t 100% enthused about it.   I think she had her hopes up for Six Flags.  Maudie wasn’t exactly a baseball fan, she liked the eight dollar beers alright, but it just something about those 10 dollar Dilly Dogs.  She agreed to go, if I would take her out to eat Chinese food later.

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The normal game time for most week day games was one o’clock. It gets so hot in Texas that most games are scheduled for later.  The start of today’s game was delayed until five for a television broadcast.  We got there early.  Maudie and I were walking around the outside of the stadium sightseeing and killing time.  We saw a white, on white, on white Lincoln Mark V, with the front license plates that read “MICKEY.”  Immediately I recognized the name.  Hey, that’s Mickey Rivers, he’s the center fielder for the Rangers.  He got out of the car wearing a Malcom X cap, sunglasses, and a black jogging suit with a big gold chain. He walked over and started to unlock the gate.  I went up to him and started a conversation.  “Who’s gonna win the game today?  Is Nolan Ryan gonna pitch today?  Who do you think is gonna get MVP?  Then he acted like he had to go.  Before he could leave though I asked him if he would sign my program.  He said, “Sure, do you have a pen?”  I  told him how to write it out, “To Mike and Maudie, enjoy the game.”  When he handed it back to me I glanced down at the scribbled signature and I read, “Jerome Johnson.”  I asked him, “Who in the hell is Jerome Johnson?  Ain’t you Mickey Rivers,  center field?” He said, “Who me?  Hell no.  I’m Jerome Johnson.  Mickey is in the training room, I just got his car washed for him.”

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It was a great evening for a baseball game.  After watching the fireworks from center field and after half dozen stadium beers I was more than ready to take Maudie out to go eat.  Chinese sounded good to me.  Jerome had told me how to get to a great Chinese place nearby.  His directions were a little off though.  Instead of coming into the restaurant from the front, we ended up coming in the back way.

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Not being familiar with the place, when we saw the sign over the door China Gate or something, we walked right on in, the door wasn’t locked.  By mistake, we entered through the kitchen door.  On every wall it seemed there were skinned animals of some kind, hanging high up on the wall, from a hook.  Immediately I thought they looked like cats, but it couldn’t be.  I knew that one hanging off to the side sort of looked like a bluish duck, maybe it was just my imagination.  The menus were written in Chinese.  I had to ask what each entrée was and was told it was either “chicken this, or chicken that.”  Funny, I son’t remember seeing any chickens in the back.

I just ordered some egg rolls and won ton sauce.  I couldn’t get my mind off of what ever that blue thing was, hanging from a hook in the kitchen.  Not Maudie, she put on the feed bag.  She wanted chicken this, that and the other and got her wish.  The waitress kept bring her one order after another.  She kept saying, “You should try this.  It’s the best chicken I ever ate.”  A man at the table next to us leaned over shaking his head and told me, “Tell her it’s not chicken, it’s rabbit.”  Maudie lost her appetite after that.  She got up from the table holding her mouth, stomping her way to the bathroom.   I don’t eat fortune cookies, but I won’t ever forget what Maudie’s fortune read “Hare today, gone tomorrow.”

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Maybe those 10 dollar Dilly Dogs weren’t such a bad idea.

 

Down upon the Swanee River

I think I told y’all the story about Maudie and I camping out at Blue Springs on the Withlacoochee River.  This was the next day.

After Maudie and I left Blue Springs, we headed towards Live Oak, Fl.  On the way we passed a place along side the Suawanee River, with a large sign “Canoe Rentals”.    We both agreed that it seemed like it would be a lot of fun.  We stopped to check it out.  The owner at the canoe rental told us that we could rent a canoe by the day.  He said that he could pick us up at any one of half different places, depending on how far we wanted to go.  Twenty miles, fifty miles, even a hundred miles.  He told us that there were plenty of spots along side the river that we could stop to call him.  He would fetch us back to our truck, in his van, with racks on top to carry the canoe.  He told us that there were plenty of places on the river that we could stop at along the way.  He also said that there were other canoe rental places and that most of the places were like his, small bait and tackle, boat rentals, beer joints and a pool hall or two, some with overnight cottages.swp103.jpg

Even 40 years ago this adventure seemed a little edgy, but promising.  I mean, we weren’t scared or nothing like that.  It sounded like it was just what we wanted, to get away for a day or so from prying eyes and enjoy Mother Nature .  We never decided on just how far we wanted to try.  It was a spur of the moment thing.  I guess it was up to us.

I figured ahead of time, that I would end up doing most of the paddling, no big deal, but in my mind I was thinking that after 10 to 15 miles, I would have enough of it, and call it a day.  We loaded up some of our camping gear, an axe, a sleeping bag, a fishing pole, a pair of binoculars, sun tan oil, a cooler full of beer and a bottle of Jose Cuervo and a transistor radio.

It was early morning when we headed out, dew still on the grass.  It was beautiful, we enjoyed our selves.  Large swamp birds, cranes, egrets, herons etc., squirrels telling all of nature’s creatures we were coming.  We saw big gators and we saw little gators, plenty of gators.  There were lots of large gar, roiling beside the boat, bass jumping, and giant spider webs as big as sails, stretched between branches from tree to tree.  We avoided the huge hornet’s nest sagging from over hanging tree branches bending low, so low, as to touch the top of the water as it swept pass.  The current was brisk, I didn’t need to paddle all that much, just enough to steer us in a straight line.  Every once in a while, we would pass a sand bar in the middle of the river, on these occasions we would beach the canoe on the bar, and swim for a bit, enjoying the cool water and the hot sun.  The further we went, the more we enjoyed ourselves.  There were plenty of sand bars in the middle of the river.  We beached the canoe on one, picnicked, then swam naked for about an hour, before resuming our trip.

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Maudie helped me paddle for about the first 7 or 8 miles, after that I noticed she spent a lot more time with the binoculars and drinking beer, to me that was okay, enjoy yourself, I got this.  I got concerned though when she switched the radio station from country to the “Whiskey Rock and Roll” station out of Live Oak. Then she started taking long pulls off that bottle of Cuervo and chasing it with beer.  I could handle it I guess. Then I thought to myself,  “I might better keep a closer eye on her.”  Drinking hard liquor in the hot sun ain’t no joke.  We did have a good current, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico if we wanted.  The mystery of what lies beyond the next bend, kept us going all afternoon.

Watching Maudie drinking and listening to our little radio I could see her mood swinging back and forth, depending on how much she drank and what song was playing on the radio.  I knew she liked to listen to Skynyrd and ZZ Tops when she was drinking.  She knew every song the DJ played.  When she drank tequila, watch out.

I’ve mentioned before, that it seems to me, that all drop dead gorgeous women have some kind of “hang ups”.  Maudie could have wrote the book on that.  First she was Cherokee Indian, on both sides. Yeah, big complex on that issue, she wanted to be accepted as a person, a human being, but when men got around her, they swarmed like flies.  Even my own step brother, I laughed when she told me and felt sorry for him ’cause I knew what would happen to him if he got too close!   She’d stick him.  She didn’t have much luck telling guy’s wives and girlfriend’s about their man’s advances.  It seemed like they thought it was always her fault for encouraging them and it didn’t matter how many times she’d tell a guy no, they didn’t pay her no never mind.

Maudies older sister Linda had been a beertender at the Keg.  The Keg was famous watering hole on the Westside, Jacksonville’s bestside.  This was a place where the band from Lynyrd Skynyrd was known to frequent.  Linda would let Maudie in to clean tables and partake of the atmosphere.  Maudie grew up with beer, whiskey and rock n  roll on the menu.ls332

Me, how did I get in good with her?  Karma I guess, I remember she asked me to dance, first time I met her.  I saw her sitting with her girlfriends at a table in the lounge at Classic Lanes on Cassat Ave.  Mom had always told me, that if a woman likes you, she’ll let you know.  When the band played fast dance songs, she filled up my dance card.  Instead of questioning my good fortune, I just rowed with the flow.  When it came to fishing, I let her bait her own hook.

At first, I was just a casual observer.  I just figured that she half expected me to try and sweep her off her feet, but after seeing what happened to other guys that tried, I didn’t bother.  Next thing I know, she’s cuddling up to me.  She always had her guard up, like there was an invisible wall between us.  I guess she had call to be moody, it just became noticeable all of a sudden like when she drank, which wasn’t all that often, maybe just week ends and canoe trips.

At the end of our first day, we decided that we had so much fun, that we wanted to keep going.  We had passed a few stopover campgrounds, but we kept paddling with the current towards the gulf until almost dark.

We finally stopped at another “Canoe Rental Place,” just before we ran out of daylight.  I asked if we could use the phone to call our “Rivermeister.”  Come to find out, they were cousins, knew each other’s business pretty good and he had called with a “BOLO” about us.  We talked about getting a cabin for the night, but before we unloaded the canoe, we decide to check out the local watering hole.

I’m pretty sure “Deliverance” got their ideas from this place.  It was a typical board on board cypress building, with low ceilings, torn screens instead of glass for the windows, uneven wood floors, a pool table in the center, a juke box in the corner and a Budweiser beer clock on the wall that didn’t work.  The place was full of dudes (none clean shaven), about 6 or 7 of them, with one female, a short, dumpy, red head with a pug nose that kind of reminded me of a toad.

As we entered the rustic backwoods beer palace, Ray Price was blaring on the juke box, “Crazy Arms.”  We ordered drinks at the bar, I got a soft drink and Maudie, a bottle of beer.  I wasn’t quite sure if we wanted to rent a cabin for the night from this place or not but before I could check out the rates Maudie left the bar to put some quarters on the pool table to challenge the winner.  I found a bar stool that fit my butt and sat nearby to watch the action.  I’d seen this before.  Maudie was going to run the table eventually but first, she had to set them up.  Win one or two, lose one or two.  After about an hour, she had won the table so many times I lost track, she’d won over a hundred dollars.  I think she cleaned them out.  Every time she bent over the table to take a shot, someone would make a rude remark or two.  These she ignored, I was proud of her.  The whole time she was shooting pool she had to swat flies.  I mean bar flies.  These guys saw that she was with me, but kept getting in her face, firing at her, left and right to no avail.  I kept feeding quarters in the jukebox and she would select the songs that reflected her mood.

She played a pretty good center field and kept every one at bay but the drunker they got; the harder it was for her to keep them off.  I already knew that if she wanted my help, she’d ask for it, so I laid off.  I had decided that if she asked for my knife, she wasn’t getting it.  I didn’t want to underestimate her but there were too many people to take on in a knife fight.  After we slow danced a song or two, I could feel her mood changing again.  Once she gave me the “side eye” I knew it was “on”.  She played some “Seminole Wind” on the juke box, just to make sure I got the message, and then asked the bar keep the whereabouts to the “girl’s room.”

This drew a big laugh from the crowd, the bartender told her they didn’t have one, that everyone used an outhouse out by the dock.  She asked “Toadie” if she wanted to go with her to show her where it was at.  Meanwhile I had started playing pool.  All eyes were on me when I scratched on the eight ball.  A whoop and holler went up; the guys started telling me that the local custom was anyone scratched on the eight ball had to buy every one a beer.  I was out numbered but not out smarted.  I wanted to get everyone in the room cornered up in one big group.  I said, “Sure, everybody line up at the bar, I’m buying.

Every one inside was standing in front of me, up against the bar.  I told the beer tender to give everybody a root beer, when they objected, “I said why not?  That’s what I’m drinking.”  A couple of the guys laughed about it, some ignored me at first, with their backs to me, tried to circle around me.  I’m pretty sure they were sore about losing their money, but had something else on their minds, like maybe they wanted to get some of their money back from me.

I could see through the torn screen and could tell that Maudie had gotten Toadie to go into the outhouse first.  Maudie told me later that she asked Shorty Red to check for spiders.  After Toadie got inside, Maudie slammed the door and pushed the outhouse over on its side with Toadie still inside.

I wasn’t sure if any one inside the bar saw what was going on outside or not, it had gotten dark on us but when I saw Maudie running down the dock towards the canoe, I grabbed a pool stick and backed up to the door, guarding the entrance.  No more pretending to be nice or dumb.  It was time to “unleash the beast.”  I let everyone know that the first one to come near me was going to get clobbered.  Wouldn’t ya know it?  There were two sneaky bastards that didn’t believe me.  The first one to get within five feet, caught the fat end of the cue stick right in the kisser, lost his front teeth in a blink of an eye.  I guess I forgot to tell them that I had been in a few bar fights.  His back-up was trying to circle around behind me, he got the front six inches of the skinny end of the cue stick broke off against the side of his head.  He started to walk kind of funny after that.  The others spread out, walking backwards, I had seen that most of these guys were barefoot so the last thing I did before running out the door, was to bust the two florescent bulbs in the light fixture, over the pool table.  Broken glass went everywhere.

I ran out from the bar in the dark.  After a few feet, I was able to navigate my path to the dock in the moonlight.  Maudie had untied the canoe and was waiting to shove off at the end of the dock.  We paddled off into the darkness, the beaming rays from the full moon’s light on the river, guiding the way.

We found a beach on an island, near a fork in the river.  We followed a path the led up to a clearing on the river bank, made a fire and camped out under the stars.  Maudie finally let her guard down, I was 25 years old.  I can remember lying in the sleeping bag, on my back staring at the night’s sky and the autumn moon.  I didn’t know for sure if the Good Lord was looking out for me or not, but I had a strong feeling that he was.