Sunday, January 29, 2012

Circle The Wagons

Wagon Train and Rawhide were sitcoms back in the days when only black & white TV existed. It is hard to imagine that there was such a day, but believe me I was there! "Head'um up...move'um out...Rawhide..." was the song I sang many a night while watching those cowpokes whip those cattle into shape. I guess you could really call it the dark ages.

Now Wagon Train was a little different. You had families moving westward on a long, long trip. It always seemed they never really got there, but they sure tired hard to make their way along those bumpy trails. Tough times were around every bend, and you never quite knew when those Indians would attack. "Circle the wagons...!" was a cry to let everyone know that pulling together would help all get through those arrows and bullets. Not everyone would make it of course, but on the whole most of the wagons kept moving. Helping one another along the way was the message.

The picture above shows my grandchildren with their aunt Lesley. Sam (the son of my oldest daughter Lisa), followed by Will(the middle), and little Ian (the youngest, and both sons of my youngest daughter, Ellen). They appear to have circled their wagons, and were ready to face any challenge awaiting them this day. No one ahead, no one behind... just imagine.

Families are like this I thought. Tough times around every bend in the road. Pull together and we will make it along our way ... circle the wagons.

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Grandmother, Grandmother"!

Looking through a stack of family pictures this morning I was impressed by the picture shown to the right. Gertrude Patterson Monroe Jones, born 1904, I remembered. What flashed through the canyons of my mind was a memory of the black and white TV version of "Heidi" where Shirley Temple [Heidi], lost in the forest, was yelling "Grandfather, Grandfather!". When lost in many of my childhood forests, it must have been "Grandmother, Grandmother", we called her "Mam Maw".
Her house on Jackson street was certainly a forest to a very young mind. The back yard extended to a deep drainage ditch where much of the rain water flowed. Here a tall peach tree stood with those tasty peaches calling from above the ground. [Those that had already fallen had flies, worms, or rot surrounding them which was not first on my menu of the day.] Throwing sticks would often be successful at knocking down a choice morsel, but this activity was often left unrewarded.
Now climbing this tree was a real challenge. It was at least 6-8 feet before you could even see the first branch! How was one to do this? Stacking up, no, too heavy; jumping from the fence post standing, no, too flimsy and too far...; getting help from big, no, I can do this...; on, and on, it would go! Many times I would punt and move to the cherry tree much nearer the house. It had a V-shaped trunk just 2-3 feet off the ground which provided a much easier access. However, the cherries had those large central pits which made for hazardous chewing at times, and you always had to spit a lot.
The day finally came when I was determined to climb this peach tree. Moving a wheelbarrow near and under the lowest branch..., balancing perfectly in the center..., jumping carefully... I could just touch the bottom of the lowest branch. I can do this. Position, jump, grab, climb, and one of those tasty peaches would be mine!
At least the first three items were completed successfully. However, instead of the "climb", I experienced "the fall". Landing flat on my back, I had the wind knocked out of me. I could not breathe! Looking up through the leaves dancing in the summer's wind, I thought this is what it must be to die. Summer, sun light sprinkling its rays through the leaves... and that peach smiling down at me from above..."Grandmother, Grandmother!"

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Ship Ahoy!" Coming Home

It was called the "Marine Robin" out of Philadelphia. Hundreds of men [and a few women] were on board returning from Germany...coming home, 1946. It must have been an overcast day, but this robin was certainly chirping. All smiles, at least in the heart, I would guess.

Folks were lined up on all sides! Standing, looking into the camera, as a series of pictures were taken. At least a total of twenty since these photos are from my Dad's collection, and he was there. He tells me he once knew where he was among this army of men and women.

A tug boat named "BENJBBRADY" is shown coming along side. I suspect it was pronounced "Benjamen B Brady". I wonder how many times it was called on to do its job.

The final picture shows just a fraction of the men and women who were coming home. Some clearly smiling, some are not. Some are in complete uniform, tie and hat, some are not. Some standing, some squatting, some leaning, some holding on to anything close by...what would be in their minds? What was seen and done would forever change these lives. How many times yet to come? "Ship Ahoy" I say, welcome home.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

First Snow Fall of 2012

Several days ago, my wife Nancy called me to our large front door to view the first snow fall of these winter months. A sprinkling here...a sprinkling there...not the white Christmas that is sung about I thought, but a white touch to the new year. How special it has always seemed to see the first snow flakes of winter. [The picture to the right shows our house at its first dusting.]

Having grown up in Kentucky, you were always uncertain as to when this event would happen. It might even happen before Christmas, but often it would wait until January. However, twenty five years of experiencing snow falls in Kentucky did little to prepare me for my first Iowa snow fall. Here it seemed that winter snow started around Thanksgiving, and the ground stayed covered with snow until Easter! Piles and piles of it, blown by the snow plow to stacks that at times seemed 10 feet tall. [Rough estimate from this UK Big Blue disciple!]. Natives frequently started our conversation with..."You're not from here, are you?" [Perhaps my chattering teeth gave me away.] "I am from Kentucky", I would say. "Oh, you're from the South then", often came the reply. Five Iowa winters taught me a lot about hard working folks who knew how to turn winter into play time. [My three daughters were all born in the corn fields of Iowa!]

Then moving to Alabama some years later [Roll Tide!] I looked forward to Alabama winters. No snow, no plows, no icy roads were in my expectations. Not! [As was frequently said!]. My first Alabama winter was spent at 6 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit)! "...You're not from here, are you..?", was often asked. "I'm from Kentucky" was my reply. "Oh, you're from the North", came the response. What!? North!? I thought I was from the South! Who would have guessed! I could be from both the North and the South!

Wow, I thought...maybe that is what it means to be from Kentucky. Our State Motto is: "United We Stand, Divided We Fall". Perhaps we need to spread it around a little bit. Funny what the first snow flakes of winter will bring to mind.