Saturday, May 31, 2008

1960 and 90 feet kept me home!

When I was 10 years old sometimes my friends and I would go missing for days at a time. My parents would worry about me as I am sure I caused them a ton of stress. Near our farm is a great creek that runs at the bottom of tall cliffs. It is a magnet for boys even to this day. The escarpments are known to collectors as world class fossil grounds and we learned early that the better more complete ones were worth cash to us.

My friend Robert, Rich and myself went camping at the bass of the cliffs Memorial day week end 1960. We left after school on Friday from my house with our gear tied to bicycles planning to spend the night and the next day there. Rich is eleven days younger then I am and Robert was a year younger. So I was the elder on this little adventure. Lady Bug our beagle tagged along as she always did.

We got camp set-up and then acted on our grand plan to hunt fossils 100 feet above the floor of the creek bottom. I took along a heavy rope my father had in the barn. On our way to the camp site I tied the rope to a guard rail post and dropped the other end over the side.

Rich and I had no problem climbing up and down on the rope, but Robert was a fat little bastard and he felt left out as he could climb maybe twenty feet before he tired. At the time our solution seemed perfectly logical. Robert would take his bike back up the dug way, ride back to the rope and climb down to us.

This almost worked! The fat little bastard got scare and wanted to go all the way to the bottom in a hurry. I was on a ledge 90 feet up, exploring the rock face. On his way down he knocked me off the ledge.

I did a free fall to the bottom. I broke a leg, an arm, and fractured my skull. The volunteer fire dept. showed up, threw me on a stretcher, and carted me to the waiting ambulance on the top of the cliff near the dug way. Did a four day hospital stay mostly because they were afraid I scrambled my brain.

The whole thing was a big deal in the newspaper. Robert's mom forbid him from hanging with us, Riches parent did not give a rat's ass. Lady Bug made it home on her own!

What a crappy way to start the summer, wearing two casts and on crutches! About 4 weeks after the fall it was freakishly hot out for so early in the summer. Everybody was swimming in the pond I could only watch. My brother came up with the answer, "Plastic"! We wrapped my casts in plastic and taped it own. No way would two plaster casts melt with that set-up. Well they did and rather quickly too!

Tried out my arm and leg, for some reason I thought they would be flapping. Shit they worked just fine. End of story.

Flash forward! 1969 The Tet offensive, the draft, a 19 year old with a lottery number of 27. You are fucked now sunshine! I figured ,"Don't ask me I don't give a damn my next stop is Viet Nam!"

Remember the cliff and all the stuff about falling 90 feet and breaking my shit? Hell in 1969 I barely remembered it, but Uncle Sam knew all about it. That bastard made me 4-F and at the time I was ready for war. It was not very long after when I joined the movement.

Friday, May 30, 2008

I was a wild Child!

From my very different start things only got stranger. I can not remember when I learned to drive but it was very young. I worked for my father loading trucks with a crawler loader as an 8 year old. We had a shale pit on the property and sold a lot of the stuff. How many boys growing up get to play with dynamite? I did. We would drill a hole in the floor of the pit , set a charge in the hole, wire up the caps, and I would park my crawler with a track on the hole. Then my job would be to touch the blast off on the battery of the machine. When it blew the machine would lift up and we had a nice batch of fresh stone to use. My mother thought that just maybe this may be wrong, but I enjoyed it and my dad got a kick out of it.

I was fearless and to this day I seek the edge. Dad felt that children should be stimulated and he kept us in dangerous toys. We always had field cars, motor cross bikes, guns, and tools to play with. Like driving I do not remember when I learned to weld it seems like I always could. We built cars for our dirt track that were meant to be rolled over, and cars that we could emulate Joey Chitwood in. By riding two wheel off of our home made ramps. Why none of my friends or I did not die or lose body parts I have no idea. We played chicken with the cars, old 4000 pound monsters built in the 50's. At one time we had 12 cars all running at the same time, racing colliding, rolling, even catching fire. It was great fun!

Besides mechanical contrivances we had animals. All the standard farm fare cows, chickens, geese, pigs. Like driving and welding I do not remember when I learned to slaughter, gut, skin, pluck, and butcher said farm animals for the dinner table. Those are just a natural set of country boy skills that come with the territory. And we would hunt our supper, I have eaten wild animals of every ilk! We always had dogs, beagles to hunt rabbits, and pheasant, coon hounds to tree the coons, most we live caught and bagged as they were worth more live then skins were bringing. Survival at its rawest best and using what the land gave you. I still hunt, fish, forage, and grow my own, it is just better.

We also had horses. My father loved horses and so do I. Still have horses. As a ten year old I started rodeo. Went from barrel racing to bull dogging and calf roping. Then I found my thrill, bareback bronc riding and bull riding. This was the 50's no flack vests or helmets just a pair of jeans, cowboy boots and hat, a shirt with snaps, and a big buckle on your belt! The young ladies loved it and I loved them for loving it! Bruises, black and blue , a dislocation or two was all part of the game!

If it was summer we were camping out. Sometimes as many as twenty of us would set up camp. Find someone to buy us beer and find a way to pry the young ladies away from the watchful eyes of their parents. Underage beer drinkers are a strange breed, some learn the hard way. Lots of drama created by alcohol. Why are the drunkest teenage boys always the ones that must climb the tree or play with the fire? Like they need the broken or burned body part. There are a million stories I could tel but I am just giving background right now.

1966: July, not much money making opportunity at my usual venues, always a slow time in the stone and top soil business. I had brand new drivers license, a car that needed fed, and women everywhere that were catching the "Free love" fever that was one of the best ideas I ever heard of. Hippies needed cash to be on top of the game. I did what any red blooded teen age boy with a constant raging hard-on would do, I joined the carnavel for the summer. First stop I got a job setting up the tilt-a- whirl and then sold tickets for the freak show. At the end of the run I got to tear down the same ride. When I went to get paid for my weeks work selling tickets the bastard skipped. I followed the train to the next stop. When I got there I hunted the dirt bag down and took a thumping from some career carnies for my troubles.

No tail between my legs I found a job guarding Zoma the snake lady! And I clocked the dirt bag that screwed me. He was an easy mark. Very routine scum bag. After the show shut down every night he drank a pint of booze and a six pack of beer then passed out in the semi trailer that carried the freak show from town to town. I clocked what he did with the cash. He put it in a lock box under his cot that was bolted down to the floor of the trailer. This being a ten day State Fair I also discovered he was skimming from the receipts, lots of them!

On the second day of the show Zoma a really nice 60 year old lady had an epileptic seizure. She was out for the count. They were frantic and needed a new Zoma. I inquired about the fiscal arrangements and saw this as an opportunity. The trick was get people to throw cash in your tip jar by entertaining them with the snakes and other reptiles in the pit. I was good, very good at it.For the run I made over $3000.00 and met a lot of young ladies who were not fooled by my gender bending. I did look good in my fake leopard skin suit and fright wig.

All the time I continued to stalk Wesley the dirt bag. The show ended on a Sunday. On Saturday the original Zoma was well enough to get back at it. So I squared up with my boss and left the new kid who took over security stay on the job and I hatched my plan! Free to move about and no thoughts of staying for the tear down. My car was at home 250 miles away waiting for me. I stashed all my money from the week in a gym bag and took a taxi down town to the bus station. Stowed my clothes and money bag in a locker and went back to the fair with a fifth of 100 proof rot gut. This I placed on dirtbag's chair out behind his freak show venue. I wanted him drunk!

While down town I stopped and bought a sturdy two handled bag with a hard bottom and some tools. A small socket set and a cheap bolt cutter. Wesley did not disappoint me he went after his whiskey wind fall and at approximately 1:30 in the morning he staggered into his semi. With in minutes he passed out, snoring like a buzz saw.

The rest was too easy. I unbolted his lock box. How stupid was that he used carriage bolts and left the heads outside! I went in and could barely lift the damn thing. But crime always gave me super strength. Wesley was gone, blotto, dead drunk. He was sleeping on an old army cot with the hole on the side where the frame folds. Remember Chinese fingers? Where you stick a finger from each hand in and you could not pull them out, made from woven reeds. His one hand was in the hole in the cot the other hanging down, I put him in a Chinese finger locked to the cot. The whole trailer smelled like piss.

The lock box bolted to the floor by a moron. I decided to cut the lock right there instead of trying to lug the box. When I went to cut it I discovered it was not locked. I cleaned out all entire contents of the box including a watch and over $6000.00. Walked off, caught a taxi back to town, had the cab drive drop me off at a hotel 8 blocks from the bus station. I pretended to go in and when he pulled away I make my way back to the station, cleaned my locker, and got a ticket home! Wesley should have paid me the $100.00 he owed me .

There is more........

Monday, May 12, 2008

Another year older

May 12th, my birthday! Whoopie Freakin' do! Holt shit I've had a lot of them. My wife just got up, gave me a kiss, slipped me some tongue, and wished me a happy birthday so all is right with my world.

Let me tell you about my birth. I don't remember it but I am sure I was there. My family lived in the sticks and I was my Mother's third and last child. When the labor started Mom had to phone around to find Dad, he was out with his brother, my uncle Ken. Finally thy showed up at the house somewhat into their cups. What the hell they were celebrating Mother's Day since they had caused a few women to become Mothers.

My uncle Ken had a brand new 1950 Ford convertible that he was very proud of. This would be Mom's ride to the hospital and the two of them helped her into the back seat with her little bag she packed. It was a 18 mile ride over the back roads through the Seneca Indian Reservation. They did not make it.

Mom related the story many times over the years and I think she was still mad at my father for getting half lit on Mother's day with her so close to delivering a baby. They got more then half way there and had to stopped, Mom was crowning. As luck would have it they pulled into the driveway to the Thomas Indian School and stopped the car. Both brave men got out of the car to help Mom. Uncle Ken promptly passed out when he saw what was happening to the interior of his prized car, Dad had to pee first.

When Uncle Ken fainted he whacked his skull on the edge of the car door, busting his forehead wide open. My somewhat foggy Dad has to choose, help his fallen brother or his almost not pregnant wife. He got uncle Ken off the ground and into the passenger side seat wearing a pair of mom's freshly packed cotton underwear on his head. He got back to mom just in time to catch his new son.

Then Dad got behind the wheel of the new Ford and continued the journey, Uncle Ken bleeding all over the front seat like a stuck drunken pig, wearing cotton bloomers on his head. Mom in the back seat making that special mess only childbirth can make. Me wrapped in Mom's new robe.

Mom swears Dad sobered up instantly when I came out. She also claims I has born with a smile on my face, never cried. I was born hungry, before they drove the 5 miles or so move to the hospital I had already found the mother lode!

Still connected to Mom, nursing like it was my last meal, a busted uncle wearing panties on his head, a suddenly sober father covered in blood, in a new convertible we pulled into the hospital. Someone should have got a picture.

When they went to get Mom out of the car there was one last assault on Uncle Ken's convertible, Mom delivered the after birth. The doctor had to tie and cut the cord in the car. Since I was not born in the hospital I was not put in the new born nursery. Hell I can't blame them.

Mom was starving after this adventure so after the doctors checked the both of us over she had a Chicken dinner, they were serving it as a Mother day thing. Mom swears it was the best she ever had.

Poor Uncle Ken, they kept him. Being a Sunday there was no one to take an E-ray of his melon and being loaded he was not making much sense. I do not think he ever forgave me for ruining his car, we were never close.

The total bill for my birth was $13.00 for the exams, cord cutting, and Mom's dinner. Times sure were different way back when.

Friday, May 09, 2008

One month later

Today marks one month since I pulled the pin. This is the day of my party and I am looking forward to seeing the guys and gals that worked with and for me for so long.

What a busy month it has been, everybody jokes about how they never found the time while they were working to get things done. It's true! Between catching up on house repairs and updates, turning ground to get some crops growing, running the sawmill, working on the equipment, turkey hunting, and the list goes on I have not done much work for other people.

Now that fuel is so damn expensive and going higher all the time I have to rethink my charges for the work I do. As of right now my thinking is to use my time and money to get my farms into the condition where they will consistently produce what we need to survive in this rocky economic times. I have one long list of projects. On the hill farm Fences, chicken coop, work shop, barn for cattle and horses, water system to all the buildings and gardens. I also want to build a shelter to run my mill in the winter. On top of all that I have to complete my gray water recovery set-up, install the solar toilet, and finish two more sections of the house.

At the flat farm we are having a roof raising on the original section of the old farm house. The upstairs is old school where the children used to sleep, only 4 feet at the walls, with two dormers. The idea is to add 5 more feet to the walls and replace the roof with a modern metal roof and do away with the dormers. It will add a lot of living space plus we will raise the ceiling downstairs to a full 8 feet. Over the years additions were added to the house and not much thought was put into the the roof line. Over two of these the new roof will be a gable that ties into the new raised wall, doing away with three valleys, a chopped up roof line, and creating a covered porch at the same time. It will make a pretty house when it is finished. I will stay with it until the house is closed back in then my youngest son will be on his own for interior work.

Here at the homestead I have to stain the house, the stable, and the barn. We are going at our home with the idea of putting it on the market sometime soon and will work towards developing the all important "Curb Appeal". As it stands now we will be have for some time as long as my in-laws are still able to live on their own as we are close to them. 20 minutes away or 2 hours away when we move to the hill. This house will sell itself, only 20 minute commute to the city, 11 acres, a very nice two story shop that can be converted to a "Mother-in-Law," the shop has all utilities on its own meters, a three stall stable with an upstairs for hay. The house is two bath three bedrooms, new kitchen, radiant floor hot water heat.

My homestead is very historical, one of the few structures to survive the "War of 1812" in this area. It is a true post and beam building that started life as a grain mill and general store with living quarters upstairs. In 1938 it was moved from the corner to its present location using horses and log rollers to pull it up the street. Placed on a full basement and a hip roofed one story addition was added to the front, also over basement. Over the years it got abused a bit, was used as a rental after the people that moved it passed away. It was make into two flats, but at least they only added walls to do do it so the fix was easy. It was covered in cement board siding when I bought it, but underneath was site cut red cedar clapboard in great shape. I sawed about 2000 feet of clap to match and covered the front the same way and stripped the rest of its old paint. All the windows are replaced, electric, water, heat, city sewer all new. The basement has a natural drain, NO Sump Pump to fail! If I have to sell I will miss this house, maybe a grand child of mine will need a house before I do.

The rentals, in a word "GONE." Sold them both for one money, pay the tax, bank the money, end of story.

Now I have to figure out what to wear to the party!

An update:May 12, 2008

The party was one for the ages. We got to the West End Hotel at 4:10 P.M. Several of my mates were at the bar, so we socialized for a while when John the owner informed us our banquet room was ready. Then the crowd started showing up. And what a crowd it was, over 400 of my friends took the time to send me off to pasture. What a great bunch I worked with, something about prison that makes us close. It was a good thing I brought me little pick-up and not the car, the bed filled up with gifts and I needed a wishing well like a bride for the cards.

The party was to run from 4-9 we left at 3:30 am and we were not the last to leave. The jail called and said I better be there after the 3-11 shift lets out, some of the guys want to stop and see me. (29 miles away) So more guys and gals started pouring in at 10 o'clock or so, the sergeant on duty got some out early. I saw guys from 10 different facilities that I had worked with over the years, guys who had retired ahead of me, and folks that did not work for the system but wanted to be there. I still feel honored and proud to be part of "The toughest beat in America", people that put their well being on the line every time they go through the gates!

The guys gave me over $5,000 and a ton of gift cards, plus too many gifts to list here. I am still overwhelmed. They all tell me they already miss me and I have no choice but to believe them.

I wore a surfer shirt, tan dress pants, and my wife put my sneakers in the washer so they were clean. What a fashion plate!