Tag Archives: dads

Old/New World of Water

Today you can get bottled water in those coke size bottles just about everywhere.  They even have gallon and larger sizes at the grocery stores and the large private water companies delivery the 5 gallon size bottles to the water coolers at homes or offices around the country on a daily basis.   Indeed in many stores the variety and amount of bottled water almost equals that set aside for soda and fruit drinks.   People have been getting drinking water from private companies for centuries around the world and since the earliest days of our country.    The packaging and delivery and availability has changed a great deal in the last two decades but the basic delivery system and packaging is pretty much what it was almost 60 years ago.   Not long ago our kids got us one of those fancy Sodastream gizmos.  Filling it with the fizz brought back memories from a time long ago when I filled thousands of similar bottles with fizz.

As a teenager in 1955 I started working at a water plant owned by my uncle and where my dad was then the manager.  They had been in the business of delivering drinking water since 1898 throughout the Dallas area.  The early public water systems were slow to be built due to the expense and the quality of the water was variable.    I was too young to get the job legit but my dad agreed I could and I believe he thought it would be a good lesson in life for me to work each summer.  So that summer of ’55 I started much to mom’s chagrin, she thought it was too dangerous around that plant, trucks and equipment plus in her view the negative influence of those older working guys that were in fact a little rough around the edges.   I was so proud working at the same shop as my dad with the big men.   In fact in was very hot, exhausting work and definitely a little on the dangerous side with that equipment and the glass bottles.

The water was bottled into several different size.   Then they were all made of glass, not plastic and hence and additional element of danger from cuts when they broke which inevitably they would.  The basic standard was the 5 gal bottle.   By ’55 there were two kinds–one with a wide and smooth neck for a cork and the other kind with a slimmer neck and screw ruts at the top for a screw top cap to fit on.   We liked the old type best because they were easier to grip.  Your hand was always wet with water and sweat and lifting those bottles to load in the washer or onto the bottling machine after cleaning and then onto the pallets and the trucks.  Being able to grip the bottle tightly was best.  Those old bottles were corked and then we would put a paper cup over the top and tie it in place  with red twine to hold it there.   The screw caps were turned by hand and then a wet latex sleeve was put around the neck and when it dried it would shrink to seal the cap.   When you pick up and move 4 or 5 thousand of those bottles a day by hand those little things make a big difference.

The company made distilled water, indeed that was in the company name.  But it also sold demineralized water which went through a filtration system to purify it.  They sold ozone water.  Some folks and even doctors believed that drinking water laced with ozone was good for you health.  The shed that held that equipment smelled so strong.  If you have ever smelled the ozone in the air during a big thunderstorm you have the idea but this was much stronger.  Couldn’t stay in there too long.  Probably was a health hazard and today OSHA was explode.   And they even bottled and sold fresh mineral water which had a high sulfur content which again some folks thought was the bees knees for you health.  Stuff stunk to high heaven to me.  But every couple of weeks I got to drive the truck to Glen Rose to pick up about 5000 gallons of the stuff.  Driving that truck was like loafing compared to working on the bottling line and loading all those bottles.  The 5 gal. bottles with the glass included weighed near 40 lbs each and about 2 empty.

In those days lots of homes that had bars and of course restaurants and lounges had seltzer bottles with the fizz to fix cocktails.  They also sold those but that was a pretty small part of the business.  Every 3 weeks or so me and my cousin would be assigned to cleaning out the old seltzer bottles and re-filling them.  They were about a quart size and had a metal top with spigot and lever to release the fizzy water.  Of course being kids we would first find all the bottles that had a little steam left in them and squirt each other.  There was also some there.  Then we would take the clean bottles and fill them on a simple machine that had a special tray with restraint to hold the bottle with the top off then pull down a lever that was attached to the tank of co2.  Whoosh and it was filled right away.  Those bottles had special wooden crates that were used to deliver them to the bars and homes and held twelve each.  The machinery for these work was in a special shed that had great ventilation when the back and front doors were open so the work was much cooler than some of the other work and we loved doing that.  But we never did more than a few hundred at a time so it was quickly back to the grunt work on the big bottling line with the washer and bottling machine and all that lifting and toting.

So, Sodastream each time I use your device it does bring back memories of a 13 year old boy thinking that getting to fill a bottle with fizz was about as good as things could get on a hot July day in the mid-fifities.  I worked at that plant every summer for three years and then moved on to other work with my dad’s new business.

“In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.” Napoleon.  http://www.oclranky.wordpress.com

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Dads And Daughters

I can at least comment on daughters and their relationships with their dads and vice a versa as I have four and six granddaughters.   Every dad and daughter will have a different relationship qualify  but there are certain events and feelings they have that tread their way through most of those relationships. 

When you learn you are going to have a daughter for the first time there is always that little thought in the back on your mind that you are getting into water a little too deep for you.  I mean after all what do you know about women?  Even after dating and married life for a while you still realize that your wife will surprise you on occasion because she doesn’t see something the same way you do even though it is so obvious to you.  Then they get mad or cry and you have absolutely no idea what brought it on.  Now you are going to be the man of the house for this little lady and you know you will be having an influence on her. 

But then you have those first few hours and days with her.  You hold her a little more gently than the boys;  I don’t know why that is true but it is.  Guess it is because they are a girl and you are supposed to treat them more gently.  Then there are those frilly clothes and outfits that they wear.  When it is your turn to dress them as infants you usually don’t get it quite right for mom.  She often will come along right behind you and make an adjustment or two that makes them just right.

There is nothing prettier than that infant in her crib dress or whatever they call them, all white with trimmings on her pillow holding up a plump little arm and cute smile on their lips.

By the time they are ready for the nicer things when they start Sunday School or other special events it is all patent leather shoes and velvet dresses and you are definitely a bystander but you love the way she looks at you and you can’t resist asking for another kiss although you get them all the time.   But that afternoon they might look the tomboy in shorts and a tee-shirt and tennis shoes and she is begging you to chase bugs with her in the back yard.   Soon you will be working with her to learn to ride the bike the first time or try her three-wheeler.  The little  boys smile when they do it but those gals just beam all over they are so happy.

Then the time will come when she wants you to play dolls with her or do “kitchen” or tea party with her.  You are awkward with this since you haven’t had much experience.  Don’t worry she will start telling you which outfits to put on the doll and then re-do what you have done to make it just right.  Just like her mom she knows you have limits as a guy and they seem to learn this so early.  

As much fun as they are little it is just as good as they become 8 or 10.  It is different but lots of fun.  You aren’t directly involved as much but you  get all the great things like those hugs and kisses when you get home.  They still will bring you everything under the Sun to fix or repair.  They think you can fix anything even if you are all thumbs.  Now they are more under Mom’s wing but you get to watch your gals together.  There are those soccer games and practices to do and you have to restrain yourself not to make it too arduous or intense so they can enjoy it.   You’ll get the pleasure of taking 10 or 12 little gals to the pizza parlor after the game with all their excited yells and running about and whispering with each other.   That is an experience all its own.

Boys.  Yes, so much sooner than you ever thought it would they are interested in boys.  You’ll hear and see those short intense conversations with Mom and then tears on occasions because someone told someone that some guy liked someone else and she heard it at school.  The heartbreak of it all.  Then they discover the phone or cellphone today for many I suppose.  Oh boy, you are on your own with that one.  If you don’t pull the plug they will never have the thing out of their ear or today in their hand with those texts messages non-stop.  If there is more than one, then you will be the constant arbitrator of who gets the phone next.  

Then they are grown up before you can spit over the creek.   Now they still give you those hugs and kisses but they don’t bring you a toy to fix anymore.  The issues are more important and you want them to be happy and safe.  Their friends, the schools they choose and certainly the guys they want to date become major issues with you.   If you stay out of jail and upright you know you will have their love.  There is no greater feeling in the world than to be loved so unconditionally by someone.   You need to deserve it.  That means you have to have done a good job over the years.   You can’t buy being a good father at the drugstore; it is not bottled for sale.  It takes some sweat and worry along the way but the rewards are as good as they get on this earth. 

One day she will give you a peck on the cheek and a big hug and you will realize she is really a grown woman.  It comes like an epiphany.  Like any grand house it is the foundation that makes it all possible.  If you are lucky and have worked at it, she will adore you through all the years and the gray beard.  Prize your daughter every day for she is your prize, you will find none better.

“Thou art they mother’s glass, and she in thee Calls back the lovely April of her prime”  Shakespeare sonnet  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Dads And Sons

Fathers and boys get to share some special moments together over their lifetimes.   Those moments will always bring a smile and warm feeling in the chest when remembered by each of them.  They start early and continue to end of Dad’s days.   Maybe some of these will refresh your memory and bring pleasant emotions to bear on your day.

When you son is first-born there is one thing that all dads do without usually saying anything about it and often trying to do it without anyone noticing.   We all count those fingers and toes to make sure everything is accounted for.  But every dad in those early hours after birth will also take a peek to make sure his son’s “equipment” is there and normal.  Admit it, you did with each son.  Just making sure and your were relieved it was as it should be.

That first year or so the boys are almost totally in the care and under the watch of their moms.  Dads help out if they are good dads but there is no question they are in the back seat.  But when that little guy starts walking and moving around then the dad can get involved more directly again.  When they are very little they watch Dad like a hawk on the prowl.   They absorb  every move dad makes.   They are especially fascinated with the tools when dad has to make some minor repair around the house.  Dads usually buy them their first tool kit toy set before they are two.  Remember your son at your knee watching every detail when you adjusted the doorknob or fixed a leaky faucet?   No matter that it was a simple affair and nothing brilliant you were so intrigued with the attention your son paid to your every move.

A few years down the road and you will be teaching him something–whether to ski or fish or whatever.   Normally you have a hard enough time getting him to obey and follow your instructions but when you finally get to a “guy” thing he will be all eyes and ears for you.  Nothing more fun they watching him try to take that first fish he caught off the hook.   He wants to so bad but then when he touches it and it wiggles and the gills poke him he looks to your help one more time anyway.

Decades later you will regret all those times you said no when he asked you to come out in the yard and throw the football with him.  You were too tired and watching TV.  But the times you did get out there you taught him how to hold the ball, throw it with his whole body and catch it with his hands not his body.  Those fall afternoons will live in your memory for years.

Then there is watching the sports together or listening to them on the radio.  I still remember how excited I would be when in the fall my dad would be home on a Saturday and not working and we would get together around the radio to listen to a Southwest Conference game together.  I felt like my dad was really including me in the men’s world.  He would talk about the plays and players and explain things for me.   I hated it when the game was over.

When your boys starts playing organized sports you were there.   Whether it was football, hockey, or soccer didn’t matter but you wanted to watch him participate and see how he handled himself.  Sooner or later he will have some successful play or game.  He’ll do something special and the two of you will talk it over and replay it again and again.   There are moments of despair when things don’t go well but also times of exhilarating joy when they do.  Sort of a mirror of life to come.   He’ll ask about when you played sports and you’ll tell him and you’ll want to listen to his view of his games.  It is not the ultimate success on the sports field that is so important but the experience of sharing those moments together.

At some point hopefully got to take your son on a guy thing outing, like a deer or turkey hunt.  Usually you were with other men and maybe another son or two.  It was a time for bonding without any women around.   You remember the excitement when you first went with your dad on one of these.  Just getting all the gear ready was a thrill, cleaning the guns and getting out the special boots and camping equipment.  Then you were off on the road trip for a few days.   There was a campfire and the cooking which was not always so good but lots of it.  No one complained much about the burned food and scalded coffee. You might have had your first cup of coffee on one of these trips.  Then of course there was the teaching from your dad about how to look for the deer sign and how to hide yourself from them.  On my first one I was so lucky when on the way back to camp we jumped a buck and it took off running and leaping.  I took a shot and sure enough brought it down on the run from over a hundred yards.  It was 99% luck but Dad was so happy for me.  He even paced off the distance.  Then I had to learn that a little work comes with the pleasure and he taught me how to field dress the deer.  That was more work and messier than I had planned for.  But I will cherish every trip we made even those we had together after I was grown.  You do too.

Toward the end Dads will regret they didn’t have more time with their family and sons and had done more.  The sons will regret that they didn’t listen more to their dads and let them know how  much they did appreciate them and all they taught them by example.  But life happens and hopefully the joys in your life with your son far outweigh the regrets.  Remember you were blessed with so many special moments and the young dads need to treasure them when the happen.

Remember the example you set everyday, dad, tis true the apple won’t fall far from the tree.  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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The Old Neighborhood–II

When we moved to Cascade I was about 9, I was starting the third grade.  Dad had worked really hard fixing the place up for Mom, working every evening and on the weekends to make the upgrades for her.  It even had a chimney and a hearth in the living room but it was a fake one.  But it looked homey.  Except Mom insisted on putting plants in the fireplace hearth which took away from the look in my opinion.  That house became the place I always thought of as my childhood home.

That block and the whole neighborhood was filled with kids and interesting characters.  The Church we attended was only a three block walk from home so that made it easy for Sunday church.  It was a true neighborhood church, small and all locals. My Sunday school teacher for the next several years was a man who had been in the war like so many.  He had been shot by a Jap machine gun that stitched across his belly and chest.  Of course, we guys thought that was really something.  You tend to listen to a man who has been through something like that.  We lived in that house for about 6 years.  That was where I finished elementary school and started to jr. high.

Next door was the Windoms.  The brothers were a lot older and quite nerdy but they did interesting things and had fun stuff.  They were both very active in Scouts and the outdoors.  They had their garage walls covered with old license plates.  In those days you got a new license plate every year and some folks would take the old ones and nail them to the garage wall as a memento.  They had them going back to the early ’30’s.  They made their own bow and arrows from scratch.   They caught an injured owl one time and nursed it back to health.  It bit the devil out of the older brother.  He had a big bandage on his hand for a couple of weeks.  Then they let it go.  Their grandfather was very old school.  He wore a white Panama hat with bolo tie and shirt every day and spent lots of time sitting on the front porch.  Sometimes he would tell us kids stories of the old west and Dallas from the pioneer days.  He was very old then, in his nineties.  We loved hearing the story of how his dad and some others had a gun battle with  Comanches just outside Dallas after the War Between The States.  Lots of shots but only a wound from and arrow and an Indian wounded by gunfire.  Then each side went its separate way.  It was fascinating to hear him tell about the first time he heard someone had flown in a machine and that cars would be replacing horses and buggies.

Next door was the neighbor with the boy who was retarded.  It was sad.  I remember being sad every time I would think about him.  He had a sister who went to school with one of my cousins.  Across the street was a fellow named Perry.  He was also quite a bit older but he had lots of memorabilia his older brother brought back from the War.  He would show us occasionally some of the things.  A German helmet, a knife, some German insignia, belt and other things.   Naturally all us guys thought that was pretty cool.   Billy lived two house down. He was smallish for his age but a good athlete.  He ended up playing tailback for Sunset which was a pretty big deal at the time.  Next was Jimmy, who was  member of the DeMolay, the youth group for Masons.  My dad became a Mason while we were living on Cascade.  Jimmy was also pretty nerdy but he tried hard to be one of the guys.  He just wasn’t much of an athlete.  But he played pretty good chess.  I played with him often and the Windom brothers next door.  I have no idea why I was interested at such a young age. I beat the younger Windom brother regularly which bugged him no end.  He gave me a book on Chess strategy which I actually did read. Guess I was pretty nerdy too.

Up and the corner of Cascade and Pioneer was my best childhood friend, David.  He was always tall and gangly.  He was a good egg.  Not very agile but he did play football with me and continued to play until his junior year in high school.   We spent hours together goofing around and being guys.  When the weather was nice we would always be outside doing lord only knows what.  Late in the day when Dad was home and it was time for dinner my Dad would come to our front porch and whistle.  He could whistle really loud.  That was the signal for me to come home and eat.  There were no excuses.  I was expected to be close enough to hear it.  You could hear it easy if the wind wasn’t blowing a block away.   Of course I often said it didn’t hear it right away.  

We played lots of stick hockey in the street with old tree limbs and tin cans for a puck.  Hours were spent throwing and kicking the football in the street.   This is where we lived when I got my first car and began working in the summers at the water plant.  This is where I learned to drive and was allowed to drive to the 7/11 by myself when I was only 13 but I had to park without crossing Edgefield which was considered a busy street by Mom.  I was really young and had no license of course but they trusted me.   I even got to drive the car to the school dance when I was in the 7th grade that spring.  It wasn’t very far but man did I feel like a big shot.  To be continued…..

If total government control and central planning of the economy is the best formula for success one wonder why the Soviets aren’t King of the Mountain, with their people living off the fat of the land and happy as clams.  We know how that story ended though don’t  we.   http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Dads And Go Carts

It seems that virtually everything these days is manufactured for kids.  If you remember the old Our Gang Comedies you would see that in that pre-electronic world the kids made lots of their own toys and play things or at least they got help from their dads.   When is the last time you show a home made wagon?  They aren’t that complicated to make but have you seen one?  Even the tree houses these days are mostly pre-fabricated.  The kids used to build their own in the back yard and some of them were pretty fancy.  Those tree houses you see in the movies these days are pretty close to the ones that sprinkled around the neighborhood where I grew up.  We used to make our own stilts to walk on and create bows and arrows and even fake planes or cars.  Of course we some times had a little help from Dad.

In my neighborhood when I was about 12 there were a couple of guys who had built themselves go carts.  They weren’t called that then.  Theyd were just soapbox racers with engines on them.  The Soapbox derby was a big deal then when they would have the competition every summer.  I suppose they still do them but they sure don’t get any attention anymore.   I thought those things were so cool and my dad knew how much I would love to have one.  Nothing was every said but then one day my dad brought home a bunch of equipment and materials and said we were going to build a go-cart for me for my birthday.  My dad was from that old school where a guy was expected to know a little about a lot.  That is how to do things with your hands.  It is a shame he never got to go to college he would have made a terrific engineer.  He had a real eye for knowing how things worked and how to build or make most anything.  He could do carpentry; he knew about being a glazier; do basic plumbing of all kinds, build the molds and mix and pour cement for curbs, patios or even foundation ,could do electrical wiring and could certainly put in all the fixtures of any kind, he could weld and knew how to take apart and re build most any kind of engine, either electric or gas.

He took some 1/4 inch angle iron and welded the frame for the car.  Then he drilled and bolted on 2×4’s to that to add the rest of the structure.  He used some old wheels and axles from a wagon for the wheels.  He build the connections for the front wheels so they could be connected to the steering column.  He used a U joint from somewhere for the front wheels.  The steering column was a 1/2 inch pipe and he welded on a steering wheel from a riding lawn mower.  He got a seat from a riding mower.  He rigged up the brake and the gas pedals on his own.  I got to watch all this and “help”, of course my help consisted mostly of just handing him tools and bracing things on occasion.  

The brake was a plate in fastened to the rear so that when you stepped on the brake the wire would pull it up against the rear wheels.  The engine was an old lawn mower engine that he mounted just above the rear wheels and right behind the seat.   There was a line running from the gas pedal up to the carburetor on the engine; it was threaded through some eye bolts he placed in the frame.  The more you pushed the gas pedal the more the gas was injected into the engine.  The whole thing was about 6 or 7 feet long.  It wasn’t a pretty piece.  There was no “body” but all the essential parts were there.  You started the engine by pulling a rope cord just like you would on a lawn mower.

Mom was NOT excited about  the whole project.  She thought it was a dangerous idea from the git go.  Especially the idea of riding on the streets in the neighborhood.   Dad was always very careful about everything but this is one time he overruled Mom and went ahead.   It took about a week to get the project done.  My pals on the block would come by every day to see the progress and give their opinion on the best way to proceed.   He finally got everything ready and we were set to give it a try.  The engine fired up and it was loud but it hummed.  All the basics worked, gas, brakes and steering and it was time to give it a spin.  Dad took it out for the first test run. He didn’t go far but wanted to make sure it worked and that the brakes would function properly.  My friends were there for the maiden trip.   I felt like Charles Lindbergh.  I got in and pressed the gas and sure enough I was off down the street.  Man, that was fun.  Tooling around the block in my very own “car”. 

Dad had built it so soundly that it was very heavy for the engine.  We lived in an area that was hilly.   So sometimes unless I had a little head of steam it couldn’t make it up the inclined streets.  I would have to get out and push it.  On the down hill or level ground it would work fine.  I never said a word to Dad about it being under powered for the hills but he knew it was too weak.  He replaced the engine one night for me.   I drove that thing off and on for a year or two and then became and teen ager and got interested in sports and whatever else teenagers did then.   I really don’t remember what happened to that go-cart.  I know it wasn’t with us when we made our next move a few years later but by then I was 15 or so.   I’ve never had a car though that I loved any more than that go-cart dad built for me.   As an adult I realize how much extra effort and time that took for dad, he had a job and plenty to do but he always took the time to do for us.  A good example is the best teacher for life.

“Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain in insight”.  Proverbs  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Vingettes From A Sailor–WWII

 

My dad served in the Navy Armed Guard during the War.  That was the force that was composed of Navy personnel serving on the merchant ships carrying war materiale to Europe and North Africa.  These sailors manned the guns that were mounted on the ships, mostly Liberty ships, that plied the seas in convoys with their cargo and troops.  The Navy contingent was small–only 10-20 sailors on board each ship and the rest of the crew were merchant seamen.  They faced the usual dangers of the North Atlantic with its storms and extreme cold and in addition the constant threat of German U-boats and the German aircraft when they got within range.  My dad was not a hero and never would have considered himself such.  Their life was lonely, cold, gruelling physically and interspersed with those moments of sheer terror.

They had to stand watch on a regular basis.  Their stint would normally be four hours but sometimes the cold and weather was so extreme that was cut back to only two.  Standing watch meant you were outside in the elements.  Most ships at that time did not have radar or GPS and the best way to watch for danger from bergs or the enemy was the old fashioned method of using eyeballs on the seas.   It would take about 20 minutes to get dressed to go outside.  There was no Goretex in those days and the gear was leather, wool and heavy.  They had goggles but they could rarely be used because they would ice up so fast that  they interferred with using the binoculars to scan the horizon.  The watches were around the clock.  The typical duty  roll was for four hours on and four hours off.  That is you got off if there weren’t other duties to attend to like maintenance on the guns.

On one voyage the convoy my dad was in got close enough to Norway that they were within reach of the German aircraft.  That happened a lot and they were attacked often but usually the planes missed and made only one or two passes at the convoy and left.  On this occasion the dive bomber came in for a run and zeroed in on the ship dad was on.  He and others were manning a 5 inch gun firing at the planes.  The plane made a straffing run using its cannon and machine guns.  The bullets hit the ship and the gun station were my dad was located. He was the crew chief for that gun.  A bullet struck the sailor next to my dad and killed him outright and the ricochets and flying debris caused additonal havoc.  The decks always were loaded with wooden crates carrying extra cargo and those wooden splinters from shells could be as dangerous as the bullets themselves.   Another member of dad’s gun crew was hit by a large wooden splinter in the forearm.  The splinter went all the way through his forearm and was sticking out like an arrow.   When they knew the first man was dead, dad turned his attention to the wounded sailor and used pliers to extract the splinter from his forearm and then dress the wound.  Later he stitched the wound when the attack was over. 

The sailor killed in the attack was buried at sea.  Yes, they really did that during the war.  They cleaned the body of their shipmate.  The body was then sewed into canvas tarp covering and an anchor chain link was added to give weight so the body would sink.   The next morning the body was committed to the deep.   My dad always felt really bad about his friend being killed within inches of him.  I suppose you always have that natural question about why it was him that was struck down and not you.   It sure focuses the mind on the important matters in life and what life is about.   The wounded sailor healed without permenant damage.  Dad was the pharmicist mate on the ship.  He was assigned that duty without training other than the Navy medical manual.  There were no doctors on these ships.  If conditions permitted wounded would be transferred to a destroyer or larger ship but that was always an iffy proposition especially in the North  Atlantic.  For medical care you were normally on your own. 

On another voyage his ship was again in the North Atlantic and it was cold as always even in the summer because they ships took such a northern route to reach England.  The ship had iced up very badly on deck.  You have maybe seen some of those old newsreels or History Channel films of those ships all iced over.  Sometimes the icing would be so bad that it endangered the ship due to the ice making the ship top heavy.  Those high seas and wave crests were often 40 feet high and the yawing and pitiching could cause ships to capsize. Remember the movie the Perfect Storm?   During this storm and ice event dad had to stand watch. He dressed and went outside.  He slipped on the ladder and fell several feet and hit his head on the steel plates and bulkhead.  A “ladder” for you landlubbers is a stairway.   He was taken inside and he remained unconscious for hours.  The time dragged on.  Their were able to break radio silence and ask for help from a doctor on another ship.   It was determined that he had a hematoma, a swelling on in the brain, from the accident.  The doctor could not come to dad’s ship and the weather prevented any transfer of dad to another ship with a doctor.  He laid that way throughout the night.  The doctor finally told them they would have to operate on his head.  He would tell them what to do by radio.  The basic tool they would use was a hand held drill, just like you would use in a wood shop to bore a hole.  They were going to bore a hole over the injured area to relieve the pressure.   They boiled and cleaned all the instruments and the clock kept ticking.  As the doctor was going over the instructions with the Captain of the ship who was going to do the operation my dad finally came around.  When he learned what they had intended to do he was stunned.  He didn’t like the idea of a novice boring a hole in his head.  His shipmates, like men do under those dangerous circumstances, razzed him and even showed him all the clean tools they were getting ready to use on him.  Although he was “out” for about 24 hours all he ended up with was a bad headache and a huge bump on his head.  And he got a chewing out from the Captain for being careless going up and down the ladder.  

No purple heart and he never would have thought of one.  Nothing heroic about my dad’s adventures in the Navy but dealing with those dangers seems heroic to me.  My dad was just one of millions of other very young men doing their job and duty so we could have the freedoms and largesse that we have had since the War.  We have been so blessed to have had them as our ancestors.  

Mortgage rates are up a point in the last month and the 10 year T bill is at 4%.  Yet those like Klugman continue to maintain that the government running trillions in deficits and borrowing trillions will not cause inflation.  They have a different idea of investment risk than me and sure do their math different.

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Filed under Culture, Environment, geography, history, military history

Road Warrior, My Hero

We all enjoy those campfire stories.  When it has become dark and the tall tales spark in the night air, we wonder of the truth behind those yarns.   Well, this one is true to the last detail.  The only thing that is not a fact is my emotional reaction to the events that occurred so long ago.    It is a tale of a man challenged and defending his family under unexpected and stressful circumstances.  We all love our dads because they are our dads, but rarely do we get to glimpse their inner core.

My dad was an asst. manager of a drinking water plant in the early ’50’s and had to make a business trip to El Paso.  We weren’t living high on the hog but doing alright and the chance to have a little vacation was always eagerly anticipated.   Dad was going to make the drive there and we were going with him for a 3/4 day outing.   It was the four of us, dad, mom and me and my brother.  I was about 11 or 12 at the time.   We left after dinner; it was already dark.  I am sure we left so late because dad had to work all day at the plant before we left.  We were going to drive through the night.  It is a long haul from Dallas to El Paso.   In those days the interstate system was still only a plan on the drawing boards and the highways were two lanes with a shoulder on the main ones.  It was already pretty late by the time we got past Abilene and there was very little traffic on the highway.  It was dark and we were in an area of rolling hills and Live Oak forests somewhere between Abilene and San Angelo.   I don’t remember which car we had at that time.  I think it was the old maroon buick.  My brother and I were in the back seat.   A car passed us and the people in it hollered at us and waved and generally heckled us but they went on.   It was not a big deal at that moment.  My dad and mom mentioned that they had probably been drinking.   A woman was driving the car.   A man on the passenger side.  There were others inside.

In a few moments we came up behind them.  They had obviously slowed down.   My dad pulled around to pass and they hollered and yelled at us again.  Threatening this time but dad simply drove on and they were quickly lost behind us.  It was becoming a little tense in the car.   Mom and dad were nervous about their behavoir and that naturally aroused my concern level.   Within moments they came roaring back going at a tremendous speed and pulled  up to us and dad pulled over as far as he could to let them hopefully pass us by and go on their way.  This time they drove right beside us and yelled and cussed and made threats to dad and mom.  It was a couple of women and at least two men but I think it was three men.  One of them waved a tire iron or similar object at us as they passed and hollered at dad saying they were going to beat him up.   Dad made no response but did slow down even more.   They pulled in front of us and slowed down and wouldn’t let dad pass them; they would pull out or weave to stay in front of our car.   After a couple of minutes of this they went on very fast.   We drove really slow after that but soon came on them again.  This time they had parked on the side of the highway waiting for us.  Dad drove past them and really put the pedal to the metal and told mom we would try to make it to the next town and get the police.  We were hauling.  But their car was bigger and very fast and they overtook us within moments.  They had to be going 100 because dad was pushing up to 80 on that dark and winding, hilly highway himself.   They passed us again and repeated the same thing–slowing down and not letting us go around them.  Mom said dad should just turn around but dad was right when he told her they obviously wanted trouble and would follow us back the other way and besides we were getting closer to the next town.   Finally dad just stopped on the shoulder.   They drove only a short way and backed up to within 40 or 50 feet of our car.   Two of the men jumped out and the one still had that tire iron or whatever it was.   Mom hollered at them that “we have kids with us” and they just laughed and told dad to get out of the car, that they were going to beat him.   The women were egging them on.  My brother and I were low in the back.  Dad had told us to stay down and not move but I edged up a little so I could look through the opening between the front seats.  I was very scared.  My brother was crying.  I think I was too scared to cry. 

Dad had a pistol.  He never carried it anywhere except on trips.  Dad got his pistol.  They kept hollering and threatening but hadn’t come any closer yet but said they weren’t going to let us go either.   Mom told dad to tell them he had a pistol.  Dad told her no.   I remember the way dad opened the car door a little and held the pistol in that crack between door and the car body.  He had the pistol aimed at the guy but they didn’t even know it was there.   Dad talked with them.   I can’t remember what it was he said to them.  He told them to go away and just leave us alone generally; that things would turn out badly if they didn’t.  They kept threatening and the one fellow took a couple of steps closer.  I do remember dad telling mom to not move and that if he got up to the car dad was going to shoot him.   I do remember him telling her he wasn’t going to risk us.   Dad kept talking and I will never forget the sound of the gun when he cocked the hammer when that guy to0k another step.  That moment will be forever frozen in time for me.  The women finally started yelling for the two guys to come on.  I think maybe they were getting a little nervous.  The guys were reluctant but at last did accede to their request and withdrew.  They got back in the car and drove away.   We waited for a while and then drove on to San Angelo and reported everything to  the highway patrol.  They were familiar with the people.

That man had no idea how close he came to meeting his maker that night.   There is not a doubt in my mind that if that fellow had gotten to the front of the car with his weapon my dad would have shot him and killed him.   Dad was old school and had been through the War.   He was not going to allow any harm to come to his family.  He knew when you are faced with a dangerous situation you don’t bluff and you don’t reveal your strength until it is used.   That is why you would never show your weapon until you had to use it.  Dad also did everything you should do in that kind of problem.  First, simply run away if you can and he tried that repeatedly and then plan your response and stick with it.  Use surprise when you are dealing with a dangerous fool.   Never telegraph your next move.

Was I proud of my dad?  Not sure that is the right question.   Let’s put it this way–I was so glad he was MY dad.   I learned a lot that night about life and my dad.   He had been a warrior for his country and now I knew he was my warrior too.

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Filed under Culture, family, history

I have a large family by some measures.   Six kids, four girls and two of the others.  Naturally that led to some interesting and amusing moments at times as they grew up.   It also had it absolutely terrifying moments.   Each had their own special moments that will remain forever in my memory.  

My oldest when she was about 13 was signed up for Cotillion by my wife.   She thought it would be good for my daughter for all the usual reasons that moms think those things.   Don’t ask me to explain where moms get these ideas, they will have to justify that for themselves.   But like so many “mom” ideas they are not to be denied.   I mean to listen to them the child’s entire future hinges on some particular event or participation in some finite activity and without it their life will stretch before them like a great wasteland of social isolation.   I wasn ‘t very excited about the idea and frankly it was something that never would have even got on my radar screen.   But this was a decree from her majesty and you disobey at your hazard.    I could tell the little lady was most adamant about her going to the Cotillion.   We already had several others at the time to make sure weren’t running out into the street and vandalising neighbor’s property.  With six on the ground already you can imagine I felt a little pressure to bring home some bacon on a regular basis.   But with work and carpools and soccer and the evening routine to make sure all homework was done and baths taken, hey, it was no sweat.  I could add that one night a week too.   Don’t want you to think the little lady wasn’t busy herself with the afternoon snacks and meals and laundry, etc.  

Anyway, she was signed up and the time came for the first session.   I was the designated driver, escort, and general pooh bah to get my daughter there and see that everything went well.   The sessions were at the local country club which just happened to be the most “ritzy” one in town.   She was all dolled up and looked terrific.  I was just wearing my standard office suit.   I could tell she was very nervous about the event and most reluctant to go.   We pulled out and left the house in its usual chaotic turmoil during what my wife and I called the “Viet Cong” hour.   We arrived and went in and immediately I noticed that there were a lot more girls than guys.  Big surprise.   I decided I would hang around for a while just to make sure things were going alright.  I faded into the background and observed.    Sure enough when they finally got around to the first dance there were lots of girls without partners, including my sweet pea.   So, I did the daddy thing and went over and became her partner.  For once she didn’t object.   She was mortified I know that dad was there but she made no scene about it.  We did the two step together along with the other couples.  I was the only dad that had hung around.  Some of the girls had to partner up with each other.  We survived the night and she survived the program.  But, my wife upon learning of the events did back off.   The others were spared that rite of passage.   We had not cell phones in those ancient days and I do recall getting chewed out my the sweet little lady for not calling or letting her know I would not be home to put the others to bed.  Pardon me!   I felt like the rescue mission for my daughter came first.   Ah, the joys of parenthood.  I thought my daughter was very brave to endure dad in front of her friends.

Daughter number two had her own quirks and we shared some real moments with her as she traveled the road of growth.   We had bunkbeds to accomodate the herd in the house.   Everyone wanted the top bunk.  She did too and we let her at first.  But when we heard those first few “thumps” upstairs and went up to find she had fallen out of the bed we quickly moved her down.  This upset some of her brothers and sisters because it wasn’t “fair”.  We didn’t want to risk real injury though and she would  careen out of the upper bunk regularly until we changed.  She also sleep walked.  Frankly, I had never really thought that was a real deal until we had her.  I figured it was made up.   After I finally would get everyone to bed and after going up to quiet them down about a dozen times within an hour, it would get calm and cozy and all  would be asleep. Then here she would come.  She would walk right into the den and say something completely nonsensical, even for a 5 year old, like–the stair ate the cat.  Her eyes would be wide open and she would respond when asked a question or given an instruction, but the response was always completely wacko.  We learned that any strange sound during the middle of the night was her roaming around the house.  My wife and I soon learned to go with the flow and just enjoy the moment.  Sometimes I would wake up with her standing beside our bed talking, not making any sense but talking like a politician.  I can’t tell you how many times we laughed ourselves silly with her comments while I walked her back up the stairs to her bed.   She would always get back in bed and curl up right away.   Even though I was usually pretty tired it always made me smile to take her to bed after one of her adventures.   It was something that she and her mother and I shared.  Made her special.

She also was afraid of anyone dressed up in any kind of costume.  Clowns especially scared her.  Halloween was a real challenge.  Heck, we couldn’t hardly get out of the house and I was constantly having to cross the street with her to avoid someone dresed up.  When we would go to the school carnival or something of that sort I usually would end up carrying her in my arms and promising not to let any of them near her.   She didn’t like the characters at Disneyland or Disneyworld when we took the kids there.  She was ok if they stayed a long way off.  But up and close and personal was not her thing.   As a dad it never bothered me because there is always something very tender and moving about a daughter holding her arms around your neck and counting on Dad to protect her.  

I won’t bore you with more of the kid stories today but I will later.  They all will be covered.   Mostly today’s stories make it clear how strong the bond can be between father and daughter.   Daughters want dad to be there and Dads  love being the knight in shining armor for their daughters.  That is as it should be.  We dads have been blessed more than we deserve with the  love of our daughters.  

Just because you are right occasionally,  don’t get a big head about it, remember even a broken clock is right twice a day.

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Life is not a “Do Over”

We have all watched children playing and at some point one of them will ask for a do over because they were disappointed with the outcome.  Wouldn’t it be nice if as adults we got to have those “do overs” on occcasion; alas life doesn’t work that way.  In most circumstances we get one bite at the apple then have to move on regardless of the consequences we wish could be undone.   I still have one regret in particular I wish I could do over.

After just a couple of years out of law school I decided to join an old pal from law school and set up a practice.  I had been with a firm but was not making what I needed for my young and growing family and thought this would be a chance.   My friend had already partnered up with another fellow I did not know.  This guy had married a very wealthy young lady.  She was the size of a bowling ball and had the temperment of a mad alligator, but I didn’t know any of that at the time; I was joining because of my pal.   After I had been there a couple of months they both came to me and wanted to do a housing development.   They knew that other than my personal guarantee I had no money to contribute.   It sounded interesting and profitable and I could use the extra money.  My old friend had another  associate he wanted to bring in also and that was ok with me.  There was one problem though; none of us had one whit of building experience.   My dad did and they knew it.   So I persuaded my Dad to join us.  He did only because I asked him; he already had his own business to run.   Well we set up the company with the four of us and got the funding from the bank on our personal guaratntees.  Only the rich guy’s balance sheet (or rather his wife’s) mattered.  

We started 16 spec houses in Mantlebrook Estates.  Yes, that Mickey Mantle.  He was allowing his name to be used and was to help promote the deal.   His particiaption was not as promised and when he did show up it was a disaster due to his drinking.  I wouldn’t mention that except that he went very public at the end of his life with that problem and said he hoped his wasted life would be a warning to others.  We we moving along with the construction.    Dad would go by every day to check things out and monitor the subcontractors work.   I would go on weekends to serve as a salesman.   It was a very long drive each way from where I lived to the development.   I recall one instance when I was there checking on the progress of one of the early houses.   The rough framing contractor was putting up the walls and framing out the house.  I noticed one of the windows he had framed was not where it should be and it was not “true”.  It was badly out of alignment.    I was arguing with him about this when dad arrived.   The sub was making excuses and being really rude.  He made it clear that he wasn’t going to fix it.  In fact he went over to the window and took a block of wood and his hammer and banged on the framing to make it straighter but that just pulled nails out on the other side.  Dad had asked him politely to correct it.   After he banged it he turned around and told us “There its fixed damn you!”   Dad didn’t say a word but there was a slegehammer leaning againt a framed wall.  He went over and picked it up and went to the wall with the window and knocked down the whole wall with just three or four swings.   When dad finished knocking down the wall dad told him to fix it right or leave.  You could have heard a pin drop.   Well, he did fix the wall from the start and never said another cross word to any of us.    That was dad.

Later when the project was just about complete, almost a year later, the rich guy came and said he thought that me, dad and my pal from law school had defrauded him on the whole deal.   He hired a lawyer and everything.    He had his facts completely screwed up and would never have won anything in the courtroom.  The facts were that the project had not gone well because of economic conditions generally.  The interest rates had spiked just a couple of months after we started and the buyers had dried up.  We had only sold three of the houses and were facing a long slog and at the end of the day would have done good to break even or even had a small loss maybe.   I was young with two girls and another child on the way and an up and coming lawyer.  That truth of the allegations wouldn’t matter it was merely the allegation that would have been very harmful to my career I believed.  My pal and I worked out a deal with the idiot and agreed to turn the company over to him in exchange for a full release.   Economically it was a good deal for me because I wouldn’t have to spend any more time on a losing venture and the matter would never go public.  

When I presented the situation to dad he refused to go along.  I was so worried.  His position was very simple–we had done nothing wrong and he wouldn’t back down and he would not sign the papers.  He would stand by the truth and his reputation.  Only  because he loved me and could tell I was worried about it dad finally agreed to do the deal but only if he was paid a dollar a day for his work from the idiot.  Not from the “deal”, but from the idiot.  It was a matter of principle with dad, not business or economics, but a matter of personal integrity.   We rewrote the deal so that dad didn’t give a release, didn’t demand one either  and would be paid $365 and presented it to the other side.   The idiot squealed but then agreed and paid dad.     Dad got to walk away from a bad situation with his head held high, I on the other hand just walked away with a sigh of relief.  

I should had stood with my dad.  He was right on the facts, the law and more importantly on the matter of personal integrity and dignity.   To this day I do so wish I had made a different decision.   With the hindsight of years, I realize that once writ the path of life moves on and there are no “do overs”.  

Make your choices wisely.   Do the right thing without rationalizing to justify a more convenient course.

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