Horse Farming Days

Johnny Shaw’s two draft horses clip-clopped down the tree-lined driveway, past the white farmhouse, down the county road to the field; the old wagon laden with several years of accumulated chicken manure.  My brother and myself, knew what came next.

The wagon had to be unloaded the way it was loaded.  In other words, Johnny didn’t have a new-fangled spreader, like everyone else.  It was labor intensive, the chicken manure handled twice.

Farming went mechanized, during and after the war.  Johnny Shaw didn’t get the memo–or more likely, was just stubborn, set in his ways.

Our formerly white tee shirts, were now shades of gray.  The smell of ammonia was hard to ignore on that hot, humid, summer day.  Riding to and from the field refreshed with cooling breezes.

I don’t remember how many trips were made back-and-forth.  There was no goofing off this time.  Johnny stood watch nearby, he wanted his money’s worth.  Locusts and crickets chirped their afternoon tunes, when around six in the afternoon, Johnny announced, “that’s the last scoopful, the one we’ve waited for all day.”

It was hard, dirty, smelly work for ninety cents an hour–much less than the prevailing wage.  The big lunch had to be worth something–however.  Cleaning chicken houses, was immediately scratched off our career choice lists.

 

Ten RV Things That Drove Me Bonkers (Plus 2 More)

This happened thirteen years ago.  Memories are still fresh.  Living permanently in an RV was far different from vacationing in one.  Fleeing a major hurricane, towing one’s home was the highlight.  Witnessing hurricane destruction, upon returning, was the low light.  A list, slightly revised, of RV living annoyances.

——————————————–

  1. The unfortunate mouse and the fan
  2. Awnings, storms, fun with the wind
  3. Propane gas fails–before breakfast, before dawn
  4. Mud daubers, rains, rumbles on the roof
  5. Evil overloads–snap, snap, snap went the breakers
  6. Blinding sunrises, through bedroom windows, in my eyes
  7. Afraid of the dark neighbors, with searchlight night lights
  8. Couldn’t sleep, thin walls knew no secrets
  9. Winter winds, frozen hoses, cold noses–baby it’s cold inside
  10. I felt the earth move–with every step you took
  11. Hurricane repair, contractor neighbors, partied from dusk till dawn
  12. Evacuation gridlock stretched for miles and miles before we slept

Empowered

One too many skinned knuckles.  Too many stinging words from a boss that didn’t care about difficulties–they were just excuses.  Excuses crudely compared to anatomical excretory features, that every human possessed.

The tossed sledgehammer traveled in a steady arc, landed in a vacant lot with a dull thud.  Anger boiled over, settled to a steady drip.  It was February for cripe sakes, and he’d been sweating like a pig.  Larry looked around, embarrassed that anger engaged his persona for a few seconds.

“I’m going to get after it, today, Boss.”  Larry said that morning–before he left the garage.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Larry’s boss replied.  “Three rods in eight hours?  What was he paying him for?”

Empowerment was management’s favorite word.  What it really meant was-whatever happened, you were on your own to get it done.

All new subdivision homes required ten-foot ground rods for utility connections.  An easy task in soft soil.  These lots were back filled with a mixture of hard packed clay and slag from a nearby steel mill.  How could he have been so unlucky?  Things had to change in a hurry.

The answer came in the form of a mobile home anchor–a strong, thick steel rod, with an auger screw at the bottom, and a closed loop at the top.  By inserting a wrench handle through the top loop; adding a piece of pipe over the handle for leverage–the crude contraption worked slow, but steady, after breaking surface hard-pan.

It wasn’t standard issue tooling, but it was too short a walk from empowerment to unemployment.

Ghoulish specters of industrial waste lay hidden underground, ready to spring, without so much as a warning given to future generations.  Sacrifices made in the name of balance sheets and low-cost housing.

Password Mambo

Re-blog from three years ago.  The problem is not better, if anything, it’s gotten worse.  There are even more passwords.  Then, there’s the issue of password security.

——————————-

Too many passwords

Cluttered my mind

For banking?

Bill paying?

I’ve fallen behind

Meaningless combos

Of letters, digits

Never remembered

Cutesy-poo

Names, like

fuZZybuNNy

Sugarbabe213

WHIP&&stitch

SammichX233

Forgotten passwords

Did the mambo

Mocked me

From somewhere

Out there

In cyberspace

 

 

 

Across Thy Prairies Verdant Growing…

Clear-channel 50,000 watts of all-night radio, broadcasted across the vast Midwestern prairie and beyond.

John McCormick, “the man who walked and talked at midnight,” was there for our listening pleasure; with the best music and conversation to keep us company.

McCormick had a deep-timbered voice, that either soothed, or lulled listeners to sleep.  That was his job, I supposed.  I would have preferred raspy-voiced Wolfman Jack.

“We’re gonna’ play more music for you–all night long!  Can you dig It?”  Interspersed with a few Wolfman howls and I’d stay wide-awake.  Dad wouldn’t dig any of it.

My job was to assist with loading and deliveries.  More importantly, to keep my father awake on his all-night delivery route through four Illinois counties.

It seemed odd to me then, dad being such a firm disciplinarian, to see him kibitzing with  guys at the full-service, Standard Oil station, on a busy corner in Springfield, Illinois.  He was obviously a regular visitor.  It was around eleven, the station brightly wrapped in neon–topped with trademarked red torch.

An experience, not unlike seeing one of your teachers, away from school.  Refueled, candy bars and coffees in hand, off to the second, and most important stop.

The blue and white Chevrolet, faithful beast of burden, loaded past midnight; after the State-Journal Register’s press run.  There’d been a delay–probably a late-breaking story that couldn’t be left out.

Worried my father would fall asleep at the wheel, thus killing us both in a tragic accident, I kept talking.  Awkward talking–so awkward, it was more like an interview than normal father-son conversation.

“How many miles does this truck have on it?”  I asked.  “It’s got 127,000 miles right now,” Dad answered.

“That’s an awful lot of miles.”  I surmised.  “It’s all highway miles,” Dad answered.  “That makes a difference.  This route covers 200 miles per night–give or take.”

“What were the worst weather conditions you’ve encountered?”  I asked–not in exactly those words.

“Ice and snow–I’ve had to drop off on the shoulder to gain adequate traction.  There was more traction on the grass and gravel, than on the road; but, I made it home safely.  It was almost noon–barely time for a nap before starting out again.”

The next question was risky, but I went for it, anyway.  “What were some of your biggest boneheaded mistakes?”

“I missed some stops and had to go back.  Then, one night I accidently threw a delivery right through an unopened screen door.”

Route 66, blue highways, towns that railroads, interstates forgot, passed by all night long.

That night may have been the source of dad’s war story about a ride to Chicago, cruising at 80 mph on Rt. 66, in a Chrysler Airflow–after hitching a ride.  That struck me as daring–even though it happened before I was born.

Winter sun rose as we arrived home, just in time for a bite of breakfast, light conversation with mom, then straight to bed.  It had been a good night, we’d arrived well before noon.

 

Image, Standard Oil Indiana, from blogsite: PleasantFamilyShopping–