Moms and Mom Stand-Ins

Miss Oneia Gahr, was as close to being my substitute mom as anyone.  My great-grandmother was her father’s sister.  She was mother’s best friend, attended the same college–earned a teaching degree.

Their personalities were exact opposites.  My mother was quiet and reserved, Oneia was outgoing and plain-spoken.  Mom taught fourth-grade elementary, Oneia, high school mathematics.  Miss Gahr was a strict disciplinarian at home, and no doubt, the same at school.

Several summers were spent working on Miss Gahr’s dairy farm.  As an adolescent, it seemed like pure drudgery.  Who knew dairy cows didn’t like their mornings interrupted?  “Talk to them gently, in a low voice, or they might kick you.”

That didn’t mean to act goofy and crazy, “Hey girls what’s happening this morning?” But, rather to be gentle, not boisterous.  It worked, and I never got kicked.  It did nothing, however, to stop swats from muddy cow’s tails.  To them, I was just another fly that needed swatting.

Whatever needed to be done–she worked as hard as any man around the farm.  She cut me no slack when it came to cleaning the dairy barn.  And, oh that cattle waste–tons of it, had to be hosed away.

Miss Oneia went at life full tilt.  Driving was no exception.  She liked flashy land yachts.  Had a slew of Pontiac Bonneville convertibles in the sixties.  Before that, she had a fifties-era, Ford hardtop convertible.

Riding with her in the old rattletrap Chevy pickup over farm roads was a neck-snapping thrill ride.  Nothing topped the day the wiring in the Ford two-ton grain truck  caught fire under the dashboard.  Acrid smoke filled the cab as the insulation burned.  Miss Oneia grabbed a hay bale hook, yanked out wires till the smoke subsided.

We always considered her part of the family, not just a distant relative.  All three of us boys raised bottle calves that she donated.  My sister raised a white pig.  She tutored me in Math and Geometry.  Happy Mom’s Day to both my mom, and my substitute mom!

 

 

 

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.

November Saturday

Coffee’s  gone cold.  It’s a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning.   Because of that–and expecting to get treats when they come in–the dogs keep going in and out the back door.

The Holidays are rapidly approaching.  My annual Thanksgiving trek northward begins this next week.  Where has this year gone?  Although, last week seemed to drag on and on.

“Nothing but the dead and dying in my little town,” Said the Paul Simon lyrics.  I grew up in a tiny Midwestern town.  It has decreased in importance as the years have gone by.  Descendants of the people, I knew growing up, still live there.

A white, two-story, frame house still stands.  It used to be grandma’s house.  My sister and brother-in-law are the present occupants.  They’ve kept up many of the old traditions–gardening, canning vegetables, raising chickens.

My hometown may not, now, look like much, but it holds many good memories.

Desolation Roads

Small town values

Houses with

Plastic covered

Drafty windows

Temporary fixes

To quell winter’s cold

Strange-named burbs

Far away from fake tans

Full of people

With weathered

Wrinkled skin

Happy for a while

Till the pendulum swung

Nothing better came along

They either moved on or stayed

A story already told

Along desolation roads