You realized as you walked in, this varied group is your kin

Aunt Jeanette, Cousin Jack, your sister Dawn, baby Zack

Come in, sit down, it’s been awhile, just stay calm, relax and smile

You’ve gained weight, lost your hair, It doesn’t matter, they don’t care

You’re an adult, it seems silly, why did Uncle Bob still call you Willie?

Calmness that wouldn’t last, too much embarrassment from your past

Misspent youth, crazy friends, the same things, again and again

You’re wondering will your Uncle Lou, bring up about the cat and the glue?

It didn’t matter that you were only eight, no explaining ever set him straight

The time you were going to be a Moonie, and you drove both your parents loony

Past goofy ideas to get rich quick, nicknames, thank God, that didn’t stick

It doesn’t matter where you live, what you make, whether you have what it takes

Of you we’re still quite fond, because we have a common bond

We’re your family and will be forever, through thick and thin, we’ll stick together

From the time you were greeted, whatever you’ve done, no explanation was needed!


I was a nine-year old boy riding atop a stack of haybales gliding across a field.  We were travelling the breakneck speed of five miles per hour–it seemed much faster.   School was out, it was the beginning of the busy harvest season.  …The hottest, most humid part of the summer.  Raising livestock required tremendous amounts of hay.  This was in preparation for long cold winter months and future drought.  There hadn’t been any freak summer snowstorms in the upper midwest.  Snow wasn’t necessary for our “summer sledding.”

Putting up hay was labor intensive.  Farmers helped each other out.  Area farmers used a unique homemade conveyance to transport bales.  It travelled on top of the ground.  Once moving, it was a smooth ride.  A wagon required more lifting.  Picture a wooden gate, eighteen feet in length and seven feet wide laying flat on the ground.  Construction was of sawmill oak, true dimensioned lumber.  Two by six slats were placed lengthwise about three inches apart.  A transverse two by eight cross piece was placed on top of each end.  Everything was bolted together with carriage bolts.  Evenly spaced U-brackets on the front secured the tow chain.  Friction polished the planks to a smooth finish.

A fully loaded sled could hold sixty to eighty bales–depending on the skill of the stacker.  It held the more common rectangular bales and smaller round bales.  It was an unwritten rule, the stacker was responsible for any spillage.  Re-stacking bales was an embarrassment.  The process was witnessed through the eyes of a curious young boy.  I was too young to help.  The hay stubble hurt the bottoms of my tender bare feet.  It required vigilance to avoid splinters and the gap between boards.  Older and wiser, the fun wore off.  I learned what a dusty dirty job it really was.

Nothing stirred the pulse of farmers like the competition of a tractor pull.  An official tractor pull used a rig with a sliding weight.  Resistance increased as the tractor moved forward.  The goal was to pull the furthest.  Our unofficial test, was starting dead weight with a haysled.  Tractors dug in and sometimes lifted front wheels off the ground.  The engines pulled hard and sometimes backfired when shut off.  I thought the sound was cool.  Our neighbors had different brands of tractors.  There were orange Allis-Chalmers, red Farmalls, red and yellow Massey-Harris, and green Oliver tractors.  I liked red Farmall tractors, just like my Dad’s.  Tractor brands were a sense of pride, just like automobiles.  At elementary school, boys brought toy tractors to play with, just like their Dad’s.

My younger brother and I hired out to local farmers.  We did what was asked–chopped weeds, cleaned out chicken coops, put up lots of hay.  It became friendly competition to see who made it to the end of the row first.  There were occasional interruptions for, dirt clod throwing, other spontaneous bouts of silliness.  Farmer’s wives served noon meals befitting a threshing crew.  Our ravenous appetites were satisfied and we didn’t gain an ounce of weight.  Wish that were still true today.  We were the descendents of generations of European farmers.  None of us farm today.  There still is no one I’d rather work with than my little brother.

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Gas prices are going up

Groceries too, experts say

Higher taxes, more killings

More bad news everyday


I don’t worry–I’m ready come what may

Me and my Velvet Elvis, we’re doin’ OK


Something’s bad for you

It’s different every day

Wanted to be a rich man

It didn’t turn out that way


I don’t worry–I’m ready come what may

Me and my Velvet Elvis, we’re doin’ OK


Smart phones, gadgets, web surfing, and more

Didn’t make people any smarter than before

Paid taxes, stayed on the right side of the law

Bought a house and made some friends along the way


I don’t worry–I’m ready come what may

Me and my Velvet Elvis, we’re doin’ OK!


Bill, George, Joe, and Ken–the four of us served together in Germany.  …At Rhein-Main Air Base near Frankfurt, Germany.  It was the early seventies and the Vietnam conflict was winding down.  Richard Nixon was President.  Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State, regularly flew in for the Paris Peace Talks.  His Air Force III plane landed in the middle of the night.  We knew about everything that happened on the flight line.  We worked in the emergency room of the base clinic.  Our hours were nights and weekends.  Duties included responding to any in flight emergencies–civilian or military.  During that time the only emergencies were two military planes with landing gear failures.

We treated military dependents as well as base civil service personnel.  Even when off duty, we responded to extreme emergencies.  Bad weather contributed to some horrific accidents on the nearby Autobahn.  We assisted German emergency personnel with triage and treating the wounded.  There was camaraderie from living and working together.  George met and married a German girl.  Through her acquaintance, I met her family.  I experienced travelling through Europe.  Now, it’s forty plus years later.  Rhein-Main Air Base no longer exists.  Terminal three of Frankfurt International Airport now sits over the same real estate.

All four of us scattered to different parts of the country.  We represent all four corners of the compass.  Next month we plan to get together for an informal reunion.  It will be a joyous and bittersweet occasion.  Bittersweet because forty years have gone by.  Remembering people as they were didn’t allow them to age.  Maybe I don’t like facing the fact of getting older?  Joe was best man at our wedding in ’81. We visited George and his family at about the same time.  Ken, I’ve not seen the whole time.  He’s remarried, I didn’t recognize his wife’s name.  We’ve all got children and grandchildren.  Will we run out of things to talk about?  Good friends pick up conversations where they left off.

It brings back memories.  …Of late night discussions.  One in particular was, “What would you tell your children and grandchildren about your experience?”  This is what I came up with.  There were a lot of things to learn about medical procedures, people, and myself.  People were at their best and worst.  I witnessed the beginning and end of life.  There was too much alcohol, drug abuse and resulting chaos.  The most important thing, I learned how to be a man.  It was an important job and we did our best.  I think we did some good things together.  After all this time, we’re still friends.


Sad whiskered, wizened old faces

Tales of past glories and faraway places.

Eyes that used to beg and plead

Now only sleep and dream

Measured steps, mellowed spirit

Weary, worn out, gentle heart

My needs are simple

I don’t ask for much

A gentle smile, a tender touch

A place to sleep, comfortable bed

A friendly knee to rest my head.

When my time comes and the end is near

I need to know, will you be there?


Come in, relax, the water’s fine

At the shallow end of the pool

Rules are for others, not for you

At the shallow end of the pool

Overachievers are just fools

At the shallow end of the pool

Why not go ahead? If you desire

Put gasoline on your barbecue fire

At the shallow end of the pool

Please, come and join the dance

With a loaded gun in your pants

At the shallow end of the pool

Speed up, you can beat the train

Who cares about that Newtonian thing?

At the shallow end of the pool

Spend your paycheck stay out all night

Your wife won’t catch you in that lie

At the shallow end of the pool

Complete serenity in everything you do

Because you’re sitting back lookin’ cool!

At the shallow end of the pool