Father’s Day 2018

Many will be posting pictures of dads this Father’s Day. Here is one of my favorite dad pictures from the early fifties.

This had to be either, ’52 or ’53, as it was before my sister was born in 1954.

My brothers and myself posed behind dad’s blue, 1952 Ford, two-door sedan.

I’m the impatient little guy in the middle, sporting bib overalls.

2017 Father’s Day Thoughts

What did I remember most about my father, twenty-two years after his passing?

Like other men of his generation, he wore hats. His favorite was a gray fedora. Fathers, back then dressed up more, than fathers do today.

Most in the community thought him to be extremely patient and even-tempered. They never got on his bad side–like I did, on occasion.

He was a man of faith. His relationship to his maker was most important. We read the Bible aloud, from cover-to-cover, in family devotionals–down to every begat, whereas, and wherefore.

His lame jokes, that made everyone cringe, notwithstanding; if it were possible, on this Father’s Day, I would tell him that his example made a difference.

Spilled Coffee…Other Blunders

Spilled coffee on my favorite shirt to start the day.  Correction–it’s one of my favorite shirts.  It’s gaudy and crass–a blue, Hawaiian souvenir shirt from four years ago.  The “just to knock around in shirts” are beginning to clutter my closet.  With application of “Stain Wonder Pre-Treat” it will be almost good as new.  Sure, it’s a little threadbare, that doesn’t mean I like it any less.

Wardrobe changed and off to the races.  “Off to the races” is a euphemism for an entirely different thing.  In this case it meant resumption of regular morning routines.

There were euphemisms aplenty when I grew up in the fifties.  Bodily functions were talked about indirectly.  Pregnancy meant someone was “in the family way.”  Little boys sometimes talked about their “winkies.”  “Seeing a man about a dog,” meant someone needed to go to the bathroom.

No, I don’t want to play (to the dog).  You want to go outside?  OK, I can do that. 

There were worse blunders.  Owning up to mistakes, when mature; knowing there could be consequences, were the worst.  Several years ago, when helping my father on the farm during winter break, I caused an expensive equipment repair due to my forgetfulness.

All right–I hear you.  Don’t tear the door off.  I’ll be right there.  I can only go so fast.  The dogs demanded to be let back in.

“Just getting over getting over you.”  Wouldn’t that make a great country song?  Like most flashes of sudden brilliance, it has probably been done already.

Mascots

There have always been military mascots.  Critters of all sorts adopted as companions.  Here are two–a lizard on a truck fender, and a puppy.  Later, when my father was in Burma, there was a pet duck, and a monkey.

Clyde & dog in India

According to my father, “this pup hung around the company; was playful until he was overfed by generous soldiers and became lazy.”

This post idea came from GP Cox’s re-blog of,”Frank’s Panda In Burma.”

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“FIERY FARTS OF THE WICKED”

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A Bible verse that was often parodied by wiseacres, symbolized the plight of two adolescent boys; and a day packed with extreme emotional highs and lows.

We were too big to cry–but not for pouting.  “Just wait till I grow up–I’ll show him,” Said my little brother.  “I’m going to be bigger and stronger.’

I internalized my dissatisfaction.  I’m going to do this if it kills me.  If I get stepped on by a cow and get killed–then he’ll be sorry.

Dad’s words stung worse than the whipping we got with switches from a front yard tree.  For what it’s worth–it was a Kentucky coffee tree.

“I told you two, to go down to the barn, bed down the cattle, and have it done before I got back.  You guys deliberately disobeyed me.  Go cut me some switches.  Don’t get little ones either!  I’m going to teach you a lesson you won’t soon forget.”

Dad was a delegate to church conference, in a town two hours away.  It lasted all day.  My brother and I decided to blow dad off.  Our priorities were elsewhere.  After all, he wouldn’t be home till after dark.  What were the chances he’d go to the barn and check?

The tension built.  Dad’s car was in the drive.  That meant he was home.  Where was he?  He knew us better than we realized.  The jig was up.

“For disobeying, you guys are going down to the barn in the dark, and do what you were supposed to have done in the first place.  Take these two flashlights–and do the job right!  I’ll be checking your work.”

Surprisingly, the flashlights provided enough light to work.  One of us climbed into the loft, tossed down bales of straw. Then we cut baling wire ties and spread the straw.

Some of the cattle were lying down–others were standing.  They milled around after being awakened.  We worked around them.  Some cows expelled gas as they stood, in explosions of flatulence.  Then more, still more in a symphony of flatulence.

One of us mock directed Johann Strauss waltzes to flatulent accompaniment.  It was hilarious.  We laughed uncontrollably. The night’s misery was broken; not just broken–shattered to pieces.  Nobody could ever know the tale of two disobedient boys and, “The Fiery Farts of Wicked Bovine.”

HAPPY HUNDREDTH BIRTHDAY, DAD

Dad at my tiny apartment

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, roman numeral, something or another.  I was thinking, that today, was also your birthday.  It’s a special birthday, too.  Almost everybody, thinks they’d like to live to be a hundred.  However, not many actually do.

Thirty-seven years later–I’m glad my older brother was such a shutterbug, and saved this picture of you.  You’re seated in my dinky, two-room bachelor pad, wearing typical bib overalls, reading a magazine.  I’m amazed there were enough chairs to seat everybody. This picture speaks of honesty, hard work, forthrightness–because, that’s the way you were.

You, mom, my brother, sister-in law, and nephew, sought shelter from a late-winter ice storm in 1978.  Your electricity had been out for quite some time.  The storm stayed to the north.  I was happy to have some company.  And, I may have cooked for everybody?  My memory fails me on that point.  But, that’s not important.

The tables have turned–in more ways than one.  Things have changed a bit, since you left.  We’ve all gotten older–have grandchildren of our own.  I’m, now about the same age, you were, when this picture was taken.  Time sure does fly.  I remember you and Mom saying that all the time; and not believing it.

“Stop tooting your own horn–tell everybody why this is such a special occasion.”  That’s what you would say; dad, you never were given to sloppy sentiment.  I now, know why it was so important to pay attention in school and church.  I wake up, meditate every morning, watch the sunrise–just like you always did.

I worry about things more than I let on.  It’s no longer all about me.  There’s great joy in watching children, grandchildren grow up.  And I know, there’s even greater joy, in watching them succeed and be happy.  True friends are increasingly hard to find. Some have already passed away.

Thought you’d like to know, the home place is in good hands.  Your only daughter, and son-in-law live there now.  They’re retired from teaching–moved back from Ohio.  The grounds are lovingly maintained–as are the house, and out buildings.  Mom, grandma, and grandpa would like it, too.

Several have said, how much, some of us favor you.  A companion picture of me, taken on this same occasion, looked a lot like you.  My sister, said, “My younger brother has the same walk.”  As much fun as it’s been to walk down memory lane–there have been differences.

My footsteps didn’t always follow yours.  We didn’t always see eye to eye–especially when I had to move back in with you and mom.  I think we were like two bulls locking horns.  As your, rebellious, sometimes stubborn, second son; I’m glad you were there for me–and Happy 100th Birthday!

“Those trapped in the present, can’t appreciate the past, and may fall victim to the  future”

SCRATCHING LIKE A CAT IN A LITTER BOX & OTHER FATHERISMS

Picky eaters and picky eating:  “Stop it–you’re scratching like a cat in a litter box.”

Body language and insincerity:  “He was blinking like a toad in a hailstorm–couldn’t get the lies out fast enough.”

King of the castle:  “Yes, I’m king of the castle.  I keep telling myself I’m having fun.  Don’t worry, there are plenty of things to bring me back to earth.  You kids and your mom–for example.”

Watching the “People’s Choice” and other award shows:  “I’m not watching that parade of buffoons and Botox babies.”

Acquired Tastes:  “Coffee, oysters, bleu cheese, Larry King, late-night TV, Mickey Rooney and Judy  Garland”

On body image:  “If you don’t like what you see in the mirror.  Stop looking at yourself so much.”

Oldies radio:  “Maybe I’m stuck in a rut, but I like it.  It’s the same hits you heard a few minutes ago all day long.”

Cheap imitations:  “They’re like hits by the “Soundalikes”–appealing, but not the real thing.  Like The Beatles and The Monkees, The Three Stooges and The Bowery Boys, Superman and Batman.”

Living in the past:  “It’s OK to think about it–because you are your past.  Why relive the past–that you’ll never get back again?”

Climbing the corporate ladder:  “Don’t worry about it.  Everybody’s not going to make it to the top.  It’s not a ladder at all–it’s a pyramid.  Most people are at the bottom holding it up.”

Friendship:  False friends like you because you’re popular.  False friends will hate you because you don’t have the right pedigree.  True friends like you for who you are.

Gas Wars:  “Why do they call them that?  It sounds like frat house pranks after all-night burrito buffets.  Or like your mom’s cabbage cooking.”

On being in debt:  “Don’t get into debt if you don’t have to.  If you do have debts–pay them off as soon as possible.  Once in debt–you’re always in debt.”

Taking the last cookie:  “Stop arguing with your brother about who gets the last cookie.  It doesn’t matter.  Sometimes toast is just toast.”

About time:  “There’s never a good time–to do things you don’t like to do.  Like going to a friend’s funeral.  There’s never enough time–period.  Take time to care about everything.   Even, doing homework and taking out the trash.”

Halloween fun houses:  “It’s only some grown men running around in their long underwear with chain saws.  Old Man Johnson, from across the street, mowing the yard in his underwear–that would be much scarier.”

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THE LONG ROAD HOME

The Ledo road can still be seen on Google Earth.  What a massive   undertaking it was–to restore lost supply routes to China.  Some  engineers had credentials dating back to construction of the Panama Canal.

East met West in a colossal clash of cultures.  It’s a miracle the Ledo road was ever completed.  Myriad languages, superstitions, traditions, and religions complicated matters at hand.  Right of way delays due to evil spirits in boulders and trees were not uncommon.

At first, my father found, life in faraway Assam province, strange and new.  It challenged core values; if God were merciful, why had he been sent there?  Two years later, none of it mattered.  I was taken by father’s humble humanness reflected in letters home.  Quite different from the strict, everything by the Good Book patriarch, I remembered as a child.

War’s indelible stains tainted everything–same then, as now.  To survive, some bargained with Beelzebub.  Gambled, selectively followed orders, traded goods on the black market.  My father, like most soldiers, questioned everything–the mission, the war–absurdities of life.  Breaks from work afforded time to think about everything.  Some of it due to extended stays in sick bay from tropical maladies.

Dad in India

Home sweet home was a woven bamboo hut called a basha.  My father’s basha had a bamboo floor.  Brigadier General Anna Mae Hayes, C-I-B, WWII Medical Corps veteran, described Ledo, Assam living conditions as follows.

Now you may not know what a basha is, but it’s a building made of bamboo and, as I mentioned, the roof was made of palm fronds.  Our nurses’ quarters had mud floors–dry at times–just the same as the wards.  Each building had four swinging doors through which anything could enter.  It might be a jackal at night, or a cow during the day because the cow was a sacred animal.  At one time I wrote a letter home to my mother about how I was awakened by two cows at my bedside.

We slept on rope beds…had no bedside tables.  Crates taken from the mess hall or medical supply were used for bedside tables.  Clothes hung on ropes by their beds and they would iron them by sleeping on them at night.  It was rather rough living. I remember that during the first few weeks everyone had diarrhea and, of course, we didn’t have toilets.  We just had holes in the ground.  And then, when we did get those little “johns,” one would have to be very, very careful of the leeches.  Leeches were very hard to pull out of one’s skin so we’d have to carry matches with us so we could burn them out.  On balance, we really didn’t have too much, but we were still in it together.

Living in the basha wasn’t easy.  Insect control was a tremendous problem, especially mosquitoes and flying roaches.  I can remember one time when washing in my helmet, and that’s how we washed in the first year or so, I looked down and I saw a mouse or rat in the bottom of the water.  Later on we got better living arrangements.  New bashas were built with cement floors.  I can remember going into the basha one afternoon and finding a huge snake wound around my mosquito netting.  We were more or less used to seeing snakes.  When one lives in the jungle, one can expect that sort of thing, even though the immediate area was cleared.

The jungle was a strange dichotomy of beauty and hardship–feast and famine.  My father, being a Midwestern farm boy, attempted growing jungle corn.  It was a gigantic failure.  For my father and thousands of young men and women, the long road home passed through India, Burma, and China along the Ledo Road.

Dad's military insignia

Father’s WWII military insignia.  The Air Force insignia is mine from the Vietnam era.

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Brigadier General Anna Mae Hay’s oral history, WWII and beyond, is part of the Army Heritage Center Foundation’s Education Series–“Voices of the Past.”  Further information is available at www.armyheritage.org–a fascinating read, well worth one’s time.

 

THIS IS NOT YOUR FATHER’S “HOSEMOBILE”

hm 2It was a quiet, sunny, autumn Sunday morning.  Was my wife watching the neighbor across the street through the curtains?  “You reminded me of Gladys Kravitz,” I said.  “Were you spying on the neighbors?”  “I was just curious,” She answered and laughed.

“Wasn’t Gladys Kravitz a character on Bewitched?” I asked. “…Or, was she on the Dick Van Dyke Show?  No Dear, you’re thinking of Millie and Jerry–Dick Van Dyke’s neighbors.” She answered.  “Gladys was definitely on Bewitched.”

A lonely, broken-down, roll away plastic hose carrier sat discarded by the curb two houses down.  How many of the ubiquitous vinyl plastic hose carts had I purchased over the years? …In my opinion, way too many.  The last one barely lasted two months before it came apart at the seams.  Water spewed from every joint and flange.

My father’s hose rack came from a local junkyard. It was a salvaged steel truck rim firmly attached to a post.  From the six bolt pattern, it was probably from an old Chevy–only a car nut, like me, would know that.  It’s still in use fifty-plus years later.

It wasn’t pretty–some would call it ugly.  Maybe, it wasn’t convenient like newer roll around hose carriers.  What it was, was simple honest value–nothing promised that wasn’t delivered.  …Aesthetics and convenience traded for reliability and longevity.  Sure, I could pay a couple of hundred bucks for a metal pipe framed hose cart–but why?  It still wouldn’t outlast the truck rim hose rack.  Form followed function and simpler was better.