Tuesday, July 24, 2012

With four blogs it's difficult to know which is best for the following blog entry -- maybe I'll put it on all of them. Things You Hear at the Kinko's on Queen Street A gray haired, professional looking gentleman is copying furiously, totally focused on his task, with his small briefcase and various documents placed on the work surface next to his machine. Two more "elderly" gentlemen (locals) approach the machine next to his with Suzie (names changed to protect the innocent) the friendly blond Kinko's employee who seems on the low end of the employee totem pole, and is frequently seen giving assistance to customers who are unsure of themselves or confused or have problems making their copies. Suzie is invariably patient and solicitous, and often makes a remark like: "Don't worry. It happens to everybody." Suzie places the customers' materials on the counter to the left of their machine, and after some small talk and joking has the fellows set up in no time. Soon their copies are flying out for their inspection. The non-Asian of the pair grabs up the copies as they emerge (11" X 17" construction drawings)and spreads them on the counter in use by the first gentleman, who watches for a few minutes without comment, trying to draw attention to himself by clearing his throat and looking in the other fellow's direction. But the preoccupied local fellow is oblivious, pulling out his pen and making marks on the drawing. Eventually, when his first batch of documents is finished, he picks up the copies, walks behind the interloper, puts the papers down on the counter next to his briefcase, and mumbles, "I guess I'm invisible." This finally gets the attention of the other, who says nothing for a minute or so, then turns to his companion and says: "I guess I'm invisible. Only a haole would say a something like that. I guess that's why they get knocked down." Haole: "And only a Portagee would say something like that. I guess that's why they get their asses kicked." Local: (Looking straight ahead at the wall)"Not by haoles they don't." Haole: (Looking directly at the other, and raising his voice) "Don't be too sure braddah. I was married to one Portagee for 40 years, and I know a thing or two about what makes you guys tick." Local: (Turning to face the haole) "I'm married to a white woman." Haole: You're a very lucky, man. And let me ask you sir, what would you have said if I had done what you did." Local: "I'm not finished !I thought you were finished." Haole: "So, you thought I was finished. That's funny -- I don't think I look finished. I thought you didn't see me. I thought maybe I was so white you couldn't see me." Local: (Turning to his Asian companion) "Can you believe what he said? Would you have said -- I guess I'm invisible?" The other guy says nothing and looks uncomfortable. The haole says, "Well, let me apologize to you sir. I apologize for saying "I guess I'm invisible. And I apologize for looking finished. And I apologize for being so white." And the local guy says: v v v v v v v v v Scroll down v v v v v v v v v Wait for it ... v v v v v v v v v And the local guy says: "I accept your apology." And the two shake hands and part company.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Sister's Memories


My mother, Joyce Lynn (McGuire) Salling (DOB November 1, 1917) wrote the letter which follows to her older brother Noland McGarvey McGuire after visiting him in Oakland, CA in 1988, following his surgery for a life threatening illness. Joyce drove from Denver together with her sisters Cassandra Ireland (formerly Muriel McGuire) and Audrey (McGuire) Malloy. Noland died not long after, and Joyce in January, 1995. Joyce reported that Noland's reaction to the letter was not entirely positive.

December 7, 1988

Dear Noland,
Since I saw you I’ve been remembering a lot of things from our past. I’ve decided I’d better get started if I want to share them with you. I also wonder if you remember any of this which, evidentally, are high points from my childhood.
The first thing I remember was a man holding me on his lap after dinner and turning over in his chair. I went whimpering to mother, who was outside hanging up the “washing”. The man definitely was Uncle Bee. He spent a summer in Colorado helping Dad, when I was two.
I remember you and I riding in a wagon with this hired man named Jake Schrock. He helped us down and I can hear him saying, “Come Polly” and holding up his arms for the jump into them and to you saying, “O.K. Pucket” and you jumped to him!
Probably the next thing I remember was Dee’s birth. The night began strange. You and I were bedded down in the bedroom, not in our bed in the front room. Some time later I waked. I could hear Taylor and May Havins voices. I could also hear a cat that was really howling! The next morning Dee was there, and she was still doing the cat howl!
My next memories are of you and I playing; chasing the calves up and over a big cane stack that was in the barn, licking the salt block and squeeling and kicking at each other and then drinking from the tank—we were being horses, I guess. I remember mother leaving her riding horse, Gyp, standing tied to the fence, still saddled and bridled and ready to go. You helped me get on and I went for a ride. Gyp walked, probably a quarter of a mile, down the road, which was fenced on each side. The fence stopped and I was ready to turn around and go back home. Gyp wasn’t ready to home. Off in the distance she could see other horses grazing, and so she neighed and started galloping across the prairie around them. I distinctly remember getting both feet on the same side of the horse and then jumping. I also remember the walk home and the loud noise Dad made before finding the pony and returning her to my Mother. And you know what, I doubt I had had my fourth birthday yet. We still lived at the Allie Cline place, and I was probably four when we moved to the High Prairie farm. I know we spent one winter there. I have vivid memories of going to Mays and Taylor’s in a wagon and through prairies covered with snow. As we returned home that evening the horses were trotting along very briskly and some how as you and I horsed around in the back I did the neatest summersault right out of the wagon. Very clearly I remember running very hard trying to catch up and ride home!
Do you remember the new Ford Touring Car and Dad’s trip to New Mexico and Missouri? Do you remember our summer and fall trip to Kentucky and Missouri? The hills the Ford couldn’t climb and we’d all pile out while Dad put it in reverse and backed up hill. Once Dee squatted behind a rear wheel to pee and was almost run over! Do you remember the tent? Dad slept on a folding cot of his own; Mother and Dee slept on one and you, Erwin and I slept together on one. I have memories of lots of pork & beans, Post Toasties and I think, Bran Flakes. In Kentucky I remember crowds of relatives, Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I really do remember carriages, buggies, a spinning wheel and a big weaving loom up in Grandmother’s haymow. I remember Aunt Carma working up there. We saw our first aeroplane while there. It was “down” in a field and was waiting for repairs, I think. People came for miles to see this thing. We packed a picnic lunch and spent the day. This is definitely my first memory of a gala family affair.
I loved that long period of time we spent at Grandma Hooks. I slept with her and I thought she and I were the best of buddies. You and I had a great time playing in the orchard with Aunt Phyllis and Donald and Elizabeth Lowry. Aunt Phyllis was ten that July and you were seven the same month! You haven’t had it so rough, Noland, that poor lady has been in a vegetative state for probably the last thirty years and still lives on! Poor Uncle James.
That Christmas spent at Grandma Hooks was most exciting and so much fun, remember?
I also remember Doyles arrival—he was “just there” one day when we got home from school!
Bucklin has very pleasant memories for me. Some memories are: the robins nest above our hammock, the crotch of a very large tree, the brown Thrush and her nest above the living room window, the Wren nest inside a small hole in a back yard fence. Some traumatic memories: mom letting this “mama hen” chase me around and around her and her doing nothing but laugh, Dee putting my baby bantam chicken into the boiling water of the stove reservoir, my getting Doyle up on top of the barn and almost dropping him off as I tried to get myself up, baby Doyle’s penis turning purple and an emergency trip to see a doctor! To this day I don’t know if that was a permanent condition or just something going around!
Do you remember the wonderful bobsled Dad made and those big beautiful sledding hills? A most exciting thing I remember was Catherine and Mary Easter Riley and I lining up across the middle of the hill and playing chicken as you and Bernard came racing down on your sleds, I was the most daring evidentally. I stood so long I was hit by Bernard’s sled, above the ankles, and I did this neat flip and landed behind him and I rode down the hill. This is absolutely a truthful memory!
Do you remember Mother making us each sew a quilt block before going out to play? Do you remember the wild strawberries, picking Hazel nuts, and that very steep wagon ride down the hill to the bottom land? Remember the mud and Dad taking us to school riding the mules? Evidentally Bucklin lost it’s glow for Dad, but I’ll never know what interested him in Morrilton. What a trip the move to Arkansas was! My memory is very clear of following faint trails through heavily wooded areas. Just when our parents were sure they had lost the trail a highway numbered marker would show up nailed to a tree trunk. We drove and drove and drove and finally arrived at a little tobacco farm carved out of the woods. We made the acquaintance of Mom’s cousins, Ethel, husband Emmet Campbell and their three daughters, Lois, Lenore, and Monabell. (Lenore’s wedding and reception was the one we attended in Arkansas that Christmas.) Thank goodness they were happy to see us because we sure stayed a long time. Dad waked the next morning very ill. He had come down with the chicken pox we kids had been having. Do you remember sampling the tobacco hanging in the barn in the twists?
Two weeks later we continue on to Arkansas. We spent a few days with Mom’s cousin, Ena Covey, rented a little house down the street from them and evidentally furnished it. I remember two beds, a leather davenport that made into a bed, a table, a cookstove with a sheepskin in the floor behind it (what a cozy, warm spot?) and an ice box into which the ice man put ice in about every other day. Do you remember the outhouse and the honey wagon, late at night? Do you remember our first hint that that there was a difference between blacks and whites? The ice plant had the most delightful ice water receptical, on the outside of their building, for the enjoyment of all persons passing by. There were two metal cups chained beside it. One was just a tin cup and was for white folks. The other was painted black and was for the black folks. Once I almost made a mistake and drank from the black cup. Really I gagged at the near mistake! In later life I’ve wondered if any blacks ever drank from “our” cup, just to get even!
Evidentally Dad wasn’t happy with jobs available there. His job with the “dray” company didn’t last long or the one in Traywicks store. I know that before long a period of time he joined Uncle Dee in Detroit and worked for General Motors. I understood that we’d all join him there when they had enough money.
In the mean time you and I thought we were the head of the house. We took our huge basket and picked up and delivered laundry from the girls dormitory at Harding College. Mother did the washing and ironing for the girls in the dorm, who could afford her services. I thought dorm life was terribly exiting. Their laundry smelled beautiful, they probably really poured on the perfume. I always had to preceed you up the stairs calling out “man on second floor” and “man on third floor.” We really got a laugh out of that! For years I dreamed of going back and living in the dorm and going to school!
You know, Noland, I think in Morrilton you received quite an extensive sex education. Our Mother was very friendly with a Mrs. Stanley and her two daughters. There didn’t seem to be a man. The daughters were Dorothy, in my grade, and Doris, an eighth grader and as big as Mother. When our mom’s went to church at night they would leave all us children at home, and big Doris was in charge. Do you remember any sexual activity with her? She would make all us kids stay in the bedroom and she would take you into the kitchen – to “hunt cake” she would say.
There were lots of vacant homes in and around our area and none seemed to have the doors locked. We played in them and had such fun, especially you and Doris! She would take you into the bathroom and something went on between you and Doris in the bathtub! I was posted as a look out to announce the sighting of a mother. What I find so strange about this arrangement was the fact that you are fifteen months older than I and you were her partner in the tub. I was small enough that she would put me on her back and gallop around through the vacant house. This was my treat if I wouldn’t tell about the bathtub game.
I’m sure it was for the best that hard times hit General Motors and Dad was again unemployed. I’m sure Colorado was much kinder to poor people with large families. I certainly was horrified by the Colorado farm scene when we first arrived there. Those badger holes were terrifying to me and the thought of a rattle snake slithering out of them was just to much! We did survive, which is about all I can say!
Do you remember one of our first “chip gathering trips?” You, Erwin, and I filled out wagon with those things they you tied the driving lines around the hub of a front wheel. You and Erwin then walked to a vacant farmstead about a fourth of a mile away telling me to watch the horses. As I remember it, there was plenty to watch! Probably the lines were tied a bit to tight or the horses became tired of standing around. They began to back up and every inch they moved back made the driving lines pull tighter on their bits, which where in their mouths. As the lines tightened, the horses were pulled back on their back feet and then they fell over backward into this screaming pile of horse flesh. I ran for you and I shall never forget how loud you howled as you frantically worked over the mess! I’m still impressed at how smart you were for a dumb city kid. You finally got the bits, which were still in their mouths, apart and then the bridles off their heads and this released the tight pressure. Anyway, you got them up and baked back to the wagon and we all rode home just like nothing had happened! It shocks me to remember how hard you worked at least by the summer of 1929, actually about like a man. I worked hard, too, but I don’t think Mother was quite the expert slave driver that Dad was!
At any time has it ever occurred that all we kids were unkind to you? I don’t think I see it that way. I remember it more as “some younger kid would get in your bad graces” and it took all the rest of us to try and save the victim from you! Somehow you must have invited teasing. Do you remember that pig that you called yours and named Hosana? Well, as I remember, it was always good for a very wild time if we went out to slop the hogs, and we’d yell “Don’t let Hosanna eat”, and we’d her over the head and yell again “Don’t let Hosanna eat!” Talk about a distorted view of fun.
There are lots of nice things I remember about our relationship. You gave me $1.50 to get my first hair perm. They almost burned me to death, however, I have worn my hair straight basically straight ever since! You gave me $3.00 to by a class ring, also the $3.98 to purchase a sleazy black dress, which I thought so beautiful. Do you remember where the money really came from? From Dad’s pocket, that winter he was ill with a lung problem, and his overalls, with billfold, hung in the kitchen! I went along with you, we thought if we did the work, we should have a dollar now and then!
You gave me other money after you left home. One time enough to buy a red sleeveless sweater and a pair of black boots. I wore these with a black skirt and one of your white shirts every single day that I went to school in Fort Collins. It didn’t take me long to discover that the “Minnie Pearl type cotton frock” was not the uniform of the day, on college campuses, even in the old days! This is just a little tidbit that I’m tossing in. That semester, at Colorado State, I had the highest grade in the freshman class of plus six hundred students!
By the way, what year did you actually leave home? I’m sure you were around for Curtis’s birthing, November 10, 1929. That’s the first time I really caught on to the signs of a new arrival. If we kids got up, Dad was making breakfast and Mom was still in be, start moving over at the table and in the beds! Curtis arrived through a terrible blizzard stranding us kids down in the terrible cold basement or hours. Dad officiated, evidentally, he didn’t go to the basement.
Perhaps you were gone and missed Audreys arrival, October 23, 1932. By this time I was also catching up on the cause of the problem! I heard Opal Simpson tell Mother that if Richard so much as laid his trousers across the bed she became pregnant! I could not understand why Dad wasn’t more careful—he probably only had a couple pairs of trousers to keep track of!
In spite of all your obvious problems with Dad I felt hat when you did make your appearances you showed a very genuine respect for him. I thought you did a better job of forgiving and forgetting than I did. I also felt, that in God’s eyes, he did a very good job – the best he knew how. I really believe that, so why does it still annoy me to remember certain times? I remember working so hard and so long that my arms ached until I could not sleep. This particular bad memory was when Mom was so very ill and in the Brush Hospital. The morning finally arrived when she was able to return home. Dad brought the first pails of milk to the basement to the separator and I haven’t got the cream pail in place! Do you know how he handled this oversight? He comes roaring into the kitchen and he is yelling “Where is the cream pail?” “If you can’t do anything right around here get out! I’ll hire someone who can do something.” I stuck around and do you know why? Because he never, at any time, thought of hiring anyone. Mother was getting home and she could do it! There, I have that off my chest, now I can forget it.
You know, there is one very positive and wonderful thing about my life and I give Dad all the credit for that and I’m grateful. You wouldn’t guess in a million years what that is so I shall tell you. I always was very determined never to marry and be reduced to this non-person that I felt Mother was. Probably this accounted for my fun times with much younger guys. Dennis kind of sneaked up on me!
Dennis and I had so much fun. He had this wonderful fun loving nature, and he loved his mother so much and was so kind and good to her. He also had good ideas about marriage. I couldn’t resist! I’ve never regretted it and I hope he hasn’t. We’ve had a very wonderful life and wonderful children. How I love them, I wouldn’t want to change a thing, so I guess it is time to say “Thanks Dad, you are forgiven!”
Also, it is time to say, “Bye, Noland, I love you, and I pray I’ll see you in heaven.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Homestead Christmas

Written in 2005 for a collection of Christmas Stories in a collection published by our "writer's group" at CHURCH OF THE CROSSROADS (Honolulu, Hawaii.)

A Homestead Christmas

The summer before Joyce left her father’s homestead for the Colorado School of Agriculture at Ft. Collins 100 miles away was difficult enough that she told her children about it years later, although it was in no way an unusually harsh time for her or her seven siblings. All but bullying Noland were younger than she, and a number of them looked up to her almost as they would a second mother. Though over five feet, the girl could outrun all but the swiftest of her schoolmates, and was often chosen to round out a five “man” basketball team. There was general agreement with the proposition that: “that Joyce can run like a bay steer”. Once in a particularly rough game she had been knocked unconscious. No substitute was sent in as a replacement, because there was none to be had. Smelling salts were bought out, the game was delayed briefly until the field-toughened teenager was on her feet again, and she was sent back to finish the match with the High Prairie School team.
For most everyone in their community on the eastern slope of the Colorado Rockies, the dustbowl days were a stark and recent memory. John and Hazel McGuire had lived on a number of farms and homesteads during their marriage; at one point John left the family near relatives in Arkansas and went north to seek wages in the factories of Henry Ford. In some ways setting out for the dry plains of Colorado in the 1930s must have been a desperate gamble.
For those today who think of the summer hiatus from school as a vacation, the lives of Joyce and her siblings would be an appalling eye opener. In the land of “winter wheat”, the crop springs forth following snowmelt in March and April; harvest takes place in the hottest months of summer. During those months labor was constant on the McGuire homestead, beginning before dawn, with chores such as milking and feeding animals. The morning meal was speedily finished, then work in the fields began—days often ended after sunset, 14 to 16 hours later. The blessing of a bed only partially compensated for the knowledge that another day of constant effort would come far too soon.
The days after arrival of the itinerant harvesting crews were especially hectic. McGuire’s obsession with work was intensified by the need to pay the crew for each day’s services. He issued commands to one and all like an implacable god. No one questioned his authority, least of all his wife, who labored hours after everyone else snored, mending, scrubbing, setting the next day’s loaves to rise. Joyce’s primary job was hauling wheat—she got satisfaction driving trucks, as she demonstrated her competence to do any job her brothers or the hired men could do. Perhaps because he knew her labor would soon be lost to him, McGuire drove Joyce as never before that harvest season—no delivery was quick enough; Joyce was repeatedly reprimanded in front of others for “wasting time” in town. Any error made by one of the younger kids was somehow attributed to her failure to look after them. Even her mother’s lapses could redound in the form of a rebuke to the daughter. “Hazel would have had breakfast ready by now if you’d got the cook stove going earlier instead of staying in bed.” The truth was, neither Hazel nor her daughters let such treatment upset them much. Although it was unspoken, they considered the red-faced Irishman a tyrant. His wife worked like one of his animals, but McGuire seldom had a kind word for her. Yet babies continued to arrive as surely as the summer heat and the winter winds.
Joyce worked stoically that summer. An exceptionally intelligent and eager student, her teachers were unanimous in urging that her education continue after high school, and scholarship funds had been found for partial payment of tuition. Inside the teenager burned with anticipation for a new life away from the broken down farmhouse, the constant squabbles of her sisters and brothers, and the drab expanses of flat, stubble littered fields and dusty plains. She longed to meet new people—professors, students, a new church congregation, and the members of the doctor’s family where she would work in exchange for room and board. Joyce had no doubt her life was about to change forever, and for the better in every way.
The last week of August was agonizing. Temperatures reached the nineties daily, and McGuire was frantic to complete the threshing. Finally the day came when the last load of home grown gold was ready to be hauled to Akron. Joyce and her brothers rode in back of the truck on top of the grain, and watched while the truck was unloaded, as their father waited in the business office to collect payment for the summer’s sales.
Observing a hired man drink a cold bottle of soda purchased from a refrigerated cooler outside the office, Noland suggested that Joyce ask their father to buy one for each of them. “Are you scared to ask him?” she responded.
“He’s just gonna tell me to use my own money, but I didn’t bring any, Joycie. Go in and ask him. He ain’t gonna say no to you, not in front of those folks.”
Though she was not at all convinced she would be successful, the girl couldn’t resist a chance to show her brothers how to stand up to the “Old Man”. She tucked her shirt tail into her denim jeans, ran her fingers through her wiry auburn hair, and strode up the steps into the cramped room where several men stood. Her father was engaged in a conversation—doubtless about politics or horses—and Joyce knew better than to interrupt. During a pause she said in a low voice, “Daddy, the boys and I sure would like some pop on a hot day like this.”
“Daughter”, the patriarch responded with loud annoyance, “you get back out there and tell your brothers that money doesn’t grow on trees. You know you have to save every penny if you expect to go off to that college next week. Use your head, girl.”
She felt her ears and face redden at the rebuke, and looked up at him with anger, and clear contempt. “So you won’t even spend a nickel to buy soda pop for any of us after we’ve worked so hard all summer and never asked you for anything?’
Joyce knew she would regret those words before they were begun, yet somehow could not stop them. “That’s enough of your back talk, girl,” he growled. “Now you get out of here and get back in that truck or you’ll find yourself walking home. We’ll finish up this little talk later.”
Joyce rode home in silence, refusing to share the details of the confrontation with her brothers, blaming Noland especially for her circumstances. She hopped from the truck and raced into the house and up to the second level bedroom shared with two of her sisters. Soon she heard McGuire’s heavy boots pounding up the stairs. As he came into her room the girl realized he had removed his wide leather belt. She stood slowly and turned away from him, her jaw clenched and head lowered as the inevitable humiliation approached. “Just get it over with, please,” she mumbled. “I’m sorry I lost my temper.”
“I’m sorry you haven’t learned how to respect your elders,” he retorted, but less forcefully now. “Maybe this will help you to be more respectful in the future.” The whipping was not violent, and was soon over. Nevertheless, she was trembling with the effort to hold back any hint of a sob when he left the room. The tears came moments later as she lay on her bed when she felt plump, gentle hands on her hair. Her mother repeated again and again, “There, there, it wasn’t that bad.” It wasn’t that bad, Joycie.” Joyce wanted to thank her mother for coming to comfort her. She knew how sorely she would be missed by Hazel, and felt she should tell her mother that she loved her. But somehow, it was impossible to say the words. Her shame was too great, and she resented her mother’s inability to intervene on her behalf.
“I don’t care if I never come back to this God forsaken family,” she muttered, refusing to acknowledge the unaccustomed, but welcome attention.
Joyce’s first semester at the home of the “Aggies” was far more exciting and challenging than she had dreamed possible. Her employers were demanding—no matter how late she burned midnight oil in her little basement room, Joyce was expected to assist in preparing breakfast at 6:00 a.m. sharp. Classes were stimulating but challenging, especially Chemistry; it was the one that often kept her awake till 1:00 a.m. or later.
As the Thanksgiving holiday passed and the end of her first term of college approached, feelings of exhilaration gave way to gloom, however. Thoughts of her return to the family homestead filled her with dread. She had no doubt she’d be sent every morning to help with the milking, and wondered if she could avoid incurring her father’s wrath again. Yet her fate was sealed; Mrs. Adams had promised to drive Joyce home personally, and to pick her up after the New Year.
With exams completed and an unexpected “bonus” from the Doctor in her wallet, Joyce busied herself with another completely new experience: Christmas shopping. John McGuire’s fundamentalist religious beliefs enjoined celebrating the savior’s birth, even in the home—Christians were not expressly directed to do so in the New Testament. Watching as the Adam’s home was decorated lavishly and filled with gaily wrapped gifts filled Joyce with resolve to bring holiday cheer to her family’s Spartan homestead. The purchases for her siblings, especially the younger ones, were pleasurable in the extreme— picture books, dolls & knick knacks, balls & bats, candies, favors and stocking stuffers of all kinds—the things that Joyce had hardly known about during her childhood, now were in her reach. As she purchased an inexpensive bottle of perfume, lacy handkerchiefs and colorful scarves, Joyce anticipated the delight she would see in Hazel’s eyes on Christmas morning. Spending her hard earned money on her father was delicious revenge, a wordless but eloquent rebuke against his compulsive stinginess. After careful consideration she decided on a small, mother of pearl inlaid pocket knife. Every time he used the gaudy tool, he would be reminded of his daughter’s generosity, and his own lack of it.
The return to the ramshackle homestead was triumphal. The little ones crowded around their sister with incessant questions; four year old Audrey’s blue eyes brimmed with tears of joy. Mrs. Adams shared the surprising news she had learned from Joyce during the drive: the quiet country girl had received the highest grade on the final Chemistry exam. “Wait till your father hears about it, Joyce,” Hazel chuckled. “I can’t wait to see the look on his face when you tell him. He went to Denver with Noland. They’ll be back tonight, but after supper.”
“You can tell him, Mama,” Joyce said flatly. “I’m going to bed early.” After eating hurriedly, Joyce retired, and ceremoniously barred one and all from the bedroom while she wrapped and labeled the gifts, hiding all under her bed. Changing to a night dress, she crawled under the covers with a book, secretly relieved at her father’s absence.
The next morning was Christmas Eve, and Joyce waited until she heard John leave for the milking barn before springing from bed. She hauled the gifts downstairs and arranged them on the piano bench in the parlor before entering the kitchen where Hazel was preparing an unusually large breakfast. The youngsters soon began to appear, but their mother forbad anyone to touch the food until the men folk came in from the barn. Joyce likewise made it clear the gifts in the parlor were off limits. When the McGuire entered the house he immediately sat at the head of the table where everyone soon gathered. Turning to Joyce he addressed her deliberately: “Welcome home daughter. You’ve been missed. I hear that you are a good student. Would you ask the Lord’s blessing on our house and this table?”
Joyce was stunned. Never before had she known of a female in the household being allowed the privilege of leading the ritual of mealtime prayer. She glanced toward her mother who smiled faintly and lowered her head. Joyce struggled to acquit herself acceptably, then remained mostly quiet for the remainder of the meal. At its conclusion, John unexpectedly ordered his sons to help clear the table and instructed everyone to meet in the parlor after attending to the cleanup. He feigned surprise at the carefully wrapped gifts, but watched intently as his children opened them, then took turns hugging Joyce with expressions of wonder and gratitude. Hazel seemed to be dumbfounded by her daughter’s generosity, while John clearly acknowledged the meaning behind his daughter’s gift to him. “This is much too fine a pocket knife for me. I’ll just lose it I expect. I want Noland to have it to take with him to his new job in Denver.”
When her father rose from his sturdy rocking chair, Joyce assumed he would leave the house to continue with the chores, but instead he crossed the room and pulled a boxy bundle from behind a chair in the corner. Placing the mysterious, wrapped item in the middle of the room, he said Joyce’s name quietly and beckoned to her. When she joined him he put his hand on her shoulder and said, “Your mother thought you’d be needing this. We’re both very proud of you.” He removed the wrapping and held up an expensive looking, hand crafted leather satchel, suitable for books, papers, and personal items—the kind Joyce had seen the Doctor and her professors carrying. For the first time in her life the girl saw that her father was close to shedding tears. Impulsively she wrapped her arms around his middle and buried her head in his shoulder. Words formed in her head, but for a moment she was terrified that she would be unable to say them, as she had failed to speak from her heart to her mother, a few months ago. But as she felt her father’s arms pulling her to him, and his large hand rubbing her arm gently, the words tumbled out like a confession, and tears welled in her eyes. “Thank you Dad; I love you,” she said quietly. Turning, she moved to her mother’s chair, bent down and took the round face in her two hands, and kissed Hazel’s prematurely gray head. “I love you too Mama—I love you.” Then facing the others and looking brother Noland squarely in the eye, she announced: “I’m so happy to be home. I love you all.”

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

A curmudgeon displayed an astounding degree of "Grinchiness" on "The Bachelor Guy" blog today in making the Ebeneezer Scrooge argument (bah, Humbug) about Valentine's Day :

Follow the link above to newser.com to read my (possibly excessively treacle-filled) reply to this miserable human specimen.

; ^)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Cry for Common Sense

The thing I immediately hated about that now iconic Obama as Heath Ledger's Joker image was its ability to totally dehumanize on a visceral level the face of the man whom I (and I believe at least half the nation as well) are by now palpably, unashamedly "in love with." And I'm not simply talking about the kind of love that makes teenagers put posters of heart throb idols on the walls of their bedrooms-- the superficial icon crush that can wane in a matter of days or hours in favor of a different flavor, with a flashier poster going up to cover the face of the now forgotten object of fascination. The love affair in the heart and head that I'm talking about is the kind that can be transferred to every member of our President's family and White House staff, and makes me spend more time than I care to admit going through those Huffington Post slide shows displaying our man-child Commander in Chief in historic first of a kind photo-ops -- in cabinet meetings, cuddling his kids, canoodling his "first and only" First Lady, and gesturing in a thousand inspiring ways to adoring throngs across our benighted, withering globe. The instant I saw the crazy, leering "black man in white face" internet image of my beloved President (in the same way that the stricken-down POTUS John Fitzgerald Kennedy has become a beloved figure to me over the past four and a half decades) I became nearly physically ill. Bile rose within me and rage and grief welled up from somewhere deep in my gut. I wanted to reach thorough the computer screen and tear the sickening likeness into shreds of evil confetti. I wanted to hunt down the "artist" and pound him about the head and ears (of course it had to be a male.) I longed to slap him and choke him and bludgeon him while screaming and spitting in his face .... Yes, on an instinctive, mother grizzly level for an instant I needed to attack and destroy the creator of that vile image. To me it resembles nothing more than a callously thrown together shooting practice target -- the kind tacked on a fence for careless amusement accompanied by a penis enhancing, shriveled-ego boosting, friend-substituting firearm of choice. And yes, this is exactly the same way I feel about those cretins who are reported to be taking their firearms to public gatherings where their President has traveled in an effort to reason with their disgusting ilk. Damn them to hell. He can't say it, and his family can't, and the Democratic Party can't, but I can and will. I will shout it from the roof tops. Goddam their pathetic souls to hell.

Now is the time for a smart Senator or Congressperson to sponsor a bill that will make this kind of spectacularly stupid stunt illegal, and to strike a highly symbolic but long overdue blow for something which has become (in some way nearly incomprehensible to me) "politically incorrect" and verboten for any aspiring politician or elected official -- sane, reasoned, common-sense gun control. Russ Feingold ... Barbara Mikulski ... Neil Abercrombie ... Mazie Hirono ... hello !!! Is anybody home?

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Commander-in-Chief's Teachable Moment

One American president’s thoughtless verbal miscalculation undoubtedly cost lives and may have prolonged a war; it took years for the POTUS to acknowledge the consequences of his “bring it on” taunt hurled at terrorist enemies in the heat of a deadly war. The latest example of conversational fallibility by a Commander-in-Chief no doubt disappointed millions and genuinely wounded the sensibilities of some (I doubt Governor Palin was among them.) Obama’s Special Olympics gaffe was followed by an immediate and unqualified public apology, and seems likely to result in a number of beneficial, if unintended, consequences. So far as I am aware, no grieving family or mother, and certainly not Cindy Sheehan, has received a similar act of civility and compassion from Bush.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


dropping off to sleep with less than 3 hours before the alarm will sound I immediately begin dreaming and find myself in the midst of a mass of warm exciting bodies gyrating as one at a dance party/rave... it took me back to the night at Fort Collins in the mid-60s when I...