Category Archives: Short Memories

Little short memories of long ago

My Grandparents House

You could feel the cold air moving about in little swirls with pointy tongues which would dart out and sting bare skin.  The old windows rattled and all the corners were honed into fine whistles for the gusting north wind.

We quilted ourselves to huddle about the gas stoves blowing the stinging fingers and to listen intently to the stories which could be coaxed out of my grandfather at such times.  His old wooden rocking chair slowly carried him into the warmth and away.  I can still hear the rolling protest of ancient floorboards.

This beloved big house had no insulation.  It was born long before electric poles created a glaring tangle of lights throughout the town and water was carried from the noisome well pump beyond  the garden.

Summer and winter bedrooms were separate and p-cans were du jour.  The old kitchen was “closed-off” with a frost monster beyond the thin doors.  Heated water simmered upon the gas stove to fill rubber bladders to keep icy toes warm in frigid beds.

I recall with clarity his voice though not his words, his limber body in motion, his grizzled face, and my grandmother’s loving glance lingering upon him.  The warmth of this night has radiated throughout the years.

My grandparents were the last generation of an old world  My parents transitioned while our generation adapted; we acted as the grease to make the world shift as smooth as possible.  Our kids are the first true generation of this new technological world dawning about us in all it’s blessings.

I am blessed to have touched upon all these days.

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William’s Wisdom

                                        Joe Brfsplk

My old neighbor was a truly philosophical person. When the pastures dried in summer and the grass yellowed and broke-off, I would go seek the advise of William. “Will it ever rain, William??”

Drawing on decades of experience William calmly answered, “Always has…”

Likewise, when the dark dreary days of never ending rain began to drop my spirits into a bottomless pit, I would reach into ol’ William’s reservoir of wisdom. “William”, I would say, “will this rain ever stop?”

He would look kindly at me and, speaking slowly as if to an idiot, answer, “Always has.”

And you know through the long years since, I have found his knowledge to be nearly infallible.

The Long Line of Yellow Cones – A Story of Brothers

Several, probably many, year ago a truck driver friend told me this story for the truth.

My friend -Bob- was driving processed chickens from Broken Bow, OK, just east of here, out to California markets. Interstate 40 from Oklahoma City west is an interesting drive 4-5 times but by the twentieth or so it is a mind numbing type of boring.

Bob bored his truck through a lot of long boring nights. The radios voices droning, the road thumping beneath the cab and that long unbroken line down the center of the road created their own problems. Truckers find humor in a lot of things just from going to sleep.

On a typical early morning around 2 AM, Bob found himself entering a construction zone. The road closed to a single lane with an endless line of yellow plastic cones marching off into the dark. The lowered speed limit of 45 MPH (72 KPS) seemed useless because there was absolutely no other traffic.

As his imagination strayed a little “bump, bump” brought him back to his job. He had caught 4-5 of the obnoxious yellow cones with his bumper and sent them dancing.

After a moment or two, Bob eased his rig back to the left and tapped several more cones. For no other reason than boredom he hammered the cones several times. It was a minor amusement but something tickled in the recesses of his mind.

The cones ended as all things. And, sure enough, dead ahead of Bob was that ‘tickle’ in the back of his mind. A highway patrol car sat on the right shoulder and as he looked, the bright red and blue lights came on and skewered the night in all directions.

Resigned to a ticket ol’ Bob geared the big heavy rig down and locked his brakes.

The highway patrol officer walked past the trailer full of dead birds to the cab. Bob was a little startled to see a big grin on the uniformed officer’s face.

“Evening,” said the officer, “please lock up your rig…we have a little job.”

A little abashed, Bob wondered if he was being arrested out here in the middle of nowhere. He did as requested and followed the policeman back to his vehicle. Bob opened the passenger side door as the officer signaled and sat down.

“I would like to see your license, please,” the uniformed peace officer said. He merely glanced it over and passed it quickly back.

A little sternly he stated to Bob, “I was standing outside as you came through there (the construction zone) and noticed you kicked a few of those cones with your bumper.” “Let’s go round them up,” he continued.

Faced with the inevitable, Bob just nodded as they flipped around and headed back.

At the first row of cones scattered around the truck driver got out and gathered them one by on and set them back aright. As he got back into the car the highway patrolman said, “my name is Rick,” and extended his hand to shake.

Rick it seemed had as big a problem with long nights as the truck drivers. Bob shook the hand, returned the good natured smile and started talking as they approached the next row of ‘un-horsed’ cones.

Neither mentioned the cones but they began to talk, joke and laugh their way along. Somewhere during the ‘job’, they discovered that both were Vets and had served in Vietnam; tho at different times.

The last couple of cone breaks Rick helped Bob reset them and they finished-up with a feeling of companionship that most Vets find with others who served.

When the car was finally back to the starting spot and parked, they both exited and walked slowly back to the truck’s big cab. Bob unlocked the door and stood there a little disappointed to end the chance meeting.

The shook hands and Rick stated, “Pull me over if you see me and I’ll buy you a cuppa!”

With that he turned & walked back to his car. Bob climbed aboard, fired up the rig and watched as Rick crossed the median with his patrol rig and went the opposite direction.

They never met again.

Fraulein and the NCO Club

On every Saturday night, in every NCO club in the world, at some point when every man was drunk enough to tackle anything with many slowed brains but sober enoughs not ruin it but just hash it up good…somebody punched “Fraulein” into the jukes box.

In a room(s) with from 50 to 500 of the loudest mouths in all the various training brigades, the noise level becomes a steady drone way above the tolerance of humans.

Yet, when “Fraulein” came on there was always an instant of silence while the old minds wearied and boozed plugged into the rhythm. First a few started to sing along with the words; then in growing volume the rest jumped into it.

With complete abandon old WW II/Korean/Vietnam fighters with leathered faces and scarred bodies would soften in their own memories of sweet lipped young German girls they had left behind. Here & there a tear fell and many a misty-eyed old warrior whipped his cheeks unashamed.

As the crescendo of the end approached the voices and emotions peaked. In a final thunder the last Fraulein crashed out & trembled out as all silently bid silence adieu to their long ago and now lost phantom girls in unrequited live of what might have been.

Then, what the bartenders had all been awaiting: One toughens old grizzled Sargent would look calmly at another and say, “That’s tears on your cheek you old queer sum bitch!!!!”

And as quickly as wildfire pushed by the wind of a Blue Northerner, the fight would spread. Flailing arms, flying feet and the pounding of big meaty fists consumed the next 10 minutes or so until the war ends as quickly as it began & brotherhood reins again in drunken bliss.

Fraulein with Boxcar Willi

Coyotes

Coyotes adapt to their environment better than people do. We live in the boonies and have 3 fairly large packs that roam around us. If we have no large yard dogs the coyotes eat/steal everything around the place. I never lost a calf, but have lost chickens & small goats along with any small dogs outside. Never had one threaten a person I know about. We also have bobcats which are almost as opportunistic. We have a pair of territorial panthers (mountain lions) and a sow black bear. Haven’t ever seen a boat bear, the the sow has a pair of cubs every year.

I don’t want to ever get rid of these wild critters. I never want to live where it’s not wild. I get a real thrill when the coyote packs are out & howling. I’be been down on the creek on this place when the hair on my neck would stand-up & get that old thrill that danger is not far off (remember feeling that one?).

Coyotes numbers do need to be regulated some years. If small game is abundant, the coyotes over-breed & then start getting disease & dying-off while spreading the disease. They self-regulate but lose a lot of other animals while doing it. My grandkids take coyotes while hunting on rare opportunities. I gave them orders to kill no bobcat on my place & no panthers or bear anywhere. The state had Oklahoma’s first bear season with 8 tags last year.

Oklahoma & Texas claimed wolves were eliminated in the ’30s but not all of them were. When I was little there were some still in the Red River bottoms. A wolf howling on a dark night is an absolute thrill. That lonely howl is a reminder that we are not the biggest predator in the woods!

The Dechutes River Below the Three Sisters Mountains

D River

I fished the Deschutes River below the Three Sisters mountains. Beautiful country with desert to the East & high mountain country in the West across the river. Just across the river the pines came marching downward, spreading & thinning as they neared the bottom land.

flowing riverThe river was flowing deep, freezing as it carried the snow melt towards the huge Columbia River in the North. So strong was it rushing I could not tell the curious bump of trout from weeds speeding by me. I caught nothing but the rushing nightfall and a quick run back to then toasty warmth of our host’s house and supper freshly caught from the waters.Historically, the Dechutes has been used by Native Americans as a thoroughfare to the Columbia for trading and hunting. Early explorers, French & American, wandered it’s shores in search of beaver. Later John Wayne rode near it in both his movies “True Grit” and “Rooster Cogburn”.
horses
The Sisters mountains are ancient volcano cones long silent. Their summits are normally covered in snow and brightly visible in the summer sun, shimmering and beckoning for scores of miles out upon the Eastern desert.

The desert was very warm in the early July sun just rising high into the Oregon sky. Having sweated long in the hills of Southeastern Oklahoma the cool(ish) air was a respite. The next morning the vehicle windows were covered with a lite layer of ice.

All through the warmth of mid-day passed a steady parade of guests upon the icy waters of the Dechutes. They rode in wide pointed nose wooden boats beating across the waters with oars. Many folk came individually and in pairs riding the long, sleek canoes not that far distant from the Native Americans a millennium past.
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Still more crowded into the large oblong rafts of rubber and tarp. These last were the gay travelers always accompanied by laughing, joyful screams decrying some beautiful scene or just a steady whooping in delight. These voyagers came from across the country, indeed around the world and presented a fascinating river of themselves for my observation.

South Vietnam Tours for 1968

Review: ** stars at best. Tour date: 1968
I was on the Mekong tour. While admitting that accommodations were adequate, we found them to be primitive at best. All water was luke-warm as was food which was also tiresome in it’s unchanging cuisine. Service in all locations was lackluster. Some native servers came-over as nearly hostile.

We enjoyed the colorful river and canal traffic as we cruised in the provided boats. We often wondered why the crews fired their large guns regularly at the poor sampan drivers, tho the boats occasionally created spectacular fireballs in the evening sky.

The inhabitants of small hamlets where we spent several nights came-over as particularly prickly in their relations with us. Although we slept well we often noticed a lot of movement outside our accommodations. This movement must have been related to the night hunting of the natives. We did not observe much in the way of wildlife but nights echoed of the hunters guns.

Overall, we found the Delta to be a delightful feast for the eyes, but the native servers and inhabitants left much to be desired. Perhaps as the tourism economy develops these people will be taught better manners and service skills.