Rebel With A Cause

Other than baseball, my interest in sports ranges
from little to none.

And my lack of athletic prowess was well established in
elementary school.

I had a way of conveniently forgetting to tote along
a pair of slacks, so I was unable to participate in
tumbling. This move netted my one and only “D”.

Getting smacked in the face on a frigid day with
an ice cold soccer ball sealed the deal. No Olympic
trials in my future.

In high school, the girls’ Pep Club was a bit militaristic
to my way of thinking.

Everyone was required to wear matching black skirts
and red sweaters. To obtain a letter for the sweater,
members earned points by attending meetings and
selling game day ribbons bearing clever sayings,
such as: “Stew The Benson Bunnies.”

In response to this insanity, I devised an admittedly
devious solution. On those rare occasions when I wished
to attend an athletic event and sit with the Pep Club,
I borrowed the official sweater of my best friend’s sister.

I blended right in with the rest of the group and from
a distance, no one could detect I was chanting the wrong
words at the wrong time. BINGO!

Those of you reading this are henceforth sworn to secrecy.
Should the school administration get wind of this, they
could well revoke my high school diploma and place me in
detention.

 

Inspired by Daily Prompt – Rebel

Searching For That Pot Of Gold

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Left to Right: Loyal, Kenly, Grandmother and Otis in 1931

Hopes and dreams
In the absence
Of a healthy dose of
Reality
Is a sure recipe for
Disaster

My uncle Loyal was the youngest of three boys in a family of five children.

I remember him to be an affable individual, with a broad smile, a true gift of gab and a kind heart.

Loyal was also a big dreamer, who generated a plethora of get rich quick schemes over the course of his lifetime.

Always in pursuit of the trophy fish, he threw back the daily keepers which could have provided ongoing sustenance and stability for his family.

He did in fact land a real whopper, once.  Loyal created one of the very first scratch card games.  It was a big hit in Canada.  The dollars came rolling in.

My uncle moved his family from a modest apartment to a rambling estate along the Missouri River, complete with a swimming pool, pond and guest house.  Life was good.

A failure to read the fine print, however, cost him in the end.  After a few short years, the royalties slowed to a trickle and then stopped, altogether.

His family’s economic and emotional roller coaster hit bottom, again.

For his son Butch, it was the last straw.  Enrolled in private school and living the high life one minute….with the phone disconnected and bill collectors at the door, the next.  Humiliating for anyone to endure, it was especially devastating to a teenager.

Butch had a nasty “accident” while cleaning his gun.  Although never officially ruled a suicide, I believe that to be the case.  He was just fifteen.

I was sixteen when Butch died.  His death was transformational.  Overnight, I went from invincible teen to mere mortal, intimately staring death in the face for the first time.

I gained a new appreciation of how fortunate I was our family was never on that roller coaster ride with Butch.

I learned being a “Steady Eddie” daily breadwinner isn’t always glamorous, but it is one of the most admirable of traits to possess.

Sometimes being successful comes with unexpected costs.

Inspired by Daily Prompt – Successful

I Owe You One, Bro

I was never much of
a science or math buff.
I made a point of meeting,
rather than exceeding,
credit hour requirements.

With algebra and plane
geometry under my belt,
I steered clear of calculus
and trigonometry.

In the science realm, physics,
chemistry and astronomy
incorporated way too much
math to suit me, so I selected
biology, instead.

The study of plants and
animals seemed pretty benign
at first glance.

But when it came time to wield
our trusty scalpels to
dissect insects, worms and
a frog, I was aghast.

They expected me to TOUCH
those nasty things?

Worse yet, we had to collect
our own insects to dissect.

Fortunately, my brother
was enamored with
all things biological at the time.
He eagerly volunteered
to assist in securing the
required specimens.

Off we headed to the playground
at Tillman Elementary School,
which was surrounded by fields
of tall grasses and weeds.

In no time flat, we had
jars full of insects
floating belly up in alcohol.
We headed home with
our stash.

By the time we reached
the front door, my brother’s
face was red and itchy.
In short order, his eyes
were swollen shut.

We learned later
the field was full of goosefoot
and he had suffered
an acute allergic reaction
to the pollen.

My brother paid the price
for my class project.

I felt ALMOST as bad for him
as the dead bugs.

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Happy 70th Birthday!

Four Simple Lines

 

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She was a formidable figure…a force with which to be reckoned.
Our paths crossed in 1966 at Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska.

Judith Hoyt taught English Composition, a prerequisite for graduation.
It was the luck of the scheduler’s draw that landed me in her class.
Mention of my fate drew knowing looks of pity from classmates.
“Good luck” they muttered under their collective breath, with a sly smile.

A consummate taskmaster, Mrs. Hoyt tolerated no horseplay within her hallowed walls.  Straighten up and fly right was her credo.

She expected and most often extracted the very best from her students.
While quick to jump on sloppy work, Mrs. Hoyt was equally free with praise.
Those who went the distance in meeting her exacting standards gained
a level of literacy as writers which would serve them well in life.

While her subject expertise and commanding presence in the classroom were her visible trademarks, Mrs. Hoyt’s secret weapon was her uncanny ability to
surmise the unique essence of each student and to capitalize upon her insight.

It was years after the fact when I finally fully grasped her brilliance.
Thumbing through my Warrior yearbook, I came upon her inscription:

“If you know it…
And you do,
You can say it…
And you will.”

Four lines containing a mere fourteen words nailed me to a “T”.
Judith Hoyt understood long before I the symbiotic interplay of expertise
and confidence which defines me to this day.

Daily Prompt: Expert

A Trip To The Store

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I recall accompanying my mother shopping
in the late ‘50’s and early 1960’s.

This wasn’t Saks Fifth Avenue, mind you,
just local retailers, independently owned.

Upon entering the premises, a sales associate
immediately offered assistance.

The clerk queried to determine customer needs.
Items were pulled and brought to the dressing room.
The sales associate checked back regularly to clear
unwanted merchandise and bring additional sizes or styles.

A seamstress was ready with tape measure and pins in hand.
Basic tailoring of apparel was complimentary.
Items purchased were neatly bagged, boxed or placed
on hangers, once wrinkles were removed with a steamer.

Regular customers were addressed by name.
Sales associates became familiar with the individual
preferences of customers and often gave a heads up
when new merchandise arrived which might suit
their particular needs.

Fast Forward to 1985

My mother needed a new spring jacket. I accompanied her
to a local mall. It took a few minutes, but we finally located
the coat department.

Two sales associates were busy straightening and
stocking merchandise. Neither greeted us or asked
if they could be of help.

My mother was short on energy and patience. I started
browsing the racks, picked up some items, ushered
her back to the dressing room and helped her on and
off with jackets.

Another trip to the floor found both sales associates absent.
I gathered up more items and… BINGO… found a winner.

When we exited the dressing room, the sales associates
had magically reappeared and were standing at the register
chatting away.

When I caught their attention, they began arguing about
whose sale it was. Although ready to blow a gasket,
I calmly explained the obvious…I had done all the work
helping my mother and the sale was rightfully mine.

Jaws dropped in unison.

The transaction was completed forthwith and we were
on our way.  (I never received my commission check.)

Fast Forward to 2016

A trip to a big box retailer is easily a half-marathon event
that requires navigating an arena-sized facility where
unsuspecting customers can spend the rest of their lives
unless they leave a trail of bread crumbs behind them.

And don’t count on those employees decked out in matching headsets to acknowledge your existence.

The best I can determine, they only communicate with each other… or maybe Mars.

Meanwhile, brick and mortar stores wonder why more and more people choose to shop online.

It’s quite simple.

We prefer to be ignored in the comfort of our own homes.

Daily Prompt – Connected

 

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It was 1966.
I was a freshman in college.
He was a friend of a friend,
a recent graduate with a
degree in accounting,
heading to Vietnam as part
of an Army artillery battalion.

I toted my books from class to class
day after day.
He put his ledgers aside
manning machine guns,
mortars and howitzers.

I retired to the comfort of an
air conditioned dorm room.
He sweat buckets in the jungle 24/7.

I bemoaned dorm food.
He ate C rations.

I penned letters on crisp stationary.
He scribbled on scraps of paper
in pencil, as pens were rendered
useless by unrelenting heat and humidity.

I fell into a safe, cozy bed at night.
He wondered if he would see the morning.

I was immature and self-absorbed.
He exemplified dedication, service and sacrifice.

I was his link to normalcy and home.
He was a glimpse into the chaos of war.

I went on to graduate school.
He resumed civilian life in Iowa.

A call came years later, just to say hello.
Pen pals still connected.

A Nerd Before His Time

Scan0167Kyle was his name.
His face framed by oversized glasses held together with tape.
A shock of unruly brown hair standing in perpetual salute.
Rumpled shirt and trousers with zero nod to peer fashion trends.
The guy who set the curve in every Honors class at Kirkwood High School.

Walking unabashed into class with his signature brown bag.
No, not a briefcase or backpack….but a tattered grocery sack without handles.

Toting his books and other necessities from room to room.  A practical solution to minimizing trips to his locker.

The fact that social media didn’t exist in the 1960’s was a stroke of pure luck for Kyle.       Mercifully, his ribbing was largely confined to school hours.

Given that his wit was every bit as sharp as his intellect, he could more than hold his own when bantering with academic types.
And, when Kyle put those less cerebral in their place, his retorts typically flew right over their heads.

I don’t know what became of him, but I like to envision Kyle as a neurosurgeon…suited up in ill-fitting scrubs…striding confidently into the O.R….carrying his surgical instruments in his trusty brown bag.

Hey, We’re In Here!

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Fern Garrison had a green thumb.
Even her name was botanical.

A row of colorful African violets
lined the window sill in her classroom
at North Kirkwood Junior High.

She loved to putter in the courtyard
adjacent to her room when she had
a few minutes to spare.

On one occasion, Fern was so immersed
digging away, she failed to notice the
bell had rung and class had started.

Being typical eighth graders, we had no
compunction to inform her of the situation.
Instead, we enjoyed a forty-five minute
free-for-all.

Perhaps Fern was as bored with algebra
as we were.

Where Were You November 22, 1963?

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It was exactly one week before my fifteenth birthday.
The day began in an unremarkable way.

It was off to school at Kirkwood High, where I was a sophomore.
The daily grind was underway, shuffling from class to class.
Geometry was a split period, with lunch thrown in the middle.
We had just returned from the cafeteria when the news broke.

President John F. Kennedy, making a campaign stop in Dallas,
had been shot at 12:30 p.m. as his motorcade entered Dealey Plaza.
Details were sketchy at first, with confusion escalating rapidly.
School was dismissed early. Everyone headed home to the surreal
news that JFK, shot multiple times, was pronounced dead at 1 p.m.

From that moment forward, until JFK was laid to rest at Arlington
National Cemetery on November 25th, the whole country was glued
to their television screens.

The images of the motorcade, JFK’s head thrusting backward from
the impact of the bullets, his body slumping toward Jacqueline,
her mad scramble to crawl out of the back seat and across the trunk
of the car, were seared into our collective memory, much like the
collapse of the Twin Towers on 9-11.

On November 24th, Lee Harvey Oswald, the prime suspect, was
scheduled to be transferred from police headquarters to the county jail.
He was shot at point blank range on live TV by Jack Ruby, a local
nightclub owner. The ineptness of law enforcement was like a Dragnet
episode turned Twilight Zone.

Did Oswald act alone? Was Russia behind it? Was our own government
somehow involved? Like a dog with a bone, conspiracy theorists continue
to gnaw away, decades after the fact.

The one thing I know with certainty is that when John F. Kennedy
was assassinated November 22, 1963, the innocence of my generation
died with him.

I recall nothing of celebrating my fifteenth birthday.  I remember
almost every detail about JFK’s last day…as it should be.

The Queen Of Grammar

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Sixth grade was pivotal…
the year to lay critical groundwork
to assure a successful transition
from elementary school
to junior high and beyond.

I was in good hands
with Mrs. Corrigan,
whom I consider to be
the most capable
of my teachers at Tillman.

She was well versed in everything
from math and science
to art and music.

Most relevant in my case
was her mastery of
and passion for
the English language.

Mrs. Corrigan meticulously
addressed every aspect of
English grammar.

We spent endless hours
diagramming sentences
on the blackboard, starting
with simple subject/verb
combinations and working
our way up to compound/complex
configurations.

I filled my brain to the brim,
learning little if anything
of consequence
about grammar
beyond her class.

Hats off to Mrs. Corrigan!