Sunday, April 4, 2021

 

Home at Last

"There's Grandma!"

"Hi! How are all of you?" She said with her arms outstretched ready to give a hug to her grandkids.

"Tired."

"Fine."

It was evening and we were all ready for rest form the confined quarters of the station wagon. We all headed inside and plopped down wherever we could get a seat. The house was nice and cool in the kitchen and living rooms. Funny thing. The old house was actually a reflection of the are inwhich we lived. The back of the house was constructed of adobe. The front half of the house was added later by some of our predecessors,and was frame construction. The front room was where the piano and a couple of couches were. I went in there and noticed the photographs on the piano. There was even a photograph of me. It wasn't much of a photograph. I never had a senior picture taken in high school, and so the photograph on the piano was one my sister took in silhouette. I was a little embarrassed.

Soon we had the family portraits on the floor and we were gathered around looking at the photographs of the family. "There is Grandpa Dunn on his 97th birthday" my mother stated, and down through he albums we went.

Grandpa Dunn had 12 children, and most of them had several children, who had several children, and I was a child of the fourth generation. I think he has over three hundred children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren alive today.

Grandpa Dunn was the only grandparent I remember well enough to recognize in a photograph. All my other grandparents died before I was born, or soon thereafter. 

"Look!" Here are you and Eddie when we made you two fight until you couldn't fight any more. Do you remember when you two were fighting and couldn't get along so LaRue and I made you fight until you were too tired to fight?" My mother asked me. That sure made me remember the time. Eddie was a few months older than me. He was also quite a lot larger than me. His nickname was Tuba. He earned that just after he moved to town with his mother, my Aunt LaRue. His dad was serving in Vietnam at the time. Eddie decided he was going to play in the band, and he decided he was going to play the tuba. The children in school felt obligated to pick on the new kid and decided to call him Tuba. The name stuck. The name was indicative of his relative size and demeanor. I don't know why it was that Eddie and I couldn't play in the same place without him inciting a fight with me (anyway, that is the way I remember it.) I think it was because he wanted to be in control, and Iwouldn't accept him as a leader. Whatever the cause, we would have little fights where he would try to get me to do things his way, and I would rebel and fight with him. I would usually finish on the bottom. 

He could not transcend my independence. It was on a day when both of our mothers were together and we were outside fighting. Our mothers conspired against us and decided we must fight it out of our systems. Every time I would get to the point where Eddie had given up on fighting with me, his mother would threaten him with a willow whip if he didn't keep fighting. I never had the upper hand, so my mother never had to intervene. It seemed useless. I was doomed to be dominated by Tuba. I laid down and gave up. He was frightened and started yelling, "I killed him! I killed him!" He then began to get up, thinking he had done something terrible. I wasn't anything buttired.

There it was. My opportunity to get the best of Tuba. He was not attentive to what I was doing, so for the first time in my life I hit him. Until then we had on wrestled; you, try to squeeze each other and roll in the dirt. He was so surprised that I really hit him that he went running to his mother crying. Whenever I see my next older brother Kent, he sill reminds me how funny it was to see Eddie crying over the advantage I had won. Eddie and I are now friends. I suppose I never was his enemy.

On through the photo albums we went. "There're Larry Dean, Bobby, Danny, Jeff and Connie." I stated. More memories rushed through my mind. There was that summer Larry Dean, Danny and I were always into something. It was getting late and the kids were getting cranky, so it was time to get ready for bed. We slept where we could. 

We decided to go for a little drive the next morning around town before the festivities began. "Time to get up!" Let's get rolling before everyone isoutside." I was anxious to see what had changed in town. Cold cereal and toast for breakfast, and off we go. Just at the edge of town the Farms and seemed to expand outward. The dusty old roads billow up a cloud of fine powdery dust behind us as we drive out of town to the south. Off to the left is one of the major canals. The cottonwood trees tower above the other side of thecanal in front of the fences. Weeds were green and tall on the banksof the canal, and the grass was growing down into the bottom. Cobbles lining the bottom of the ditch were just visible in the low water. South we go to the Manassa River. The Manassa River is just a dry branch of the Conejos River that holds water only in the spring and early summer during high water. It is just a half mile south of town. It is very conveniently located for short summer excursions by young boys looking for some fun.  On the other side of the road were the new gravel pits. The old pits were behind the M Mountain. The country road maintenance crews excavated gravel from the pits for the repair of the country gravel roads. The whole area around the river is constituted of gravel, and during the season of high water the gravel pits would fill with wateralmost up to ground level.

Farms border the town in all directions. During the spring and summer the green vegetation is a beautiful sight in the otherwise arid and desolate area. The alfaaaa, grass, wheat, and barley were all tall and beginning to turn amber. Most of the farmland is dedicated to raising feeds for the livestock. Some ranchers for their livestock of cattle and horses. The fields are fenced with barbed wire and cedar posts, and are usually skirted by the deep ditches sand country gravel roads. The weeds and rocks in the ditches are common sight. The tumbleweed and sage brush are the natural vegetation. Some cacti grow well too. If it weren't for the irrigation canals,antelope, coyotes, and jack rabbits.

"Shall I tell you some things I used to do as a boy?" I asked therest of the family.

"Sure dad," was the reply.

Over there is where the old slaughterhouse was. It hasn't been used for several years, but you can still see where the foundation still protrudes up from the ground surface. Well I suppose I can tell you about the time Larry Dean, Danny, and I were walking out to play in the Manassa River. We got as far as here to the canal and we wanted to see those corrals behind the slaughterhouse. Over the bridge that traversed the canal and past the old cottonwood trees we went. The wooden buildings attached to the corals were used for killing the cattle to be shipped over to the butcher shop downtown. We knew what the buildings were because we were told what the were used for by our older brothers and sisters. They tried to use graphic descriptions of what was done in the slaughterhouse to scare us. It work a little. The peaked our curiosity and we had to investigate.

The old corrals were made of pine posts twice as tall as we were. The boards nailed to the posts by spikes were worn and rounded inside the corral. The tops of the boards were worn by boots stepping up on their edges as the workers climbed the fence. The corral narrowed down to a place just wide enough for cattle to pass single file into the killing house.

Somebody left the doors unlocked to the killing house. We looked around and didn't see a soul anywhere. We decided to go inside and investigate. We had the woollies, the heebie jeebies. An old owl hooted an we almost turned around and ran, but then we realized what the noise was. Into the building we went. It was a little dark inside the killing house. The windows were shuttered, and the other doors were padlocked shut. Vertical light beams penetrated into the darkness between the boards of outside walls and the shutters. The streaks of dust floating in the air raised by our entrance could be seen floating into the building. 

We cautiously went inside. It was difficult at first to see what was inside, but soon our vision adjusted to the dim light. Stains on the concrete floor inside incited thoughts of what must have transpired. The walls were covered with leather straps, metal instruments, and all sorts of ropes and pulleys. We speculated on the purposes for all the things we saw. I could imagine that the cattle filed into the building under the influence of an electric cattle prod. As a cow would enter into the building, a person would discharge a bullet into the head of the ignorant victim. Its legs would immediately falter and drop the carcass to the concrete floor. Somebody would then hook a block and tackle to the hind legs and hoist the lifeless body into the air. A swift knife would then sever the jugular vein in the neck to remove the blood into a receptacle moved underneath the head. Several skilled men bearing sharp knives then begin the task of removing the entrails, the hide, the head, the feet, and the tail. All these items are saved for use in some manner. The carcass was then transported to the adjacent room for short term storage and curing.

We investigated more. The table on the other side of the room had some boards attached to the side, and knives were inserted into the space between the board and the table. The top of the table was scared and uneven. We took some knives form the to investigate them more intimately. We were impressed by the diversity of shapes the of the knives. Shapes varied from long thing and straight to curved and short, including meat cleavers. It wasn't long before we discovered another cabinet in the corner of the building. About ten paces across the floor and our new investigation began.

"Wow! Look at all these guns!"

We speculated they were the guns used to kill the cattle. We were impressed by the rifles standing in the old wooden cabinet. The cabinet was just as rustic as the building. The doors were attached with rusty old squeaky hinges on the outside of the cabinet. Inside, all lined in a row, were several rifles. Each looked like it was older than anything we had ever known. The stalks were brown and soiled; and the metallic sections of the rifles were shiny where hand holds polished the surface, but rusty elsewhere. The bold action looked worn.

We thought we had to see if the guns worked. There was even some ammunition. The musty smell inside the building and the dim light were not a very inviting environment, so we decided to go outside to investigate our findings a little closer. We all carried out something. I think we had couple knives and a gun each. 

No soon than we had emerged from the building than we noticed someone coming down the short road. It was the guy from the butcher shop. We were on his property now, and we knew we were in trouble. We didn't have time to run back in and put things back, so we decided to hide them outside the building and leave. 

We were scared.

We slipped between the boards on the corral fence and through the weeds along the buildings. Nobody had seen us yet. We thought we were away free. We slipped through the barbed wire fence and down the canal bank into the canal. Since it was later in the summer the canal was dry. We traveled down the canal for about an eighth of a mile; under a bridge and through a headgate. We thought we were free.

WRONG!

Mister Sowards had noticed that things were out of place and we was looking for the culprits. He saw us climb out of the canal, and came to confront us. We were guilty, and we all knew it. He gave us a ride home and had a long talk with our parents. I don't remember what the exact punishment was for our first little escapade. I believe it was both corporal punishment and grounding. The direct consequences of corporal punishment did not have as much impact on my judgement in future events as my parents would have liked.

As we drove on down the road we crossed the new bridge over the Manassa River. I had just noticed the old iron bridge was gone. I had to tell everyone the adventures of the old bridge. The iron bridge was a place of wonder for your boys. The riveted truss work on both sides of the bridge deck were wide enough to walk on. The heavy rivets protruded from the rust colored iron on the surface. The lattice work of the members made perfect hand holds for a close investigation of the river below. The deck of the bridge was just wide enough for two cars to pass at the same time if both drivers exercised care. The ends of the truss panels had a slope of about two feet horizontal to a vertical foot. Just right for scaling with tennis shoes.

The rusty surface of the metal and the rivets worked just right as a ramp. Thirteen steps and you could be at the top of the bridge. The center sections of the bridge trusses were almost flat on top. Sloping gently upwards toward the center, the truss panels met at the center of the bridge. It was fun to sit on top of the truss work and marvel at the sights below and all around our high perch.

The pools under the bridge dug by the turbulent high water of spring runoff were just deep enough to keep crawdads healthy long enough to survive the season and bury themselves in the mud for the next year. The poor old crawdads with their beady little eyes and feelers searching and claws snapping were at the mercy of any young boy who was cunning enough to slip a stick into a pincher. Those sure are stupid animals. All you have to do is place the stick in the right place, and snap; he catches himself. He won't let go. But if you spook him he's gone in a zip. The big flat tail propelled by his muscular midsection stir up a big muddy patch in the water, and he buries himself in the oozy mud. We tried sometimes to keep crawdads in a tub at home, but they don't seem to last but a few days. They seem to lose their zip in a few hours.

I suppose any boy who gets his clothes covered in the sandy mud and moss around the holes will get a scolding back home. We occasionally spent all day down at the river around the bridge. That gave us the opportunity to was the dirt out in the fresher water flowing in the main channel.

The swallow nests under the bridge were nifty to inspect. The were as hard as a rock, and they were stuck to the bottom of the beams. Other birds would build nests in the I-beams under the bridge too.

Sometimes we would go hand over hand and hang by our legs and one arm while we inspected a nest. It was neat to see the spotted eggs and the baby chicks. We knew they would not last if we bothered them.

Whenever we had enough water to wrinkle our skin we would trek off up the road to the gravel pits. Our clothes would be soaked with the water from the river, and our canvas shoes would squirt water out the rivet holes in the side with every step. A strange trail down the road behind us showed others the way we went. A continuous line of dripping water with a little puddle every couple of feet marked the path we traveled.

It wasn't long out in the sunshine before our denim jeans would be skin tight again and dry everywhere but around our waists and between our legs. 

The area south of the gravel pits was parched and covered in alkali. You know what alkali is, it is that white salty stuff that sits on the ground between the sage brush and tumble weed. The tumbleweed and the cactus plants were scattered and sparse. I can't imagine how it is that this dry ugly old land can grow such pretty crops when it is irrigated. In a bout a mile we would come to a house along the road. Pretty fields around the house were used for pasture.

The horses would come running to investigate who was coming to see them. Horses know humans deliver food. About a mile and a half south of town in the M Mountain. This was a place of awe for me when I was young. I didn't venture up to the maintains very often. But it was pretty simple to walk out to the M. 

The M, as everybody in Manassa Called it, was an old volcanic plug which was worn down to only about a 500 foot rise from the base. It isn't a mountain, but just a hill. We still call it a mountain. The rocky steep slope up the front of the mountain was a challenge for four wheel drive vehicles. I never knew of one to make it up the front face. The tracks up the face followed the straight line from the county road that came to the M from Manassa.

The front surface of the M was not made to climb. The facade of flat black volcanic stones and dusty soil don't provide a good tractions surface. The cactus and brush on the M give the hill a pale green appearance from afar, but up close the black rocks and gray dust are the most prevalent feature. The four wheel drive tracks are visible to half way up the front face.

The county road forks at the base of the M. The road at the base of the M goes all the way around the mountain. From the north side of the M mountain you can see the big M whitewashed onto if's face. High school students maintained the M when there was a high school in Manassa. It is still visible, but I don't think anybody whitewashes the big letter now. The M is visible for several miles to the north. You have a difficult time telling what the big letter is up close, but far away you have not doubt what it is. 

The easy way to climb the M is to go up the back side. There is a road up the back. The country road that goes around the M is not well maintained on the north, south, and west sides as it is on the east. Dust raises from the ground with every footstep along the road where it is not well maintained. The dry summer sun dries the soil, and it soon turns to a fine powder. If you have wet feet from the river, and you walk down the road, your shoes cake up with fine dust.

Each step raises just enough dust to settle on top of the shoes and soak up any of the water left in the fabric. White shoes soon become a gray dusty color. Before too long the moisture in your shoes dries and the caked dust begins to flake and fall back to the road. The color of the shoes is never the same white they were before the expedition.

On the trek to the back of the M you have to pass through the gap between the M and its neighbor hill. The road that passes between these hills is gravel surfaced, but forks again. The well maintained road heads east. The dry dusty road continues around the perimeter if the hill. The back side of the M is now visible. Rocks, cactus, brush, and trash are all that is visible. Yes, trash . Sometimes people don't have the decency to use the municipal landfill. Rusty tin cans, bed springs, bottles, and other old appliances litter the little hollow at the back of the hill.

I don't how many times we climbed that old road, but it was very familiar. Gently sloping at the base, and the gradually increasing in grade and switching back a couple of times, the road gets steep enough to challenge four wheel drive vehicles. Where the road gets steeper the rock surface shows signs of rocks sliding under wheel of any vehicle attempting to climb further. If you climb on foot it is probably time to sit and take a rest to prepare for the rest of the climb. After a short rest ,you get up and continue to the peak of the hill. The yucca plants and the prickly pear grow best at the top of the hill. Another 200 feet vertical climb to the top of the hill. Tire tracks can still be seen on the hillside, but the distinguishable ruts from the road have disappeared. The rocks are larger at the top of the hill. A grown man would have difficulty moving some of the angular black stones on the surface. Be careful not to step on the cactus. The prickly pear cacti were prevalent. A poorly placed foot or fall could result in a painful violation of your skin. Yucca can easily draw blood too if you bump it.

Sweat begins to wet your forehead and shirt. The warm sun is more evident at the top of the hill. The rocks absorb the heat and radiate it back in your face. The sun is usually very strong in Manassa. Cloud cover doesn't last long. Forget about getting any rain.

Down the face of the M the big letter. Another 200 foot descent. Where the slope is the steepest on the face, the whitewashed rocks are at your feet. It must have taken years to carry lime whitewash down the slope to leave such a thick layer of white coating. Huge efforts must have been made to arrange the large rocks in the right places. One hundred feet high and fifty feet wide, The letter is massive up close.

Off to the west is the Old Manassa Cemetery. I have many relatives buried there. I never knew any of them. They died before I was here. All the deceased relatives I knew were buried in the New Manassa Cemetery. The new cemetery is on the other end of the M. We had to go through the old cemetery to try to scare each other with silly tales and superstitions. The big padlock on the gate did not stop us from entering. We would simply lift one barbed wire and push down the one below, and in we would slide between the wires of the fence. Dusty roads separating the rows of graves outlined the parallel block of grassy plots. Occasionally an epitaph would describe something about the person residing below. Nobody we ever knew. Veterans of wars, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera were described on the monuments by the graves. The graves that were well marked did not work too well to use in the stories we conjured, but the graves marked with steel crosses and a faded piece of paper made the perfect seed for a wild scary tale. In the corner on the same side of the gate, but at the other end of the road is a reservoir used to store water for irrigation. Concrete walls and a bottom sitting on the ground comprise a ten foot by twenty foot reservoir. A concrete ladder secured to the end of the open tank allowed for inspection and cleaning.

When the tank was filled with water we could easily get into the water in the tank, but if the level were too low, we would have to stay away. We never had enough nerve to swim in the tank, but we did get in a few times. The goading of the eerie stories kept us on the move. Across the road onto private property, was another small private cemetery -- the Sowards family plots. But behind the small cemetery was the place we called the Devil's Kitchen. That name must have been chosen by someone who had different sentiments that we did. The Devil's Kitchen is very pretty and tranquil.

The Manassa River diverts from the Conejos River just a short distance upstream from here. The Manassa River is flanked on both sides by handsome willow trees and plush green grass. Just 200 yards away is the Devil's Kitchen. A volcanic structure of black rock, which fractured at regular right angles, makes the kitchen. One hundred and fifty feet below the green meadow, straight down. A block of rock missing from the edge of the cliff works perfectly for a seat.

Prickly pear cactus, yucca, and sage are prevalent plants on the top of the Devil's Kitchen. The vegetation is sparse because of the lack of water and soil. I have been told the rattlesnakes are there too, but I never saw any.

Manassa exists in an area that was settled by Mexicans back in the era of the Mexican land grants, and I suppose they bear a portion of American Indian blood. The evidences of the Hispanic influence are seen in the architecture. The surrounding towns within a ten mile radius were familiar from going there with my dad in his gasoline delivery truck. I remember the courthouse and old church house in Conejos. The old buildings in the valley impressed me. Some of the oldest buildings in the Western United States are in the San Luis Valley. The people that originally settled the San Luis Valley were Catholic, and so are their descendants. About half the population of Manassa is comprised of the descendents of the original settlers. The original settlers organized communities in the 1600's.

Another couple blocks down the road we could see the first row of frame houses. These houses are of much later construction. More modern materials were used in the houses. The roofs were covered in asphalt shingles. The siding on the houses was composite shingles or aluminum, and the trim and finish limber on the houses came from, modern lumber mills. These homes stand as evidence to the second collection of people who moved to Manassa.

In the late 1800's a group of people moved into the San Luis Valley from the southern states. Some Mormons in the South were persecuted by those who opposed the Mormon religion. Those families decided to leave the area and move West. The San Luis Valley was chosen as the place for their new home. Several communities were created in the valley. Eastdale, Sanford, Bountiful, Richfield, Ephraim, and Manassa were some towns founded by the Mormon settlers. Of those, only Manassa has a continuing population of mor than a hundred. Severe hardships awaited the Mormon settlers when they arrived in the San Luis Valley. The winter was setting in and not many supplies were available. The country id very arid, and is dependent on irrigation for any crops. Even in a wet year, the area only gets about 10 inches of precipitation, including snow in the winter. If it weren't for the Hispanics in the area, the Mormons would not have fared as well as they did. The difference in religion and cultural life-styles still set up barriers between the two groups of residents.

"Here we are!" I exclaimed. "Here is Manassa." The straight regularly arranged streets were just as I had remembered. Manassa is composed of one mile square, and is divided into 8 blocks in each direction. The streets were all gravel except the state highway that passed through the middle of town in the east-west direction. The state highway was the only asphalt surface in town when I was in grade school.

The irrigation system in town was laid out just as regular and straight as the street. Each street that was built in a north-south direction was paralleled by a marrow irrigation ditch. The children in the area used the ditches for entertainment too. Wading and catching animals in the ditches were major pastimes for the younger inhabitants. The ditches were fed by the rivers passing through the area. Some ditches were six feet deep and 10 feet wide and gradually fed smaller and smaller ditches, until the two feet by two feet ditches in town were supplied with water. The water was diverted form the Conejos River.

We were halfway into town when it dawned on me I was daydreaming again. There it was, the old place of business, my father's old service station. I spent a lit of time there. I pumped allot of gasoline and fixed thousands of flat tires. My mother traded it just after he died. It was time to turn the corner and go to mom's house. 

"Here's grandma's house!" We turned left into the yard across the bridge and parked by the house.

"Hey Guys! We better get back to town if we are going to make it in time for the parade."

The layer of dust on the back window of the station wagon was beginning to show cracks and slide down the glass. The car appeared to be a totally different color now. It looked more of a gray than maroon. Soon we arrived at main street back in town. The state highway is main street in town, an that is where the parade takes place every year.

We parked the car in front of the old service station. With the tailgate facing the road we lowered the glass and dusted some of the chalky dust from the back and lowered the tailgate to use it as a seat. The streets were lined with cars and chairs. People did not have to come too early to get a good view. The celebration is not as big as it was several years ago.

BOOM! The cannon shot marked the beginning of the festivities for the celebration. Soon the horses and the floats would begin their two mile round trip through the center of town. The rodeo clowns and the horses would always travel together, with the clowns following the horses with their wheel borrows and shovels. Why do the people on the parade committee put the marching bands behind the horses?

The carnival closes temporarily for the parade. The carnival is erected in the lot adjacent to the Mormon church house. That is where the softball diamond was build. The rides and booths always seem the same year after year. Soon we can see the Conejos Rides and the 4H Club. The horses and outfits are always beautiful. Some horses prance in grand fashion, lifting their knees high and traveling straight down the road with their bodies turned toward the crowds. Other horses are definitely docile pets who plod along with the young rider holding onto the saddle horn for security. The commercial entries and the political entries can be amusing, bur are usually drab and boring. Vintage automobiles or agriculture implements and tractors are usually used for this purpose. Beautiful floats finally appear. Girls dressed in gorgeous gowns ride on the Pioneer Days Float. Miss Stampede and Miss Conejos County usually come with their respective courts on horseback. A couple of small marching bands, some more floats, and the parade was gone.

It used to be a challenge for our family to create a new float each year for the parade. The cost involved, the work, and the fresh ideas all added to the challenge. Each small business in town was required to make an entry into the parade or pay a fine. Entering a float was a good advertisement, but the fine added a little incentive too.  Most of the small businesses that were around when I was growing up are gone. None of them are owned by the same people. More entries come from other communities now. 

My hometown of Manassa seems to be going through a slow death. Only one grocery store, a service station, and a cafe still survive. Years ago the town was a center for all the local trade. Three service stations, a movie house, three grocery stores, a hardware store, and a bank were thriving businesses when I was a child. Most of the buildings from old businesses are boarded up or gone now.

"Let's take a walk down to the park," I said. Down the road to the park we went. Some of my friends from when I lived here were visiting also. We chatted a while and sat at the benches by the picnic tables. This was where the old pond and the spooky house were. Reminiscing about the things that had changed occupied us for about an hour.

Right there on the corner is where that old victorian house was. Most of the windows were broken, and the doors were almost always ajar. We didn't know whose house it was, but we did think we were obligated to understand what went on inside the house. The old weeping willow trees outside shaded the windows and gave the house an eerie look. Pointed gables on the roof with broken window glass and gray shake shingles blended in with the gray walls. If you could see through the tangle of ivy on the walls you would see that the walls had not been painted for years.  The old picket fence around the front of the house was weathered and the white paint was chipped and scaling from most of the pickets. Old overgrown wild roses woven through the fence and the ungroomed appearance of the yard showed the lack of care for the property. Cracked and heaving, the sidewalk passed through the gap where the gate once hung. The gate lay broken and twisted next to the sidewalk. The step at the end of the sidewalk led up to the front door. What a beautiful door it must have been years ago before the beveled glass was broken from some of the openings, and the finish had bleached and cracked.

Right over there on the corner of the lot is where we saw a porcupine we tormented. We could see where he had been nibbling on the bark of the trees in the yard. The exposed white pulpy wood underneath the missing protective covering contrasted highly with the brown bark. His tiny head leading his body was really the only distinguishable feature of his whole body. The rest of him looked like a tangle of wobbling darts undulating with his every step. He swatted his tail at us a couple times, and scared us enough for us to want to let him go about his business.

The doors in front and back were both gaping open. They hadn't been closed for quite some time. The cracked linoleum, which was curled up at the cracks, could be seen through the open door. A path where people had walked across the floor was marked by the broken flooring. The graying surface of the floor covering was black where the cracks opened wide in the broken spots. If you happened to step on the curled linoleum you could hear it crack and break. In some places the chipped and fragmented flooring was shifted to expose the floor planking underneath.

Often we ventured into the old house to see how much we could scare ourselves. Just inside the front door the staircase was visible. The structural integrity of the old house was still intact. The dust, dirt, grime, and trash made the old house even that much more adventuresome. Into the old house we would go single file, each pushing on the one in front. The first place to go was up the narrow staircase. The worn steps and the landing half way up were made of soft wood. The worn spots clearly marked the path traveled up to the upper level. Up the marked path we would travel. The narrow stairs were matched by the skinny door at the top of the staircase.

The squeaky door would announce our entry. Bare wooden floors upstairs were coated with a thick layer of accumulated dust. There wasn't really anything in the rooms of the old house of interest, but the view out the broken dirty windows was exciting for us. The dormer casement windows still went up and down without too much effort. Out onto the roof of the house we would go through the dormer window. Steep pitch on the roof required caution while we walked around on the old roof. We never ventured past the reach of the branches on the trees. Hunched over and deliberated in our steps, we held onto the foliage and tree branches for security. A short excursion and back inside we would go. The wallpaper pattern was still visible, but the wrinkles and cracks indicated the poor condition of the covering. Over in the corner was the door we sought. It led into the attic. The narrow stairs allowed only single file movement into the attic. 

Old skis, boxes, deteriorated leather shoes, old light fixtures, and exposed wiring were all visible from the entrance to the dark space at the top of the stairs. The exposed rafters, roof planking and visible shingles added to the rustic appearance of the overhead view. Bats hung from the rafters. The bats liked it in the old house's attic. The unfinished floor and other items in the attic were covered in bat guano. That didn't bother us nearly as much as the flighting bats. We thought we were having fun. I suppose you are having fun only if you think you are. It is a wonder we were never hurt in that old house. Down the stairs we would run because of the concocted thoughts of doom and danger cultivated in our minds. Our hearts would be pounding and we would be short of breath. Out of the antiquated house we would flee through the back door. Out into the yard.

The willow trees in the back of the house were tall and thin. They reached almost all the way to the top of the roof. I suppose the high density of the trees so close to the house is what caused them to grow so tall. They seemed to be reaching up to beat each other to the available sunlight. Past the trees, right in the middle of the block we would come to the old pond. I don't know what caused the pond, but it was stagnant.

In the middle of the summer the old pond would be beaming with life. Small things could be seen in each little cove of the pond. The tall grass would line the edges of the pond. A variety of plants graced the border of the pond. Cattails were the tallest. Wild oats, alfaaaa, wire grass, and some sort of reeds helped to conceal the pond from view. Just at the edge of the water, the mossy bottom of the pond looked solid. The gooey mud under the moss was anything but solid. A foot placed on the moss would soon yield the water muddy and pant legs wet. The exuded sludge was a very thick colloidal suspension. It was even pea green when the moss mixed in. If you were to try and grab some mud in a hand, the gushy slimy black substance would slip between your fingers with a barely noticeable pressure. The ebony colored substance would be evident only in the residual layer left on our skin.

The tadpoles and water spiders would flee from the scene. We even caught a turtle once. Frogs were common in the old pond. There were things growing in the pond we never noticed then. We had the opportunity to look at some of the pond water under a microscope in science class in the faal. The swimming microbes and suspended microscopic particles made the water look almost opaque. It looked clear to the naked eye. We stayed away from the pond after that.

"Dad! Come on!"

"Hey guys. I have to go now lunch is waiting. It sure was nice to see you again. We should get together sometime."

We all headed back to Grandma's house for lunch. On the way home we decided it would be nice to go to the rodeo that afternoon. Lunch didn't last long, a sandwich each and something to drink. The younger children didn't want to go to the rodeo so Grandma arranged for someone to watch them while we went. The boys had never been to the rodeo before then.

We loaded into the car again and headed for the fairgrounds. Past the Catholic Church and the Youth Recreation Center we drove. Another block and we were out of town and headed to the fairgrounds. Eight foot high fences concealed the fairgrounds from visibility from the roadway.

Men standing in the gateway collected the price of admission. We drove through the gate and paid our entry fee. The horse racetrack and the grandstand over there were familiar sights to me. We parked the car just outside the racetrack and migrated toward the grandstand. Up into the stands we went. Soon we were all situated in the old cinder block and wood structure. In the center of the racetrack, the arena circled with pole fencing and corrals was clearly visible. The announcers on the far side of the arena is supported by lodgepole pine posts. That wasn't there several years ago. My memories of the fairground and the surrounding area erupt into a session of recollection and day dreaming.

Down there on the fence is where my buddies and I used to sit when the rodeo was in progress. Nobody is allowed down on the fences anymore. That reminds me of when Tommy Crawford and I were sitting down there on the fence between the corrals and the main arena Tommy and I crossed the track and headed around the outside of the arena, through parked stock trailers, and through one of the corrals to the white wooden fence. We sat there during the rodeo because of the improved view.

The opening ceremony, steer dogging, calf roping, and the beginning of the bareback bronco riding all proceeded with no unexpected  incident. Then it happened. That old bronco and his steed crashed through the fence and knocked me down to the ground. I got up and dusted the gray soil from my clothes and called to Tommy. He lay there on the ground with his back on the grassy pasture. The fence was also laying on the ground underneath his legs. His left arm looked like a pretzel. He was not crying. My little buddy was doing well. It wasn't long before the ambulance drove around to the back of the corral and the paramedics lugged him over to the ambulance. The lights and siren went on, and away they drove to the hospital. I felt terrible.

That was the last time anybody was allowed to sit on the fence during a rodeo event. I felt like I was responsible for the tragedy. I think I still carry some of the burden for his misfortune. It was quite a while before I saw Tommy again. He stayed in the hospital for what seemed like weeks. I don't remember just how long he was in the hospital, but I did miss him. His arm was fractured in several places and required a stainless steel pin in three of the bones. I didn't watch the bull riding that day. I don't remember where I went, but that day was very traumatic.

Over there on the far side of the race track is where Uncle Edgar kept his horses. He often let us ride them. Patches was the horse I liked to ride the most. He was an old painted pony that was a rodeo horse before Edgar bought him. He wasn't mean but ornery. He was a saddle bronco for his previous owner. A tall old gray horse, and a shetland pony were his too.

The tack shed was still standing at the edge of the pasture. The black tar paper roof could be seen from the grandstand where we were sitting. That is where the saddles, blankets, ropes, and bridles were kept.

The most difficult thing about riding the horses was getting them to submit to being caught. If we went in a group of three or more we could usually persuade the horses into a corner of the pasture where we could catch them. If we could get one horse the others would usually surrender. A bridle rein around the neck would stop them most of the time. The bridle had to be the first thing placed on the horse. The mouthpiece almost had to be forced into the mouth, and the rest was a breeze. The blanket and saddle were optional, but we usually used them. If we put the saddles on the horses, we had to put a blanket under the saddle to protect the horses back. Heaving the saddle onto the back of the old gray was a big job for us. The straps and things on the saddle had to clear the horses back and droop down on the other side.

When the saddle was situated on the back of the horse the girthcinch had to be fastened. This was the most critical item in placing the saddle on the horse. If the cinch were left too loose, the saddle would roll from side to side or rotate around to the bottom of the horses belly. A knee in the horse's ribs would usually make it exhale enough to allow the cinch to be tightened. The tricky old plugs would hold their breath to resist the cinch.

Up on the horses we would climb, and away we would go. We would usually ride back to town on the horses and ride around on the dirt roads. We would gallop occasionally, but mostly we rode at a walking speed in single file. 

Oh, how I hated to trot. You know that transition between a smooth walk and a gliding gallop. I could feel all my internal organs crashing against each other and my spine would take most of the shock. My legs would clamp down on the side of the horse and my hands would grasp tightly to the saddle horn trying to reduce the agony and bouncing. I don't think it worked. I think the horses knew just how much we hated it, and they attempted to trot for a longer period than was necessary for transition in cadence. 

There we were one day galloping the horses down the road when the girth cinch gave way enough for the saddle to slip to the side. I hung onto the saddle for a ways tilted at an angle to the back of Patches. I tipped more. Oooooh! The saddle was sideways on the horse. I finally fell to the ground and rolled in the dirt and weeds.

The saddle was now all the way under his belly. Patches decided to stop and wait. I rose from the ground, dusted the gray dust from my clothes, picked the weeds from my hair and headed for Patches. I didn't hurt anything but my pride. I bent down and retrieved the reins from the ground and walked over to the rail fence on the other side of the sidewalk. After tying the reins to the fence, I began to remove the saddle. While stretching across the top of the horse to reach the buckle on the cinch strap, Patches decided he wanted to shift his weight. His left front hoof ended on my left foot. I believe he did it deliberately. He moved after I gave him a hard swift punch with my fist to his ribs.

Patches was ornery, but not as ornery as the little white shetland pony. That little pony was just the right size for us to ride, but we all tried to get another horse before him. The tall gray horse was not desired because he was so tall from the ground. We had trouble getting him saddled and climbing up to the mount. The stirrups were at chest level when we stood at his side. But if given the choice of riding the shetland or not riding, the shetland would be chosen. That barbed wire and cedar post fence out there is where that cursed pony and I had our worst confrontation. I drew the shetland as a ride. After we were all mounted and ready to go, the shetland decided he did not want to leave the pasture.

The pasture was divided into two fenced areas. The area closest to the road is where the tack shed and the gate out to the highway were located. The other area of the pasture was about the same size, but was surrounded on all sides by barbed wire. Except where the opening through the fence allowed the horses into the back pasture, the barbed wire fence kept the horses contained. Through the opening in the fence the shetland bolted, with me on his back. The bridle did not seem to be doing any good. I wasn't big enough to let him know what we was doing was not acceptable. We ran straight for the back fence and made a sharp left turn. I hung on tenaciously. He headed straight for the barbed wire fence next to the rodeo grounds. I thought we were going to jump the fence. Noooo! He slammed on the brakes and I went over the front of the horse right into the barbed wire. You could see the marks where his hooves slid in the soft grass and exposed the soil underneath. I didn't even get a scratch from the fence. I stood up and tried to regain my composure. No sooner had I stood up than that sinister pony turned with his hind legs facing me. I was trapped between him and the fence. No escape readily available. Those tiny hooves began kicking at me. The first couple kicks missed me, but the third try he kicked me with a glancing blow to the top of the head. He was satisfied that I had enough.

By then the other kids were where our clash took place. The shetland decided to succumb to detentions. The pony got his way that day. We took him back to the tack shed and removed the gear. By then the blood from the gash in the top of my head had run down into my eyes and began to congeal. The pony got a good beating from me for that. He didn't ever try to rebel again.

Looking down at the race track, I thought of the time that we three boys decided to see what was going on at the fairgrounds before the celebration began. Some people in the area kept their race horses in the stables behind the grandstand a couple weeks before the horse races. That gave them the opportunity to familiarize the horses to the track and train them.

Danny was six, Larry Dean and I were eight. We didn't know about race horses and their temperament. We assumed they were just horses like we knew. We decided to be their friends. We petted them, watered them, and even fed them. The big sack of oats in the empty stall looked like just the stuff we needed to feed our new found friends. We poured a couple gallons of oats in each of the two stalls where the horses were. They ate ravenously. They finished the oats in short order.  Those poor horses looked so bored locked up in their stalls in the stable. We decided to give one a little time out and around walking. They already had halters provided and installed. We only had to open the gate and lead him out of the stall. Danny was the smallest, so we put Danny on the horses back. Just over there were the starting gates. We decided to see how they worked. In from the back side we went. The horse seemed like a big pet. Then we opened the front of the starting gates and let the horse onto the open race track. Danny was having a lot of fun. The gate opened and in came a pickup truck. We knew we weren't supposed to have someone else's horse out, so we tied him up behind the fence and took off across the back side of the rodeo arena. We went about a mile across the field and then up onto the highway. We were met by Dave McGinnis. He owned the horses. Boy did I get a belt lashing from my dad! We didn't know that we would cause the horses to get compacted. The oats swell when mixed with water and stop up the horses intestinal tract. We were also told that the horse was a very wired animal apt to erupt into a full gallop at a subtle cue. I guess we just didn't envision the consequences of that outing. The horses were not permanently harmed.

The rodeo didn't seem to last long. My daydreaming occupied most of the time instead of the rodeo events. Down the grandstand bleachers and to the car we headed among the throng of people leaving.

We drove out the exit from the fairgrounds and headed away from town to do some more sight seeing. "Those cattails in the borrow ditch are like the ones we harvested when I was your age. We would walk out here from town, about a mile and a half, and harvest the top of the cattails with a knife. The stem on the cattail had to be a couple of feet long to work well as a torch. We would soak the end of the cattail that looks like a weiner in kerosene for a few days, and when we wanted to use them as a torch, we would just light them with a match. If we took care getting only the end and the cylindrical portion of the head soaked in kerosene, the stem would not burn through, and we could use the cattail torch for two or three hours with a few recharges. We would have to recharge the torch with kerosene whenever all the fuel soaked into the fibrous head was consumed. That happened about every half hour. A gallon can worked great for soaking the heads of the torches. Several spares were kept in the gallon can for when a torch expired. A quick swap for a new torch kept all those interested supplied with burning torches. The torches were great for group activities outside after dark. We would use them for lanterns at outdoor gatherings like bonfires, weaner roasts, Halloween, or just for the fun of having a torch on a night walk.

"Do you think you would like to make some torches sometime, boys?"

"That would be neat dad!"

Maybe we will do that sometime. You will have to remind me!"

Just ahead is the Conejos River. Occasionally Larry Dean, Danny, and I would come out to the river. This was about the outer edge of our turf. The cattail stands and the old green iron bridge were familiar sights. I can still see myself in my mind's eye walking down the road with an old inner tube from an automobile tire. The tubes would be used to float down the river. Usually we would put in the river behind the M and float to here. That is about a four mile trip. The irrigation diversion dams, bridges, and weirs were minor barriers to our expeditions. When the barriers arose, we would have to roll off our inner tubes into the water, and walk to the bank, and walk around. Plunging back into the waste high water again to get back on our makeshift rafts, we would jump out of the water backwards onto the edge of the tube. If you did it right you would land on the top of the tube, an float away down the river. Otherwise, the tube would land on your back and your face would be looking at the bottom of the river from inside the water. Always make sure the valve stem is on the underside of the tube. A scratch from the metal end of the fill stem was most uncomfortable. You learn quickly to avoid the stem in your back or legs.

Our arms were used like oars to propel us through the water in still areas and like rudders to stabilize our movement in swifter water. Legs hung over the front edge, and arms hung over the sides. As we worked to keep our feet headed down stream, we worked our arms almost constantly in the swifter waters. The back side of my arms would soon be chapped by the motion of wet skin against the synthetic rubber tube.

Our clothing did not provide much protection against the rasping surface of the inner tube, or the sun. Our canvas shoes and cutoff denim jeans framed our white sensitive skin on our legs. Our backs were protected only by the T-shirts we wore. It wouldn't take too long before the white of our exposed arms and legs would turn pink.

But that never stopped us.

Crossing over the road by the bridge behind the M was always a fun time. By cautiously approaching the wooden railings on the plank bridge, we could look down in the water and see the backs of the trout swimming lazily upstream. The backs of the fish were almost the same color as the bed of the river, but when the sun didn't glare on the surface of the water, the shadows of the fish and the reflected light from their backs made them highly noticeable. One sudden move, or a rock in the water caused the streamlined silhouettes to vanish into the dark shadow of the bridge.

The slow tranquil headwaters of an irrigation headgate deepened into very nice swimming holes. Occasionally we would have to abandon our black rubber tubes for a quick dip in the water. Green eyed horseflies an inch long would soon drive us down the river. The bites from the flies would leave large red bumps. The headgates in the river were dammed with boards across a concrete frame in the river channel. The knap of water rolling over the top of the top board crashed down into the stilling pond below the dam. If the flow were high enough, we would ride over the top board and splash down into the water.  Our arms would be wrapped around the back of the tube to hold ittight if we were upset. The sight of the bubbly water under the surface of the stilling pond was clear and sweet, but I much preferred to have my tube under me.

Normally the waters in the river were just deep enough to stand in up to your belly, but in places where the current was a little swifter the water surface was only mid-thigh depth. The weirs and irrigation headgates broke the natural flow of the water and made very quiet pools that are about five or six feet deep. Just right for young boys to swim. We were not allowed to come down to the river when the spring runoff raised the water levels and swiftened the currents. Vortices and eddy currents would become dangerous to someone our size. We were always excited to see the rapids in the river come. The water level was low enough in the late summer in the rapids to give a good jolt to you either directly in your legs or bottom, or bump the tube. We never had tube get punctured badly enough to require us to walk. We always had to make a repair or two when we returned to town. Some tubes were mosaic patterns of black and red patches applied to puncture holes.

The still waters with pussy willows drooping over the edge of the water and extending almost a third the way across the water surface made for good handholds to steer straight again. The green leafy canopy over the water edges, with the green grass banks and the cottonwood trees made the mood for a euphoric feeling. I can't think of too many things more beautiful than the glassy surface of water next to healthy trees and grasses.

We would climb up out of the water at the green bridge. This bridge is built almost the same as the one that was across the Manassa River, but is twice as large, twice as high, and much cleaner. We  were typically not too daring to play on the trusswork of the bridge because of the traffic on the highway.

Usually when we arrived at the bridge our feet were wrinkled like prunes. We would remove our shoes for a few minutes and place them in the sun while we played in the sandy banks below the bridge -- in the shade. It wouldn't take too long for our shoes and socks to dry well enough for the trek home.

Our trip back home took less time, because we were ready to eat and rest. Grass along the side of the road was nice and cool to walk on compared to the black surface of the asphalt concrete highway. Our clothing dried soon in the dry summer wind. Past the pastures, rodeo grounds, the Catholic Church, and we were home.

As we drove past the Conejos River and the San Antonio River, we turned north off the highway along the San Antonio River. The wildlife refuge there was nice to visit. We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sunny banks of the ponds. Too soon the afternoon was gone and we had to head back to town. 

Grandma was waiting for us at home with supper. Most of the things in the supper meal came from the large vegetable garden by the side of the house. The green beans, carrots, turnips, and corn on the cob were delicious. The smell of the hot steam wafting off the pot invited us to consume a large bowl of the vegetable stew. The fresh cow's milk from the neighbor's cow was also a welcome treat.

We bought milk from the Haslett family. They live just across the back fence. Tim Haslett and I were old buddies. The old barn in the back of their lot was a fun place to explore. We spent many afternoons after school in the barnyard or in the barn.

The barn is like most country barns, with a mansard roof and red paint. The loft door was suspended up in the air with no apparent method of access until the large ridge beam and block and tackle were put to use to loft the hay from the barnyard. Concrete floors and plank milking stalls on the ground floor were a perfect playground for playing games of stealth and surprise. The many entrances to the barn made for easy passage to and from the barnyard. Hay usually lay in the manger and around on the floor inside the barn. Behind the milking stanchions, where the cow's tail ends would be located while they were being milked was a trench in the concrete flooring. That made the task of cleaning the floor less difficult.

Out in the barnyard the cow pies would accumulate. Cleaning the barnyard becomes a necessity from time to time. Manure from the barnyard is an excellent fertilizer for gardens. The manure was free to anyone who wanted to load it. I can remember loading a few pickup loads with the straw reinforced manure. A pitch fork worked well for removing layers of manure form the barnyard floor.

The odor of the barnyard was not as pungent as some may think. By the time the manure was ready to use for fertilizer, the gases trapped in the manure had all dissipated into the air. Maybe it was just the smell had dulled the olfactory organs in my nose.

Feeding the cows from the loft was fascinating task. We climbed up the wooden ladder fixed to the wall, through the wooden trap door opening, and into the loft. The ladder extends 15 or 20 feet from the bottom to the top, with no guards or safety devices. Climbing the ladder extended our legs as far as they could stretch as we scaled from one rung to the next. The boards that made the rungs were made from 1X6 lumber, which were screwed to 2 2X4's suspended from the outside wall. There was ample room for an arm to wrap around each rung as we would make the trip up to the loft.

The loft floor extended to all the walls. Openings in the floor were covered with trap doors. To feed the cows, the trapdoors above the manger would open and you could drop the hay through the hole.

When the cows were being milked, the headstocks would be closed to keep the cows confined in the milking stalls. The person doing the milking could then proceed without so much concern for what the cow would be doing. The cow would usually stand still and eat. There was that time that Earl was milking, and Tim and I threw hay down on Bossy's head while she was eating. She protested by kicking the milk bucket. Earl took a milk bath, and we avoided Earl. He was not pleased. He told us so in different words.

The loft of the barn was wonderful for playing basketball too. Basketball hoops were placed above each of two loft doors at each end of the barn. The floor was smooth enough for basketball when the loft was cleaned in the summer. Hay wasn't needed in the summer when pasture was available.

Tim was more suited for playing basketball than me. He was tall and slender. I was short and stalky. Other games were more appropriate for a more even competition. Our favorite game was throwing cow pies. We only had two rules. No wet cow pies, and no hitting in the face. The rules were valid while you were winning. We considered it very unethical to break both rules simultaneously.

I can still remember the brown tainted water from a heavy rain sitting on the surface of the barnyard. We didn't play after a rain. It sure seemed like good clean fun.

Freddie Espinoza lived in the house over there on the corner. He was the same age as me. We were best buddies when we were preschoolers. We spent our spare time together at each others homes, and around the neighborhood. Freddie told me the Mormon church wasn't true, so I passed the word onto my mother, and informed her I wasn't going to church any more. She told me it was my decision, and that she knew that if I studied and asked Heavenly Father in prayer, that I would know what was right. I ended up being baptized a Mormon too.

Over there across the street is where the Jarvies boys lived, and next door, John Sowards. We did many things together in the neighborhood. Most of the things we did close in the neighborhood did not get me into trouble. I was nice to see everybody back here for a visit.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Are you invisible?

I am amazed at how people think that once they are within the bounds of their car they perceive themselves as invisible to the people around them. 
I have examples of situations where drivers must have thought that they were in private.

One early morning I was driving south on Highway 121 south of Denver and noticed a car in the right lane that was driving erratically.  I pulled alongside the car and noticed the woman driver within changing her clothing.  She had her top off and was trying to put on a pullover shirt.  I was amazed and almost ran off the road.  She noticed me and realized she was not invisible.  Next she commenced with application of her mascara, and finally she sped away to avoid me staring at her.

The next example is not limited to only the car, but many people in public.  I finally understand why people have such big nostrils is because they have such big forefingers.  I am amazed at the level of concentration afforded to extracting that last little bit of gold lodged just beyond the reach of that index finger.  Then success… what shall I do with this little golden wonder?  I could rub it under the side of the seat, or maybe just flick it onto the floor.

Distracted drivers are dangerous.  I was a distracted driver when I was a teenager.  I was gawking at a pedestrian in Alamosa Colorado when the person in front of me stopped at a crosswalk.  I did not notice him and … Boom!, I wrecked my brother’s car.

Distractions are dangerous and may cause deadly damage.  Don’t be distracted as it is detrimental.

As I was driving along I-35 South toward Austin I noticed that the traffic was starting to queue behind a pair of cars driving side by side.  After a long delay I managed to slip through the slow section of traffic.  As I passed the lead car I noticed the driver had a book open and resting on the steering wheel, reading and turning pages as he paced himself with the car in the next lane.  I was rather annoyed, amazed, and anxious that someone would choose to endanger himself and others with such distracted driving habits.

I wonder if automobiles and elevators have a common influence on people and their behavior.  Elevator etiquette does not include wearing a heavy perfume that has coconut as a base.  I worked at a facility in Denver Colorado where there was a woman that liked her silk scarves and her coconut perfume.  It was obvious at times she had been on the elevator.  But, the worst is when someone is alone on the elevator and thinks it a perfect opportunity to expel that malodorous melee of mixed gases.  As the elevator door opens and you realize that several people see you and know what you did then you review your situation and suppose that you are no longer invisible, even though the odor is not visually detected, it is detected.

Athletic events afford athletes the apparent aura of being invisible.  Not all of that scratching and adjustment of the uniform is for the sake of sending signals to the pitcher.  DON’T THEY REALIZE THE CAMERA IS SHOWING THE WHOLE TV AUDIENCE WHAT THEY ARE DOING?  Why do the camera operators zoom in at such opportune times?

I would suppose that we just don’t realize that we are not invisible.  Perception is a precept that perhaps is not appreciated by people.

I heard this joke that accentuates this principle of personal perception.
An elderly lady went to the doctor seeking help with a serious case of intestinal gas buildup.  She explained to her doctor that she had a horrible case of gas, but it was not too serious because the discharges were silent and the odor was benign.  The doctor gave her some green pills and asked her to take 4 a day and come back in 2 days.  During the second visit she complained to the doctor about the pills, complaining that they had caused her gas to smell awful.  The doctor retorted, “Now that we have your sinuses cleared, let’s work on your hearing”.

Remember, your personal perception does not make you invisible.

Friday, July 13, 2012

We are in this together

Bridge Gappers manual speech CC#3

When planning for a year plant corn.
When planning for a decade plant trees.
When planning for a lifetime train and educate the people.
(Chinese proverb)

There are basically two kinds of people in the world.  There are givers and there are takers.  We toggle between these two modes.

All of us depend on others at times.  Others depend on us at times.

This past year this club (Bridge Gappers) was able to fulfil the requirements for President's Distinguished in the DCP program for Toastmasters International.  This was possible because there were people that were willing to be givers.

The reasons we do things vary.  Motives are important.

We are the masters of our own destiny.
We decide whether we are in the giving mode or the taking mode.

You might ask how we control our destiny.

Preparation met by demand is opportunity.

We start by determining where we focus.

We set goals.

Goals are achieved by a simple process.

Your thoughts determine your actions.
Your actions determine your habits.
Your habits determine your character.
Your character determines your destiny.

You need to keep in mind the things that you hold most important.

When your goals are value driven you have more chance to be successful in your endeavours.

When I was in high school I had great potential.  I could have had scholarships to college, but I determined that was not for me.  I wasted my time in high school with partying and menial labor jobs to pay for my partying.

I drifted between living with friends and at home until I turned 23.  I evaluated my life and determined that I was on the slow boat to nowhere.  I re-evaluated my life and what I had been taught.  My parents had given me good teaching as a youth.  I decided to repent of my wayward way and serve a proselyting mission for my church.

That decision changed my life.

The last item I was asked to do while serving in Argentina as a missionary was to write out my goals for the rest of my life.  In those goals I delineated things I wanted to achieve, get a college degree, get married, have a family, and I made goals pertaining to my practice of my religion.

Toastmasters International’s core values are integrity, dedication to excellence, service to the member, and respect for the individual.

The purpose of a club is to provide a friendly environment where each member has the opportunity to learn effective oral communication skills and leadership skills. in order to give the member more confidence and self-esteem, and thereby improving our society.

Goals for the club should reflect these values and purposes.

What is your balance of being a giver versus taker?  Remember that we are in this together.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Summer Vacation 2011

Hello BLOGGER friends.

It has been a long year so far.

We took our vacation this year at the end of July and spent a week in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado.

The Dictionary

As our 7 children grew and learned, one of the things that we did with consistency was to have our meals together and sometimes have conversations at the table.  When one of the children would use a word that I thought was used incorrectly or I estimated that they did not know what the word meant I would ask for a definition for the word before they could use it in their conversations.

STOP!  What is the definition of that word?

Frequently they did not know the real definition of the word.  If they did not know the definition of the word or were shy in presenting what they thought was the definition then I would instruct that child to retrieve the dictionary and read the definition aloud to all the family.  As you can see, the dictionary is tattered and worn.  This wear is a direct consequence of the use induced by dad.


I was sometimes not pleased with the definitions in the Collegiate dictionary and would make them reference the unabridged dictionary. There were times that I was at odds with what was in both dictionaries.  English is definitely a living language, where words are added to the dictionary every year.  If you throw in a few acronyms with the moving target of words then things are even more interesting.  There are some words I have objected to the children using in their vocabulary.

SNAFU, FUBAR, and dork are three "words" that were not permitted to be used.  Interestingly, these "words" are used with impunity in daily conversation and I suppose that most people do not know the etymology or meaning of these words. 

Communication is very difficult without having different conceptions of the meanings of a word.  Some words in our vocabulary have changed over time because people used a word to connotate something other than the dictionary definition of the word.  Even the use of euphemisms to blunt the acute nature of a phrase that may be disturbing eventually becomes as acute as the original phrase and destroys the ability of using some words to convey their original meaning.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.  Our visual dictionary is also rather tattered.  Not all of our children have used the visual dictionary like Eric.


Julie, our oldest daughter, was delighted when she received as a gift an Oxford dictionary.  Her dictionary came in a two volume set.  I presume that Julie still uses her dictionaries and that she, and the rest of our family, is more able to communicate accurately because of our tradition of using the dictionary at the dinner table.

What is in your dictionary?