Number 45

During the spring season of 2007 my wife and I hired on as hosts of Bristol Head Campground located at 11,900 feet altitude on the Silver Thread Highway of Colorado. For unknown reasons we had only a half-dozen visitors that summer, leaving us challenged with entertaining ourselves. Of course I had my amateur radio with which I made many radio contacts using batteries and solar panels.  Perhaps Barb suspected it might turn out this way. She brought an abundance of embroidery.

On 23 June 2007 we decided to celebrate our 45th year with a camper-baked two-layer cake using our Outback Oven (Google it).  In preparation, we drove to Creede for the necessary ingredients and then set about baking the cake.

Unfortunately, we were well into this project before realizing how the altitude effects baking. The sun was low and we’d used two bottles of propane by the time we finished with the frosting.

In all, this celebration is a success, a cherished memory. We recall more details of this event than the 44 preceding anniversaries. 

A Summer Storm

Yesterday evening a storm moved through leaving raindrops the size of my thumb. While that attracted my attention, I was more “thunderstruck” by the sounds. I recalled my uncle’s stories who, during high school, worked as a pinsetter at a local bowling alley. Standing on my porch, I heard the ball’s journey, the sound growing more intense as it drew closer. And then the impact, the crash, ball against pins, shaking my porch.

The Scar

John, in his early 70s,  has aged well. During a dozen or so rag-chewing sessions he has shared a number of his early childhood experiences. Some were even hand-me-downs. These journeys into the past sparked his desire to visit his old Arkansas homeplace. And he urged me to tag along. I was ready for a trip, so we set aside a weekend and left Dallas early one Thursday morning.

His ride was a cherry red, full-dress machine – bags, faring, pinstriping. The low-throated note of his exhaust could make a Harley enthusiast’s heart stop. Mine was a 40-year-old K-Model I’d purchased disassembled. Hauled it home in a wooden crate and spent the winter recreating it, making it into a barebones stock motorcycle. Cosmetically, it could have used some help it had cost me pocket change and when it was finished it ran like a bandit.

We’d stayed ahead of the early morning heat until we parked our Harley’s near a hitching rail and old water trough in front of the general store, both remnants of the horse days.

The screen door slammed behind us as we claimed a wooden bench occupying much of the porch. I held the cold Pepsi bottle against my forehead and enjoyed the cool reprieve.

“That’s the water trough my dad hid behind one night in July 1929,” John said, pointing.

My expression must have spoken louder than words because he continued without hesitation.

“Word that Bonnie and Clyde were in the area was on everyone’s mind,” John said. “The rumor had spread like a case of German Measles, being that Ada, owner of the beauty operator also owned the telephone switchboard.

“The town council called an urgent meeting and told my dad, who was town marshall, this was his chance to earn an Erp reputation. That he was to barricade the street and arrest them as soon as they rolled into town. But Dad had no desire to be like Erp. He’d heard stories of how they shot their way out of situations with machine guns and such. If they thought he was going to challenge them with his six-shooter they were crazy. Having said that, he placed his badge on the table. The mayor changed his mind and handed his badge back to him and told him to do what he thought best.

“It was after midnight and he was rattling doors on main street when he heard the sound. He knew it was a car. Slipping out of sight behind that water trough, he watched the Ford ease into town, the moon reflecting off the roof. And he stayed hidden until they were gone.”

John was finishing his story when two locals we’d heard working inside a nearby building, probably father and son, joined us. The old man wore no shirt beneath his striped bib-overalls. The son wore cotton breeches and shirt and a black hat of which the brim over his right ear was shaved off even with the sweat band.

The son didn’t utter a word. Instead, he chain-smoked Bull Durham roll-your-owns and he was too busy for conversation. The old man was a chatterbox. He made up for both of them except when he fell silent, on occasion, to gaze at our bikes.

“There was a feller come here twenty, thirty years ago on one of them motorcycles,” the old man said, nodding his head toward mine. He said it was hopped up and that I should ride it. Well, sir, I’d never been on a machine like that, hopped or not, so I wasn’t much in favor, but he kept on naggin’ at me. He got it started and I got a leg over that sonorabitch. He showed me where the clutch was and how to shift gears. I don’t know how or why, but that bastard took off before I had a firm grip on the handlebar and it throwed me back over the rear fender. Somehow, I made the first corner okay, and across that yonder bridge. But I couldn’t get the sonofbitch straightened out, before that dirty bastard got clean away from me. Took me through a three-strand barbed-wire fence, it did. And it ripped my leg open every way to Sunday.”

Hauling his left trouser leg up he exposed an ugly scar that extended from his ankle to his ass. And it looked like it had been sewn him up used a length of rawhide.  

‘Well, Son, Ma probably has supper ready.” And with that they left.

We left too, shortly thereafter and stopped for coffee down close to the Texas line.

“That old man had the ugliest scar I ever saw,” I said as we waited for the waitress to bring our coffee.

“Didn’t he, though. That must have smarted”

“I reckon.”

We swilled our coffee and then headed for Dallas.

Alexander Pope

My modest bookshelf is populated by keepers. Resisting the inflated prices at Barnes & Noble and even Amazon, I haunt the overflow room at my local library. This is where I found Alexander Pope, Selected Poetry and Prose. Pope has always been one of my favorite poets. The foreword, written by William K. Winsatt. His first sentence caused me to take it home

The human learner, we are told, learns a half of all he ever knows by the age of two or three, and is half as tall as he will ever be.

During the first read I wondered how Winsatt arrived at such a conclusion. But then I decided he was probably referring to Pope: Alexander Pope was four feet, six inches tall, discovered Homer at age six, and then learned French, Italian, Latin, and Greek.  

Do You Know Where the Wells Are Located?

I lived a good portion of my youth with my grandparents, he being a farmer, she a farmer’s wife. Since I was not in line to inherit the family farm, I enlisted in the air force. Both my grandparents and the farm had slipped away during my 40-year absence.

Upon my return I boarded with a cousin and his wife while inspecting the remains of the house that had burned and the barn that had fallen in on itself. I was a stranger. It was as though I’d never lived there.

My second evening I returned to my cousin’s house in time for supper and reported on the places I recognized. I was in mid-sentence when my cousin’s wife interrupted.

“Do you know where the wells are?” she asked.

“Not exactly.”

“This country was settled in the early 1800s, decades before the Missouri Compromize was signed. People lived here and died or moved away, Leaving much of what they’d done behind. Including the wells they’d dug. If you were to step off into an unmarked well we might wonder what happened to you,” she said.

Her words started me. I returned home without going back for another look at the old farm.

Beau of the Fifth Column on Homeland Security — lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

No matter how much we want to bury our heads in the sand, it grows ever more important that we don’t. Forgottenman has Beau’s latest speech on how scary things are getting in our nation. No matter what side of the issue you are on, you need to hear his talk HERE.

Beau of the Fifth Column on Homeland Security — lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

Fidonet

I don’t recall precisely when, but somewhere in the misty past I’ve written mentioned the old Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) of yon. Well, I’m about to mention it again. It began about 1982 or 1983.

A son-in-law had just started at Oregon State, bent on earning a Computer Science Degree. And he turned me on to computers. I wanted one. Choices were limited, not only in size, but cost as well. I finally took a Commodore 64 home. I was in over my head from the get go, but friends and a Commodore user group kept me afloat until I discovered the BBSes.

A host of systems sprouted up overnight—Rhinoceros Kitchen, The Machine, Bill Board, Com-Line, Cloud 9. At least two dozen were within a local call radius. My favorite BBS was Dr. Rom.

Faster computers with larger storage were soon affordable. Along came the Internet. No more long distance phone bills. No more SysOps pulling the plug when my time limit was reached. The BBSes fell by the wayside. Even Dr. Rom. He sat in the garage on standby until 0001 hours, the morning of year 2000 when his plug was pulled.

Somebody had to pay for all this speed and convenience. Today, advertisements flash on and off, while others nearly crowd out the text and photos they are supporting. I yearned for the ad-free BBS days, the days when Fidonet, the worldwide group of 1500 hobbyist/enthusiasts provided email around the globe, often for the cost of one local telephone call.

This past week a friend on the west coast sent me a URL for an active BBS, a  Fidonet. WHAT?

One clue led to another and by dinner time I had unearthed 430 active BBSes, some that have remained active for 30 years.

Choices