Our Walden Pond

Wife and I live in a 20-unit apartment complex. Ten apartments face the parking lot and a Catholic parking lot. Our side, the back side, faces the thicket shown in the picture. I’ve written about this before, and while it may seem static and redundant to some, it is actually very dynamic, a scene teeming with wildlife.

Management frowns on bird feeders, claiming it will bring forth undesirable plant life in the lawn. Perhaps. But, as you can see, this is nearly mid-January and yet no one has bothered with last year’s leaves. But that’s another story for another time.

I’ve created a bird feeder, a used Altoids can, attached to the backside of the four-foot fence with a brass screw, concealed behind the styles. Management can’t see it, nor can we, but the birds can. And they show their gratitude every morning. I don’t keep it filled on a regular schedule, hoping they will not come to depend on handouts. They do keep an eye out. If we experience true winter temperatures and snow I’ll keep it filled for the duration of the cold snap.

I can’t identify birds as well as my mother and paternal grandmother could. But some of those I recognize are meadowlarks, wrens, blue jays, and a female cardinal. Last summer I spotted the male cardinal, but something must has happened to him since then. I can’t do much to protect them, nor should I. It’s simply life. Some must perish so that others may live.

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Rudy

The motorcycle trip went into planning stage around Christmas 2007. It wasn’t that the planning was so complicated, but rather John was anxious to start rolling. He called from Oregon twice each month. Sometimes he called more often.

At last it was warm enough to cross the Rockies. A few days later he called from his daughter’s house in Fort Worth and we set departure date as well as a place to meet – McDonald’s in at the intersection of US 82 and US 75 in Sherman at 0700. I rolled the forty miles up to Sherman and I couldn’t find a Mc Donald’s anywhere close to there. So,as,to not miss him, I rode west on 82 and set on the roadside so as to not miss him. After an hour I found a phone booth and called Barb. John had called her. The McDonald’s he was referring to was located inside Wal-Mart. He was mad as a hornet. Leaning out of the phone booth I spotted his motorcycle – dah.

CMe and John, Two Old Geezers

He was pretty antsy, but he waited while I had some coffee. As soon as I walked toward the trash can he started his bike. He was ready to go – past ready.

Heading north on 75, we were soon in Oklahoma and looking for the old home place where a mutual friend Rolla, a full-blooded Choctaw, had spent his youth on his grandfather’s ranch. Zigzagging north and east we finally reached Poteau. Since Rolla was 96 in 2008 things had probably changed.

From there we ventured into Arkansas, headed for Rudy where John lived as a toddler.

I might not have found this little town, he not been in the lead. Without much warning we darted from black top to gravel. Then I saw the sign. A bit farther we crossed a small bridge and we were in Rudy.

Only the store was open. The other few buildings were in various stages of disrepair. After parking our bikes we bought some soda and took a seat on a bench out front. That was when John told me about the yesteryear when his dad was town Marshall.

“There were rumors that Bonny and Clyde were not far away and headed toward Rudy. The town council called an emergency meeting and decided that John’s father should blockade the road and take them into custody, thereby putting Rudy on the map. But he said he wasn’t having any. A few nights later, while he was making his rounds he heard the crunch of tires. Just to be on the safe side, he crouched behind the horse water tank. He said there were no lights, but he saw the moon reflect off their car as it crossed the bridge and then passed on through town.”

John and I were about to head back to Dallas when we were joined by an elderly man and another who might have been his son. They both had been working on a building adjacent to the store. The old man talked non-stop. The son was busy chain-smoking roll-your-owns. He never uttered a word. The old man was wearing overalls with the legs cut off. He couldn’t seem to keep his eyes off our bikes.

“I rode one of those motorcycles once. The feller who owned it said it was a hopped-Harley and invited me to take ride. Well, I was young and foolish. As soon as it lit that sonofabitch took off with me only hanging by one hand. I made the turn and crossed the bridge, but just a bit yonder that dirty bastard shook me loose and I went through the barbed wire. It ripped me open from my ankle plumb to my ass,” he said, pulling up his pant leg, exposing a nasty, three-foot-long scar that looked as though it had been stitched with a length of rawhide. I glanced at the younger man but he was too busy with cigarettes. “Well, Ma probably has supper ready,” added the old man. They left without another word.

John and I headed back for Dallas.

 

The Poker Game

While thumbing through my coveted copy of YANK, the 1942 section, I came across a poker game photograph. YANK is a book compiled from Yank Magazine, a World War Two publication written by and published by and for the 12,216,097 enlisted people, the Dogfaces, Leathernecks, Swabbies, Airhogs, Crate Pushers, and Seabees who fought with Kilroy in order to bring victory.

I’m assuming the picture was taken in 1942. Whether or not my assumption is correct isn’t nearly as important as are the faces of those gathered around the poker “table”. I’ve participated in enough games to read the faces of the players, well, some, anyway?

Starting at the left side of the circle is a GI who is apparently the dealer and he’s asking who wants cards. He seems comfortable in his role. To his immediate left is a player studying his cards. It’s a tense moment. He’s hoping he hasn’t made a mistake. Next and back from the table is a shirtless man looking on, apparently wishing he was in the game. Continuing, is one responding to the dealer, telling him how many cards he wants. Last in the circle and facing the camera is an individual who recently went bust and now he knows why.

The Way it Was Back When

When I was just squirt phone service was marginal. Bertha Doolittle owned the local telephone company. The switchboard occupied her beauty salon. It was about the size of a small writing hutch and wired to two lines which serviced twenty phones.

It was housed in a wooden box fastened to the east wall. Whenever Grandma called her brother, Floyd, she lifted the receiver, held the hook down, and spun the crank which rang a bell in Bertha’s beauty shop. Then she released the hook and waited while Bertha rinsed the chemicals from her hands.

“Hello, Willia.”

“Hello Bertha. Please ring my brother.

Grandma’s ring was three short rings. Other folks on the party line, twelve in all, each had their own unique ring

Grandpa subscribed to “The Drover’s Telegram”, a Topeka, Kansas weekly newspaper that published current livestock and grain prices, as well as a little about what Truman or FDR were up to.

The weekly was surely a waste of money. Grandma had listened in on everyone and knew everything worth knowing before the publisher could get to his press.