My last Air Force unit was a 21-man field training detachment at RAF Upper-Heyford, England. Like all Air Force outfits, we met once a month for commander’s call.
I have a confession, Johnny. I am not just me; I am a lot of people rolled up into one.
Ah yes, children put down deep roots! For a time back when I was 11, I was ready to dig in, find my roots, climb in with them, and pull the sod over me.
There are times we try so hard to do the right thing for our kids that we end up getting it exactly wrong.
As you may or may not know, I do an online forum for the Roundup.
Last week we turned on a computer, opened a browsing program, went to the Google site, and clicked on Maps.
Last week we turned on a computer, opened a browsing program, went to Google, clicked on Maps, and told the machine to show us the Ponderosa Market. Let’s go on from there, OK?
Last week we talked about how much easier it has become to keep in touch with each other.
How many times have you heard someone say that the world has changed since he was born? How many times has a sad shake of a head gone with those words? Quite a few, I’ll bet.
For the past two weeks we’ve been talking about the first few days Lolly and I spent up here in Pine. As you know, if you have been reading the column, they were very special days.
Last week I left off on the second day after Lolly and I moved into our little place in Pine.
I suppose that all of us have been warned against letting first impressions influence us too much, but I’m inclined to agree with 19th century War British writer William Hazlitt who said that first impressions are often the truest. It certainly was a first impression that got my attention back in 1958, when I stopped in a Mesa restaurant on my way to Japan. The people there made me feel as welcome as I have ever felt anywhere. Later that day, when I stopped at a small place up in Kingman, it happened again. Two for two. I couldn’t help thinking that Arizona would be a good place to settle down. I was right.
I read a lot and it never fails to amaze me how often I come across the number seven. It seems to be everywhere.
I don’t remember whether or not I ever mentioned that I’ve had a couple of novels published.
There are two theories of history. One is that leaders arise, creating the history of their time out of who they are.
Last week we spoke of the Miracle of 1801, a moment in time when opposing points of view could have torn our newly founded nation apart.
I make no bones about it — I love this land of ours. I am proud to be a part of it and what it stands for.
One day, one of the wisest men I have ever personally known was running a meeting when someone asked a question.
As I write this it is 1:32 in the afternoon on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, and it is a VERY good day.
Last week we left off at the end of the 1931 monster movie “Frankenstein.”
It is Saturday afternoon on a sunny March day, the perfect day to climb Ward Hill.
My mother, God bless her, was one in a million.
Not long ago the saying was, “The sun never sets on the British Empire.”
I have read, and believe, that we all start out with a set of traits we can’t change very much.
If anyone asked me how I feel about fads, I would no doubt say something dumb, like “Are you kidding? I hate fads.
There’s nothing better in life than finding a job that fits you, is there? Each day you go to work in a place you like, where people like you, and where you fit.
Last week I told you about Chuck Dunlap, someone I will never be able to thank enough even if I live to be a thousand.
Eighty years is a long time to live. It gives you a chance to have a lot of fun.
I know you’ve run the across the same news articles I have, the ones that sound so very, very sad, that just drip with sorrow.
More than once, life has taught me a valuable lesson:
I’ll tell you what, Johnny. Never take a young man of 14 who loves reading, but whose knowledge of the world is limited to the way it transpires within the pages of a book, and put him in an isolated, live-in workplace filled with college girls.
Last week we talked about how much pure chance affects what we learn as we pass through life. I find it a fascinating subject, perhaps because I discovered early in life that I am a person who is able to change.
Good question, isn’t it? What made you, you? It is no doubt true that we inherit traits through our genes which are a large part of who we are, but I can’t help feeling that a lot of what makes us uniquely us comes through experiences strewn by chance across life’s path.
Don’t let ‘jury notice’ scam frighten you: Just hang up
More than 20 percent of the population in Payson is of retirement age, compared to a national average of 13 percent.
I’m 80 years old and it finally occurred to me to ask myself what I want out of life. At this moment, of course, it’s an easy question. As you may know, my beloved wife, Lolly, is very ill.
Last week we talked about a red cardinal chick it was my privilege to rescue from a miserable fate. I found it among a pile of wet leaves and branches left behind after I cleared away a head-high pile of branches that filled my back yard in Port Arthur, Texas, after a very nasty storm.
I admit it. I bounced through life like the ball in a pinball machine. You know what I mean? No specific goals. No eye on the future. No great plans. Just bouncing left and right, rolling downhill, bumping against this and that, taking each moment as it comes, and letting each choice make itself. Some people would say I chose the easy road, and I’d agree with them except for one thing.
Bill Cosby is just about my favorite all-time comic. On one of his tapes, when talking about himself and the kids he knew, he said that he became convinced early in life that the one time people were completely honest was when they were dead scared. I agree, but the problem with being dead scared is that a moment that may seem dead serious to you can be funny as hell to others. And there’s no way to live it down afterward. Sooner or later, some genius is sure to say, “Man! You should have seen Tom the day that ...”
There have been times during my life when my brain got backed up and needed a plunger. Or maybe even a RotoRooter. Really. I would think about something and come to a conclusion that any sane person would toss out in two seconds. An example? While in high school I decided that I had two “best” friends. Obviously, it is impossible to have two best friends, but that didn’t matter to my teenage birdbrain. I decided I had two best friends, and that was that. And please do not ask me how I came to that conclusion. Have you ever looked into a teenage mind? It’s about as organized as a frying pan full of maggots.
If you’ve been reading this column regularly, I’ll bet I know what you’re saying, “I know which one he’s going to say was Number One. He’s going to say it was meeting Lolly, his wife.” Right, Johnny! Nothing compares to that. How could it? So I’ll tell you about numbers 2 through 5. The second best thing that ever happened to me came five years after my dad died. Every young boy needs a father, but mine was taken by a golf ball that strayed across the rough and struck him in the neck on the fairway on one of the back nine.
Last week I left off where I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” as a young boy and came away with the idea that tropical islands were the paradises he pictured them to be. Which they are — if you can handle mildew, dry rot, bugs, and rain. Something I didn’t learn until I visited a couple of them.
About the middle of the third grade, the tropical islands of the Pacific began to take on a special meaning for me. Someone gave me a book for Christmas, a wonderful book, one I read from cover to cover during the bitter cold New York winter of 1940, not once but three whole times. What a book it was for an eight-year-old! What a contrast with that miserable winter!
I should have called this column, “Down the hatch!” Why? When you first read it you may find it hard to swallow. You may even think I’m pulling your leg. But I’m not. I swear I am not. Even though it seems impossible, this really happened. Did it ever! When it comes to things that happened during my lifetime, and were close enough to where I was living at the time for me to feel it had happened right next door, it tops the list. And yet I’ve never met anyone who has heard of it. Never! How can that be?
A couple of months ago I was posting a comment on a string on the online forum I do for the Roundup. The string was about card playing. We were talking about whether or not anyone plays cards anymore, and the word “card” triggered an old memory. Back when I was a kid a popular brand of bubble gum came in a flat package about two-and-half-by-three inches square. In each package of bubble gum came a trading card. All the cards I saved had baseball players on them, but there may have been other sports in those packages too. It was a long time ago. I don’t remember.
Some people seem to have life all planned out by the time they get out of diapers. I keep reading about them all the time: Writers who wanted to write the minute they saw their first crayon; mathematicians who were doing algebra problems while the rest of us were trying to learn the multiplication tables; musicians playing the violin while they were too young to spell do, re, mi, and fa; and kids who were playing doctor with all the neighborhood girls by the time they were 6. Well, that last group may not have been planning a career, though many of them no doubt found a lifetime hobby. On the other hand, come to think of it ...
I admit it. When it comes to certain aspects of doctors and hospitals, I have more questions than answers. Not about anything serious, you understand. I know as much as I want to know about the serious stuff. I try not to worry about it. My experience over the years has been that those who worry about their health too much often end up having good reasons for doing it. Reminds me of an old story: Charlie and the Tofu. You ever heard that one, Johnny? No? You sure? The one about the fellow who could not stand his wife after they’d been married a couple of years because he’d gotten hooked on all that great health food and she refused to have anything to do with it?
I intended this to be a single column, but it seems to have grown to three on its own. I’m amazed. It’s all about a couple of simple places Lolly and I shared, but then they’re places that are so strongly engraved in our memories we just can’t forget them. I suppose the truth is that we are remembering each other in those houses more than we are remembering the houses themselves. And the kids too, of course, not to mention some great friends and neighbors who helped give those places a special meaning for us. What, after all, makes a house something to remember? People, of course. People — and the joy they bring with them.
Last week I started to tell you about the very first home Lolly and I ever shared. We still both remember it well, even though we just celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary. I also mentioned the apartment we lived in while we were trying to find that first home. We stayed in the apartment for about five months. It was OK, I guess, but it was probably a good thing we stayed there first because I needed a little basic training in living on what was called the “local economy.”
No matter how many houses we live in, there are always a couple or three of them we just can’t forget. The reason is plain enough, I suppose. When we think of them it’s not as “the house in Karachi,” or “the house on Okinawa.” It’s “our house in Karachi,” or “our little place on Okinawa.” It’s the “our” that counts. I’ve lived in a lot of houses, but I had no idea how many until I sat down to count them. I made a rough guess and decided it was perhaps two dozen, so when I came up with a total of 39 I thought I had made a mistake. And I was right! About being wrong, I mean.
Back when I was a preteen, I met a kid named Jerry Davis, who soon became one of the best friends I ever had. Jerry and his family moved next door while I was in the eighth-grade and we did a lot of crazy things together over the next few years. I’ve never mentioned Jerry to you before because what happened to him is not something I like to think about. But today, out of love for an old friend who got less out of life than he deserved, and out of a sense of duty that impels me to tell you a story I believe everyone needs to hear, I’m going to tell you about something that should never have happened.