Wednesday, 20 February 2013 13:34
I was watching a show on TV the other day and it was about how people were paid to implode a building or tear it down just to build something new, bigger, or better. I thought it was such a waste of how they destroyed everything and didn’t try to save any of the building materials.
It reminded me of the time long ago when my Daddy bought the old Horse Creek Baptist Church that had to be torn down to build the new one that we have now. It was in the early 70’s and my Daddy knew that there would be plenty of salvageable building materials in that old church that could be used again.
An auction was held on the church’s ground and when the gavel fell at the end of the day Daddy was the highest bidder. There was only one stipulation to the purchase, whomever got the bid had just 6 months to have it torn down and everything removed.
There wasn’t anything wrong with the old church except the fact that the congregation had grown to where they needed more room. The old church had been built when carpenters took pride in their work and used only the best of materials. Daddy knew that he could use the salvaged material from the church.
The demolition was slow tedious work. We tried to save everything. The first thing we removed was the oak hardwood floor from the auditorium and anywhere else that was covered with the flooring. It was beautiful. There were thousands of pieces ranging in size from two feet to twelve feet.
We loaded the hardwood into Daddy’s old pickup and transported the wood to the loft in our barn. It was like an assembly line with each of us passing the pieces hand to hand to the loft and then stacking them neatly to make sure they wouldn’t warp. It took many trips to get all of the wood to the barn.
Next, we took out the large windows from the auditorium. The windows were huge. Each set had two large 12-paned windows about 4 feet wide x 5 feet tall. We got them all out without breaking a one. One of the neatest things about the big windows was the heavy iron ballast in the window sash that were tied by a rope to the heavy windows to make raising them easier. I had never seen any like that before.
After removing everything from the inside of the church we started taking it down starting with the roof. We put up the longest ladder we could find on the lowest side of the church and climbed up. Near the ladder, the ground was probably still 30 or so feet down and on the high side it was 40-50 feet to the bottom. It was scary just to look down.
Once on top of the roof we still had to have another shorter ladder to take down the steeple. After that was done we started removing about 3 layers of old shingles from the huge roof. The work was slow and the sun was hot. I hated the job because I was so high up and the ground so far away. It made me nervous, to say the least.
The first half of the day the job went pretty fast but I sure was glad when dinnertime came and I got to put my feet on solid ground. After a sandwich and a pop we took a short break and then climbed the ladder to the roof again. I really did hate this job.
Working from the eve of the roof (the very top) we shoveled the removed shingles down the roof and over the edge to the ground. I had been cautioned several times that day to be aware of loose shingles and to never step on top of one but I wasn’t careful enough.
A couple of hours after dinner I was trying to hurry and finish the job I hated so much when I stepped on a loose shingle. My foot slid out from under me and my butt hit the roof with a thud. Down the roof I started sliding fast towards the edge with my hands grasping for anything to stop the slide.
I was screaming for help but there wasn’t anything anyone could do, it happened so fast. I was panicking as I tried desperately to stop my slide with my feet and my bare hands with no luck. It didn’t look good as I neared the edge of the old church. I thought for sure that I was a goner.
Then, a miracle happened. With only about two feet to go from the edge of the roof an old nail sticking up from the under side of the roof, that had been bent down underneath the shingles, pierced deep into the palm of my left hand. Suddenly my slide was stopped.
I really believe that if it hadn’t been for the old rusty nail that someone had left years ago during construction I would not have survived that long fall.
When I got down from the roof of that old church that day I thought that if I could have found out who left the old rusty nail, I would have thanked them. Little did he know that his mistake would be the only thing that stopped my slide and save my life.
I then realized that the Lord was really the one who I needed to thank because he must have known that the old rusty nail would be needed one day to catch me. I felt he was surely the one who allowed the carpenter to miss his mark on that day so long ago.
Oh and by the way, Daddy ended up building three rent houses from the materials we saved from the church.
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 13:33
When I was growing up very few people could afford a car or a truck and many had never even seen a tractor, much less owned one. That’s why almost every family had to have a mule to just survive. Times were tough and a mule was versatile. He could be ridden on the bad muddy roads where a car couldn’t dream of going or across the mountain where there were no roads. He could be used to plow the garden, pull a wagon or drag logs out of the hills for building purposes or for firewood.
But today, mules are almost a thing of the past. So for those who don’t know much about a mule, here is a little history lesson before my story starts.
A mule is the sterile hybrid of any two equines of dissimilar species. The most common hybrid is of the male ass, known as a Jack, and the female horse, or mare. However, the opposite cross is not all that uncommon, and mule people tend to call this offspring of a male (stud) horse and a female ass (Jenny), a hinny.
Mules are sterile and cannot reproduce. This does not affect the normal sex drive, though, and mules will breed, although they can not conceive. There have been stories through the years of mare mules giving birth, but to my knowledge, none have been substantiated.
Mules will often grow to a size larger than either parent, and they live longer than the horse. They tend to have more endurance and strength than a horse of the same size, and they tend to be easier keepers. As a general rule, a mule will stay fat on pasture where a horse might not do so well. They are disease resistant and are more tolerant of heat and cold. All in all, it costs less money to keep a mule. Mules tend to develop trusting relationships with the rider or owner. If treated well a mule will be your best friend, but mistreat him just once and he will neither forgive nor forget. Many a good mule has been ruined by one single fit of temper.
Mules are generally more intelligent than horses. Mules and asses both share a very well developed sense of self preservation. Seldom will a mule allow you to put him in a dangerous situation, nor will he allow himself to be overworked. Caution in a mule is often mistaken for stubbornness and the uninitiated usually wind up regretting any attempt at forcing the animal to submit. That’s where the old saying “as stubborn as a mule” comes from.
The mule became the most important animal to a mountain family and my family was lucky just to be able to afford one when I was growing up. Every family depended on the mule to help raise a garden to feed their family and have enough to put up for the cold snowy winters. So when our mule got sick, it was serious business.
One year our mule had gotten out of the pasture and wondered into a neighbor’s green corn field and gorged himself on the tasty corn. Daddy said old Jim had eaten so much that he was foundered. He could tell by the way Jim’s belly was swelling up. I was told that this is where the old saying “as sick as a mule” came from.
The only veterinarian was a black man who lived on Town Branch named Snooks Drake but we couldn’t get up with him. So Daddy then turned to Pap Paw Burkhart who had once doctored one of his mules back to health after doing the same thing as old Jim had, so he sent me to get Pap Paw and bring him back to the field where Jim was. Pap Paw on the way out of the house grabbed a box of Arm and Hammer baking soda from the cabinet and followed me back to the field. He looked Jim over and came to the same conclusion, too much green corn.
Pap Paw then said he needed a few things to administer his remedy from the house. He said go get me an empty pop bottle and a piece of rubber hose. He told us any hose would work, so we cut a piece for the garden hose and hurried back to the field by the barn. Pap Paw then poured baking soda into the pop bottle and filled the rest of the bottle to the top with water. The mixture began to fizz like crazy!
The water hose was then fitted over the neck of the pop bottle and inserted into Jim’s mouth and down his throat, much to his dismay. But as I said earlier, mules are smart and I believe old Jim knew that we were trying to help him so he didn’t act like he cared too much. Either that or he was just too sick to refuse the hose.
After the bottle of soda and water was down Jim’s throat, he began to get a little uneasy. He began to move around nervously while Daddy held the halter tight so that he couldn’t escape and run off. The mixture then caused air to escape out of both the mouth and his rear end as Jim bucked and kicked while his belly swelled up bigger and bigger.
Pap Paw told us we had done all he could so Daddy turned old Jim a loose and he ran out of sight through the field passing gas with every step. “Now, we just have to wait and see if it works,” Pap Paw said.
Next morning, we were up at dawn to check on Jim to see if the medicine had worked. We didn’t have to go too far. Just past the last place we saw Jim go the night before lay his stiff body on the side of the hill across the branch from the field. Old Jim was dead.
Now we had a dead mule and no way to bury him. It was early summer and the hot sun made Jim swell bigger and bigger with each passing day. After the third day in the sun old, Jim just exploded. It looked as if a grenade had went off inside him.
Times sure were hard back then and Jim’s death made it even harder. He had given his all for many years to help raise our family and I felt so sorry for him lying there wasting away. I knew that Jim deserved better but there wasn’t anything else I could do.
I quietly said a few words over Jim as tears streamed down my face. I then turned away from his carcass to walk home and never return anymore. I only wanted to remember him as the way he was, not just as a mule but as a member of the family who had always done his best.
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 13:32
I got call last week from a very nice lady about my recent story on ‘Strings’. Her name was Helen Day of Crane Creek. She was telling me how much she enjoyed my stories and went on to ask me why I didn’t write anything in my story about a ‘whizzer’?
Well to tell you the truth, I had to ask her just what was a ‘whizzer’? It didn’t take long before I knew exactly what she was talking about. So let me tell you about our conversation.
Helen told me, “A ‘whizzer’ is where you take a string and thread it through two holes in a big coat button and tie the string’s ends together in a loop. Next, place the string over your ‘hooked’ first (or fore) finger on each hand. Then, you start swinging the button in a circular motion to ‘wind’ the strings two sides together over and over again twirling the button around and around. After that just spread you hands apart and the button will whirl over and over again each time you spread and contract your hands”
I told Helen, “Your not going to believe me but I just forgot to put it in. I thought about it lying in bed one night, but when it got to writing my story, I forgot to put it in.”
It was perpetual motion over and over as the button spin faster and faster when we spread and contracted our hands. It also made a humming sound as the big button reached blinding speeds.
I didn’t know that they were called a ‘whizzer’ even though that toy was one of my favorites. I think we called the toy a ‘hummer’ (But that name would never work today, would it).
I also remembered another toy after I wrote my last story that involved a string. It was in the late 60’s or early 70’s when someone in our family bought a toy called ‘Clackers’.
Clackers were nothing more that two solid, thick glass (or later on, hard plastic) balls tied to each end of a heavy duty nylon string about two feet long. By holding the middle of the string and moving the forearm and hand in a constant up-and-down motion the thick glass balls to collide first at the bottom (below the hand) and, when enough bounce was achieved, the top (above the hand) as the bounced back and forth.
Once you got the rhythm of the motion going, the collision of the balls striking each other made a loud “clacking” noise thus the name. The faster you moved your forearm and hand up and down the faster and louder the annoying noise would get.
I remember lots of bruises on my forearms and hand that were caused the heavy glass balls until I got the hang of it. I also remember once getting hit in the head with one of them and believe me; it left a knot on my head big enough for a calf to suck on!
Many a parent was driven to profanity by this nerve-racking noise, but that was only the start of the ‘Clackers’ problems.
Not long after that, Momma found out on evening news that the Clackers had another danger, a hidden one. When the Clackers were smacked together long enough and hard enough those thick glass balls would shatter, sending glass shrapnel everywhere.
After hearing that, Momma said that the Clackers had to go and Daddy was glad to oblige her.
I can still see the Clackers’ balls swapping end over end as they flew through the air and wrap around a limb in the top of that big oak tree behind our house. I told Daddy he sure was good with those Clackers and asked if he had been playing with them while we weren’t watching.
He then asked me “Why?”
I laughed told him, “Well, judging from the way you threw those balls. You threw those just like David, from the Bible, when he killed Goliath with his sling.”
I was reminded again by the way he looked at me that Daddy didn’t have a good sense of humor sometimes. On my way back to the house I considered myself lucky that I didn’t get a red butt to go along with that big knot on my head.
Yep, just when Clackers got interesting, the press caused the toy company to cease production. Clackers then forever moved into the realm of schoolyard rumor and urban legend.
Clackers did make a comeback later in the 90’s but they were of the safer (in other words, more boring) plastic kind that didn’t have the bounce or the noise that the glass ones had and they fizzled out fast.
I would really like to have a set of the old glass ones if someone has a pair lying around their house somewhere. I just want to see if I still got the rhythm.
Wednesday, 23 January 2013 13:35
Who today would ever think that a simple string could entertain a kid. Well, nobody today. I’m sure of that. But back in the days when I was young, little things like a string were special. When you got a hold of good string it was a treasure and not to be thrown away.
I remember the first time I saw my Daddy take a simple string tied in a loop make a “teacup and saucer”. I asked, “How did you do that?”
He then took the string and placed it up my two hands. Slowly Daddy showed me the technique and then, I was hooked. From teacups and saucers to crows-feet and cat’s cradle and then to see-saws and the hardest of all, Jacobs ladder, Daddy showed me all the moves. I carried that string in my pocket or around my neck forever showing everyone I met how Daddy had turned a simple string into a poor boy’s toy.
I also used a string to make my first bow to shoot stickweeds at rabbits, birds, ground squirrels and even a stray dog or two. I never did kill anything, I didn’t really want too. But it was fun to imagine my self as a young brave with a rooster’s tail-feather tied with another string around my head as I hunted the forest around my home.
String was sometimes used a miniature coral to keep up my small plastic horses, cows and pigs. At other times the string would be a barbwire fence to hold off the Germans as they attacked the GI’s of the American Army. The homeboys always won. Just like my Daddy did in World War II.
I once found an arrowhead at Huey Barger’s, a neighbor of ours. I took a string and tied the artifact around my neck as a piece of jewelry. I loved that arrowhead and it hooked me on finding more and more.
We also used string as a telephone. All it took was a couple of Carnation Cream cans with the top cut out smooth. A hole was then put into the other end with a nail. Then, a long string was run through the hole in each and secured by a knot inside the can. When stretched tight enough the sound of our voices could be heard clearly at distances of 50 feet or more. Two string tied to one can became the first party line.
I laughed the other day when I saw the Progresso commercial on TV as the appeared to do the same because I knew it would never carry sound the way they had it.
When I needed a belt to hold up a pair of “passed-down” pants that were too big, a string came in handy. When I broke a shoestring and didn’t have one to replace it with I used a doubled piece of string to make do.
A string tied to a stick would make perfect circles in the clean dirt for a game of marbles or a game of hopscotch. String would sometimes be used between two popsicle sticks as a splint to hold a finger straight after a dislocation or an injury.
I once used a string to tie two lead pencils together to cut my writing time in half. I never did chew gum in class again after writing that five-hundred times.
Dad could measure a string or a rope within an inch or two easily. He taught us that a string held by our thumb and forefinger stretched to our armpit would be close to two-feet in most adults.
I also remember Mamma whittling an old empty sewing thread spool down to make us a yo-yo. She split the spool in half, cut them down to about a half-inch wide and joined them with a small wooden dowel through the hole in the middle. The yo-yo was then wound with a string to make another perfect homemade toy.
She once even made us tops with the wooden spools from thread. She would take her whittling knife and shape one end of the spools and then cut another wooden stick from a limb to insert all the way through the center hole, sharpening on end to a point. Her tops would spin forever it seemed.
We also made a toy out of a piece of wood about a quarter-inch thick and 8-1/2 inches long. The edges of the wood were then planned down much like an airplane propeller. Then notches were carved into the edges. A hole was place near the end of the piece of wood and a long string was attached.
When this contraption (I can’t remember the real name of what they were called but we called them whirly-birds) was twirled above our heads the vibration made a humming sound like a helicopter.
Mamma taught us how to make stilts. Daddy showed us how to make slingshots. Both were great working with everyday things we could find around the house.
We might not have had a lot of money to buy toys with when we were growing up but with two parents like mine we were never bored. They showed us how to have fun. Real fun that never cost a penny. And for that, I am forever grateful.
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 13:16
\They say that time heals all hearts and if that’s so, I’m still waiting.
Holidays are the toughest for me now it seems. Thanksgiving and Christmas just aren’t the same anymore.
When my Momma and Daddy were alive every holiday meant a house full of family. So many that there was barely enough room at the two big tables.
I realize now that my parents were the glue that held the rest of the family together. And after they passed my family was broken off into seven different individual pieces.
I know that I’m not the only person around that has gone through these feelings. The story has been told for generations and it will be retold for many more. I just didn’t know how hard it would be.
When I was young I never thought much about mortality. Or maybe, I just didn’t want to think about it. I never thought my parents would ever get old, much less die. But time doesn’t stop for anyone. And I’ve found out lately, that the older I get, the faster time goes by.
Lately, I look in the mirror and ask myself, “Who is that old person staring back at me? He sure looks a lot like my Daddy.” And then I start to think, “Where does time go?”
Then I walk outside my front door and stare through the quiet, deadness of daybreak. I used to love my alone time as a kid but now, not so much. My step has slowed quiet a bit. A fall might break a bone. My muscles ache more and more from my aging years and it takes longer now just to get my feet moving. I realize now, I am much like my father and my grandfather before him.
But everything isn’t gloom, I’m glad to say. In the past three years my two children have blessed Margy and me with three beautiful grandchildren. And boy, are they a handful! I had always heard my Momma and Daddy tell of how strong a grandparents love for grandkids were but I never knew how strong that could be. Now, I know.
It seems my bones and muscles don’t ache as much when I look into their gleaming eyes. At least, not until I get home and realize I’ve overdone it again by playing horsey, pitching them up in the air or just chasing after them all over the house. I’m sure you know how small kids loved to be chased.
But you know what, I go back day after day and do the same things over and over again. Grandchildren will make you do that. Their laughter and smiles more than pay the price for the pain I will feel afterwards.
I wish my parents would have had a chance to meet my three little angels. I can just hear my mother saying, “Bless their little hearts”. Momma said that a lot because she loved kids. I guess that would be an understatement knowing the size of our family.
Boy you should have seen us packed into my parent’s home on Christmas Day. The grandkids and great-grandkids were like a herd of wild horses running through the house. The older kids would be trying to control them but it was no use. I remember it never seemed to bother Momma. She would never say a word.
The older kids would be dressed in their best clothes for that special day and the women of the family would be showing off their new jewelry or new clothes. I remember once Daddy got Momma a new Aigner leather coat. She screamed like a teenager as she opened up her present. She barely took it off that Christmas day. She would say later, it was the best present Daddy ever got her.
Yep, the holidays sure seemed a lot happier and merrier to me when our big family was together at one house, sitting at one table with Daddy at the head and Momma beside him. They were the glue that held us all together.
We all over ate every year swearing to never do it again as we sat in the living room talking, singing or playing set-back or rummy in the kitchen after the dinner table was cleaned off. The winner always stayed up with losers rotating to challenge them again.
Holidays are just not that way anymore. Everyone now is just too busy. And the sad thing is, I don’t think holidays will ever be that way again. I’m starting to realize now that I guess it’s just too hard to put the pieces back together after the glue is gone.
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