Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Milestone: 80 Years? Already?

In January 1929, the 28th day, in the small town of Del Rio, Texas, a little guy was born that changed my world. Without him, I would be nothing. Literally. He is my Dad. Or “Little Daddy” as I call him.

There is not enough room here to tell all about him, but the short version is that he started out in Del Rio, and soon the family moved to Austin, where he grew up. His first job was at the Capitol Saddlery Shop, cutting leather conchos for saddles. He was under ten years old. Then he drove a bread truck for Butterkrust Bakeries, the rural route. He was 14.

He skipped his first day of school; his mother took him to the school, but he never went in. Instead, he walked part of the way home, sat on a rock wall and ate his lunch. Then he went home and told his mother that school let out early.
That was the last dishonest thing he probably ever did.

He grew up, and while he was off in the Marine Corps, his mother and father moved to Texas City, and so that’s where he came home to. While hanging out with a couple of tough guys on the corner, a girl drove by in a big DeSoto Suburban, and he was smitten. His buddy flagged her and the gang of girls she was cruising with and hitched a ride for him and my dad-to-be. Alvin, my Dad, reached up with his pocket knife and cut off a little curl on the back of her neck. He was sure he’d marry this girl. He did.

He was in the Marine Corps Reserves, so he got called up to go put down the trouble in Korea. He did, and brought home some metal from a Russian mortar that tried to kill him. It’s still in his left leg.

As a Dad, he was the best. He knew when to play, and he knew when to discipline. I remember nights after grueling tickle-fests in the living room, trying to settle down to go to sleep. Just as my pulse would return to normal, and my breathing evened out, I spied a form creeping in the door on its hands and knees, then springing up to my bed, standing over me on the blanket roaring and laughing before descending to pretend to eat my neck. I get chills even now thinking about it. I should be scarred for life, but instead, my children are. I also remember my mother saying, “Alvin stop it, let him go to sleep!”

He scratched my back with his whiskers on Saturdays when he refused to shave. Did all the normal things that a guy teaches his son how to do; throw a football, skip rocks on the river, catch minnows in a bedsheet, fly fishing, bass fishing, how to shoot a pistol and a rifle. How to drive (“More brake, MORE BRAKE!!”), how to trim trees with a bow saw and a rope (without falling to your death), and how to treat people.

More about that last one, because it’s important. Everywhere we went, I saw the way my Dad treated everyone; like they were his equal or better. The bus boys, waitresses and gas-pumping kid at the service station. The high school kids that scooped our ice cream at Baskin Robbins after Sunday night service always heard, “make it like you were makin’ if for yourself…” with a big smile from my Dad. Sure enough, they looked at him, and as the realization of what he said dawned on them, a huge smile spread on their faces. They would then bend to the task of giving the man that engaged them more ice cream than anyone else in the store.

There is nothing false or phony about this man. Everybody knows who he is and where he stands. As a machinist and later a maintenance supervisor at Monsanto Chemical Company for 31 years, he showed everybody there what it meant to be a Christian. Not a “Sunday Christian”, but a real, every day believer and follower of Jesus. For some of those guys, my Dad was their only exposure to God’s love and compassion.

I remember one guy in particular who had an alcohol problem that always would call my Dad for prayer and counseling late at night, or in the afternoon, or whenever he needed help. We took him to church and now, that man after thirty years, still stays in touch with my Dad.

If you have ever tasted an example of the produce or preserves from the Soderberg Farm and Chicken Resort; the bread and butter pickles, the red pepper relish and jelly, blackberry jelly, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, spinach, chard or tomatoes, you have participated in what he likes to do. That is, running around at a trot for hours a day tending to the garden and chickens. He can still out-work me.

So Happy Birthday, Little Daddy. From your Baby Huey!

PS: I have adopted the “Make It Like You Were Makin’ It For Yourself” ploy with ice cream dippers and the like. It works, just look at me!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Caramel and the Past

When was the last time you had Sugar Babies? The last time I had any was Sunday, January 25, 2009. I bought a box of them at Dollar General on a whim and on the way home, had to break into them.

Driving up Mustang Road, I popped a couple of them in my mouth. In the cool afternoon air, the flavor brought me back to the cool days spent while camping when I was a kid. The specific feeling that hit me was from Huntsville State Park. It was in late October or early in November. The smell of coolness in the air, along with the scent of grass and trees was very strong. At that moment, I was ten again, tramping through the trees along the Botany Trail.

You may wonder why smells are so important to me. Science has shown that the most powerful memory stimulator is the sense of smell. And if you ever saw me, or even a picture of me, you’ll notice that my receptor of smells is very capable. Let’s just say, it can handle a lot of air at once.

Since the sense of taste is a subset of the sense of smell, the Sugar Babies and the open fields of Alvin were able to transport a geezer back in time to a simpler day.

I wonder if the secret scientists working on a time machine (and you know they are) have thought about using candy as a catalyst or fuel for their device.

Friday, January 23, 2009

New Year. New Post

Gung Hei Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year! It’s the Year of the Ox, a time of hard work and eventual prosperity unless it all falls apart. And I figured that since I didn’t post anything on or even remotely around our new year, I should at least make some sort of statement about new beginnings and such. Being born in the Year of the Fried Pie, I decided to lay some sweet truth on you, my loyal readers.

This will be my “New Year’s Predictions of What Ought To Be” edition.
I’ll start by reminding you that I am a geezer. Have been since age 19. And geezers, as a rule, offer a lot of advice about the way things USED to be, or SHOULD be. So standby for my “projections” for year 4707, the Year of the Ox, in the Chinese calendar:

After years of assault on our ears, senses and cultural high ground, rap’s popularity expires in early March when collectively the entire continent snaps back into the groove and recognizes all forms of this “musical” abomination for what it is. What it is, exactly, nobody is sure, but an epiphany occurs and everyone just pulls up their pants, puts their hats on straight and changes outta those big, baggy shirts. The world of music will revert to the major food groups once again; Classical, Classic Rock, Old Timey Country, Texas Swing and Big Band. And these only.

Believe it or not, the tattoo craze will peak in June, leading to a crash in the strip center storefront rentals. Strangely, this effect will raise property values on these affected commercial real estate holdings. There will be a corresponding rise in tattoo removal technology and practitioners plying their trade in ever-increasing venues and at ever-decreasing costs. Soon there will be gift cards from Walmart for tattoo removal; you’ll be able to procure your cat food, canned tomatoes and diapers, plus while you wait for your oil change, they can remove the picture of the pit bull head with angel wings eating a human skull that’s on your left bicep. This will put 2009 on the map medically, socially and artistically.

OK, quit your whining. Sure they bring good news, on occasion. Yes, they keep a certain amount of boredom at bay, but dangit, they are such a distraction, annoyance and a downright hazard that they should be eliminated. Cold turkey. How many times has someone just dropped out of a face-to-face conversation like you were chopped liver when a call comes on their little device? Hmm? Thousands. And the drivers, especially under the age of 25, with one clamped to their ear and their right foot welded to the firewall with the accelerator pedal imprisoned between, blasting along the formerly (relatively) safe thoroughfares. I have been cut off, wedged in, tailgated and otherwise terrorized by these inconsiderate operators trying to multitask. Not to say that this activity is limited entirely to the younger set. Soccer moms abound with the Tahoe and Sequoia death machines. And salesmen checking their contact list from a laptop in the passenger seat have a fairly high occurrence. Ugh.

It just got out of hand. Here’s how it happened; he wrote his book, then he read it, forgot he fabricated the entire theory after dreaming it all up following a particularly spicy pizza, and then he started believing it. So sad. When he gets the hypno-therapy in November to calm his nerves after being forgotten, his repressed memory of the hoax comes to light and he writes a short retraction on a sticky note. He then throws the crumpled note into one of his seven incinerators.

Now, don’t come crying to me if these don’t come true in the coming year. I in no way warranty these predictions as being certain and unavoidable. This is just stuff that really should happen, making the world a better place.

For us geezers.

Happy New Year.