Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm Back

Hey, Fellow Bloggers,

I'm back. I have been down from back surgery the past few weeks and my computer went belly up at the same time. I have one more surgery scheduled next week and then I should be back up on two feet the next week. Keep those blogs coming.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My new friend

Finally, I have a new friend I can be totally proud of. His name: Derek Jeter. Yep, the same Derek Jeter who plays shortstop for the NY Yankees. I officially joined something called “WePlay” this week, so I could register for a trip to Yankee Stadium. I received an email and anything with a famed Yankee emblem on it draws my attention.

Yep, I’m still trying to get to Yankee Stadium, by hook or crook. I’ve even registered for a Final Engagement.

My latest attempt, since I didn’t get chosen to win a free trip to the Major League All-Star game earlier this month, is to win a free trip through “WePlay”. It will include four airplane tickets to New York and four tickets to a game at Yankee Stadium and a chance to meet Derek Jeter.

I thought, why not? I certainly would love a chance to see a game in The Stadium and, although he’s not my favorite player, a chance to meet The Captain would be okay, too. I don’t know which player on the Yankees would be my favorite, but it doesn’t take long to call the roll. No, really, he would have to at least be in the top five. There’s A-Rod, Joba Chamberlain, Mike Mussina and Johnny Damon. (have you seen photos of Johnny Damon’s wife? I have). Derek Jeter would have to be in that group.

Don’t tell Derek Jeter he’s not my absolute favorite, though, because that might be one of the considerations to join “WePlay”. Oh, I get to write blogs on “WePlay”, too. I haven’t yet figured out if I have to post a photo of myself, but for sure I’ve already posted my biography.

I can probably post some of my blogs I’ve already written for the Heavener group. Who knows, maybe if Derek Jeter actually reads the one where I told how I voted for all the Yankees at every position on the all-star team, he might feel sorry for me.

Cynthia has said she will take me to a Yankee game before The Stadium closes its door on the 2008 season, but, heck, I’m realistic enough to know we can’t afford to go. It would be a great treat, and awfully nice of her to offer, but I’ve explained it’s not necessary for me to go this season. After she retires, and I’m on my death bed, or something, then we might consider going as my last dying dream.

Until then, I’m going to keep trying. Hey, if we get four tickets, anyone want to go along?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Johnny on the spot

As I stated in my last blog, I owned a few cows. When they were still young calves, Pat and I took them in to the vet for shots, because as young ones, they were still too jumpy and fidgety to corral and keep them in pen and chute long enough for something like shots.

So off Pat and I went pulling them in a trailer (at least 25 feet long) behind his pick-up, old Blue, as he called it. We had to take them to Henderson, some 25-30 miles away from Fair Play.

First, let me say, Pat loved to talk, not just to friends, but anyone who took the time to listen and talk back. Naturally, when the vet finished giving the shots, and we got the calves loaded back into the trailer, Pat had to stay around and talk for a while.

That was fine, because I enjoyed Pat’s stories, too. What we forgot to do was lock the trailer while Pat stood and talked. Or, maybe I forgot to lock the trailer. Whatever, we didn't lock it back.

When he finished, we headed across the highway to a feed store. It was only a few 100 yards across the highway, but it was enough to stir the calves, and just as we stopped at the feed store, the door to the trailer swung open. I ran back there, but was a second too late and one of the calves made a run for it.

The calf jumped out the back of the trailer and took of running across the highway. And, mind you, it was noon and Highway 259 was busy. Was it ever! That calf was across the highway so quickly I could do nothing about it. We were just lucky it didn’t get hit by an 18-wheeler or something. Talk about a lawsuit.

The calf sprinted across the highway and up a hill into somebody’s back yard with me chasing behind. Me in my shorts, a T-shirt and Rockports – my usual cowboy wear, as I mentioned in my last blog. I was running after the calf and Pat whipped around in old Blue pulling the trailer behind.

By that time, however, the calf was well on his way to another back yard. I kept running, but Pat had to drive up and down the streets trying to follow me. Pat drove down one street asking if anyone had seen a white man in shorts and T-shirt chasing after a calf. It must have been a circus by now and I was the traveling show.

Two of the men by now were trying to help me. About that time, the calf – I’m sure scared to death -- ran back across Highway 259, back in front of all that traffic, and headed toward a grocery store. I was still in fast pursuit.

Then, suddenly, a white truck sped past me after the calf and, I kid you not, the passenger opened the door and, like a real cowboy, jumped out and bulldogged the calf to the ground in the parking lot of the grocery store. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I was so tired from all the running, I couldn’t get my breath long enough to ask the cowboy his name. All a laughing Pat and I could get out of him was “Johnny.”

Boy, was he ever Johnny on the spot.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Life on the ranch

Most of you who know me probably have a hard time believing I ever had anything to do with cattle. I am retired and I usually wear a pair of shorts when I go anywhere.

But, the fact of the matter is, I do live in Texas and have for the better part of the last 30 years or so. Texas is known for having cattle. Right?

Truth be told, I have dabbled in cows.

Back when my first wife and I divorced and I moved from Longview to Tatum, I moved in with a friend, Pat Browning, who was going through a divorce, too. We each needed to figure out what we wanted to do with our lives, so we rented a duplex in Tatum. Pat was a school teacher (assistant principal, actually) in Tatum, a small town south of Longview.

Pat had some land in Fair Play, another even smaller town, or community, I should say, south of Tatum and north of Carthage. Fair Play had a convenience store and that was it. You could buy gasoline and groceries.

Long story short, Pat had a few cows on his land in Fair Play. And he had a small cabin, which was a good place to relax and be alone with your thoughts.

Naturally, I became interested in cows, because Pat taught me some of the finer points. He had maybe 45 cows, which had a few calves. I bought five of them, so together, we were running (a term I learned from Pat) 50 or so cows.

Another friend, George Whitley, bought one of the calves, too. So, technically, we had 51 cows, or 51 head of cattle.

Every so often, we had to give our cows shots, feed them and just …well, you know, do all the things a person does when he has, uh, hum, cattle.

There I was, in my shorts, and a T-shirt wearing a pair of Rockports, helping Pat round up cows and pen them up, so we could give them shots. I must have been a sight, because Pat had his jeans and cowboys boots on like any normal cowboy should.

Not me.

I also helped Pat take care of nearly 100 acres (wearing my shorts and Rockports) by mowing, with a tractor, of course, and loved every minute of it. I mowed every inch of every acre, and it took a good two weeks. I mowed after my regular newspaper job, on Saturdays and Sundays, whenever I had a few extra minutes to spare.

It was how I collected my thoughts after getting divorced.

So, with that part of life behind me, I can now look upon it as fun. At the time, though, it wasn’t real fun.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I guess you had to be there

Some old age jokes sent out by Craig via email not long ago reminded me of my dad and a story he used to tell about him and his buddies going out for their morning coffee.

A man was telling his neighbor in Sun City Center , 'I just bought a new
hearing aid. It cost me four thousand dollars, but it's state of the art.
It's perfect.'
'Really,' answered the neighbor. 'What kind is it?'
'Twelve thirty.'


I couldn’t help but laugh, because it immediately made me think of dad.

It’s one of those where you probably had to be there, but he did such a good job telling it. Cynthia and I used to laugh because dad told funny stories all the time.

He used to tell me (us) about Lonzo Hudlow, Bob Cash and he going to Hodgen to a little convenience store for their morning coffee. Chuck Hudlow, Lonzo’s son, told me the same thing recently. I never understood why they went to Hodgen, but Chuck says Lonzo and Bob still go there, so it has to be true. The funny part now is that Lonzo lives in Poteau but makes the drive to Hodgen, some 25 miles, I figure.

Anyway, dad used to tell me about how all of them were a little hard of hearing and how others in the store used to get tickled at them, because they were talking so loud. One would say something and the other two would reply. “Speak up … do what? … I can’t hear you.”

Or something to that effect.

Others listening to them were laughing because neither could hear the other.

Dad laughed and said it was like that all the time when those three got together.

Chuck recently retired and moved from Mesquite moved to Hideaway, not far from Tyler, so Cynthia and I met him and Maureen for dinner one evening. Chuck told how he talks to his dad on the phone frequently and Lonzo has trouble hearing exactly what Chuck says.

I told him the story dad used to tell me about him, Lonzo and Bob going out for their morning coffee. That’s when Chuck said, yes, his dad and Bob still go to Hodgen for coffee.

By the way, Craig emailed both Chuck and I, and a few others.

I had to laugh again.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Heavener goes international

Not long ago, I wrote a blog about the friends I had seen while I was in Vietnam. Well, there are Heavenerites all over the world.

From merry old England to South America to the Tonga and places in between.

Roger Cagle, a classmate of mine in the class of 1965, is in London, where he is Executive VP Deputy CEO and Chief Financial Officer of SOCO International plc (whew, that’s a mouthful, even if I am typing it). Roger has over 30 years experience in the oil and gas industry and previously worked in Houston.

That’s where I visited him once when I was in Houston. He lived in the Kingwood area, and also now has a home in California at Pismo Beach, about 70 miles north of Santa Barbara.

Needless to say, Roger is doing quite well for himself.

Another of my classmates, David Hinds, plans to move to Chile, South America as a missionary. He and his wife Linda have accepted a 36-month assignment with the SBC International Missions Board working as a Church Planting team among the Maupuche Indians of Southern Chile.

They are reporting to the International Learning Center in Rockville, VA, near Richmond, VA, on August 4 for eight weeks of Field Personnel Orientation. From there, they go to language school in Guatemala for six months. They are looking at being on the field in Chile about April 2009.

Duane Mead, class of ’63, has lived one of the most interesting lives of anyone in Heavener. He has been in Tonga for years and years, first going for the Peace Corps, and then staying to live there. For the last 20 years he has lived in Vava’u, the main island in the northern islands of the Kingdom of Tonga. Tonga is directly south of Hawaii, about 1500 miles north of New Zealand.

Duane felt an obligation to join the military during the Vietnam war but couldn’t get in due to a shoulder injury he suffered playing football for the Heavener Wolves. He joined the Peace Corps and with a degree in marine biology, was sent to Samoa, in the south Pacific. His job was to travel to many, many islands to teach the islanders how to fish effectively outside the reefs.

Long story short, Duane is now a fishing guide. Tuff life, huh?

Really, he takes people out to fish on his boat -- the Dora Malia (named after his mother and daughter). Not just any fish, either. For the really, really big fish (see photo above), such as marlin, yellowfin and mahi-mahi. You only hear about people catching those kind of fish on ESPN’s Sports Center, or something.

Sport fishing, it’s not quite like fishing for a big bass or a big catfish.

There are other Heavenerites, too.

Allen Rockwell, class of ’69, is in the oil business, too, as an engineer for Saudi Aramco in Saudi Arabia.

And Stanley Caldwell, class of ’77, is a school administrator in Germany. Stanley graduated from Talihina but got his start in Heavener schools. Stanley has been living overseas for over 20 years in such places as Okinawa, and Yokosuka, both in Japan, and Alconbury, near Cambridge in the UK, about an hour from London. All teaching has been for the DoDDS (Department of Defense Dependents Schools). He said recently in an email that "the greatest part of my job is getting to work with the children of military families".

He recently moved to Ramstein (Germany) as principal of the intermediate school. He said , “I’m sort of amazed sometimes that I have lived out of the U.S. for 23 years, but I’m still an Okie at heart.”

Monday, July 14, 2008

Teachers we can't forget

After all these years – 43 to be exact – since I graduated there are still a few teachers I’d have to call my favorites, or at least the ones I can’t forget.

One in particular is Ed Hawthorne. I wouldn’t describe him as a favorite, just the most unforgettable one. Oh, I learned a lot from him, don’t get me wrong, but I remember more the way he went about teaching us.

He was always quick with a joke to tell us, mostly dirty ones, but then he would always follow it with a prayer and reading the Bible. Maybe it was his way of asking forgiveness for telling us a dirty joke.

I’ll never forget the time he asked us to line up along the blackboard in alphabetical order. Of course, as kids, we usually had to elbow the one next to us, or snicker, or something. Well, John Allinder did something Mr. Hawthorne didn’t care for and he hauled off and slapped him.

I even ask John Allinder about it at one of our reunions a few years ago. Yes, John said, Mr. Hawthorne did slap him. Think teachers could get away with slapping a student today?

And I also remember a time when he handed out our grades and he told us if anyone didn’t agree, they could come up and tell him. Nancy Gilstrap did and he bent her over his desk and gave her a whipping, or paddling, as he called it. I guess he didn’t agree with her questioning her grade. Teachers can’t even paddle a student these days.

Then, there was Luther Woolbright, another math teacher. He came to school one day after he was stabbed in the stomach with some scissors by a lady. Boy, whatever he did must have really set her off! Still another math teacher was Woodfin Garrett. He taught computer science, and he took us one day to Norman (OU) to work on computers, so he was okay, in my mind.

How about Mr. Bettes for science, Mrs. Duty, Mrs. Norvell, Mr. Scott and Mrs. Davies?

One of my favorites was Vera Owen, who taught high school English. She was always pleasant and made class fun. Another was Mrs. Courington, who we had for singing class, or chorus, and Mrs. Roberts, who taught typing.

Willard Henson was one of my favorites, too. He taught shop class and drafting, both of which interested me. I took both later in college at Northeastern State. By then, we called it Industrial Arts.

Frank Hogan was the high school principal. Ray Hall and Bill Perry were the football coaches and Robert Wyatt the baseball coach. Mr. Hamilton was the superintendent.

In grade school, I always enjoyed Mr. Keller and Mrs. Moore, both of whom lived on 2nd Street. Mr. Keller taught geography and Mrs. Moore grade school English. In fact, I remember all my grade school teachers, Miss Betty, Mrs. Stewart, Mrs. Hamilton, Miss Himes, Miss Lasiter, Miss Ruby Owens (mainly because she was Mr. Keller’s World Burger partner, or date), Mrs. Wynn and Mrs. Dozier.

I remember Mrs. Sallee, but I never had her. I do remember Mrs. Sallee not letting anyone run on the school grounds. How about Mr. (Seldon) Taylor, the grade school principal? He did a lot of paddling, too.

Anyone feel particularly scarred, physically or emotionally, from all this abuse we received? They called it discipline when I was growing up!

And they all played a part in my growing up.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Reunions never get too old

Well, another Heavener High School Reunion has been put to bed. The reunions never get old, although we are.

This was my 43rd. I just can’t believe it’s been 43 years since I was in high school. Where has the time gone? I guess I’ve been so busy the time seemingly has just flown by.

It is good to see old classmates, even if I don’t recognize some of them now. It doesn't take long to get reacquainted. All the classes seem to make a push on their 40th. I don’t know why that is.

Maybe it’s because some may not be around for the 50th. My class has lost 17 of our members already.

Four years ago, when we had our 39th we made a big push (since the HHS Reunion only comes every two years we couldn't do the 40th) to make it an important one. My class had so many there I hadn’t seen in so long, I literally didn’t recognize some. The name tags with our senior pictures on them helped a lot!

Dennis West, who used to live only a block from me on 2nd Street, came back for the first time, I think, but he had changed so much, everyone was saying, “Who is that” or “Whose husband is that” like he might be married to one of the girls we did recognize.

His brother Jerry (class of '61) looks practically the same but not Dennis.

This year I recognized him. Cynthia and I went to Oklahoma City a few years ago, so we knew he lived there and we were able to get together with Dennis and his wife Carol, among others.

Gayle Wilson Butler, who lived right across the street from me, said she drove down 2nd Street this time and didn’t even recognize her old house. I must admit, 2nd Street has changed some.

At the banquet Saturday night, Dora Ruth Mead was honored. Dora Ruth graduated from Heavener High 75 years ago! That is truly a long time. I don’t know how spry she is, but she at least was there. Several of her children, including Denton, John and Von, are still around Heavener, too. Martha Lee and Duane live elsewhere.

Brothers Martin and Bob Tate have become fixtures as the flag bearers at these banquets. They always present the United States and Oklahoma flags, but it’s not the same without Hilda Grae Wynn leading the singing of the Star Spangled Banner and Allegiance.

But a younger generation is prepared to step in. Jennifer Wright did an outstanding job!

Yes, time moves on but Heavener High remains an important piece of our lives.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

In a Hole in Denmark

It was a crisp fall afternoon in Aalborg, Denmark and Jessie and I were walking with friends. Feeling the need for some liquid refreshment we turned into the entry way for the Convention Center and an associated hotel. I was walking about five feet in front of the group and could just see Jessie out of the corner of my eye. Then she was gone!! Somewhat stunned I turned to see where she had gone. Then I looked down. All I could see was her head peaking out of the plaza.

It turned out that one of the roughly four feet by four feet concrete slabs had turned under her feet and deposited her in a hole five feet deep. Luckily she was not hurt, although I cannot understand how she escaped injury. We helped her out of the hole and proceeded into the hotel.

The young woman at the desk had a great deal of difficulty in understanding what had happened until we took her outside and showed her the hole. When I asked her who owned the property she quickly replied that the city government owned it. Later she corrected herself and admitted that the hotel owned it. She offered us drinks of our choice and seemed somewhat surprised when we all chose hot chocolate.

I requested a meeting with the engineer in charge of the grounds. It was obvious to me that a drain line had been located too close to the slab. The slabs were bedded on a layer of sand over three feet thick and the drain water had washed the supporting sand away. In the course of the conversation I learned that there was an underground pipe that was supposed to collect the water and carry it away. However, the line was disconnected and all the water had been focused on the support for the slab. I don’t think I did anything that would have actually jeopardized Danish-American relations but I know that engineer went away feeling that he had just met one very irate American.

The rest of the visit was uneventful.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

No new is bad news

Well, I waited all day Monday and no phone calls or emails, concerning the All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium. Monday was the deadline, I think.

Even if I hear from them today, or later, I wouldn’t have time to make plans to go to Yankee Stadium.

I registered as many times as I could to win a trip to the All-Star game, I voted as many times for the All-Star team, as the law would allow. Or, whomever is in the charge of the Major League All-Star game would allow.

I can’t figure it out. I just knew I was a shoo-in for the game. I watched the Yankees as many times as they came on the big screen (TV) and even a few times on MLB.TV (computer). No, the Yanks aren’t doing as well as usual.

Like last night when they played the Texas Rangers, who recently called up a rookie (Chris Davis) from Longview, and I still secretly rooted for the Bronx Bombers. The Rangers wound up winning, 3-2, but I stuck with the Yanks until the bitter end.

On all the All-Star ballots I’ve put Yankees at every position – Jason Giambi at first base, Robinson Cano at second, Derek Jeter at short, A-Rod at third, Johnny Damon, Melky Cabaera and Bobby Abreu in the outfield, plus Hideki Matsui at designated hitter and Jorge Posada at catcher. This, even though Matsui, is on the current DL, he’s enjoying a decent season.

A-Rod and Posada were on the DL at times early in the season, but now they’re having decent seasons, Damon is seemingly back to being Johnny Damon at the plate. Cano is not hitting like Robinson Cano usually does, and Jeter is not hitting exactly like Derek Jeter is capable of hitting.

You can’t always expect Yankee-like seasons out of everyone every year.

Mike Mussina has bounced back and with 10 wins, he’s having a creditable year, so he will probably be chosen on the pitching staff. Then there’s Mariano Rivera. He’s the same Mariano Rivera that we all know and love.

Enough of the build-up of the Yankees. I guess I didn’t get chosen for a free trip to the All-Star Game, so I should quit complaining, huh. Oh, well ...

Who are we kidding here. Of course, there’s still time to make plans. The game is not until the 15th, right?

I’ve told Cynthia to keep the phone lines open until the night of the 14th.