Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More 'power of the press'

Telling of all my press credential exploits in my last blog, Cynthia said it would only be fair to tell of a time when I took my dad to visit the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield , MO.

It was the original Bass Pro Shop, and I had never been to one of the stores previously. Neither had dad, he had just heard about them through hearsay.

So, up to the store we drove and it took more than a few hours to get there from Heavener – not just an afternoon drive, I mean.

When we finally arrived, I told him to let me “take it from here.” I marched up to the front door, went in and asked the first young lady I saw, “Pardon me, ma’am, could you please direct me to your Public Relations person.” She said, “Certainly but may I ask what your need for him might be?” I said, “Well, I wanted to speak with him about getting press credentials to go in and look around. This is our first trip here.”

She said, “Sure, but you can just go inside, it doesn’t cost anything.” I told her I didn’t realize it was free and went back to get dad. I told him, “It’s okay, dad, I got us in.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him there was no admission charge and, in fact, never really did the whole time we were in there...or when we returned home!

I don’t know if he actually thought I was really important and had used my influence to get us in or if he bragged to his buddies like Lonzo Hudlow about what I was able to do.

I’ve laughed often with Cynthia about it, “Guess what John did for me ...”

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Power of the press

Writing about my time in San Francisco in my last blog also brought back memories of our first real family vacations to California in 1986 and to Colorado to spend a week on a dude ranch a year later.

I had the great idea of writing ahead (in January, I think) to ask about press credentials. We knew we were going in July (the only time I could take off), so I thought, “Why not? I couldn’t be told anything but no, nice try.”

To my amazement, almost every place I wrote to agreed to my idea of planning to write as a travel editor about our stops.

From the famous San Diego Zoo, to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, to Disney Land, to Universal Studios, to the Randolph Hurst Castle , to the Winchester House in San Jose and to Alcatraz , I received positive replies.

My wife, daughter and I were able to visit most places via complimentary press privileges. I mean, we got to visit the zoo, stay on the Queen Mary for two nights with a side visit to the Spruce Goose, stay on Disney Land property for a couple nights – the first morning we were awakened by an earthquake – and take a complete tour of Universal Studios and its rides.

We also visited Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm and took a trip to Catalina Island. I remember my daughter had just turned eight-years-old that previous spring and the thing that seemed to excite her the most, I think, were all the hotels we stayed in where she could go swimming.

And on the trip to Catalina, she had to drink a beer to help calm the seasickness. I don’t remember what she had to take after getting sick from the beer.

The next summer we went to Buena Vista, CO. up in the Rocky Mountains . The scenery was beautiful, the food was fantastic but everywhere we went was on horseback. One night we rode way, way back in the mountains to camp out. My wife didn’t make the ride, but Karen and I slept in a pup tent. I can’t begin to tell you how cold it got that night.

At the week’s end, there was a rodeo. My wife and daughter rode in the rodeo and did okay (barrel racing), but by that time, I was too sore. Karen says what she remembers most about that trip was how our cabin smelled of Ben-Gay, because I had to put some on each night before we went to bed.

When we got ready to leave, the lady in charge surprised me by telling me the stay would be complimentary (I had tried to use the same press privileges as the year before but was turned down). The reason she hadn’t told me earlier was because she was afraid I would tell the other “dudes” it was going to be free.

Did I eventually write about our vacations in the newspaper? Only readers of the Longview News-Journal know for sure.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Halloween Shock

Many, many years ago Jessie and a friend were out shopping just prior to Halloween.  I was at home alone and got the bright idea of rigging a frightening scenario for Jessie when she returned.  So I began searching for just the right things.

First I found a rubberized mask of the head of a brutally ugly man.  Then I ran across a pair of my old coveralls.  The idea then jelled in my mind and I set to work.  First, I constructed a wooden frame in the shape of a very tall man with his hands upraised.  Then I draped the coveralls on the frame and placed the head on the top.  I put an ax in one of the upraised hands and placed the entire structure in a darkened hallway.

Then I heard Jessie and her friend drive up so I hid in a room off the hallway and waited.  I expected Jessie’s friend to drop Jessie off and for Jessie to come in the house.  However, her friend felt the need to use our bathroom and entered first.  It was too late for me to do anything to prevent the oncoming event so I just settled back to enjoy it.

The reaction from Jessie’s friend was spectacular!!  She screamed!  She shrieked!  She found herself frozen by fear and essentially ran in place for what seemed like an eternity.  Then she ran back outside to be met by Jessie.

“I thought you had to use the bathroom,” said Jessie.  “I did but I sure don’t need to now!!” was the reply.

Fortunately, I was soon forgiven and we all remain best friends today.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I left my heart in SF

When Tony Bennett recorded the song “I left my heart in San Francisco ” he surely must have done so with me in mind. Make no mistake, my favorite teams are the New York Yankees and Oklahoma Sooners, but my favorite place is the city by the bay. No, I don’t mean Tampa , either.

When I entered the Air Force in 1967, the first place I was stationed after basic training at Lackland (San Antonio), was Hamilton AFB in California, and I had to fly to San Francisco, the first time I had been anywhere outside of Oklahoma or Arkansas. To say I was as lost as a fish out of water, is an understatement. Hamilton AFB is about 20 miles north of Frisco, in San Rafael . But I had found where I wanted to be.

I absolutely loved San Francisco , the city with the Golden Gate Bridge , the crookedest street in the world, cable cars and Alcatraz . I liked it so well, I’ve been back a half dozen times, and that doesn’t include my dreams.

My first time was on a vacation in 1986 after flying to San Diego and renting a car to drive up the coast of California on Highway 1 (oh, I also went one time before when I went to Vietnam and had to go back out there for combat training at Travis AFB). I visited many of my old haunts, including the first house my wife and I had lived in, or rented.

I’ve been a couple other times on vacations, too, and once with Cynthia, when she had to go to Oakland , on a business trip. I had been sick and was afraid I wouldn’t get to go with her, but the Lord saw to it that I got well enough just in time.

I told Cynthia He wanted to me to go, too.

The trip to Oakland was close enough for me. Cynthia and I took the subway from Oakland to Frisco under the bay. It seemed funny, because construction of the subway was started in the late ’60s when I was out the there the first time. I had wished I could take her to see many of the places I had visited, but we ran out of time to see all of them.

If I haven't said it before, I can't wait.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

BOK center

I picked up my photogapher friend, Henry a couple weeks to go have a coffee down on 18th and Boston, but before coffee we decided to get a couple shots of the new BOK center downtown. My friend, Marc Rains has the best images I've seen of the new BOK center. Check them out at

Reunion in the fall? Why not?

Bud Thompson had a brilliant idea. Why try to enjoy a class reunion when the weather is so hot you can fry eggs on the pavement? July 4th versus sometime in early fall.

Think about it.

Bud was mainly responsible for putting together a reunion for the Class of ’59 in late September and it went over with a big bang. Here’s what Bud had to say in an email when I questioned him about it, and asked specifically whether Jim Wisdom, Cynthia’s brother, and his wife Sanny were able to attend. And, I was curious if 80-year-old coach Carl Twidwell was able to attend.

Twidwell lived across the street from me when I much younger.

Well John, it was absolutely the best one we've ever had ....

We had events Friday afternoon at Mazzio's, Friday night at the homecoming game, then after the game a bunch of us went to the downtown cafe and laughed ourselves silly....

Saturday morning we got together for brunch then some of the girls went to Poteau for "tea".... They've been doing this for 50 years and allowed my wife to go with them this time... She really loved that special time with Franny, Paulann, Bobbie Jo, Frankie and Kay... Saturday night we had a great program with Rocky's quartet singing 50's music, a video presentation of old pictures we gathered from classmates and a really emotional tribute to our deceased classmates..

Good food, laughter, stories and tears... It couldn't have been better.... Out of 70 with 11 deceased we had 38 show up... I just couldn't be more pleased...

Jim and Sanny were there Saturday night and he really enjoyed the video presentation since it had a lot of pictures of their old band.... He looks great, to me hasn't aged that much at all... Sanny looked good and I thought she enjoyed it as well. (Coach) Twid was unable to make it but sent an e-mail for us to read.... Sorry you guys were unable to make it but stay on the mend and before you know it we'll be back in Heavener for the July '10 reunion...

Why didn’t anybody think of this earlier? Think of the possibilities. Harvey Stadium could be rockin’. All former band members would be pleased. Former cheerleaders, former pep squad members, too. A banquet could still be held on a Saturday night. Registration could be held on Saturday morning. The parade could be held later on Saturday afternoon, prior to game kickoff, and that would be good for team morale.

The football schedule would have to be slightly changed, but nothing’s wrong with a game on Saturday, is there? It might even have the feel of a playoff atmosphere, complete with big crowd and all, kinda like Heavener games used to draw in the good ole’ days back in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.

I mean, a Heavener Wolves football game could have one of its largest crowds in years, or at least every two years, if the time was changed to late September. Plus, it would alleviate conflict with family summer vacations. It might even be easier on the eyes to drive to Heavener with the fall foliage, although it may not be in full bloom in late September.

In White Oak, right here in east Texas , a school reunion is held ever three years and a large boisterous crowd at the football game is certainly nice to see. It means more to the players, band, coaches and everyone involved.

Come on, give it some thought. Somebody who knows somebody who knows someone on the alumni association who could make it happen.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fireproof: Giant of a movie

Although I may have been paid as a writer for 20-something years, never in my life did I ever work as a movie critic. The only thing I wrote was when I disagreed with a coach calling the wrong play at the wrong time. And the coach usually told me I was too critical of him.

Today, I want to step out of my element and recommend “Fireproof”. If you’ve ever seen “Facing the Giants”, it’s made by the same folks. It was good and let me tell you that “Fireproof” on the big screen does “Giants” one better. It’s a real can’t-miss flick, in my opinion.

We saw it on a Saturday, and the next day in church, Brother Bennie wholeheartedly recommended that everyone see it.

I do know enough about movies to realize that the acting will not win any academy awards, but the subject is worth the price of admission. Now, it’s not one for little kids, say age 12 and below, because it’s strictly about relationships.

There’s nothing dirty, no language nor scenes, mind you. Just the fact kids may not understand fully what’s going on. So if you have little ones, leave them at home with the sitter so that you can watch without distraction.

It’s about a husband’s relationship with his wife, with his parents, with his co-workers and with God. It had humor, frustration, tears and best of all, victory! Without saying too much that would give away the entire theme of the film, let me just say it was uplifting to see a Christian movie with a theater full of people.

Brother Bennie, Cynthia and I can’t all be wrong! Go see it!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Rest of the Story (My Dream)

The Rest of the Story (continuation of my dream)
Then suddenly a voice startled me and I eased the safety on and turned to see who it was. Of course the noise and the motion alerted the deer and they quickly dashed into the brush waving their white tail flags as they went scampering away. Standing there watching me was a tall man dressed in a ranger’s uniform. I could hardly believe that he had been able to approach so close to me without me having any awareness of his presence. His strong facial features and dark complexion told me he was Indian but what caught my attention the most was the badge pinned on his jacket pocket. He spoke again introducing himself as Simon Fetterson, the game ranger for the county. He told me that he had seen a pickup parked up on the ridge road and had followed the trail down into the canyon and that he had been watching me for some time. I showed him my "life time license’ and he acknowledged that he was satisfied with my I.D. and apologized for having caused me to not get a shot off at the deer. With that he departed with a quick stride and in a moment disappeared around a bend in the trail that led up to the road leaving me standing there scratching my head and wondering about what just occurred. The deer were gone and the daylight soon would be; so I too made my way up the trail to my truck. I knew I could not have been far behind the ranger when I reached the road, but the ranger or his vehicle were nowhere in sight nor was there any sign that anyone but me had been there at all. On my way off the mountain I first drove to the highest point I could find and using my cell phone made a call to Danny Clubb, my brother-in-law, who also is a ranger. I described to Danny the events of my afternoon. Danny told me that my story was pretty strange since the ranger for the county I was in was a ranger named Jack Waymire. Danny has been a ranger for close to 30 years and knows all the state’s rangers and told me that there was not anyone by the name of Simon Fetterson that was a ranger in Oklahoma and certainly there was no one working for the Wildlife Department in Southeastern Oklahoma with that name. Then he told me the strangest part of all. Danny told me how that among Oklahoma’s first game rangers way back in the 1920's was a ranger who was remembered as one of the Departments finest ever who was a Choctaw named Simon Fetterson. He told me how Simon Fetterson had been shot by a poacher he had trailed into the very canyon where I had hunted today. I thanked Danny for the information and slowly drove on out of the mountains and made my way to the house thinking as I drove that my freezer was already full of meat and I didn’t really need to shoot a deer this year anyway and that the quality of that call to Danny was pretty scratchy and I would need to get him to tell me that Simon Fetterson story again the next time that I saw him in person . And besides all that this is just a dream and I don’t even own a cell phone.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Dream Last Night

My dream last night
The yawning high mountain canyon was timbered with pine and sprinkled with patches of massive oaks and hickory interspersed here and there. On the southern slope of the canyon wall a rock slide added a striking feature to the pastoral setting. The granite boulders lodged there seemed to have been stacked by some prehistoric giant of a mason. The sky above was empty of clouds and the sun would soon be easing its way behind the span of Blue Mountain to the west. The rattling stream that wound its path through the valley was not very wide except in the occasional place where an outcropping of stones served to dam up the waterway causing the water to pond somewhat. Suddenly there was a rustling stir heard coming from the featherd leaves of the limbs of a small willow that grew near one of these pools as a pair of blue jays lifted off and went sweeping further up the valley. As they did a young doe stepped into the clearing and inched its way up to the pool. It stood silent and still for a moment and then dropped its head and drank. As it did another doe emerged from the nearby brush and joined the first deer. The two soon became three as a buck appeared at the edge of the clearing and studied the scene in front of him for a while before he too stepped into the clearing and made his way up to the pool to drink. From my hiding spot behind a huge boulder a hundred paces or so from the stream, I hesitantly raised my rifle and sighted in on the left shoulder of the buck Unwilling to disturb the beauty of the scene that spanned before me I paused momentarily reflecting on the magnitude of it all and then did what I was determined to do.
Which was?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Always a fashion plate

Funny how some things change but stay the same. When I was a kid, I wore shorts and a t-shirt a lot of time and now that I’m retired I wear shorts and a t-shirt most of the time.

In between the time I was a kid and now, my dress certainly changed. I remember when I went to college at Northeastern State in Tahlequah, I wanted to look my very best, so I outfitted myself with a whole new wardrobe. I had a new pair of wingtips shoes and I always wore socks to match my shirt. If I had a light blue shirt, I wore light blue socks. If it was a black shirt, I wore black socks, etc. You know, being fashion-conscious was very important in the mid-1960s.

Hair-style, too. All through high school, I had a flat-top, but in college I let my hair grow out some and stared combing it, with part on the left side.

When I left college and went into the Air Force I usually wore fatigues every day. When I left the Air Force and went back to college I still wore fatigues much of the time. Military clothes, including combat boots, seemed to be the norm by that time.

By then, long sideburns were in. At Altus Air Force Base right before my discharge, I worked nights and I had started growing them, anyway, because no officers or my bosses ever saw me, until one day I had to go in for inspection after I got off work. I, for lack of a better word, failed inspection and had to go right home and shave my sideburns off, and report back for duty, or inspection, as it were.

Back in college, however, I let them grow long again. Plus, I started wearing a mustache, fu man choo-style. Man, I was cool.

Then it was graduation time and time to get out in the real world and begin working. My dress went back to conservative, I got rid of the mustache and had to start acting a little more professional. I did grow a beard in 1976, year of the centennial, but I didn’t keep it long. I never liked the beard look.

For a while, after I moved from the Kilgore News-Herald to the Longview News-Journal, I wore a tie to work every day. Then one day the publisher made it mandatory to wear a tie, and I stopped. Just to be a rebel, I suppose.

Once I left the newspaper and went to work as SID at LeTourneau University, I was back wearing shorts again, at least, from about April to November, or whenever the weather got too cold Now, I’m retired and I wear nothing but shorts, unless it gets too cold.