Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Boiled Snake

The following story was written by my Aunt, Ruth Ann Collins, the brother Ruth Ann referred to was Bob my dad, Robert Fitzsimmons Collins; the father was Jesse Millard, actually Ruth and Bob’s step father. The excitable mother was Cora Jane Hathaway Collins Millard mother of Ruth and Bob; she was also the mother of the two younger children, Mary and Howard Millard. Mother, Cora Jane, had a reason to be afraid of snakes; one morning when she sat on the privy seat a copper head lying on a ledge under the seat struck her on the bottom. A doctor was summoned by riding the 12 miles bareback to Reeds, MO to bring back the doctor. Cora Jane had a hole cut in a sheet and placed over her body with the hole lined up over the site of the snake bite. The doctor never saw the woman whose bottom he treated for snake bite. Anyway, on with Aunt Ruth’s story!

“I had a most unusual experience while living in the Ozark Mountains in Stone Country, MO. Our house was a three-room shack made of clapboards which are the first and last slabs sawed from the logs with the bark still on. My father was working for a sawmill company out of Springfield, MO, and their camp was between two mountains, miles to any town or grocery store. About once a month dad hitched up the mules to the wagon and drove the twelve miles to Reeds, MO, for supplies. Garber was closer but it had only one general store, a post office, and a blacksmith shop. Between the trips my father made. We would run short of things, so Bob, my brother, and I would climb the mountains and go through the huckleberry patches and brush to the railroad track and on into Garber for the needed supplies.

It seemed to be a year that many snakes were every place. There were many of them along the railroad track but we felt safe since we could see them first, and besides mother never knew we walked across some high railroad trestles.

A small stream of water ran down past the camp which was especially inviting to moccasins and other water snakes. There were many copperheads around the piles of lumber and the logs that had been rolled down the mountain sides. We even had them in the house. One time my brother threw a shoe at a snake that was hanging by its tail, and was ready to drop onto a bed. It drew back and disappeared.

Mother lived in terror the summer we were there. Her fright at seeing a snake would last for hours. So it was no surprise that she became hysterical the day she saw a snake slithering through the door into the house. I was afraid too, but I knew I had to do something, and quick. I was only twelve but the oldest of four children, and mother was expecting again.

It was about 11 o’clock in the morning of an early summer day. All the men were working at the sawmill, about a quarter of a mile away. The snake kept coming along the floor near a wall until it came to an old metal trunk in one corner of the room, there it stopped. It crawled behind the trunk and coiled up! The trunk top was shaped like a barrel lying on its side and I realized I had to get on top of it in order to do anything. I mounted the trunk, my bare feet only a few inches above the snakes ugly head.

I told my mother to stop screaming, get the children out of the way and bring me the iron kettle of water that was boiling on the wood stove. The kettle was heavy and I could not balance well on the rounded trunk top. As I poured the stream of scalding water onto the snake, its thrashing against the trunk was so violent it almost shook me off. Finally, for good measure, I dashed the coffee left from breakfast (grounds and all) into the corner. After much commotion it gave up and I dragged it outside with a long stick. After everyone had calmed down a bit I began to feel remorse for being so cruel. My father looked very serious when he said it was a timber rattlesnake and it was a good thing my foot hadn’t slipped.

I claim the doubtful honor of being the only person ever to scald a large rattlesnake to death. My sister asked me recently if I remembered scalding the rattler? How could I ever forget the smell that poured into my face from the mixture of hot coffee and venom?”

Aunt Ruth was born in 1894, the summer in the logging camp was in 1906, and she died after a long and fruitful life in Pryor, OK in 1979.


What’s happening these days? Mercy, all this high-tech stuff is getting too technical and way out of hand for me. One day, it’s blogger.com, then a facebook.com request from someone, the next day it’s a twitter.com request, next it’s a myfriend.com. Then there’s Flickr, a method of putting photos into a stockpile. Boy, all these ways to get in touch with someone on the computer ... when will it end? Is there a limit in sight? What happened to just plain ole’ e-mails? That’s high-tech enough for this feeble mind. I thought I would never understand that one. How in the world can a person send another person something by/or through wires? Then someone came out with wireless computers!

Oh, brother. I couldn’t figure out telephones when I first started using them. I mean, how did we call someone on the other end of town, much less, the other end of the state, or another town or state? I was baffled by all of it in the beginning. I had just gotten used to watching things on TV, much less understanding, and trying to grasp how all that worked.

I understand there are telephones with screens on them, so you can actually see the person you’re talking to. Talking to someone on a phone (and I don’t mean a cell) while flying in an airplane is way past me ever figuring that out. Right now, I can at least write my blogs in Word like I have been, save it and move it over to the blog template (which I have bookmarked). And post it. That’s about as technical as I get.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Down to six

Six weeks until Cynthia’s retirement. Hey, I’m counting the days, moreso than when I retired in 2003. When I did so, we had only been married about six months and I knew how important she was to me. It was so I could be there for her when she had to undergo surgery on a thumb, relieving some arthritis and starting rehab. For me, retirement wasn’t necessary. It was just something I had to do to be able to help her through a tough time.

The job at LeTourneau wasn’t a life-or-death situation. I mean, there wasn’t even an SID before me and the school had been involved in some type of sports since 1946. The number of sports had increased over the years, but the coach of each sport called or came by the News-Journal office to bring me results and/or statistics pretty faithfully. So, I knew the coaches when I went there and was sure they could get along without me, too. I guess I got it on the right track, because they hired someone after me, although it took several months.

As I mentioned once before, I changed jobs from the newspaper to the university because I thought the pace would be much slower. It wasn’t and I was working so many hours, some nights and every weekend. Cynthia and I got married when it was convenient with my schedule. So, I had tired of the job, anyway, I enjoyed being married and liked being with Cynthia anytime I had the chance.

That’s why I’m so looking forward when the next six weeks have come and gone.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Several years after leaving Heavener my ever increasing girth began to cause me concern. I was to the point of buying new trousers at a size I knew that only the seriously over-weight wore. I tried to eat less but that did not work at all, no one wants to be hungry all the time. I tried several diets that were in vogue at that time, some of them worked, but when the diet was over the weight came back, usually plus a little more poundage to remind me not to mess with Mother Nature. At about this time running and jogging was in fashion; why not give that a try.
This was in the winter and by the time I got home from school it was already dark, I could run in the dark but that would interfere with dinner. The one thing I did not want to do was to interfere with dinner. If I could not run at night I could run in the morning. Setting the alarm early enough to let me run and still have time enough to shower off before breakfast seemed the thing to do. It was dark out the next morning for my first run, but not so dark that I couldn’t see the road and the telephone poles along the way. My plan was to run from one pole to the next, then walk to the third, run to the fourth, walk to the fifth, and so on. When reaching the planned pole I turned around and repeated the process home. I do not now remember how many poles I ran, but I was pleasantly tired upon arriving back at the house. As time passed and my condition improved I added poles regularly. It wasn’t too long before I was running two poles and walking one, then finally I was running all the poles and not walking any.
One day at school a female student asked me if I was on a diet. I asked her why she asked that. She said that it looked like my clothes were fitting loosely. With that positive reinforcement I went to the store on Saturday morning and bought a pair of pants a full size less than those I could barely button the top button before beginning to run.
Spring came, and day light saving time, it became obvious that running after school was the right way to go. I ran on a highway with a wide shoulder that got me separation from traffic, and certainly away from the dust of the section line. Distances increased and it became obvious to me that the running had entered into a different phase; it was no longer about losing a few pounds. Runner’s World had an article describing long distance runners having runner’s high. Something else came at about the same time, a pain in my left foot. Aspirin took care of the pain for a while, but then the pain began making itself felt even when not running
The doctor could find no physical reason for the pain, he advised me to stop running. I sought a podiatrist and he told me one leg was longer than the other and his solution was a pair of inserts in my running shoes to balance the length of my legs, I bought them but they did not work. An orthopedic surgeon had me go to the hospital and have an MRI evaluation of my foot. It turned out that I had an arthritic cyst between my toes and ankle just behind the big toe joint. On the MRI pictures the cyst looked like a white void, almost ping pong ball sized, in the bone behind my big toe. The doctor told me the cure was to go into my foot, clean out the cyst, and staple the bones of the metatarsals together taking out that joint from my foot. After the surgery the doctor told me not to run on any hard surface like concrete, or asphalt, and to not run on anything for six months. The bones would grow over the staples (three) and it would no longer be a joint, but fairly strong. Once the cast was taken off no pain has been felt from that foot.
Fearful of breaking down my new joint I have not run a step in over thirty years. Abandoning runner’s highs to younger runners it is now difficult to remember what they felt like, if I actually felt anything. Now I go to a health club and work out. Coming home tired and sweaty I do feel good that my body is better for what I have just done.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The most judgmental people

(Editor’s note: This was written by John Inman’s step-daughter, Ora Linville. He agreed with it and hopes you enjoy it.)

Why is it that the most judgmental people on earth are Christians? Why is it that even though Christians sing about God's amazing grace, they somehow can't show grace to other people? Why do they delight in casting stones at those who they feel are less holy than they are? What makes them think that they have the right to judge?

This is nothing new; the Bible is full of examples of this very thing. Every time the "judge" is condemned for judging others. Every time there is a reminder that no one is perfect and no one has the right to judge anyone else. Yet, still, those Christians who pride themselves in the knowledge of the Bible, are the worst when it comes to casting judgment on others.

It's no wonder that those who aren't Christians see Christians as being hypocrites. It's no wonder that people would rather take their troubles to a bar than to a church. And you know what? We judge them for that! It's high time that all Christians take a long look at those around them that they have been judging and realize that those people are no worse than they are. "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

Matthew 7:1-3

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More memories...

After sleeping on it for a few nights, I remember …
• the outdoor toilet at my granny’s and grandpa’s. It was, oh, I’d say 25 or 30-yards from the house. I always stayed with them in the summers when I was around 5, 6 or 7 years old. Since it was always is the summer, there was no snow on the ground like Glen remembers.
• the old smoke house at granny’s. It was off the back porch and I had to take a bath there in an old wash tub.
• riding old Ball, a horse granny and grandpa had. My cousin and I took turns riding him all over the pasture and even hooked up a sled behind him and let him drag us both all over the pasture.
• gathering eggs in the old barn at granny’s. We went out every day to bring them in.
• the old corn field behind granny’s and grandpa’s house. At the time I thought it was the hugest corn field I’d ever seen. In retrospect, it probably was only an acre or two.
• going through Sallisaw on the way to see granny and grandpa in Stilwell. We always stopped at Leslie’s (cafe) to eat breakfast. Leslie was a brother to Pretty Boy Floyd, a well-known gangster in the 1920s and ‘30s. I thought it was curious that my dad’s name was Floyd, too. You have to remember that I was only 4 or 5. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time at granny’s and grandpa’s when I was a kid.
• seeing my great grandmother in Marble City for the first time. She was bed-ridden as I remember, but the bed was in the living room. I thought that was so strange. I was probably only 3 or 4.
• the first Valentine’s Day card I ever got from a girl. Trouble is, I can’t remember the girl. It was either Linda or Sharon Brown. Sisters. I was probably in the 4th or 5th grade.
• my next-door neighbor, John Harvey Edmunds, coming over one day saying I needed to come over and see his baby hippopotamus! Turns out it was a baby possum. Not near as exciting as what I expected. I was, I suppose I was 12 or 13, John Harvey was 8 years younger than me, but we had the same birthday.
• my first telephone call. I had to go down to Mrs. Eaton’s house to make it and I called Lynne Roop (now Pitchford) to ask her out for a date. Don’t know if she remembers it or not.
• mowing Mrs. Eaton’s yard. I had 8 or 9 yards I mowed as a kid to have extra spending money. Dad didn’t pay me anything for mowing ours, though.
• playing “king of the hill” behind Mrs. Smith’s house. At least, I think that was her name, I can’t remember for sure. She lived on the corner in the 300 block of West 2nd Street and behind her house was a just a small hill (mound, really) where we used to play as kids. We were like 5 or 6, maybe.
• riding my bicycle with playing cars in the spokes, to make the sounds of a motorcycle. I never did own a motorcycle. They went too fast for me and were too dangerous, plus I’m not sure they made helmets in those days.
• when Marvin Swain died. He was the first person I knew to die. I remember him because he drew soldiers in battle when we were in grade school and he likely would have grown up to be a successful artist, because the drawings were really good. I must have been in the third grade. His dad was the preacher at the church right at the end of town, at the intersection of the highway and Independence road.
• when Myrna Kelley passed away. She was Colin’s little sister and we (classmates) were much older by then. It was the ninth grade and I remember a bunch of us sitting on the steps in front of the gym when Karen Anderson walked up and shared the gruesome news.

Monday, April 20, 2009

7 to go; then total relaxation

The best thing about Cynthia’s retirement is not only will she be around all the time, but that she will be able to relax, finally. Her job has been most stressful (on her, not me), to say the least.

Seven weeks to go now, and she can be totally relaxed. I’m guilty of insisting that we have to be some place at a certain time. I admit it. That’s the way I am, that’s the way I’m programmed. Time means a great deal to me. I’ve spent most of my life dealing with deadlines in newspaper work, even in college when I worked on The Northeastern. On our inaugural journey, however, Cynthia has said she is looking forward to just going whenever we want, wherever we want. We can be early, we can be late, doesn’t matter. That’s fair enough. She’s had a boss that’s wanted things done on a time basis. And she better not be late doing it, either. I suppose he’s been a little demanding, then I have been that way at home, too, for the most part. So, I can see her point.

For instance, when we get to Cedar Lake and go to visit Aunt Mable in Heavener, it doesn’t really matter when we get there, just as long as we get to see Aunt Mable. We can leave whenever we get ready, too. The only place I want to make sure we arrive on time is in Topeka , KS to visit with John Marvin Wright, our friend and my classmate. He’s off on Sundays and Mondays. And he doesn’t really care if we get on there on Oct. 11th and 12th or Oct. 18th and 19th. Just as long as we are there for a Sunday and Monday. He probably wouldn’t care if we were there any other day, but, for his sake, I want to be able to have a good visit with him on his days off.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More Memories of Heavener

I remember:

--playing in a tree house over the shed behind the Davis home.  We watched the neighborhood girls playing in the shed across the alley.  One of the girls was Darlann West (now dead) who went on to marry Ronald Standridge.

 --being amazed in Nina Dozier’s classroom (sixth grade) one day by the contrails visible out the west windows.  At the time we thought that was a sure sign that they were evidence of jet airplanes although I now know that any high altitude airplane produces a contrail.

 --having a crush on Georgie Mitchell in the second grade.  She was the greatest thing I had seen to that point in my life.

 --walking down from the Blue Mountain Forest service tower one day with Billy Brazil when Bob Giesentanner’s Cadillac (Bob was pastor of the Heavener First Presbyterian Church) had a flat and he had no spare.  He remained on the mountain with the girls (Alma Brazil, Ansalee Pilkington, and one of the Carl girls—Shirley, I think) while Billy and I walked to Hodgens.  We were picked up by Chief Heavener and driven to Heavener.  Boy, were the folks angry at Bob for not taking better care.

 --mowing the yard on Saturday morning so I could go to the double feature matinee at the Liberty.  I earned a whole quarter which was enough to get into the show (10 cents) and buy a Coke (5 cents) and a big Baby Ruth candy bar (10 cents).  Typical shows were the likes of Roy Rogers’ wholesome, good-guy-always-wins full length movies and serials like Rocketman.  Other cowboy heroes were Lash LaRue, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy.  I later met Roy Rogers and Dale Evans on an airplane out of Nashville when I was over forty years old.

 --football practices that began at 2:30 and lasted until 7:00 and during which we received no water.  The common wisdom of the time was that it would give us stomach cramps and, besides, real men didn’t need it.  Pete Davis used to bring a lemon or two which we would pass around and suck on to alleviate our thirst.

 --being the first boy in my class to have his voice change.  And boy did it change—all the way to a deep bass!  When I would answer the roll call in a class everyone would giggle.

 --sitting in Sunday School class and holding hands with Margaret Carl.

 --sitting in Luther Woolbright’s mathematics classes (we were seated by level of demonstrated proficiency—i.e., average grade) and playing “hands” behind my back with Jessie Williams who became my wife some six years later.

 --having Mama take me to Howe one Saturday in the tenth grade to show Luther Woolbright a particularly elegant solution to a geometry problem he had worked out the day before.  His solution was brute strength and not elegant like mine.

 --taking Jessie home in Conser and then really burning up the road to get back to my home before my curfew which was an hour earlier than hers.

 --going to Westminster Fellowship meetings at the Presbytery level.  We went to places like Muskogee, some times the second car was a really dilapidated 1941 Pontiac coupe that Daddy owned.  We have piled as many as nine people in that old car and driven the full 80 miles all jammed up together.

 --playing at the Fox house on the corner catty corner from the Gartner house almost every evening during one summer.  Lots of evenings we tried to knock bats down by waving a white cloth on the end of a long fishing pole.  It was there (at the age of ten or less) that I kissed the first girl in my life.  It was as the result of a “walk around the house” in a spin-the-bottle game.  In this game we could either tell something secret about ourselves or take that walk.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Memories of my childhood

Glen did such an outstanding job of his childhood memories one day last week, I commented if I had a revelation, I would try to blog on some of my memories. Well, I tried to think of something the next two nights and not a great deal came to mind. But I liked the format he used, so with that in mind, I remember …

• my first “date.” Actually, it was a sweetheart banquet. I went with Nancy Jane Gilstrap, we must have been 5 or 6 years old. How can I remember that far back? Well, when we visited Nancy in Purcell , OK several years ago, Nancy said something about it. She explained to her husband Lee that she and I used to be “sweethearts.” I barely remember it, but I suppose we knew each other from Sunday school and our folks, being matchmakers like all good parents, tried to set us up. Yep, I started dating really young.

• a very early birthday party. The only reason I remember it is because my mother had a picture of me, Nancy (the same girl I was with at the sweetheart banquet, Janis Franklin, Mike Mattison, Russell Walker (my next-door neighbor) and other little kids. We must have been around 6 or 7.

• when Paul Albert Riggins (we used to call him P.A., but I suppose now that he’s older, he goes by Paul) and I went riding on his motorcycle. We both had on Heavener Wolves shirts and thought we were really stylin’. Tate’s had some shirts which were gold with purple stripes on the shoulders (like jerseys). I don’t know how old we were, but I guess there was a minimum age to even own a motorcycle. Maybe we were 14 or 15?

• me and my cowboy hat. I must have been about 3 or 4, because my mother had a picture of me wearing it in the front yard and my dad said I used to wear it everywhere, except to bed, and that I probably would have then if I could have gotten away with it.

• jumping off the roof on to the ground. I must have been 4 or 5. There’s no way I would try that now. I’m so afraid of heights now that Cynthia has to get to get on the roof to blow off the limbs or leaves from the gutters.

• playing football in the back yard at night. The lights from the old Phillips’s 66 station were bright enough for me to see. I would toss the ball on the ground and catch it on the bounce and run through the hedge, to simulate tacklers. My dad made me stop because I was wearing all the leaves and limbs out in the hedge running through them so often. I was probably 9 or 10.

• bouncing the baseball off the concrete blocks under the carport. I would play my simulated games, but the shingles above the bricks kept getting in the way, for some reason. After I broke so many shingles, dad made me stop. That’s when I was 10 or 11, I guess.

• practicing switch-hitting by swatting gravel rocks across the fence into Mrs. Eaton’s yard or Mr. Parker’s next door. Again, dad forced me to stop because I hit enough rocks, making the yards difficult to mow. Especially, since I mowed Mrs. Eaton’s yard, too.

• doing the same thing at my grandparent’s house in Stilwell during the summers when I was between 10 and 14-years-old. There were no yards next door, just a wide-open field at the end of the street and I was swinging an olf broom handle or something. I finally gave up on the switch-hitting idea. I figured I could strike out just as easily swinging from just the right side when I started playing organized baseball.

• my cousin, Clifton Crawford, from Marble City , OK , and I slept on an old bed outside my grandparents house in the country. No mattress, just some old bed springs, covered by a quilt when we were just 8 or 9. Or we slept in the bed of grandpa’s old truck. It didn’t matter how uncomfortable we were because it was out under the stars. Yipee!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Heavener Memories too

Glen you sparked some memories with your last blog "Heavener Memories"

It must have been about 1944-45 in the first house we lived in in Heavener, out on the old
Waldron Road

We had a pot belly coal stove in the middle of the living room and mom cooked on a kerosene cooking stove. In the winter Dad would get the pot belly coal stove red hot, it just glowed red!

No TV of course, and the radio wasn't a big thing then in our lives. Sometimes Dad would bring home a 50 lb bag of peanuts and mom would roast them on a cookie sheet in the oven. Mercy!! What a great treat!

Mom washed our clothes in a washer with a gasoline engine. I remember it had a kick start and Mom would get it going and it had a long flexible metal exhaust that she laid out so the exhaust was out in the back yard.

We had a small garage and that was where the coal pile was.

We had an outdoor toilet and on back behind all of that was the pig pin that Dad raised pigs that provided lots of ham and bacon for us.

The "oil branch" was on down behind that and of course a great exploring area for a little boy. Mercy!

Across the oil branch was a large vacant area where the Gypsies used to camp. I remember them coming in their covered wagons and then in later years they had cars and pulled Windstream house trailers. The trailers were so big and the cars were overloaded the bumper would be only about a foot above the surface of the road. Over in that area was the remnants of a house that was gone but the basement was there and always about one third full of water. It was a great crawdad hole. Mercy we would take a piece of bacon fat and tie it onto a string and we would catch a lot of crawdads.

More later when the mood strikes. :)

8 to go; 1st trip planned

Well, one week down, nine to go. The countdown is on and our 1st extended trip is planned after Cynthia retires. Tentatively.

Depending on the recession and current state of things like gas prices, costs, etc., we plan to take off near the end of September and take about a month or so. Our plans are to leave Tyler and stay a couple days at Daingerfield State Park (only about 50 miles or so from here) en route to Cedar Lake/Heavener so we can visit Aunt Mable for a few days. From there, it’s up to Sallisaw to sit with my cousin Marilyn and her husband then to Tulsa to visit Cynthia’s cousin James Harvey Brewer and possibly some other friends along the way. Next stop, Miami , to see Cynthia’s brother, Jim Wisdom and his wife Sanny (Alice Ann Hall), as well as my friend Monty, former SID at Northeastern A&M and currently a sports writer at the Miami News. Cynthia’s never been to his home, so we’re looking forward to it.

Then we head northward to Cassville , MO and stay at Roaring River . I haven’t been there since the mid-60s, when I went with dad, Jim Patterson and Jerry Jack Stewart, and we went on to Kansas City to see the A’s and Yankees play ball. After camping at Roaring River , we’re heading to Pittsburgh , KS . It’s not so far from Roaring River and it’s on our way to Topeka to visit with John Marvin Wright. John Marvin’s wife passed away last year and we want to see how he’s getting along. John was a classmate of mine at Heavener High School and a very good friend of both Cynthia and I, since his grandmother, Mrs. Kirby was instrumental is us getting together. (another story for later)

From there, we start heading back south to Wichita , KS for a stopover on the way to Oklahoma City to see our friends, Elliot and Judy Johnson. Elliot coached baseball at LeTourneau University when I worked as SID there. He’s now the coach at Southern Nazarene, and while we’re there I’ll get to see David Twidwell, who lived across from me, back in my days on 2nd Street . David runs a sporting goods business, Twid’s, started by his dad, Carl Twidwell , the former Heavener football coach in the late 50’s. Elliot is also a customer of Twid’s. I’ve already checked with David and he told me about Elliot. So, it’ll be good to see Carl and David again, too, after some 50 years or so. Wonder if they’ve changed? I certainly haven’t. Then it’s on to Ardmore to visit with Cynthia’s cousin Ann , before going to Lake Texoma , the last stop on our journey.

We’ll stay at Lake Texoma for a while. We’ve stayed there a couple times before, so we’re familiar with the surroundings in a Thousand Trails campground. That will put us close to end of October or early November and from there it’s back to Tyler. I haven’t figured the total mileage yet, but as trip coordinator I’m sure I will, to give us an idea of how far we plan to travel. Tentatively.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Heavener Memories

Some time ago John asked for more memories of life in Heavener.  Here is a set of some of my memories--not written in an eloquent style but just simple and short paragraphs.
I Remember---

 --getting up before daylight in the winter to lie in front of a gas stove to read by the light of its blue blaze when I was about ten.  It was there that I read John Fennimore Cooper’s book, “Deerslayer”.

 --dreading to go out of the house to the outdoor toilet early in the morning when I woke up on cold, wintry days, particularly if there was snow on the ground.

 --trying to walk home from school one day when there was about an inch of ice on the ground from freezing rain.  John Gartner (Bob’s father) met us at Campbell’s corner and picked us up in his 1953 Ford (I must have been in about the fifth grade then).  While we were riding the rest of the way he remarked that he had four new tires on the car for which he had paid $40 each.  That was a very large price for that period of time and I remember thinking that Daddy usually paid only about $50 for a whole set of four.

 --playing Tarzan in the maple tree in the southeast corner of our yard.  We would jump out and grab a limb and swing before dropping to the ground.  Bob Gartner missed the limb and landed on his hands after falling about ten feet.  He broke both arms just above the wrist and when we went into our house he pleaded with Mama, “Please don’t tell my folks.”  Of course she did but Daddy took him to see Dr. Hogaboom and helped set the bones.  Dr. Hogaboom pulled on one arm and Daddy on the other until the bones were back in line.  Daddy said that Bob never whimpered or let on in any way—just got white-lipped with sweat on his upper lip.

 --playing rubber guns.  We made them out of wood and used clothespins and inner tubes.  My pride and joy was a “six-shooter” I made that had six separate release mechanisms.  We would run all over the neighborhood shooting each other at distances from five to twenty-five feet.

 --going fishing when I was about ten at the large ponds that had been formed when the new highway was surfaced south of town.  I think I caught only one fish for all the times I went down there with my rod and reel and casting lures.  The times I used live bait I was more successful and I caught and released a lot of what seemed to be big fish (but were probably no more than six or eight inches long).  One day while I was there at the smaller of the two ponds I saw a surface wave about three inches high race from one end to the other at a speed I estimated to be more than ten miles per hour.  I don’t know what caused that wave to this day but always speculated that it was that “big ole catfish” that we all knew lived in the pond.

 --playing on the clay banks above the Davis home from the time I was about five until I was a teenager.  One time when I was about eight Jimmy Fred and I were running up the path and a snake struck at me.  It hit my pants leg and didn’t touch my skin.  I don’t know what kind of snake it was but I do remember that Jimmy and I also caught a small (~18 inches long) rattlesnake up there one day and hung it on a barb in a barbed wire fence.  This happened when I was less than six years old (I hadn’t started to school).

 --seeing tires piled up in the closet when I was about four or five.  WWII rationing may have still been in effect and, if it was, these were probably black market tires.  If it wasn’t, it was just after rationing went away and Daddy was squirreling tires away just in case it came back, I guess.

 --coming home from school at lunch time on cold days and entering a house full of clothes drying over the fire in the living and dining rooms.  Lunch was usually a generous supply of vegetable soup that had lots of potatoes and other vegetables in a tomato base with some hamburger thrown in.  The clothes gave the house a unique smell and raised the low humidity of the outside air to a much higher level.

 --leaving my job as the "swamper" of the Coffee Shop at 5:00 AM to drive south of town to Hodgens and back in the folks’ 1955 Chevrolet.  Some times I got up to 100 miles per hour on the straight stretch between Hodgens and the Poteau River bridge.  One time I was entering town at about 60 miles per hour and tried to turn at the Apostolic Church corner on what is now Avenue I.  I slid up almost to the church itself before I regained control.

 --going to the Poteau hospital in 1958 the morning my niece Lynn was born.  The windshield wipers on the car wouldn’t turn off so we (Doris, Mama, and I) went all the way with them on.  Then, when Lynn was in the viewing room Lee (Doris' husband) and I were standing side by side and the nurse asked me if my daughter was something great and asked Lee if he liked being an uncle.  Since both Lee and Doris are blond and have blue eyes it was an honest mistake on her part.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Camelot Revisited

John when this started out it was to be a comment on the fine piece you wrote about your friendship with Larry Wisdom, I envy you the time you got to be Larry's friend. I am not sure what the etiquette is concerning a published piece but since Heavener On Line is defunct, and also since I wrote this piece my choice is to repeat it here.

When I arrived in Heavener some years ago it was to assume the duties of the head football coach for the Wolves during the football season of 1959. I could tell right off that these were special young men. They were hard working, eager to learn young football players. At first they were just faces, then a name was learned that went along with the face, and finally they had personalities and mannerisms. A football coach can recognize a fully suited up player in a crowd fifty yards away just by the way he stands, moves, and runs.

One young player did not at first stand out from the crowd. He was just about average size for a Heavener lineman, with average speed. Larry, like his teammates, was easy to coach because he wanted to learn how to play football. He practiced hard and it soon became apparent that he was very tough, and not tough in a dirty way. It would have been difficult for Larry to do something illegal even if I had told him it was alright.

One fall before the regular season began we were set to scrimmage another team that was not on our regular schedule. Watching the other team warm up I could see that they were in an unbalanced line single wing always unbalanced to our left. This necessitated very little modification of our regular defense. One difference was that Larry would be playing on the other team’s center instead of one of their guards.

I called Larry over and we watched the other team run a play, I told him to play head up on the center. “How do you want me to play the center?” He asked.

“You see how the center must look between his legs to snap the ball?” I asked.

“Yes sir.”

"Well, hit the center with a forearm shiver while his head is down, get your head up, find the ball and go make the tackle.”

In present day football offensive linemen can use their hands in ways that would have resulted in a fifteen yard penalty when I coached. The forearm shiver was a legal football move that when used correctly could stop an offensive lineman’s attempt to block.

During the scrimmage Larry was doing exactly that. He stopped the center’s attempt to block by a well placed shiver, found the ball, and made many tackles. He actually did more than that, the center in his haste to get his head up to defend himself against Larry’s shiver forgot about who was to receive the ball. On most plays the ball was rolling around in the offensive backfield.

After one more blown play in a steady succession of blown plays the other coach, who was a friend of mine, came over to me and said: “Bob, get that man off my center right now or we are going to get on our bus and go home.”

I moved Larry to another spot on the defense and the scrimmage went on.

Larry raised Boxers. He told me one day that he was going to give me one of his pups. He said the dog had his tail docked and his ears clipped. When the bandages were off he would bring him by.

“Let me buy him, Larry.”

“I don’t want to sell him to you; I want to give him to you.”

In a day or so Larry brought the beautiful, male, Boxer pup to our house. The pup’s name was Toby. My three kids fell in love instantly with Toby, as Toby did with them. Forget television, the kids wanted to romp with Toby.

We lived directly across the street from the old gym’s front door. Cars went up the hill and down the hill all day, some turned North in front of our house. One day a young man was driving down the hill and turned North in front of our house, Toby was crossing the street and was killed instantly

Maybe the hardest thing I ever did was to tell Larry that Toby was dead. Larry and I were both near tears, then when the two older kids got home from school there were many tears shed.

I know this is late, Larry Wisdom, but thanks for everything and goodbye.

Those three years in Heavener were like an enchanted time. We were young then and probably thought that this is the way life would always be, it wasn’t. This was my Camelot, and when it was over, it was over; never to come back in this life time. My biggest regret is that I never told the other inhabitants of my enchanted time that I loved them, loved then individually and collectively. It is too late to tell Larry, Buster, Freddy, Grace, and others; but maybe they know, I hope so. But it is not too late to tell the ones still here, I love you guys.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

My friend Larry Wisdom

Larry Wisdom and I became good friends because we grew up together as neighbors. Larry lived behind me on the same block. Larry was a couple of grades older than me and I guess I looked up to him like a older brother. Larry was a very good person and lived his life that away. I can remember times he would sent me home because I was cussing in front of little sister. I don't remember Larry ever letting lose with an assortment of profanity. I became a better person by being reminded that a person does not need to cuss to get his point across.

After we graduated from High School and went our own ways. We were brought back together during the summer of 1966. Our fathers both worked for the railroad and they had a program that summer to hire kids of railroad families to work as brakemen from May to September. They hired Larry, Butch Gilstrap, myself and a kid from Poteau, who's name escapes my mind. Since it was a union job, we had to sign an agreement that we would quit the job effective by September when we went back to college. Larry came in late to the program and was told to go to work and he could sign the agreement later. Larry never signed the agreement. When he went back to school that fall, he was still earning seniority as a brakeman on the railroad. This paid off for him later on in life.

We had a lot of fun working that summer. The regular brakemen all took vacations that summer so that we could get a lot of hours. You would be called day or night about being sent out on the next train. We put in so many hours, up to sixteen hours a day. I remember going south on a freight train that stopped on a tassel that crossed a canyon. I had to climb up on a box car so I could signal with my lantern to go forward, stop, or back up. It was really far down to the bottom of that canyon. Then there was another time that the crew on the train had a good time at my expense. One of the knuckles, which couples one car to another had broken. They sent me back to the caboose to get a new knuckle and carry it back to the car that was broken. This must have been 3/4 of a mile and this thing weight one hundred plus pounds. After I exhausted myself getting it there, they all starting laughing because the stand practice is to disconnect the engine and go back on a side track to get the knuckle and bring it back. Larry and I worked together that summer and had the best of times.

My next hook up with Larry was went I got out of the Army in 1971. I went back to college at Southeaster and Larry came in at the semester. My oldest son was about two years old at that time and they became good friends. I thought it was strange that Larry was always coming around to see if Brian could go with him for an hour or so. Never inviting me. Come to find out, my kid was so cute, that Larry could get in on conversations with the young ladies going to school there. He was like a babe magnet.

I went to work two days after I graduated from Southeaster for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. Larry went on to become an air traffic controller at Tinker in Oklahoma City. Three years later I was promoted to a new job which required me to move to Oklahoma City. Guess what, I bought a house just a couple of doors down from Larry. We had some good times in Edmond. Our kids played together everyday, just like we did growing up. Larry moved back to Heavener after a couple of years and we didn't see each other as often. Larry later started having health problems and you know the rest. I really miss my good friend.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Where Thieves Break In and Steal

It’s been a tough year financially! First, there has been the market meltdown that has reduced that portion of my retirement funds invested as a hedge against inflation. Then, just last week, another straw was added to the load.

On Thursday, some self-centered, immoral, and despicable person(s) broke into my house. The theft was probably driven by a drug addiction since the primary things taken were cash and jewelry along with some leftover painkillers from my back and prostate surgeries this past summer.

It’s not the monetary loss that disturbs me so much as it is the sense of violation of my private and heretofore believed to be secure world. Some of the things taken also had a very high sentimental value, such as my Father’s 32nd Degree Masonic ring and a ring that Jessie’s brother had given to her many years ago. Some of the jewelry pieces taken were gifts from me to Jessie that I had obtained on my trips to Europe and Asia. As such, they were one-of-a-kind and not replaceable from on-shore sources.

This is the third time we have been burglarized—the first was in Memphis when our car was broken into and the second was about 25 years ago in the same house we now live in. It doesn’t get any easier.

However, on the bright side, I still have my wonderful family with all three children and three grandchildren living close by. Jessie (the love of my life) and I still have good health and we are active in church and community. I still am able to consult in my engineering field and enjoy what I do very much.

After the break-in, I read Matthew 6:19-21 several times.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NRSV)

And I am reminded of the “Serenity Prayer” in two forms. The first is my understanding of the original as written by Reinhold Niebuhr and the second is the most commonly used version.


Give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,

courage to change the things
which should be changed,

and the wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.


Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

OU's shining stars

While I may not be a Big 12 blogger, or get paid as an OU publicist, I can blog, maybe even brag, to the Heavener group about three OU athletes that appear to be the best in the NCAA. I’m talking about Sam Bradford, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for the Sooners, powerful Blake Griffin of the men’s Sooners basketball team and Courtney Paris, record-setting, double-double performer for the OU women’s basketball team.

Never before has one school turned out athletes to be so dominant in three different sports. Bradford, Griffin and Paris are the crème de la crème of college sports. Two sophomores, boyhood friends who lived only miles apart in Oklahoma City and played little league sports together, and a senior who grew up in on the west coast in Oakland , CA . That all three would wind up at the same college is a major coup for Oklahoma recruiting. Griffin is up for the Naismith and Wooden Trophies and Paris for the Wade Trophy, basketball’s version, or the equivalent, of the Heisman Trophy. Probably Griffin would make a great tight end and Paris might even make a pretty good down defensive lineman at 6-4 and well over 200 pounds. (That’s a joke, but I don’t want to be the one tell her she can’t do it.) Bradford is such a great athlete, he shined on the hardwoods in his young days, and he is also said to be a scratch golfer, too.

On the court, however, Griffin averaged almost 23 points per game and was the top rebounder in the nation with over 14 a game. He was the only unanimous selection to the All-America team. In the NCAA tournament, the 30-6 Sooners reached the elite eight with Griffin hitting 30 a pop and pulling down 15 boards a game. Paris , whose father is former NFL defensive lineman Bubba Paris, averaged 20 points and 14 rebounds per game over her four All-American seasons and at one stretch had 112 consecutive double-doubles. She is the only performer, men or women, to score over 2,500 points and have over 2,000 career rebounds. Quite a feat, huh? The Sooners ladies are 32-4 and will be in this weekend’s “March to the Arch” Final Four bidding for a national title. Bradford passed for over 4,400 yards and 48 touchdowns last season as OU reached the national championship game a 13-2 campaign. He could be the top pick in the NFL draft a year from now, but he’s coming back for his junior year to try and lead Oklahoma to another title game shot next season.

How about OU baseball? Runs have come in bunches as the Sooners are nationally-ranked and out to a 23-6 (4-2, 2nd in Big 12) record, en route to scoring at a terrific clip, including plating 29 in a rout of Kansas State just a week or so ago. They’ve scored at least 10 runs in a game 14 times thus far.

So, whether it’s football, basketball or baseball, if you’re an OU fan, things look rosy in Norman right now.