I am compiling short stories into a book and I will be posting excerpts from a few of the stories on this website. Also, some commentary on what I consider being provocative subjects.
YOUNG BOYS, BASEBALL, AND HORSES
It was 1949, and like everything in that era, I remember things in black and white, because they were.
They said we were moving to Milwaukee. Where was Milwaukee? My brother and I never heard of Milwaukee. My older brother, Gary, was born in Philadelphia. I was born in Wisconsin Rapids and the first four years of my life we lived at 1940 Gaynor Avenue in Wisconsin Rapids on the second floor of my father’s parent’s house. They converted their upstairs into an apartment for my mother, my older brother and myself, while our dad was away during the war. What more could a kid want, right? Live with your parents and have your grandparents living just below you to spoil you and give you the things your parents couldn’t or wouldn’t give you? What kid would want to leave that arrangement? Now we were finally moving out on our own as a family. My father had enrolled in the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee and he was starting in the fall. My dad grew up in this same house and at that time, they called the neighborhood Dog Town because everybody had a dog, some chickens and not much else. The dogs were always running loose around the neighborhood following the kids wherever they went. My dad’s friends were rough and tumble like Spanky’s Gang. There was Red Sullivan, Big Russ Davis (who married my dad’s cousin Elaine), Bill Gross, Glen Pike and Jim Gazely. My mother grew up in Wisconsin Rapids as well, but she was from the “other” side of the Wisconsin River.
Truthfully, I cannot recall how I felt about leaving, but looking back on it now, I must have felt some regret. For those first four years of my life, and, as it turned out, most of my life, my grandfather was like my father. He taught me how to ride a bike, throw a ball and he provided comfort for me when I was afraid or hurt, but most of all, he was always there for me when I needed him and now I would be leaving not only him but my grandmother and their dog Boots, a Collie, who had become our dog too and the only home we had known. Plus my brother and I had friends we would be leaving.
Hank Wakely helped us move. He rode with my father as they pulled a small house trailer behind our car to set everything up in a trailer park just off Highway 100 in West Allis, a suburb of Milwaukee. Looking back on it now, that entire house trailer wasn’t as big as the kitchen we had on Gaynor Avenue. Hank might have helped because he had experience pulling a trailer as he had horses. Hank and his wife, who all the kids in the area knew only as Mrs. Wakely, were an older couple who also lived on Gaynor Avenue, but across the tracks in the Town of Wisconsin Rapids where the oiled gravel Gaynor Avenue ended and it turned into a dirt road. At that time, it was common to put used motor oil on the gravel to keep the dust down. The Wakely’s didn’t have any children. At least none that we knew of or ever saw. They lived in a small light blue house with a gray six stall barn in the back. Mrs. Wakely had white hair that was always pulled up in a bun at the back of her head. She was a very sweet lady and some summer days after we finished playing ball, if we were lucky, Mrs. Wakely would call us over while she stood on her front porch with a platter of her freshly baked chocolate chip cookies offering each of us one.
I don’t recall seeing Hank Wakely without his gray Stetson hat that sat perched on the side of his head so I don’t know what color his hair was, most likely gray, or whether it was long or short, or what it looked like or whether he had any hair at all. Also, I never saw him in the house. He smoked cigarettes a lot and said very little, at least to us kids. In fact, I don’t think he really liked kids all that much.He seemed to spend all of his time out in the barn with the horses. He was a horse trainer and a rather harsh man.
The little house was trimmed in white and had white lace curtains in the windows. The few times I can recall going inside was with my grandmother and it was always neat and clean and smelled like a grandmother’s house. That is, it had the smell of something that was freshly baked. They had a big clock hanging on the wall and I remember the house being quiet and hearing the clock ticking while I sat in a stuffed chair listening to the drone of Mrs. Wakely’s and my grandmother’s voices as they visited. There was no television.
They had a few acres of land and always had horses, big draft horses. There was something about those big beautiful horses that drew me to them.They fascinated me and I would often go into the barn and look at the magnificent animals as they were resting in their stalls. The draft horses didn’t belong to the Wakely’s. They belonged to the Mead family, the town’s wealthiest family that lived on the “other” side of the Wisconsin River. The Mead’s owned the paper mill in town, Wisconsin Rapid’s largest employer. They hired Hank to train and take care of their horses.
I saw Hank go into his barn one morning, so I walked up to see the horses, hoping Mr. Wakely might let me ride. I always hoped he would let me ride and I hoped that this would be that day. I could smell the pungent mixture of oats, hay, manure, and horse urine as I walked across the dirt floor. I couldn’t see him as he was on the other side of the horse bent over, trimming its hooves . The barn was open on both ends like most barns are, allowing you to see out the other side. When you entered the barn you would be temporarily blinded by the change from the bright sun to the darkness of the inside until your eyes could adjust. I couldn’t see Mr. Wakely that morning, due to my eyes adjusting to the darkness inside, but I knew he was there. I could hear him working.
As I approached I reached out to touch the haunches of the horse he was shoeing, when Mr. Wakely suddenly appeared, rising from the side of the horse like a dark apparition in the morning mist. All I could make out was his silhouette standing next to that huge horse. His gray, sweat stained Stetson hat was pushed back on his head and he held crimpers in his left hand. He stared at me before setting the crimpers down on the ground. He removed a small white bag from his shirt pocket along with a small piece of paper. He tapped tobacco from the bag into the paper making a cigarette. He pulled the string on the small bag with his teeth, shutting it tight before returning it to his pocket. Then he ran his tongue down the length of the cigarette sealing the tobacco in while twisting both ends shut before sticking it between his lips. I stared transfixed on the small cigarette that he just made while he drew a kitchen match from his shirt pocket and struck it across his leather apron. A flame shot in the air, casting dark shadows across his face as he put the flame to the end of his cigarette. He inhaled the smoke deep into his lungs before blowing it over the head of the match and extinguishing it.
He looked at me before saying, “Don’t you ever walk behind a horse like that or he will kick you so hard you would wish you were dead.”
I was both stunned and scared and all I could do was stare slack-jawed at the cigarette that was jumping up in down in his mouth as he was talking. I swear I thought it was alive.
The sudden appearance of his silhouette from the side of that horse, coupled with the flame of the match eerily casting shadows across his face, left an indelible impression on my young mind and taught me a horse safety lesson that I still remember today. He also didn’t let me ride that day.
I recall him pulling into the driveway on occasion with a trailer full of horses while we were playing ball in the pasture. The horses would be calling out to their new pasture mates and we would stop what we were doing and watch as he methodically unloaded each horse and led them into a separate pasture. He bought and sold horses for a living as well as trained them. A profession that seemed to me to be in its twilight years, along with old Hank. As much as I wanted to ride horses, you just didn’t see many on the roads. It was all automobiles.
On most summer days we would get up and our grandmother would make us a hearty breakfast, usually consisting of a pound of fried bacon and half a loaf of bread toasted, soaked and slathered in 100% pure Wisconsin butter before being lavishly sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. She would cut these in four small squares making it easier for us to eat. This was followed by a bowl of freshly picked strawberries, blueberries or raspberries, floating in 100% real cream that had just been skimmed that morning off the top of the bottle of milk that was delivered fresh to the house by the local milkman. We were allowed to cover the cream and berries with as much sugar as we wanted. We finally washed everything down with 100% whole Wisconsin Dairy milk.
The Wakely’s let us use one of their pastures to play baseball in and that’s where my older brother, Gary, and I headed once we finished our healthy, hearty Wisconsin Breakfast of Champions. We would bike down to the Wakely Field, with our baseball gloves strapped to the handlebars of our bikes, those of us lucky enough to have one (bike and/or glove), with a ball stuffed inside the back of the glove and our favorite bat laid across the top of our handlebars. If you were one of the fortunate ones, you would be wearing a new pair of summer blue jeans that would have to last you until school started, ‘so you better be careful and don’t tear them’. The only thing we had to worry about in those days seemed to be the vicious horse flies the size of chestnuts that constantly attacked us in their attempts to extract all of our blood. Their bites were really painful. Before we left the house we were told what time to be home for lunch. As long as we abide by those rules, everything was okay.
On our way to Wakely’s Field, we would head north and cross the train tracks and our first stop was at Gordy Juranek’s farm to see if Gordy was done milking the cows and finished with his other chores. He usually put a whole day of work in by the time the rest of us were just crawling out of bed. The Juranek’s farm was located on both the east and west side of Gaynor Avenue. Their house and barns were situated on the east side of Gaynor Avenue and in their west pasture they had a cheese plant, a long red brick structure with many windows along both sides. You couldn’t see in or out of these windows even though they were only about a foot off the ground as they were covered with dirt. A few years later Juranek’s would rent this out to a local brewery, called Preway, to warehouse and ship their finished beer.
Gordy Juranek was a small, thin, perpetually tanned boy with dark hair and a permanent smell of cow manure which is every dairy farmer’s perfume del dia. I remember him giggling a lot. Maybe I did too. We got in trouble with his dad one time when we were caught riding one of the dairy cows. His dad was in the back pasture on the tractor when he saw us and came driving toward us and before we could safely get off the cow and make a run for it, she decided to lower her head and dump us in the urine-filled mud along the creek. When his dad drove up he was fuming. He said we would ruin the milk by riding those cows. We smelled so bad and were such a mess I don’t think he had to worry about us doing anymore rodeoing on his cows after that. We also snuck into his corn field on a few occasions with a corn cob pipe and we would strip the corn tassels from the ears of corn and sit down between the rows and smoke the pipe. One time Gordy’s mother looked out her kitchen window and saw the smoke rising from the corn field and thought the corn field was on fire. Fortunately for us, she decided to check it out herself before getting Gordy’s father. Both of these incidents happened years later when I was a little older, maybe ten or twelve years old. Gordy wasn’t much taller than I was even though he was two years older. It was always a crap shoot whether or not his dad would let him come with us to play ball, so we kept our fingers crossed when we rode up his driveway. I have no recollection of how good a player he was but it didn’t matter we just wanted to have fun.
Next, we would stop at the Davis’ house and pick up Larry and Dennis Davis. Their house was on a hill set back from Gaynor Avenue about a half a mile. The road wasn’t even a dirt road. It was sandy and was on an incline and it was really difficult to ride our bikes in that sand up to their house. They would plant vegetables in their front pasture and at the end of summer they would pay whoever was interested $0.50 for every 50# bag of beans or peas they would pick. I made the mistake of allowing myself to get roped into doing that one morning when I was about nine or ten years old. It was after my grandparents had taken me to get a new pair of light colored blue jeans. It had rained and the ground was muddy and I didn’t want to get the knees of those jeans dirty so I picked beans all morning by just bending over. I never once knelt down on my knees. By the time we broke for lunch, I had picked only one 50# bag. Everyone else had picked about five bags each. When I walked over to get my bike to ride home for lunch, I couldn’t straighten my back. I walked stooped over like an old man. I didn’t go back in the afternoon.
The Davis brothers were good athletes. Larry Davis was the oldest and had dark hair. I remember him having a different way of walking than the rest of us. Sort of a confident bounce in his movement. Later, in the 1960s, when Larry was older, I thought he bore a strong resemblance to John F. Kennedy. Dennis was a year younger than Larry and had blonde hair and freckles. I recall how he would strut around like a Bantam rooster but always with a big smile and an infectious laugh. He had a cocky, confident walk. It was fun to spend time with him. Both Larry and Dennis were always smiling and didn’t seem to have a care in the world. It was a testament to their mother and how she was raising them. She was widowed. Their father was killed in the war when they were both just toddlers. They were friendly and kind to everyone. They also had the connections to get more players, like Bill Davis, their cousin. He lived a few blocks away from Gaynor Avenue toward town on Seventeenth Avenue. Then there was Bill, “Willie”, Pavaloski, whose father owned a small grocery and butcher shop in downtown Wisconsin Rapids where my grandparents went to get fresh meat. I remember Willie as being a little different than the rest of the guys. He didn’t live in the “neighborhood” which meant on or near Gaynor Avenue, Dog Town. He had blond hair, that he wore in a buzz cut, crooked teeth, and freckles and batted left-handed, all important statistics for a young baseball player.
The Davis’ knew a few other potential ballplayers as well, like a Chippewa Indian. No one knew where he lived. Somewhere back “there” I guess. Unfortunately, we all knew where we could find his dad. He would be drunk, leaning against a white clapboard building next to the tracks along Seventeenth Avenue on the way to downtown Wisconsin Rapids. He would be there every day by 2:00 p.m. and we would ride past him on our bikes on the days we rode down to Sweet’s Grocery Store for a soda pop. Our Chippewa friend was never with us, though. He didn’t have a bike. All of us were poor, but not as poor as he was. He was a little overweight and slow and threw a ball like a girl. He was the only one in our group who was darker than Gordy Juranek.
When we arrived at the ball field, we would leave our bikes lying in the ditch alongside the road outside the barbed wire fence. We would throw the bats, balls and gloves over the fence before we climbed between the strands of wire, hoping we would not snag our jeans or shirts; but inevitably, someone would snag something. We would look at the tear for a moment and then forget about it and take off and run to our “ball field”.
Hank Wakely allowed us to put up a backstop which consisted of two old fence posts and some leftover chicken wire. The posts were wobbly and over the course of a summer, the chicken wire would break and the bottom would be bent up from everyone reaching under it trying to retrieve a ball because we were too lazy to walk around to pick it up. But it served its purpose, stopping most of the balls.
Before we started our game, we would walk around the field, making sure the horses hadn’t left anything unpleasant for us to step in. Once we were satisfied that it was safe to run and slide, we made sure our bases, usually the flattest stones we could find, were in the proper place.
Now it was time to choose sides. This was an interesting ritual. I was the youngest and smallest and I threw left handed, none a characteristic that made me a worthy choice for a team captain to pick for his team. I was known as the equalizer, the last one chosen. I equaled out the sides, usually three on three, or four on four, depending whether or not Gordy had finished his chores and whether or not the Indian, our other equalizer, showed up. My brother, Gary, was probably the best player and was usually a captain or one of the first picked. I knew if he was chosen to be a captain that day, it was unlikely that I would end up on his team unless I was chosen as his “equalizer”. In any event, if not last, I was always close to the last one chosen, sometimes even after the Chippewa Indian. That meant I was put in the field, where nobody would hit the ball.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t catch the ball, I could, a little. The problem was I didn’t have a baseball glove of my own. I did have a glove; it was my grandfather’s old catcher’s mitt that he used as a kid growing up in Chicago back in the early 1900s. It was for right-handers and had a pocket, or sweet spot, right smack dab in the middle of the glove with a tremendous amount of padding surrounding that sweet spot. There was so much padding in this glove I could barely hold it up. Sometimes the stitching would pull apart and the cotton stuffing would stick out and we would have to push it back in and sew it up with string or just tape it closed; plus it was a glove for a right-handed adult player, not for a left-handed kid. I had to wear it backward and it was impossible for me to squeeze the glove around the ball once I caught it. No one was able to squeeze that glove around the ball once it hit the pocket no matter how strong their hand was. Not even Gordy Juranek who squeezed a cow’s teats every morning for an hour could do it. I had to knock the ball down instead of catching it.
There were always others playing with us who didn’t have a glove. I know the Chippewa Indian didn’t have a glove. Some of the guys that had a glove were willing to share unless their glove was relatively new, but no one was left handed so I had to make do with what I had.
Most of us had a favorite bat. There were no metal bats. Everything was made of wood and Louisville Sluggers were the best. They were made in different lengths and weight and the handles would be different thicknesses all to replicate the real bats used in the major leagues by the major league baseball star whose signature was on the bat. When you came up to bat the first thing everyone noticed was where the Trademark on the bat was located. When you held the bat, you were supposed to make sure that the Trademark was facing up and if it wasn’t, they would yell and scream at you to let you know about it. The bat was more susceptible to being broken when you hit the ball if that Trademark wasn’t facing up toward heaven. One way to get your friends angry with you was to break a bat, especially a favorite bat.
Sooner or later the handle on a bat would crack. That didn’t mean its life was over, it just meant we went to somebody’s garage and got out a roll of their dad’s adhesive tape, or if we were lucky duct tape. After we wrapped the cracked handle on the bat, we had to cover it with dirt so our hands wouldn’t stick to the handle. This would prolong the life of our favorite bat until it finally just broke in half. Once that happened there was no bringing it back.
As for the ball, sometimes someone got one for a birthday present or for some special occasion or just saved his money until he had enough to buy one. When that happened we couldn’t hit that ball until every last resort to save all of our old balls was tried. This included putting water logged balls in a warm oven to dry out and, once again, using tape to tape the horsehide back on once it started to come off the core of the ball. If we could no longer preserve the horsehide, we would then cover the core of the ball with tape.
Baseballs start out white with red stitching but most of ours ended up a dark brown. They would roll through dirt, mud and water and not only would they become as heavy as a rock, they looked like a rock. Finally, when that ball was totally destroyed, we could pull out the new one. Anyone that wasn’t playing when this occurred was very disappointed as playing with a new ball was rare for our group. Some of the balls we ended up with were printed with, Made in Japan, and the cover didn’t last long on those. In fact, the balls didn’t last long. After one game, or during that game, they would begin to fall apart. Not only would the stitching start to unravel, but the shape of the ball would change from round to oval. There was no saving these balls with adhesive tape because as soon as the cover started to leave, the inside of the ball started to fly out. They stuffed these balls with a Japanese newspaper that was shredded into small pieces, or old Japanese propaganda leaflets left over from the war. We thought this was exciting because we never saw Japanese writing before and this was only a few years after the war.
In the end, the condition of our equipment didn’t matter all that much, although I always wished I had a glove that was a little lighter so I could hold it up for an entire inning without having to rest it on the ground; but most of all, one that fit on the correct hand. But our main purpose was just to get together and have fun playing.
One warm summer morning we were in the middle of a real close game. The horses had gathered around the outfield fence, their tails swatting flies and heads hanging into right field, watching with interest what the six little boys were doing in their pasture. I was moved to second base because Larry Davis came to bat. He hit left-handed so our team called timeout and made the Larry Davis switch where the left fielder moved to right field and our infielder moved from shortstop to second base. My brother Gary was pitching and he had a wicked fastball for a ten-year-old. Which meant if someone timed it well they could really tag it and make it fly. Gary looked down at Larry and went into his windup to throw his first pitch when we saw our grandma pull up along the fence in her new Chevrolet Coupe. Our grandparents always got a new Chevrolet every two years and this one still sparkled in the bright sun.
We wondered what she was doing there. Unlike today when parents seem to be everywhere when kids play, we rarely saw a parent or an adult, so this was unusual.
Gary stopped his pitch and the game temporarily came to a halt when our grandmother stepped out of the car. She called me over to the fence. I dropped my old catcher’s mitt, it was too heavy for me to run if I was carrying it, and I ran to the fence. When I got there my grandmother handed me a box and said, “Your grandfather and I thought you needed this.”
I opened the box and just stared. It was my very first baseball glove. A left-handed fielder’s mitt. It was signed down the right side of the glove where you insert your baby finger by Ray Boone. He wasn’t even left handed but that didn’t matter. He played third base for the Cleveland Indians and instantly became my favorite player, that is until the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953 with a left-handed pitcher named Warren Spahn. I don’t think I had ever been happier. I was the youngest child. I lived on hand-me-downs. I rarely got anything new, let alone a new baseball glove. I can still smell the leather of that glove to this day.
After giving my grandmother a hug and kiss, I ran out to my second base position ready to play. I tugged on the bill of my cap and bent over, pounding the pocket in my new glove before looking around at all my friends and I couldn’t keep a big smile from creeping over my face. I looked at my horse friends in right-field, still swatting flies with their tails and, I swear, shaking their heads in approval of my new glove. I was ready to make history. Play Ball I yelled!
I would like to say I made the game winning catch with my new glove that day but that wouldn’t be true. I can honestly say that I kept that glove up in my face and close to my nose, smelling that new leather, for the rest of the day. My grandmother made me put it down so I could eat but that night I slept with that glove and probably the next few nights as well.
The gray tractor is a Ford 8 N. It is a 1949 model we named Mustang Sally and it runs like new and the engine is so simple even I can understand some of its workings. The other is a 1959 Allis Chalmers D14 named Mustang Ally with my grandson standing on the bush hog.
We used the Allis Chalmers to cut down briars, bushes and sapplings up to 3″ in diameter going uphill and it didn’t slow down one iota. It has a 4 speed dual axle transmission and the rear wheels expand outward to provide better balance when cutting on steep hills. The Ford was originally a 6 volt system and it had to be converted to a 12 volt system to get it to operate properly. It has only 4 gears forward and it goes faster in first gear than the Allis Chalmers making it a bit scarier when negotiating hills(which we have an abundance of here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains). While plowing through the high weeds you can’t see the ground and that doesn’t give you much time to react and bring the tractor to a stop.
We used these two tractors to clean up a guy’s 40 acre family homestead that was left vacant for years and was overgrown with weeds and bamboo. After we finished, the family brought out some old restored equipment and had an ol’ time southern Octoberfest with BBQ, fresh squeezed apple juice and fresh milled grits. I believe the gristing machine was from the 1920’s era. I’m not sure on the hand cranked apple juice machine. We had hay rides with our old 1949 Ford 8N tractor pulling the wagon.
The first picture below is of the corn grist mill and the second is making apple cider.
I snapped to when I heard the continual buzzing of the alarm on my phone. It was 3:00 a.m. December 6, 2013, one day after the 80th anniversary of the greatest day in American history, the end of prohibition. When I sat up, I felt like I had been celebrating every day since that glorious occasion. We were going to Piney Woods, Mississippi, just south of Jackson, to pick up a pair of burros; we were getting cut “Jacks”, gelded males. The Mustang and Wild Horse Rescue of Georgia was asked to participate in The Platero Project, a joint venture between the Humane Society of the United States, HSUS, and the Bureau of Land Management, (BLM). They would loan out a burro to a non-profit to be tamed and then the non-profit would find it a home. The HSUS would then donate money to the non-profit from money they received from The Platero Project grant. We were told not to get involved with burros because burros were stubborn and mean little buggers. But when we hear something like this, we take it as a challenge, plus we have a ¾ blooded Cherokee and an animal whisperer volunteering his services. He has tamed everything from mustang horses, a mama bear and two of her cubs, a squirrel, a fox and other critters as well as four daughters. The last I know from personal experience is not an easy task.
We took off at 4:00 a.m. with the temperature at 71degrees. At our first gas stop in Alabama, we knew this was going to be a great trip. We walked into the store and asked if they had any Krispy Crème Donuts. They didn’t, so we walked out with a bag of Ding Dongs and two Coca-Colas and a Snickers Peanut Butter candy bar, super-sized. This trip would be filled with junk food.
By the time we reached Birmingham, the temperature had dropped to 55 degrees and as we passed through Tuscaloosa, it was down to 50 degrees. When we entered Mississippi, it was a cold 47 degrees, the wind had started blowing and it was raining hard.
Four hundred and ten miles later we pulled off I 20 in Jackson Mississippi, the temperature was now a balmy 44 degrees with an estimated wind chill in the 30’s, raining with a heavy wind. As we stopped at the end of the exit ramp, the trusty old Ford F150 pickup truck began to shudder and make a sound which sounded like a blown rod, whatever that is. Once I turn on the ignition, I am beyond my knowledge of the workings of a combustion engine.
We pulled to the side of Hwy 49 and “popped” the hood, and sure enough, we didn’t blow a rod, but we did blow a spark plug. We were lucky it could be fixed. The Cherokee God of Good Luck was with us as a NAPA Auto Parts store miraculously appeared on the horizon only 500 feet in front of us AND it had only one spark plug kit left that would fit the truck. We learned something else from the clerk while spending $70 for a little spark plug and a plastic casing; this is a common occurrence with a Ford F150.
Ten minutes later we closed the hood and we were heading south to Piney Woods. When we arrived the guard waved us through like royalty. Cary Frost, the BLM agent, was eagerly waiting for us and waved us over to the chute and we backed up our trailer. After brief introductions and a chat about mutual acquaintances, we found out Cary is a former rodeo guy from Toole Utah, where I had spent some time back in the early 2000’s. He was transferred from Nevada to Mississippi. The federal government is leasing the land from the Piney Woods School District. Piney Woods is a Charter High School and the BLM’s facility adjoins the school grounds to the north.
Cary locked down the panels of the chute to the sides of our trailer and brought the Jacks down the chute, closing off a section at a time until they were up next to the opening of the trailer with no place to go but forward. We had Cary cut off the rope holding the Jack’s identification numbers before we loaded them. After the proverbial boot in the “ass”, we had two new members of the Mustang and Wild Horse (and now Burro) Rescue of Georgia, Inc in our trailer. We signed the papers admitting we were in possession of government property and pulled out heading back to the Jack’s new home.
Everything went well until we got into Alabama when we were met with heavy rains and wind. Every time we have gone on a long rescue mission we have encountered miserable weather. Everything from a Tornado when we went to Owensboro KY to get a mustang we named Kentucky Rain, and Kansas and the Missouri Ozarks when we got our mustang, Shawnee, to a near Hurricane when we went to the Gulf Shores area of Alabama to retrieve a mustang mare, Aura, we had adopted out and who we found out had been abandoned in a field.
Due to the terrible driving conditions we had to cut back on our speed and didn’t arrive at the Jack’s new home until after 10:00 p.m. making for a very long day for two old mustangers and two young Jacks, all happy to have made it back safe and sound.
My wife warned me not to do this but I have to. I was up early, feeling good, no hangover, not angry at a soul, not even those dysfunctional morons in Washing D. C. I was sitting in front of the fireplace all alone enjoying the peace and solitude that comes to you when you have an opportunity to sit by yourself and let your mind go (this can be scary sometimes), when a thought crossed my mind and I just HAD to get it out.
I am currently working on another novel. It is the third in the Max Fly, Private I Series, where I introduce a young female private investigator who muscles in on Max’s territory. Not only is she young, smart, sexy and knock out gorgeous, all attributes that Max looks for in his ladies, but she is deadly as well.
As my mind tries to develop this character, I ask people if they know of any authors who have strong female characters that are not only strong, witty and independent, but still show a vulnerable side. Now, I am not a big fan of female authors who write detective fiction or nonfiction. I am very particular on who I read. I do like Tami Hoag, Patricia Cromwell, Deanne Stillman, and Ann Rule to name a few. In my humble opinion and that’s all that counts in this treatise, my opinion, I don’t think very many women writers can write well from a male’s point of view. The dialog just doesn’t sound right to me and I assume the opposite is true as well, men cannot write well from a female’s point of view. But hell, I am throwing caution to the wind and I am going full steam ahead with my idea anyway.
This female character I want is strong, sarcastic, funny and can banter with a man and come out on top and still be sexy and vulnerable, all necessary traits in a woman that piques Max’s interest. I had suggestions of authors to read from people that run the gamut from J.A. Jance to Nora Roberts. These are bestselling authors but they just don’t get it; especially for Max and I am sure they would have no desire to if asked.
Then while discussing this with my sister-in-law, she suggested I read Janet Evanovich. She told me she laughs out loud while she reads her stuff. So I decided to try her and voila, I found the author I was looking for; in fact, she stole my character and pulled the rug out from under me. But I have become a big fan of hers and will soon be reading another adventure of her character Stephanie Plum and her African American cohort, Lulu.
So what does all of this have to do with women not being good joke tellers? Not much but the topic brought Evanovich to mind. Now to segway (this term has become more popular than the two-wheeled transportation device it was trademarked for), to my original thought.
Yesterday a friend posted a joke on FB that pokes fun at men being impetuous and reckless when it comes to something they want and how women will wait and ponder something before making a decision. Watch a woman and a man shopping in a mall. Most men will walk in see what they want, purchase it and go home. A woman will walk in spend all day looking around, go home and then decide that they want the first thing they saw and return to the mall only to find it is gone. Then they get angry and wish they had purchased it when they first saw it. So here is the joke that triggered all this gibberish. The second one is similar, but told by a man. After reading each one, you be the judge.
First is the case for women’s humor from.
When God created Adam and Eve, He said:
I only have two gifts: One is the art of peeing standing …
And then Adam stepped forward and shouted: ME!, ME!, ME!,
I would love it please … Lord, please, please! Look, it will make my life substantially easier.
Eve nodded, and said those things did not matter to her. Then God gave Adam the gift and he began to shout for joy. He ran through the Garden of Eden and used it to wet all the trees and
bushes, ran down the beach making drawings with his pee in the sand …
Well, he would not stop showing off. God and Eve watched the man crazy with happiness and Eve asked God: What is the other gift? ‘
God answered: Eve,….. a brain … and it is for you …!
I admit, that is “cute”. Now, here is a “guy’s” version of a joke.
God was finishing his creation of Adam and looking at him and said; “Adam, I am going to make you the most amazing mate who will clean and press your leaves and cook for you and care for you when you are sick and will be there at your beck and call for your every need and willing to fulfill all of your sexual desires.”
What will you call this mate,” Adam asks.
“We will call her woman,” God replies.
“Well, where is she?”Adam asks excitedly.
“Whoa, wait a minute. Something this great will cost you,” God says.
“What will it cost?”
“An arm and a leg,” God says.
Adam ponders this for a few minutes before asking, “What can I get for a rib?”
If you care to post your choice, I would appreciate it.
Max Fly, Private I, is currently on assignment at an undisclosed beach in Florida, assisting the Department of Defense in evaluating the mammary glands of female humanoids that are washing ashore on the beaches of the Florida coastline. There is a major concern about the potential of Implanted Explosive Devices, IED’s being placed in the breasts of Yankee women which, upon the slightest touch, will detonate and cause damage that will make the Boston Bombing pale in comparison. As Conway Twitty so aptly put it in his song about Max, he truly does have “the slow hands” and “the easy touch”, which are much needed for this dangerous mission.
Please pray for Max as he unselfishly places his life on the line once again to protect our country. True patriots like him are very hard to find and I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to watch Max Fly, Private I, an amazing person and great American, as he battles evil to ensure the safety for women and children throughout the world.
David V. Hesse, ESQ
Author, Professional Equivocator and Fire Painter
Being an unaccomplished horseman of sorts, I have been on what I would call some fairly long horseback rides when I dabbled in endurance riding. In fact, I have heard some of my cohorts and friends complain after being in the saddle for a mere 3 hours. Some of you who have never ridden a horse or who have only been on one a short time, aren’t aware of the stress on a rider’s body and the aches and pains you develop if you are not in good shape when you ride a considerable distance. So, if we complain after only a few hours, I wonder how guys like Frank Hopkins and Israel Bissell felt after their long rides. Some of you may have read my post awhile back on Frank Hopkins, of Hidalgo fame, who called the mustang horse the most significant animal in American History, and who was arguably the greatest horseman ever and winner of over 400 endurance rides ranging from 50 miles to over 3,000 miles, all on mustangs. These men spent a lot of time on the back of a horse. So, who is this Bissell character? Well, his first name is Israel and not much is known about him but he accomplished a truly heroic 345 mile ride when, as a twenty-three-year-old postal rider, he rode over four days and (I wasn’t going to include this because it is so small ) 6 hours, and I am going to say that his horse was a mustang as well since there is nobody around to refute that) This ride was from April 19, 1775, to April 23, 1775, between Boston and Philadelphia, telling people the war had begun. Maybe if he yelled the British are coming he may have gone down in our history books.
But talk about being under appreciated, many historical documents listed his first name as Trail and a guy by the name of Paul Revere (this was before he met the rest of The Raiders) received all of the press and glory for his ride and yelling “The British are coming, the British are coming.” At least that is what I was told he said but I can’t confirm that.
What must have made all this stardom Paul received all the more galling to Mr. Bissell, is that Mr. Revere’s ride was only 19 miles but at least Israel got a floor cleaner named after him? Heck, this is my story and I can tell it how I want.
Last night Max Fly met with his poker buddies, Hap Schultz, Alan Dupont, Sam Galbraith, Ralph Mills and William “The Raja” Bennett, over at Tampa Ray Palermo’s estate to try out the prototype of Ray’s new Quad Cooker. The QUAD cooker is the first naturally fired home cooker that lets you achieve professional temperatures of 900˚F+ at an affordable price, and is outfitted with attachments for wok frying, oven baking, a reinvented grill top for grilling, and paella pan/flat-bottom griddle for paella. The Quad has a heavy-duty carbon steel grill grate that ensures that the metal temperature doesn’t drop when meat is placed on the grill. This helps heat travel from the meat surface to the interior, producing a juicy, tender center with a delicious caramelized crust. Another feature of this cooker is the autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) that forms the crucible, holding heat in and helping it to spread evenly over the cooking surface. We were all standing around the Quad and no heat was coming from it to add to the summer evening temperature. Tampa Ray just had to demonstrate how effective this material is by getting out his handy blow torch, which he carries with him everywhere. He torched a sample of AAC and had Sam place his hand on it while Ray was blasting it with the flame. Nada, nothing! The only thing Ray scorched was the hair on Sam’s arm. I have to add this had no effect on the taste of the food.
Well, the evening’s theme was Spanish (Ray’s lovely wife, Luchi, is of Italian/Spanish descent via Cuba. Rumor has it her grandfather was dodging the Spanish draft and had to leave northern Spain at the turn of the last century). The dish we had is one that has been passed down in her family for generations and boy is it good. The recipe is in the cookbook that is included in the sale price of the Quad Cooker.
I started the evening by drinking a shot of Miguel Torres 20 Hors D’Age. A Spanish Imperial Brandy, a gift from Captain Jim when he returned from his last trip to Mexico. I drank this at home before I left to go to Tampa Ray’s because I knew if I brought the bottle to this event, the “boys” would have finished it off before dinner was served (yes, I am unabashedly selfish). I actually prefer Miguel Torres 20 over my Courvoisier Cognac. It is very smooth.
Ray had the Tepena Rose (rose-ay) and Red Spanish Wine already decanted and the cooker fired up and was ready to start the demonstration when I arrived, fashionably late I might add (only Sam arrives later than I do, which isn’t fashionable). Spanish wines have gained a reputation for being some of the finest wines in the world and from what I tasted last night, I would say deservedly so.
First, Ray heated Olive Oil (what else) in the paella pan before adding the seasoning which I can’t divulge as I have been sworn to keep the secret (the answer is in the Quad Cookbook).
Next, he added cut up raw chicken which he stirred into the mixture of Olive Oil and seasonings before adding a box of chicken broth and peas. He brought this mixture, which now looked like a soup, to a slow boil and then added raw shrimp and pieces of a Spanish sausage. Being the novice in the crowd, I, Max Fly, asked Tampa Ray how he was going to get the food out of the pan with all that broth in it. Ray replied, “No worry Grasshopper, watch as I add the next ingredient.”
The next ingredient was white rice which absorbed the broth as it cooked. Finally, he stuck in fresh oysters in the shell, which added to the decorative appeal of the dish (see attached picture). Now, Max Fly usually doesn’t photograph the food he eats such as hot dogs and macaroni and cheese from a box, but this dish looked like something out of someone’s cookbook. Oh, that’s right; this dish is in the Quad Cooker’s cookbook. Did I mention that?
During the meal, tales were swapped back and forth, none better than Alan and Sam relating some horror stories of flying in Eastern Foods Corporate Jet around the United States back in the 70s and 80s. Some of these stories may be revealed in the upcoming Max Fly saga; the one about “a good pilot doesn’t need a gas gauge” was in Max Fly’s Ahead of The Game.
We found out that Max, Hap and Tampa Ray all have grandson’s turning five this coming September and October. We are planning on taking them all riding on a mustang a week from this coming Thursday. We are grooming another generation of male miscreants. I’m so proud.
After dinner, Ray brought out some chocolate brownies for us to enjoy that I refused, as I must maintain my figure for my next photo shoot which is soon to come.
Some of the younger guys had to leave early, while Tampa Ray, The Raja, and Max Fly retired to the patio to enjoy a Spanish cigar and some more wine and listen to The Raja discuss his upcoming trip to Germany.
Before Alan Dupont departed for the evening, he passed out coupons for a free Chick-Fil-A sandwich. Ah, the advantages of knowing a scion of the corporate world.
Oh, we never got around to playing poker – again.
Well, here is the updated picture I promised of the 8 N Ford tractor, fondly named Mustang Sally. The mustang horses have now accepted her as part of the family so she needs a name as well and how apropos?
I don’t know where I would be, or where this tractor would be, if it weren’t for our mechanic. That guy must have been born with a tool-kit strapped to his hip.
After replacing the electric coil, the battery, the radiator cap, the spark plug wire, the flex hose and soaking the air filter in k-1 kerosene overnight, we got Mustang Sally running as smooth as a baby’s butt, kinda. The right front tire has a leak (replacements cost $100 each the big back tires $400 each), luckily we have an electric air pump that we keep plugged in near the tractor, and the cutting attachment throws rocks, sticks, clumps of manure and chopped up rodents onto the back of the driver. Captain Jim said he would appreciate it if we could put something on to stop it from throwing debris before he ends up with another hole in his head.
He was takin’ her for a spin this past Sunday afternoon and she quit on him going up the hill in the south pasture behind the barn. Of course, Jim didn’t come to me for assistance; he went directly to our mechanic who was patiently waiting for a tow truck to arrive to pick up one of our volunteer’s car. Her fiancé was being a nice guy filling her car up at the gas station; only he used the wrong pump and put diesel in the tank. That poor car was probably wondering what it did wrong to have him try to poison it. They were barely able to drive it to the ranch to work. Luckily our mechanic could fix it. He can fix anything (see 8 N Ford Tractor above). The tow truck loaded the car and took it to his house for repair.
Anyway, we had to jump the tractor from the truck while we took a screwdriver and started fiddling with the carburetor and Old Sally kicked over, running smoothly again,sounding like we just drove her off the showroom floor. The grass is so long the truck couldn’t get traction, so a few of the boys had to put their collective fat arses on my tailgate so we could make it out of the pasture.
Now if it ever stops raining we just might finish bush hogging the 27 acres before the first frost.
This is a picture of our “new” tractor. It is an 8 N Ford and was manufactured between 1949-1952, not sure exactly, but it is in my age group and it runs. That’s why I like it. Like me, it is so old, they don’t make replacement parts for us anymore but the engine is so simple that I just might be able to F.O.R.D (an old acronym for the car, truck and tractor manufacturer, “fix or repair daily”) by myself after a few lessons from our mechanic, who actually grew up driving a similar tractor. “Green Acres is the place for me.”A better picture will be coming forthwith.
So far I learned that there is a routine you have to follow to start and shut down this beast which I found out the hard way by burning out the ignition coil on my first test drive. You are supposed to put the tractor in neutral, turn on the gas line, pull out the ignition button and then press the starter. If the engine is cold, then you have to pull out the choke. When you are finished mowing, you have to turn off the gas line and let the gas in the line burn out. The engine will stop when all the gas is out of the line, naturally. Then you are to push in the ignition button, which I failed to do thus burning out the ignition coil. As I mentioned, “they don’t make replacement parts for us anymore”, and we proved it. We went to every auto parts and tractor parts place within 50 miles of Talking Rock and got the same answer in every place, “what’s this”? A week later we called Mason Tractor in Cumming Georgia and they said they might have that part and they asked, “Does the tractor have a 6 volt or 12 volt battery”? What? So, I called our mechanic who knew this information off the top of his head. I relayed it to Mason Tractor and they said they had it. I told them not to sell it to anyone else. He said, “You’re kidding me, right? This is for a 1949 Ford tractor. We’re lucky the rats haven’t eaten it.”
We replaced the old with the new and cranked it up and… nothing. We had to tinker around with the connecting wire before we got it to stay on. The next time it fired up like the old tractor it is.
A couple of us kicked back and enjoyed a beer as we watched Captain Jim bounce around the back pasture on our new tractor. After an hour and Lord only knows how many gallons of gas, Captain Jim yelled to us to come over. We thought he was going to beg for a beer, but no, the mower attachment wouldn’t lift up. There was something wrong with the hydraulics.
We looked around scratching our heads before a volunteer pointed at a bolt on the floor behind the gear shift and finally said, “I think this is where the hydraulic fluid goes.” Sure enough, he was right. After looking into the hole and observing the gears, it was obvious there was no fluid left.
So, we jumped in his old Jeep Wrangler (Captain Jim couldn’t go because the back seat was removed and there was room for only one passenger) and headed for Advance Auto Parts to get some hydraulic fluid. I had no idea how expensive that stuff is ($70). I was told it should last us the rest of the year or for the life of the tractor, whichever came first. While we were there, we decided it might be a good idea to put an air filter in the Wrangler so we wouldn’t have to worry about the motor shutting down before we made it back to the barn.
By the time we returned( with a 12 pack of Bud Lime Light or Bud Light Lime) Captain Jim had done a day’s work which included moving the round pen around allowing the horses to come out of the back pasture and eat some of the fresh sweet clover around the front of the barn.
We filled the reservoir with the hydraulic fluid and Captain Jim climbed into the saddle to finish his mowing while we resumed our consumption of beer. After a couple of passes, Captain Jim drove up to us and said the mower wasn’t lifting again. We put in a little more hydraulic fluid to ensure it was full. We were beginning to question just how long this fluid we bought would last. If this tractor kept eating up hydraulics this quickly, we would have to “mortgage” the farm to finish bush hogging the 27 acres.
Captain Jim cranked up the engine again and the additional hydraulic fluid seemed to do the trick.
Ain’t she cherry? She actually looks worse in person.