Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Little Victories

One of the cool things about this blog is I never know where you have joined the story.
One radio station or another, East Moline, KSHE, I never know. So, if this is redundant, my apologies.
My early life was largely spent on a farm in the middle of nowhere.
Small town restless and bored, this was truly a place where you had to make your own fun.
Ava, Missouri, population at the time 2,504, now over 3,000. Beautiful northern Ozark Mountain range.
Pleasures were small and fun could mean anything from watching a big old frog swallow a firecracker and the aftermath to listening to the sounds of nature on a hot summer night. There was a symphony played out every evening that drew you to a bedroom window when everyone else was asleep. I was always fascinated with being outside back then. Again, we go back to the smell. Pristine.
I recently came upon a story about the two kids in Maryland who walk to school every day and how the parents are now being prosecuted for allowing their kids to do that.
My mother would have a few things to say about this. She firmly believed in letting her kids find their way. For better or worse, we knew what we could do and not do.
My mother came from a very hard-scrapple background growing up in Simmons MO, which is south of Solo, which is in the middle of nowhere.
Getting beat down on a regular basis made my mother tough as nails. She finished fights started by her brothers and could smoke and drink the best under the table.
"True Wisdom Only Comes From Pain"
One of the highlights about living on the farm is you could be gone from sun up to sun down and no one paid any attention. Freedom. It was encouraged.
 "Go get the stink blowed off ya" was my mom's favorite saying.
One of my favorite things to do on the weekend in the summer when I could bribe my grandfather into handling my chores was go exploring.
I'd put together a pack of things necessary to survive a day or two in the wild. Innertube for floating, tent, small camp stove, fishing pole, transistor radio,etc etc.
I'd leave on Friday and walk, following a creek until it became dark or impassible or until I got tired of lugging the stuff around.
Usually, if there were fish around , I'd float and drop a line behind me. Most always, I caught something and could be assured of dinner. There were a couple of times I wasn't so lucky. I'd stop at a suitable place and set up camp, usually, in the most remote God forsaken spot ever. I liked it like that. I would build a fire, cook fish and just hang. Little victories. Character. Perseverence.
I was 14.
Survival man got nothing on this boy.
Every once in awhile, I'd get an unexpected visitor, but I figured if they caught my karma, me knowing I was in their house, we'd be cool. And we were.
I was 14.
It was that kind of freedom, knowing I could go anywhere for as long as I want at 14 that made me the independent person I am now. That gene has been passed to my daughters as I know they each moved out of their house at the legal age and never moved back.
We move in small circles.
While I was there, I hated the farm. I know now it provided the strength and fortitude to know what real poverty was like. It made me tough. Like I know what tough is.
The fun stuff was pure. We had swimming holes. Vera Cruz, Big Piney, Flat Rock, etc.
We had two TV stations on a good night from a town 60 miles away.
We had AM radio.
We had a party line. Four shorts rings was for "old Mrs. Harris".
We had horses. Ours were named Scout and Gayboy. Yeah. Gayboy. I was 14.
We had discipline, having to get up every morning, do the chores, go to school, come home, do the chores, do homework, listen to the radio, go to bed, get up every morning, etc.
But it seemed just about every Saturday morning, there would be a number of people gathered around a table with lots of food.
Eggs, bacon, pancakes, all cooked in a skillet with lard and farm fresh butter, recently churned and salted. And laughter. For all her faults, my mother had the greatest sense of humor. And so did all the McNews, I guess it's how they coped.
While my family had it's problems in the middle of nowhere, you felt like it was somewhere.
It was a time when we were all alive.
In a land where I believed we would live forever.
Little Victories.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Take The Long Way Home

I love this time of year.
It seems this is the time of beginnings and endings.
The ending of the college basketball season always sets my internal syncopation up a step. All I know is I hope someone beats Kentucky in the tournament. I'm just about always rooting for the under dog in the tournament. Northern Iowa (my daughter's alma mater) has done that twice. Once in the early 90's they took out a very talented Missouri team and about five years ago did the same to the mighty Jayhawks.
Don't pick them because I'm rooting for them and that is a certain kiss of death.
Days like today should be spent outside as much as possible. Since I'm trying to destroy about 100 pounds, tonight was a great night for a bike ride as I put another 14 miles on the odometer.
Later, as the sun started to go down, I walked over to the local Hen House grocery store and after  I decided to take the long way home.
I'm at a pretty decent place in my life at this point. I like my job, most of the people I work with, my "mother in laws" quarter is pretty centrally located in suburban Johnson county and I'm within walking distance of movies, the grocery store, a Quik trip, a Chinese restaurant and so on. The neighborhood I reside in would be considered middle class, maybe a couple of the houses might move up to lower upper middle class, but I picture these houses as being built in the 60s and 70s. Some starter homes here and there but the majority have been lived in awhile by the same family.
My abode is the back of a house owned by an older couple. One of their parents lived here for a while and passed not too long before I got here. I have the essentials, or as my father would say, I have a place to "shit, shower and shave." I can cook here and it's just handy. 15-20 minutes in to work and for whatever reason, 25-30 minutes home. As I was walking through the neighborhood tonight, I immersed myself in all the smells as I've been known to do. It's freaky really, that just a waft of a cigarette smell still reminds me of my mother. I can't stand to be around it, but just that  faint smell sends me back. Someone in the neighborhood had a fire going, someone liked very spicy food. I smelled fried chicken too (another one of my favorite smells) but I'm not sure whether it came from someone's house or the Popeyes a mile or so away.
Tonight also reminded me of working in the drive in theatre for some strange reason, too. I will still say that job was one of the best I've ever had. There were weeks where I'd put in 60-65 hours a week and get paid $1.25. I remember the summer of 1973, I got a 10 cent raise to $1.40, so I went and blew at all on a brand new stereo component system. I still have the receiver too. Cranks like a boss.
Anyway, this would be the time of year I'd go to work on the weekend getting the theatre ready for human consumption. Opening weekend was usually the first weekend in April and the first few nights were always cold. You could get a propane heater up front at the box office if you wanted. I always wondered why no one died while inhaling that damned heater. It was a Redstone theatre, yes the head of the company was one Sumner Redstone, one of the richest guys in the world and he was known to drop in on places like Silvis Illinois to check out his property. What an incredible opportunity for me at the age of 17 to be the assistant manager in charge of making sure this theatre rocked. And it did.
Funny how I think of that.
It's amazing to me what lies in our sub conscious, just below our everyday world that's looking to escape, given the right circumstances. Whether it's by smell, sight, music or any other stimulus, it seems so many things accumulate there. Some things need to me let out, allowed to breathe and when that happens, I can get overwhelmed at times.
As I'm writing this, I'm listening to John Mellemcamp sing "make me feel like I want to feel, make me feel like I did at the start.." which gets me overwhelmed with thoughts of a person I can not touch. Or hear. Or see. But I can still smell her.
I had an old friend tell me many years ago the things we go through add to the chapters of the book, the colors of the painting and the soundtrack of our life.
I am thrilled my painting has such deep, passionate colors, such riveting hues and shades. My book is filled with many well written, in depth chapters that cover the spectrum of joy, frustration and being hit by a number of freight trains. My career is about a frog who dreamed of being a king...and then became one.
As content as I am now, that only allows me to think there's something around the corner, not sure who or what but this has never been about the merry go round, it's been about the roller coaster.
I hope to get off of it someday.

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