Legends in our own minds

This little story is on Juvie and I. We had just coached our team to victory. If the truth be known, our talented kids had been carrying us all season. The opponents had been crushed and somebody had to take credit. Big fish in a small pond, coaching in a league where most of the towns weren’t even on the map.

Juvie says,” let’s celebrate and go to Durango and get a pizza.”He always paid because I never had a dime on me. Always broke and quite happy to share his pizza, we got in his old yellow ford pickup and headed to Durango. We passed hay fields, pastures full of healthy cattle and once in a while a ranch house.

Then , we broke down. It was trouble with the lights or the motor or something. We looked under the hood and pretended we knew what we were looking for and didn’t find it anyway. As we closed the hood, a car went by, windows down, kids screaming and banging on the side of the car. Juvie thought it was members of the other team, but as car after car flew by, we recognized many of them as cars of our players.

Easily seen by our coaching jackets and the rocks both of us carried to fend off the ranch dogs, we walked on. Needless to say, none of the players or fans stopped.

Finally, with the lights of Durango still not in sight an old pickup did stop. The door flew open and the light of the cab came on and there sat Tiffany C., an attractive student of mine snuggled up to her boyfriend. A little side note, I had just kicked her out of class on the past Tuesday.

“Need a lift?”, she said smiling and seemingly not holding a grudge. We nodded and climbed up into the cab.

“Want a beer?”, as she reached a bottle out to me.

I said , “No thank you , but thanks for the offer.”

As we bounced down the road, I began to worry about our good luck. Sitting on my lap was this pretty 16 year old blond student of mine drinking a beer and her boyfriend, also underage, his driving showing signs of him being slightly under the weather. Should we be stopped, our coaching jackets would surely get the attention  they demanded particularly in the mugshots. And nary a dime for bail.

Oh hell, at least we would be famous…

Gotcha!

I glanced at Nick and his wide eyes glanced back. This thing had escalated out of control. Mrs. E stood over the desk with paddle in hand, Mr. E, our principal, held a clipboard overhead, and Mr. G, our custodian, had the presence to bring a rake.

Then the sound again, something was in the top drawer. How do you conquer a snake out of a top drawer?

“Who knows something about this?” said Mr. E nearly spitting out the words. Now earlier in the prank, Nick and I would have taken credit for it, but with E, E, and G all carrying, we decided to deal ourselves out of this hand.

It started out so harmlessly. Nick and Frank found a magpie with a broken wing. The three of us needed a plan to use this discovery to our benefit. Scare the girls, no . Spiders and such are used to scare girls. It is written that it is so. Now, Mrs. E is a great one to conflict upon. With no one in her room at lunch, we deposited our little black and white beauty in the top drawer of her desk.

After lunch, Mrs. E standing behind her desk heard a crawling, scraping noise in her desk. She jumped back. She heard it again. This is where the plan took off on it’s own.

“Maybe it’s a snake,” said one of the girls in the back. That thought immediately went from maybe to ‘there is a snake in the desk’.

Mrs. E. called for reinforcements and here we are.

Now another scaley scrape, all three weaponized adults jumped back.

“Steve, what do you know about this snake?”.

“I don’t know anything about a snake in there,” I said. Now if I had been asked whether I knew how a magpie had found it’s way into the desk, I might have known something about that.

Mr.G. pulled out the drawer a tad, there was flapping, exposing black and white feathers. He pulled out further and captured the frightened bird. Being a nice guy, he let all the kids look and pet. To our surprise, Mr. and Mrs. E., thankful that the snake incident was over, got lost in the pretty magpie thing and didn’t pursue any further line of questioning.

After school sitting quietly behind the school, Nick, Frank, and I took sideways peeks at one another, then broke in laughter. The closer it is to disaster, the more fun it is…

Several years later

The noon hour was about to expire. The wide hallways were noisy with chattering groups of teenagers and movement to and fro. Perhaps the hallway was a little more crowded than normal, but the tempo of the day seemed good, my hall duty with it. The principal and I were talking NFL when the bell rang.

I turned and began moving to my chemistry room. “Come on guys, let’s go.”. The groups weren’t moving and not talking either. “Class time, don’t be late.”.

I turned around to see the commons area completely still and absolutely quiet. The whole student body was frozen in place, no smirks, no nothing. I looked through the crowd to see the principal hold up his hands in a ‘you got me’ sort of gesture. Knowing somehow, we had been had, we joined in playfully trying to move arms that were now stiff and rigid, looking into faces that were expressionless with noncommitment.

Then the bell, and the statues came undone and the students moved along and spoke like nothing ever happened. They didn’t look back to see our reaction. It was a flash mob, no a freeze mob. Some how, every student was in on it, football players, nerds, special kids, all.

In all my years, I have never seen such complete unity and total effort in a student body.Later, I found out my grandson and two of his compadres had orchestrated the whole event, must run in families.

More years later

The homecoming bonfire was playing it’s last notes and the cheerleaders silhouetted against the bonfire glow were about cheered out. Bonfire night was undirected  and unscripted, the glow of the fire extended to the full acre of kids milling about and having joyous fun and socializing. The SRO (school resource officer) had removed and arrested a drunk non-student and was away. There were still two of us monitoring  the event.

Having been the school’s eyes hundreds of times, I scanned the crowds over, looking for something unusual. The crowd often gives direction to these different events by looking and/or walking toward it in unison. Tonight was one of those nights.

I began to notice kids looking to the far corner of the lot. Several girls were excitedly running that way. I saw a crowd forming and a tide of students moving that way. I radioed the other ass’t principal and we were both on the run. The sounds made the prospect of a fight the best guess. When I started moving students out of my way, the yells of battle grew louder and more violent.

I broke into the center of action expecting a brawl. Instead were two boys wearing headlamps seated across from each other pretending to play chess.

The students roared with delight, the prank was a awesome success. The two chess players continued to role-play as we stood pranked. On our way out of the crowded mass of students, The students playfully laughed and patted us on the back.

Although I wasn’t there, I am sure that after everyone was gone, the two chess players stole glances at each other and broke into laughter…

Some of the best times of our lives…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keith

Our Viking boat trip Europe gave me two wonderful results, memories and Keith.

Keith’s actions and behavior will affect my behavior for the rest of my life. I noticed him during our tours up and down and through castles and the like. The mass of humanity at every stop did not phase him.

I made it a point to dine with him several times. Average height, maybe 70, scraggly head of hair, and sharp sparkling blue eyes if you could ever see them. Arthritis has claimed both hands, leaving limited use of the forefinger and thumb on each hand. Parkinson’s has his legs dancing  at every sit down. Then, 90 days previous, he awoke unable to lift has chin off his chest. His focal point now is his own knees no better. He puts his thumb under his chin to raise his head to see straight ahead periodically. His bright eyes and great  smile along with a wonderful upbeat personality make it a pleasure to be his friend. Never once did he bring up his handicaps or anyway allude to them.

Keith       ” I can tell a lot about you by your shoelaces.”

” A neighbor got mad at me just before I left. She came out and yelled at me to get down off the ladder. I was getting ready to get up on the roof.”

He never again will lift his head normally on his own or cease being the object of many stares. He has been given a heavy burden, but his gift to me is to see the human spirit at it’s best. I suffer from melancholy from time to time, but just remembering the manner in which Keith lives his life has helped me live mine…

10 minutes or 10 years

When you reach your bodies perception of old age, the mind subconsciously deals with one’s mortality, at an age where you could die suddenly in the next 10 minutes or will continue to motor along for 10 more years. Basically, we set aside this issue rather than dwell on it and move on with what faculties we have left.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I go to a warm-water fitness class. In the water are 18 white-haired beauties and myself. 50 years ago, this ratio of 18 to 1 in bathing suits would have been a dream come true. It came true fifty years too late. I strut and flex with what little I have to strut and flex with. They float about as if on lily-pads talking about quilts and new swimwear. Some of the women are bathing suit sluts, with a new one every couple weeks. I still look, 18 to 80 I still look. All of us are a bit worn and saggy, but at this age we don’t give a crap.

My memory worries me, but I can’t remember why. I can’t find my car in the parking lot, but somehow know that Monrovia is the capital of Liberia at a moment’s notice. I have taught thousands of students over the years. When one approaches, I may know how many points they scored in their senior year, but can’t remember their name. My wife just walks on by keeping me from the embarrassment of trying to introduce them.

I have puttering down to an art. A project begins with much fanfare, then as I search for a missing tool. I forget what I am looking for or why I am looking for it. Thus a new project springs forth.

My car has been stolen twice from my house .  After it was reported missing. the car was found at work. I had driven to work, then not remembering that I drove, walked home.

Every morning last year I drove our foreign exchange students to school. Twice I arrived at school only to find that I had left them at the house.

Sex, Oh yes sex exists at this age for some, it is done with a hope and a prayer. A hope that something good happens and a prayer that you don’t die in the attempt.

I do appreciate the status and dignity shown to me in my old age. After a playoff game, I was sitting in the stands watching the next game when four of my prettiest players came up to sit with me. Yep, they wanted to sit with their handsome coach ’cause he had it going on. Nope, they were afraid that I would fall down the stairs after the game.

Golf is one sport that can played well into old age. You can’t hit very far and fortunately can’t remember your score at the end.  It’s sun, fun and social interaction.

Unfortunately there can be problems. Harry and I were to play 18 holes on a glorious morning, I could only get in nine. Harry died on the third hole and it was ‘ hit the ball and drag Harry, hit the ball and drag Harry…

Let’s take the Mule

Ryan and I had this planned for weeks. Our first solo camping trip would be to Emerald Lake, high in the Colorado Rockies. School would start soon and this two day trip would complete the summer. I just finished a tour of duty with a local hay crew and Ryan escaped from his grandfather’s mining claims. The objective was an eight mile march, upward, ever upward to one of America’s great pack-in lakes.

Ryan met me at the trail head, his grandfather’s pickup came to a dusty stop, then rocked and swayed for a bit. The reason for the movement was a gray-brown mule barely contained by the sideboards.

“Hey Ryan, what’s this?”, I said excitedly. “Are we taking the mule?”.

“Yeah, I was thinking of all the stuff that we were going to carry up to the lake”, Ryan explained. “I just thought , Let’s take the mule.”

The truck groaned as the mule bounced down to the ground. Ryan had told me about his grandfather buying a mule, unused until now. Mules are wired differently than horses, probably because they are a hybrid. Mommy and Daddy mules don’t make little mules. Usually a jack, male donkey, mates with a horse mare. Their disposition can be pleasant or ornery. This would be a good test.

Since we were not carrying the load, Ryan had added more supplies, cast iron skillet, eggs, potatoes, a 22 rifle, and two cans of Coors beer, for ballast I guess. Neither of us had ever used a pack saddle, cinches and straps all over. Our filled panniers were loaded to each side. The mule did some tail twisting, but so far , so good. It seemed so easy that we talked of running guided pack trips next summer.

The first hour on the trail was just slightly uphill, a forested park of aspens and oak brush. The geography changed suddenly by way of a rocky transition into heavy pines. The mule balked at the rocky step-ups. First Ryan, then myself, pulled on the rope, both tugging for all that we were worth. The mule finally leaped forward. The pack saddle slipped back over the mules hips. It was rodeo time, the mule kicked and bucked, through, around, and over the brush and headed back down the trail. About 50 yards down the trail, the pack saddle gave up the ghost and surrendered itself to the ground.

Some hikers at the corral held the rope of the long-eared beast. Never one to think it through, we turned right back up the trail. It seems that we failed to put the breast strap  around the chest on our first attempt. It would keep the pack saddle from slipping back like it did. When we arrived back at the pack saddle, we snubbed the mule to an aspen tree and fought the thing back on and correctly refitted. We did notice that at the bottom of one of the panniers, the eggs and potatoes had made an omelette of themselves.

About halfway up the trail, we were tired and thirsty. It was decided that the stream we were following was the clearest we had ever seen, and to drink from it would be a luxury most folks would never have the opportunity to do. Ah yes, clean mountain spring water. About twenty yards up the trail, a dead sheep lay in the center of the small stream, what was under water had turned a stringy pinkish white, the ribs of the sheep that was out of the water had maggots moving between the patches of wool and meat. We gagged all afternoon.

Late in the afternoon, we made the little land strip between Little Emerald and Big Emerald lakes. Campers often stayed in this area, but today, no one. Camp was setup in the thinned pines, ideal place for a tent and campfire. The mule was tied short and close to camp.

There was a causeway between the two lakes, the big running into the small. Many large rainbow trout could be seen in the rushing water, but not caught. Supper was three small brook trout, bacon and some skinned up potatoes.

The next day was perfect, we ate, fished again at the causeway for the big Rainbows, shot at marmots near the rocks, skipped rocks, and relaxed. Ryan hobbled the mule so it could eat and move about.

At near dark, a huge dark cloud came over the mountain from the west. These mountains, famous for their their late-season lightning storms, did not disappoint. Ryan and I hid in our wind-ravaged tent, sheets of lightning lit up the area over and over.

We awoke the next morning exhausted, the firewood was wet, the mule was missing and we were ready to go home. Without a fire, our breakfast was not much and terrible.

The hobbled mule couldn’t be far, Ryan had hobbled the two front feet, the mule could move about , but not far and not fast. While looking for the mule, I discovered why the big trout were not biting, they were spawning in small rivulets against the mountain. Sidetracked, we soon hand-caught 20 beautiful rainbows, our limit.

The search resumed for our mule, no sign. Could not see him or track him due to the rain. While Ryan searched, I gathered camp, broke down the tent, rolled the sleeping bags and stowed the gear in the panniers. As I made way over to a rocky little outcropping  next to the water to wash the skillet, I dropped it.

There was the mule in waist-deep water. The problem was, he was dead. Scared during the storm , feet hobbled together, he went into the water, couldn’t swim and drowned.

When Ryan arrived, he meant to say, “Oh my gosh.”. That isn’t how it came out, followed by, “I’m dead.”.

I wanted to say, ” You didn’t like that mule anyway. “, but settled with. “Yep, you’re screwed…

 

 

 

Custer’s Last Words

Just a while back, we took our foreign-exchange students to an Indian powwow in Maupin, Oregon. It is adjacent to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. I spent some time with a crazy Indian guy there. He seemed to be a man of respect and a great storyteller. I told him a  little bit about my time on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, then told him my name. He cracked up, he used my name  ‘Whiteman’ in several contorted sentences, all in fun. He called several teenage Indian boys over and said,” This is white man.”

They looked me over, pink bald head, piercing blue eyes, and  transparent skin. Of course he is they thought. Any native teenager could pick one of these out of a lineup.

After more complete introductions and laughter, we moved off to sit a spell.

He called me immediately into believing that the Warm Springs Reservation had a rare painting called “Custer’s Last Words”. He thought it funny telling about it and I thought it was funny hearing it. I hope you’re not offended in any manner.

It seems this painting is on display somewhere on the reservation. Three sloping hills and a blue sky background. On the hills were Indian women, many Indian women picking cotton and some magnificent looking warriors on their horses standing guard. The painting had some religious reference to it in that it also had a cow with a angel’s halo on it’s head. The old man told me all kinds of art nomenclature about the quality of this painting.

I was confused.

” What does this painting have to do with Custer’s last words?”, I questioned.

He held his big hand out as if brushing the painting itself, ” Can’t you just see it?”, as if the answer lay in the hues and textures of the painting. His hand swept to the cow with the halo and then to the hills full of working Indian people.

“Holy cow, where did all these cotton picking Indians come from?”, like it was so obvious…

The powerful drums started up and as if hypnotized, he smiled and nodded his head upward in my direction as if to salute me and went off to dance.

The pow-wow was fun, lots of kids…

Goats

Since I don’t have a life, sometimes I just think. Today, I think I still hate goats.

Back in the day, I had a girlfriend that lived about 10 miles from town. On this day I drove out to pick her up for a date in my little Sunbeam roadster.

Before we go on, I must tell how I got the Sunbeam and why, and how much I loved that car. My first teen car was a ’56 Ford and it was a dandy until my father’s bank repossessed this cool, hot little roadster. Three weeks later, to my amazement, my father suggested that I should buy the Sunbeam and he would smooth the way. Unbelievable…

Many years later , I asked my father why he wanted me in the Sunbeam.

” I saw how big the back seat of the Ford was and decided you needed that two seat roadster.” It was his attempt at birth control…

Now back to our date, she met me at the door and invited me in. I talked to her parents, winning points all over the place. When we stepped outside, stunned we stopped. A goat was standing in my Sunbeam. My auto correct is trying to get me to say’ standing on the Sunbeam’ . I would have said that if the soft top of the roadster had held. No, he was standing up to his chest in soft top, on the leather seats. Unbelievable …

Several years later, I had some land on a mesa above town and a plan which included goats. My land just over the hill was a mess and I was going to buy a goat to eat it down, then eat the goat. Just the way I roll.

Our first moments in the ‘goat shed’ was a precursor of our time together. I got the goat inside the shed and shut the door behind us. Making friends is what I do best. The goat backed into the corner as I spread hay between us. Nothing, not even a friendly ‘Hello’. As I opened the door to leave, He attacked. I caught him with a hand gripping each horn. He was barely kept at bay. When I reached with one hand for the door, the equilibrium was disturbed and he was right at my stomach and I had to bring my hand back down to drive him back. This lasted a full 5 minutes before the goat lost interest.

The next morning, the goat was in the yard on the way to somewhere else. I grabbed a rope and said my goodbyes to the family. The goat would look back periodically, but stay about 10 yards ahead of me and my rope. The goat caught a path that led down into town. My attempts for control were useless. My rope was a floppy, weak sister and my cowboying did not deserve a better rope.

The cars passing on Main street caused the chase to turn left onto the side of oncoming traffic, he then me. If we would have had a flag between us, we would have been  a parade. We went right by the bank, then the grocery store, then on towards the school.

Now people will help you catch a loose dog or even a horse, but no one wants to help the lonely goat catcher. No, they just laugh, point and stare.

I am embarrassed and angry, and tired. Our route seems to be the paved road back up onto the mesa from which we came. The goat was heading south right towards our house. Among some aspen trees lay a little cottage off the road a bit. A pickup was parked just behind the house.

Now remember this is true. The goat walked in the side door, surprised the workers as well as himself and jumped out through an opening, the front picture window. I wasn’t yet to the house when the goat exploded out the window. The window cost me $33 dollars.

That did it , I left the chase. I returned to my house which was now fairly close. I was going to get a longer rope. I found one, It held five bullets and reached out a little farther than my other rope.

After I shot it , No, we weren’t to eat it, but I did cut off a chunk to take up to my uncle’s  ranch dogs. One smelled it and walked away, The other dog smelled it a long time, then stepped over it and peed on it.

My sentiments exactly…