Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It's Such An Easy Word!

Put yourself in this situation. You are a grandparent whose daughter and granddaughter live on an island in the Pacific. Not only do you miss them, but also you worry about how they must be living in such a faraway place. Imagine your excitement when you receive a recorded tape from them. You put it into your tape player and turn it on, anxious to hear the voices of your daughter and her family. One of the first words you hear is your toddler granddaughter yelling "woach!," followed by the sound of a child's foot smacking the floor.

The island was Okinawa. The time was the 1960's. The child was my oldest daughter. The "woach" was real, as was the tape. We lived on Okinawa for almost two years. It was an interesting time for us, to say the least. It was also a place with many insects, not the least of which was the large, flying roaches that seemed immune to the spray the Navy gave us to kill them.

Living on Okinawa was an adventure. Our house was bounded on one side by an Okinawan cemetery. On another side were rice paddies which stretched almost a half mile to the edge of the South China Sea. To get to work I walked through a local village and caught a very crowded bus each day. We used the same buses to take us to and from the army base where we did our shopping. We boarded up the entire house for each typhoon that was coming our way, although none hit while we were there. And yes, we killed roaches.

One of the first words our daughter learned was "woach." Maybe that's why she moved from Texas when she grew up. After all, we have the same kind of "woaches" here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Of Course Global Warming Is Real

It's coming up on the time of year when we would get bundled up, grease our sled runners with bacon grease and slide down the hill on 15th street. At least that was true when I was many years younger than I am now, back when we still had snow.

The road up Barger Hill was once one of the finest sledding roads known to any wide-eyed kid. We loved when it snowed because we knew it was time to get our sleds out and start making that road impassable to cars. That was before salt trucks, of course.

I remember bundling up so much that I could barely walk, which was the only way mom would allow me to go out into the cold air. We would walk our sleds up the hill, lie down on them and rocket down the hill, ending up on 15th street in front of our houses. Over and over we did this until the street was a sheet of ice from the sled runners.

The time came when we could no longer use the street. The city started plowing it before we could make it impassable. The people who were building the big houses at the top of the hill insisted upon being able to drive home. We thought that was pretty unreasonable of them. After all, there was a little back road they could use. It was barely one lane, but it would have allowed us to keep our sledding track.

Also, it has been quite a few years since that much snow has fallen on my little hometown. When I've been home I've seen kids sliding down the dead grass on the hillsides. No sleds, though, just cardboard. What a poor substitute for flying down that icy hill, barely in control of a speeding sled, laughing all of the way down.

If we reverse global warming and widen the back road will you give us back the road up Barger Hill?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

American Eels as a Bonding Tool

Slipping and Sliding with Dad

(This blog also appears as a guest post at


The American Eel is believed to come from an area of the Atlantic Ocean called the Sargasso Sea. They are born there and then spend most of their life in fresh water. They are energetic little fish which swim from the Atlantic ocean up many of the rivers and streams in America to mature in some interesting places. This post is about those which found their way into the muddy banks of creeks in West Virginia. That’s a pretty long swim.

One of the activities I loved to do with dad was to fish. We usually fished in Twelve Pole Creek, an almost river-sized creek near home. Most of the time we fished with either minnows or worms. There were times, though, when dad wanted to fish with eels. They lasted much longer than other baits on a hook and big bass seemed to particularly love them. Obtaining them meant a lot of work for us, though.

We could stop at any bait shop for minnows or worms, but eels required that we wade in creeks around home with bait buckets and long handled shovels. Somehow dad knew just the right creek in which to “dig eels.” He would point and say “dig there” and I would shove the spade into the mud at the edge of the water and throw it out onto the bank. With luck, and speed, we would quickly be able to dig a half dozen or so eels. As I remember, though, they didn’t come easily. There were many shovels full of mud with no eels or eels that were so fast they got back into the water before I could grab them. Sometimes he yelled at me when an eel made it back to the water, but it would only be a few minutes before we were laughing again as I scrambled around trying to catch those slimy, slick little creatures. As was usually the case, he was very patient with me.

We would take the eels we caught and happily fish with them for many hours. Some of my fondest memories of dad are around the time I spent fishing with him. He was a good fisherman and a good teacher. He taught me everything I know about fishing.

Dad loved to wade as he fished. I guess he felt it got him closer to the fish. The family had a bit of a problem with that, however. You see, he never learned to swim. I saw him slip under water a couple of times. He always came back up sputtering, with his fishing rod in his hand, and somehow scrambled out of the hole he had stepped into.

Earnestine was also fortunate to have the benefit of some of his fishing knowledge. Living in the big city she never got an opportunity to fish as a child. We’re both glad she learned a little about fishing from an expert like dad. The memory of her catching her first (cat)fish in my sister’s farm pond will always be with us. Again, we were all laughing as she dragged the fish out of the water and yelled for help with it.

It was hard for my parents to accept my divorce and remarriage, particularly to a woman who was much younger than I. We have always emphasized bonding between Earnestine and my children. Because of the distance and reticence of my parents we could not similarly emphasize that closeness with them. Although she ultimately bonded with most of my family, I believe her interest in fishing was one of the things that strengthened her friendship with dad.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Corn Off the Cob

In his website my friend Ron talked about his childhood happening in a more innocent time. I think that was true for me, too, even though it didn't necessarily feel innocent around Halloween.

We went trick or treating on Halloween but it was different from today in many ways. Although we often ate too much candy during and after Halloween, we didn't have to be careful about needles, razor blades or other additives that parent must check for today. We also received homemade items that would probably be thrown away today. I remember the popcorn balls, in particular. Popcorn was mixed in melted caramel, formed into a ball, and then wrapped in waxed paper. They were so good we often ate them as we walked and never wondered if the person who made them was wearing surgical gloves at the time.

We had to work to prepare for our Halloween pranks, if I can actually use that term to describe what we did. I lived in an area that had several small farms and garden plots close to me. By October all of the harvests were in and the fields had only the remnants, like corn stalks, remaining. Inevitably there was corn missed when the ears were removed by hand. We would comb through those rows of dead corn and always found several ears of dried corn.

We removed the shucks to get at the dried kernels inside. Then we took the ear of corn in both hands and twisted our hands back and forth on it over an open paper sack. This twisting motion released the kernels into the bag leaving only the empty corn cobs (which we occasionally used to make pipes.) It required a lot of ears of corn but we would usually end up with four or five pounds of corn kernels in the bag. By the time we were finished we had some very sore hands, too. I don't know why we didn't wear gloves.

Our children would probably laugh at us for calling what we did next a prank. We had two ways to display our displeasure at any home where we were not given candy. We carried our bags of corn along with pieces of soap as we went from house to house asking for candy. If we got none or no one was home we either soaped their windows or threw corn on their porch, or both. We really got even, huh? It didn't occur to us to do any damage. That was as mischievous as we got until we became teenagers.

Today, carloads of children are taken from neighborhood to neighborhood. The candy is all that matters. I do believe some of these children may have little candy during the year but the waves of kids are too much at times. It's also not unusual to wake up the next day and find pumpkin pieces scattered in the road where kids have taken jack-o-lanterns from porches and thrown them into the street. It felt like enough to us to just throw some corn. We enjoyed the artwork on all of the jack-o-lanterns too much to destroy them.

Times change. Kids change. Ideas of fun change. We were definitely "greedy" for candy at Halloween but ours came from homes in our neighborhood. We didn't consider asking our parents to take us somewhere else. I don't think they would have, anyway, and we still got more candy than we needed.

As I close this post I leave this thought with you. Halloween may have changed. Throwing corn might have been replaced by throwing pumpkins. However, if you enjoy eating candy corn during the Halloween season you can thank me and my friends and those Halloween pranksters that came before us. That candy corn represents the kernels of corn we threw. The yellow and white colors make it look just like the kernels of corn we so laboriously separated from their cob. I'm glad we could do that for all of you.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I Love My Sister's Words

This is the second time my sister (yes, that one) has gifted me and my readers with memories that I don't have or don't remember as well. I do remember some of the things she talks about below but I have only heard about some of the others. I particularly remember the rabies shots, though. I have included her words without edit. She's really pretty cool.

Her words:

"Hey, I was checking out your blog for something new today and saw the picture of you on the pony. Can you believe I remember that picture being made that day. A man would come around to the neighborhood with that pony and take kid's pictures. I was so jealous. I think I would have looked very cute on that pony too. Also, I remember the drum major outfit mother made for you to be in the toy band when you were in elementary school. I was jealous of that too!! For some reason I always felt you got all the attention and I was just there. I am telling you - you made a mark on my life for ever!!! Also, I read about the dog with heart worms. Do you remember your dog named Corky? He got rabies and you and daddy had to take shots, I think in the stomach, I WAS NOT jealous of that. Do you remember the "Ladies Aid" that would meet at our house from the church? We lived on Pine Street then. They would come and stay all day and make quilts. They all would bring a "covered dish" and we would get to eat lunch with them. I can still remember that being the best food ever. They all brought their kids, (no sitters back then) and we would play all day outside even it rained. I would like to play in the rain again!! I can also remember they cut up old sheets and made bandages during world war II, That was 1941 to '46 I think. I would have been about 10 and you about 5. Can you remember any of this? Do you remember the cellar under that house where mother kept all the stuff she canned. She would put a cloth on the big crocks of kraut and a big rock on top of the crock. I can remember sneaking down there and removing the rock and putting my hand in that big crock until I found the big core that came from the cabbage. Loved that part! Also, remember on Pine St. we lived across from a railroad and "hobos" would ride those trains and they all knew they could drop off at our house, because mother would feed them. I remember she always had "soup beans and corn bread" to feed them. She had these special dishes and forks she kept just for them to eat with. It is strange to think back on these things now as we now have to tell our children not to talk to strangers, but mother and daddy would have them on our front porch and we all talked to them."

That ends her memories and this is Earnest writing now. One thing I wish is that I could remember those days on Pine Street. However we moved from there when I was three. I love thinking about my mother feeding "hobos." That is so much not something I remember about her.

Here are some of my sister's words about her marriage. They are worth adding.

"We went to the Greenbrier this week for our 53rd anniversary!... We have had many many things to overcome. It has not been easy to say the least, but we never gave up and we now enjoy a wonderful life as old people together! My husband is the BEST!"

I remember when her husband first came into our family. I thought he was really cool. Mom and dad didn't feel that way, to say the least. I'm glad my sister decided they were wrong. Congratulations to the two of you. 53 years! That's amazing.

Oh, I had dinner with my niece this week. She told me her dad was the one who gave me the 50 cents I used to buy my croquet set. Imagine that.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Growing Up Earnest

Yep, that's Earnest when I still thought I might grow up to be a cowboy. That's also the house with the broken door. I lived there from about age 3 to 12 or 13. There are a couple of things of which to take note (in addition to how cute I was). One is the tree behind me. That's the apple tree that fed the June bugs I flew. Second is the open window. I don't remember when mom and dad finally got window air conditioning, but it wasn't while I lived with them. That open window and a large fan upstairs were all we had for cooling. It didn't do a very good job but I didn't know anything different so it was OK. I do remember laying awake in the summer tossing my pillow over and over to try and find a cool spot, though.

That was a great neighborhood for a little boy. Directly behind the apple tree is my dad's garden. The picture isn't good enough to see it. Once the growing season was over it became lots of things. It was allowed to grow high with weeds in the fall and it became a place for us to fight wars and build clubs out of cardboard boxes and generally pretend we were somewhere other than Kenova. There was another, larger garden across the alley and we would dig foxholes and tunnels in it. War was a big deal for little boys back then.

I wanted to be a cowboy or a soldier. I didn't become either but it sure felt real when I was growing up Earnest.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Nickel - by My First Guest Blogger

This is a short intro. I have learned this week that at least two of my sisters are reading Earnest talks and I have to say I'm delighted. They have both reminded me of stories that I will write about in the future. This blog is about a subject I have a very vague memory of but my (Not so) evil sister remembers it well. She is the guest blogger and a very welcome one at that. This is as she wrote it. I don't always agree with her characterization of me and my activities but I respect the First Amendment. Oh, the name of the store was MJ's.

The nickel: We were living on 15th st. and mother sent us up to the corner to the grocery, I don't remember the name of the store. She gave me orders to give you a nickel to get candy and I guess you overheard her, so while we were walking to the store you started wanting the nickel right then. You could be a real little devil! I was maybe ten or eleven, so you were maybe 5 or 6. Anyway, you kept it up till I gave you the nickel and then you little dumba___ you put it in your mouth and then of course, you swallowed it. All I could think of was Mother was going to kill me, so I just hit you really hard and the nickle popped out! I told you if you told mother I would never take you to the store again, but of course just as soon as we hit the door you said, and I quote, "Yvonne made me swallow my nickel." Mother, of course spanked me. Thank you very much!! Oh, I remember the croquet set. I think I remember most everything about your childhood. You caused me to have a mark on my life for ever. I told Joyce (another sister) about your blog on Sunday, glad she could find it. Luv. Y