Friday, September 22, 2017

Thoughts of My Father
Nothing specific, but general thoughts of the man I know as my father. Some stories from him he took to the grave: stories from his parents, of his life working to make a family, and tales of his time in World War Two. He did share a few things near the end of his life about his enlistment in the Army, but very little. As kids, we knew he spent time in the Philippines, drove truck, and was hit by a piece of shrapnel from a bomb, but little else. Later, he shared that he had visited Hiroshima. He never described what he’d seen, but it had to be after the bombing, because he wouldn’t have had the means as a teenager before the war.
He had a small cache of black and white photographs, most of which were of the people, his mates, and the land. Somewhere in the intervening years, they have become lost and are no longer a part of the family’s heritage.
He was never one to show much affection, his gruff appearance would occasionally part into a smile. He only rarely said the word love, even to my mother, but worked in the coal mines, then a factory to provide food, clothing, and a home for our family. Money was always tight, but he would often surprise us with something special. Sundays were the best. After our return from church and Sunday school, he would drive to a nearby store to buy the Sunday newspaper, a large bag of Snyder’s potato chips, and a circle chunk of longhorn cheese. He always liked it and especially liked it when it was fresh and “gummy.”
Buying a newer car every few years and washing the vehicles every week stand out as memories of him. Fords seemed to be his passion, although he did buy a Chevy as a second car for my mom once.
His horny, calloused hands were like asbestos and I would see him pick up and move hot things without seemingly feeling the pain. I remember him swinging a double-bitted axe and hitting the same spot time after time as he split fire wood.
Digging clay from beneath our home place to create a full basement instead of a crawl space is another memory, load after load wheeled out in a rickety wheelbarrow.
Coming back on a Saturday morning with several squirrels he’d shot, skinning them in the basement, then mom would fry them and make squirrel gravy and pancakes for breakfast. Even though he would sop hotcakes in the sausage grease, he lived until he was ninety years old. I love you, Dad.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Caught in the Vortex of Time
With the recent storms that have battered the coasts of the United States and the fiery maelstroms of the west, my mind has been thinking of the multiple tragedies being played out all across this great country of ours. My heart breaks as these fellow Americans return to their homes to try and gather the pieces and return to some saneness and normalcy in their lives. Perhaps we all need to take the time to thank God for what we have. This isn’t what I planned to write about, but I think it needed to be shared.
I want to explain the time that has sped by over the past week or so. I’ve already shared Friday and Saturday evening celebrating my 50th high school reunion. Sunday morning was church. I skipped Sunday school because I inadvertently agreed to cover in the booth for the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society. I said my afternoon was free. After I agreed, I noticed that I had to be there before Sunday school adjourned. Coming home, I climbed into my Col. Harlan Sanders costume and headed out. I didn’t have to sell tickets for the patchwork quilt that I made. They were all sold out, but I passed out the monthly newsletter and copies of the map of Donegal Township and Stahlstown.
Monday, I worked on drawings for my co-editor’s books. She is doing a series of kid friendly color books and an accompanying reading book. Later, I picked up my granddaughter after school and did grocery shopping before heading home.
Mowing seems to take up a good bit of time. I try to help my elderly neighbor by mowing his lawn as well. All totaled I mow about 1.75 acres.
Tuesday, I took the drawings to my friend’s house for her to review. She needed 28 drawings for book about Diana the Diaphanous Dragonfly. Diaphanous is a large word for kids, but the accompanying book is for adults to read to the children. I still have a few more pictures to make for her.
Tuesday evening, I attended the monthly meeting of the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society. I met the woman who won the quilt. She was quite happy with the colors, saying she may use it in her living room. The speaker for the evening Alex Heidi presenting his Eagle Scout project and his mentor, sharing the Native American attire and dance.

Monday, September 18, 2017

In Another Fifty Years
This past weekend, I celebrated with the remaining graduating classmates my fiftieth high school reunion. I can remember when my mother Sybil Miner Beck celebrated hers and thought, “Wow, is she getting old.” I feel the same about me. Many of us gathered at Bud Murphy’s in Connellsville, Pennsylvania for a mixer and get-reacquainted meeting on Friday evening. The group quickly outgrew the allotted space and we were moved to another room, which was again filled to over-flowing.
The senior class of 1967, Connellsville Area, High School was gathering for another time. Not a prom, not the graduation ceremony, but a chance to reconnect with friends and to start new ones. 1967 was the first to graduate when Connellsville and Dunbar school systems merged, throwing together young men and women from both. We had less than one year to sort out who we were and who they were to create lasting friendships. Some of those quickly formed bonds will never be broken.
Some of those ties have already been broken by illness and accidents. Those faces will forever remain youthful as we once remembered them. Then I look around and see what time has accomplished in our lives, placing roadmaps of where we have been in the intervening years.
It is remarkable that so many remain and how many gathered to celebrate this monumental milestone in our lives. It stirred my heart to see how kind the years have been to many of my classmates and to see the harsh reality of time on others.
The actual reunion dinner was held at the Pleasant Valley Country Club where hugs, kisses, and hearty handshakes were exchanged from people with wide smiles on their faces; gestures to reassure ourselves that we were the fortunate ones that are still here to bridge the distance the years have widened.
I have the class reunion photograph which will rest among the pages of The Falcon my high school yearbook until a later generation finds it and wonders who these people might be. Some insight of our journey will be gained when reviewed with the pictures of our senior class yearbook. Thank you Class of 1967. I love you all.

Friday, September 15, 2017

It is something that most people understand, but have a difficult time with it. I get a call from family, friends, church, or even a club or organization that I belong and they ask a favor. It usually isn’t that big of an imposition, but they slowly add up until I feel almost overwhelmed, sometimes cutting one project short to accommodate another. The difficulty I have is with the little two letter word, NO.
Each week my calendar always manages to get crowded with things I need to do or that I am asked to do. They accumulate like cat hairs on a dark pair of slacks. Every month I have six writers meetings to attend. Each has a special importance with critiques, advice, or suggestions to make my writing better. There is at least one luncheon for the retired nurses from Frick Hospital. I call them the Grande dames from my past. Many were work mates or mentors.
I have been invited to attend a small group of high school friends for a monthly meeting to gossip and get reacquainted.
This month is extra special because of the men’s retreat at the Servant’s Heart Camp in Ramey Pennsylvania and this month is my 50th high school reunion from Connellsville Senior High School. When my mom went to hers, I though WOW, she’s old, and now I am about to step across the very same threshold.
I just attended a picnic for the writers of The Loyalhanna Review. I promised to attend PNC Park with a friend later in the month and attend a craft show to peddle my books.
The last activity that I didn’t say, “NO” was responding to a call from the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society. In one of my earlier blogs, I mentioned that I donated a homemade, knotted quilt for the society to raffle off. The phone call asked me to cover an empty spot in the booth to sell tickets. How could I say “NO?” I created the need to have someone there to handle the money and to guard the blanket until it could be claimed by the new owner.
I was caught off guard and I said that I could. After I hung up the phone, it dawned on me I would have to skip Sunday school to get to the Flax Scutcheon in Stahlstown, Pennsylvania on time. It was another time of robbing Peter to pay Paul instead of saying “NO.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Public Broadcasting
It is creeping closer to the time of the Buckwheat and Sausage Festival for the Volunteer Fire Department held in Ohiopyle. Pennsylvania. It is always the second full Friday and Saturday of October when the air is cool and crisp and the trees don their bright coats of multicolored cloaks of leaves, a time when the days are punctuated by the poignant and lonesome calls of geese flying overhead, a time of saying goodbye to summer and looking ahead to the chill of winter.
Almost every year for forty plus years, I have worked at this festival, starting out as a dishwasher, frying the pancakes and buckwheat cakes or potatoes, then finally I was ensconced at the huge griddles where I am frying the whole hog, wonderfully seasoned pork sausage. It is a step up from frying in cast iron skillets over a double, gas ring flame.
Chris Fennimore usually comes to visit this volunteer organization to sample the hotcakes and sausage. Once, WQED came out to film our crew when they were documenting the many hands of volunteers in and around Pittsburgh. The sausage fryers weren’t the only stars, but the cake fryers, potato fryers, the batter makers, and the servers. They also visited the cider makers and many booths that lined the streets of Ohiopyle. If you know the town of Ohiopyle, you know it is little more than a crossroad near the beautiful state park and waterfalls.
The bike trails and the roar of the falls are a magnet for visitors. There are other local attractions as well. There are two homes built by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright: Falling Waters and Kentuck Knob. I have had the blessing of visits to both. My great uncle was care taker at Falling Waters and as a child I was able to gambol on the property surrounding the famous Edgar Kaufman home. I was also given a private tour of the Kentuck Knob home by Mrs. I. N. Hagan when I helped to deliver some artwork to her. Both are unusual in design. Falling Waters is a cantilevered structure hovering over a mountain stream and the copper roofed Kentuck Knob has not square rooms and a wood slab as a dining room table. Tours are available to see the other unusual and beautiful aspects of these sites.

Monday, September 11, 2017

This past Friday and Saturday with 12 other men from our church, I was able to attend the annual fall men retreat at the Servant’s Heart Camp in Ramey, Pennsylvania. There were 61 men total who joined together at the event. SCHM offers weekend retreats for men, women, older single people, couples, pastors, and several weeks of children camps throughout the year. The campers’ cabins cluster around a large lake nestled in the wooded hills of Pennsylvania.
Each of the camp’s programmed events center around the idea of having great Christian speakers offering food for the soul and the culinary geniuses preparing nutritious and delicious meals. Those two items alone are worth the effort to attend, but then there are the activities.
All throughout the campers’ stay there are scheduled events and ones that are open to attend throughout the time there. A huge white tent holds a variety of games that are open for the free, in-between times of scheduled programs. The free time events include fishing, canoeing, hiking on the miles of wooded trails, and weather permitting, swimming.
Things that are supervised and scheduled are skeet shooting, pistol and 0.22 caliber range shooting, archery, spear throwing from a “chariot,” blow guns, target shooting with a muzzle loader, laser target practice, and shooting the air cannon called “Blamzooka.”
Other activities include the exciting nine-square” game, horse shoes, bocce ball, “Hillbilly horse shoe,” “Octoball," the obstacle course, and the bungee run. I have listed most of them, but there are so many, I am sure I have forgotten some.
I’ve already mentioned the great tasting meals, but now I would like to share that the sermons were wonderful. The entire weekend event was called a retreat, but the challenge of the messages was not for men to retreat, but for men to step forward and to charge into God’s expected role for them in our families, churches, and in our country. Thank you to the wonderful staff at the Servant’s Heart Camp. You all are such blessings.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Wildly Wonderful Wednesday
It was just another fully packed Wednesday in my life. I had an appointment with my urology Physicians Assistant for 9:40 am. I left about ten minutes earlier than I normally did and it was good that I had. With construction and slow drivers, I hit the doctor’s office with 10 minutes to spare. My dad was a stickler at being early and it has become my habit as well.
I believe that I mentioned my P.A. is a female. I am grateful that she has small hands. I made her smile when I presented her with a gift. It was a framed copy of a pun I wrote. It read, “If you don’t believe in the trickledown theory, talk to a man with BPH.” (Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy= enlarged prostate gland.)
My next stop was to visit a friend and fellow workmate in the Scottdale Manor. It was her birthday. She’s an avid reader of my books. It was her birthday. I gave her a copy of my last novel. She’s recuperating and gaining strrength for her surgery on September 14th.
My next stop was at the Cracker Barrel restaurant in New Stanton, Pennsylvania. It was the monthly luncheon of the Grande Dames of Frick nurses. I was the only guy there and felt like the rooster in a hen house. There were about 24 nurses gathered for our get-together.
Wal-mart beckoned me next and I pick up a few groceries to replenish a few waning items in my pantry. Finally, I was home, able to put away my purchases in the cupboards. I found my newly written novel in my mailbox. It was waiting for me to proofread it, get it back to the publisher for their review, then get it ready to sell and buy some for myself.
Shortly after I arrived home, a contractor arrived to reattach several pieces of siding that came loose in the wind. I had just enough time time to make supper before my next meeting.
I was off again to church for the Wednesday evening Prayer Meeting. Our Pastor spoke about God directing whirlwinds, storms, wildfires, and even the lightning and how God sometimes uses them to get our attention and draw us back to repentance.