Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mayberry-Mt. Airy

After a good night of sleep and a shower, we drove to a biscuit restaurant to meet Joy and Norman. It was so good to see and to talk with them again. Joy collects Pepsi product items. I brought three Pepsi hats and a duct tape handbook as gifts.
The breakfast was great and the reminiscing was so much better. We sat in a corner booth where we could talk and relax as we ate. We will meet them again later in the week. They were on their way to visit one of their daughters and their grandsons in Lexington, Kentucky.
After a few hugs and good-byes, we were off and driving to Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Mt. Airy was the birthplace of Andy Griffith. It was the model for the town of Mayberry in the Andy Griffith Show. A nearby mountain is named Union Mountain and that was the reason the next door town on the television program was known as Mount Union. At the information center, we met a pair of lovely ladies who directed us to the points of interest in the town.

The first place that we visited was the Andy Griffith museum where we purchased a ticket and toured the building. It was interesting, but small. It had Andy’s uniform, Barney Fife’s suit, and the actual sheriff’s desk from the program. The desk held the telephone, handcuffs, and the gun rack on the wall held the guns. There were T.V. guides with the photos of the stars of the program. Some Andy Griffith titled products, L.P. records he recorded, and the walls sported photos too. My favorite was Aunt Bea. She was a beautiful woman.
We walked the street of the town looking at the shops. The diner, Floyd’s barber shop, and most of the other shops were like a five and dime, but now with junk items. There are some items that relate to the television show, but not that many.
Driving a few streets away, we visit the house that Andy was raised. It is on a quiet side street private property and rented out. We can only take photographs of the outside. It is a small clapboard, frame house; yellow with white trim.

Around the corner and several streets away were several buildings that represented the town of Mayberry; the courthouse, jail, sheriff’s office, and Wally’s garage. Outside of the buildings were several vehicles; the Darlings’ flatbed truck, two tow trucks from Wally’s garage, and the police patrol car. If we had gotten there a bit earlier, we could have purchased a ride through the town in Andy’s patrol car.
There was a man who was dressed in a tan sheriff’s uniform to represent Andy Griffith. He was very polite and genial and would have been the chauffer if we had been able to purchase the ride in the patrol car.
The jail was set up like Andy’s with two cells and the desk, chair, and telephone. There was a wall rack with fake rifles. We took a few photos of each of us in the jail cells.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New River Gorge

New River Gorge is in West Virginia. It is near the southern end of the state. It is a part of route 19 just outside of Fayetteville, West Virginia and crosses the New River. It is a long bridge of dark brown arches and pillars that supports four lanes of traffic; two north and two south. Steel pillars and arches stretches 3,030 feet; 876 feet above the valley, river, and railroad tracks far below. The arch itself is 1700 feet long and is quite impressive.
We stopped at the bridge after traveling route 60 on an accidental detour. We wanted to take photographs from the different viewing platforms. We took some pictures from the upper platform and the view of the bridge from the underside was spectacular. The dark brown span was beautiful and graceful in the late afternoon light that was muted by the occasional drizzle.
Walking to the lower platform, we could hear the pattering of the rain in the leaves above us and feel an occasional drop or two falling from the foliage. Descending the stairs, we went deeper into the valley along the steep slope. One hundred and seventy-one steps downward were only broken by several landings to allow people to catch their breath as they climbed back to the top. One of the landings had a bench to rest the legs as well.

We made it to the bottom platform just in time. We had just taken a few photographs before a fast moving fog came flowing in to envelope the whole bridge in its thick white blanket. We got a few as the fog flowed down the valley making the bridge look ethereal before actually enveloping the graceful structure. Just before it disappeared, the fog actually enhanced the beauty of the underside of the long arch and pillars.
The observation decks did give fantastic views of the bridge. There was just enough shape in curves to the foliage that followed the shape in the arch. It intensified the curves and made the pillars seem more solid.
There was just a short time once we made the bottom platform to take some photographs before the fog covered everything.  While the bridge was still visible, we took a series of shots that allowed us to gather on film the progression of the fog as it nibbled at the understructure, climbed to the roadway’ and in its slow and inexorable advance it consumed the bridge. We could see the bridge no more.

Now for the climb back to the top; step, step, step, landing… step, step, step, landing… step, step, step, landing…pant, pant, pant. One hundred, seventy-one steps back to the top. It was still drizzling lightly as we headed back to the truck. The fog seemed to like the gorge and stayed over the bridge.
After a short drive, we stayed the night at a nearby campsite in a nice cabin. In the morning we were to meet and have breakfast with Norman and Joy Johnston.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Just a few stories to share with you as a break from the family tales, I just got back from a vacation in North Carolina visiting friends and am glad that I am home. I think I have saddle sores or at least my bottom is sore from so much riding in the truck. I will attempt to share the things that I saw and did while I was traveling and while sightseeing. 

Fun on Rainy Roads

I stand corrected, I thought the roads from New Centerville to Confluence to Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania were the second curviest roads that I had ever been on, but I just found another that has pushed them to third. That road is route 60 east from Charleston, West Virginia to New Falls Gorge. To make matters worse, the road was horribly curved; there were some wicked downpours as well. It was a part of the vacation trip I would not like to do over.
The up and down parts were steeper and the curves almost would have met themselves if they had been on the level instead of climbing or descending. The rain came in deluges. It seemed as if when it slacked off to a heavy shower, it was gaining strength for the next onslaught. I can’t imagine the courage of the men who made and paved these roads over the years.
It was hard for me to see why anyone would have chosen this path even for a trail through the wilderness. There had to be less hazardous and less steep trails. Although I do not believe there is a straight road in many parts of West Virginia or in western North Carolina.

Route 60 was such a road. The good thing about route 60 was there were guardrails between the road and the rivers, streams, and railroad tracks far below. The waters and the railroad tracks played tag with each other as they twisted their way in the valleys and gorges and hide and seek in the trees. Most of the streams and rivers were chocolate milk colored from the sediment runoff of the heavy and frequent rains. The water in the streams ran swift and high.
I didn’t feel dizzy after the run on route 60 as I had when we travelled on a back road from Tennessee to Kentucky on an even more curvy road, but I was glad to be through with it. But if anyone would like a thrilling drive, take route 60 from Charleston to Fayetteville, West Virginia.
This was the beginning of our trip to North Carolina to visit friends and to see the waterfalls in North Carolina.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Time to Butcher

This is not a subject that will interest all people, but it was a way of life as I grew up. It may even bother the squeamish. Every year between Thanksgiving and the New Year, the family would gather at my grandfather’s farm. The decision to butcher depended on the weather. Granddad always kept two hogs and a bull that he raised for the sole purpose of having meat for the coming year. There was a lot of work involved in the process and that is why the family gathered. It would make the work less tiresome for everybody. With the work shared, all of the butchering could be done in one day.
I can remember the air was cold and I could see my breath rising. It was cold enough to cool the meat, but not to freeze it quickly.
Usually it was the hogs that were killed first. They were hoisted one at a time up in the center of a tripod by winches, gutted, and dipped into scalding water. The water softened the bristles and they were easier to scrape off the hides. Each was skinned and then cut in half, and again into quarters. The sections were taken to large tables and sliced into the various cuts of meat; roasts, chops, and hams. The hams were trimmed of fat then rolled into a cure of brown sugar, pepper, and salt. Allowed to rest in the cure before they were carried and hung inside the smoke house.
The smoke house was a small shack with a raised floor. The floorboards had gaps between them to allow the smoke from a smoldering fire of wet hickory wood beneath them to rise into the shed. The rest of the building was tight with just a small space to allow the smoke to escape near the top. The thick smoke finished curing the hams and bacon if Grandpa decided on that too.
While the major cutting up and dividing of the pigs was happening, the women gathered and washed out the small intestines of the pigs. Those intestines would become the casings for the sausage.
The fat and small bits of meat had to be removed from the bones. That was the job I had been assigned. I couldn’t cut anything that shouldn’t be cut except me. My one uncle and I kept trimming and providing the pork that would be ground into sausage.  It was a demanding job; fast enough to keep ahead of the grinder and slow enough not to lose a finger.
The ground up pork would be seasoned with black pepper and mixed by hand. The mixture was taken upstairs where the women would put it into a press that would squeeze the sausage out through a teat near the bottom. The casing had already been slipped over the teat and the sausage would fill the casing as it was pushed out through the opening at the end of the teat. Deft twists by the women controlled the length of each link.

Next it was time for the beef. The bull was killed and hung up on the tripod to be gutted and skinned. It was quartered as well and laid on the tables to be cut up. The bits and pieces and the bones were passed to me and my uncle to strip any remaining meat to be ground into hamburger. The steaks, chops, and roasts were removed by deft hands long before the beef was passed to me. (I never did gain enough experience to move up in the ranks of cutters before my grandfather died.)
All of the meat had to be placed into jars and be cold packed and sealed against spoilage. That changed once my grandparents bought a freezer and the meats had to be wrapped and frozen.
Each family took home some of the meat as a thank you from Granddad for all of the help. None of the families were wealthy and the fresh meat made life better for us all.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Aluminum Siding Salesman

My mom and dad’s house is situated on the heavily traveled route 381/ 711. This story occurred at a time when salesmen travelled from house to house hawking their wares. This could mean anything from vacuum cleaners to encyclopedias to Bibles.

Mom answered the door to the knock. The salesman greeted her saying, “Ma’am, I think your house needs aluminum siding.” At that time our house was clad in brown Ensel brick. It was a thick tarpaper coated in grit and designed to look like brick. Although it wasn’t the most appealing to look at, it sealed the cracks of the house and kept the cold air outside.

The salesman hit all of the angles of his product; its beauty, its durability, its strength, and it would never need painted. He waved his arms saying, “Your house would look so much more beautiful encased in white siding.” (White was the only color it came in at that time.) He finished by saying, “Yes, your house really needs aluminum siding.”

Mom hesitated for a second. She was getting tired of the many sales people who stopped and said, “ If you really think that my house needs it, go ahead.”

The salesman’s face cracked a huge smile and whipped out a measuring tape, a pad, and a pen. He walked all the way around the house measuring and taking notes. He listed all of the dimensions. When he had all of his measurements, he followed Mom into the house and sat on the couch. He pulled a sheaf of paper from his briefcase and spread them on the coffee table. After transferring the measurements to those papers, he began to tally and total everything. He wrote those figures onto a printed sheet.

When he got to the bottom of the sheet, he sat back and said, “The total cost for the siding and installation will be…”

Before he could finish, my mom interrupted, “Wait, you said my house needed siding  and I said, ‘If you think it needs it, go ahead’. I never said I was going to pay for it.”

The salesman couldn’t have looked more surprised if my mom had hit him in the face with a baseball bat. He managed to sputter, “What?”

My mom repeated. “I didn’t say I would pay for it.”

He snatched up his papers and pen, tossing them into the briefcase and slamming it shut. He snatched it up and headed for the door. He practically ran to his car. Yanking the door open, and disappeared inside and slammed the door. It echoed off the front of our house.

Starting the car, he spun the wheels as he backed out of our drive. He had to make an emergency stop and pull back into the drive. He had almost backed out in front of an eighteen wheeler tractor and trailer. The air horn blared at the salesman as the semi rolled past our drive.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Skinny on the Ballfield

There was a kid created and maintained ball diamond where we played our games. It was on a level plot of ground that no one used, so we claimed it. It became the place where we played softball or baseball. Each kid would bring his equipment; a bat, a glove, or a ball if they had one and we would play ball.

It always depended on what type of ball that was brought as to whether we would play baseball or softball. If no one brought a ball or if we wanted to cool off after several hot innings, we would make use of another natural resource near at hand. The stream ran alongside the ball field, nearly parallel to the first base line.

Let me describe the layout of the ball field. Route 711/ 381 was almost parallel to the third base line, a teacher’s yard was just beyond the outfield at second base, and a weedy patch of briars grew along the base line to home plate. The stream and the highway was far enough away not to be a concern, but occasionally a ball would roll into the teacher’s yard or driveway. That wasn’t a problem either, but when a foul ball ended up in the briars and weeds, we had to search for it or quit playing. With only one ball available, finding it was imperative. Even when we found it, we sometimes stopped the game. Emerging hot and sweaty with legs scratched and burning from the thorns, we would decide on going for a swim.

None of us ever brought bathing suits; it was skinny dipping or getting our underwear wet. (No one wanted to be called a sissy because he was afraid to swim naked and no one wanted to be called a baby because his underwear were wet.)

The cool water of Indian Head Creek would stop the burning of the scratches. The water was slowed by a rock dam that we built. We maintained it and it was chin high at its deepest part. The stream ran behind a line of trees and clumps of Laurel bushes. There we were hidden from the traffic and from the teacher’s windows. Nothing disturbed us as we swam other the passing of an occasional train.

The train tracks ran on a ledge about twelve feet above the water. When we heard the rumble of an approaching train, we all headed for deep water until only our heads bobbed in the water.  We would wave at the engineer and most times, he would give a short toot of the locomotive’s whistle.

It was an odd feeling when the train passed. The heavy rumble made the creek bed seem to shake beneath the water. Even before the rumbling died away, we were back on the bank diving and playing tag.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Christmas Catcus

My grandmother’s house was always filled with plants. In the vestibule hallway, at the front entrance were two snake plants, their sharp, green spears guarding the glass panels at each side of the door. Their variegated and yellow edged leaves twisted as they rose up from their soil filled ceramic planters.

In the formal sitting room, where kids weren’t allowed, were two huge Asparagus fern plants. They grew in pots that filled a cream colored wood and wicker “fern stand”. The leaves of the ferns’ leaves were fine and wispy hairs that cascaded over the sides of the stand in pale green clouds.

The window sills in the kitchen, the bathroom, and a built-in porch sported Geraniums of all colors, but were predominantly red. They were planted in shiny silver aluminum foil covered tin cans to survive the harsh winter. Some were being started from cuttings and others much, much older. She would grow them all winter until she could replant them in her dark green, wooden porch planter boxes in the spring. I can remember sitting on the toilet, reaching up, and touching their dark, dull green leaves. The heady and spicy aromatic oils would cling to my fingers for hours.

But the plant that impressed me the most was the gigantic Christmas cactus that dominated the hallway at the top of the stairs. It was old. My grandmother had probably started it when she was young and had just moved into the house. It had been replanted into larger and larger pots until it now filled the stainless steel chamber of a milk and cream separator. This pot was nearly fifteen inches deep and about twenty-eight inches across at its widest part. It was huge and Grandma kept it in the center of a dark oak library table that was in the style of Mission Oak furniture. The desk’s lines were straight, plain, and smooth. The top surface of it was covered by an inlaid piece of black leather.

As large as the separator top was, the Christmas cactus was so much larger. It rose nearly twelve inches above the top of its creamery planter. The thick, ropey branches draped over the sides until the tips of the longest rested on the table top. The flat oval green leaves looked like a waterfall pouring over the smooth silver sides. When it bloomed, the pink and white multilayered blossoms looked like tiny, frilly petticoats. They were so numerous; they often concealed most of the flat green leaves. Because it was cool and dark at the top of the stairs, the blossoms seemed to last for months.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It was a sweltering hot summer’s day that was made even hotter because my grandmother and my aunt were baking bread. They had been baking for the most of the afternoon. When my uncle Charles walked in to the kitchen, he said, “Becky, you two have the stove pipe cherry red. One of these days you two are going to burn this place down.”  My grandmother still used a coal cook stove to do her baking and cooking.The stove’s pipe ran up through the first floor ceiling and then through the second floor ceiling to join the chimney in the attic.

The pipe from the kitchen was indeed glowing red hot from the heat of their baking. “I’m going upstairs to check it out.” My uncle called over his shoulder as he left the kitchen.

He walked through the dining room and up the stairs to the hall way. Looking into a bedroom where the pipe from below emerged, he could see the pipe and how hot it was even at this level. Above in the attic, he could hear clumping sounds almost as if someone walking up there.

He ran to the opposite end of the hall and could see a flickering light shining out from under the door. Spinning around he ran back to the stairway. Leaping down the stairs two steps at a time, he hollered, “My God Becky, the house is on fire!” He was going so fast, that he flew through the screen door at the bottom of the stairs. Just like on the television cartoons, he left a silhouette of himself in the screen.

“Get buckets and water. The attic is on fire.” Every container that could hold water and they could lay hands on went into the spring that day.  Each of the kids and the adults formed a bucket brigade. They hurried back and forth to supply the water to try and extinguish the fire.

It was a time before the area had a fire department and some neighbors ame to join them. Buckets were filled in the spring and ran or passed to the next person along the line. The people in the attic would throw it on the fire and pass the empty container back to be refilled.

Smoke and now steam billowed from the opened attic window. Oot through the window, using a pitchfork, they tossed some of the burning toys, school papers, and dolls outside to be doused with water. They slowly gained on the fire. After what seemed like hours, the last of the hot embers were extinguished. The men kept a vigil throughout the night with buckets of water at hand, to squelch any rekindling of the fire.

The house had minimal damage, but all of the kid’s childhood memories were lost. Either burned up, or damaged beyond saving by the smoke and water.

I always loved it when my uncle would retell the story. His voice would become animated and it almost seemed as though I was there. My favorite line in the story was always the same, “That night scrub buckets, dishpans, and piss pots went into the spring.”

This is a late Wednesday post, so there may be two Thursday posts after I post one for Thursday.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

                Besides lying and swearing, Dale had a penchant for gossip. If he didn’t know what was going on, he went out of his way to find out what was happening. He had a need to know what was going on everywhere in the mountains. He would relentlessly pursue a rumor until he was sure that he had the whole story.

My brother Ken and I used to run with a volunteer ambulance company and fire department. One night we responded to an accident call in Melcroft, Pennsylvania. It was at across road and was a two car accident.  I was directing traffic at one arm of the cross road standing among the burning flares.

My brother was just lighting flares and directing traffic on one of the main arms on the highway. Dale drove up along my arm of the road. He stopped, then drove ahead only to pull off to the side of the roadway and park. He walked back to me. He didn’t day “Hi” or anything other than “Who was in the accident?” I was too far away from the accident to know and was isolated in my job of directing traffic. I watched him walk away from me toward the accident when he couldn’t get what he wanted from me. I could see him silhouetted in the lights at the accident site.

When he neared the collision, he recognized my brother. He turned away from the accident site (where he would have been told to leave) and walked toward my brother.

My brother saw Dale coming toward him. Ken had already lit two flares to control traffic, but as Dale drew near, my brother started walking farther and farther away from Dale, lighting flares as he went. Dale kept on coming. Dale finally caught up with Ken when my brother ran out of flares.

Dale asked the same question, “Who was involved in the accident?”

Ken gave Dale the same answer, “I don’t know, Dale.”

Disgusted, Dale walked back to the accident scene where the firemen were clearing the collision site. He hovered around the edge of firemen until he got the information he was after.

Later, my brother told me, “I ran out of flares or I would still be walking to avoid talking to that man.”

Monday, July 22, 2013


The death of a wife or a husband affects each person left behind in different ways. Grief and unbelief is hard to deal with, to survive, and to go on in life, but I think one thing that we all go through is a confusion state trying to decide if that loved one has really gone.

                There were many nights after the death of my wife Cindy (She didn’t like the name Cynthia.) , where I would either be in my dreams or be awake after a dream and totally confused. I would be told that she hadn’t died, but was alive and still in the house somewhere or at work or visiting her mother. That she had died was a lie and whoever told me that she had died was a liar.

In my state of confusion, I would look for her and eventually find her. We would have conversations (although I could never recall what we had talked about) or we would have a meal together. There always seemed to be other people in the dream. They were more like scenery that interacted with us occasionally.

There were days on end that even after I was fully awake, where I was double-guessing which was the dream and which was reality. It was so hard to focus on which idea was real, which one to discard, and which one to hold onto. The choices seemed to be equally potent, equally acceptable, and equally distressing. It was a lost and lonely feeling that delved into my dreams and yet laid claim to much of my waking hours.

Knowing that she was gone was so hard for me to deal with and the fact that she “still visited me” was difficult to understand. I was unable to clearly distinguish which was reality with my emotions so raw. It was as though my mind had created a Bizzaro world, much like in the Superman comics, for her to live. That world existed where everything and everyone was off kilter, opposite, and unreal.

It felt like I was living in a twilight world where it was not nighttime, but it wasn’t daylight either. It was a faint dim world where shadows of the past mingled with the present, not allowing me to think about the future. I would go to work, buy gasoline, but when I came home, she wasn’t there.

In my dreams she came to me. My mind was trying to hold onto something precious, something dear, some one that I loved, but try as hard as I could, the reality of her death settled in. The dreams became less frequent, less consuming, less potent and less real.

She still visits me in my dreams, but now it is comforting; remembering the sweetness of the past, remembering the good times, and remembering her. Oh, I still miss her, but it is the desire to hold onto the memories, not the desire to hold her. I understand that she is gone.

The side of her bed has not been slept in. It remains cold and empty.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mom and Dad were both stubborn at times and one night they locked horns. It wasn’t a fight actually; it was more like two Sumo wrestlers seeing who would move first. It was like water and rock, seeing who would wear down and yield.
Dad was upset that Mom had walked into the bathroom while he was still inside. He got into a huff because she didn’t leave right away, but quickly forgot about it all. A little while later, he walked in on her while she was in the bathroom.
That started it all. Mom asked him to leave and he wasn’t ready to leave. Mom exploded “I can’t come into the bathroom while you’re in here, but it’s okay for you to come in while I’m in here?”
Dad said, “I can be in here if I want to.”
“If I can’t be in here while you’re in here, you need to get out!” Mom exclaimed.

Dad countered, “I’m not leaving until you do.”

Dad refused. Mom got her back up and she refused to leave; stalemate.

Mom called to us kids, “Kids, get me a pillow and a blanket.” Mom had laid claim to the bathtub. Mom was short enough to fit the tub. (It would have been hard for Dad who was just over six foot to be comfortable in the tub.) She settled in for the night.
Dad decided to sleep on the floor. He was too stubborn to call for a pillow and used the bathroom rugs and a few towels for his bedding.
This is the kicker, it was Saturday night and Mom was an intelligent woman. She knew that Dad would not miss church in the morning. He might stay in the bathroom to shave and brush his teeth, but he would leave the bathroom first to eat breakfast before making the Sunday morning trek. She was going too, but she could go without breakfast if need be.
Dad did leave the bathroom first and all it accomplished was that they were both stiff and sore that Sunday.
I was glad that I didn’t have to use the restroom that night. You know what they say, “Two’s company, but three’s a crowd.”


When Mom and Dad were first married and barely out of their honey moon, they lived in a small rental house above Indian Head Pennsylvania. The owners of the house and next door neighbors were an elderly couple. The neighbors were kindly to them.
One day, Mom said that she and Dad had started a water fight, throwing water from glasses, pitchers, and buckets at each other. They were squealing and yelling at each other on good, clean fun. They chased each other around the house and yard.
The neighbors saw them running after each other and heard them yelling, squealing, and hollering and were about to call the police thinking that someone was being hurt, when they saw Mom and Dad collapse in each other’s arms on the lawn laughing. Both were soaked to the skin, but both were wonderfully in love.


Saturday, July 20, 2013


It became a tradition for my mom, dad, brother Ken and my sister Kathy to go to our grandparent’s house for a meal on New Year’s Day.
It wasn’t the traditional New Year’s Eve foods of pork and sauerkraut; it was something a lot less traditional. My Dad would buy a couple of cans of oysters and a gallon of vanilla ice cream. He always bought the little wafer-like oyster crackers. We would take it all with us when we visited.

Granddad Miner had a small farm and had fresh butter, cream, and milk. He had lard from the pigs that he had butchered and Grandma had apples that she had canned. Grandma would bake two apple pies. (Her crusts were nice and light from the lard that she used and the apples were seasoned just right for the filling.)
As soon as we walked inside, my glasses would steam up. I would enter their house and be assaulted by the cinnamon-spicy aroma of the pies and the warmth of the coal cook stove in her kitchen. There would be the scent of percolated coffee adding richness to the festivities. When we appeared, the ice cream would go into the freezer and the oysters would go into a large pot with the creamy milk, butter and salt and pepper. Nothing else was needed to make a rich light soup. All we had to do was to wait and waiting was hard for us kids. The pleasantly warm smells made our stomachs growl. (At least mine growled.)
Grandma would get up occasionally to stir the pot. We would all watch in anticipation for her to nod that the meal was ready and were disappointed when she returned and sat back down. When it would seem I could wait no longer, Grandma would say, “Let’s eat.” There was no need for a second call when the oyster broth was cooked and ready to be served.

Grandma would use a large ladle and lift out steaming broth and a few of the meaty oysters into bowls; smaller ones for us kids, and larger ones for the adults. When the savory soup was placed in front of me I would take a deep sniff, wanting to just have a taste of it, but I knew that all had to be served and after grace was said, the crackers would be passed around to pour onto the broth.
I always wanted to lift the bowl and drink it right down, but I would take one spoonful at a time to make it last as long as I could. (Besides the soup was so steaming hot, I would have scalded and blistered my throat.) Grandma would ladle out a bit more to everyone until the pot was empty.

The adults would sip coffee and talk. We would squirm in our chairs wishing the apple pie and ice cream was already in front of us, but as children, we couldn’t ask and had to wait to be served.
Eventually Grandma would rise and fetch the pies. My mom would get the ice cream. Our eyes sparkled in anticipation. (Apple pie and ice cream was not a common occurrence.) Grandma sliced the pies. A large wedge was placed on a saucer and Mom would scoop a heaping mound of the frozen treat on the pie. Spoons were traded for forks and the forks hovered over the mélange.
We drooled until everybody was served and then dove in with gusto. Barely a crumb was left on the plate when we were through. Tummies full and appetite sated we moved away from the table to play dominoes or Parcheesi.
It was then some sadness would creep in. We would have to wait another full year for the oyster stew and apple pie with ice cream.


Friday, July 19, 2013


This story is about something a little more recent with ties to the past. I will start with the memory I have of my grandmother’s house. She had a tall, corner cupboard that nearly reached to touch her twelve foot ceiling. The ceiling was made of tongue and groove wood. The electric ran across the ceiling separated by white ceramic insulators. The wires terminated with a single light bulb that hung down in the center of the room.
In the cupboard she always kept a saucer honey in a honey comb. I can remember when she got a new delivery of honey. It came in a six by six by three inch box. It was mostly green, but had white and red lettering. On the front of the box was a cellophane window and by looking I could see the hexagonal wax structure that the bees had built to hold the honey.

Now to recent history, I had honey bees settle in the hollow of an aspen tree at the edge of my property. How long I am not sure, but I noticed them this spring. They didn’t bother me and I didn’t bother them, sort of a mutual truce. I had thought initially that they were the yellow jackets that had attacked me several years before.
After several of the storms ad wind that came through, the aspen started to lean. Each wind storm caused the tree to lean a bit more. I was worried. Was the tree going to fall out onto the road? Would the tree fall on me as I mowed? If I got someone in to cut the tree would he get injured by the bees? I was in a quandary. What should I do?

I decided I would post on Craig’s List Pittsburgh for “Bee keepers: Free Bees.” I received several e-notes of interest and several sites where I might find help. My daughter posted pictures of the tree hive on Face Book. I got a call from someone who’d seen the posts and came right away to evaluate. The woman who responded was the scout. (She is also in training for the apiary business.) She evaluated her boss and he came right away. When the rope I had on hand was not strong enough to pull the tree down, he told me that he would be back in the morning to cut down the tree (thank you) and harvest the bees. The aspen branches were leaning against a small maple.
He and the assistant, with two assistants came back at eight a.m. and went to work. Using an anchored come-along they moved the tree a bit but it still wouldn’t fall. One of the men climbed into a bee suit and began cutting the base of the tree slowly with much buzzing of the saw and cracking of wood, the tree fell, taking the small maple with it. The tree was down without anyone getting hurt.
The man with the saw made several more cuts from above where the top of the hive was thought to be, until the hollow and the first part of the honeycomb could be seen. The hive was inside of an approximate five foot section. The bee keepers began extracting the honeycomb and bees looking for the queen. Once they found the queen, they would relocate her inside the hive box they had brought with them. They couldn’t get to the bees very well inside, so they cut the length of the log on both sides to split the log in half. Now they had access to all of the bees.
Surprise! Surprise, the hive was bigger than expected.  They were able to remove four queens, one went into the new hive box and the others were taken with them to establish new colonies. I gave them permission to keep a hive on my property. My plot of land has farm fields on three sides.
While they were collecting the bees, the bees weren’t happy at all. I was about twenty-five feet from the hive and they tagged me, four times on the ankles and once between the eyes on the bridge of my nose. My nose is sore even with aspirin and Benadryl. I don’t plan on working outside for the rest of the day. My ankles are swollen even with Benadryl and aspirin.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dale’s Tales

I guess I write so many stories about my uncle Dale because he was such a real character. He was such a footloose and irresponsible person that things just seemed to settle on him. All of the tales that I share with you are things he has said or things that he has done. Often he was the star of his own imagination.

One day he dropped into my grandmother, Becky’s house around suppertime. After a quick greeting, he asked, “What’s for supper?”
Grandma didn’t bat an eye, but quickly replied, “Nothing, you didn’t get your name in the pot.”
Dale didn’t say a word, but shrugged his shoulders and walked away.
When Grandma got up from watching television, she went into the kitchen to check on the food that was cooking, she lifted the lid on the pot to stir the stew and there on top was a slip of paper. Dale had written the words “Dale Miner” and he had put his name in the pot.

Dale was late for work one day and when his boss asked, “Why are you late this morning, Dale?”
Never being short of words or stories, Dale told his boss, “Well, I started to drive here on route 653, but when I got to the bottom of the hill, there was a huge turtle on the roadway blocking the bridge. I couldn’t get by him and had to drive all the way to Mill Run before I could take another route to drive another way to work and that is why I am late.”

Dale was at a local gas station talking to his cronies. He was telling them that he had just driven from the state of California back to Pennsylvania without a valid driver’s license. The area’s Justice of the Peace/ magistrate just happened to be there and overheard his conversation. Dale didn’t think much about it until he was pulled over a few days later by a state trooper and cited for driving without a license.
Dale put the facts together and in his mind, he decided that the magistrate had turned him in. He was so upset that when he paid the fine to the magistrate, he had nearly every cent of it in unwrapped coins. “If it happens again, I’ll pay it in pennies and wait until the amount of the fine is counted out before I leave the office.

*** <>***
This is a story Dale told about himself. He was working for a lumber company. It was at a time when posts were being cut for use in the mines as supports. There were people who would cut the trees of the correct size and cut them to length. Other employees would carry them on their shoulder out to the road. The posts would be stacked until there was a pile large enough to load onto a truck and haul away. He said that the boss was on the men (and him) to work faster.
             Dale saw and picked up two posts that were more slender. He placed them on his shoulder and carried them to the road, but Dale did something that made the boss ask, “Dale, what are you doing?”
Dale replied, “If you are going to work me like a horse, I’m gonna look like a horse.” Before picking up the posts, He had unzipped his trousers and had his manhood hanging out.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The way this story fits into the family history is that I am alive today to recall and to write the tales from our family. I am not a historian in that I look up dates, but want the life tales to be passed on to others. Stories of real people, unvarnished as I was told them or as I recall them. I have had my sister and one cousin who has been jogging my memory. Thanks so much.

If Looks Could Kill

I was enlisted in the navy and after I had completed my corpsman’s training at the Great Lakes Naval center, I was assigned to the Naval Training Center in Orlando Florida. Several of the other corpsman with whom I became friends in Florida, were “druggies.” They were corpsmen as I was. It was several months before they became comfortable in offering and actually smoking marijuana and hashish with me present. As they learned about me, even though I didn’t do drugs, they began to trust me and less private in smoking.

Let me interject, I am a teetotaler and do not use alcohol or drugs. I never drank any type of an alcoholic beverage, not even a beer. I liked being in control of myself and had too much fun being myself to let go. I never told them not to drink or do drugs. It was a personal choice for them. Nothing that I would say would change them. If they were to change, it would have to come through the choices that they made.

Somehow, the naval intelligence (The people would say that “the Navy has intelligence?”) compiled a list of “druggies.” My friends were called in one at a time to be questioned. One of them saw a list on the investigating officer’s desk and who could read upside down, read the names that were included on it. It was a list all of the friends who hung out together, EXCEPT my name. My name was not on the list.

Now I come to the scary part (for me and not for you.) In their state of heightened paranoia, they huddled together and decided that it had been me who had informed on them because my name was not included in the roster.
In their fear, they decided to kill me. En mass they came to my room. (I never did find out or ask how they planned my demise. It may be fortunate that I never knew.) My roommate was one of the assassination squad and with his key they all gained entrance to the room.
Only by the grace of God I wasn’t home. I was never sure where I was at the time, because no one told me of their plan until much later.

The conspirators went back into seclusion and after things settled down, emotions cooled, and they became more rational, someone wisely pointed out that I did not do drugs and therefore my name wouldn’t have been on the list. I hadn’t do the drugs with them.
I am alive today because I wasn’t there when they looked or I would have been killed.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Grandpa’s Barn

My granddad’s barn was built on the order of so many other barns in southwest Pennsylvania. It was built on a sloping hillside where one side of the barn’s foundation was partly underground while the other was open to the air. The side underground had a slightly graduated ramp that allowed access to the second story barn floor.
The part of the barn not underground allowed doors to be built to give the farm animals ingress to their stalls and mangers. The initial access was a large area that ran the length of the barn. It gave the animals a shelter from the cold and wet weather. They would wait there until the doors to their stalls were opened.

The second floor consisted of a wide main floor that gave Grandpa a place to store the tractor. On each side of the main floor, were areas almost as large. These were areas where the hay was stored: loose tossed hay and later when balers were available areas to stack the bales of hay. The hay storage had the roof of the barn two stories overhead, while the central floor had a floor above it for storage.
To one edge was a small square room for the keeping of corn and feed. It was solidly built of wood and covered in a wire mesh to prevent rodents and birds from gaining access to the grains that was feed for his animals. The barn’s skeleton was made of huge beams fastened by wooden pegs in tennon and socket joints.

Granddad always had two milk cows. He preferred Guernsey’s, saying that their milk was richer and filled with cream. He raised a bull for butchering in the fall, usually a short-horned Herford.  He had several pigs, raised for their meat.
At one time when I was small, he had two horses; one was a black stallion, named Blackie (of course), that allowed no one near but my granddad and one stupid kid. I was told I was that stupid kid. I toddled out of the house and walked to where my granddad had the horse tied. I was standing under its belly, trying to pet it. My mom and grandma went to get my granddad, they were afraid I’d get trampled if they approached. My granddad rescued me. I was young enough not to remember, only what my mom told me.
The other horse was an older female, and she was the work horse named Pet. Granddad would sometimes hoist several kids onto her back and walk the horse around to give us rides. Pet was gentle and would follow my granddad around like a dog.

My uncle Charles and Dale decided to work on Charles’ car in the barn. The beams made a great place to use pulleys and ropes to deal with the motor. It was an older Buick; wide and heavy. Charles backed it inside. The main section of the barn floor groaned under the weight. In one loud crash, the floor collapsed, remaining intact and the Buick was partly in the bottom of the barn. The back end was down and the front end was up. When the floor fell, it made a ramp and they were able to pull the car out of the hole. Later they were able to lift the barn floor back into place and secure it, stronger than before.

The outside of the barn as long as I can remember was a weathered gray, while the inside colors ranged from a honey color to a bleached bone hue. The beauty of them was enhanced by rays of sunshine slipping through the spaces between the boards of the barn’s siding.
Little can beat the smell of fresh mow hay stored in a barn. The smells of the animals below and a sometimes sharp tang to the smells of the hay and the feeds are almost perfume to a person who grows up on a farm or has worked on a farm.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Safe in Grandma’s House

                My grandmother’s house was a dangerous place, not like the kid friendly homes of today. There were no padded corners, no locked drawers, and no household cleaners out of reach. Children were taught not to touch and if they got hurt it was a way of life.

                The first and most central hazard was the outhouse. Getting there involved going down a steep hill or if you chose to go out the back door there were twelve steep concrete steps without railings. Those steps could be covered in snow and sometimes ice. The holes in the outhouse could swallow a kid if he or she chose the large hole instead of the smaller, kid-sized hole. There were spiders, bees, and an occasional snake. A kid wasn’t “safe” until he or she was back inside of Grandma’s house.
                Her back porch sported splinters for bare, unprotected feet and the concrete front porch and cinder block railings were unforgiving for the unfortunate kid who would fall.
                The roots of the three hemlock trees had spread their roots and made the brick inlaid path uneven and a tripping concern.

                Inside she had a wood cook stove that was warm at all times and hot most of the time. There were no kid-guards against the hot surfaces, only stern warnings.
                My grandfather and uncles had guns that they kept in their upstairs bed rooms. They weren’t locked away. There were no trigger locks. Ammunition was handy.

                The house had steep hills on both sides. When we played, there was always the risk of falling especially with dew or rain slick grass. (I accidentally hung by my heel in one of the huge lilac bushes when I slipped. I was about ten years old at the time. When I was rescued, my granddad said, “I should have left you there. Grandma doesn’t like kids climbing her bushes.” We did climb the hemlock trees. She didn’t like that either.
                We used to play in the barn. I hope I don’t have to elaborate on all of the sharp tools, rusty instruments, ropes, and places to fall found in a barn. Rusty nails, old medicine bottles, and manure are hidden in obscure places. Inside the barn and out were rolls and stretched lines of barbed wire. The barn and elsewhere there were snakes; black snakes, garter snakes, and even a copper head or two.
                There were animals that pecked, bit, bucked, kicked, and crapped all over the place. At the lower end of his farm was a red dog heap, slag and waste from the mines and iron smelting furnaces.
                There was a watering trough and a spring. Great places to play when it was hot, but danger lurked in the deep.
Grandma had a wringer washer. It could injure a child with the motor, the agitator, and by the wringer.

I don’t understand why there weren’t more injuries at my grandma’s house unless children were taught to think.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

This is another story about my uncle Dale. He was unusual and come up with unusual ways to "solve problems." This is just of those times.
Rolling Your Own

                My uncle Dale worked at the same place with my dad for a short while. They worked at a factory in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Walworth made valves of sizes from two and a half inches to three feet in diameter of brass, iron, and stainless steel. The company did everything from casting them in the foundry to shaping, welding, cutting, and assembling them. Once they were assembled, they were inspected and the high pressure valves were tested.

                They made two types of valves, a ball valve and a wedge valve. The ball valve had a round ball-type device for closure. It fitted into an angled ring that regulated or stopped the flow of the contents.

                A wedge valve worked much in the same way. The closure device was wedge shaped and would slide up and down between two planed surfaces. Both type of valves were opened and closed by spinning a wheel that caused a screw to raise and lower the ball or wedge. The surfaces of the ball, wedge, and each surface had to be cut and polished so that the surfaces fit snugly.

                Dale rode to work with my dad and two other men. When they drove by one house, a shaggy collie-looking dog would chase the car, barking. Day after day the dog would run beside their car and bark. It was annoying to all, but especially to Uncle Dale. For some reason, it really irritated him.

                One day, Dale asked my dad to stop the car at a saw mill before they got to the dog’s house. Dale got out of the car and walked to the discarded wood slab pile. Moving a few, he selected one and carried it back to the car.

                Dale walked to the back of Dad’s car and asked him to open the trunk. Once Dad opened the trunk, Dale climbed inside, holding the slab in his hands. Dad slipped behind the wheel and drove away. The dog ran out at the approach of Dad’s automobile and started yapping. Dad was driving a little slower than normal because of his passenger in the trunk. Dale extended the slab out past the side of the car. When the car drove by the annoying mongrel, the slab caught the cur and knocked it off its feet. The dog gave a loud yelp and tumbled off the side of the road in a cloud of dust. It rolled across the berm and disappeared done a small hill.        Dad stopped the car a short way down the road. Dale climbed out, closed the trunk, and got back into the car after tossing the slab away.

                The outcome, when Dad would drive by the dog’s house, he would see the dog in the yard, but it never chased my dad’s car again.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Celtic Cross and Thistle

                Have you ever been so upset with someone that you felt like throttling them? I once felt that way about my wife Cindy, but she had already died by then. She passed away March 24, 2003 of ovarian cancer. If she hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have been upset with her. It may sound confusing, but let me explain before you think I am a cruel and heartless man.

                I was four years older than she and I wanted to get things settled for when I died. I fully expected to pass away before she did. I wanted to spare her the trauma of having to deal with the cemetery plots, funeral home, and head stone. Don’t think I am morbid or had a death wish, but I loved my wife and wanted to handle these things while I was still living. I wanted to remove that burden from her shoulders and from my children. Dealing with my death would be difficult enough without the extra tasks that would be necessary. I wanted them out of the way so that they would not have to be dealt with when her emotions were raw and her thought process would be dulled with pain.
                Every time I would mention anything about it, she would shut me down. She didn’t want to face it or have to deal with it at all and I wasn’t going to do it alone. Finance was part of it. I made the money and she spent it. It would involve a large outlay of money and for any major purchases we made, were made together.

                Cindy developed cold-like symptoms that worsened over about a week; a cough, wheezing, and couldn’t lie down to sleep. One evening I had fixed the supper for us and our three kids. She sat in the living room and didn’t want to eat. I could hear her wheezing from the dining room. Finally I put down my fork and said, “You’re going to the hospital. I can get you clean clothes or you can go as you are.”
                Reluctantly she agreed to go, but it was too little too late. Initially the blood work indicated that she had an intensely elevated white blood cell count and the physician thought she might have leukemia. She was transferred to a larger hospital. There she had to be intubated to allow her to remain flat on her back for a C. T. She had cancer that had spread throughout her whole body. Ovarian, that silent killer claimed another woman. Ten days later, she was gone.

                Now comes the rub. I was left with making all of the arrangements, all of things that I had wanted to do many years before. When I look back, I am not sure how I managed to do it. It was a hard, unexpected blow.
The cemetery plots were in the same cemetery that her parents, grandparents, and my parents had plots. I had to decide which plot to choose. In life, Cindy didn’t like to be held down or closed in. I found a plot that had one side next to a road.  At least she wouldn’t have others pressing around on all sides.

I selected the casket, her clothing, and the rest of the arrangements. I picked the flowers. Cindy’s favorite flower was the daisy. I chose a basket of daisies with three pink rose buds in it for my children, daisies with one pink rose for her mom, and daisies with baby’s breath as a spray for the top of the casket.
Cindy’s heritage was Scottish. Her best friend’s husband played the bagpipes. I asked if he would mind playing at her funeral. He agreed and at the graveside, he stood on a hill above the cemetery and played two songs; “Going Home” and “Amazing Grace.”  (I am tearing up as I write this.) It seemed as if all of the grief and sorrow that I was feeling was concentrated and was pouring out of those pipes.

Choosing the headstone was the next thing I had to tackle. At the cemetery, I had seen the stones were gray, tan, or rose. Several had scenes etched in them.
At the showroom, I looked at several, choosing a simple black stone. I had thought about what I wanted on it for nearly a month before I went. I knew that she would have wanted it simple. Cindy couldn’t stand anything gaudy.
On one side of the stone was our last name. Because of her heritage, I designed a Celtic cross with intertwining thistles. The stone mason placed the crosses at each corner on the opposite face as well as her name, her birth date, and date that she died. My name and date of birth was next to hers. Between them and underneath was the date of our marriage.

All of that was over, but I still had a whole household of memories to deal with yet.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Partridge Family

            My mom loved books and she loved to read and if she wasn’t working, she had a book in hand. She shared her love of reading with us and would read to us before we went to bed. I got my desire to read from her and my desire to write and to play with words evolved from her passion for books. She liked to play with words as well and would often take something we would say and sing a song or only a chorus that matched.
            We would sit beside her on the wide couch after our evening baths and she would read. Most of the readings came from old reading books that she had collected from hand-me-downs to some bought on bargain tables. She preferred the short stories that could be finished quickly and not in a series of chapters. She would read several stories in an evening, and then tell us it was time for bed. We pleaded, “Just one more story.”

            Usually she would relent. I think she liked us to hear us plead for “just on more story.” We wanted to hear one more story just as much as we wanted to delay going to bed for a bit longer.
            After hearing several of our pleas, she would finally say, “Okay, just one more story, then off to bed with you.”

            This night the extra story was about Mrs. Partridge and her family. It talked about this bird in the wild protecting its chicks and searching for their food. It shared how she would gather her chicks beneath her wings to keep them warm at night and safe during the day. Mom was doing well with her reading. Each paragraph spoke of Mrs. Partridge.
            After about five paragraphs, her dry mouth and tired eyes made an error. Instead of saying, “Mrs. Partridge.” She said “Mrs. Fartridge…”
            We three kids sitting on that old orange flowered couch began to snicker and laugh. Even though it was funny, it was the wrong thing to do.
            “That’s it. Get to bed. I told you I was tired before I started.” And she slammed the book shut. There was no leeway for argument. There was no reprieve. That ended story corner for the night.

            Years later, when I was in high school, I would read two or three books at a time. They would be scattered through the house. One could be upstairs in my bedroom, one might be in the living room, and one was always in the family room.
Mom would fuss, “I don’t know how you do it. You have one book on the arm of the chair, one open on the couch, and I know that you read one before you go to sleep. I don’t know how you keep all those stories straight.”
            I tried to explain, “I learned that in school. We don’t go the whole way through the math book before we start history or geography. We are expected to read them all at the same time. That’s nothing different than what I do at home.”

            She would shake her head and walk away.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

You’re Out

                My son Andrew and my brother’s son Kenny played instructional baseball together for two years. For the most part, they enjoyed playing. One reason that all of the boys like to play was one of the pitchers was a cute young blonde girl. (And she was a great pitcher as well.)
The boys on the team thought that they were hot stuff. The team was named the Pirates. It was because the city of Pittsburgh is close and the city’s professional team is the Pirates. They were feeling taller than they really were. Their team’s uniforms were in the Pirates’ colors; white uniforms with black and gold trim.

                Most of the ball fields sported port-a-potties, but otherwise, the ball fields were kept in good shape and well maintained. I’m not sure who mowed and raked the fields, but they did a great job.
                My brother and I helped the coaches as much as we could at the practices with batting, pitching, and throwing and we supported them at the games by cheering, rooting, and occasionally we would even umpire.
                One day, Kenny disappeared, but we didn’t notice it until it was time for the team to take the field. We started to look for him. A red hair topped head popped out of the port-a-potty and we finally noticed him. He had gone inside and used the outhouse only to find that there was no paper left in the dispenser. He didn’t know what to do. His only hope was to catch someone’s attention and have them find some paper to use.

                My brother Ken went to the car, searching until he found some left-over paper napkins from a fast food restaurant. Kenny’s dignity was saved and the ball practice went on.


                Sometimes my brother and I would be pressed into service as umpires to officiate a game. My brother was chosen more often than I was, because he was more assertive and more knowledgeable about the rules of the game than I was and that was alright with me.
I would get so involved in watching the game that I would come close to missing whether the runners were safe or out or the balls were hit foul or fair. It was difficult for me to concentrate on the things I should be concentrating.

                The boys were still playing instructional baseball and learning the basics of the game. It was difficult for my brother to watch while other coaches were hard on their young charges. It bothered him to see some of the coaches being rough with the young players. These kids weren’t professionals and were only novice players. They were just learning. It was necessary for the coaches to point out the mistakes, but not to curse and swear at them. The rough treatment of the kids would actually make my brother angry.
                Ken let the coaches know how he felt when he was the umpiring the game. Before the beginning of the first inning, he would call all of the coaches together and explain his rules. “I will warn you guys twice about cursing, swearing, or being rough with your players and then I will throw you out of the game. Consider this your first warning. Now, let’s play ball.”

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


                We were shopping with our mom, Sybil at a large grocery store in Connellsville, Pennsylvania.  We were walking along side of the shopping cart occasionally asking for something that we saw like all kids do. Kathy, my younger sister was reading the products as she walked along; “Toothpaste, Kleenex…” she paused and then asked, “Mom, what are tampoons?”
                My mom stopped, leaned over, and hissed into her ear, “S-h-h-h, I’ll tell you later.”

                We finished our shopping. Kathy was quiet. She stopped reading the products and seemed contemplative. She said nothing more. Mom paid for the groceries and pushed the cart to the car. We helped to unload the cart and then climb into the car for the drive home.
                Mom hadn’t much more than exited the parking lot when Kathy asked, “Mom, what are tampoons?”

                Mom’s answer was the same, “Kathy, not now, I said I would tell you later.”
                I never knew what mom told Kathy later, but I am sure that Kathy reminded Mom to tell her what tampoons were.


                My first child Amanda went through a stage where she became a vacuum cleaner and picked up anything that was on the floor; lint, a piece of thread, a bit of paper. She would carry whatever she had found and carry it to the nearest adult and hand it to them. She was toddling around in her diaper looking for things to collect.
                Most of us had gotten into the habit of holding out our hand and take it without looking.  One day when we were at my parent’s house, Amanda had been picking up things and giving them to Kathy. For some reason she had singled Kathy out as the recipient of her gifts.
                Amanda toddled over to Kathy and held out her find for Kathy to take. Kathy was talking and instinctively held out her hand. When Amanda deposited her “treasure”, Kathy thought it felt heavier than what Amanda had been finding.
                Kathy stopped talking and looked in her hand. It was a turd. The bowel movement must have fallen out of her diaper and she picked it up off the floor, carried it across the room, and handed it to her aunt Kathy.

                Now my sister, Kathy always looks before she accepts anything from a kid.


                The next story involved my daughter Amanda again. She was a bit older and we went to my parent’s house for lunch after church. Amanda was carrying around her small purse. She opened it and took out a little white tube. She was rubbing it across her lips.
                My wife being curious asked, “What do you have Amanda?”
                “Iptick.” (Lipstick.)
                My wife said, “Thank goodness she didn’t take it out in church.” The “Iptick” was a  tampon in a plastic holder.