Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mr. Keck

Uncle Ted, Theodore Edwin Miner, had limited brain and learning capacity due to an assault when he was younger. Two men tried to entice him to drink alcohol. Ted refused and then they tried to force him. Finally they beat him and still he wouldn’t drink. The assault caused a brain injury. After that, he had the mental capacity of a third grade student.
To earn money he would dig, dry and sell gin sang, crack and sell walnut or hickory nut meats, and in the summer, he would mow lawns with his green lawn boy push mower. Several of his customers lived several miles away. Ted would push his lawn mower and carry his gas can as he walked to their homes. He would pack a lunch and stay until he had those all of those lawns mowed before going back home. Most of these homes were summer homes or cabins clustered together along about a half mile stretch of roadway.

His favorite lunch was sliced and salted, hard cooked eggs, Miracle Whip spread on white bread, and Oreos. He loved to take a bite of the sandwich and a bite of the Oreo. I tried it and it wasn’t bad, but I didn’t have the love that he had.

The customers were Impressed with Ted’s work and Ted was impressed by the kindness of his clients, but one customer stood out among the others. He had a fondness for Mr. Keck who owned the Keck bottling plant in Kecksburg, Pennsylvania. The plant bottled Pepsi products as well as Cherokee Red, root beer, orange soda, and they had a ginger ale that was bottled in long-necked, dark green glass bottles with white lettering. I can remember the logo on the dark green bottle looked like a wooden club, like one that a caveman would carry; thick at one end and tapered on the other.
Ted mowed the grass at Mr. Keck’s summer cottage on Poplar Run Road just off route 711. It was a single story house with a dark wooden exterior with red trim, a large screened-in porch, and it could only be reached by crossing a narrow foot bridge that spanned the water of Poplar Run. He mowed their lawn until the cabin burned. The family never rebuilt and as a result, the land went fallow and became overgrown. The bridge finally collapsed from neglect.

When Mr. Keck died, Ted walked almost twenty miles to the funeral home to pay his respects to a man that definitely impressed Ted. When Ted walked in the door and found out that he had walked that far, they could hardly believe it. I think at that moment, the family was impressed with Ted that he had walked that distance to view their father.
The family returned the favor when a woman who went to the same church that Ted attended came to the funeral parlor. They asked if she would take Ted home when she left. She did and Ted only had to walk one way to say good-bye to a man he respected.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Aunt Helen

Aunt Helen was a woman cut from similar cloth as her sister Estella, but was not as extreme with her neatness. She had six children and to have been as neat as Estella, Helen would have had to stay awake twenty-four hours a day. Helen was very routine oriented and industrious. She assigned her work to follow a daily pattern; one job and one room per day. Each day she would have a chore to do and a room to clean. The room she cleaned was not just a dust and mop, but was like a normal person’s Spring cleaning of a room. For example, if she had Monday as her day to wash and dry clothes, she would clean a bedroom too. If she chose Tuesday to iron the washed clothing, she would clean another bedroom. Wednesday could be her shopping day and another room got cleaned. Thursday maybe the bake day and clean the kitchen. Friday another chore and the living room, and so on.

Each room was painted a bright color; turquoise, coral, and flamingo pink. She got her desire for bright colors from her mom, Anna Kalp Beck. Grandma Beck’s kitchen had deep red linoleum tile floor, royal blue Congoleum half-way up the wall, the top half of the walls was painted a bright yellow, and the hand fashioned wall cupboards were pale mint green. The curtains at the windows were pale lavender. I know that it sounds horrible, but the longer a person sat in her kitchen, the more the mélange grew on the person.

Aunt Helen had the undesirable distinction of having been struck by lightning several times. She was on the different porches of her house. The concrete floors were damp. The strikes were close to her and the electricity came up through the floor and through her bare feet to shock and caused her body to tingle.

Helen had a more square face and was shorter than her sister Estella. Estella was thin while Helen had a pudgy little belly. It was funny to watch her sometimes. When you would be talking to her, she would agree with you as you talked, saying, “Yes” frequently. Her response of yes was forceful and clipped which made her belly bounce.

Mom and Dad took her and her family along to Idlewild, an amusement park near Ligonier, Pennsylvania.  Helen, no matter where she went was dressed to the nines; high heels, dress, pearls, and her ever present hand bag.
We walked and rode everything in the park. Mom called Helen the next day to see how she liked the park. Helen told my mom that she had huge blisters on her feet from the high heeled shoes and walking on the pea-sized gravel that covered the walkways at the park.
Jokingly Mom said, “Well Helen, are you ready to go again today?”
Helen laughed and said, “Yes.” I can just imagine her with the phone to her ear and her pudgy belly bouncing in agreement.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ice Cold Swimming Hole

When my brother Ken and I were in our preteen and early teen years we would walk with the neighbor boys about an eighth of a mile to a deep spot in the stream of Poplar Run. It was a spot under the bridge between Normalville and Indian Head, Pennsylvania along route 711. The waters that fed this stream emanated from underground springs and the melt off of the just ending winter’s snow and ice. The creek was for the most part, flowed through shaded wooded areas with sunlight only filtering through the leaves and branches of the huge trees and laurel bushes that lined its banks. The swift flowing water stayed cold all year long.
Each year a basic dare progressed into an annual challenge, we would make the trek to get into the frigid water beneath the bridge before the end of April. We weren’t quite the Polar Bear club, but it isn’t a sunny day on the beach either.
On one side, beneath the bridge, there was a sand and rocky beach and before we would make our first exploration of the water we would build a fire. We already knew that the water would be cold so we gathered driftwood to keep the fire going as we swam. It would be our salvation from hypothermia and it would be needed.

Under the bridge, the stream made a turn and the current was what created the deep swimming hole. Other places in the stream the water may have been knee high. The deepest part of the hole was in the shade of the bridge, so there was little heating of the water on the trip from the springs and melted snow to our pool.
Once the fire was built and going well, we stripped down to our white briefs and slowly move to the water’s edge. We knew full well what awaited us. There was always the test of toes, praying that a miracle would have happened and the water had warmed. We hoped against all hope that it wouldn’t be as cold as it invariably was.

Everyone had their own way of getting into the water and finally immersing themselves in the runoff of melted snow and the flow from the springs. Some eased in; toes, ankles, calves, mid thighs, and then the part that took your breath away: the family jewels. Now use going slow now and we’d dive right in. Others were more daring and took the plunge, popping out of the water with a savage scream that echoes from the arched walls of the concrete bridge.
One thing that was the same for all of the swimmers, after they took the plunge and possibly a few strokes back to shore, they ran for the fire to get warm. Huddled and shivering, we crouched close to the red hot coals and added more wood so we would dry and try to get warm before hypothermia could set in.

Once we warmed a bit, we would open a sleeve of saltines and toast them one at a time on a forked stick by holding it over the hot coals. Retrieving the plastic knife we had hidden, we would smear some of the stick of oleo on the warm crackers and have a feast until the last crumb was devoured.
It was a time of male bravado and bonding. About this time, we were dry and warm. Climbing into our clothes we would head for home. All through the summer we would return to swim. When the dog days of summer and its hot sweltering temperatures engulfed our world, the swimming hole would become an oasis and refuge with its cool, refreshing water.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Wakeup Call

Dad always went to bed earlier than Mom did. He had to get up so much earlier than she did, but Dad also liked to listen to the baseball game when the Pirates played. Often he would take his portable radio to the bedroom and listen to the game before he fell to sleep. When the game was over, he would turn the radio off and slip it beneath the bed and then go to sleep.

One morning after the ballgame, Mom was wakened and scared by a male voice in the bedroom saying, “Good morning!” She sprung from the bed, thinking that someone was in her bedroom, but when she settled down, she found that Dad had either fallen asleep before the game was over or that he had not shut the radio off before he slid it under the bed.

This was a time when many radio stations didn’t broadcast all night long, but would sign off at midnight until the following morning at six a.m. Mom had gone to bed after the station had signed off for the night and hadn’t known the radio was still on. She did find out at six a.m. the following morning.


One of my parent’s bedroom windows was at the front of the first floor of their house that looked out onto the walk that led to the front door. My brother heard Mom inside, the blinds were closed. The window was open with an adjustable sliding screen in place. He leaned close and yelled in the window, “Whoo-oo-oop!”
Mom had been in a stage of undress. She screamed and dropped to her knees, whipping off the bedspread and covering herself.


Mom was on one of her frugal kicks and made just one hamburger for each of us. She had cheese slices, tomato, onion, and lettuce as fillers for the sandwiches and for our bellies. The meat plate was passed around and each of us took one. We each stacked the extras on our burgers. All of us had started eating; even Mom had taken a bite of hers. It was then she saw the “extra” meat patty on the plate.
“Who didn’t get their burger?” she asked. It was then she realized that she was so intent on building her burger with extras, she forgot to add her hamburger patty to her sandwich.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Wire Christmas Tree

One year, with the farm work and working the night shift in the coal mines, Grandad didn’t have time to go to the woods and cut a Christmas tree for my grandma. But she was a talented  and imaginative person. She handled it with her usual creative aplomb. It was a story that was told most Christmases and also passed on to me by my mom.

Grandma knew that she couldn’t cut and haul a huge pine tree to fit her twelve foot ceiling, so she went to the basement and gathered the tools and supplies that she would need for her idea.  Using a saw, she went outside and cut off a few of the lower branches of the pine trees at the front and side of her house. She drug them onto the porch.
She had carried up a hammer, some long pieces of wire, and two sturdy eye bolts. Using the step  ladder, she screwed one of the eye bolts into the ceiling and one directly below it on the floor. Using the wire she ran several strands of the wire through the eye bolts, making the “trunk” of the tree. Shaping the branches she had already cut, she wired them into place on the “trunk” of the tree. Slowly she shaped and grew the tree. The wires were hidden beneath the thick pine boughs.

It must have been spectacular once the ornaments, lights, and decorations were hung on it. Each one of my aunts and uncles said it was the most beautiful Christmas tree that they had ever had.
Often when we were gathered together, someone would lift the corner of the carpet and show the hole that the eye bolt left in the floor.

Her creativity wasn’t limited to the Christmas tree. She would borrow the “Sears and Roebuck” or the “Montgomery Ward” catalogue from the neighbors. She would sit down with the girls and decide which outfits they liked best. Using only newspaper and scissors, she would create patterns, cut the material, and sew them into clothing. The girls always went to school in the newest fashions and Grandma was able to stay within her budget.

At Christmas one year, she used orange crates to make a table and chairs and a cupboard for the girl’s dolls. She painted them a bright red. They looked beautiful under the Christmas tree and the girls loved them, but this story did not have a happy ending.
One of my uncles was upset that Grandma sent him to the basement to cut some kindling for her wood cook stove. When he came back and dumped it into the wood box, the girls noticed the red paint. The kitchen was filled with loud wailing as each girl found out that their red play set had been destroyed. All of their furniture had been chopped up.

I never heard what punishment my uncle received for that incident, but whatever it was, he deserved everything that he got.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Storms, Sales, and Spats

Just outside of Indian Head, Pennsylvania along Route 711, there used to be an auction every Saturday night. A man named Ethan Pritts and his wife Hazel bought it and ran it for many years. It was a large wooden building with brown Enisled brick tar paper and a tin roof. At one end was a raised stage and throughout the interior were the fold-up type movie seats and wooden benches to sit on. There was a raised platform where the auctioneer sat.

In the back right corner was a kitchen where Hazel cooked food and sold sodas, candy bars, and bags of chips. On one counter sat a machine that served Lemon-blend. It refrigerated and squirted the drink into a clear plastic dome and fell back down into the bulk of the beverage. The outside would sweat from the heat against the cold dome. The food items they served included hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, and fish sandwiches.
Now the fish sandwiches were to die for. They served two pieces of fish, deep fried to a golden brown on an oversized bun. The portions of the fish stuck out about three inches on both sides of the bun. My mouth is watering even as I share this story. It cost $1.75. Its size was enough that even an adult who ate the sandwich felt full, but as a kid, my stomach was tightly full to feeling overfull. The flavor was so good that I would slowly gorge myself to almost bursting. I couldn’t stop until it was all gone.
At that time, smoking had not been banned and seeing the item for sale was often seen through a smoky haze. A low hum of voices chatting in the audience gave back ground to the auctioneer’s sing song, slurred cadence announcing the present asking price until he called “Last chance. Going, going, Sold.”
Ethan would hit the Strip District in Pittsburgh on Friday afternoon and buy produce that needed some work; cabbage where the outer leaves needed to be removed, onions that had a rotten one in the bag sorted and re-bagged, or fruit that needed sorted to remove the over ripened ones. He would do the sorting and re-bagging Saturday morning so that all would be ready for the sale that evening.
One night sales were slow. It seemed that neither Ethan nor the auctioneer could get the crowd into a bidding frenzy. Nothing was enticing them to bid. They tried interspacing the old and new with the produce and blocks of cheese. The food stuff sold but not at very high prices. Ethan was beside himself as he searched through the items to be sold at the back of the stage. All of a sudden, he wrestled a huge cardboard box about the size that a clothes dryer would be packaged. Pushing it up to beside the auctioneer, he jammed his fist through the top. As he withdrew his hand, he took the microphone from the auctioneer and said, “What am I bid for these?”
His withdrawn hand was filled with ladies nylon panties; all colors and all sizes. There was about ten pair in his clenched fist. He handed the microphone back to the auctioneer. The crowd went crazy. Each handful held different colors and sizes and each handful was bid on separately. They emptied that huge box, one fistful at a time.
The sale went on, bidding improved, and Ethan seemed more relaxed.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Setting up Housekeeping

            When my wife and I decided to get married, we were trying to determine where we would live. We had a chance to buy an acre of land at a fair price and we took it. The property was almost halfway between her home and mine. After surveyors made the deed we had to pay to have it registered at the county courthouse.
Once the property was ours, the next thing we had to do was to have a man come in with a bulldozer and to level an area for the pad and to grade the driveway. The property was on a hillside. We knew we were going to buy a used mobile home. It was what we could afford.
            We had the concrete pillars poured with tie –down hooks set in the concrete. Cement blocks were delivered and we had thick metal cables to fasten the mobile home once it was delivered. The perk holes were drilled and the gravel for the driveway was trucked in and spread.
We were able to find a used mobile home in Casparis, high above Connellsville, Pennsylvania and had it moved to our land. We were there as the moving company removed it from Casparis and hauled it to the lot. It was an ordeal for the men to maneuver it from where it was and down the narrow roads. There were some tight areas in Connellsville as well. We were preceding the trailer in my yellow Nova with our hazard lights flashing. It was nerve wracking hearing Cindy, my bride-to –be “oohing” and “aahing” as she watched the trailer behind us tip and rock at each turn.
The turn into our drive was sharp and that made the task of pulling the trailer became another trial and error of maneuvering, but finally it was pulled into place. Finally there, we now had the task of putting the blocks under the beams for support and attaching the metal cable tie-downs to the beams and the hooks in the concrete, pulling them tight.

We needed the telephone, electric, water, sewage, and bottled natural gas for our stove. The gas came first and we could cook if nothing else.
Our wedding took place about this time. Because I had just started a new job, I could wrangle only four days in a row. Our honeymoon was a short one and we actually moved into our love nest without electric, telephone, and sewage or water. Youngsters must be aghast at the thought, but our forefathers did it, we could too. With the help of water jugs, kerosene lanterns and flashlights, and a chamber pot we managed until over the next week or so the rest of the items were installed. We thought we had a castle.
Later, I built a front porch and the view was great. We looked down a wooded valley and could see the mountains beyond. Before we had the skirting in place, a storm moved in. There was a lot of thunder and lightning. It was coming from the West and up the valley. I heard the thunder rolling through the valley toward our mobile home. It hit the trailer broadside shaking the floor and then it dove underneath and made the steel beams ring. It was crazy. I had never had anything like that happen before.

I began to change a farmer’s field into a yard moving, removing rocks, and old fence posts. While I was mowing, I noticed several small apple seedlings growing. Several days later I mentioned the trees and the thunder to Roy Bowser, the old farmer who sold us the land. Nonchalantly he says, “Oh yes, I had a nice apple orchard there until a storm came up the valley and wiped it out.”
That did little to comfort me in our choice for a home. His remarks made me feel unsure of our safety, but in the nearly ten years we lived there, we had many storms but no real problems. Often I would sit on the covered front porch and watch the storms roll in. I liked to watch the rain and lightening approach. It fascinated me. Its power and beauty always attracted me. Cindy didn’t like storms and would hover around the door always worried.
Her concern doubled when she found my daughter was joining me and loved the storms as well

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Aunt Estella

Aunt Estella was a very routine oriented, excessively neat, Christian woman. I have a story that illustrates all three of these characteristics. When she had visitors who stayed overnight, she would fret until they left. It was when they left Sunday evening that bothered her most. She would fret over the “soiled” bedding until after midnight. She hated to have the dirty linen in her house.
She would wait and stay awake until a few minutes after the clock struck twelve before she began stripping the bed.  She would carry them to the basement and put them in the washing machine. She couldn’t do it ant sooner, because it was Sunday and she couldn’t do work on the “day of rest” and she certainly could not have dirty linens in her house overnight. Hanging them outside as weather permitted or tossing them in the dryer could wait until morning.

I can share another tale about her excessive neatness and her overwhelming need to have things clean, occurred one winter day. It was a cold day. She thought that her windows were dirty and that she needed to clean them. She gathered the cleaning solution, rags, and her ladder and carried them to a spot at the backside her house.
The ground was frozen and icy but that didn’t deter her. Those windows were dirty, they needed washed and she was going to clean them. She leaned the ladder against the wall of her house. The backside of her house was three stories; the basement, first floor, and the top floor of bedrooms. As she climbed near the top of the ladder, the bottom slipped on the ice and she tumbled down. She broke her arm. Crumpled on the ground behind her home, she had a choice to make; bear the pain and drag herself to the front of her house where she could be seen or to stay there, succumb to hypothermia, and die. She cradled her arm and made it into her house to call for an ambulance.

Her desire to clean and wax extended to her front porch stoop. Her front concrete stoop was coated with dark green enamel paint, which was slippery enough, but Estella would wash and wax them, making the stairs as slick as ice.
When she would finish cooking, after eating, she would immediately wash the dishes. Each time, she would wipe the whole counter and then would wax it as well.

She had a pair of parakeets until she decided that they made too much dirt. She didn’t replace them when they died, but cleaned and kept the cage. Filling it with silk flowers, the cage on its stand dominated a corner of her dining room.

The final story that shows how clean that she liked her house talks about her floors. The rooms were either carpeted or linoleum tiled. She covered the heavy traffic pathways with home braided and woven rag rugs. The rugs on the waxed tile areas were slippery, but the thing that she did to put it over the top; she covered each of the woven rag rugs with newspapers to keep the braided rugs clean. She would change the papers when they became worn, torn, or soiled.

Friday, August 23, 2013

It became a tradition for my mom, dad, my brother Ken, my sister Kathy and me 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 dessert.
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.

Some sadness would creep in. We would have to wait another full year for the oyster stew and apple pie with ice cream.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Aunt Estella

Aunt Estella was a very routine oriented, excessively neat, Christian woman. I have a story that illustrates all three of these characteristics. When she had visitors who stayed overnight, she would fret until they left. It was when they left Sunday evening that bothered her most. She would fret over the “soiled” bedding until after midnight. She hated to have the dirty linen in her house.
She would wait and stay awake until a few minutes after the clock struck twelve before she began stripping the bed.  She would carry them to the basement and put them in the washing machine. She couldn’t do it ant sooner, because it was Sunday and she couldn’t do work on the “day of rest” and she certainly could not have dirty linens in her house overnight. Hanging them outside as weather permitted or tossing them in the dryer could wait until morning.

I can share another tale about her excessive neatness and her overwhelming need to have things clean, occurred one winter day. It was a cold day. She thought that her windows were dirty and that she needed to clean them. She gathered the cleaning solution, rags, and her ladder and carried them to a spot at the backside her house.
The ground was frozen and icy but that didn’t deter her. Those windows were dirty, they needed washed and she was going to clean them. She leaned the ladder against the wall of her house. The backside of her house was three stories; the basement, first floor, and the top floor of bedrooms. As she climbed near the top of the ladder, the bottom slipped on the ice and she tumbled down. She broke her arm. Crumpled on the ground behind her home, she had a choice to make; bear the pain and drag herself to the front of her house where she could be seen or to stay there, succumb to hypothermia, and die. She cradled her arm and made it into her house to call for an ambulance.

Her desire to clean and wax extended to her front porch stoop. Her front concrete stoop was coated with dark green enamel paint, which was slippery enough, but Estella would wash and wax them, making the stairs as slick as ice.
When she would finish cooking, after eating, she would immediately wash the dishes. Each time, she would wipe the whole counter and then would wax it as well.
She had a pair of parakeets until she decided that they made too much dirt. She didn’t replace them when they died, but cleaned and kept the cage. Filling it with silk flowers, the cage on its stand dominated a corner of her dining room.

The final story that shows how clean that she liked her house talks about her floors. The rooms were either carpeted or linoleum tiled. She covered the heavy traffic pathways with home braided and woven rag rugs. The rugs on the waxed tile areas were slippery, but the thing that she did to put it over the top; she covered each of the woven rag rugs with newspapers to keep the braided rugs clean. She would change the papers when they became worn, torn, or soiled.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Brown Leather Shoes

My mom Sybil was getting frustrated with my younger brother. Ken had discovered the small stream that flowed behind my parents’ house. He learned that he could wade, splash, and keep cool as he played. When he waded, he didn’t take off his shoes and socks and that was the problem. His shoes were made of brown leather. When they dried they would become stiff, hard, and unwearable.

It was then she had an idea. She decided to buy him a pair of tennis shoes. Mom said, “When he wades with the tennis shoes and soaks them, there would be no problem. I can let them dry and he can still wear them.”
The next time Mom went shopping in Connellsville, she bought a pair of low topped, blue canvas shoes for Ken. They were cute and navy blue with white laces. Ken liked them so much, he wore them home. I know my brother and I am sure that he sat in the back seat of the car and stared at them the whole way home.

The next day, Mom was looking out the back window of the kitchen and saw Ken wading in the water. She could hardly believe her eyes. Ken was splashing, kicking the water, and having a great time. The thing that surprised Mom was Ken was kicking the water and in his hand was the pair of shoes. The socks were tucked inside of them and he was barefooted.
Mom went outside to investigate. She was puzzled and asked, “Kenny, why aren’t you wearing your tennis shoes in the water like you did with your brown shoes?”
Ken’s reply was succinct and filled with childlike logic, “What, my new blue shoes!”

How can a person argue with logic like that?


At home we got our water from a spring. The water was always cold, clear, and sweet tasting. The water was fed by gravity that flowed through galvanized pipe from the springhouse down a long slope into our home. Eventually, the pipes became corroded and needed replaced. The ditch needed to be reopened to replace the pipe. The ditch that needed opened would be about one thousand yards.
Dad would dig when he got home from work, and he would assign about five yards for Ken and I to dig while he was at work. When Ken and I took turns, it wasn’t too bad. I would use the mattock and he would spade out the loosened dirt and rocks, but Ken would get tired and do something to make me upset. I would try to retaliate and he would run into Mom and she would send me back to work and keep him in the house.
As I headed back to work, I glanced back and he was shooting me a big smile. I ended up digging the ditch myself most days. One day we came upon a rock in our part of the ditch. We tried to dig it loose, but it lay across the path of the ditch. We dug to both sides and it still extended wide on both sides. We dug the dirt off the top and dug more ditch beyond the rock, leaving it in place.

When Dad came home, he was not pleased to see that the rock was there and we hadn’t dug it out until he tried to dig it out and couldn’t. He even used a sledge hammer to try to break it into smaller pieces, but it wouldn’t break. The size of the rock was about the size of a kitchen table top and nearly two feet thick. We eventually dug the dirt out from under it and passed the new pipe beneath, leaving the rock in place.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


My sister, who was eight years younger than I and four years younger than Ken would occasionally wander into the bathroom when my we were standing to void into the commode. We usually didn’t lock the bathroom door. The older people in our house knew that if the door was closed, the bathroom was in use and would not come in.

One day Mom walked into the bathroom, the door wasn’t closed. Kathy was standing in front of the commode holding her “outsie” belly button and was peeing down her legs. She had seen the boys doing it. She was crying, because she couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t able to do the same.

So Mom had to take the time to explain to her that boys and girls were made differently and that she would have to sit when she went to the bathroom.


Like most toddlers, Kathy went through a stage where she would peel off her shoes, socks, pants, and shirt. She would run through the house clad in only her diaper or her panties. When she wore her underpants, the seat would sag and be baggy. When my dad saw her, he would say, “It looks like a family moved out” because of the extra room in the seat of her pants.
Her appearance earned her the name of “droopy drawers.”


Mom stored purses and hats in the bottom drawer of the tall dresser in her bedroom. Kathy would often go into the bedroom, pull out that drawer, and play with the purses and hats. Sometimes she would amuse herself for more than an hour. We have one picture of her with a pork-pie type hat on her head and a large purse hanging on her arm. The best part was she was wearing a pair of large framed sunglasses that had slid down and was perched on the tip of her nose.


Talking about purses, when I was younger Mom had just bought a new purse. I don’t think she even had a chance to use it. I was younger and curious.
Taking a pair of scissors, I cut the handles. I don’t know what I was thinking of when I did it, but I cut them.  I do know that after Mom found out, I was thinking I would never do that again. She gave me a reminder that lasted for several days. She wanted me to be sure that I wouldn’t do anything like that again.

Monday, August 19, 2013

This is a correction, Kathy was the person who uttered the gardenia phrase.
Can’t You Read?

My brother Ken was always outspoken and adventurous, even as a child. He had frizzy red hair and a fiery attitude to match. One incident that comes to mind happened during “income tax season.”  Mom had a small office and helped people prepare their taxes. It was something that she had learned from my Granddad Beck. Mom’s office was a room set aside at the side of our house. It could only be reached from the driveway by walking past the front door of our house along a covered walkway.
Too many times Mom’s customers had come to the front door and knock to come inside, thinking that it was her office door. Mom finally made a sign to post on the front door directing them to her office area. The sign read, “Use other door” and had drawn an arrow that pointed down the walkway toward her office door.
Ken was at home when two older women came to have their taxes done. They came to the front door and knocked. Ken was inside watching television and ignored them.
They knocked a second time and Ken ignored them again, thinking they would soon read the posted sign and move on to Mom’s office.
When they knocked the third time, it upset my brother and set of his temper. He went to answer the knock and open the door. The ladies smiled and started to come inside, but Ken stood his ground and they couldn’t get by him to come inside.
Ken had only opened the door part way and the ladies couldn’t come inside. He said, “Can’t you read?”
They smiled again and tried to come inside after saying “Of course we can.”
Ken said, “Then read” and slammed the door in their faces.
They stood there, stunned for a few minutes and finally noticed the sign and walked down the walk to Mom’s office to keep their appointment time.

At my grandfather’s large farm house we would usually fight to sit on a tall step stool. It was usually placed between Grandma Becky and Granddad Ray when it was time to eat and the grandchildren were there.
One day Granddad had come inside for lunch after working in the barn most of the morning. He took off his barn boots and put on his slippers. He always wore his slippers in the house. After he had washed up, he came to the table for lunch, but the strong smells of the barn were still heavily clinging to his clothing.
Kathy dragged the stool away from Grandpa and closer to Grandma instead of sitting midway between them both. Grandma asked, “Don’t you want to sit by your Grandpa.”
Kathy looked at Granddad and then he looked back at Grandma and said, “Well. He don’t smell like no gardenia.” which caused Granddad to chuckle.

A quick and amusing sidebar, my grandmother always bought Grandpa a new pair of slippers for Christmas. She had my mom to always shop for the same type of brown leather slippers. The reason that Grandma had my mom do the shopping for Granddad’s slippers was that Mom had the same shoe size and her father.

Sunday, August 18, 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 Cindy 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.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Oh Poo

I was driving in Mount Pleasant with Anna my daughter in the passenger seat. We were stopped at a traffic light and saw a car coming in the opposite direction. It slowed and stopped on the other of the stop light. When I looked at the windshield, I thought that I could see the silhouette of the driver with sun glinting off the surface of the sunglasses she was wearing. The way the sun was shining, the inside of the car remained dark and only the glasses stood out.
I turned to my daughter, sharing my thoughts with my daughter, saying “All I can see of the driver is his sunglasses and it looks like his eyes are glowing.”
Anna replied, “Yeah, but I can see her silhouette too, but her eyes do look like they are growing.”

When the light turned green and the car started to pull forward, the angle of the sun on the windshield and the silhouette of the woman disappeared and the so did the glasses. What did appear was totally unexpected.
The sun on the windshield revealed that a bird had crapped on the windshield and there were two splotches of white poop positioned exactly in front of the driver’s face. It looked exactly like the mirrored lenses of a pair of sunglasses.
I think the thing that amazed me the most was the poop was directly in front of her face and that she could see around it to drive her car.


Another story that includes poop involved my dad. He had been outside working, probably washing his car or mowing the grass. He decided that he would go back inside after he had finished. He walked up a small hill beside of the garage. When he came into the house he was upset. A bird flew over while he was walking up the hill and dropped a load on my dad. Not only did the bird poop in Dad’s hair, but managed to put some of it inside of his ear. The poop was white, runny, and plenteous. Dad made short work of it. He headed directly to the bathroom and scrubbed until it was all gone.
Like the old adage, “Aren’t you glad cows don’t fly?”


Okay, since we are talking about poop, I will tell a hunting story. Ken, myself, and our dad were hunting in our usual place near Somerset, Pennsylvania. We had taken Dad there for years. Dad walked to his spot and saw hunter’s orange in his area. He changed direction and sat nearby. The orange was in eyesight. All day long Dad sat and watched for a deer. Dad didn’t see the orange move all morning. When he left the area, he walked closer so he could see the “hunter.” What he saw was something odd. What he saw was just a hunter’s hat. The hunter had apparently taken a dump and had used the hat to clean his bottom and left the hat behind. Dad hadn’t walked down to his spot because of a phantom hunter.

Friday, August 16, 2013

My Sister’s Complaints

My sister Kathy has been complaining that I haven’t posted a blog about her, so I am going to do a few about her. This one will share some of the things that she hates and puts her teeth on edge like others feel about fingernails on a chalk board.
 I think the major thing that irritates her is hearing someone using nail clippers to trim their fingernails. The clicking noise almost drives her insane. At the first click she will give you “I dare you to do that again” stare. If you are brave enough to try it again, she will chew you out in no uncertain terms.
I found the best place to torture her was while we were sitting in church.

I was older and could sit with my friends while Kathy still had to sit with Mom. There would be a pause in the service, a moment of silence between hymns or at the end of a prayer and I would use the clippers; snip, click.
I would watch for her reaction out of the corner of my eyes. Kathy would stiffen and turn around, searching to locate the perpetrator of the clipper crime. The clicking sound would set her off, but she couldn’t say anything because we were in church. Putting on a face of innocence, I would watch and wait until she turned back around and settled down. I would wait a few minutes then click, another nail would be trimmed. Kathy would stiffen, turn, and stare with a look of death in her eyes. I would sit with a look of feigned innocence until she would turn around. The torture and the fun would continue as long as my fingernails remained.

The other thing that Kathy hates is pink, plastic flamingos. I think her hatred stems from her having to mow Aunt Estella’s grass. Estella had pink flamingos and other yard ornaments which Kathy had to move or mow around and that irritated her. Kathy and her husband Doug lived next door to Estella and they had to look at the ornaments when they would sit outside.

This hatred for these inanimate objects allows more ways for me to torture her. It gives me great opportunities to buy gifts for her birthday and for Christmas. Sometimes it is nothing more than a card with the pink pests on it to a pair of wire ones placed in her front lawn holding a banner of “Happy Birthday” and balloons. It could be a pair of salt and pepper shakers to a Lucite serving tray with a pitcher and glasses all bearing the likeness of her favorite character. I even found a pair of wooden home-made flower boxes that were built to look like flamingos.
But my all time favorite was the birthday present I found for her. I had an accomplice to help in the delivery of this flamingo that I had found. What I had found was a back scratcher that was shaped like a flamingo. I went to our local florist and bought half of a dozen pink roses. I had the florist insert the backscratcher among the roses and delivered to her home.

I know that she kept the roses, but I was never sure what happened to the back scratcher. She never did tell me what she thought of the “special delivery.”

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Sister Kathy

One day my younger sister Kathy came running into the house from outside and asked Mom for a glass of water. Mom filled a glass for her. Kathy grabbed the glass, turned and hurried back outside. The door had hardly closed behind her and she was back inside asking for another glass of water.
“I’m really thirsty Mom. Can I have more water?”
Our mom filled another glass for her and Kathy immediately disappeared outside. Soon, she was back inside asking for more water. Mom refilled the glass and decided to follow her daughter. There had to be more than Kathy just being thirsty.

What she found was surprising and also fortuitous. Somewhere Kathy had found some matched. She had set a box of trash on fire that Dad had placed outside of the basement door. It was against to cement block foundation, but right above it was our wood frame home; bad combination.
Kathy was trying to put out the fire without Mom knowing it. She knew that she wasn’t to be playing with matches and wanted to avoid being punished for it.
Mom immediately grabbed the hose, turned on the faucet, and doused the flames. Kathy had at least slowed the fire until Mom put it out completely. Mom was upset and Dad wasn’t happy either when he had to clean up the soggy, charred mess it left behind.


Kathy was at the center of the next recollection as well. She still says our brother Ken and I tried to kill her, but I say, if she hadn’t been so nosy and wasn’t trying to do what the boys did, she wouldn’t have gotten hurt.
Ken and I were trying to build a tree house, but let me rephrase that for you. It would be an exaggeration to have called it a house. It was a tree platform. We didn’t have enough lumber or nails to build anything more.
There was a large weeping willow in our back yard. The trunk ad three limbs that we could nail the lumber to for the framework of the platform. The tree house wasn’t going to be impressive or lofty. It was about eight feet off the ground and nothing more than a floor without walls or roof.

We had just finished nailing the three pieces into the tree as the foundation onto which we would nail the floor boards. One of us had hung the claw hammer by its claws on the wooden floor joist when Kathy decides to join us.
 Kathy started to climb up into the tree and the hammer fell. The points of the hammer cut the back of her head. She bellowed and ran away. There was blood everywhere.

I am not sure who caused the hammer to fall. It could have been her or Ken or I, we were never sure, but she still believes that we tried to kill her.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


One year for Christmas my wife Cindy and I were given a box of Brach’s chocolates as a gift. It was kept under the tree with the rest of the presents that we had received. We invited friends over for an evening of snacks and games. Cindy had prepared one tray of assorted cookies and one of crackers and cheese balls to serve. While she was getting showered and dressed, I put the trays out.
I had a brilliant idea. I thought it would enhance the appearance of the cookie tray if I would interspace some of the candy among the cookies. I thought it would class up the trays. I took the box of Brach’s out from under the tree and lifted a piece of the chocolate in its paper cup to put it on the tray.
As I picked up the chocolate, I thought I hadn’t eaten a piece of candy yet, so I decided to try one. I took it out of the paper cup and was putting it to my mouth. For some reason, it didn’t feel quite right. The bottom wasn’t smooth and even as it should have been.
I turned the candy morsel over. The bottom had been scraped off revealing the cream filling that had been hidden within. Which of my three children had done it, we never found out, but that was only the beginning. Each and every piece of chocolate had their bottoms scraped off and then the candy had been put back in paper cup and returned to the box.

I was so glad that I had been hungry enough to try to eat a piece or I would have served them to our guests. It would have been so embarrassing.
Our friends had three children just as we did. They would have understood, I am sure, but it didn’t make the whole incident less amusing.

Speaking of chocolate and kids, I will share a story about my father-in-law, Bud. It was Easter morning. Bud had gotten up early and broken the ears off his siblings’ bunnies and eaten them.
Thinking he was smart, he decided to hide his rabbit to keep it safe while the family was at church. He decided to put his bunny on the window sill behind the window shades and they went to church. It was the wrong place. When they got home three hours later, Bud went to retrieve his rabbit and found a melted brown pool of chocolate on the window sill and the floor with a bunny trail leading down the wall. He hadn’t thought of the sun shining in the window while they were gone.
None of his family would share their intact rabbits (minus the ears) with Bud.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Greats

                I met my great-grandfather Curtis and my great-uncle Wes. It was at one of the family reunions held at my great-grandfather’s farm. His farm had a large two story clapboard frame house that had a full basement beneath it. Across a country lane was his barn, shed, and several other outbuildings.
                Great-granddad  kept the farm and the buildings in immaculate condition. Fields were mowed, crops were weeded, and fences were repaired and kept clear of brush. The farm returned the favor by returning its bounty to granddad. The farm’s yield was given away in bushels; apples, pears, and ears of corn. He was generous and often shared with family and friends.
                From what I can remember of my great-granddad and my great-uncle they were sitting in a swing on the front porch. Curtis was a tall, stick-thin with a tiny moustache and a balding head. Great-uncle Wes was completely the opposite. He was round and wore a dark suit with a tweed vest covering the broad expanse of his belly. He had a full white beard that reached halfway down his chest. He had a deep laugh that made him jiggle all over.

                At the reunion, I can remember the long tables of boards and saw horses were set out under several large trees at the edge of the field nearest to his house. They were covered with table cloths and food. Chairs lined the one table for the older people to sit. Everyone else found places to sit in the thick grass to eat their meal.
                Bees would buzz around, lured from nearby hives by the food and the sweetness of the desserts and lemonade. Even the apples under the close by trees in the orchard drew the bees to sip the juices from the damaged fruit. The bees were the special project of Curtis’ daughter-in-law Ruth.  She was a bee charmer and could handle her honey bees with her bare hands. She had to chase the older boys away when they started to throw apples at the hives.
                At one end of the table sat a huge crock. It must have held twenty gallons and it was filled with ice-cold lemonade. A tin dipper hung on the side to lift out the refreshingly sweet drink from the hunks of ice. The outside of the crock was glistening with condensation.

                In the back yard of the farm house was a hand pump. By moving the handle up and down, water could be drawn up from the well below. The water was icy, sweet, and tasted slightly of the rust from the iron pump. Great-granddad kept a tin cup hanging on the side of the pump for people who wanted a drink. If you didn’t hold the cup tightly enough, the gushing torrent of water would tear it out of your hand.
                Farther behind the house was the chicken yard. It was surrounded by a wire fence. There were a flock of chickens and one lone turkey. The turkey was huge and when the Tom fluffed his feathers, he seemed twice as large. Even the cocky roosters steered clear of him. The chicken yard was bare of any grass from years of chickens living there and eating the blades of grass.
                I was too young to cross the road and see his cows and pigs, but I did see them in the fields. They looked sleek and fat and well fed like everything else on the farm.
                There was a rope swing with a wood, plank seat. It hung from a massive limb in a huge maple tree at the side of the house and if we weren’t swinging, we were throwing stones into a small stream flowed at the end of the side yard. Sometimes if the adults weren’t watching, we would pull off socks and shoes to wade and search for crayfish, careful to avoid their dangerous pinchers.
                The gathering of people would stay and last through two meals, talking and eating before goodbyes were said and people made their ways home.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Grandpa’s Barn

My granddad’s barn as 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.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Grandma Beck

In the later years for my Grandmother Anna Kalp Beck and especially after the death of my grandfather Edison Thomas Beck, her age and health limited what she could do for herself. My aunt Estella, my uncle Merle, and my dad would take turns making sure that she was awake, was clean, had something to eat, and then made sure she was settled for the night. They did this for several years.
She was frail and before Granddad died, she fell down the basement steps when he dropped his work pants at the top step. She stooped to pick them up and tumbled to the bottom, breaking the humerus of her arm. After being evaluated, she was kept overnight to decide whether to do surgery of not. Her health was less than optimal and the doctors thought she would have a poor outcome after the anesthesia. A hanging cast was applied and she was sent home.
The hospital where she was admitted was the one where I worked. When I came in to work that night, the nurse taking care of her asked, “Does she speak a foreign language?”
I looked confused, not sure of what she meant. My grandmother was of German heritage, but I had never heard her speak anything but English. When I said, “No.” she continued, “Every time I go into her room, she is lying there with her eyes closed and she is mumbling a foreign language. I can’t quite understand what she is saying.”
A light came on. I knew what was happening. My grandmother was Pentecostal and she often prayed in tongues. When I explained that Grandma was praying, the nurse chuckled and said, “That’s a first for me.”

Her health slowly deteriorated to the point that she could not stay alone even after the broken arm was healed. She was admitted to a personal care home. The home had help available for her twenty-four hours each day. They made sure she was clean and fed, though she was bedfast. She retreated more and more inside herself in times of prayer. She knew the staff and was comfortable.
Eventually her health declined even more. She developed gangrene in one of her feet. The family had to make a decision; take her to the hospital or keep her at the care home. They weren’t sure what to do and my dad asked me what I thought they should do.
I reminded him of what the doctors said about her undergoing surgery when she had broken her arm and her health had deteriorated even more from that time. I said, “Grandma is comfortable and not in pain. She isn’t healthy enough to have her foot amputated. She knows the staff and they know her. She’s not in pain and the hospital is not going to be able to do anymore for her than here in the nursing home, but it is up to you. She’s your mom.”

After Dad got together with his siblings, they all agreed that it would be in their mom’s best interest to allow her to stay where she was. She was comfortable and was in no pain.
After nearly a week she died; quietly and comfortably in her bed, praying in a low voice. The flame of her life’s candle blew out.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Childhood Memories

I can remember an incident that occurred when I was about five or six year old. It took place on a hot, humid summer day. The men from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation were doing road inspection, repairs and cleaning the culverts in front of my parents’ house. My parents’ house was close to route 711 and had a heavy flow of traffic. The house had a small side porch where I could sit safely inside of the gated, railings and yet see what was happening on the roadway. I used to like to sit outside and watch the traffic most days, but today was something special. It was the activity of the road workers. It was even more interesting than normal. The orange vested men were directing the traffic as well as working.

I was sitting in the shade of the porch roof and was rocking in my child size rocking chair. It was wooden and its rockers were wide and thin, like skis that were bent. One of the rockers had a music box fastened to it and when I rocked, it played a tune.
My mom had given me a glass of Kool-Aid and in my child’s mind I needed it. It was hot out and I wanted to keep cool. I can’t remember what flavor the Kool-Aid was, but it seemed to have disappeared in no time at all. I was still thirsty and hot, but I didn’t want to leave the porch and go inside. I didn’t want to miss anything that was happening. The men were still working and directing the traffic. It was interesting stuff to a young kid.

I started sipping the water from the ice as it melted. The problem with that was I became thirsty long before the ice melted enough for me to take a drink. While I was tilting the glass, one of the ice cubes went into my mouth.
A-a-a-h, that tasted so good. It was cool and wet. So I began to plop an ice cube into my mouth and then shoot it back into the glass. It was working well. My thirst was held at bay and I could continue to watch the men as they worked.
Either I wasn’t paying attention or I became too cocky with the ice cube because instead of shooting it back into the glass, it shot in the opposite direction and went down my throat. It stuck in my esophagus; biting, freezing, almost choking me as it hung up about halfway down. It was painfully cold and it scared me. Was I going to die? Would it freeze my insides? I was almost in a panic.

I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t stand the pain. I remembered that hot water melted ice. I leapt from my rocking chair, bowling it over on its side, and bolted into our kitchen. Fear caused me to jump up onto the counter top in one frantic leap. I grabbed the handles of the faucet and turned on the hot water.
As soon as the water started to warm, I began to slurp at the stream as it poured from the tap. When the water became hotter, I could feel the ice cube start to melt. My esophagus grew less cold as the hot water trickled around and past the icy obstruction. Slowly, ever so slowly, I could feel the ice cube start to slide downward towards my stomach.

I instantaneously felt relief as the offending ice cube dropped out of my throat and into my stomach. I can remember the relief that I felt then. No more icy pain and no more fear of dying.