Tuesday, May 31, 2016


After graduation from Connellsville Area High School, Connellsville, Pennsylvania, I was hired to work at Walworth Valve Company in South Greensburg. Walworth produced valves of different types and sizes. The parts were cast in its foundry, machined, assembled, and tested before the product was sent to the customer. The valves were brass, steel, or stainless steel and came in sizes from two and a half inch to thirty-six inch, with ball or wedge closures.
My initial job was as a “hand trucker” hauling supplies or parts from one area of the plant to another. The hand truck was like a super, heavy duty toy wagon, its bed was of thick wood construction and the tongue was solid steel tee shape. When a position in the tool room opened up, I bid in and got that job. In the tool room, I was required to read blueprints, gather the tools needed for the machine operators, grind carbon tipped blanks to the exact angle, and to sharpen drills.
I was there for nearly nine months before I went off to boot camp in the Navy. Several reasons other than the normal fears of starting something unknown were bothersome. The first was that going in when I did meant I would be in the Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois in winter and even more distressing I would be there over the Christmas holiday. The second was that I had enlisted to be a corpsman in the middle of the Vietnam War. I didn’t want to kill anyone, but then again, I didn’t want to be killed myself.
I was shell-shocked by the rapidity that the military removed as much individuality as quickly as possible to form a unit that worked as one. All civilian possessions other than eyewear was packaged up and sent home. Hair was clippered off, new clothing was issued for us to wear from the skin out.
To be honest, I was feeling out of place. It was hard to get a grip on reality when it had changed so drastically. Then something good happened. The Navy removed all of my connections with home until a serendipitous, completely coincidental meeting. I was in line at the chow hall when I was greeted by a familiar face. It took me a few seconds to register who it was. His red hair had been reduced the stubble the length of plush on a stuffed animal, like mine. It was Dave Baxter. He graduated high school with me. That chance meeting was the only time I saw him. That incident did lift my spirits and began to feel more comfortable with boot camp.

Monday, May 30, 2016

A Tribute on Memorial Day
The United States of America chose to set aside an entire day to honor those brave and women who marched off to war, knowing full well what might be asked of them and still went to protect home, family, and country. There might have been stray thoughts of glory, but all of that evaporated at the first taste of battle, of seeing the carnage of war, or watching others falling dead around them. Thoughts of home and hearth became more intense and more important to them and yet they continued on through the jungles, onto the beaches, and in ships and planes to stop the tide of oppression.
I would like to honor the brave men and women who sacrificed all to allow America to remain free and to break the grasp of despots of the past.  I was going to write about a close friend and horror him. We were playmates as children and grew up together as he spent summers at is grandmother’s home as out neighbor.
He went to Vietnam, the war that wasn’t a war and was killed in action. When I heard I felt crushed and heartbroken. I was the same age and was a Naval corpsman. But by the hand of God, I was spared the Hell that was Vietnam. I was relegated to caring for those who sacrificed body parts, maimed, and wounded. I was responsible to help mend their broken bodies.
I searched for him on Google to be sure to spell in correctly. I knew his name, but I had never seen it written. As the screen popped up, I felt my chest tighten, scrolling down through the names. Fifty-eight thousand men and women died in just that war. The weight of that number pressed down on me. My eyes began to tear. Not too far down that list I found what I was searching for: Earl Duane Barkley, Sgt. Army, Indian Head, PA.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ah Yes, Catalogs

Montgomery Ward, Spiegel, J. C. Penny, and Sears and Roebucks, all played a significant and integral part in most older people’s lives. Their arrival of these mail order books at each season of the year was a much anticipated event. It necessitated our daily visits to the mailbox, checking to see if the catalogs had magically appeared yet. Women, boys, and girls were the most affected, wanting to peruse the treasure trove of items that were offered for sale between the covers. When it arrived, we were often mesmerized and enticed by the myriad of colored photos showing the fashionable clothing, the shoes, and of course the toys. Men tended to wait patiently until the hubbub died to search the brochure’s pages for boots, shoes, ties, and hunting supplies.
As kids, we often chose a comfortable spot on the floor looking at bicycles, games, sleds, and other toys. When the newness of items wore off, we boys would look at the women’s undergarments, titillated by seeing tiny portions bare flesh. Another game we created was to look at the catalog by scanning each page. We were forced to select one item from each page, something that we would want from the opened offering. Often it became difficult and we would skip some pages when women’s clothing was the only items from which to choose.
Slowly the newness of the catalog would wear off. It would become worn with its edges tattered from much handling. It would be tossed into some corner until it was finally relegated to the outhouse. Here the preference for the type of pages shifted immensely. When the catalog was new, we became enamored over the glossy photo pages. Beautiful pages that stirred desire in our hearts. They now had a different use and the dull plain pages were the most sought after. The dull paper would soften when balled up then straightened while the glossy made sharp corners that felt uncomfortable when used. Besides, with the shiny paper very little stuck to it and made a clean derriere almost impossible. In the chill of winter, we tried to keep time in the unheated shanty at a minimum.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Wonderful People Wonderful Day

Yesterday, some of the retired employees of Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania gathered for a luncheon at Leo’s Grill. We try to meet two or three times a year to keep in touch with one another, check to see what new is happening, and reminisce. It has been a long time since I have seen this many smiling faces in one place. The song, We Are Family sums up the feeling that we have at our infrequent get togethers. The former employees positions are varied from housekeeping to administration, from dietary to nursing, from switchboard operators to registration, from laboratory and radiology to secretarial duties.
Some are new to our lunches, only being retired less than a year to those who have been retired for ten plus years, with many falling in between the two. It was a time to relax and talk with our “family,” a time to catch up on their lives, and a time to retell “war” stories of the hospital.
We usually do a round robin, each updating all of the others about our escapades, blood families, and what consumes our time. The one thing that seems to be a constant is that most of us are still into the caring things of life. Some volunteer for the veterans and the homeless, some drive for their more elderly friends, some are active in church projects, and others fill in as babysitters for the grandchildren.
It seemed remarkable how quickly we were transported back to the “family” feeling and how much we enjoyed working with each other. In a small hospital, each person helped another to get jobs done and to keep our clients happy. Many remarked how it was the “family” feeling that often kept them moving. I added my response, saying, “If it wasn’t for my co-workers, I don’t know how I would have made it after my wife, Cindy’s death.”
That was the way it was. We shared each others’ births, the deaths, the sad times, and the happy times. There was always that special bond.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Habits Are For Nones

A little play on words saying habits, the attire of the Catholic women in service to God, nuns, and that some habits are not good for some people. I was kept awake until very early this morning, chatting with a newly added lady as a friend on Facebook and at the same time, I was reading and trying to proofread another friend’s manuscript before it goes into print. Neither one is bad in itself, but together, it took me much longer to accomplish the proofread. That is why I was up until after one a.m. This is where the habits kick in.
Three habits raised their heads this morning at six a.m. The first is the ingrained waking early in the morning to get some writing done before I go to my daughter’s house to watch Hannah, my granddaughter. It is the only way to have the time to check my blood sugar, eat, take my medications, share the morning postcard and especially on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to write the entry for my Blogspot. I opened a weary eye and saw that it was ten minutes before the time to roll out of bed and decided to catch a few more minutes, hovering between slumberland and the waking world.
The second started to pressure me to rise and relieve some pressure in my bladder. I managed to override it for a few more minutes of nap time, but then, the third habit joined the other two. My cell phone announced that my cousin Barbara was starting her day in Florida, by sending a challenge to continue our play of Words with Friends. The game is an electronic version of Scrabble.
So, I am awake but bleary eyed. I know that sometime today my couch will welcome me for a much needed nap.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Ready, Set, Publish

Last evening at the Mount Pleasant Writers Group, we had a surprise speaker, Mrs. Heidi Ruby Miller. She is an adjunct professor at Seton Hill College as well as an author and editor. Fred Adams, also a retired professor and musician invited her to speak to our group. Heidi spoke to us and described her journey into writing and collaborating on books. Each book is a labor of love and dedication to bring it into fruition. She shared that if it is a labor of love and something that is enjoyable, writing becomes less of a labor and more fun.
From the first book on camping in Pennsylvania, to a text book on genre writing, to her passion for writing science fiction of other worlds, she shared the time necessary to create then. She also shared many of the pitfalls of publishing, agents, and having her work accepted.
As a professor, she described students who entered her classes with the expectation of writing a best seller and becoming wealthy. These things do happen to some, but she shares the reality check of the writing profession without dampening their zeal and passion to write. She emphasized the need for good editing and finding a good agent to represent the work to publishing firms. Self publishing is becoming much more acceptable, but it is just as difficult to get a publishing company to choose the works and to market it.
Money isn’t the only thing spent in creating a book or novel, there is the time, creativity, and energy in the writing as well as the time and energy that is spent in marketing that creation.
I am a novice in many of the areas of writing that she shared. Much of her expertise was learned by trial and error. I was glad to have her share that knowledge with the group. Our group meets at the Mt. Pleasant Public Library every first and third Thursday of the month. Heidi was a guest speaker. Dr. Fred Adams is our usual group leader and presents a short educational help at the beginning, then we share things that have been written for critique.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ever So Slowly

Ever so slowly, my daughters are helping to sort, store, and clear out the accumulated flotsam and jetsam in my house. It has become the storage bin for nearly forty years. It was a nest of books, papers, bills, receipts, checkbooks, toys, and other things that weren’t worn out to be tossed immediately.  What I considered memories will one day become a burden for my kids. Now, I am letting the kids decide what to keep and what to toss. So much accumulated stuff.
Many of the things my wife Cindy and I kept, thinking that one day the items might be something that each child would want to save. I know that my mom kept things that I made for her when in grade school until the paper became too brittle and too ragged to keep.
When close family members passed away, much of their collection of things were divided and those items were incorporated into my accumulated “treasures,” each adding another layer, like the ancient civilizations that built and rebuilt their cities, one on top of the other. Photographs, newspaper clippings, and receipts were passed along for me to sort, a daunting task. I am so thankful that the sorting and tossing decisions are happening now. This house is too large for just one person. I either need to downsize or take in borders to help with the work and upkeep of a four bedroom house.
Ever so slowly, progress is being made. Hopefully, before the cobwebs and dust overcome my feeble attempts to keep after them, I can simplify my way of living.


Monday, May 16, 2016

What’s Wrong

I usually don’t post anything political on my blog. This post kind of skirts the issue. I’m not endorsing any candidate, but commenting on the reasons that Donald Trump has made his way to the forefront of the GOP candidates. It seems that for the past decades, the Republican Party has been pulling the same type of men out of the back room, knocking off the moth balls, and wiping off the dust. The American people are tired of the Republican men and women who say they will do one thing and then when they get in office, they compromise, leaning more and more to the left. They say they will support the Constitution and the rights guaranteed in its amendments, but are easily dissuaded and led astray. Republican leaders are now shaking their heads and wondering how Donald Trump won the hearts of many Americans, or how he has gotten to the head of the pack, when the answer is right before their eyes.
The citizens do not want another one of the “good old boys.” They are much more willing to support the unknown, than to support the same old, same old. They want someone who is not part of the rank and file politicians that promise to stand firm and then collapse and lean more to a Socialist government. They want less bureaucratic red tape, less imposition on their freedoms by the EPA, smaller government, and less of the ransom tactic of do it my way or we will withhold federal funds. The people want a leader that wants a strong military, not bow, apologize and kowtow to foreign leaders. They want a leader that is untried rather than one who has worked his way up through the ranks, wheeling and dealing with the Liberal left. Perhaps, they want to try someone with enough money, not to be persuaded by lobbyists.
Perhaps the GOP needs to take a long look at themselves, get their heads out of the beltway, and listen to the people who helped to get them into office. Perhaps it is time for term limits. New people that are fresh out of the general population and understand the plight of those who they represent. Perhaps it is time to set up a vote of confidence rule for all politicians and have their salaries based on performance. If politics isn’t considered an occupation, the United States could save millions by not having to pay their salaries after retirement. All in all, Trump became a nominee and candidate because the GOP is becoming less responsive to conservative values in the eyes of the people of America.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A newly met friend, Aaron writes music abd poetry. As we talked he said that he likes Haiku. I am pulling these to share for him.

 1. Soft shushing of rain
and gentle rustle of leaves
lull the woods to sleep
2. At the water’s edge...
birds and small animals place
muddy signatures.
3. Silky silver strands
hang in intricate patterns
dainty spider web.
4. The old light house stands
above rugged rocky shore
tooth poking from gums.
5. Crickets fill the night
With thin reedy pipings
A calliope.
6. After the storm passed
the wind just sighed when it saw
the harm it had done.
7. The sapphire river
swept her swirling skirts around
stony bridge pillars.
8. At the creek’s deep spot
the sloping bank of green grass
fills with small boys.
9. A gentle breeze wooed
the dandelion’s bloom ‘til
her youth blew away.
10. Large ochre pumpkins
stand before corn shock palace
wearing frosty crowns.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Busy Week for a Retiree

            It certainly has and will be a busy week for me. This past Saturday, I was in Smicksburg, Pennsylvania for Windgate Winery’s annual book signing for local authors and wine tasting event. It was a gathering of twenty-four writers to present their accomplishments to the public. I managed to sell three of my Tommy Two Shoes detective books.
            Sunday included church in the morning, a writers meeting at the Art Museum in Greensburg, Pennsylvania at two p.m., and then church again Sunday evening. I don’t usually mow on Sunday, but because it was to rain all week, I used my riding mower to mow after the meeting and before evening church services.
            Monday was wash, dry, fold, and put away clothing. I made a pot of chili and finished the last story for my newest book. It brings Cora, Tommy’s wife into an equal partnership in his investigative business.
            Today, I babysat my granddaughter, Hannah. She was up early and my daughter Amanda told me to be sure she took a nap. It was almost as bad as bathing a cat. She was so would up, the only thing that she didn’t do to avoid her bed was to hang upside down on the towel rack.
            Tomorrow, I am taking a friend to a dermatologist to have a non-healing growth removed from his shoulder, then in the evening there is prayer meeting at the church.
            Thursday morning, I am taking my Malibu in for some recall work. Something about the seat belt shoulder straps. It took the garage nearly two weeks to get the parts for the repair.
            Friday is another writers meeting in Latrobe. The afternoon meeting in the back room of the Beanery, a coffee joint and is open to all writers from one p.m. until three.
            Saturday is another sorting, consolidating, and cleaning of my house. I am trying to eliminate many things and condensing clothing, papers, and other miscellaneous items that have accumulated over the years.

            I am looking forward to Sunday. I have nothing but the usual church services scheduled. A day of rest at last.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Smicksburg Snacking

            Saturday, I drove to Smicksburg, Pennsylvania with three of my friends and fellow writers. This is the second year that I have gone to a book signing at Windgate Winery just outside of the town. It was almost a two hour and ten minute drive, but the winery is in the in the middle of Amish country and very picturesque. It is an annual event presented by the Emerson family. Saturday, was the seventh in the series. Cay, the co-owner is a gracious lady who does her best to make all who come welcome. There were twenty-four authors and writers attending.
            Cay sets out a light luncheon buffet early for the word smith attendees, providing sustenance for the authors to survive the one p.m. to 3 p.m. selling of books and the crowds that come for the wine tasting event that runs simultaneously.
            Last year, I didn’t sell one book, but bought three as Christmas presents for my daughters. This year, I sold three. Two books sold because of my deceased mother-in-law, Retha Morrison. The writers were herded onto the lawn for photographic evidence of our gathering, as I returned, I remarked, “My mother-in-law gave ISIS their inspiration. When she first started to use a camera, she cut off everyone’s head.” Two women who were sitting on the veranda heard my remark and said, “That’s just not right.” I chuckled and went inside, grabbed my books, and returned. I proffered them saying, “Some more o that warped sense of humor is written inside.” They laughed and bought two books.
            The only jarring incident was directed by the GPS we were using. On the way there, we were put onto a two and a half mile of gravel road. It was well maintained and had fewer potholes than many paved ones.
            Thank you Windgate Winery, your hospitality was as warm and welcoming as was the weather.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Nostalgic Photographs

I started to go through photographs, looking for a specific photo that my daughter wanted and that is no small chore. There are many of the two gallon size of plastic storage tubs, chock full of pictures from almost eternity past. Not quite, but like the postcards that I share each day, I inherited most of the photographs from my parents and from my in-laws. I have a feeling that I will be sorting and sharing them until the day that I die, then it will be up to my kids to complete the task.
My mother-in-law Retha Morrison was an avid photographer, even after she learned not to decapitate the subjects. Her trips with my father-in-law and then after his death, with Conrad and Dorothy Auel took her to all parts of the United States and Canada. There are hundreds of them. She had photos of all kinds.
My daughter Amanda Yoder was at one time a photographer by trade and her stockpiles of captured moments rival her grandmother. She took photos on church trips, sports events at school, and a myriad of poses of family members.
I need to put the photos of our wedding in an album. Cindy was a beautiful bride wearing the gown that her mother created for her. Retha also stitched the gowns for the attendants in a mint green and pastel yellow. Of course, her bridal bouquet was filled with daisies. All brought back pleasant memories for sure.
In one tub, I hit a stash of Cindy photos, from the black and white to the Polaroid pictures and the school photos from the many years. That was a little harder to sort through. From infant photos through the pixie haired years to the large tortoise framed glasses. Her hair was one thing that stayed the same. It was baby fine and wouldn’t hold a curl. When she tried getting perms, her hair had a slight wave for two days and smelled up the bedroom for a week. I think that I will close the lid on that tub and sort it out another day.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016


            What would I do if I woke up one morning and the spam box of my e-mail was empty. Would I jump for joy or would I think the end of the world had arrived? Would I hit refresh to see if there wasn’t some advertisement hiding in the wings? I do know that I do a superficial search to be sure some of the emails from friends doesn’t slip through the cracks and enter the dead head zone. Who actually responds to these fishing promotions? Do the companies who post spam get enough business that they can afford to pay Yahoo and the other companies to post this drivel?
            A sampling of this morning’s barrage: Dental implants, 3 year loans, on line colleges, J.G. Wentworth, and Diabetes treatment. I see senior living, I am a senior and I am living, but I am not going to use their service to see if I am alive. (Just kidding). And who can resist the sample pack from Victoria’s Secret? Anderson windows wants me to check out their newest offer. Burial options wow, I am old, but who needs reminded of that, and didn’t I just say I was a live? Medical billing: I just got away from that rat race. Gas credit cards: my kids say I make enough gas, h-m-m-m maybe they want to buy mine.
            Forgive my student loans: if I haven’t paid by now, I never will and anyway, I had the G.I. bill to help me. I worked for that education. Optima IRS forgiveness program: why should I want to forgive that blood sucking arm of the government? Russian women on line, wow the U. S, isn’t having enough problems with importing Syrians? And Dr. Yussuf Daniel wants to increase my bank account by $250,000.00 if I only send him all of my information. What a dolt? Your attorney guidance, I might need them if I answered Dr. Daniel’s advertisement.
            These are just a few of the gems that tagged me this morning. I’m glad that in the forty-eight spots was an offer to accept me into a Migraine study. I am so thankful for that.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Are We Ever Satisfied

            Too dry, too wet, too hot, too cold; are we ever satisfied? Not enough money, too busy, bored; do we ever have enough? Worse than that, are we ever just thankful? When our needs are met, do we want more? It’s like when we’re eating and there is one slice of pot roast or a few small potatoes left, feeling full, and sitting there wondering, “That was so tasty, maybe…” Then we decide, “I can’t let that go to waste” and it goes to waist instead. We push away from the table, waddle over to the sofa, and collapse in a stupor, wondering why we are tired.
            I America, too many have so much and yet we are so ungrateful and unthankful for what we have. In many places, food, water, and adequate housing are just a dream. They don’t want equality; they want a chance to earn what we have so abundantly. I know that there are children that go to bed hungry, according to government statistics, but with food kitchens, food pantries, and welfare, that should be addressed.
            There was a time when churches handled these needs, but more and more the government has stepped in with so many rules and regulations, it nearly impossible for them to function. Churches kept tabs on folks who really had a need and those who chose not to work and try to lift themselves out of poverty. They knew the destitute from the lazy. They gave to meet the needs of the needy.
            The government stepped in, always thinking that it could do better. There is so much waste and inefficiency of bureaucracy, much of the resources are lost and fed back to the federal system. The government has taken the place of the “bread winners” and “the baby daddy” to single parent homes. Often the money distributed to feed the children goes to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. The local communities had a better handle on these situations and wouldn’t have allowed the abuse that is rampant today.

            I am thankful that we have enough to feed our children, but not appreciative of the waste.