Tuesday, August 29, 2017

September Challenge
Last Sunday, our Pastor challenged the congregation to hand out one Gospel tract per day during the entire month of September. There are several reasons for that. The most obvious is that it is a way to reach others with the Good News of salvation offered by a loving God, the gift of eternal home in heaven, and a way to escape an eternity of punishment in the flames of Hell. It is an easy way to expand our testimony to others, especially if we are shy or less than confident in our ability to speak clearly and concisely sharing the Word of God.
Another reason is that it takes about thirty days to develop a habit, whether it is a good habit or a bad habit. Thirty days of handing out Gospel tracts allows us to be more comfortable sharing these paper missionaries with others and causes it to be second nature when we meet someone on the street, in a store, or even at work or school.
I chose to write on this subject for two reasons. One is many people ask what inspires me to write. Sometimes it is a view of nature, seeing an unusual character, or an incident that has happened in my life. The second is if I hear a word or phrase that sparks in my brain.
I began to think about this short writing when I heard the phrase, “paper missionaries” describing the Gospel tracts. And that is what they are. These pieces of stationery that have the roadmaps to salvation are just that, paper missionaries. Often these little slips of paper travel to places that we are unable to go and talk to people we may never meet. They reach into all levels of society, all genders, and all ages, The Gospel doesn’t discriminate for any reason. It can soften the hardest heart and no sin is too great for it to reach and cleanse.
So, September is the month for paper missionaries. This is one way that each of us can change the world around us. If you should like to join the challenge, I’m sure that your church or your pastor has them available for you. You too can become an emissary for God and an ambassador for Christ.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Are You Questioning Me
Friday and Saturday, I had the rare opportunity to spend time with my daughter Anna Elizabeth Prinkey. She wanted to attend the Foothills Writers group with me and we decided to ride together. She had some errands to run and wanted to drive. Our first stop was a diner on Route 30 just outside of Ligonier, Pennsylvania called Ruthie’s. The next stop was at a small shop called The Junk Monkey Paint Company in Ligonier to pick up paint supplies. I was talking to one of the owners, Sonia and of course, I handed her one of my business cards. She invited me to do an interview about my writing, my books, and where I get my inspirations to write for a segment on a local cable company.
We moved on to the meeting where Anna shared an idea she had for an inspirational story that she is writing and listening to other items that the writers that attended had written. Then we finally came home for me to finish the laundry.
Saturday was another day I shared with Anna. It was the LHTC Broadband customer appreciation day held at the Flax Scutching Grounds on Route 711 in Stahlstown. We were meeting my other daughter Amanda, her husband Eric, and their daughter Hannah Yoder. I met several old neighbors and friends there as we sampled the foods and visited the various booths. One booth was for the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society. They were selling their cook books, giving away replicas maps of Donegal and Stahlstown, and selling raffle tickets on a knotted quilt bed cover that I made and donated to them.
While I was making my round, I (not in my Col. Sander’s garb) got to meet and shake hands with the Chick Filet cow, the curled top, Dairy Queen cone, and talked with a representative for the radio stations of LHTC. I gave him my card and he said that he would pass it along to the person who deals and handles interviews and things like this.
My New Year’s resolution of not leaving home grumpy is paying off, because, no one wante to deal with a grumpy old man.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Weeds, Beautiful Weeds
Looking about this morning, I noticed the vibrant golden hue of the golden rod bloom nodding gently on its leafy verdant stalk. The contrasts of colors made me stop and think of the various plants that we call weeds. Many of the plants that we buy and propagate were once weeds somewhere else in the world. One of my wife Cindy’s favorite was a yellow thistle-like bloom that is a weed in the country of Turkey. She picked it up quite by accident, but because of her Scottish lineage, it quickly became a plant that she loved. Her all time favorite was the daisy. It grows wild, here in the state of Pennsylvania. Its white petals hold hands to encircle a bright yellow center.
I am often amazed at the shades and variety of colors. A brilliant orange bloom, very much in the same shape of the golden rod is a plant, my father-in-law Bud, called a butterfly plant. It often blooms in fields along the highways. I don’t know what the weed is called, but its tall stalk is capped with an intense purple crown. Sometimes it grows alongside of the golden rod and the contrast is almost breathtaking.
The periwinkle colored flower buttons of the chicory scatter along the stems of pale green. It is a plant that our forefathers collected and roasted its roots to brew as a substitute for coffee. The white frilly Queen Anne’s lace is so dainty in its appearance and yet has an edible root and is called the wild carrot.
The dandelion has a fuzzy bright yellow flower that is very prolific and the bane of the homeowner’s yard. Its leaves are edible as wilted green gravy. The rue of fried bacon, onion, and vinegar welcomes the bitter green leaves. Served over mashed potatoes is a childhood memory for me. The yellow blossoms can be collected, cooked, and make into a pale golden jelly that tastes so very much like the honey created by honey bees.
Take time to looks around. Even weeds are useful and beautiful.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Songster Memories
I just heard Momma Cass Elliot singing Dream a Little Dream of Me and I wondered how she would have fared on America’s Got Talent. Would she have even gotten on stage to perform? I wonder what the judges would have said about her. Would she have moved on the finals? And how about the gravel voices of Joe Cocker or Janice Joplin, surely, these songsters who brought my generation much enjoyment would have been tossed by the judges.
What other people with beautiful and unusual styles of singing have been overlooked or cast aside because their talent doesn’t follow the norms and the mainstream? I can’t say that I am a big fan of rap, but that is mostly because I can’t understand the words and because much of it that I can understand seems derogatory and degrading.
How about the great jazz and blues singers, Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Brown? Would they have had good fortune singing today? The unusual voices of Tiny Tim or the great scratchy pipes and trumpet of Satchmo, Louis Armstrong, would they have found a place on stage?
I am just recalling a few of the singers that have made an impression on my life, but haven’t forgotten the many rock groups that competed for air time on the radio. There are too many to list and none really stand out, I guess if I had to choose one group, it would be the Righteous Brothers and Unchained Melody. It seems to soothe the heart and soul as they croon.
One singer that made an even greater impression on me was my mom, Sybil Beck. She had the uncanny, unfailing habit of singing a chorus or a line from another song that paralleled what one of us kids said. It didn’t matter what it was that we were talking about, she had a song stored away to sing.
I do something very similar, except not all my remarks are a song. Sometimes I share a joke or a story that fits into the ongoing conversation. Jokes and tales join my repertoire of responses. Anyone who knows me knows that I am likely to share some small tale or joke with them before we go our separate ways. So I say, sing on my friends. No one may enjoy it but you, but it is your song,share it.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Back to School
This is the time of year that kid’s and parent’s thoughts turn to getting ready for the new school year. Most of the children with some reluctance and most of the parents with mixed feelings of relief and anxiety. The first day of school may be the first ride on a school bus, meeting a new teacher, or wearing the new school clothing.
Late in the summer, I would hear the cicadas rasping their songs in the heat. There was nothing to dread from these small creatures, but I developed an unsettled feeling when they began their concert. I knew my summer freedoms were over and the routine of schooldays would soon begin. Days of reading, math, and spelling, months of history, science, and geography, and nearly a full year of penmanship, hard seated desks, and other not-too-polite other kids lay ahead. It also meant recess, lunches, and making new friends.
Going back to school always meant going to Gabriel’s with Mom to shop for clothing. My first recollection of the store was that it was located in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, where built-in walkway conjoined two houses. Bins and tables were jumbles of pants and shirts that had to be sorted through to find seconds that were still in wearable shape. Several years later, the store moved to a larger roomier building, but the need to examine the clothing was real: checking for missing buttons, working zippers, tears, and that there were no major flaws.
Then came the role reversal, I got married to my wife Cindy and we had three children of our own. School days meant something completely different, but then again, my wife was a school teacher and taught in the private Christian school where our children were enrolled. School days meant visiting stores for school supplies and new clothing. The entire family would make the traditional pilgrimage to Gabriel Brothers to shop for school clothes.
Gabriel’s has now expanded to have multiple stores. Growing up, people called the original two stores Gabe’s. Apparently, the owners of the stores heard the public’s nickname for them and have recently changed the signage and renamed the stores Gabe’s.
Even now, when I hear the cicadas and the days for the start of school draw near, it always stirs thoughts of the old conjoined houses and shopping for school clothes.

Friday, August 18, 2017

An Elephant in Tap Shoes
It could be an elephant in tap shoes dancing above my head or a thundering herd of wild mustangs galloping across the upstairs bedrooms and bath, but no it is a single, neutered female cat, Willow. A cat left behind in my care when my younger daughter Anna married. The loud pounding of her feet almost echoes through the downstairs as she rushes from room to room on some secret mission. But changes into a stealthy mode when I make the trek upstairs to use the computer or to go to bed. She lies in wait at one of the other open doorways for me to come near, then in a flurry of fast moving paws, she scurries away from me, the invader of her domain.
I have to be careful where I step in the middle of the night when I don’t turn on a light. Many times her favorite resting place is in the middle of the top stair landing or on the stair’s treads. She is a black and white, medium haired creature with an intrinsic passion for getting underfoot.
Sometimes in the middle of the night, I will hear the jingle of the bell on her neck collar just before the pounding of her feet and the leap onto the bed. It is always on the side opposite from where my inert form has decided to sleep for the night. Then I feel her walk across my body only to stand on my mattress waiting to have her ears scratched, then she will leap onto the floor to hide for awhile. Sometimes, I sleep sitting in my lounge chair. She does something similar and leaps into my lap. If I don’t stroke her and scratch her head quickly enough, she will nudge me with her chin until I do. Then she will curl up in my lap for her nap.
I’ve thought about getting a playmate for her, but she is so very territorial, I wouldn’t dare try. A stray, very young kitten came onto my porch and Willow went wild. She would hiss and jump against the storm door until the kitten would leave. Each time the wee cat returned, Willow would bound against the door, trying to get out and chase away the interloper.
Sometimes I would like to contact Barnum and Bailey, but I know they’ve done away with their pachyderms.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Not Again
It started yesterday and it is still here this morning. My right elbow may have the beginnings of cellulitis. My first bout started while I was in high school. It was in my left knee The original injury to my knee happened when I was standing on a wooden well cover and one of the boards broke. My leg slid through until the narrow opening pinched my knee; scraping the skin off and making my knee swell from the trauma. It scabbed over and healed without any problems.
Several years later I was shinnying up an apple tree and my aunt Violet’s place, with my legs pressed tightly to make the climb. The next day, the spot of the old injury began to swell, get hot, and turn red. It eventually got as large as half of a softball. I was taken to visit a doctor and was immediately sent to Connellsville hospital to be admitted for care and treatment.
The range of antibiotics was much more limited in my youth. There were few if any effective oral antibiotics and the intravenous ones were even rarer. That meant injectable penicillin. The nurses gave to me injections twice a day. As a young person, the daily looming presence of those fat large-bore needles necessary to push the thick, white liquid into a butt cheek was torture. The thick viscosity of the penicillin was increased because it was stored in a refrigerator until it was needed.
I wasn’t allowed out of bed during the entire stay, except for the trips to the necessary room. Youthful energy trapped in a bed filled chamber of horrors is what my young creative mind thought. Soon the pain in my derriere overcame the pain in my knee and the edema and redness began to disappear. As I began to feel better and the days of incarceration grew longer, I was ready for the pardon. It couldn’t come too soon. My restlessness increased.
Feeling more and more like an imprisoned pincushion, I sent a note on my empty breakfast tray, “I’m being held prisoner in room…” I’ve forgotten the room number, but you get the idea. I don’t know if it helped, but I was discharged later that day.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Walworth Valve Company
During the first few years of my life, my father Edson Carl Beck worked in the coal mines located in Melcroft, Pennsylvania. The coal veins underground in this area were low, thin seams and the miners worked bent over to gig with pick and shovel to extract the black mineral, then to haul it to the surface. Because of the low ceiling, he had a dark tattoo on his forehead earned by bumping his head on a low overhang and it wasn’t properly washed out at the time.
He next worked at a factory called The Walworth Valve Company in South Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The company made valves from casting to shaping and selling. There was a foundry where the men poured the hot molten metal into molds shaping the bodies of the valves, the wedge gates, and the ball stoppers. The metals used were brass, iron, and stainless steel. The choice of the different metals was determined by the type of valve requested for the valves. I believe the smallest valves were brass with a 2.5 inch diameter opening and the largest valves were steel or stainless steel and were 3.5 feet in diameter.
Walworth was an old, wood-block floored factory. It was started in 1888. The machines were powered by a belt/ pulley system. A second floor line of pulleys on a long shaft spun leather belts that reached down to the machines on the first floor transferring the motion to each individual machine.
My father’s job was to run a large overhead drill press. His expertise on the machine often caused him to actually earn less money than those less qualified. Let me explain. Other men were assigned smaller, multiple pieces in a run. Once they were set up, they could drill out the valves in a short time, earning piece work. That meant if they finished more pieces that the average, they got higher wages.
However, my dad would have to set up his machine to do only one, two, or maybe three valves. The set up time for the drill between orders was lost of productivity and he only earned a straight salary compared to many of the other men doing piecework. His knowledge hindered his wages instead of helping him.
I worked there for a nearly a year before joining the United States Navy in 1968, but my father continued to work there until 1975 when management decided to fold up their tents and move the entire operation to Mexico. One of the original buildings from the factory is still standing. It is the white, stucco-looking medical building situated behind Hoss’s Restaurant in South Greensburg just off Rt. 119.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Aftermath (Classes)
I was asked to give a brief summary of my life after nursing school, my uniform, hat, and place that I worked.. The following is what I wrote and I wili use it today as my post. After I graduated from Connellsville Senior High School in 1967, I worked at a valve-making factory in Greensburg, Pennsylvania called Walworth until I joined the Navy in 1068. Basic training, corps school, stationed in Orlando, Florida, then in Keflavik, Iceland before discharge. I Got “early outs” to attend Pennsylvania State University in the nursing program, knocking off the four year BSN degree in three years, graduating in 1976.
The uniforms for the men were navy blue slacks and a white uniform top with the initials PSU embroidered on the pocket. Men didn’t have a cap to wear, but the women’s cap looked like a Melita coffee filter with a navy blue ribbon band, however that did not stop the females from harassing me. One day in clinical, they women revolted, went to the kitchen and attached an industrial sized coffee filter to my head with bobby pins. (I actually had thick hair then.) Our clinical was in an elderly care home, the old people loved it, so I wore it the rest of the day. When I returned for the next clinical, I wasn’t wearing “my cap” and the women asked where it was until I said it was dirty. I washed it and it fell apart. They laughed and it was smooth sailing after that.
I received my degree in 1976 and was married shortly after that. My first job was at Monsour Hospital in Jeanette, but soon after found employment at H. C. Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. It was much closer to home and seemed to have a more friendly atmosphere.
The first three years at Frick, I worked the 11-7 shift, where people go grump in the night. The next five years I was blessed with working in the emergency department with some wonderful physicians and other nurses. The rest of my career there before retiring after thirty-four years, I was blessed/ cursed with the position of a nursing supervisor and responsible for the entire hospital on the off shifts and weekends.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

An Ethiopian Princess
While at my friend’s granddaughter’s wedding this past Sunday, We were able to relax after the wedding ceremony in the reception area of the nearby clubhouse and banquet area. There were buffet trays of fruits, vegetables, and meats and cheeses: including what I think might have been smoked herring steaks. Another area had trays of cookies, candies, and homemade fudge. Nestled nearby was a chocolate fountain surrounded by fruit and other dainties waiting to be dipped and sampled.
While we were teasing our taste buds with the various flavors, several servers began to circulate with trays of hot hors D’ouevres of fried mozzarella sticks and balls of chicken cordon bleu. I managed to sample several items more than once, before I was forced to pace myself, knowing that a meal was to be served at a later time.
Among the wait staff of several lovely young women was an exceptional beauty. Her dark skin, regal face and bearing allowed my creative mind to explore the possibility that she might have been a princess or consort in the court of Candace, the Queen of Ethiopia. Candace was the queen that visited Solomon in Jerusalem traveling from her distant home in Africa. Solomon introduced her to the God of Israel.
I was fascinated with this young, lithe ebon beauty that gracefully filled water goblets, removed empty dishes, and was intent on completing her other duties. Her smooth skin and well-proportioned body was a wonderful asset to her poised nature. Her hair was coiffed to the back of her head in a tight bun allowing her face and slender neck to seem even more regal in appearance.
For me to say that I was impressed by her appearance isn’t quite right. Even at my age, I am able to appreciate the beauty in nature, music, art, written words, and yes, in human beings. I sometimes choose to comment on them with words that do not always convey the full intent of what my eyes can see. This is not to debase this young woman, nor is it to in any way to be construed as the thoughts of a lustful man, it is only to say I was surprised and enamored with this other human being.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Wedding Belle Blues
Yesterday I attended a wedding. I was the chauffer/ escort for a good friend. She doesn’t like to drive due to health issues and it was her granddaughter’s wedding day. It made a busy day for me, but what are friends for if they can’t help? She told me that the ceremony was to start at 1:00 in the afternoon, so I didn’t go to Sunday school after the morning services to be sure we made it on time. According to Google, it should take 45 minutes, but with construction and Sunday drivers, I wanted to be sure that we had plenty of time.
I had never been there before and she brought her GPS for guidance. It took all of the 45 minutes to get there. Google had us driving through twisting roads and unnecessary “shortcuts.” We arrived. It was an outdoor wedding in a pavilion. We walked from the car to an empty pavilion, soon to be joined by one other couple. It was about then two women began to set up the podium. It was about 5 minutes before 1:00 and I mentioned to my friend, “I thought they would have this set up before this.”
As we waited, we were joined by another couple and I found that the wedding was at 1:30. Other people began to gather in the pavilion and we waited. Several messages were sent to the guests advising of the delays. “The hairdresser was late,” “They couldn’t find the veil,” and the kicker, “The groom was missing.”
When he arrived almost an hour late, the ceremony proceeded with a female officiating with a long and flowery speech added to the actual marriage vows. The bride’s colors were blue and gold/ yellow. I was in style. Unknowingly, I was wearing a bright yellow shirt and a blue tie.
We went indoors for the hors d’oeuvres, appetizers, and a buffet meal. The food was good, although some items were slightly overcooked due to the delays. The wait-staff were great, but as soon as the dances, cutting of the cake, and more photos, it was time to leave. My back was sore and my friend ‘s back was in spasms.
Knowing how to get back, the drive time was less and I just had time to make the Sunday evening services before going home. Something I ate at the reception was salty and my mouth was dry the rest of the evening.

Friday, August 4, 2017

It’s Your Funeral
Well, not quite, but at last evening’s writers meeting at the Mt. Pleasant Library, Fred Adams led the gathering by sharing many humorous carvings and famous people’s epitaphs taken from their headstones. For example, “Here lies Johnny Yeast Pardon me For not rising” or from a tombstone in Georgia, “I told you I was sick.” There was the reading of a man, “Here lies Ezekial Alkie Age 102 The good die young.”
Then he asked that we try our hands at it. I must say that mine were more in line with those that rhyme, but there were quite a few that had snappy end lines. Perhaps one like “Thomas Edison, Lights out.” Or Kathy Griffin, “I tried to get ahead and got cut off.” For a deceased teacher, I wrote, “Just Passing Through.” “Napoleon, Generally coming up short.”
And you know what is coming next to try to write your own epitaph. I wrote, “Here lies Tom at your Beck and call.” It was an interesting evening.
Just before I left the house yesterday, the UOS man delivered my updated and corrected novel, The Walls Came Tumbling Down. I was able to trade Fred Adams one of mine for his new release, The Eye of Quang Chi. It is one that he had been describing and I wanted to read. Set in San Francisco near the time of their earthquake, wealthy conjoined brothers are raised and educated to become famous in their own right. Mingling among the high society elite, they still become involved in solving mysteries caused by the dregs of the city.
After I got home, I began to review my newest novel, Addiie. I believe in is my best so far. My co-editor wrote, “Wow” and I didn’t see that coming.” When I can elicit comments like that, it makes me happy. Another friend who read the manuscript said similar things. I hope to have it ready by the end of the month.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Best Laid Plans...
Yesterday, I had ambitious plans with a time crunch involved. I had to pick up my granddaughter Hannah Yoder to babysit her. After a quick breakfast, we started out to complete our first chore. It was to pick up my books that were for sale at The Twisted Vine. It is a consignment/antique shop just outside the town of Ligonier, Pennsylvania on Route 30. Several other writers placed our books to sell and after a few months with minimal to no sales at all, we decided to remove them. The rent for the space was more than our sales.
I checked the posting for hours of operation the night before. Once I picked up Hannah, we drove to the shop. As usual, I arrived early and as we waited, caring for an active six year old, became interesting. The wait was longer than usual. Several other customers arrived and left when they found the store wasn’t opened yet. Their sign read, “M-F: Store hours 10 to 5ish.”
Finally, at 11:00 am, one of the owners arrived. I told her that we’d been waiting and that several others had come to shop and the store wasn’t opened.
She replied, “Well, we posted on the site that we’d be in late this morning. I just got back from New York.”
I said, “Maybe you should change your starting time to an -ish.” All I can say is if you plan to shop there, you may want to check their site every 15 minutes.
The rest of my plans for the day were shot. I was supposed to be in Connellsville for a luncheon at 11:30 and I was an hour away. I was a little more than upset, but I had promised my granddaughter a lunch with Pappy, so we stopped at Brady’s, a restaurant on Route 31. She had her favorite, macaroni and cheese and I had a grilled chicken salad with celery seed dressing and that part of my day wasn’t ruined.