What was I thinking!

My grandson Max following his scientific discovery

I like to take my six-year-old grandson Max with me when I run errands. I enjoy hearing things from his perspective. He likes to work me for ice cream and other goodies.

Win – Win

This afternoon we headed to the store to fill my wife’s shopping list. As we entered the store, Max inquired “Could we get a box of popsicles to take home?” Though I rarely say “no”, this was the first of several stops. Frozen treats to-go were not an option.

While Max was scanning our groceries at self check-out, I glanced at the snack bar. No long line. “How about getting an icee and drinking it here?” I asked.

Problem solved.

Icee’s in hand, we took a seat at a small table between automotive and the check-out lines. As I was engaging in people-watching, a favorite pastime of mine, I heard a noise of surprise from Max. His icee was undergoing a mini-volcanic eruption.

“I was just trying to make some bubbles” he explained. Splashes of icee lava covered the small table.

After expending a handful of napkins to clean up the icee eruption, he shared what his “What was I thinking?” moment had taught him:

NEVER BLOW INTO A ICEE!

I then shared a story from my checkered childhood that took place when I was about his age.

The year was 1954. Our family had just moved from a trailer park in the Chicago suburb of Melrose Park back to Springfield, Mo. so I could start the first grade at Tom Watkins Elementary school. We had towed our 25-foot mobile home right along with us and parked it in back of my grandparent’s home on North Broadway. To supply water, a hose was run from an outdoor faucet at my grandparents home to our compact, metal homestead.

Like a lot of things in my younger (and older) days, I am not sure what I was thinking. But for some inexplicable reason, I thought it would be a neat idea to poke a very small hole in the hose supplying our home with water with my pocket knife. “A six-year-old with a knife?” you may be asking. Remember, it was 1954. And we had just moved from a trailer park in Chicago.

It was harder than I expected to puncture that hose, but when I did, it didn’t just dribble as I expected. It shot out like a fire hose – right into the screened, open window above the kitchen sink where my Mom was standing washing dishes. I can still recall her shriek of surpise as the powerful stream of water doused her

My little experiment was a secret no more.

One new hose later, things were back to normal. I don’t recall if I got a spanking, but remember: it was 1954 when, unlike today, spanking was still considered a useful tool in the parental toolbox.

A very innocent looking and congenial me before the “hose incident”

Two generations later, my “Never poke a hole in a garden hose!” became my grandson’s “Never blow into a icee!”

Everybody makes mistakes. My goal is to avoid making the same mistake twice and to learn from other people’s mistakes. And to impart that wisdom to my grandson.

I seriously doubt Max will ever blow into an icee again. Or puncture a garden hose. Though he might try to talk some other unsuspecting kid into blowing into an icee. And he now loves to tell my garden hose story.

As Will Rogers observed, “Everything is funny, as long as it is happening to someone else.”

Note this picture of Will and compare it with my kid picture above. I may not be a great judge of what is and what is DEFINITELY NOT funny, but at least I kinda, sorta LOOKED like a great humorist when I was puncturing hoses at age 6.

Will Rogers, who was born just up the road from where I was born in Vinita, Oklahoma, died in a plane crash near Point Barrow, Alaska in 1935. That was thirteen years before I was born. His pilot was one-eyed Wiley Post, who also died in the crash. Will’s last words were rumored to be “Wiley, I think you have that patch on the wrong eye!!”

On The Road Again – This Time to Pay My Respects

I woke up shortly after 6 am on the last morning of our vacation. 

“Are you awake?” asked my wife softly.

“Yes” I replied.

My response was followed by four words from my wife that completely changed the trajectory of our last day of vacation.

“I have a toothache.”

Instead of leisurely packing and dawdling on our way home, we hurriedly packed and headed north.  Dental emergencies are bad enough, even with your personal Dentist – the person the authorities would call if they were trying to identify a mangled corpse they suspected might be you.   I find it reassuring to have a Dentist who knows the inside of my mouth like the back of his hand. 

Our goal was to avoid a visit to an unfamiliar Dentist who might have a payment due on their new x-ray machine and need to raise a little cash fast.

After 8 am when Val’s Dentist’s office opened, she reached him on the phone.  He brought the urgency level down a few notches.

“Take 3 Advil and see if things calm down” was his advice.

I love a Dentist who goes with the least intrusive, most economical, potential solution first. 

The advice worked. 

You know how vacations work: normal diets go out the window and your teeth are tasked with chewing all kinds of strange foods. I am certain a new treat we discovered at Andy’s Frozen Custard shown on the menu as a Snowmonster Concrete contributed to my wife’s dental distress. It is a blend of frozen custard, strawberries, and melted chocolate chips.

I have two observations about the Snowmonster:

  1.  It is delicious; and
  2.  It is a good thing we do not have an Andy’s Frozen Custard near our home.

Amazingly, after 24 hours without a Snowmonster my wife’s dental discomfort disappeared.

It was good to get home, even if we arrived a few hours earlier than planned.

A few days later another all too frequent bane of a Baby Boomer’s life necessitated another change in plans for me. It started when I received a Facebook friend request from the wife of an old friend. I thought we were already friends. I was right. The request was from a hacker. But while I was checking the real Facebook page of my friend’s wife, I started seeing messages like “So sorry to hear about Ben” and “You are in our prayers” with no explanation.

I googled my friends name followed by “obituary”. I discovered my friend had passed away two days after we returned from vacation.

That sad discovery is the first time anything useful has resulted from numerous attempts to hack my Facebook account.

Ben and I had spent more than a few nights in our post-high school years cruising the streets of Springfield, Mo. Ben had a dark blue 1966 Ford Mustang. 

High tech sound systems of that era included an eight-track tape player mounted below the dash.  Ben liked that eight-track loud. While some sophisticated sound systems today will rattle the windows of the homes and businesses as the car passes by, I rarely hear the occupants singing aloud.

Ben & I did.

“Mustang Sally” was our favorite song.  Also high on our charts were “Devil with a Blue Dress/Good Golly, Miss Molly”, “C.C. Rider”, and “Sock it to me Baby”. Ben and I sang along enthusiastically. What we lacked in vocal talent we made up for in volume.

Taking you back to circa 1968, here is a video of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels for your listening pleasure. Imagine a warm summer evening in 1968, windows down because A.C. was a rarity in those days, and a couple of young guys belting this out in the car next to you at a stoplight.

Fishing was another favorite, less noisy, pastime of ours. We spent many hours in aluminum boats (minus an outboard) we rented for three bucks a day on Fellows Lake near Springfield, Mo. We took turns being the motor. I don’t recall it ever taking long to clean the fish.

Ben’s was a visitation and funeral I would attend.  I last saw Ben in 2017. In the last few years we had gone full circle from fast cars and rock and roll to trading pictures of cows, sunsets, kids and grandkids on Facebook.

To pay my respects to Ben, my journey would take me as far as you can go into the hills and hollows of southwest Missouri without crossing the Arkansas line.

The end of one trip with a dental emergency, the beginning of another with the loss of an old friend.

Ben Franklin once said that the only two things certain in life are death and taxes.

To which Will Rogers later added “At least death doesn’t get worse every time Congress is in session!”

Personally, I think “dental problems” should have made Ben’s list.

He Never Met a Man He Didn’t Like

Will Rogers

On November 4, 1879, a man who would join Mark Twain to become one of the two people I most often quote was born in Indian territory near what is now Claremore, Oklahoma.  Not known as a dedicated student, William Penn Adair “Will” Rogers dad sent him to Kemper Military Academy in Boonville, Mo. as a teenager to help instill discipline in him.  Though he didn’t excel at Kemper either, he did go on to become Kemper’s most famous alum.  Will always downplayed his education and often claimed “all I know is what I read in the newspaper.”

A talented trick roper who appeared in wild west shows under the name “The Cherokee Kid”, Will soon learned that audiences enjoyed his off-the-cuff comments on current events as much as his roping.  One of Will’s favorite subjects was politics.  “I don’t make jokes” said Will.  “I just watch the government and report the facts.”  When Will had the opportunity to meet President Calvin Coolidge, nicknamed “Stoneface”, an associate bet Will he couldn’t make him laugh out loud.  The outcome wasn’t in doubt for long.  When Will was introduced to President Coolidge, he responded with “Pardon me?  I didn’t catch the name” causing even old stoneface to laugh out loud.

No matter how famous he became, Will clung to his Oklahoma heritage.  “I have been eating pretty regular and the reason I have is, I have stayed an old country boy.”

Will was a prolific writer.  In addition to his other accomplishments, Will wrote over 3000 newspaper columns.  Some of his favorite words when discussing current events were “cuckoo’, “baloney”, “hooey” and “applesauce”.  His philosophy on writing newspaper columns coincides with my philosophy on writing this blog: “When I write ‘em, I’m through with ‘em.  I’m not being paid reading wages.  You can always see too many things you wish you hadent said, and not enought that you ought.”  The spelling is Will’s.  Will once observed “When I first started out to write and misspelled a few words, people said I was plain ignorant. But when I got all the words wrong, they declared I was a humorist.”

Will Rogers & Wiley Post cropped
Will Rogers (L) & Wiley Post (R)

When I travel or I’m just out and about, I carry a small notebook to record details I might otherwise forget.  When Will traveled, he always carried a small portable typewriter.  Will died in a plane crash with one-eyed pilot Wiley Post on August 15, 1935 near Point Barrow, Alaska.  Though Will died in the crash, his typewriter survived.  The last word he ever typed was “death”.  It is rumored that the last words he ever spoke were “Wiley, I think you’ve got that patch over the wrong eye!”

Will once said, “When I die, my epitaph is going to read ‘I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I didn’t like’.  I am so proud of that I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.”

You can visit Will’s grave, “I NEVER MET A MAN I DIDN’T LIKE” engraved on his tombstone, at the Will Rogers Museum in Claremore, Okla.  You can also visit the ranch where he was born not far from there at Oologah.  The typewriter that was recovered from the site where he and Wiley Post crashed is on display in the museum.

Happy 139th Birthday to Will Rogers, who once summed up his philosophy on humor as “Everything is funny as long as it’s happening to someone else.”

Will Rogers Museum
Will Rogers Museum in Claremore, OK