Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh, what a wonderful day

It's Thursday. I have really gotten to enjoying Thursdays. See, Thursday is the last day of our pay week and if times are slow at work, the bosses don't want me working on Thursday since I'm usually into overtime by about half way through Wednesday. So they tell me to take Thursday off. Then I go in Friday for 6 to 8 hours, load the trucks, help out here and there, and then I've got the rest of the weekend to myself.

I like Thursdays. I get to wake up slow in a warm house that's not vibrating from it's motor running. And I'm almost always lying next to this sweet young thing who very rarely snores. (Only when she's had too much to drink, which last happened about the time Hector was a pup.) Then I fiddle around on the computer while the kids are waking up and I get up to help them get ready for school. It's great.

Josh is starting to get a little bit, and I mean a "little bit", of the potty training into his head. "When I stand in front of this bowl looking thing, I'm supposed to let my warm water out." That's where we are right now.

So every morning, Sheila gets him up and stands him in front of the bowl. Saturday I was up before she was and he got up while she was still in bed. I'm thinking we need to keep this pattern going. Autistic kids like structure, patterns, sameness. Don't give him change. He hates it. As do I.

So I take him by the hand, walk him into the bathroom, remove his diaper, and stand him in front of the commode. Nothing. He's not going. But now my morning coffee has kicked in and I have to go. And I'm thinking that maybe if he sees me going he'll get the idea. So I let go of his hand and I proceed to "remind" him of the proper use of this bowl-shaped facility.

And, glory be, he gets it! And he starts to let his own stream flow.

The only problem is, he is no longer standing at the bowl, but has decided to move around behind me and let fly from that angle, soaking the back of my pant leg and my shoes in the process.

I don't know how it is with the ladies, but as Bill Cosby once pointed out many years ago, us men can't cut it off in mid-stream. So I'm dancing in front of the toilet, trying to avoid Josh's stream, trying to maintain some semblance of aim as regards my own, and I finally gave up. One thing at a time.

At least he was in the right room. It's a slow journey, but it's a good one.

But it's been a good week. Work has slowed down for our company, which is not that great, not unexpected, but still not great. But this also means I now have more room on my truck for more windows, which means more stops which means more miles which means more hours and you get the picture.

So instead of sending one guy to Toledo and Michigan, and then me to Chicago and Waukesha, the company sends him to Toledo, and me to Michigan, Chicago, and Waukesha. You see? More hours. And on top of that, I only had a little drizzly day on Monday, and then Tuesday and Wednesday were beautiful. Cold, but nice and sunny. I woke up Wednesday morning in just south of Milwaukee and it was 4 degrees.

I had to leave the truck running Tuesday night cause when it gets that cold, she doesn't want to start without being plugged in. The only problem I had was that my Fast Idle Control decided to quit working. See, a truck will idle normally at about 500 to 550 rpms. Most trucks have a switch or something that will allow you to raise the idle. Mine is tied in with the cruise control, meaning that if I'm parked, and my cruise switch is on, all I do is hit the "Accelerate" button, and the idle will jump up to about 1000 rpms. If I want it lower I just hit the "Coast" button and it'll drop a little bit at a time so I can set the idle where I want it.

This does three things. It smooths the idle out, a faster idle being smoother than a low idle. It also raises the oil pressure. This keeps the oil flowing better through the motor thereby making life easier for the engine. A faster idle also keeps the water temperature up. Higher water temperature means hotter heat for the cab within which I sleep. More heat means more comfortable sleep. If I'm NOT running the truck and I need heat, I use a bunk heater that burns diesel fuel and works very well.

But remember, my fast idle's not working, meaning rough idle, low pressure, no heat. They make a "Throttle Stick" or "Throttle Prop" that looks like "The Club. You stick one end on the throttle pedal and the other end under the steering wheel and adjust it's length to set the idle where you want it. But I was parked in the Flying J, and they didn't have any, and I figured it was too far to get to the next place that I thought MIGHT have one. So I'm digging around in the cab looking for something to mash on the peddle to get the idle up. The case of water's too big and too heavy, no wire coat hangers, only plastic ones. And then I get it. Stephen Kings double cassette movie "The Stand". It's thick and sturdy and I can jam it between the throttle and the bottom of the dash cowl. And since the cowl is rounded I can tap the edge of the movie, after it's in place, and speed up or slow down the idle. IT WORKS!

Yeah, heat!

And that was the best thing that ever came out of that movie.

Life is good.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Sheila left today to go pick up Ben in Columbus. I was gonna go but she and a friend of hers wanted to stop at the high-dollar mall down there and get some things. So I'm at home.

I have some time not used from work so I took today and tomorrow off. I was planning on going and getting Ben but you see how that worked out.

I was driving north from Chicago towards Waukesha, WI a couple weeks ago and saw this guy driving next to me. No biggie. I see lots of guys driving next to me. But this guy was about half again as large as I am ( and I'm a big guy) and he was completely naked. Not what I was wanting to see at that time of day. Or any time of day, actually.

We got moved into our new house and out of the old one. It's taking some time to get settled in but you all know how that is. The night before Thanksgiving we're getting ready to sit down and play a game and Sheila goes downstairs to change the laundry over while we wait for Isaac to get out of the bathroom. Isaac comes out, Sheila's not up yet, I send Hana down to get her.

Hana calls out that I need to get down there. Sheila is standing in the laundry room crying. "I just cleaned this floor two days ago!" I mean she's bawling. And I really couldn't blame her. There on the floor, in the middle of the floor, all over the floor, is everything that went down any drain upstairs. Sink, shower and toilet. It all came up the toilet and shower stall that are in the basement. NOT a pretty picture.

So the game is off as I get the kids and we start with the rubber gloves, picking up...well, you know. sss.....stuff! Nasty. The kids are gagging and hacking, and all they're doing is holding the bags while I do the pooper scooping.

We get most of it up and I set to work seeing if I can clear the drains. 30 minutes later I decide it's a lost cause and it'll have to wait til I can hire a plumber.

Hana asks how soon the plumber can get there.

"Friday morning, I hope," I say.

"Friday?! What'll we do til then?"

"Well, if you just have to pee, you can go in the toilet. Just don't flush it."

"What if we have to do more than pee?"

"There's a bucket in the garage with some cat litter in the bottom. And there's toilet paper out there."

Hana: "Are you serious? You want me to squat over a bucket?"

Isaac: "Maybe it should be called bucket paper."

Sheila: "Maybe I should go buy more cheese."

Preston: "Can Nate come over to play?"

So Hana asks me why I don't just call a plumber right then and get them out here quick.

"It's the night before Thanksgiving (sounds like a poem, right?) and there's no plumber around. If I were to call one now, or before Friday even, I might as well buy him his own boat. Just go down to the dealer and tell him to pick out whichever one he wants. Nope. It'll wait til Friday.

So Friday comes and then the plumber comes and two hours later he's gone and the roots are out of the drain and the sss...stuff is flowing much better and the bucket was summarily disposed of, and without EPA approval either. And life goes on.

We do foster care, right? Move into a new house, need a new inspection. Fail the new inspection. Don't have GFI plugs near the sinks. For those of you not in the know, or who don't care about such things, GFI stands for Ground Fault Interrupted, or something like that. You've seen them and newer house have them within a certain distance of where water is or would be. The idea is that the outlet has a little breaker on itself and it will trip if it senses some sort of change. I don't know how it works really, but I do know that if your outlet boxes are not already grounded then the GFI outlets won't work.

How do you know this, John, you might ask.

Experience, my dear. Experience. Experience I gained when I tried to change the old outlets to the new GFI outlets so we could get inspected. Four screws on the outlets sides, six wires coming into the back of the box. Can you figured out the possible number of combination's of wires to screws there are? And I was smart. I labeled the wires so they would go on the right screws. But the GFI is different. Now what. Maybe I should read the instructions. Nope, doesn't help. The GFI keeps popping it's breaker.

So I call a friend who's an electrician and beg for help and mercy and he comes right over. He does a quick perusal of my situation, plugs a few things in, moves some wires around and says, "Your boxes aren't grounded."

"So what's that mean?" I ask.

"The GFI outlets won't work. I mean, I can get them to work, but they won't do what they are supposed to do, plus it's illegal, and you'll fail the inspection if the inspector plugs his tester in the outlet, and I wouldn't do it anyway."

"So what do I need to do?"

"We need to run three strand, or grounded wire, from the circuit box up to the three outlets you need to change."

So that's what we do. Or I should say, that's what HE does. I'm not much help since Electricity and I do not get along. Nope, Not in the least. We did get along, once, but the last time I tried to do any rewiring we had a blackout from Michigan east to Massachusetts and as far south as Virginia.

While we were getting the last things out of the old house, we put some things in the new shed. As we are walking away form the shed, I hear a lock snick closed. I turn around and Hana has just locked the shed. "Do you have the key to that lock?" I ask her. "Sure, it's right here," she says and holds up her keys.

I say okay and keep walking. Couple days later, in the ensuing plumbing catastrophe, I'm needing my tools. I remember they are in the shed. I tell Isaac to get Hana's keys and bring me my tools. Isaac never comes back. So I go looking for him. He's out there trying to get the lock off. Seems he can't get the keys to work. So I give it a try. Nope. Not gonna happen. S0 I holler to Hana to get out there. She points out the proper key, the one that we had been trying to get to work all along, and says "That's the one."

"But it doesn't work," I say.

"It worked before," she says.

And we go round and round.

I finally walk away in disgust.

Yesterday I come home from work and I bring my tools into the house to fix a shelf. Hana says, "I thought your tools were in the shed."

"They were," I reply.

"I thought the shed was locked."

"It was."

"How'd you get it open?"

"With a new type of key."


"Really. It's called bolt cutters."

Now I just need a new lock for the shed.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My children are...


You know the contest they run under the soda caps. Twist off the cap and you might win a free soda or a trip to the Bahamas or a lifetime supply of snide remarks.

But usually it says "Please Try Again".

So I twist it off and Isaac asks, "What's it say."

"Please Try Again."

"Cool. Can I try it?"

"Try what?"

"Try it again" he says as he twists the cap off and looks under the same cap I just looked at. "Darn!"

"What are you looking at? I told you it said 'Please Try Again'."

"I know", Isaac says. " That's why I wanted to be the one to Try Again."

"So what's it say?"

"It says 'Please Try Again"."

This could go on all night.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Well. We got moved. We didn't go far. Just about a half mile away. And I'm finding there are boxes still waiting to be unpacked. Not from this move but from the move three moves ago. I have boxes that haven't been unpacked in 15 years. And why, you ask. I don't know. Just haven't. Quit being so picky.

But it's a nice house and we like it.

And we left the possum behind.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Our house is old, say 100 to 120 years. The basement is unusable but for the laundry and storage and the one car garage, which has never held our car in the five years we've been there, has a gravel floor and a door that opens to the side like a bi-fold closet door. OLD!

We keep our trash in the garage and once a week I throw it in the back of my truck and take it to work and dump, in the big ram-powered dumpster, not in the boss's office.

Our outside door to the garage does not always get closed properly where it will stay shut and not swing open so we have had a problem with animals getting into the trash.

I told you that to tell you this.

I'm laying in bed the other night, having just fallen asleep maybe thirty minutes before, when Hana, our eldest, comes running in the room.

"Dad! There's a big possum in the garage getting into the trash! Lucy's going nuts trying to get at it!"

So I jumped out of bed, grabbed my housecoat, and yes, I do wear one sometimes, and ran down the stairs, Hana hot on my heels.

I get to the door from the kitchen to the basement stairs which also goes on out to the garage, and Lucy, our Rat Terrier, is sniffing and snuffling, barking and howling at the door, trying to claw her way through to get to this monster so that she can do her duty as our protector and kill it.

I shoo her out of the way, grab a broom (knowing full well not to approach a possum unarmed) and head out to do battle. I ease open the garage door and I see nothing but trash scattered on the gravel floor, a familiar sight by now. I see no possum. Maybe he/she is hiding behind the various and asundry boxes, implements, and empty paints cans that call my garage home.

So I start beating about with the stick, smacking boxes, cans, shelves, tools, counters, empty barrels, old fans, washtubs, doors, walls, table saws, thesaurusi, all in an attempt to disturb this varmint into showing him/herself.

Then it hits me. What's the expression, that idiosyncrasy, that mannerism that defines these minute members of the mammalian marsupial menagerie?

You guessed it. "Playing Possum!" And what does this mean. Well, for those city dwellers among you who are not familiar with the thought processes of the animal kingdom, a possum will roll over and act as though they are dead. Much like a middle-aged American Male.

So here I am, in my bathrobe with no belt, and the briefs that lie beneath, swinging my lance of choice around in the garage in the middle of the night trying to disturb an animal who has learned that if he/she just lays there quietly the mean old fat man will soon go away.

And then it hits me. What am I doing? And more importantly, WHY am I doing it? What do I care if this possum eats my trash? It's already made a mess. I can clean it up tomorrow and nail the garage door shut. It's not like he's gonna get into the house.

So with as much dignity as I can muster, I gather my robe together, and with lance in one hand and Rat Terrier in the other, I concede this particular battle to Joe/Jane Possum, and march into my house.

My daughter says, "What are you doing?"

"I'm going to bed."

"What about the possum?"

"What about him?" I ask.

"But he's still out there!" she squeals.

"Yes," I say. "He most likely is still out there. But the "Out-There" belongs to him. The "In-Here" belongs to me. And as long as we both respect each others territory, I think we'll be okay."


"I'm going to bed." And off I went. I get upstairs and Sheila says, "What was that all about?"

"There's a possum in the garage," I said.

"Oh. Okay," she said, and rolled over and went back to sleep.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Steel Trolley Diner

This past weekend, my wife and I were treated to two nights lodging, sans children, in a fine hotel in Lisbon, Ohio in exchange for me singing two songs in a young ladies wedding and DJ'ing her reception. I figured it was a fair enough deal and off we went to enjoy a weekend together, albeit with some other people thrown into the mix, but not the hotel room; thank you, God.

We arrived in Lisbon Friday afternoon and after checking into the hotel, we went with the bride's father directly to the church for the rehearsal. All went well and I enjoyed the quiet time with my wife. Since there was no actual rehearsal dinner, the bride's father and mother took Sheila and I out to a late dinner at the Speakeasy Casino located at the Mountaineer Racetrack in New Cumberland, West Virginia across the river from Lisbon. The restaurant was serving a buffet which featured Alaskan King Crab legs and we did our best to eat enough crab legs to make up for the $18.99 per person the casino was charging. I paid for it later but it was well worth it since neither of us had had good crab legs since leaving Maryland nearly twenty years ago. And these were VERY good.

Anyway, the weekend was wonderful, the wedding was beautiful , and the reception was a blast. We slept in Sunday morning and left the hotel about 11 to head for home. The following conversation ensued as we pulled out of the hotel parking lot.

"You got any druthers for lunch," I asked my sweet bride.

"Not really," she said. "Do you?"

"No. But I was thinking, if we wait too much longer we might hit the church crowd wherever we go."

"True. Why don't we go ahead and find something soon."

"Okay," I said and the conversation ended. (We're not usually this exciting but it had been a good weekend and our dander was up.)

It was about this time that we came upon The Steel Trolley Diner, located in the historic district (or so the pamphlets said) of Lisbon, OH. From the looks of the buildings that we saw I would say pretty much ALL of Lisbon qualifies as historic district. That being said, it was a lovely town.

I mentioned to my bride that we might try this diner and she readily agreed. Not two minutes after sitting at our booth, I knew I had to tell you all about it. So here goes my first restaurant review. (Be easy on me, AM.)

Are you interested in nouveau riche cuisine where the napkin weighs more than the food on your plate? Or maybe you'd like a light fresh Mediterranean style salad with Romaine lettuce, Crimini mushrooms, sardines, and garbanzo beans tossed together in an invigorating dressing of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice with a hint of garlic? No? Then maybe a thick chateaubriand steak with a peppercorn garlic spread and steamed vegetables on the side?

Well, if any of these are what you are looking for then I would highly recommend that you go.....NOWHERE NEAR the Steel Trolley Diner. Seriously, stay far, far away. My heart was screaming "NO! NO! GET ME OUTTA HERE" even as we were walking in the door. (Silly heart). This place has four basic food groups; fried, deep-fried, griddle-fried, and ice cream.

At The Steel Trolley Diner the hamburgers are thick, juicy, and cooked on a griddle that's about two foot square, right there in front of you and all your patronly friends. The menu is eight pages long and features breakfast foods, all fried, griddled, or toasted; hot dogs and hamburgers, which are prepared in any number of condimental combining manners; desserts, which were mostly pies, ice creams, and shakes; and four dinner entrees-Meatloaf, Chicken Fried Steak, Fried Chicken, and grilled liver and onions. (I don't know how they cooked the meatloaf since I saw no actual oven anywhere.)

We're talking the penultimate "greasy spoon" here. But oh, what a diner. Had it been in a larger city I would have expected Sam Spade to come walking in any time in his trench coat and fedora, smoking a cigarette, and asking Trixie behind the counter for a hot cup of Joe, then settling himself in a booth where he would read the paper as the rain fell outside, the car tires sizzling on the pavement like bacon frying in the pan, the neon lights of the dance hall across the street glowing like cheap jewelry on a...but I digress.

Sheila and I both decided on the BBQ Burger, which won first place at the Fourth Annual National Hamburger Festival this year in Akron, Ohio. It was not a complicated burger, consisting of a half pound patty, grilled onions, shredded cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce, but it sure was messy. I consider myself a man's man and seldom lower myself to cutting a burger in half in order to eat it. But this baby was saying either cut me in half before you start or drop half of me down your shirt front, your choice, go ahead, I'll wait.

So I cut that puppy in half and started in. Oh my, it was a taste to behold. Bright, engaging, and woodsy, with a hint of steel mill thrown in.

We ordered fries with our burgers, why bother with anything else, right, and since Sheila is an onion ring lover, I thought I'd be nice and order some of those for the both of us. Big mistake! The burger came in one basket, and the hand-cut fries came piled high in another basket all their own. The "side" of fries was probably half again as large as the "basket" of fries you buy in most chain restaurants. And then there were the onion rings. Hot, juicy, and crispy.

Sheila barely made a dent in her fries and I could not finish all of mine, a first for me, I assure you. I was so full I had to stop for a nap while I walked back to the car.

But rest assured, if the Award Winning BBQ Burger is not your cup of tea, forgive the mixed-metaphor there, then you can order virtually any combination of burger, cheese, and condiment that you can imagine. And if it's not on the menu, I'm fairly certain they'll throw together any combination you tell them to.

Some of the more interesting burgers included the "Elvis Burger, "a juicy half pound burger topped with bacon, Jif peanut butter, and homemade banana jam, just like the King liked 'em", I kid you not; or the "Johnny Appleseed burger, a half pound burger topped with homemade apple pie jam, grilled onions, and shredded cheddar cheese"; or even the "Burning of Atlanta burger" which was "smothered in peach bbq sauce, topped with pepperjack cheese and jalapeno peppers." There were too many for me to remember, but all were capable of stopping your heart on a dime and giving you a nickel in change.

The diner was first opened in 1954 and has changed hands a few times since then. Also it is one of what I believe is only 2000 trolley diners still in existence in the US today. This is a truly a down home place. If this place were located in my town I'd be either broke, weigh 500 pounds, dead from a heart attack, or some combination of the three. And as the commercial would say, "they don't take American Express". Nor do they take Visa, Mastercard, Diners Club, or Discover. And they won't take personal checks either. So bring your appetite and bring your cash. Because when you leave you will have left some of your cash and all of your appetite behind.

It was fun to say the least.

And Jackie, our server, was fabulous. She made us feel as if we came in every day.

Thanks, Jackie, for a wonderful time.

I'm sorry

In my last post I commented on the 70 year old fellow getting married to a 46 year old lady. I also made the comment that I wasn't sure that I could marry a 70 year old woman.

Forgive me, I beg of you. It was not a smart thing to say, and I meant no disrespect to those ladies out there that have reached, or are close to reaching this quite seductive age.

You will also note that I stated that I needed to get to bed. Truth be told, I should have gone to bed before writing that post. Then maybe I would have thought more clearly about what I should say regarding Mr. Young and Ms. Harbin's upcoming nuptials. Or whether I should have said anything at all.

And yes, I would agree with Mom. There are a number of "very hot" 70 year old women out there. In fact, I am currently married to a very hot 45 year old woman right now. Maybe that's why the thermostat in my house is set on 54 all the time.

chuckle chuckle

Monday, October 5, 2009

I was perusing my Google Reader, where I keep up with the other bloggers out there, and I came across one from "Galion News", where I live. It said "The following marriage license applications were filed in Richland County Probate court between Sept yada yada yada. Being the curious type I wondered if anyone knew was getting married and hadn't told me. So I scanned the list.I didn't find anyone I knew but I did find this one.

"Newton Douglas Young of Lexington, 70, retired, and Gail Bullock Harbin of Lexington, 46, sales associate."

Mr. Young, ironic isn't it, who is 70, is marrying Ms. Harbin, who is 46. And then I thought, Hey, I'm 46! Could I marry a 70 year old woman? The fact that I am already married is a major deterrent, but I'm not sure I could marry someone who is 24 years older than I am. In this age of soccermommania, there are quite a few very attractive 46 year old moms out there. And my first thought, sorry ladies, was You go, dude!

My second thought was I really need to get to bed.

Goodnight all.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Promised Post

I told you last episode that I would tell you about the pig with the wooden leg. Well, here goes.

It was a rookie mistake. I had made a wrong turn coming out of a shipper in Oconomowoc, WI and found myself on a narrow farm road trying to find a place to turn around. I was tired, frustrated,and scared that I might be driving further into the hinterland with less and less chance of finding a suitable place to get turned around; that eventually the road would turn from asphalt to gravel and then to mud and then peter out completely and there would be Satan standing in front of my rig saying, "You should have changed your ways a long time ago." And I would scream back, "I was trying! I really was trying!"
I was tired. And this is what led to The Rookie Mistake. And that's just how it should be written. All caps. Forever more a noun to stand on it's own.
I have, since the dawn of time, or at least since I started driving, been drilled with the instructions that one never, never, never, under any circumstances, not even in case of nuclear attack, uses private property to turn around your misguided vehicle. Drive another 40 miles if you have to, but DO NOT turn around on private property.
But this guys driveway was huge. Granted, this particular farm had no place on it that I could swing the truck around, but the the driveway was wide with nice curves at its apron, just calling me to pull up and back into its easy open warmth and safety. And yes, I'm still talking about the drive.
I fell. I succumbed. I tumbled from my lofty perch and found myself giving in to the enticement of this particular temptation and swung left and then right to position myself to back quickly into the drive, and then be on my way, once again on the road to redemption.
As you know, most farms have culverts running along the road frontage, to keep the water from flooding the lawn, to keep the road salt out of the yard, and to more easily collect the beer bottles of drunken teenagers, so one needs a way to get over this culvert to get to the house. Hence, the corrugated drainage pipe culvert thingy. You've all seen them. The pipe under the gravel at the drive allowing the water to continue on it's journey unabated. They come in various sizes too. After all, not everyone has a really large culvert. Nor do I, you should know. And apparently, this particular farmer did not either as I would soon discover.
My trailer axles cleared the culvert fine and I was backing and straightening quickly with visions of smooth sailing ahead of me. That was when I felt the lurch. My world literally dropped out from under me as my rear tractor axles proved to be the proverbial straw for this farmers' camels' back. And there I sat. The rear drive axles down in the ditch, having crushed the pipe under their weight, the front drive axle not yet having fallen into the trap, up on the drive still, and the whole rig looking like a toy that has been played with just a little too hard, it's back broken and weeping in pain.
I jumped back in and thought, I can get out of this if I just grab the low gear, lock the differential, and give it the goose. And that's exactly what I did. Grabbed the gear, locked the differential, and gave it the goose, and you know what I got? JACK! Nothing. Nada. I was going nowhere. The rear drives were now spinning in the air while the front drives were digging a hole in this guys driveway. Why? I jumped out and saw the problem. The landing gear on my trailer was now firmly driven into the ground. Had I, by some miracle, been able to pull out of there, I would have plowed a furrow the farmer could have planted pumpkins in.
It was at this point that I began to cry. Not the quiet, manly one tear down the cheek cry. But that sobbing, wailing, shoulders jumping caterwauling that comes from deep within your soul. I was done in. I was exhausted. I was at the end of my proverbial rope. And so I cried. And cried. And when I finished crying I cried some more. And then I screamed, for it was at this time that I felt the hand on my shoulder.
I jumped and jerked around, ready to run from whomever was intent on causing me bodily harm, and there he stood. He had to be close to 80. His hair was thin and the purest white I have ever seen. It shown from under the gimme cap he wore which advertised the "Oconomowoc Feedstore, Fine Feed For All!". He wore the obligatory overalls, one leg of which was tucked inside a Redwing pull-on boot, the other leg hanging free, and a blue bandanna hung from his back pocket. His face was lined with the evidence of many Wisconsin winter storms and summer skies, but I saw no anger there. Just...what? Was that sympathy I saw on this old-timers face?
And then he spoke. And the voice was exactly as I would have expected. He sounded as though his voice came from the bottom of a barrel and passed through 200 pounds of gravel as it came. It was deep and husky and it reminded me of my grandfather. "Looks like we got us a problem here." Not "Looks like YOU'VE got a problem", but WE'VE got a problem.
In an attempt to own the problem I said, "Yep. I really screwed up this time."
"Well," he said, " I doubt it's the first time, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Name's Wendell by the way" and he stuck out his hand. I stuck my hand out to meet his and he gave my hand one strong, firm pump and turned and started towards the house.
I stood there, not knowing whether to follow him or stay with the truck when he turned and solved my dilemma for me.
"Come on in and Agnes will pour you some coffee while I call my nephew Ollie to help us get you out of there." And he turned and continued his slow shuffle towards the house.
I stood there, the disbelief of my stupidity and the generosity of this saintly man both vying for a position of dominance in my brain. He had shuffled another 30 feet or so towards his house when I realized I was standing there with my mouth open, snapped it shut, and started after him. The front of my truck was off the roadway proper and therefore not likely to be struck by passing traffic so at least that was one less worry.
At the house he guided me through the back door into the kitchen, bright and clean, it's appliances all well used and Avocado Green, but in good shape. The setting sun lit the chrome that ran around the edges of the Formica table and I went back in time to Grandmother Iola's house. I swear I could smell her roast with green beans and potatoes, her large flaky rolls smothered in butter, and a pecan pie just fresh and warm out of the oven. This kitchen had somehow been transported from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin to Stephenville, Texas. I felt as though a burden was slowly lifting from my shoulders as this man directed me to have a seat.
"Let me get the coffee going and then I'll call Ollie," he said as he went to the cabinet and pulled out a familiar looking can of Maxwell House coffee. As he prepared the coffee he told me that Ollie was his nephew, on his wife's side, come from one of her smarter sisters, and owned an excavating company. "If Ollie doesn't have what we need to get you out of there, he can find it sure enough," he said.
In short order I had a hot cup of coffee in front of me, the cup advertising the Oconomowoc VFW Hall Annual Sausagefest of 1978. Wendell had just dialed the phone to call his nephew, Ollie, from one of her smarter sisters, when a small woman, no more than 5 feet tall, walked into the kitchen.
"Please forgive me," she said as she put her hand out to me in an exuberant greeting. "I was in the bath when our driveway gave out from under you. I sent Wendell down to see if he could help while I made myself presentable. And please forgive me for not having the coffee made but I surely wasn't expecting any company at this time on a Tuesday evening." She then turned to her husband and said, "Is that Ollie, dear? Ask him if Laurie would like some zucchini bread. I made much, much more than either you or I could eat and I don't want it to go bad." Turning back to me, her smile brightening the room, she asked, "Would you like some zucchini bread, dear? I wouldn't want to be immodest but it's been said I make the best zucchini bread in this county. And the butter is fresh. Here, let me get you a slice or two." And she spun around to her Avocado green stove and twisted the center knob so hard I thought it would snap off in her hand. She then grabbed a cookie sheet out of a lower cabinet, set it on the counter and turned to the refrigerator for the zucchini bread, the best in the county or so they say.
Wendell soon hung up the phone and joined me with his cup, All-State Insurance, at the table, while Agnes busied herself getting saucers from the cabinet, butter from the fridge, and two glasses of cold white milk.
"Ollie's on his way over," said Wendell. "He said he'd come take a look and then decide what he needs to get you out of that hole."
"I sure do appreciate all this," I said, sipping the strong coffee from my VFW Sausagefest cup. "And I am so sorry for causing all that damage to your driveway. I will definitely make sure it gets repaired to your satisfaction."
He waved his hand at me and said, "Don't worry 'bout it. Ollie put that culvert in the first time and I imagine he can put it in again. He might let you buy him a few gallons of diesel fuel but other than that it won't be much."
I could not believe my luck. I had destroyed this couples driveway and they were pouring me coffee, feeding me warm buttered zucchini bread, and treating me as if I were a long lost member of the family. From one of the smarter sisters.
"But how are you going to get out of your driveway?" I asked.
"No problem," he said. "We've got another entrance further down past the pigs. We"ll use that one til Ollie can get over and fix this other one."
So I sat there in that warm kitchen from the past, drinking my coffee and nibbling on the hot buttery bread, remembering the summers at Grandmother Iola's house and enjoying the company of Wendell and Agnes.
Ollie showed up in short order and, after shaking my hand and introducing himself as "this sweet couples favorite nephew", told me that he could have me out and on my way in no time and he'd come back that weekend and fix the culvert. He smiled and turned towards his truck as I called after him, "Thank you! And don't worry. I'm sure our insurance will cover your expenses and your time."
"No need to get them people involved," he said as he climbed back into his pickup. "I'll just let you buy me a couple gallons of diesel fuel and we'll call it even." With that, he turned his truck towards the other end of the property and was soon gone.
"Care to take a walk with me?" Wendell said from behind me. "I nee to go check on the pigs before the dark comes."
"Sure." I said with a smile, and we started off in the direction that Ollie had driven his pickup.
The day being somewhat cool, and a light breeze blowing from behind me, I had no warning of the pig pen until I got within 50 yards of it. And even then the smell was not something that I would call offensive. More like that pleasant farm smell, the smell of turned loam and fresh wet hay, mixed with the scent of 100 large pink, white and black beasts, all crapping in an area the size of a neighborhood swimming pool. Okay, so it was strong. But something about it still struck me as pleasant.
Wendell went about checking the fence for open gates and downed boards and made sure the automatic water tank filler was still working as I stood at the fence watching the pigs follow him with their eyes, grunts of anticipation filling the air. A small sow stepped away from the corner she had been standing near and it was then that I noticed a large black and white hog, easily 600 pounds from where I stood, but he could have been a 1000 as far as I knew, lying in the mud and the muck in the corner of the pen. His legs were splayed out as he lay on his side and I noticed a piece of wood sticking out of his back hip. Poor thing. It looked like it was in there pretty deep too.
"Excuse me, Wendell," I hollered to him across the pen. "Looks like there's one over here that's hurt."
"Where," he said stepping up onto the second rail of the fence, his neck stretching out to see what I was pointing at.
"Over here in the corner," I said. "The big black and white one. He's got some wood or something stuck in him."
"Oh. That one," he said with a grin. "That's Chester. He's okay." And with that he stepped down off the fence and started over towards me and Chester.
As he got nearer we heard the rumble of a heavy diesel engine and felt the ground begin to vibrate under our feet. I looked past Wendell and saw a large yellow Caterpillar dozer coming down the side of the road, riding at an angle as Ollie kept it in the bar ditch so as not to damage either the road or his uncle's fields. And behind the dozer, following like ducklings behind their mother, came two backhoes and the pickup that Ollie had driven off in earlier.
"Here comes Ollie," Wendell said unnecessarily and we turned and started back towards the scene of my stupidity, my guilt increasing as I wondered how many people had their evenings ruined because of my dumb maneuver. So far the count was at least six if not more, and that was assuming that the pickup contained only a driver and no passengers. I soon discovered I was short by three as a blond teenage boy stepped out from behind the wheel of the pickup, and it's passenger door opened disgorging three teens from that side, one a young girl that looked about 14, all of them with hair so blond it made my eyes hurt.
The two backhoes took up their positions on either side of my truck and I soon noticed that the drivers had to be twins; two men in their early thirties, gimme caps on their heads and coveralls pulled up to their waists, the arms of which were tied off around their mid-sections as though it were just a little too warm to put them all the way on. Ollie pulled his dozer up by my truck and the ground ceased it's shaking as he shut the motor off and jumped down from the seat. He walked over to the twins and they began discussing their plan of attack. I know nothing about either excavating or the rescuing of broken-backed trucks, and so I stood out of the way, ready to be called into play whenever Coach Ollie decided he needed my help. From the looks of these guys, I figured I would be on the bench for the whole game.
And I was right. They went to work with an efficiency and speed that I could hardly believe. Large hydraulic jacks were pulled from the back of the pick up and placed under my trailer on columns of crisscrossed four by four beams. The teens were dragging shovels, picks, and chains over towards the culvert, preparing to shovel, pick or chain whatever Coach Ollie told them to. And I stood at the sidelines and watched, marveling at their quiet preparations.
Ollie soon walked over to me, tilted his cap back, this one black with the word CAT printed on the front in yellow, and said, "We don't get a lot of calls to pull trucks out of ditches but I think we got this figured out. It may not be a pretty sight but we'll jack and chain it up till we get it level, get some beams under that back axle so you can move it. Then, if we need to unhook the trailer we can do that, and fill in the ditch so you should be able to pull right over it."
"Sounds like a plan to me," I said. "Just tell me what you want me to do."
"I'll holler at you when I'm ready," Ollie said and turned and walked back over to his people. It was clear to me that these men and boys, and the one girl, had all worked with Ollie before, as they gathered around him and took their instructions from their coach. Ollie soon waved his hand in a shooing gesture and the work was started.
All I can say is, if it were possible to perform surgery with a bull dozer, Ollie would be the man to do it. I saw precision moves that day that I never thought possible, and this with a six foot tall blade in front of him, virtually working blind. I cringed as he lifted the dozer blade high up over the trailer, missing it by less than an inch, and held it there as the teenager helpers through chains and hooks and binders around, securing my tractor frame to his dozer blade. And slowly but surely, the whole mess was coming level.
The dance over the ditch lasted about an hour and a half before I was called into play to pull my truck out, the ditch having been filled with beams and dirt so that I could just pull on through. I pulled it out onto the road, hit the flashers and set the brakes. I stepped out to look it all over to see if I had done any lasting damage, and Ollie and his crew were at work cleaning up the ditch so Wendell and Agnes could just drive right over this one and not have to go past the pigs at the other end of the farm. He would come back and fix it right on Friday after work, and since the weather looked clear, no rain at least for the next few days, Wendell said that would be just fine. I went over to where Wendell and Ollie stood watching the crew finish up, and I thanked Ollie profusely. "I cannot tell you how much your help means to me," I said reaching for my wallet. "Are you sure you don't want to file with the insurance company?" I said.
"Absolutely," Ollie said. "As I said before, I'll let you buy me a couple gallons of diesel and we'll call it even."
"Thank you so much," I said. "That's more than generous. I don't know what to say but thank you very much." I pulled a fifty dollar bill out of my wallet and held it out to Ollie. He just looked at it.
"Not sure exactly where you're from, fella, but around here diesel fuel is nowhere near $25 a gallon," he said with a grin.
"But you surely burned more than two gallons of fuel," I said. "Fifty may not even cover the fuel you used."
"Well," he said. "It may and it may not, but I told you a couple gallons. Aunt Agnes says that a couple is two. And fuel around here right now is about two sixty five. Two sixty five times two is five dollars and thirty cents. So we'll round it off to five dollars and that'll be fine." I shook my head and stuck the fifty back in my wallet. I reached for the five and paused. It was at that moment I decided to deceive this kind man in front of me.
"I've only got the fifty, a twenty, and a one dollar bill," I said. "Do you have change for a twenty?" I asked him.
He shook his head and patted his pockets as if to prove his point. "Nope. Sorry. My wife got to me first," he said grinning at his own joke.
"Then I guess I'll have to give you the twenty and we'll worry about the change another day," I said. "I'm certainly not leaving here having only given you a dollar for all your work."
Ollie tipped his hat back again and scratched at a spot high on his forehead. "Well," he said. " I guess the next time you're through here you can stop by my shop and pick up your change." And he slowly took the twenty from my hand and folded it in two, sliding it gently into the front pocket of his jeans.
"I turned to Wendell and said, " I cannot thank you enough either for all your help, for your hospitality and kindness, and for your mercy as well. This could have been an ugly scene if you had not been so gracious."
Wendell smile and said, "It's getting late and you've had a long day. Why don't you stay the night here and you can leave in the morning. Agnes would love to have someone around in the morning that she can cook a big breakfast for. Doc told me I got to go easy on the bacon and eggs and she just doesn't get the thrill out of cooking oatmeal that she does cooking a dozen eggs and a rash of bacon."
"I couldn't," I said. "I've already been way too much trouble. Besides, there's no place for me to park my truck without tearing up your driveway again and paying Ollie another twenty dollars to fix it." He grinned at that.
"I guess you could park it at the truck stop if you're comfortable leaving it over there."
I had been looking over his shoulder at Ollie and his crew as they gathered up their equipment and my eyes snapped back to his when I heard his statement.
"Truck stop?" I nearly yelled. "There's a truck stop out here?"
"Yessir," he said. "Keep going the way you were and it's about two and a half miles down on your right. It's not one of those big ones like they've got over on the interstate. Only got enough room for forty or fifty trucks. Ollie's sister runs it as a matter of fact. But she keeps the dirt oiled down and she makes some real good fried chicken. Good zuchinni bread too. Got her recipe from my Agnes."
I stood there gaping at him, astounded that he had never mentioned this truck stop until now, and the grin on his face got wider and wider. All I had to do was go another two and a half miles and I could have avoided all this mess. I shook my head at my own stupidity.
"Don't worry about it," he said with a chuckle. "You're not the first person to stop when they should have kept going." He smiled a big smile at me. "I insist you stay the night. Go get in your truck and I'll get mine and I'll lead you around the back road to the truck stop. It's not far but you're facing the wrong way now." And with that he turned and started slowly back up his driveway.
I kept shaking my head all the way to my truck and soon I saw an old Chevrolet pickup pull around me and honk as it got back in front. Wendell waved me forward through the back window and I just smiled and let the brakes off and slowly started after him.
It took about ten minutes, the roads squared and straight as they bordered the fields, and we were soon at the truck stop. Wendell pulled off to the side and I went past him to find a spot to park. I backed in, shut it down, and gathered up my bag just as Wendell pulled up in front of me. I climbed in his clean polished truck from another age and we started back.
It was then that I remembered the pig. Chester? Was that his name?
"Wendell?" I asked. "You never told me about your pig. Was it Chester?"
"Yessir. It's Chester," he said."
"Well, I saw that wood sticking out of him and you said that he's okay. What's the deal with that, if you don't mind me asking."
"It's not sticking out of him," he said. It's a little hard to see, but it's strapped to his back end. It's a wooden leg."
"A wooden leg?" I looked at him as waiting for the sign that he was putting me on.
"Yep. A wooden leg."
I waited for more but Wendell didn't offer any more. I couldn't wait any longer.
"I'm sorry, but I've got to ask. How do you come to have a pig with a wooden leg? There's got to be a story behind it"
"That there pig, Chester, is the greatest pig in the world. He's about five years old now and when he first come out he didn't look like he was gonna make it, him being a runt and all. But Agnes took him in and fed him from a bottle and he started putting the weight on. Soon enough, he was big enough so's you'd never known he'd been a runt. But he was also fairly attached to Agnes by then.
"Well, about 7 or 8 months after he was born we had a fire in the barn. Burnt it to the ground. And it nearly got to the house too, but it weren't for that pig. He busted out of his pen and stood right underneath our window and started squealing and carrying on some kind of racket. Agnes heard it and saw the light from the barn being on fire. She woke me and we were able to get the volunteer fire department out here in time. If that pig hadn't have woken us the fire would surely had reached the house and we might not have gotten out in time.
"Then three years ago, Ollies boys were over here for a visit and they went swimming in the tank out back. The two older ones came into the house to get a drink and left the younger one out there by himself. He was playing fine there. He could swim like a fish you know. All of Ollies
boys are good swimmers. But Tad, that's the youngest's name, he was out there and somehow slipped in the mud and cracked his head on a rock just under the water. Out like a light. Chester had been playing in the mud with the boys and he grabbed that little one up by the shirt collar and drug him out of that tank up on to dry land. Tad surely would have drowned had it not been for Chester."
I listened, amazed at the stories of heroism this man was telling me about his pig.
"It was the next year after Tad's accident that the dogs came. Folks from the city sometimes come out here and drop off dogs that they can't, or just don't want to take care of anymore. I guess they figure the good Lord made the dogs so the good Lord can take care of them. Either that or they think the dogs will just somehow naturally learn how to hunt for their food like their ancestors did. Some people are fairly stupid," he said. "Don't you think?"
I agreed and he continued his tale.
"Well, like I said, that was the year the dogs came. There was a pack of them. House dogs that'd been dropped and gone wild. They figured out that they could bring down food if they worked together and so they ran as a pack. Got pretty bold too. Killed one of Ollies calves. Anyway, they come in the yard one day when Agnes was out hanging the wash and I was off to town picking up some medicines. She heard them and turned toward the house, but she didn't have time. She's not as young as she used to be. She told me later she was expecting them dogs to clamp down on her legs at any moment and bring her down like Ollies' calf when she heard Chester squealing. It wasn't pain at first, pure anger, Agnes said. But she said she could tell the squeals were squeals of pain by the time she reached the house.
"She knew she had to do something or Chester would be killed. She grabbed the 410 I keep in the front closet and ran back outside. She couldn't fire at the bunch of them for fear of killing Chester, so she fired up in the air. That startled them and one broke away from the pack as if he was gonna take to the hills. She had room to get that one and she did. I guess when his partners saw him fall they figured enough was enough and headed across the field.
"Chester was bit and scratched pretty good, but nothing that wouldn't heal up with a little care and tenderness. Them dogs surely would have gotten Agnes had it not been for Chester. That is some kind of pig, that Chester is."
I waited for more but Wendell had gone quiet again.
"And the wooden leg?" I asked. "Was that from one of the dogs?"
Wendell chuckled and looked over at me. "No son. The dogs didn't do that. I did." He paused and went on a moment later.
"Son," he said. "When you've got a pig that great, you only eat him one ham at a time."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Some people will do anything to avoid taking the truck into the shop. This truck was parked next to me in a dock in Chicago. First time I've ever seen a truck with stitches.

In case you can't tell, this is the drivers side front fender right behind the wheel. The damage is a split, due to some accident I'm sure, in the fiberglass fender well. I'm hoping this was a temporary repair, but it looked like it'd been there a while. What he did was drill holes on either side of the split and then some Zip Ties through the holes to keep the split together. Pretty smart actually, but like I said, I hope it's temporary.

We caught Josh outside the church a couple Sundays ago entertaining folks with his Ray Charles impersonation. He's such a cut-up.

But this little cut-up scared the crap out of us last week. As you may or may not remember,Josh operates on about a 12 month level. He can't talk but we're working on other forms of communication and he's coming along well.

So it's last Friday afternoon, Nijal has gone for the weekend on respite, Preston is at a friends house for the evening, Hana and Isaac are at their Aunt Sandy's house taking advantage of their cable TV while Sandy and her husband are out of town, and Ben has just left for a last late night with his buddies before he goes back to college. Sheila and Josh are hanging out at the house while I walked down to the video store to get us something to watch for the evening. I come back in the house and it's quiet as a graveyard. No sounds anywhere. This is highly unusual for my home, since this only occurs between about 3 AM when the last kid is in bed, and 4 AM, when I get up to go to work.

So I come through the door and I hear NOTHING! The van's still in the driveway so I know Sheila didn't go anywhere, and when I last left the house, Josh was wandering around clapping to whatever music it is that he hears, and hollering to beat the band.

I holler out, "HELLO!", and quickly get the response that I hope for; Sheila from the basement laundry room saying, "I'm down here!"

"Where's Josh?" I ask since I don't hear him anywhere.

"He's upstairs," she answers and so I head upstairs to check on him, and to make sure no one left the bathroom door open for him to get into something he shouldn't. I hear nothing as I climb the stairs and I'm getting nervous. I'm hoping he just fell asleep. So I go into the boys room, glancing over to make sure the bathroom door is closed, and...where is he? Is that him under the covers on the bottom bunk? Nope. Not their. I glance at the top bunks, there being four beds in the room, and see nothing but wadded up covers. (We haven't had a "made" bed in our since my mother last came to visit three years ago.) No Josh. He must have gone into our room. So it's out the door, down the hall and...nope, not on our bed either. Hana's got her hook and eye latch set on her door so I know he's not in there, but I check anyway. No Josh. Now I'm getting even more nervous. I go back through the boys room, checking behind the beds, pulling them away from the wall, checking in the closets, kicking at the piles of dirty clothes (hey, they're are some big piles in there), looking under the beds. No Josh. Into our room again, behind the bed, in the closet, under the headboard, wherever. No Josh. Hana's room. The bathroom. No Josh.

I holler down to Sheila, "He's not up here!"


"Josh is not upstairs!"

"Sure he is. He's got to be somewhere up there," she says as she climbs the stairs. "I've been in the dining room up until right before you walked in the door. He can't have gotten outside without me seeing him."

"I'm telling you. He's not up here." I call Hana. "Do you guys have Josh over there with you for some reason?" I ask.

She answers, "No, he's at home."

"No he's not at home. That's why I'm asking if he's there with you. If he was at home I would know it and I wouldn't be calling you asking if he was over there, now would I?!" It was then I noticed the panic was setting in. One last place to look. I walk out the door, going to Preston's friend down the street. Maybe for some reason they've got Josh with them. Although I seriously doubt it, but I've got to check, right?

As I go out the door I hear Sheila on the phone with the police "He can't talk!". She's nearly in tears, but I can't stop. Time is a'wasting. I get to the friends house, and you guessed it. No Josh. I head back to the house with the friends mom starting out around the block to look for Josh. In the meantime, Sheila has called Hana, Ben after she got off with the police. Hana has already taken off in the van to drive around looking. I grab the pick-up and take off through the park. Josh loves the park. Surely he's there, swinging on a swing, oblivious to the panic he has instigated. As I circle through the park I begin to wonder if he's still wearing the black shirt I saw him in earlier. Josh seems to change clothes alot and maybe Sheila put a different colored shirt on him while I was gone. Should I look for a black shirt or what? I try to call her to ask and get no answer. I circle the veteran's memorial and head back to the house to ask.

As I get to the corner I see a crowd in our yard. And there, on the top step of the porch, in Ben's arms, is the happy, grinning, clapping, hollering Josh that we love so much. The driveway is blocked by the police car, so I pull straight up into the yard, crushing a Nerf gun under my truck tire (we've got too many of them anyway). I jump out and the first thing out of my mouth is exactly what you would expect. "Is the pizza here yet?"

No, just kidding. Seriously, I really did ask where they found him. Apparently it went like this. Mom got a hold of Ben and told him to turn around and head back and look for Josh as they were coming. They didn't see him, so the first thing Ben did when he got back to the house, surely thinking that Mom and Dad are not nearly as smart as they think they are, was go upstairs to look in all the same places that we had already looked. I mean, do I LOOK like an idiot!

He walks into the boys room and hollers, "JOSH!" and BOOM! There on the loft bed that Isaac sleeps in, grinning his grin, is our man Josh. He just threw the covers back and sat up, looking at Ben as if to say Look how high I am up here, and no one can see me!. We don't know how he did it, since he has never done it before, but somehow he climbed up in Isaac's loft bed, pulled the covers over himself completely and nodded off.

Sheila and I had both looked up there and never saw even the slightest indication that under that wad of a comforter could be a little boy. But there he was. The officer was very nice and took all his information, just in case Josh ever took off for real, said goodbye, and left us to hug and kiss our little prodigal boy.

It was as we stood there on the porch, hugging, kissing and crying, that we got the greatest news of the evening. The pizza girl drove up in the driveway. DINNER'S HERE!!

So that's the story of the day Josh almost, kinda sorta, but not quite ran away. Maybe next week I'll tell you about the pig I saw with a wooden leg.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I guess the easiest thing is to tell you that yes, I am still alive. Although there have been a few close calls. The one night I told my wife what I really thought of those jeans; man, I haven't moved that fast in years. But when there's a bronze bust of Stephen Hawking being hurled at one's head, one tends to choose the flight part of one's normal "fight or flight" response. (Can't fight the bronze Stephen Hawking. Along with Wolverine, he is , in a word, unbeatable.)

I guess it's time I quit kidding myself and actually do something about this sleep apnea garbage. I did a study a few years ago, found out I had it, had a heart attack when I got the bill, got my machine, used it for a few weeks, hated it, and put it in the closet, never to be seen again. Until a few months ago. I got it back out thinking I should be responsible and come to find out, my machine doesn't work anymore. It apparently got broke somehow in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives.

So I made another appointment. I really need a new study anyway since it's been so long. So next month I go in, get a bunch of wires glued to my head and try to sleep. Oh well, life goes on. At least that's the goal.

We are still doing the fostering thing, for now anyway, and I'm still driving back and forth to Chicago and St Louis. Nothings really changed there except that business has picked up a bit for our company. Always a good thing. Freight is getting a little easier to find for the return trip so that's a plus. And I was told by the powers that be that the next big purchase for our company is a 53 foot trailer for me to pull around. For the past 8 years I've been toting a 48 footer. It's easier to get into some of the tighter spots that I go to, but it's harder to find a backhaul if all you have is a 48 foot trailer. Most shippers are wanting a 53 footer at their door. Many loads have been lost due to the shorter trailer. Oh well. I don't know when the purchase will be made, and I guess that's up to the big wheels.

The kids have started back to school and Josh is still only going a partial day. AAAAAUUUGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! I had thought we had this all worked out. But it seems that the folks in the Galion school system, like the folks in the Galion city government, pretty much do what they want. But we see a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a time frame in place for him to be going all day and it's not too far off. The little guy needs it.

Still fighting with Ashland county over Preston's subsidy. We would not agree with their "automatic" reduction, so we filed with the state of Ohio for a Fair Hearing. We should be getting papers on that date soon. But Ashland county, apparently, has just decided that they are not sending anything until this is settled by the hearing officer. never mind that this action is illegal and that they have been informed it's illegal, and shown the applicable laws stating that it's ILLEGAL!!!! Another case of government doing as they please. I don't sound bitter, do I?

Be leaves for college again here in a couple weeks and Hana is taking a year off to work and save up some money. Isaac gave us a scare last month, don't know if I told you, but he wasn't taking care of his diabetes again. Not checking his sugars, had a bunch of Hi's over several days and went into the ER with Diabetic Ketoacidosis. A big word that says, "you're about to die". But we must take some of the blame for that since we were expecting a 12 year old to be a little more responsible than that. DOH! So we set some things in place. I have a chart that shows him I will be looking at his meter and checking his numbers nearly every day. We set alarms in his phone, my phone, and his mothers phone to go off at 7, noon, 4, and then 10, to check his sugar. Guidelines are written out explaining what to do for "High" readings. (Take a shot like right now!) He has to text me if his sugar is over 300 and take a shot. We ad some problems this weekend with his pump blocking up, but he apparently had a few set changes that kept getting bent or blocked when he inserted them in his abdomen. Got that all worked out yesterday afternoon and he's dripping fine now.

Preston's playing football and loving it. It's a busy schedule but for now the weather is nice enough that we can sit there and read or talk while he practices. It gets us out of the house.

And I treated myself to a membership at I loved listening to Books-on-tape years ago when I was driving in Texas, then went to CD's. But I've pretty much run through the library's selections. So I figured I've got the Ipod, I'll download them as Mp3's and listen to them on that. Much easier, nothing to tote around, and I can save them on my computer. I can even burn them onto a CD if I want. Just so much nicer. Yeah for me.

So that's it for now.

Hope you all are doing fine.

See ya later.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Back home, well, sort of

I'm back from Texas and I have made one decision. I am doing my own funeral.

I think what I'll do is get a video camera and once or twice a year video my own eulogy so that if I go during that year it'll be ready. I can then update it year to year. And I will probably not have an open casket. I really don't think I would have recognized Granddad if I had seen him on the street. He had lost quite a bit of weight in the last few months. But still, I was glad I went.

Hana was a big help with Preston and Preston was exceedingly well-behaved for a kid who spent about 5 days in the back of the car. Back seat, not the trunk. Although there was that one day in Arkansas when it was close. And the DVD player helped.

Granddad's viewing was Thursday night with the funeral service on Friday morning and then the graveside service Friday afternoon. His funeral service was held at the Pleasant Ridge Church of Christ in Arlington, Texas where he was a member for 64 years, and he was buried about an 45 minutes away in Boyd, Texas next to his first wife. His second wife already has a stone there on the other side of him just waiting for her time to come. All in all, it was an interesting time. A time to see family, to remember the history of our family and to see how things were many years ago. I'm glad I went. And my mother was very appreciative of all of her kids being there. It was hard but it was good. He was 96 years old and as one uncle said, he used his equipment up.

I took Preston mainly because he was unknown to most of my family. Since we adopted him in December of '07 my father is the only member of my family who had met Preston. But he is not the shy little boy he was a year ago. He did wonderfully. And I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all my family for taking him in with such open arms.

Thank you Thomas for buying him the cowboy hat and belt and making him feel like a real Texan. Thank you mom for taking him by the hand and introducing him to cousins I didn't even know as the "newest grandchild". Thank you Phil and Linda for letting him ride with you from Weatherford to Arlington and for introducing him to Whataburger. Thank you Maribeth for giving him some new movie suggestions for his ride home and for telling him the stories about what a brat his daddy was. Thank you Joel for sitting with him at the bar in Mesquite Pit so he didn't feel so alone and for not letting him hit on the bartender too hard. (She was cute though.) Thank you Terry and Tom for letting him burn the gas up in your "lawn tractor"(think riding mower) even though he wasn't actually cutting the grass, just driving all around the yard as fast as he dared. Thank you John for riding behind him on said "tractor" so he wouldn't run into the cars. Thank you Granny and Gramps for letting me drive your car to Texas in the first place. Thank you Tim for giving him an up close and personal encounter with a Brangus bull. Seriously, it was close.

There were many more good times, and the one thing I heard most often was "It's good to see you, considering the circumstances." I hope that when I go, my family will use that time they get together as a time to renew their relationships with one another. Pay tribute to me by getting closer to one another. What more can you ask for.

Anyway, it was a good trip. We came home at a slower rate than we went down and stopped in Nashville for a visit to the Opryland Hotel and Opry Mills Mall. Beautiful hotel. And if you see Yoni in the Opry Mills Mall selling Dead Sea Salt Exfoliatant, don't even glance at her. She will suck you in and it'll take 30 minutes to get away from her without buying an $80 jar of hand soap. And down by the Rainforest Cafe is a stand with about 20 different candy machines on it. Drop a quarter in the one that sells Tropical Fruit chic-let sized gum, turn the handle all the way around, and then start jiggling the handle back and forth. It'll keep dumping candy. You may be able to empty the machine for a quarter. But we ran out of pockets.

So we got home on Thursday and I went back to work on Friday so I would know how my truck was loaded. Got a call from Sheila Friday morning that Isaac was sick and she was taking him to the ER. Seems he's been lying to us again about checking his sugars and he was in ketoacidosis. Diabetics get this when they don't control their sugar and the ph level in the body goes toward acid too much. He was in pretty bad shape. So Sheila stayed with him in the hospital til he came home on Sunday about 1230 and I left for Chicago Sunday at 3. What a great weekend. (Note the sarcasm).

So I've been to Chicago and Waukesha, WI, got a load from Libertyville, IL that went to Avon, OH, and here I sit in Avon waiting to get over the receiver for my 930 am appointment. It's an easy load. Thirteen skids of foam that weigh about 1850 pounds total. After I unload I'll be headed to the shop and then home.

My friend Bob, who was my best man, is coming to the house tomorrow night as he and his son are traveling to Oklahoma where his son will attend college. Which makes me wonder. When you introduce someone as "he was my best man" is it necessary to say "best man in my wedding"? Wouldn't "best man" suffice? Where else would they be a "best man"?

Just wondering.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On our way

Well, Grandaddy passed away Monday evening and from what others were saying, he was ready to go.

So Hana and Preston and I are on our way to Texas. Should be there tomorrow evening. I was in Racine, WI when I got the news, but it wasn't that much of a shock by the. Mom had called earlier in the day as I was driving through Chicago that she had received word his blood pressure was dropping and he was non-responsive. So we knew that his time was very short. I was sitting in a Petro eating dinner when I got the call.

I knew I couldn't handle the Chicago traffic and didn't really want to at that point, so I went to bed there in Racine.I left there this morning about 6 and got home about 330. Sheila knew I was leaving pretty soon and so everyone was packed. So by 5 I was back on the road heading south. I knew I wouldn't make it all the way and with Hana and Preston both with me I probably would not be sleeping in the car. We made it another couple hundred miles for the day and I hung it up here in Florence, Kentucky. We've got about 950 miles to go tomorrow which shouldn't present to many problems.

The viewing is Thursday evening and then the funeral is Friday morning with the graveside service at 2pm. I really would like to thank you all for your prayers and good thoughts. We are doing okay so far.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

No news?

It seems that life is slipping away. Or running off at full speed, however you want to look at it. And I have had blogger friends emailing me asking if I'm still here. Thank you for that and yes, still here and kicking, much to my children's dismay.

We are still dealing with the county regarding Preston's adoption subsidy. What with the cutbacks and economic woes, the state is talking of lowering their portion across the board. Right now, my mind is somewhat fried on the whole issue and I just wish it would go away, but alas, it will not. So we write letters back and forth and a fair hearing will be filed for soon. The county just will not negotiate anymore and that's against the law. It's amazing how many cities and counties around here just decide what they are going to do without taking into consideration the legality of their actions.

The summer has been a constant source of material for blogging but has not allowed the time for it. We still have all the kids that we had a month ago (haven't figured out where to bury any bodies yet so they get a reprieve). We were trying to get Nijal into a day camp at the Y but the funding has not been approved. Maybe sometime in November they'll get back to us.

Work has picked up, and word is that we have landed a new account that could potentially produce 4000 bays and bows a year. That's 80 windows a week. Right now 80 windows is sometimes our whole week's production. This could be the boost we have been waiting for. But it's like the boss says. I'll believe it when the orders start coming in.

I had an extra run this week which is good cause the run at the beginning of the week was lousy short. I left Monday morning and went to Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Lafayette (Indiana, not Louisiana). I could have been home Monday night but it would have been a really long day. So I work in the plant on Wednesday. Come home from that and about 5 I get a call from one of the bosses. "Are you available to make a run for us tomorrow?" "Heck, yeah!" Anything to get me out of the factory. Then he tells me. Seems a truck backed into our dock on Tuesday from company A at a time when the truck from company B usually shows up. The truck was subsequently loaded with the wrong company's product and sent on their way. How nobody caught this before company A's truck got all the way home, I do not know. Company B showed up and hour or so later and were told that their truck had already come and gone. Needless to say, the boss was not a happy camper.

But I got to drive from Mansfield to Paducah, KY, to Youngstown, OH and then back to Mansfield. 1189 miles. Very nice run. Quiet, pretty, good weather, all that stuff. And no deer in my trailer. On here I will not discuss the logging of such a run. Just know that it was all done strictly above board and in accordance with DOT regulations. heh heh. The great thing is that Ohio raised the speed limit fro trucks from 55 to 65 on July 1st. And since my truck won't run faster than 66, I'm fine on the interstate. Lots less stress.

On a more personal note, my grandfather in Texas is not doing well at all. In fact I have given notice to my company that I may be needing to go to Texas for his funeral soon. This is my mothers' father, and he is 96 years old. From what I understand, his body is just shutting down. I could have that wrong but that's what I understand.

Grandad is a great guy and we were always excited about going to Texas to visit him and the rest of the family that was down there. He was a letter carrier for the postal service for 30 some years and has been retired more years than he worked for them. His first wife died when I was about 9 and then maybe six years later he got remarried to a sweet and wonderful lady named Jo. They have been together since then and she has really been a blessing to him. We are so grateful he found her. Without her, I doubt he would have lasted this long.

So I'm online the other night looking at bereavement prices to fly to Texas and I realize that with a good car I could drive for half the money. Down and back. 1200 miles, about 20 hours, one good loooong day or a day and a quarter. However you look at it. Plus, the family in Texas has never met Preston, who by the way turned 9 on July 3rd. So I am thinking I might ought to take him with me.

So I call him to the bedroom Tuesday night and we talk. You need to know, Preston's own grandfather died about 3 years ago and he seemed to take it pretty hard. So there are some concerns. Can he handle a funeral? Can he handle being in the car for that long, coming and going? Will he freeze up when all these people down there want to lavish love on him? So we talk.

"Preston, I got to tell you something."


"My grandfather is dying and it looks like I'm going to need to go to Texas soon. I'm going to be driving down and it's a very long time in the car. Do you think you would like to go with me?"


"You sure, you'd really like to go?"


"We will be in the car all day when we go down and then another day when we come back. Can you handle that?"

"I'll listen to your Ipod. It'll go fast. And we'll have fun."

"Yes, we'll have fun, but this will not be a pleasure trip. We will be going down to attend my grandfathers' funeral. We will visit with other family as well, but the main purpose is to honor Grandad and Jo. You okay with that?" I know that he will never really understand this whole thing but I'm trying to lay it out there for him.

And back comes his quick answer. "Sure."

So I try again. "I know that when your granddaddy died it was really hard on you. This might make you remember things and it might be a little hard again for you."

"Yeah, but when your grandaddy dies," he says, "it'll be hard on you. And I want to go with you."As if he wants to hold my hand to make sure that I'm okay.

It was then that he had to leave the room. I have a hard time with my little ones seeing me cry.

So that's where we stand right now. Waiting for a call and enjoying one another while we can.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Old song

It's an old song but a familiar one. Life has been busy around here. We've been to ball games, church, work, the store, and numerous other places over the last two weeks. Can I remember some highlights? I'll give it a shot.

The county where Preston is from wanted to "redetermine" his status and his need for an adoption subsidy under the Title IV-E program as a special needs child. I did a bunch of research and we were fairly prepared when we went in. After some discussion, I got them to finally admit that they did not want to pay their portion any longer and wanted to leave us with the federal and the state portion.

I told them, "The letter I received from you does not indicate your desire to reduce his subsidy or renegotiate. If that's what you want to do then we have to be notified of your intention to reduce his subsidy, your reason for doing so, the law that supports your reason, and the information needed for us to file for a fair hearing in the event we disagree with your decision. Which we already do."

This pretty much ended the meeting. I don't think she thought we would know what our rights were. Sheila and I went to dinner afterwards since we had not been able to celebrate our anniversary.

Preston had a game last weekend and hit a couple of good ones.

Work this week has been busy. I ran Chicago leaving Sunday night and got home early in the day on Tuesday since no one in Milwaukee ordered anything. We had a driver on vacation so I was covering his run on Thursday but I ended up leaving on Wednesday for Streetsboro, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. The Harrisburg drop was a remake and they needed it by Thursday and I wasn't sure I could have it there if I waited to leave Thursday morning. Plus I knew I wouldn't get enough sleep at home to get up early enough, so I left Wednesday about noon. Got the Streetsboro and one of the Pittsburgh drops off which left one Pittsburgh and the one Harrisburg drop for Thursday. I miscalculated though and didn't have enough hours to get all the way home on Thursday so I slept out about two hours away. All is good though.

Spent the last two hours driving in Friday morning and then loaded trucks the rest of the day. Other than that there's not a lot going on. Just trying to get the house together so we can move. There's one other thing but I'll put it in another blog.

Ya'll have fun.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


How on earth can I be bored? I've got a wife, six kids in the house, plus two nieces sleeping over, (one who is married but her husband is in Iraq) and a boatload of stuff to do.

But it's 8:47 on a Saturday morning and Preston is the only one awake besides me. I thought I heard Josh clapping upstairs but all is quiet now. I've been down to the corner for my coffee, none in the house, and I get online and find out ITunes has a new update. So I downloaded that. Now it's checking my library. Checking it for what? Overdue tunes?

My good friend Dawn, (AM, you'll get a kick out of this), yes, she's my lady carpenter friend, spent part of Thursday and Friday fixing the soffit on the front of my house. Seems the roof needs repainting, (tin roof) and water got behind the wood soffit and fascia and rotted it out. Wasn't a lot of wood or work, but it's way up there and I don't do ladders like I did in my younger days. She did a great job and it looks like the rest of the soffit, like there never was a repair.

We don't own this house but since we're moving in July, I wanted to get this taken care of before we left. Just seemed like the right thing to do.

I'm not sure what we're going to do today. Maybe go for a picnic, or walk around the mall. Who knows. But the weather is nice, finally, and I'm sure it'll be a wonderful day.

Ya'll have fun.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A day late, but much much richer

I should have blogged about this didn't happen. Travel, work, one thing or another. But I was the first one to make the call. I called her before she called me. So there!

I remember standing with some friends of mine in the sunshine on a bright June day and watching this gorgeous young woman walk across the grass towards me. My college roommate at the time, Bob Reece, commented on how beautiful she was. I could not disagree. She was all in white and had some lovely flowers in her hands. What they were, I can't remember, I was looking at her face.

My father stood behind me, waiting with the rest of us. All my family was there, including a grandfather who is now 96. Plus more friends than I ever thought I had.

And she certainly was gorgeous.

And she still is.

It's been 25 years since that day in June and though she deserved better than she got, I never deserved as much as I received. And I will always be thankful that she said yes when I said, "Will you marry me?".

She has been a wonderful wife and an unbelievable mother who will move heaven and earth for her children. I hope for 25 more years with her and the light that she brings to my life.

Happy Anniversary, Sheila. I love you.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I cannot imagine, nor do I want to.

We live in a small town. Around us are mostly small towns. Word travels fast when something terrible happens. I did not want to write this at first but you all have become friends. We share hurt with friends, right?

Late Saturday night a young lady went racing down the road with 5 little kids in the car with her, none of which were hers. Not a single seat belt was in use. She did not make it to her destination, whatever that was. Nor did any of the children. Four people are gone now, three of them being little children, and two are in critical condition. There are lots of rumors flying and lots and lots of people in more heart pain than they ever imagined possible. A few of these people I know personally.

My niece was working as the receptionist/intake person at the ER when the ambulances came in with these little ones. She had wanted to be a nurse. She's not so sure now. She cried for an hour after her shift was over.

I learned today that the little 8 year old who passed was a classmate of my son Preston. I asked Sheila how he was handling it. She said he was mostly angry. I'm sure he's wondering why.

I'm sure a lot of people are wondering why. I would be too.

If you pray, pray for these people. If you send good thoughts, send good thoughts for these people. Whatever you do, do it for these people who are asking why.

I just ask for peace.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Hey Josh, wait for us to open the box, will ya?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Back Again

I see that it's been a while, and as usual, we've been busy.

Josh is going to school from 9 til 12 now, not great, but for now the best we can hope for from our school system. They are hiring an aid to work with him one on one for next year. This is good. Josh has also decided he likes skateboards.

Ben came home last weekend for the Memorial Day weekend. Needless to say, his friends all came over as well. Then we had three nieces stayed with us for a few days, and one nephew came by to spend the night. At one point I turned to Sheila and said, "Do you realize there are 14 kids in this house right now?"

"Really?" was her only reply. She is way too calm sometimes. So I had to gather them all together for proof. Here it is.

There was no party planned or get together organized. These were just kids who decided to drop by. One of these guys was Preston's friend from across the street. His dad came by about 9 to get him and said that he was going to nominate us for that show Extreme Home Makeover. His words, if anyone deserves it, you guys do. I don't know about that. I'd settle for the same house with fewer people.

Preston's got a ball game today that we're getting ready to head out for. He's been struggling with batting recently but he got a good hit last time. We were happy, and so was he.

One of my customers in Lafayette, IN has moved. they said that it would be a lot easier to get in as their last lot was extremely tight and you had to get all the way over to the left by the fence to get turned around so you could back into the dock. This new place is much easier to turn around in although their new dock is tighter than anything I've seen so far.

If you don't get your trailer lined up exactly right you're going to rip a door off on the concrete walls.

Neither side gives you any room to play with.

But, as usual, I put my masterful skills to work and quickly had the old girl backed in to the tiny hole, to much applause and fanfare from the crowds that gathered to watch me and my skillful backing display. Next week, I have an appointment to meet with a therapist to discuss my humility. I hope he's as good as I am.

I met with an attorney yesterday to see if we could get his help when we go back for Preston's subsidy re-determination. No Help whatsoever. Seems I knew more about the law than he did, his words. That was not very comforting. So I guess we go to the meeting by ourselves and if things don't work out like we feel they should then we file for a Fair Hearing with the state department of Job and Family Services.

Our company had a driver on vacation last week and so the rest of us were covering his runs. As soon as I got back from Chicago, I climbed into our straight truck, which I HATE, that had already been loaded for a short day run to Toledo. I should have been home by about 2 or 3pm which would have given me plenty of time off between runs. But with the air valve blowing out on my dash I didn't get back to the shop til about 915. I wasn't tired so I figured it would be after 10 before I could fall asleep in the truck. If that happened I wouldn't hear the alarm and be ready to leave for Toledo by 3AM. So I figured, what the heck. Let's go to Toledo now. And off I went. Got there about midnight and figured if they didn't have anything for me to take back I would go ahead and yank of my stuff for them and head home. But alas, they had one garden window going back to our shop.

Thinking this might be the case, I had brought my pillows with me so I could curl up on the bench seat. Not very comfortable, but better than not having any pillows. And curl up I did. I awoke about 230 with another ripping headache and waited for that one to go away before laying back down again. At 340 another headache woke me up and this one was worse. I stepped out of the truck to try to walk it off. As it eased up, I headed back to the truck. For some reason I had climbed out on the passengers side, guess that's where I just sat up, and so I went back in that door since I had left it open as I walked around. I pulled the door shut but it wouldn't shut. It never gets used and the latch was pretty stiff. Guess it needs a good slam from the outside, I thought to myself.

So I stepped outside the truck and proceeded to slam the door shut. For some reason though, I reached up quickly as I slammed it and locked the door. BOOM!! Door is shut. AAAUUUUUGGGGHHHH!!!! Various words poured out of my mouth as I realized that I had locked myself out of my truck, with no extra key since it's not my usual truck, at 400 in the morning, in a dock with no one there.

My wallet, my phone, my watch, and my glasses were in the truck, laughing it up with the keys hanging from the ignition. I cursed them all for the selfish fools that they were. Luckily, I still had my shoes on, So I proceeded to walk around the truck trying to find a way in. The International company builds a truck that is very hard to break into without a hammer or a slim jim. Not the meaty snack, the long metal tool crooks use.

After trying to make my own slim jim out of metal banding straps from inside the plant, and unsuccessfully trying to jimmy the door open, I went inside, found a phone and phonebook and started calling lock-out services and towing companies. It's amazing how many people who advertise 24 hour service just don't want to get out of bed at 430 in the morning. I called more than a dozen people and found ONE person who would come to my aid. The damage, you ask? EIGHTY DOLLARS!!! Good thing I had the company credit card. Figured I'd put it on there and pay them back since it was my dumb mistake. But let's make sure this savior takes credit cards before we hang up, shall we? And the answer, Ladies and Gentlemen, is a resounding NO!! Cash only, he says. Who carries $80 in cash with them at 430 in the morning? I don't have $80 in cash, I tell him and he offers to drive me to an ATM. I tell him it wouldn't do him any good unless we went to the one he uses and got it out of his account.

"I have 28 bucks," I tell him.

"I can't come out there for 28 dollars. Sorry." And I hang up. Now we're pushing 5 am and two forklift drivers walk into the office where I'm making calls. I know these guys, and so I ask without any hope whatsoever, "Either one of you have a slim jim and know how to use it?"

"Sure," the big guy replies. "People around here are always locking their keys in their cars and I'm the guy they call. Be right back." And he toodles off to the tool room, grabs the company slim jim, goes to my truck and pops the lock, quick as you please. I am ecstatic! Enthusiastic! So relieved. So I finish up my work and pull up to shut the back doors. It's then that I realize that somewhere in the process of me jerking around inside the door with my sub-par slim jim I have pulled off the rod that connects the inside door handle to the latch. So now to open the door, you have to roll down the window and reach out for the outside handle.

It's also now that I remember how much my boss HATES working inside door panels and I resolve to myself that when I get back, I will fix this problem myself. Can't be too hard, right? A few screws gets the panel off, put the rod back where it belongs and put the panel back. No big deal. HA! This I found out on Thursday when I came back in. I just couldn't get it done on Wednesday since I was way out of energy and had had some fairly lousy sleep that night.

Seems the International people don't want you fixing their doors either without a blow torch to cut off the inside panel. But after an hour and a half, I was finally able to wiggle that little puppy back where it belonged. If I'd known what I was doing to begin with it might have only taken about 30 minutes. Maybe next time.

So that's about it. The weather has been great and this makes for much easier driving. I'm off to Chicago tomorrow afternoon and I think I'll take my time.

Ya'll have fun now, ya hear?