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 Audible.com. 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.