Monthly Archives: January 2012

A Lesson From Mom; “Don’t ask… don’t expect…”

Horehound candy; said to be Satan's favorite treat for children.

When I was ten the family had a routine. Dad worked on Sundays. Mom drove dad to work at 5:30 in the morning. I woke up at that time, wrapped my papers, and delivered them while Mom drove Dad to work. Mom came home and went back to bed for a while. I spent the morning visiting some other heathen children in the neighborhood who didn’t attend church and we’d hang-out for a while.

Sometime during the morning Mom made ham salad, a pie, or some other dish. We’d get in the car and drive out to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s. They lived nearly eight miles away. We got to their place before noon and ate with them.

Dad got off work at 2:18 PM in the afternoon. We normally left Grandma’s and Grandpa’s a little before 2:00 PM.

Mom liked to visit her folks. It was boring for me. There was nothing to do.

Every trip to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s I was given the same instructions, “Don’t ask for anything or expect anything.”

Grandma always had a dish of candy on the dinning room table. It was round and crystal with a lid. The candy was always white or pink mints. It was the only thing worth looking forward to. Take that away and you have nothing.

Oh how I loved those candy mints. Mom saw my frustration and rewarded my compliance by asking for me.

“Take one,” Grandpa would say.

One! To a boy, that’s telling a crackhead you can only have one hit. I think the old man knew what he was doing.

Mom said, “Take two; he can have mine.”

Grandma and Grandpa didn’t want to appear stingy (which they were) so they often hid the candy as if they had none. One time when we arrived a few minutes early I saw Grandma hide it in the buffet.

Mom would ask, “Don’t you have any of those mints?”

Grandma and Grandpa just came from the Church of the Brethren; how could they lie?

In time I began to notice that when the other grandchildren were there they had full and unfettered access to the candy.

In time Grandma and Grandpa sought another strategy. When Mom and I were the only ones coming they set out horehound candy. I don’t know how to describe its taste, but the first time I tried it, I spit it out. It’s like candy Listerine only it does nothing for your breath. Grandma and Grandpa found it amusing. This perhaps salvaged their conscience, “We give out all the candy our grandchildren desire.” When the other grandchildren were present the mints flowed like Doritos at a Super Bowl party.

I grew resentful of my cousins. I loved them, but felt they were better, more privileged, and more loved.

With each drive to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s I got the same firm instruction, “Don’t ask for anything or expect anything.”

One day Mom and I arrived. My uncle (Mom’s brother), aunt and two daughters were already there. My uncle wore a suit, he smelled like he just came from the barber, his shoes were shined, and looked quite dapper. My aunt wore a beautiful red outfit. Her hair was permed neat. Her perfume smelled sweet. Her lips were bright red with lipstick. She was elegant. My two cousins were in frilly dresses. They had small purses and cute little hats. They looked liked they just came from church. They were cute and adorable. Mom had slacks and a flannel shirt. I wore a pair of jeans with the knees worn through. I looked and felt like Slip Mahoney from Bowery Boys.

There is nothing like a down-on-the farm home cooked meal. Do I smell fresh apple pie?

Grandma was preparing a huge meal. I went out to the kitchen and offered to help set the table. She gave me chores; I set out the plates, the silverware, cups, glasses, napkins and so on. I thought it strange that Grandma didn’t give me a word of thanks or commendation. I was doing a pretty good job.

Finally I brought the food to the table. Everybody, but Grandma and I, was in the living room. The food smelled great.

I ask Grandma, “Are we ready to eat?”

She said, “Umm humm.”

I ran to the living room and called everybody. “It’s time to eat, dinner’s ready.”

I raced back to the dining room and found a chair. Mom came over to me and said, “We’re not eating. We’re not invited.”

Mom and I sat in the living room for a while as polite conversation and the clank and tinkle of silverware came from the dinning room into the living room accompanied by the odor of home cooking. Mom with hidden bitterness and embarrassment looked out the window. I craned my neck to see what was going on at the dinning room table.

After the meal Mom made a sandwich from left-over meat for me. She didn’t eat anything.

Over and over in my mind I recalled the embarrassment of calling everybody to eat and finding a seat only to be told that we weren’t invited.

Now I know why Mom said, “Don’t ask for anything or don’t expect anything.”

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Has The Time Arrived for a License to Kill? (Don’t have a hissy fit; I’m not serious.)

If you play a round of golf with the Pope you still can't lie. The Pope can lie and get away with it, cause he's infallible.

Some people only a mother can love. Everybody says something negative about that type of person. Maybe it is their personality or how they treat others.

There was a guy I worked with for a while at the shop. He had no friends. If you made a defective part he was the guy that ran to the foreman and made sure he knew (a snitch). He had probably been pulling this since grade school. When the teacher came back into the room he fingered every spit-baller.

Tom was his name and he played golf in the company league. I never played, but always looked at the scores. His best game ever was 90, but normally around a hundred.

One day we were talking about golf (I was trying to bond with something slimy). He told me he recently vacationed in Minnesota. He wanted to play a round of golf. Tom was actually a good story teller. He described certain features of the story to hold your attention. In this case it was a small out-of-the way course. It had a clubhouse the size of a diary stand and the whole operation was ran by one guy. He was the pro, head greens keeper, ran the club house, and restaurant (hot dogs only; which he complained about).

Tom culminated his story by saying he shot a 65; a course record. He said it like it took little effort. They wanted to take his picture and have a brief write-up in the local paper, but he didn’t have the time to stick around. Tom never liked to draw attention to himself (right).

I said, “Tom I don’t believe a word you just said; other than you played a round of golf and ate a hot dog.”

“Did I tell you I played the round with a priest and I was on a Catholic retreat?” Tom said. “I couldn’t lie about a thing like that.”

“Tom, is that supposed to make the story more believable. I don’t care if you played around with the Pope and Billy Graham was the caddy,” I said. “You’re lying to me. I would believe a hole-in-one.”

“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” Tom said. “I found some extra time and came back the next day and had a hole-in-one, but my game was a little off; I only had a 72.”

I shook my head. He punctuated his claims by cursing at me as he walked away.

A half hour later my foreman came up to me. He notified me that Tom filed a complaint that I was bothering him and preventing him from doing his job.

I remember saying, “If I only had a license to kill.” My foreman smiled and said, “You’d have to stand in line to take the examine.”

“I know who I’d be taking the test on,” I nodded toward Tom

“That’s why the lines so long,” The foreman said, “but I’ll give you number anyway.”

Some are born to be disliked and the reason for their existence is that it takes the pressure off the ones who are merely marginal.

Anyway here’s the shirt and here’s the link.

Fortunately there is an unending supply.

I'm not certain, but you may have to take a written exam first.

I know where there are a few test dummies.

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Repercussions: The Potbelly Stove of Rode Apple Junction

The potbelly stove at the Jittery Goat Cafe where a man's word is his bond and good stories are told because they have been lived by men of truth.

In the middle of the Jittery Goat Cafe sits a potbelly stove. There is a railing around it to keep kids away so they don’t burn themselves, but it’s used mainly to prop shoes and boots against. It’s a place where men gather on cold days to warm themselves and talk.

If some one in town makes a reference to ‘the stove’ they mean the potbelly stove at the Jittery Goat Cafe. It lends credence to every conversation. If someone was to say Jesse Burkheart said he’d sell his heifer for $197.75 it was true; true of Jesse and true of who spoke it.

Back in the 50’s Hersh Brewer and Midge Mueller came in on a brisk fall day. Neither one of them was dressed for it so they were cold. They sidled up to the stove and rubbed there hands briskly.

In those days the Jittery Goat Cafe was ran by Clem Pixler, the father of the current proprietor, Clay Pixler. Clem brought two cups of coffee and sat them on the railing.

Hersh sat on a chair and put his feet on the railing and wiggled his toes a little. “Not cold enough to really be cold, but I should have worn heavier socks.”

“Before ya know it we’ll be drippin’ sweat,” Midge responded as he took a seat and leaned forward to get closer to the stove.

“I don’t sweat much,” Hersh said.

Midge chuckled. “Kinda like a pig.”

Hersh smiled. “That’s a good one, Midge. Speakin’ of pigs; I’m gonna hafta start takin’ some pigs ta market and my trailer broke down. I cut a corner too quick a month ago comin’ out of my drive and ended up in the ditch; busted the axle.”

“Can’t ya get somebody to fix it,” Midge said.

“It cost more to fix than replace the whole trailer,” Hersh said as he tasted the coffee and looked at it as if it weren’t coffee.

“Well than why don’t ya just buy a new one?” Midge said taking notice of Hersh’s seeming resistance to the coffee and looking at his cup with suspicion.

“Nah,” Hersh said. “Ya buy a new somethin’ around here and people think ya come into some money. They start over chargin’ ya at the John Deere dealership, ya pay the advertised price for tires, Clay will stop given the first warmer on yer coffee free. Stuff like that has repercussions.” Then he added after a sip of coffee, “Your coffee okay?”

“I got a used one I’ll see ya,” Midge said and sipped his coffee. “Tastes fine to me.”

“What ya askin’ for it?” Hersh said.

“Oh I’ll let it go for $75,” Midge said.

“$75!” Hersh said. “I can by a new one for $99.95.”

“Yeah, but remember the repercussions,” Midge said. He stroked his chin. “I was a noticin’ yer tires look a little worn; they should be replaced before winter. Ya don’t want to pay top dollar for them do ya? And how ya fixed for snow tires?”

“How ’bout $65?” Hersh said.

“$70,” Midge said.

“Deal,” Hersh said. He shook his head and frowned. “Should have never told you about repercussions.”

They agreed to exchange the money for the trailer a week from then in front of the Rode Apple Junction Grain and Feed store.

(See what happens next week.)

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Creating The Best Pizza: The Final Frontier; The Toppings

 

Not everybody should be in the pizza business, but everybody is. Good pizza is hard to find.

Some Pizzas Are Nothing More Than Garbage

The final stage of the pizza preparation is the topping. Many judge a pizza on the amount of toppings; more is better. (Those are the ones who know which day of the week each pizza joint has its all-you-can-eat-buffet and plan their week accordingly.) When people praise a pizza as good they will often say, “Did you see all the toppings?” “I like the pizza at so and so’s because they have a lot of toppings.” That’s like saying, “I don’t like the color of blue, but because blue is on sale at Home Depot; I’ll paint my house blue.” Those type of people should be condemned to shovel coal fires for pizza ovens for all eternity. (Just had an idea; Dante’s Inferno Pizza Palace – Bread Styx free!)

I hope this does not ruin pizza for anyone (I really don’t care), but when I see a mound of toppings for the sake of mounds of topping, I see garbage, I taste garbage, and without question it smells like garbage – because it is garbage! Now, do you want to know how I really feel?

A lot does not translate to better except for the heifers down at the all-you-can-eat buffets

So when it comes to getting into all those exotic variations like a California or Hawaiian Pizza (Get real California and isn’t Hawaii like Puerto Rico?), I’m not going there. I’m talking the basic pizza.

The Vegetables

Let’s start with two basic vegetables; peppers and onions. They should be finely chopped (not minced) about half to a quarter the size of a Skiddle (ask your kid). Sauté them. What is meant by sauté is slightly browned, but not cooked all the way. This is done very quick and in a hot pan (Toss in a pan sizzle, count to five, stir or toss, count to five, done). To insure this is done correctly do no more than a hand full of onions and peppers at a time. You don’t want them in a heap, but a thin layer only on the grill or pan. If you decide on mushrooms, they can be added to the vegetables, but they are best when sliced. If chopped the flavor is hard to taste. Slice them about the thickness of a quarter (I don’t know what to use if you’re in Canada. Slip across the border and get a quarter).

Of course you are thinking of other vegetables; that’s okay. You may have some you like, but this is a basic pizza.

I’m going to get a little freaky on you. Fresh sliced tomatoes are very good as a topping. I know what you thinking; what’s freaky about that? Here comes the freaky part; sliced green tomatoes. I know, I know; I’m such a traditionalist and I throw in some sweet-home-Alabama, Mississippi backwater, West-by-god-Virginia, country Mama stuff on you. Tomatoes are green before red, even in Italy. Here’s the deal; slice them and grill a slight crust on them and add as a topping. “Eeeeee dawgies, dat dar sure is some good pizza pie with dem dar green maters on it!”

The Meat

Next the meat. Hamburger will not be discussed. In spite of what you have heard or come to believe it is not a topping. It’s, it’s, I don’t want to say what it is. Pepperoni and Italian sausage only: If you don’t use these we’re pulling your ‘green card’ and sending you back to Cuba or Estonia; even if you didn’t come from there.

When is the last time you had a pepperoni pizza that you could actually taste the pepperoni? Yeah, really, it does have a taste. It’s not like those confession wafers that melt on your tongue. Buy pepperoni whole and slice it yourself. Stack two nickels; that’s how thick you want the pepperoni.

An hour after you eat a pizza I want you farting pepperoni farts that would make any Italian Papa proud and bring tears to an Italian Mama’s eyes.

This is what happens to people who put hamburger instead of Italian sausage or pepperoni on pizza. Yes, it's harsh, but it's a lesson that has to be learned.

Get your favorite Italian sausage and fry it in a hot pan or grill. Don’t slow cook it. Get the meat cooked as quickly as possible without burning. If you slow cook it the meat merely boils in its own moisture and the flavor is lost. I heard one guy get kicked out of the mafia for not cooking the sausage right. (You don’t get kicked out.) It’s kind of nice when the sausage has little crest on it from cooking.

The Cheese

There are only two kinds of cheese that should be placed on a pizza; mozzarella or provolone. If somebody wants cheddar or American excuse yourself and go to the bathroom; that’s where the gun is hidden.

My preference is provolone. No matter; use only those two. You can shred it, but it’s better sliced.

Arrange it this way; sauce (last week), vegetables, cheese, meat. Here’s a secret I’ve held on to; after the cheese sprinkle some oregano and parsley. Set the oven at 425. When the bottom of the crest is golden brown you’re good to go.

If you follow closely everything I have mentioned from the crust, to the sauce, to the toppings you won’t be having pizza; it will be PIZZA! You’ll go back to a time when pizza was pizza.

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Mom Was Accused of Cheating

Mom worked for department stores like W. T. Grant.

Mom was always honest in her dealings with her employers. She worked hard and always did more than what was required.

She worked at W. T. Grant in the Northland Plaza in Lima, Ohio during the early 60’s. She had such a good reputation that Well’s Discount Department Store offered her a job for more money. After a year, she was offered a job at a Haag’s Drug Store in the same shopping plaza for more money yet. She took the job.

She really liked working there. She liked working with the public. She worked with two other women and they all got along so well.

Mom worked behind the front counter. That’s where the cameras, film, photo developing, records, cigarettes, candy, and gum were. She really immersed herself into the job. She learned all she could about cameras and taking pictures. She kept up on latest music trends so she could display the 45’s and albums better.

In time she was given more responsibility. She ran the store for the manager, because she knew it better. It was not unusual for her to get a call at home from the the store manager asking her about something.

There was even talk of here managing a store in another city, but she declined. It was out of the question; we owned a farm, Dad worked and I was in school. Her roots were planted too deep.

One day Mom came home about three hours early. She was quiet. When I asked her what was wrong she insisted nothing. She sniffled and I heard her cry ever so slightly.

“Mom,” I said. “What’s wrong?”

“I got fired,” she said.

“What!” I said. “What happened?”

“Right after lunch they called me back to the office,” she said. “There was Pete (the manager) a man from the home office and some other man. They said I had been stealing from the cash drawer.”

Mom held her head and wiped her tears. “Just before I went to lunch a woman comes up to the counter and asked to see a camera. I was showing it to her. Another guy comes up and asked for a pack of cigarettes and then another guy comes up and ask change for a twenty. I really got confused. I stepped back and said, ‘Okay, one at a time here.’ I took care of everybody. The woman decided she didn’t want the camera. She left and I went to lunch.”

“That’s it!” I said.

Taking from an employer's cash drawer was never on my Mom's mind or in her heart.

“When they set me down in the office they told me they had been missing money from the cash drawers for some time. The three people that came in were hired to investigate. They came in to confuse me and make sure I was tempted into not giving the right change. In the exchange they gave me ten dollars too much. The ten dollars was not in the cash drawer. I told them I didn’t have the ten dollars and showed them my purse. The didn’t want to look at it. They said I could have done anything with it.”

Mom was heart broken. I remember her sobbing, “I was fired as a thief. I didn’t cheat my employer.”

Mom got a lawyer.

The lawyer talked to one of Mom’s workmates. She told the lawyer she heard Mom got fired, but didn’t know why. During the course of the conversation the woman revealed she recently had a lucky day; she found a ten dollar bill that was lodged between the cash register and the counter. The manger said: “Keep it, but don’t tell the other gals. It’s between me and you.”

A week later the store manager called and offered Mom her old job with a raise. He was apologetic and said a terrible mistake had been made. Mom told them to take the job and shove it!

Mom eventually got some “hush money” from her old employer. After she paid the lawyer it amounted to about a month’s pay, but most important to her she got her reputation and dignity restored.

Recently, I asked Mom about that event. She said, “Sonny boy, some things aren’t worth remembering; Those b*****ds.”

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Requiem for Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno, quarterback at Brown 1949, a year before he took an assistants position at Penn State.

At one time no one said anything bad about Joe Paterno.

Within the last few months people could find little good to say about him.

With Joe Paterno dead all his supporters can now come out of the woodwork. Allow me to rephrase that; With Joe Paterno dead all his supporters can now be covered by the sports intelligentsia media.

The Child Abuse Scandal

The “stink” in this entire situation surrounding Penn State for the last three months is, was, and always will be on Jerry Sandusky, the Penn State administration, and the media . This story brewed and stewed for nearly a decade. The media and sports intelligentsia have all but ignored it until it became clear it could sell advertising time.

It was time to break the story; Paterno was near the end of his coaching days.

Believe this; if Penn State was in the running for a national championship this year it would have been buried deeper than Cam Newton’s college transcript and police report from Florida.

The geneses of this story starts when Paterno was past his mid-seventies in 2003. Some have suggested a man who ran an entire football program should have had the ability to report the incident (which he did); okay, he should have followed up. Suppose he did follow-up; what then if nothing was done? Go to the police; what then if nothing was done? Go to the media; (Now we’re talkin’ – sarcasm) what then if nothing was done? I got it! Take a gun and go kill Jerry Sandusky (more sarcasm). Anything short of going to the media and shooting Sandusky was not good enough (sarcasm).

Joe’s World

Paterno lived in a world of college football for all his life. It’s like a research scientists at a university; he’s consumed by his research, he hears about a professor becoming overly familiar with a student. He reports it and gets back to his research.

Paterno didn’t live in a sheltered academic environment. He lived in a world the academics disdain.

I don’t know exactly how many people were under Paterno; a dozen or so coaches, trainers, managers, recruiters, various advisors, secretaries, and at least one hundred or so immature young men. He was presumably responsible for all their conduct?

Paterno was raised in a time when bad things happened to kids you shake it off and go on. In his day there were no guidance counselors, school physiologists, trauma interventionists, abuse hot-lines, sensationalism obsessed media, publicists, sniveling hand-wringers, political and social liberal sports media, Dr. Drew, Dr, Oz, Dr. Phil or Dr. Feel-goods. You repressed things and moved on. You didn’t whine, complain, or make excuses. You didn’t point fingers, cast doubt, or blame. Not that those things are all bad or good, but that’s the way things were.

WWJD (What Would Joe Do)

I listened to the media excoriate Paterno’s statement on the abuse case as being out of touch and unfeeling. Anyone with a discerning eye, an understanding brain, and a compassionate heart need not know that Paterno was then dying and just a very old man. Shame on all those who rebuffed his words.

Those words did not go first through a media research committee before being read. They were the words from the heart of a confused old man. Until the media parsed them to death they were full of compassion and honesty.

Sports is often used as a metaphor for life. When you lose a game, you congratulate your opponent, correct the mistakes made, hold no grudges, and get ready for the next game.

There is a quality that should shine in all; we should not judge quickly or harshly (let‘s look at the game film first). There is none without defect or sin (sure you missed the final tackle, but there were a whole lot missed before yours).

There will be those who will now eat their words. If done for the right reason than they should not be judged because they judged quickly or harshly – they just made a mistake and welcomed back into the fold.

I don’t think you’ll hear “grudge” and “Joe Paterno” in the same breath. That’s the lesson.

(Link to another article.)

Joe Paterno, 2011, either holding the gate open or closing it: either way, the gatekeeper since 1966.

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A Homecoming from Afghanistan in Rode Apple Junction (Part 4) – Surprise Military Homecomings – Enough Already!

Sometimes all a soldier wants when returning home is some privacy and corned beef hash with eggs.

Meanwhile down at the Jittery Goat Cafe; (Continued from last week.)

Zach Saterfield sat at the counter in the Jittery Goat Cafe.

Clem slid a plate of corned beef hash covered with two eggs over easy in front of him.

“Ya know how long I’ve wanted some of your corned beef hash?” Zach said shoving a fork full in his mouth.

Clem was about to answer, but Zach said, “Fifteen months.”

“Has it been that long?” Clem said.

“Three months in New Mexico and a year in Afghanistan,” Zach said.

“It’s sure good to see you home,” Clem said. “I bet that little girl of yours is glad too.”

Zach swallowed. “They don’t come sweeter or more precious.”

“Why aren’t you down at the school now,” Clem said. “Everybody was all hush, hush about the big surprise homecoming; they were going to tape it and show it on the evening news. They didn’t want Darla to find out; you know one of those big surprise coming home things you see all the time on TV.”

“My wife, Darla, her folks, and my folks met at the airport last night.”

“Were the cameras on hand?” Clem said.

“No,” Zach protested. “I ain’t no reality star. There are things that should only be shared with the people you love. The whole world doesn’t have to see ’em. When something like that happens a person feels like he has to play to the camera or else everybody will be disappointed. It’s like everybody has to out do everybody else; whose got the most tears, the biggest smile, the most surprised look. It’s become a competitive sport. Something like that shouldn’t be overdone or underdone. A TV news crew takes that away.”

There's nothing like an intimate poignant homecoming at center ice with 10,000 hockey fans watching.

“It sure would have been nice to be there and see it,” Clem said.

“Clem, you’ve been a friend of the family before I was born,” Zach said. “But I mean this with no disrespect; it was our moment and not yours and especially not the entire viewing audience.

“No offense takin’, Zach,” Clem said. “I know what you mean. It’s for family.”

“I didn’t join the Army to be treated special,” Zach said. “I joined because there weren’t any jobs. To me the only noble thing I did was provide for my family. That patriotic stuff about ‘fightin’ for your freedoms’ is political talk. We all know better; it’s about oil and the oil-producing region. If it were the Aborigines in Australia causing problems we would have gone over captured a few, killed a few, and converted a few. That is unless we all had an appetite for Kangaroo meat. Then we’d have to make the region democratic for the good of the Kangoroo consuming public.”

Clem shook his head, drew another coffee from the urn and said, “Zach, for years people have been thinking they been eating corned beef hash, but several years ago this guy form Australia comes through and…”

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