Monthly Archives: April 2012

A Place Called Serenity – Doc and Chuck (Part 4, The Final Part)

A place called Serenity is just beyond the trees and the tracks.

Day after day Spasher gained more courage under the tutelage of Herkimor in the fine art of chasing trains and keeping them away from the territory. Before long they both chased the trains with equal ability and fervor.

One bright day – a beautiful day, a day of sunshine and trees bending to and fro at the mastery of the wind. The train came, the dogs gave chase, but did not return.

Dickie was torn between looking for the dogs and his duty to warn the kids of Chuck’s return. He walked down the tracks and saw the lifeless body of Splasher.

Tears and grief were uncontrollable as Dickie fell to his knees between the tracks. He nudged Splasher and the only motion was that initiated by his urging. He had only heard about death now he felt its thrust. He wept and sobbed. He could not move. He didn’t want to move. He thought his presence would somehow bring him back to life. A flood a memories rushed in on him; running, wrestling, jumping, petting, and chasing – all the things a boy does with his dog.

“Why Herkimor!” Dickie cried. “Why did you have to chase trains and teach Splasher.”

A shadow fell over Dickie. He turned and blocking the sun Chuck stood over him. Dickie jerked and fear gripped him. Chuck had a weather-beaten plank at his side. It looked as if it was something that fell from a train years earlier.

Chuck walked down the side of the railroad bed. He scraped a grave with the plank. Chuck picked up Spasher’s body and gently laid it in the small grave.

“You want to help?” Chuck said as he used his hands to shove the dirt over the grave.

Dickie helped Chuck. When all the dirt was on the grave Chuck patted the grave to firm the dirt.

Dickie cried again and Chuck gently placed his hand on Dickie’s shoulder.

Herkimor could not be found. Dickie’s Mom and Dad said that he must be someplace grieving.

The next day the four o’clock passenger train whizzed by without the presence of Herkimor.

Dickie walked the short distance to where a creek runs close to the tracks. He spotted a clearing in the weeds and walked to the grave. On the grave was Herkimor. Dickie edged closer. Herkimor did not move. Dickie called his name. Herkimor did not move. Dickie nudged him. Herkimor was stiff. He was dead.

Chuck came a few minutes later and next to Splasher they buried Herkimor.

Dickie and Chuck walked up to the tracks and headed back to Serenity. As they got close Chuck said, “You better run and tell the kids I’m coming.”

“You’re nice,” Dickie said.

Chuck smiled. “If you don’t run I’ll eat you up.”

Dickie smiled. He ran ahead and warned the other kids Chuck was on his way.

A few years later it was reported Doc died and there was no one to care for Chuck. It was said he was put into an institution, because he couldn’t care for himself.

Doc and Chuck are a distant memory. A memory of family devotion under trying circumstances.

Serenity was a place of endless Summers, tall trees, creeks, railroads, people, bare foot kids, and dogs.

In a small clearing next to the tracks where a creek runs gentle, and quiet the sun shines, the trees sway. There are two graves with two dogs who once romped and played and chased trains – Herkimor and Splasher.

And someplace; Dickie doesn’t know where, but only in his imagination are the graves of two men, Chuck and Doc who may only be remembered by him, nonetheless they form a part of his past and are remembered with compassion and the dignity that escaped them in life.


Filed under My People My Stories

Recipe For Country Boy Jambalaya

Country Boy Jambalaya; "Country boys likes dem taters."

A post featuring the Hank Williams’ song Jambalayaa few weeks ago made me think of Jambalaya – dah!

It is a Cajun dish that is better the second and third warm-up. There’s nothing tricky about it. Everything about it is simple and made with stuff you don’t have to go to one of those snooty gourmet stores to get.

Here’s a little twist for those meat and potato country boys; it’s what I call Country Boy Jambalaya.

First of all make up a mixture of Cajun seasoning to be used anytime.

1 cup of salt

¾ cup of cayenne

¼ cup of chili powder

¼ of paprika

¼ cup of black pepper

¼ cup of onion salt

¼ cup of garlic powder

¼ cup of thyme

This can be kept in a tight container and used anytime. Back to the jambalaya:

Cut a pound of smoked sausage into ½ inch lengths and have a pound of cleaned shrimp ready. Melt two table spoons of butter in a fry pan and toss the sausage and shrimp into the hot pan of melted butter. Sprinkle with Cajun seasoning. Cook until shrimp turn pink. It doesn’t take long.

Remove the sausage and shrimp into a bowl and set it aside.

Cut one medium onion into slices.

Cut two green bell peppers into slices.

Chop one cup of celery.

Add another two table spoons of butter to the fry pan, sprinkle with Cajun seasoning, and sauté the vegetable.

Remove the vegetables from the fry pan and add them to the bowl of sausage and shrimp.

Par boil four cups of ¼ inch cubed potatoes. You may want to melt a little more butter. Sprinkle with Cajun seasoning and finish cooking the potatoes in the fry pan so that they have a little crust.

Add all the ingredients into a large pan. Add a 14.5 ounce can of crushed tomatoes and add one small can of tomato paste. Heat them all together. Taste and add more Cajun seasoning to your liking.

That’s what I call Country Boy Jambalaya.


Filed under Cookin'

The Best Beer – Jingle

Pabst Blue Ribbon had one of the best jingles ever.

There is something about commercial jingles. I don’t know whether it is the repetition of the melody, the annoyance, or if they are really good, but they stick with you; like dog crap on the bottom of your shoe from a walk in the park.

I suppose that’s the idea; when you have an urge for something to eat the first thing that comes to mind is a catchy jingle about a restaurant that has bad food, but a catchy jingle.

The fifties were rife with catchy, annoying, and simple commercial TV jingles.

My sisters and I rode together on the bus when I was in the first grade. They were fourteen and sixteen; the perfect age for a bratty younger brother to embarrass them.

Being somewhat influenced by the ambiance of Dad’s bar and the television programming, I used to sing the commercial jingles while riding home on the bus. The one that embarrassed my sisters the most was the Pabst Blue Ribbon beer commercial.

The really brilliant part of the jingle is it trains you to respond in a way that your first impulse is to complete the phrase, “What’ll you have?” Of course you are supposed to say Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Even to this day if somebody ask ’what’ll you have?’ Pabst Blue Ribbon beer is on the tip of my tongue.

Here is the commercial and the jingle as a music memory.


Filed under My Music

It Takes A Village To Support An Idiot

People will pay to see this. So whose the idiots?

“It takes a village to raise a child.” It sounds wise, perceptive, and insightful. The phrase has often been hijacked by political hacks for their own political agenda. Some believe it promotes a social agenda to allow government to have a greater role and influence in raising children. As for me; I’m not sure. I tend to think that most who espouse the phrase are well-intentioned and sincere.

My father and mother were likely socialists. They saw the government as the ultimate arbiter and problem solver. When confronted with a problem they often said, “The government oughta step in and do something.” When the government stepped in and did something they spouted-off like free-spirited radical libertarians; “They’re taking our freedoms!”

The way I look at it the socialism/village political philosophy is just a way not only to spread the responsibility, but also to spread the blame.

If a village has to take charge of raising a child, I suppose they must also assume responsibilities for the idiots that they foster.

Just one idiot takes up a lot of time. It takes an entire village to support an idiot. If you have a big enough village you can have two idiots (Mayor and city manager; I‘m just kidding.).

The thing I’ve always wondered about is what if you have an entire village of idiots? Some villages have that Deliverance ambiance to it; you know, you’re the only one holding a guitar in a banjo world while Grandpappy dances a jig in the driveway.

So if an idiot can get a village to support him and raise his kids too; whose the idiot?

When you stop and really think about it, aren’t entertainers really the village idiots. They’re not to be taken serious. Watch them closely. They all do stupid and bizarre things; not only in public, but also in private. Sometimes it’s called comedic genius.

This is the extent of my knowledge of social studies, civics, behavior science, and social engineering.

What I have thus concluded is that every actor, singer, comedian, entertainer, etc is nothing more than the village idiot. Think about it! They really aren’t normal. They will do anything for the amusement of others and to draw attention to themselves.

For those who wish to espouse this philosophy, here’s something you can buy to spread it.

Proceeds will go to support an idiot in a village somewhere.


Filed under Essays

Mom And I Talk About Death And Bikinis

After much thought this is where Mom decided to have her remains stored.

It was on that drive in the late 80’s from Houston that Mom said out of the blue, “I want to be cremated.”

We had just attended her younger brother’s funeral.

“That’s fine, Mom,” I said.

“But your sisters won’t let that happen,” Mom said.

“If it’s a part of your will and you make arrangement with the funeral home before hand there is hardly anything they can do about it,” I said. “And you have expressed your wishes to me.”

We drove on for a while and nothing was said.

“Is death something you would like to talk about?” I said.

“I just think when your dead that’s it,” Mom said.

“What makes you think that way?” I said.

“It’s just logical,” Mom said. “Heaven ain’t no place for me. I wouldn’t know what to do once I got there. Don‘t get me wrong, I believe in God, but I just think when you die that‘s it! And besides if your spirit or soul goes to heaven what makes the difference whether the body is kept someplace or not, so you might as well burn it. That way ya don‘t take up so much space. That may put a gravedigger out of work for a day, but he needs the time with his family anyway.”

“Well it’s nice of you to think of the gravedigger when it comes to your death,” I said.

Mom laughed. “I’m always looking out for the other guy.”

We drove on.

“Mom do you remember the scripture that starts ’the meek shall inherit the…’”

“’The earth.’” Mom said.

“Yes,“ I said. “If you could live on the earth forever, you know, ’inherit’ the earth, what would you like to do?”

“But I don’t want to live forever,” Mom said.

“Than when do you want to die?” I said.

“I’d just like to travel and see everything,” She smiled. “I guess nobody wants to die.”

“The Bible says that God has put the desire not to die in our hearts,” I said. “And so that we don’t have a life without hope he’s given the hope of inheriting the earth.”

“Seeing the Grand Canyon makes more sense than playing a harp on a cloud,” Mom said.

There was a couple of miles of silence.

“What would you like done with your ashes?” I said.

“Just don’t put me in a jar and on a mantle someplace,” Mom said. “I don’t like people staring at me.”

Mom has outlived a husband, another male companion of twenty years, and her daughters. At the death of her daughter and my sister in December of 2010 she denied any such conversation took place and appeared indignant that such a thing would be suggested.

I smiled at her and said, “Listen here you old battle-ax, when you’re dead, I’m having you cremated and stuffed in a glass jar. You’ll be naked and everybody will be staring at you. There! Thank about that for awhile.”

“Could you paint one of those little bikinis on the jar?” Mom said. “It’s what they don’t see that drives men crazy.”


Filed under Mom

A Place Called Serenity; Doc and Chuck (Part 3)

This was like the passenger train that roared past Serenity. For its time it was quite futuristic.

Around four o’clock each day Herkimor became restless. He eventually wandered close to the railroad tracks and awaited the thunderous passenger locomotive.

By the time the train reached Serenity it was at full throttle. The sound was deafening. It rattled the house and was frightening.

Dogs are protectors and territorial. That old B & O steam locomotive was a threat and invading Herkimor’s territory. Each day he barked and chased alongside the train. Splasher watched as if taking note of the finer points of train chasing and territorial intrusion.

Splasher followed Herkimor around all day. It was a student and pupil relationship.

After the train passed each day Chuck emerged from the trees on the other side of the tracks. Dickie gave warning, the kids hid, and Herkimor and Splasher greeted Chuck like a welcomed uncle.

“Run Splasher. Run Herkimor,” Dickie pleaded. “He’ll eat you alive. He eats babies.”

Herkimor and Splasher gave no heed.

“You better not touch my dogs!” Dickie said.

Chuck looked sadly at Dickie and continued his walk on the path that led to his and Doc’s cabin.

Each day the kids edged closer to Chuck, demonstrating less and less fear. Dickie wanted to be the bravest, eventually running up within a few yards and scampering away.

Chuck never said anything or did anything. He just walked on as if no one was there.

One day Dickie told the other kids he was going to toss a brick at Chuck as he passed. “That will really scare him.”

The next day shortly after Herkimor and Splasher chased the four o’clock train from Serenity Chuck emerged through the trees. He passed over the tracks. The taunting began as he stepped onto a lane that led by the dwellings in Serenity. The kids ran and hid except for Dickie. He stood poised with the brick.

He was a distance from Chuck. He knew that his strength would not propel the brick anywhere near Chuck, but he had to prove he was brave enough to do it.

Holding it high over his head he thrust it at Chuck as he passed. Rather than hitting with a thud as he expected, it rolled. It rolled until it hit Chuck’s foot.

Dickie ran and hid behind a tree.

Chuck bent down, rubbed his ankle, and hobbled on.

Doc reported the incident to Dickie’s parents. He was scolded and warned to not bother Chuck.

Some thought Dickie was brave while others viewed him as insensitive and impudent.

By the time the day was over Dickie was either a hero or a villain.

Chuck continued limping.

Dickie feared reprisal, because reprisal was the code of conduct in Serenity. It was a way of living. It governed all behavior. It was encouraged and revered.

Dickie did not sleep well at nights. He went to bed with a certain expectation Chuck would eventually seek justice.

About a mile south of Cridersville, Ohio on State Route 25 is an overpass. The route traverses a railroad and a creek, but if you follow the gravel lane on the right it takes you to Serenity. This link allows you to see it by Google Street View.

(Continued next week.)


Filed under My People My Stories

How Radio History Was Made In Rode Apple Junction

(Continued from last week.) 

A Saturday afternoon at Pete's Gas and Gulp in Rode Apple Junction.

It was close to seven o’clock when Pete and Vic got to The Jittery Goat. Pete ordered the Saturday meat loaf special and Vic ordered the Manhattan roast beef.

“Something happened today,” Pete said. “Did you feel it?”

“Yeah,” Vic said. “I’ve never felt quite that way before.”

“We were doing good,” Pete said.

“You mean Margie Randell,” Vic said.

“Sure,” Pete said. “But there was a whole lot more going on. Margie was the most important, but something happened. You felt it, I felt it, and everybody else had to feel it too.”

“Do ya think?” Vic said.

Clay brought the meals an slid them in front of Pete and Vic. “Enjoy your meal.”

“Hey, Clay!” Pete said. “Did you feel it today.”

“Sure, I felt it,” Clay said. “What was I supposed to feel?”

“The remote broadcast,” Pete said. “There was something special.”

Clay brought the carafe to refill Pete’s and Vic’s cups. “People helping people,” Clay said smiling and pouring the coffee.

“No, it’s not business,” Pete said and looked across the table at Vic. “Why did you get into the radio business anyway?”

Vic sipped his coffee. “Join us Clay.”

Clay sat next to Vic.

“I just wanted to tell people things,” Vic said. “I would have worked for nothing. In fact, I almost did. I got a job in Cleveland after I‘d been in the business a few years. I was nearly at the top. I could taste it.”

“How did you end up here?” Clay said. “This ain’t exactly the top.”

“All the sudden it became impersonal,” Vic said. “Every decision was made in New York, LA, or Atlanta. Funny guys took over behind the microphone; dirty mouths, minds, jokes, and double meanings. It was nothing but laughs. You couldn’t sit in front of a microphone and say anything unless there was a punch line. I used to read four newspapers a night just looking for stories and going to the library to check for facts. They hired a joke writer for me. When I went into this business I saw a responsibility to inform in an entertaining and pleasing way. Now it’s just entertaining. I tried to get a job in public radio, but because my background was in commercial they wouldn’t touch me. I think they thought I’d poison the well. I put every dime I saved into this radio station.”

“Well we’re sure glad you came to Rode Apple Junction,” Pete said.

“Me to,” Vic said. “And today was one of the first days in a long time I saw radio doing what I thought it should do; bring the community together and help. You can’t do that sort of thing in conference room two thousand miles away.”

“Well you sure did good today, Vic,” Clay said.

“I didn’t do anything,” Vic said. “I changed oil. Pete did the broadcasting.”

“I don’t want you to think I was takin’ over,” Pete said.

“No, I don‘t think that,” Vic said. “I had an old timer tell me hosting a radio is like driving a car; just stir it. Let the motor do the work. Accelerate, step on the brakes, keep it on the road. Make your show about others and others will listen to you.”

“My first couple of years down at Pete’s Gas and Gulp was the same way,” Pete said. “Some guy would roll in broke and I’d pump ‘im enough to get back and forth to work till pay day. I didn’t worry about Slim Jims or the economy. I just wanted to keep people going.”

Pete,” Vic said. “Let’s do this every Saturday. I string the cord down to your place and you just ‘go to town.’”

“Ya got a deal,” Pete said. “Ya know if things do get a little slow can I tell a couple of jokes?”

“Sure,” Vic said. “As long as it comes from you heart.”

“Ya know guys,” Pete said to Clay and Vic. “It’s never about the economy, it’s about how people feel.”

From that day on a three hour radio auction was held every Saturday at Pete’s Gas And Gulp.

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Filed under Adventures From Rode Apple Junction