Friday, August 13, 2010
Dad was a hunter all his life. He hunted the usual animals in Alabama and also hunted some out west when he was in the navy. I know that he hunted antelope while he was out there. This is a story about a hunt on Horn Mountain in Clay County Alabama that happened when he was a young man.
Felton Wesley was Dad's cousin and that made him our cousin too. But we called him Uncle Felton. When they were young men they hunted a lot together. On this particular hunt they were out for turkey but would hunt whatever they came across.
When the hunt was starting Felton proudly drew out his newest acquisition - a .25 caliber pistol. His hunting buddies all took a look at the pistol and declared that it was a cheap piece of junk and that Felton was taken if he paid anything for it. Felton listened to their criticism, nodded his head and pocketed his new pistol.
The hunters all got in one car and began driving down the road, intending to stop at likely looking spots to call for turkeys. As they were driving down the road a hawk flew in front of the car high in the air. Felton lowered his window, drew his pistol and shot from the moving car. The hawk fell from the sky. Felton brought the pistol back into the car looked at it, looked at everyone else and declared, "Shoots pretty good."
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Dad was an electrician. He picked up his trade in the navy. I remember him telling a story about when televisions were a fairly new thing that people marvelled at. In ship's electronic shop they had a device called an oscilloscope that drew lines on a screen to show you what was happening with an electrical signal - it traced the strength of a changing electrical voltage. Anyway, dad made a circuit that picked up a television broadcast and displayed a very fuzzy picture on an oscilloscope. Sailors all over the ship came to see Wesley's latest trick and to watch a horrible TV picture because it was all they had. That was the beginning of dad's love of electronics.
When I was a kid dad used to pick up a few extra bucks here and there fixing televisions. Back in those days televisions were not solid state but instead used a lot of tube electronics. Tubes varied in size from less than an inch long to several inches long. One of the ways that you diagnosed a TV problem in those days was by using a tube tester. It was a big board that had many different types of tube sockets in it. You plugged in a tube to see if it worked the way it was supposed to. The tester had a meter and switches on it that you used to run various tests. I often got to help with the testing. Dad would pull out a suspect tube from a broken TV and hand it to me. I would perform the test and tell him whether it passed or not. I think I remember it so well because it was the first time that I was trusted with an adult job. I actually helped to fix a TV that was broken. Heady stuff for a kid.
Television tubes went bad pretty often so dad had repeat customers. One of them didn't work out so well. One evening a fellow pulled into the yard, drove around to the back of the house, and backed his pick-up to the back door. There was a TV in the bed of the truck. Dad came out back to see what was up.
The fellow who got out of the cab of the truck was one that had brought a TV before. In fact, dad had fixed his broken set for $17 and the guy was very pleased. He bragged on dad afterwards and called dad "the best TV man around". But this day the man had a sour look on his face and announced, "It looks like you are going to have to lick your calf again. I want it fixed right this time and you are not going to charge me again. This TV won't even turn on."
Dad looked at the TV in the bed of the truck, looked back at the fellow and replied, "How long do you think it was since I fixed it last time?"
The man answered, "It's only been a couple of months."
Dad stepped back inside the house and came back with a copy of a receipt. He looked at the fellow and said, "This says that you were here a year and a month ago and the problem then was no sound."
“You mean you’re going to charge me again?”, the fellow asks.
Dad says, “No, I’m not going to charge you again because I’m not going to fix it again.”
“But I brought it all the way down here.”, the fellow whined.
“That ain’t my problem.”, Dad said as he went back inside.
Moral: When you've got a good deal don't get greedy.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I don't remember which position Dad played on the football team at Clay County High School in Ashland Alabama. I have a vague memory that it was offensive line. Years after his high school days, Dad would go back home to visit and would take in a game at his old alma mater. This is a story about one of those games that Dad liked to tell about.
There was a home game in Ashland years ago and they had a shortage of referees. In fact, they only had one and it was nearly time for the game to start. This was long before cell phones, it is possible that there wasn't even a land line at the stadium. So the poor lone referee was worried. As he considered his options the ref looked up in the stands and saw a friend sitting there that he knew to be a basketball referee.
The football ref called his friend down and asked him to run home, get his uniform, and help to officiate the game. The basketball ref protested by saying that he didn't know much about football rules. The football ref assured him that he wouldn't have to do much but be there to make it look good. So the basketball ref agreed and went to get his uniform. On his return, the game started.
The game went well - both teams traded the lead as each scored. At the end of the last quarter with only a few seconds to play the Clay County Panthers were ahead by two points and the visiting team got within field goal range. The visiting kicker lined up and did his best to score three points and win the game. The kick went up and toward the goalposts. Everyone waited in anticipation. When the ball passed the posts the basketball ref was near the endzone and called the kick no good. His buddy the football ref backed him up on the call.
The visiting stands were in an uproar as they disagreed with the call and let it be known. The Panthers celebrated their victory and of course agreed with the call. Eventually everyone calmed down and headed home.
In the lockers after the game the football ref asked his friend, "What was wrong with that field goal, it looked good to me?"
The basketball ref answered, "It was too high."
Moral of the story: Sometimes nothing is better than something.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
For many years dad worked at Kimberly-Clark Corporation at their newsprint mill in Childersburg, Alabama. That's where he worked until he retired at 66. There are many stories about the years he worked there. Some I heard from Dad and some I heard from people who worked with him. A buddy of mine worked there after high school and got to know dad. He told me that dad reminded him of the Pink Panther - cool and always up to something. I think that description fits. This story is about a lesson in both gullibility and just desserts.
Dad had bought a new knife to use at work. Dad was a Schrade man. This particular knife had three blades, one of which had a straight edge and a rounded off end (like the one in the attached picture). This type of blade is handy for cutting a slit in cable insulation. Dad was an electronic technician and it was important to have a proper knife for his job.
One day at lunch Dad and his friend, Paul Grub, were admiring his new knife when several electricians came into the shop. One of them asked, "Where'd you get the new knife, Wesley?"
Dad answered, "From the tool shop. I broke my old knife and they gave me this as a replacement."
The fellow said, "I didn't know they did that."
Dad replied, "Well they did for me."
Everyone admired Dad's new knife while they ate their lunch.
Later in the day a group of electricians cornered dad to let him know what they thought of his parentage and moral character.
It seems that the tool shop didn't carry knives and never did. But now a half dozen electricians had pocket knives with newly broken blades.
Dad just laughed at them and went back to work.
But Dad was a turkey hunter long before turkey hunting was popular. He learned his skills hunting on Horn Mountain with the Horns themselves. That area is legend among turkey hunters. Some used to travel hours just so they could claim to have hunted there. When dad would talk about growing up at the foot of Horn Mountain and learning to hunt there, other hunters were instantly impressed.
Back in those pre-boom days people who didn't hunt turkey looked on turkey hunters as an oddity – they were obviously strange people but one had to give them grudging respect. Dad could call in a gobbler using honeysuckle leaves, cane straws, a contraption made from a non-childproof prescription bottle, slate strikers, crow calls, and his own natural imitation of a an owl hoot. In those days, calling turkeys was something of a black art that only a very few people had mastered. In a way, turkey hunters were in the same class as water-witchers – people didn't understand how it was done but they couldn't argue with results. Smoked wild turkey was the result and we enjoyed it often.
Because there were so few turkey hunters in those days we didn't worry about other hunters. Now and then we would hear a turkey sound in the distance and dad would say, “That's another hunter.” and we would move on to another place. But those times were rare.
Consequently, it was a bit of a surprise when I made a new friend and found out that his dad was also a turkey hunter. When I met Danny Posey's dad he didn't seem very friendly at first. But when I let it drop that my dad hunted turkey he suddenly became very friendly. He started out by letting me know that he was a preacher at Blue Springs Church of God. I didn't know it at the time but now I know that he said that to put me at ease. I was just 10 and at the time I didn't realize that I was being pumped for information, I just thought he was being friendly.
When I told dad about my new friend and my conversation with Rev. Posey about turkey hunting, dad raised his eyebrows and said, “Come over here and sit down for a minute.” For the next half-hour I got my first coaching session on how to talk to other turkey hunters. The next time I saw Danny's dad I was prepared. The conversation went something like this.
“Hi, Rev. Posey.”
“Hello, son. How's your dad, has he been hunting lately?”
“Yessir. He took a week off from work to go hunting and got two gobblers.”
“Where was he hunting?”
“In the woods.”
“Of course in the woods son. Whereabouts?”
I turned in a circle with my finger pointing off in the distance, pausing a couple of times to think. After a couple of circles I stopped and said, “That way... I think.”
Not dissuaded, Rev. Posey asked, “That's down toward Coagie. Were you down by the lake?”
I vigorously nodded my head and said, “Yessir we went fishing there last summer.”
Beginning to get frustrated, the good Reverend said, “No, son. Not last summer, last week when your daddy was hunting.”
“Oh. We were just on the other side of that new bridge across the Socopatoy creek.”
“That's not in Coagi.”
“That's not anywhere around here.”
The Reverend stared at me for a moment and then asked, “Did you tell your dad that I was asking you about turkey hunting?”
At this point, Reverend Posey nodded his head and walked away.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Dad said that when he played football you could fold up your helmet and put it in your back pocket. He said that the forward pass wasn’t popular and that they played to a lot of zero to zero ties in the mud. He also said that kicking, biting, and scratching were part of the game.
One cold, rainy Friday night he found himself on the bottom of a pile after a play. He said that he was squished into the cold mud and someone was squeezing him in a sensitive area. He realized that he also had a good grip on someone else’s privates. The more they squeezed, the more he squeezed. When the referee got to the bottom of the pile, dad was lying in the mud squeezing his own testicles.
He said that the moral of the story was, “If you open your eyes and look around you find that most of the time you are causing your own pain.”
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Dad served a number of years on a minesweeper in the 40’s and 50’s. One night they were on the way to San Francisco for a week in dock. The night watch officer was making a round through the sleeping quarters when he tripped over someone’s sea bag. All sea bags were supposed to be stowed away.
He yelled out, “Whose sea bag is this on the floor?” No one answered.
He said, “If I don’t find out who this sea bag belongs to there will be no liberty on this ship tomorrow!”
Someone shouted, “Give me liberty or give me death!”
The officer swung his flashlight around and demanded, “Who said that!”
A voice behind him exclaimed, “Patrick Henry you dumb SOB!”
Needless to say, there was no liberty on the ship the next day.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
One perk to military service is being able to catch a transport flight. If you are on leave you can hop a military flight to just about anywhere if they have room to take you.
Dad was in California on leave one day when he and a friend decided to go on a trip. They found a flight going to Alaska. The pilot was happy to take them. He dropped them on a runway in Juno with several bags of mail.
After he flew away, they began to sober up and realized that there were no people around and that they were not dressed for the local weather. It was starting to get dark so they huddled up and stacked the mail bags around them to block the wind. After an hour or so they saw headlights and a jeep drove up. The driver was amazed to find two sailors with the mail bags.
He said, “I don’t know how you boys got here but today is your lucky day. I usually wait until morning to pick up the mail and I don’t think you would have lasted that long.”
Dad replied, “Some dumb Air Force pilot dropped us here and today is your lucky day. We were about to start burning your mail to keep warm.”
When dad was a new recruit in the Navy he was sent to a base in Michigan for training. One Friday night a few NCOs came by the barracks and asked if any of the boys knew how to dance. Sensing a night out a number of the young men said that they were good dancers. They were loaded in a truck and driven to the local USO club. When they went inside the place was empty.
One of the officers opened up a box of steel wool and threw some on the floor.
He said, “Alright boys pay attention! You put a ball of steel wool under each foot and twist like this. It’s called the Great Lakes Shuffle. We need this floor shined by tomorrow night because we have a big dance. We’ll stop by afterwards and let you boys know how it went, now get to dancing!”
When in the military, never volunteer for anything.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
This is a story about one of my friends that I met in Zachary, Louisiana. Mike Kent is a true southern gentleman. He will help you out in any way that he can and is always polite. When he told me of a time that he had to show tough love to his son it really got my attention. It made me wonder if I would have the courage to make such an unpopular decision if it were required.
Mike and his wife gave their son a nice used Maxima for his seventeenth birthday in 1995. He laid down some ground rules that had to be followed, most of them concerning safety.
Not too many days later, Mike woke up early was surprised to find the Maxima in the driveway looking pretty muddy. When he walked around the car he noticed that both tires on the passenger side were flat. They also looked like they had been driven on after they had blown out. He woke up his son and asked what had happened to the car. When the story didn’t match up with the evidence, he asked who had been in the car with him the night before. Mike called the homes of the passengers and got them over to his house. He had all of them clean the car and then called the local garage to have the car towed away. The car was sold and not replaced.
Things were tense at the Kent household for awhile. Mike said that it hurt him to take the car away and it definitely hurt his son not having the mobility that all teenagers want.
Mike’s son graduated high school and joined the Air Force the following year. He spent six years traveling the world. He is now 31 years old and married with two children of his own. He lives in Zachary and he and Mike are very close. In my observations, he is actually more like his father than he knows. I asked him once about the car incident and he told me that he may not be here today if his dad hadn’t taken the car away.
Not too many fathers today could have taken such a tough stand. I hope I could do the same. It makes you wonder what could be accomplished if we all stuck to our principles.
Monday, August 17, 2009
One of dad’s many ventures was raising bees. The first attempt at collecting honey was memorable. Al Gore had yet to invent the internet in the 70’s so dad relied heavily on advice he got from co-workers. This would not be the first time listening to the “guys at work” caused a problem.
Dad and the guys at work theorized that night time would be the best time to rob the bee hive. The bees would be sleeping and the sneak attack would be easy. He enlisted my mom to hold a flashlight from a safe distance while he collected the honey. The hive was about 100 yards from the house. We kids watched from the back window while the process took place.
I remember seeing the bee hive dimly lit by the flashlight and dad’s shadowy figure lifting the top off. Shortly after that the flashlight started bobbing up and down and moving quickly towards the house. Very soon after that mom flew through the back door and locked it. Moments later dad was banging on the door and yelling. After not being let in he began to circle the house and yell.
I don’t quite remember the words that were spoken between them later but I did learn that early in the honey collection process mom was stung by a bee. She then felt it was best if she came back to the house and left dad to fend for himself. Dad decided he would come back to the house also and found that he had been locked out. Mom was just trying to keep the bees out of the house. I don’t recall how long the bee farming venture continued after that but I do remember a few jars of honey around the house.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Dad used to work at the Beaunit rayon mill in Childersburg before it closed down in the sixties. He made friends with a fellow named Bill Eaves while there. After the closing, Dad went to work at the Kimberly-Clark paper mill right next door to the Beaunit plant. Bill Eaves went to work at a textile mill across the river in Columbiana, where he and his family lived. They stayed in touch for many years after. We would go visit the Eaves and they would come visit us via Perkins Ferry, which crossed Coosa river from Talladega county to Shelby county.
Dad liked to deer hunt but Bill Eaves' opinion was that hunting deer was a waste of time because the meat wasn’t any good when you got it. Bill's reasoning was that the deer had been run to exhaustion by the time it was killed and that wild animals didn’t eat well out in the woods. The combination of factors caused the meat to be tough and gave it a bad taste, in Bill's opinion. Dad disagreed but didn't argue. He did begin to scheme.
Some months later, Dad invited the Eaves over for supper on a Saturday night. He asked Mom to cook a venison roast from a four-point buck that he had killed that season. Mom was in on the trick and told the Eaves that they were having roast, but didn't elaborate.
While they were eating on the evening of the get-together, Bill and his wife bragged on how good the roast was. Bill had raised some cattle on his property and gave his expert opinion on the roast: it was obviously corn-fed beef, brought into the pens when it was young and fed nothing but grain so that the meat would not be tainted by the flavor of grass. Bill also also pointed out that the roast had been cut by an expert butcher.
At about this point Dad went to the trash and pulled out the butcher paper with “ROAST” written on it in Dad's own handwriting. That, along with the grin on Dad’s face clued Bill in that he’d been had. Bill Eaves shook his head and said, “You’re not going to tell me that this is deer meat are you?”
The answer was yes and we’re still laughing about this over 30 years later.
Beaunit Rayon factory: http://goforth-al.blogspot.com/2007/02/beaunit-rayon-factory.html
Green Fuzzy Couch
My dad’s taste in cars was only outdone by my mom’s choice in furniture. In the early 70’s mom purchased a bright green fuzzy couch with shiny brass rollers. The furniture store delivered it while dad was at work. I thought it was pretty cool. If you ran your hand back and forth over it real fast you could work up a static charge.
When dad walked in from work he studied the couch quietly and then remarked, “It looks like something from a house of ill repute in New Orleans.”
I didn’t know what a house of ill repute was or the whereabouts of New Orleans but it didn’t sound favorable.
If buying and selling used cars for no profit was a sport, dad would have definitely made the allstar team. By my rough count, at least 20 used cars passed through our family while I lived at home. If I had the time and a good calculator I could probably get a good estimate on how many brake jobs, oil changes, tune ups, tire changes, and other repairs that he performed over the years. Mr. Goodwrench would have quit early on.
Some of the vehicles weren’t bad. But some of them weren’t very good at all. Sometime during the 1970’s Dad purchased a slightly used Ford Pinto station wagon. The words Pinto and station wagon really shouldn’t be used in the same sentence. It wasn’t a big car but it was a constant problem. One day when he was driving the car to work it caught fire. He quickly grabbed his lunch box and walked away from the car. He was smiling thinking about collecting the insurance and buying a real car. About that time he heard screeching tires as a pickup slid to a stop. The driver jumped out with a fire extinguisher and put out the fire.
The man was expecting a thank you when my dad said, “You have to be the only SOB in Alabama who drives around with a fire extinguisher in your truck!”
The only new vehicle that I remember was one that dad purchased in 1978. It was a lime green VW bus. It was the only one of its kind that I remember. It seems funny until I think about my bright orange Scion Xb. Can a love for gaudy cars be genetic?
I have to preface this story by telling you that my dad was a huge Alabama fan. I don’t mean the state of Alabama. The Crimson Tide, Roll Tide Roll, and all that stuff.
I started my college career at Auburn University in 1982, the same year as Bo Jackson. That was also the year that mine and my father’s conversations about football became strained. If you aren’t familiar with the Iron Bowl, I won’t even try to explain.
During my senior year the Florida Gators were coming to town for a night game. It was Halloween night and the game was being billed as “Nightmare in Jordan Hare”. I found myself in possession of 4 tickets to the biggest game in college football that day. Auburn and Florida were both highly ranked and Florida was bringing their star running back Emmitt Smith.
I called dad and invited him to the game. He said he was too busy. I said, “Dad, this is the biggest game in college football this week. You’ve got to come.”
After a few more excuses he finally said, “Son, I don’t care if you were the starting quarterback and your mom was the head cheerleader, I’m not coming to Auburn to watch a damn football game!”
Moral of the story, Football team loyalty runs deep in the Heart of Dixie.
Upside, Auburn won 29-6 and held Emmitt to less than 50 yards.