The letter came with extra scotch tape on the seal.

She was family famous for wrapping Christmas presents, usually about a roll of scotch tape on each package regardless of package size. We would laugh and she would laugh. She had and still has a great laugh. She also continues to use lots of scotch tape.

The return address label has a puppy on it. She and her brother had a dog when they were growing up in Red Bank, a suburb of Chattanooga. His name was Spot. The puppy on the label did not look like Spot, but it brought back memories. Her name is listed as “Mrs Nancy Schwarze.” She is also known as Nancy Orr Winkler Schwarze, a history lesson in her name.

Being she is on the other side of this country, we don’t see each other often, certainly not often enough. When we were growing up, i thought she was one of the prettiest girls i had ever seen. She was. i have a photo where she looks like a young Elizabeth Taylor, but it’s late and i’m not going to look right now.

Nancy is two years and change older than me. Her brother Jon, who passed away several years ago was between us. They were so much cousins they were like another sister and brother.

The letter was addressed to Maureen, but Maureen was in Cleveland with high school friends. i cheated and opened it. It was a very nice, heartfelt letter generated by a communication Nancy and Maureen had a month or so ago. The two are alike in they love family unconditionally.

The letter contained lots of news about her family and how she and Bill Schwarze, her husband are doing. It also told of her folks, my aunt and uncle Pipey and Evelyn Orr and the war years.

Then she related a story about the three cousins, Nancy, Johnny, and me. i did not know about this one. i will not attempt to rewrite but give you Nancy’s narration from the letter (with Maureen’s approval):

Jim was two, i think. He was not exempt from getting into trouble. One day, Granny was keeping the three of us out on the farm (the Webster land on Hunter’s Point Pike) while our mothers had gone to play bridge (This was during the war and Daddy and Uncle Pipey were still in the Seabees and Navy respectively). When they got back and came into the house, Granny was sitting in a chair and the three of us were sitting on the couch. The only bath tub in the house was a metal tub on the back porch (i have a photo of that too, but again, not tonight). Our mothers asked Granny what happened.

It seems we found a jar of Vicks salve or Vaseline and rubbed it all each other from head to toe. Granny gave each us a bath in that tub. After that, we went out to let the cows out of the barn, and we rolled in manure. Another tub bath for each of us. Granny sent us out to play and we all played in the do dirt (cow pies and dirt). After the final bath out of nine she had given us that day, she put us on the couch and dared us not to move. 

I (Nancy) was probably the instigator, but I will never admit it.

Now Nancy, my sister, and my brother have better memories than mine. And Nancy did get us, as well as herself, into some difficulties, but i suspect that threesome were all culpable in the antics that afternoon.

Maureen might tell you i haven’t changed.

But i will never admit it.

i wonder how many children in this country today have a chance to do that. i’m pretty sure the answer is none. Sad.

The Gloekles

A couple of months ago, i queried several Hawkins sailors about the Gloekles. i told them i was thinking about writing a post about the Gloekles and would appreciate any input.

i may have entertained you (maybe) with some information on these Hawkins sailors before, but to make sure here’s the story:

My first ship was the USS Hawkins (DD 873). After getting my commission from OCS in early February 1968, i attended the Anti-Submarine Officer’s two-month course in Key West and then flew to Rota, Spain, on to Malaga where i joined the Hawk on her way out of the Mediterranean en route from a nine-month deployment. i immediately became the First Lieutenant in charge of First Division, the deck gang, as we crossed the Atlantic to our homeport of Newport, Rhode Island. i became the ASW Officer as we entered our ROH (regular overhaul) in Boston in September. After a six-month overhaul, we went to GITMO for refresher training (for non-Navy folks that was Guantanamo Bay where Atlantic based ships went through two-month period, getting underway every weekday for certification as operational after overhauls.

By the time we returned to Newport, i had qualified as one of four OOD’s (Officer of the Deck underway) and one of four CDO’s (Command Duty Officers, who stood twenty-four hour duties and acted as the captain’s representative, responsible for the ship when the captain and the executive officer were ashore.

The Gloekles were not some small islands in faraway sea. Nor were they some dangerous passage close to some foreign shore. i had some first hand knowledge of the Gloekle’s. They were nice, friendly, sincere young men. Twins. They were SA’s (Seaman Apprentices) when they reported aboard and were assigned to First Division, the deck division, the one headed up by the green officer, one Ensign Jewell. They were of the old Navy.

i had experienced that Navy on my Third Class Midshipmen cruise aboard the USS Lloyd Thomas (DD 764).  There were sailors on the Thomas who thought of their ship as their home, their parents, their world. They lived on board for their entire careers. There was a fireman who had made it to second class BT (boiler tender) at least three times (and then would get busted at captain’s mast) with eighteen years in service on the Thomas. There was a second class cook with 17 years of service who also lived on board, and there were more. They  would not have been considered the brightest bulbs in the light fixture, but they served that Navy well and that Navy served them well.

The Gloekle’s were not in Mensa by any stretch. But they were sincere, well meaning, and as mentioned before nice young men. From somewhere in the Midwest as i recall.

They also had a penchant for getting themselves in predicaments and at least on one occasion, dragging me with them.

In the summer of 1968 after our return from the Med, we went out to the op areas for several aerial gun shoots where our two twin gun mounts (5″ 38) fired at a aircraft-towed target sleeve. i was assigned as check sight observer for Mount 51 on the forecastle. i sat in a seat up in the left front of the mount with a sight. My job was simply for safety. Before the mount captain could fire either gun, i looked through the sight to ensure we were shooting at the right thing, the target. i would tell everyone on the JS or JP sound powered phone circuit (as best as i can remember) if the guns were aimed “on target,” “clear,” or “cease fire” if they were aimed incorrectly, like at the aircraft rather than the tow . The mount had 12 personnel cramped inside including me. It was hot and it was loud (and this was long before anyone had come up with hearing protection). i loved it although i wanted to be more a part of the action rather than as a safety observer.

The hot case man in Mount 51 was one of the Gloekles. i don’t know which one. But i well remember looking back and watching him working at his task. The hot case man squatted at the rear of the mount underneath where the mount captain stood on his raised platform. He wore his regular dungarees, a battle helmet, and large asbestos gloves. His job was to deflect the powder casings as they were ejected from each mount after firing a round to ensure they went out of the mount through the hole in the bottom of the mount and onto the forecastle deck. It was an assignment coveted by noone. But this particular Gloekle twin obviously was enthralled.

His look of concentration was beautiful to watch as he swatted the brass casings. He knew his job was important, and he was completely focused on the task at hand — after a gun shoot, another job was to “police the brass.” Any of the casings, about a yard in length with diameter of five inches, that had not rolled overboard were collected and tossed into the sea. i often wish i could have saved them all, stored them, and then sold them for the brass; i would be a rich man today; we have a three-inch brass casing used to hold dried flowers by our living room fireplace; for a long time, i had the base of a five-inch casing and used it for an ashtray. i don’t know where it went. But Gloekle was not concerned with that. He was doing his job.

At that time, the First Division chief was BMC Jones, an incredible Navy chief and a superb boatswainmate. Just before the noon mess, he and i were walking the main deck, checking on how the painting of the ship was going.

Chief Jones turned to me and asked, “Have you ever seen a one-armed Gloekle?” At first, i thought he was talking about a unique piece of equipment used in deck evolutions. Then i began to consider he was pulling my leg. Finally it dawned on me, he was talking about one of the twins.

“Yeh,” the chief continued, “Gloekle was in the mess line on the port side of the main deck and he got frustrated with something. He turned and hit one of the grates on a air duct. His fist and arm went through the grating.

“He broke his arm and the doc put in several stitches. Won’t be good for much of anything for at least a month.

“Damn one-arm Gloekles,” he mused.

The Gloekles also were known by shipmates as good guys. One struck for the radioman rating while the other was a DK (disbursing) striker while we were in the yards for overhaul. The disbursing striker didn’t make it and returned to the deck division as a seaman.

In May of 1969, Hawkins went to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for a month. There the fantail deck was strengthened and a special davit was installed. The ship had been designated as the Atlantic recovery ship for the Apollo 12 mission in July, a backup to the planned return in the Pacific where the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 12) had the primary recovery assignment.

Taking advantage of a month in the shipyard, the deck division cleaned and repainted the paint locker. To do so, they had moved all of the paint into a large conex box on the pier. One afternoon before liberty call, the new first lieutenant came to me and said, “You aren’t going to believe this, but Gloekle locked himself in the paint locker. He was in there for about two hours until someone discovered him there just before knock off. We have no idea how he did it.”

i had been qualified as OOD (officer of the deck on the bridge watch) in late February 1969 and as CDO (Command Duty Officer, responsible for the ship during an in port 24 hour period) shortly afterwards. i had  the CDO duty one night in August while the Hawk was in a maintenance period and Hurricane Blanche was building southeast of Norfolk (in June, Hawkins’  home port had been changed from Newport to Norfolk; i was not thrilled with the change). i read the message board after eight o’clock reports and there was no radio traffic that addressed  Blanche as a threat to the Naval Base.

After making my rounds before taps, i went back to the wardroom and caught the 10:00 o’clock news. The lead story was how the ships at Norfolk Naval Base were preparing to sortie because of the approaching hurricane. i had heard nothing from higher commands. i called radio, no answer. RMSN Gloekle, the other twin, was standing the evening watch in radio  Somehow, he had locked himself out of radio and had spent a couple of hours trying to get back inside the radio shack. Finally, he woke up the duty radioman who had another set of keys.

When the dust settled, Gloekle brought me the message board again. The radio message from SOPA (Senior Officer Present Afloat) had ordered the sortie preps about two hours before and each ship was required to report if it could get underway within twenty-four hours. i called the captain and the chief engineer at their homes. The engineer confirmed the main engines were open for maintenance, requiring more than a day to button them up and get underway. The captain confirmed the radio message response i had written and i sent it out immediately, later than other ships but apparently okay with the chain of command. A disaster had been averted.

One of the best things about the draft was Navy ships were melting pots of the United States. Sailors were from everywhere in the country and with all different kinds of backgrounds. Many i have known went on to successful careers in a variety in the civilian world. Many stayed in, like moi, and had good careers. Back then, some stayed in because it was a safe place to be, like i said earlier, it was their home, their world. i enjoyed knowing all of them except for the small number of miscreants i ran into through twenty-two years.

And then there were the Gloekle’s. Sadly, i don’t know what happened to them. But i remember them fondly in spite of some problems with them locking themselves in or out of things.

 

 

FMG

i’ve written about it many times here.

It is almost a ritual.

The two guys in the foreground are Marty Linville and Rod Stark. Rod is taking practice swings. The three of us began playing golf together in the mid-1980’s when we were all on our last military tours. Marty was the Army’s gift to the Navy’s Amphibious School, Coronado, taught gunfire control, and managed the big gun shooting range on San Clemente Island (about seventy miles west of San Diego). Rod was the director of amphibious training and later became the executive officer of the command. i was the director of leadership and management training for the West Coast and Pacific Rim in addition to facilitating the two-day seminar on Command Excellence for senior officers.

With a pretty rigorous schedule, the only time we could play was on weekends. It was difficult getting tee times on the four Navy courses (Sea ‘n Air on the North Island Naval Air Station, Admiral Baker North and South in the Naval Base recreation area in Mission Valley, and then Miramar, which was a Navy Air Station before the Marines took it under BRAC. One reason for our difficulties was retired folks were also getting tee times. We bitched about old farts taking up weekend tee times when they could play during the week.

So we vowed once we retired we wouldn’t play military courses on the weekend to give more tee times for active duty personnel. Except for tournaments and later Sunday rounds with Pete Toennies and our wives, we have stuck to that vow.

Then in 1991, Marty and i played a weekday round and discussed the situation. Marty had just gone to a 4/10 work week. i was mister mom. So we decided we could play Sea ‘n Air, Baker, and Miramar on Fridays. Rod, who after retiring was the golf pro for the North Course in Sun City, California, had quit that job when we ran into him at Miramar one morning in the mid-90’s. He joined our Friday bunch then. Since those first rounds in 1991, we have played golf at a local military golf course almost every Friday, teeing off early. i have actually made it understood when i worked at Scripps Consulting Group, military contractors, and Pacific Tugboat Services i would not be available to work on Friday mornings.

We call it “Friday Morning Golf.” i have shortened that to FMG. We have had as many as 16 golfers in our group and as few as two. Now, we come close to filling up two foursomes every Friday.

i have posted photographs before, nearly all on the fifteenth tee. The tee and the fairway borders the Navy beach (it used to be called “dungaree beach” for it was where sailors would escape from work when possible and loll about on the beach, but now is a big attraction for all Navy personnel, dependents, retirees, and others). The tee box gives one a great view of the majestic Point Loma, the Rosecrans Military Cemetery, and the wide expanse of the Pacific, not to mention if one turns around the iconic Hotel Del Coronado and the sprawling city of Tijuana are visible to the south. And routinely, we watch my ships, haze gray in their military splendor standing in or standing out of the channel.

But this photo is from the eleventh tee, the shorter one on the small hill rather than the longer flat one to the north. We are waiting for the group in front of us to clear the large par three green. The marine layer i often write about is hanging low over the Pacific, the brown and gray flat area from the middle to the right side of the photo is the beginning of the East to West runway for the air station. It is nearly always the flight path for landing aircraft unless a Santa Ana wind is blowing. So not only do we get to play golf in a rather idyllic setting, we also get to see FA 18’s, Ospreys, helicopters, training aircraft, others, and every once in a while even a C5 seemingly hung in the air trundling overhead like an airborne but very large snail headed for a landing. It is satisfying to know our successors are defending our country well.

A Notable Week

i have been juggling a whole bunch of balls for a while and haven’t been putting a lot of stuff out here.

Some of that reduction is because spring is here…or was here. i wrote about that. Like the first part of May is Southwest corner wonderful. The week started off that way. i now am required to check the garden each day. i have added a composter, and there are cats and bobcats who have found the garden box looks very much like a litter box. Now why a bobcat would consider a litter box for deposits is beyond me, but apparently at least one thinks that way.

i am not the gardener my father was. i don’t hold a candle to Andrew Nemethy, Martha Tate or Susan Felts when it comes to gardens. i don’t even come close to my neighbors, Spud and Vonda Mumby and Ralph and Debbie Lavage even though two of Debbie’s five chickens have fallen into the claws of the bobcat or kin who created an account in my little 4×8 box garden. It’s just i wanted to have home grown tomatoes and strawberries.

So the first part of last week, i walked outside to tend my garden and experienced the glory of May spring. Out the kitchen door lies another project. i will be expanding and rearranging this flagstone to lead to a sitting/reflecting area, perhaps with a fountain next to the bougainvillea outside my office window. As i walk across the patio, the tree in the planting area is in its regal splendor. i love the colors in this tree. Since our gardener, Paul Shipley is on a hiking trip along the Pacific Crest trail, he can’t tell us the name. For a long time we thought it was a plum tree. The Phoenix Robellini in the planter box is in its last days. Between Paul and i, we will be replacing with plumeria, a smaller, prettier plant with leaves throughout the year, at least in the Southwest corner. i get  to the work area. Right before the gate to the back slope, is one of our two coral trees. This one is of the Mexican variety. The Chinese version is bigger, but i’m into these. The blooms last for about two months, sometime in the spring. Like now.

i reach the fence my neighbors and i built about a quarter of a century ago. No, i have to admit i was just unpaid labor. Pablo, who is long gone back to Spain or Mexico, did the bulk of the work. The fence here is where Billie the alligator-hunting Louisiana Swamp Dog scales to go get the neighbor’s dog’s toys. It also is one of better spring spots. And that’s before the agapanthus begin blooming. It’s a pleasant place to do my minimal garden tasks and roll the composter. The garden itself is the beginning an experiment. Perhaps it is a connection to my father. Or perhaps this trial is my way of admiring nature and how oh so much better homegrown vegetables, fruits, and even chicken eggs are compared to the store bought kind, no matter how “fresh,” “range free,” or “organic” they claim on the shelves in the markets. As you can see, it’s not much but i’ll get tomatoes and strawberries pretty much all year long, and since i have my night visitors, i’ll be planting more onions throughout the year as well. It brings comfort to me.

But as i said, May Gray moved in early. It’s doleful to live in gray, especially in the Southwest corner, but i can handle it knowing it won’t halt golf, i can wear a sweater in the early morning and late afternoon. And  just after first light, i walk out to retrieve the newspaper. No, i haven’t trained the dog or cat to get the paper, nor do i intend to train them. i mean i can be greeted by Mount Miguel with her diaphanous silk shawl of misty clouds peeking over our neighbor’s roof (Later, i will repost a poem about this particular mountain again). And feel like i really am home.

Then, just to prove me wrong, May Gray after just under a week of chilly damp weather breaks. We are having our rather sizable slope cleared. i began to nibble at it about two years ago and never really got traction. It’s a lot of work and old men have thin skin, so i would come away looking something like a bloody pin cushion. i was a bit sad to see the workers clearing the acacia with their chain saws. It would be a lovely day to work hard on the slope: not too hot, not too cool, low humidity. You know, Southwest corner weather at its finest. Well, since my bride decided not to wait 350 years for me to clear the slope, i must do something else to be outside. i worked the garden and composter a bit, then i took the young alligator hunting Billie for a walk. My walk is a truncated version of the long one i used to take with the lab Cass where he chased and played with coyotes who, it turned out, were fearful of such a maniac. He also rolled over o’possums, damn near caught up with a road runner while taking my arm out of socket, and would take off to be on his own for a while at his whim.

Perhaps someday, i will do that with Billie. It would certainly get me back in shape because there is are two stretches about seventy-five yards in length on a ten percent upward grade. That’s in the future. Now, i must be satisfied with the trail behind our neighbor’s house. Billie is fine with that. No alligators, of course. But there are ground squirrels, lizards, and all sorts of other fauna, including the aforementioned bobcat, and although the coyote population seemingly has diminished, i’m sure there are plenty of them out there, not to mention the snakes, foxes, and tree rats.  However, as pleasant as it is (and somewhat remarkable when we consider we are smack dab in the middle of suburbia), there are high desert dangers which appear innocent enough. i don’t think i’ve seen this type of cactus anywhere else. It’s local nomenclature is “cholla.” i learned shortly after moving off of the island of Coronado and out here in the truly high desert to be wary. The cholla cacti are innocent enough looking, even pretty this time of year. Yet you can’t get too close. i know and was reminded again today. After we returned from our walk, i went outside to check how things were going. As i made a move, it felt like i had been cut on my knee. It stung. i thought i was bleeding although no blood was coming through my trousers. i raised the pant leg above the knee. There were two spines stuck into the side of my knee. Tiny things. But man, they sting and they somehow planted themselves through my trousers apparently when i unknowingly barely brushed one on the walk.

The walk’s over. i’m listening to the last throbs of the chainsaws as the young men flail away at the acacia. i’m thinking this is a good place. It’s in a big, big city but not too close, just accessible. i can see the Pacific from the top of my slope. The weather is good as it can get. Then i think of all of the places i have lived in my seventy-four years. About fifteen depending on how you count. i liked them all. Enjoyed the weather. i am in a good place now.

But i would like to go home for a bit. Lebanon, Middle Tennessee, Nashville, the lakes, they are still in my bones.

 

 

Moms

i am not particularly fond of most mandated days or weeks or months. i don’t like someone or some organization telling me i should be giving something to someone, honoring a group of people by sending them a gift or even a card and then celebrating by going somewhere to have a good time (providing income for a bunch of folks selling stuff with the theme for the day of celebration.

Except for one.

Mother’s Day.

i am surprised some group hasn’t protested honoring mothers is an insult to their way of thinking. i guess mothers are considered pretty necessary for this whole thing called living for just about every group, although several groups nowadays are likely to disparage fathers for being a part of it.

Mother’s Day. Here’s some of mine:

Katherine Ferrell Webster. One of the matriarchs of my family. The maternal, Prichard side. My great grandmother.

Estelle Prichard Jewell, my mother. She was multi-tasking, working full-time for most of her life while running the Jewell household and dealing with three children for seventy years, one of whom had to have been one terrible something to deal with. But she never flinched, never complained about all she had to do. Her love for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren was palpable.

 

And there were these others. Granny, Katherine Prichard Jewell, my maternal grandmother who was always there for anyone who needed her. The grit in her craw (i’ll repost my poem about that) keeping her darting to and fro Lebanon, Chattanooga, and Florida for her children and her grandchildren, not to mention the Heights’ goobers under her watch as “barracks mom.” Aunt Bettye Kate Hall, who was my second mother along with every child of any of her or Uncle Snook’s kin. and Aunt Evelyn. Kindness, grit, and love pound in all of their veins.

Above on the left, Granny Prichard with her flock: goofy kid, Johnny Orr, Martha Jewell, Bill (Butch) Prichard, Nancy Orr, 1947.

Then there was Kathie. She wanted to be a mother, and she has always been the best there could be for Blythe.  i grudgingly gave up being a live-in father for Blythe for numerous reasons no one, certainly not i,  could understand, but the clear overriding decision i made was because i knew in all my heart, Kathie would love her daughter without limitations, just as i had, and she needed her more than me. i also knew Blythe’s mother was the best mother for her daughter and mothers are critical to a child being brought up in the best way possible.

i was on spot. Kathie continues to be the best mother ever for Blythe.

Mama, Carrie Myrtle Orrand, Jewell, my paternal grandmother. She passed away in 1951. What i remember is sweetness coupled with Southern practicality of a mom. When i walked home from school in the first grade, Ronnie Collingsworth started a fight with me in our front yard. i apparently won rather handily — as i recall with a right jab to the jaw. Mama Jewell was watching through the living room window of my Aunt Naomi’s house across the street. She called Granny, my maternal grandmother who was keeping me and my brother and sister that day and told her i should not be punished because Ronnie started the fight. My father told me his snack after school was when he got home, Mama Jewell would have a sweet potato boiling in the kitchen’s wood-fired stove. He would pick the potato out and cover it with butter. That was his snack.

And of course, Maureen. Her love for Blythe, Sarah, Jason, and Sam never ceases to amaze me. Even when she had the intense high-pressure job (which she did so well), she never slighted any of them. Her ability to discuss and understand them is an amazing thing. She brings joy to me in many ways, but being a mother to my children and grandson is a blessing for me.

The last in this post holds my heart in her hands. It is with a satisfied joy i follow Blythe (and Jason) in the way they are raising my grandson Sam. She is really remarkable in her role.

Of course, there are others. Many others. Martha, my sister; Carla, my sister-in-law; Kate, my niece. I could go on and on.

Mothers are special, no critical. They should be honored. There should be a day set aside to honor them. And those included here were essential in my becoming who i am. i honor all of them for what they have done for my family.

Have a wonderful Mother’s Day tomorrow.

May Gray

i am not sure folks not from the Southwest corner can grasp the severity of “May Gray,” made even worse by extending into “June Gloom.” Perhaps Aussies around Perth have the same period of similar weather. Let’s see, that would be “November Gray” and “December Gloom” (Just doesn’t have quite the same impact without the alliteration, does it?).

Regardless, it ain’t fun. In fact, it’s my least favorite time of the year out here. To make matters worse, it came about a week too early this year.

Sometime in April until the middle of May is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s spring. The cool of winter gives way to sunshine, not too hot, not too cool, but just right. The colors change and alternate throughout the period: Japanese pear trees, then the coral trees, then the jackaranda. Bougainvillea takes off, gardens stretch their wings, and spring green abounds before turning to desert summer brown. Joyous comes to mind as the way it affects me.

It’s gone. Left too soon. Thursday, i played golf with Maureen at the Coronado Golf Club, a terrific public course and still affordable. We teed off just afternoon. Gray. May Gray. Ugh. Worse, it was cool enough i wore my wind shirt the entire round.

Approaching the second green, my eye caught some aerodynamics in full action. An osprey had caught a large fish and apparently was carrying it back to his nest for the ospreyettes (my word). A seagull was not pleased with the osprey out performing him in the bay fishing competition. The gull was pissed and swooping to and fro at the osprey before veering high or low or left or right, climbing up to swoop once again at the course diverting, annoyed osprey. The two continued on with their air show until they were out of sight.

It was beautiful. It was nature framed by what used to be my work home, Naval Amphibious Base, Glorietta Bay (over which the show was on display), and the gray, gray sky. The only good thing about May Gray that afternoon.

As usual, my golfing friends and i teed off early at Sea ‘n Air on Friday. In case, you don’t remember, the Naval Air Station, North Island course borders on the south facing beaches of the Pacific.

It was not hot. It was not cool. My friends back home in Lebanon, Tennessee would scoff (in fact, nearly all of my friends not in the Southwest corner would scoff) when i describe it as cold. Don’t care. It was cold.

Sure it was in the high fifties and low sixties throughout the three-hour, twenty-minute round (we play fast when there’s no one in front of us). But the Japanese current was whacking us in the face. It may not have been cold by most standards, but we were cold. i wore a heavier wind shirt than i had the day before, but i was wishing i had worn a parka.

You see, about this time of year, the deserts east of here start heating up. The Japanese current runs counter-clockwise from the Western Pacific up to the Arctic Circle and swooshes down upon us, carrying all of that north pole cold with it. When the two, the desert heat and the current cold collide, the marine layer hangs over the coast (aka us) and the wind blows the fog, the haze, the cloud cover, and the cold into our bones.

And this lasts for about six to seven weeks.

It should be spring turning into summer. i’m ready for Tennessee spring. i’m ready to feel the sun against my skin. i remember how i could not wait for mid-May sometime when i was back home because it was like the signal to go swimming at Hazelwood or Horn Springs. i remember it was when the bat didn’t sting your hands because of the cold. The baseball uniforms were sweaty by the second inning. You could wear tee shirts out at night to catch the fireflies, “lightning bugs” to some of us. It was warm.

Not here. i have learned not to go swimming in the ocean until two days in August when the water temperature is around seventy degrees. Summer won’t hit us until July, or at least something like Tennessee summer except the humidity here hovers around forty to fifty percent.

Of course, it ain’t bad for playing golf, pretty much like the rest of the year. So i guess i will just have to endure May Gray and June Gloom. And the middle of the day is usually pretty nice.

Commatoast Ramblings

The title of this includes my word. It refers to my overabundant use of commas. i mean, it ain’t just the “Oxford Comma,” which i believe in because i grew up having that comma before the last item in a list and preceding “and” pounded into my head by damn near every adult i ever knew.

i put commas at every juncture of everything and sometimes just out of my inclination when there is no juncture, just no need.

Why oh why do i like commas?

Don’t know. Don’t care…well, i do care because i do not wish my overabundance of commas to confuse. After all, isn’t the purpose of all of these rules: to make writing understandable?

It is the bane of my writing: these commas. More than that, there are a lot of words, and i mean A LOT of words i should eliminate to avoid confusion. Some of them i keep in because it is my intent to write something that way, even if it is incorrect (hmm, another comma there). Some of those words are just poor editing on my part, the real culprit of my commatoast, used to reflect “comatose,” out of it, asleep, lazy. You know. So i apologize for making you guess which is which.

But that’s not the reason i have not been writing lately (“but” and “that” are also words i include a lot even when they are superfluous; fortunately most of you don’t have to listen to me talk — but that may change soon). i haven’t been writing much here lately because i am finally intently diligently (Look, ma: not commas…well except for the one inside the parentheses) working on my book about Yosemite  and our deployment to the IO with women as part of ship’s complement — an aside: i love my working title: Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings.

i’ve also resumed activity in getting things done around the house. i’m old, hopefully just like my daddy was old, and even though i’m retired (sic), i want to do things besides sitting and staring at this addictive screen with all of its magic. Like painting the exterior door to the master bath; doing another flagstone project before tackling the giant one, the courtyard (i’m pretty bad about overuse of semicolons also); replanting root bound stuff all over the yard; remounting my flagpole at the top of the hill; cleaning out the garage (again: and parentheses and dashes are another overabundance of mine); repainting and reorganizing my home office; and on and on and on. Those things make me happy, although i cuss a lot (old Navy kind of high level cussing) when i’m in the midst of them.

Which brings me to my Facebook dilemma. i am glad Facebook is around. Facebook has allowed me to connect and reconnect with folks i like. i can keep up with them, make my writing available to them if they choose to read it with all of those commas and stuff but mostly just exchanging pleasantries with old friends in a much more effective way.

Still there are problems.

Now i don’t worry too much about those FB folks making my data available to bad people. Yeh, it may be a big deal but i’ll guarantee you no Ruski or Republican or Democrat is going to change my choice in political votes by sending me shit or subtly suggesting stuff. Even good friends will not impact my philosophy or voting choices with their rather incessant one-sided blasts at the other side, usually copied from some media source that reflects their position.

As for finance fraud, scams, taking my money under false pretenses, i think i’ve got enough safeguards to handle most of them, don’t do anything stupid like responding to suspicious stuff on the internet, so i don’t worry about this kind of stuff very much. Maybe i should. i don’t and believe i am happier that way. i also have some confidence in myself to be able to handle any problems if they do arrive on my doorstep.

There are other problems. i don’t like people hitting me up to spend money on their particular charities, causes, research for cures, even helping out the less fortunate. i’m tight. i give what money i feel i can afford to things important to me. Don’t need others telling me where i need to get poorer.

You see, Facebook has a massive glut of stuff i just don’t even consider, but they still show up on my timeline. i also have a rather large amount of friends. Everyone of my “friends” are people i actually consider friends. i feel guilty when i don’t go through all of my timeline because it’s enormous and would take up all of my time to do so. And a lot of friends use Facebook apparently in the belief they can influence my decision making. Perhaps on extremely rare occasions. But not really. Those kind of posts are just noise to me. When i know i’ve missed posts by my friends, i feel badly. i want to see all those posts when they are dealing with relationships, especially ours.

My only solution right now is to do the best i can. I will not stop Facebooking (i think i made that up) simply because i enjoy my relationships with my friends. i apologize to not responding to your posts.

So Mister Zuckerburg, if you can stand my commas, thank you for creating this thing that has made you disturbingly rich. You have allowed me to reach out and maintain new and old relationships, and it has made my life richer, not in money wealth, but in happiness, and that is worth a whole lot more.

Kin of the Past

For all of my Prichard/Webster relatives:

When i find myself flailing over which of the two gazillion things i need to do, i often decide to rumble through old stuff. This is a result of today’s rumbling.

i found myself staring at the photo, wondering what she was like. Knowing Granny, her daughter and my grandmother, i think i have a pretty good idea. Still, i didn’t know her.

She married a minister, a Methodist circuit rider who rose to bishop in the church. So she must have been rather devout in her religion. She was beautiful. i never really thought of her daughter as beautiful until i saw a photo of Granny (Katherine Webster Prichard) at eighteen. It took my breath away, and i see evidence of that beauty in this one.

The back has handwritten notes.

The first one is in her hand. The photo was a gift sent to her brother, Ammon Ferrell, who was in Platter, Oklahoma at the time. The story as i remember it is he went west to…well, i guess what any young man who sought adventure did in those days: to be a cowboy, perhaps. Again as i remember it, it didn’t turn out quite that way; he apparently was a cook, ran the chuck wagon for some outfit. It didn’t do him well. He came or was brought back home in not too good of shape. His brother-in-law and sister put him up in a cabin on their property off of Hunter’s Point Pike until he passed in the summer of 1930. Ammon was seventy-six when he passed. His grave is off of Webster’s Lane on what was the bishop’s rather large farm just northeast of where Walter J. Baird Middle School now educates children who probably not aware of Ammon, his sister, or the bishop. The second note is in all probability in the hand of my aunt. My cousin sent some memorabilia to me from my Aunt Evelyn Prichard Orr, this photo lady’s granddaughter. The photo was included. So it seems to reason, Aunt Evelyn wrote: “Grandmother of Evelyn P. Orr, Estelle P. Jewell, Bettye Kate P. Hall, Billy Prichard.”

After the photo lady passed in 1933 at eighty-five,  Aunt Evelyn, Mother (Estelle), Aunt Bettye, and Uncle Bill helped the bishop through his final years. The Prichard family had returned from Gotha, Florida where they lived for about three years in hopes of the climate positively impacting their father’s failing health (my grandfather, Joe Blythe Prichard). The climate did no good, and Grandfather wished to come home to die. When he passed, Granny, his wife, took up 24/7 care giving to support the family.

My mother told me of Aunt Evelyn, fresh from graduating from Gotha High School, would arise in the morning, cook, with the help of her siblings, a fried chicken and biscuit breakfast for the bishop. Then she would walk from the farm (still on the outskirts of Lebanon proper just south of where Castle Heights Avenue North now connects with North Cumberland, which before the spread of city development was once Hunter’s Point Pike) across the square on up West Spring Street to Cumberland, where she excelled in academics and basketball. But she walked home in the midday, prepared lunch for the bishop, and return uto campus for the afternoon. When classes and practice were completed, she would make her walking trip again back to the farm to perform supper chores. Aunt Evelyn is a heroine in my mind.

Part of that obviously came from the lady in the photograph.

Katherine Ferrell Webster, my great grandmother, is our link to the Ferrell family. Joe Ferrell and i knew of the connection and were going to investigate the links more thoroughly, but Joe, my good Lebanon friend, passed away last year.

So i sit and look at Katherine. Times long ago, different, gone. Sometimes i wish they knew quite a bit of what we know now but hadn’t been invented or discovered yet. Sometimes i wish i didn’t know what they didn’t know. Simpler days.

But i always wish i could have known her. i’m pretty sure i would have loved her.

Rambling Thoughts of a Septuagenarian

Been quite a while for me to be away from writing here.

Been working. Home projects, cleaning, organizing, those kind of things. Been thinking. Been goofing off. Been wrestling…with myself. i’ve also been working on my book; not enough, mind you, but working on it. And yes, i’ve been playing (sort of) golf.

You see, i am a septuagenarian. In fact, i’m smack dab in the middle of septuagenarianism (and yes, Blythe Jewell Gander, Judy Gray, and several other grammarians of note, i made that up). In spite of my parents living just shy of ninety-seven and ninety-nine, i am surprised to still be here. When i was in my late teens, early twenties, i figured i would flame out before i reached fifty. i had given up my dream of being a  super three-sport star excelling in football, basketball, and baseball, and making it to the college and professional hall of fame in each sport. Oh yes, i also expected to be the next Roy Rogers on the silver screen.

Yeh, i dreamed big.

When the realization my dreams were not to be smacked me in my unrealistic head, i decided somewhat vaguely i would be a jazz guitar player playing solo in a small night club and die of some strange digestive disorder in a single flat in an old apartment building in downtown San Francisco .

Now this kind of plan or whatever one might call such a strange ambition is really remarkable considering who i was and where i was. i have no idea of how a Tennessee small country town boy could come up with such an idea. i was a decent athlete but by no means the best in Lebanon or Castle Heights. i was also about a foot short and a hundred pounds light of even being considered as a star athlete. i had no concept of what San Francisco was like. i could barely play the piano and couldn’t hit a lick on a guitar. i really had no interest in playing jazz. Hell, i wasn’t even sure what jazz really was at the time. It just seemed like a cool thing to me…and i didn’t see any neat thing about living past fifty.

These thoughts were even more remarkable because at the same time in my life i decided the happiest people in the world were farmers. They got up at four, milked the cows, fed the chickens, gathered the eggs, had a big breakfast, worked hard all morning, had a dinner (noon meal, you non-Southerners) of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, tomatoes, and another vegetable all from the farm, drank buttermilk, went back out into the fields to work until the cows were called in around four, called it a day, got a cane pole, and some bait and walked down to the river and fished for a while, had a light supper, and went to bed around eight. i thought they got a lot of satisfaction out of their work and their land and didn’t have to fool with all of the other fools in this world, at least as little as possible.

Yup, i had crazy thoughts then. Still do. But i am no longer amazed i’m still here.

My mind about this obviously changed somewhat.

Then this morning, i went early to get a blood test. It seems now that i’m older, blood tests are a way of life. i’ve learned some tricks about blood testing. Like going early so if i have to fast i won’t have too long after waking up to eat. Also if you wait until later even with an appointment you could be in the waiting room like forever. As i sat in the lobby as second in line this morning, i wondered why waiting in the lobby was such a big deal to me. After all, i’m retired. i’ve got all day.

But it went quickly and i headed home as school was beginning. It so happens the route home, if one avoids the busiest four-lane surface streets, goes right by our old house, the original one for Maureen and i, and an elementary school.

i was struck by the traffic. Not just traffic, but crazy people trying to beat others to the drop off point to the point of cutting other people off, speeding in the school zone, and acting like the world belonged to them alone. Never have understood that. Marveled at it when i would pick up Sarah from Burton Tiffany Elementary years ago. Crazy people.

Then i thought about home. A long time ago. Home. Walking to school. Really pretty much on my own from six years on. Had to let ’em know where i was going. Had to get home for dinner and supper (yes, it was Southern) even though i was not really good about that and Mother didn’t have a cell phone back then. i saw the school children being ushered in, protected, more parents and supervisors than children almost. No cops. Hmm…We had a policeman in the morning and afternoon, and school patrol. Period. i can’t remember any teachers being anywhere near Main Street. Am i just fondly inaccurately remembering?

Freedom. That’s what i thought when i ran into that school traffic this morning. i don’t know if it’s better, worse, or the same only different for those children. But there certainly isn’t a lot of freedom for them. Yeh, this goes along with not going out to play, watching television, playing computer games, all that. And then when they are older, playing music that can blow your brains out of your ears and offensive to anyone older than fifty. Don’t get it. Where’s the tune? Where’s the love song? Where’s the slow dance? Where’s the music to make you wanna dance, not jump and down as in some ancient ritual?

Our parents knew we were going to hell (Hmm, maybe they had something there), listening to that music, swinging our hips like that, combing our hair back, not doing the waltz or foxtrot. Hell, i tell you. So, i will not berate those kids next door who had a poolside birthday this afternoon and blew open the kitchen door with the decibels, although they probably didn’t. i probably didn’t shut it all the way and the dog got out. But that’s my excuse. Man, there was enough testosterone over the fence this afternoon to eradicate the need for viagra if it could be captured and transferred to old men.

i remembered Hazelwood and Horn Springs. Swimming. Sun. Girls in bathing suits, diving and laughing. Bobby Darin singing “Splish Splash,” Bill Doggett playing “Honky Tonk.” Oh, i pined for those girls. Never had a steady after Elaine Davis in the eighth grade until i fell in love about a dozen times in less than six years. Those boys next door seemed so sure of themselves, laughing and yelling. i wonder if any of them felt lonely like i did. Ahh, but they didn’t have Roy Orbison singing “Only the Lonely.”

Different? Yes. i can’t judge. Too old. Not too old, but too distant, too removed to really have a clue what they are going through.

Yet i can’t help thinking our world lost something when children quit walking to school, when all of the sports were invented by the children, not organized, where television was something kids watched in the late afternoon and the Saturday morning shows on television. When the Saturday movies had cartoons and good guys and bad guys and the good guys always won by playing fair.

And the world was smaller, much smaller, like maybe five, ten miles from the square at best because the big city, Nashville was thirty miles away, a day trip.

An oh i could go on and on, and probably have too much, and probably will take up this theme again and again.

You understand? i miss my growing up in Lebanon, Tennessee in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It’s a lost world. That makes me sad.

Letters a While Ago Revisited

i was sitting at my desk in my home office, pretty much just wasting time and amazing myself at how it seems i always have more to do than can be done, never have enough money to do those things, and how long it takes me to get anything done.

Then i quit playing spider solitaire and decided to do something.

A couple of days ago, i wrote a post about V-Mails. There were six V-Mail letters i received with a nice note from my cousin, Nancy Schwarze. She always writes nice notes. The V-Mails were from my father to my aunt and uncle, Nancy’s parents. He wrote one from Gulfport, Mississippi where his 75th Seabees were waiting for a Liberty Ship to take them through the Panama Canal and on to the Southwest Pacific into the teeth of WWII (where he wrote the other five letters).

i wrote of him and some of my thoughts on him and his letters.

Today, i sent the originals to my grandson, named after my father, not me. i scanned them before i sent them because i realized the scanned letters could say more better than i ever could,  conveying a sense of time, the past, a moment in history as no writing ever could.

As i was doing this, i also ran across a document from my past. It is a Western Union “Mailgram” i sent it to Maureen in October 1983. i was in the Indian Ocean, on the USS Yosemite probably anchored of the Island of Masirah, Oman. We had been married three months and spent about two weeks total together before Yosemite got underway from Mayport, Florida for an eight-month deployment.

i compared my father’s V-Mails to my “telegram” morphed into a wire mail.

My father’s correspondence was received by the recipients some months after they were composed. Maureen got my note within a couple of days, maybe just one day. Now, the communication to folks back home can be instantaneous. But no less heartfelt.

My sense of father’s anxiety and loneliness is palpable to me. He was in hot humid lands of the Solomons, New Guinea, and the Philippines. i know. i have been there. Mine was in the hot, dry (even though at sea) Indian Ocean on a ship the vintage of my father’s military experience but modified to have air-conditioning, which, of course, frequently broke down. Sailors on today’s Navy ships have high-grade climate control, not for them but for all of that sophisticated electronic equipment, which cannot stand heat and must have controlled humidity to operate correctly.

My father was in the middle of it. A Japanese attack by land, sea, or air could have wiped out his battalion and him at any moment for just shy of two years. The enemy was easy to identify. The threat i faced in the IO was less imminent but more shadowy, unknown, and less likely. Today, the threat for our personnel also is shadowy, more of a terrorist nature, but still with lethal possibilities.

My father was fighting to save his country, our country, from domination by foreign terrors, governments run by tyrants with no limits on their murderous prospects. i was and today’s military personnel are fighting in foreign waters and lands with nothing really clear except the threat being real, more to suppress the threat than defend the downfall of our country. Still for those at the front a real possibility of dying.

When my father wrote, he had no idea when he might come home. When i served, i suffered the “mid-cruise” blues on nearly all of my deployments, certainly feeling that loneliness when i wrote my telegram. i do not know the extent of that feeling of loneliness of today’s soldiers, sailors, and marines. But i suspect, even though communications to and from home are so much easier, they still suffer those blues.

Regardless, i decided to include photos of one of my father’s V-Mails and then my Western Union Mail Gram. After all, the scans do convey a sense of time, the past, a moment in history as no writing ever could. Had i samples of today’s communication between deployed military personnel and their loved ones, i would include them. But i don’t have such and even if i did, it would be electronic.

i wanted to share:

The envelope in which the one above was sent: