RUNNING OUT OF TIME?

“Even though I’m retired, my time’s still highly valuable.”

BIG BEN’S TICKING

I know several guys that have car and truck projects lined up for many years to come. You can include me in this group. The clock is ticking and most likely not all of my tasks (or theirs) will be completed. At what point does one stop taking on new ones? I’ll share my perspective on things at the end of this spiel.

In 1991, I attended a seminar where the great Antarctic and Alaskan explorer, Colonel Norman D. Vaughan, spoke about his South Pole experiences with Admiral Richard E. Byrd. He offered up these words of encouragement,

“Dream big and dare to fail!”

Colonel Vaughan was 85 at the time, and I initially thought he was on something. How could anyone at that age still be dreaming about new goals? I was an energetic 37-year-old at this point. Three years later, having just turned 88, the colonel successfully climbed a 10,302 foot mountain in Antarctica named after him, Mt. Vaughan.

These days, not as spry as I was at 65, I find it much easier to talk about what I’m planning to do, rather than actually perform the work. I’ve never broken a sweat doing such. The visionary projects in my head always turn out much better than the real ones anyway.

Glancing around at metal shelving in my garage, I spot several parts and components I’ve held on to for years believing they’ll someday be needed. At least that’s what I tell myself. Maybe if I live to be 100 like Norman Vaughan that’ll become reality. Otherwise, somewhere down the road this stuff will all end up in a dumpster; meaningless junk to those surviving family members given the chore of sifting through.

I’ve sold or given away several items the past few years. I finally deemed them worthless where building hot rods is concerned. A Chevrolet Turbo-400 transmission went to a snowbird in Oregon for $50.00. He called the other morning thanking me and saying it worked like a charm. The transmission would’ve been nice to keep around, but after I scraped my leg on it for perhaps a fifth time, I had enough. Adios!

Craigslist was great for peddling automotive merchandise until things took a covid spiral. A set of chrome valve covers, new oil pan, plus a double-roller timing gear setup for a small block Chevy were the last items I tried to unleash. Asking a mere $20.00 for the lot, this was less than ten percent on what I originally paid.

Several days went by before one fellow called, inquiring if I’d take $5.00 for the timing set alone. The caller lived in Fort Mohave and said he was down and out financially speaking. I told him yes, and we set a date and time. He planned on bumming a ride to Havasu with a friend. My intent was to give him the gears and chain for free plus other goodies once he arrived.

After three phone calls claiming he was on the way, the fellow never showed. Repeated attempts by me to reach him were unsuccessful. Even though I’m retired, my time’s still highly valuable. That wasted 8-hours is worth $16.00. If I had the man’s address, I’d send him a bill. Similar incidents occurred afterwards on trying to sell junk online. Eventually, I gave up.

Hospice of Havasu Resale Store is now my recipient to any worthwhile automotive stuff plus household goods. I’m sure they have plenty of gearheads like myself strolling through searching for this or that part. I venture there quite often, never failing to find a unique shirt. My latest acquisition is a forest green, U.S. Fish & Wildlife tee. This garment draws a lot of attention especially around the lake.

It seems I’ve drifted away from the original thesis of this story. Such happens quite often with my senior friends as well. Getting back to projects, and should I take on more of them?

“The truth is, I’m running out of time, yet that doesn’t stop me!”

That ’32 Ford roadster I’d love to build can be accomplished mentally, without spending a dime or turning a wrench. What I’m referring to is not much different than what I did as a child. Back then, I could dream up things and then put them to paper. Just being able to plan out all the infinite details helped keep my cranial gears turning.

Using this approach, I’ll be able to add project after project to my list regardless of a ticking clock. This strange philosophy goes hand in hand with what financial entrepreneur, Malcolm Forbes, told a group of people,

“When you cease to dream, you cease to live!”

Much like Colonel Norman Vaughan and Malcolm Forbes, I hope to keep on planning, and at the least, dreaming, for many years to come!

’32 Ford Roadster

ON A MISSION

“Being able to say we lived in a garage meant more than anything to me.”

124 North Mission Street

My wife and I have been trying like crazy to find a spot in Kansas to make our summer home. We’ve been searching fifteen years now and each time we thought things were figured out, a door suddenly closed.

Alta Vista, Kansas is one example of many such failures. An old limestone FORD dealership building I wanted to convert into a dwelling was too far gone to be financially feasible, this according to Joleen. I was all for it regardless of cost. Being able to say we lived in a vintage garage meant more than anything to me.

Maple Hill, Kansas came next. We’d already signed paperwork to purchase a nice building lot. Unbeknownst to us, the center of the property was a waterway of sorts. Unless a dam or barrier was built around it, the land would become a small lake during torrential rains which happens quite often. That idea was nixed.

We’d pretty much given up on our mission until the name Council Grove popped up. Council Grove is one of the most historically significant towns in all of the Sunflower State. It was founded in the 1840’s and was a stopping point on the Santa Fe Trail. I’d visited the place several years ago, thinking I was in an oasis of sorts.

Lush greenery was everywhere, with tall oak trees and a small river flowing through the center of town. A beautiful river walk had been constructed by locals along with a bronze statue commemorating pioneer women. There’s nothing else like it in Kansas. Never in a million years did I think we could live there, because there’s a list of buyers a mile long waiting their turn.

Out of the blue, a sister and brother decided to sell a residential lot directly adjacent to the historical district. I came across it shortly after being listed. The land had belonged to their parents, and once they passed away, both children decided they wouldn’t be needing the ground. I was on the phone within minutes.

Research shows it to have had at least two residences over the years. This goes back to the 1850’s. The last house was torn down approximately twenty years ago, with remaining oak trees having space to spread their branches and limbs. I stumbled across several articles in the Council Grove Republican showing where church bazaars were held on the shaded lot afterwards.

1982 article

We’ll be within walking distance of Main Street, Neosho River Walk, Hay’s House Restaurant, Hermit’s Cave, Old KAW Mission, plus a bustling Dairy Queen for tasty ice cream.

The house directly next door looks quite spectacular in design, almost spooky. I knew there had to be something special about it. Looking through newspaper archives I found that in 1953 it became a mortuary. Up until that time the house was a residence, plus meeting place for a Christian women’s group. Had the funeral home still been in operation at this point, I would’ve 86’d this sale in a heartbeat. Somewhere around 2000 the business was closed. Fortunately for us, a family now resides there.

Before any construction begins, I’m on a much bigger mission. I’ll go over every square inch of the lot with my metal detector. The old brick sidewalks are most likely once again hidden under grass. I know there’s old and cool junk lurking underneath those bricks and turf. Finding it will be priority one!

1953 newspaper ad

SENIOR BENEFITS

“Far less people give me the dirty eyeball than they do folks wheeling into handicapped spaces.”

Someone’s been calling our house the past two years and we’ve never picked up. Caller I.D. shows them to be from Senior Benefits. A couple of times I thought about answering yet never did.

A former co-worker claims that senior benefits is an oxymoron just like military intelligence. I suppose those two definitions fall in line with adult children.

Exactly what benefits do seniors have over others? That’s a fair question and one that I cannot totally answer. We do get perks at certain restaurants. A popular fast-food chain here in town gives me five percent off on coffee and drinks. I’m not complaining. Doing such allows me a bit more spending loot for other venues, such as feeding a gumball machine whenever I can find one.

I find no benefit in being a senior with all the aches and pains. Hair loss and vision impairment aren’t bonuses. Our seniority doesn’t mean anything where standing in lines is concerned. I suppose some younger folks falsely believe that having handicapped plates is a senior asset.

Older people get to legally park in handicapped zones only if they have a placard, so that doesn’t automatically qualify all of us geezers. I’d much rather walk to a store from the back of a parking lot anyway. Far less people give me the dirty eyeball than they do folks wheeling into handicapped spaces. I know those drivers are carefully being watched, to see if a pronounced limp is visible after exiting a car or truck. I’ve caught myself doing the same.

AARP on occasion sends my wife and I discount cards for various companies. Aging Adults Requiring Pills is what my friend Jeff claims the four letters stand for. In a magazine article about college students demonstrating for change in government leadership, I noticed the following AARP interpretation spray painted on a Washington D.C. building: Asinine Angry Repulsive People. I prefer my friend’s more humorous definition instead.

There’ll come a day when I’ll answer my phone just to find out what Senior Benefits wants. I’m sure it’ll be a young telemarketer trying to hard sell me on life insurance, funeral services, or a monogramed HurryCane. I’ll then put to good use a senior benefit that most of us aged folks keep close at hand. It’s called sudden loss of hearing.

“I’m sorry, you’ll have to speak up. I can’t hear you!”

“I can’t hear you!”

CASPER & THE PIRATE’S CHEST

“With the added skull and crossbones, it gives this a safe a desired pirate look.”

“Casper”

I’ve met several people over the years that named their vehicles after people, animals, or other things. My wife and I did the same with one of ours. It’s a 2009 Chevrolet HHR panel that we affectionately call, “Casper.” The namesake came about in a most unusual way.

Casper has been in the family since 2009. He was purchased new at Alaska Sales & Service in Anchorage. HHR’s are modeled after early 1950s era Chevrolet pickups for whatever that’s worth.

The Chevy stayed in Alaska less than a year before being shipped via truck to Seattle. Prior to it leaving the 49th state, I constructed a special rolling-wood-platform for placing a heavy gun safe on. That cumbersome honeycomb device was loaded in the back of Casper and securely tied down. It took me and another guy significant effort to load things because of the weight.

My platform was manufactured using wood screws and will easily hold 2,000 pounds with its special oversize caster wheels. There’s 3/4-inch plywood on both top and bottom, thus the inside is hollow except for diagonal 2″ x 6″ braces. That’s where the honeycomb design comes into play.

Somewhere at the Alaska / Canadian border an inspections officer deemed the apparatus unusual and ordered this box removed and inspected. There was an official customs statement stapled to the plywood attesting to such. We discovered it upon picking our car up in Seattle.

I’d used torx head screws to hold things together and evidently those bumbling border agents didn’t have a special bit to fit them. It was apparent they tried using a Phillips screwdriver instead, because some of the torx screw heads were stripped. Undoubtedly, they never physically got inside, because someone’s blood was on a section of wood. Even if they’d removed screws, I glued things together for added strength. I’m sure they x-rayed the contraption before loading it back in.

During removal from the HHR’s rear door, agents scratched up the plastic bumper protector after all four caster wheels rolled over it. Thirteen years later those marks are still there. Back then, I made sure to call and complain but only got the usual government runaround. My wife advised me to not go further, saying they’d have Michael Hankins pegged as a troublemaker next time he crossed the border.

That’s how the car’s name came to be. Casper sounds a lot better than Caster. The round automobile design does remind me of Casper the Friendly Ghost, especially with its frosty white color.

Casper is approaching 112,000 miles. He was slated to be sold but with fuel prices approaching $5.00 a gallon, I believe he’ll be around for many years to come. With a 2.0 liter, 4-cylinder engine, this little Chevrolet gets excellent fuel mileage.

Each time I see the damage, I wish there’d been a camera and microphone inside my HHR, capturing the exact moment and words uttered when scratches were made. Casper knows the pain someone went through, yet unlike the cartoon character, he isn’t talking.

As far as that safe goes now sitting on top of the platform, there’s a story behind it as well. My Papa Haynes had an old trunk next to his bed that most everyone wanted to know what was inside. He kept it locked. The older cousins believed it was stuffed full of silver dollars and other valuables. When Papa died, his pirate’s chest as we called it was finally opened.

There were silver dollars within, but all newer ones and not vintage 1800s as everyone thought. Not knowing all those years made things special for me. I wanted to duplicate the same mystery and excitement for my grandchildren.

There’s nothing of real monetary value inside ours, other than some old family photos and books that I wrote for each grandchild. With added skull and crossbones, it gives the safe a desired pirate look. That’s exactly what I was aiming for.

After Joleen and I are gone, our kids and grandkids can have fun opening it. There’ll be a little something for everyone, although nothing that a real pirate would lose blood over.

On the other hand, should gasoline ever hit $10.00 a gallon and Casper’s still around, that’ll give them all something to fight for!

The Pirate’s Chest

HELPING HAND

“For a good ten minutes this bottle danced around with no particular place to go.”

I sat in Walgreen’s parking lot the other morning watching an empty water bottle try to escape. The reason for it being there in the first place was unknown to me. Undoubtedly, some person had carelessly tossed the thing aside.

Cars and trucks were lined up in the pharmacy drive-thru and progress was slow. My radio was on, thus soothing music made things quite relaxing while waiting. A warm desert breeze enabled this bottle to quickly scurry across hot asphalt, yet it could never take flight and leave. A curb always seemed to get in its way. I knew how that felt, having five metal obstacles in front of me mounted on rubber tires.

For a good ten minutes this bottle danced around with no particular place to go. Several vehicles missed hitting it on their way out. The plastic container slowly rolled past a store employee pushing a cart, but the fellow seemed fixated on his own thoughts and never looked down

Finally getting my meds and starting to exit the place, I spotted the bottle lodged against a brick wall. That would be its permanent home until a sweeper came by and sucked it up. From there, it’d go to the city dump with other trash.

Turning around, I drove close to the container then walked over and grabbed it. Unceremoniously, I tossed it on the passenger side floorboard. It seemed like the responsible thing to do. The container had no name as its label was missing.

Once I arrived home, I had two choices on where to stick it: the garbage bin or recycling. I’m not a philosophical kind of guy, and the choice made was not symbolic on my part. I chose recycling just because plastics are supposed to go there. I knew that bottle would someday be turned into another useful entity, perhaps a plastic syringe used to help save a life.

Later that day, I thought back to my uncharacteristic gesture and sensed something even deeper. People that we come in contact with on a daily basis are much like that bottle. Some are trying to escape an unfortunate situation without being able to do so.

Sometimes, all it takes to set them free is a simple helping hand. We can play a part in making sure their lives go to recycling, rather than to trash.

ACCOLADES & COMPLIMENTS

“What the fellow didn’t know was that I took his statement as a compliment.”

Patina City

I’ve been writing long enough to get a few attaboys from friends, family, and strangers. I don’t write strictly for such, yet it’s nice to hear from readers time to time, when a composition’s funny or interesting. Writing is a form of therapy and nothing more. If you were to put me on a strict writing schedule, my brain would short circuit. I’m not adept at composing stuff under pressure.

The only accolade received for a piece of my literature is an honorable mention certificate. The Anchorage Daily News gave it to me 34 years ago for a non-fiction piece titled, “Fishin’ With Mike.” This story’s now in my new book and one that Mom despised. There’s a valid reason behind her disgust, but you’ll have to read Ordinary, Average GuyUncensored Memoirs of a Trailer Park Refugee to see why.

In September, I’ll get a truckload of compliments although not literary in nature. I’ll be taking my vintage 1950 Chevrolet pickup back to the McConnell Air Force Base Air Show in Wichita, Kansas. Four years ago, we made the trip with over 250,000 people attending. I have photos showing droves of attendees standing around admiring the relic. Doors were left unlocked, with many parents seizing the opportunity to place their kids inside and have pictures taken of them.

I didn’t build this vehicle for attaboys either. Like my writing, working on it is a form of therapy. All alone in the garage with radio playing, I’ll tinker with the Chevy while thinking up new story material at the same time. My wife checks on me quite often to make sure I’m still in one piece. Several times Joleen’s discovered hands and knees cut and bleeding, but nothing serious.

I’ve developed thick skin where my writing and criticism is concerned, including having calloused skin on hands and fingers from turning wrenches. I overheard one fellow at the last airshow negatively remark,

“Looks as if this thing was yanked out of some farmer’s field and hauled here!”

What the guy didn’t know was that I took his statement as a compliment. Four years were spent trying to make it look that way. If he’d poked his head underneath the man would’ve noticed powder coated high-tech chassis components. Just like people judging a book by its cover, he’d done the same with my truck.

To me, it’s a piece of art, yet in a strange kind of way. It took 72 years for nature to create the finished product. To car guys and gals, we refer to such as patina.

Glancing in the mirror, I see my hair and skin having patina of its own. Sixty eight years has given it plenty of different hues. An old Chinaman named Proverb, claimed that wrinkles are lines of wisdom. If that’s the case, then I’m a walking, talking, encyclopedia.

Mr. Proverb couldn’t have given me a better compliment if he tried!

LIGHT MY FIRE

“The old man had little patience with incompetent workers.”

In the late 1960s, Jim Morrison and The Doors released a song titled, “Light My Fire.” I’m pretty sure lyrics to the popular tune had nothing to do with lighting a campfire or gas stove.

Dad sang a similar tune yet with different meaning. Whenever someone was pokey and not doing their job, he’d sing out for all to hear,

“Someone needs to light a fire under their butt!”

If the person was horribly slow and he became lit while waiting, my father exchanged butt for a harsher word. The old man had little patience with incompetent workers.

I was parked beside a fast-food drive-thru speaker the other morning. It took several minutes for an employee to finally acknowledge that anyone was there. Ordering two cups of coffee and a couple of egg biscuits, nothing was said by the clerk in return.

Waiting for perhaps another three minutes, I softly whispered to my wife,

“Earth to worker. Earth to worker. Come in please!”

That’s a favorite line of mine. I generally add first names when friends don’t respond back to a question.

The gal finally spoke up, asking if I’d decided yet. Looking at Joleen and smirking, I whispered that perhaps this person needed our coffee.

It took another length of time before we were able to pay and get our food. Looking at a boldly printed logo on the paper sack I couldn’t help but chuckle.

Flavor Lit By Fire

I thought of Dad and what he’d do in this situation. Without doubt my father would glance at the bag and then remark,

“There’s something more than flavor needing lit in this place!”

ASSISTED LIVING

“Being attached to an umbilical cord in a mother’s womb is the first level of assisted living.”

A good friend once remarked, “I’d rather die than go to assisted living!” I wanted to inform him that he’s been on assisted living since day one. I held off, knowing that’d spark an argument. This individual loves to argue at the drop of a hat.

Being attached to an umbilical cord in a mother’s womb is the first level of assisted living. Without that early life support, my buddy, nor anyone else in this world would be here.

The air we breathe and water we drink are key ingredients in an assisted living recipe. So is the food sliding down our throats. Had I told this person such he would’ve scoffed at my ideology, saying that isn’t the type of assisted living he referred to. My short spiel would continue, nonetheless.

Automobiles transporting us from place to place, along with homes to live in are other venues of assisted living. Without them, we could survive, but life would be tough.

Medical help is another assisted living component. My friend sees multiple doctors all the time. He’s on blood pressure medication and cholesterol pills as well, including three or four other prescriptions. Those items are essential help mates in keeping his body functioning and mobile. A simple cane carried by many seniors does the same.

Anyone telling me they’d rather die than go on assisted living doesn’t have a clue. Next time my friend mentions this I have a good response,

“You’re already there pal, whether you like it or not!”

Assisted living

TRAILER PARK REFUGEE

“A fellow I worked with years ago evidently thought there was something seedy and sinister about trailer park living.”

My latest book was officially released in April after several months of tedious revision. Covenant Publishing Company representative, Renee Barnhill, says it’s the most unique, personal narrative she’s had the pleasure of publishing. If that’s the only accolade received, I’ll be happy. I’m sure my manuscript didn’t follow etiquette on how personal narratives are supposed to be arranged. It’s definitely unorthodox in composition, totally intentional of course.

I didn’t compose this memoir solely for profit and attaboys. The project was designed for the enjoyment of friends, family, and especially those precious grandchildren. Ultimately, folks I’ve never met will read it more than anyone.

I tried to touch base on significant events happening in my world from 1954 thru 1974. Some of the occurrence’s will never be repeated because of ever changing lifestyles. Telephone party lines come to mind. Hopefully the contents evoke a laugh or two. There’s a serious tone as well.

When a friend asked if I thought complete strangers would want to read a biography about my life, I replied, “No, they’d be more interested in hearing what a trailer park refugee has to say about theirs!”

For some odd reason, many people having never lived in trailer parks are inquisitive about such. I believe the dogmatic stigma, trailer trash, provokes this curiosity.

A fellow I worked with years ago evidently thought there was something seedy and sinister about trailer park living. I say that because he used the words trailer park people in a demeaning fashion. This misinformed soul would’ve undoubtedly purchased my book for dirt alone. Oh, there’s dirt inside, but not of the sordidness he’d desire.

A micro definition for refugee is: to flee. Generally, it’s fleeing another country to avoid persecution. Some literary critics would claim I misused the word. My family lived in a total of seven trailer courts. One of them, Dad and Mom fled for increased trailer space rent. The other was vacated for sanitation reasons; raw sewage leaking into yards. Poetic license gives me authority to use refugee in each case.

My original title, ORDINARY, AVERAGE GUY  Memoirs of a Trailer Park Refugee, didn’t cut it The wording needed salsa to make things pop.

ORDINARY, AVERAGE GUY  Uncensored Memoirs of a Trailer Park Refugee, did the job. When Joseph Magnolia, Covenant Publishing Company agent first saw the title, he asked if my manuscript was full of obscenities. I had to chuckle, reassuring him that there wasn’t one cuss word inside.

Amazon, plus Barnes & Noble, have agreed to carry the paperback and digital (Kindle) versions. The company employs people that review new releases for racist, anti-Semitic, or other offensive criteria before accepting. Mine passed with flying colors. Other venues will offer it as well in the coming days.

Search engines will eventually key upon ‘trailer park refugee’. I thought this would take a couple of years or longer, but it’s already showing up on Google. Being that I don’t have the services of radio talk-show host Dennis Miller, or late-night television star, Jimmy Fallon to plug things, I had to be creative in finding a title that’d make folks voluntarily pick up a copy. Magazines do such all the time by using catchy photos on front covers.

My goal is to sell 101 books. That same friend asking who’d want to read my book jokingly informed me I’d be lucky to peddle 100. I want to prove him wrong. Uncensored in conjunction with trailer park refugee should nudge it past the century mark.

SMILING FACES

“People that we encounter in routine day-to-day activities possessing bubbly character are becoming a rare breed these days.”

Over the years, I’ve met several outgoing people in Lake Havasu City restaurants, banks, grocery stores, and other retail establishments. To some residents and out of town visitors, they were merely worker bees and nothing more. I viewed them on a more personal level.

Jimmy was employed at Basha’s close to our neighborhood. He was a short Italian guy and perhaps the friendliest person in the store. Jimmy always wore a smile and had a glowing personality. The man was at retirement age when I first started doing business there, so I’m guessing he was in his late 60s at that time.

I always made sure to go through the checkout line where Jimmy bagged groceries. It never failed that he’d say, “Have a nice day!” as I left. The tone of Jimmy’s voice showed that he truly meant such. When I learned that the man passed away not long after retiring it brought tears to my eyes.

Glenda worked at the local Ace Hardware right up the street. We chatted quite often on all kinds of subjects, as I was constantly in there picking up supplies. She was a believer like me, so talking religion wasn’t out of the question, including politics. Glenda knew that my wife had been through cancer treatment, never forgetting to ask how Joleen was doing.

When Glenda had serious health issues, Joleen and I took her goodies to eat while she recovered. The frail woman was most appreciative. When Glenda passed away, we attended evening services. I was sad, but also knew she was in a much better place. Southside Ace Hardware has a picture of her on a wall behind their cash registers. I always glance at it before walking out.

Linda worked at Basha’s like Jimmy. She was one of their senior employees and very proficient at her job. I don’t know how many times Linda helped me through the self-checkout process. I became an expert at locking this machine up without trying. Whenever I was able to use it without assistance, she high fived me with a grin.

One morning, Linda told me that she was close to retiring. Offering congratulations, I jokingly mentioned that if her retirement mirrored mine, she’d be much busier than she was now. The kind woman nodded in agreement. Several weeks went by and I hadn’t seen her, so I figured Linda’s exodus had started early. A co-worker sadly told me one morning, that she’d unexpectedly died weeks before reaching that goal. I was heartbroken.

Black Bear restaurant is a favorite place for many to eat. James was one of our favorite servers there. He carried around photos of his two granddaughters, and always brought customers up to speed on how they were doing. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more doting grandparent than this fellow.

Last week, we were in this restaurant for breakfast. This was the first time in two years because of covid, as well as the eatery suffering a major fire in November. Joleen and I quizzed a veteran server about what crew members came back after their reopening, and those that didn’t. When I brought up James, a lump immediately came to the woman’s throat. She could hardly tell us, that her co-worker and good friend died October 31 from a covid related illness. I couldn’t finish my meal after hearing that.

People that we encounter in routine day-to-day activities possessing bubbly character are becoming a rare breed these days. The four workers just mentioned were happy to have a job and it showed. I’m sure they had bad days like everyone, yet didn’t complain, at least not to me. Serving the public can be brutal. I know this from my own experience in retail sales.

If awards are posthumously given for excellence in service, while wearing a smile, Jimmy, Glenda, Linda, and James without question, each deserve one!

Glenda