“Visiting Council Grove, Kansas, in 2015, I found that location to be picture perfect.”

I first started writing The Last Christmas Card in the winter of 2009 – just now wrapping things up where publishing is concerned. Fourteen years passed with the manuscript securely digitized on an antique floppy disc, including being stored upstairs in my noggin during that time. Not sure if I wanted to complete the tale, my wife persuaded me to do so one year ago after she read several of the book’s beginning chapters.

Always knowing where I wanted to start and end this tale, yet not having a specific town where things were supposed to take place was a major problem. Visiting Council Grove, Kansas, in 2015, I found that location to be picture perfect.

For those having never been there, Council Grove is akin to an oasis in the prairie, first discovered by American Indians going far back in America’s history. An abundance of water was a magnet to wildlife of all type, with the indigenous natives following them. Starting in the mid 1800s, Council Grove became a major stopping point on the Santa Fe Trail. Now a major tourist attraction, “Hay’s Last Stop Store” built in 1850 still stands.

Many of the events in my book are ones that I played a role in, with other family members and friends doing the same. The Atlas missile silo mentioned is approximately one mile from my wife’s Uncle Lee and Aunt Joanne Mills’ farm. Joleen’s cousins, Randy and Larry Mills, took me there in 1975.

A humorous horseback ride talked about in the story chronicles one that my family, including Uncle Noel and Aunt Gay, with cousins, Randall and Cheryl McDaniel, went on in 1964, at Buffalo Lake in Lubbock, Texas.

The 1860s limestone house is exactly like one in Manhattan, Kansas, that my wife and I were prepared to purchase, at least I was, but didn’t for unusual reasons, one of them being the home sat on Rural Road 911. A 1941 Willys pickup truck which is a key part of the story is a takeoff from a 1938 Willys that Joleen’s brother, Calvin, owns.

The “Freedmen” Cemetery mentioned, is in the same town, Dunlap, Kansas, where my wife’s father, Herman Freeman, was an elementary school principal for several years.

I could go on and on but won’t. Palmetto Publishing is wrapping things up, with the anticipated release date – April 2023.


“It’s interesting to me in seeing if a vehicle matches up with its driver.”

Amongst good company

Last Saturday, I attended the 15th annual Calvary Church sponsored, Crossroads Car & Bike Show. Normally, I go to look at the vast array of cool vehicles, plus score a new T-shirt and free hotdog. This time I elected to drag my old Chevy truck out of retirement and see if it’d make the ten-mile round trip to Havasu 95 Speedway at SARA Park without incurring a wrecker bill. Washing and waxing it beforehand was not part of my agenda, knowing that the drive alone would blow off any dust.

Not sure on how it’d fare via one-year-old “skunk gas” I left my house long before the rooster crowed, being one of the first entrants there. For anyone having smelled old fuel they’ll know what I mean by skunk gas. The aroma is similar to a recent roadkill.

Plenty of workers had already settled into their routine by that point, including those priming themselves with hot coffee, all quite eager to help participants park their rides, much aware that some drivers are no longer pros at backing up. It’s oftentimes entertaining to watch a few older folks each year continually drift to the left or right instead of straight back.

Used parts sellers were scurrying about placing their boxes of wares on tables, while others brought in trailer loads to peddle or trade. Car show organizer, Dick Stiller, had already logged a couple of miles on foot overseeing his volunteer crew, while Havasu 95 Speedway owner, Bill Rozhon, did the same on a golf cart.

I was situated in the middle of some extremely nice folks on each side of my vehicle. The couple on my left were from Colorado, having a home in Havasu as well. They drove a pristine gold, 1965 Ford Mustang, basically all stock. The gentleman said that he’d only added a four-barrel manifold and carburetor.

The fellow on my right had a gloss black ’33 Ford coupe with a huge Chrysler Hemi engine stuffed between the frame rails. His license plate showed “The Dairy State,” Wisconsin.

Normally, I quietly walk around ogling vehicles, but this time elected to stop and talk with car owners as well. It’s interesting to me in seeing if a vehicle matches up with its driver. I suppose in police terms it’d be akin to “vehicle profiling.” This mental game I play, allows a show to be that much more enjoyable.

I did enough walking and talking that only three laps were completed around the quarter mile track in three hours. Some attendee names I recall while others not, so not to offend anyone, I’ll merely mention their vehicle make and model and leave it at that.

A fellow with a vintage 1947 Pontiac said that he was eighty, and only four years older than his car. The vehicle he owned had the same paint, interior, headliner, and trunk mat that was originally installed on the automobile when it was built. His vehicle was a real time machine and a gift from his son-in-law; much to his daughter’s chagrin, this according to him. The gentleman was a thirty-seven-year retired Air Force veteran, and I thanked him for his service.

A sports car aficionado owning a 2023 Chevrolet Corvette was most hospitable. I wanted to know how his ‘Vette handled and he said like a dream. He went on to tell me that the horsepower under his hood was awesome, yet like all true gearheads, claimed that it’s never enough. He matched up well with his powerful ride, because the guy could’ve easily been a former NFL player.

One distinguished gentleman, wearing a British style driving hat and having manicured moustache was most knowledgeable. His expertise of makes and models was over the top. The guy frowned a bit on my truck, believing it should’ve been properly restored, yet being a true car person, we parted company on good graces, with him politely saying, “To each their own!” He isn’t the only person having said that to me over the years.

I chatted with several bikers wearing club jackets. They profiled well with their awesome machines. Personal demeanor was pleasant and charming without harsh language as some folks unduly expect from the motorcycle crowd. I kept looking around for “Flo” in her white riding apparel but never saw the lady.

Pastor Chad Garrison of Calvary Church was wandering about with a most interested grandson leading the way. I’m not sure preacher had a Corvette or Harley in the show, but if I were to pick a car matching his profile, especially having curly gray locks that’d unfurl in the breeze, a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro convertible would fit him well. Marina blue in color, I’d say he’s more of an automatic transmission kind of guy, rather than 4-speed on the floor.

A bearded face missing this year was assistant pastor, Chet Anderson. He’s the guy who’s always sold me T-shirts and pointed my carcass to the free hotdogs. I was told that Chet’s in Georgia, but hopefully the popular figure around town returns for Crossroads Car & Bike Show number sixteen.

Come next year hopefully I’ll be back. My first priority will be to drain any old fuel from the truck, realizing that two-year-old gasoline is definitely pushing things to the limit. Making another successful roundtrip to Havasu 95 Raceway without fresh petrol would be akin to a 69-year-old, depth perception challenged driver, attempting to back an old Chevy pickup, uphill, into a tight space, having left their bifocal glasses at home. Hats off to the show volunteer having successfully guided me!

Havasu 95 Speedway


“The higher the number of dependents the larger the paycheck.”

April 30th

I was raised a “military brat.” Armed service members, active and retired, will recognize the politically incorrect label, yet most “civilians” won’t. The simplest description I could find for this term is: A military brat is a child of serving or retired military personnel. Brats are associated with a unique subculture and cultural identity.

That last line was evidently written by someone with more education than me, because it went flying straight over my head. This seemingly offensive term left no deep psychological scars, and I still refer to myself as a military brat when discussing the childhood years. National Military Brats Day is officially on April 30th.

There’s one additional military term for us brats that I believe is more derogatory, although I find some humor in it. The word “dependent” was used quite often during Dad’s Air Force years. Almost every form he filled out had the following question,

“How many dependents?”

My father always wrote in three. Mom, my brother, and me were all dependents according to military statute. I remember him saying this, although not in these exact words,

“The higher the number of dependents the larger the paycheck.”

I never knew exactly what dependent meant, because Mom worked and supported us just the same as Dad, yet she was also considered a dependent on his forms. Only the military can explain that one.

When my older brother reached eighteen, he was no longer considered a dependent. That’s the year Jim turned in his military I.D. card. I don’t recall any kind of party afterwards to celebrate the grandiose occasion.

The same was supposed to happen with me four years later, only I’d lost my piece of identification. It’s too long ago to remember exactly what happened, but most likely I had to sign a bunch of government paperwork. Only recently did I find it stuck between pages of an old childhood book. Evidently, I’d used the card as a bookmark fifty years ago. Someone with Air Force security will probably now show up in our driveway, knocking on my door.

I sometimes wonder after so many years of military brainwashing, if Dad didn’t introduce us to strangers as, “These are my two dependents, Jim and Mike.” It might be a bit factitious for me to think that way, but then again, maybe not.

This afternoon, I was in the kitchen drying dishes when my Amazon parrots started squawking for something to eat. They do this daily, knowing that I’ll jump. We’ve been repeating the same routine going on forty years now. As I prepared them bowls of fresh vegetables and fruit, a thought suddenly came to mind that they were my dependents. If it wasn’t for me cleaning their cages, feeding and watering them, these guys wouldn’t survive.

Thinking back to my late Dad and his military days, I thought of Jet, Brutus, Ringo, and Fluffy. Those were pets that we had during childhood years. They depended on Dad as much as Jim and I, because his meager paychecks helped purchase their dog and cat food. Why my father didn’t mark down seven dependents on those forms instead of three is beyond me.

My wife tells me that the IRS still brings up that dependent question on tax forms. I wouldn’t know because her and the tax people have been taking care of that job for close to forty-five years. Joleen says she now marks the box with a zero, doing so after both kids left the nest. Unlike what Dad did with Mom, she’s not able to count herself.

Tax time is here, and I suggested that Joleen declare three dependents this year, one for Simon the Pekingese, two for Jess & Aldo, our parrots. I believe that would allow for a rare refund. Worth a try in my mind, yet she wants no part of such an unlawful experiment.

With the crazy way this country’s been going, making it legal to declare pets as dependents might seem a bit goofy, yet not any more so than several recent court rulings regarding men being allowed to compete in women’s sports. I suppose someone from “opinion enforcement” will now come knocking at my door for even thinking that!



“What I remember most about Grandma Hankins’ fridge was that it never had an abundance of food inside.”

The other evening, my wife mentioned that she’d never own another
stainless-steel refrigerator. That was strange to hear, because Joleen picked it out for our Lake Havasu City home eighteen years ago. I’ve never cared for the brushed stainless look. It reminds me of a DeLorean automobile.

The no-longer-made DeLorean’s have a stainless steel exterior much like our fridge. These peculiar looking vehicles never turned my crank, with car guys knowing what I’m referring to here.

A DeLorean featured in the movie, “Back to the Future”, was converted into a time machine. I found this part of the film interesting, although I believe a 1968 Dodge Charger would’ve worked much better because of its sleeker lines.

Grandpa and Grandma Hankins had a small white refrigerator in their 1920’s rental home in Vernon, Alabama. How do I remember it as being white? I don’t. That was the standard color back then.

Grandma’s refrigerator was short and round at the top with a large chrome pull-lever on the door for opening. I’m not sure of the exact manufacturer as I  last saw it sixty years ago. I’d guess it was a General Electric, because that’s the brand my parents always chose.

In a 1936 advertisement, it was mentioned that early Westinghouse refrigerators offered something that other refrigerators didn’t. It was described as, “The only refrigerator with fast freezing Sanalloy Froster and Eject-o-Cube Ice Trays.”

Those fancy Eject-o-Cube trays had a lever on top that you pulled upwards to remove the ice. Grandma’s had this feature for sure with her damp fingers sticking to the metal handle quite often. I heard this was quite common until plastic trays came along.

What I remember most about Grandma Hankins’ fridge was that it never had an abundance of food inside. My grandparents were not wealthy people. When we came to visit, Dad and Mom always made sure to stop beforehand and pick up groceries. That recollection hangs with me more than anything. Regardless of such, our visits were always fun.

Her refrigerator had a tiny freezer section holding these aluminum ice trays. There wasn’t room for large items like a chuck roast or frozen pizza. Grandma would take one of the ice trays and remove all cube  dividers. She’d then mix up a glass of milk, sugar, and vanilla extract, and pour it in.

After coming close to freezing, this mixture became an ice milk pudding of sorts, with it never freezing solid. I believe alcohol in the vanilla extract had something to do with that. Grandma referred to this delicacy as ice milk. It was her special treat for my brother and me.

I asked my wife the other night what color refrigerator did she want next?

White.”, was her reply.

That’s fine with me. In that one aspect alone it’ll be similar to Grandma’s. I recently saw where companies are now making retro, Eject-o-Matic aluminum ice cube trays. I’ll definitely have to get a couple.

When the grandchildren stop by, I’ll mix up some of that ice milk concoction that Grandma Hankins made, although it won’t be quite the same as hers. I’ll have to make sure they don’t stick their tongues onto the tray as I once did. That part I try not to remember!

Ejecto-O- Matic


“Some of the stories are from my early years while most are later in life, including a few work related tales.”

My latest book, “You Don’t Know Squat!” will be released on March 2, and I’m very pleased on how things turned out. Of course, it’ll never make any bestseller list, but I’m okay with that. I wrote this book as a remembrance to a late friend, Rod Steiner, plus for friends, family, and especially my grandchildren to enjoy. There’s a total of 102 short stories inside front and rear covers.

Some of the compositions are from my early years while most are later in life, including a few work related tales. A good many of them were published in the “Today’s News-Herald” the past two years. A big thanks to, Publisher Rick Macke – Editor Brandon Bowers, for allowing me to share them.

I’m asked on occasion by family and friends, “How many of these books do you think will sell?”

That’s an impossible question for me to answer. Famous author’s, Henry David Thoreau and Herman Melville, sold more books after dying than when they were alive. Taking that into account, I doubt either man knows their final tally. Undoubtedly, I’m going to have the same problem.

I’ve read many bestselling books, often finding they weren’t good reads, with some being downright boring. Huge publishing firms with mega promotion dollars hawked them to the masses specifically to make a dollar. It’s said that some celebrities go on talk shows, merely for the reason of holding up their latest book to a camera. I’d love to do the same. That promo by itself is probably good for twenty-five thousand copies out the door.

There are many good reads out there written by excellent authors, that’ll never see the light of day, unlike a, Bill O’Reilly or Bill Maher, mass-produced publication. That’s part of the writing game I suppose. “Those with clout have the loudest shout!”

One of my favorite books was penned by a woman named Decema Kimball Andresen. I met this lady many years ago in a small dry goods store that she owned in Anchorage, Alaska. Decema was 90 at the time. The name of her book is, “Memories of Latouche.”

It’s only forty pages, but I learned more from reading it than I did from some novels 300 pages or longer. Very few people know that Phoenix, Alaska ever existed. The town, if you can call it that, was located on Latouche Island in Prince William Sound. Decema Kimball and her family lived there, along with perhaps ten other people. A story about the place is in her short story.

When the Bucket-O-Blood saloon caught fire, the whole village went up in smoke, with the Kimball family business totally destroyed. Unlike the fabled Phoenix bird rising from the ashes, Phoenix, Alaska, remained down for the count. The Kimball parents wisely moved both daughters, and whatever furs and valuables they could salvage, to newly established Anchorage where they successfully rebuilt their store.

You’ll most likely only find mention of Phoenix, Alaska in Decema’s book or on vintage maps of Prince William Sound. The very small village was located between Powder Point and Wilson Bay.

I’ve made several trips to Latouche Island. On one of them with some friends including my son, we discovered the exact location of Phoenix. At that point, it only amounted to overgrown root cellars carved into a steep hill, with remnants of dock pilings still visible on the beach.

Poking around a bit, at least three feet under wet tundra, Doug Harvey discovered several large, blackened timbers used as cabin foundations. The ultimate find was by my friend, Jeff Thimsen. Jeff located a rare, J.W. Little, trade token. Mr. Little owned one of the two destroyed taverns.

Unlike Decema Kimball Andresen’s book, mine is a whopping 338 pages long. That’s a record for me. My wife calls it a catalog based on weight alone. It’ll never be a best seller just as Mrs. Kimball’s isn’t, yet the two share one common trait: they’re good reads. Where literature is concerned, I believe that is the ultimate compliment.

Phoenix was about one mile from the Kennecott mining headquarters (Latouche) shown here.

*My book available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, others, starting March 2nd.


“In my way of thinking, this childhood tune needs to be brought up to speed where inflation is concerned.”


Nearly forty-five years ago, my late mother told me that there’d come a day when my birthday fell on Easter Sunday. It was in the late 1970s when she mentioned such. I remember looking things up and seeing that Easter in 2023 was on April 9th. At the time that seemed like an eternity, and I wondered if I’d even make it. I soon forgot about the eventuality of it happening while life went on as usual.

The other morning, my wife surprised me by saying, “Your birthdays on Easter this year!” Man, I hadn’t the foggiest. Time did fly!

Looking at a calendar just to make sure, Joleen was right. That got me to wondering. What was the last time this religious holiday fell on April 9th? I discovered it was 1950, the year my brother was born.

I often wondered why Easter fell on different days unlike Christmas. It was a bit confusing to me at first, until reading through the most comprehensible explanation several times, and still finding it confusing. The reason has something to do with the Gregorian and Jewish calendars, plus a Paschal full moon. To quote from a reliable online source.

“While Christmas is fixed to a solar calendar (and near the winter solstice), Easter is based on the lunar cycles of the Jewish calendar. In the Christian religion, the Last Supper (which was the final meal Jesus shared with his apostles before his crucifixion) was a Passover feast. It’s because Easter is based on a lunar month (which is 29.5 days) that the date of Easter can really vary.”

The rarity of Easter falling on April 9 has actually been mathematically calculated, as if mathematicians don’t have better things to do. That number is: 3.26667. This will be my first Easter birthday in 69 years.

For the past decade, I haven’t celebrated birthdays like some friends and family, finding them more sad than glad. Unlike one former co-workers’ unusual way of viewing added wrinkles, getting old is not something I relish. I do believe this one will be uplifting, because how can a person be full of gloom on the celebration day of Jesus Christ rising from the grave?

On the night of April 8, Joleen will undoubtedly ask the same question, “What does birthday boy want to eat on his special day?” My choice has generally been In-N-Out Burger or Del Taco. This time, being that it’s Easter, I want a food item I’ve never been privy to, hot cross buns.

A Catholic friend mentioned that she has to have hot cross buns at Easter, being it’d be sacrilegious for her not to. Researching their history, supposedly an Anglican Monk first made the treat back in the twelfth century, as a means to help celebrate Good Friday. Since that time, the unique buns with a cross on top have become a symbol of Easter weekend.

Someone told me that local bakeries make them, so finding half a dozen should be a piece of cake. I probably should call ahead and have my name put on a half dozen just in case.

A simple song I learned in elementary school regarding hot cross buns goes like this:

Hot cross buns.
Hot cross buns.
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns.

If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons.
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns.

In my way of thinking, this childhood tune needs to be brought up to speed where inflation is concerned.

Hot cross buns.
Hot cross buns.
One a dollar, two a dollar,
Hot cross buns.

If you have no dollar,
Visa works just fine.
One a dollar, two a dollar,
Hot cross buns.

Something tells me, I won’t be walking away without paying any less than five bucks!


“A day will come when television viewers are solicited for donations to help with the climate change cause.”

I don’t watch that much television anymore, not that there isn’t something educational to be gleaned from it. There is!

Take vintage westerns for example. I discovered after viewing hundreds of them, that some Colt revolvers shoot eight, nine, or ten times before reloading. Gun aficionados will know what I’m talking about here. For those not up to speed, there are only six bullets in an early Colt cylinder.

Another thing observed on my Samsung flatscreen is that stagecoach and covered wagon wheels sometimes turn backwards, at least the ones on “Wagon Train” do.

My reason to avoid watching TV lies with all the solicitations.  It seems almost every other commercial has a hand reaching out of the screen for my credit card. It’s bad enough when telemarketers attempt such through the phone during lunch or dinner.

Some of the donation queries are okay with me, like Alec, and his brave friends at Shriners Hospitals for Kids. The Disabled Vets, Wounded Warriors, and Gary Sinise Foundation can have all the airtime they want. I won’t specifically mention those solicitations irritating me most, because undoubtedly, I’d ruffle a few feathers. One in particular uses “the guilt trip” as a means to coerce money from viewers.

Over the years, there have been several charities asking for funds that I questioned, and after a bit of research, discovered a good percentage of their donated revenue went for administrative costs, namely wages. It’s not hard to find this data online, because there are public watchdog groups searching for unscrupulous charities and reporting them.

“The Center for Investigative Reporting” is one of these groups. They maintain a list of the worst offenders where stockpiling contributions and using the funds in a misappropriate manner is concerned.

On Facebook, a friend sent me a link where I could donate money via credit card to their good cause, a Ukraine relief charity. I took a few minutes in an attempt to look it up, coming across an FBI advisory warning against similar sites. It didn’t specifically mention this one as being corrupt, claiming instead that there are hundreds of bogus offices out there.

I suppose most everyone has a “good cause” that they either back via monetary donations or volunteering. My preference here in Havasu is the Western Arizona Humane Society, including Hospice of Havasu. I believe my contributions to these two organizations are wisely spent.

A day will come when television viewers are solicited for donations to help with the climate change cause. I won’t feel guilty in not writing them a check, because in a roundabout way, my wife and I are already contributing.

According to climate change experts, fossil fueled vehicles contribute greatly to warming of the atmosphere. With it being a colder than normal winter in Arizona, and the continental United States, what better reason is there for keeping gas and diesel burners on the road.

With two in our garage, perhaps a third is needed to help further the cause!


“One editorial in particular sticks in my mind like a wad of Wrigley’s chewing gum stuck under a restaurant table.”

I generally don’t like talking about myself because there’s not a whole lot to say, other than, old, fat, and gray. Being that I’ve reached what’s called “writer’s block,” now seems as good a time as any to sit back in my easy chair, pull out an imaginary Cherrywood pipe from my gray tweed smoking jacket, and have what radio talk-show hosts refer to as, an open Mike.

A good friend once asked, “Where did you learn to write?” It only took a few seconds to reply, because I still have good memory, sometimes.

Mrs. Doris Harris, my first-grade teacher, taught me the alphabet, via my printing out each letter on a Big Chief notebook, using carrot size pencils. Mrs. Gladys Wood in third grade was also very instrumental in helping me keep words between the lines.

Mrs. Drake in fifth grade criticized my fiction story assignment, although I worked through the psychological trauma. Mrs. Turner in sixth grade helped considerably by praising the stuff I composed, while Mr. Slama in junior high did the same. Before I reached high school instructor’s names, my friend asking the question stopped me short.

“No, no, I mean where does your mindset come from in the creative writing process?”

Why didn’t he say that to begin with! The foremost answer to that question is a man by the name of, Edward Boyd. Mr. Boyd was a friend’s father in Anchorage, Alaska. He was a very successful businessman, real estate broker, outdoorsman, and most especially, dad to his three children, Larry, Caroline, and Jeanie.

The late Ed Boyd was also a prolific writer, having two published books to his credit, “Wolf Trail Lodge” and “Alaska Broker.” If anyone was a mentor to my writing style, Ed was that person.

He wrote lucid, well thought out Letters to the Editor, stepping on people’s toes along the way, while making them laugh at the same time. Ed always got his point across, which was what he’d initially set out to do.

Ed Boyd had a unique way of looking at things and an uncanny means of putting thoughts to paper. I’ll never be able to emulate the man’s writing, but I try, always coming up short.

One editorial in particular clings in my noggin like a wad of Wrigley’s chewing gum stuck under a restaurant table. Anchorage, Alaska has a public transportation system called, People Mover. It’s made up of some fifteen buses running throughout various city routes. Mr. Boyd’s Pioneer Realty office overlooked C Street and Northern Lights Boulevard in the 1970s.

In his newspaper editorial, he made mention of always seeing these large buses driving by with empty seats. The sight of such bothered him as it did others. The metropolis of Anchorage, like all big cities, had a homeless population even back then, made up mostly of substance abusers. Alcohol abuse and drug use was a big problem in Alaska and still is.

Ed Boyd’s suggestion was to allow these homeless individuals to ride the shuttles, as a means during winter for them to stay warm, come summer, keep out of the rain, which it does quite often. Of course, after his “opinion” was out there, he received plenty of static from the snowflake crowd. Yep, they were alive and well back then too!

Mr. Boyd got his message across loud and clear, with that being People Mover buses were a waste of tax paper money, and they might as well be used constructively, instead of burning diesel fuel and polluting the air for naught. I remember chuckling at his excellent suggestion.

Edward Marvin Boyd died on April 25, 2012, in Bellevue, Washington, at the age of 94. The man left behind a legacy in many areas, but for me, he’ll aways be at the top where elite Alaskan writers are concerned. Attempting to follow in his footsteps where my compositions are concerned will never be accomplished.

There’s not much else to be said about my writing style other than perhaps one additional thing. Like Edward Boyd, another published author I try to emulate yet always come up way short is best known for, The Ten Commandments. I’m not referring to the movie version starring Charleston Heston, but the original stone tablets engraved with a finger.

As they often do, the embers in my imaginary pipe have just went cold. Like Elvis, I too have left the building!


“I spent my share of time working alongside guys and gals with a Marlboro or Camel hanging from their lips.”

Butt Heads

I’ve never voluntarily used tobacco products. Thankfully, I was born with a working brain. Involuntarily using tobacco products is another subject.

I suppose you might say I smoked cigarettes, without ever picking one up. My parents early on were chain smokers. I don’t know how many cartons of Pall Mall’s they consumed during my tenure at home, but I bet it’d be a railroad car full. My brother and I were forced to breathe their secondhand smoke, with it eventually taking a toll on my body. Bronchitis now comes easy.

I still remember a certain camping trip ruined because of this addiction on their part. In 1965, we drove to the mountains of Tres Ritos, New Mexico, from Lubbock, Texas, in a 1963 Buick station wagon. Dad and Mom puffed away the whole time we were in the vehicle, with it being hot outside and the air-conditioner going full speed ahead. Somewhere along the way, I developed a headache so bad that I thought I was going to die. My head was throbbing hard enough that I puked several times.

Dad deviated from his planned route and stopped at a small medical clinic in a town I no longer remember. They diagnosed me with infected sinuses, not saying of course, that all the smoke floating around in our car caused it. I suppose that would’ve been politically incorrect back then for them to claim such, since a good many doctors and nurses were hardcore smokers.

I don’t entirely blame parents for my medical shortcomings. For many years, smoking was allowed in the workplace, and I spent my share of time working alongside guys and gals with Marlboro’s or Camel’s hanging from their lips. Eventually, I had enough and circulated a petition asking for signatures of employees like me, wanting such activity snuffed out in the building. By the end of that day the list was full.

One morning, before leaving for work, I came out of the house finding my unlocked truck cab full of smoke. Someone had lit one and stuck it in the ashtray, and it sat there and smoldered. I knew who’d done the dastardly deed but could never prove such. It wasn’t long before smokers at our shop were ordered to “do their thing” outside. I was successful here, with plenty of backing from others, but enemies had been made along the way.

I didn’t stop there. On Friday and Saturday nights, in Anchorage, Alaska, my wife and I along with our two children attended the University of Alaska – Anchorage Seawolves hockey games at Sullivan Arena. We had season tickets. Directly behind our seats sat Dr. Kevin Park and his wife and child. Kevin was a friend from high school. Smoking was allowed in the stadium at this time in one section, that being where all the concessions and restrooms were. Kevin made mention of having to walk through a cloud to get to either, which gave me an idea.

I wrote a Letter to the Editor of our newspaper advocating that people attending hockey games, should they come down with any respiratory illnesses afterwards, send their medical bills to the Municipality of Anchorage for them to pay. At the next game, Dr. Park congratulated me, saying it was well written and positively taken within the local medical community.

Before that season was up, the Anchorage City Council voted to have smoking totally banned in the arena. I wasn’t the sole reason for them doing so, because after my letter was published, many more letters poured into the newspaper from doctors, nurses, and other hockey fans. That’s all water under the bridge now and I’m thankful for the outcome.

What spurred me to even write this piece is quite unusual, as least I think it is. I just came back from a Lake Havasu City convenience store where I often go to purchase peppermint candies. These are the round hard ones with stripes, covered with a clear cellophane wrapper. I’m addicted to these things.

When I first stopped at this gas station after its grand opening, it was fairly pristine outside. The parking lot was free of debris as was the surrounding landscape. This morning, taking time to look around, I spotted hundreds of cigarette butts lying on the ground. How did they get there? Why weren’t they properly disposed of in the numerous cigarette butt receptacles provided by this company. Go figure!

After opening one of my peppermint candies, I simply stuck the used wrapper in a trash receptacle also provided. Sometimes I put them in my pocket to be disposed of later. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the right thing to do here.

Thankfully, I was born with a working brain.


“I’ve found these two guys, uninvited, trespassing in neighbor’s yards, flipped over, spilling their guts out throughout the landscape.”

When residents of Lake Havasu City first received word they’d be getting large trash and recycling cans on wheels like other modern cities, there was a big hullabaloo over the decision. Some folks complained they wouldn’t be able to take these contraptions down steep driveways without disaster. I’d imagine there were a few spectacular crashes, but I never read about them in the newspaper.

A few disgruntled people didn’t like the color and suggested more of a desert hue. Leave them out in the blazing Arizona sun long enough and they’ll eventually turn that way. Some residents just saw red. I’m thinking it’s been at least three years now since these receptacles came into our lives, but who’s keeping track?

We’ve had ours long enough to have a few good stories to share. It seems weather has been a great factor behind most of them. For whatever reason, Havasu winds seem to start blowing on Sunday night, and not stop until after the trash trucks have done their job.

“Vince” and “Larry” have taken countless tumbles because of this common, at least around these parts, phenomenon. If you’re wondering who Vince and Larry are, they’re the names I gave to my plastic buddies. Vince is trash while Larry’s recycling. I switch them around on occasion, so that no longtime psychological damage is done.

You might remember Vince and Larry as being crash test dummies on the long running, National Traffic Safety Foundation, television commercials. Well, my blue buddies have also taken a beating and kept on ticking, although not on the same level as being inside vehicles that continually run into brick walls.

I’ve found these two guys, uninvited, trespassing in neighbor’s yards, flipped over, spilling their guts out throughout the landscape. It’s amazing how fast aluminum soda cans roll down the street with Mariah pushing them. If you’re now wondering who Mariah is, undoubtedly, you weren’t here fifty five years ago.

This lovely name comes from the 1965 movie, Paint Your Wagon, starring Jean Seberg, Clint Eastwood, and Lee Marvin. A popular song in that film titled, “They Call the Wind Mariah” was sung by Harve Presnell. I call the wind Mariah on certain occasions along with some unfavorable names as well, such as “stinking” and “darn.”

Cans have been discovered loitering in our driveway as I backed out of the garage. One of them managed to roll a distance of five houses, remain upright, before parking itself directly in my path. Our next door neighbor’s can slid down the road in pure agony before stopping outside our front door. I could hear it coming.

Thinking that perhaps I’d came up with a superb plan for keeping their mouths closed during strong gusts, I taped Vince and Larry’s shut. It worked a bit too well because after the garbage trucks had come and gone, both cans were still full. Since that time, I’ve experimented and found just the right combination. Clear packing tape works best especially when rain is present, with just a slight amount taped to the lid so it’ll break free when dumped.

Vince and Larry are a little banged up from all they’ve gone through but they’re tough and resilient. I believe Vince might’ve been struck by a sleepy driver early one morning, but thankfully, nothing on our security cameras showed such. He has a nice indention on one of his backside corners evidently caused by a vehicle bumper, ironically matching the height of ours.

I only hope they survive for as long as I’m around. I’ve become quite attached to these guys, enough so, that I truly appreciate the thankless job they do!