DOGGIE IN THE WINDOW

“Rescuing a dog or cat from your local animal shelter is the loving thing to do. I’d suggest going there first.”

Simon on one of our trips

“How much is that doggie in the window?
The one with the waggly tail.
How much is that doggie in the window?

I do hope that doggie’s for sale.”

As a child, the song, “(How Much is That) Doggie in the Window” by Patti Page was one of my favorites. Never did I imagine the simplistic tune would someday hit close to home.

When my wife developed Lymphoma cancer in 2005, one thing she wanted most was a dog of her own. We already had a Pekingese named Carly, yet Carly took to me more than her. Checking with local animal shelters, no Pekingese were available. That was the breed Joleen explicitly wanted.

On a trip to Arizona in 2008, we stopped by a large shopping mall in Las Vegas. Inside the sprawling metropolis was a pet store. A large storefront window showcased a golden-haired Pekingese, and a brown Dachshund. Both were young puppies. We watched with laughter, as the Peke bossed his wiener-dog-pal around by yanking on it’s tail, and pulling him backwards around the enclosure. For Joleen, it was love at first sight.

A Visa credit card enabled Simon to fly home with us to Alaska. Simon is the name my wife immediately began calling him. That’s because Carly Simon is one of her favorite singers. A stuffed warthog toy, ‘Hedgy’, came along free of charge. Pet store employees said that Hedgy was Simon’s favorite play thing. Carly and Simon became our two ‘fur babies’ as pet owners like to say.

One of the first things asked by a friend upon our return was,

“Is Simon a rescue dog?”

“Yes, he’s a rescue dog.”, I informed them. “We rescued him from The Boulevard Mall in Vegas!”

Since that time, Joleen and Simon have been inseparable. He’s been with her during numerous chemo-treatment-sessions and throughout her remission.

Joleen and Simon

Carly and Simon flew places with us, including driving back and forth to Arizona and Alaska multiple times.

When Carly passed away in 2014, Simon was heart broken. We have a large photo of her on our fireplace and Simon visits it quite often. He recognizes the image.

One of his favorite activities is going for a ride in our car or truck. He’ll sit on Joleen’s lap and at each stoplight, tap on the window with a paw, asking her to let the window down. It doesn’t matter what the outside temperature is.

When we venture on long trips Simon looks forward to each evening when we stop for the night. A new motel or hotel room is a place to sniff and investigate what other animals left behind. Not once has he elected to ‘mark his turf’ on a dresser or wall. He prefers to do that outside, sometimes getting up at one o’clock in the morning to do so. I make sure to carry a flashlight in my pocket for those impromptu potty breaks.

We’ve trained him to drink water from a baby syringe which helps keep vital organs hydrated on long journeys. A special diet made up of of dry nuggets, mixed with hamburger & rice is generally brought along in a cooler. He has a special place in back of our car complete with soft comforter to snooze on.

This past year Simon started moving slower due to arthritis in both rear legs. We make sure to not let him jump from furniture and also avoid steps and stairs. Simon gets carried around much more these days in our arms. The special attention will hopefully keep him with us longer.

A good friend once told me that he’ll never own a pet, because there’ll always come a day when they pass. Joleen and I know this all too well. Before Carly and Simon came into our lives, we basically thought the same.

Yes, there will come a time when Simon leaves us. I pray each day that this event stays light years away.

When Joleen and I saw Simon in that mall there was no way we could leave him behind. I truly believe we would’ve maxed out a credit card to accomplish such. Thankfully we didn’t have to.

It’s been many wonderful years now and I can’t think of a time when we regretted our decision, although on some of those 1:00 a.m. bathroom breaks I did question my sanity.

Rescuing a dog or cat from your local animal shelter is the loving thing to do. I’d suggest going there first.

I’m sure if Simon could speak, he’d thank us greatly on saving him from that Las Vegas pet store window, 12 years ago.

Most likely, should we ever bump into the Dachshund wiener dog, and he too could speak, the tube-shaped pooch would say to us,

“Danke schoen!”

Those two words mean thank you very much in German.

I’m sure this little fellow was more than happy to see Simon and his sidekick ‘Hedgy’ leave the building!

‘Hedgy’ Hedgehog

“ARIZONA CHARLIE”

“He had his trunk (his gunnysack) with him as had been his custom for many years, and after due examination he was adjudged insane by the commission and was taken to Phoenix by Sheriff Harry Wheeler.”

“Arizona Charlie” Meadows – Payson native

When Arizonians think of “Arizona Charlie”, they generally reflect on “Arizona Charlie” Meadows of the “Buffalo Bill Wild West Show.” Much has been written about Mr. Meadows’ rodeo endeavors with “Buffalo Bill” Cody. A popular casino in Las Vegas is named after the man.

While Kingman is known for Andy Devine, Payson considers Charlie Meadows their most famous citizen. What most folks don’t realize is that Charlie Meadows’ name wasn’t Charles at the start, it was Abraham Henson Meadows. Abraham’s father, being a southern sympathizer, changed it to Charles at the beginning of the Civil War.

There’s another “Arizona Charlie” few have heard of. He was just as tough as Charlie Meadows, perhaps tougher, yet led a tragic and less publicized life. I stumbled across this man purely by accident.

James Charles Drumgold was born in New York City in 1850. Sometime after the Civil War, James and his older brother John headed West. John Henry Drumgold became a successful jeweler in San Francisco, while James hit the rails as a locomotive engineer for the Southern Pacific Railroad. James evidently preferred using his middle name, as most early newspapers refer to him as Charles Drumgold, or “Arizona Charlie”.

Details are sketchy, but sometime in Charlie’s life, his wife and daughter were killed in a railroad accident. Several articles say the train incurred a loose stretch of track between Bowie, New Mexico and Lordsburg, Texas. Initially, I was going to tell “Arizona Charlie” Drumgold’s story in my own words. An article in the November 25, 1916 Bisbee Daily Review describes things much better than I can. I’ve transcribed it in entirety complete with typos and misspellings.

********************************************************

FAMOUS CHARACTER “ARIZONA CHARLIE” SENT TO ASYLUM

____

Walked Railroad Tracks For 20 Years In Search Of Broken Rail Which Caused Death Of His Wife And Daughter.

In the Superior Court at Tombstone Thursday there appeared before Judge Lockwood and the lunacy commission, an old man, unshaven, bent and dressed at the ordinary tramp of the southwest.

He had his trunk (his gunnysack) with him as had been his custom for many years, and after due examination he was adjudged insane by the commission and was taken to Phoenix by Sheriff Harry Wheeler.

Twenty years ago James C. Drumgold was considered one of the best locomotive engineers of the Southern Pacific system, and was well liked by all of his fellow employees for his good disposition, always ready to help the needy and always had a good word for his fellow men, and was a companionable associate with all.

It was while Mr. Drumgold was on his regular daily run one day, many years ago, that he returned one night to learn that his wife and daughter had met death that day in a passenger train wreck between Bowie and Lordsburg, from a broken rail, and not a long time afterward, heartbroken by the loss of his family, his mind becoming unbalanced, he lost his job, and in his harmless state of mind he began tramping the rails out of Bowie, both east and west for several hundred miles, looking from Yuma to El Paso for broken rails that might cause another accident, such as the one in which he lost his loved ones.

In his travels from one end of the division to the other, the employees soon came to know him by the nickname of “Arizona Charlie” which he has carried all these long years until his true name was brought out at the hearing.

Not a railroad employee on the main line does not know “Arizona Charlie” and he has been the recipient of food, money and assistance from them for years, who always looked out for “Arizona Charlie.”

On his hikes, year in and year out, “Arizona Charlie” would never accept a ride proferred from the “Cons” of the fastest express or the slowest old freight but always preferred to walk and look for the broken rail still lingering in his mind. He carried with him a sack for his clothes, two frying pans, two or three small lard buckets, for his food, and a coat if he was lucky enough to get one. He camped wherever night might overtake him, always making a water tank by nightfall, and the next morning would resume his hike, regardless of an offer for a ride to the next station or the end of the division, whichever the case might be.

Contented to walk the ties with his head bent low, and eyes to the rails no one has been able to calculate how many miles of track “Arizona Charlie” has inspected, but it is known there are many. And a peculiar thing regarding his inspection trips was than whenever he did find an irregularity in the track, be it the ties, the rails, or a bridge, he would walk to the nearest section boss and report his find.

Many times the company offered to provide for the keep of “Arizona Charlie” as did a brother in California, but the offers were steadfastly refused, just as often as they were made while “Arizona Charlie,” unassisted continued his walking career year after year, over the division in search of the broken rail.

Of late, however, it has often been noticed that the old man, now bent with age, was becoming weak and feeble from exposure, and he was brought to Tombstone from Bowie, and committed to the State Hospital in Phoenix, where he will no doubt spend the remainder of his days, well provided for.

The closing chapter of the life of “Arizona Charlie” probably will never be known to many of the railroad men along the road, and it will be regretted by those who learn of his feeble condition.

He has taken his last railroad ride and many will be the engineer, fireman, conductor, and brakie who will miss the sight of the familiar form of “Arizona Charlie” walking the main line, with bent head, searching for the broken rail.

And who knows but what “Arizona Charlie” has prevented many an accident during his hundreds and thousands miles of travel, seeking the broken rail?

*********************************************************

At the age of 76, on February 24, 1926, James “Arizona Charlie” Drumgold died in a Phoenix sanitarium. This was 10 years after he was admitted. Death certificate listed his occupation as “Track Walker.” Eight years previous, older brother John passed away in California. “Arizona Charlie” Drumgold is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Miles and miles and miles…

STEEP PRICE OF FREEDOM

“Ben Rodent Jr., appreciated his freedom. He did what he wanted to without subjection to mouse-made-rules.”

Nickotine Rat

Years ago I earmarked smoking as one of my main topics in editorials and opinion pieces. Having been subjected to secondhand smoke most of my life, I was against having to involuntarily breathe toxic tobacco carcinogens at the workplace and in public places. I incurred a great deal of hate and dissension over my opinion.

On one occasion, I wrote an editorial advocating that fans attending University of Alaska -Anchorage Seawolves Hockey games at the Sullivan Arena, send their medical bills to the Municipality of Anchorage should they incur bronchitis or asthma attacks. A section of Sullivan Arena was considered the smoking-section while another was non-smoking. Between periods, tobacco smoke knew no boundaries. A blue cloud filled the whole building.

A friend of mine, the late Dr. Kevin Park, sat behind my family at these events with his wife and small child. One evening during a game, Kevin told me that the editorial I wrote was making city council members uncomfortable. Evidently there was some legality to what I said. He heard through hospital personnel that smoking was soon to be disallowed at the Sullivan. Kevin gave me a high five. I told him it was probably best that smokers in the building didn’t know my identity. He laughed.

During this time of Covid-19, and the refusal of certain folks to wear masks in public, I’m using freedom of smoking as a way to get my message across. I believe that some non-mask wearers are nothing more than irresponsible and selfish people. A fictional story best sums up these thoughts.

****************************************************

REBELS WITH A CURSE

Ben Rodent Jr., appreciated his freedom. He did what he wanted to regardless of mouse-made-rules.

“It’s my freedom baby!”

That’s what Ben told those friends and strangers following health regulations and guidelines.

When Covid-19 hit Chicago’s mice and rat community, all resident rodents were instructed to wear masks or bandannas while in public. Ben thumbed his furry nose at that ruling. Being a rebel, he went about his daily life as if nothing had changed.

One afternoon before the floors were to be swept, Ben crawled through a circular hole into a small diner. He hoped to score some crumbs from sloppy lunch customers. Off in a dusty corner sat a fat rat without facial covering. Ben quickly ran over to the stranger hoping to find an extra morsel of bread or cheese.

I see you you’re a freedom creature like me!”

The obese vermin nodded his head in agreement.

“What’s your name?”, Ben asked.

“Nickotine Rat….. friends call me Dirty.”

Ben and Nick chatted for several minutes. Much of their conversation centered around Coronavirus being a hoax.

“It’s a ruse!”, Ben told Nick. “Wearing a constraining mask isn’t going to stop the spread.”

Nick listened intently before pulling out a partially-smoked cigarette butt and lighting it.

“What are you doing?” Ben barked. “Don’t you know that causes cancer in mice?”

“Chill dude!”, Nick replied, blowing a cloud Ben’s direction. “Cancer caused by cigarette smoke is another hoax.”

Nick went on to explain that it was his mouse given right to smoke wherever he darn well pleased; using much harsher language. He finished his spiel by repeating Ben’s favorite line,

“It’s my freedom baby!”

The two strangers parted company. Ben wanted nothing to do with Nick’s noxious tobacco smoke and Nick was repulsed by Ben’s fear of such.

A few months after their get-together, Ben read in the Chicago Vermin Gazette that Nickotine Rat died of emphysema.

Tossing the paper aside Ben muttered to himself,

“Dirty Rat!”

It wasn’t long afterwards that Ben began moving at a slower pace through Chicago’s dark alleyways. He wasn’t sick. The mouse spent each waking day with a heavy heart.

Unbeknownst to him, he had been an asymptomatic carrier of Coronavirus. During visits to family and friends, Ben inflicted all of them with the cursed crud. A good number died including his father and best friend. Ben cringed at the thought that he was responsible for their deaths.

Deep inside, he knew that his selfish-freedom to be void of a simple-mask came with a steep price. Not that it mattered at this point as the damage had already been done!

Ben Rodent Sr.

FORGOTTEN HEROES

“While this man may not fit your stereotypical hero definition, the things he accomplished as a stuntman far exceed that of motorcycle jump expert, “Evel Knievel.”

Vince and Larry

I suppose everyone has a hero or heroes they look up to. These days because of the Covid 19 pandemic, front line providers such as doctors, nurses, and medical personnel top my list. Of course we can’t forget police, firemen, and our military. Three forgotten heroes from my glory days are unassuming individuals named, Vince, Larry, and Dave.

Vince and Larry are crash test dummies from the 1980’s. Some folks will loudly proclaim,

“Those guys aren’t real!”

Advertising specialists Jim Ferguson and Joel Machak created Vince and Larry, while voice-actors Jack Burns and Lorenzo Music did all the talking. Early on, my kids thought the pair were human. This probably suited the Highway Safety Council just fine. Vince and Larry’s job was to get their message across to people of all ages, that wearing seat belts was the smart thing to do. It definitely worked with my two.

Some folks might question why I’d put two crash test dummies on my hero list. The answer is simple. This dynamic duo are responsible for saving thousands, if not millions of lives. Evidently I’m not the only one thinking so. Vince and Larry’s costumes are now in the Smithsonian Museum.

What can I say about “Super Dave” Osborne. While this man may not fit your stereotypical hero definition, the things he accomplished as a stuntman far exceed those of motorcycle jump expert, “Evel Knievel.”

“Super Dave” is the first person to sit inside a vehicle as it went through a car crusher and survive. I vividly remember that segment from Saturday Night Live. I doubt that the great magician “Houdini” could’ve pulled such off.

Dave rode a giant yo-yo off a cliff. He was run over by a freight train. “Super Dave” survived a bungycord jump gone awry when someone forgot to secure his cord. Perhaps the most dangerous stunt he attempted, was to ride a roller coaster at Magic Mountain in California. Dave experienced a bit of motion sickness afterwards.

I placed “Super Dave” Osborne on my hero list because he’s a champion in making people laugh, especially me. It’s said that laughter is the best medicine. Just how many years Dave added to people’s lives because of his humor is immeasurable? When feeling a bit blue, I go to YouTube and watch reruns of his antics. Sometimes that’s all it takes to cheer me up.

Tragically, the actor playing “Super Dave” Osborne recently passed away. Bob Einstein died of leukemia on January 2, 2019.

“Super Dave” Osborne

I wanted to add one more name to my super hero list, yet didn’t for obvious reasons. Everyone knows that,

Mr. Bill is not real!”

Mr. Bill -“Ohhh noooo!”

DON’T BLAME SANTA!

“I’ve never liked traveling during holidays. I come down with more crud at Christmas and New Year’s than any other time. “

Covid 19

In December, my wife decided to visit our three grandchildren in Minnesota. Joleen really missed them, and because of such our daughter sent a surprise airplane ticket. I elected to remain behind in Arizona and care for the pets.

I’ve never liked traveling during holidays. I come down with more crud at Christmas and New Year’s than any other time. Because of such, I become a hermit where visiting stores and public gatherings are concerned. Rarely do I venture into crowded places until the holidays are over.

Joleen’s trip was to be 5 days. On Thursday – December 12th, she took a shuttle van from Lake Havasu City to Las Vegas where the flight was to originate. ‘Simon the Pekingese’ and I saw her off at 5:00 that morning. He went through his usual separation anxiety cries.

For the next three days I stayed at the house working on several story compositions, including putzing around the garage. Joleen told me that things were going fine over there. She felt great even though it was much colder in Eden Prairie.

On Sunday -December 15th, I begrudgingly decided to make a Walmart run. There were basic food items needed and I wanted to pick them up before Joleen returned. She was set to fly back to Las Vegas on Monday evening.

When I got to Walmart their parking lot was full. Being so close to Christmas shoppers were out in force. Soon after walking through the door I heard and saw a man coughing mere feet in front of me. He made no attempt to cover his mouth.

I immediately hit the brakes and went a different direction. There were only a few groceries to get so I was not in the store long. Late Sunday evening, I began feeling sick . I was sweating and starting to cough. Medical places weren’t open at that time other than the hospital emergency room.

First thing Monday morning, on December 16th, I drove myself to Urgent Care. By then I was coughing badly and had a 101 temperature. I told the nurse practitioner I thought I was coming down with bronchitis. She diagnosed it as such and gave me a Z-Pak (azithromycin) plus some codeine cold medicine. The woman warned me not to drive while using the cough syrup. She didn’t know how bad I drove without it.

That afternoon, Simon and I headed to Vegas. Having taken a couple of the antibiotics beforehand plus downing water by the quart, I was starting to feel better. I knew I was on the road to recovery.

Picking Joleen up at the airport, she said that she was very tired. Thankfully we’d made plans to spend the night. Early Tuesday morning my wife woke up with a severe cough, aches and pains, plus feeling like she had an above normal temperature. After eating breakfast we started the two and a half hour drive home.

Once back in Havasu, on Friday the 20th, I took my wife to one of the local walk-in clinics. It’d been her idea to wait. I advised her before going in to to ask for a Z-Pak, as I thought she exhibited signs of bronchitis.

“Yes, Dr. Hankins.”, she sarcastically muttered.

A nurse practitioner on duty briefly examined her proclaiming it was a cold and nothing more. When Joleen returned to the car with a prescription for an inhaler to help her breathing I was a bit miffed.

By the following morning she was coughing relentlessly and was so tired she could hardly get out of bed. I told her she needed to go to the ER, but against my wishes she insisted on waiting a few days to see if things got better.

Because she hadn’t shown any improvement, on December 22nd, I took her to another walk-in clinic. A nurse practitioner on duty there diagnosed her with Influenza type-B flu, saying that the previous clinic had not properly tested her for such. This nurse told her to pick up some Tamaflu along with a bottle of cough syrup. Joleen asked this person about perhaps getting a Z-Pak, but the woman said it’d do no good. We stopped by Walgreen’s and grabbed her meds on the way home. I had a bad feeling at this time about how things were going.

A few days later, on the 26th, Joleen was so weak she could hardly rise. Again, I wanted to take her to ER but she was defiantly against such. Joleen insisted on seeing her regular doctor instead. A call was made to that office, with a woman at the front desk evidently sensing urgency in her voice. Thankfully, this medical professional squeezed my wife in.

After a thorough examination, Joleen was given a steroid shot, along with a prescription for a Z-Pak antibiotic and stronger cough medicine. Over the next several days she slowly got better. It took a full four weeks before she was back to normal strength. By this time the novel coronavirus was still practically unheard of in this country.

I definitely caught my illness from a simple Walmart trip as I’d not been anywhere else. One reason I believe I knocked it out it so quick, is because I started a regimen of azithromycin (Z-Pak) less than 24-hours after coming down with the junk. I’ve learned not to mess around when I get sick. Over 30- years ago I tried to tough out a bout of bronchitis and ended up with pneumonia. Never again!

Joleen developed all the symptoms of Covid 19 plus some. Medical facilities in Lake Havasu at that time did not know how to check for it. Testing has now improved considerably.

Joleen said she was in the company of a large contingent of Chinese Nationals while at Las Vegas McCarren Airport. She thought they were heading back home. Joleen believes this is where she picked up the bug. On the other hand, I think she got it from me. We’ll never know for sure and does it even matter?

There are now ways to detect if a person had Covid 19. Neither of us are interested in going in for the test. Perhaps six months from now we’ll change our minds when things hopefully return to normal.

Friends and family knowing exactly how sick my wife was, believe she definitely had Covid 19 and kicked it. Being a cancer survivor with a weakened immune system it was only through the Grace of God that she did. Finally getting that Z-Pak helped as well.

Since that time, many people living in Arizona and other states are claiming they had Covid 19 before it was first reported. If such turns out to be true, the stealthy virus was making rounds long before Kris Kringle hit town.

Regardless on who’s responsible for bringing it to this country one thing’s for sure,

“Don’t blame it on Santa Claus!”

ALL ABOUT ME

“Hey man, it’s about freedom!”

Spring breakers ignore Florida social distancing rules.

Since Covid-19 came along I’ve become more of a people watcher than ever before. I’ve noticed that a selfish nature in some people is running more rampant than the Kung-flu. This egotistical haughtiness surfaced faster than an enemy submarine. I sincerely believe all about me people view the world as revolving around them.

My wife had to have blood drawn the other day. I sat outside the lobotomy lab in our car while she went in. A sign on the door advised people to follow CDC guidelines which include wearing a mask. For the most part everyone did including Joleen.

A Jeep with out-of-state (not California) plates rolled up and a young lady wearing no safety protection stepped out. Into the building she strolled with purse in one hand and cell phone in the other.

When Joleen returned I asked her about that. She said that the woman was advised to put a mask on yet refused. An employee told my wife that people have become belligerent over such. Her company wasn’t pressing the issue. A simple sign on their front door proclaiming: No Mask – No Service would’ve solved the problem.

I see such at supermarkets. Most all grocery employees in Lake Havasu City wear masks and gloves. These same all about me folks much like that gal at the blood lab saunter in void of PPE (personal protection equipment). In their way of seeing things they aren’t going to get the crud. Clueless as they are, these folks don’t think for a second that they could be asymptomatic, and are spreading the virus to those around them.

When spring breakers invaded Florida beaches they were basically ordered to practice social distancing. That went over like sour milk. Eventually, the Florida governor closed all beaches but not before several students came down with coronavirus. They took it back home infecting innocent people along the way. When one partygoer was interviewed and asked why he defied rules, his answer was curt,

“Hey man, it’s about freedom!”

I would’ve loved to been there. My heckle from the sidelines would be just as short and cute,

“No man, it’s all about you!”

That might’ve started a physical confrontation. At my age, such confrontations are best to avoid although there’s nothing wrong with a literal one. In a literal confrontation you don’t have to dodge fists, but you do have to duck obscenity-laced hand grenades. That’s where thick skin comes in handy.

I’ve yet to have someone toss that freedom word my direction when discussing Covid-19. With so many people having a care-free and lackadaisical attitude about the flu, I’m sure it’ll ultimately happen. When that day comes I have a polite response already on tap,

“Your freedom? Yea, tell me about it should you tragically end up hooked to tubes and wires stuck inside a hospital ventilator machine!”

I highly doubt such an individual would get the message!

We’ve all met one of these people

FAKE, SHAKE, ‘n BAKE

“One day when she was at work, I grabbed some Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and ground them up along with a concoction of various herbs and spices.”

Shake ‘n Bake

I remember when Shake ‘n Bake first came out. Mom tried it and we were hooked. Problem at the start, is that grocery stores couldn’t keep the stuff in stock. You rarely hear this name anymore. There are so many alternative coatings for meat.

After I married, my wife continued using the product. Her family grew up eating Shake ‘n Bake chicken just like mine. There was no way to mess up chicken if you used this product and carefully followed directions. Hey, even I can make Shake ‘n Bake.

Somewhere down the road, Joleen was given a recipe by a friend on how to mix up a batch of chicken coating from scratch. The main ingredient I recall was corn flakes. My wife frowned on trying it but I was game.

One day while she was at work, I grabbed some Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and ground them up along with a concoction of various herbs and spices. Succulent chicken breasts were rolled around in this exotic blend and popped into the oven.

Things might’ve turned out okay had the corn flakes not turned black within minutes. What wasn’t mentioned on the recipe was not to use corn flakes with a sugar coating. By the time my chicken was done the breasts were black as coal. We ate the birds by peeling off smoldering blankets of burnt topping.

I love Shake ‘n Bake chicken. There’s no better way to make it other than using the original product. Why fix something if it ain’t broke?

Fake ‘n Bake is something I was introduced to in Alaska. I’m a fair-skinned guy and turn red instead of tan. Joleen and I were going on a trip to Hawaii and someone recommended I spend a few hours in a tanning bed. This was years before the things were deemed hazardous.

I made an appointment at a tanning parlor close to our house. It was strange lying underneath what appeared to be a device for pressing clothes. At first I was claustrophobic yet eventually fell asleep.

When an employee shouted that my time was up, I crawled out expecting to see in the mirror a bronzed, Mr. Universe. Instead, I was red like a Jonathan apple. Ultraviolet light didn’t agree with my skin pigment. I flew to Hawaii looking and feeling sunburned way before hitting the beach.

Years later we made another trip to the Aloha State. This time a friend suggested I try some spray tan that’d just come on the market. The spray had an opposite effect. After rubbing it on my face and arms, I turned a soft orange hue.

My eye sockets remained pale as did palms and fingernail area. Photos of me on that trip are safely tucked away.

I’ve learned many important things over my 66 years and will share a couple:

“Shake ‘n Bake helps make chicken great!”

“Friends don’t let friends Fake ‘N Bake!”

Fake ‘n Bake

GOT GOUDA?

“On many occasions, a good laxative or enema was needed by weekend.”

Smoked Gouda cheese

I’m a cheese connoisseur. If simply eating cheese makes a person an expert on the subject, then I proudly wear that crown. Not to brag, but I know my way around grocery store cheese-coolers better than most supermarket managers.

My love of cheese goes way back to school days. Before my brother and I headed out the door, mom put slices of pasteurized American on white-bread, and then added bologna before sending us us off. Contained within a hot lunch box until noon, the golden-yellow-cheese melded to perfection with mayonnaise and processed meat. This popular cuisine had a unique aroma which I can still noseulize today.

Often times for dessert, classmates rolled portions of sandwich bread into dough balls with bits of American cheese inside. It’s a delicacy that most kids of this generation haven’t sampled. On many occasions after eating this stuff, a good laxative or enema was needed by weekend. Mom usually had me eat prunes or drink prune juice to ease the pain.

As I grew older, I began to appreciate the more exotic blends of cheese. Dad insisted that we always have Parmesan in the refrigerator for spaghetti. A can didn’t last long in our house. My brother and I sprinkled it heavily on buttered toast. Judging by the name, Parmesan cheese most likely originated in France.

Mozzarella was mom’s number one choice in making homemade pizza. This Italian-bred cheese has a unique stickiness that binds all other toppings together, much like a glue trap. Years ago, I bit into a freshly baked Calzone finding that the mozzarella was still at molten stages. The roof of my mouth shed skin for a week. I haven’t made that mistake twice.

Velveeta. What can I say about this luscious loaf of savory cheese! There’s nothing sweet’a than a box of Velveeta, especially in Mac-n-Cheese. Melted, it works well on nachos but please don’t add any Jalapenos. The unique thing with Velveeta is that it seems to last forever. There’s evidently some secret ingredients that keep it from molding.

Pepper Jack is another favorite. This cheese hasn’t been around as long as others. Swiss is perhaps the oldest. I recall the unique holes in Swiss cheese going back to my earliest years. Some boy once told me the holes came from mice. I believed him for several years. To this day, I still don’t know how they get there and really don’t care.

My cheese of choice at the moment is smoked Gouda. I absolutely crave chunks of smoked Gouda on Cheez-It crackers. The combination makes for a double-cheese-whammy as they say in the south. When I’m on the computer writing junk, I generally have a small plate of Smoked Gouda within arm’s reach of my mouse.

The last time my wife went to Smith’s grocery store, for reasons known only to her, she came back with Low Fat Provolone. That supposedly healthy cheese isn’t on my list of favorites. I jokingly scolded her,

“You should’a got Gouda!”

I’ve been told that eating too much cheese is probably not good for a person. I don’t know if that’s truth or fiction? An advertisement I came across the other day claimed that cheese is a good source of calcium for older people. I’ll definitely agree with that.

One thing that nutritionists don’t have to tell me, is that if you eat a lotta cheese, make sure and leave room for da prunes.

My mama taught me that years ago!

Rich in fiber prunes

BLACK CATS, CHERRY BOMBS, M-80’s, & PUNKS

“The explosion resulted in the crapper being blown to smithereens.”

Black Cat firecracker package

As a child, I grew up in an era when there were no warnings about sticking your head into a 5-gallon bucket of water. Child seats were unheard of. Cribs weren’t ‘safety tested.’ Kids eagerly drank out of garden hoses each summer. Pocket knives were allowed in school. Some fireworks had the power as a quarter-stick of dynamite. In spite of all this, I’m still kickin’.

There’s valid reason for government stepping in and making rules and guidelines to protect children. Child seats are perhaps one of the best. Many young lives have been saved since infant and child seats in cars and trucks became a requirement in 1985.

For the most part, only baby boomers like myself know of the steps taken by government and state officials to tamper down the danger of fireworks. I was either fortunate, or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it, to have grown up during the time fireworks had unrestrained power.

Black Cat firecrackers manufactured prior to 1968 are of a different breed than those of today. The earlier version contained substantial more flash powder. Because of such, the bang was louder and the chance of injury to little fingers greater. Black Cats are still available although they’re not the same powerful cat as they once were.

Cherry Bombs are still out there yet in name only. The Cherry Bomb’s of yesteryear held approximately three-quarter more black powder than those being sold today. A full-strength Cherry Bomb could easily annihilate a large anthill. They could also remove small fingers.

Farmers and ranchers used them quite often in Texas to take out large colonies of red ants. We did the same, oftentimes finding a small crater where the explosive had detonated. The concussion was enough to blast downwards into an entry hole destroying most if not all of the pests.

My father warned my brother and I early on about the dangers of fireworks, especially Cherry Bombs and M-80’s. It seems strange that neither Jim or I was injured by the more powerful devices. The only hurt ever coming to me that I remember, was being burned by the hot wire of a sparkler. This was after the sparks died. It only happened once.

M-80’s are perhaps the most dangerous firework of all where losing fingers are concerned. I read archived newspaper account after newspaper account where children and adults had tips of fingers, or complete fingers blown off. Death caused by these powerful explosives was not unheard of as well.

Cherry bomb

By 1959, some states were outlawing Cherry Bombs and M-80’s. Alaska must’ve been the last to follow through because they were still legal in 1968. There was a fireworks stand located across the road from where I lived in Alaska. Cherry Bombs and M-80’s could be purchased there for twenty-five cents a piece. That was a bit steep, as advertisements in 1960 show them selling at, three for a quarter. Regardless of price, my paper route profits supplied me with many.

An M-80 could blow a tin can a hundred feet in the air or more. We used them as propellant for homemade mortars. A perfect-size round stone was placed into a thick pipe on top of a lit M-80. When powder exploded, the rock would quickly go sailing out of sight. This homemade weapon had the power to shoot debris directly through soft tissue. Thankfully that never happened!

M-80’s wrapped in mud could be tossed into a pool of water. The firework would sink before an explosion sent water flying upward. What’s amazing to me was the ability for an M-80 fuse to burn underwater.

I know of kids in Alaska fishing with them. When thrown into Chester Creek, they’d explode often times resulting in a salmon floating to the surface. The fish would be quickly scooped up before regaining its senses. The terrific concussion caused them to surface.

I recall a student in junior high flushing one down a toilet. The explosion resulted in the crapper being blown to smithereens. M-80’s were that powerful. Yes, it was a good thing that authorities eventually stepped in and banned them.

M-80

Last but not least are punks. Folks not accustomed to firework lingo, will believe I’m referring to juvenile delinquents misusing fireworks.

The punk I refer to is a bamboo and sawdust stick that’s lit by a match or lighter. A punk will burn for several minutes and is used to light firecracker fuses. Punks were generally given free to customers with their fireworks purchase.

As I mentioned earlier, dad taught my brother and I the safe way to use fireworks. He advised us to always have a water hose or a bucket of water close by. One thing that he never mentioned was,

Never stick your head in a bucket!”

He must’ve figured we had brains enough not to do that!

These punks…
…not these punks!

Black Cats, Cherry Bombs, M-80’s, & Punks

“Some student at Clark Junior High flushed one down a toilet. The explosion resulted in this crapper being blown to smithereens.”

Bucket warning

As a child, I grew up in an era when there were no warnings about sticking your head into a 5-gallon bucket of water. Child seats were unheard of. Cribs weren’t ‘safety tested.’ Kids eagerly drank out of garden hoses each summer. Pocket knives were allowed in school. Some fireworks had the power as a quarter-stick of dynamite. In spite of all this, I’m still kickin’.

There’s valid reason for government stepping in and making rules and guidelines to protect children. Child seats are perhaps one of the best. Many young lives have been saved since infant and child seats in cars and trucks became a requirement in 1985.

For the most part, only baby boomers like myself know of the steps taken by government and state officials to tamper down the danger of fireworks. I was either fortunate, or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it, to have grown up during the time fireworks had unrestrained power.

Black Cat firecrackers

Black Cat firecrackers manufactured prior to 1968 are of a different breed than those of today. The earlier version contained substantial more flash powder. Because of such, the bang was louder and the chance of injury to little fingers greater. Black Cats are still available although they’re not the same powerful cat as they once were.

Cherry Bombs are still out there yet in name only. The Cherry Bomb’s of yesteryear held approximately three-quarter more black powder than those being sold today. A full-strength Cherry Bomb could easily annihilate a large anthill. They could also remove small fingers.

Farmers and ranchers used them quite often in Texas to take out large colonies of red ants. We did the same, oftentimes finding a small crater where the explosive had gone off. The concussion was enough to blast downwards into an entry hole destroying many of the pests.

My father warned my brother and I early on about the dangers of fireworks, especially Cherry Bombs and M-80’s. It seems strange that neither Jim or I was injured by the more powerful devices. The only hurt ever coming to me that I remember, was being burned by the hot wire of a sparkler. This was after the sparks died. It only happened once.

M-80’s are perhaps the most dangerous firework of all where losing fingers are concerned. I read archived newspaper account after newspaper account where children and adults had tips of fingers, or complete fingers blown off. Death caused by these powerful explosives was not unheard of as well.

From a 1966 Missouri newspaper

By 1959, some states were outlawing Cherry Bombs and M-80’s. Alaska must’ve been the last to follow through because they were still legal in 1968. There was a fireworks stand located across the road from where I lived on Muldoon Road. Cherry Bombs and M-80’s could be purchased there for twenty-five cents a piece. That was a bit steep, as advertisements for these things going back to 1960 show them selling for, three for a quarter. Regardless of price, my paper route profits supplied me with many.

Cherry bomb

An M-80 could blow a tin can a hundred feet in the air or more. We used them as propellant for homemade mortars. A perfect-size round stone was placed into a thick pipe on top of a lit M-80. When powder exploded, the rock would quickly go sailing out of sight. This homemade weapon had the power to shoot debris directly through soft tissue. Thankfully that never happened!

M-80’s wrapped in mud could be tossed into a pool of water. The firework would sink before an explosion sent water flying upward. What’s amazing to me was the ability for an M-80 fuse to burn underwater.

I know of kids fishing with them. When thrown into Chester Creek, they’d explode often times resulting in a salmon floating to the surface. The fish would be quickly scooped up before regaining its senses. It was the terrific concussion causing them to surface. I doubt there are any salmon left in that stream.

I recall a student at Clark Junior High flushing one down a toilet. The explosion resulted in this crapper being blown to smithereens. M-80’s were that powerful. Yes, it was a good thing that authorities eventually stepped in and banned them.

M-80’s

Last but not least are punks. Most folks not accustomed to firework lingo, will believe I’m referring to those juvenile delinquents misusing fireworks.

The punk I refer to is a bamboo and sawdust stick that’s lit by a match or lighter. A punk will burn for several minutes and is used to light fuses. Punks were generally given out free to customers with their fireworks purchase.

As I mentioned earlier, dad taught my brother and I the safe way to use fireworks. He advised us to always have a water hose or a bucket of water close by. One thing that he never mentioned was,

Never stick your head in a bucket!”

He must’ve figured we had brains enough not to do that!

These punks…
…and not these punks!