THIS OLD HOUSE

“Just recently, some friends in Anchorage informed us that our old house on Fern Lane is up for sale.”

334 Fern Lane

For 35 years, my family lived in the same house in Anchorage, Alaska. At 1,280 square feet, it wasn’t the biggest home in town, yet not the tiniest. Friends asked how we existed in such close quarters. The saving grace was that it had two bathrooms and three bedrooms, as small as they were. This place was a mansion compared to where I used to live.

For close to 13 years, my brother Jim, and our parents, took up residence in a 600 square-foot-trailer. It was a whopping 10 foot wide x 60 feet long. In our first three years, our mobile home was more like 240 square feet. That trailer was 8 feet x 30 feet in size. Being in the Air Force, Dad towed it to different bases all over the country with his car.

These days with both kids having left the nest, our house in Arizona is 1621 square feet not counting Casita and garage. The garage is actually bigger than the home itself. Only in Lake Havasu City can you get away with such. Thank you, Planning and Zoning.

Just recently, some friends in Anchorage informed us that our old house on Fern Lane is up for sale. I took a gander on Zillow to see how it appeared. Not a whole lot is different than when we sold it in 2010.

Some nights I lay awake, and can virtually open the door to that place and visualize every scratch and blemish in it. The current owners made some changes, but in my mind, I still know where things that aren’t right. Having 2-inch x 4-inch walls is one of them. In Alaska, you rarely see that anymore because extra insulation is needed, with 2-inch x 6-inch studs being the norm.

I spent many hours trying to keep that place glued together. During winter was the hardest. We had a sloped driveway, and on more than one occasion I discovered our car or truck at the bottom of the hill. Concrete had to constantly be salted and sanded. Buckets of both were kept near the front entrance.

During winter, I’d shovel a maze through snow in the front yard. That took lots of time each snowfall to keep it open. Carly & Simon, our Pekingese fur babies loved it so the effort was not in vain. By mid-winter, walls to the maze would be up to my waist.

Our former neighbors, Matt & Kim Stohr, still live across the street. Kim asked if we’d be interested in moving back to that location. I thought about it for a good while. It’d be hard at this point.

Unbeknownst to the current owners, we have pets buried in the backyard, and neighbors from long ago are now permanently gone. So many memories and most all of them good. I don’t think coming back would recapture life the way it used to be.

We purchased the place in 1977 for $75,000.00. It’s now listed for $349,000.00. To buy it at this price would be like doling out $35,000.00 for the same motorcycle you bought for $3,000.00, 45 years ago. I couldn’t do that no matter what.

Perhaps the number one reason for foregoing such is the size of the garage. It’s only 400 square feet. Tiny as it is, I build several cars in that cramped space lying on cold hard concrete. My body would now veto the idea of going back and doing that all over again.

We’ll have to pass on this old house. At this point in life, I like being mobile much the way I grew up. Traveling in an RV is as close as I can get to reexperiencing such. Hopefully, the next owner of 334 Fern Lane keeps it up like we did. My one message to them would be,

Keep plenty of salt and sand on hand because you’re eventually going to need it.

The only house with a blue roof.

SWAP-n-SELL

“The disc jockey had to assist many callers through their spiel, because they got stage fright being live on the air.”

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, I remember my Grandmother Hankins turning the radio on each weekday morning to catch up on local news. The radio host would read off a list of people currently in the hospital, including those released. This was early day, social media, without the flak. When I say flak, I mean totally negative remarks. More about that in a few seconds.

Grandma generally recognized those folks mentioned because she was a longtime resident of Vernon, Alabama. She practically knew everyone in town. At the conclusion of the show, the DJ announced the names of recently deceased residents and where their services were to be held. Hearing this news was depressing not only to Grandma, but to me as well, and I didn’t even know these people.

After this portion of the program was over, Swap-n-Sell came on. That’s when I tuned in with both ears. Residents called via rotary dial telephones and tried to explain what they were selling, with price. The disc jockey had to assist many callers through their spiel, because they got stage fright being live on the air. I recall Grandma chuckling when that happened.

A seller would leave their phone number for interested parties to call. Seller and buyer could then hash things out in private, which is the way it’s supposed to be done. Having a moderator helped things along here.

I’ve never peddled anything on Swap-n-Sell, but I have sold junk via online forums. Those can be a hassle because of flak from gadflies. A gadfly to me is nothing more than a person offering unwanted advice or criticism. There’s generally a purpose behind them doing such. They are pros at using flak to intimidate sellers.

Several months ago, a woman was trying to unload a bassinet on a popular online Havasu sales site. She asked a reasonable $40.00. Right off the bat, a couple of gadflies announced to the group that the seller wanted too much money. I looked at their Facebook profile, and immediately came to the obvious conclusion that these gals were way past childrearing years.

I suppose they wanted to steal the furniture and resell it for profit. Gadflies often work that way. I was happy to see this bassinet go in spite of efforts to cripple the sell. I’m hopeful the seller got full asking price.

Recently, I listed a motorcycle on one of those same sites. Within minutes, I had a few comments from fellows trashing my bike, and another guy claiming it was way overpriced. I ignored them which is the best thing to do. “Don’t feed the trolls!”

A good friend of mine, Jim Brownfield, explained to me that sometimes buyers believe something’s wrong with a car, motorcycle, or boat, when the price is low. Taking his advice, I cancelled my listing and waited a few weeks. I then relisted it for double the money. My Harley sold the next day without discount.

If Grandma Hankins were still alive, she’d have no use for gadflies and trolls on her computer. A troll is a gadfly, possessing unlimited flak. They toss out insults merely for a response and nothing more.

If she could reach down from Heaven with a superlong flyswatter, she’d smack those folks upside the head with it.

If allowed by higher authority, I believe Grandma would start her own online sell group and moderate things from up there, using that swatter as needed. She’d simply call her show, Slap-n-Sell.

Grandpa & Grandma Hankins – 1963

JOHN KELLY – MICHAEL KELLY

“He was one of those guys that everyone liked.”

Michael Boyd Kelly

John Phillip Kelly Jr. and Michael Boyd Kelly didn’t know each other. John died 33 years before Michael was ever born. They could’ve been related, but only God or a family genealogist would know for sure.

I knew Mike Kelly from junior high and high school. He delivered the Anchorage Times newspaper going back to the days when I did. We’d bump into each other on occasion at the newspaper office. I considered him a friend and we often talked. He was one of those guys that everyone liked.

Johnny Kelly was a bit before my time. I came across his name while researching the Smoky Hill River in Kansas. This river runs through Salina in the western part of the state. Smoky Hill River is where Johnny met his demise. When I started reading the newspaper article dated August 2o, 1921, it was strangely similar to how my friend, Mike, died.

June 19, 1921

In one of my East High yearbooks, I keep newspaper clippings about Mike Kelly and his unfortunate accident. I was at Hope, Alaska that day with a friend, Jeff Thimsen, when Mike drowned. We saw the ambulance and police cars but didn’t realize it was him until returning home. Mike was gold mining with another friend of ours, Bill Lowe, and some of his pals when the incident occurred. Mike, Bill, Jeff, and I had only graduated from East High two months previous in 1972. It’s now coming up on 50 years since Mike’s death (August 20th).

Johnny Kelly has been gone for 101 years now. Reading about John’s death, I can feel the pain that his mom went through. I can’t imagine losing a child being that she’d already lost her husband. According to the article, Johnny Kelly was well liked in Salina, Kansas. I’m sure he was fun to hang out with. Michael Kelly fits the same mold.

I composed this piece as a way to remember them both. Everyone has a story to tell. Sadly, the only way John and Mike get to tell a small part of theirs, is from the grave.

Died – August 20, 1972

Died – June 19, 1921

SIGNS

“These days, some businesses around town would bend over backwards to hire such people.”

1971

It’s that time of year when political signs sprout up like scorpion weed on street corners. Being that I’m the one driving, I see them, but then again, I don’t. I’m generally watching out for crazies trying to run over our little car more than anything.

The other day my wife said to me, did you see so and so’s sign back there? That’s the first time she’d noticed this particular candidate. I told her I didn’t have a chance to look, because a lifted Dodge pickup suddenly changed lanes, almost knocking us into the left-side pocket like an eight-ball.

Folks are now complaining as they always do about election signs uglying up our city. Webster’s doesn’t recognize the word uglying. They should. I use it all the time.

Personally, I have zero problem with political signs, as long as they aren’t blocking my view while driving or being some kind of visual hazard. I suppose in some countries like communist China and Russia, residents don’t have to put up with them.

Political signs are similar to the loud military aircraft and helicopters flying in and out of Lake Havasu City Municipal Airport. Some folks voice disapproval about them as well. They evidently don’t view this noise as the sound of freedom.

Running for public office is a thankless task. Time taken away from family, friends, and hobbies to try and make things better for all citizens is a sacrifice. Just trying to get elected is an ordeal. Let candidates have their election signs for a few months. They’re as American as apple pie and Chevrolet. I can deal with red and blue signs more than I can dodging all that debris on Highway 95. Now that’s something to fuss about.

In 1971, a song came out about signs performed by the Five Man Electrical Band. Starting lyrics are most memorable,

And the sign said, long-haired freaky people need not apply.

In 68 years, I’ve never come across a sign dictating such. Something tells me the band made things up. These days, some businesses around town would bend over backwards to hire such people. Evidently, Five Man Electrical Band had no issue with political signs, otherwise they would’ve mentioned it in their lyrics.

Some signs we don’t need, but political signs we do. The moment those signs come down because they’re labeled an eyesore, will be a terrible day in the USA!

2022

.

3035 ROSE STREET

“The day I came home from work and my wife handed me a certified letter from the Municipality of Anchorage will never be forgotten.”

3035 Rose Street as seen today

I told the story of 3035 Rose Street in my book, Ordinary, Average Guy – Uncensored Memoirs of a Trailer Park Refugee. The chapter is titled, “Nightmare on Rose Street.”

It’s one of those life adventures that wasn’t so funny back then, but now I chuckle each time I think about it. I’ve repeated this story countless times with some listeners undoubtedly believing I exaggerated things. Not so. You can’t make this stuff up. Somewhere in a box are pictures to prove such.

The day I came home from work and my wife handed me a certified letter from the Municipality of Anchorage, stating that she was operating a junkyard will never be forgotten. The expression on her face is priceless.

A follow up letter from the city with pictures claimed there were 37 vehicles in all states of disrepair on the property. Driving over to investigate, I counted 49.

This residence still exists as the attached photo shows. We were half owners for fifteen years until selling to our partner, Tom Oswald. Tom still owns and rents the trailer out, having done so for 48 continuous years now.

I recently calculated that this 1960s Schult mobile home generated approximately $691,200.00 income over those 48 years. The original purchase price for trailer and R-3 lot in 1974 was $25,000.00.

Tommy went on to acquire an additional 48 rental properties, mostly condos and single family homes. The seed money needed to get the ball rolling came from 3035 Rose Street. Who says trailers aren’t good investments. This one has undoubtedly set a record!

BIAS

“The congregations of most Baptist churches would undoubtedly be labeled right wing extremists by this crowd and CNN.”

I’m always picking news articles apart where a reporter’s unquestionably “leaning to the left.” I’ve done a lot of that here lately. It’s been getting worse over the past five years. I’m sure those on the other side of the fence are claiming just the opposite.

I suppose it’s tough being a reporter and leaving personal opinion out of things. I couldn’t do it. Walter Cronkite came across as unbiased on his daily television news show. So did Huntley and Brinkley. I’m dating myself here. It would’ve been interesting hearing those fellows after they had a good dose of truth serum.

There are subtle ways a person can get their thoughts across without uttering a word. For me, most every time I hear someone mention the name, Joe Biden, I shake my head in disgust. The person doing the yapping generally sees I’m not a fan and shuts up. On the other hand, if they believe as I do, that opens up flood gates to a rant.

Should I say out loud what I truly believe about our current political situation, some would label me an extremist. That’s what the leftist crowd does to folks not adhering to their ideology. The congregations of most Baptist churches would undoubtedly be labeled right wing extremists by this crowd and CNN. Other churches perhaps not so much. Many of them are weak and “go with the flow” instead of preaching the Bible and stepping on toes.

I try not to argue politics or religion with anyone. It’s a waste of time. My opinion is my opinion and the WOKE crowd isn’t going to change it.

If I were a reporter, it would have to be in sports. Bias is welcome with open arms in that arena. Everyone knows, or should know, that the Arizona Cardinals is the best NFL football team in the league. Arizona Diamondbacks without question is the top National League baseball team. Where high school football and basketball teams in Mohave County are concerned, the Havasu Knights lead the pack.

For those not believing as I do on this, I’ll stay mum and simply shake my head.

MASTER MECHANIC or FLEDGLING WRITER?

“We’ll simply call him, Ajax Warthog.”

Most writers have their own unique writing process. I suppose some stuffy literary experts would say one version is better over another. They’d definitely shake their heads at mine. I don’t listen to those people anyway. I’ll now quote, out of context, former first lady, Hillary Clinton, “What difference does it make?”

I use the term writer quite loosely in describing myself. I’m strictly a hobbyist and struggle putting words to paper, using dictionaries, spellcheck, and writing guidebooks to help me along. Some authors I know like, Helen Hegener and Professor Michael Burwell, are naturals and know their stuff. If you were to ask what I’d like to be called, “Master Mechanic” comes to mind.

My mechanic friends will laugh at this self-bestowed title because they know it isn’t true. An okay technician at best, I eventually get the job done. The master mechanic misnomer goes back many years.

A mechanic working in Bethel, Alaska was notorious for never getting his maintenance work completed. He was an expert at filling out paperwork saying that it was. I won’t mention the fellow’s real name because that wouldn’t be kosher. We’ll simply call him, Ajax Warthog.

I was flown to Bethel by my boss to take care of work that Ajax was supposed to have done. He’d documented all was finished, yet when I started checking things out, it was checked off by pencil only.

I spent a good week in Bethel finishing up some of his projects. After I left, other Anchorage mechanics went out there to do the same. On the man’s toolbox was a fancy sign saying, “AJAX WARTHOG – MASTER MECHANIC.” I took a photo, and the picture went viral in our shop. Ajax was eventually relieved of his duties.

Getting back to my writing process and how it relates to mechanics. I use this site strictly as a tool for perfecting my work, including storing it. An idea is first composed in my head, and then written down via Microsoft Word. I have a hard time editing stuff there, so it’s copied and pasted to WordPress.

The literary mechanics of this process allow me to look at sentence and paragraph structure from different angles. It’s kind of like installing drum brakes on a car. Just because all of the springs go on doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in the right holes. Both literary composition and mechanical repairs oftentimes have to be tweaked.

When I finally publish a story, article, or whatever on WordPress, it immediately goes to all that subscribe via email. That initial publication is never totally free of typos or mistakes. I’ve been asked by some subscribers about such.

The blunders are eventually corrected, but unfortunately, those corrections don’t show unless a reader goes to http://www.michael-hankins.com afterwards. That’s just the way it works and I can’t change things.

I sometimes spend weeks “reworking” the same article. There are nights when I wake up, suddenly thinking of a better word to use. I’ll quickly turn on the computer and change things out. It’s an unorthodox process but one that works for me.

Unlike Ajax and his mechanical assignments, I eventually get my literary compositions perfected and ready to send out to publications. Even at that point they’re not 100% error free. I know editors will take care of the ones I missed, or at least I hope they do.

A book of mine that was recently published has some deliberate grammatical errors in it. I informed the editors to leave them as is because they went along with the book title, “Ordinary, Average Guy – Uncensored Memoirs of a Trailer Park Refugee.” No one reading a book by that name would expect to find perfection.

If I were to label the type of writer I am, fledgling comes to mind. Call me, “Fledgling Writer.” To my mechanic friends having never heard this term, it simply means, brilliant.

RUST IN PEACE

“No person, animal, or lawnmower should have to retire in Texas!”

When I first came to Lake Havasu City in 1981, there were two things standing out above all others. Magnificent, London Bridge, being number one. The second jewel in the desert was discovered purely by accident.

We were driving around town slowly looking at houses, hindering traffic at the same time, when all of a sudden, an old push mower popped into view. It was sitting in a manicured gravel yard with a “Rust in Peace” sign hanging from its handle. I immediately jumped out of our rental car and took a picture.

To this day, I’ve never come upon that lawnmower again. I have no idea as to the street it was located nor what part of town. Havasu has a diverse mixture of road names and unfortunately I forgot this one.

Non-motorized push mowers are something I’m well acquainted with. My brother and I cut lawns for a couple of years pushing one of the labor-intensive contraptions. That’s how we made money besides other enterprises, such as collecting pop bottles and returning them to stores for nickel deposits.

Our mower worked fine on short grass, but add some length to the turf plus a little rain, and this chore became torture.

We learned how to adjust a circular blade for better mowing, along with correctly filing it down when rocks dinged up the cutting edge. Keeping things clean and well lubricated was a necessity.

Seeing that old mower in Havasu put out to pasture gave me a laugh. I’m sure the machine my brother and I owned didn’t fare so well as to end up in Arizona. I believe we sold it at a Texas auction after purchasing a used, gas-powered unit. No person, animal, or lawnmower should have to retire in Texas!

While living in Alaska, a good friend gave me a push mower. It was a Sears brand and had barely been used. I never intended on putting the thing to work, so in our shed it went for 30 years.

I eventually hauled the mower out and placed it for sale in a Penny Saver periodical. That’s something akin to White Sheet here in Havasu.

A woman called right away, saying it was exactly what she was looking for. Stopping by the house, she was in her early thirty’s and undoubtedly “green.” I say this respectfully because the lady mentioned wanting to get away from fossil-fuel burning lawn equipment.

She told me that her husband advised against buying one because she’d regret it. Fortunately for me the gal didn’t listen to him. Stuffing $25.00 in my wallet, I happily loaded the lawnmower into a small SUV. It rains cats & dogs in Alaska and grass grows fast. Without question, she soon returned to gas.

I’ve often wanted to add “yard art” to the front of our home much like that old lawnmower. A gentleman living around the corner has a vintage Fordson tractor parked in his. I love it! Wanting to be original with my project, replicating either mower or tractor is out of the question.

When we lived in Texas there were devices called jack pumps throughout the state. A generic term for them is oil well pumps. All day and night they rocked up and down like giant teeter-totters. I was intrigued by the machinery and still am.

A used oil equipment dealer in Oklahoma has several small ones for sale. Photos show them to be fairly rusty and the rustier the better where patina is concerned.

I’ll hook up a small electric motor to keep the arm moving and make it appear operational, plus install an aged chain link fence. A “Rust in Peace” sign will definitely be part of the package.

So far, the only obstacles I know of are concerned neighbors, city code enforcement officers, and my wife. If I can circumvent those small roadblocks, it’s a done deal.

Old Fordson

SHOWTIME

“Even at that age, I viewed this event more as a carnival side show than anything else, and still do.”

Two-headed-goat

When I was in fifth or sixth grade at Reese Elementary in Lubbock, Texas, students were informed that an Oddities of Nature Show would be stopping by the following day. This would’ve been around 1964. Kids wanting to view the exhibit were told to bring a quarter. I suppose school administrators believed it’d be educational for the children. Undoubtedly, some teachers agreed to things because the show, if you can call it that, was free for them to attend.

We were at recess when the old bus rolled to a stop in a cloud of dust. It had writing painted on both sides like a traveling circus. One large sign stated that a two-headed-goat was onboard. We’d been previously told this by our teacher, and that being the main reason some kids wanted to attend. I was somewhat excited to see a two-headed-snake.

I don’t remember all of the static displays, only a few select ones stick in my mind like sore thumbs. Several classes formed a long line and entered the front of the converted school bus, exiting from the rear. I recall double-headed-snakes, toads, and strange mutated bugs in glass jars. They were floating around in some type of clear liquid, undoubtedly alcohol or embalming fluid. It was a bizarre sight.

None of the animals or insects were still breathing. I had my fill within a couple of minutes and quickly left. Even at that age, I viewed this event more as a carnival side show than anything else, and still do.

After our session was up the vehicle slowly left in another cloud of dust. Having a gravel-parking-lot at the school building, every vehicle coming and going created this pollution. Believing the show was creepy, I was happy to see it gone.

That event left scars on my mind for some time. I wouldn’t remember details if it hadn’t. Some kids claimed that the animals and reptiles had been made to look strange. The two-headed-goat was stuffed by a taxidermist, and a few boys mentioned it as having both heads sewn together.

I never studied the animal up close, yet believe it was authentic. One thing was for sure, those animals and reptiles weren’t normal.

The other day I was in the pool trying to stay cool. It was 118 degrees outside. Mr. Lizard was intently watching me and “Bob” like he always does. This tiny reptile, about the size of my wife’s pinky, takes up residence under one of the decorative pots. Every so often, he’d raise his body to get a better look. I suppose me and Bob were strange sights to him.

Bob is the name Joleen and I gave our blue and white chlorine dispenser. The device is always bobbing up and down and seemingly follows us around the water. When Bob drifts too close to where the decorative pot sits, Mr. Lizard scurries over to investigate.

If only I could take the little guy to Rotary Beach and Bridgewater Channel on a crowded holiday weekend. At times, it’s a festive carnival atmosphere down there, and I’m not talking two-headed-goats and snakes. This show far exceeds the one I saw as a kid on a bus 58 years ago.

Mr. Lizard would definitely get his beady eyes full, having much more things to tell his scaly buddies than mundane stuff about me, Bob, and Joleen.

Bridgewater Channel