MY FATHER

“My father never had a formal business education, so that rule didn’t apply to him.”

My late father, Troy Lee Hankins

Father’s Day is near. I didn’t want to wait until June 21st to honor dad through simple written words. I think of him every day. Certain traits that my father possessed stand tall above all others. He was never a touchy-feely kind of guy. Most of the time he kept his sensitive side hidden. I believe there was reason for that.

Dad went through much tragedy during his childhood years. At twelve, he was standing beside his younger brother, and watched in horror as a can of burning gasoline accidentally set the youth on fire. James Columbus Hankins died within hours from his burns.

Several years later my father was riding motorcycles with a friend. He found out the next morning that his pal never made it home. The teenager was killed in a head on collision with a car. Mom said that dad silently grieved for a long time.

In 1957, my father was ejected at high-speed from a Corvette sports car on Route 66 near Victorville, California. He survived by miraculously landing in a pile of sand. God was definitely looking over him that morning. Dad walked with a pronounced limp afterwards because of a metal rod implanted in his leg by doctors, to strengthen the shattered bone.

In 1972, he survived three days in -40 degree weather after crashing his airplane in Canada. Mother was with him. She never flew in small planes again, yet the accident didn’t deter him. Dad was back in the cockpit several weeks later.

Dad was not a perfect person. He had his share of faults like others. We butted heads on more than one occasion. Mom said I was like my father in many ways. She never specified what traits we shared. Hopefully she meant the good ones.

One thing pop never did was back down from his beliefs. Most business professors tell you, don’t bring religion or political affiliation inside business walls.

My father never had a formal business education, so that rule didn’t apply to him. Even if he had been advised by experts to keep personal ideology out of his business, he would’ve ignored them.

I recall more than once, someone walking into dad’s automotive part’s store, and spouting off about a specific political poster taped to the front window. The old man would quietly stand and listen before telling them,

“You need to go down the street!”

That generally made the person tight-jawed and furious. Choice words were often uttered by these folks before leaving.

Some people strolled into his store with the philosophy that the customer is always right. Dad didn’t see things that way. If they were wrong he told them so. On several occasions my father showed an irate customer the front door. In spite of such, he was highly successful in his business endeavors.

A friend of dad’s owned a gas station close by. This man once asked,

“Aren’t you worried your open support of Republican candidates will offend people?”

My father didn’t hesitate in replying,

“That’s their problem!”

Political correctness is something dad wanted no part of. I echo his sentiment. My thick skin was definitely inherited from the ‘old man’, including a small portion of it from mom.

I believe my father is looking down at me, proud, and that’s all that counts on Father’s Day!

My dad with mom in front of their Anchorage, Alaska parts store (1977).

WAFFLE STOMPERS

“Kids from Alabama are taught at an early age how to defend themselves.”

Waffle-Stompers

My family grew up in Selma, Alabama during the height of the racial flareups (1959 – 1963). I witnessed severe discrimination firsthand against blacks. Believe me, things have gotten better in the hate department since that time. I’m sure Selma, Mayor Darrio Melton, would concur. If anyone were to disagree I’d politely ask them,

“Did you personally experience how life was in Selma in 1963?”

Twenty years later, I suffered racial discrimination of my own. My wife and I took a couple of cruises to Hawaii. One was on the SS Constitution, and the other on the SS Independence. Both beautiful ships have now been scrapped.

It was on the second cruise that I decided to take a lone hike. Can’t remember the exact island at this point but the port was more industrial. I was off by myself enjoying sights when a large fellow came up from behind. I’d bought a Hawaii 5-0 baseball hat in Honolulu and the stranger started making fun of it. Said he had ‘puna buds’ if I wanted any. I politely informed him I didn’t smoke dope.

At that point the guy became irate, calling me all kinds of nasty things including,

“Haole.”

That word meant absolutely nothing to me, although I’d heard it before in Honolulu. I assumed he was cursing at my not purchasing any of his goods. When the man began moving closer I didn’t hesitate as trained. Kids from Alabama are taught at an early age how to defend themselves.

As a young person who loved the outdoors, I wore Dexter brand Waffle-Stomper boots wherever I went. It was a good thing that I had them on that day. The poor fellow undoubtedly hurt in his private section for weeks. He was on the ground writhing in pain when I hightailed it back to the ship.

Sitting with Joleen on the “SS Independence” in Hawaii wearing my Dexter – Waffle-Stomper” boots.

My wife’s been back to Hawaii, but I’m satisfied staying on mainland USA. It’s not that I’m afraid of discrimination or being accosted over there. I doubt any young Hawaiian would stroll up to an old man offering to sell him puna buds.

The fellow that hassled me in 1983 was no different than some white dude antagonizing a black guy, or vice versa. Racial hate is prevalent in all races and has been since the beginning of time. Much like the Covid-19 flu, It’ll take much more time before it’s completely rubbed out; if it ever is.

These days I feel more secure in my own element and that’s okay with Joleen. She can go to Hawaii with friends and I’ll hike into the Grand Canyon for a few days.

A few years ago I quit wearing Waffle-Stomper boots. Those heavy things were like having a personal bodyguard on each foot. Perhaps it’s time for a new pair?

Boy, do I miss them!

Mayor Melton – Selma, Alabama

HOT ANCHORAGE NIGHTS

“This was back in the day when “GTO Joe” was ‘King of the Street’.”

1954 Chevrolet “Highboys.”

I did my share of cruising both Northern Lights and Benson Boulevard in the late 1960’s through 1970’s. It was a favorite pastime for young people during long Anchorage nights. Those folks having lived there during that time know what I mean. The sun barely sat each June and July night before it popped up for another day of excitement.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to hang onto several grainy photos to help tell this story:

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My initial experience with cruising was with my friend, Rod Sanborn. This took place in his 1958 Chevrolet Apache pickup. The year was 1969. I would’ve been a 9th grader at Clark Junior High. Rod was two years older and attended East High.

Rod’s pickup was painted bright Hugger Orange and had large Mickey Thompson street slicks on the rear. Traction bars helped put rubber to the asphalt. All windows except the windshield were tinted orange to seemingly match the truck. I recall Rod saying they accidentally turned out that way after he used ammonia-based Windex on gray-window-film. A chemical reaction took place changing the hue. Rod’s truck looked cool to say the least.

The engine was a hopped up small-block Chevy 283. It had a Mallory ‘REV POL’ (reverse polarity) dual-point ignition, with a switch in the cab that allowed the distributor to fire on one set of points only. This was intended for regular driving purposes. A red light came on when switched to dual points and reverse polarity. On top of the panel was a warning label declaring that when the light was on, you were in “Race Mode Only.” Each time Rod used that switch, I told him I could feel the difference in horsepower. Looking back on things, I believe it was more of a imaginary feeling than anything.

This high revvin’ motor grenaded on more than one occasion with my pal at the wheel. I helped him scrounge parts for it at the vehicle graveyard off Kincaid Road. We spent many Saturday’s wrenching away on discarded cars and trucks along with other money savvy residents.

Rod and I would cruise to The Bun Drive-In on Northern Lights and park with the hot-rod crowd. This was back in the day when “GTO Joe” was ‘King of the Street’. Being surrounded by serious horsepower nearly made me drool. Rod gave me a nickname back then that he still uses,

“Jap Zero.”

He says the term has something to do with a black hat that I wore. I tend to believe it was because I always bummed money from him for a Coke and fries.

The Bun Drive-In
I believe this is Rod’s ’58. No serial number to prove it. Truck was sold in California (1974 or 1975). It’s now in Utah.

My brother, Jim, purchased a 1969 Mercury Cougar from a local radio DJ. That car became our next cruisin’ machine soon after Rod’s truck was sold. The Cougar had a 351 Windsor with manual 4-speed transmission. Glass pack mufflers gave it a nice throaty sound. I was allowed to drive the Cougar on occasion which helped to swell my head.

My brother Jim’s 1969 Mercury Cougar. Cheney Lake is in the background.

Several years later I purchased a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T. It was equipped with a 440 CID engine, 4-speed transmission, and Dana 60 differential. The Mopar was a looker and quite adequate in the acceleration department. Cops came to know it and myself on a first name basis.

1968 Dodge Charger R/T with Cheney Lake in the background.

Back then, street racing on Northern Lights was basically a stoplight to stoplight affair. I often thought that an unbeatable combination would be a car with a manual-shift automatic transmission, along with a super-low gear ratio. My friend, Jeff Thimsen, and I set out to build two such street racing machines.

My 1954 Chevy under construction.
Jeff’s on the left. Mine on the right.
Photo taken behind Polar Theatre on Muldoon Road.
This “rubber” was left out by the airport or Sand Lake area. We night raced at both places.

Our 1954 Chevrolet “Highboy” hot rods were unbeatable up to 40 mph. Jeff’s ’54 had a Jimmy Arnold built Turbo-400 transmission and 4500 RPM stall torque converter. A Dana 60 with 4.88 gears completed the package. An original LS-6 454 from a 1970 Chevelle SS powered his car.

My ’54 had 5.38 rear gears with the same Jimmy Arnold transmission and torque converter. A high winding 1969 Z-28 302 engine sat under the hood.

We took our automobiles to Northern Lights each weekend when it wasn’t raining. After a month or so, it became impossible finding anyone wanting to go up against us. There was nothing that’d beat these cars the first 100 feet. At that point, we’d quit racing and let the other guy sail on by. It was our way of silently saying,

“No competition!”

The last such race I recall is one I still laugh about. We were in Jeff’s ’54 sitting at a light on Benson heading east, when a gloss black 1964 Ford pulled up. This Galaxie 500 had huge leaf spring shackles on its rear end.

When the light turned green, Jeff ran through all 3-gears and as usual we were five car lengths in front. He let off the gas and the Ford went flying by. Unbeknownst to us a patrol car was directly behind taking in all the action.

The officer pulled up next to us and ordered Jeff to pull over at McDonald’s and wait. The cop then took off in hot pursuit of the Ford with lights and siren going. Jeff wheeled into the fast-food parking lot as instructed but he didn’t wait. We took various side roads all the way back to his apartment which was located on Spenard Road.

Jumping into my Charger, we returned to Northern Lights finding the same policeman had pulled over a black 1955 Chevrolet. The vehicle’s owner and passenger were standing against the car, with several other police cars circled around. We observed one fellow trying to plead his case.

We learned through the grapevine, that the officer ordering Jeff to stop believed he’d caught the right culprit. Jeff and I chuckled over how someone could misidentify a 1954 Chevrolet over a 1955. The two automobiles share no common traits.

1955 Chevrolet (file photo)

We parked our hot rods for the rest of that summer. Stoplight to stoplight racing was no longer fun; it also wasn’t safe.

Jeff and I continued to cruise Northern Lights with our girlfriends and then wives. Jeff upgraded to a couple of SS-454 Monte Carlo’s and a 1963 split-window Corvette.

I drove a 1971 SS-454 Chevelle for a while, and then a 1974 SS-454 El Camino. A V-8 Chevy Vega was eventually built for cruising, with a 1968 supercharged 440 GTX finishing things off. By this time Jeff and I came to the conclusion that racing belonged on the strip. It seems we had matured.

Some of the names I remember from my cruising days are: Jeff Kritenbrink, Steve Kretsinger, Doug Miller, Bob Malone, Jerry Warren, Faith Luther, Michelle Giroux, Cathy Cook, Willie Brown, Dennis Hackenberger, Gary Adair, Warren Fife, Mark Lewis, Mike Smith, Pat Steger, Tim Amundsen, Kathy Fejes, Ken Lucia, Mike Eddins, Rick Barden, “Buzzy”, and a few other first names only.

Jeff changed the gearing in his ’54 and raced it at Polar Raceway several times before selling it. We eventually moved on to other things like raising families, finding viable careers, fishing, camping, plus other pertinent activities. Cars were still fun to tinker with but not as important as they used to be.

Jeff at Polar Raceway. He’d just smoked the other vehicle. Notice steam coming from the Mustang’s hood.
1970 Dodge Challenger R/T convertible. My friend Isiah Lewis in Oklahoma now owns it.

1974 Chevrolet SS-454 El Camino. Vehicle purchased from Kevin Sigafoos.

1971 Chevelle SS-454 purchased from Randy Huffman.
Supercharged 1968 Plymouth GTX.

Looking back on this time, my favorite cruising machine of all time was a 1954 Chevrolet station wagon named, ‘War Wagon.’ Jeff, myself, and a friend, Ken Lucia, purchased the wagon just for kicks. Several years ago I wrote a story solely about this ride.

Sadly, ‘War Wagon’ eventually succumbed to one too many,

“Hot Anchorage Nights.”

Jeff with 1954 Chevrolet station wagon, “War Wagon.”

PAPERBOY

“During my 3-years of delivering I encountered many strange and unusual sights.”

Vintage newspaper tube

I’m proud to have been a “paperboy.” Perhaps the title’s not politically correct these days, but that’s what I was referred to back then. Throughout my 66 years of livin’, I’ve bumped into many people claiming the same childhood occupation. On rare occasion, I stumble across someone having delivered newspapers in Alaska like myself.

I was in seventh grade when this short-lived career began. A high school kid delivered the morning paper to our family. One afternoon he stopped by our trailer with an older route manager. They were canvassing the area in search of a new carrier.

My brother, Jim, already had the Anchorage Times afternoon route. I helped him most evenings. Taking on delivery of the Anchorage Daily News morning newspaper seemed like a smart thing to do. We’d monopolize the whole trailer park. It seemed a bit greedy, yet the money would be flowing in and that’s all that counted.

The month was January, and my first week meant walking with the retiring carrier in minus-10-degree weather to learn his route. I’m talking about a huge-trailer-court with well over 300 mobile homes. It was easily a mile hike plus some.

We waited for the bundle of newspapers to be dropped off at a tiny block building near the main park entrance. My ingenious mentor showed me a secret way to get inside the structure. It basically meant jimmying the lock with a screwdriver hidden within a broken cinder block.

There was a small electric-heater inside to keep pipes from freezing. That tiny heat source is what sustained us until papers arrived. This building housed a large pump which supplied water to the whole compound. Deep down a concrete shaft complete with ladder, water could be heard running from an underground artisan stream.

Weather was brutally cold during that time. I wore a military style parka with insulated underwear and warm boots. I recall the guy smoking cigarettes as we trudged through snow and lingering ice fog. His tobacco smoke hung in the air like a mystic cloud at each stop.

After finally going solo, it was a bit unnerving to be out there all alone at 5:00 in the morning. Feeling quite uneasy at the start, Jim accompanied me until I overcame my fear.

Alaskan Village Trailer Park

During my 3-years of delivering I encountered many strange and unusual sights. Moose were the most common hurdle. I’d been cautioned by other carriers to stay clear. On one occasion, a bull moose chased me down the street. Thankfully, a pickup was parked in front of one residence. I jumped into its open bed and waited until the huge creature slowly ambled away. Because of such incidents I learned to periodically glance over my shoulder. That habit remains to this day.

Another time I was stalked by what I believed to be dogs. Stray dogs were common in the park. Turns out these critters were either wolves or coyotes. It was dark so all I could see was the glare in their eyes from my flashlight. Only because someone was up that morning, and this man opened his door and scared the animals away, I was able to come out unscathed.

A tiny bar was located across the highway called, ‘Pastime.’ Back then in Anchorage, drinking establishments were open pretty much 24-hours. I was always coming across people stumbling home from that joint. One of them was a classmate’s dad. One morning I found him virtually crawling on the asphalt. I had to lead the poor man to his trailer.

One part of delivering newspapers that I didn’t like was collecting the subscription money. This chore went with the job. Some people faked like they weren’t there when I came knocking, even though I’d seen or heard them beforehand. Others asked me to come back in a few days when they got paid. Often times it took weeks to get the money. I believe the subscription rate for all seven days was $2.75.

On another occasion, I stopped by a place to collect and the owner answered her door in a sheer negligee. She asked me to come inside but I told her I’d wait in the enclosed patio. This intoxicated woman was a widowed school teacher perhaps in her 50’s, maybe older. That sight will unfortunately never leave my mind.

Sunday newspapers because of size were the heaviest to carry. It took multiple trips to that heated building to reload my bag. I’d stuff it so full that I could barely walk. These days, I attribute a small percentage of my bad hips to lugging Sunday papers.

One of my perks after the first year of delivering was being able to buy a used Honda 50 motorcycle. I tried to deliver papers on it but that didn’t work out. A snow machine was also used for a short period, but it made too much noise and people complained. Bicycles were too slow and cumbersome. A simple Red Flyer wagon worked great during summer months. I often dreamed of having a dog team. That would’ve made for a classic Alaskan paperboy photo.

Perhaps the one negative thing coming from my paperboy days was that my school grades suffered. I’d come home each morning after delivering, and attempt to take a 15-minute power nap before heading to the bus stop.

Sometimes because of a late delivery those naps didn’t come. There were a few times I missed the bus completely because of such. Mom drove me to Clark Junior High on those occasions.

Being a paperboy helped be to become somewhat responsible in certain areas. Back then, the carrier was called if a subscriber’s paper went missing. On occasion, mom took care of those complaints after I’d left for school. Mostly though, I’d take care of the dilemma when school was out.

It seems the name paperboy has gone the way of soda jerk. You hardly hear either word anymore.

I’m proud to have been a paperboy. It’s a much respected namesake. Had I been a soda jerk, and someone actually called me that, them would’ve been fightin’ words for sure!

Soda Jerk (file photo)

C-PAP-NAP

“I was given my own CPAP machine which I immediately named Jarvik 7.”

Photo from CPAP advertisement. No, that’s not me!

When I woke up after an evening nap, I immediately sensed something was wrong. My heart was beating like a kettle drum. Sticking my right index finger into a heart monitor, it registered 140 beats per minute. I asked my wife to dial 911 thinking the end was near.

When paramedics arrived they hooked me up to several monitors. One of the techs asked a question that I’d never heard,

“Have you used any recreational drugs?”

I assumed the man was talking about over-the-counter pills that older people take after exercise.

“Yea, I popped some Tylenol yesterday after working in the garage.”

He clarified his inquiry by inserting the word narcotics in place of drugs. I assured him that I wasn’t a doper.

Once I arrived at Havasu Regional Medical Center via ambulance, Emergency Room personnel gave me the same urgent-care as heart attack patients get. Blood work came back normal, showing no cardiac arrest. That was a big relief. The ER doctor told me I had arterial fibrillation, or afib. I knew all about the term as my mother and brother went through such.

He gave me medicine to slow things down before sending my still-breathing-carcass off to ICU. Late that afternoon, respected cardiologist, Dr. Pareed Aliyar, came in to examine me. He said that if my heart didn’t go back into what’s called sinus rhythm, he’d perform a technique on me the next morning where the vital organ is stopped, and then restarted. Being a former mechanic, the thought of doing such was a bit too much.

There was a time years ago when I had an old car with a bad starter. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. I knew that if the engine started, it was wise not to turn things off until my mission was complete. I often parked the vehicle on an incline so that I could let her roll downhill, and then pop the clutch to get it running. If I messed up, a call to a friend was made for a jump start. I didn’t want that happening to my ticker.

The first thing I did after Dr. Aliyar left, was have my wife place a message on Facebook for all friends to see. On behalf of me, she asked them to say a prayer. I had her mention that I didn’t want to go through the heart procedure as I was a bit apprehensive. She went against my instructions, using the word scared instead.

Sometime that night I woke up with doctors and nurses standing around my bed. My heart monitor had sounded an alarm alerting them that something was up. One of the employees told me that my heart rate was back to normal.

Thank you Jesus,” I said for all to hear.

The next few weeks called for additional tests, plus, I was placed on medicine designed to prevent such from happening again. Dr. Aliyar suggested I undergo a sleep test. He believed my afib came from something called sleep apnea. That’s a serious disorder where you basically stop breathing during a snooze. My heart rate had always been very low at rest.

A couple of overnight tests proved that I indeed had the problem. I thought it amazing they could even decipher such, because trying to sleep with oodles of electrodes all over my body was a nightmare. I was extremely relieved when each session was complete.

I was given my own CPAP machine which I immediately named Jarvik 7. For those folks my age and older, most will remember that Jarvik 7 is a name given to the world’s first successful mechanical heart. Dr. Barney Clark was the device’s initial recipient back in 1982. That mechanical blood pump went wherever Dr. Clark did. He was attached to it via tubes and wires.

My CPAP machine is not as serious a device as a mechanical heart pump, yet Jarvik 7 seemed an appropriate and funny name. I desperately needed some humor at this point in my life.

A CPAP machine is basically an air pump or air-compressor designed to keep oxygen flowing into my body when sleeping. CPAP stands for: Continious Positive Airway Pressure. If I were to stop breathing, air is forced into my lungs via this apparatus. Doing so helps keep my heart in sinus rhythm.

Sadly, CPAP machines have been given a bad rap by folks afraid to use them. At first it was a bit worrisome to wear the cushioned mask with attached hose because of claustrophobia. Bill Malloy, at ALLPAPS in Lake Havasu City suggested I initially put it on while watching television or reading. That advice helped greatly in my overcoming pent up anxiety. These days I won’t leave home without it. I religiously carry Jarvik 7 with me on overnight trips. I even take naps with the thing just to be safe.

A side benefit on wearing one, is that the hypoallergenic filter inside has done wonders for my allergies. It’s amazing how many people use CPAP’s. I have several friends and relatives hooked up to them each night.

Perhaps the biggest complaint from folks is that the mask will leave lines on their face when removed. That’s no problem for me. There were plenty of lines and wrinkles to begin with.

It appears Jarvik 7 and I will be buds until the very end. I’m not so worried about my passing as I am with his. My plastic and metal companion was paid for with insurance money. Should this machine give up the ghost, the next one will be on my dime.

“Because of that, I’ll do my best to keep Jarvik 7 alive!”

The original Jarvik 7 used by Dr. Barney Clark is now in the Smithsonian Museum.

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.

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FAMOUS CHARACTER “ARIZONA CHARLIE” SENT TO ASYLUM

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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?

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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.

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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!”