“Well my goodness gracious, let me tell you the news!”

I’ve never been blessed with musical ability.  Unfortunately I was bypassed completely in the music making department. I’m lucky to find a radio ‘ON’ button. 

When I think of Lamar County, Alabama and tunes, Johnny Cash and Wallis Willis come to mind.  There’s valid reason for it.  1963 is the year my brother and I received transistor radios.  Dad brought them back from Japan after a 12 month military tour in Korea. I believe we were only able to pick up one channel in Vernon.

The popular song back then, “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash, played like clockwork each and every hour.  I loved the tune not knowing its true meaning.  Jim and I thought Johnny Cash was singing about an airplane pilot in trouble.

We tried to sing the words, or at least a small portion of them.

“I’m going down in a blazing ring of fire.”

Years later I heard a preacher say Johnny Cash was singing about going to hell.  Johnny’s daughter Roseanne disproved that statement, claiming lyrics were strictly about the transformative power of love.  I sometimes wonder what is the truth. Johnny Cash never commented publicly about the song meaning.

Johnny and June Carter-Cash performed many gospel songs towards the end of their career.  Johnny acknowledged finding God in a long dark cave near Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1967.  The story is quite riveting.


Johnny Cash entered ‘NickaJack Cave’ with intentions of never returning.  Drug abuse and alcohol had taken hold of his life.  When he crawled into that dark black hole he believed he’d distanced himself from relentless torment. Little did he know had his suicide been successful he was far from it.  Fortunately God had better plans for his life; saving him by grace.

Johnny said he had to get down on his knees and crawl, literally feeling his way out. Wife June stood outside the cave entrance waiting. She’d brought a basket of food and comforting hug.  June Carter-Cash was directed to the cave strictly by the Lord’s hand, having no idea where her husband had gone.

Because of God’s intervention, Johnny Cash miraculously was led out of the place without a working flashlight.  The dim flashlight he’d carried into the cave eventually went dead.


Johnny Cash wrote a song about his experience called “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”.  It’s a powerful message with no sugar coating of words.  My favorite lyrics in the gospel tune are,

“Been down on one knee, talkin’ to the man from Galilee.”

Perhaps Johnny Cash’s best known gospel song is an old black spiritual tune, “Swing low, Sweet Chariot”.

Freed slave Wallis Willis wrote the lyrics around 1840. Wallis was called ‘Uncle Wallace’ by most people he knew.  He received his name from half Choctaw – half Irish – Mississippi slave owner Britt Willis.  

The song presents an uplifting message for those wondering if there’s life after death.  The hymn refers to God sending a chariot to take departed believers to their new Heavenly home. Slaves sang it in the fields and at religious services.  The old hymn is still heard at some traditional churches.  Opening line sounds like something a fire and brimstone preacher might use,

“Well my goodness gracious, let me tell you the news!”

Those are words that every Bible believing church should begin services with. They definitely get your attention!

What I find most interesting about “Ring of Fire” and “Swing low, Sweet Chariot” is that one speaks about going down, while the other mentions going up.

Something tells me that Johnny Cash is still singing the later.



My mom collected S&H Green Stamps.  Stores back in the day gave out S&H Green Stamps for purchases. The more a person bought the more stamps they received.  Gas stations were big for giving out stamps to lure customers in.

S&H stood for Sperry & Hutchinson.  They were brilliant entrepreneurs in coming up with this idea. Some people have the knack for creative thinking.

Mom would take her stamps and place them into books designed to hold such.  It took several filled books before she cashed them in on anything of value. This retail marketing tool was used from the 1930’s until late 1980’s.  Because of inflation and changing times, S&H Green Stamps went the way of the dinosaur.

My first camera was obtained via S&H Green Stamps.  Don’t ask me how but I must have sweet-talked mother into getting it for me.  I remember my brother Jim and me finding loose stamps on grocery store parking lots.  Evidently some people saw no need to keep them.  As Mr. T would say,


These ‘found stamps’ were taped inside mom’s books rather than licking the attached glue.  Many times the small paper squares sported tire tracks. No telling what else was on them.

The biggest item I recall mom getting was a floor lamp.  I’m sure it took several books and many years before she had enough.  Stores these days offer similar promotions mostly through magnetic cards.  If you buy something, a set amount of credit goes into an electronic bank.  Walgreen’s currently has this plan.  They call it Balance Rewards.

You can’t cash in the Walgreen’s accumulation but you can apply it to other purchases.  My wife refers to these ‘Balance Rewards’ as hers. That’s okay with me.

I just read where S&H Green Stamps may attempt a comeback.  Some guy named Anthony Zolezzi bought the name and is working on a modern plan of reintroducing them.  Supposedly it was to be operational on Earth Day – April 22, 2015.  That day has since come and gone with no announcement.

Mr. Zolezzi is a renowned wheeler dealer so I suppose he’s still working out the bugs.  Like I mentioned earlier some people were born to be entrepreneurs.  Take that man Phil Swift hawking the waterproof spray able to plug holes in a boat.  Phil’s product is called Flex Seal and has been around forever.  It’s mere automotive undercoating with a fancy name.

By showing the public different uses for undercoating Phil Swift has made millions.  Flex Seal is now manufactured in various colors.  I’ve never been entrepreneur smart.  I’ve come up with ideas but never put them in play.  Maybe that’s a good thing?

A fellow I know came up with an idea for a board game.  It’s called ‘North to Alaska’.  This guy had 50,000 of them made using his dad as bankroll.  This was about the time electronic games became popular.  To make a long story short, the old man suffered a huge financial loss while son still has thousands of the games packed away in a warehouse.

I suppose you could say ‘North to Alaska’ went the way of S&H green stamps and dinosaurs!

Failure doesn’t upset me, yet losing hard earned dollars does.  The saying “nothing ventured, nothing gained” often comes to mind.  That might be good advice for young people, but to us retired geezers, “nothing ventured” seems the best way to fly.  This is especially sound advice when trying to hang onto valuable retirement dollars in an unstable economy!

Crazy Times in Gotham City

“When I asked what a sanitarium is, Grandma Hankins told me it was the ‘crazy house’.

These are interesting times we live in!  Never mind the good ole days, cowboy years, or even the Roaring 20’s. Today on a daily basis, I believe we exceed any of those periods of time where craziness is concerned.

Folks are coming forth claiming to be a different gender than they were born.  Other people are publicly announcing they’re of a specific race or color when it’s obvious they’re not.  I won’t go into name specifics, as more than likely you’ve seen these proclaimers on the 6:00 news. 

My grandparents talked about places called sanitariums.  When I asked what is a sanitarium, Grandma Hankins told me it was the ‘crazy house’.  The word sanitarium seems to have died a politically correct death.  Insane asylum is only heard on old horror movies.  Common rule these days seems to be allowing crazy people into the ranks of the sane.  I suppose psychiatrists believe this will make them whole. It won’t!

We see the results of this flawed thinking in the amount of mass shootings by mentally unstable individuals. The scary part being, supposed sane folks are out there trying to defend the actions of the insane.  They blame a gun for the crime rather than the person standing behind the gun. Tell me that isn’t insane thinking at its finest.

When a certain athlete came forth saying he was a she many influential people applauded his actions.  I have to look at these celebrities with extreme caution.  Flawed mental logic not only runs rampant in Gotham City, but in Hollywood as well.

“The Joker” actually comes across as mentally stable when compared to a lot of Hollywood kooks.  I realize what this world’s coming to and know it’s not going to be good for some people.  The Bible mentions bizarre things will come to pass in the later days. Those days are here.

Batman made wide sweeping turns in the Batmobile for a specific reason when confronting lunatics.  He knew he’d never win meeting these people head on. I try to do the same.

With Christians being killed worldwide, and main stream media not blinking an eye, hold on to your hat.  Things are about to get crazier around here. Rather than end my rant on serious note I’ll soften the blow.

The other day my wife found an empty Starbucks coffee cup in our car. She looked at me sternly before asking,

You think we’re made of money?” 

What she alluded to was the cup of coffee cost $5.00. In her eyes that was not being fiscally conservative on my part.  What she didn’t know was I had a free coupon for a medium drink.  I could’ve told her about the coupon and ended the conversation.  I chose a different route. 

“No biggie. I borrowed change from your change jar!” 

You must understand not even Robin could get away unscathed for tapping Joleen’s change jar let alone me.

Gotham City will be in slight turmoil until she figures out,

“I am “The Joker”.


Nothing beats sun dried clothing for fresh smell!

Nothing beats sun dried clothing for fresh smell!
Nothing beats sun dried clothing for fresh smell!

Did you realize there are folks living in big cities not knowing what a simple ‘clothesline’ is?  It’s true!

A clothesline is generally unheard of in New York or Los Angeles. Folks in rural areas and small town America still use them. They find that hanging wet clothes on a line is the best method for drying them.  For my grandparents, a clothesline was an essential part of their every day life. 

On occasion during winter months, Grandma Hankins placed a chair in front of her fireplace draping wet items over the back. Mama Haynes did the same. My mother used clotheslines in our early years, but after moving to Alaska she stopped.

It’s virtually impossible to dry a whole basket of clothes inside a home without a clothes dryer.  I believe my folks bought their first dryer in 1967.  As sturdy as they made washers and dryers back, mom and dad’s are probably still in use.

There’s nothing like the sweet smell of dried clothing after they’ve been exposed to fresh air.  Today, companies make scented sheets you toss in dryers for added fragrance. To me they leave behind a sweet chemical smell.

One fragrance sheet in particular called ‘summer rain’ is totally overpowering.  Real summer rain is never pungent; it’s refreshing. Certain dryer sheets nauseate me, with summer rain being at the top.

As a child, one thing I liked best about a clothesline was playing with the clothes pins.  Wooden clothes pins with springs were the most fun.  I’d stick one in my mouth and act like a duck. Our dogs used them as chew toys.

Spring loaded clothes pins also worked great in clamping baseball cards to bicycle forks.  The baseball card would stick through wheel spokes, and made a clicking noise as the bicycle was pedaled.  It was a cool thing for kids to do back then.  There’s no telling how many valuable baseball cards were destroyed!

One neat trick regarding a clothesline, was you could take the clothes pin bag and pull it down towards the ground. Normally these bags had a rounded hook so the container easily slid over rope or cable.  Pulling down on line and then releasing launched a hundred wooden missiles.

Pins went flying out of their holder sailing many feet in the air.  Between dogs chewing them and me shooting them into space, mom was always buying extras.

We don’t own a clothesline these days.  My wife cleverly improvises by taking lawn chairs and laying wet clothing on top.  Placing the chair in bright Arizona sunshine quickly dries things. She’s hinted for me to install a permanent line.  I’m seriously considering it.

There’s one item I need to calculate before construction.  What has the best launch capability; rope or steel cable?



Treadmill program board looks like the head on a Chinese robot. “Take me to your leader!”

Just recently we purchased a new treadmill. Our often used model bit the dust. Friends up the street gave us their Pro-Fitness machine 10 years ago. We’re most appreciative of the kind gesture. As a joke, I thought about asking if they wanted it back, but my wife wouldn’t let me.

We had a hard time giving the thing away. Weeks later a young lady finally stopped by and loaded it in her truck. The treadmill still worked to a point, and with a bit of mechanical magic it could be repaired.

Much like old shopping carts, worn-out treadmills end up in a big green pasture in Cody, Wyoming.

I tell folks it had 20,000 miles on the odometer, yet that’s grossly exaggerated. The number’s more like 6900. I’m estimating here as well. Actually I haven’t a clue other than there’s a bunch. What’s wrong with estimating high? Politicians do it all the time where poll numbers are concerned.

Our new treadmill is a NordicTrack.  They’ve been a household name for eons. The old NordicTrack products were made in the USA. China is the manufacturer of this updated piece of equipment. I have no beef with China. It’s just that I attempt to steer away from buying their products. Sometimes that’s hard to do. I had nothing but trouble with some automotive parts made in that country. Never again.

At the minimum, I remove all Made in China labels from an item before friends see it. I don’t want them knowing where the product came from. It’s hard to camouflage tools purchased from Harbor Freight. Sometimes China is stamped in the metal.

When our treadmill showed up the first thing I did was thumb through operating instructions. That’s usually quite easy but the pamphlet with this machine was printed in Chinese. Evidently they made a mistake in packaging. I’m not up on Chinese lingo. They use symbols instead of words. Thankfully all of the photos were in English.

Using pictures I was able to bolt things together rather quickly.  It took 2 days from start to finish, and that’s only because I wasn’t in a hurry. Our NordicTrack treadmill is a foldup model. When I release a pin the track slowly goes down. First time I did such it appeared the machine was bowing at me. Out of respect I bowed back. The control panel looks like the head off a robot.

I was able to walk on it for the first time this morning. All went as planned. Nothing broke and there was no smoke. This unit has an odometer and it registered 3 miles during my first session. That’s all I could muster before my left knee tightened up. I injured things while assembling the unit. The NordicTrack weighs 211 pounds so it was no easy task moving it around.

Hopefully this treadmill lasts long past the one-year warranty. That’d be super as we didn’t spring for an extended plan. NordicTrack wanted quite a bit more for that option. Gut feeling tells me we should’ve splurged.

Like all treadmills there are only 2 handles on it; a right and left. It would’ve been nice if they’d put 2 per side. In 20 years we won’t be using this thing. With 4 handles total I could’ve hung pants and shirt on one side, with Joleen utilizing the other side for her clothing.

The unusual title for this story came from the Chinese assembly instructions.  The symbols when scanned into a translator read,

“Good ruck from NordicTrack.”

Something tells me we’re going to need it!

Four handles would make for more hanger space.


“Yippee Ki-yay, git along little dogies.”

I love popcorn. Perhaps what I love most about popcorn is the tantalizing aroma it gives off while popping. Nothing permeates clean breathable air better than a microwaved bag, of Orville Redenbacher – Movie Theater Extra Butter popcorn. The salted buttery smell is sensually overpowering.

Don’t burn a bag of this stuff, or it turns into something just the opposite. I’ve had to open doors and windows when such happened. Years ago at work, a coworker accidentally hit 20 minutes instead of 2 on the microwave timer. The breakroom quickly filled with putrid smoke before anyone noticed.  A nasty burnt odor lingered for days. We ended up tossing the microwave and buying a new one.

I recall when ‘Jiffy Pop’ first came out. At the Jiffy Pop factory, popcorn seeds are inserted into a tinfoil lined aluminum pan. You place the pan with attached wire handle onto a stove, and as things got hot, the seeds pop. Eventually the thin foil spreads out like an inflating balloon indicating that popcorn is done.

The problem with Jiffy Pop around our place was that my wife tried to get every single seed to pop. The ones that partially exploded she referred to as,

“Old Maids.”

It never failed when she tried to pop them all, a good portion of the popcorn turned black. I was never a big fan of Jiffy Pop because of that.

Air-popped popcorn never turned me on either. It was always too dry. Adding salt and butter to air-popped popcorn doesn’t taste the same as today’s butter-in-a-bag microwave version. I sometimes called it,


I used the phrase to get ‘that look’ from my wife. She didn’t like me saying it. A frown always appeared before her often said remark,

“That’s juvenile Michael!”

My gastroenterologist recently told me I should eat popcorn in moderation. He said it sometimes causes lesions in the digestive system.  Popcorn husks can create all kinds of problems, especially in older people. He equated it to getting imbedded in soft tissue like it does between gums and teeth.  Oh boy……. that was not good news for a popcorn lover!

When I mentioned this to my friend, Jeff, he told me that he’d heard the same thing from his doc. My buddy said there’s something out there eliminating the problem. That piqued my interest. I thought it odd my physician didn’t mention such?  Asking what the stuff’s called he told me,

“Colon Cowboy”.

I’d never heard of it. Jeff said Colon Cowboy rides herd in your intestinal system, rounding up stray popcorn husks making sure they head to the corral. I knew what he meant without further explanation.

Inquiring where to get the medicine, Jeff disclosed it isn’t a drug at all. He told me Colon Cowboy is actually a nickname for ice cream.

“You get it in the freezer section.”

These days I enjoy a big bowl of ice cream after I eat a bag of popcorn. I make sure to keep a couple of cartons on hand.

The other night in bed, when all was quiet, I swear I heard the unmistakable cracking of a rawhide whip, along with a deep raspy voice singing out,

“Yippee Ki-yay, git along little dogies.”

Colon Cowboy must’ve been on another roundup!


“More than just a spot!”

Each year sun and wind take a toll on this sign. The red pole in front is where an air hose hung.

Northeast of Lake Havasu City on Interstate 40, smack dab in the middle of sprawling Yucca, Arizona, sits a tall, yellow and red sign. The ground beneath the sign is void of any structures. What sat underneath was bulldozed into oblivion several years ago. Concrete foundations remain, with faded lettering on the behemoth billboard reading, WHITING BROS.

At one time the Whiting Brothers had a profitable service station on this property along with a motel. For the record, there were close to one-hundred Whiting Brothers facilities throughout the country. Their simplistic motto was,

“Quality gas for less!”

‘Hard times’ hit this company below the belt during the 1970’s. One by one their petroleum stations closed doors. Economic weakness forced such upon a slew of Arizona businesses during the fuel shortage years. Tourism dollars took a terrible plunge because of increased gasoline prices. People drove as little as they could.

A few hundred feet away from the Whiting Brothers sign sits the remains of another motel and café. Mostly built of brick, these decaying buildings can still be seen from I-40. Thankfully heavy equipment hasn’t touched them; yet. Their time is undoubtedly limited.

Decaying motel and café. These buildings sit on old Route 66, now an access road in Yucca, Arizona.

A young Yucca resident that wishes to remain anonymous mentioned that a huge truck stop is in the planning stages. That’s all the information I could get out of her. Another resident informed me the truck stop rumor has been going strong for years.

It makes sense that a refueling station will ultimately end up in this area. Plenty of property is available for big rigs to park, plus there are several entrances and exits.  A little widening and lengthening of the access road, including all entrance and exits would need to be done. Someone with sufficient political pull can make that happen.

Whiting Brothers in Arizona date back to the early 1900’s. The Whiting family moved to St. Johns, Arizona before the turn of the century. Edwin M. Whiting started his first business there in 1901. At an early age, son Edwin I. became a partner. They were highly successful timber and lumber tycoons. Both men were involved in the mercantile industry as well. The Whiting’s as a family were a tight knit group.

Edwin I. Whiting and his wife Ethel had 4 sons; Lee, Merwin, Virgil, and Farr. Lee died as an infant. Merwin was killed at the age of 15 in a horrific tractor accident. Virgil and Farr worked side by side with dad in the various family enterprises. The boys picked up Edwin’s hard work ethics. His moral and business standards also rubbed off. The trio were entrepreneurial go-getters!

Virgil and Farr were instrumental in making the company grow in leaps and bounds. When Edwin I. Whiting reached retirement age, the 2 boys took over reins. They found other avenues of revenue which included substantial real estate investments. The Whiting Brothers thrived. They gave back to the community much of what they took in. They were heavily involved in civic activity. The St. Johns community loved them dearly.

Things went well for many years until March 29, 1961. That’s the day Virgil and Farr Whiting went missing on a flight. They were flying from St. Johns to Phoenix on a business trip. Their twin-engine plane was discovered several days later. It’d cratered into the side of a mountain instantly killing both siblings. A severe storm with icing and turbulence was believed to have caused the crash. Virgil Whiting was an accomplished pilot having flown bombers during WWII. Evidently he misjudged weather on this trip.

Edwin I. Whiting announced after his son’s funerals, that son-in-law: Wilford Shumway, Sherwood Udall, and Darwin Grant would assume control of company holdings. Edwin I. Whiting died less than 2 years after Farr and Virgil perished. He was 80. The husband, father, and businessman is buried in Saint Johns Cemetery along with his wife and 4 sons.

Whiting Investments is now owned by Shae and Steven Shumway. They’ve carried the Whiting success story to a higher level where real estate development is concerned. Whiting Brothers gas stations are mere history. Luxury hotels seem to be the Shumway brothers forte. They recently built their eighth. This last hotel, a Residence Inn by Marriott, opened at Flagstaff in 2017. Perhaps Lake Havasu City will be their ninth?

When I drive past Yucca, Arizona I never fail to glance at that enormous Whiting Brothers sign. I also look for the Kenworth truck on a pole. Both are a bit faded since I first saw them in 1985.

"Get your gas for less!"
Huge water tank. They need all the H2O they can get come summer.

If and when a new truck stop comes to Yucca, hopefully the Whiting Brothers billboard remains. The town mayor needs to address this. I assume Yucca has a mayor. If not, then someone needs to claim the title.

The Whiting Brothers sign is a viable landmark of the unincorporated town; Honolulu Club on the opposite side of I-40 being another. The way I view things: the sign, the truck, and the club (at least their sign) keep Yucca on the map. A brand new truck stop would make it more than just a spot!

Honolulu Club originated in Oatman in 1930. It was a combination gas station, garage, and saloon.
When Route 66 was rerouted through Topock, Arizona the club moved to Yucca in 1950.
Honolulu Club as it appears today. From what I’m told the business is permanently closed. The distinctive sign is worth saving.
This old Kenworth no longer hauls logs. It’s ‘convoy’ days are over!