YOUNG AND STUPID



As soon as Joe South began singing “Games People Play” on my Sirius radio, I flashed back to 1969-1970. I was driving home in the snow after a work shift at Burger King. I hit the top of Andes Road and prayed my old ‘54 Chevy wouldn’t slide in the ditch. That was just one of the memories that are part of that job. 
I was hired by a manager named Harry to work double shifts. The first was from noon-2:00 p.m.; the second was from 4:00-10:00. My duties included taking out the trash, cleaning bathrooms and dining areas, cutting tomatoes and shredding lettuce. During lunch hours, I filled drink orders, at least until I spilled a large drink on the counter and floor. Then I was banished to the cooler with a cigar and bucket of ammonia and water to wiped down the walls. The stogie was supposed to help with the smell of the cleaner in a confined area.  
Other jobs were more difficult. Harry drove his vehicle to the back of the restaurant and instructed me to change the plugs. I’d never done that before but managed to complete the task without too much damage.
On my eighteenth birthday, Harry sent me to the roof with a mop and bucket of water. My job was to clean the red plastic shingles that hung over the side of the building. By the time I finished, my skin matched the shingles. On another occasion, fellow worker and Harry’s nephew, Kenny Edwards, and I drove the boss’ truck to the Sears outlet on Central to pick up something for the store. On the way back, we were involved in a fender bender. Thankfully, I wasn’t the one who would have to tell Harry.  
My hourly pay rate was $1.35, the most I’d ever made. Workers were expected to pay for food they ate, but making any money would have been impossible if we did. I made food to take home at the end of each shift. It always was a double whopper with double cheese, lettuce, pickles and mayonnaise, I’d eat one after the first shift and share the second one with my brother Jim.  
I enjoyed the folks with whom I worked. One girl spoke broken English but was a whiz at filling orders. I always liked working with a girl named Gloria. She was a bit of a wild child. We’d take smoke breaks together. Her laugh was contagious, and her “bad girl” image was appealing to all the males at work. Linda Mayshark was a beautiful girl who worked occasionally. She went to West High School and had a twin sister. I had a tremendous crush on her. She visited me in the hospital when I had ankle surgery. I asked her if she would go out, but she told me she had a boyfriend. No one ever turned me down so gently. Of course, I was embarrassed at the silence, and Linda said her good-byes. I never saw her again. 
The worst memory I have of Burger King came on my last day there. Harry had hired me to paint the ceiling tiles in the dining area. I couldn’t start the job until after the restaurant closed. I arrived at midnight with Cousin Charlie. I don’t remember if anyone else was present. Prior to my arrival, I’d been doing the regular Friday night thing: driving between the Copper Kettle and Shoney’s and drinking beer and felt good by the time midnight arrived. I climbed the step ladder and began rolling the tiles. Back and forth I moved the roller in an easy rhythm. Suddenly, wooziness and dizziness struck. I climbed down from the ladder and ran out the back door. The rest of the night was spent on my hands and knees while I vomited and told God I’d never drink again if He made the world quit spinning.  
 I’m glad I had a part time job that left me with so many memories. I was young and stupid then, the same as most teens who worked part time during those years. We enjoyed life whether we were at work or play.  

MOMMY TO MOTHER

I admit that I’m in awe of those females with children. I am always amazed to think that they carry new lives for nine months and then go through the pain to deliver those lives into the world. Many go through the process again, even knowing what lies ahead. Maybe that’s why females are God’s greatest creation. As the years of parenthood wind, the name for that life-giving person changes. 
As soon as a newborn arrives, parents begin talking to it. Before long, sounds come, and grown-ups coax the little one to call them by name. Selfishly, we men try every way in the world to have our children utter the word “Daddy” as their first. To be fair, all children should be encouraged to say “Mommy” instead because that woman is the main line to life. 
Jim and I were a surprise in that the doctor hadn’t known there were two of us until delivery. During those first years of life, “Mommy” stayed home with us. She sewed to bring in extra money to the household, and during those times, no such thing as daycare existed or would have been condoned. Jim and I squalled out
“Mommy” for everything. We were hungry and wanted her to fix food. We sat on the potty and need her to complete the clean-up tasks. Sometimes, we cried for “Mommy” because we were scared by a bad dream. Most important, we wanted Mommy when we were ill, and her hugs and pats made us feel better. 
At some point, the name “Mommy” was too immature sounding. Maybe because we’d heard Daddy use the name or because our older brother Dal used it, we began saying “Momma.” That’s who had gone back to school and become a teacher. Momma is the one who cooked supper and washed clothes. That’s who made sure we “toed the line” and used switches, belts, and paddles to correct bad behavior. The woman loved us, but she also rode herd on twins who were loud of mouth, round in stature, and constant in motion. Momma was the woman who helped the three of us get through and survive the death of our daddy. She was the sole bread winner that made sure we had clothes and food and education.  
Gradually, a new name came into use. Maybe it was because we’d gone away to college. Maybe we just realized how much she’d sacrificed for us throughout the years. At any rate, we began to refer to that woman in our lives as “Mother,” and for the rest of her days, that is the name we used for her. When she overdid things and appeared to be close to collapsing, we’d fuss at her. “Mother, you’ve got to stop that and let us
help you.” Those words fell on deaf ears. We reassured Mother that we’d be there for her as she battled cancer and made sure she knew she could stay home. To this day, Jim and I talk about Mother and the things she said and did.  
My wife Amy has gone from “Mommy to Mom to Mother” with our children. They love and respect her and are amazed at all she’s done for them in their lives. Sometimes Amy might feel inadequate, but a quick “Mother” is followed with reassuring words from Lacey and Dallas that let her know just how important she is in the world.  
All of us would do well to offer thanks to those wonderful women who have been there for us through life. Men, realize that you are important, but not as much as Mommy, Momma, and Mother. That’s just the facts of live.  
Happy Mother’s Day! 

NOT A GENTLEMAN FARMER

Since people have been stuck at home during this pandemic, they’ve increased the number of photos of their garden plants. Everything from iris to dandelions to tomato plants have appeared on Facebook. A new group of “gentlemen” and “gentlewoman” farmers has arisen. Don’t count on me to be one of them.  
I am not a vegetable gardener. A couple of years ago, I did put some tomato plants out, just to see if they would grow. Other than that, tilling the soil, planting seeds, and reaping the bounty has never been a favorite activity for me. When we were kids, our parents put out huge gardens. The entire back lot was plowed and filled with all sorts of things: string beans, potatoes, corn, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and bunch beans. We even had rows of strawberries. 
Jim and I had our jobs for the garden. We were to go between row and pull weeds. By the middle of the summer, the ground was as dry as a desert and as hard as concrete. We’d tug on the unwanted plants, and if
we didn’t get the roots out, Daddy would fuss. Instead of playing ball or riding bikes, we fried under the summer sun an “pulled weed.”   
After beans were picked, we sat in the shade and broke them. Mother reminded us to get all the strings off, and we worked until our fingers were sore. She also cut corn from the cob, and one of us had to carry husks and cobs to the back of the yard for disposal. We swatted yellow jackets and bees that wanted some of the juices from the scraps.  
Hearing the neighborhood rooster crow now reminds me of Daddy’s decision to raise chickens. A building at the back of the yard was in place and he and Papaw Balch strung fence to keep chickens in and other critters out. As best I remember, 100 chickens moved in, and the “nasty” began.  
Oh sure, Mother gathered eggs every day. However, the area was filled with poop, and the Banty roosters attacked anyone who dared enter their turf. I remember running from the little devils and being pecked
enough times to be scared to death of them. The chicken house had a layer of dried stuff on the floor that had to be scraped, and doing so filled the air was with dust, feathers, and an ammonia smell that choked anyone who was sent there to clean up the place.  
Slowly, the chicken population thinned. Each Sunday, Daddy walked to the coop and chose a hen. He’d take it to the side yard and wring its neck, and, after it ran around headless for a while, he’d hang it on the clothesline so the blood drained. We ran to the field where the head had been thrown and gawk at the look on its face. 
We even had a couple of calves in the back yard a few years later. An electric fence was erected, and the two animals grazed on grass, as well as feed and hay. We boys grew attached to the calves, something that should never happen. One day we came home, and they were gone. Daddy told us he traded them for their
weight in meat. The freezer was stocked full of roast and hamburger, and even a few steaks. Little did we know that our meals were, in fact, the two calves we liked so much.  
No, I'm not about to set out a garden or raise half a dozen chickens. Some might think it’s cute, but I still have less than fond memories of those things. Playing in a garden is much different from depending upon one to feed a family. I’ll just say prayers of thanks over foods that grace our table and which have come from farmers’ markets or grocery stores. My energies will be directed to other activities.  

EASTER AND BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS MISSED

I hoped that things would have been better by now, all the while knowing they wouldn’t. That’s all right as long as this staying home is working to end this pandemic. I admit that I’ve made a few trips to the grocery store and home improvement places, but other than that, home has been where most of my time has been spent. What disappoints me is that the secular part of Easter celebration didn’t occur. Even worse, we haven’t been able to travel to Hendersonville to celebrate our daughter’s birthday. 
For as long as I can remember, Easter Sunday has been a big event. When we were small, Mother sewed Easter outfits. In those days, she dressed us in identical clothing because she thought it was cute. However, little boys with big heads, skinny legs, and round bellies were anything but cute.  
Our family loaded up in the car and traveled to church. Somehow, Daddy always managed to be off on those Sundays, and that made the day more special. The sanctuary was always packed with folding chairs set up in aisles, and, in every service the congregation always sang “Old Rugged Cross.” Mother always managed to be the last to leave after church, and we ran to change clothes the minute we arrived home. 
Mother and Daddy would hide eggs for a few rounds. Then she would go in to finish Sunday dinner, and he would just go in. Dal would hide eggs for us a couple of times, and then Jim and I would hide for each other. By the time we finished, the shells were smashed and our works of art from the night before were destroyed.  
Dinner was always included ham and potato salad. Mother took some of our most battered eggs and made deviled eggs. Desert was always some kind of pie. Afterwards, we’d go out for another round of hiding eggs or searching for the ones we’d not found earlier.  
Lacey’s birthday is a special time for us. She was our first born, and the day of her arrival was an  unusual event. Amy was in labor, but the contractions came at different intervals. A call to the doctor had us driving to UT Medical Center. We walked into the office, the staff checked her, hailed a wheelchair, and sprinted my wife to delivery. Lacey was born just about ninety minutes later.  
As a little girl, I spoiled her and could never resist her requests when she looked up at me with that sweet face and blue eyes. I still have a hard time saying “no” to her. We had grandparents and other family members at our house for parties. On some birthdays, friends came and giggled, laughed, yelled and enjoyed the time together. 
Our family always has celebrated her birthday within a week of that day, but this year, we’re not sure when things will settle down enough to have a party. It’s sad to a dad to not be able to give a birthday hug to his daughter. I miss her even more than usual. 
The changes to celebratory days my become the new normal, at least for a while. My hope is that this virus will go away soon so that our lives can return to some kind of normal. Of course, that will happen only if we all do our best to follow the instructions from health advisers. Let’s all say a prayer that next year we will be able to give thanks for so many different things. Until then, stay home, stay safe, and stay in touch.