The Rubber Band Fight

It was my last night on the air at KEKA as I was being transferred back to Reno. It had been difficult and somewhat sad two-weeks of goodbyes from staff and new friends until that time.

One staff member in particular was the hardest person to say goodbye to: Elizabeth Erdman. She was fresh out of high school and was also preparing to head east for Purdue College in a few weeks. 

She had never worked in radio before, and she was simply given a couple of instructions on what button to push here and there and left to her own devices.  It certainly wasn’t fair and she was talking about quitting even before she really got started.

I immediately saw her potential and decided that if she wanted my help, I’d offer it.

She accepted my guidance and though she never got over the butterflies in the stomach feeling, Elizabeth became a good announcer. I was proud of her and the progress she had made in the couple of months we worked together. 

That final night, she came to the station jus’ to hang out with me as I finished my final shift. It was very kind of her. 

Across the hallway, in our AM-studio was a guy by the name of Frank. He had a dry sense of humor most of the time but this night he was off the wall. 

Who started it, I’m not certain – but before I knew it, Elizabeth, Frank and I were engaged in massive rubber band fight. We ran up and down the short hallway and small foyer that lead to the business offices, zinging each other with one rubber band after another. 

We laughed and carried on as we shot at each other, ducking, dodging, missing and hitting throughout the evening hours. We finally had to stop as we had used up every rubber band in the building.

At midnight, I signed-off for the last time. And as I did, it occurred to me I had jus’ had the most fun I had ever had at the station in all the months I had been there.

Wordiness

Night after night I look at news articles that are supposed to be written for radio-broadcasting. And night after night, I find myself editing and re-editing these stories to bring them to the point, without all the extra words.

For example, here’s a story written by the Associated Press:

       “Doctors, nurses and parents of autistic children are demanding an apology from Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle for comments she made disparaging insurance mandates for autism treatment. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network made the request Wednesday at a Las Vegas rally that drew more than 30 health professionals and families grappling with autism.              

         Nevada Democrats have been shopping a video that shows Angle blasting insurance mandates for autism coverage and maternity leave at a 2009 tea party rally. Angle uses air quotes when she says autism in the video.              

         Angle’s campaign says she believes autistic children and adults deserve the best care, but remains critical of symptoms falsely labeled as autism.              

         Angle is challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”

Here’s my version of the same story:

“The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is demanding an apology from Sharron Angle. The Republican candidate for U.S. senate says she believes autistic children and adults deserve the best care, but remains critical of symptoms falsely labeled as autism. Angle is challenging Senator Harry Reid this November.”

As you can see, I’m not paid by the word.

No Joke

At one point I supplemented my income by writing jokes for the radio trade publication, “One-on-One” as well as Big Dog Productions, the company owned by comedian Jay Leno. I made fairly good money at this.

However it all came to screeching end one early evening when I received a call that proved I was not very good at keeping the two jobs separate. I was fired by One-on-One publisher, Jat Trachman because he believed I was plagiarizing material from the “Tonight Show.”

I quickly looked over the jokes I had written and faxed to both employers and found I had sent several of the same jokes to both places; a big no-no!

So attempting to avoid a double disaster, I called Big Dog and told my manager about my mistake. He was sympathetic with me and I felt like I was okay when I hung up the phone that evening.

However the following day, I got a call from another manager, this one for the Tonight Show. He was less sympathetic as he read me the riot act, and then fired me.

I made both organizations look like they were using stolen material.

Helping Andy Macbeth

Andy Macbeth always seemed grumpy anytime I saw him and for a couple of years I saw him a lot. Mr. Macbeth, as he was known to me, had pulled from his barn in the Klamath Glen an antique fire engine.

I believe it was a 1912 Ford.

It had been stored away for years and needed major repairs to make it road-worthy. That’s exactly what Mr. Macbeth set about to do, working on it every weekend.

For over two years he worked on the old fire truck as it sat in a display room attached to the Yurok Volunteer Fire Department, jus’ down the street from home. I used to hang around the station so I could see what he was doing.
One day I got up the guts to ask if he needed help. At first he said he didn’t, but then for some reason he changed his mind.

He was under the vehicle working on the motor and he had me sit in the front seat. He told me that when he said, “Okay,” I was to step on the clutch pedal and push the button on the dash, which was connected to the started.

I sat there on pins-and-needles, waiting for the word.

Suddenly I heard him bark. I dutifully stepped on the clutch and pushed the button. And jus’ as suddenly, I heard him shouting and yelling.

I jumped down to see what was wrong.

Mr. Macbeth came out from under the truck, covered from head to shoulder in motor oil. He yelled at me, saying he had said, “Stay,” and not “Okay.”

He had the strangest look on his face and it frightened me. So I turned and ran, crossing Redwood Drive, towards an A-frame building that was home to Bob White Realty.

I heard the wrench he threw, crash into the sidewalk’s gutter, but I never looked back.

Instead I ran as fast as I could down the gravel road to the baseball diamond, then up the hill behind the visiting team dugout and into the Walcott’s backyard. I raced across the field behind the Myers’ home and Mrs. Keating’s house, crossing Redwood Drive again and home.

I went inside and stayed inside, too afraid to come out.

Structural Differences

One of my very best friends while growing up was Diana. She was a bit of a tomboy, more comfortable in jeans and a western shirt than on picture day when she had to wear a dress.

Diana and I used to do all sorts of stuff together, from riding horses to running through the woods. We even played “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours,” at one time.

Of course we were young yet and I don’t think either one of us knew what sex was all about. At least I know I had zero-idea about the so-called “birds-and-the-bees,” at the time.

It was between fourth and fifth grade, that Diana and I started to notice some “structural” differences between our bodies. In short she was growing breasts and having to wear a bra, which was something I didn’t fully understand.

It left me a bit confused and I ended up asking Mom what breasts were all about. I’m sure she explained more, but all I gathered was that they made milk and that the milk came from the nipple.

One afternoon, Diana and I were hanging out under a pine tree in the field right behind Mrs. Keating’s house when I asked if she’d show me her “boobs,” as she called them. She lifted her shirt and bra and I looked them over as if I were studying a newly discovered flower.

She gave me permission to touch them and being very gentle as not to hurt Diana, I cupped each breast. She poked fun at me for being afraid of them, for which I was.

So I took the next step and squeezed her areola between my thumb and pointer finger. Try as I may, I couldn’t get milk to come out of them.

I was puzzled, because I had been milking cows for Grandma Ivy for at least three years by them.

Then it dawned on me, maybe I was going about it all wrong. My next question brought out a “that’s sick,” followed by a sharp, “No!” from Diana.

I had asked if I could suckle her, proving I didn’t have the slightest idea what Mom was talking about.

By sixth grade though, we both had a pretty good grasp on what our body parts were for in the long run and the days of “show-and-tell,” were done. Thankfully, it didn’t prevent us from jus’ being children for a while longer.

I also learned a women’s breast doesn’t work like a cow’s teat.

Barking at the Moon

It was early morning, after my Senior Prom. I had driven my date, Jill Ziegler home and I decided to stop at Denny’s to have a cup of coffee.

While I was there I ran into Bill Combs. He was doing the same thing as me.

Bill, being Bill, invited me over to his mother’s home, telling me I was free to spend the night if I wanted. I was pretty tired and decided I’d much rather hang out with friends than drive home to an empty house since Mom and Dad had taken my brother and two sisters for an overnight trip to our Aunt and Uncle’s home in Fortuna.

Much too Mrs. Mary Combs embarrassment, Bill and I spent a few minutes that early morning literally howling at the moon. I mean we bayed as loud as we could into the darkness surrounding that cul-de-sac.

I think we were more than weird that morning, we were high on life.

Jump a Stump

One of the toughest ranch hands was also one of the best preachers I ever met. His name was Wilson and he could cuss, chew tobacco, spit, fight, drink whiskey and play cards with the best of them.

But come Sunday morning after breakfast and while the other hands were doing the chores that normally got pushed to the back while the handling the stock was held as more important, Wilson would “jump a stump,” and start talking about the Gospel. He’d say that we are designed to be in a relationship with our Creator and that our Creator needs us almost as much as we needed him.

I’ve come to understand that God puts us where he wants and needs us and he needed Wilson, an otherwise foul-mouthed, gambling, fist-fighting, tobacco stained, boozer on my Grandpa’s dairy farm, preaching the word of God to men cut from the same cloth.

A Follow Up

My follow-up appointment at the VA was today. My blood-sugar level is actually well within the normal range, so it’s safe to say I don’t have diabetes.

Phew!

However there remains some concern about high blood pressure and an elevated cholesterol level. But since I have changed my diet, started walking a little more and lost 15 pounds, this may not be the problem doctors thought it might be.

What a wake-up call this has turn out to be for moi’.

Armistist Day

Even though I had lost my license to drive a government vehicle, I was not prevented from working aboard an ambulance or taking the extra seat on a helicopter when there was a need for an extra set of medical hands. It was a bother to the Captain though, who was constantly on the lookout for a chance to ride me or Barney for one reason or other.

That’s how we ended up getting an extra detail assigned. The Captain simply volunteered them since he was in charge of their work schedules.

One of those extra details came three days before Veteran’s Day.

“How’d we get stuck with this?” I asked.

My voice registered a slight complaint as he looked over at the staff sergeant. He looked back and smiled as he hand me the flags.

They were American flags, rubber banded together and in brown paper bags. Barney and I were given the duty of placing a flag on each grave near each head stone in the old cemetery on base before Veteran’s Day.

I looked at Barney and said, “I’m sorry.”

I knew that Barney was being dragged into the extra detail because of his association with him.  Barney just shrugged his shoulders and took another sip of coffee.

The following day, Barney came into the office and said, “I want to ask your opinion on something.”

“Okay,” I responded, “shoot.”

“Remember when we did that research on the base history and we found those eight German prisoner of war headstones?” Barney asked.

“Yeah,” I answered.

“Would they fall under being veteran’s on Veteran’s Day?” Barney followed up.

I leaned back in my chair and looked up towards the ceiling.

After about 30 seconds I answered, “Yes, because a Vet is a Vet on Veteran’s Day and German is an original signer of the original armistice.”

“But we can’t put American flags on a German grave,” Barney retorted, sounding almost horrified.

“No,” I answered,” but we can use West Germany’s flag.”

It took the pair nearly three hours to track down a shop in Denver that sold miniature flags from West Germany. Fortunately eight of the little flags were on hand for purchase.

Barney arranged for the shop owner to deliver the flags to the nearby Army post and to have them flown up to the Air Guard in Cheyenne.  By that late that afternoon, we had our flags.

We had already set about placing American flags next to the headstones in the long unused cemetery. And it was long after night-time had fallen before we completed our assigned task.

All that remained to put in place were the eight flags next to the German POW’s who had died while in the custody of the U.S. Army during World War II. Each stone had a name, a rank and each had been members of the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force.

Quietly me and Barney placed the West German flags in the ground next to the headstones. Then they left for the night.

Come the following morning, the Captain was pounding wildly on my barracks door demanding that I open it up. I did as the officer asked.

The Captain was standing in the hallway with Barney just behind him. He had all eight West German flags in his hand and his face was extremely red.

He screamed, “You were given a simple job and you screw it up like this?!”

The Captain waved the miniature flags in my face.

“”Obviously, you don’t know your history very well,” I responded.

“Don’t you give me that crap, mister,” the officer yelled, adding  “Veteran’s day is for Americans, not Nazi fliers!”

“No!” I shouted back, “Veteran’s day is where American’s honor those veteran’s who have sacrified everything for their country, first started as Armistice Day, November eleventh at the eleventh hour to end hostilities of World War I!”

The Captain looked dumbstruck for a moment. He opened his mouth and started to say something then closed his mouth.

I took advantage of the situation and calmly said, “So I recommend you get your ass back down there and return those flags to those veteran’s headstones.”

I paused to take a breath and added, “Removing a flag from a vet’s grave is very dishonorable, Captain.”

Not wanting to be out argued, the officer responded, “How dare you put West German flags in an American cemetery!”

Barney surprised him by saying, “Those eight pilots are resting outside the cemetery walls, sir.”

I held out my hand and said, “If you don’t have the balls to return those flags, we will.”

The Captain looked down at the flags then at my hand and turned away. Instead he gave the flags to Barney and stomped away.

As soon as we were dressed, we headed for the cemetery. We walked around the outside to the back of the cemetery where the German pilots were resting and replanted the West German flags and left, feeling we had done the right thing.

The day following Veteran’s Day, we were directed to report to the Hospital Commander’s office. The Captain met us in the hallway.

He muttered, “You’re both screwed,” as Barney held the door open so all three of us could enter the admin office leading to the commander’s office.

Once inside the Commander’s office, we were met by another officer, who worked for the Office of Special Investigation. It was the Air Forces version of the Navy’s Investigative Service’s or the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division.

Both Barney and I were suddenly struck the gravity of the situation.

The Investigator asked, “Did you guys put West German flags inside the base cemetery?”

“No, sir,” we both answered.

“Where, then, did you place them?” the Investigator asked.

“We put them on the German graves outside the cemetery walls,” was our response.

The Captain interrupted, “Liars!”

The Investigative officer turned and looked at the officer, calmly asking, “Do you have proof of this?”

“I certainly do,” the Captain answered.

As he answered he pulled a packet of photographs from inside his uniform jacket and handed them to the Investigator. The officer quickly thumbed through them.

Then he turned to the hospital commander and asked, “With your permission. can these two be dismissed?

He was talking about Barney and me.

Then he added, “However, I’d like to sit and have a chat with the Captain.”

The Commander nodded his head and both Barney and I disappeared as quickly as we could. However Barney couldn’t help but point out the irony in the fact that it was about a minute after eleven in the morning.

Steeples

In 2005, Mary, Kyle and I took a short weekend vacation to northern California. Down the road by about an hour from where we were staying is the original site of the first Russian settlement in California, known as Fort Ross.

Fort-Ross
The fort, though reconstructed, is strong reminder about how tough explorers, fur traders, soldiers and the like must have been in those days. It includes a cemetery as well as a small church with very plain — yet somehow — artistically designed wooden steeples.

Those church steeples are a fascinating piece of architecture buried inside a well-documented history.

Babysitter

Every time Mom and Dad turned around, Adam and I were in trouble. We were either pick a fight with one another, our sisters or some kid in the neighborhood.

So when most kids were allowed to look after themselves, we were under the care of a babysitter. It was embarrassing and we were teased by neighborhood kids, but it was our own faults.

Usually, our parents would call Sue Skaggs, who live across the highway from us to come look after us. She was a strong-handed woman, who didn’t let us get away with crap.

She was also a chain smoker, whose cigarette smoke-filled the house every time she sat us. Dad was trying to quit smoking at the time, so my folks decided to find someone else to watch us troublemakers for the summer.

They hired an Air Force brat, a girl a few years older than me. Her name was Nadine Redd.

At first Adam and I were apprehensive about Nadine. We had no idea what sort of sitter she’d be.

As it turned out, she was one of the best. Her rule was that as long as we didn’t break anything in the house or cause one another to bleed severely, she was cool with our behavior.

Too bad her father was transferred the following year.

The Golden Jock Strap Award

It was a surprise the Del Norte High School boys track team had voted on and appointed me to complete. The surprise was an award for our head coach, Brian Ferguson.

Called, “The Golden Jock Strap award,” it took me a few days to figure out how to shape and stiffen an actual jock-strap. I ruined a pillow and a couple of hand towels as I applied several layers of plaster to the course fabric.

It took the jus’ over 24-hours for the “sculpture,” to dry completely before I could spray the first coat of gold paint on it. This was followed by designing a base for the award and having a metal tag etched.

The hardest part was rigging the contraption to the wooden base in a way that would keep it from falling over or collapsing under its own weight. But somehow I managed to find the perfect point of balance without a whole lot of fuss.

The night of the school’s sports banquet, I kept the Mr. Ferguson’s award hidden in my locker. I also arranged with Mr. Raleigh, our athletics director, to give the award as the final offering of the evening.

When the time came, I carried it out to the podium, covered by large cloth. I called Mr. Ferguson up to the stage and read a statement I had prepared for the event.

Then I handed it to him, still covered. When he pulled the cloth off the bronzed strap, he turned bright-red and did his best to laugh through his embarrassment.

Worst of all, a photographer from the Del Norte Triplicate took his picture and it was published in that Saturday edition.

The Twelfth Step

“This is your room,” the woman said to me as she turned the key and pushed open the door.

It was a very elegant room.  The bed had a dark and high headboard. The covers were layered with quilts to help keep out the chill of the Humboldt County nights. The lace of the curtains allowed the room to filled with just enough sunshine as to warm the place comfortable.

Placing my small leather case on the foot of the bed and said, “Thank you,” as the woman closed the door behind me.

This was the first time I had ever took lodging at the Charlotta Inn. I was planning to meet Mom and my step-dad, Del for dinner and spend the night at the once famous Inn.

The Charlotta Inn had been the stopping place at one time for movie stars and gangsters. Now it was considered off the beaten path and though it still drew a rare visit from a movie star or outlaw type, it had settled into its more conventional role of historical Inn and local watering hole that served lunch and dinner to the year round tourists and accommodated over night guests like me.

Its history had its moments of stardom such as appearing on film and in trial records during murderous acts. None was more sensational them those of the man rumored to have been shot on the front porch after a late night game of cards. This man managed to return to the front lobby and had climbed up the stair case but died, having fallen into the arms of his wife.

The man who shot him was never caught.

Having always heard these stories and enjoying them, I considering them both history and folklore at once. Yet I never paid any mind to the whispered notion of the ghosts that haunted the Inn.

I never had too as I had never stayed there before.

Meeting Mom and Del for dinner at seven as planned, we ate dinner and sat talking into the late evening. It was nearly eleven o’clock when they decided it was time to head for home. I offered to purchase them a room for the night, but they refused, opting for the comfort of their own bed at home.

After saying goodnight in the parking lot, I wondered out to the edge of the woods. I could hear the laughter coming from the bar as it echoed from the backside of the Inn. And somewhere in the short distance I heard a couple of pony’s nicker and whinny.

“I’m glad something’s haven’t changed,” I said to himself.

Again I heard laughter and loud voices from the bar. The night air was getting a bit chilly so I decided to wonder over and check out the tavern.

Once inside I was surprised to find only the barkeeper and two patrons.  They were watching television.

“Must have been the idiot box I heard,” I muttered.

I ordered a shot of whiskey neat, tossed it back and headed up stairs for the night.

Walking slowly up the stairs towards my room, I recalled warmly the wonderful evening I had just spend with my parents. I was also looking forward to some sleep. As I made the top of the landing I heard the distinct sound of high-heeled cowboy boots out on the front porch.

Inside my room I sat on the edge of my bed and labored to remove my own high-heeled cowboy boots. Once they were off, I wiggled his toes.

“It feels good to have those things off,” I thought.

Suddenly I heard a faint “popping” noise, much like a champagne bottles cork letting loose under pressure. Then I heard a door open and close hard. This was followed by footsteps on the outside wall by the head of my bed.

I felt more than heard a “thud” as something dropped downward and then against the wall, shaking the bed frame and me on it, this was followed a soft sobbing just beyond the wall.

Jumping up and racing around the corner, I peered into the dimly lit staircase only to see nothing but tapestry covered steps. I walked down to the bottom of the land and back up estimating where I had first heard the “thump” on the wall in my room which caused the bed to move.

It was twelve steps.

Continued up the remaining steps, I paused at the top long enough to look back at the empty stairwell. I returned to my room and went to bed, tossing and turning, thinking about the strange occurrence I though I had witnessed.

It was still on my mind as I woke up having dropped off some time early in the morning.i quietly showered, shaved and dressed, wishing to get down to the Inn’s restaurant before it closed.

It was hard not to recall the night before as I passed the very spot in the staircase where I felt certain the unusual noised had come from. I paused and shifted my weight on the twelfth step as if to test it, wanting to see if it made any weird noises.

It did not.

After breakfast I wandered out to his truck and turned it north on Highway 36 towards Mom and Del’s home. Still I couldn’t shake the strange feeling of the night before and how spooked it had left me.

As soon as I arrived at my parents home I told them what had happened. They did not seem surprised.

“I’ve heard others say the same thing,” Del told me.

I finished my story, and then it dawned on me that maybe I had heard more than the foot steps on the stairs.

“I heard a card game as well as horses tied up outside,” I thought.

I felt as sickening chill rush over my body as the idea came to me.

Later that night I was sitting in the living room when I decided he wanted to read.  I picked up an AA pamphlet and read the 12-steps on the back.

When I got to the final step and read the words, “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps,” I stopped, having recalled the number of steps in the staircase.

My entire body shuttered as I quickly put the pamphlet down and fumbled for the television remote.

Price

It was a harsher sounding knock at the door than usual. And as usual all four of my dogs went crazy. Turns out it was our not-so-friendly mail carrier with a certified letter.

I immediately thought, “Well, this can’t be good.”

Once signed for, I opened it and found myself holding a subpoena for the situation I found myself involved in August 20th. That’s when I noticed a vehicle driving very slow and weaving in between lanes as I was heading home.

I called it in and eventually filled out a report as law enforcement officers arrested the driver.

So now I’m going to court to testify November 3rd. It’s the price of being a good citizen.

Commercial Effect

The six of us had jus’ finished one of Mom’s fantastic spaghetti meals. And we were all sitting around the table contemplating what sort of desert Mom might surprise us with.

Without warning Marcy, our youngest sister, started rubbing her belly as if she’s were so full she couldn’t dare think of eating anything else. Her gesture was so animated that we stopped talking long enough to watch her.

Then as if she were part of the once-famous commercial advertising Alka-Seltzer, she grinned and announced, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!”

We all jus’ busted up laughing.

First Names

We were visiting Mom and Del for the weekend. It would be a quick trip since the bride and I had to be back to work on Tuesday.

It was spur of the moment trip so it was a nice surprise that we were able to bring Kyle along with us. He was living with his mother and going to pre-school and I was fearful that our weekend trip might interfere with his class schedule.

Kyle was having a grand time playing with an old stool with a cotton-filled cushion on top of it and an old broom handle. Grandpa Del had given him permission to beat on the stool with the long piece of wood.

Kyle had never been what one would call a talker and seemed to play well by himself. As he whacked the stool over and over, Mom, Del, Mary and I chewed the fat.

For whatever reason, I called Kyle over saying, “Come here.”

I told him to tell Grandma Margie his name.

Much to my astonishment and Mom’s displeasure, he looked her straight in the face and said, “Come here.”

It was time I started to remember to preface my request with his first name from then on.

Rigor Mortis

“Let’s quickly load him and get out of here,” Barney said to me.

We were standing knee keep in a Wyoming snow field easing the dead and frozen body onto the stretcher. Our breaths came quickly like puffs of smoke, which hung in the air momentarily, but rapidly, fell to earth as it froze.

I worked quietly, but I knew Barney on the other hand, had to keep talking, as it was his nervous habit to chatter while around a body.
“Damned bag,” Barney growled.

He had been fumbling with the olive-green piece of plastic for a couple of minutes. The zipper was stuck, than it tore. He wadded it up and tramped back to the waiting ambulance.

When he returned he carried a folded sheet. Barney flicked it out, still holding onto the edge and let the white material float down on the body until it was draped.

I moved quickly around the stretcher tucking in the outside edges and clicking the safety belts in place to hold the body onto the stretcher.

Together the two of us gently lifted the stretcher until the wheels locked into place. Then we muscled it through the snow to the running ambulance.

“Help me get him turned around,” I demanded.

The body had been loaded feet first which did not look right. Barney shook his head from side-to-side and turned to crawl into the front of the cab.
“He’s dead, Tommy. What’s it matter?”

I sighed loudly as I buckled the safety strap back into place.

Soon I was up front as well, in the driver’s seat. Barney reached over and picked up the microphone to call in their position ad estimated time of arrival.

I let out the emergency brake and the ambulance moved forward through the snow.

As soon as Barney hung up the microphone he turned on the heater full blast. He knew that if his feet were cold than my feet must be frozen since I had suffered frost bite less than three months ago and was in constant pain when my toes grew cold.

“Thanks, Barney,” I said cheerfully as I secretly wiggled my painful toes.

Within minutes we were passing through the gates of the base. It had started snowing again covering the gray asphalt over in white.
I flipped on the windshield wipers on, then grabbed up the microphone.

Suddenly Barney’s eyes grew wide and his chatter became a stammer. I looked at my partner, then caught movement out of the corner of my right eye.

The fact that the movement was startling and that Barney screamed caused me to react by slamming on the brakes. With that, the ambulance started to slide, the rear end swinging hard to the left.

Jus’ then Barney went gone wild. He was unbuckled and standing hunched, back against the windshield, when he reached down and flung his door open, bailing out into the whiteness.

Within seconds the ambulance came to a stop. It rested sideways in the street, its front wheels touching the curb of the sidewalk.

I popped open my door and bolted like a coyote held in captivity.

Several strides from the ambulance I regained my wits and jogged back to the ambulance as a security police cruiser pulled up. Staff Sergeant Jenkins got out and walked over to me, where I explained what happened.

We walked over to where the ambulance had started sliding to see if Barney was injured, laying in the snow. We found nothing but a couple of foot print jus’ beyond the curb.

Barney later explained that he saw the body slowly sit up. Then it started to reach out towards him.

“That’s when I jumped out,” he said, adding “I didn’t stop running until I reached the hospital.”

My Job

It had been hanging in the front foyer of our home for as long as I could remember. I was surprised to see that Mom had left it behind when she decided to move her and my siblings to Fortuna following her and Dad’s divorce.

Finding the house empty was a shock. I had no idea she had left and it would be sometime before I would learn the details of their move.

It was the day following my birthday and I had hiked out of the hills behind the house after spending a few weeks in the woods. I was busy licking my injured pride after getting fired from the Air Force.

Called, “My Job,” it seemed appropriate after what had jus’ happened in my life.

It’s not my place
To run the train.
The whistle I can’t blow.

It’s not my place
To say how far
The trains allowed to go.

It’s not my place
To shoot off steam
Nor even clang the bell.

But let the damn thing
Jump the track…
And see who catches hell!

I decided to tuck in my backpack as I left the home I had grown up in.

Getting a Head

It was the start of the weekend and many of us decided to head over to the NCO club.  As I understand, somewhere around midnight a couple of the guy’s decided to drag me away from the bar and “escort” me home.

I don’t remember this as I was pretty tight.

When I woke up the following Saturday morning, I rolled over to find myself safely in my rack. I laid there for a few minutes dreading the possibility of a hangover, but none was detected.

Finally, I decided to get up, shower and head for the chow-hall. It wasn’t until I had stood up that I discover an object that should have never been between my blankets, in my room or the barracks.

It was human skull! And I knew exactly where it had come from—our anatomy lab on the USAF/SAM campus.

If caught with it, I’d get in trouble. If caught with it, whomever put it in bed with me, would get in trouble and I didn’t want either to occur.

Thinking fast, I popped loose the metal panel of my wall locker and places the skull in the vacant space under the panel. I knew it would be secure there until I could sneak it back into the lab.

Unfortunately, before I could return it, the skull was discovered to be missing. Now there was no way I could smuggle it back into the lab and return it to its headless skeleton.

Refusing to panic, I went to the base exchange bought a small box, wrapped the skull in several pages from the San Antonio News, and I mailed to my brother Adam in Klamath.

Hollywood Style

The idea of getting on a horse’s from behind is stuff seen only in movies; planting both hands on the animal’s rump, spring up and into the saddle. It’s the favorite horse mounting technique of folks like Tom Mix, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.

Having enjoyed their movies throughout the years, and having had access to horses and saddles as a kid, I had learned how to do this sort of mount. I called it, “Hollywood Style.”

I ended up promising a display of my skill once back at the stables.

Once there, I dismounted, backed up a few feet, then raced forward. I placed both hands firmly on the horse’s backside and leaped up and forward.

Unfortunately, the horse put his head down to take a bite of hay, changing the arch of its back. I sailed right over the saddle, right over the horse’s shoulders, right over its neck and right over the head.

My legs were splayed out from side-to-side and there was no way to recover. I landed with an awful thud, hard on my butt.

They say it’s not bragging–if you can do it.

Accessory

It was hard to hear, as the judge rapped his gavel on his bench as sentenced Adam to state prison. He had been found guilty of shooting a man so he and another guy to harvest his pot field.

We knew he was going to have to serve time since being arrested for this late the year before. However Adam was reticent to share the details of what had happened and instead chose to hide his fear of the big-house behind a macho bluff.

As we gather inside the courtroom, we found out why he didn’t want to tell us what had happened. While he didn’t pull the trigger, he was an accessory to the crime and that made it jus’ as bad as if he were the killer.

We realized that the man, Michael Clawson, who had died, was shot in the back as he was trying to get away from my brother and the man he was with by the name of Scott Nelson. I remember my stomach churning in a sickening grind as it dawned on me that this was a cold-blooded murder.

Adam was instructed to make arrangements to turn himself in. Once there, he was given a month to get his affairs in order before he was to enter lock-up.

By this time the rest of the family had started up the coast towards home, including my bride and Adam’s then-wife, Sonja. This left Adam and I alone as we travelled back to Hydesville, where he lived.

It was a frustrating drive for me as I had to listen to Adam tell me how tough he was and how nobody really knew the “real him.” I understood that it was all a bluff on his part to mask his fear, shame and anger.

As it would turn out, Adam wouldn’t end up being incarcerated at San Quentin as he was first told. It was decided that due to over crowding he’d do his time in a Mendocino County jail cell.

Adam really thought he was going to get rich by raiding this pot field. Unfortunately Adam’s greed proved also to be his downfall.

The Reanimation of Samuel Hardy

It was the final weekend of the summer and Billy and Paul pointed their BMX bicycles westward down the old dirt road and the best place to do some high jumps and hard landings in the area. They pedaled to the abandoned Toano rock quarry in an effort to forget school was to start the coming Monday.The two 12-year olds slipped through the cyclone fencing which had been pried loose by a group of teenaged boys the summer before in search of a place to drink stolen bottles of beer. The chain links had been turned upward and hooked to the upper edge of the fence. It was a hole just large enough to allow a BMX bike through as long as the rider wasn’t on it.Down inside the quarry, the boys raced over huge piles of gravel. They leaped their bikes as high as possible and landed with enough control to continue racing around the site.

“Up there,” Billy pointed. “That where I wanna go,” he said to Paul.

They rode up to the crest of the quarry and looked down into the gapping pit, searching for what they called “a good line,” to ride down.

Each boy moved back and forth looking over the high edge for a possible trail to the bottom. Neither one wanted to make the lengthy trip around the lip of the quarry and admit defeat at not finding a more direct path down to the bottom.

“Well, do you wanna try it?” Paul asked.

Billy looked down the proposed “line,” and shrugged, “As long as we go slowly the first time.”

He was worried about the possibility of falling down the side of the quarry and landing in the jagged rocks below. They pushed their bikes out onto the embankment and faced them down hill.

Billy was in the lead. He had only gone a few feet when his front wheel knocked an object loose from the earth. Paul saw it roll down the face of the cliff and he stopped to look at it was, because it didn’t appear to be a normal looking stone.

As he inched his way closer to the ledge and looked over, he was horrified to see a human skull with vacant eye sockets peering straight back at him. He quickly scrambled away for the edge of the rock face and yelled for Billy.

“Stop!” Paul nearly screamed.

Billy skidded his bike to a stop and turned around in the seat to look back at his friend. He saw Paul sitting on the ground with his back against the stony face and he had a look of fear on his face.

“What is it?” Billy asked in an impatient tone of voice.

Paul looked at him and answered, “I think it’s a skull of a dead person.”

The sun was starting to fade and the teams of Elko County deputies and Nevada state troopers were still searching for remains along the wall of the rock quarry. It was estimated that they had discovered 22 unmarked graves in a quarter acre patch of ground.

Detective Leach was on a cell-phone talking, “Each body is in a wooden casket.”

A voice on the other end of the cell-phone asked, “Are they buried at various depths?”

Leach responded, “Yeah, some a couple feet down others deeper.”

“It sounds like an old cemetery, maybe a forgotten family plot,” the voice said. It belonged to Nevada state archeologist Walt Franco. He was the states leading authority on all matters regarding historical artifacts.

Then Franco added, “I’m on my way.”

By sun up, Franco had led the two teams to the remainder of three more caskets. They each had been photographed and a detailed map had been drawn showing each body’s exact location.

“Look at this Walt,” one of the state troopers said.

When Franco viewed what the trooper had found it left the scholar puzzled. There was no getting around the fact that the body in the old wooden box had been moved after death.

The box lid had the letters “SH,” and the number “54” written on it. They were formed by using brass tacks; however it wasn’t the only casket to be marked in such a way. What made it so unusual was the fact that both thigh bones had been laid out to create an “X” over the chest of the body and the skull was replaced in an upside down position.

Each body was removed and taken to the state lab in Reno for further study. Meanwhile Franco went to Carson City to search the state achieves. He needed to do some research and it didn’t take him long to find what he had been looking for.

He picked up the telephone in his office and dialed. A few seconds later a woman answered.

“Hello,” she said.

“Good morning, Sandra,” he replied.

Sandra Goodall glanced at the clock on top of her bed stand. It wasn’t even 8 o’clock yet.

She asked, “Do you know this is Sunday?”

Franco said that he did. Then he told her what had been unearthed at the abandoned rock quarry. Goodall was suddenly awake and the fact that it was the latter part of the weekend no longer mattered.

She hurriedly dressed after hanging up with Franco. She could hardly wait to get to the state lab and start her examinations. She realized that this case could be the thesis she had been wishing for in her lengthy process for a PhD.

Franco flipped through the yellow leafs of paper. It was a land registration book that had been buried in an estate sale and he had purchased for the sum of one-dollar. The leather-bound book had been a solid source for Franco on a number of occasions.

He ran his finger down page 92 and found what he had been looking for: Hardy. It was the name of the family who had first settled the area prior to the year 1850. The last name fit with the “H” on the coffin.

Franco turned on his computer. After waiting for it to come to life, he typed in the name, Hardy.” Much to his surprise he found a list of names including a “Samuel,” who was listed as having been “put to death by hanging” in 1871.

While, Franco believed he has resolved who the family plot belong too and the possible identity of “SH,” he still had no answers as to why “SH” had been defiled they way that he had been.

It was early Monday morning when Franco drove into Toano. He was there to see if he could find any records on the Hardy family. Within and hour he had an answer to his puzzle.

Franco found a cracked, red leather bound book in the counties library that contained hand written notes from the Toano’s town meetings. As he read it, he tried to imagine the scene.

It was 1883 and Samuel Hardy’s eldest son, Eli was asked to appear before the towns elders. It seemed that they had a strange request to ask of him.

“We’d like permission to open you’re fathers grave and stake his body to the ground,” one of the men said.

Another piped in, “We want this to above board.”

“Why do you want to do this?” Eli asked.

The group of elders looked about at one another, and then someone answered, “We have reason to believe your father, Samuel Hardy is a vampire.”

Eli was silent as he reflected on the fact that his father had been hanged for murder. It was not a pleasant thought. He was nearly 17 years old when his father was found visiting the decaying body of a young woman he had killed nearly three-weeks before.

It took less than a day for a jury to find him guilty and sentence him to death by hanging. Eli still heard the endless whispers about his family and had on more than one occasion thought of leaving Nevada for land out west of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

He also thought about the rumors about hundreds of sheep, cows and horses found dead. He also knew that several young women had been attacked in the 12 years his father had been executed; some had even been killed.

Eli himself had told his wife Sarah on more than one occasion that he had felt his father’s presence. Fearing that he might be accused of being in league with a murderer or worse, a vampire, Eli Hardy quickly consented.

“You have my permission,” he said.

That same day a small group of men went out to the Hardy family cemetery and located Samuel’s grave. Four men set about the task of digging up the casket. Also present was one of Toano’s priests, its medical doctor and a mysterious figure from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Once the earth was pulled away, one of the four men digging used the edge of his spade to pry off the top of the box. Inside they found only the bones of the deceased Samuel Hardy. There was nothing left to stake the body to the ground.

However the mysterious stranger recommended a course of action to prevent even the bones of Samuel Hardy from rising again. Quickly, they did as was recommended then returned the body back to the earth.

That was nearly 135 years ago. Now the body of Samuel Hardy was lying on a chrome steel table in the state medical lab. Sandra Goodall was completing the final examination of the man’s skull.

She had been working on what had been dubbed by the local press as the “Hardy Project” for the last eight months. Goodall had compiled hundreds of pages of notes and felt certain that she was nearly done with the 25 bodies. Soon they would all be returned to Toano for reburial in one the local cemetery.

“SH,” or Sam as he was affectionately known, was the last body that she documented. Goodall had found that he had lived the hard life of a farmer, possibly raising sheep or cattle for a living.

Sam had died at the age of 54. At the time of his death, he had an open wound on his lower right leg that probably caused him to limp. Goodall had also discovered a trace of white growth attached to the outer tips of the Sam’s rib cage.

She concluded that Sam had the consumption. Today it was known as tuberculosis. Goodall theorized that it had been a fairly slow process and agonizingly painful for Sam. She also noted that two vertebrae in his neck had been crushed.

Goodall had painstakingly glue the shattered bones back together. She wanted a clear idea of what had killed Sam. She deducted that he had probably choked to death before his vertebrae gave way under the weight of his body.

Her conclusions were backed up by historical facts that Franco had found in the same months he spent investigating the small family plot. He discovered that Toano had been plagued by a severe case of consumption in the late 1800’s. He also had the record of Samuel Hardy’s execution and the later defilement of the single grave from the red-leather book.

Franco also found a rare instance where a 19-year-old woman named Mercy Brown of Exeter, Rhode Island was exhumed after it was suspected she was a vampire and feeding on her brother Edwin.

Rhode Island archivists Anne Paulo told Franco, “Mercy’s heart was removed, burnt and the ashes were fed to Edwin as a remedy.”

The rearranging of the bone was a harder puzzle to solve for Franco. He had to look over seas for his answers. And it was in Ireland and Egypt that he found it. Both countries had historical references to “decapitating bodies,” and used the skull and cross bone symbol to denote the possibility of the “walking dead.”

Sandra Goodall placed the skull of Samuel Hardy at the top of the body. It was the first time in about 125 years that his body had actually been assembled in its proper form. She sighed as she looked at the old man’s bones. Goodall decided she would deal with his remains on Monday.

“It’s the weekend and you can wait a couple more days, Sam” she said aloud as she turned to switch off the lab’s lights and lock the door.

It wasn’t until Monday morning that the bones were discovered to have been stolen. The state police investigated and concluded that someone had been hiding inside the building when Goodall was locking up.

“She never had a chance,” the detective said. Then he added, “He attacked her from behind, but I think she got a piece of him.”

“What makes you say that?” asked another investigator.

“Look at the blood trail,” he answered, “whoever did this was dragging his right leg slightly.”

One Threatening Call

It was jus’ another overnight shift at country radio station KIIQ, but that quickly changed. I answered the studio line and was told by the male voice on the other end that he had me in his sights at that moment.

Being a smart-aleck, I asked, “What sort of weapon is your sight affixed too?”

Chillingly, he answered, “A 30-06 rifle.”

Our on-air studio, located on in a secured business office on Neil Road, had a large glass window that overlooked a parking lot. Since it was dark, I couldn’t see anything beyond my own reflection in the glass.

My reaction was to drop to the floor and crawl out of the control room, into the production room next door. Once there I called Reno police, who told me that they were sending a unit over right away.

Next I called the program director, Tony Thomas. He talked me through the steps I needed to take in order to switch our operations from the control room to the production room.

Several police officers arrived and started looking around the outside of the building for anyone they thought looked suspicious. One officer took my statement, but told me there wasn’t much they could do unless the caller actually did something to me.

It was very long morning and I was happy to have my replacement show up, A Sparks police officer, (whose name escapes me at the moment.)  He had me transfer the on-air operations back to the studio as he started work.

As I did this, he placed his .357 magnum service revolver on the counter next to him. Then he looked at me with a mischievous grin.

I waited for the sun to throw some light on the ground before I headed out to my car to drive home.

Letter Perfect

It’s obvious I bit off more than I could chew emotionally. My day started with a little research project by looking through a box of old letters from 1979 to mid-1980.

What I found there left me hurt. I think it’s safe to share this as anyone who knew me when I was 19-20 years old will attest to what I’m about to say about myself.

I was immature, self-centered, and ignorant of others feelings. Ouch!

The letters I read, I had not picked up since I first found the majority tossed in the trash when my parents split the bed-sheet. Others were letters that I had saved since they were sent to me.

Through a period of a year and a half, I can read the painfully honest thoughts my mother was laying down about how life was changing for her, my siblings and my father. I didn’t grasp the seriousness and hurt she was expressing to me.

She was worrying about her children, (me in the service) her marriage falling apart and the possible loss of the house. My response was to whine, bitch and complain about how rough I was having it. 

In yet another set of letters from the same period, I discovered how shallow my ability to communicate was at the time. My friend, Nancy Jessop (now Williams) tried to point out how shut-down I was towards her and everyone else around me.

She also told me to learn to tell my own stories, not my fathers. I didn’t realize I had been doing that until she put it in my ear.

So how did I respond? I shutdown and I shut her out, like I appear to have done to many people over the years.

About 9-years ago I had a crisis that opened nearly every wound I had in my emotionally scarred frame. Since that time I’ve been a work-in-progress, which is what I should have been all along.

That’s why I felt hurt after I re-read all those letters. Fortunately, old dogs can learn new tricks and I’m able now to share how depressing it is to learn that I’m really not perfect and that I never will be.

Punked

It was jus’ before the concert in our parking lot was scheduled to start. I was working for country music station KHIT.

My request line flashed in the studio. And as I had always done, I pushed record on the reel-to-reel tape machine as I answered the telephone.

On the phone was a voice I recognized right away: Clint Black. I was excited that he had decided to call the station as let us know he was in town to attend the concert we were holding.

The conversation continued for a couple more minutes when suddenly the voice changed. It was at that moment I knew I had been taken in on a practical joke.

Instead of Clint Black, it was our headliner Neal McCoy. I could hear several radio station staffers laughing in the background.

I was a little embarrassed over it but as soon as I got past that, I decided it would make good radio.

So I edited the tape, to make the call move quicker and a little smoother and played it back on air. Every once in a while I’ll be out somewhere and somebody will ask: “Do you remember the time you thought you were talking to Clint Black?”

Thanks to Neal McCoy’s sense of humor, I’ll always have that great radio memory.

Waning into the Weird

Not even two-minutes into my shift and I got one of those telephone calls every reporter has to weary about. It was a man claiming he had been at an accident, trying and save a life, but was unsuccessful.

His information seemed credible enough. He said he was on his way from Burning Man and was on Pyramid Highway when a speeding driver attempted to pass him and four or five other of vehicles at one time, lost control and rolled his car.

The driver’s arms were traumatically amputated as his body was half in and out of the car as it flipped. He said the man died at the scene after bleeding to death.

After hanging up with him, I called the Nevada Highway Patrol. They had no record of a vehicle fatality on Pyramid Highway, however it was suggested I call the Washoe County Sheriff’s office.

I did and ended up with the same results — no fatal vehicle roll-overs listed in their fives.

On a hunch I decided to “google,” moon-phases. We have a waning moon overhead and not a full-moon, so I don’t know where the weirdness comes from in this case.

Returned

We had been in our new home a little more than a year and I felt it was becoming cluttered and in need of some mid-Fall cleaning. I decided to start in the back bedroom that we used as a sort of office.

After filling two garbage cans and a large plastic bag, I felt I was making a dent in the mess. I was on a roll and in search of getting rid of more stuff.

Without really putting it to reason, I decided to toss out a box marked, “Journals.” It was jus’ sitting in one of the corners collecting dust and it seemed reasonable at the time to throw out the fifty composite-style books.

The following day was garbage collection day for the neighborhood and I set everything out near the sidewalk for pickup. I went to bed that night feeling better for having done some something about the perceived junk in the backroom.

A couple of days after the garbage had been collected, I found myself feeling remorseful over having tossed out all my personal journals. For the life of me, I couldn’t think why I would have done such a thing.

The next garbage collection day I was trying to do anything possible not to hear the garbage truck pull up out front of the house. I didn’t want to be reminded of my stupidity.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door. When I answered, I found our garbage man standing on the porch hold.

“Here,” he said, “I think you might have thrown these away by accident.”

It was all of my journals. He got a nice Christmas bonus that year.

Grudge

What is it that our pit bull terrier has against me? In the time that we’ve had her, she has chewed on or swallowed or destroyed several items of mine.

The latest in this long line is my favorite hat; a gray Stetson Tuscarora felt topper. I left it sitting on my old kack, jus’ as I have for years.

My love for my “Tusky” caused me to place a hat-stretcher in it every time I took it off my head. Hat-stretchers help good covers like an expensive Stetson retain their shape.

After being gone for a few hours, I came home and found the wooden hat-stretcher on the floor at the foot of the saddle, where the hat had been positioned. It was a moment of volcanic-anger as I rushed out back of the house.

There it was, completely torn to pieces. I’d say more like shredded, but that doesn’t even begin to fully describe what Roxy had done to the hat.

She’s so affectionate towards me. She even lies at my feet as I sit and write, but she has what appears to be a terrible grudge against my belongings.

Thank goodness it’s jus’ stuff—but G-D dog anyway!

Broken Glass

Yesterday didn’t end until I laid my head on my pillow at eight this morning. In fact I had jus’ laid down when the telephone rang.

I’ve learned that when the phone sounds off in the earliest hours of the morning, it’s never some guy saying he’s trying to find my home because he has a million-dollar check for me.

Instead, it was the alarm company for the bride. They had an alarm signal saying our building interior perimeter had been violate, meaning it could or could not be a burglary or simply a mouse.

Since the bride was scheduled to get up in half-an-hour, I told her I’d go down to the store and have a look-see. That way she could get ready for work and maybe even have a small breakfast before leaving the house.

When I got down to the store on First Street in Reno, I saw we had neither a mouse nor a burglar. Instead, someone had either shot out one of the windows or thrown something through it.

The bride arrived about 45 minutes later and we started cleaning up the scattered glass inside the store. I also set about with the help of another employee to secure the busted out window.

With that done, I headed to the computer system so I could review our security. It took me a while but I actually saw the man walk by the window carrying a white plastic  grocery bag, then return about seven seconds later to smash a baseball sized rock through the glass.

Unfortunately for me and lucky for him, I couldn’t get a clear picture of his face. Had I been able to see his face, I’d spent a couple early morning hours hanging around corner of First and Roff Way looking for him.

He’d end up with that rock in a place certain to cause a severe bowl obstruction.

The Scrapbook

“Looking through this old scrapbook,” Charlie said, “sure brings back memories.”

He was sitting in the middle of the room with a large box at his side. Coming through the door was his wife, Maggie, carrying two cups of coffee as Charlie flipped through page after page of old photographs.

Suddenly he paused and smiled. This was followed by a roar of laughter.

Maggie, who had seated herself beside Charlie, smiled and asked, “What’s so funny?”

Charlie laughed some more, then pointed to a picture and answered, “This one.”

Maggie looked at it and frowned because she saw nothing funny in it at all. It was a picture of Charlie kissing another woman.

Maggie exclaimed, “You had another girlfriend!”

“No I didn’t,” he responded, still laughing.

“Yes you did! You kissed another woman. Look at that picture,” she countered, adding, “and don’t lie to me!”

“I’m not lying…” Charlie started to say to her.

However Maggie wasn’t listening, as she quickly got up and rushed from the room. Charlie jus’ sat there with the scrapbook in his lap.

He had stopped laughing and shouted after her, “At the time, Maggie—you were the other woman!”