Music Will Sooth the Savage Beast.

This afternoon, 29 May 19, while surfing You Tube I came upon Louis Armstrong singing Hello Dolly. He took me back to the days of the Cold War when Mr. Armstrong traveled to the Soviet Union. They loved the limited range of his gravely voice, his trumpet, his handkerchief., and his songs that came from the heart.

How could they not?



Son of Teed

Though not apparent to me, Teed, the mail carrier, became a self-made pecan expert. As told to me, during his forty years of mail service he taste-tested the fruit of ever tree that grew along his daily route, always asked permission before crossing over the fences and gather a handful, or a bagful of nuts. Of all the trees of which he grew familiar over those years – one hundred, two hundred – a very large tree growing along my grandfather’s lane won out over the others, offering thinner shells and sweeter flavor. Sometime during those years this giant became known as the Teed Tree.

Unfortunately, one stormy night it fell victim to a lightning strike. Early the following morning, my grandmother called those with an interest in the tree, my cousin, Jim, being one of them. Jim and his father, at first light, drove out to the old tree and cut off some large branches before the furniture man arrived.

Like many things in life, the limbs and nuts salvaged from Teed Tree were forgotten and lay in a vacant horse stall for some 40 years before Jim fabricated two three-legged coffee tables from the wood and then he planted the pecans.

One pecan became a seedling known as Son-of-Teed. Another eight years passed before it bore a pecan. Though it occupied a place of honor it provided none of the favored qualities of it’s fore-bearer.


Today’s Internet news features a postman who has served a community far beyond what was expected of him. As I read through the article I remembered Teed, our long serving postman I knew a lifetime ago. Teed was a slender man with round, John Lennon glasses. He was soft-spoken with a smile for everyone and I never saw him without his fedora hat. I was very young – preschool age – when the fetching of a pint of whipping cream first brought him to my attention.

Mildred, would you have a pint of whipping cream?” Mom asked of the dairy farmer’s wife she’d reached by phone.

Of course I didn’t hear Mildred’s response, but an hour later when we walked the quarter-mile to the mailbox Mom retrieved a pint canning jar of whipping cream with her name on the lid. Teed had delivered it as a neighborly gesture.

During World War II almost everything of any value was on the rationing list and if one didn’t have the proper stamp it couldn’t be purchased at any price. Yet, Mom found a way to purchase a broadcast receiver from Sears Roebuck. The year was probably 1942. I may have been five years old. Many things occurring in the adult world went unnoticed. Including the purchase of radios and the difficulty encountered doing so. I first became aware of this radio business after Teed left a note in the mailbox. It stated that a large package from Chicago was bound for our address. He would deliver it the following day.

The note caused a great deal of excitement and I was caught up in it.

The following morning we pulled my red wagon to the mailbox and waited for Teed’s arrival. Directly, I heard the chuckle of his Model A Ford and then the clatter of the bridge planks as he crossed over Walnut Creek. There were three dips in the road between the creek and our mailbox and each time he topped a rise his John Lennon glasses caught the light and I was reminded of the newsreels I’d seen of navy ships sending Morse to one another during radio silence. Soon, Teed brought his car to a halt and lifted a package from the back seat.

It’s a radio,” Mom said.

If weight is any measure of quality, it must be a good one,” he said, the veins in his forehead bulging as he carefully sat the package in my wagon. Then, touching the brim of his fedora, he slid beneath the wheel and set out to finish his route.

A few years later, Teed announced his forthcoming retirement. It did not go unnoticed. At the old one-room school, Greenview, an ice cream social and farewell party was set into motion. Like the featured in today’s Internet news, the many whose lives he’d touched were sorry to see him go.

The Color of Music

Most of us have grown up with music to one degree or another. But the protagonist in Ellen Glasgow’s Barren Ground, Dorinda, had not, with the exception of church hymns. Reared in rural Virginia, she was unprepared for the New York City Concert to which her young doctor friend had invited her. She was laboring over the program, the composer’s names – Beethoven, Bach, and Chopin when the concert began with a gray summer storm bearing down on the old pear orchard back home.

I was surprised when Dorinda’s visions changed to delicate green and amber, and then violent clashes of red and purple. These striking descriptions continue for two full pages. I was sorry when the concert was finished.

I’ve enjoyed classical music for more than seven decades, but I have yet to share even a brief glimpse of what this girl experienced.

The Book Thief

I read non-stop in March and April while my wife stayed 26 days in the hospital. The town library was a favored haunt. During a visit I borrowed a book written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I didn’t care for the book. But I carried it with me everywhere I went so I could read it during odd moments and earn the right to say that I had finished it. All the while, thanking my lucky stars I hadn’t bought it. However, I forgot to lock the pickup and someone forced me into buying a book I couldn’t keep.

In my old age I have little defense against forgetting to lock up behind me. While visiting the overflow room at the library I found Barren Ground authored by Ellen Glasgow and published in 1925. On the back cover the publisher states that she was a self-taught scholar, a precursor to Faulkner, and others. Her descriptions are so thorough the characters seem to live across the hall. I’ve known them all my life.

Now, even though the book cost only fifty cents I don’t take it with me for fear the book thief might be lurking about.

Who Are These People?

During the early 1970s my family and I lived in rural part of the northern United States. We hadn’t been there long before a neighbor bought property a stone’s throw from us and began an egg business. Within ten years his enterprise had grown into several large chicken houses and 200,000 laying hens. Then came the folks campaigning against eggs. They made such a strong case that within three years the egg man was bankrupt. Only then, after it was too late, did the group decide they’d been hasty and that perhaps eggs were not such a bad food after all.

So now we have another person, claiming to be a doctor, urging people to throw out their tomatoes, potatoes, and bananas. I’ve eaten tons to tomatoes, and potatoes. And during my three years in the West Indies, where bananas cost one cent each, I devoured tons of them as well.

This autumn I shall turn 82 years old. I still walk about a mile each day, roll out of bed at 0600 every morning, turn in at about 2300. And I continue to eat my eggs, tomatoes, potatoes, and bananas in moderation, of course.

Who are these people who are spreading these falsehoods? Someone should bring them to task.

The Curve

I knew we was in trouble as soon as we settled into that curve, Dan and me. He’s slipped halfway off the side of his Blackbird, his right knee is almost on the pavement. An inch? I can’t be sure. My hands was full with my CB-900. That thought hasn’t cleared before his rear tire slips. Flipping once, his bike cuts across the oncoming lane and then cuts a swath into the Arizona sage brush. Dan is airborne, his arms and legs flopping like he’s a rag doll thrown from a window.

I’ve done my share of flat-tracking in Texas Dodging wrecked machines and riders was part of the sport, but twenty years have passed since, and I’m an old man now. I’m calling on long forgotten skills, missing Dan, watching his motorcycle.

I’ve seen some of bike crashes. Survived a few. But not many at speeds exceeding a hundred miles per hour. I’m certain Dan’s a dead man, and I’m not anxious to verify it. But when I get to him he’s moving and moaning. His glasses are gone. So is his helmet

DAN! TALK TO ME, DAN,” I shout.

Dan opens his eyes, but they aren’t focusing. “I think I’m alright,” he whispers, moving his fingers. “My bike! Where’s my bike?”

It’s okay. You stay put. I’ll take care of things,” I order.

But Dan isn’t listening. He’s standing now, swaying like a drunk man and trying to follow me. “I must have lost my concentration,” he mumbles, staggering along the shoulder.

I find his glasses hanging on a cactus thorn. His handlebars are bent, but the motor starts.

We sit in the shade of a Palo Verde tree drinking water for an hour. When he’s ready we start the two hundred mile trek back to his trailer in Show Low. It’s a slow trip. He’s lost his cool.

I visit him twice. He hasn’t been riding – claims something is wrong with his machine. Honestly, I think he’s scared. So I wait.

This morning the phone rings. Dan wants to meet me at Salt Creek Canyon and take another run at that curve.

Cheers to the passengers aboard The Number 26

The Number 26

Cheers to the travelers, the runaways, vagabonds, commuters, and the lost. The strangers, the outsiders, locals, newcomers, and the sheltered homeless.

Cheers to the ones life dealt a bad hand, with everything they love on the table. Who cling to unfavorable odds like a life raft stranded in the ocean, with unwavering, unabating, faithful hope.

Cheers to the ones with calloused palms. With bloody fingertips, and chipped nails, from clawing at the bottom of the barrel.

To the ones running on fumes, sustained by air, who keep moving forward, their eyes toward the horizon, one step after another.

We’re going nowhere in a hurry, and we’re seeing all the sights along the way.

To the ones ready to run, with passports in their bed stands. The ones who whisper the mantra “one day” over and over in their sleep.

To the ones with cracked open piggy banks, paying unexpected debts…

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Strawberry (flash fiction)

I was a farm boy, still in high school with a car and a girlfriend during the early 1950s. She lived fifteen miles from my front door, so cash played an important role in my social life. But my choices for earning money were limited – storing a farmer’s hay in his barn or digging his wife’s potatoes. Both or either paid five dollars per day whether that day lasted a few hours or dark-to-dark. That was when I met Strawberry.

Strawberry was name of a Korean War Veteran, one he’d earned from his complexion, the result of shell-shock, someone told me. I don’t know how much his mustering-out pay amounted to, only that it enabled him to buy a used Chevrolet truck for hauling hay to farmer’s barns. I was paid for loading and unloading. Our relationship worked out well. I always had enough cash to get to town and take my redhead to the movie. Sometimes I even had enough to buy her a hamburger.

I knew little about Strawberry’s personal life. What I learned seemed strange.

Late that summer he bought an aging 1946 Chevrolet sedan. He told me he got it cheap because the paint looked so bad. At the first opportunity, he bought a gallon of black paint and a brush. “Where the masking tape?” I asked. “Don’t need no tape. I got me a forth grader.”

Strawberry painted everything – chrome and glass. The forth grader, with an apple box to stand on, wiped the paint off the chrome and glass. They both got done about the same time. Strawberry stepped back to admire his work.

It was crazy. I was glad I watched.

The Hotwater-8 background

One cold October night I copied a CW signal on the 40-meter band. It was N7JEU (I’ve forgotten his name) using the Heathkit HW-8 (aka Hotwater-8). I went back to him that night and many nights there after. Eventually, I learned that during the Korean War he was a marine forward artillery spotter. Using a CW mobile receiver-transmitter, head phones and a thigh-mounted telegraph key and a Jeep, he reported the position of the artillery strikes. That had occurred some 40 years in the past.

As we conducted our nightly chats, he located on the southern ridge of the Columbia Gorge, me in the southwest hills of Eugene, Oregon, I learned he was suffering with lung cancer. He’d lost his voice and his fist and the Hotwater-8 was his last means of reaching out. I’m not certain when, other when than it was spring, when his wife dialed me on the telephone. N7JEU had passed and he’d willed his station to me. Please come get it as soon as possible, she stated.

I made a few contacts with it, but time free time was critical. I was heavy into Oregon Army MARS where participating meant using my Swan 400 and SSB for military traffic handling nets in support of the ’91 Gulf War. The HW-8 spent a great deal of time on the shelf.

Time passed. Years. Eventually, my close friend and fellow MARS member, KB7LOC, had experienced a lightning strike that had totally ruined his station. He called me when I was in Arizona, asking if I had any spare radio station lying around. If so, could he borrow one?

I had just finished building a solar-powered ham radio station. The Swan 400 was a power hog. It drained my eight deep-cycle flooded batteries faster than I could recharge them, so I sold it and bought a MFJ-9420 with a CW add-on board so I do both CW and SSB and got operational just in time for the 9/11 event. The only other radio I had was the HW-8. With a heavy heart I packaged it up and mailed it to Leo and said nothing about my MFJ station.

Barb and I were renting trailer space in an unimproved park called Coyote Howls Campground. Communications with the outside world was via ham radio or a pay phone near the office. One day, a neighbor answered the pay phone and delivered a note from Leo with a callback number at Seal Rock, Oregon.

We need to have a CW QSO, he said.

Okay. When?”

Well, I’m giving guitar lessons and Wednesday evening between 7 and 8 is best for me, he stated.

He was taken aback when I informed him my radio was mono-band 20-meter rig, a daytime band.

Well, I’ll CQ for one minute on the quarter-hour and listen for the remaining fourteen minutes, he suggested frequency.

I was game for anything. Every Wednesday from 7 until 8 I gave the radio my full attention. During that winter, we made three contacts, Leo’s 1 watt and my 9-watts. Once his signal was no stronger than a puff of cigar smoke. We exchanged QSL cards for proof. I still have mine.

I don’t think Leo ever found another station. I don’t think he ever looked. Then late one night his wife called me. Leo had passed and what should she do with the radio?

I drove from Dallas to Seal Rock to get the radio.

And the rest of the story is published under the title: QRP the Hard Way. With the exception of the last chapter – mailing it to Bill.