Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Interests and Hobbies and Thoughts, Oh My!

Before continuing on this narrative, as boring as it is likely becoming, I am changing gears. While thinking of the classes in college that I excelled at, one stood out as being odd - Communications. It was the standard communications course required for all baccalaureate students. Most of the coursework was focused on public speaking. Why can I publicly speak on a topic but have difficulty speaking on an interpersonal level?

Throughout my professional career I have given training sessions and seminars to hundreds of people at the same time, in the same room without any hesitation or apprehention whatsoever. Something a work associate said to me years ago stood out, "Damn, you do a lot of things. It's a wonder your brain doesn't explode!" Well, or something like that.

Perhaps that is it. Growing up on a very rural farm, verbal communication and interpersonal relationships were not as important as being able to put pieces of knowledge together and acting upon them. Perhaps that is why I am more comfortable with e-mail and chat; there is time to cogitate.

Cogitate what? Knowledge? Information? Data? Personal experiences? Is there too much of this stuff tumbling around in my gray matter to be an effective interpersonal communicator? So, I started to mentally list some of my interests. After the first 25, the choice was made; I had better write these down. To keep it simple, the list contains the items Topic, First Year of Interest and a * indicating current interests. Dang there is a lot of junk tumbling around.
Farming, 1972, *
Sustainable and Organic Agriculture, 2005, *
Reading, 1975?,*
Science Fiction, 1980
Writing, 1991
General Science, 1975?
Space, 1968
Aeronautics (airplanes and flying in general), 1977?
Geology, 1982
Quantum Mechanics (a.k.a. 'Weird Science'), 1986?
Anthropology/Archeology, 1987, *
Historic and Prehistoric Native American Culture and History, 2010,*
Orchid Breeding, Genetics and Hybridization, 1996
Meteorology (specifically severe meteorological conditions), 1978?,*
Electronics (analog), 1975?,*
Radio Electronics, 1976?
Electronics (digital), 1978?,*
Physiology, 1980?
Microbiology, 1978?
Pharmacology, 2000
Firearm Restoration, 2010, *
Martial Arts (Bujinkan and Kenpo),1983 and 2006
Photography, 1987
Motorcycle Riding, (briefly in the early 80's) 2005,*
Motorcycle Repair & Restoration, 2008,*
Broadcasting, 1983
Webcasting (i.e. internet radio), 1994
Hypnosis, 1982
UFOs and Paranormal, 1984
Comparative Study of Cultural and Theological Cosmologies, 1986
Model Rockets, 1979?
Stone Masonry (specifically, something called 'slip form stone masonry'), 2007
Bicycle Riding, 2005
Beer Making,2001
Wine Making, 1976?
Baking & Cooking, 1970,*
Woodworking, 1982
Geography, 2009
Cartography, 1982?
Domestic Violence & Abuse,2003?,*
...likely more...

Maybe this is the cause of my inner insecurity with interpersonal communications. Too much stuff rattling around in there. Perhaps I should take up wine and beer making again to kill off some of those brain cells. JUST KIDDING!

From Day 0 - Part Twenty

It is time to get past college time.

Firstly, just to clear any misconceptions, my first ex and myself still converse occasionally and are on good terms. Honestly, aside from a few infantile, alcohol fueled outbursts as I moved into my own apartment, we have always entertained a friendly relationship. She has two great sons, a good husband and a decent job.

OK... college. After moving into my own apartment, the shell closed. It was comfortable. Work and classwork consumed most of my time.

Honestly, this was likely the healthiest I had ever been. My apartment was in an old building on the town square of Macomb, IL. I owned a little Mercury Bobcat but loaned it to my ex. So, with an average of five miles of walking every day, general exercising was not an issue. I even had 6-pack abs!

After a semester of recovering from the divorce (regardless of how logically reasonable it was, it still hurt), my grades were recovering and reasonable. There were plans rolling around for further education. School was becoming fun again, regardless of my un-social life.

Life was school, playing with what would soon be the internet, extracurricular programming, longingly looking at the female students and planning my further education. Aside from that and the occasional night at local bars, there was no socialization. The life of a 'lone wolf' was satisfying yet left certain voids.

Things were coming together in a somewhat socially dysfunctional way. I still remember my Systems Programming class; a graduate level course that for the most part I slept through. Being conscious through an 8 AM class after working until midnight was not always something easy to accomplish. It was finals week and this class's final was on Thursday; my last final of the semester. The night before was one filled with drinks and semi-social stupidity. 8 AM, still thoroughly buzzed from the night before, head pulsing I took the final and stumbled home. Aced it.

So, with the semester over, grades in good shape, work keeping me busy, my counter-social self started the ball rolling for graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The plan was to take a year off, work with my Grandfather and then enter graduate school to earn my masters degree in Computer Science. Little did I know, these plans would never come to fruition.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Special Relationship

We spoke briefly last night; the first time in just over a year. This morning we chatted and spent nearly an hour of quality time becoming reacquainted. Yes. We have a special relationship.

There were no thoughts of women or work or phone calls or computers or reading or writing. It was nothing but riding.

Please do not misunderstand, I like my Harley Sportster. I like my Suzuki VX800 project bike. However, my little Honda Rebel 250 and I have a special history; one that honestly few share.

With the help of Jack from Jack's Rebel Warehouse and the local Cycle Gear, my Rebel is alive and breathing again. She still coughs a little and the engine dies once in a great while at stop signs, but she lives.

For me, the minimalistic Rebel brings a tranquility that my Sporty cannot. She is quiet, unobtrusive, unpretentious and simply fun to ride. If she does fall over, picking her up is not a problem at all. Gas mileage? She is a teetotaler, averaging nearly 75MPG. When we were on our cross country ride in 2008, her mileage was calculated at nearly 90MPG during one slower, straight and flat stretch.

Now, if you will pardon me; I have some neighborhood riding to do and yard sales to check out.

Friday, April 23, 2010

From Day 0 - Part Nineteen

Sometime during the first semester I fell into a certain group of programmers that were honestly not known for their high social standing. Yes, they were hackers. While I partook in only a few minor, mischievous pranks, some of the funny business they instigated was honestly on the darker side of the line between legal and illegal.

They were misfits; cultural disconnects; social dropouts. I fit in quite well as a sidekick.

One fellow by the name of 'Tomas' had a penchant for espionage, robotics, science fiction, lock picking, foreign languages and sneaking around where he didn't belong. He was tall and thin and liked the occasional cigar. Last I heard he was doing 'something' for the government in Europe.

Another fellow who went by the name 'Greeny' had a Dr. Who fetish, and was almost never seen without a crazy scarf around his neck. His hair was even the same as the good Doctor's. He was the angry, devilish, sometimes black-hat hacker who lived UNIX and thoroughly enjoyed confusing the heck out of clueless users by piping ASCII animations to their terminals. Several years ago he was the head of a large company's security team.

Another sidekick, 'Pinky' had some decent skills of her own. Typically she was the quiet prankster, not really letting people in on her tricks. She was admittedly hot and enjoyed dressing like a punk-goth rocker. She was likely the most intelligent one of the group. I am not sure what happened to her after college.

There was another woman in the group but for the life of me, cannot remember her name. She was more the academic but enjoyed the occasional prank.

The last one I remember was a dark fellow, brooding and angry with a taste for beer. He hung around the group but had the intelligence and temperament of a grade schooler. Last I heard, about 20 years ago, he was living with his parents taking odd jobs.

This is where troubles in my interpersonal relations became apparent. The hacker group was not an issue; it was my then new wife and more socially acceptable associates. While it was stupid to lie about things such as working until 3AM on a program with the group, or experimenting with the nascent internet all night, I did. It was not to do any harm, mind you, it was rationalized into protectionism; protect my wife and friends from the occasionally mischievous things we did, and protect me from criticisms. Part of me wanted to be 'normal,' whatever that is.

If I were quiet, and the things I took part in were not illegal, where's the harm?

We were divorced after our Junior year.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From Day 0 - Part Eighteen

A few minor things have been left out of previous posts for the simple matter that there would be some future context in a later post. Here is one of those minor things.

While a junior in high school I became interested in broadcasting. Little did I know how ill equipped I would be. It was a summer day and I was invited to meet with someone at WRMJ, the local country station regarding a high school internship. After attempting to read about ten minutes of content, the person I read for politely suggested that should I be interested in the broadcasting field, perhaps something technical would be a better option.

After finally adjusting to college life in my second semester, I started looking for a job. Well, the ones that paid were of course all taken, but there were volunteer spots open. The broadcasting bug bit again.

There was a volunteer position available at the college radio station WIUM. Specifically, it was reading news and magazine articles for broadcast on a sideband of the station's FM carrier. Blind and visually impaired folks could receive a free received specially tuned to receive the signal.

So, I practiced, tried out and got the volunteer spot. I was still not proficient at reading things out loud but apparently good enough. Before too long I was the night operator, there all alone, completely in control of the station. To me, at the time, that was COOL!

My boss was an interesting character, Tom was his name I believe. And he was unique. According to him, he was the only man in the country that read Playboy for the articles. Yes, he was blind, and yes, he read Braille Playboy.

At the start of my Sophomore year, apparently word got around the broadcasting group that I was looking for a job that actually paid money. So, without much hassle, I was offered a job at Broadcast Services. It agreed with me so much that I held that job until I left, three and a half years later.

Oh, the stories... Late nights on video shoots, running the audio board, duplicating tapes, working on the satellite TV system... Oh, yes... Contrary to what my Mom and Grandma told me, I WAS paid for watching TV.

Friday, April 16, 2010

From Day 0 - Part Seventeen

Ah, college days. My Mom and Grandfather took me on that two hour ride to Macomb, Illinois on a beautiful Saturday to confirm classes and move into my dorm. This was my first introduction to culture shock.

People were everywhere. There were lines of students for everything; for dorm room assignments; meal tickets; financial aid confirmation... lines everywhere. I was a proverbial fish out of water.

After it was over I was settled... After a day of tumult, confusion and culture shock it was done; classes confirmed and dorm room 1307 in Henninger Hall assigned.

At the time this was a 'men-only' dorm. Fourteen floors, two elevators and a seriously long climb to the 13th when the elevators were out of order.

My girlfriend came the next day and was assigned a room in Bayliss Hall. This was a good thing for us, as Bayliss is connected to Henninger by a common cafeteria.
The only two first semester classes that stand out in my mind are English 101 and a four or five credit pre-calculus class.

English was easy.

Pre-calc was the first class I had EVER failed. It was difficult and fast-paced and combined with my general culture shock, the results were not good.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

From Day 0 - Part Sixteen

OK. After receiving a hot two hours sleep I was called into work. Being on-call can have some serious down-sides. Luckily it is only one week out of every six. That being stated, it is about 5AM and the brain is partially disengaged. This will be quick.

Before completely launching into college life, a few unmentioned highlights of my grade school and high school life.
  • I built my own computer from scratch. Not the kind like one would build today; rather from chips and resistors and the like.
  • There was that crush on a high school teacher.
  • A second cousin nearly molested my brother and myself. He was caught with another under age boy and last I heard was serving 25 years. IMHO, ought to be life.
  • The discovery of a real Native American Indian relic on our farm. It was a foot weight used to teach the young how to safely run in the woods without making a lot of noise.
  • My call to the fire department when a tractor caught on fire.
  • The summer afternoons in the hay loft with my girlfriend (nuff said).
  • My first 'drunk' at the age of 15 on beer we bought from a cop.
  • Likely the wildest thing I ever did; delivering newspapers in my underwear in February. Yes, it was a dare.
  • Playing taps at memorial day services for nearly five years.
  • Playing valve trombone, trumpet and baritone in the school band. (Not all at once.)
  • Scoring second place in the high school math competition as a Junior.
  • Seeing my first concert. It was Rush in Dubuque, Iowa on their Moving Pictures tour.
  • Seeing Kiss play with the Plasmatics opening.
  • Sitting in an Apache helicopter.
  • Skinny-dipping.
  • Nearly dropping my Galaxie 500 into the Mississippi River.
  • My first telescope.
  • Days spent fishing and hunting with my Dad and Grandfather.
So much for quick.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

From Day 0 - Part Fifteen

My time in college yielded some interesting experiences but few photos. So, that being stated, many of the photos here are absconded from various websites.

Even as young as seven years old, the flame of flight burnt deep within. Somewhere there is a picture I drew in second grade of me in a space capsule heading to the moon. Through the remainder of grade school into high school I dreamed of piloting my own plane. Being a member of a poor farming family and with no airports nearby, this was far from a reality and I knew it. So, in my Junior Year of high school I applied to the Air Force.

It was a long shot. I wanted to fly. I wanted to honor my grandfather who honorably fought in WW II. My grades were marginally below their requirements but decided to apply, regardless.

About six months later there was a letter for me from the Air Force. I was tingling... This could be it! It was a thick manila envelope. Rejections do not come in large envelopes, do they???

ACCEPTED!!! Well, not completely. It was a letter stating that I had passed the initial criteria. The rest of the paperwork were forms and requests and agreements and requests for further information and medical release... Medical release. I read down the list of exclusionary medical conditions. There it was. Hypoglycemia. There would be no piloting for me any time soon.

At any rate, that left Western Illinois University, my primary college of choice. Field of study? Physics major, math minor. At the end of my freshman year, following my first ever failed course, pre-calc, there was some reevaluating to do.

After a few trips to my physics counselor, my major was changed to Computer Science with a dual minor in Math and Industrial Education - Electronics.

Oh, and yes, my first programming class did use punch cards. ...You smart-alec blog readers. :-P
I read this sometime in the second or third grade. While I am certain the full weight and meaning of the words were well above my understanding, it's power and beauty was recognized. The dream of slipping the surley bonds of earth became firmly entrenched.

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941

Monday, April 12, 2010

From Day 0 - Part Fourteen

Before my college days are briefly recounted, there was a little incident on the farm that I find to be rather telling regarding the "farming life" and medical self sufficiency. Yes, it is a little gruesome but I am still here writing this, some thirty years later, so apparently I survived.
South of the house was our corn crib that I helped build, the 75 year old barn and a hog shed. After a few years of idleness, the ground around the hog shed had grown up with weeds. The picture here quite closely shows what it looked like. So, my Dad, brother and myself set out one day to chop these weeds down so we could put pigs back in the area. These weeds were BIG; many as tall as seven feet with stalks more than two inches in diameter.

My brother and Dad equipped themselves with machetes. I took the sickle. So, there we were chopping at the base of these tree-weeds when I made a strong chop down. Luckily I was not using an axe.

The point stuck in what I thought was a weed stalk. I twist the blade to free it from the weed. It popped. This wasn't a sound, it was a dull snap felt through my leg. The point of the sickle had not lodged in a weed. It was firmly embedded in my ankle, likely the lower Tibia.

As nonchalant as can be, I told my Dad what happened and we walked back to the house. After he cleaned it out, still feeling no pain, I inform my Dad I wanted to go upstairs and lie down. The last thing I remember was him telling me that was not a good idea.

The next thing I remember was staring up at the ceiling near the stairs with a wet washcloth on my head and my Dad laughing a little. "Guess you ought to stay down here a bit, Slugger."

Ya, I stayed downstairs for a while until my brain reengaged. :-)

Friday, April 09, 2010


Well, as you may or may not know, I am now working from home. Yes, full time telecommuting does seem to suit me.

While waiting for a little 800MB file to load to SQL today, I discovered an old digital camera. With a little tinkering I turned it into a webcam. Hey, why not. There are less productive things that could be done.

If you are so inclined, just browse over to my webcam page. I will likely change the camera location from day to day. Maybe I will move it down to my garage, point it outside or maybe point it at my daughter's mice.

Maybe I will just turn it off. Who knows.

No worries, it is work friendly. No girlfriend and no current prospects. Back to work...

Thursday, April 08, 2010

From Day 0 - Part Thirteen

As two of my gentle readers pointed out, the picture in my previous post was NOT a Chevy Vega, but rather a Pinto. It certainly looked like I remembered. My mistake.

Hopefully this is a correct picture of that POS. I distinctly remember the rear left axle coming loose from the body where rust had consumed everything but the carpet. It was a manual transmission and when driving down the road and shifting, I would need to steer slightly in one direction to keep it on the road. Oh what fun.

Then came the day of the farm auction. By this time my Mom had left my Dad. He had no choice but to sell. On that day I drove there to do what I could to help. It started.

The tractors that I help tear apart and rebuild sold. The combine that I spent a summer repairing sold. The old broom machines that belonged to my paternal grandfather sold.

Then he asked me something; a question no one has ever and can never ask. "Son, if you want the farm, it is yours. You say 'yes,' and I will stop it now."

And he could have.

I was 17 and had been accepted into Western Illinois University for fall semester in 1984 to study physics. I said no. It had been in the family for nearly 100 years.

Within a few months my Dad passed away. Within days I received a letter from him, sent the day before.

About that time I earned my first amateur radio license - KA9RVK and my girlfriend earned KA9RVL. Cool, eh?

She and I and about four other students from our graduating class were inducted into the National Honor Society and shortly thereafter graduated.

The summer of '84 was spent scrapping up money and getting ready for college. What changes were ahead, I had no clue.

Monday, April 05, 2010

From Day 0 - Part Twelve

OK, going to make this a short one. It was my Junior Prom. (Actually, I believe this was a picture before my Senior Prom... ah well) My date and I took another couple with us to the prom. Being the epitome of the phrase "White men can't dance," For the most part I sat on the sidelines.

When it was done, we changed clothes, got in my Galaxie and started on the hour ride home. About seven miles or so north of New Boston, a nasty noise starts coming from under the car. My first thought was that one of the glass-packs had fallen. Pulling over to the side of the rural blacktop, getting out and inspecting the situation with a flashlight, there was no mistake. It wasn't the muffler or even an exhaust pipe. It was the frame of the car!

Yes, the frame of the car had rusted through, failed and was gouging into the asphalt!

So, at 3 AM, my date, the two drunk people I was driving and myself headed toward New Boston. After about a mile a car pulls up behind us and flips on the lights. A cop.

Number one, he understood the situation as he had seen the car along the side of the road. Number two, my date's dad (may he rest in peace) was a cop and my date knew this officer. So, regardless of the fact we were out far later than curfew, he taxied the two drunk kids home and my date and I to her house.

The next day my car was drug back to the farm and sold about a year later for $50.

Then came my first motorcycle. It was a Yama-suki I believe... Yamaha chassis and Suzuki engine. Oh did we have fun. Regardless of the fact she was more of a street bike, we scored many miles of muddy farm roads.

She was similar to this 1978 Yamaha 360, but I KNOW the engine was near 500cc and the mufflers were punched through.

One time my brother was the passenger as we went into New Boston to deliver newspapers. She ran out of gas about three miles from the farm. I was a noob rider and had been running on reserve instead of main. Ah well.

We walked back to the farm to retrieve my POS Vega Hatchback. Can't believe my dad spent 400, 1982 dollars for this piece of crap. So I drive to where the bike was, we picked the motorcycle up and put it into the hatchback!!!

Unfortunately, the previous owner of the bike was having a hard time getting the title and I was having a hard time paying for it, so the bike went back after I rode it for about 3 months.

Then there was this beast. For $300, yes, only $300 in 1983 I could have purchased a 1967 GTO Convertible. I drove her a few times. Oh, man. Even at 55 MPH, punching the accelerator would cause the rear tires to loose their grip on the road.

The paint was rough and top ripped up, but that was it.

Alas, I passed it up.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

From Day 0 - Part Eleven

Homework was never my forte. Sure I received decent grades and could write reports and papers quite well, but homework? ACK!

Even though I had been driving a truck since I was 13 or 14, I took my test at 16 like most others my age. My great grandfather had left a Ford Galaxie 500 when he passed. My grandfather sold it to me for $100.

Oh, the memories in that car. On my first date the leftover pizza was accidentally forgotten on the top. Needless to say, pizza boxes do not adhere well to car tops at 50 MPH.

Then there was the time driving home after a snow storm when the lights failed. In the city, this isn't much of a problem. In the country, it is a real challenge to stay on the road. Since they hadn't been plowed yet, there was no visual way to determine whether the car was on the road or not. So, I drove about 20 MPH for eight miles in the dark with no lights, feeling for the edge of the road. The snow was light and fluffy, and as such this technique work acceptably.
Here she is, a 1964 Ford Galaxie 500. This is just a picture from the interwebs, not actually my car. Surprisingly though, the color is even the same as mine.

Even though she only had a 289 cubic inch engine, I tweaked her enough with a hotter ignition system, glass pack high performance mufflers (twin exhaust pipes, of course) and a larger carburetor. Her rear wheels could spin with the some of the better student vehicles.

Throughout high school I was the quiet one... The one who studied ham radio and Morse code with the shop teacher. The one who tossed a shot-put out a third story window to measure the acceleration due to gravity (it's 9.8 meters per second squared if you are wondering.) The one who repaired the school's VandeGraff Generator, shocked himself to the floor and said "Oh Fu*#" as the physics teacher stood there trying not to laugh. The one who hung out with the head-banger-Black-Sabbath-loving crowd. OK, there was only four of us.

Even as a high school student, as quiet and passive as I might have been, there was one thing that was not tolerated. Not at all.

Only twice have I ever hit another person (other than my brothers when we were young kids - OH, did we get into trouble with Dad when we fought).

Once after lunch at school an ex-grade school friend started making fun of my girlfriend. She ignored him, I told him to quit it. He ignored me, grabbed my girlfriend's wrists and shoved her against the wall. Without though I grabbed his arm, twisted it around his back. As he turned to face me, his face met with a roundhouse punch.

Another time, another guy, this time it was the heel of my hand to his jaw. He flew back against the wall, I followed, pinned him and after a few choice words, let him go.

Quiet, geeky, unsocial, quirky and a very short fuse for the right match.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

From Day 0 - Part Ten

OK, one more post before I go out and give my Harley a tune-up.

There was little time for kid-play now. During the summer I worked for local farmers cutting weeds out of bean fields and putting up hay. I may not have been athletic but I could toss around fifty pound bales of hay with no problem.

Less time was spend in the woods but they were enjoyed more and more. School and taking care of the family were of paramount importance.

While we never touched, my lover occasioned the farm several times. Each time was different. I was awestruck as any adolescent could be.

My grandmother bought me a white suit for my entry into eighth grade. I HATED it but said nothing, thereby not hurting her feelings or disrespecting. I wore it twice that I recall, once on the first day of school and once for class photos.

With the money from my farm work, I purchased my first computer, a Sinclair ZX81. For its time, the ZX81 was fairly advanced. It had a Z-80 1 MHz processor with a whole 32 k of ram. Yes, it furthered my geek status and was oh-so fun.

About this time two other events occurred that some blame for the way I am. While running around the farm with some family kids, my head and a very stationary cottonwood tree collided. Even to this day the scar is obvious.

At that time, I was deeply interested in ham radio and shortwave radio. At a local antique/junk store I purchased a Hallicrafters SX-100 shortwave radio receiver. Just north of the farm house was a pig shed set up to be a chicken hatchery. Since my dad had run electricity there for the chick lights, my brother and I used the unused portion of the shed as a club house, complete with heater and radio and chairs and a little black and white television.

One day as a storm came in, I ran to our club house to disconnect the enviable 100 yard or so long antenna from the radio. Just after breaking the connection between aerial and radio, lightning struck the tree at the other end of the antenna wire. The next thing I remember is the smell of burning flesh and my sore back from being thrown to the wall. Part of my right hand was red and pulsing and a little burnt. Luckily the radio was OK.

It was my sophomore year when I met my first real girlfriend, Sharon. Hormones compensated for my social ineptitude and flailing attempts at romance. We spent some good times together in high school and college.

She was smart, quick witted, caring and, might I be so bold to add, had a great body.

We were married after our freshman year in college and divorced about 20 months later. Some portion of this failure can be placed on our collective immaturity. A good portion I fear could be placed on my interpersonal malfunctioning.

And now it is time for something I can grasp - motorcycle wrenching.

From Day 0 - Part Nine

This morning I am reminded once again of mortality. While searching for pictures of the high school I attended, I find an obituary for my first wife's dad. He passed last year at 70. He was a cool guy. May he rest in peace.

At any rate, after reviewing my recent posts it became obvious that they were a bit more verbose than I had planned. So, gentle reader, there will be some effort to reduce some of this verbosity.

Pictured above is the Jr. High School and High School I attended for six years. The Westmer Warriors, we were known as. All of the other kids and tumult and nasty high school students that seemed to thrive on scaring the hell out of the young students simply seemed to harden my outer shell.

While preparing for PE class in seventh grade, some high school students tried to hang me. Luckily the ligature snapped.
My inner science geekiness was becoming more and more obvious. A crush on a little blond was sincere but she preferred the athletic, outgoing type. Ah well.

This was in a time and place where science geekiness was a magnet for persecution. Known as "The Doctor" or "Eagle", the former reflecting my extremely short hair cut, these nicknames were not complementary. I could reasonably explain basic electrical theory or computers or photosynthesis or oxidation or radio wave propagation but couldn't throw a basketball or football to save my ass. Thus, I belonged to the lowest student caste.

The long school bus rides to and from school was a mix of torment and peace. Attempts to sit alone and read were frequently successful. Other times I was subject to ridicule, having my books taken and thrown about.

Entering high school was a non-event; just another grade. It was now that I discovered how ill my Dad was. He had type 1 diabetes and suffered a minor heart attack. To keep the family financially sound, he had taken a full time job at a local foundry. To help, my Mom took a waitress job. That left me to take care of my two younger brothers and sisters after school. I cooked and cleaned and did farm chores every night. After the heart attack, he quit the foundry job and unsuccessfully applied for disability. When we worked on the farm together it was my job to watch for insulin reactions. Several times it was necessary to lead him back to the house like a puppy and give him juice to raise his sugar level.

I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia and an ulcer.
I met my first real girlfriend, later to be my first wife.
I became a geek/rocker/social dropout.
I owned my first motorcycle.
I flirted with my lover.

Friday, April 02, 2010

From Day 0 - Part Eight

As much as I loved softball, it was simply not in my genes to be very athletic. After leaving sixth grade and the grade school for the Junior High in a different town, I didn't participate in any athletic capacity in organized athletic events, save the required PE class.

As a matter of fact, my sixth grade class was the last in Eliza Grade school. In an effort to minimize expenses, the school district relocated the students to New Boston Grade School. Luckily, the school building is still used as a community center.

It was no secret that my maternal grandmother did not like my Dad. Rather than speak my mind, keeping quiet seemed the best course of action. After all, she was my elder, and not one to be disrespected by her grandson, regardless of how disrespectful and incorrect her statements were.

And, so I learned a valuable mis-lesson that coincided with my inherent shyness; stay quiet.

That old rifle and I would bask in the raw sounds of nature. There was no right or wrong; nature has no morals; nature survives. Days spent among the glacier carved valleys and streams communing with raw nature is a sublime experience everyone should have the opportunity to partake.
And here is another picture, courtesy Google Maps. The farm, all 60 acres are highlighted by the yellow rectangle. The farm building are indicated by the red circle, and believe it or not, when I was twelve, the area highlighted in blue were my basic boarders.

It was quiet, there was no one else during my wanderings to confuse my explorations. It was simple nature, physics, chemistry, biology, geology; all things that I could grasp, minimally at any rate. People; on the other hand, there was no grasping.

So, I wandered and thought and explored; this 'pre-teen' and his Dad's .22.

Even as a thirteen year old, my dad trusted me to guide his friends on mini-hunting trips. One winter night, the type where the world seems to have stopped and the stars and Milky Way seems to be only an arm's length away, my Dad was sick and could not guide his friend on a raccoon hunt.

"Now, listen to Kenny, he knows his way around out there, OK?" my Dad cautioned his friend.

It was bone chilling cold when we departed the warmth of the wood heated house; in the teens if I remember correctly. My brother, only eleven years old, placed in my care, came along for the hunt.

I do not mean to disrespect those who have passed, but this fellow should have just stayed back at the house and played cards. Only two things defined him as partaking in a raccoon hunt: his raccoon dog; and his gun.

We walked to the northeast, into the woods. At the first creek, we turned south to follow it. Knowing where we were at that point was not an issue. Roughly an hour later my landmarks ended. "Stan, we really should turn right here and go up over the field."

"Oh, nah. Just a little further." Well, I still knew roughly where we were but said nothing. Then we saw the 'No Trespassing' sign. That was no good. One neighbor was very strict keeping trespassers out.

I spoke up, "Stan, Eliza Creek is right ahead. We really need to turn around."

"We can't leave the dog out here alone!"

I wanted to tell him that my cats had more raccoon hunting ability than his dog, but I just followed.

Ten minutes later we were on the banks of frozen Eliza Creek. "OK, Stan... Lem and I are freezing. We NEED to turn around and go up that ridge and go home."

With numb feet I followed as he turned and followed Eliza Creek; not the way I indicated. Lem was doing fine but a little chilly. I was becoming hypothermic. This place was new and honestly, I recognized nothing.

About 15 minutes later, he wanted me to get him back to the farm. Telling him I was not certain of the best way, he became pissed off, grabbed my brother's hand and walked quickly down the shore of the now partially frozen creek.

My boot broke through ice. Pulling up, I continued walking. Three, four, five, six steps. Something was wrong. I was walking in a patch of wild raspberry bushes without a boot. There was no pain from the thorns. The other two were far ahead when I ran back and grabbed my now water filled boot out of the stream.

My foot sloshed, numb to the world. Ahead, some other hunters had met Stan and Lem, and put then in their pickup. I got in and they took us home. My feet were white and wet and cold and numb. The pain experienced as they came back to life with lukewarm water and the wood stove was something I could have done without. My dad had the foresight to wash out the punctures in the soles of my foot with alcohol while still numb.

Not happy with Stan, my dad asked, "Where the hell were you?"

"I don't know, some stream somewhere."

My dad turned to me, without his asking, while still shivering I answered in a truly not happy tone, "Eliza Creek."

What my Dad said to Stan at that point is unknown. They went out for a smoke and my Mom brought us steaming hot cocoa. Later, I was told that my Dad chewed his ass out for not listening to me.

Ya, a 13 year old pwned his ass.