Snapshot

brothers

The weirdest thing happened to me this morning. I was thinking about the start of the day and I started thinking of small bits of time throughout my life. Just things I remember about growing up. Like a birthday party in the yard or sitting on the back steps of the house with my BB gun. Or coming out of the walk-out basement door. You know the kind where you have to reach up and open it while you were walking up the stairs.  And the old metal shed on the other side of the driveway. It wasn’t used much and seemed real big at the time, but really it wasn’t. The feeling I had at night walking from the barn back to the house and having the urge to run. So many things that came to me like old Polaroid pictures that had to be shaken before you could see them. All are clear as a bell unlike the same old pictures from back then. Welcome to digital.

It’s funny how a mulberry tree in the back yard brings back some old memories or the fact that we raised bird dogs on the side of the barn that was located next to the same tree. English Setters and there were a lot of them. But what fun it was to be tackled to the ground like I had a pheasant in my pants. I’m a pretty likable guy, and it is apparent that is also true in the dog world. Or is it I smell remarkably like a bird?

But what fun it was to be tackled to the ground like I had a pheasant in my pants. I’m a pretty likable guy, and it is apparent that is also true in the dog world. Or is it I smell remarkably like a bird?

Even some of the “snapshots” I could see in my mind were of real pictures that were taken. The first day of school with me and my brother Danny standing next to our bicycles in the front yard. Sun in our faces, and our best plaid shirts on. Thinking about this makes me realize that my mother was standing there taking it as we were squinting and looked less than happy. I actually remember the picture but not my mother taking it. Weird. It had to have been around 1974 and even though we weren’t happy about it, I’m sure mom was ecstatic! After all it was probably a long summer of the screen door getting a work out, sewing patches in jeans and hearing “I’m hungry!”

I know we all have experienced something specific from the back of our minds that takes us to that very moment. It could be anything and anyone we’ve come across that sparks this feeling. I’m not sure what mine was today, but there is something nice about it. It is usually all good and it never fails to make me laugh. I hope today is a day that I can look back on and smile. Hopefully the “picture” in my mind will still be clear as a bell!

Advertisements

Hard RD.

image

Every morning  on my way to wherever I go I pass HARD RD. It’s a southern Geary County road that runs North and South, into Morris County. A quiet country road that looks interesting enough, but the name changes the perception just slightly. From the Seat of my Road King  it’s a beautiful area and would be even more so if it was called “UNICORN RD” or something along those lines. But HARD RD it is. We have all passed this road at one time or another and sometimes we’re even on it. I know from time to time we’ve all experienced our own hard road. A time in your life when you think to yourself  “this road will never end”. But we hit the next intersection in life, gas it, and we find our way on to a better road. I haven’t found EASY ST. yet, but someday!  There really isn’t any guarantee that we won’t be back here making the same tracks we’ve made before, but we have to remember that it’s up to us to turn the corner to get off the hard road when we find ourselves on it.

I’m pretty optimistic about life in general, but it’s things like this that make me think. So many times we take the path of least resistance and that works for a lot of people. It’s easy and convenient and requires so little effort. It gets us to where we are going and in most cases it’s where we want to be. It’s usually when we find ourselves on the hard road, we automatically think it’s a bad thing. We all know that it’s the difficult things in life that make us stronger and maybe we should approach those particular roads with this in mind. Even as we travel down this rough road, there will be those who are also rolling down the same direction looking for the exit. Stop and give them a hand. Just because you find yourself on it, doesn’t mean you can’t stop and help someone else who also finds themselves there. It’s the hard roads and “uphill both ways” that makes the rest of life enjoyable and rewarding.

Asking directions, whether driving or life, may get you to HARD RD, and even without help we can end up here anyway. That’s when we need to think about who is giving us directions and how reliable they are. Listen to your heart, trust God and your instincts and obey all laws. But remember, this road will end and then it’s back on the pavement until the next bumpy road comes along. If you are like me, you’ll enjoy the scenery on any road, watching the world go by. Watch the signs and you’ll be fine! Just try to avoid DEAD END.

The Dip in the Road

PHOTO_11445504_51585_13278379_main

Ah, the small town life. Not too exciting but every once in a while, there will be something that happens and we all take note. Back when the Council Grove Drive-in was open it was not uncommon to go to the movies with six or more of your friends. It was cheaper that way as you could pay by the car load instead of by the head. Now I don’t know about you but it only made sense to do it that way. It was like the box store philosophy of the more you buy the more you save! But sometimes you just wanted to go with your date and it was worth a little more for that. In what day and age would it be acceptable to have bodies in the trunk of your car except to go to the drive-in? Today, you would go to jail…

 In what day and age would it be acceptable to have bodies in the trunk of your car except to go to the drive-in? Today, you would go to jail…

For those of you that grew up in similar communities, you also had those places you hung out at. In White City, we had the “Y”, which was just a mile North of town where there was a fork in the road at the rail road crossing. We would hang out here when you just needed to get away from all those “city lights”. All ten of them.  There was the church parking lot, right on Main Street, where you could sit and watch everyone cruising the four blocks of Main to the point of nauseum. We also had the “dip road” South of town about a mile which as you can imagine was a road with a dip in it. It was a dirt road, and a great place to go out and drink beer with you friends and not have to worry about much. The mixing strip, the Parkerville bridge, Effland’s hill, Blythe’s hill and the cemetery were some of the places you could just name and everyone knew where you were talking about. Burton’s grove, the “crooked bridge” and Maloney’s pond were a few more that should be mentioned for the record, and all were just a few minutes from the city limits.

Things were different back then as we didn’t have cell phones or cable TV. But some had CB radio’s and of course a  few calls to “Red Dog”  which would quickly be answered, and the evening would be off to a great start. We miss you Earl! It was a simple time with 8-tracks and vinyl seats, windows down and waving at the car coming down the road from the opposite direction. Making u-turns at the locker plant and then again at the old depot. Then a run out to the mixing strip, turn around and back to town. Repeat. That was a Saturday night in White City. Stop at the pool hall for something to drink and to show someone who didn’t know any better, how air was blowing up from the bar stool stands. Yep! Lift the stool off its stand, have them place their hand over the hole to feel the air, then slap the back of their hand down into the grease and leave a circle of grease in their palm. Good Times. Even a local guy like me has had the old grease trick done a time or two. You never knew, maybe the second time there WOULD be air coming out of it.  But we didn’t care, it was just a good time to be hanging out with friends in a small town.

I wouldn’t change a day of it. It is who I am and probably always will be. Kid’s don’t cruise much anymore and the pool hall and locker plant are closed. Those of us that remember, still refer to the landmarks by their old names. Mainly because Effland’s and the Blythe’s still live out there and the Parkerville bridge is still, well…how you get to Parkerville. So next time you pass through any old town that looks like it has seen it’s better days just remember, somethings you can’t see.

It’s Seasonal

As September hits I’m reminded of many things. Mostly, riding in the fall and how the summer days felt when it was unbearably hot. Looking back now those hot days seem like they were tolerable. School for everyone is in session, and growing up in a small town it’s classified as a big event. One particular hot day in August, on the first day of school, I wore a shirt that I was sure would be my favorite. A typical August day, in a school without air conditioning could suffocate a horse. But even your soon to be favorite shirt (that happens to be flannel) can become a sweat shirt in this heat. Really Mom? Sending your kid to school in a flannel shirt? I’m sure it was my decision and I fought her every step of the way until she caved in. Chalk it up to learning the hard way. To this day, every time I put on a flannel shirt I think about this. In the seventies there was no such thing as a “heat day” where kids got out of school because it was too hot. Instead, every day was “suck it up” day. So I did.

It’s a wonder how fast the seasons can change when we are lost in our day-to-day lives. Go to work, come home, ride a little and repeat. All the while trying to do the things required of me around the house. Before you know it the weather is changing and the days are getting shorter. I keep telling myself that it’s only a few short months until Spring and we’ll be fine. But hold on, I still have some riding to do and believe me the chores aren’t done. In any case I will ride this winter as I do every year, but as far as everything else…

Every season has its advantages and disadvantages and some seasons we like more than others. But when it comes to hot or cold or dry versus wet it’s all good. Just remember, it’s all temporary and it’s just a few short months until it all changes again. Apparently as a Freshman in high school on the first day of class, I lacked the depth and knowledge of both fashion and common sense. I made it through the day none the worse for wear and with a valuable lesson as my reward. After all, I was a Freshman and you can’t expect anything more from me. Just ask my mother!

The Explorer In All Of Us

Growing up “small town White City” isn’t a bad thing. Looking back it was a great time to just be a kid. Riding all the back roads around town gave me a great sense of direction and a good idea how far you could go on a tank of gas before hitting reserve. Practicing wheelies and power slides outside of town where no one could see or hear you was good as to not raise any eyebrows and to keep my mom and dad in good graces within the community. But it didn’t stop me from practicing those wheelies on my way out-of-town! So much for being a kid…

You never knew what you would find. Maybe an old cemetery where I would get off and check out the headstones, and sometimes find one with a familiar name from White City. It all helps put the pieces together on how far out side of town the farmer’s family went. There was always old farm equipment parked from days gone by and left for dead. But no headstone was necessary. Their names were painted right on the hood.

At times I would be parked on a hill miles from town and look off in the distance and see the Mor-Kan grain elevator in the distance calling me home, but I wasn’t quite ready. More power slides and wheelies to be done and who knows what else. You would rarely meet anyone on these back roads but when you did there was usually a friendly wave and once in a while you might stop and talk for a few minutes to a class mate whose family farmed as they were on their way to town. 

At one time I was pretty good at both wheelies and power slides. After all, practice does make perfect. But as all things do, the dirt bike needs gas and I’m hungry, so back to town we go. I often wonder if my parents really knew what I did on those long summer days on my motorcycles. Gone for hours and coming back dusty or skinned up. Not all wheelies were successful! I’m sure they did though, even when they didn’t say anything about it. If any of you know anything about a small town, it’s hard to keep a secret. Or maybe it was the marks in the gravel from my power slides as I left town…

The way we were

They say that everything comes full circle. Old becomes new again and fads come and go. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and I will tell you there are certain parts of that era I really don’t want to see again. Hair styles and leisure suites, bell bottoms and fringed jackets, I can live without. But there are many things that I miss as well. Three-wheelers! I had several in the 80’s and even raced them competitively. They were a great source of fun and as far as I was concerned, safe. At least as safe as the person riding it.

Image 

I never felt out of control or in “danger” at any time, and I don’t think the evil three-wheeler had it out for us. Looking back I think they were a very neccessary part of our lives and was just a step to the four-wheeler we love today. An absolute hoot to ride and race, it’s weird that future generations will have to look at them from a history perspective.

Countless hours of play riding in all kinds of weather, all year round. Water, snow and mud were just a normal day and you could ride wheelies FOREVER!

Image

Sure, you had to ride them differently than anything else. Steering with the rear wheels, sliding around corners, transferring your weight to stay on it was a workout. A solid rear axle made it interesting and unless you picked up the inside wheel as you were turning, it wanted to go straight. The first time I rode one was a 1980 Yamaha Tri-Moto 125. A friend and I were riding out in the country North of White City and happened along a farmer friend of ours that was using his Tri-Moto for checking on fences. We stopped and talked to him and it was really the first up-close encounter I ever had. Beautiful yellow plastic, big balloon tires and a freakish long saddle. With no suspension, a guy like me had to wonder how it handled.

The next thing I know, I’m being offered the opportunity to ride it back to his house about a half mile away. I jumped at the chance and Grady and Mike took off on the dirt bikes and left me to figure it out! Rope start, semi-automatic transmission and no instructions on how to turn it. Couldn’t be that hard! It started easy enough, with one pull of the rope. Great! I clicked it into gear and turned the grip. But the grip didn’t turn. Thumb throttle. OK, so maybe it’s a little different than what I’m used to. I give it some gas and run right into the barb wire fence. Grady and Mike are long gone and I’m in some episode of the “Twilight Zone”. Nothing is what it seems and Rod Serling is standing just behind me with a suite and thin black tie on (didn’t that come back into style?) smoking a cigarette saying “Jeff, just when he thinks he knows it all…he enters the Twilight Zone”. I back up a little give it some gas and once again, right  into the fence. After a few minutes I get it going and for a half of mile I never felt sure of what would happen next.

It didn’t take me long to figure it out and of course, I had to have one of these things. So after owning several and racing a few and many, many hours of fun, they were gone. I actually remember when Suzuki came out with the first four-wheeler. I drove an hour to a Suzuki shop to see it in person. I really didn’t think at the time anyone would want a “four-wheeler” because three wheels had to be better. I also made the same assumption when cassette tapes first came out and Beta versus VHS. Don’t ask me about stuff like that. I still have a closet of stuff waiting for old to become new again.

Image

The Road Home

I have been living in this small town in Kansas now for about 45 years. White City hasn’t changed much over time and the same could be said about the people who live there, me included. That isn’t a bad thing, it’s just how it is. From White City you have to travel about twenty miles in any direction to get to another “incorporated” town. Skiddy, (look it up!) which is “unincorporated”, named after Francis Skiddy,  is about seven miles from White City and I’ve seen that town slowly turn into a memory of what it once was. The Pepsi sign on Mann’s Grocery is still there but the roof is not. The Standard station is a house now but for anyone with any history in the area, you know what I’m talking about. A church and a school are still standing but that’s about it. Population hasn’t change as there are maybe 20-25 that are living there.

Riding to work the past few days has been interesting. There is work being done on a pasture to remove a tree line for new fencing. I know some might think I’m a motorcycle vagabond, traveling the two-lane highways, sleeping on picnic tables and writing this stuff on discarded paper bags. The reality is I have a job and have traveled this road from White City for over thirty years. So as this work is being done the landscape around Skiddy is changing. Somewhat of a shock for a small town guy like me. I can only imagine the shock the citizens of Skiddy are experiencing as they are a smaller community than White City! Change just doesn’t happen that often so when it does it almost always makes the newspaper.

But this morning the trees have all been removed and now you can actually see around the curves for any oncoming cars or tractors. And I must mention it’s a nice view of the small valley into this pasture. This tree line has been there as long as I can remember and has defined this section of road. It’s forever gone and I’m a little sad. I know this road like the back of my hand. Now it looks like the back of someone else’s hand! At least this half of mile where the trees are gone!

I like it and as progress goes, so does Skiddy. A new fence will be up in no time and the cattle will have a new view of the passing traffic. I use the term “traffic” loosely as I passed two cars this morning in the first fifteen miles of my commute. And that’s OK, as a small town guy will tell you, “some, or a least most, things never change”!