A Letter to Miss Kylie

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My, how you’ve grown. It seems like just yesterday you were talking to us in sign language before you could put sentences together. Now look at you, smart, beautiful and all girl! And so this year you begin school and with that your life will slowly change and evolve into whatever and wherever you are destined to be.

You sure have a way about you. All “matter-of-fact” and funny, but you are also a very beautiful, independent young lady with an opinion and feelings that surface without warning. I look at you and I hear your mother saying the same things or acting in the same way – sensitive, compassionate and carefree throughout your day.  I also look at you and see your father. Stubborn and strong without a doubt, but that’s a good thing. You have the best of both your mom and dad, but you will also bring a little of yourself to the surface that defines who you are and who you will be. A head full of hair and big beautiful eyes with a hand that fits perfectly in mine.

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The one thing you don’t know about me is I can see the future. Very much like you are today, you will get through your worst days while every tomorrow gives you the chance to forget about what “has” happened and focus on what “will” happen. Nothing is so bad that you can’t get through it. Be yourself no matter what and do everything you can to make a difference in your life or someone else’s life. Some things you will have to find out for yourself and that is a part of growing up and you will never be alone even though some days it will feel that way. As you get older you’ll find that faith, family and friends are what really matter, and that a bad day at school, or the fight with a friend is temporary. And you will make friends. Lots of friends. You will find friendship in the most unlikely people, but more importantly, you will make a difference in someone’s life without even knowing it. You are that special. Like I always told your mother when she was your age, whenever there is a new student in school, always walk up and introduce yourself. If there is one thing they need at that moment, is someone to walk up and make them feel welcome. You might even make a life-long friend in the process. That also holds true no matter where you are in this life.

As you grow older, the answers to questions you have always had will be answered. Sometimes it’s not the answers you thought they would be, but realize that this is a part of life and we have all discovered it in our own way and our own  time. Don’t rush through it;  take your time to see the beauty of this world and witness all that God created. You will grow up fast enough and you will miss a few things along the way. But you will find as you get older, you will come to appreciate the wonders of this world and all the people who cross your path. It is a wonderful world and you are  just beginning your walk through it. When life gets hard to deal with, talk to your mother. She has an understanding of what things can be like when the world doesn’t turn your way. She’s had her moments, and still does, but she is funny and beautiful and only stronger because of it. Above all, keep a sense of humor.

I love spending time with you. You are very perceptive and it amazes me how quick you are with a smile and a laugh, and how much energy you have. When you are here visiting, it’s great to go for a walk to the park so I can bore you with stories of me growing up in this small town. I hope someday we can spend more time together, and we will, I know it. As you get older our conversations will change from “why” and “how come” to deeper talks about how you are doing at school and work, instead of me telling you about growing up in a small town. But I have a feeling in a few years you will again ask me how it was when I was growing up. Funny how that is.

There will come a time in your life when your daughter or son will become a living example of your childhood, and you will look back as a mother and realize how much your mom and dad love and care about you, even though sometimes it won’t seem like it. You can always come to me and tell me how you feel but I will always side with your mom and dad. I will do my best to listen, explain, hug and love you, because that is my job. I am here to give you perspective on things and life in general-all the while loving you with all my heart. You will understand when that day comes and you become a parent and grandparent.

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Just like your mom and dad, there is nothing better as a parent than watching your children grow. That’s where you and Casen come in – watching both of you grow is nothing short of a gift for an old guy like me. You have a way of making everything else seem a little less important and you give me the gift of allowing me to put my life into perspective. And when there is a smile on your face it puts a smile on mine. That is the difference you have made in my life, without even knowing it. See? I told you I could predict the future!

Miss Kylie, you are an amazing young lady with your life just beginning. You will do extraordinary things along the way, but first things first. Know that I love you and I always will and I am always here for you no matter how far away it seems. You are a joy in my life that nothing can replace.

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A Short Ride

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I’m not sure of the exact moment it happened, but it did. Maybe it happened over time as if the water was contaminated and I was drinking from the garden hose. But somewhere, sometime, that young kid from White City Kansas grew up. I look back at all the time wasted on the small stuff when I should have been looking around right there “in the moment” and taking it in. There is nothing wrong with just wasting the day watching the clouds overhead or throwing rocks in the creek, and come to think of it, we should probably do more of that as adults. What I really mean is there is no substitute for “awareness.”

But as a young boy life is happening all around you and all you can think about is magnifying glasses and BB guns. It was the simple things that kept me occupied. Time flies and the next thing you know, you look around at your life and realize it’s the simple things that make you happy. Family and friends are more important than ever and there are days that go by so fast you can’t keep up.

So what’s this all have to do with motorcycles? Glad you asked. We get so worked up about taking a ride or going somewhere that we forget that it can be a simple, short ride into the country to just get you back on track. It doesn’t have to be a “planned ride” or group ride to make you feel better. Sometimes we have this notion that a ride has to epic to count-it doesn’t. So ride today. Take a 10 mile ride to hear the motor humming and the sun on your face. Don’t forget to stop at that old bridge and throw a few rocks in the creek-it might even bring a smile to your face.

Snapshot

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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!

Dad

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Dad,

Somethings are hard to say out loud. Like, “I broke the lawn mower” or “I put a dent in the truck”. As hard as it was to fess up to something, you showed me it was OK to. And I’m not sure if it was something I had to say as a boy because I think you already knew most of what was going on when it came to us kids. I know this now, as I’m a father myself. But some of the harder things to say back then have become so much easier to say now that I have grown to really appreciate who you are as a man in my life.

I want you to know that I couldn’t have had a better childhood. You gave me so many things a young boy needs to grow into the man I want to be, without making it difficult. It was easy to be your youngest son and there were so many times that I was amazed at what you could do. Maybe you knew I was watching, maybe you didn’t but I loved seeing what you were building or fixing. Hands on, focused and making it look easy. That’s just how you did it.

I like to think I’m a lot like you. If I don’t seem that way it’s not for a lack of trying. You have a good sense of humor but I will probably give most of the credit to mom. But you and mom together…cracks me up! Where I really wish I could be like you is the talent you have with your hands. It all comes natural to you and I could only hope to be half as good as you are when it comes to woodworking. Sure the old saying of “measure twice, cut once” comes to mind. But you just knew how something was going to turn out before you picked up a hammer or saw. For me it’s more like “cut once, go back to Home Depot”.

But back to the things that are hard to say out loud…never mind about the truck or lawn mower. Thanks for being my dad. You did a great job and I love you. You taught me so much without saying a lot and you led by example. I thank you for making me a good father for my two sons. I use you as MY example when it comes to my boys. I know it was hard for you to retire from what you loved doing and I fully understand the difficulty in putting the hammer down and taking it easy. You’ve earned it and more importantly you deserve it. Mom appreciates it too.

But the one thing I have always wanted to say to you but haven’t…

Dad, I’ve always needed you.

 

 

White City, Ks. 66872

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Driving down the old brick main street of White City, it dawned on me how much everything has changed. As a kid growing up here there was so much going on in a town where not much goes on. The pace is slow and the town is small, but when you’re a kid in the 60’s and ’70’s all you had to do was ride your bike down the sidewalks past Anderson Lumber and Hardware where my mother worked part-time. You could walk in and buy a Daisy BB gun right off the wall behind the counter. I wish I would have paid a little more attention to my mother while she was working. Funny and graceful I’m sure, but I would like to go back in time and see her in action. She is still very funny, but age and health has taken the grace from her step.

On the same side of the street was the White City Register. The local and surrounding newspaper, where Lacey Mahon did it the old school way. I can’t imagine what it took to do a weekly paper but he and his son John did a great job. My sister Jan worked there part-time and I’m sure at a time in her life that carries a lot of memories, she will smile when reminded of this.  Next door to the newspaper office was the KP&L office and the Phelps Agency. Clarence Phelps sold insurance and it wasn’t a building I needed to walk into much as a young boy but I did on occasion. But mostly I remember the air conditioner that was above the door that dripped down outside on the sidewalk. Being a kid on a bicycle you tend to notice that kind of thing.

On the corner was Herb Funk’s Vicker’s Station. Herb had the air lines out across the driveway and we couldn’t resist every once in a while to ride across and make the bell ring. An old Pepsi chest vending machine and two old chairs inside for the regulars to sit on, the place was small enough that you had to step outside to change your mind.

On the next block was the laundry mat where many a day was wasted sitting outside on the steps. Not much to report here mostly because there never was much going on. It was a laundry mat for crying out loud! Next door was a church and Kohler T.V. and Appliance. John was a very public guy and was the Mayor for many years. I can remember riding by and looking in the windows at all the inventory. If memory serves me correctly, my folks bought our first color T.V. there. The RCA that changed the way we watched Gilligan’s Island and Big Valley. Amazing.

A little further down was a phone booth where a call could be made for ten cents. Or you could dial home and hang up when you needed a ride, without putting a dime in. You could hear the person who answered but they couldn’t hear you, so you would often hear from the other end of the line when calling from there or from the payphone at the high school “is this Jeff?” “If you need a ride home, hang up”. What a world we lived in back then…

The Jones’ had a clothing shop and there was a barber shop next door to it. Erichson had the pool hall and Perry Moore had one of the two grocery stores. I spent a lot of time in both the pool hall and the grocery store. Pool tables and pinball machines along with some locals playing dominos was a way to spend a few hours on a summer day between mowing yards. And Moore’s Market was a place to pick up a few things for my mother and have Perry “put it on the ticket”. Great to be a kid in a small town.

On the other side of the street was the Standard Gas Station and Spohn’s Repair Shop. Ash’s Repair shop was just a door or two down from Spohn’s and Buck’s Service station. Again not someplace a kid needed to go but it always seemed there was a lot going on there. The Post Office and Ken and Barb’s Cafe was next door to them. Ken and Barb’s was a neat place to go and how I wish we still had a Cafe or Diner like that. Ken and Barb did a great job. Vernon Rose had the other grocery store and it too was a cool place to walk into as a kid. Vernon’s Market was in the biggest building in White City and to this day is still a pretty neat old building. Like all of the business owners in town, Vernon was a good guy.

The White City Bank where Boone Scott took care of all my mowing money is on the corner across from Vernon’s Market. Can you remember a time when a bank didn’t have an ATM or drive-up window? I do. There was a Masonic Lodge, a bar called “Walt’s” and a farm implement dealer that was owned by Russell Brown. Did you blink? All of these and a few more business’s were located within the two blocks of main street. Since those days there have been many more people involved in the local business’s like Christlieb’s, Parker’s, Guimond’s, Fielder’s, Wood’s and Debbie Blythe. Bill Hickman and both Keith and Joann Kahnt, Rusty Rice and Ingmire’s to name a few. Lee’s Plumbing and Jamie Schmidt with Town and Country Beauty Shop and Alan Scott with The Katy Grill. I know I haven’t named them all and believe me there are more. Bill Calvin was a local welder, Bill Hare worked on small engines behind Vernon’s Grocery, the Mor-Kan Elevator, Barber and Son Construction, Junior Hultgren moving houses, Robert’s also owned a gas station, Keith Barber had the pool hall, Wayne Hultgren still has a repair shop and Frankie Nelson runs the library. Leo Hultgren sold Ohlde seed and Dale Scott with his NC+.

Life in the fast lane I know, but you had to be there to understand the impact all of these business’s and great people had on the community. They managed to provide and thrive in a small town and keep it all wrapped up in a town of about five hundred. You didn’t need to leave town for anything and I would give anything to have that back. But the amazing part of this is we still have the “small town” thing going on. That’s why in my mind, I can still drive down Main Street and see the drip from the air conditioner at Phelps Agency.

The Dip in the Road

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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.

The Price We Paid in the ’70s

As a teenager in the ’70s I was completely distracted by girls and motorcycles. If I only knew then what I know now, I would be in better shape with both motorcycles and women in general. You see, some of the motorcycles I owned back then have become new again. Highly desirable and worth more money than originally priced. Examples include, Honda 305 Scrambler,  1975 Yamaha DT175, Harley-Davidson X90, 1976 Husky 175, a Yamaha TY250 Trials and the list goes on and on. Sometimes, even in the moment, we are aware we should hold on to something with everything we have knowing we may never get them back. I know now I was never thinking they would be worth more than what I had invested, but living in the moment has its price. And I paid that price in full.

I was a child of that era and it goes beyond just motorcycles and girls. Cars and trucks came and went just as easy. 1966 Plymouth Fury, 1970 Dodge Charger, 1972 Dodge Charger, 1956 Ford truck, 1961 Ford truck Uni-body, 1949 Chevy truck, 1967 Chevy short-wide bed truck…see the trend? What was I thinking? But you have to remember, to me, cars and bikes were just a moment in time. Girls on the other hand were different. Like hair styles and bell bottoms. High School and dating. Transportation and recreation. Buy and sell or trade. Some were great deals and others were, well… not so great.

Even the Levi’s I was wearing back then are worth money! Say what? Yes, and in high demand. I’m not sure the pea green or sky blue leisure suites my mom made for me with her McCall’s Patterns would be worth much now, but who knows? Stranger things are happening. Some people save things from their past with hopes of it being worth something, but when it comes time to actually sell said things, they can’t part with them. They have a name for that. Hoarding.

As much as I appreciate the beauty of the Honda 305 Scrambler or the ’70 Dodge Charger, I can truly say that I am so much happier having owned and enjoyed them without the worry of damaging them or decreasing their value in some way. We rode hard and drove hard back then because we were living life. 8-track music blaring through cheap speakers or our Levi’s bell bottom pant leg chewed up from the chain of our motorcycles. It didn’t matter because we had a date that night!