Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mickey Mouse and The Preacher Man

The Old Man has a few "preacher genes" in his bloodline.  Not to say they are particularly dominant, but when I look back through the haziness of memory and recall some of the stories I heard, coupled with a few experiences, some degree of order develops.

I understand my great-grandfather on my father's side of the tribe was a Baptist preacher.  At some point in his life, according to family legend, he bailed out of rural Virginia, grabbed himself a new wife, and high-tailed it to the state of Washington.  Since Miss Martha still has to contend with me, I assume that gene skipped a few generations.

My dad, on the other hand, got a full dose of preacher DNA.  He was never formerly trained, ordained, or any of the other accouterments associated with the profession, but rather had a heart for service, a love for people, and a deep spirituality that radiated out of him like Christmas day dinner smells from grandma's kitchen.  One day, he crashed headlong into Mickey Mouse, and Mickey lost.

This was back around 1950.  Some of the small churches scattered around the county banded together and hired one preacher, splitting the cost between them.  He literally "rode the circuit", preaching at one of the churches this week, another next week, and so on.  In addition to his preaching duties, this preacher was also a member of a volunteer fire department.  While on a fire call, part of the burning building fell on him and he was horribly burned.  His recovery time went on for months and months, leaving all four of the churches with no minister.  Enter my dad.

Dad "rode the circuit" for many, many months.  I remember the names of the churches; Mentow, Palestine, Radford, and Staunton River.  I also remember that after each service, we were usually invited to dinner (nobody called it lunch back then).  I ate so much fried chicken, I began to do a daily check to see if I had sprouted feathers.

One Sunday, in the hot summer, we were sweltering away in one of the churches.  The funeral home fans were moving at warp speed, and the pungency of Evening in Paris, and 10 other perfumes mixed with Old Spice and pure people-smell was up to near toxic level. Dad was in his element.  He wasn't a screamer, but was just a good, solid, no ers or ums, preacher.  I was all cool in my white bucks and sport coat, sitting on the front row with Mom, sweating like I was spreading asphalt in August, and sneaking glances at my brand new Mickey Mouse watch I'd gotten for passing to the next grade.  According to Mickey, it was a couple of minutes before noon, and Dad didn't seem near wrapping things up.  At five after twelve, I was sure Mickey had a flaw and turned the hands back to twelve.  Preacher Dad continued on.  The second five after twelve came, and once again I fumed at Mickey and turned him back again.  Dad was really rolling now.  I gave it until ten after this time and finally decided that maybe Mickey had spent too much time around Goofy, so I just pulled the stem out to stop his suffering.

Dad finally wrapped up his sermon and we retired to yet another plate of fried chicken.  Dad apologized for "running over" his time and said his watch had run down allowing the time to get away from him.  If only he had had my buddy Mickey.

Mickey didn't survive my childish curiosity at his inner mechanisms.  When an eight year old takes a watch apart, there is very little chance of it going back together, and Mickey was no exception.

Both Mickey and the Preacher Man are a long time gone.  Sure would be nice if I could have them both back.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Original "Big Mac"

The Old Man is going to be working through this back thing for quite a few months, but I promise, I will not subject you to a constant barrage of medical information causing your eyes to glaze over and a united scream of "get a life" be mounted that can be heard by those aboard the International Space Station.  Today's post uses some of this info as a "tie-in".  Rest easy.

I was given a brace to be worn at all times except when sleeping in order to assist in protecting Mr. Dearly Departed's bone donor contribution now residing in my spine.  It needs 3-4 months to "take root" and complete the firming up process that should get me movin', groovin', shaggin' to the oldies, and otherwise enjoying life once again.  The brace calls up memories of my Uncle Mac and his back apparatus.

Saying Mac was a character is like saying the little lizard that peddles insurance on TV is a T-rex.

Harry McDonald blew into this world on August 27, 1895.  He served our country in the U. S. Navy during WW I, and came out determined to catch up on what he missed during his military days.  Mac was what the old folks called "a rounder".  "Whirlwind" is probably a better description.  Mac grabbed life like a shark would grab a ham.

At one time or another, Mac played what passed in those days for semi-pro football, hunted and fished at every opportunity, chased the chase-able, sipped the sip-able, and boxed just for the fun of it.  But Mac's true love was for motorcycles. He and a group of his buddies rode at will in the hills and over the dusty roads of Bedford, Roanoke, and surrounding counties.  In those pre-Marlin Brando "Wild Ones" days, Indian was the bike of choice and Mac and his buddies spent most weekends "war-pathing" somewhere.  Not looking for trouble, mind you, but just enjoying each other's company and the feeling of freedom that was gradually being encroached upon by the heathen god, Progress.

In this picture, Mac is the third from the right, with his arms crossed.  The guys were getting ready to trail ride up Sharp Top Mountain at the Peaks of Otter.  There's a road part way up now and a trail the last few hundred yards, all very civilized, but back then, you made your own way.  Some scratched their heads.....Mac just said, "Let's go".  At the top, celebration time.
There's Mac, front row-center with that ear-to-ear grin on his face.  I note that some of the other very well dressed biker dudes had a "holy crap we did this" look on their faces. But Mac was just caught up in joy.

After Mac died, I somehow ended up for a while with this huge leather brace thing he wore when riding.  It looked a little like a crude imitation of things I've seen weight-lifters wear from time to time.  It was most certainly hand made by Mac, as he was the complete tinkerer.  Made of solid, heavy leather with 3-4 buckles, I understand how it may have helped during those trail rides.  Mine is a conglomeration of plastic, nylon, and Velcro, I'm sure designed by some very smart people.  Mac probably said, "My back hurts, maybe a wider belt would help......let's see here".

My mom's sister lassoed the whirlwind and Mac calmed down...........a little.  He spent a career with the railroad, provided a good home, and retired in good stead.  He continued to tinker in his basement workshop and one day somehow managed to saw off a finger or two on a band saw.  He was home alone at the time so he soaked a rag in turpentine, wrapped it around the stumps and drove himself to the doctor.  Pure Mac.

Our girls remember Mac as a feeble, shuffling, probably kind of scary, old man, most often in a bathrobe, who would have moved heaven and earth to make sure he had a quarter to give each of them when we would visit.  

I've somehow managed to misplace his leather brace and I regret it deeply.  When I was younger, it was just something to move around and get out of the way, but now.....oh, but now.

Every morning, for a while, I'll buckle my orthopedic wonder around my waist and I fully expect to hear Uncle Mac saying, "Buckle up, boy....it's time to ride".

Sunday, April 7, 2013


The Old Man's space odyssey continues.
Either three hours or eight seconds later, this nice lady was leaning over my bed  welcoming me back to Earth.  "Good afternoon, Mr. Jackson, how are you feeling?"  "How am I feeling?"  Hell lady, I don't even know where I am, and why do you look like Bette Midler with a full beard?  Com'on....give me a couple bars of "The Rose" so I can maybe figure things out.
I think I might have been a little better off asleep, because when I woke up again, Bette looked more like Brett and the whole beard thing made more sense.

I've learned a lot from the experience. For example; some nurses like to remain incognito.  One came to my bed and said, "Hello, my name is Sue."  The other nurse said, "That's not her real name."  Nurse 1 said, "Yeah, that's right but I'm going to remove your catheter, and I don't want you to hunt me down later."   It didn't take me but a minute to understand.  About 3-4 hours later, I discovered that another medical miracle related to that process had occurred.  Magically, they had figured out a way to turn ordinary urine into napalm.  If the Allies had known about this, WW II would have lasted 4 days.

Finally in a room of my very own, surrounded by friends and my treasured Miss Martha, realities became more apparent.  I became acutely aware of time.  I measured it in doses of pain medications, and programmed "wake-ups" for vital sign checks, drain checks.....say what?  "Drain checks"....there's stuff draining out of me?  Huh?  Suppose I need it?  And then one of the nurses made the true confession:  I needed to "void".  Lady, I've been in a void for the past 8 hours.  I've seen Bette Midler with a full beard, Godzilla in a tutu, Frankenstein's monster hitchhiking down I-40, and 4 pigs roasting me and my friend Gary on a cooker.  As she explained in a little less technical terms what she meant about "re-installation", I visualized a flame-thrower reversing itself and grabbed the walker at warp speed.

I'm doing a lot better.  The doctor says I'm "right where I should be" which is somewhat of a rarity in my life, and I must close with a word of high praise for the dedication, caring, and gentleness, I received in the hospital.  Personnel were attentive to my needs, the food was actually good, and my paths crossed with some dedicated people who gave no obvious thought to themselves.  Like the technician who came on duty late at night after working another job all day, and would continue to work a day job again after her shift was over.  By my count, she hadn't slept in at least two days, but her attention to me never wavered  and she showed no hint of frustration or impatience.  She was as gentle at the end of her shift as when it began.

 My whining ceased.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Adventures in The Twilight Zone

The Old Man recently returned from time-traveling back to an earlier era.  Surgery under deep anesthesia allows for visits to some interesting places in the company of a variety of characters that Rod Serling in his heyday would be hard pressed to dream up.

I'm presently recuperating  from a spinal fusion involving cages, rods, screws, and even some bone matter, involuntarily donated by an unknown person who now flies in other skies.  My friend, Jay, had a knee repaired several years ago using cadaver bone, and I'm convinced that it was from some dead world-class golfer since he now can hit the ball a gazillion yards.  Maybe I'll be able to sing opera, but considering my usual luck with things of chance, I'll probably have to have words of more than 5 letters explained to me.

Here's what I recall of my adventure.
I have heard rumors that there is indeed a time on the clock of 5:30 A. M., but have mostly been successful, until now, of not confirming that depressing fact.  By 5:45, my dignity took a hit and I had to put on a dress.  They gave me a blanket and when I remarked I wasn't cold, they said, "Yes, but you seem to be pretty unaccustomed to wearing a dress, so.............

Wonderful friends came and had prayer with us, and then it was "post time".  Down the hall to be prepped, by now, paranoid about holding my blanket, we sailed into a room with other folks scrambling to manage their blankets as various people scurried about, or sipped coffee, or just quietly chatted.  I don't recall any of these folks names, but I'll call them something just for clarity.

Renfield said, "Now I'm going to set up your IV connection so we won't have to keep sticking you".  Good plan.  A minute or two after Ren's "stick and little burn", I heard him say, "Well, we didn't get the vein".  "We?"  I chanced a glance and my hand was dripping like a bag of blood worms that had been shot with a 12 gauge.    Let me guess, Rennie, "another stick and burn, right?".  This time "we" dead centered the little fellow.

I figured we'd use my new-found portal to add some type of goof-ball concoction to make things seem a little calmer.  I asked Renfield about this since my insides were jumping around like a Chihuahua who'd just lapped up 2/3 can of Red Bull if now was when they would give me a "little something" to say "down boy".  "We don't do that any more", he said.  "Seems people would forget that their doctor had been by to talk to them prior to surgery, so we had to quit".

Oh crap

I began to look around the room.  There were other people in various stages of "delight".  One lady was telling how this was her 4th back surgery, another was simply staring at the ceiling like a convict awaiting the governor to call the warden, and one guy was sound asleep with his tongue kind of hanging out the corner of his mouth, sort of like those old western movies where the cows were laying around the poison water hole.  In the meantime, the Chihuahua had finished the Red Bull and was  not content just to sit and nibble.

My doctor came by and had a short conversation with me, and as he walked away,  old Renfield either put a "little something" in my IV line or hit me in the head with a tire iron.

Next time:  The spaceship lands

Monday, March 18, 2013

Heading For The Ozone

The Old Man is heading out for a trip in unknown waters.  My grumpy, fussy, back has finally quit being grumpy and moved up to full-bore bitching and snarling.  It's gone from being a household pet to Cujo. I've had a three year battle with multiple (21) injections, weeks of physical therapy, and a 6 week round of acupuncture; all to no avail.  So now it's time to go off the high-dive and have surgery.

"Spinal fusion with instrumentation"......sounds like a rock band, but really means they are going to slice into my back, remove a disk, roto-root out some stenosis that is paying unwanted attention to a couple of nerves, insert a metal cage filled with some dead guy's bone matter and then staple me back together.  All this while I visit other planets in my mind, propelled there by medical miracle juice.

They say I'll have one of those pain-pump things.  Just tap and sunshine and rainbows will cross your field of vision.  I'm practicing Morse code so I can tapity-tap-tap the message to the pump, "Get your ass in here, buddy".

Hopefully, out of all this, I'll be better for the experience and maybe have a blog or two to amuse.  I'm shooting for the goal of leaping at least short buildings in a single bound, but will accept getting from the den to the kitchen without wanting to cry.  Wish me luck.

See you later, folks.

Monday, February 18, 2013

What's A "Maaco"?

The Old Man is going to have a sort of a "make over" in a few weeks.  A fellow who's been a little further in school than I have is going to perform some cutting, splicing, and welding on my lower back.  I think the official word for it is "fusion" which, while it sounds like a fruit drink, probably feels more like a freight train hitting a stalled bulldozer.  At any rate, I'm optimistic that the back problems that have plagued me for nearly 3 years will become a memory, and I'll emerge from the "body shop" new and improved.

Over the years, I've had a degree of experience with auto body stuff.  I've done a little work with Bondo, and even painted a couple of cars along the way.  My efforts have met with mixed results but never measured up to the professionals.

Miss Alma was a different matter.

Mom was an adventure looking for a location.  She was never reluctant to tackle a project, heedless of its complexity, and she always gave it her absolute best efforts.  One of the things that Mom loved to do was paint.   She would paint inside, outside, or in the yard.    She painted furniture, appliances, walls, porch railings, you name it.  Had I stood still, its quite possible she might have painted me.  She even painted an old buggy that we had in our side yard for a few years.  A brilliant white and red, it caused traffic to slow when each year Dad would fill it with pots of flowers.
One summer morning when I woke up, I asked, "What are we going to do today, momma".  She answered in her matter-of-fact way,  "I figured we'd paint the car".

It was shortly after WW II.   So many things had been rationed or even unavailable during the war, so this was a period of awakened consumption.  We had an old Dodge coupe that we'd had for a while, but had been very limited in the time it could be driven.  All around Bedford, folks were emerging from the wartime mists and beginning to refresh, renew, and starting to move ahead.  I guess Mom was caught up in the movement.

I was just a little kid and didn't know anything about painting a car, but I was a willing accomplice.  So I obediently "heeled" and we headed out into the back yard.  Mom had laid in her materials and supplies.  She had a gallon of enamel, some of Dad's old undershirts for rags, a can of turpentine and two brand new brushes; no masking tape, no drop cloths, and what's a spray gun?

Between the two of us, we painted that old Dodge.  Mom figured how to thin the paint so that it leveled out pretty well, and she was smart enough to limit my painting to a few inconspicuous areas.  Dad was still walking to work then, so when he came home, Mom beamed with pride at her work.  He just grinned at her and pulled it into the ramshackle garage to keep bugs and leaves from settling into the wet surface.  Mom was not a complicated person.....simple problem, simple solution.

We kept that Dodge for several more years, and the paint job was just as sound when Dad traded it in as when it was new.  Fishing trips, daily use, visits to family, and church were all conducted in what became known as "Babe's chariot".

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"And They Come Roaring Out"

The Old Man caught one of those 1950's hot rod movies on TV the other night.  It sent the memory wheels spinning and I dredged up thoughts of The Roadmasters.  During the '50s, the Hollywood flick de jour was heavily weighted toward low-budget productions that pandered to teen interests;  girls, hot cars, girls in hot cars, hot girls in cars, monsters being fought by boys while protecting girls in hot cars, and girls in poodle skirts dancing with boys in leather jackets and ducktail haircuts while their hot cars lined up around the drive-in restaurant.  Bedford was about as far removed from that Hollywood characterization as Idi Amin is from Mother Teresa.  None of my friends had what could be termed a true "Hot Rod".  Most of us drove the family car and spent more time in denial than someone with a Donald Trump comb-over.

Kenny and I were a couple of good examples.  I drove the really 'screaming' 53 Dodge that served as our family car.  This monster would only "get a wheel"  before the chains were put on in a snow storm.  The "super powerful" 6-cylinder engine was coupled to some monstrosity of a transmission called "Fluid Drive".  To get it to change gears, you had to take your foot off the gas and allow a momentary hesitation during which you would hear a "clunk" indicating the gear had changed. Speed-shifting in it meant you could get from the front seat to the back seat quickly. I'd usually get customarily quiet when the guys would talk about going out to The Lake stretch for a 'run'.  That Dodge would have fared poorly on the stretch against even a 3-legged mule.

Kenny occasionally had access to a sweet little old lady's Pontiac.  Still following some inner urge to hear tires screech, he developed a technique that amazes me to this day.  Kenny would put the car in reverse, back it up, and then quickly jerk it into Drive.  As we were scraping ourselves off the ceiling of the car, we could count on the rear tires spinning a bit with that satisfying squeal.  His technique failed us only once that I can recall.  While making one overly ambitious move, the rear end sounded as if it were disassembling itself, and Kenny drove the car home accompanied by whangs and bangs mixed with clicks and clucks.

Tucker and a couple of other guys came up with the idea of forming a car club.  They called it The Roadmasters and we met in a room over Tucker's family's garage.  It was a worthy club.  We even had jackets.....white jackets with "The Roadmasters, Bedford, Va" printed on the back in bright red. We looked at ways to do community service; parked cars at events, that sort of thing.  At our meetings, we discussed cars, projects, automotive dreams, girls in hot cars, and who'd been out to The Lake stretch lately.

Kenny and I usually rode together to the meetings.  We'd be in either the green bomb (Dodge) or that wild-ass Pontiac.  Every time we'd leave, Kenny would pick up a line from the hot rod movie trailers and say, "And they come roaring out".  It just seemed to cap off the evening.

I don't know how many of The Roadmasters are still around these days.  Kenny is gone, and with him, a boatload of talking about good times.  Tucker is gone, his existence stolen in a Southeast Asian cess pool.  Others I just don't know about.  But whenever I run across one of those movies on late-night TV, I usually manage to raise a glass to the "back then" in all of us.