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Monday, June 30, 2014

Odd Memory Popping In



Odd Memory that just Popped In


 


   I have never felt that I have been prejudiced against other people. I have grown up around all kinds of different folks, had friends and playmates without ever thinking of what color there skin was or what church they went to. To this day I still don't care. The only way I try to judge people is by what they do. Good folks come in all sizes, shapes and colors the same as bad people. But, sometimes I have to look back and wonder if I was raised that way without even realizing it.


   The first time I can remember seeing discrimination I didn't even know what the word was I only knew it's the way things were and no one ever talked about it. Now lot's of folks may think that since I grew up as a redneck in Oklahoma that would be the place I saw it. You would be wrong. Good ole Arizona was the spot. I can remember two separate water fountains on the outside of the Cozy Cafe and one of them was labeled Whites Only. As little kids we didn't pay much attention to that. If we were thirsty we drank from which ever one was available.  I don't know what the adults did, I don't remember ever seeing one drink from either. A lot of my early memories are fro the 50's and 60's so maybe that explains it but, at the same time, a lot of my early memories from Oklahoma are during that same time.


   Chandler (Az) was kind of like three separate towns back then one end was pretty well all white, then there was an area where most of the black folks lived and the very end of town was where the Mexicans mostly lived. There was over-lapping of course. The cozy was in lap-land. One of my best friends in Az. was Jimmy Chrispon. his family owned a car salvage yard next to the Cozy and they lived in a house right behind the cafe. Since we lived in a trailer behind the cafe it was only natural that we ended up as playmates and from there to friends. Another of our group was Elvis who just happened to be black. he was just part of our group and we counted him as a friend even though we all made fun of him over his name. All of us went to each others houses to play and all of us took turns spending the night at each others houses same as any other friends did. The only thing that confused me back then was some of my other friends, mostly white, didn't seem to have ant problem with jimmy but the didn't want to hang out with Elvis. I guess I was a little naive back then because I always thought they just didn't like him.


   My first memory of the Cozy was when it was just a square wooden building with an "L" shaped counter and booths around the outside.  I remember my stepdad and uncle building another room off the back of it. We really like it when it was done. It had this really neat Dutch door to the main cafe so we could get something to eat or drink. There were 4 booths along one wall but the best part was that they put pinball machines in it! We seldom went to the front part after that.


  Again, maybe I should have noticed more. They only folks that ever sat back there to eat were black. They would go to the dutch door and order their food and then go back and pick it up when the waitress brought it. The waitresses never brought the food into that room, they just delivered it to the door. It's just the way it was and since everyone else seemed to except it why would I question it?


   I started to school at Nelson-Wilkes in chandler. It was an integrated school even then but of course I didn't know that and wouldn't have know what it meant even if someone had tried to explain it to me. It's the school where all my friends went and that's all i cared about. My biggest problem with the first grade was the fact they kept trying to call me Johnny when i knew my name was buddy, me and the teachers had some problems because I wouldn't answer when they called my name..  Meanwhile, when i moved back to okieland and started to school there we also had black kids in our class so i didn't really see any difference there. I'm sure lots of folks will point out to me just how dumb I was when it came to things like that and maybe I was, but, in my defense, No one else every committed on how things were done and how many other grade school kids thought about that kind of stuff?


   I didn't even think about how things were until I was 11. I went back and forth between Oklahoma and Arizona several times when I was a kid. It seemed like I ended up living with most of my family on both sides before I settled in with my Grandma. i made s lot of those trips with other family members but the one that sticks out most in my mind was the first bus trip I made by myself. I caught a city bus right in front of the chandler Cafe where Mom worked and rode it to Phoenix where I transferred to the bus that took me to Oklahoma. I was 11 then and down right proud of myself for being able to do this on my own.


   I caught the bus just like I was supposed too and of course since I was a kid and the bus was pretty well empty I took the seat right behind the driver so I could look out the front window. About two stops later there was a little black lady that got on the bus. She was not a young lady  and she was having a little problem even getting on the bus because she was using a cane and had grocery bags in her arms. Since I was in the first seat i scooted over so she could sit next to me. After all these years i can still remember when she got to the top of the steps she looked at me and smiled. i can also remember that she just kept walking by me. I didn't understand that. She could have sat down instead of walking by. I thought maybe she just didn't realize that I had scooted over so she could share so I called out to her that she could share my spot and didn't need to go any farther. She just kind of waved and kept walking so, being a kid i figured she either didn't hear me (she was old) or didn't understand so I told her again, lots louder that time. She ignored me but the driver didn't. He turned around, touched my arm because I was busy looking at the lady and when i turned around he said in a quite voice that she couldn't share my seat because she had to sit in the back. I thought that was the rudest thing I'd ever heard someone say. I could see from where I was at that the back seats weren't any bigger than the one I was sitting in so there wasn't any more room for her to put her grocery's than there would have been next to me. I even told the driver that it was Ok, I be willing to move to the other side of the bus so she would have room for her grocery's. I didn't say it in a quite voice either which may have been the reason that he got a little rude with me and told me to sit down and be quite! Kind of hurt my feelings but being a typical kid I sat back down, shut up and didn't think anymore about it.


   Meanwhile, back in okieland. One of the guys in our class was black. Again we never thought about that, he was just another kid in our class. He wasn't a close friend but I always counted him as a friend. To tell the truth I can't remember when he came to our class it seems like he was always there. Neither Stanley or I ever thought anything about it until we were in the 7th or 8th grade. I don't remember which grade it was but I do know it was the year we discovered the skating rink in Henryetta. We feel in love with going skating so of course we wanted everyone else to get in on it. We invited everyone in our class to come skating with use including Leon. Most never did but it didn't stop us from asking. We had to work most of the time just to get the money to go skating and we knew that since most kids were just as pour as us they didn't always have the money to go. We both thought that was the problem with Leon. We both liked him and didn't want to embarrass him but we did want to share skating with home so we asked a few more times. we even managed to get in the fact that we had enough money to pay for him to go and we even had a ride that would come by and pick him up. We weren't sure but we thought maybe he didn't want to go because everyone knew that we hitchhiked to town al the time. but he still turned us down.


   We happened to be over at Stanley's house one time and I guess Stanley's dad overheard us talking about the fact that Leon must not like us because he didn't want to go skating with us and we couldn't figure out why. It's wasn't like we were trying to get to best friends or anything, we just wanted someone to go skating with us. Stanley's dad told us that liking or not liking didn't have anything to do with it, he didn't think Leon would be comfortable being in Henryetta after dark. That really threw both of us for a loop! We knew that Leon liked to go coon hunting and it didn't bother him to be out in the middle of the river bottoms after dark so why the hell would he be worried about being in town after dark! Yes, we were stupid but we really had no idea what Stanley's dad was talking about. I have to take my hat off to Wilton (Stanley's dad) we both got an education that night about not only discrimination but about the history of Henryetta at the same time. It may sound dumb to other folks especially folks that lived in cities or different parts of the country but it totally shocked us. Without even talking about it or thinking about it we both made up our minds that we would never treat Leon or any other black people any different than anyone else! No better and no worse, and I hope that we have upheld that belief to this day.


   As a side note. This is mainly for the folks that grew up in Schulter. Everyone remember Fred Coleman? He was an older black man that always came to town driving a wagon a a team of mules. Most of the kids have ridden it that wagon. A lot of the kids from home never asked, they would just run out. jump on the end of the wagon, ride for a little ways and hope back off. I never, in all the years I knew him ever heard tell a kid they couldn't ride. In fact I seldom ever heard him say anything. it was almost like having to out up with it was his cross to bear. I am proud to say that neither Stanley or I (and I'm sure lot's of other kids" never rode in his wagon without asking first. And we addressed him as Mr. Coleman when we asked just the same as any other adult. of course had Stanley's dad or my Uncle Ullis would have heard us call him anything else they would have busted our asses!

GOLD !!

   Looking forward to Stanley getting here. Sounds like he should be rolling in about the 16th. The only bad thing is that he has to come up in July this year. Love having them get to come up but for what we enjoy doing August would be better. We're heading up to a couple of creeks and rivers to do a little prospecting but since it's gonna be July all we can do is pans, sluice box and metal detectors. Can't use a dredge up here until August. I have no doubt that we're going to be able to find a little but you got to get super lucky to find a lot when that's all the equipment you can use. Of course the hard part is that even if you find some coming up with the funding to develop a claim is gonna be rough for a couple of gimps like us and being able to actually work a claim is wishful thinking!
   Our gold mining now days would be both of us sitting in chairs next to the creek with people a lot younger and in better shape (that wouldn't take much!) out in the creek. That way we can just point and say "Dig there"..:-) But, that's not going to stop us from trying! The great thing is just going to be the country we're going to be camping in! Sitting around a camp fire and visiting is one of our favorite pass times. We do that in the yard and love it and when you get to do it up in the Cascade Mountains surrounded by huge trees looking up at a sky that seems so close you could touch the stars that is special!
   I am hoping we're going to be able to find more than just flakes this year because I'll be posting some pictures and I'd sure like to show off a pan full of nuggets!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bum Leg Two


Bum Leg Two

 

   Just a couple of other ways my loving and caring wife has shown her support over the years.

   Some of the first few legs I had the foot was held to the bottom of the leg with just a bolt. I really like those because I could change the foot and be able to wear different kinds of shoes, one for flat soles like work boots and one for high soles so I could still wear cowboy boots. The bolts were made of stainless steel so you'd think they would be really strong, however, with my ability to beat the edges off a steel ball with a rubber hammer I seemed to be able to find the weak points.

   We stopped off at a little grab-it-and-run store to get something to drink one summer day. Dorris and I both hoped out and went into the store same as we always did with no problem. Wondered around gathering up stuff with no problem. Got up to the counter to check out, no problem. Headed back to the car with the stuff, no problem. Opened the door and stepped out on the sidewalk, Problem! The bolt holding the foot on broke.

   I couldn't pick my foot up because it would fall off and if it did it was going to rough trying to get back to the car. Thank God there weren't to many people around so it wasn't quite so embarrassing as I shuffled along, sliding the foot along the pavement with it doing a slow spin. At least it wouldn't have been if not for Dorris busting out laughing at the way the foot was spinning around. Even that would not have been so embarrassing if only she hadn't of started pointing it out to other people! I did appreciate the one guy coming over and offering to help, maybe I would have appreciated it more if he hadn't been laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. Gotta love the support and sympathy I got.

 

   We belonged to the Jaycees for awhile. I really enjoyed being part of that group and the things we did. One of my favorite things was to go to the meetings and events of other chapters. It was really fun getting meet so many different folks and the best part was the volleyball. I loved playing volleyball back then and the neat part was even though I really got into the game and played hard the were very few people outside our own group the knew I had an artificial leg!

   We were at a regional meeting so there were lots of people which meant we had no problem getting a game going. One thing about both Dorris and I, we are just a little on the competitive side, against each other as well as others and since we were the ones that got the games going most of the time we end up being on opposite sides. I tended to prefer playing in the second row because from there I could set up the front row and still be able to get in and cover the net if needed. I had a really good team and we were kicking but against the one Dorris was on which wasn't making her very happy.

   It was her teams turn to serve and she stepped up to help cover the net as the ball came over. Perfect timing for me. The ball came low over the net right to me and I decided to show-boat a little by jumping as high as I could an trying to slam the ball right down toward her. My plan even worked, kind of. I jumped high, I hit the ball hard, it cleared the net, the landing didn't go so well. When I came down I twisted the fake lag and fell down. When I hit the ground my leg came off.

   There I was laying on the ground with my leg off but the only people that knew I was really OK was my own group because they had see me do the same thing before, and Dorris. I will admit it did look kind of funny. You couldn't tell it was an artificial leg  because the top half was still covered by my jeans but there was no doubt that the one leg was about 6 inches longer than the other and twisted backward. Most of the other players were just standing there staring at me with shocked looks on the faces and I'm pretty sure that at least one woman was screaming. I remember at least a couple of people starting over to help me from the sidelines but the main thing I can remember is Dorris yelling "he's down, the nets clear, SPIKE that ball!"

   It took a little explaining before everyone understood that no, my leg wasn't broke and No, Dorris was not a heartless bitch that only cared about winning...

 

   Speaking of Jaycees - The first convention I went to had some fun points thanks to a Nut form another chapter. A lot of shared rooms in order to save money and it always seem that the room I was sharing with the Nut seemed to be one of the most popular ones for folks to gather in. I'm not sure how we got on the subject but the people in the room got to talking about sports, which led to athletes and who could do what which some how led to the Nut betting everyone in the room that I was so limber I could keep one foot on the floor and touch the ceiling with the other. Of course no one believed that since the ceiling was 8 feet above us and of course after having a few drinks there were several people that took him up on the bet. What can I say, I was all for it and thought it was just funnier than hell (I was one of the ones that had had a few drinks) As soon as everyone quieted down the Nut came over and stood next to me at which time I reached down, popped my leg off and stuck the foot on the ceiling. Lots of confused people there. Not because of what or how I did it, they were just confused as to weather we'd won the bet or did that count as cheating..

Bum Leg One


Bumleg One

 

   Sometime having an artificial leg can be a real pain. Summer seems to be the worse time because it's hard to keep you stump cool and dry when the whether is hot and if you don't you can end up with sore spots that only get worse if you don't take the leg off. The hard part of that is when you take it off you have to spend time riding them crutches around till it heals up and I don't know about other folks but I'd rather put up with a sore leg than ride them crutches!

   I have always figured that since you have one there are two ways to live with it. You set around and feel sorry for yourself for all the things you don't think you can ever do again and end up using it as an excuse for not doing things, or you can except it and concentrate on all the things you can do! I'm only talking about a below the knee amputation here. I have no idea what a person has to live with if you lose a leg above the knee. I know it must be a lot harder and takes a lot more work just from knowing people that have done it. Also I know that amputations effect different folks in different ways. To me having a below the knee amputation is not a handicap just a minor inconvenience. There is very little that I can't do because of having one. I might have to learn how to do them a little different or a little slower by I can still do them. One thing I think sets me apart for some other folks is the fact that mine was not a "Traumatic"  amputation. I knew I was going to end up with it some day and had time to get used to the idea to the point that when it happened I was prepared. I made the choice to have the leg removed when I did and have never regretted it. With the shape my real leg was in I can do more with the fake than I could with the real with much less pain! It has to be so much harder for someone to wake up with something gone from an accident with no warning no warning.  Anyway, enough preaching.

   One of the first things I found out was how helpful it was to have such a loving, caring and supportive wife, especially during the first few months when you're getting used to things. I found this out just a few days after I got out of the hospital. I had motorcycles before I got the amputation and since I had my left leg removed I didn't think I would be able to shift gears I would sell them (I did find out that once you got going you could always reach down and shift with your hand, not very safe, but fun). I had one of them parked in the front yard with a for sale sign on it. It had been sitting there without being started for awhile and I asked the wife if she'd go out and fire it up and let it run for a few minutes. She was willing but she had a few things to do so it would be a while. I was sitting on the porch with my stump propped up (the cast was still on) soaking up sun and the longer I sat there staring at that bike the more I figured that I could just go there and start it up myself.

   I told the wife not to worry I'd do it myself and the first thing out of her mouth was not to because I couldn't and would end up hurting myself! Well, I let her know right away that I could do anything I wanted (being half mule I tend to get a little stubborn). We had a little discussion about whether I should or shouldn't (heated at times) but she came around and agreed that I could and wouldn't have any problem. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the Way she said it instead of just hearing the words. She also said that since I was positive I could handle it not to expect any help from her. I do remember her saying that but I think I kind over looked that part.

   The first thing I had to do was get out of the chair, up on my crutches and off the porch. Almost fell off the porch on the way down and when I looked back she was just standing there in the door, smiling. Seeing that "I told ya so" smile just made me that more determined and out across the yard I went. You know, it's hard to go across a yard on crutches. The ends of the things keep sinking into the ground. Anyway, I made it out to the bike! Downright proud of myself! By Golly I'd show her that I didn't need any help!

   I got myself on the bike and leaned my crutches up against the right side. It was just sitting there on the kick stand so I had to be careful not to lean to far over. Thank got it was easy to start, all it took was a couple of kicks (no electric starter) and it fired right up! Now I was really proud of myself and leaned back to bask in my accomplishment.

   Things happened kind of quick then. Remember the soft ground I was having a little trouble with on the crutches? Well the kick stand for the bike was sitting on that same ground and since it leans a little to the left when it's on that stand when I leaned back on the seat the stand sunk into the ground. As soon as it started sinking the bike started leaning farther to the left. No problem, right?  I just stuck my left leg out to keep from falling over. It's hard to describe the odd feeling you get in the second when you realize that you just screwed up. I had just enough time to think "what the hell?" before me and the bike were both laying on the ground.

   Luckily I had rolled away from the bike and didn't end up with my stump stuck under it, unluckily, I had rolled away from it and since it was laying on it's side still running I couldn't get to the key to stop it. Dorris was still standing in the door watching so I called her to come out and help me. She just kept standing there. I hollered again (louder) that I need some help. Believe it or not, she just smiled and said "nope, you said you could do it". Pissed me off! I had to crawl over and turn the key off. Then I ask her to help me sit it back on the kick stand. I got another NO and a reminder that I had told her I could do everything by myself and a further reminded that she had said I would get no help from her. You know, it's a real pain to be on your knees trying to stand a bike back up? Oh yeah, small brained as I am I was pushing it up from the left side and was proud of myself when I got it up, of course I didn't even think about the fact that my crutches were laying on the ground on the other side of it. I knew there was no way she was going to come out and hand them to me so I had to crawl around and get them

   I finally got up and made it back to the porch, tripped on the top step, fell down and ended up crawling over to the chair. Once i managed to get my butt back into the chair she patted me on the shoulder and said "Well done" I don't think she really meant it. She smiled and went back in the house.

   After that I learned to pay a little more attention not only to what she had to say but HOW she said it..

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Prospecting!!

   Stanley is going to be heading this way the 12th Of July> He's going to be following a drunk snakes trail up here but should make it around the 15th. First order of business - pack up again and head up around MT. Si to do some gold prospecting! Want to strike it rich this time! But, even if we don't find anything it's a really pretty place to camp and you never know, we might even see Bigfoot!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Some Things We ate


   I'm not sure where I was headed when I started this one. I was just sitting around one night thinking about the things that we used to eat as a matter of course in Oklahoma that everyone in Arizona would have turned their noses up and yell EWWWW at the thought. That lead to some of the stuff I've eaten while staying in the "wild". Since I started doing that when I was pretty young I thought it was an American thing. Even studying about other country's in school, the don't tell you much about what folks eat, at least not the schools I went to. People always say "One man's trash is another man's treasure", as I have found over the years that same saying goes for food also!



Some things we ate

 

    I guess to some folks we might have ate some strange things when we were growing up but they were just everyday food to us. Never seemed to hurt us in anyway and besides, most of the time we thought we were pretty special cause we didn't have to just eat the same thing as all the other kids. Most of the non store-bought stuff came to the house for two simple reasons, Stanley and I both loved to hunt and fish!

   The number one thing (at least to me) was squirrel. I don't remember having it fixed it a lot of different ways and I'm sure the "Foodies" of today would turn their noses up at it but if you've never tried it, don't knock it. I turn my nose up when it comes to oysters, but I know a lot of folk like them slimy things and I figure, more power to them! Anyhow, the way I liked squirrel the best was to dredge it in seasoned flour and fry it. Dorris (my wife) had never even thought of eating a squirrel before we got married but it was a great surprise to me to find out that not only was she willing to go squirrel hunting with me and help me clean all of them, she was a natural cook when it came to frying them. From the first pan full she was always able to get them crispy golden brown on the outside and nice and moist on the inside! I've seen a hell of a lot of southern girls that had trouble cooking a good squirrel so imagine my surprise when I got this little ole Yankee girl that could do it so well! Course that wasn't the only thing that she took to like peas and carrots when it came to cooking, more later.

   Of course we ate a lot of fish. The eating was good but the catching was a whole lot better! We did have a definite hierarchy in the kind of fish. Number one was catfish and at the top of that list was flatheads followed by blue cats and last but not least, channel cats. I know that's not the same order for everyone but it was for us. We also liked bass and number one of that group was white bass, better known to us as sand bass. Truthfully the main reason they were number one was because we could catch so many of them when they made their annual run up the river and creeks down home. Large and small mouth bass were really good but they were a lot harder to catch. Some of the best eating we had was from perch and the reason they were so god was because we cooked and ate more of them in the woods than any other fish. They were so easy to just scale and roast over a campfire and a couple of Bluegills about the size or your hand made a good meal for the two of us.

   We ate a lot of ducks, doves and quail but not to many geese. There was really only two spots to find geese and they both involved in wading through real swampy areas to get to the decent hunting areas. Since duck and goose hunting was the last of November and the first of December and we never owned a pair of waders, we weren't to excited about the idea of wading through knee deep water, breaking the ice as we went. We also like little pigeons. Get them right when they were ready to leave the nest and you gots a bird that's as big as a quail and a lot easier to catch. We thought, at the time, that we had found something new, it was till years later that We found out what Squab really was and then couldn't believe how much some places charged for feeding people baby pigeons!

   So far most of this stuff hasn't been anything special and I'm sure they're are thousands of people who have grown up eating the same things. Most of the nuts and berries that grew around home are also common place and even a lot of the wild greens can be found in any local grocery store. However, there are a few things that we ate, some of which we liked a lot and some of which we didn't like quite so much, that you won't find in many, if any, grocery stores.

   Now, everyone that knows me knows I love squirrel but when I was in the 4th grade and living with my dad I only got to take sandwiches to school for lunch. I didn't really care for them sandwiches too much but it just so happened that one of the boys in my class did and it also just so happened that he brought fried squirrel for lunch quite often. Needless to say, it didn't take very long for us to work out a trade. Things worked out for a few months, I got the fried squirrel and he got the sandwiches and we both thought we were the winners.

   I was out wondering along the creek one day when I realized that I was not to far from his house and decided to mosey up and see if he was at home. When I got up to the house his mom told me he was out in the barn and I was welcome to go on out and see him. Bout the time I got to the corner of the barn I heard  a gun shot. I didn't have any idea what he might be shooting in the barn, but, he somebody was shooting and that's all it took to spark my interest. I came around the corner and saw him standing at the barn door holding a rifle and looking inside. I didn't want to scare away whatever it was he was shooting at so I eased up close enough to get his attention, waved at him then stuck my head around the door to see what he was after. I couldn't see a thing that he might be shooting at at first but then I saw him aim and looking in that direction I saw something moving in the straw. I couldn't tell what it was for sure, then he fired and I saw whatever it was jump. Next thing I new he was running toward the rear of the barn so of course I headed right along after him. My questions were answered when he bent down and picked up a large wood rat. Rat hunting out at the dump was a fun hobby back then but even though I knew that most barns down home were full of mice and rats this was the first time I'd ever seen anyone shooting them there. He brought the rat back to the door and tossed it on top of pile of other ones that I hadn't noticed. "You're doing good" I said.

"Not to bad so far" he said " I all most got enough"

 "Enough for what" I asked

 "Supper" he said.

   It took just a couple of minutes for what he'd said to sink in.

"I didn't know people would eat rats" I said

He just smiled and said "You do"

   Now I will admit, I was just a little pissed to find out the squirrel I been trading my sandwiches for had really be wood rats, but after I got over the being mad part I started thinking. Wood rats are really just a slick tailed squirrel. They eat the same things a squirrel does and I had to admit that they tasted the same. I ended up still trading my lunch the rest of the forth grade and since then there's been lots of rodents that have found their way into my stew pot. Wood rats, pack rats, chipmunks, ground squirrels even lemmings and deer mice, you just need a lot of them. Now keep in mind, I didn't eat all of these things because i was hungry, I ate most of them just out of noseyness to see what they would taste like and if I could survive on them. Stanley ate them for the same reason.

   Stanley and I have had fried beaver and beaver stew. Ground hog stew and even a couple of pieces of fried skunk (not bad as long as you're real careful cleaning them). Possum, coons and ground hogs have found their way across the dinner table, (Stanley's dad was a real whiz at cooking wild game but even he wasn't able to fix a possum to where we liked it).

   The weird thing is that we thought we were really something because we were willing to try almost anything. Later in life I even added quite a few more things to the menu while trying to learn survival skills. I was pretty proud of myself right up until I started traveling around and seeing what other people thought of as regular meals. It did surprise me at how many things we ate growing up down home that were the same or close to what poor folks ate in other countries. It surprised me even more to find how many things I ate will while out in the "wild" and thought of as survival food turned out to be a regular, everyday meal to so many folks! Of course I knew that a lot of things I ate were food for other people here in the U.S. (after all, I wasn't bore about this stuff I learned it from other people, either alive or in books) but I always thought of it as mountain man or native american food and everything you could by in a store as civilized food. Yes, that was, and is, kind of arrogant on my part, but it's just the way it is.

   Snakes, squirrels, rabbits and other things we grew up hunting, catching including plants, nuts and berries we gathered were easy, most of those things I thought of as regular food anyway. Things like coons, beavers, muckrats, groundhogs and the like were still pretty regular food to us even though they stepped outside the bounds of lots of folks. Insects, scorpions, worms, bee and wasp grubs, I really thought I was pushing it with those things. Imagine how surprised I was when I found out that all those were common fair in lots of countries! At least I did luck on to one thing on my own, I fried almost alll the above without anyone needed to tell me, mainly because I just enjoyed them more that way, even though I did find out later that frying was the most common way for other people to eat the also. And I lied about the "enjoying", for a whole lot of things it was because frying was the only way I could choke them down.

   There were a few things that had me patting myself on the back for being brave enough to try it, but really to me the bravest person in the world had to have been the first starving human that was wondering done the coast. picked up an oyster, pried it open and said "I can eat that."

Signage


Signage

   It seems to me that California has a problem with its signage. Highway signs mostly. I’m not saying they flat out lie, but they do get confused sometimes.

   Coming across the mountains from Paso Robles out in the middle of nowhere is a huge bridge across this really deep valley. From the midpoint of the bridge t must be two to three hundred to the valley floor below. It’s a dry valley, no river, creek or anything, just dirt. At both ends of the bridge are signs that say “It is illegal to jump from bridge”. Those signs have been there long before the base jumping craze hit so if someone did jump, they’re dead. Question to me is, Why the sign? What are you going to do? Give them a ticket after they jump? That seem kind of like putting an open other end sign on the bottom of a beer bottle. Wait; there have been times when the open sign just might come in handy. Anyway, you see what I mean, it seems to me to be a waste of signs and the labor it takes to put them up.

   Highway 395 through the Owens valley is a small two lane road through mostly desert. There are a lot of places without shoulders or any other place to pull off the road yet when you get close to Bishop there is a ditch on one side of the road. I’ve been up and down that road many, many times over a twenty five year period and I have even seen water in that ditch at least three times. What does that have to do with signs? There’s a sign on both sides of the road that say “No fishing from roadway”. Now Okies are a little weird when it comes to fishing but even a dumb Okie know better than to plop his chair down in the middle of a road and try to fish in a ditch with less than three inches of water in it. But the state put the sign up so I guess they know their citizens better than I do.

   It seems to me that California likes to brag on itself with some of their signs. There’s another one on 395 that says “Elk for the next 15 miles”. When you’re driving a truck sometimes your mind wanders so I figured this one out (yes I had way too much time on my hands). The average Elk is less than two and a half feet wide but if you allowed for three feet, then with them standing side to side fifteen miles of Elk would be 26,400 or 1,760 per mile. Even if you put them end to end and figure the average would be about ten foot that’s still 7,920 or 528 per mile. Now Oregon has a lot bigger Elk population that California does and they only have about 63, 00 in the entire state. Seems like they might want to word that sign a little different.

Okie Wineos'


Okie Winos

   We had no idea of how to make wine when we were kids but that didn't stop us from trying. I hate to admit it but both Stanley and I developed a taste for wine at an early age. It wasn't because we really liked the taste; we both like the taste of beer a lot better back then, it was mostly because it was cheap. We could get a whole fifth of wine for less than seventy five cents when the cheapest beer around cost ninety nine cents a six pack. Of course back then coming up with seventy five cents was a chore sometimes, but, if we couldn't buy it, no problem, we'd make it! I mean, how hard could it be? I had already tried making home brew beer, not so good on that one and moonshine whiskey, even worse on that one but all you had to do to make homemade wine was mix up some fruit juice and let it ferment, right?

   The first time I tried it I gathered up a bunch of possom grapes. I figured that since wine is made from grapes any kind of grapes would be a good starting place. I mashed them all up and dumped them in a gallon jar along with a half cup of sugar ( somebody told me that sugar would help them ferment along with taking some of the bitterness out of the grapes). I poked a small hole in the lid so there wouldn't be any danger of it blowing up while it fermented ( learned about the blowing up when I tried the home brew) and since I didn't want anyone to know I was trying this I hid the jar inside a hollow log down by Salt Creek.

   I checked on that jar every once in a while but I didn't open it for a month. I had no idea of how long it might take to ferment but I figured that should be enough time for it to turn into wine. It did turn into something but you'd have to be an out of your mind alcoholic to even think you could call it wine! It sure didn't smell like any kind of wine that I had ever seen but dumb as I was I still had to take a sip. Saying it tasted bad enough to gag a maggot would actually be giving it high praise. I swear that when I finally quite gagging and was able to pour it out the grass died in that spot. So much for my first attempt.

   Next I gave watermelon a try. I mean really, has anyone living in Oklahoma NOT heard of watermelon wine?? Everyone knows about it, right? Sooo, how many of you know how to make it? I tried just the juice with water and yeast this time. I didn't figure it would need the sugar cause watermelons are sweet anyway. I remembered from when I tried to make the homebrew that you need to store it in a cool dry place, so, back under the house I went. I had 5  of them gallon glass jugs this time because I was sure this was going to come out right. I will admit that I got a little busy with hunting, fishing and running all over hell and half of Georgia and down right forgot about them. You have any idea what happens to watermelon juice, yeast and water after it sits under the house for a couple of months? Grandma's dog Pat was next to me sniffing around when I opened the first jug. She got one sniff, made a pitiful whimpering noise and took off! She didn't come back home for two days. Of course i didn't notice what she had done at first because I was on my hands and knees hacking my guts out. What happened to that SWEET juice? I really didn't want to but I had to pour out the rest of it because for one thing I need that jug and for another I had to check to make sure that something hadn't crawled in it and died! Needless to say I decided to move on to something else. No one could say that I gave up on things, even when I should.

   Next up I decided to try peaches since I knew where there several peach trees around home and I could get them for free. This time I asked a few people about how to make wine. That seemed like a good idea, but maybe I should have asked the people who knew how to make wine instead of the people that just drank it! That time I cut the peaches and boiled the down to a syrup then strained the juice. Next added less water and just a cup of sugar (I know peaches are really sweet but so was the watermelon!) I didn't put lids on the jars, I wrapped the tops of them with cheese cloth so they could breath (wasn't sure you were supposed to do that but after blowing up all my bottles by trying to cap my homebrew when it was still fermenting I figured it was worth a try) I put em back under the house and kept track this time. I left them under there for a little over a month then took em out and strained them again (at least they didn't make be sick this time) Washed out the jugs and refilled and capped then. After another month I snuck a jug out and headed off sown in the woods to try it out. the first sip told me that I had finally got it tight! No it wasn't as good as what you'd buy in the store but it did have a nice sweet taste, kind of like coolaid. I was just down right tickled with myself and could wait to share it with Stanley. Might have been a good idea if I'd stopped right then and gone to share it but it tasted soooooo go I just had to have a little more, and more, and more. I didn't mean to but it seemed like after just a couple of minute over half that jug was gone. The really odd but good thing was that i didn't feel drunk at all! I actually felt like I'd been sitting under that tree doing nothing but drinking coolaid. i felt that way right up till I tried to stand up! I went from being sober as a judge to drunker than a dog in less that five feet! I was only bout 5'5" then but I didn't even make it all the way up past the 5 foot mark before i was back on the ground trying to hold on to that old tree and waiting for the world to quit spinning. The world finally seemed to slow down just a little, unfortunately right about the same time my stomach decided it didn't like what I had put in it and every thing came back up. It must have really not like it because it try to bring up more long after there was nothing left! i must have passed out just a little because the next thing I knew I open my eyes and the sun was a lot lower than I remembered it being which was the least of my worries. I was still trying to be sick with every other breath and at least 15 miners were inside my head with jackhammers trying to get out! I managed to get to my feet, after 4 attempts (it was more like climbing up the tree instead of standing up) and headed back home. That was probably one of the hardest walks I've ever made! I'm sure I had never been that sick in my life and it didn't end when I finally staggered home. The first thing out of Grandmas mouth was where have you been all night? I guess my passing out lasted a little longer than I'd thought!

   I hate to admit it but that was my last attempt at making wine. But, never fear! if any of you have a desire for some good homemade wine - don't call me. Well, do call me and I'll give you Stanley' number!

Nuts


Fall

   Fall was always a good time down home. Most of our favorite hunting seasons were open. The leaves were turning, making the woods really pretty and fun to be in. You could still find wild onions, grapes and sand hill plumbs if you knew where to look. The acorns were ready to fall which made squirrel a lot easier if you could find a nice patch of oak trees. Best of all, the nuts were ready to pick. Pecans were out favorite but there were hickory and walnuts also. I always carried a little toe sack along with me when I went hunting during that time of year so I would always be ready if I found any trees with nuts. I didn't mind crawling around the bottom of the tree and picking them up but my main love was in "flailing" the trees. Flailing is actually pretty easy. All you have to do is climb up the tree and jump up and down on the limbs to shake the nuts loose. It always surprised me that not too many people wanted to do that, maybe there were a lot more people down home that were afraid of heights than I thought, or there were a lot more people smarter than I was. I'm kind of leaning toward the last since I have fallen out of more than one tree right along with the rest of the nuts. Folks mainly went after pecans because they were the easiest to sell. There were two kinds, paper shells and natives. Natives were smaller and weren't worth as much. Paper shells were worth more, around thirty-five cents a pound then, so that's the ones everyone hunted for even though they were lighter so it took more to make a pound. There was lots of pecan orchards you could go and pick "on half's" which just meant you got half of all the nuts you gathered. There were also lots of trees scattered around the woods that were first come, first serve

  The other good thing about climbing the trees was the split. I never ask for it bit the way things worked most of the time was the person who failed the tree got half the pecans, no matter how many people were picking them up. I used to really like picking with the McGowen clan, there were eight kids and they could clean up under a tree just about as fast as you could walk around it. We would sell our pecans in Henryetta but I had to go to Okmulgee to sell hickory or walnuts, either way, it was a good way to make a few bucks.

Imporvise




   I have mentioned before that both Stanley and I never had any problems coming up various plans and ideas and yes I freely admit that several of them didn't turn out quit the way we had envisioned them. There were a few ideas (less plans) that did work out and I thought I might list a couple of them here, just to prove we weren't complete idiots when we were kids.

   One benefit of wondering all over the country down home was that we knew where all the trash dumps were. People were a long way from being "eco-friendly" back then. We didn't have any garbage pickup in Schulter, Pleasant Valley or Coalton so everyone either burned their trash or when they a load of stuff that wouldn't burn they tended to just haul it out somewhere and dump it off the side of hill. You'd be surprised at the number of usable things a couple of boys could find in those dumps. Between the two of us we supplied a couple of dozen camps and "hideouts" scattered through the woods with pots, pans and skillets.

   We would use gallon size glass jars as minnow traps for fish bait. All you had to do for that was poke a hole about an inch in diameter in the lid, add a little bait and weight it down in the water. Minnows weren't much smarter than we were about getting their self into a place they couldn't get back out of. We also watched for chicken wire. It seemed like we could always find at least a few pieces. When we found a piece that was at least six feet or longer we could use it as a seine for gathering fish, crawdads and whatever else we could get out of the local ponds, creeks or rivers. The other good thing to use chicken wire for was crawdad traps. All you need to do is roll a piece into a tube and add a piece to make a flat end. On the other end you roll a cone with an opening a couple of inches across, Put the small end into the trap and wire the edges closed then just add a little bait and sink it close to the bank.