Tomorrow my four favorite months begin. I have learned to like them all…but the upcoming four are special. I have a vivid memory of watching the Eldorado Eagles football team play under the lights…from my front porch which was direct across from the football field. We had moved to Eldorado and rented a big haunted house and it was chilly too cold when we got there…especially at night. I began first grade at Hillcrest School which was at the end of Illinois Avenue. My cousin Brenda and I walked there each morning and walked home each evening. She was in eighth grade. Halloween came up quickly and mom purchased a costume for me from Muckley’s Ben Franklin Dime Store. The Dime Store had everything a first grader could want. I received a Christmas gift of a Johnny West action figure for that Christmas. Thereafter I was hooked on Action Figures.
‘I can not believe that the toy manufacturers have expanded the little toy cowboys to a foot tall,’ Billy B. exclaimed. ‘If you think Johhny West is cool you should see my Daniel Boone…his face looks just like Fess Parker who plays him on the Daniel Boone TV show,’ Chet replied. ‘For the Halloween Party let us wear costumes like Johnny West and Daniel Boone…and I will come as Jane West…Johnny’s wife,’ Jane said. ‘That sounds like fun and I have a coonskin cap already,’ Chet exclaimed. ‘We will conduct a little Play for the other kids before the best costume is judged…and I know that Mrs. K will give her permission,’ Billy B. announced.
So the three western actors gathered at Billy B.s house and began Play Practice. There was a fire in the fireplace and yet the big Victorian house was cold. Neva J. served the Troupe hot chocolate and apple cider with pumpkin pie. ‘After the hot chocolate and pie I am somewhat sleepy,’ said Darryl. Now Darryl had come along to portray Frankenstein…because it was a Halloween Play. ‘I think we should call the Play…Johnny West Meets Frankenstein…,’ Chet advised. Suddenly there was a knock at the massive mahogany front door. ‘Fuller Brush Man,’ said the man dressed in a suit and tie and carrying an attache case that was full of his brushes. ‘We do not need Fuller Brushes today,’ said Neva J. ‘How about Electrolux Vacuums…everyone needs an Electrolux Vaccum,’ the salesman pleaded as he pulled out from behind him… Electrolux. ‘How about a set of World Book Encyclopedias…I see that you have kids…they need to be educated,’ the salesman pleaded…with bloodshot eyes. ‘What do you really want,’ Neva J. asked. ‘I am so hungry Maam…I have not had a bite all-day,’ the man said as one of his bloodshot eyes popped out of its socket and rolled across the wrap-around front porch. ‘Oh my goodness…come in and have some pumpkin pie and apple cider, Neva J. said as she watched the salesman of multiple products enter the living room…dragging one leg. ‘We should call a doctor for you,’ Jane beseeched. ‘Oh no need really…you see I am a bit of a Zombie…but I am also a Vegetarian,’ said the Zombie as he devoured the Pumpkin Pie…
Time changes things. Or…where was I while I was getting old? I recall the many times that a colleague or friend guessed my age as significantly older than I actually was. I was honored and pleased that I appeared mature beyond my chronological years. I became a supervisor when I was 21. My full-time staff were much older than me and even some of my student staff were older as well. We wore uniforms but I wore a cardigan sweater in the cool and cold months as I thought that the look lent me a bit of gravitas. When asked how old I was…I would respond, how old do you think I am? Well…those days have passed a long time ago. Now people younger than me speak to me somewhat differentially and with an eye to my probable diminished capacities. On October 24th I turn 65…and I think that I still have the curse/gift of looking older than I am.
Sixty-five means Medicare. I have thought about Medicare and worried about the enrollment process for most of the year. I have had wonderful insurance from my career at Southern Illinois University since I was 20. This morning I spoke with a lovely lady who finished my enrollment process into Medicare and I wondered what I was, ‘Crying about Mon,’ as the parking attendant in Philedelphia asked me years ago when I did not want to leave the car windows down and the car keys on the driver’s seat…to facilitate his parking of the automobile.
Old is really a state of mind. You can either bemoan your lost youth…or be ecstatic about attaining the age that you are. I choose the joy of life. I enjoy books and my life has indeed been an interesting and engaging read… I discovered as a child that I certainly was not better than my neighbor…but they as well were no better than me. Seek your own path and know your own mind. Do not wait for a leader to tell you the path to take or what you should be thinking. Make your own mistakes and be proud they are yours. Sing your own song and enjoy the music.
God speaks to all of us. If you need assurance of God…stand in the woods and listen.
Summers Last Hurrah
‘Well… a week from now will be Labor Day…and Pounds Hollow will be closed for the season,’ said Billy B. ‘Yes and after that Halloween is here again,’ Jane said with a wide smile. ‘Especially for us since we have Halloween fun for most of September and October,’ Chet observed. ‘I think you all are forgetting our annual trip to the DuQuoin State Fair,’ Darryl implored. ‘Indeed it is time again for the Fair…and the Malones Taffy and Barbecue and Lemon Shake-Ups,’ Neva J. extolled. ‘This year I am going to go behind the curtain at the Headless Woman Show and see if she is truly headless,’ said Jane with a laugh.
‘A trip to the DuQuoin State Fair is like a trip to Europe for me…with all of the unique and strange things to see and the Carnival…which is scarier than the Freak Shows as far as I am concerned,’ Chet noted. ‘Are you afraid of the Scrambler,’ asked The Wiz, who decided to come along with the group to the Fair, or are you afraid of the wizened person who operates the Scrambler?’ ‘Both…yes a bit of both…I cracked my head on a Scrambler at a little Carnival in Eldorado and had to be taken to Ferrel Hospital,’ Billy B. answered. ‘The Scrambler threw me against the metal walls of the compartment and I had to have two stitches and the operator grinned at me with a wide smile and he had no teeth,’ Billy B. continued. ‘I told the Carnival Manager that if anything was wrong with Billy B. I would sue him and he brought us a gigantic Polar Bear stuffed toy,’ Neva J. said with her eyes wide and angry. ‘After the Manager talked to us we drove off and as we passed the Old Wizend Scrambler Operator…he smiled his hideous smile once again and waved and said, ‘Come back soon…for another…Scramble.’
‘Carnivale’, cried the Barker! ‘Enter and partake of the mysteries of the dark side of the State Fair,’ the little man continued. ‘You did hear…did you not…that last State Fair six Carnivale visitors have not been seen again after they’re entering the Carnivale,’ The Wiz asked the group. ‘I read that they were from Eldorado…like us,’ Chet remarked. ‘It is starting to rain and I saw some lightning and heard thunder,’ Neva J. said. ‘Let’s go into the Beer Tent and take shelter until the storm passes over,’ Darryl suggested. ‘Greetings friends…have you traveled far…are you thirsty,’ asked the wizened old man with no teeth. ‘You look vaguely familiar to me…have we met before,’ Billy B. asked. ‘Perhaps only in our dreams,’ the old man smiled. ‘Have you any wine,’ Neva J. asked. ‘We do have some mulled cider and a sweet absinthe…me lady,’ the barkeep answered. ‘How about beer since we are in the Beer Tent,’ The Wiz inquired. ‘We have Mead and warm ale…for men who want to get drunk,’ the Barkeep replied.
The storm passed and our intrepid group of State Fair attendees left the Beer Tent. Before their widening eyes were horses and carriages and oxen to pull the large Carnivale Wagons. None of the Eldorado 6…could remember where Neva J. had parked the ’57 Chevy.
‘Come along now Eldoradoians…you have to earn your keep at the Carnivale…if you want a place to eat and bunk down for the night…unless one of you wants to be The Geek,’ said the bearded woman. ‘Can any of you bite the head of a chicken…’
A Wonderful Debut Of Our Church Choir…And Troll Doll Hunting
Our Church Choir at First Presbyterian in Carbondale debuted this morning…and I was blessed. It has been a while since I heard our Choir sing due to Our Pandemic. This morning sounded like music from heaven. Our Choir Director Carlyn Zimmerman is a consummate professional. She has such a welcoming spirit and a lovely voice… she compels the congregation’s rapt attention. This morning I saw what we had been missing as the wonderful college students sang for us along with members of our congregation. Jonathon said that next week he must attend services in person rather than by Zoom…and I agree…
When I was a child…Troll Dolls were all of the rages. It seemed that I saw them everywhere that I went. They are little dolls with funny faces and hair that sticks straight up and is multicolored. I discovered that my favorite store, Electric Larrys, had a vintage Troll Doll for sale…and off I went to purchase it. We were holidaying with my brother Brock and Marcy, who is like my sister, and Jaime and Morgan and Jeb. Jaime is collecting Vintage Troll Dolls…I have my mission.
‘Although troll folklore existed for centuries, Thomas Dam, a Danish woodcutter is considered to be the father of the very first troll doll as we know them today. Dam dolls were created in 1959 and spread to the U.S. in the early ’60s. Google
Sunday is a good day. I feel better on Sunday. I feel enriched on Sunday when I can hear our wonderful Church Choir and find a Vintage Troll Doll…for Jaime…
‘Maine is just two weeks away,’ said Chet with a sly grin. ‘I am excited about this trip…and the next one with Brock and Marcy and perhaps Morgan and Jeb,’ Billy B. said with glee! ‘We had such a good time with them at Kentucky Lake…I wish we could be with them every day,’ Jane said. ‘That Frisbee game gave me a heck of a workout,’ JB exclaimed! ‘I loved riding Jebs’ Jet Ski and smoking a cigar with Billy B.,’ AB laughed. ‘Morgan is witty and refreshing with her candor and humor,’ Billy B. noted. ‘I love to hear about her work with dogs…and I admire her dedication to her avocation,’ Jane remarked.
‘The card game that Marcy brought was more fun than a barrel of monkeys,’ AB said with a smile. ‘I have not laughed so hard in many years,’ Jane commented…I am ordering that game for home. ‘I lost every hand…and never enjoyed a game more…it was so wonderful to see everyone so happy and joyful and laughing heartily,’ Chet remarked. ‘Marcys’ Banana Pudding was to die for,’ Billy B. said as he licked his lips. ‘Uncle Brock makes a burger like I have never experienced…it melts in your mouth,’ JB said with a wistful look. ‘It seemed that time stood still for a little while,’ AB said softly.
‘The painting of the lone boat with no passengers in it floating in an inlet of Kentucky Lake bowled me away…I stared at it and wished that we could all be together all of the time…and suddenly we were all living on the Lake in Tennessee,’ said Billy B.with a spiritual look in his eyes. ‘Brock and I had gotten another tattoo and we were sipping White Claws and Rye Whiskey and even some Moonshine,’ Billy B. said in a whisper. ‘Morgan let us help her with her Dog Enterprise and Jaime told us wonderful stories of our new home…’
It is DuQuoin State Fair time again in Little Egypt. I walked the streets of DuQuoin City this morning and found a unique peace in my visit. My spring and summer project of taking photos across Southern Illinois continues. I sat alone in a lovely and amazingly cool pavilion that the people of DuQuoin had constructed. There was wonderful rod-iron seating and a soothing fountain and reflection on the good people that constructed the magnificent buildings on the Town Square. Some of them have fallen into disrepair but there seems to be a concerted effort to restore and maintain the historic Town. I thought of the good and hardworking people of DuQuoin that worked diligently to have magnificent architecture adorning their precious Town. Former generations built for the future. At one point a man, not much younger than me, rode past on his bicycle and bid me good morning, and remarked what a wonderful day it was. Since I have retired I make myself sit and look deeply at what is surrounding me. People demonstrate their hearts through their work. The lovely buildings of DuQuoin illustrate the good hearts of her residents. We need to be a bit more like the Tortise than the Hare of the famous fable. Let us take time to see the miracles around us…let us take time to hear our family as they speak from their souls…to us.
My good blogger friend told me that she was amazed at how similar our life experiences had been. She noted that she had studied theology for many years as I had. She mentioned that she had lectured on the subject…while I have spoken often in Church in my younger years…however I have never formally lectured. Faith and the study thereof have been my overwhelming passion for over 50 years. I did officiate at numerous funerals…again in my younger days. As a young man I had a deep desire to become a minister…but doubted that I was fully up to the task. My friend’s blog can be found at blindwilderness.wordpress and she is one of the most insightful writers regarding subjects that many shy away from discussing… her writings have been an encouragement to me.
Encouraging is what I have set my sail to be. Life brings us many discouragements and reversals and disappointments. I have a dark side…but I try not to let the Old Man In… The folks that I remember are the folks that encouraged me…and their words made all of the difference. When I read my friends’ writings I think…what an unconquerable spirit. Churches do not understand what they are missing. Both within their congregations…and outside their four walls are members of our human family that know God. I am not referring to some religious doctrine or dogma…they really are acquainted with the Creator…The Great Spirit…
So often we are like the rich man who wants to build bigger barns. We feel unloved and forsaken…while our Guardian Angel stands next to us. We feel somewhat forgotten when the magnificence of our Universe envelops us. We travel through this dreamscape of life wondering what our ultimate reality is to be.
Hateful and hurtful and spiteful and seeking revenge and redress for all of the wrongs that have been bestowed upon us…rather perceived or real…is the road to depression and destruction. Seek the soaring of spirit and the beauty of love…for peace…
I Saw The Chancellor On A Bicycle
Each of us longtimers at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale knows that former University President Delyte Morris and his lovely wife Dorothy rode their bicycles around Campus for many years…and they connected with all of the University Community. Delyte and Dorothy were Mother and Father figures to our University Family. I have known Chancellors who would not respond to emails I sent them. Trust me…the University succeeds when the Community feels like family. Although I have never met the Chancellor…I have emailed him a handful of times and he has not only responded rapidly…but with very warm and heartfelt comments. His care for the Campus Family…shows…
When I was given the opportunity to serve as a manager/administrator for Building Services my goal was to set my colleagues free. We had worked under significant manmade stress that was uncalled for and unnecessary. We had so many rules…and rule changes…that it was a herculean task to simply provide clean buildings for our University Community. My simple management philosophy was that if I took care of my colleagues… excellent work would follow. It should not be emotionally traumatic and mentally taxing to your job. We should not shed tears due to the games people play. Work can and is enjoyable if management and administration facilitate a happy surrounding.
Church and faith and all that accompanies the religious experience ought to be freeing and enriching and a Balm of Gilead for the souls of the congregation. So many of the rules and regulations of many churches are dreamed up by men with control anxiety. All of us will be surprised when we meet God…it will be a much more enjoyable experience than what small-minded church leaders have led us to believe…
The Naked Pastor has some of the most insightful cartoons regarding the Grand Canyon of difference in what Jesus taught…and what men and women…Moneychangers In The Temple…are demanding their flocks…
God told Moses to tell Pharoh…’Let My People Go…
‘Well it has not been quite as hot in the classroom this week…so far,’ Jane remarked. ‘Part of the reason is that The Wiz brought in his giant floor fan from his home and pointed it at all of us as we sit through Social Studies,’ Chet added. ‘Next week September begins and I can not wait for it to arrive,’ Billy B. exuded. ‘I think that we should go to Pounds Hollow tomorrow as school is canceled for Thursday and Friday for the Teachers’ Workshop,’ Darryl suggested. ‘You know that is a great idea and especially in view of the fact that Labor Day is September 4th and then Pounds Hollow will be closed for the season,’ said Neva J. ‘I have always wondered what happens at Pounds Hollow during the Off Season,’ Chet asked. ‘Mr. Mimo, who runs Mimo’s Pizza says that during the time that the Hollow is closed…the Creature From The Black Lagoon comes out of his watery home and lives on the sandy beach of PH,’ Billy B. noted. ‘Well…John at the Orpheum said that all of the Halloween Monsters live at the Hollow and enjoy the Holidays there,’ Darryl remarked. ‘John said that Earl told him that one late fall he was working on some electrical lines that are in the Bathhouse and Frankenstein came out and offered him a beer…as well as trunks and a beach towel if he wanted to go swimming…and when Earl remarked that it was a bit too cold for a swim…Frankenstein laughed and said that he threw a little girl in the Pond one time and she did not like it either,’ Billy B. continued. ‘Then…as if that were not enough strange things at Pounds Hollow…Earl said that when he opened the floor freezer in the kitchen of the concession area…there before him was Dracula…and when he opened his eyes he said for Earl to not forget to turn out the light when he left,’ Billy B. laughed.
Spirits were especially high Thursday morning as Neva J. drove the 57′ Chevy Convertable to Pounds Hollow. She had packed the picnic basket with all of their favorite items and enough red wine to truly say goodbye to the summer. Today they were not only going to swim but also kayak and go out in a pontoon boat. Indeed this was an adventure in the making. Billy B. had borrowed his cousin Genes’ Creature From The Black Lagoon Mask and the Creature Hands that went with it. Darryl was coming as Frankenstein and Chet as the Robot from Lost In Space…mainly because he had the full costume and could imitate the Robot to perfection. What they did not realize is that Darryl had planned a surprise for them upon their arrival.
‘Our Halloween Celebration has come early this year…and I could not be more pleased,’ Jane smiled from ear to ear. ‘I have always said that once September begins…it is a slippery slide to the end of the year…and I love to slide,’ Billy B. intoned. ‘The promise of the leaves soon falling in all of their brilliant colors and hot chocolate and apple cider and crisp cool days…is overwhelming,’ Neva J. said as she poured another glass of red wine. As the sun began to set…it suddenly became noticeably cooler…almost cold. ‘Good evening my friends…it appears that you are enjoying the last of the Summer Wine,’ the man dressed in all black with a cape about his shoulders…said. ‘Why yes we are…and how about yourself…would you like a glass of Merlot,’ asked Neva J. ‘I never drink…wine,’ the mysterious guest remarked. ‘I am the Park Ranger and I work the night shift…have any of you seen any Stranger Things…’ the cultivated odd man asked. ‘Well…we came for an early beginning of the fall holiday…with the knowledge that we would be prohibited from doing so after Labor Day due to the Park closing,’ Chet answered. ‘Oh we never close…to our friends…just come after dark and I will let you in to swim or camp…or tell ghost stories by the campfire,’ said the pale man with the peculiar smile…
Southern Illinois University…Memories
Today was a red letter day for me on the Campus of SIUC. I saw two of my old friends. I felt someone patting me on the back and when I looked around it was Dave from Grounds. I often see Dave out and about checking on the condition of the Campus Grounds. He is not only a very nice person but he is dedicated to producing an excellent work product. SIUCs Grounds always look immaculate. The Grounds Department is a hard-working group of professionals. I traverse our Campus on a daily basis and I witness the Grounds Staff hard at work everywhere that I go.
As I was preparing to get into the Touring…there was my buddy Tony…who will soon be the President of the Civil Service Council for seven years. That has to be a record. I have seen firsthand Tony’s dedication and hard work on the Council. The Council is close to my heart as I was a member for twenty years of my career. While Tony and I visited I reflected on my time as President of the group. Tony told me that he was surprised that I had not been called out of retirement to assist in some way on Campus. I laughed and said that when I left I think that administration said for me to not let the door hit me on my backside on my way out. Or as MJ said at the time of my retirement, ‘Thank God and Greyhound You’re Gone.’ Now please do not misunderstand me…I worked hard and Building Services, with the help of my professional staff, produced clean buildings and a happy department…but I was not afraid to be an advocate for others…and especially those who have no voice. I was not afraid to ‘Speak Truth to Power.’ My friend and mentor, Jerry Raney, never filed a grievance against me during my over 25 years as a manager in Building Services. He knew how hard I worked for our precious colleagues.
My friend Elizabeth, who is the Vice President of the Council, is as passionate a professional for the betterment of her Civil Service colleagues as I have ever witnessed. I knew that she would succeed in that role as well as President…if she desired it.
As I walk the paths of Campus I am at home. The good things that have happened throughout my life can often be attributed to SIUC. As I think back on my many candid discussions with University Administration…I am grateful for how many times I was able to change their mind on plans that would have been difficult for Civil Service Staff. I appreciate how kind they were to me…
I am still suffering the pain of having to say goodbye to my beloved family…when I had no more than said…hello. We had not seen Marcy and Brock for over three years…and much longer than that for Jaime and Morgan and Jeb. As I was soaking in the love…suddenly it was time to go…was it all a dream…
Growing up an only child…I wondered if I would ever see any of my brothers and sisters. Mom and Dad divorced when I was six years old. I watched the light in the eyes of each of my family as we played a funny card game and heard MJ laugh as I haven’t heard for some time…I knew that I was home.
We all need each other much more than we will admit to or realize. When we look into the eyes of our loved ones…we see their soul…and they reveal ours…
Aaron and Jonathon love their uncle Brock and aunt Marcy. I relished seeing them so animated and happy and at home with their family. Morgan and Jeb are inspiring. They are not only a lovely couple…they are impressive in their accomplishments and their humor and their quick wit. I could listen to them talk for hours.
When I consider all of the theological discourse that I have heard and my own study of faith and religion and church for over 50 years…I realize that one sentence of Christ covers it all…’ Love one another as I have loved you.’