Raising Cain about the grain in the lane


Speaking with a traveler, Frank Toller, who had stopped by to get a tire repaired, gave them a chance to vent a little. He had been admiring their farm and asking how they were doing and what were their plans for change if any.

“Every year we try to get our friends grain to market, before the snow comes. More than once we have lost not only grain but a tractor or wagon because of an avalanche from the early snow and the drivers just can’t get out of the way in time. If we could raise enough money to get a couple of older trucks, we would be much better off. The problem is the farmers are a little reluctant to invest in trucks, because they don’t understand why we can’t just keep doing what we have been doing. Those in the city do not understand poor farmers and just assume things are going ok, or don’t know and in some cases, don’t feel they need to know about our hauling business and are also disinclined to provide capital for it.”

Ben and Luke had been in business for many years but could never seem to get beyond the same routine every year. They were fruit and vegetable farmers, but also did quite well, in the winter, repairing farm equipment. They were some of the only garden farmers in the area. 

Somewhere back in time, their parents had started to haul grain to market in the fall, for the much poorer, grain farmers. They charged very little allowing the poor farmers to pick for them, on their orchard, in exchange for the hauling. Without someone to haul grain it would just sit in bags or on wagons and eventually rot.  Some of the business people said,

“Why do you haul for those lazy farmers? The more you haul, the more they raise for you to haul.”

Ben and Luke just felt like it was their responsibility to continue to help out the poor as they themselves, were doing so much better.  Because of the kind of roads and the mountainous terrain, horses had always been used, making the job long and not just a little arduous. Eventually they graduated to tractors but the loads to the mill, were not much bigger.

Frank Toller suggested, they let a lot more people know about their problem, get a committee together and attempt to get investments to start a real hauling business, starting with volunteers and as soon as possible hiring drivers, using the proper trucks.

 “See a Solicitor” he said, “and then get some influential people together who might be willing to help raise money. Everyone will gain from your plan so it should be a small effort to make it work.”

“There is one more important thing” Frank said, “in any business. Do not attempt to run it yourself. Give the running of the business to the most dedicated person and let them tell you what is needed. Be sure and give them all the credit. That is, see that they get all the credit they deserve.  Unlike your investors, and your committee members, that person will be close to the workings and be your best investment and advisor. You will be able to do your own work at home and with just a little of your involvement, trust your manager to allow you to do well.”

They thanked Frank and the next week they were off to see a Solicitor in the City and started the ball rolling. Arson Weakley was known for his help in Real Estate and property management, and they were told he had helped set up several businesses. Arson felt they had a good plan and he would be willing to invest as soon as they had a little more information.

Time went on and through Arson and others, soon they had a committee together who would talk about the necessities, doing various investigating, applying for any necessary papers, determining costs and feasibility.

As the committee grew, they found they had some of the best known and influential people in town. Business people, and people of status. More than once the newspaper wrote about their plans and the great wok they were taking on. The more they were known, the more people wanted to be a part of saving the poor farmers.

There were parties and get togethers, explaining their plans and get togethers to just thank the people who were involved. Ben and Luke, when they could attend, met people they had never even been close to. They ate food served in ways they had only heard of and treated like royalty. Often, they were reminded how lucky they were to have the committee they did, making their decisions, as it was a fine group of people.  

Ester McPherson was a young lady who would always come with her father, when he dropped off grain, if it were not a school day. She would always be anxious to hear about the experiences of the wagon drivers. Ester was going to school at Thorsten Agricultural college and would be graduating in a few months. She said she had no immediate plans and came looking for a job. She liked what they did and hoped there might be a place for her in their business.

What a great manager Ben and Luke thought. Honest, young and able to do long days. She seemed very able to make decisions on her own. Everyone knew her and was not likely to cross her as she knew how to tell them what they needed to hear. Ester knew the business better than anyone, no question about that. More importantly, she wanted, as much as them to make it work for the poor farmers.

Unfortunately, the committee didn’t agree and thought, she was just too young. Said, her parents didn’t do all that well. This was not the kind of job for a woman and, she might do well cleaning up or maybe driving in a few years after she grew up.

“No, they would not vote to put her to work as a manager.”  

Ben and Luke were disappointed but felt the committee must know best. After all, isn’t that what they were supposed to be doing, making decisions for the good of all? 

On the other hand, Herb Clement, knew that Fran and Joe Clark’s son Jack, had graduated from the university several years ago, with a business degree, was working at the electric plant, part time and was looking for a different job. Fran had been the mayor several years ago and his wife had been on the Planning Board at the hospital.

The meeting just went on,

“And the next thing on the agenda is the one-year celebration of the creation of our organization.” So, it went. “Let us be thankful for the opportunity to put our talents to wok and remind ourselves of all the great work we are doing”.

Some of the committee planed an interview with Jack Clark, and going out to the Clark’s house, found Jack to be just what they needed. They reported back to Ben, Luke and the rest of the committee, “He is intelligent, dresses well, did well in school and seems to be a gentleman. He will be able to talk with all your customers, sponsors, and business people. We strongly suggest going with him.

Once again Ben and Luke’s humility got in the way of what they really wanted to say and Jack was voted in.

On another day, a farmer came to Ben to say, he had heard of a nice truck which was for sale, out at the old Smith, hog farm, that Ron Brady owned now.

Off they went, finding the old hog farm much improved and different than the last time they had been by. The hogs were all gone and in their place, several pieces of machinery, building materials and more, all in a kind of order. Mr. Brady was glad to meet them, showing them the truck, back in the woods with tall grass and small trees growing up all around it. He said,

“It will need a better battery in it and I will change some spark plugs but I am sure it will run and it will do what you need better than anything else around. That is pretty much what it was used for before Henry Smith passed away. His wife Mary went to live with her daughter, selling the farm, just as it was. Before Mary left she told me, it was a shame to have to part with the old truck. It was her husband’s pet and later on and just before he died, the business was going really well. He had been doing some hauling for the government and they had invested a lot in his truck so he would be sure to make it through the mountain pass, even in the worst weather and in the roughest weather. Go and take a look at it and do come back when you are ready. I would like to see it get some work”.

On hearing this they were a little skeptical, thinking “it can’t be too good, out there in the woods all this time! “

Taking the short walk to the woods and the truck they found, at least at first, more or less what they had expected. A weed covered, rusty old truck, cracked windows, with small trees growing up around it.

They walked, and fought their way through weeds and brush, going in separate directions, looking under around and over, giving it the once over as well as the twice and several more times over. Without advance discussion and coming together near the back of the truck they both looked at each other.

“Did you see what I seen?” “Oh my gosh. This is beautiful. I just can’t believe it. We will have this thing hauling the first week we get it.” Luke said, “And spend the rest of the winter, gussieing it up” Ben said.

“The equipment that has been replaced on the undercarriage is worth as much as a new truck. Everything has been beefed up, kept up, and well lubed and the woods have more or less sheltered it. The sheet metal on the fenders and cab is much heavier than what they put on em today. Someone has fixed this up well beyond what it originally was. I can see our name on the side and we can have Harry Bantry do his fancy lettering stuff, painting on it, all the names of the folks we haul for.”

Ben and Luke knew enough about vehicles and equipment, that it was no difficult job to see the potential in this old truck. This was more than anything they had ever dreamed of.  It would take a little money to get it where they would like it, as it was going to get some hard use but so well suited for their needs.

At the next meeting with the committee, they were anxious to tell everyone about their find. They could hardly contain themselves as they spurted out their description of the vehicle careful to not brag about what they would be able to do with it.

The people listened, somewhat half-heartedly and were not near as enthusiastic as Ben and Luke expected. In fact, some, were looking around the room, as if not wanting to be the first one to be seen, paying attention and waiting for some other to make the first move.  Finally, someone on the committee decided they would go and check out the vehicle before making any quick decisions, quickly moving on to other business.

Sometime later, after much hounding by Ben and Luke, some of the committee decided to take the trip out to the old hog farm and look at this “old rusty truck in the woods”.  Arriving and having to walk all the way across what was an old barnyard, through several gates and at least two hundred feet into the woods, there it was. Sitting there on a bit of a hill, rusty, worn paint, cracked windows and all.

This was a large truck with a very large truck box for the grain. Probably much larger than needed for now but Ben and Luke argued that in time it would probably be too small if all went well. Also, for now it could be divided up to accommodate more than one grain and in that way, saving trips. The truck was being used in the woods to bring out firewood at the time, and had been left there for several years. It looked rough but in fact, started with very little effort, the fresh battery and few parts changed by, Mr. Brady, allowed it to start and run, just as he had said.  Still the seats were almost gone from wear and vandalism. The paint was mostly gone with some rust holes and some bent and broken body parts.  Tires were worn but still all had air and looked to Ben, Luke and Ron Brady, as though they could be driven on for several years.

Some in the committee group suggested the condition was just too bad. John had worked in an upholstery shop and said the cost to upholster the seats would be very expensive.  Sharon said, “she would be ashamed to be a part of a business owning anything that ugly.” Marv’s father had owned a motorcycle shop and felt it would be just too much work to fix it up. Argument after argument came up, all without much thought but, none the less, against buying the truck. Again, Ben and Luke argued, they had been doing repairs for years and they would be able with some small investment, to put the truck on the road.

Secretly they knew it would be an easy task to do the body work replace the seats and do a repaint. Used parts, with a lot of labor, which they had more than enough time for in the winter months. They knew mechanical work and had already determined that that part of it, was in pretty good shape. They could see it had had some serious work done, to bring the motor and the rest of the mechanical up to almost new condition, just before it had been parked.  They also knew because of the size, it was suited about as perfect as any used truck could be for their purpose. If they were to look for a brand new one it would greatly resemble the properties of this old truck, not be near as close to what they needed unless it was also re worked and the cost would be astronomical. They so badly wanted to tell more of their abilities, but that would be bragging and bragging was not something they did.  They had learned from a young age to be humble and allow people to judge you by what they seen in you. Had the people on the committee, known them better or tried, to get to know them better, many things might have gone smother.  

Mr. Brady was a person, very few people liked, and it was said he owned a lot of things and shouldn’t be trusted. Other than that, not a lot was known about him.  It seemed just because he owned a lot, he shouldn’t be trusted. The fact that he knew a lot about trucks, seemed to Ben and Luke, he was the guy to invest in. At the very least invest more time in.

Mr. Brady told Ben and Luke, if they wanted, to get it out of the woods, it would be a lot of work, but they could rent it and decide if they would like to buy it.

The committee was not so impressed. Latter on, back in town they complained about the useless trip. They talked as if Ben and Luke were not even in the room, insulting them with every word. They talked about the dirt and weeds, and why would anyone leave a truck out in the woods, if it had any value at all. Who would even think of such a thing.

One day when some of the committee members were in the diner, where they would often meet, Dan mentioned a truck they might be interested in. Dan Foley was a very successful tailor and owned several men’s stores. He knew Ralph banes, an automobile salesman who he had talked to, at the diner at breakfast. Ralph had told him about an almost brand-new panel truck for sale, on his lot and they should come and look at it.

Shortly thereafter, the group looked at the much smaller truck. A small closed truck in almost new condition with almost new tires and reported to get good mileage. The truck could be bought on time and with the warranty most of the labor for repairs would be covered for the next year.

Ben said, “The small truck will have to be loaded by hand and every thing in grain bags.” Herb on the committee said “Let the lazy farmers load their own.”

Luke argued that the price seemed way too high, the warrantee was only good for labor and not the parts and only for one year. “In a year they would still be doing repair work themselves” Cathy on the committee said, “have the drivers, drive slower so there are not so many repairs.”

He said, “At best, the small truck would only haul a fraction of what the large truck would haul” but the committee just refused to hear that as if Luke hadn’t said it.

They looked at several trucks over several months and in time, the committee felt the panel truck on Ralph’s lot would be the best investment and so the deal was made.

Before the truck could be used it was necessary to rebuild the front end, and replace springs and shocks to accommodate the heavy loads they would be hauling. That of course was not covered by the warrantee as the truck had been in working order. Just not for the heavier loads. The cost to do the rework was as much as the price of the truck and still didn’t make up for the small size. Ben and Luke were stunned but the committee just took it in stride, and acted as if they were getting a bonus.

The small truck made it through nicely, on days when there was no great amount of snow and it was necessary to use the tractors to pull the wagons on the bad days. The small truck increased their number of loads to market by a considerable amount on some days, being able to make more than one trip but because of not being able to handle even as much as the tractors and the snow and having to use the tractors on those days the total for the year was looking much smaller. The committee refused to see or hear of that.

One day, Ben and Luke were gone, doing business with the grain company and had left the decisions of driving the grain to their new manager Jack Clark. Jack was anxious to make a name for himself and was anxious to get as many wagons out as he could. On that day, when the tractors were being used an avalanche took a wagon. The driver was killed, and one of the tractors lost as well as the loss of the entire load.

Ester McPherson had warned about going out on such days as she had seen some of the snow and possible avalanches when she was riding with the drivers as a young girl. Instead the committee had hired a manager who had been successful in school as well as at the electric plant.

Ben and Luke, as well as their family were devastated. In all the years, they had lost a wagon here and there, several wagons but never a human death. Of course, he was a friend they knew well, which didn’t make it any easier.

A small article appeared in the local paper but not much more. Ben, Luke, Ester and some of the other drivers but other than the family’s, that was about it. At the funeral they talked with the family of the deceased but everyone knew there wasn’t a lot to be said.  

Ben and Luke argued that, “had they owned the larger truck from Mr. Brady, they would have accomplished most if not all of their hauling, long before the heavy snow season.”

Every one else, had other arguments weather they had any idea of the situation or not. Ben and Luke were farmers. What could they know. Some said the large truck might have blown a tire or ran out of gas, ignoring completely, that they would be hauling outside of the avalanche season. Some suggested they should have just used the small truck more starting earlier and maybe putting up lights along the road so they could see better at night. Once again forgetting the hauling, had everything to do with the time of year. More than one said they should just cheer up and be glad it wasn’t them.

“Time will pass and you will forget about this. We have all, put it behind us!”

Ben and Luke kept up, their own farms, doing well enough but never settling with the accident. They were even more careful, resulting in less grain being hauled. Much of the grain would be seen sitting around in containers or on small wagons and people would complain about the clutter along the road.  Every year more and more grain would be wasted leaving family’s poor and wondering if they should move away, if only they could.

It was very difficult for Ben and Luke, knowing that what happened was more or less what they had predicted. People depended on them to haul their grain. For many it meant everything to a decent survival. Still the thought of yet another accident, which was easily predicted was almost impossible to live with. All of their backers seemed content with, we are so sorry, but that is just the price of doing business or, it probably would have happened anyway.

The committee agreed it was a terrible accident and it should be brought up at the next meeting, “which by the way” said Lila, “is coming up at our new office soon and, Oh, Betty, don’t forget. You were going to make those wonderful brownies for us. Anyway, hopefully, Ralph Banes is going to be at it, to tell us about yet another fine truck he has been scouring the country for. It sounds as great as the last one and according to Ralph,” “even better”.

Ben and Luke and their families, had spent a lot of time in church after the event. I don’t know where all this is going” said Luke, “but I feel sure something will change for the better.”  Ben’s wife said, “You guys have been doing the best you could, God will show you one day.”  The strength of the family seemed like the first spring flowers after a hard winter. Things would get better!


Grease trap

ONLY hearing THE VERY FIRST Part of this story and as I do know at least a little about these things, I could do nothing but laugh. I knew it had to be written. As it turned out, much later, they had watched the whole incident on their in-house camera. By this time, they had been told that the entire kitchen would be re done and covered by the pumping company. I was told that my embellished story was dead on.

When the merde, hits the ventilator

A friend of mine told me a story that I felt I could not go another day without passing along.

It seems as though, that on one bright sunny day, this person, entered a building they felt responsible for and making various checks found the water to be draining, rather slow in the kitchen. This person, being very well-qualified in the “I can fix it myself area”, dug right in. Turning both faucets on, she was not only to discover that, yes, the water did run slow but now had a sink full of water. Staring at it for some time she was able to determine that it was going down but at the rate it was going, several holidays could have passed before it was empty. Always the thinker, she looked for and found any number of drain cleaner liquids. Curiously enough by adding them, most all of them, to the sink full of water only made it deeper and a little more dangerous to deal with. The stainless-steel sink was taking on a much darker shade of gray.

Okay, now she was ready to call in the big guns. Taking advantage of her cell phone and, in a loud voice, called for anybody willing to assist. Assistance came with plungers and snakes, gadgets and gizmos, and no shortage of suggestions. Other than some of the young children in the area learning some colorful new words one person going off to the hospital, suffering from the inhalation, not a lot more was accomplished.

Next came the professionals. All would be better again. Life would be made new, bright and shiny. A plumber or I should say as he is usually referred to, “the plumber” was called.

“Have you tried to repair the problem yourself? Have you used drain- cleaner? You know, there is an extra $75 charge if I have to work in water that is full of dangerous drain cleaner.”

“Yes, we understand this is not your regular hours of work, and that you have many other customers waiting, but we need this pretty bad and soon.”

“All right” the plumber said, “you holler and it’s your dollar, ha ha,,ha.”

showing up, and wearing his pants, just high enough to not be called indecent, strolled into the building eating a tuna fish sandwich. “My name is Dixon and I’m here to do the fixin”. “Well that really ain’t my name but I use it because it rhymes, ha ha Ha Hah.

Showing him what they had, he slowly wandered back up to the truck and bringing in much the same devices and gadgets that they had been using, only his looked a lot more expensive.

By now they were just glad to have the relief of knowing that soon this would be over and done. The plumber went to work, as if he was probing for treasure at the bottom of a murky bubbling sea, trading one device with another and each time pulling out whatever current device he was using somewhat warped and void of any of the shiny finish it had gone in with.  “Gonna have to replace that one too, ha ha Ha.”

After a while he stopped, “afraid you’re out of luck”

“What now, what do we do now, what do you mean we are out of luck?”

“Well, looks like you’re gonna have to call an excavator, er, well, got a basement?  er, ain’t  this place a co-mercial kind of a place? Have you got a grease trap?”

“What’s a grease trap?”

“Well it’s this year kind of thing that works kind of like your septic tank. When the greasy water goes down the drain, the grease sort of floats to the top an the water keeps a goin. Sometimes if you use a lot of grease it fills up, and you got ta have it emptied. Have you ever had it emptied?”

“Where’s the grease trap?”

Looking all around and then down at the floor right under the sink, “well, by Jiminy George, stright-here under this-er sink.”

Picking up his tools, by now a lot more than just tarnished, went out to his truck and returned with a doughnut and an invoice for them to sign. “Spose you got no place for me to wash up, ha,ha,he,ha. Here’s the number of the grease trap guy, good friend of mine, he’ll do you right, good luck. Ha,ha,hee.ha.

It didn’t take long and the grease trap man was there, removing the lid of this large square container under the sink right there in the kitchen. ”Guess this hasn’t been pumped for a couple of weeks” he said, as all of the ready to advise and help, onlookers decided it was time to assist somewhere away off, maybe, miles away. It was more likely, it had not been pumped in a couple of years.

The stench, rising from the container was like nothing they had ever experienced, at least anywhere near a kitchen or on earth, for that matter. Maybe a farm yard where they raised pigs.

The building was pretty much vacated by any and all, to their cars, and off they went, as if a bomb was about to go off inside. My friend on the other hand, felt she should stay, should someone be needed to advise them further on how to do their job.

Busying herself in a closet, in the most remote part of the building, with the door closed, and holding a quilt over her nose, felt relatively safe. After about a half-hour and the not so pleasant aroma, seeming to be getting worse instead of better, she decided to go and investigate.

Oh my,,,,,,,, oh my,,,,,,,,,, ooooooooooh !@#$%^.  $%^&.   @#$%^.  @#$%^!!!!

the kitchen looked very little, like a kitchen but a lot more like a mud wrestling arena and the odder was like that of a fully operational slaughterhouse in Death Valley, where the power had been turned off six weeks ago.

“We are out here” a muffled voice hollered.

In between fits of what the? And vomiting and gasping, my friend was to learn how a slight mistake had caused this minor calamity. Turns out, the owner of the grease trap cleaner truck, had an apprentice. Anxious for his apprentice to learn quick, pretty much put him in charge of the small job. The owner went on wandering through the building checking out its new paint and decorations while the apprentice went out and turned on the pumper truck and started it pumping. Notice I said, started it pumping. Either no one had told him or he had forgotten that on this pumper truck and among its many valves, were pumping out valves as well as pumping in valves.

Yes, my friends, he opened the pumping out valve and as these trucks are designed to empty their load rather quickly, had emptied a considerable amount by the time our young apprentice friend was able to get back inside. His boss was wandering back to the kitchen about the same time the apprentice, had followed the hose back into the kitchen and the two of them basically realizing what was going on and scrambling and falling and bumping together, made it to the truck about the same time, but it really didn’t matter much. From the looks of things, the truck was pretty well empty.

The young apprentice will not likely be fired as he should’ve been supervised a little better. The owner of the company will continue to have a business, God willing, and if the story does not make the newspaper.

My friend has been informed that all will be corrected quickly and of course so will global warming. For now, as appetites seem to be waning, all cooking and use of the kitchen area, has been put off until the year 2026 and the local hardware has sold out of earplugs which are being used for nose stoppers.

I felt it my duty to express my sympathy to my friend for her inconvenience and having to deal with this horrible tragedy. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to stop laughing, long enough to be very expressive at least positively.


Sally’s Vison Center

Reread 20 July 2020

Tommy walked through the door and up to the counter of the crowded optical center. Dressed in a well fitted suit and tie, shoes highly polished and looking very important. Not the usual customer!

 “Can I help you”.

“Yes, Please, I need my glasses repaired and if you don’t mind, I would like to deal with Sally.”

“Sir, we have several qualified technicians and Sally is quite busy right now ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,”

“That’s fine, I am not in a hurry and I can wait”.

Most of the chairs were taken but Tommy was able to find one near the back of the room. Picking up a few magazines he settled in for a long wait and it turned out to be, a pretty long wait. People came in and left and more than once, he was reminded,

“We do have other tech’s who are not as busy as Sally right now. If you would like ,,,,,,,,,,,.”

“No,” he would wait.

Eventually he was called,

“Mr. Thomas Rinker”.

Up to the counter and Sally, directing him to a chair, near the back of the examining area,

“What can I do for you today? They tell me your glasses are in need of repair. Your glasses look in pretty good shape but if you will take them off for me, I can take a look at them”.

Looking at him there was something, well something. She almost excused herself to bring in a different person to do this exam.

Throwing the thought off, she said,

“before you do that, just for the records let’s check your current vison with and without your glasses.”

Looking through the Ophthalmoscope and deep into his eyes she could see nothing too unusual and yet something still bothered her.

“I’m sorry sir but I must ,,,,,,,,,”

 “I am sorry too, but these aren’t the glasses I am talking about.”

“Well than, if I may, what do you want us to do for you?”

Reaching in his vest pocket he pulled out a wrinkled old package and opened it to an old glass case and opening that, taking out a pair of rather beat up glasses. He handed the glasses to Sally.

awkwardly taking the glasses She started, “these are a mess I’m not sure we can ,,,,,,,,,,,.”

Almost dropping them, she looked at him for a long time, tears welling and freely falling.

Whispering out, “Oh my dear God” was all she was able to do.

On a late fall day, many years before, Tommy had landed in front of a building. Which building, didn’t matter, as he was coming from nowhere and going nowhere. He had drunk enough to get him to the place where he felt people didn’t see him or if they did, he, just like them, didn’t care.  The cement was very wet and cold but he didn’t care about that either. Tommy was drunk, that much he knew and soon he would fall asleep, clutching the bag of returnable cans he needed to start his next day’s mission and another drunk.

People passing by seeing him sitting, half laying there, would shake their heads in disgust. A few might throw a dime or a quarter in his direction but for the most part, avoid eye contact and some even crossed the street to avoid walking past him. Inside the building people were reporting his presence and advising that he could be bad for business, as if that needed to be reported.

Several times the owner had gone out, trying to encourage Tommie to move on, even offering to call a restaurant so he might have a good meal on her. Calling the police didn’t seem like an option as what could they do anyway. Put him in jail at the taxpayer’s expense and they were already too busy to be involved in one more of the many marginalized people.

On her fourth of fifth trip out to talk with him, she noticed he had broken his glasses and they were held on to his head with string and wire and what ever else must have worked for the moment.

“Sir, I run a vision center and we repair glasses. If you will come in for a few minutes I believe I can fix your glasses up a bit.”

Tommy wasn’t all that interested but his glasses were one thing he valued, at least enough to want to hang on to them. While she went on about their service somewhere in his glassy state he pulled him self up and followed her in to the building.

As customers looked on, she led him in to a back room and a chair out of sight of the others. Near the back of the building, was a rear entrance, to a room which had become a storage area with an inner door separating it from the rest of the building. This rear door was only used by the employees and the room for things “too good to throw away or not in use right now”. She set one of the chairs up for him, coaxed him in and told him she would be back soon.

At her desk, she started to examine the glasses and was sorry she had volunteered for such a hopeless project. The glasses were bent, broke, miss aligned, scratched and just about worthless.

She scrubbed them up and slowly started to put her skills to work. Finding some temples from and pair of display glasses with the right hinges and screws that would fit was maybe the hardest part. What she came up with, was a pair of large partly yellow partly turtle shell temples, that looked out of place but more or less, fit. Nose pads were gone and she managed to repair them with an oversized pair.

 The whole thing became a kind of challenging Project with Sally putting in a lot more time than she had planned.  Buffing lenses after removing them from the dirt encrusted frames and replacing them. Buffing any rough corners of the oversized parts she had installed.

By now the appointments had all been taken care of and customers off the street had come and gone. Three of her employees had ended their shift and the last was informing her that he would see her in the morning.

They had all been asked to use the front door tonight and assured that she felt safe enough as this guy couldn’t hardly walk, much less do any harm.

Finally, she was finished and quite proud of the results. Strictly by accident, what she had come up with could easily be considered “Art Deco” and been sold at a high price to the right person.

She went to the back room, knocking and getting no response, opened the door. Tommy was sleeping on the floor using some chair cushions for a bed and obviously not likely to wake up soon no matter what she did.

Now what to do? She went around collecting snacks and restaurant leftovers from the fridge, a couple bottles of water and most of three packs of cigarettes left behind by customers. There was a nice nylon jacket that had been there for more than a year and this might be a chance for it to get a good home. All of this she packed in a carrying bag also left behind by a customer and put it with a note informing Tommy to exit out the back door and to take the bag with him. There would be no charge and wished him well. The inner door had the facility to be locked from the inside and so she did, leaving her charge to his own means.

She didn’t sleep a lot that night and arrived at the office early the next morning, happy to find that her guest had not only left but even made some attempt to put things back in some kind of order.

It didn’t take very long for the word to get out, about the good deed and over the years it played a big part in how her business grew, opening two more offices. She became Sister Sally to the street people. Making small repairs for those who couldn’t afford it became part of the business and without advertising, people from all over heard about it bringing in their old glasses to be used for parts or to be sent to some place where they would be needed and at the same time making appointments for their own glasses and more than happy to spend a little more on that better pair.

Tommy had woken up that morning, like so many mornings looking for something to take off the edge and, in his bag, he found he had left the least amount of a drink. Downing that seemed to give him a little life if one calls it that. The bag of snacks and leftovers were there with his glasses in a nice case. A note said to let himself out the back way and so he did grabbing his things as he went. Stopping behind a large dumpster provided some early morning relief. Soon he was off as usual, wanting to be as far away as he could from where he had spent the night. Who knew what he had done or didn’t do in the area and he would be prime target as a suspect for any foul play which might have happened in the night.

He walked for more than a mile, picking up cigarette buts and smoking them as he went.  Eventually he came to a city park and moving to the center of the park where people were less likely to come, found a bench and plunked himself down. It was nice to be here early in the morning, all alone, quiet except for birds and distant vehicles. The city hadn’t woken up yet and this was his time.

Unless you were a street person, you just didn’t get it. There were things here most people would never see. Some good and plenty of bad but it was real and made a lot more since than a lot of what was going on in the coffee shops and drive throughs. In the daylight, people were worried to the point of seeing therapists and taking pills, because they couldn’t keep up with their neighbor or what was going to impress the most or what if I can’t get this or that. People talking on their phones about some person stealing and at the same time bragging about what they stole, time and product from their employer.

 Sitting there was about the only thing he had to enjoy any more, he started to think about the past twenty-four hours. Than he remembered the bag he was carrying.

Pulling out of the bag, leftovers, snacks, a couple bottles of water he turned his nose up at, some open packs of cigarettes, and even a cigarette lighter.

 A lit cigarette in one hand and savoring the mixed snacks, to him was like his own little party. He imagined himself in the company of friends, talking and sharing bits of expensive food, talking about politics, the weather, and their families, their wonderful families.  Oh, how he would have loved a family. Just the presence of another caring person. What must it be like, having even one-person care, or even know you are alive.

Voices interrupted his thoughts and he could hear people starting to come into the park. Joggers, dog walkers, people with kids, and a few loners, like himself. Getting up and pulling his things together, he thought, “at least they have a place to return to, a coffee pot, maybe, a few magazines on an old table, a soft chair and a phone for people to call them on.” “Maybe they have a little dog or a cat”. Shaking himself out of his thoughts, he pulled on the jacket he found in the bag. Rather light for most people but he was used to the cold and this would block out the wind. Also, it was long and covered up a lot off his rather ragged clothes.

As he walked across the park in the direction of who knew where, a young boy said “cool glasses mister” with the father smiling and giving an affirmative head nod. Walking on and out of sight of the boy and his father he pulled off his glasses. Rather surprised that he hadn’t noticed earlier. Wow! Who could not notice these glasses? Rather silly he thought but at least they were not falling off.  Through the day, he encountered other people who seemed to notice or gave comment on his glasses. A few were disagreeable but most found them to be to their liking. Several asked for the address of the optical center where he had purchased them and he would just say that it was somewhere a long way off and he didn’t remember the address.

Somewhere later in the day he came to a coffee shop and remembering some change that had been thrust into his bag he stopped at one of the outside tables. Carefully counting out the correct amount, went in and bought a coffee, brought it back out and sat amongst the cold, empty tables drinking, letting thoughts pass and just staring into space.

“Excuse me, do you mind if I sit here?”

It was too cold for most people to sit outside and so the voice surprised Tommie.

Sitting down across from him was a well-groomed man and obviously not the kind of people who usually approached him. I see you and immediately figured you as someone who needed a job.

Tommy started to protest but was cut off.

“I think I know your story or most of it and I am not interested in your history. I work in a place where many of us, make a pretty good living. Some would say, we make more than we should. One of the things we do, which is kind of outside of our regular work, is try to get people back on their feet. Not a free ride but a job and at least for a while, we do our best to get you what you need to hold on to the job. If you are successful you can move up or go somewhere else. No strings. We do it as teams with a team or small group of people picking an individual and trying to rebuild them. We don’t do it for gain other than knowledge of what we might be doing wrong or right. You have to make all the decisions and we do our best to treat you fairly, without giving you a lot you couldn’t acquire on your own. In other words, we try to help but by no means, spoil you”.

“By the way, my name is Tim. You don’t have to make a decision right now, but I know the value of what I am offering you. I’m going inside to get a Coffee. I will give you five minutes to make up your mind. If you are not interested, that is fine. You probably will never see me again.”

With that the guy got up and went inside. Tommy sat there. Who was this person who, like so many others, were going to do some great thing for his own ego? Take care of the poor homeless drunk and tell your friends how great you are. Was he serious? This was all too much to think about. Tommy needed a drink. By now the traffic was busy, people were coming and going on the street. Noises and voices everywhere, lights, doors opening and closing. “Run away,” Tommy told himself, but it seemed like he was glued to the seat.

In what seemed like a lot less than five minutes, Tim was back, coffee in hand and looking at Tommie.

“What’s it going to be?”

Tommie heard himself choke out “OK” and they were off.

Tommie followed him for a couple of blocks to a parking lot and a pretty nice car. Tommy nodded off a couple of times while they drove to an industrial park, somewhere on the outskirts of town. There, they pulled up to the front door of a building and got out. A lady came over, got in the car and drove it away.

Tim said, “that was our parking attendant. She like you was in need and now has a job. We decided long ago, that we would create jobs but they had to be jobs that made sense. She will take my car and park it saving me time but also keep records of things like oil changes, fluids, wash and clean the car when needed and we have a hoist, so that some of the minor repairs can be done. She makes out a bill, reflecting current prices. I will pay for what is done and the money will go into an employment fund. She in turn receives a fair hourly wage and given the opportunity to move into something else, when an opportunity comes along.” ‘

“I get a good job because she is not pressured by time or needed business costs. If she has to keep the car for a repair or take it somewhere, there will be a loaner car for me.”

“If you look closely, you won’t see too many new cars here but because they are so well maintained, they look and feel like almost new. Over there”, pointing to a large garage looking building, “Is where we keep the hoist and the landscaping equipment. We do most of the landscaping in this industrial park. One day our grounds keeper asked in he could do some needed repairs on the mower. Of course, not everyone is the repairman he thinks he is but we gave him a chance. Well, that turned into employees and their friends and family’s bringing in mowers to repair and pretty soon we were seeing everything from vacuum cleaners to four wheelers. There are times when the work backs up and we bring in people from other areas to help. For instance, the mail clerk or even one of us might need a break from our daily routine. No one is too good to roll up their sleeves and it could be just to keep records, while the person doing the repair can go on and not have to stop and wash up, in order to record what is needed.”

“Cleaning and organizing is something always needed everywhere, from our offices to the work shop and you will be expected to figure that out as you move along.”

“Now, let’s go inside.”

Going up the walk to the massive front doors made Tommy a bit nervous. Tim seemed to notice and said, “If ever you need to leave and it all seems too much, just come out these doors. Someone will eventually see you and take you to where ever you need to go. Although I will tell you, we run a pretty tight ship. You won’t want to make a habit of it.”

Inside was a spacious lobby with a person at an information desk, working away at a computer. Beyond that and through a door, down a short hallway they came to a very large area of offices, cubicles, people getting up and sitting down, moving from place to place almost like being inside some kind giant clock.

Some HI’s and a hand shake or two, a couple of “like your glasses” but other than that not the stares Tommy was expecting. Tommie followed Tim through the large building to the back of the building to a row of doors. Opening one, Tim said, “this can be your room for a while if you need it.”

Tommie thought, “who ever said I needed a room and for all he knows, I might have a house better than his”.

Tim seemed to read his mind and said, “Just in case you chose to stay, instead of going home some night”. 

It was a small room, with a little refrigerator, sink three burner range, a bed, large window and not much more. A sign said “monitors in place for safety and security”.

“Restrooms, a couple of Tubs, showers and laundry facilities, are down the hall and you will be sharing them with other employees. We have a cafeteria with most of what you might want and there is a charge but pretty small to employees. By the way, there is a charge for most everything here but rates are based on the wholesale costs plus labor and of whatever it is, is based on your rank. If you stay and move up, you will pay more but only enough to defray the cost of providing the service. Part of our business here is non-profit and because of the service we provide, we receive many donations of many different items. Weather it is food, an old car, someone’s laundry equipment, art, dishes, clothes, or a lawn mower, rather than just pass it on, or throw it away, we do our best to reuse what we get. Great chiefs have been developed here and are able to put together incredible meals from good food that others were ready to throw away, because they didn’t have the need or the room for it. Waste is a bad word here and everything that can be recycled, is recycled for use or cash.  Sometimes a load of cardboard barley pays for the driver and vehicle but we make sure it pays for at least that. We feel good about recycling and someone has a job.

Out back, you will find beautiful gardens, started because a contractor needed a place to get rid of some dirt. A person just like you asked if they could plant a few things. They were given a chance and now employees are glad to stop pick a couple things out of the garden, save time stopping at the market and donate maybe less than they would pay at the market, and know the origin of the food”

“I think that is enough for now. Someone will be by to help you go from here. They will set you up with some clean clothes until you can wash yours and good luck. Oh, they will be here in ten minutes so whatever you do, don’t take too long at it.”

Away he went, leaving Tommy looking after him and wondering “what the??” It was all going to fast and he hadn’t had time to even think. Turning into the room a large sign read,

“Be respectful, be on time, and Be open to wisdom. You owe it to yourself”.

 He took off his jacket and thought about the bed but thought, for a change I am going to wash my hands. A small thing but in his own private room, no one looking on, bobbly soap, warm water and then a loud knock at the door. It couldn’t be ten minutes yet. Quickly drying his hands on his pants, he went to the door and opened it.

“Hi, my name is Robert and I would like you to come with me. No don’t worry about your things, everything is safe here.”

Down the hall in the direction of the bathrooms and laundry equipment.

“I got a picture of you on the monitor, when you came in and guessing, I found some clothes that should work for now. You have thirty minutes. There is a clock you can see from the shower. Take twenty minutes of that time in the shower. Not a minute less. When you come out pick out the clothes you want and leave the rest. Get dressed and put all your things in the washer across from the showers. Don’t worry about turning it on for now. The first-time laundry, is on us. Sox and slip on shoes of a couple sizes are with the clothes. You might not be ready for a presidential wedding but you’ll be alright for today. Don’t waste time, someone will be by in a half hour”, and with that, he too was gone.  It had been a long time since Tommie had seen a shower and some might think he would be looking forward to it but that is usually not the case for street people.

Stripping off clothes that had been worn for such a long time was hard enough. Imagining someone else seeing the clothes, was humiliating to the point of tears. In the shower, to hot, too cold, gradually adjusting it to something he could tolerate. His skin was a mess. Bug bites which had festered, a bruise or two, dry scaly skin in places and the touch of the water being painful to some tender skin worn places. What he didn’t know, for the first five minutes of the shower, medicated soap came on and dribbled from the ceiling.  The showers had been built with enough privacy and Soon Tommy was caught up in the comfort. Standing there in the warm water was like something somewhere in his past and he almost forgot about the time. Looking at the clock he had used up twenty-five minutes and he knew these people wouldn’t wait. Jumping out of the shower, grabbing a worn but soft and large old beach towel he dried him self like he was doing the job at the car wash, for a guy who was a big tipper. He dressed and quickly put his old clothes in the washer, before anyone could see them in the state they were in.  Putting on sox and a pair of Slip-on shoes which came close enough to his size, he was ready and not a minute too soon.

A female voice from a little way away asked, “are you decent?”

Walking out, his body still stinging from all the lesions and street sores the water had re awakened.

Outside the wash area a woman waited, my name is Judy and if you will follow me.

Down the hall to an elevator and down to the basement as busy and as large as the area above.

From the elevator to an open door, and a sign saying, “Mail Room.”

“For starters, you will be working here. Brandy and Max will guide you through and have a blessed day.”

Like all the rest, she was gone in a flash down the hall, leaving him shaking hands with Brandy and Max.

“Here is what you will be doing today and don’t expect to be perfect, just be open to criticism and adjustment. This mail coming in needs to be sorted. After a while you will develop your own plan. Different kind of mail with different urgencies. If it doesn’t have a particular person mentioned, it goes to the mail reader over here. Specific names and box numbers go over here in these hundred slots. Nothing is junk-mail. It may go to the shredder or the paper collector but it is all recycled and turned into cash if only a few pennies. There is a place for coupons and some of our employees go through and take what the will use. Some are sent to places they can be best used. Child care items to child care homes, adult diapers to nursing homes.  At least once a week a person sorts out coupons.  Every few days anyone who has a little time will go through the mail boxes to make sure they are being emptied taking these sticks, putting the current date on them and placing one in the box they started on and the box where they finished.  That way nothing gets left behind. You might think we have created a lot of small silly jobs here but it all helps the business to run better and makes for employment.

The rest of the day was rough, Tommy wanting to get to a drink so bad but at the same time, caught up in the small tasks, always more than could be finished. A week went by and soon several weeks.

One day Tommy ran into Tim. This was the first time he had seen him, even though he had delivered mail to his office more than once.

“How are you doing Tommie, do you have a little time for a coffee?”

“Well I am on a mission but”

“Your mission will wait. I knew you were coming in this direction today and made arrangements for someone to take your place for a couple hours. Let us head for the cafeteria.”

The cafeteria had a couple of semi-private rooms and in they went. Tim ordered coffee, suggesting Tommie order something.

 “Could you send us one of those assortment trays with that and thank you Connie”.

Tim looked at Tommie and said, “I’m not even going to ask. I have been through this before and find it best for you to lead.”

Tommy looked at Tim kind of half smiling, “easy for you to say. I have no idea where to start.  What just happened in the past month and a half?  What planet am I on? How do you make any money here? How do you support all of these services? Who organizes it all? Are you the big guy and running all of this on some gold your great, great, grandfather stole from the Aztecs? How was I chosen for this job, whatever it is”?

“If you promise not to interrupt me I will do my best to explain as much as I can and you might be surprised to learn it is not as complicated as it may seem.”

“I am not the guy in charge of all of this,,,,,,,,,,.”

Two coffees came with all the cream and sugar on the side, A beautiful rather large plate came with small sandwiches, sliced fresh vegetables and some fruit. Some small chocolates came with the plate.

“See, that is what I am talking about. That must have cost a fortune, not only the food but putting it together to look that great. I am afraid to eat anything it looks so pretty.”

“Tommy, no interruptions!”

Tommy nodded and apologized. “Go for it and I am glad I am sitting down.”

Laughingly, Tim started in again. “I am not the guy in charge of all of this. Danny Worst is the top man. As you may have figured out by now, we are a Brokerage company and the better we do the more we make. Someone back there in time went to Danny with a suggestion of hiring a person down on their luck to do a little work on the building. Danny immediately said, as long as he can do as good a job as a company we would have to hire and do it reasonable enough to earn his pay I am for it. The man was hired and because we are often charged high prices for work done it was easy for every one to be satisfied. The man did a good job, staying on to do more odd jobs and pretty soon more people were coming up with people needing jobs and jobs needing people. In no time it was necessary to have a meeting to explore all that was needed to make this practice work properly and stay within the codes, laws, insurances, and so on. Much was discussed and suggested, tested, and fine-tuned. Our employees are encouraged to use some of their brake time to help other employees. Sweep a piece of floor, straighten up a desk for someone on vacation, spend twenty minutes on a lawn mower, or making a call for someone who is having a busy day and doesn’t have the time. As you can see, people bring things to be repaired, laundered, mailed and they take home fresh garden vegies, printed invitations for family events, addressed envelopes, and paying for what they take but having the advantage of personal service as well as saving a lot of time shopping around. We encourage our people to have plenty of away time and to spend as much time as possible with family. Our employees are considered some of the best and although some have been offered better positions, most chose to stay.

Not only does everything pay for it self but we have a staff of very happy people, dedicated to their work and with less stress and distractions, to keep them from getting a good job done.

The customers see it and in turn, we see it in our profits.  Because we see and feel the good of helping out others, and because we are able to save more, makes us want to spend less on ourselves and save so we can help somewhere else.  We don’t make a lot of noise about our place and the workings because we can only do so much at a time. If we put out a help wanted sigh we would have more people than we needed and would have to let some go. It is not the intention of our place to solve the world problems but to do what we can a little at a time. We ask that you do not advertise the helping hand part of the business for the obvious reasons.

As for choosing you, you may not be ready for my chosen by God speech so maybe it was the glasses. Yes, I couldn’t help but notice the glasses. As for the lunch, the bread for the sandwiches, supplied free from a bakery down the street. The owner once an employee here, starting out much like you. Coffee and chocolates, from employee’s desks received from clients as token gifts for a job well done. If you look at the plate, cups and flat where, like so many of the decorations throughout the building, all castoffs, donated, voted on and approved by the employees. Anything extra goes to a charity garage sale, we all have fun at.”

Tim took a minute and then, “all of you have done a terrific job”.

“I don’t believe you will find a person here willing to take credit for any of this. We are all still as much in awe as you. We have all become much wiser and realize we have much to learn. One of the things we have learned and you will see this posted around the building, and Tim pointed to a sigh,

when you touch someone, you touch the world. Touch them in a good way.

Tommy stayed on, days, weeks, months turning into years. Years rolling by, finding time and funding to go back to school and all the while moving up in the company. The knowledge gained at his job helped his schooling, putting him at the top of his classes and the schooling helped him into a much-coveted position, much sooner than most would be able to achieve. As Tommy was quick to show his appreciation and constantly thanking people, everyone celebrated when he landed his position. He had worked hard, helping many of them as well as helping the company grow and no one deserved to move up more than Tommie.

Coming back to the moment, looking at Sally, tears streaming down her face, Tommy handed her one of the tissues from the examining table. He said, “I heard you had a little trouble with an employee doing a bit of embezzling and you are having some problems with financial aid. I think I know someone who might be able to help. In the mean time I would like you to accompany me, for a cup of coffee at a cafeteria in an industrial complex on the outskirts of town. There are a few friends there I would like you to meet.”

Sally looked at him. “Somehow, and I don’t know why, I trust you and will be glad to go. My employees can take over and close. Sniffling and more tears flowing, I don’t even know why I am crying but I am sure you have quite a story to tell. Can you give me even a small part of it?

Tommy looked at her, anxious to tell the whole long story and just not knowing how to sum it all up.

“For now, let me just say this.

When you touch someone, you touch the world. Touch them in a good way.”

Salt that heals

Raphael is on his way back to the ship, sober and alert. Raphael Mainz, is a seaman and has been a seaman so long, he is never comfortable on land. He enjoys the sea life and never thinks about doing anything different. A shellback for longer than he cares to remember and touched more countries than most land lubbers realize exist.

Maybe he was destined to be a seaman, with a name so close to Melville’s “Ishmael.”  Maybe something, in the genes caused his parents to choose that name. He might have been named from the Archangel Raphael who is credited with many healings in as many religions. Raphael Mainz, stumbling along on solid ground, needs an earthquake to make him feel steady.

Raphael is on his way back to the ship, he not only calls home but would go to a watery grave for. Today he is happier than he remembers for a long time.

Where did it start? What was the event or moment, one could call the beginning?

He remembers Sharon Koning, a friend in high school, talking about a visit to a nursing home to see an elderly aunt and how at first, she was apprehensive but later was glad she had made the trip. He remembered his parents talking about the poor and neglected. He remembered them going to visit people in hospitals and nursing homes but that was them. He didn’t know anyone personally back then and why would he bother and if he did, what could he do or say.

Several years ago, he had been on leave from the ship, and was spending time with a girlfriend. They had, long since, visited all of the local tourist sights, spent too much time in the pubs and restaurants and agreed they needed something more.

His girlfriend, Melissa Dreyfuss, suggested they go and visit her grandmother, as otherwise, she would be going to see grandma, as soon as he left for the ship. This would be a chance to spend more time together, visit her aunt, and anyway she, Melissa, liked to talk with some of the other people as they may not have any other visitors, ever.

Raphe as she called him, was not the least bit interested. This was not only the last thing on his list, it had never made the list. He would rather be, as they say, “kissing the gunner’s daughter”.

A little of the past history started to creep in as he was trying to dream up a believable excuse and he was starting to feel a bit guilty.

Raphael cared a great deal about Melissa. How many women would wait for a guy who bounces around the world, coming home for such short times. Melissa was good looking, smart, and thoughtful. Beside caring, Raphe had a lot of respect for her.

He said he would be glad to go, trying his best to make it sound sincere. After a short lunch, they drove about two miles to a school looking building and went in. Inside were, the expected odors of medicine, disinfectants, bodies, and just old bodies.  Wheel chairs were everywhere, people fiddling with, pieces of paper, cloths and nothingness. A tv was blaring off in a large room with so many of the residents more or less being in its presents as if they had been instructed by an invisible force to be there.

Off they went, down a long hall, Melissa obviously knowing where she was bound as well as knowing most of the staff. Some of the rooms they passed were empty and in some, it was easy to see people, generally much older and often just lying in a bed. Some were moaning while others were reading or doing something to pass the time.

Raphe was brought out of a kind of trance, when Melissa announced, “this is her room”. “I will check if she is awake,” which she did and called Raphael to come in. The room, like all the other rooms, was small by land lubber standards. A bed, a table, some storage, and a bathroom just off the from the bed.

He was introduced and mostly listened while Melissa talked with her grandmother Harriot Dreyfus, who seemed to be in pretty good shape for someone in a nursing home. He would find out that her husband had died and she lived alone for years visiting and getting visits from friends and family. One day she had a seizure and was advised to go into a home, where she could be watched and given the attention needed when the seizures happened. In the three years she had been in the home, she had had two seizers and knew she was in the right place. Family would come by often and take her out for a different meal or maybe just a drive.

They stayed about an hour, Raphael trying his best to look comfortable and talking about current news and some of the things Raphe was doing. When the time came to leave, Raphael, breathed a silent sigh of relief.

Saying their good-byes to Mrs. Dreyfuss, and leaving the room Melissa turned right instead of left toward the exit door. Off down the hall and stopping in for short visits, at several other rooms.

On entering one of what Raphael hoped would be the last, he was introduced to a lady who looked like someone who had just come from a very costly hair salon. Thin, well-groomed and perky. She talked slowly, obviously happy to see Melissa as well as him. His introduction just wouldn’t due without a hug from this short little lady. Bending over, the heavy cross, hanging on a chain around Raphael’s neck, came out of his shirt, gently bumping her on the chin.

Raphe apologized, being embarrassed and started to tuck it back in his shirt.

 “That’s quite all right,” Mrs. Jenson said, “Never apologize for wearing a cross. It represents everything we are alive for”. “May I see it?” she continued.

Raphe took the cross back out again, pulling the chain over his head and handing it to her. 

It was heavy, compared to most neckless crosses and Mrs. Jenson asked him where it had come from. He told her it had come from the town of Dover in England, where he had visited. He had been to London and someone suggested he go to Dover to see the white cliffs as well as the Dover castle and St. Augustine’s Abby. When visiting St. Augustine’s Abby, a young man who was out front selling trinkets, said, “they were antiques from his grandfather’s brother”. The young man showed him the cross, saying “it will protect you.”

Raphael offered the cross to Mrs. Jenson, but she refused saying,

  “It will serve better if you keep it and just think of me with a prayer, once in a             while. It is difficult to keep that sort of thing here, some of our guests, forgetting what is theirs and not theirs.”

They left the room, once again saying their good-bye’s as if she were a close friend and well, Raphe thought, “I guess she is.”

A couple more visits down the hall, that somehow now, didn’t seem near as uncomfortable. He was starting to feel as though he was adding something to their lives that they so badly needed. He didn’t want to make himself out to be a hero, but couldn’t help but notice the change in them by the time they left. It was almost like they had provided a vitamin or given the elder person some magic health food.

Like all things good, his time with Melissa had run out and he was back at work many miles and a lot of water away. He thought of their visits to the nursing home and would discuss them often with Melissa over the phone or in letters.

One day when he called Melissa, she said she was just about to call him. She had received a letter and was anxious to get it to him. “I won’t tell you now, what it says because I don’t think it will have the same bang as it will when, “you” read it.” I will send it in the mail because that is the way it is meant to be received. It just has to be that way.

About a month went by, Raphe curious, about what this letter could say as well as who it was from, but work and study kept him busy enough to forget the rest of the world, at times.

Finally, one day the letter arrived, a soiled and rather bulky envelope loaded with stamps.  Back at his birth, he opened the letter. In it were two envelopes. One had a return address he wasn’t able to recognize and the other was from Melissa, his girlfriend.

Opening Melissa’s first, he read,

 “The letter I sent, if you haven’t figured it out by now, is from a woman we visited the day we went to the nursing home. Her name is Fran Jensen. She had wanted to give me this letter sooner than she did but because I hadn’t been to the nursing home, on the days she was in, she didn’t know how to get it to me. Finally asking about me in the office, someone remembered me and called. I went to see her, by the way she is doing well, and, as you will read, had quite a story for me.  It is all so much to take in and seeing or maybe feeling your reactions when we left the nursing home that day, well, I believe it will mean as much to you as it does to me. Please let me know, what or how you feel about the letter, as soon as you can.” 

“Love, Melissa Dreyfuss”

Of course, he had hardly finished the letter from Melissa when he heard the ship’s whistle, telling him that he needed to be at his post immediately. A fire had broken out and everyone on board was involved. As it turned out, the fire was contained in a short time, causing minimum damage but meaning he and several other people, would be working long and steady hours. For four days, it was work with only short amounts of sleep. Finally, the ship was pretty much, back to where it had been before the fire and other than some cleaning and putting things back in order it was business as usual. Sleep for everyone was not only needed but ordered, with only a few trading off, doing short watches.

Some time later, with a little more awake time available, he pulled out the letter from Mrs. Jensen.

Opening the envelope and pulling out the folded pages, written in beautiful hand writing, he read,

“Dear Mr. Raphael Mainz                                                                                                                                          This is coming to you much later than I would have liked. Because of the significance of your visit, I felt it necessary to do some investigating in to your reasons and if someone had previously told you things about me you wouldn’t otherwise know.

During the second world war, I had been in Dover, going there to do volunteer work. I had gone there in the early part of the war, no one ever thinking it would escalate to what it became. I would go to St Paul’s church for services and one day they had a dance for the volunteers and soldiers. I met a man there, who was not a soldier but among other things, a fisherman and made and gave away the same crosses as the one you wear around your neck. It was easy to recognize it as it was just like all the other handmade ones. He knew a man who would cast toy soldiers and arranged for him to cast a small corpus of Jesus. My friend would make the crosses and attach the corpus.  He and I became very good friends, talking and dreaming about spending a lot more time together when the war was over. Soon, we were as in love as any two people could be. Things were much different than and one did, what had to be done. We visited the priest and telling him of our situation, he married us in a very private service. Friends we had recently met, were witnesses and stood up for us. There was no big celebration and we were together, only a short time when he had to go.

In nineteen forty it became necessary to evacuate soldiers from Dunkirk.  All available sea worthy vessels were enlisted. Many of the fisherman from Dover volunteered. He had been fishing in the area at the time and volunteered to do his part. Not having time to say goodbye, I received a letter, he had written just before he went off in his fishing boat to help in the rescue. I still have the letter. I later heard, from information collected that he had made several trips, carrying soldiers to the large ships from Dunkirk shores, as the large boats couldn’t get in close enough. He or his fishing boat were never found, but from the description, that was common.

As I said, those were different times and we did what had to be done. There wasn’t a lot of time for tears. Some years after the war I married a good man. I told him of the event but never mentioned it again.  Seeing the cross made me remember so many good times in an otherwise horrible time. You may never understand but you have given me so much to be thankful for.

With all God’s Love,

Mrs. Fran Jensen.”

Boatswain Raphael Mainz, just sat there. What are the chances of a happening like that? He had read of the tragic yet heroic Dunkirk time and of the rescues but reading about it was just like watching a movie of star ships in the future or dinosaurs thousands of years ago. When you get this close, it becomes a lot more real.

During mess he would talk about the event, telling fellow workers about what had happened and his thoughts of returning to the nursing home when he was back with Melissa. The more he talked about it the more people were intrigued and somehow, wanted to be a part of it. Someone suggested a card with everyone’s name, sent to Mrs. Jensen. Someone else suggested sending several cards to the nursing home. In the beginning it was all just talk but eventually a small group got together and decided they would send to the nursing home, finding out who best to send to and try to more or less adopt a senior friend. They would send letters and a small gift when they could.

Raphe shortened up the job by asking Melissa to gather the addresses as well as some names which he was able to get over the internet.

Soon the mailing began. The sailors would talk about their experiences, places they visited, the work they did on the ship, where they were from and just any kind of short story they could think of. Sometimes, when they were in a foreign port, the sailors would pick up a trinket or special something. Maybe just a little sign, note from a hotel, or paper place mat from a restaurant to send. It became a kind of competition seeing how many letters you could send in a week.

 The results after several months were phenomenal. The home was very happy to be able to deliver and, in some cases, read to the people, from the letters. More sailors had gotten involved and the idea spread like wildfire to other ships. Someone had called a local newspaper, a reporter came by the home and the kind of story, everyone likes to hear was in the news.  Soon more and more letters were coming to the home and to other homes, from all directions as well as showing up on the ship, thanking the sailors for their great work and for giving their loved ones something from a different part of the world.

They would never know, just how far, how many nursing homes, poor people, and shelters had eventually gained from their exercise.

One day when they were in a port in another country, Raphael found a cross to replace the one he now wore. Back at the ship he arranged for one of his sea buddies to make a plaque from a special piece of zebrawood cut from a pallet, picked up in yet another port.

Taking the cross, he had worn after replacing it with the new member, he fastened it to the plaque well enough that he was sure it wouldn’t be taken.

Here we are, today and Raphael’s stumbling back to the ship. Mrs. Jensen had cried when she seen him. On her wall a bit high was the cross he had sent. Many of the other residents had thanked him warmly making it as hard to leave the home as it was leaving Melissa.

Communication was getting much better from the ship and because of all the publicity about the letters and gifts, mailing would be cheaper and easier. 

Raphael is sad, having to leave but happy, knowing he has started something which will go on making a lot of people happy, if only for a moment. 


As I was writing this, I heard there is a new movie out about Dunkirk. I had no idea!

WJRIII  6/26/2018

Sausage by the square with pork-a-ritas.

Up in the morning, pretty early. wash some dishes which have accumulated over the last week,,,,,,,,,  or two. Save time, water and all forms of energy by waiting and not washing right after use.  Not only that, by the time I get to them the cats have pretty well cleaned them. A sort of a prewash.

Today I am going to get a lot done. I have broken things by the score to be repaired of pitched, cleaning and painting work, Phone calls to make ,,,,should have done several days ago, paper work (which bill to pay) try to understand my weekly mail, insurable, political, taxable, medical, tyrannical, unintelligible mail. I wear google out, asking for explanations.

I remember when the utility bill came on a post card. My dad would carry it down to the drug store and pay out of a change purse. Now one gets an eight-page summery with a costly listing of things, no one has ever heard of. Instead of cash they smugly ask for your bank account number.  But we have light bulbs which hardly use any energy and will last for 35 years,,,,,, ,and so are cheap, unless you happen to break one or seventeen. I am supposed to throw out my refrigerator and buy a new one just to save energy.  It takes me six months of energy just cleaning it much less moving it. Doing nothing seems a lot more efficient to me. As long as it cools the kitchen on hot days, it’s staying.

Thursday 9:15 Mass at the local church. After that, time to get busy with my chore list ,,,,,,,,,,,,,, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeellllllllllllllllllllllllllllll, there is this other thing which has been bothering me. I have never made breakfast sausage!!

A bit of a detour and off to the meat store to buy a “pork But”. That doesn’t sound very nice to me. Why not pork back end, part beyond the center, derriere, breech, fanny? But, but doesn’t sound right. I didn’t like it much when they called me “Rear-end” in school!

People talk about delicious tenderloin, marvelous ribs, mouthwatering hams. You just can’t say that in the same sentence with BUT.

This is going to be easy and instructions say only four hours for two pounds. What are they doing? Apparently haven’t heard of my skills. I up the ante buying ten pounds and intend to do the job in two hours.

At home I have my mother’s super-efficient meat grinder, capable of grinding up large portions of meat and so I was told, small children if I were to get too close. For some reason, mother stopped using it in 1958. It may have had to do with the invention of super markets as opposed to butcher shops.

I may have to treat myself with a small taste of the grain just for a starter. 

If I had my cordless driver, I could have used the hole saw to cut out pretty round burger like chunks.

Starting in, using my quality butcher knives and superior butchery skills, I carve off a small piece of my prize. Even with my awesome sharpening skills, this is going to be a little rough.  This is going to require getting out the more intimating tools. After a quick discussion with Mr. Jameson, Cleaver in hand I chase this greasy monster around the kitchen counter. Occasionally hitting it and on more occasions hitting the counter. That got the cat’s attention. If I hadn’t loaned out my cordless driver, I could have screwed it to the table. The pork but that is.

Did you know this wonderful cut of meat, the bu-tay has a bone? Yes, the size of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s hand and when you finally get it out, it looks like a toy flying saucer. Wonder if I could paint it for a Christmas present.

Now it is time for grinding. A wee touch.  After my previous dusting, boiling, steaming, using a pint of rust remover, my bright and shiny, Alexanderwerk #8 hand grinder is waiting and ready to go. I clamp this beauty to the table and can’t wait to get started. Just a pinch of the nectar before starting.

In goes the meat, I turn the handle, out comes the ,,,,,,,,, WOOOOAAAAAA! This turns a little hard.

Now I know why my mother could swat us so hard from the front seat of the car while adjusting her bobby pins and reading the obituary to my dad.

This is going to be even more interesting than I figured. This needs a serious pull from ol Jamie.

 If I just had my cordless drill and I attached it to the handle thing-a-ma-bob,,, no, I would have just turned myself around. Well back at it.  I feel like I am turning the giant wheel that makes a river boat move up the river,,,, against the current.

“ol’ man pig but, that ol’ man pig but, he don’t say nuttin but he must know sumptin, cuz he jus keeps breakin my arm, he don’t plant tators and my sasuage is gona be rotten, an the rest of my day is soon forgotten” .

I’m exhausted and I only have ground enough for a smoky link,,,,,,  without the skin,,,,  or the smoke.

Thanks to the preservative I regained some strength even though eye sight got worse.

I pushed on and by some miracle came to the end of my ten pounds of that miserable lousy pork piece and had a small celebration ,,,,,,,,, or two,,,,,,, or

Da next part of dis operation pheeeeeeeeeeeeeew I am so tired. Dhe text pert a desperation is spiceseses. Throw in stuff and mash it all round till it gets mashed all round an da wittle spices go round an round an da music goes roun an roun.

Time for a spit down.!

Hour and ten-minute nap and I am ready as a rabbit.

Now for the spices,,,,,,,,, Oh, did that.    Flattened all the ground meat out on sheet pans and put it in the freezer. Let it chill and get stiff, while I’m getting a little stiff, making it easier to cut in small squares.

I mark it when it starts to get firm or stiff from freezing. Mark it deep so when I take it out completely frozen, it will break apart in even squares, as I have marked it or at least dats da plan.

Believe it’s gona be ness-sis-sis-ary to extend dat nap.  Good night!!


“Teaching the poor, “to Respect”

“Why don’t they have more respect?”

 How many times have I heard that, or similar words basically meaning the same thing? When I hear it, I have the greatest compassion, not for the poor person but for the, not so poor person making the statement. So disconcerting to believe a person has missed so much in life, not be able to see beyond. We move into a neighborhood, not expecting to know our neighbor, yet feeling comfortable, still we think we know and can be disrespectful to person who is poor or different than we think they should be.

“They should have more respect for the clothes that are given to them!!”

Take away your second set of clothing, the closet to put them in, the money for cleaning and a lot of other things, we might get close to an answer.

“They have no respect for the food they are given!

I remember in my early years, late 1940’s early 1950’s food was much different. Most everyone I knew in the city, was taught to eat what was given and do our best to clean our plate. With a few exceptions the food went down and the delivered quantity was consumed, especially if it was Sunday and you wanted dessert. On two occasions I was allowed to stay at my uncle’s farm for a week and food there was a scrumptious surprise. Breakfast was like a thanksgiving dinner with sometimes three meats. Sausage, bacon and beef, pork or home-grown chicken, eggs floating in grease, pancakes, piles of homemade bread and ending with toast sopping up the warm grease, slathered with homemade cottage cheese and a healthy portion of homemade strawberry jam.

Wraps, pizza, Caesar salads, drive in restaurants and a lot more hadn’t come into my life by then. As quantity and quality of food increased, we became choosier, describing what we had in earlier years as tasteless, unhealthy, and unacceptable. We may go to the doctor more often now but ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,.

We change and as we do, through our actions we cause others to change just as others cause us to change. Like it or not, admit it or not, we live by influences weather from a university professor, media or the guy next door.

Poor people attempt to do as we do, feeling that is the right thing to do, often picking up our easier bad habits sooner than picking up, what we consider good habits.  Today, it is a lot easier to find anyone, poor, middle class or rich complaining about healthy food and enjoying what is not near so healthy. Given a choice, many poor are not likely to use powdered milk, dried beans, fresh vegetables in season and dark bread. I wonder how many of us, find it easier to just order a pizza.  If they, the poor, were to share an opportunity to prepare, from foods they were not so anxious about and turn out a delicious meal, in time some things might just change.

They have no respect for property!

Every being needs a place o rest. Bugs, birds, fish, snakes, animals and humans require rest or at least as far as I know. Some of the various species have rested long enough for us to sneak up on them and annihilate them from the face of the earth. Humans are us. We are supposed to be smarter than that.  We should be intelligent enough to provide a place where at least, those humans, without the means, can get decent rest without fear. This shouldn’t be an exorbitant cost and the alternative, jail is far too costly to the taxpayer to even be considered yet we find ourselves being satisfied with that choice.

I have long since, tired of hearing, “not in my yard, not in my park, not on my street, not in front of my store” and so it goes.   I understand all of that. Of-course. Often with good reason. Through history, it has taken a log time for various groups of people to get along and at times it is good to stay a distance from even a family member for a while. We all need to respect property. Go to a so-called camping park, loaded with hundred thousand-dollar campers and check out the respect for property. One wouldn’t consider these people poor.

I have a great respect for the poor and I have met many who have shown me considerable respect, without me demanding it. I can’t say it has always been the same percentage from those with money.

To me it all comes down to the same thing. The poor, homeless, marginalized, mentally ill, need a place, where they can survive, and be given a chance to move forward, close to the kind of social life we think they should arrive at one day, but far enough away that those who have not yet, learned, the poor are still good human beings and are strapped with burdens and problems we can’t begin to imagine. These folks still deserve respect.

WJR III Tuesday Sept. 15/2020

For Roger

Good friend

We boarded number 43

Headed in different directions

You went off to fresh plowed earth

  to learn from the tractor seat

Myself to brick and glass

and the school of the city street.

one looking right and the other left.

Never seeing the others side,

Our own ideas for us to heft.

The only truth was that we spied.

This train we rode its knowledge shared

Past tallest buildings and corn ripe fields.

One day we met our lives so set,

Our photos we compared.

What worth or waste it’s yields.

Thus came the day

 with the conductors ok,

we happened to share a coach.

While one looked left and the other right,

Cautious as we approach.

We talked of wood from seed, to limb and leaf,

and the pleasure of the finished wood.

On we went shareing of our belief

In a God who understood

Comfort and knowledge abounding.

And so dear friend, this is your stop.

From here you go by air.

Amish Soffit job and a flat tire!!!!

June, 2020 a true story           

The Riordan Chronicles.

So, the night before the Amish were to arrive, I was working on my tractor. I use it for keeping the weeds and woods down so at least I can find my house. I also use it to carry heavy things which seems constant.  One of the too heavy things,,,,is me! My point, tractor is important.

Worked on it a good part of the day discovering what parts I would need, and at six thirty came in looking like a grease monkey of the fifties. Back then, fixing the problem was more important than dazzling the customer with your Amante shoes and baby blue shop smock.

I knew I had to do a lot of washing even before I got near the shower.

NO WATER ?!?!?!?!?!?”

That’s when I came in to find I had no water. I have a well and all the answers come quick.  Hard work,,,,,,,,,,,, at the end of a day I had only intended to spend time scrubbing and scraping in a warm shower.  Even a cold one would have been glorious.

The alternative now. No shower, scrounge some water from the only receptacle in the house which has water all the time. Wash my hands. Make a bed on the kitchen floor with a bag of pasta for a pillow and worry about it in the morning.  Eating was out of the question. I was so filthy my cats wouldn’t accept treats from me.

I tried very hard not to listen to that miserable little voice that says, “you know you need to go and check the well NOW!”

No, I don’t want to do that. I’m tired, it will be dark soon in a few hours at least, I’m old, there could be wild animals down the hill to the well, by the way there are a lot of weeds down there. The owner didn’t cut them. Thorns, sticks, salamanders, did I say thorns?


Off I went, taking the long way around to the well, at least another three hundred feet.

Yanked open the door that has been opened as recently as 2003. Not that long ago at my age. Lifted the door covering the pump and as I expected the pump was running but like a human on a treadmill, going nowhere.

The problem was obvious or at least, my theory was probably right on. When it comes to repair. If it is going to take a great deal of hard work, that is most likely the problem.

Being the think ahead person I am, I checked the well house for the spare. Found the box,,,, empty ,,, with a date of 2003.  Oh Yah, I must have saved a lot of money by not getting another spare back then.

Spent a few minutes kicking things, which should help but not when you are wearing a pair of Crocks from the 1995 era. And are worn to the Playtex glove thickness.

I did have a few other water pumps on the shelves in the well house and with a little TLC and about fifteen miracles one might just get me by.

Back up to the shop (garage) for tools and fittings. Things I would normally carry with the tractor. For starters, a couple of thirty-six-inch pipe wrenches weigh up pretty quick. Even faster when you thought this was the end of your work day.

Back down to the well dragging buckets of ,,,,,  stuff.

To shorten it up, even though it wasn’t short, thanks to my vast knowledge, super skills, amazing abilities, or at least most of the fifteen miracles, by 9:30 pm I had water. Not that bad, except for that little voice saying,” I told you so

Up early next morning still squeaky from last night’s extended shower and detailing and back to experience more water. How great it is. Thank you, Boss, for that push.

The Amish showed up about 7am and ,,,,,,,,,,,,, Oh,,,,, I hired the Amish to repair or replace the soffit in my house. In case you don’t know what, the soffit is and even if you do, and even if you don’t care what the soffit is, you’re going to find out. The soffit is the part of the house or roof that hangs out from the house. Unlike those that just hang out at the local Pub, it has purpose.

Years ago, the soffit was made out of wood, quite strong and other than paint in forty-eight years, needs little attention. Now it is made out of rigid vinyl, about as thick as the vinyl on the seats of a fifty-six ford.

As I am the guy who built the house, I suppose I need to take the credit for some of the issue with it. Somehow the starlings found a way to get in and found it so accommodating. They ran an article in the Star-ling news and decided to hold a convention there every season after. In the beginning it was about as popular and quiet as a St. Patrick’s parade in 1960 Belfast.

Soon they were requiring much larger sweets and the weight of so many guests were causing the floor or to most humans, ceiling,,,,,,,,, well the vinyl was falling out.

When the Amish started taking down what was left of the soffit, pterodactyl nests came with it.

Trying to imagine what was going on up there,,,, this must have been a starling brothel. There was enough hay up there to over flow the back of a pickup truck. I considered buying a cow just to recycle.

So, I had made a lunch for the Amish which they seemed to really appreciate. If they had seen me the night before when I was without water, they may have opted for a trip to Mc Donald’s.

First day went very well. Some places need a thirty-foot ladder and one of the reasons I turned the job over to them.

The second day they showed up about 7:35, hustle, ladders up banging, pounding, I’m preparing food for at least the twelve apostles after a serious fast but there are only four of these guys and their driver who doesn’t eat. Only smokes and sleeps.

About 8:45, Jonis comes to me, “Bill, I have to leave. I just got a c all; My son just broke his arm in two places”.

Jonis and the driver are off and about 9:45, one of the other men comes to me. “Bill, Minion just fell off the ladder and he thinks he broke his foot. He is in a lot of pain.”

Dressed in a raged t-shirt, trusty crocks and what is left of a pair of shorts that can only be called comfortable, I grab my keys.

Menyon is suffering a lot and they want to go home. Calling 911 just won’t do.

They insist on taking down their ladders, putting away their tools, all the while Minion is sitting there moaning. Besides his foot, he fell on a four by four post and broke it clean off with his ,,,,, back of his pants.

Revved up my trusty van and we were off. A few miles west of us27, on us 12 we hear something hit the side of my van. Shortly thereafter we here, thump, thump, thump.

“I have a blowout.”

Called AAA, recording telling me I can go to AAA !@#$%^&.com something or I can wait to talk with a service person. I am the ninth person in line and the phone call is being recorded and if I would rather and I should and ,,,,,,,,,, I hung up and called Roger and Hellen.

“Have a blow out on US12, side of the road a few miles west of 27, west’ is your sandwich hand, not your coffee hand, got a guy here with a broken foot needs to go to the hospital quick.”

Hellen answered, “OK, we will be right there.”

Two of the Amish who weren’t hurt went walking, looking for a store to get something to drink.

45 minutes later I call back to Hellen. “Well be right there I just left Staples and need to stop at the shelter.” 

“This guy is suffering; he needs to go to the hospital”

“Were you serious about that? I thought you were just pulling my leg, like usual”.

“Please, just get here.”

Another half hour goes by and I call Hellen back,

“Roger had to stop at the Springs gas station and get something to eat. His sugar is low.”

By now I am running out of ideas. Two of the Amish have gone looking for a store and I haven’t seen them, or don’t see them in my mirror. AAA hasn’t got to number nine yet, Menyon is moaning and my brain refuses to give me, even a hopeless idea.

Eventually Roger and Hellen arrive, the Amish return with drinks, smelling of cigarettes and we move on to the next phase of a routine Riordan day.

Hellen takes Minion and the other two Amish men leaving Roger to administer comfort to me. As they disappear into the sunset,,,,  well over the hill, too early for sunset, AAA calls back. We exchange information, me receiving more than I give, advice about getting on AAA@#$%.com and someone will get back to me.

Another hour and a quarter go by, me trying to stare a hole in Rogers potato chip bag and Hellen returns.

The Amish have been delivered to various parts of the country, grab the car keys, lock it and Roger and I jump in Hellen’s car. At home I call a place located half way between me and where my car is broke down.

“Sure, I can take care of it. Might be about a half hour. Can you bring me the keys?”

Hellen drove me to Artesian wells garage, dropped off the keys and as we were leaving my house to take the keys, AAA called back,

“We have someone in the area. Now what is your problem and where are you located?”

Would it have done any good to express myself to a person who was hired to do just exactly what he is doing? By now it has been three and a half hours since I first called AAA. There only advice was to wait or if it is an emergency call 911. Would a paramedic have come out with a new tire for me? Would the fire department have brought me an ice-cold case of beer? Would the police come with an orchestra to lull me back into sanity? I thought car insurance was supposed to solve these problems. I think that is why I have been paying for road aid for sixty-five years. The only thing they insured, “I was in trouble and don’t call us ____ _ _ _ _  _ _ _  _” ! M y cats are going to hear about this!

Artesian wells took care of the problem.

An old used tire, a tow job and $90 later I am on the road.

The Amish were not back for several days because it was haying time and apparently that takes precedence. They did eventually come back and finish the job. They did nothing about clean up, leaving that to me. I was hoping to find at least a dozen eggs in all the nests but either the fledglings had all left or the eggs couldn’t stand the drop.

All in all, would I hire them back? Probably, if for no other reason, they seem naively honest and I mean only that our world today expects one to be dishonest.

Jonas’s son is in a cast and doing well. Minion must be off his foot for eight weeks but Jonas said they will put some kind if wild leaf on it and expects it to heal much faster.

For me, more fuel for the “Riordan Chronicles”

So, I am driving/riding off to the Doctor with Hellen and Roger.

So, I am driving/riding off to the Doctor with Hellen and Roger.

I recently purchased a new ,,,,,, slightly used vehicle which I may be able to drive someday.

After driving it home from Atwater Ohio, some 208 miles away, and fifty or so miles locally, a few warning lights came on. Why don’t they have warning lights that Say, “DON’T BUY THIS CAR”?

The repair place tells me it is just a few small things and he will have it repaired,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, in time. Probably in time for me to buy antique license plates!

It seems that ,,,,,,,,,,,, (Nothing like absolutes when you are talking cars, time and money) It seems like one of the warning lights, points to a cooling component. They, the repair people, are not sure which one and each component requires disassembling a large portion of the car and all in different locations. No two for the price of one on this job. I have not lost any cooling fluid although I have noticed what I thought was the smell of coolant. Not uncommon to have smells in my vehicles.

In two similar Brands and models, a little more vintage, I have had coolant problems but this being newer and a different design I was quickly reminded I have no idea, what I am talking about.

“We will tear it apart and call you when we find out what the problem is and wait for your decision.”

This of course, after they have me at bay, with parts scattered all over the place and a large bill ran up. My choices are reasonable. Pay to have it fixed or scrap it.

Somewhere in the past, law schools decided to step up their enrolment. Not sure if standards ,,,,,,,,, won’t go there. Anyway, I remember when Lawyers, Attorneys, Advocates, Counselors, legal eagles, Solicitors, Barristers or whatever name they go by, were hard to find. Not a single one in the book,,,,, when we used phone books. Pretty soon they became more popular than the Pubs, bars, and saloons. As the legal helpers increased, the friendly ale houses decreased. Maybe that had something to do with attorneys becoming judges and needing more work.

Well, soon the judges were giving the Imbibers a place to stay with free rent but not a lot of access to the brew. Consequently, less friendly consumption of fire water, less need for saloons and less need for legal help, less law counseling peoples.

That’s when Attorney’s started becoming gloved auto mechanics and continued on with the same extortionate rates.

There are repairs and there are repairs.

I ride along to Ann Arbor and Rogers doctor because Roger has asked me to. I’m glad to go and as for me, it is like hearing about yet another repair job. Tubes, leaks, bad temperatures, taking things apart to get to other parts, noises which shouldn’t be there, expensive repair people. It’s all the same.

One other job I seem to have with Helen and Roger is GPS advisor. Grand Parents Syndrome. No one under 35 is left out of the ring. “They will learn in a few years” “They sure didn’t get that from their parents” “why,, when I was their age” “it’s your fault, the way you treat them” “It’s because of your ancestors”.  Some might call my suggestions, Heckling but I do my best to keep it even between both parties.

Both Helen and Roger are very familiar with Ann Arbor streets and locations of various places. I for one, see no other reason to go to Ann Arbor other than the Salvation Army and White Castle hamburgers.

Getting in the general vicinity of Ann Arbor is pretty much a straight shot. Well, not straight but a lot of curves going somewhere east of where we started.

Once there or almost there they, Helen and Roger go into Lewis and Clark mode.

“That’s the way I go”

“No, this way is closer”

“The way you are going there are too many kids on bicycles”

“Oh no, a detour”

” See, I told you but you wouldn’t listen”

“OK smarty pants, your way is now a dead end.”

“Well then try a different way”

“Isn’t that an intelligent statement”

“Be careful don’t run over those kids”

“I have the right-a-way!”

“Not when they are halfway across the street”

“I could have made it”

“The light was red”

“That’s the jelly on your glasses”

The city of Ann Arbor has done their best to buy up all the construction barrels and construction signs in the eastern part of the US. Every street you turn down, has a detour sign and one begins to feel like they are driving around in a corn maze while not driving into a giant construction hole or mashing a dozen or so half unconscious inhabitants.

Helen is driving great. She is rolling along, dodging this and that taking every opportunity to get closer to her destination, maneuvering around and over every obstacle, keeping the blood flowing. Rogers and mine!! I feel like a BB in one of those hand puzzles.

Try as we could, to make suggestions, Helen would have already decided on her next move almost before we could get a word out. As it was, all we could do is get out a few terrified squeaks.

Did I mention there were noises? Construction noises, bus noises, student noises, heart pumping noises, police car noises,,,,,.

 “Ops! Helen”, Me calling from somewhere near the floor.

“I think you need to stop.” “What”? “Sirens, I think you need to stop” “Why” “COPS!!!! I think he is going for his gun!!! STOP!”

Helen pulls over in what really doesn’t seem like a stopping spot’

“Could you please roll your window down”


The officer does the circle thing with his finger.

Helen does a bit of fumbling and the window goes down. 

“Officer, I’m trying to get my husband to the hospital. Can you give me directions?”

The officer although not appearing rough or rude just kind-of stands there like she has driven the car on his foot and he hasn’t the heart to tell her about all the pain he is in.

“Mam, do you know what barricades are for?” 

“Well I didn’t really notice”

“There might have been a bridge out and you would have driven right off the end”

 “Well I’m not stupid. I don’t think”

“Do you know what detour means?”

 “I,,,, I”

 “Do you know what one-way means?”

 “Was I going”

 “Do you realize you are driving on the sidewalk?” 

“Really, I didn’t see any students on ,,,,?”

 “Do you know you don’t have any headlights? Can I have your license and registration please?”

He goes back to his car and Roger and I start discussing things like the closest ATM and between the two of us, can we raise enough for bail? Will I be driving him from now on as it is obvious, she will never have a license again and furthermore, how in the world would we ever get out of where ever we are?

After an extended period of time, the officer comes back.

“I am just giving you a warning this time,”

Hellen interrupts with “Because of all the detours and”.

Roger stabs her in the ribs and the officer starts again.

“I am only giving you a warning this time” and goes through the same speech as before, Roger and I, hoping she can keep it zipped, long enough to get him to leave, or for the sun to come up.

Helen, playing nice cop, nice outlaw, tries to schmooze him with “Can you tell me how to get to the hospital?”

Like putting a maraschino cherry on a chocolate Sunday, he comes back with,

“I wrote the directions on your registration. It is out of date and no good anyway.”

As he walked away, looking a bit drained, Hellen started up the car. Moving cat like, down the sidewalk, on this one-way street, in the wrong direction, toward a small opening in the barricades,,,,,, another alarm horn.

 Brakes on and here comes our friendly officer again, looking even a little less happy than before.

This time he too is driving on the sidewalk and on the passenger side of the car.

Without any urging Roger puts down his window. A little more meaningful the Officer says

“Put your headlights on”

Hellen fiddles around on the dash and Roger says to the officer,

“I just seen the dash lights come on”.

From the officer, by now, not even looking and lost in some kind of report writing, hollers “go ahead and don’t go down any streets with barricades. They are there for a reason.”

Once again Hellen is off and as we slowly pass out of our construction corral and turn the corner Helen is expostulating about his attitude and how he treated her like a child and of course she knew and it wasn’t like she would drive off a bridge in Ann-Arbor.

Roger said, “Those headlights have been out for a long time, when are you going to get them fixed?”

“If you wouldn’t have made your appointment this early, there wouldn’t have been a problem”.

“You made the appointment two months ago!”

“Yes, I may have, but the days were longer than! Come to think of it, I made the appointment for last month and we missed it because you had to stop for a diet coke and chips, causing us to be late”

“That’s not true, we would have made it but you seen a sale sign in a shoe store”.

At the hospital Helen pulls into the valet parking area getting out and turning over the keys of the eyeless coach to me. I watch them cross to the entrance, still going on about some situation which will change color and size many times before the story is through.

Since the virus, I am not allowed to go in with Roger. I miss seeing the blood letters sticking him several times looking for a vein, only so I can make jokes later. I miss telling silly stories to the doctor about Roger. I miss, sitting there with him, redesigning the waiting rooms as well as the personalities of the staff. I miss getting the extra chance to get a chuckle out of Roger.

Sitting here in my assigned spot, I watch the sagacious pair disappear through the door. I think of an elderly cat and an equally senior dog, playfully tearing away at each other, never leaving a scratch or removing a hair.

WJR III   Friday September 4 2020

Christmas 2016

January 2016

Christmas and a roomy stable

I’ll be home for Christmas

It starts out, “I’m dreaming tonight, Of a place I love

                Even more than I usually do

                And although I Know

It’s a long road back”

This song, recorded in 1943, was written for those away protecting us and all that we hold dear.

I am thinking of how this song must settle in the minds or our homeless. Some are from places a long way off and won’t have the resources to get back. Some will have left or been asked to leave a place reasonably close or even a few blocks away.

I recall many years ago, high school age, living away from home and walking, one Christmas Eve, to the place where I was staying. It was later in the evening and I could see in the windows of houses I was passing. I was walking in slush, poorly dressed and had just got off a job which paid very little.

Caught up in my own survival I can’t say I thought about being uncomfortable or for that matter of what I was missing. I do remember though, how the lighting and movement seemed to represent some kind of action and environment I should be missing.

All through the year we are bombarded with all of the things we need, to make ourselves acceptable to the rest of the human race. As quick as we get that precious thing we are told it is old, tacky, out of style and needs to be replaced with ,,,,,,,,,, something different. During the Christmas time, we are reminded even more of what might be missing from our lives. For some, this time of year can drive them even further into their problems.

The homeless people never stop passing the candy store. All they see is unattainable to them and if something is given to them, there will be little chance to have it very long.

I am sure those soldiers of a time when “Ill be home” was popular, would have loved a simple card from home.  Even with all the electronic media we have today, I expect a hand written, paper card still has special meaning.

As for the homeless, it breaks my heart to be cleaning off the bunk of one who has passed, and find a trinket or special card, well worn and dirty, marks of just how much it meant.

I don’t feel in a position to be giving advice but do something. Not just something quick, without thought but do something which you feel will be a lasting gift.  It could be as simple as a word, a smile, shared coffee time or a card. Invite them to your church dinner or Cantata but don’t put them in a situation which would embarrass them.

It is truly a long way back for many of the homeless. Jut getting through their addiction can be an almost impossible road but with that there is the problem of being reestablished in some kind of community.

I feel we need a city or community for the homeless and a place where they are able to establish some kind of roots and begin to exchange with others who are healthier and have more to give.

This City or community I am talking about doesn’t have to be the size of Manhattan but simply a building with enough room to accomplish a little more than sleeping and a bit of outside room for outside activates. There are times when one likes to feel they are listened to or are the only one who is going to comment on what is being said. Times to move at least, far enough away to feel some personal space and again times when it is so good to have a sort of family, close by.

Because I believe I know some of the homeless, just a little, I will be dreaming tonight. Dreaming and asking God to recognize my dream.