Monday, August 31, 2015

Spotta Tea

My childhood friend, a Sasquatch, a.k.a., The Fouke Monster, now operates a car wash in Texarkana. I went to take her a little gift and visit her at quitting time on her birthday last week. She insisted that I come to her place for tea. She had personally imported some English green tea called “Spotta,” as in “spot of tea,” that she wanted me to try. As the water was heating, I handed her the gift I had brought, an autographed copy of Robert Lanza’s book “Biocentrism.”
“Thanks, Danny. I have been reading about Lanza’s theory of everything and have wanted to get the book. How did you get an autographed copy?”
“I was at a conference in Boston where he spoke recently and he was very gracious to sign a couple of copies for me. I knew you would like it because I know you like Hawking and all.”
“Well, Hawking’s theory of everything is over, man. Physics can’t bring fruition to the quest but continues to overcomplicate it. But maybe biology can if it explains consciousness. Biology does not worry about planned versus random, unlike Forrest Gump. My meditations in nature have shown me that Wordsworth was right. We half create what we see. Poets are always ahead of scientists. You know, nature has always been my home. Remember when you were a kid and you used to come visit me on Boggy Creek? I had that cool tree house back then and a cave way down on the river. This little place here on Arkansas Boulevard is just temporary. I have found an apartment at the movie.”
“You mean the movie has apartments?”
“For the price of a ticket.”
 “This tea is very tasty. It has a kind of Earl Grey ambience to it, no?
“You certainly have acute taste. Yes, I add a little of the same kind of oil they use in Earl Grey. The Queen Mother taught me that trick. She is the most elegant person I ever met.”
“How did you meet the Queen Mother?”
“Quite by chance. We were dining at the same fish and chips place, a quaint inn called “Swan to Goodness” in the Warwickshire countryside.”
“How did you get way over there?”
“Danny, surely you know that the big foot myth spans every continent. Why do you think that is? It is because as a mythic creature I have the gift of transportation.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that the theory of everything is, at least mythologically, biological. Physicists reach a dead end, but Lanza the Great has shown that we may mentally spawn reality, and I choose to create it in multiple locales. I can’t wait to read this book. Thank you for remembering my birthday.”
“You are most welcome. Multiple locales simultaneously? That’s too heavy for me, dear friend.”
“You create multiple worlds in your dreams all the time. Stop doubting your creative ability.”
“I did not know I was doing that.”

“Just remember how the book of John opens. Without the Word, we could create nothing. We would have no consciousness. Or as the divine Emily puts it, we could not see to see.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hidden Treasure

The hunting instinct is probably what makes us want to strike it rich in some fashion. Deer season puts us squarely into that instinct as if no time has passed since our forebears roamed the forest looking for a feast. During the fall months, a lot of my acquaintances begin to look like our ancestors must have looked, scraggly, unkempt and, well, content.
But this desire to strike it rich somehow infiltrates other areas of our lives as well. I have mentioned before that I used to work for a rough old carpenter. He was a rugged fellow, sun-darkened, tough-skinned and plain spoken. Being quite hard of hearing, he used to call me Swilley, because he knew that my step-father (he took him for my father) was Loy Swilley, a fine carpenter that he apparently admired. So, I was not Danny Ford to him; I was just Swilley. Instead of trying to explain to him my true name, I just went along with it. When he said, “Swilley,” I jumped.
One Saturday afternoon when my co-worker and I were sitting on the old guy’s front porch he was more than usually talkative. Perhaps he was just relaxed from a day away from the grind.
“Swilley,” he said, “I know where there is some treasure buried up on the Little Missouri River. I know right where it’s at. I need a young fellow like you to go camping up there with me to help me dig. I don’t need no map. I know right where it’s at. We could get us a tent at the Army Surplus and take off up there. I done got all the picks and shovels we would need. We can fish a right smart, too. I know where we can catch us some fish on the Little Missouri. We can fry them right out there on the bank and all.”
I glanced at my co-worker, the old guy’s nephew, there on the porch as the rugged man waxed more and more voluble. He shook his head clandestinely, as if to say, “Let my uncle talk; he ain’t never going to go on that treasure hunt. I have heard it all before.”
“What do you think, Swilley? When do you want to go?”
“I guess we can go when we finish the chicken house.” We were on the tail end of a job of erecting a 400 by 40 foot chicken house the way we used to build them—sinking a lot of four-by-fours and latching a tin roof onto them.
“Well, let’s see about stopping by the Army Surplus after work Monday.”

After work Monday, the boss said, “Swilley, if I had a Big Gulp, I believe I could drink every bit of it.” We stopped at the Grab-N-Go and he was as good as his word. Monday came and went with no mention of the Little Missouri River. Perhaps the treasure he was looking for was a little closer to home than he thought.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Danke for the Memories

When I stepped off the flying boxcar into the alien air of Frankfurt, I was just a kid a long way from home. Things were different over there, even on the military places. The electrical current was 220 and most of the vehicles were VW’s, Opels or Mercedes Benz’s. Americans and Germans alike said danke for thank you, bitte for you are welcome and Auf Wiedersehen for goodbye. I realized right away that I was in a different world, a culture that seemed simultaneously strange and familiar.
It took a month or two for me to make German friends. By lucky accident I met and played soccer with some German guys down by the beautiful Mosel River. They spoke a little of my language and I learned a bit of theirs and we became good friends. I was not very good at soccer, having played only football, basketball and baseball as a child, but the principles of the game were familiar, with boundaries, penalties, goals and so forth. The activity required dexterous footwork, which was unfamiliar to me, but they were quite tolerant, even though they enjoyed several guffaws at my expense.
One of the guys, Erich, had a very plain, though wholesome sister about my age named Rose Marie. She took it upon herself to tutor me in German. My vocabulary increased along with my affection for this dutiful maiden. Just as I was getting proficient, well, tolerably understandable, in the language, nay, just as I was beginning to feel that we were boyfriend-girlfriend, she told me in perfect German which, regrettably I understood, that she was moving to Austria to live with an uncle. She admonished me to keep up with my language study and forget about her. She was spoken for there in Austria.
That was just as well. The only thing we had in common, really, was our love for circus peanuts, you know, that orange-yellow super sweet candy that is shaped like a biggo peanut. That treat was available to me in the Post Exchange but was unheard of on the German economy, so it was an exotic treat for my language tutor…and her brethren.
After she was out of the picture, I visited my friends down there less and less and spent more time with my own kind there on the military establishment. It was strange to me that I started my time over there immersed in the Germanic culture and gradually gravitated to my own kind, even to the point of choosing most of my friends from the Deep South. My best friend over there was from Smackover, some 12 miles from where I grew up.

I tried to keep my German language up and later when I went to college I took a couple of years of French and second year German. I skipped first year of the latter because the instructor judged that my skills were somewhat advanced. Ironically, I later had to pass the ETS examination for the doctor of philosophy degree in both French and German. I passed the French handily the first time through, but had to take the German test a second time and barely squeaked through. My Austrian friend, Rose Marie, would have lifted her eyebrow.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Crumbs from Home

“Weren’t you a pilot in World War II, sir?”
The wise old man squeezed a quarter of a lemon into his tall iced tea at the Mexican place where we were dipping into delicious Guacamole Mexicana and replied, “50 missions out of Italy in a B-17.”
“That was a lot of missions, sir. Did your plane get shot up and all?”
“Oh, yes, Dan. Flak, you know. I made three belly landings and feathered a lot of engines. One time I forgot to turn on the de-icer and that almost spelled our doom at my own careless hands. The oldest dude on my crew was 23. We were all just kids doing OJT.”
“Does that stand for on-the-job-training?”
“You got it. Oh, we had fast track training down in Texas, but we flew those crates by the seat of our pants. The B-17 was quite an airplane…a real airplane with wires and pulleys. It took a lot of strength just to get those ships off the ground.”
“Did you feel that people back home were supporting the war effort?”
“Didn’t think about that much. I was sending a lot of my pay back to the farm. My dad had died and Mother needed the support. She sent me cookies and such, but usually they were just a box of crumbs by the time they got to me. I shared a lot of crumbs in Italy. It was the thought that counted. In her letters and the letters I got from a special girl and an elderly uncle, they always wanted news of the war. There was a lot of interest.”
“Were your letters to them censored?”
“Heck, Dan, I never said anything about what I was doing. I would just report on the weather and tell little stories about my crew members, funny ones, you know. One thing we all had in common was our faith. When I would receive a box of crumbs, I would think of Jesse sending David with goodies to the front lines against the Philistines. In exchange for the cheeses and grain and bread he sent, he wanted David to bring news of how his brothers were doing on the front lines. Same situation as we were in, you know. They sent us goodies hoping for news from the war. And, we were facing our own kind of Goliath. Our sling was the B-17 and our river rocks were our bombs. We killed the giant and cut his head off.”
“Did you fly airplanes after the war?”
“No, Dan, I had enough altitude to do me. I worked in a rock quarry in Missouri, driving and excavator and dump trucks. I liked being close to the ground. I married one of the girls who had written me so faithfully and we built a two-bedroom, one-bath home in the mountains. My life turned out really well…for a while at least.”
“I appreciate your service, sir. Want some more guacamole?”

“No, thanks. I did not know what else to do, son.”

Monday, August 3, 2015

Tony

The wise old man was reclining comfortably in my porch swing this morning when I stepped out to check the weather. I thought he was back in Hillsboro Manor but he explained to me that he had been living with his cousin in Hope, a Mike Huckaby (no relation to the famous one who spells his name differently) for the past month.
“How did you get over here,” I queried.
“I caught a ride with an interesting fellow who runs the horse surrey here in your town. That is one tall dude!”
“Yes, Algie is six feet, eight inches tall. We were born exactly two months apart.”
The wise one pondered that for a moment as we walked into the house to the coffee pot. I poured him a cup “barefooted” as he called black coffee and he made this comment: “Well, Dan, that must have been a time for tall fellows to be born. Maybe gravity was a little less demanding as you grew. Or, maybe the turnip greens were richer.”
“I am not sure, sir, but that man is certainly good with the horses. We have two Percheron mares that alternate with a mother-daughter team of half draft horse, half ordinary horse. Algie can talk to those horses like people and they seem to understand him.”
The wise old man said he believed animals could follow the drift of human language on an intuitive level. He put it like this, “Dan, a horse feels what the hippies used to call vibrations from people. If you are nervous or upset, horses sense it. If you are calm and friendly, they ordinarily respond in kind. That is the secret of so-called horse whispering.”
“Are you a horseman, sir?”
“Fooled with them when I was young back before those internal combustion engines fouled everything up. When I was young the horse, the mule and even the donkey and ox were mainstays in the city as well as the country. I had a stocky little horse named Tony that did it all—plowed, pulled, rode and helped train other horses. Tony could read my mind. I have had relationships with humans that were less communicative. When he was about 20, that pony caught some kind of lung disease and after a hot day breaking new ground he told me about it without a sound. It was something about his eyes and the way he held his head. I lifted his lip and saw a thin line of blood clinging to his gums. When he saw that I saw, he nodded and went to his knees.”
“Did you get help for him?”

“There was a Parnell fellow, not a vet, that doctored animals, was good at it, lived about a mile away. I hollered what was wrong and my neighbor responded with that holler, conveying it you know, and about an hour later, Parnell’s teenage boy showed up with some kind of foul liquid. We used up a gallon rubbing it on his breast, but it did no good. Tony lasted another week. I stayed up with him that last night and told him how much I appreciated his help all those years and how much I loved him. That fuzzy eyeball of his looked real relaxed when he quit breathing.”