Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cookie Crumbs - Details of another day's beginning

I usually arrive at Cookie's Diner around five after six in the morning.  This morning was no different so far as arrival time was concerned.  It was however a terrible journey, in that it had been raining torrents and I knew that somewhere along my route, danger would rear its ugly head.  I know this because I had been a victim only last fall.  Somewhere around the entrance of Maddox Nursery, a deep pool of run-off lay in waiting.  Last year, it all but caused my RAV-4 to end up in the deep drainage ditch on the right side of SR-25.  Only God's merciful hand saved me. Even if He might not had a thing to do with it, I was sending up loud words of praise in His direction when I made it through, still on the dark, dangerous road.  Give thanks in all things the scriptures command us and I know who holds my future in His hands.

I had picked up my latest, new pair of glasses only two days ago and honestly, the new prescription wasn't making much of a difference, especially while driving at night ... in heavy rain. Neither darkness nor rain on the windshield were friends of mine.  They diminish my liberty and put limits on what I'm willing to risk and going to Cookies for breakfast and some time jawing with Cookie and her regular customers is not something I'm willing to give-up easily. I do believe that some new wiper blades and new hi-visibility head-lamps would be a brilliant investment. Only other individuals of advanced maturity and poor vision know of that which I speak.

After entering the dining room, giving and receiving standard salutations and asking for my usual cup of hot tea, I staggered over to the round table, maneuvering through the obstacle course of pulled out chairs and sitting down with my back to the wall, something I learned from Wild Bill Hickok, I spied the folded up section of the newspaper which held the Cryptoquip puzzle that Bill had given up on and promptly proceeded to screw it up so badly that it was not recoverable. YES! It takes courage to use a ballpoint pin to do it but it IS also a little stupid to do so.

I had made up my mind that I was going to nurse my cup of tea until daybreak.  I wasn't in any hurry and it would be much safer that way.

Regulars that normally set at the round table came and went, only I remained. K. M. came in, got a hot cup of Cookie coffee and sat down.  There was a short period of verbal sparring between he and I and then this fellow I've seen and spoke to several times before came over and sat down at our table.  I'm thinking it was his first time. I may be wrong about that.  SO ... why did I even bring it up?


ANSWER:  I'm about to imply that God or FATE had something to do with it.  Whatever the forces be that were at work, I'm here to state that I'm glad it happened. Since I don't have a signed waiver from any of Cookie's customers or for that matter, Cookie herself, I will only identify this aging man as O. M.  Cookie is not the real name of the owner and I'm not about to reveal what it is, for she doesn't look kindly upon anyone using that name in public. Cookie's Diner IS the true name of the place.  I wouldn't want anyone to miss out on the great home cooking or the atmosphere due to a misunderstanding. It's located on SR-25 just before Mt. Zion Road if you are moving south, there on the right.  I hope you are traveling during daylight hours when you start searching for it.  The sign light does not work during the rain I'm told.  I'm beginning to think that it doesn't work when it's not raining either. Only Cookie knows the truth of the matter.

Some acquaintances of K.M. came in and sat near enough to talk with him.  That left myself and O.M. to get acquainted.  It wasn't easy due to the fact I am so lacking in the social graces. You see ... I love to talk and I'm a terrible listener.  That makes for a difficult situation.  I'm glad to report that O.M. is an, intelligent, educated, experienced man of the world.  He has street smarts ... if you know what that really means. I have my own definition for it and he struck me as that.

Turns out, O. M. held my dream job during his youth.   He was a Forest Ranger at one time, manning a fire look-out tower down in what is today, Danial Boone National Forest. I think he said he held the job while attending college.  I'm not sure how that worked but it's his story and I believe him.  When I asked him his name and introduced myself, I mentioned that there was a young couple living in the corner house on our street that had his family name.  He asked if they were nice people.  I assured him they were.  He came back with "then, they are certainly related to me."  I gave him a big smile for his effort and added to my memory bank that he had a good sense of humor, something I placed a lot of importance on when it came to those I like to spend time with.

I shut up and allowed O. M. to eat his breakfast in peace when his order arrived at our table and turned my attention back to K. M., whom I asked how he liked being ignored by myself and O. M., informing him that it was payback for he and J. T. discussing business the previous morning and totally ignoring everyone else around. There was no reaction from K. M. and I was kind of glad.  I was being a wise ass anyway, a common flaw in my character that I struggle with daily.

I would like to report that O. M. and I hit it off and have began a rewarding relationship we might continue to nurture now and then, during some other mornings at breakfast at Cookies but that would be taking an awful lot for granted, after all, how well do I really know O. M. and does he feel likewise?  Right now, I'd only be guessing to make such a statement.

There is a potential here for more adventures to follow.  I'll run this one up the flag pole and see if anyone salutes.  Have a great day if at all possible.

I remain hopeful for continuing improvements in my daily routine and developing friendships.

Remembering some happy days (REPOST from the past)

April 3rd, 1971, the day Maureen and I tied the knot, so to speak. Actually, it was more like Super gluing than knot tying. The bond was non-breakable after only a few moments and that bond has been tested endlessly over the last 42 years. It may have stretched a little now and then, but it has never been broken.

“Happy Anniversary!” she blurted out yesterday morning as we sat here in this room watching what the DVR had recorded for us the night before. It’s just what we normally do on any other day. It didn’t feel wrong for either of us, even if this was a special day, one that should be celebrated. We HAD plans but they were scheduled for “later.” We would do some shopping, then take in an early movie over at the megaplex and then decide on some place to get a good meal. That should get us back home around three in the afternoon.

The movie starts at 11:45 so that gave us an hour to look for a new computer cart to replace the huge cabinet my computer set-up now occupies. We found two that could suffice so we decided to mull it over and make a decision after watching our movie of choice. The movie was pretty good. At least it had a happy ending and we love happy endings. We will only pray that what we are planning for our little family room will also have a happy ending.

We decided which one of the two choices was best, stopped to pick one up on the way to getting that anniversary meal we were looking forward to, got it loaded in the back of the RAV-4 and headed over to Dixie Highway. Maureen suggested this little Italian place she had gone by many times lately, often telling Gail that she intended to try it one day. One Day was here!

Really, I don’t know how to describe it to you. Actually I believe the less I share with you…the better. Allow me to sum it all up with one statement. I don’t know why the health department hasn’t closed it down by now because of the countless violations I observed within five minutes of walking in the front door. Believe me, you don’t want me to get started.

NOW…here is the shocking part of it all. I closed my eyes and ordered a Hoagie Supreme. Before I began eating, I prayed over my meal. I did it because I believed I would be lucky not to end up with food poisoning when all was said and done. I won’t identify the establishment.
I don’t know why…I just won’t.

Go ahead! Ask me how the food was. I dare you!

With the first bite I was transported in my mind back to the days shortly after Maureen and I began our life together. We loved Pasquale's Hoagies. There was a small, store-front one on Monmouth Street in Newport, Kentucky that made a sandwich to die for. We have often sat around talking about those times and how much we wished they were still around. As of this time I am of the opinion that our wishes have come true.

Before we left the place I stopped by the front counter and offered up my praise to the food, how it has taken me back all those years to our early Happy Days. Need I tell you that everyone within earshot seemed a little shocked by my words? I was being honest. In fact, I made sure to ask if they deliver to our area. If it was that good sitting in the midst of all that I witnessed, how much better would it taste at home?

When we returned home at two-fifty, I opened the heavy carton the new cart came in and set about assembling it. I needed Gail’s help before I got it finished. Maureen was up stairs preparing the extra bedroom (now officially our storage room) to accept everything we end up moving out of our little family room in order to make all the changes we have planned.

How’s that for a way to spend your anniversary? Maureen and I liked it. That’s all that matters.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nostalgia



April 15, 1995


I was born on October 26, 1940. The third of what would be nine children, 5 girls and 4 boys. I was the oldest son, the first son. I was delivered by a country doctor and midwife, to Lula and Floyd Bowles. The house I was born in was a sharecropper's shack. Dad worked for Jack Kelly who owned a large farm in Portland, Kentucky, on what was known as Grassy Creek. My birth certificate says DeMossville, Kentucky. I believe that was the county seat at the time.


Some of my earliest and dimmest memories are of playing with the Kelly children around the farm. I was told that we moved to Newport, Kentucky when I was barely three years old. Is it possible to remember events that happened at that young age? Either it is possible or I am remembering events that happened on occasions when we went to visit the Kelly's after moving to Newport.


Dad worked at the Wright Plant up in Ohio at that time. It was during the Second World War and the Wright Plant was a defense plant, manufacturing gears and sprockets for planes, tanks and other weapons of war. The government did not draft him because he had too many children. I remember rationing and scrap drives for metals that were in short supply. Gasoline was rationed and tires were all but impossible to get, but what did that matter to someone who had no automobile?


We were poor but I didn't know it. Everyone was in the same boat in the neighborhood we lived in, so poor people didn't stand out. Everyone's life was difficult and we just did the best we could. There were free garden plots allocated to families with children. The garden plots were located in the East End of Newport, on land that was owned by the city and many years later become a landfill. There is a shopping mall, high school and a section of the 471-circle expressway there now.


We were fortunate enough to get a plot and everybody pitched in and helped. Nothing went to waste. What we couldn't eat right away was put up in Mason jars and stored in the earthen floor basement of our two family house. My Aunt Fannie and Uncle Steve lived on the first floor, we lived on the second floor and some strange, old man lived in the attic by himself. He was like a hermit; not sociable at all, came and went without so much as a word. No one knew anything about him, not even his name.


Being the only boy for most of my life at home was not the best of circumstances. Of course, I was the only child who didn't have to wear hand-me-downs, but I was expected to be the man of the family when Dad wasn't around. That was a heavy responsibility at times. I protected my sisters. I had to learn to fight at an early age. I was small, skinny and had very large ears.


School was not one of my favorite things in life. I only tolerated it, knowing that my parents would have more trouble to contend with if I didn't go everyday and at least get passing grades. It was best for my bottom and their peace of mind that I just squeaked by with D’s and E’s and some C’s.


Things were looking up. Dad got a job at the Newport Rolling Mill after the War was over and they closed the Wright Plant. He could walk to work everyday and the pay was good enough that we were soon able to afford a car, a 1937 Plymouth Coupe that had a rumble seat. It wasn't big enough for all of our family, so needless to say, we didn't take family excursions or vacations.


Back in the early 1950's I spent some of my summer vacations with Uncle Gilbert who lived in Booneville, Kentucky, that's in Owsley County. It was like going back into the past. There was no actual road leading to his house. We drove up what was a dry creek bed, very slowly, watching for places where rocks were jutting up higher than the rest of the surrounding rocks, fearing they would knock the muffler loose. It required one to take a zigzag path up the creek bed. Eventually, we left the creek bed, up a gradual rise of the right creek bank and onto what looked like an old wagon road. It was just two wheel ruts with a mound in the middle.


The house was a sight to see, sitting back in a notch cut out in the side of a mountain. The house was hardly more than a shanty constructed of loosely fitted, rough-hewn, poplar boards. It had a small porch out front, and the whole thing was mounted on posts that elevated it approximately four feet off the ground. There was a barn and outhouse down a path to the left of the house. The roof was covered with sheets of metal, I think it was tin. It was rusty and reflected a red tint in the sun. There were only two rooms in the house, large rooms, one a huge kitchen, the other an even bigger bedroom. There was no kind of covering on the floor, just bare boards with large cracks between the boards. Keeping the floor clean was a simple matter of sweeping the top of the boards and letting the dirt fall between the cracks onto the ground below.


There was no electricity. Light was provided by Kerosene lanterns. All meals were prepared on a wood-burning stove. A tank on the side held water that stayed hot as long as there was fire in the stove. Flypaper strips hung everywhere around the house. The doors, one at the front, leading onto the porch and one in the back, lead out of the kitchen. Just outside the kitchen door was an empty, fifty-pound lard can. It was called the slop bucket. Into it went just about everything one could consider edible, even some things I didn't consider edible. They even poured dirty dish water into it after meals. Every evening, whoever was assigned slop bucket duty, (usually a team of two children) carried the can over to the pigpen and poured its contents into the feed trough. Never have I heard such sucking and slurping noises.


After sundown, we would sit on the porch and swap stories or just talk. We could not stay out on the porch too long. The lantern that provided light was a lure to all kinds of bugs. Hard shelled beetles, hundreds of various kinds of moths, katydids and every once in awhile, a creature they called a "Grampus". It was so big and had a fearsome pair of mandibles, or as they called them, pinchers. I would later find out they were the adult form of a Dobsonfly. In the larval stage they were called "Hellgrammites" and were sought after as fish bait.


Life was primitive in the mountains, but was it ever enjoyable. I would save some money every year for that visit. For a dollar and twenty cents, I could buy a whole case of RC Cola and give everyone a rare treat. I bought my first sack of Bull Durham tobacco during one of those visits and learned to roll my own. I was also introduced to chewing tobacco. Days Work, Brown's Mule or the cheaper kind, Wild Duck twists. Some of it was sweet and tasted good for a minute or two until the ambure started to seep out the corners of your mouth. I would keep it in my mouth just long enough to become deathly ill and turn two or three shades of green around the gills.


Since there was no electricity, there was no refrigeration. Anything you wanted to keep from spoiling had better fit in the old milk can which was suspended on a rope and lowered down into the dug well which provided all the families drinking water. Only much later in life did I come to fully understand the need for a smokehouse.


If meat was going to be preserved, it had to be smoked or salted or canned. I used to think that smoking meat was just a way to make it taste better. Turns out, that wonderful smoky flavor was a bonus derived from the preservation process. Everyone had a root cellar of course, but it was only cool, not cold. Vegetables and berries and fruit could be kept for a length of time there. I gained a certain respect for the resourcefulness of rural Americans. They possessed a strength forged from hardship, nurtured by an awesome respect for God and maintained by close, family ties.


I can recall some hot, July days, when boys were boys. We explored the surrounding countryside, poking our curious noses into places they sometimes had no business being. Coming upon another man's watermelon patch, and seeing several mature ones, just laying there, begging to be picked and eaten; we obliged, keeping a wary eye peeled for the owner and made our escape back to the house. My Uncle had his own coal mine, a small one, for his own personal use.

It was a low tunnel, not too deep into the mountain. I had occasion to go back in it, all the way to the coalface, where we used a pick to harvest a wheelbarrow full of coal for my Uncle. 


The floor of the mine was always covered with seep water. It's sulfur content made it smell like rotten eggs, but it was cold. We stashed our ill-gotten booty a ways back in the mine entrance, half submerged in one of the deeper pools of seep water. They lay in that water for the best part of a day, which transformed them into mouth-watering treats that we would consume under the cover of darkness. They were not as ripe as one would like, but we ate them with great gusto. Needless to say, we paid for our transgression the next day by frequent trips to the old outhouse.


Most of our days were filled with grapevine swinging, fishing, swimming, hunting and generally, just enjoying ourselves. There were times we had to work right along with the adults. Tobacco was the main money crop and it required a lot of long, hot hours of labor. I was described as a left-handed (expletive deleted) after I had broken the handles out of three tobacco, cutting knives. I was demoted to spearing the tobacco plants, after someone else cut them. The only work I found to be harder was putting up hay.


There was adventure enough to be found, enough to fill any young man's idle hours. We held marksmanship contest with rifles, shotguns, pistols and bows and arrows. Competition ran the gambit, right down to throwing rocks and chucking horseweed spears at imaginary targets envisioned in our minds. Some things we found to do were downright dangerous. Shooting half-sticks of dynamite for the fourth of July and holding quick-draw competitions with hair-triggered pistols. I remember one instance when I nearly shot myself in the thigh as the front sight hung up in the holster and the hammer slipped from my thumb when it was in a half-cocked position. 


One of our favorite activities was knocking bats from the air with long, cane fishing poles. We would remove the hook, leaving the lead sinker and a short length of line. Late in the evening, bats would fly around the barn, catching insects that were leaving the hayloft, where they had been hiding during the daylight hours. Twirling the sinker round and round from the tip of the cane fishing pole which we held high over our heads, the bats would detect the fast moving sinker, think it was insect prey and dive for it. If your timing was right and your aim perfect, you could slash at the bat with the whip-like action of the limber cane pole and knock a bat right out of the air.


Those were wonderful times and I have many, precious memories stored away in my mind. Those adventurous days ended the summer I broke my arm acting like a squirrel. My cousin was chasing me and I made for a walnut tree across the creek that ran in front of the house. I was doing just great until I grabbed hold of a dead branch while 20 foot off the ground. The branch gave way under my weight and I went plummeting backwards out of the tree. I threw my arms behind me to break my fall. It broke my fall all right, but the impact with the ground caused a compound fracture of my left arm. The break was so clean; it was as if the bone had been sawn in two with a surgeon’s saw. 


The doctor in Jacksonville lacked the experience needed to set that kind of break, it required a specialist. My parents had to miss work, drive down to Booneville, Ky and get me to a bone specialist at home. They we slightly upset, to say the least. The result was eight weeks in a special cast and a moratorium on summer vacations in the mountains of Kentucky.



Copyright 1999, Clarence Bowles

All rights reserved. Reproductions without the author's express permission is prohibited.


Friday, January 11, 2013

My response to Storylane's Community Manager


Are you sure you want me to go there ... namely what incentives do I have for sharing my stories, my writings, my experiences and opinions?

If your stats are accurate and there has been 6 views of my stories this week, WHY is that stat not reflected somewhere accessible to me? I would like to know which of my stories is attracting the most readers.

In response to your questions ... I have been ill for a month now.  I picked up something, somewhere and it took over my body and my life.  I think I am on the improvement side of the treatment process. There is still a nagging cough that is hanging on and on and on.  I am weary of medicating myself, then again, considering the alternative, I will keep on as long as possible.  Thanks for asking.  You are a brave person.  Surely you know how we old people are and how much we like to complain about our problems.

I'm not sure my failing vision will stick with me long enough to compose something of that length.
Believe me ... I don't do it for the money.  Neither do I do it in hopes of fame or notoriety.  I've had my time in the spotlight and it lasted longer than 15 minutes.  

I write what I write and have written because I was given a gift and the inspiration needed to do so.
Most of what I write comes straight from my heart and my heart is powered by God's Holy Spirit.
He revealed to me that there exists, a stream of creativity which emanates from Him.

I would like to know which of my submissions attract the attention of others, be they seekers of truth or fiction, inspiration or divine intervention.  Once I know that, I can focus on that area or areas and choose accordingly.  I have been writing at God's direction for almost 29 years now.  I've learned to ask for inspiration and guidance whenever I sit down with a burden on my soul. God's spirit directed men of old to write His words down, words that became the scriptures we have today.  What some people do not consider when they read and study the Bible is this ... God's unctions were filtered through the hearts and minds of mortal men, men that God had touched in some way.  He used Angels and dreams to guide some of them, others He spoke to directly.  God has not ceased doing that.  I know many such men and women.  Converted individuals, each and every one. God is no respector of persons. He will use an ass to convey his message when man is unreachable.

I have been honored many times to be His pen, His voice, His hands and then, I, as so many others before me, reached a point where I took his grace for granted and failed Him in my calling. Who can say what wonders and miracles He could have done through this instrument of earthly flesh had it always been willing, open and receptive to His Spirit's guidance?

I have learned so many life lessons because I was given new eyes to see them with.  I experienced them and then sat down and attempted to share them with the rest of this world's inhabitants.  I wasn't sure how God was going to use what I was writing, but I knew that He knew and so I wrote and shared, then saved for a future time those writings that He had not instructed me how to publish when they were done.

Many of the words I wrote were "anointed" with special purpose.  Sometimes they were written with a specific person in mind and I shared them only with that person.  It was up to them what they did with the words after that. I had been given them freely and I offered them in the same way to others. I did not SAVE such words on my computer or in a hard-copy form. Perhaps I should have for future reference.

It is difficult to admit but I am not that man any longer.  I have been afflicted with diseases that diminish the very tools and gifts I used for God.  He has permitted it and I can only agree with His will for me.  He sustained me for many years after I had reached the point in time where I personally thought I would cease to exist.  I can't say how many times I had told myself that I would never see 40 years. Here I am today, 73 years and counting, not knowing when He will call me home to be with Him.  So, if any of those that read the words I have shared with your site, are praying people, ask them please to pray for me, that I might once more be seen by my Creator as a usable instrument.  I long to hear His voice, feel His Spirit and know that I am in the center of His will. 

I too have run the race, fought the good fight and fell to His enemies. I fear that I am spent, like a fire that has no new fuel to spark it back to life.  Pray for me.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A change of attitude for the new year

I do not consider this to be a new year's resolution.  I'm going to attempt to adjust my attitude to one of being more grateful about the little things in my life.

God and I certainly know that I am one, very blessed man.  I think it was shortly after I was Born-again, through and by His Spirit, that my eyes were first opened to that fact. Since that time I have slowly been distracted by other important developments and lost sight of that truth.  I allowed the behavior of other Christians involved in organized religion to influence my own behavior and I lost what faith I had in the Church in general.

I thought that God and His Spirit was all I needed to keep me moving in the right direction. I must have been wrong because my breaking with the Church has had nothing but negative influence upon my continuing growth as a Christian. I began to pull away from praying, witnessing for Him and sharing Jesus with others.  Doing that is like walking into a large safe, closing the door behind yourself and smothering from the lack of oxygen in the safe.

So ... having expressed all of that, I will now continue:

I want to thank the person or group of persons that first conceived the notion of rebuilding Turkeyfoot Road here in this Northern Kentucky area.  It was a Godsend for the whole area.
And then, some really intelligent person or persons saw the need for some quick action that might help the traffic flow at one particular intersection connected with all that marvelous improvement.  They planned and executed more road work at the intersection of Turkeyfoot and Thomas Moore Parkway, in that they added a right-turn lane for north-bound traffic.

You see, our Doctor's office is located just off Thomas Moore Parkway and it was necessary for us to find alternate routes to get there during rush hour.  If you don't live around here or are not familiar with the area at all, you may not know that St. Elizabeth Hospital has all but taken over that general area.  They have a monopoly set up for any and all forms of medical services in the Northern Kentucky area.  They control it all.  During hospital shift changes, you DO NOT want to be near that said intersection or any of the feeder routes into it. When you combine that fact with all the normal rush hour traffic, it's hell on earth trying to get to an appointment or God forbid, you need emergency services.  I have limitless compassion for anyone that is a daily commuter who is simply trying to get to work or back home every day, someone that needs to head north on I-75 or I-71 in the morning or South at quiting time.  YES! it's bad ... BUT when I think about what it could have been had they not done to Turkeyfoot Road what they did, it makes me quiver in my shoes as I do ... and then I realize that I Do NOT have to do that anytime and my gratitude climbs into the stratosphere.

And that's just one aspect of my life.  The other reasons I have to be grateful are simply limitless when I think about it.  So, you can see that fulfilling that goal I set out to achieve this year is not going to be much of a struggle.

GOD ... I thank you for this life you gave me and for the blessing you fill each day with, day in and day out.  Forgive me when I fail to realize it and don't express the thanks that is in my heart.  NOW ... If I might impose upon you one more time ... could you please do something about this awful cough I've had now for over three weeks?  I've already been though the valley of the shadow of death and you helped me get here today.  You've seen fit to send Lisa (my primary doctor's nurse/practitioner) to take care of me when he's not available.  She's so nice and much easier to see when I'm sick than he is. Please don't allow those idiots in Washington to mess around with and destroy our Social Security and Medicare.  If you do ... just think about how much more we will be pestering you with all our aches, pains and financial problems.  I mean ... I'm just saying...