Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Cool Day

“Cool Day”

            BACKYARD – It’s nothing short of nice out here. Cool, overcast and a bit of a breeze. I know what you’re thinking, it’s not near cold enough for me to be wearing my hoodie. I know that. I’m just pretending it’s winter.

            Winter is my favorite season. It used to be fall, but fall has become such a disappointment. A couple of decades ago, the Plilers and Hayters would go camping Columbus Day weekend. It was a perfect time. Bring our jackets, have some coffee and cocoa around the campfire.

            I remember one Friday evening we were camped out at Lake Somerville and saw the lights of the football stadium on the horizon. Freeman had grilled some steaks and we were sitting around pleased as four bovine lying beneath the shade of an old oak in the middle of a field of clover. I suppose cows would enjoy something like that. Hard to tell with cows.
            It wasn’t long before the distant sound of a marching band erupted from the direction of the Friday night lights. “What do you think?” I don’t know who said it, but after it was said, we piled into the pickup and headed for the stadium.

            The Somerville Yeguas (pronounced “Yeawah”) were playing another small school that had a nut as a mascot. It wasn’t a buckeye. In fact, it was no nut I’d ever heard of before or since. And, nuts I know.

            The game was interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the half-time performance. Must’ve been about 18 students in the band, a couple of twirlers-in-learning, three cheerleaders and a pep squad of about five. I don’t know what the Yegua coach told his team at halftime, but four of his 18 players didn’t hear it, because they were marching in the band. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen on a camping trip… and I once saw Freeman come close to hurling a blazing Coleman lantern into the Guadalupe.

            See what happens to me during a weather change? I start out talking about my favorite season and get off track talking about a camping trip with an erupting Coleman. Obviously, I don’t need an excuse to do stuff like that, but this time I’ve got one. It’s the weather.  

            Speaking of hummingbirds, ours have yet to head south. Who can blame them? They’re probably tired of being lured away by the first cool front. You can fool a hummingbird just so many times. 

            I want you to look at all the flowers blooming in Kay’s garden. Absolutely beautiful. The bees have been loving that pink-flowered vine. The one draped around the small pine tree. You can even see a couple of bumblebees buzzing around it from here. Those are called Variable Cuckoo Bumblebees. “Variable” is a sophisticated term meaning flighty. They don’t know where they’re headed one second to the next. Just like a Chihuahua on uppers.  

            You didn’t ask, but when we were kids, Dennis was sitting in willow tree and got stung right between the eyes by a bumblebee that was somewhat larger than the Nutsy Cuckoo one over yonder. Dennis’ face swelled to the point where he looked like Chairman Mao. Mom would’ve taken him to the hospital, but she figured that since he survived the scorpion sting the previous year, he’d probably live through the encounter with the bumblebee. That, and the fact that we didn’t have insurance kept the doctor away.

            Along with the bumblebees there have been a slew of honey bees all over the pink-flowered vine plant. Kay could tell you the name of the vine, but she went to lunch with her friend Linda. They’ve been eating for three hours now. More than likely they went shopping after the meal. Did I mention that they’re both women? 

            Yeah, Kay probably went looking for a new pillow. She’s been having trouble finding the perfect one. In the top of her closet are three reasonably new pillows that she considered perfect until her head hit ‘em. No store should be allowed to sell pillows unless they’ve got a bed nearby where you can test them out on your head instead of your hands.

            Kay thought it improper to return her slightly used pillows. I don’t like to take anything back, so I was no help. I did try Kay’s rejects though, but none of ‘em scored higher than a six on my 12-point pillow checklist. You don’t want to skimp on a piece of spongy fluff that’s going to prop up your head for a third of your lifetime. When I find the pillow I like, I keep it for years. The best pillow I ever had cost me well over $100. I ended up leaving it in a motel in Atoka, Oklahoma. I’d tell you the story, but it makes me cry

            Whoa! I just heard the garage door go up, signaling that Kay is home. I’ll go get her, so she can identify the pink-flowered vine for us. I’ll be back in a minute. Don’t anybody mess with my coffee.  – Hmmm. Interesting. Turns out Kay is trying out her new pillow and doesn’t care to join us. Probably too cold for her.  .

            She did give me the name of the flowery-creeper. It’s a “Coral Vine.” (It's the flowery vine at the left on the picture above.)  I’ve got nothing to add to that, so let’s just leave it there. Let’s try to meet back here at the first genuine cold front. I’ll furnish the coffee. Speaking of which, my coffee mug feels lighter than it did when I left. Anybody have anything you want to tell me? Anybody?

You can contact Mark at  hayter.mark@gmail.com. “The Summer of 1976” is still available on e-book at Amazon Books.

Unicorn dog

“Not cute”

MARK: Okay, let’s stop the horseplay! Everybody find a seat. It’s past time to call to order the meeting of IFMAC -- Ideas From Mark’s Article Committee. I move we suspend reading the minutes of our last meeting since there’s no chance in purgatory that the Secretary took any notes.
BARRY: I second it!

MARK: Thank you, Secretary Barry. All in favor say “Aye!” The aye’s have it. The floor is open to article ideas.

JACK: Who’s she?

MARK: She? Oh, sorry. This is Wanda. She’s the first one to ever ask to be on the committee so I invited her. Say hello, Wanda.

WANDA: I can’t tell you what an honor it is for me to—

MARK: You had us at “Hello”, Wanda.   So, any article ideas floating around out there?

CHARI: Did you hear about the asteroid that’s supposed to pass by Earth on Halloween night? Its shaped like a skull. People are calling it the “Death Comet.” You could tell readers that it might hit us and either kill us or turn half of us into zombies.

MARK: Yes, I did read about that. The asteroid is about 2000 feet in diameter, and the last time it passed by, which was back in 2015, it came within 300,000 miles of us. The nearest to us it will get this time is on November 11, when it will pass within 25 million miles of Earth. So, at its next pass in 2021, it might hit Earth or Neptune. Regardless, it will involve zombies.

MILDRED: Well now, Mark, when I was walking up to your house, I did see the cutest little dog in a costume. A young man was taking it for a walk. Both of them were so nice.

WANDA: I saw that! It was a black pug dressed up like a unicorn. Weirdest thing. Want me to go get a picture?

MARK: Not necessary. Michael sent me one. That’d be Michael, my neighbor, walking Molly. And, yes, Molly is one of those flat-faced pugs. They bred it so it would snore. Its nose is flat against its face. The dog had the cuteness bred right out of it.

BARRY: Cone on. It had to be cute if it was wearing a unicorn costume.

MARK: No it doesn’t, Barry. You’d have to put a Labrador puppy mask on that dog to make it look cute. By the way, Michael dresses Molly up like a unicorn because the outfit calms her down.

BARRY: How do you explain that? 

MARK: How do I explain a unicorn outfit having a calming effect on a pug? That’s only the second time I’ve ever been asked that question. Well, I imagine it’s because Molly mistakenly thinks the horn draws attention away from its smashed nose. –  Flo, wake up and join us! Give me something. Anything.

FLO: Has anyone mentioned the unicorn in your yard?

MARK: Give me my gavel? Who took my gavel?

CHARI: Mark, I read about that event called “Hope for the Holidays” that Dori Barber and you will be involved in this December 15 at College Park High School. Let’s see, it’s a benefit for a Teen Suicide prevention organization in Montgomery County called “Cassidy Joined For Hope.” – Did I do good?

MARK: Perfect, Chari. You have a gift. Yes, I’ll write about “Hope for the Holidays” later down the line as the date approaches. Thanks for suggesting it. You read the plug perfectly. -- What else?

MILDRED: What’s that wonderful aroma coming from your kitchen? You need to do a cooking article.

MARK: You’re too sweet, Mildred. That smell is from a soup I invented today. I wanted to make Minestrone soup, but I didn’t have enough ingredients, so I improvised. Threw in a little bit of everything including some leftover roast beef and spaghetti sauce. I should’ve made notes, because I couldn’t duplicate that concoction if I wanted to.

It’s pretty good, though. I’ve got a bunch left over. Kay said it was okay, but she doesn’t want to ever eat any more of it. She thinks soup should only be eaten in the winter. And it should also be prepared with recognizable ingredients. The woman has no vision. So, you’re all welcome to try my minestrone hybrid.

BARRY: That’s just ducky. Did you make any dessert? I feel like pie.

JACK: Yeah, you do look a little like a rhubarb.

MILDRED: Jack, behave. 

WANDA: Well that sounds good. Why don’t we skip the soup and have some pie and coffee. After that we can go outside and play with the little unicorn dog. She is so cute.

BARRY: I’ll take my pie to go.

FLO: Mark, there’s a big comet somewhere that looks like the skull. Maybe you could write about it.

MARK: I move we adjourn. No need of a second. Somebody needs to take Flo with ‘em.  By the way, there is no pie. Soup! Soup I’ve got lots of soup.   
You can contact Mark at  hayter.mark@gmail.com.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

First Texas-born Hayter

Larry, Lynda, Susan, Baby Mark, Dennis (stuck behind the bumper.
 “The First Texas-born"
I was supposed to be born in Oklahoma. Not sure you knew that. The first four Hayter kids were born in Oklahoma. I do believe it was Faris and Elsie’s intent that each of their kids graduate Purple Pirates from Bristow High. None of us had much say in the matter. What kids do?

            Truth be told, I don’t think there were supposed to be more than three of us. Dennis was the fourth Hayter child, and what a surprise he was. When you can’t afford the three kids you have, how can news of a fourth bring anything but an argument over blame?

            Fortunately, Dennis turned out to be worth the cost and effort. He was smart, athletic, didn’t eat all that much, and he could juggle. Oh, and he was the last Okie. At no time did Dad have an epiphany that he should up and move the family to Pasadena. It was one of his friends who got him to thinking about the idea. Isn’t it weird how one person or event can steer another along a new path in life? I’m fairly sure I wrote about that recently.

            Today, I saw a story on the news about a young man who decided to get his pilot’s license after being encouraged by a stranger. We all have stories of how a friend or stranger was responsible for one of our directions in life. In the case of my father, it was a drunken friend who put him on the road to Texas.

             Some of you will remember the story of “Three Ninety”, an oil well servicing company in Bristow, Oklahoma, owned by Dad and one of his friends. They started the company shortly after WWII when rationing had ended and American factories could start building cars instead of tanks and planes. The advent of more automobiles created local demand for oil and gasoline.

            With oil wells being planted in old cotton fields all across Oklahoma, “Three Ninety” took off at a run. By the way, the company was named after Dad’s phone number – 390. Just as quaint and helpful a name as could be. Bottom line, for the first and only time in his life, my daddy was his own boss. Life was gooduntil it wasn’t.

               One hot, steamy afternoon, Dad’s friend and business partner drove up to the rig-site way late and somewhat inebriated. It was the last of many times that Zeke (not his real name) had refused to carry his share of the load in the company. After a brief argument, initiated by my dad, the two men sat down at the base of the oil rig and both agreed on a parting of ways. It was to be a very good parting… for one of them.

            You see, neither Dad nor Zeke could afford to buy the other out. If one of them left, the company would have to be sold to an outsider in order to pay off the departing partner. Neither wanted that. After less than careful thought, Dad suggested that the best way to end the partnership was with the toss a coin. Heads, Dad would sign over the business to Zeke. Tails, Zeke would be the one hitting the road.  

            After the toss, my daddy said his goodbyes’ to his workmen, picked up his lunch-kit and thumbed a ride back home to Bristow. In a matter of days, Dad moved the family down to Pasadena, Texas. Lynda was about 10 years-old, Larry eight, Susan five, and Dennis about two. I was to show up a little later as the first of the Hayter family to be born in Texas.

            In Texas, Dad had little trouble getting a job on another oil rig. He later got a job helping to build row upon row of houses that became the suburbs of Pasadena. Dad would eventually get a job working in one of the refineries along the Ship Channel. It was there that he worked until the age of 61, when he had to take early retirement due to a heart problem. He had been retired for one year when he died of a heart attack. 

            Last week, Lynda’s grandson found some old family photos that Lynda had stored away. At the time the photos were taken, our family was living in an old, wooden shack along a dirt road that would come to be known as Spencer Highway.

            One photo shows Dad kneeling in the dirt with a cigar in his hand. Lynda has one arm wrapped around Daddy’s neck and her arm on his shoulder with her hand supporting her face. Larry and Susan are huddled-up on the other side of Daddy, and he has his arm around the both of ‘em. Everyone is smiling big… except for Susan. The girl was born with issues. However, the photo immediately became my favorite picture of Dad. He looks as happy as I’ve ever seen him. And, Lynda, Larry and Susan are just precious.

            Mom was probably feeding me or changing my diaper, because neither of us is in the picture. And Dennis? Well, he was about three-years-old at the time, so he was likely taking the picture. A talented kid, my big brother. Taught me to juggle.    
Mark can be contacted at hayter.mark@gmail.com. An archive of Hayter’s articles can be found at http://markhayterscolumn.blogspot.com

Foreign movie fan

“Big on Subtitles”

Last night I watched a four-episode Russian drama series about an incident in WWII. I never intended to watch the entire series; I just got caught up in it. Which is strange, because I don’t even know Russian. Not sure I even know a Russian.

The movie was subtitled, not dubbed. The Chinese always dub their movies for Americans. I would actually rather hear the real actor’s voice say words I don’t understand, than to have someone else read the script in English. 

I think it was Japanese actor Haruo Nakajima (he played the giant bird Rodan in the movie “Rodan”) who said, “An actor is only as good as the person who speaks for him.” I thought it an astute observation from someone who had no lines in “Rodan.” Makes one wonder if Nakajima actually authored that saying, or someone just made it up for him.

But, let’s get past the Japanese and the Chinese for awhile and return to Russia. The first Russian movie I ever saw was a war movie set in the Middle Ages. Must’ve been Cossacks fighting the Eastern Slavs. Those people never could get along. The movie was made when Russia was still a communist country. The CCCP, or as we called it, the “USSR.” The Russians changed their alphabet so they’d be hard to understand. 

The movie was dubbed, and the quality was laughable… except for the fighting scenes. They must’ve recruited stuntmen from the Siberian gulags. In one scene they had thousands of soldiers on the prairie somewhere. The general wanted to know where the enemy was, so he pointed to a spot and said, “Mountain!” Instantly, soldiers drop their spears and ran to the place where the general pointed. They jumped on the ground and formed a mountain of men. The general then rode his horse to the top of the men, so he can get a better view of what was ahead.

Do you have any idea how hard it would be to fight for a leader who wouldn’t even go to the trouble of dismounting before walking over up your back? I don’t know the name of the movie, or where I was, or when it was that I saw it. I don’t know the name of the actors, or the people represented in the storyline. But, I doubt I’ll ever forget that scene.

I like to think that the scene was in some way fabricated. I would also like to think that no horses were killed in the shooting of the battles, however, I tend to believe they lost at least one out of every three.  

That Russian movie was memorable because of its battle scenes. The Russian series I watched last night was memorable because of the acting, the storyline and the characters. The series was called “The Dawns Here are Quiet.” The literal translation is “Quiet here Dawns they be.” The Russian language is somewhat like “Yoda-speak.”  In fact, most non-English languages are. From what I can gather, Yoda-speak is a literal translation of Spanish to English. Don’t quote me on that. I mean, “Quote me not that on.” 

In the “Dawns” movie, I knew the actors to be good, because the movie was subtitled. I had to read the whole thing. I was able to follow it because the Russians don’t talk all that fast. They use so few vowels, that they have to stop and think about pronunciation. 

One of about eight things that are beginning to worry me, about me, is the fact that I’ve started watching more and more foreign movies with subtitles. French is the best. Listening to Celine Dion sing in French is captivating. I think she’s even pretty good singing in English.

After bragging about sub-titles, I’ve got to tell you that a few actors are better when someone else speaks for them. Take me for example. A few of the B movies I was in were marketed in some East European countries. They seem to like American Westerns. In a majority of the Westerns, I played characters that were mentally challenged. Turns out, I’m a much better actor when speaking Romanian. There is apparently a Romanian dubber who sounds crazier than I do. I’m tempted to visit Eastern Europe, but I’d hate to disappoint my fan base. 

Oh, and “The Dawns here are Quiet” series? That thing ended at 2:30 in the a.m. I really wanted to tell Kay about it, but figured I’d wait till later in the morning when she was somewhat lucid. Kay may seem sweet, but I’ve got to tell you, when that girl is startled awake, she’s all elbows and feet… which I think is a line from one of Garth Brooks’ songs. When translated into Russian, the last few lyrics come out “feet, elbows be she all.”

Mark can be contacted at hayter.mark@gmail.com.