Friday, September 27, 2013

Light one shoe

“How Davy Crockett almost got me killed

    Sunday of last week, I had an epiphany. I haven’t had all that many epiphanies, nor am I perfectly clear as to what one is. But, I like the sound of it.

I was in church when it hit. I was listening to the story about Isaac and Jacob for the 15 millionth time. (I was practically born on a church pew during a time when adults didn’t even try to make church interesting.)

Anyway, I was thinking about Isaac and Jacob being lousy fathers, and that got me daydreaming about the time I thought my dad was gonna kill me. Dad never came close to killing any of us, but we always believed it possible. We were kids.

I’ve told the story to you a time or two, but this time is different, because of the epiphany. The story takes place on a Wednesday night a few decades ago. The Hayter kids were on the floor in front of the ol’ 18 inch RCA. We were watching either, Davy Crockett or Elfego Baca, two of the greatest shows in the history of mankind.

Mom had already yelled at us about 100 times to get up and get ready for church. Church on a Wednesday night meant only 15 minutes of Disneyland, no Wagon Train, and no Ozzie and Harriet. It was our attempt to stretch the 15 minutes of Disneyland viewing that made Mom yell so much.

After Mom’s hundredth yell we were expecting maybe two more. They never came. Dad suddenly appeared from a poof of cigar smoke. He turned off the TV and said, “Everyone in the car.” Said it in that low, scary Daddy tone.

All I had on were shorts over briefs. I ran into the bedroom, found my jeans, grabbed my shirt and shoes and socks and managed to dive into the backseat as Dad was backing out.

Dad hadn’t driven a half of mile before I realized I was missing a shoe. Dad’s yelling at us for being bad kids, and I was light one shoe. I gave Dennis the sign language for “What should I do?” He gave me the signal for “the moment the noose tightens.”

Jill whispered the stupidest thing in the world. “Tell Daddy.” He’s telling me what jerk I am, and I’m supposed to stop him to tell him I forgot my shoe? I did the only feasible thing I could do. I prayed for a wreck.

The minute the car rolled to a stop in the parking lot, Dennis and Jill were out and sitting in their classroom. I was trying to outwait Mom, but it was impossible. That woman! When I finally exited the car, she instantly noticed my leftward slant. I begged her not to tell Daddy. I’ll just tell people I stepped on a nail.

Mom summoned Dad, and when he saw me, I started bawling. It was one of those can’t-catch-your-breath cries. All Dad said was, “Get in the car.” I interpreted that to mean, “I can kill you right here, but prefer the car.”

Ever since that moment, I thought what a wise Father would do. A wise Dad would say, “Son, get in the building. If anybody asks about your shoe, you tell ‘em the truth. Your punishment will be their laughter.”

If that thought ever hit Dad it didn’t stick. We got in the car and he drove me home. On the way, he said one thing, “I can’t believe you’re that scared of me.” When we got home, he split a Pepsi with me, and we watched Ozzie and Harriet before returning to church for the rest of the gang.

It was the nicest I had ever seen my Dad. He didn’t even act ashamed of me. And that was the very moment during my daydream that it came to me. The epiphany. The whatever.

Daddy wouldn’t let me go into the church building and lie about the shoe, nor would he let me go in and tell the truth about what happened. He was too ashamed for people to find out how frightened his children were of him. That was his epiphany.

I’d like to say that everything got better after that between Daddy and the rest of us. Oh, maybe it did for a couple of weeks. I can’t remember. I do remember that none of us were ourselves around Daddy. The man had too many problems and too much on his mind to maintain a good mood for long.

And, that was pretty much my attitude toward God during my youth. From what I was hearing from the pulpit, God hated me when I was bad and tolerated me when I was good. No wonder no one smiled in church.
1954 Before Big Al was born.
 L to R: Larry, Susan, Dad with me
Mom with Jill, Lynda and Dennis

I wish I had been made aware of the times it’s mentioned in the Bible about God loving children so much. We used to sing “Jesus loves the little children…” but I saw no sign of that.

Now I have biblical evidence and physical evidence. One piece of biblical evidence is found in Matthew 18: 10. And the physical evidence is proved by the fact that at the beginning of the 21st century, God allowed the invention of the DVR. 

end and

Saturday, September 21, 2013

High Noon

I hate it when the bell tolls for me.

    Yesterday evening, Kay rushed into the living room and announced, “There are two horses in our front yard.” My first thought was, “Why does she tell me stuff like this?”  She may not be the cause of every crisis, but I could build a pretty good case on her indirect involvement.

    I took a look, and sure enough, our neighbor’s horses had escaped the corral. I knew they’d move along in five minutes after finishing off what was left of our lawn. I said as much to Kay. She shot me her “you-beat-all-I-ever-saw” look. Then, she rushed upstairs. I assumed to put on her wrangling outfit. Hey, I don’t know what she buys.

    I begged myself to not get involved. I was nearly self-persuaded when the words of John Donne hit home. “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee?” I had made my students memorize that poem, intending to stir them to action. Not me to action. I don’t even like action.

    But, no one else was making a move to handle the situation. The neighbor’s cats weren’t even interested. Bite the head off a poisonous snake, but won’t corral a horse. And, let me tell you, they could if they wanted to.

    Donne’s words tolled on. I chose to go out the backdoor and sneak up on the strays. Sometimes I can’t even believe myself.

I stood in the road a distance away from the critters waiting for them to leave, while trying to look like I was sizing up the situation. A car pulled up beside me and a lady looked at the horses before asking, “Do you know anything about horses?”

I wanted to say— Well, it doesn’t matter what I wanted to say. She told me her husband knew something about animals and she’d try to get him involved. As the lady’s car headed down the street, I slowly approached the runaways. They laughed at me in that o’ so superior manner that horses laugh. Big headed, taunting creatures.  Then they bolted out of my yard and out my life… so I hoped.

Then Kay came out of nowhere and handed me a sandwich bag filled with apple slices. No wrangler outfit. “They’ll probably come to you if you hand ‘em apple slices,” she said, supposing I was keen on them coming to me. What I wanted to say was—Well, it doesn’t matter. I grabbed the bag and headed over to Jerry’s yard.

I’m pretty sure Jerry was home, but he didn’t budge. I was Gary Cooper and it was high noon in the late evening. Suddenly I had the equine(s) trapped between Jerry’s cedar fence and me. I can only imagine their fear. I was already seeing the headline on page six of The Courier: “Local humorist knocked silly by laughing horse.”

    I didn’t want a lengthy standoff ‘cause it was “Rizolli and Isles” night. So, I held out an apple slice and slowly approached the beasts. The younger of the two lipped the apple from my hand. “There you go, ol’ girl… uh, boy. Whatever.”

I then turned to the older, wiser steed and held out an apple slice with one hand while taking hold of its nylon halter with my other. The monster drew back its head and left me holding an empty halter. My first instinct is too embarrassing to mention.

The manly thing to do would’ve been to grab hold of the mane, hurl myself on top and ride the creature bareback to the stable. Instead I said something like “So, Bucko, why the long face?” No horse laughter. I must’ve hit a sore spot. 

I then focused my attention on the younger, more gullible horse. After two more apple slices, I gently took hold of its halter and slowly walked it toward the stable some 70 yards away. It was five steps -- stop and wait. Three steps -- stop and wait. About 30 minutes later we arrived at the stable where the lady’s husband was inside looking for some feed. For the horse, of course.

The older, wiser horse had oddly enough followed us all the way. The younger horse eventually entered the corral, but the non-haltered bigger one would not move. I took hold of its mane and repositioned the halter upside down over its head. The big fellow apparently regained its sense of humor. I just hate that laugh.

The lady’s husband finally walked across the corral carrying some hay. The old horse practically dragged me into the corral. – Set, match, Mark.

Kay couldn’t stop bragging. On the horses. “Aren’t they just the sweetest? Darling, do you have any apple slices left?”

I don’t know if I consciously imitated John Wayne’s walk as I headed back to the bunkhouse, or if it was just a mannerism that manifests itself on a man who saw his duty and did it. No man is an island, you know? Let’s not forget that, Pilgrim. 

End &

Friday, September 13, 2013


 I'm number 11. 
This is the closest to an action shot I ever got.

"A coulda been Glory Day"

    It shouldn’t be any secret that football is America’s number one sport. It’s got violence, action, violence and speed.

    Misguided people would suggest that baseball is the number sport. Obviously people get more of an opportunity to watch baseball, because there are162 games per season. That’s 480 hours waiting for a pitcher to throw the blasted ball and 6 hours of actual play.

An NFL team plays 16 regular season games. That amounts to a total of about 48 hours a season on the field. During a game, if a quarterback decided to rub on the ball before throwing it, he’d die at some point during the third quarter.

    I’ve made no secret of the fact that I played football in junior high and high school. I didn’t enjoy practice. I have no idea how many times I got my bell rung during practice. I used to get hot spots on my head. One area of my noggin would just turn warm. I assumed it was common. As were the constant headaches.

The games seemed worth it, though. So much fun. I can remember stuff that happened in games that were played 50 years ago. In fact, last night I dreamed about getting the chance to play football again. In the dream, Coach Sailor drove up and parked in my yard. He got out of his truck, walked over and asked if I wanted to suit up for the next Pasadena Eagles game. 

I thought that odd ‘cause I have a driveway, yet he parked on the lawn. What was he thinking?  Although, I was excited as all get out about the chance to play, I asked, why me? Coach explained that he wanted me to play in the hope I would write an article about the experience. I guess he felt he needed some good press.

What did I care? This was my chance to make up for a missed opportunity during the JV Green and White game in 1966. I have carried the disappointment of that game all these years. Begs the question, how can one be disappointed over a game that no one else remembers? Hey, I could teach a class on disappointment.

I played defense for most of the Green and White game, but during the forth quarter, I got to play quarterback. Coach told me every play to run. There were no pass plays. Talk about a boring offense.

During a timeout, I got this great idea for a pass play. I was going to run 34 bootleg, but instead of running around end, I was going to stop and throw a bomb across the field to McGraw in the end zone. There would be no one covering McGraw, because the defense knew we were just running the ball. 

I pulled McGraw to the side, and told him my idea. McGraw said, “No way! That play’s not even in the playbook. Coach will kill us!”

So, I did what Coach instructed. I kept the ball on the ground. My one chance to really shine, and I listened to McGraw. “McGRAW!” 

But, now the varsity Coach was giving me a chance to not disappoint myself. A chance to throw the bomb and create a better memory. That’s when it hit me. Clunk!

While my jersey number was “11” I am now 64.  I could take a pretty good hit back in 1966. And, I was so much faster than I am today. And, I could throw. There was a day when I could really throw the ol’ pigskin.

Now I’ve got a bad throwing arm, weak bones and I can’t run worth spit. I’d be laughed out of Eagle Stadium… which, incidentally, is now a strip mall.

I told Coach that I’d better not suit up. I’d get bad hurt and Kay would have to feed me through one of several tubes sticking up and in me. Coach didn’t say it, but I could definitely read “Weenie Man” in his expression. He drove out my yard and out of my dream, headed to the next person on his list of losers.

After this fascinating story, at least two of you wish to ask, “Mark, do you know how far it is to Tipperary?” No, that’s not it. The question is, “Do you think your odd behavior today is related to the number of times you got your bell rung playing football?”

To that I say, “Of horse snot!” I mean, “Of course not!” I’m perfectly normal for a 64 year old. I still know my timetables, the capital of Mississippi, and where I keep my underwear.  Given the chance, I’d go back and do the whole football thing again.

But, you might want to check back with me in another five years. If I appear at all confused about why the ear holes in my underwear are so big, I may have to rethink the whole football experience. – I am so blessed to still be able to joke about something like this.

End &

Sunday, September 8, 2013

So much stuff, so little space.

  The greatest pen in the history of Western Civilization
“Gotta have it”

    Do you consider yourself a sucker for advertisement? If you see a picture of a battery powered posthole digger does it cause your palms to sweat? Stuff like that does not affect me. I am practical beyond reason. Most days.

    Yesterday, I was getting my oil changed at Troy Garrison’s new automotive shop on South Frazier near Gladstell. Troy, his dad and a friend named Jerry just set up the place. It’s called Jay’s Automotive. I only mention it because the experience is tied to this story, and because Troy’s an ex-student and among the most honest mechanics in the county. Maybe the world.

    So, I’m sitting in Jay’s waitingroom watching TV ‘cause I’m tired of reading my Larry McMurtry book --“The Wandering Hill.” McMurtry introduces about two dozen characters in the first 20 pages. I’m good for five, tops.

    That’s why I started watching “Price is Right” with Drew Cary, a comedian who stepped into something lucrative, but o’ so demeaning. As I looked up to see my car and the TV at the same time, a contestant had just gone absolutely freakizoid over winning a hot tub, a Vespa and about 100 other things.

    It was the blue Vespa that called to me. How cool is that thing? You don’t straddle it, you just sit down like you’re at the kitchen table and the handlebars are your fork and spoon. My big brother Larry owned a white Vespa back in the sixties, when it was groovy for a guy to ride a sissy motor bike. Self-awareness was unfashionable.

When I got home, I mentioned the Vespa to Kay and she was not all that excited. Tell the truth, I don’t think she took me seriously. Not even when I told her I could drive it around the neighborhood and maybe down to Sonic to bring us home some tater tots. You wanna know what her response was? -- “Sonic never fries their tater tots enough.” –Thanks, Sonic. 

Okay, let’s go back to Jay’s Automotive. While I was paying Troy’s dad for the oil change, he handed me a complementary pen. It had “Jay’s Automotive and Transmission” printed on the side and – Get this! – a tiny flashlight bulb on the opposite end of the writing part. You push on the bulb and the thing shines one of those bright LED lights. LCD? One of those tiny lights.

When I showed Virginia the pen, she went squirrel spaz on me. I had to try to wrestle the thing out of her purse. Who needs a pen with a light on the end? I do when I’m on the rooftop at night, but Virginia definitely doesn’t need one. Yet, she punched, kicked, and karate chopped her way out of my house. 

Crazy thing is, I understand why. Just a little while ago I was looking at the ads when I saw something I really wanted. Almost needed it, even. You’re absolutely right. It was a picture of a pitchfork.

    There is no farm implement that intimidates more than a pitchfork. Anytime a pitchfork is introduced into a movie or TV show it ends up in somebody?  Can you imagine Kay and I watching “Longmire” and all of a sudden there’s a home invasion. Two thugs manage to kick, knock and pry their way into the house, and I reach over and grab the pitchfork next to the couch.

    Instantly, I become a most menacing figure. – “Hey, Four Toes, we’ve got a really mean one here. He’s got a pitchfork!” – “Oh, yeah? Well plug him!” – “Did I mention he’s holding a pitchfork!” – “Oh, right. Let’s get outta here!”

    The mental image of getting pitchforked is among the worst imaginings known to man. One step below putting drops in your ear. Regardless, I’m not getting a pitchfork. Kay doesn’t want one in the house. She said my second wife may not mind so much.

    And, that’s not all. I know you wish it were. But, yesterday, Kay’s cousin Sharla, posted on Facebook, an ad for weird office supplies. Among the ads was a Desk Egg Paperclip Nest. You put a pile of paperclips on your desk, and then set this fist-size magnetic egg on top. Instantly the clips surround the egg to the point where it looks like it’s in a nest.

There are four paperclip holders in this house. But, not a one of ‘em is a magnetic egg. I have no use for one, but I feel a need. Kay says there will be a pitchfork in the living room, before there will be a magnetic egg on my desk.

    I was actually glad to hear that, ‘cause it looks like I’m gonna need a pitchfork before I ever expect to get my flashlight ballpoint pen back. Ruby Jewel would be so disappointed in her daughter if she were alive to see how she covets her friend’s stuff. It’s one of the Commandments, you know? I believe it was Moses who said, “When it’s hot, want it cold. When it’s cold want it hot. Always wanting what is not.” Maybe Noah.

end  &

Monday, September 2, 2013

I got birthday gifts from Kay and the neighbor's cat.

An underwear flip kick from a record 11.3 feet 
“A Happy Birthday”

    I had a nice birthday. It was absolutely party-less. Been my experience, a party can really mess up a perfectly good day.

I received gifts this year from Kay and one of the neighbor’s cats. That was one more gift-giver than I anticipated. I did get a lot of attention on Facebook. Jill, Big Al and a few of my friends mentioned my birthday and I got a lot of wishes to be happy. Just look at me. See? It worked. 

I know you’re eager to find out what Kay got me. She did great. Two weeks ago we were strolling in Sams and I saw a whole crate of pillows in cardboard boxes with a pillow picture on each box. This made it quite difficult for me to squeeze the actual pillow.

 The picture did look cool, though. Literally. It showed the pillow to have a thin layer of that blue gel stuff on it. You know, that gel that they put inside ensoles to make you’re steps feel soft? Like you’re walking across the bottoms of some giggling babies, and they’re lovin’ it. It doesn’t get softer than that. I imagine.

So, I summoned Kay over to the pillow box and asked her to open one so I could squeeze the pillow to see if was soft and cool just like in the picture. I didn’t want to do open it ‘cause I don’t think you’re supposed to open stuff before you buy it. Kids do it all the time, but I don’t adults are supposed to. Kids get to open anything they want. Cracker Jacks, potato chips, bananas… Today’s Moms don’t care. Elsie would’ve smacked me across the back of the head with a sack of dried beans.

I’m sorry. I’m just a little jealous of today’s youth. Anyway, Kay wouldn’t open the box for me, but she did something better. She sneaked back to Sam’s and bought me the pillow. I really like it, too, ‘cause it keeps my head cool during the night. I’m fairly sure it’s psychosomatic. If you tell me that putting a boiled egg in my armpit will cause constipation, I’ll get constipated. Even without the egg. Maybe “psycho” is the word I’m looking for.

Kay also got me two big jars of cashews. That adds up to four pounds and two ounces of nuts. A four-day supply. They’re the whole nuts. Not the extra salty, halves and pieces. I’m telling you, they’re the big ones.

Oh, oh, and she also bought me this compressed web-like hoop thing that springs out to form a four oval-sided webbed basket. That’s the best description I’ve got. It’s light as all get out. You can kick it down the stairs, sail it off the roof, or stick it over your head. I’ve tried two of those. One of ‘em almost emasculated me. The little wire oval things have pent-up energy just waiting to thwack something.

Anyway, Kay got me the basket ‘cause she was tired of me throwing my socks and underwear on the bedroom floor. She thought if I had a fun basket, I’d make a game of flipping my underwear toward it. This woman is gold. 

Oh, and the cat? The cat did great. About two weeks ago, Kay opened the backdoor from the outside and yelled, “Mark!” Boy, I hate it when she does that. I’ve given up thinking she might’ve found a dollar bill in the yard.  Anyway, she said, “The neighbor’s cat just chased a coral snake across our yard!” – I yelled back, “Okay!”

Five seconds later, a winded Kay was standing in the doorway of the living room with her hands on her hips giving me the ol’ stink-eye. I gradually hurried out of my recliner and followed her to the backyard, all the while praying, “Please, please let the snake be gone.”

Prayer answered. The thing was hiding in the little wooded patch on the edge of our property. I honestly believe Kay wanted me to go in there and flush it out. It’d be like in the movies when the stupid person goes into the attic to catch the old ghost woman who has been terrorizing the family for months. The ghost can make the walls and doors bend, yet, one person has got to go in and find her. I don’t think so.

Kay eventually ran back to the house and called the neighbors on both sides of us. Warned them about the coral snake. I would’ve done that, but I still have just a hint of masculinity left. – “Hey, Mark called. He’s afraid of a snake.”

Well, eight o’clock this morning, the neighbor’s son called Kay. “Ms. Kay, my cat killed the coral snake and put it on our porch. Cut its head off and everything.” Cats are always showing off.

That was actually my first birthday gift of the day. While I still hold no true affection for cats, I will no longer shoo them away from the yard. Any animal that has the tenacity to bite the head off a poisonous snake can roam my yard day or night. In fact, I insist.  – Yeah, this year’s birthday will be hard to top. I insist no one try .

End  and

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cursive? What happened to writing?

“Stuck in time”

A lousy singer and brilliant songwriter once put the words, “The times they are a changin’” to music. Then he followed ‘em with the worst harmonica playing ever broadcast. And, I thought it genius.

“The times they are a changin’.” Of course times are changing. If they didn’t, everything would stop. Scientists would never be able to get things started again, because they couldn’t move. That Dylan was so profound.

If time suddenly stopped, I’d probably be frozen in time putting on deodorant. Do you know how hard it is to keep your arm raised above your head for a couple of minutes? Try a lifetime. I’m sure you can think of other unfortunate positions to be in, but you’ll have to do it on your own time. I’m goin’ somewhere with this. Don’t think I’m not.

Did you happen to read the article about proof of insurance verification? As of September 1, in Texas, you can now download your proof of insurance to your cell phone and show it to the officer.

This is an example of our changing times. Not for me, though. It’s all I can do to complete a call on my cell phone. There’s no way I could pull up a picture or written message. You might as well send me an air guitar as a text message.

This is only one of a few thousand changes in paper usage that are taking place. There is now a new type of digital money called “Bitcoin.”  It’s a currency that is backed by absolutely nothing. No country or bank. It has value simply because some people desire to have it. It’s like… well, nothing of which I’m aware. I would try to explain the concept, but I’m the guy who has trouble using his cell phone.

There was a time when I never thought I’d ever use a credit card. Just when I got good at it, someone came up with bitcoin. I can safely say that I’ll never use it because I have little faith in something that exists only in the minds of those who play Internet games… not that there’s anything wrong with that.

And, something else I never imagined I’d live to see is the elimination of cursive writing from school curriculum. Cursive? I was in my mid-forties before I even knew what it meant. My teachers were foolishly calling it “handwriting.” That makes as much sense as referring to jogging as “feet-running.”

It took me longer than most to catch on to cursive writing. Writing words in a way that they’re all connected in one continual pen stroke required students with an eye/hand coordination rate higher than four. I eventually achieved what was referred to by all of my teachers as “lousy handwriting.” I’m a fast writer, though. Boy, am I fast.

Today’s youngsters may never have to worry about anything other than handprinting. The word “signature” will mean nothing to them. – “Print your name at the top of the page and then print it at the bottom in a way that no one can read it.”

It takes me at least three times longer to print something than to write it. Do you realize it takes four pen strokes to print an E? After two strokes, I’m pretty well alibiing.

The next generation of kids won’t have to worry about any kind of writing. They’ll be keying in everything. There will be no need for paper or pens in school. It’ll be keyboards and styluses. Or styli. You know, those little pointy things that you poke at your Kindles and Ipads and such?

In time the word “write” will go the way of, uh… words we don’t use anymore. Let’s see, Dookie. As in, “That’s a buncha dookie.” -- Ice box. As in, “If you don’t close that ice box door, I’m gonna knock the dookie out of you!” – This is actually more enjoyable than thinking of the changing times.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, “write” is gone. Gone the way of the word “type,” as in 40 words-a-minute. I once got up to 64 with no mistakes. Afterwards, I jumped up and did 73 pushups. I was wired. To this day I sometimes air-type while I’m watching TV or when Kay talks to me.  

Of course, it’s now it’s called “keying.” I suppose. Don’t worry about learning that, ‘cause “keying” will soon be a thing of the past. There are now computers that print whatever you say. Jill has a phone that she talks to. I’m not making this up! -- “Text Mark, ‘The recipe I told you about is wrong.  Add one cup of ‘sugar’ not ‘black olives.’” – Of course, I don’t know how to pull up texts, so I’ll end up baking sugarless chocolate chip olive cookies. 

Yes-siree, times they are a changin’ and I’m on hold. You might say, when it comes to technology I’m handicapped. Oops. That’s another one of those obsolete words. I’m dumb as dirt. I think we can still say stuff like that. For now.

End and