Sunday, September 13, 2015


Making the ping sound
Al in process of clobbering the ball

On the way home from China Delight last week, I noticed Big Al’s truck parked at the driving range. It seemed like a great evening to spend some time with my kid brother, so I dropped Kay off at the house and headed back for Golf World.

The area had about six guys hitting balls. As I walked down the path, I passed two guys leaving. One must’ve been a pro, ‘cause he was telling the other guy how to improve his golf swing.

Have you ever had someone try to improve your golf swing? You just want to slap ‘em. “Keep your elbow straight. Not that one! Quit slouching! Look how you’re holding that club?” Dad was one whale of teacher… and I was one lousy student.

But, let’s get back to Big Al… who happened to be sitting on a foldout chair under an awning. There was a guy walking in front of me carrying a leather golf bag full of clubs of all denominations. Anything over five clubs is just showing off, you ask me.

Al escorted the guy with the big bag into the office and got him squared away with a wire-basket of balls. Oh, I forgot to tell you that Al wasn’t at Golf World to golf. He occasionally manages the place for the owner. Al is related to the owner by marriage. I don’t mean he’s married to the owner, you understand? He just… O’ forget it.

Me? I’m not related to the owner, so Al would probably make me pay for my own bucket of balls. Fortunately, I didn’t care to hit any balls that evening. I got my share of hitting during my last visit. That’s when Al let me use one of those drivers with the huge club-head. The head of this club was as big my cereal bowl. And, it was made of titanium.

No one knows what titanium really is, but it’s used to make everything from bulletproof vests to non-stick Jello molds… oh, and golf clubs. It’s really good with golf clubs. I never hit a ball so far in all my life. And, each time I hit one, it went “PING!” What a great sound. “PING!” Unfortunately, I only got to hear about 10 pings, ‘cause I wore myself out fast. The club is so light that it makes you want to really bear down and swing. If I had to hit a whole bucket of balls, I’d have a cardiac.

But, I didn’t hit any balls on this particular evening. Instead, Al and I sat out there till dusk and talked about important stuff. Mostly, Al answered questions. – “Al, how is the acting going? How many auditions did you have last month? Where are you going on your next trip? If I borrowed your camping trailer, would you haul it for me?” -- Stuff like that.

Al had nursed his cigar down to about an inch and a half by nightfall. Al gets everything out of a cigar there is to get. And, as luck would have it, the only golfer remaining was getting every minute of golfing time he could. It was a couple of minutes before closing, when the guy asked for another bucket of balls.
A picture of the balls; not the machine that
picked 'em up. That's top secret.

I don’t know how you determine the official closing time at a golfing range. If someone asks for another bucket of balls just before closing time, does that mean he gets to stay until he hits them all?

Apparently, that’s what Al thought the rule was, ‘cause he let the guy stay. However, he did ask the guy to hit at the far end, so that we could pick up balls while he finished off his bucket. – That meant that I was going to get to ride with Al on the ball-vacuum machine.

Do you know how the machine picks up balls? It’s got these big roller things with grooves that run over the balls and somehow chunks ‘em into a one of about five baskets. I’m sure that one of the parts of the machine was made of titanium. Chinese titanium.

It is so neat to be riding at night on a golf ball-sucking tractor, across a well-mowed, field. I asked Al how fun it was to drive the tractor. He said, “Do you wanna drive this thing?” -- I asked him if he’d let me. He nodded and said, “No.”

At one point, I hopped off the tractor and grabbed a pitching wedge and started knocking the hard-to-reach balls onto the middle of the field so the tractor could get to ‘em. The way I was swinging the club, it would’ve taken me three days to get all those balls in the right place. So, I started picking ‘em up and throwing ‘em in the middle of the field.

A little while later, Al parked the tractor, grabbed a seven iron and joined me. At one point I looked over at him and said, “Al, when we were kids, did you ever imagine we’d be together on a driving range picking up golf balls? He thought for a moment and said, “No, I didn’t see this in our future.”

Neither did I. But, had I imagined it, I must say it turned out to be a lot more fun than I would’ve dreamed. For some reason weird stuff makes for the best memories. You ever notice that? – Next time.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


“And that’s the rest of the story” 

“Closure” is a word that has been overused for, oh, 30 or so years. Since the time of Henry II, closure had been used in reference to something that shuts. Unfortunately, in 1986, Rayan Collins wondered if it could be used to explain why people go nuts. -- They've got no closure!

Along those lines, I get calls and e-mails all the time from people demanding closure on my articles. “Why do you start something without telling the reader how it ends? What kind of a jerk does that?” I usually give my pat answer – “Oh, yeah? Well, so are you.”

However, this morning I shall pretend to be an adult by providing closure on a couple of stories. I shall start with the caterpillar story. I ended the article right after the chrysalis was formed. I stopped there because the stupid cocoon just hung there past my deadline.

Oh, I could’ve made an ending about a butterfly that appeared and spelled out “Thank you” in butterfly spit. But, nooo. I’m not going to make up something. Except maybe that story about Rayan Collins in 1986.

Well, now, I know the ending to the story of caterpillar. On the morning of the Twelfth Day of its chrysalis stage, I discovered that the beautiful, jade-colored, small chrysalis had turned black.  Immediately, I thought the worst… ‘cause that’s what I do.

Kay was away in Austin, taking care of her brother and his ailing wife. I would’ve been with her, but someone had to look after the caterpillar. I called Kay to give the news about the death of her pet. Unfortunately, she had blocked my calls. Or, her battery was dead. I’m pretty sure she blocked me, though.

I decided to read the newspaper, to get my mind off the dying or dead caterpillar. While on my way to the Keurig, I saw it… some small sticky-looking butterfly wings coming out of a transparent shell of a chrysalis

My first thought was – Coffee! – But, I quickly chased that thought away and replaced it with – Camera! – After about 20 minutes I found my cell phone and pushed the camera button. Instantly, a calendar appeared. Why do I even have the thing?

I made my way to the closet in the study and eventually came out with our real camera. The one with the low battery. I snapped about four photos. Didn’t want to waste the battery. Over a period of about an hour, that butterfly had a big set of Monarch wings. They weren’t moving though. The thing just stayed put for a good while.

The critter finally climbed to the stick I had propped up next to the bare milkweed plant. I waited as long as I cared to, before grabbing the stick and walking it outside. By the way, it was a girl. I could tell by the two dots on its wings. It didn’t have any. And the veins on the wings were wide… as veins go. Those characteristics are those of a female. That and the large breasts.

The butterfly flitted to one of the shrubs in the flowerbed. I sat on the ground to get some better pictures, when, in a nano-second that girl left the plant and flew right over my head. It took me a couple of minutes to twist, grab and fight my way up off the ground. By that time, there was nothing to see. I walked all around the house. Walked over to the neighbor’s house. Nothing. I got no gratitude from that selfish butterfly. No closure. You got closure, but all I got was heartache.

That night, Kay called, and I told her the butterfly story. She about cried. She had missed witnessing her pet’s journey into adulthood. Now she wants another caterpillar. And, I want nothing to do with it.

I went on a little too long with the butterfly story, so we’ve just got time for closure on one other story. Let’s go with the roof-leak. This is the one where I told the  story about almost falling off the roof. I was originally on the roof trying to find a leak that was making the ceiling wet in the bedroom. – The troubles in my life just keep comin’.

Well, after crawling all over the higher part of the house, I found nothing that looked leakable. Suddenly I remembered an infomercial. The one about the black spray paint that seals leaks. They supposedly use it on the bed of pickups. Like I believe that. I went to Home Depot and bought a can of something pretty much like that stuff. Except, they didn’t offer me an extra can for the mere cost of shipping.

I ended up spraying the flange on the fireplace smokestack. Then I sprayed everything that was connected to something else. Of course, I didn’t clean the metal or replace the old caulk.  The last thing I wanted to do was turn the process into a big job.

Bottom line, it rained like a bad dog last week for about thirty minutes. Afterwards, I checked the ceiling in the master bedroom. That thing was dry as a horn-toad’s armpit.

I feel so accomplished; so good about what I’d done. However, I’m going to feel even better if the ceiling remains dry after the next rain. The last time was probably just a fluke. I’ve been hurt way too many times by a positive attitude.

So, that’s it. You’ve had both butterfly and roof closures. That ouhtta kill two-thirds of all the e-mails I’ve received about not finishing stuff I start. With that in mind, you’re now getting closure on this article. Do you feel it? Feels good doesn’t it? Anybody feeling it? Well, maybe next time.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Origins of names

Origins of Rahab the Harlot's name... and others.

People of my generation have the least weird names. My siblings’ names are Lynda, Larry, Susan, Dennis, Jill and Alan. In school, my friends’ names were Johnny, Tommy, Jimmy, David, and Skipper. Skipper was as weird a name as you’d run across. And, get this, he was a Skipper before “Gilligan’s Island” ever aired.

Today’s children are named after seasons, states, cities, planets, insects, rare flowers, vegetables, and computer parts. A bunch have made-up names. “Machienzel?”

The few normal-named kids have weird name spellings. Chari for Sherry. Dafydd for David and Jarvyn for Ronald. Anything to make life miserable for school teachers.

That being said, the worst names in the history of mankind were those that were conjured up during ancient times. “Rahab the Harlot” comes to mind. Some of you may know that Rahab received notoriety as a result of Joshua sending two guys to spy out the city of Jericho. For a reason that was not made clear in scripture, the two men went straight to the business establishment of Rahab the Harlot. The business was actually owned by her husband, Peleg the Pimp. (A joke!) I assume the spies were looking for Rahab the Shoe Doctor, but got the Jerichoian spelling of “Shoe Doctor” and “Harlot” mixed up.

There were many other Biblical personalities named after their trade. Let’s see, Simon the Tanner comes to mind. What did they call Simon before he worked in leather? Simon the Carrot Hater? Simon the Clod Thrower?

If you go farther back, you’ll find Ishmael. He was prophesied to become “a wild ass of a man.” Gen 16: 12 (RSV) I’ll bet he got into a lot of fights at school. --  “Hey, Ishmael the Wild Ass! Where’s your brother Jack?” Kids can be so cruel.

Occasionally, names would get a bit complicated. Who can forget Jonah in the Whale? People would come up to him and say, “Hey, look, it’s Jonah in the Whale! I’ll bet he got tired of correcting people. “No, I’m Jonah in the Big Fish. A whale can’t swallow a man, because it’s throat is too narrow, you jackass!” – “Wait a minute. You must mistake me for Ishmael’s brother.”

In Sunday school, we used to sing about Zacchaeus the Wee Little Man. What a horrible name. They could’ve called him “Little Man” or “Short Guy.” But, “Wee Little Man” is just piling on. By the way, Zacchaeus was the tax collector who climbed a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus coming down the street. The entire story is told in Luke 19, or you can just sing the song. “Zacchaeus was a wee little man. A wee little man was he. He climbed up in a…”Naw, go ahead and read the account.

Can you imagine wearing the name James the Lesser? There was no way you were meant to excel with a name like that. From what I read, he was named The Lesser so that during conversation, people wouldn’t mistake him for James the son of Zebedee, who was consider greater than the other James. That’s just cruel.

Eventually, someone invented last names. I believe the first guy using a last name was Phillip Hunter. He was a hunter by profession. (Duh!) But, his son, Josh, wasn’t a hunter. Hated hunting. Still, Phil told people to refer to his son as Josh Hunter. The new system caught on like Double Stuff Oreo’s.

Today, if you’re last name is “Smith”, somewhere down the line, one of your grandpas’ was a blacksmith. I understand that Kroger is a derivative of the German name for “host.” Apparently, back in the day, a host actually charged people for what they ate. My Grandmother Hayter’s maiden name was Picklesiemer. One of her grandpas used to catch and pickle siemers. The name “Kellogg” referred to a killer of hogs. At breakfast time, you need to just put that one out of your mind.

The name “Hayter” goes back to a time when names referred to your address. Remember Robin of Locksley? Well, the earliest of my line of grandpas lived in Scotland atop a high hill. He was Reginald of the High Hill. Or Reginald Hayter. Had he made barrel hoops while living on the high hill, my last name would be Hayterhooper. How cool is that?

Names are crazy things. Crazy things intended for identification, not characterization. While I feel a smidgen of pride in being a member of The Hayter Clan, I had nothing to do with the selection process. Didn’t even have a vote. I feel it was in God’s hands.

Faith tells me that it was the same with the story of Rahab the Harlot. I don’t mean to get all religious on you, but in Matthew 1, the lineage of Jesus is listed through the names of His male ancestors. That’s the way it was done. However, there were three women who broke the mold and made the list. They were Mary the Mother of Jesus, Ruth the Moabite, and Rahab the Harlot… who happened to be the great, great grandmother of King David, and the multi-great grandmother of Jesus the Christ.

I realize this part is a fairy tale to many, but it’s fascinating to me, and “I’m the one driving this team of mules.” -- That’s what Daddy used to say before we went on vacation. “Everybody get in the car. I’m driving this team of mules!”

If Dad had been the first in our clan, my name would probably be Mark Muleman. I could just hear Coach Stevens, my football coach. “Muleman, you jack ass! What were you doing on that play?” Everyone would laugh at the pun. -- Like I’d never heard it before. – Aren’t names crazy? – Next time.