Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Shortstory 2016

Behold: A Linus Christmas
            Of all the stupid ideas that ever surfaced in the mind of a high school drama teacher, Miss Pinckney managed to conjure the stupidest of all. Oddly enough, the ones who witnessed the implementation of her idea thought it sheer genius. They were allowed that slanted viewpoint because they merely witnessed what happened and were not directly involved.  

            In December of 1981, Miss Barbara Pinckney was in charge of the performances of Central High School’s Christmas Pageant. The choir, the orchestra, the dancers, and the drama students who were performing a spoof on “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, Miss Pinckney was responsible for directing the whole thing.

            The production was in its last two weeks of rehearsals when Pinckney got the ridiculous notion to find a little kid who would walk on stage at the end of the show and deliver the lines that Charlie Brown’s friend, Linus, delivered in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” You know? The part where Linus explains what Christmas is all about? “Behold, I bring you good tidings…” 
Luke 2: 8-14.

            Miss Pinckney contacted Mrs. Selma Page, the music teacher at Sutton Elementary, in hope of locating a gifted, cute-looking first or second grader who might be able to convincingly portray Linus. Right off the bat, Mrs. Page, ruled out the possibility of any first grader being suitable. The first graders of ’81-’82 were an odd lot.

            However, Mrs. Page, knew of a pleasant and teachable second grader who might be able to do the job. It certainly didn’t hurt that the kid had a voice that could be mistaken for cuteness. The kid was David Weller. That’d be me. I was the poor sap pegged to play the part of Linus. And, you want to know the craziest thing about that? I actually agreed to do it.

            My mother was all gaga over the idea. Her son had been selected from the entire field of elementary students to be in a high school play! My Daddy was more realistic. – “You sure you wanna do this, son? Look, your mother and me won’t feel bad at all if you decide to pull out of this.”

            Lance, my big brother, did nothing but joke about the thought of me performing on a stage in front high school students. In front of anyone, for that matter.  Lance was a junior at Central High, and was obviously afraid I’d botch the whole scene, and people would poke fun at him for having a stupid brother.

            It took me a week to memorize the Bible passage Linus delivered. I spent the next week trying to get my voice right. Since Linus was a cartoon figure, the kid who dubbed his voice was reading the lines. I had to memorize the words, and if I messed up on stage, Mom would cry and Lance would kill me.

            Miss Pinckney gave Mom a picture of Linus wearing a green knitted sock cap and holding onto a small blue blanket. Mom matched the clothing as best she could. I must admit that I became one with Linus. 

            I was allowed to skip school for three afternoons so Mom could drive me over to Central High to rehearse in front of Miss Pinckney. She told me to quit trying to sound cute, that my natural voice was perfect. She demonstrated some hand gestures I might use as I spoke my lines. I’m here to tell you that it’s impossible to gesture properly while clutching a blue blanket.

            Miss Pinckney even added lines. I was supposed to walk on the stage in the dark. When I got to the center of stage I was supposed to say, “Lights, please.” Two new words I had to remember. After delivering all my lines, I was supposed to wait for two seconds and then say, “And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” Can you believe that? At the last minute the woman is throwing extra stuff at me. The stupid blanket, alone, was going to drive me nuts.

            At 10:47 Friday morning, the curtain came down after the last performance, to the applause from the packed auditorium of high school students. Suddenly, the lights were dimmed to dark. That caught the kids off guard. Some of them started making ghost sounds. “Whoooo!” At that moment, Miss Pinckney coaxed me onto the stage. I had no idea it was going to be that dark. She should’ve rehearsed me for that.

            The audience, spying a small dark shadow approach center stage, got quiet. All that could be heard was my heart beating. I stood there for a few seconds. At one point I could hear Miss Pinckney off stage going “Psst.” I had no idea what I was supposed to say.

            Finally, Pinckney gave up on the thought of me saying, “Lights, Please.” Suddenly, the spot light hit me. -- Wham! -- There I was… a frozen kid wearing a green sock hat, clutching a blue blanket and shaking like a Chihuahua locked in a fridge. I would’ve swallowed real hard had I managed to find enough spit. I don’t know how long I stood mute. I couldn’t move. I later realized that the reason I couldn’t swallow was because all my saliva had turned to tears and was dispatched to my eyes. I can’t be certain I was crying. Tears were just streaming down my cheeks, but I wasn’t sobbing or anything.

            Some little pockets of laughter began to filter through the audience. Off stage I heard Miss. Pinckney loudly whisper, “And there were in the same country.” – Nothing. I had nothing. At the age of seven I was experiencing the fifth level of hell.  I could hear Miss Pinckney’s footsteps as she approached center stage. She decided to stop after noticing a figure walking up the aisle, stage right. (It was later that I learned the stage lingo.) The person climbed the steps to the stage and entered the circle of light that held me captive. Lance put his hand on my shoulder drew me to his side and whispered, “It’s okay, Mugs.”

            He said to the audience, “If you had any idea how many times I heard my kid brother deliver his lines, it’d make you freak.” The audience laughed a rather awkward laugh. “I could say the lines to you right now, but it wouldn’t sound near as good.

            “My brother is now experiencing a moment that will live through infamy. I remember the word “infamy” because of the great job Mr. Delaney did telling us about Pearl Harbor, last week. ‘December 7th, a date that will live in infamy.’ Thanks, Mr. Delaney”. -- There were a few hoots from the crowd.

            Lance looked down at me and said, loud enough for all to hear, “I hope you get Mr. Delaney when you get to high school, David. He’s cool. And, might give me extra credit for saying so.” The audience’s laugh was more genuine that time. There were even a few “Whoop, whoops!”

            Lance continued. “All in all, I think this year’s Christmas play was pretty good, don’t you?” Everyone cheered. “Better than last year when Reggie did that odd elf routine. Stand up, Reggie, you crazy man!” The auditorium lights came on as Reggie stood to the cheers of his classmates.

            “That’s enough. Sit down, Reggie. Yep, it was a good Christmas performance. Christmas? That’s something that is as confusing as all get out to me. It is one odd story. You’ve got your these wise men. What’s that all about?  Guys riding around on camels stopping every once in awhile to say something smart.” Laughter.

            “Following a star? How do you follow a star? If you haven’t noticed, they’re slow!” -- More laughter. Lance was killin’ ‘em. -- “A barn, a manger and swaddling clothes? I’m not sure about the manger, but I have absolutely no idea what swaddling clothes are?” -- Again with the laughter. – “What’s Frankincense? And, Myrrh? Who gives a baby myrrh?

            “But, let’s face it. It’s all tied to the story called Christmas… the story none of us can really understand, and many of us don’t believe. Some of you may remember Mrs. Crane telling us in English Literature class that ‘Everybody believes in something. Even if you believe in nothing, that’s something.’ Mrs. Crane, I understood that for all of two seconds. But, I’m sure it applies to something, because everything applies to something. Even nothing.” – Much more laughter.

            I’ve got to tell you, though, there is one thing I certainly believe. In fact, I know it. My kid brother nailed his lines at home. I’m just sorry you didn’t get a chance to hear him deliver ‘em.

            “But, it’s no big deal to me.  This little guy right here is my brother, and he could start slobbering and mooing like a cow and I’d still love him. So would our mom and dad… and, more importantly… I know that the person that Christmas is all about would love him no matter what he did.  That’s what I believe.” -- You wouldn’t believe the applause Lance got for saying that. From high school students, no less! Soon everyone was standing.

            Lance, took my hand and said, “Come on, Mugs. Showtime’s over.” He started to escort me off the stage, but I asked him if I could try again to say my lines. He looked stage left to Miss Pinckney. She smiled big and nodded. Lance said, “Go for it.”

            Everyone sat back down. I looked at Miss Pinckney, and I pointed to the lights. She stepped off stage and dimmed the lights to dark. After a brief pause, I said, “Lights, please.” The audience applauded as the spotlight hit me. After a brief pause, I spoke the words in my best Linus voice.

             “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
            “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
            “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”

            I paused a full four seconds before ending with, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
            Again everyone stood up cheering. The curtain opened and all the cast and people in the choir and orchestra came out and started waving and yelling. The girls started hugging me, and the guys were trying to give high fives, uh, when they weren’t trying to get hugs from the girls.
            The performance later that night delivered to the parents got off without a hitch. You’re not going to believe it, but Miss Pinckney wanted me pretend to forget my lines, so Lance could come up again and spike up the ending. I had no desire to do that. Lance told Miss Pinckney that the words just came to him for one moment, and that he couldn’t reenact the scene even if he wanted to. 
            It was indeed the proudest of moments for me. Not my part of the event, you understand? It was what Lance did… what he said. I was so proud of my big brother. Still am. This Sunday, all of the Weller family is meeting at Mom and Dad’s for Christmas. At some point Lance and I will recite Linus’s lines. It’s somehow become a family tradition. You know how that goes. – By the way, Merry Christmas, from all the Hayters! And, peace on earth, goodwill toward men. 
end – Please tune in on Wednesdays at noon to listen to Mark and Kay on “Hanging with the Hayters”. --  104.5 and 106.1 FM as well as at

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Hayter’s Article – November 17, 2016

            Earlier today, Kay referred to me as a stick-in-the-mud. I had no reaction. Despite what you may have heard, name-calling can break bones. However, in this particular case there were no fractures, because what Kay said about me was true.

This Thanksgiving, I’ve become what Webster refers to as “a person who is dull and unadventurous.”  What led to Kay’s statement of the obvious has to do with my decision to play down Thanksgiving this year. – Don’t act like I didn’t tell you. I mentioned it one or two articles back. Well, I mentioned it to somebody.

This year I just don’t care to go anywhere or have anyone over for Thanksgiving. It sounds sad as all get out, because it is. Yes, I’m a mess. Truth is, holiday cheer has been on a decline with me since we quit having our annual Hayter Turkey Bowl Football Game and our Christmas Bowl Game. All we do is eat and sit and talk about what used to be. Hey, I was there. I know what used to be.

Then Mom passed on in 2006, and it put a thick coat of “don’t-wanna” on most things family. Today, I’ve been spending the last few hours reading copies of Jill’s Family Newsletter, a family publication that came out January 1988 and ended with Issue 180 on November 1999. I’ve got a copy of one of only two first editions still in existence. That buddy is going to be worth a pretty penny one of these days.

I spent most of my time reading the reports on Thanksgiving. It’s shocking how my memory refused to hold onto some of the stuff that happened. I had forgotten that my nephew Tommy (Lynda’s youngest) was in Australia during the Thanksgiving of ’89. In “Our Family Newsletter”, Jill included a letter that Tommy had written from Australia on Thanksgiving Day.

He said that Thanksgiving fell on a Friday in Australia. I apparently I breezed right over that part, ‘cause Aussies and Thanksgiving didn’t provoke any interest when I first read about it back in ‘89. However, having just Googled “Australia Thanksgiving” I can tell you that the Aussies celebrate a National Day of Thankgiving on the last Saturday in May. You ask me, the Pilgrims and Indians mean absolutely nothing to the Aussies.

But the part of Tommy’s letter that hit me hard was his reference to the Thanksgivings experienced at his Grandmother’s house. (Mom, Mother or Elsie to me.)  Tommy wrote: -- “The best part of eating Thanksgiving dinner was hearing lines from old movies that the guys always mimicked; the inside jokes that always made me rack my brain to figure out; the smell of the food. If you could sit in that home and not laugh and be thankful, something must be wrong.”

Tommy went on to describe the thrill of the Hayter Bowl. He wrote, “I’ve come to the point in the game where I’m not sure of my abilities. I may have lost a step and a few more hairs, but in this game you forget your age, your job, everything. You just play. Not for blood, just for fun.”

Tommy’s words made me think of the diplomacy involved in engineering plays where Mom would be our key receiver. I’d nudge Big Al, captain of the opposing team, and whisper, “Elsie over the middle.” He’d nod and spread the word.

With no one in the vicinity of Mom, I’d lob her the ball. The times she managed to catch the ball, her reaction was always the same. She didn’t try to dodge people or even run. She just stood there and screamed.

When you see your Mom hugging a football, while standing and screaming, it’s near impossible not to tackle her. Even when she was on my team, I’d bring that woman to the ground. Partly for the joy of it, and partly just to calm her down. Once Mom was down, everybody had to act as if they had assisted with the tackle. Of course, whoever actually hauled her down would provide a barrier to keep her from getting crushed. We were a crazy family, but we were not animals.

O’ my goodness those were great times. Never to be again, but always to be remembered by the two generations of Hayters who are old enough to have shared the moments.

With Mom and Dad gone, the inner families of The Family Hayter are pretty much doing their own thing on Thanksgiving. I’m not sad about Kay and I spending Thanksgiving alone. I only get down a bit when I think of what time has done to make it more comfortable to do so.

But, please, know that I am so thankful for what we have enjoyed. And for Jill having a desire to write a Family Newsletter for as long as she did, and for Tommy Thompson for writing such a wonderful letter some 27 years ago.

Right now, I’m particularly grateful for getting to write my 35th article about Thanksgiving,. And thankful that you have chosen to join me this morning, and for how ever many mornings you’ve chosen to do so. I appreciate it so very much. – As I’ve written time and again -- “Happy Thanksgiving, from the Hayters.” – Next time.

end – Please tune in on Wednesdays at noon to listen to “Hanging with the Hayters” with Kay and Mark. --  104.5 and 106.1 FM as well as at

Friends for life

Hayter’s Article – October 27, 2016

The Wendy Effect

            ROOFTOP -- A well-known New York Tribune editor once urged Americans to seek a new life out west. About 150 years later, a little-known, local columnist urged himself to climb up, young man. From there, I thought to rise above the fog for a clearer view of what the Sam Hill life was all about.

            That upward summons led me to write my first article from the rooftop. The few dozen previous articles almost made sense. But, my grab for that ladder, is pretty much responsible for our 30+ year journey into the region known as The Nutzoid.

            During my first rooftop experience, my view into life’s meaning was hazy as all get out. However, I did manage to get a good look into my childhood. One of the characteristics of youth is a belief that friends never change. We imagine ourselves one day growing up, but never our friends. They are forever.

The friends of my youth were never all that much accustomed to having money. We were forced to use our wit and whimsy to figure out fun stuff to do. When you are one of a group of friends who daily share one another’s whimsy… well, you form a bond. Nothing we said was viewed as too stupid to consider. Occasionally, we came up with stuff too dangerous to seriously contemplate. But, that was, as Abe Lincoln wrote, because of the better angels of our nature. Something like that.

            While sitting on the roof remembering my childhood friendships, I saw the gradual waning of our friendship as the Wendy Effect crept into each of our lives. – Beg pardon? Oh, Wendy? Peter Pan? Becoming too old to maintain the vision of youth? Right.

So, the bonds of friendship became frayed, and before I knew it, I had lost nearly all my childhood friends.  I remember their names and what was special about each person, but I doubt the truth in my memories of what all we did. That’s what psychiatrists call “an indication of sanity.”

            Over the past couple of years, one of my childhood friends kept appearing in my dreams. I had known Johnny from the time I was in the 2nd grade. We remained buddies through high school and college.  The first bicycle I ever rode belonged to Johnny Sutton.  The first and only firecracker that blew up in my hand was while playing around with Johnny and his kid brother Craig.

Johnny, Craig, Dennis (my big brother) and I shared more than good times. We each shared an ongoing feud with the infamous Smith brothers. Some people are born leaders. Some are born followers. A very few are born to beat you up. You could not talk yourself out of a fight with the Smiths. Speech just seemed to irritate them. 

            After the third grade, my family moved away from Pinewood Lane. For awhile Dennis and I would ride our bikes across town to visit Johnny and Craig. In time we, too, succumbed to the Wendy Effect.

            Johnny and I befriended one another again in High School. We were on the football team, played baseball together, and shared a few classes together. We both saw a UFO while camping on the beach at Freeport.

            In the fall of ’67, Johnny, Dennis and I went to Stephen F. Austin University. Because of something I wrote while in a Sociology class at Pasadena High, Johnny and I decided to major in Forestry. It’s a story that I’ve shared before, and will likely do again.

            After graduation, I miraculously ended up with a job in District 6 of the Texas Forest Service. The district office is located in the Jones State Forest on 1488. Johnny got a forestry job managing a forested estate headquartered in Livingston, Texas. We managed to stay in touch for a few years. The occasional visit turned into the annual Christmas card. Eventually, the cards even stopped.

            But, out of the blue, the dreams kept coming. Both Johnny and I had changed residence and phone numbers. I don’t think Johnny ever had an e-mail address or a site on Facebook. Recently, my friend, Joe Harper, managed to get Johnny’s phone number from one of his acquaintances in the forestry business.

            I called Johnny last week and we talked on and on about old times. The bond is still there. Frayed just a bit, but it’s holding. I could tell from his voice and from our laughs. Telling signs.  

            Johnny and his lovely wife, Marilyn, are going to visit Kay and me sometime between now and the holidays. We’re each counting on it.

            By the way. Horace Greeley, the newspaper editor who wrote, “Go West, young man!” is also known for writing -- “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character.” – Perhaps not THE answer to life itself. But, it is AN answer. – Next time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Reverse roles

Hayter’s Article – November 10, 2016

Post Election Time
            I don’t know about you, but I’m glad it’s over. Things didn’t come out the way I expected or hoped, but such is the way with politics. And, do-it-yourself plumbing projects.

You want to know what’s weird? I’ll tell you what’s weird. Less than half of the voting public just used a “rigged system” to select a non-politician as President-elect of the United States. And – get this -- they did it without firing a shot. Is this a great country or what?

            There are two upsides to this election. I heard no one try to make an argument about the Republicans being the party of Jesus. That was soooo refreshing. Also, the Democrats no longer have to suffer the slings and arrows of the opposition. The sides are now swapped as the Democrats get to assume the role of insatiable griper, while Republicans find themselves coming up with reasonable explanations as to why stuff’s not working.  

            Britain refers to the minority parties in Parliament as “The Loyal Opposition.” The parties with fewer Parliamentary members get to ridicule all they want, but, during all the debate, all sides maintain a loyalty to Queen and Country. The U.S. has come close to that notion, but not recently.  

            President Johnson used to call leaders of the two parties in Congress together to drink and deal behind closed doors. After agreements were reached, Republican Senate Minority leader, Everett Dirksen, would put pressure on a few of his own members to vote along with the Democrats on certain hot-button issues like Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, in order to gain Democratic support on bills with a Republican flavor. It’s called “politics.” Better known as “compromise.”

            Nowadays, it’s near impossible for the President and Congress to negotiate in secret. Keeping a secret in Washington is like keeping green goo off the chin of a child who’s doing all he can to scream, “Enough with the strained peas!” (You should see the analogies I edited out.)

Most constituents refuse to believe that their representatives would ever compromise. In fact, one party in Congress has had members sign pledges they would not compromise on certain issues.  In 2012, 270 members of Congress signed a pledge never to vote on any provision that called for a raise in taxes. WWIII, cluster hurricanes, California falls into the Pacific, the debt reaches 24 digits … no new revenues. That definitely puts the kibosh on politics.

 As long as we have a Constitution that provides for Checks and Balances, things generally get done with the aid of compromise. There are other forms of government that require no compromise. None of them are indirect democracies.

            A direct democracy (everyone gets to vote on all actions of a government) is one of ‘em.  There are no elections necessary in a direct democracy, so you can do whatever you wish. That’s why it’s referred to as the most inefficient government known to man. Fortunately, there is no working model of a direct democracy in the world today.

Our system of government is known as an indirect democracy (voters select people to represent them in government). It is the most inefficient government in practice today. And, as most would agree, it beats the daylights out of the alternative forms. Uh,  for those of us living in the “Free World.”  

            Will democracy work in the Middle East? Those who are experimenting with it at the moment are having fits. When your political parties are based on religious sects, there is little to no compromise on anything. Each side has pledged itself to their vision of what Allah expects of them. The party that gets control is the one that manages to keep all others in check.

            Having one group with all power, makes the government efficient as all get out. Put a stop to crime, force worship, end worship, build a building, destroy a building, eliminate a foe... In the words of Yul Brenner, “So let it be written. So let it be done.” – Beg pardon? Oops. Yul Brenner played Pharaoh in “The Ten Commandments?”  

            So, there we have it. Governing is a bear. Manageable at times, but a chaotic mess at others. And, now we have elected a person who scares the willies out of many of us, but instills hope in the minds of less than half the voting public. Few of the frightened view “hope” as realistic. The other side is giddy with anticipation. It’s a part of the post election spirit.

            That’s why I think it best to end this piece with a quote from a man whose picture is hanging on the wall to my right. After the election of 1932 between Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, Will Rogers said -- "There is only one redeeming thing about this whole election. It will be over at sundown, and let everybody pray that it's not a tie, for we couldn't go through with this thing again.”

            And the congregation said, “Amen!” – Next time.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Changing Time

Time Change!
Mark Hayter

            How are you adjusting to the time change? Right now we’re on normal time… or standard time. Last Sunday, the sun began rising an hour earlier, and setting an hour earlier in the evening. If that’s not spooky, I don’t know what is.

War is what ultimately led to a national Daylight Saving Time program. – By the way, it’s wrong to call it Savings Time. Few politicians know that, but the few who do blame the Liberal Media for pluralizing “Saving.”

 Originally, we called Saving Time, “War Time,” because it was only adopted during the period of both World Wars. After WWII, states and cities didn’t know whether they should change back to the old time or not, so cities decided to do whatever they wanted. Grandmas all across the nation had no idea what time their children and grandchildren would arrive at Thanksgiving. Family gatherings got confusing as all get out. Lives were probably lost.

In 1966, Congress grabbed the bear by the horns and jumped into action. That was back when Congress actually took on a little bit of responsibility. Congress actually passed a law adopting Daily Saving Time during the period between the second Sunday in March and the first Sunday in November.  

Today, citizens of all states are now off of DST and back on to Standard Time. Of course, Arizona (except for the Navahos in the Northeastern part of the state) never left standard time. They decided to pooh pooh commonality and put the kibosh on DST. The Navahos apparently decided to pooh pooh Arizona.

I know what you’re thinking. How can we literally save time by moving the clock back an hour? We can’t! Yes, there’s a Biblical account of God making the sun and moon stand still for almost a whole day just so the Israelites would have enough daylight to finish slaughtering the Amorites. In order to do that, God had to defy the laws of physics to keep the earth, moon and a bunch of the planets from plummeting into the sun. Now that’s, like, almost impossible to do.

No, we’re just toying with the clock in an attempt to save energy by giving ourselves an hour more daylight during waking hours. The theory is, by getting out of bed when the sun is out in the spring, summer and fall, we’ll likely turn on fewer lights. if get out of bed when the sun is already up.

The question is, does it work?  Is my monthly electric bill lower during the eight or so months of DST than it is during Central Standard Time? The answer is yes… and no. Someone has actually done the research. Several someones. I’m not joking.

Seems our monthly light bills do go down about ½ percent during DST. However, our overall energy usage increases in most areas. That’s because of the energy used by people getting up earlier and having to cool and warm their houses more than they might normally.

I’m the exception to that likelihood. I bump the thermostat down at night because I prefer sleeping cool. By doing this I increase the size of my environmental footprint. Fortunately, I have an excuse. Hey, I’m not a complete jerk. During my younger years back in Pasadena, the Hayters did a lot of sweating while sleeping, as did the vast majority of people on the planet.

Like most of the people on the planet, if I have a chance to sleep in a cool room, I will take advantage of the opportunity. God has now afforded me the chance to sleep in a cool environment, so I grasp the blessing using all of which I can grasp. Should I ever become less blessed, I’ll go back to the night sweats.

It’s called adapting. It’s not easy, but I can do it. I believe it was Bob Seger who said, “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” -- Obviously, that doesn’t apply to anything here, but I consider it one of the greatest lines in songdom.

 So, there we have it. From now until near-spring we’ll experience a little brighter mornings and darker evenings. As soon as the second Sunday in March rolls around we’ll again spring forward into Daylight Savings time. Sounds crazy as all get out doesn’t it? Regardless, I can’t see Congress changing it in this century. You ask me, it’s the Liberal Media behind all this.

For whatever it’s worth, we must all admit that time is a moving thing, and “…if I could make it stay, this hour of love we share would always be, there’d be no coming day to shine a morning light, to make us realize our night is over.“ Sorry.

These lyrics are from a song called “It’s Over,”  written and sung by Jimmie Rodgers. It first came out in 1966… the same year we adopted Daylight Saving Time. – Wow! Time is both moving and coincidental. – Well, I hope you’re happy. I’ve just used up my extra hour. --  Next time.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Col. Don

“Colonel Don”

            The smoke has cleared, the dust has settled, and the water is over the proverbial dam. In short, the Hayters have dispersed. Gone back home… all 27 of ‘em. We were expecting 38. As with all family gatherings, you must anticipate over-expecting.

            The cause for our latest reunion was a visit by my sister, Susan Hayter-Mayo Mellor. Susan lives in Washington State with her recently espoused husband, Don Mellor. Don is a retired Army Colonel. Full bird. My knowledge of military ranking comes mostly from the TV series MASH. Col. Potter was a Full Bird Colonel, not a Lt. Col., not that there’s anything wrong with that. (This is coming from a guy who lived his entire life completely without rank.)

            Susan and Don were widow and widower whose paths crossed through the match-making skills of my nephew CJ. It was a match made in Tacoma, or thereabouts. Sue and Don only dated a few months before knot tying. My understanding is that after watching whatever movie it is that has the song “Can I have this Dance” in it, Don leaned over and  whispered in Susan’s ear, “Can I have this dance for the rest of my life?”

            Susan immediately said, “Are you asking me to marry you?” Don thought for a second and said, “Uh, oh, is that what—Well, I guess so. Yeah, sure.” He has a sense of humor. And, he’s got such a calm and patient manner about him. I’d peg him as a hostage negotiator before I would an Army Colonel.

            Regardless, the two of ‘em got married without clearing it with the rest of the Hayter family. Sidestepped us is what she did. So, after the fact, she flies down with her newly acquired husband so she could… what? What are we supposed to say? -- “Okay, we don’t approve. You can take him back now.”

            Turns out, the guy is a real catch. If Susan hadn’t married him, I would’ve matched him up with Jill. Every family can use a Don. Of course, not everyone knew that until we had our family gathering in Conroe. Kay reserved our neighborhood pavilion area where we put on a feed.

The BBQ was catered by our friend Katie Blake-Espinoza, while the family supplied all the sides. Susan and Don just showed up. It just didn’t feel right telling them to make some beans. Besides, they were staying with us, so they would’ve had to use our kitchen. I don’t share the kitchen all that well.

            During our outing, the reports on Don started filtering in. I’m pleased to say that the guy passed muster. Not mustard. No one thought to bring any. (Ba, dum, dum.) There was not a negative thing said about the guy. That never happens at a Hayter event. There’s always someone worthy of slander.

            No question, Don may have been putting on one convincing act. I thought of that. However, there was nothing about him that indicated he was all that good of an actor. Al could pull it off. In fact, the times he comes across as nice, he’s acting. – (Now, that’s another joke. If it had even a hint of seriousness to it, Big Al would beat me like a back porch rug. And, if Mom were here, she’d let him.)

            After eating and congregating at the outdoor pavilion, those who didn’t go home, came over to my house for a continuation of eating and congregating. In the confines of a living room/dining room enclosure, conversation tends to spike at 15 or so decibels. At one point I counted 14 people talking at the same time. Since there were 20 of us, that left only six potential listeners. I was one of the six, yet, chose to be superfluous to any dialog exchange. Some choices are harder than others.

On that particular Saturday, I was in such a good mood that I found the volume of the conversations more comical than aggravating. Prayer has gotten me through some pretty tense moments. Can you imagine how many laughs God has during a typical family gathering? Heaven knows, He’s had many laughs over my exploits.

            Well, as of now, it’s all behind us. The family members have returned to their respective homes, and Susan and Don are leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when they’ll be back again… but I’m thinking this time next year.

            I consider it one of our better get-togethers. Obviously, Mom and Dad would’ve made it all the better, but the wear of time will cause us all to be missed at some point. For now, we get to accept another soul into our family. Fortunately, Don witnessed us at our near-best. Who knows how his view of his new family will weather time?

By the way, I looked it up. A colonel usually commands a brigade. (3000 to 5000 soldiers) Surely he can put up with a few dozen Hayters… as long as we don’t call him Shirley. – Da, dum, dum.


Friday, November 4, 2016

retirement and TV

Pondering 3-D TV purchase

Now, about retirement...

            Practically all of my retired friends are working their buns off. Most of ‘em tell me that they work more than they did when they got paid to work.

I generally act as if I’m so proud of them for staying busy doing whatever the cheese sticks it is they’re doing. For the most part, I have no idea what they’re doing, but whatever it is… I think they’re doing it wrong.

That’s pretty much my guilt talking there. My mindset is all messed up. While I I try to do well at whatever it is I do, I prefer limiting the amount of time I spend doing it.  In short, I never wanted to die while working.

Speaking of which, there are a few of my unretired friends who, when asked they plan to retire, tell me that they plan to retire working, because they’re doing what they like to do. They’re not that unlike me. I, too, would like to die doing what I like to do. If I get my wish, I’ll die either sleeping or watching TV.

Second thought, I’d really not like to be leaning back in my recliner with 10 minutes left on the clock and the Texans down three touchdowns to the Browns. Suddenly, my bowl of Cheetos and popcorn goes flying as I grab my chest. People would say, “Mark died doing what he liked best -- watching the Texans lose.”

No,third thought, I’d like my last words to be, “I love you, Sweetpea. Try not to hog all the covers tonight.”

Either one of those scenarios would be better than getting electrocuted while installing a ceiling fan, or blown up while fixing a gas leak, or cracking my noggin while caulking around the tub. The first two chores I no longer attempt. The last one I only do every fifth year.  

Don’t get me wrong, I do stay busy occasionally. I cook, wash dishes, take out the garbage, vacuum and do the occasional light bulb change. When I find myself in the mood, I’ll play at being an author. I’ve got so many projects to finish you wouldn’t believe.

And, Kay and I do spend time preparing for our weekly radio talk show, “Hanging with the Hayters.” It requires a little bit of planning, but not enough to lose sleep over.

We sure don’t spend much time traveling. At least not as much as Kay would like. That’s because traveling requires some revenue, and retirement hasn’t proved to be all that lucrative. Not only that, but I just don’t travel as well as I used to. I don’t like to fly or drive long distances. And, I’m not crazy about walking all that much.

 As mentioned, one thing that does occupy much of my waking moments is watching TV. That is so weird, because none of the people I know watch much TV. Some watch absolutely none. That pretty much goes against everything I stand for.

Kay and I just finished watching the fifth season of “Longmire” on Netflix. We’re big fans of Wyoming sheriff, Walt Longmire. Did you know he’s played by an Australian? Robert Taylor, not to be confused with the much older and dead Robert Taylor? Anyway, as American manufacturing jobs go overseas, we’re now importing British and Australian actors because there’s a complete dearth of available American actors who can properly speak American English. -- That being said, Robert Taylor plays a great Walt Longmire.

So, “Longmire” is about all I watch. “Longmire” and “Poldark” on Masterpiece Theatre, and, uh, “Father Brown” on PBS as well as every other drama series that appears on PBS. I also watch the new series “Bull” with the ex-NCIS actor, Michael Weatherly. I make time for a few others – “Lethal Weapon”, “Mr. Robot”, “Alone”, “Dateline”, “60 Minutes”, “Gotham”, “Preacher” and “Designated Survivor” with Kiefer Sutherland. Of course, I’ll turn to practically any Western that pops up.

I also record all my favorite college football games, and then fast forward through them at night. I have not watched a live football game since TiVo… that’s the recording device, not Tebow, the quarterback turned baseball player. Not the same. 

Yep, things have changed so much since retirement.  When I was teaching, I came home at around four, had some coffee, read the newspaper, prepared supper, watched the news, and then went to the study to grade papers and prepare lessons for the next day. I’d got to bed and wake up at five in the morning. It wasn’t so bad, because I got used to.

Right now, I’ve become used to working on the house, working outside the house, reading, writing and doing the occasional entertainment gig. Then I manage to find time to watch a TV show or two… or six. Depends on the mood.

Truth be told, retirement is a lot like parenting in that there’s not a boot camp you can go to train for it. It’s something you pick up by trial and error. I have every confidence that most retirees are handling their retirement job so much better than I am. And, unless I’m very careful, I’m going to learn something from them. Right now, I’m just not all that receptive. – Next time.
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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Snap out of it!

Who the Sam Hill are you?

            This week I’m going to do something revolutionary. I have every confidence it will alter life as we know it. It may even whiten teeth.

            So, grab a pen so you can circle what I’m about to say. – Ready? Here it is. Whenever I catch myself moping around, I’m going to “snap out of it! Might have to do that two or 20 times a day.

            Is that not revolutionary? – What? No, the whiten teeth part was just stuck in there for humor. Get it? Well then, snap out of it! – Oops. You should never tell anyone else to snap out of it. They likely don’t want to snap out of it, or they think they’re not behaving in any manner that merits snapping out. Bottom line, they’re going to kick you to death.

            The only person that I should tell to snap out of it is me. Not “I”. I’m tired of using “I” when “me” sounds better. And, I’m tired of worrying so much about not ending a sentence with a preposition. Who came up with that rule? – “Okay, let’s say that from now on you can’t end a sentence with “with” or “of” or “to” or “from” or a bunch of other words we’ll come up with later. We’ll call them “prepositions” which means words that sentences can't end in.  – Okay, “in” is another word of which sentences can’t end.

            One thing that sparked my new "Snap out of it!" philosophy was telephone conversations I had with three of my siblings last night. After listening to two hours of conversations laced with anger, sadness and dread, I handed over whatever joy I had accumulated to that point. That’s not happening anymore.

            When someone tells me they’re upset about something, I’ve always taken it as a cry for help. The person expects me to solve their dilemma. I’ve been such a fool. Any person who knows me, knows that I’m a bigger mess than they are. I’m the last person to trust with a cure for any emotional ill.

            But, starting this week, I’m not going try to solve the problems of others. I’m just going to listen. Maybe occasionally go, “Hmmm.” If I do that, people are sure to like me better. – Which, incidentally brings up another reason that I must snap out of it.

            I worry way too much about what others think of me. Truth is, people aren’t thinking of me… or you.  At least that’s the way I am when someone’s talking to me. I'm too busy thinking of what I’m going to say when they stop talking. I’ve likely missed out on some very important discussions.

            I’ve never been a big fan of parties, because I don’t like to mingle. Mingling is way too much work. For one thing, I feel guilty for not remembering names. . -- “Hello, Mark!” -- Who the Sam Hill is this? All I can do is listen for a clue that will cause the name to surface. People can be so stingy with name clues.

            It matters not. I’m snapping out of name guilt. – “Hello, Mark!” – “Whoa, I don’t know you from a box of bottles. How ‘bout starting your next sentence with your name? – Too abrupt? Well, I’ll work on it.

            During conversations I much prefer talking very little. I ask the person about himself, hoping he’ll takeover the conversation. Unfortunately, some need some serious prodding. – “So how’s your Mom doing?” – “She died five years ago, Mark. You were at her funeral.” – “Right. So, how long have you had those shoes?” 

See how bad I am at mingling? No more. Starting this week I’ll be a free spirit at parties. – “So, Mac, John or Philip… whoever, tell me something. Let’s see? Start from your first date in high school. I’ll tell you when to stop.”  

For whatever reason, I sense that God gave me the responsibility for ending any silence that lasts more than two seconds. I can listen for up to five minutes to a completely ridiculous explanation of gastritis, but if there is a two-second pause I get terribly nervous.

If I’m in an elevator with a silent stranger, I feel it necessary to say something to disturb the quiet. I might say -- “I’m headed for the eighth floor. I like the number eight.”

That kind of behavior is behind me now. I realize that there is only one person who can make me nervous or angry or sad or embarrassed. Me. And me is snapping out of it. I am no longer responsible for gaps of silence. I don’t care if no one says anything for five seconds, I’m keeping my mouth shut. However, more than five seconds, and I’ll have to walk away to keep from having a complete meltdown. No one can snap out of a complete meltdown.

Keep in mind, I’m not recommending you try to snap out of it. That usually ends badly. And, trying to change people for the better is no longer a part of my job description. It’s a full-time job just trying to fix me. However, I’m hoping that it will now be a little less work. I’m not going to seize the day or smell the roses or reach for the stars. Those have been so over done. I’m snapping out of it. And you wanna know something? It feels better all ready. – I give it three days. – Next time.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Yeti coffee mug

 Is that a Yeti?
10 oz only $45!

    We had the Plilers over for supper yesterday evening. Virginia and Freeman like ribs, and the two racks in our freezer were taking up way too much space. Those buddies came from one long pig. Kay had to fold ‘em to get them to fit in the freezer.

Years ago, I bought an electric smoker for my BBQ occasions. You ask me, the words “electricity” and “smoke” don’t belong in the same sentence… unless you’re an investigator for the Fire Department.

Since the smoker purchase, I have tried smoking turkey, brisket, ribs and pork butt. Might’ve been pork shoulder, but it’s rare that I find a legitimate opportunity to write the word “butt” without making the spirit of Elsie Hayter cringe.

    The biggest problem with smokers is the amount of patience they require. After about two hours in my low-smoking smoker, I give up and throw the raw meat in the oven until it’s done. Then I slam it onto my charcoal grill and burn the daylights out of it. Burnt meat has somewhat of a smoky taste to it. .
     Virginia and Freeman never complain about my burnt-to a-crisp ribs, because they’re not stupid. --  The Plilers, not the ribs. Ribs don’t have a clue.

    After the meal, we remained at the table so the girls could converse about the unimportant. As Kay and Virginia talked loudly across the table, Freeman looked up at me and said, “Is that a Yeti?”

    Odd, I thought. But, I shifted my view to the window at my left as a way of going along with the joke. I figured Freeman would say, “Gotcha!” as soon as I looked. The Plilers’ great-grandson, one of the blessed few who is responsible for hanging most of the stars in the heavens, has taught Maw Maw and Paw Paw all kinds of wonderfully funny things. – No, I like the kid. I’m just jealous.

    Anyway, I turned back to Freeman and gave him my puzzled look. I acquired my puzzled look from Oliver Hardy. Oliver Hardy? He was the second greatest actor in the world. Before your time, I’m sure.

    My award-winning look of puzzlement got a quick response from Freeman. “Your coffee mug. Is it a Yeti?” Had Virginia asked me that, I would’ve said, “No, most Yetis don’t have a flat butt.”  (Oops.) But, I didn’t say that ‘cause I didn’t want to run the risk of hurting Freeman’s feelings. The guy is so nice you just want to slap him.

That was the moment I found out that “Yeti” is a brand name for coolers and insulated mugs. Expensive coolers and mugs. You ask me, you’re paying for a name. Had they named their products “Slug-slime” I think the popularity would’ve never surfaced.

My mug, the one Freeman mistook for a Yeti, cost me $10. Of course, that was 20 years ago. Accounting for inflation that would be, uh, $11.18 today. Hasn’t been that much inflation of late. You may attribute that to the party of your choice.

I’ve managed to keep my mug a long time, because it’s indestructible and it does what I expect a mug to do. Coffee cups, like shoes and underwear, stay with me for a long time. My policy is that, as long as you do your job, I’ll keep you no matter how bad you look. I call that loyalty. Kay calls it cheap.

The stainless steel feature of the mug makes my coffee stay warm to the last suck on the sippy-lid. The mug is a straight squatty cylinder, with a black hard plastic lid that has a tiny hole on one side, which serves as a vent when the mug is tilted toward the sippy part of the lid. The Huns invented the vent-hole for mug lids. Before that, the lids would burst open when tilted, and cause the barbarians to get beer up their noses. Made ‘em angry as all get out. By the way, in case you were unaware, the Huns got so angry that they eventually conquered Rome. In fact that’s the only true part of my Hun story.

The only problem with my metal mug is that it’s too wide to fit in any cup-holder. They’ve got mugs with narrower bottoms, but that makes them easy to tump over. -- Tump? Yes, it's a word, not completely sanctioned by Webster. -- Engineers have yet to design a cup-holder wide enough my favorite mug. The mug’s base has a diameter of 3 ½ inches. That’s just a half-inch beyond the capability of cup-holder designer. They can design a toilet that will flush in zero gravity, but have yet to master the wider cup-holder. Our priorities are so messed up.

And, yes, I have been carrying on a lot about the mundane. That’s because my mind drifted a lot while the girls were talking at the table. If Freeman hadn’t taken the initiative to get up and clear the table, the conversation would’ve gone on into the night. Freeman. Did I tell you how great this guy is? – Next time.


Quotes to live by

"Avalanche of snowflakes"

    When I run across a good quote, I generally jot it down on the nearest thing I can find. I’ve lost a lot of good quotes that way.

    In the last couple of weeks, I have noticed several good sayings, and would now like to take this time to share. So, look around for something to write on.

    How many of you saw the “Thought for Today” in one of last week’s editions? It is attributed to Polish writer, Stanslav Jerzy Lec. Who doesn’t remember that scholar and his contribution to mankind? I’ve remembered him for about a week now. The quote I saw in the Courier read, “The only fool bigger than the person who knows it all, is the person who argues with him.”

    The fact that the quote was found in the “Opinion” section, screams of irony.  The words appeared on the same page as “Letters to the Editor.” I don’t know about you, but I do not enjoy reading opinions that aren’t mine. It doesn’t mean I don’t read some of ‘em. It’s just that I don’t enjoy the experience. When an article or letter begins with a false premise and is supported by illogic, I see little chance of expanding my mental boundaries by reading further. As you know, I’m a man in need of mental boundary expansion.

    I am by no means advocating a tempering of “Letters to the Editor.” The backlash would cause some serious civil unrest. If you don’t let people vent, some of them will explode right in front of you. There is a lot of anger out there. And, I do sympathize with the angry. If I lit atop a mound of simple answers to ageless problems, it would just irritate the daylights out of me that everyone else didn’t climb up there with me. Can’t they see?

    And that brings us to our second quote. This comes from, of all places, the “Letters to the Editor” published in last Thursday’s edition. In response to an influx of letters containing some angry and less than tactful arguments, Joseph Rodriguez of Conroe began his letter: “When did it become acceptable in the political discourse to insult, defame and be downright rude and arrogant? What ever happened to agree to disagree?” 

I don’t know Joseph, but I’d like to give him a hug. He’s going to need one, because someone is going to tear into him with a “counter” letter. – Hang in there, Joseph. But, try not to respond with a counter to the counter letter. I’m just saying.

    While on the subject, let me pass along another quote. This one is from writer, preacher, Max Lucado. Lucado wrote, “It is one thing to have an opinion. It is quite another to pass a verdict.” Why is it so easy for me to notice the application of that line to everyone but me? Anyone else? Anyone?

    Here’s another quote that speaks to one’s overvaluing an opinion. It comes from the deceased, religious writer, Oswald Chambers, who wrote, “He is a fool who places a ban of finality on his views.” Had I written that thought, it would’ve read, “Hey, keep an open mind!” An open mind is considered a danger to the one who worships a creed. That just came to me, so it’s likely wrong.

    These quotes are making me thirsty. Let’s go back to Stanslav. I researched that guy and found a trove of great sayings. I wish I had met him sooner. Look at this: “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” You might want to share that one on Facebook. Like me, I seriously doubt it would apply to anyone, but it always feels good to recognize the flaw in others.

    Stanslav Jerzy Lec, also wrote, “Everything is an illusion. Even that last sentence.” What? What did he call me? -- I have an increased respect for the Poles. Before Lec showed himself, I thought little of the contributions of Eastern Europeans, but now I’m like a snowflake in an avalanche. – No, I think I’ve already misused the quote.

    Here is a quote from an unknown author. “Bad decisions make good stories.” That is so true that it hurts. Most of my best stories come from bad decisions. Some of Virginia and Freeman’s favorite stories involve bad decisions of mine. It’s done nothing to harm our friendship. Of course, lately I have to get permission before I visit. Not a problem. They usually answer their phone, hoping it’s Kay calling. It is such a downer when a cheerful “Hello” turns into a “Heloooo, Mark.”

    Since we’re approaching the end here (of the article, not life itself) let’s leave with a few uplifting quotes. I neglected to write down the author’s name on this one. I jotted it down on a Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon, and there’s not a whole lot of space to write on one of those things. The quote is, “Peace can come if we respond with a gentle answer.” I know that to be true. Why I don’t practice it often enough is just weird.

    Here’s a quote that has the potential to put to rest a bucket load of negativity. “Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got.” If all I do is gripe about the unfairness, meanness, violence, apathy, stupidity—What? Right, that’s enough. -- Anyway, if we don’t turn our whine into something fine, we just might end up as snowflakes in an avalanche. Yeah, I like that one.

    Yes, Stanslav Jerzy Lec, had a lot on the ball? He died in 1966, yet, I heard nothing about it. Let me give the man one last chance to express a thought. This one may be related to some of the stuff I’ve been writing about. I’m just not sure. Here is the quote: “Hay smells different to lovers and horses.”  I think that means that Kay likes romantic movies, and I like horses. – I think I’m pretty close with that one. – Next time.