Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Country Christmas Eve.....

                                                     A Country Christmas Eve
     As a young boy our large family met each Christmas Eve at my Grandparent's home. 

 The standing rule was you may miss other annual family events but you DO NOT miss

 Christmas Eve at Grandma' and Granddaddy's.   

 This is the way I remember it.

Grandma’s Living Room packed so tight that you wondered if we could get anymore
 in, but we always did. 
Cousins, each quietly sitting at the feet of each Mom and Dad as the Bible was read, then songs sang, and presents passed out. 
The Sparkler Dance with it’s hooping and hollering while the parents stood up on
 the porch admiring their claims to fame. 
The un-nerving “pop” of the Black Cats and the brilliant colors of the Roman Candles
 bringing out the Oooo’s and Ahhhhhhs of everyone who was present.
 And then of course the Bottle Rocket War.

All of these things rush back to us immediately.

But do you remember the little things?
The pile of coats so deep on the bed in the  extra bedroom
that you could have lost yourself in them.
Granddad, usually standing over in a corner without much to say but always reaching
out to ruffle our hair  as we passed by to wish him a Merry Christmas.
Grandma ‘s warm smile,  greeting everyone,  her eyes sometimes having to
 search for a hint of “who was who’s”  with one of the Aunts close by
to throw a name if needed.
The ”look but don’t touch” admiring of the new addition to 
Grandma’s Plate collection on the dining room wall.
The smells  of  ham, potatoes,  sugar, cedar, cigarettes,  black gun powder on the tips of each boy’s fingers  and Aunt ….’s. perfume, that lingered long past her passing by.
The introducing of the new cousins, or in later years,
Grandma’s and Granddad’s newest Great Grandchildren.
 Babys screaming and crying from unfamiliar arms holding them until they landed in Grandma’s lap where her gently voice and light rocking turned them into nothing but sugar and spice and everything nice,  if but for only a few minutes.
The welcoming of each “new” member or friend to the family, always a smile, always some kind of reassurance to them that there was nothing to worry about, that we were “just family and would take a little getting used to.”  Each of us giggled as we watched her or him being pushed through the crowd with that “Deer in the Headlights Look.”
I know there are many more memories that I did not catch.
So, let’s not forget the little things, the little memories that are just as important t
o share with our new members of the family.

From Our Part of The Family

 To You and Yours

Merry Christmas Eve

Johnny

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I never thought I would become a father at the age of 46.....


                                                 
Now I know what you are saying.  Well, 46 is not too old to become a father , but what you have to understand is,  that before I became “father “,  I was ” grandfather”.  Our Grandkids had been part of our life since the day they were born and we did what most Grandparents do which is stand to the side and watch them grow, slipping in to take them for the weekend and spoil them rotten.  
Oh what joy it was to take them into a toy store and let them go wild, picking out whatever they wanted and with the flick of the old credit card, our deed was done.  Who cared about how loud, or big or how many little pieces it had, that’s Mom and Dad’s problems.  Then Sunday afternoon we would deliver them back with a quick kiss and a “Love ya” and scurried away giggling,  betting each other which was going to wear out first the batteries or Mommy and Daddy’s nerves.
Then things changed.  Due to circumstances beyond our control, both parents made the choice to step away from their parental responsibilities.  That’s when Grandma and Grandpa became Mom and Dad.  Never was there a second thought about whether we could or should become parents again.   That’s just what you do.
To keep ours and their sanity, we decided the best way to keep the kids entertained on the weekends and during the summer months were to go on what became known as our “Texas Photo Safaris”.  Of course there was the Alamo, Galveston’s Sea Wall, The Big Bend and numerous County Fairs but the areas that we spent our best times were on the Hill Country and Central Texas back roads.



These early morning hayfields, cactus patches, creek crossings and little four-way stop sign towns. You know the ones, where the folks are sitting on the front porch or the bench in front of the feed mill store, waiting to give you a wave as you pass.  These were the backdrops we loved to see during our little adventures into the Texas Unknown.
Over the next few years I can’t think of a Texas state park, historical sites,    museums or tourist trap that didn’t get a visit by the our camera packing Clan. From a stuffed two headed calf to the giant fake twenty foot long sofa in front of the second hand furniture store we looked, we laughed and we enjoyed being a family.
There was usually no definite route or game plan. It usually started with “I don’t know, we’ll know when we get there.”   And when the elder’s physical  or mental capabilities were exhausted it would be “OK, we’re there, now let’s head back”. Thank God for Digital Cameras and portable DVD players to mellow them out in the backseat on that long ride home.
Now, ours are like most kids in their teenage year, have come to the same common conclusion that no longer does Mom and Dad know anything.  With this, comes the questioning by most parents, where did I go wrong, or who is this child?  This isn’t the same child I raised, where did my little baby go?
 Sometimes these are the days when parents find the urge to just close their eyes, reach over and hit the fast forward.  Unfortunately, some of us do that, some parents just say, OK, I’ve done my best and way too early, they set their kids free. In most cases, this is not a good idea, trust me, they still need you, remember, I’ve been here before.
As for my wife and I, one of these days, sometime in our future we will be able to step back a second time and say.  OK, we’ve done our best, and let them go to enjoy life as an adult. Then, when their kids are picked up by Grandma and Grandpa we will be able to do what Grandparents are suppose to do, whip out the old credit card, spoil’em rotten and drop them off with a “Love ya”.  Then we will turn away in our wheelchairs, riding off into the sunset snickering and wondering which will run out first the batteries or Mommy and Daddy’s’ nerves.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Country Boy Games

                              
          Growing up on a farm and ranch along the Colorado River below Austin in the 50’s and 60’s a young boy can only described it as a true never-never land .  All one had to do was let one’s imagination go and use the many natural resources that a Texas summer offered to keep from getting bored.   There along the banks of the river, in the shadows of the large pecan trees and down the long rows of cotton, maize and corn, it was our farm and ranch itself that offered to keep us entertained.
You have to remember the timeframe.  Back then, there were no, Pc’s, cell phones, quads or even mp3 players. The telephone was a party line where at least 3 other families shared the same line. And television, television consisted of three channels starting at 6am and shutting down with the Star Spangled Banner at midnight.
There were very few store bought games, or plastic guns emitting the rat- tat- tat sounds of those found in the city. Your gun was a stick and the sound effects came from deep within a boy’s throat and his imagination.   We didn’t have sidewalks to ride a skateboard on even if you had made one.   But there were other sports that had been passed down or made up that could be used to keep us happy. 

The Tractor Tire 500;  The object, stuff two,  possibly three boys,  depending on their size, into the innards of a tractor tire at the top of a hill.  Straps consisted of usually everyone’s T shirt or an old sheet that had been snuck out of the house and ripped into strips.
 Now in most cases the “test participants” were usually the youngest kids available but only after being chased down kicking and screaming, while they were stuffed and tied into the tire and sent down the hill before they could escape.  These trips lasted usually less than 30 seconds with the large tire finally wobbling in a large circle and settling on its side in a cloud of dust with the riders scrambling out now screaming to do it again.  In defense for the game, we only hit the barbed wire fence at the bottom of the hill once.
The Hay Barn Tunnel of Terror;   Objective: To design and build a tunnel along a 200 foot long and 20 foot high stack of hay bales. Then dare your friends, cousins and neighbors to try to best your best through the tunnel of total darkness.    Now picture this, completely dark tunnel, trying to complete the timed trip not knowing if there are turns, pitfalls or other “things” in there with you,  which there all were.  
It was only at that first touch of something furry and that banshee scream that you remembered someone mentioning that there had been a skunk found in the tunnel before. I don’t know which was scared more the participant or the cat, which had been dropped into the tunnel ahead of you after you went in.  But we did have one city cousin who never came to spend the summer with us after that.
River Campout: Object, for at least five boys to campout on the banks of the river for no less than one week without outside sources.  This included hunting, fishing and trapping all food supplies. Except of course for any marshmallows, graham crackers, bread and bolgna  and other odd snacks that were found sitting in a box once every other day along the fence line leading into river bottom.  (Thanks Mom). 
Upon completion of the trip, Mom did have certain stipulations regarding being able to return into our house. Step 1; Take bath, using soap, in river within one hour before returning home.  Step 2; Take water hose shower, with soap, prior to entering back door of house.  Step 3; Go directly to bathroom, take indoor shower, again with soap and adding shampooing hair. Step 4;   Report to Mom for inspection with the strong possibility of repeating Step 3.   Years   later we found out that Mom and Dad had their own name for this game which was “Mom and Dad’s Vacation”.
There were many other games such as Night time Jack Rabbit Hunting out of the back of a moving truck, China berry Fights, War, Kick the Can, Playing baseball with a Crocket Ball,  (I will never be the pitcher again and maybe that’s why I am the way I am.)  Aluminum Sled Pulling and 50 gallon drum swimming parties. But, those are all stories in themselves.   
For years these country boy games continued until the hormones started kicking in and the lure for the hunt for girls took their place. Boys grew into teenagers then into men and the games are no longer played, at least not physically. But get my brothers, cousins and old friends together and the games will always continue, only now, sitting in someone’s living room reliving the past.