STILL A FARM BOY

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Most people who live in California come from somewhere else. That includes me. It is an automatic assumption that you are not from here.

It’s not like that where I actually do come from. I think most people who live in Perry County, Pennsylvania started out there and are still there—or not far away. I seem to be the exception.

Careers sometimes send you to places you would not have chosen on your own. The weather is often a factor that drives people south. Itchy feet is a common cause among the young.

When people ask me where I’m from, even though I have lived in a lot of places and been all over the world, it’s an easy answer; I claim a little green hunk of paradise among rolling Pennsylvania hills and sparkling streams. It has a rich history that goes back well before we were the United States of America—and has a population that appreciates it.

I’m sure many who still live there don’t see my ancestral home as I do. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I looked over that fence in 1958 and set off for what I thought were greener pastures. In fact, it turned out to be many years of bumpy roads and stormy skies. It is true that times would not always have been ideal if I had stayed closer to my roots, but in all the other places I’ve lived, I never felt truly connected. If you are going to have troubles anyway, it is more comforting to suffer them among those you grew up with. They forgive you your shortcomings because they were standing right next to you when you acquired them.

Thomas Wolfe wrote that “You can’t go home again.” It’s true. Not because where you came from has changed. It is because you have changed.

Still, there will always be enough of Home that stays with you to keep you warm when life gets cold.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

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THE AMERICAN DREAM

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

I don’t know how you define the American Dream, but my dream is to have a hundred-acre ranch far from what we jokingly refer to as “civilization.”

If we had that much land, I would draw a huge X on the property map. Where the lines intersect I would build my dream house.

We already have a small ranch. I used to call it a horse ranch, but we don’t have horses anymore, so we’re back to trying to justify calling it a ranch at all.

With a hundred acres we would be surrounded by a large amount of absolutely nothing. It would have to be fenced, of course. Without a fence, hunters tend to believe my property is their property during hunting season.

My wife says that’s too much property to maintain. I say the acre or so with the house and outbuildings is all that will need maintenance. The rest can just sit there and be a buffer zone.

Of course, we couldn’t shed all of what civilization offers. I have to have U.S. Postal and UPS delivery services. An Internet connection is a must and at least a couple of bars showing on my cell phone. At my advancing age, nearby health care would be handy. Also, I don’t want to have to drive too far for groceries or live beyond the point where my electrician, plumber, and appliance repair people would be willing to drive.

I know, I know. You’re saying you want to get away from it all without getting away from all of it.

Hey, it’s my American Dream and I’ll dream what I like.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

SAY GOODBYE TO BAD HABITS

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

I quit smoking in 1964.

I quit drinking alcohol in 1988.

I quit chasing wild women in 1978. I never did catch any of the wild ones anyway.

It has been years since I was last kicked out of a restaurant for dancing on a table or got arrested for drunk driving.

I am no fun at all anymore.

There are certainly benefits to putting aside bad habits and wicked ways. For example: If I had followed the family tradition of continuing to smoke cigarettes, there is no doubt in my mind that I would be sitting here dead.

The roadways are much safer without one more drunk out there who doesn’t really think he is impaired and believes with all his heart that he is a better driver drunk than most people are sober.

As for the wild women; well, . . .

That is not to say that I no longer have any bad habits. There is no junk food item in our pantry that will not be attacked almost as soon as the groceries are packed away. And it is well known that I would get into a stranger’s car for ice cream.

Plus, I am a sandwich guy. Dagwood is my hero. I need clamps to keep my two-story sandwiches from falling apart. I am such a sandwich devotee, I told my wife that when I die I want to be buried between two large slices of bread.

I could do a better job of trimming down my To-Do list, but it grows even faster than the lawn mowing I have been neglecting. I’m already on page two of the list and I use a really small font.

There’s no point in my making New Year’s resolutions. Statistically those don’t survive more than a few weeks after January 1st. Mine have never made it past the twelfth stroke of midnight.

Not to make excuses for myself, but I am not alone in putting things off until tomorrow which, by the way, never comes because tomorrow presents us with still another tomorrow and so on and so forth—and so fifth.

I could organize a procrastinators club, I suppose. But anyone who showed up at all would be at least a day late.

I do pride myself on finishing anything I ever start. Where that falls apart is the starting part.

As Popeye says, “I yam what I yam.”

I wonder if there is such a thing as spinach cookies.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

 

AN ADDICTION TO OTHER PEOPLE’S “STUFF”

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

It’s amazing how much “Stuff” a person can accumulate over the years, adding one item at a time. One day you look around your house and say to yourself, “we are in real danger of an avalanche.”

If you are “of a certain age” (I hate that term because I AM of a certain age), you may remember the “Fibber McGee and Molly” radio show of the 1940s. Fibber had a closet that was so crammed with “Stuff” that every time he opened the door, everything came thundering out of it. Our entire house is a lot like Fibber McGee’s closet.

I am a certified (or is that “certifiable”) garage sale junkie.

There, I said it.

There is no cure for an attraction to other people’s “Stuff” and there are no organized support groups where people with a similar addiction can meet and tell their sad stories—and swap weekend sale site locations.

When we’re driving along and spot a garage sale sign, my car’s steering wheel actually vibrates—swear to God—and sometimes turns on its own and does not settle down until we are parked in front of the sale site.

It’s not my fault, man.

I once had a two year record of never having missed a Saturday garage sale day. Perfect attendance at church would win me a medal, but there are no medals for perfect attendance at garage sales. In northern California we have a lot of good weather, so the sale season is pretty much a year-round thing. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night shall keep me from my appointed rounds.

My wife, Sherry, routinely tells me as I’m about to hit the sale circuit, “If you buy something, you have to get rid of something to make room for it.” Well, that’s never gonna happen. I worked hard for those treasures. I spent more for gasoline than those things are worth, so there is an investment component here.

Okay, back to my story of too much “Stuff” which, by the way, is not a concept I necessarily subscribe to. Most people call extra rooms in their homes “guest bedrooms” or “dens.” One of the extra rooms in our house is used as a pantry and for storage of a lot of the “Stuff” I have accumulated in my excursions.

There is the real danger in there of a Fibber McGee-like cave-in and I am certainly going to do something about it. One of these days.

My mantra is similar to that of someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. “I can quit anytime I want to.”

And I will give it some serious thought, right after I check out half-price day at the local thrift store.

A new REFLECTIONS every Wednesday

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

A JACK RUSSELL TERRORIST

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

All I ever wanted in a dog was a big, goofy animal that sat when you told him to sit, and didn’t chase chickens. Truthfully, we didn’t want a dog at all. A house with three cats sharing space with two aging humans is already near capacity.

It started one night. You know how when it’s dark outside and you think you see something dark running across your back yard? Black on black. Kind like of Mafia hitman’s shirt and tie. Well, we didn’t know it at the time, but that was our introduction to a little Jack Russell terrier.

We didn’t see him in daylight until the next day, which was a Sunday. He had apparently escaped from somewhere. He had been running around for awhile and possibly mistreated in that time. He finally came to my wife. She brought him into the house, put him in her bathroom to separate him from the kitty herd. It was late in the day, too late to take him to the county animal shelter.

He turned out to be really friendly. He climbed up on my lap, cuddled under my arm, looked up at me with big, brown, wet, pleading eyes, and by Monday morning there was no way he was going to the animal shelter.

We took him to the vet to see if there was any ID embedded in him. There was not. What he did have was a fractured jaw, some bruises, and cooties. We figured he had gotten into a disagreement with a garbage truck or maybe got kicked by one of the equines we had at the time. We accommodated the fractured jaw by feeding him soft food. We couldn’t tell if he’d had his shots, so we brought those up to date. We had an ID chip installed and named him “Chip.” We also had him—ah—neutralized, so to speak.

To make a long story even longer, hundreds of dollars later we had repaired and taken ownership of a Jack Russell terrier with more energy than is generated by Hoover Dam. Just imagine a team of Jack Russells hitched up to a sled. They’d be a shoo-in to win Alaska’s Iditarod.

Chip occasionally gets super excited and races back and forth from one end of the house to the other. We call it “turboing” and we step aside for fear of getting bowled over by a 15-pound dynamo traveling at high speed.

Life in our household was changing dramatically.

Cats, as you may know, are relatively self-sustaining. They tend to go their own way pretty much, requiring only food, water, and an occasional lap. Otherwise we lived in peaceful harmony, making few demands of each other.

A dog is different. A Jack Russell dog is really different. He requires at least two walks a day because we can’t let him out on his own or he would be in the same dangerous situation we rescued him from.

Chip the Wonder Dawg, as I have taken to calling him, wrestles with Willow, the cat, who is the same size and weight as Chip. As far as we can tell, each is happy with the arrangement, neither fears the other, and nobody has gotten hurt.

The moral of this story is that a Jack Russell terrier is not a dog for older people. But the only way you will get him away from me is if you pry him from my cold, dead fingers.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

 

 

ADVENTURES FOR MEN ONLY

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

For a few years, while recovering from a back injury that made it impossible to work in my profession as a radio news anchor, I worked for the Sacramento city school district. One day I looked around Cubicle City and said to my friends, Jerry Marquart and Mike Yount, “there sure are a lot of women around this place.”

They looked around the big room and nodded in agreement.

“We ought to get out of here and do stuff that women wouldn’t even want to do,” I said.

We were the only three men in the entire department, not counting the big boss—and who would want to spend another day with that guy?

We three decided to start doing brazenly chauvinistic off-campus activities that excluded women. We would go to movies that had a lot of shooting and fights and loud explosions and car chases and actresses who were not overly concerned with how much of themselves were visible—wardrobe-wise. We would take day trips to places that forbade daintiness or anything painted pink, and maybe even say things you wouldn’t say in front of your mother or others of refined sensibilities. We would spit and cuss and do guy stuff. We would exchange stories of our misspent youths that we would never even tell our doctor, priest, attorney, psychiatrist or bartender—even though they were sworn to secrecy.

My immediate boss heard about the proposed adventures. She said, “It sounds like fun, can I go?”

We were appalled at the idea that a woman wanted to take part in something specifically designed sans la femme–what Mike suggested we call “Man Town.” I said, “We can’t call it Man Town if there are women involved.” She walked off in a snit.

Our test run involved a Saturday drive to Lake Tahoe where I lost my traditional twenty-dollar gambling limit to a hungry slot machine within mere minutes of our arrival. Then we drove around the area, taking in the awesome view of the lake and making manly comments about bikini-clad fauna on spring break.

On the way back we stopped in the California gold country town of Placerville for lunch and more rowdy fun.

Man Town turned out to be everything we imagined it would be.

Monday morning my boss came to me and said, “So, . . . how was your—Man Town? I thought there was a curl of the lip when she said the words.

“It was great,” I said.

After a long pause, waiting for details and getting none, she said, “So, . . . what did you guys do?”

“I probably shouldn’t tell you,” I said, “but we went to Tahoe and played the slots.”

“That’s it? Then what?”

“Now that I really shouldn’t tell you.”

I let her talk me into telling her.

“On the way back we stopped off at . . . “Sweetie Pies.”

She did a double take, then said, “What’s that, a strip joint?”

“I promised the other guys I wouldn’t tell.”

I let that hang there for awhile before I finally told her it was a Placerville restaurant that specialized in pies.

That was fifteen years ago. All three of us are long retired now and we still get together at least once a month. We still take in the occasional movie, but more often we just have lunch somewhere and insult each other in good fun. One recent adventure series  involved a quest for the world’s best hamburger. The search has taken us all around much of northern California, laughing all the way.

I don’t expect to ever find the ultimate burger. But that isn’t really the object, is it?

Please share with friends

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

 

 

WHO SAYS CEMETERIES ARE QUIET PLACES

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

When the county planning commission held a hearing to listen to any objections to the creation of a cemetery adjacent to our acreage, we attended. For years before that, cattle grazed next door. We often reached across the fence between us to scratch a Brahma bull on the forehead. I enjoyed the experience and I assume the bull did, too.

But we knew that when planning commissions meet to hear objections from neighbors about anything, the fix is already in. The decision has already been made. The hearing is being held so they can say they held a hearing.

It was approved, of course.

We figured, how much trouble can a cemetery be? Dead people are well known for being a quiet lot.

Little did we know.

We forgot about visitors, lawn maintenance people, grave-digging machinery, dumpster pickup and delivery trucks, electric water pumps, noisy mufflers, and mourners who bring their loud children with them. In the nearly ten years since the cemetery started there has been a constant din coming across the fence between us.

The live-in maintenance man has a car alarm that goes off day or night. I ask you, why does a car alarm have to be so sensitive? Also, why do you have to set your car alarm in a—for pete sake—cemetery? Who’s gonna steal it? In all these years I have never seen a single zombie car thief.

Just our luck, the master bedroom in our house is at the cemetery end.

Our winds here typically blow from the south. The cemetery is south of us. Wind-blown debris from graves routinely finds its way onto our property; plastic flowers, balloons, flower wrapping papers, and wrappers from candy and fast food items that people—for reasons that baffle me—bring with them.

If the star of the funeral is a person of status, it is not uncommon for hundreds of people to show up to mourn—or to be sure he’s dead. They bring their cars with them, of course, and many of them park those cars along both sides of the busy narrow road bordering our land, blocking through traffic. Many of those cars are parked in front of our mailbox and between the “No Parking Between Signs” signs. On two occasions, cars were parked right in our lane, which is clearly a lane.

We have nearly a thousand neighbors next door to us who never make a sound. But those they left behind sure are a noisy bunch.

It would do no good to complain because, unlike cities, there are no county noise regulations and I know of nowhere that rudeness is against the law, although it should be.

When I’m King things are really going to be different around here.

Please share with your friends.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

GRANDMA: THE HUMAN CALCULATOR

My Grandmother, (Mrs. Harry R.) Erma Pricilla (Carpenter) Kiner was an amazing woman. She fed and clothed five children through the darkest days of the Great Depression on the $11.00 a week my grandfather, Harry Kiner, earned as a fireman on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Admirable, of course. But one of the things I most admired about her was her mastery of arithmetic. She could do mental calculations much faster than I can do them with the most sophisticated calculator today.

While most farm kids of Grandma’s rural Pennsylvania elementary school years never got past the eighth grade, check out just one test given students of that era:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/12/1912-eighth-grade-exam_n_3744163.html

The next time you hear of someone in those days who only got an eighth grade education, don’t feel sorry for them. You can be sure they had acquired more scholastic skills in elementary school than a lot of today’s students have after four years of college.

Nineteenth century arithmetic was a tough test. History was hard, too, although there was a lot less history way back then than there is now. Not to take anything away from Grandma for that.

The “Good Old Days” were tougher than we think.

It was kind of comical to watch Grandma doing the numbers in her head. She would close her eyes and flutter her eyelashes, bob her head around, mutter the calculations process as she went along, and then rattle off the answer. All this at warp speed.

As I said, she was an amazing woman.

She made a great rhubarb pie, too.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

PLAYING CHICKEN WITH A CHICKEN

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Every morning I have two visitors at the door to my little backyard office.

They are Rhode Island Red roosters who have come for breakfast, which consists of about a quarter slice of bread each and a handful of scratch feed.

One is a shy guy who never gets closer to me than a few yards. The other I have named “Big Red.” I call him Big Red because he’s, . . . well, . . . big—and red. He has more personality than George Clooney and I have come to consider him part of the family.

I know you’re not supposed to have favorites among your children, but I have become very attached to the boy. He stands at my feet and takes the bread right out of my fingers. Sometimes, in his exuberance, he almost takes the finger. I don’t hold it against him. He probably doesn’t get any more food than he finds on the ground. Breakfast, after all, is the most important meal of the day.

Red and his pal are not really ours. They are the property of the handyman at the cemetery next door to our little ranch. For us it’s like having chickens without having chickens.

We are hoping that Red is considered a pet by his legal owner rather than as a future dinner because I like seeing the big galoot far more on my office porch than I ever could on a platter. Frankly, I think he is too old and tough for the menu, but the cemetery handyman next door is also old and tough, so who knows?

The prevailing thought about roosters is that they crow at dawn. Indeed they do. They also crow at midnight, 3 a.m., noon, 4 p.m. and any other time that pleases them. Maybe I should have named him Pavarotti because when he belts out his song it could be heard all the way to the back row of the opera house—or, in this case—rattle our bedroom windows.

His cock-a-doodle-doo interrupt’s my wife’s sleep. Sherry wakes up if one of our cats sighs. Not me. I have been known to sleep through gunfire, explosions, howling coyotes, and cargo planes that fly low over our house.

Taking Chip the Wonder Dawg for a walk is also a challenge. Before Chip and I go out for his twice-daily walks I have to scan the area for renegade chickens. Big Red and Chip don’t like each other.

Since they are each about the same size, it’s a tossup as to who would eat whom if it came to that.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

 

JIGGS CLOUSER: MECHANICAL GENIUS

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

I once worked with an extraordinary man named Jiggs Clouser. He was in charge of the print shop at the Perry County Times, a weekly newspaper where I was an editor for a couple of years. Jiggs could fix anything. He’d take a look at the problem, figure out how it worked—or stopped working—and, before you could say Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, he’d have it diagnosed and back in service. Since he was often working with century-old printing equipment, parts were rarely available and he would have to improvise.

“If all the paper clips I’ve used to fix things were to disappear,” he said, “this whole place would collapse.”

Jiggs passed away a few years ago and I have often wondered how his fixit-skills would survive in this age of plastic. Even Gorilla Glue can’t do much for a material that deteriorates in the hot summer sunshine.

We recently bought a wireless weather station. It is mounted high on a pole in our back yard and transmits information to a screen in the kitchen of our house about the windspeed and direction, the temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and rainfall amount. It even shows when rain is forecast. It is a truly amazing instrument. But it is made of—you guessed it—plastic. Being a weather device, it is out in—you guessed it again—the weather. Extreme climate conditions and PVC do not get along well, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how long it will last.

I just know that Jiggs Clouser is out there somewhere, looking down at a world largely made of plastic.

I wonder if they have paper clips in Heaven.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”