Scrapbook Ninety…

scrapbook

AUGUST 2014

Forgotten Memories

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They don’t build guys like George Dabich anymore. If you saw him walking down the street wearing a brown cowboy hat you probably wouldn’t be impressed. He wasn’t tall, athletic, flashy, famous or rich. But you’d run out of things he wasn’t pretty fast because he had assets we all should wish to emulate.

As a 22-year old sailor in WW-2 George was cruising the South Pacific on a destroyer, the USS Brooks, when it was hit by a kamikaze. George was blasted end-over-end out into the ocean where he flailed around in burning oil and gasoline for hours until he was rescued and put aboard the USS Hovey, another destroyer.

In less than 24-hours that ship was torpedoed and sank while George watched again from the vantage point of an ocean burning all around him. He didn’t much care for the turn his life had suddenly taken.

After the Navy, George settled in Cody where he became a professional outbacker and hunting guide. And he was painting some pretty good Indian pictures. When we met, about 1967, I was teaching pilot training in the Air Force but had orders to Vietnam. His parting words to me were, “If you come back whole I’ll take you out where we can pick up some buffalo caps and maybe a skull or two.” We both were collecting western history things. That invitation may have motivated me to fly faster and keep my head down deeper.

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“Salute to a Warrior”, by George Dabich, cast at Fenn Bronze in Lubbock, Texas.

Upon my return I gave George a hunk wax and asked him to create some figures for me to cast in bronze. I’d set up a foundry in my garage. He did that and so did I. Our relationship flourished into close personal and professional bonds.

 

And of course he took me out into the Skylight country north of Cody where we found several dozen buffalo horn caps and a few skulls. This is my best one. It was a young bull. I found in some shades of a giant lodge pole pine. It was covered with reddish-yellow lichen, the faded remnants of which can still be seen between the horns and down. I removed the pine needles that populated the eye sockets and nose cavity. Wish now I hadn’t.

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And a basalt arrowhead was imbedded in the bone just inside his left eye. It penetrated only half an inch and broke where it was affixed to the arrow shaft. It didn’t kill the animal and the bone grew back around, holding it tight. I wish it had been me with the Crow Indian hunting party who released the arrow to fly on its last mission.

“In my solitude, it haunts me with memories of days gone by. In my solitude, it taunts me, with reveries that never die.” (Thank you Tony Bennett).

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The brown hat I wear so proudly was George’s. He wore it while his hunters killed 28 grizzlies out there just east of Yellowstone. He placed it on my head beside a campfire one night, and said, “Fits you like a glass fits water, so I want you to have it.”

 

George died last year at age 91, and his passage went largely unnoticed, save for a scant few guys like me and some relatives. But the coyotes and sage brush know he’s gone, and so do the tall pines, under which he sat and drank coffee from a tin cup. The red embers of his camp fires will miss him badly, but not as much as me.

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Preparing Sweat Lodge – George Dabich

 

Scrapbook Eighty Nine…

scrapbook

AUGUST 2014

The Long Jump…

bridge04It was a huge monster of an iron looking thing. The bridge I mean, and I hated it with a passion. It crossed the Leon River on state road 53 about 6 miles west of Temple where I was born and raised.

Well, it wasn’t really the bridge itself that bothered me, it was the 40-foot drop to the water, and I’ll tell you why.

The cadre of friends I ran around with in high school was a pseudo-macho bunch. There was Edard, Kacir, Scotty, Paul Emery, Laurens, and several others who sat on the close periphery of our small group. They were all good guys and we were close, which made it even harder for me because I didn’t jump off of the bridge. I was going to until I looked down and heard someone say that submerged logs sometimes lurked just under the surface and if you landed on one it would break both of your legs.

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from google maps

“Let’s go,” they yelled, and all of them jumped, leaving me standing all alone on the asphalt. I couldn’t believe it. All of a sudden they were just gone and I wasn’t. How do you think that made a 16 year-old, 138 pound kid feel?

I knew what they were thinking “It was a test for toughness and Fenn’s tail fell out.” I could just see them telling every good looking girl in the whole junior class. It was a catastrophic moment for me and I felt terrible. My value shouldn’t be diminished just because those guys couldn’t see my real worth, should it?

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from google maps

It prayed on me, but for only a week or so. I felt my courage was only an inch too short to be long enough so I developed a plan that was indelible on my mind. I’d show those guys.

On a cold, moonless night about 3:00, I stole out of my bedroom window, jumped in the Bullet, and drove out highway 53. My mind was made up and nothing could stop me. No one was around so I stopped on the bridge and looked down. I couldn’t see the water but I knew it was down there somewhere. My pulse was tingling but without a seconds hesitation I climbed over the rail with all of my clothes on and jumped. I just did it and that was that. After what seemed like an hour I hit the water with a hard, cold splash.

When I surfaced my whole world had changed. I started laughing with an insane sense of empowerment. I really showed those guys, and ha, I did it at night. “Just wait’ll the news gets out,” I thought.

I was wet and frozen when I climbed in my bedroom window. Another idea came to me. Why should I even tell anyone? They probably wouldn’t believe me anyway. Besides, the power of what I did would be subjugated a little if they knew.

Looking back now, I think maybe I grew up a little on that dark night at the great Leon River Bridge, 68 years ago.

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© 2011 Larry D. Moore

Overview
Through truss bridge over Leon River on FM 817 in Belton

Location
Belton, Bell County, Texas

Status
Open to traffic

History
Built 1939

Design
Parker through truss

Dimensions
Length of largest span: 200.1 ft.
Total length: 412.1 ft.
Deck width: 24.0 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 15.7 ft.

Recognition
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on October 10, 1996

Also called
Waco Road Bridge

Approximate latitude, longitude
+31.06639, -97.44222   (decimal degrees)
31°03’59″ N, 97°26’32″ W   (degrees°minutes’seconds”)

Quadrangle map:
Belton

Inventory numbers
TXNBI 090140001505060 (Texas bridge number on the National Bridge Inventory)
NRHP 96001119 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)

Inspection (as of 04/2013)
Deck condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Superstructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Appraisal: Functionally obsolete
Sufficiency rating: 63.6 (out of 100)

Average daily traffic (as of 2011) 3,000

 

Scrapbook Eighty Eight…

scrapbook

AUGUST 2014

 

Hello Mr. Fenn,

My name is Pat and I live in Denver, Colorado.  I had not known of your story until I heard a morning news cast about Yellowstone Rangers rescuing a person (people) in one of their rivers and your name was mentioned.  I looked into it further and read different websites and blogs……very interesting.  I must admit, I tried to figure out the poem, too.  My family and I already made reservations to Yellowstone before ever hearing of your story…….we LOVE going there.  My husband and I have 6 children……the oldest will be 30 and the youngest will be 16……she’ll be the only one able to make it this trip.  We’ve gone ever since they were little and all the pictures and memories are quite the treasure.  We had always wanted to see the Perseid Meteor Shower there and this year we’ll get the chance to do that, as long as the weather cooperates.  We hope to experience different things, but memories are what’s important.

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Forrest’s Wooly Worm (aka wooly bug)

I have a story I’d like to share with you in regards to the Wooly Bug fly…….I saw a video of you making one!  Many years ago, my husband’s family would travel on vacation and many times gone to Yellowstone.  They had fished in different areas, Fishing Bridge (which you can’t fish now, but was extremely popular as you know), Yellowstone Lake, rivers/creeks, etc.  My husband was given a Wooly Bug by his father when he was a kid and he kept it throughout the years.  His father passed away nearly 21 years ago and when he travels there, I can see his heart is still there with his dad.  He walks through where the Fishing Bridge campground use to be, now belongs back to the bears, and searches for the rock he use to climb when they camped there.  Several years ago in particular while in Yellowstone, we decided to fish at Yellowstone Lake.  My husband cast his line, with Wooly Bug and bobber in tow, out into the water.  After a few bites or the Wooly Bug coming to shore, he reeled in his line and made a cast and it happened………..the line broke and his Wooly Bug his father had given him went into the water and was caught in the waves!  I’ll never forget the look on my husband’s face when that happened.  It was as if he had totally lost all the connections he had with his father…….the last bit of physical memory he had of him.  It was a very sullen day for him.  The following day we returned to the spot we fished and I could see it still bothered my husband.  While throwing his line into the lake with a different fly, I chose to walk the shore.  Yes, I found his Wooly Bug!  My husband Ray was extremely happy…..as if I had brought back his life!  He hugged and thanked me and I could tell it came from deep within his soul.  Ray placed the Wooly Bug back into his tackle box and swore he’d never use it again.  About three years or so ago, I took the Wooly Bug, with a picture of a trout Ray caught with it the very last time he used it before he lost it in Yellowstone Lake and placed it in a shadow box for display.  I’m attaching a picture of the Wooly Bug and trout for you to see.  We plan on doing some fishing this coming week…….vacation is Aug. 9-16.  A quote my husband loves to say is, ‘A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work.’

Mr. Fenn, in regards to the Wooly Bug, do you sell any of the ones you make?  I would LOVE to present one to my husband rather than finding one at the store…..they’re a bit hard to come by here.  Any information is greatly appreciated.

Mr. Fenn, I wish you continued success in unearthing history and telling their stories, not wanting history to go silent.

Sincerely,

Pat
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From dal-
You can watch Forrest make a wooly worm and talk about them on the “Gone Fishing” videos:
http://dalneitzel.com/video/fishing/index.html

 

Scrapbook Eighty Six…

scrapbook

JULY 2014

 

brushFun is where you find it.
I just put my tooth brush in the dish washer so I have a few minutes to talk about how I’ve learned stay happy in today’s gloomy world.

When I was in junior high I hated washing the dishes, especially after supper, which was our family’s big meal. So sometimes my father would assign those duties to me alone, thinking it’d be a satisfactory supplemental punishment for doing one of what he called my “personal inconsiderations,” like putting itching powder in Skippy’s shorts.

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There were five in our family plus a dog, so when you threw in a skillet, rolling pin, cleaver, and potato masher, the dish washing and drying task became monumental.
But I developed an antidote that I recommend to anyone who feels down and wants to acquire a more positive attitude.

dirtydishes
While standing on a stool in front of the kitchen sink, I’d break into song as if I were on a national stage and performing before the great kings and queens and Tsars and Tsarinas of the world. What my voice lacked in quality it made up with in quantity, and the flourish of scrubbing a pressure cooker only enhanced the drama. As the crescendo built so did my motivation and our neighbors could probably enjoy me clear down the block. Even my father had to admit that I could perform Oh Sole Mia with unusual aplomb?

Often the dirty dishes disappeared before I was ready to take my bows. Sometimes I wasn’t finished with my aria, and I’d look around, desperate for something else to wash. Finally, that done, I would step down from my stage happy, having forgotten that I’d washed and dried the dreaded dirty dishes.

That subterfuge was a great life lesson for me and over the years it has manifested itself in ways that have allowed me to stay positive – at least some of the time.

Oops, the dishwasher just stopped, gotta go.

Scrapbook Eighty Five…

scrapbook

JULY 2014

 

To everyone out there on Dal’s blog, let me introduce you to someone we can all admire and whose life practices each of us might aspire to emulate.  Her name is Donna Karan, who is one of the most influential fashion designers in America.

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Donna wanted to go through my antique Indian clothing collection and talk about some ideas. She thought maybe I could help. Ha! We used up a wonderful afternoon laughing at each other.
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In this photo Donna models an Indian legging that was made by a Kiowa woman in Oklahoma about 1875. It’s fringed and covered with green and yellow ocher. Donna thought that design idea might not be too popular with her Manhattan staff.

She was born in Forrest Hills, NY, in 1948, and at an early age began selling women’s clothing at a local boutique. That’s when she discovered herself. After attending several design schools she started moving up the fashion ladder. At age 35 she married Stephen Weiss, who became CEO of the Donna Karan design company. She wanted to manufacture “modern clothes for modern people” and was known for being, what her envious competitors called, “practical.” Around New York she was popularly nicknamed “The Queen of Seventh Avenue.” Donna was a success in the tough New York fashion market where next to nothing can endure.

At age 44 Donna launched her first perfume line and sold a fragrance that she said smelled like “Casablanca lilies, red suede and the back of Stephen’s neck.”

In 2001 Stephen died of lung cancer and Donna started wearing her wedding ring with the diamond turned in, she told me, “so I could hold it,” and that’s when she decided to start giving back.

She sold her publicly traded company for about $650,000,000, and gave personal belongings and vintage company design samples to benefit the Urban Zen Initiative, a charity she co-founded. A foundation she ran donated $850,000 to New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center.

Not bad for a little Jewish girl who dropped out of school at age 14 to chase a dream, doncha think?

Scrapbook Eighty Four…

scrapbook

JULY 2014

 

Since my eulogy for Mike Kammerer appeared as Scrapbook eighty-three on Dal’s blog several folks have asked me to say something more about the man and his home. This is going to be fun.

I went through the house construction with MK and it took me three years. For two of those years it was the biggest mess I ever saw, with workers lumbering around carrying objects that looked too heavy to carry. I told MK his debacle would never come together. He just laughed at me, and it did.
http://hookedonhouses.net/2011/03/26/for-sale-the-sprawling-rancho-alegre-in-santa-fe/

The kitchen ceiling was made of Mexican bricks that were cemented in on a slant so their edges would stick out. The effect was wonderful but I couldn’t understand how they did it.

The master bathroom had a shower that was 300 square-feet in size. It had a fireplace in one corner and an 8 foot-wide waterfall decorating the back wall. I guess MK wanted to be comfortable while he cleaned up. And the same shower contained another smaller shower over there in another corner. It was glassed-in and his wife preferred that one, saying “I didn’t feel comfortable standing naked in the middle of a large room with no clothes on.” She had a quaint way with words.

The eleven bathrooms in the house had sinks that were hand-shaped from solid rock, and each one was a different style. The gym was just off the master shower and a stone bathtub was in there somewhere. The huge his-and-hers closets looked like something right out of Imelda Marcus with clothes and shoes lined up like they had been measured in.

The outside on the north side of the house looked like a small Mexican village from the 1880s. MK’s custom built stagecoach was there by the carriage house, as was a store fully stocked with mercantile goods of the period. Guest facilities that continued the country feeling seemed to be everywhere. MK could sleep 56 people. Goats, sheep, peacocks, and other petting animals were there just for fun.

The church, a replica of the cathedral in Santa Fe, stood stately in its place on the far end of the plaza by the gate. He built it to get married in, and gave $25,000 for the wooden 17th century Spanish, hand-carved door.

MK and Susan on a sneakaway in Aspen.

MK and Susan on a sneakaway in Aspen.

The outside on the south side of the house was inhabited by the swimming pool, hot tub, bathhouse, and about fifteen large sit-on rocks that had their underneaths carved out to house speakers for the audio system. One never knew they were there until one strolled by and the stones started playing music. When the well pump shorted out MK trucked water in from sixty-miles away to fill the swimming pool. Flower gardens, fruit trees, grape vines, and large western bronzes abounded the pool area.

MK was a calf roper who aspired to the rodeo, and he was pretty good. His collection of horses and longhorn steers was housed in what I called the Kammerer Hilton. It was located on the fenced-in west end of his 175 acres.

When entering the property from a county road, two blocks from the Eaves Ranch movie set where John Wayne made movies, you passed MK’s five bedroom house that was built many years ago by the Underwood typewriter family. Then another 500 feet, and adjacent to a lushly lilypadded pond, was the front entrance to the villa. A larger-than-life-size bronze (MK bought the entire edition of fifteen) stood like a sentinel beside a small stream that fed the pond, which I stocked with damsel and dragonfly eggs, game fish, crawfish, snakes, frogs and turtles. MK gave Peggy and me a smaller version of the bronze. Ours weighs only 65 pounds. The tacked-on plaque reads, “Code of the West by Herb Mignery, dedicated to Forrest and Peggy Fenn, keepers of the code and folks to ride the river with.”

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Code of the West

When Mike divorced his second wife he was suffering from several maladies, one of which eventually took his life. I “made” him hire Susan Bodelson who was a very special woman, and coincidentally, a registered nurse. She came from a family of ten children, seven of whom worked for me at one time or another. Her brother Danny made the illustrations for my TFTW book.

Susan wears her working face as she peers out of a “secret” chamber in Kiva A at San Lazaro Pueblo. She and her daughter, Perry, helped us with the excavations.

Susan wears her working face as she peers out of a “secret” chamber in Kiva A at San Lazaro Pueblo. She and her daughter, Perry, helped us with the excavations.

While Susan was pampering Mike back to health they had a whirlwind romance and eloped without telling anyone – not even me. He loved camping with her in the Pecos wilderness on rainy days and nights, and then more rainy days and nights. Many dinners under the stars were private to them alone and when they surfaced to enjoy a libation at Vanessie’s Piano Bar they sat close, and probably wondered why they were there at all.

But their life together was short lived, an account I spoke to in my eulogy. When Mike died I fabricated two ½ inch hearts in wax, cast them in silver, linked them forever together, and strung them on a chain for Susan. One had her name on it and the other, his. Inside a hollow in her silver heart I placed one of Mike’s small cremated bone fragments, and sweated it over with a silver plate. That was seven years ago and Susan has not moved on like she should have. Her heart remains with Mike and she still wears the little necklace I made for her. I think she likes it. ff

 

Scrapbook Eighty Three…

scrapbook

JULY 2014

 

I don’t know if many of you will appreciate this scrapbook item. It’s my eulogy for Mike Kammerer. He was a man who stood singular in most crowds; a self-made man of rare bark who built a $15,000,000 home. When he died he left another $75,000,000 in a checking account in Jackson, Wyoming. He had three wives and his two divorces happened because he didn’t know how to say he was sorry. He loved Peggy’s hot muffins and often called her to ask if he could come to dinner. She always said yes.
This story was presented before about 300 close friends outside his home by his pool. It reveals what I thought of the man. It has been edited only slightly to fit this occasion.

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Mike Kammerer supervises Forrest as he excavates Kiva B at San Lazaro Pueblo. Suzanne Somers stands guard.

Final words for MK

I wondered what I could say at a time like this about a man like Mike. And then I thought about the time he and Susan closed the Indian school at Santo Domingo Pueblo and took all of the children to the Natural History Museum in Albuquerque – and then sat with them on the grass and ate pizza.
 

And I thought about his support of the under appraised teenagers from Wyoming who come annually to camp at San Lazaro Pueblo to excavate and learn the disciplines of life. The hundred thousand dollars Mike invested in those young men and women paid dividends that continue to grow as they emerge from children at risk – to productive citizens. And when their transportation broke down Mike gave them a new seventeen passenger van.
 

Nothing about Mike Kammerer was common – rather he was a man of extremes – and his personality touched the spectrum at both ends. He was always full of new ideas and no challenge was large enough to retard his charge. I remember his chase to find Amelia Earhart – his desire to produce nitrogen fuel cars – and of his plasma destruction  process to destroy solid waste. I look back now with beautiful memories of a hundred lunches and dinners – and can still hear the melancholy echo of a thousand forgotten laughs.

His mind was like a bee in a meadow of spring flowers as he darted from one challenge to another – this beautiful home – his huge four engine airplane that could land in the middle of any ocean.
 

Each of his projects was the best one – since the last one – or until the next one. Even so, his knowledge of the subjects he faced each day was conspicuously exceeded by his enthusiasm for what he was doing. His aspirations were huge – and his relentlessness – his impatience with conditions which impeded or slowed his progress was matched only by his over flowing reservoir of vitality.
 

Mike was happiest when he was under his cowboy hat. During the last ten days of his life I lunched with him twice and each time he wore his hat and roping boots and spurs. When I asked about wearing spurs in the restaurant – he just spread a wide grin at me. That was Mike all over.
 

On the 9th of May, he and Susan (his wife) went into their bedroom to watch a movie. He said that he would be content to spend the rest of his life with her between those four walls. And when he was slumped at her feet he was still wearing his roping boots and spurs.  He never opened his eyes again but he was where he wanted to be – at home, with the one he loved. I know he still has a smile in his heart, and I hope his hat and boots and spurs are with him now, as he strikes his final trail.
 

There was a high octane quality about Mike – an overt, manly charm. But what his good friend Sally Denton remembered most were his “incredible blue eyes that could alternate from an impenetrable glacial lake to the most inviting Caribbean lagoon.” Those are her words, not mine!
 

During these last two years Susan was a moderating force in Mike’s life and he told me just a few days ago that he wanted to be a better person, – a better husband – a better father – a better friend.
 

He said that when he was a young man his father was displeased with him – and thought he was worthless – and asked what he had done in the last year that was worthwhile. Mike just said, “Well, I made a million dollars for one thing.”
 

Mike was at his best when he was quiet and reflective and we often spoke of ways to simplify our lives. But fickle is the finger that points at winners – so we find ourselves here today to celebrate the life of Mike Kammerer. And although he has passed from our view he will never fade from our memory. His childish, giddy laugh was volcanic and could erupt and spread across his face like a tidal wave – making you laugh and want to be with him.
 

So now, I sense Mike’s agreeing presence and remember him as being a man of great vision that was taken from us in the moment of his greatest blossom – and left us with a grove of evaporated hopes and demolished dreams. But from Mike’s seeds have grown a beautiful symphony of creative combinations in the form of his children – Rudy and Kristen, and their life partners, Yvonne and Tina. And while the world is poorer with the passing of Mike Kammerer we are still blessed to have his wife Susan and her children – David, Corinne, Perry and the wonderful Eric. We are thankful to have wallowed in Mike’s brilliance for a time that was way too short. But all things that belong to man change, and we must be part of that change, however painful it is.

For life is a game of poker,
And happiness is the pot.
Fate deals you four cards and a joker,
And you play whether you like it or not.

In closing let me say that I hope your memories of that indelible man are as vivid as mine. If you look into the full moon you may see him sitting beside the great council fires of history – arguing with Rasputin – or Shakespeare – or Sitting Bull. All of that is within him. Mike is not resting – he has too many ideas and too many things to do.

 

Scrapbook Eighty Two…

scrapbook

JULY 2014

 

During my late pre-teen years I was really into reading funny books. They weren’t funny but that’s what they were called. Later they were renamed comic books but I will never subscribe to that unfortunate change.

Sub-Mariner Comics 34_Page_01

Captainamerica1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across the street from my house and down on the corner of French and Main was a magazine distributor. I forgot his name. Many of the publishers sent their periodicals to him and he’d deliver them around town to every newsstand where magazines were sold. It was a small mom and pop operation.

At the end of each month all of the unsold magazines would have their covers removed and returned to the respective publishers for credit. The employee who made that happen was an elderly black man named Joe. I absolutely loved that old man, and after school I’d often go over to see him and we’d talk about all sorts of things while I helped him tear covers. His grandparents had been slaves and his tales of picking cotton on the Mississippi river bottoms were right out of Mark Twain. When I told him I’d like to have worked alongside him in the fields. He said, “Hush boy, you froth too much,” or words to that effect. Funny that I would remember that about him.

Joe, whose life experiences extended past both extremes, lived alone in one room that had an unshaded light bulb hanging from the ceiling. His space was so small that he sat on his bed while he worked. Joe was fluent about life on the foggy shores of civilization and I was thirsty to learn what he knew.

He told of being in a store in Hillsboro, Texas when it was robbed by Bonnie and Clyde. As the gangsters fled, a piece of paper fell from Bonnie’s coat pocket. On it was a poem she had written. Joe pulled the poem from his bible and let me read it.

I never heard Joe complain and maybe it was because he knew how to make things work. As a kid he greased wagon wheels, and for a while he walked door to door in town trying to sell turkeys. When he was successful he’d go buy one from a farmer on credit and deliver it to his client for a small profit. Then he’d walk a few miles back to pay the farmer.

Occasionally I could beg Joe into letting me go home with a couple funny books that had their covers removed. I didn’t care about that. The retail price was a dime and I couldn’t afford even one. He had to take all unsold magazines to the dump and would get in trouble if he couldn’t account for all of what he called “dead ends.” I’d read them at night and take them back to Joe the next morning before school. I had many funny book heroes but my favorites were Sub-Mariner and Captain America.

Occasionally my mom would make a mincemeat pie for me to take hot to Joe. They were his favorite, and once a month or so she’d invite him over for supper. I don’t remember what happened to Joe because my mind has mostly faded into the rest of my life, but he was much more than just an asterisk in the family scrapbook of those years. He was a mentor to me at a time in my life when it mattered. He wasn’t the kind of guy I could forget. f

Scrapbook Eighty One…

scrapbook

JULY 2014

 

I told a story in my Too Far to Walk book about buying a collection of antique African wooden sculptures from Sosoko, a trader friend from the Dark Continent. A short time later, Michael Douglas wandered into our gallery. I had not met him before but I knew his resume was crammed with accomplishments that would impress even the most self-possessed. He stayed in our guest house and we socialized for a short time. He seemed like a down-to-earth, normal kind of guy, so I asked him how he could not be affected by his successes, which included winning an Academy Award. His response spoke to his humanity. “Because, as Kirk Douglass’ son, I grew up with all those Hollywood stars who were big shots.”

mdouglas
Michael enjoyed antiques and purchased five of our African statues. They were large, gangly and hard to ship so I decided to pack them in my airplane and personally deliver them to his front door.
A week later the two of us were chewing some finger cheeses and drinking wine beside his pool up Benedict Canyon, or wherever it was. It looked down on all of Hollywood, and I was impressed. The company and the view provided me with an enjoyable but fleeting sense of preeminence.
After a few minutes Michael went into his house for more wine, leaving me alone to wallow in the flourish of his opulence. Just then, a man wearing a low thread-count sweater, shorts, slosh slippers and rose-colored glasses entered through the gate and sat beside me on a bench. He also was wearing a rather toothy smile. We introduced ourselves but his name didn’t register, and talked for a few minutes. He seemed poised and confident, but otherwise ordinary. Suddenly he glanced at his watch, mumbled something, and departed with some urgency. How strange that was, I thought.
When Michael returned I mentioned what had happened. He said, “Yeah, I saw him through the window. That was Elton John, he lives in the neighborhood and comes by once in a while.”
When I told that story to my daughters they laughed, and reminded me of something I keep reminding myself, that I was born a hundred years too late. f