The Last Week

Though I’d love nothing better than to tell you my readers every facet of my time there with my uncle and aunt, time isn’t really on my side here. So I’m condensing this part into the last week.

To start with the two new characters to this story did show up the following week. Richard was a relic from the 40s when times were much more to his liking, as I was about to find out when the subject of politics and race relations came up. He was a pleasant enough man, as I’m sure Albert Hiss was. He had a big belly and a squat frame with short legs and big head. He came from Arizona and thought Barry Goldwater was too liberal for his tastes. He also called Reagan, “the actor,” as if what the present occupant in the White House was merely acting out a role and wasn’t serious about anything he believed in.

Billy was around my age and his girlfriend or wife showed a day or two later. They too had opinions about this country’s direction toward racial equality and justice. Billy and his girlfriend were from a rural part of West Texas. I don’t think I need to remind you, everyone in this story is white Caucasians with not a hint of mix in them.

Time being what it is, I also forgot her name, Billy’s significant other. I’ll call her Pam. Anyway she too was young, a bit plumpish with dimples on her cheeks. I think she had brown hair.

I actually met Billy at the Greyhound depot in Idaho Falls after I returned from my month’s required National Guard drill. That in itself was another story. I had planned to drive back, but my car broke down on me near Wallace, Idaho on Interstate 90. The bus ride was the last thing I planned for and needed to borrow money from Mom to get me down to Lloyd’s place. Upon hindsight, I should have just stayed in Tri-Cities after I drilled.

At any rate, Billy had a nice shiny Chevrolet pickup that he seemed so proud of. It was white. He was big boy, way bigger than Lloyd. He told me about himself, working on a drilling platform in West Texas, but was between jobs at the moment. He had a helmet of blond curly hair, like me. Of course my hair would have looked like his too, if I didn’t follow regulations and had my hair cut short for National Guard.

When we reached Lloyd’s place I saw him bent over a log shaving off the bark. I walked over to him. “Hey Lloyd, I made it back.” It was nearing sunset when we got there and I noticed a chill in the air. I heard about Idaho and Montana winters starting early. I guessed Wyoming was no different.

“It’s about time. Mary Jane told me you ran into car troubles. You should have listened to her and taken the bus. Now you ain’t got a car neither.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Put your gear away, you got a lot of catching up to do.” He looked up and grinned at me. I went back to the truck and grabbed my overnight bag. I had packed more into my car but left it behind too at a mechanics shop in Wallace. Needless to say, I was not happy by the response I got from my uncle.

I went inside and saw Richard sitting on Lloyd’s Lazy Boy, and I stared at him a moment, perhaps longer than I should. His smiling greeting turned more sober, but he continued sitting on Lloyd’s chair, something I was told I couldn’t do the first day I started working here.

Lana was on her last night off and was scheduled the next evening at the Idaho Falls Hospital. Billy sat at the dining table watching Lana prepare dinner when Lloyd walked in, saw Richard, who immediately relinquished custody of his favorite chair and found a straight back chair by the dining table.

I sat next to Billy and then remembered to wash my hands, so got up and went to the kitchen sink. “Lana, it’s nice seeing you. How’s your day been?”

“As well as to be expected I suppose,” she replied as she glanced at me then went back to a simmering skillet of frying ground beef, next to it was a pot of noodles boiling in water. I didn’t see any tomato sauce, though. “To answer your question, my son has allergies and can’t be around tomatoes. I make spegetti without the sauce and all that. It will still be good.”

“I see,” I replied and went back to the table and sat down.

“Tomorrow, I’ll go pick up Pam,” Billy announced.

I saw Lloyd roll his eyes but said nothing.”

“Is she also from Wacko?” Richard asked with a snicker. I found out later he was originally from Iowa and then moved around wherever the work was. He had a bald head, and I described earlier, his head seemed abnormally large for a man that short and squat. He came in on a camper a green Dodge Power wagon held it up. He slept in it following dinner. He was in his eighties, I reasoned.

“No, she’s originally from Midland. We met in Waco, though.”

“I heard there was some cult down there calling themselves Branch Davidian,” Richard added.

“I don’t know nothing about them people.”

“Okay, boys, supper’s ready. Lloyd moved painfully out from his recliner and sat down at the table.

“Those logs wear on you, don’t they Lloyd?” I asked ribbing him good naturedly.

“You start serving up your meal. You got logs to shave tomorrow morning.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it.”

The room was quiet as we ate the sauce less spaghetti.

It wasn’t that way the next evening, though. Pam showed up in midafternoon, after Lloyd, Richard and I had called it a day. Needless to say, Billy was in Idaho Falls all day. She and Billy showed up just as Lana was leaving for work. Lloyd didn’t say anything to the pair as he walked past them inside that garage structure and sat on his recliner.

Once again, I was a bit out of shape and didn’t have nearly the total I entered into my ledger that I completed just before leaving for my weekend drill. I logged in three shaved logs.

I’m not totally sure what Richard actually did. He used his truck more or less as an anchor to hold Lloyd’s truck as the winch he used pulled the logs up on the structure. But, everyone, including Lloyd, knew that wasn’t going to work very much longer. A crane was needed to finish the job, especially where it was a two-story structure. Richard sat in the cab of his truck, watching Lloyd.

We started having supper when someone, maybe Richard used the derogatory n word. I still don’t recall what the conversation was afterwards, but I found out a lot about my Uncle Lloyd and his true colors. I was in a state of utter shock because I truly didn’t believe racists existed anymore. Yet, here I was hearing these three people talk about a person, I mean a group of people, race of people and judging them based solely on their skin color, not their character. After about ten minutes, I excused myself from the conversation and went outside and smoked a cigarette.

I guess Richard proudly voted for George Wallace and the American Party. That too was a relic that died out after Wallace’s near assassination in 1972. Segregation also died out that year.

I overheard them talking and laughing about people like me who didn’t appreciate the fact that white people were now the minority in this country. I was appalled by these words. But yet everything they were talking about were either lies or untruths that only they believed were the gospel.

I couldn’t be a part of that, but by the same token, I didn’t think it was safe for me to call them out and tell them how wrong they were. I finished my cigarette and went back inside. I sat on my bed and Lloyd came to me. “What the hell have been doing I only saw two shaved logs you did today.”

“No, I did three, Lloyd, I’ll show you in my ledger.”

“That ledger’s wrong. You either start pulling your weight around here or your fired!”

I stared up at him. I’m sure he saw my anger in all its true light. He abruptly left and went outside, I assumed to cool off.

Later, maybe ten minutes later, he came back in. “I guess you were right, you did do three today. You still need to do more though. I got a load of two hundred more logs due next week.”

I’m sure my bemused expression at him spoke volumes of my disappointment. I had so much hope that he would be halfway decent toward me, but I was wrong, after hearing his views about black people in general, my disillusionment was complete.

I had a hard time falling to sleep, though. Billy and Pam treated that garage like their personal honeymoon suite and didn’t care about my presence, though a blanket separated my bed from theirs. I felt just like Rodney Dangerfield.

The next morning, I worked on finishing the log I was halfway through with and then I found a knot that was especially stubborn. The more I worked it the more frustrated I became. I used a hatchet to chop away at it. I threw the hatchet to the ground.

“Hey, what the hell are you doing to my equipment?” I heard Lloyd yell at me from in front of the garage where he and Pam were serving breakfast. Apparently he came out initially to tell me breakfast was ready. Bad timing on my part. “Get in here and eat.”

I felt my face turn redder from embarrassment. I gave him a sheepish grin, got off my log and went inside.

“You want to let out your frustrations, throw rocks, don’t take it out on my equipment.” Those were the first words from Lloyd’s mouth.

“Sorry about that,” I apologized hoping it sounded sincere enough.

We ate biscuits and gravy with scrambled eggs. Pam sat down next to Billy. About then we heard a car pull up and we all figured it was Lana coming home from work. It was a little after nine.

She walked in with a smile on her face as she saw her man and son. The smile disappeared into a frown of disapproval when she saw Richard though. “Good morning,” she announced. “I trust everything was okay last night while I was at work.”

We all nodded as we ate our meals. When we were done, we all went back out on the job site and worked while Pam and Lana spruced up the garage. Lloyd seemed to be more stressed

than usual. Maybe it was his own deadline he set for himself. Maybe it was the threat from the wildfire up in Yellowstone, or maybe it was Billy and Pam, whom I got the impression he wasn’t overly fond of. In any event that day stuck out for a number of reasons as the climax of my stay there.

I didn’t do anything wrong, per se. But first Richard wasn’t paying attention to the winch line and it snapped before he could yell out to Lloyd about the problem. Then once Lloyd repaired that, we discovered we could go no higher until a crane could be brought in. I had no idea what that would cost. I had a feeling though; it was more than Lloyd had in his savings. Finally Billy sliced open his hand doing something stupid with a hatchet. I didn’t see what happened. I don’t know what he did until afterwards when I heard the commotion behind my back.

“Oh, Damn, I cut myself,” Billy yelled out. He used more colorful language, though I chose to edit that out for my readers’ sense of decency. At any rate, Lana came outside, followed closely by Pam. Richard and Lloyd also came over. I saw the flesh wound. He opened his hand quite nicely. Blood poured copiously upon the ground while everyone fell over themselves in grabbing rags and anything else that would help slow the bleeding. Then, Lana, Billy and Pam left, leaving Richard, Lloyd, and I to clean up the mess.

“This is your God damn fault, you hare lip retard,” he accused me. “If you hadn’t left for that stupid drill, none of this would have happened!” He started toward me. I truly feared for my life in that brief instant. I don’t know why he thought I had anything to do with his stepson’s hand being filleted like that, but yet here I was staring at my blood who was insanely mad at me. I felt my bowels release a juicy fart. It smelt like two days’ worth of home cooking.

Richard for some reason came up to him. “Lloyd, settle down. It’s no one’s fault. That stepson of yours just had an accident. That’s all it was. It wasn’t no one’s fault at all. It’s getting mighty hot. Let’s go inside and cool off a little bit, drink some water.”

We went inside the cooler garage where a box fan blew air at a high setting. I poured a glass of water but paid no attention to Lloyd as I stood at the sink and sipped my water slowly. Lloyd sat on his recliner and Richard sat at the table. After about ten minutes, I abruptly left and went back to shaving on the log I was on before all of this happened.

Two hours later they all came back, packed up their stuff and then Billy and Pam left, not saying boo to Lloyd, which I’m sure upset him more than anything.

I heard Lana tell Lloyd, “I paid him for his time here. They’re going back to Texas.” Lloyd stocked off to their trailer this time.

She came near where I was working and told her, “I think I should probably go to.” I didn’t tell her about Lloyd’s outburst, though my voice belied the emotion I felt at that moment and I’m sure she sensed it.

“You’ll have to take that up with your Uncle Lloyd. I’m not going to get in the middle something I know nothing about,” she replied and then also headed toward the trailer.

I stayed on the log shaving for a good three more hours. I was hot and tired. I sweated out everything there was in my body and finished my last cigarette. Lloyd came out to me. I had done six logs that day.

“So, I understand you’re thinking of pulling out of here too, huh?”

“I don’t want to.”

“Look, I know I got me a bit of a temper. Apparently you do too. I’m sorry I tore into you like that. But, I really need your help now that Billy’s gone. He was the muscle, but he definitely lacked something up here.” He pointed at his head. I nodded in agreement, remembering last night. “Can you stay at least one more week?” He gave me that sad puppy dog look when he wants something really bad but doesn’t want to lower himself to begging.

“Sure,” I relented.

I should’ve asked for a raise but felt sorry for him. Lana apparently had a say in what transpired in that trailer. I worked out with them until all the logs there were shaved and he handed me a check for over six hundred dollars. That was ten days later, on a Tuesday, primary election day in Wyoming. Lloyd dropped me off at a bus depot that used Ford E350 Vans as busses. He was on his way to the polling place to as Richard put it, “throw out the crooks and elect the rascals.”

I got on the van and made a mental note of the route I took so I could place it into a chapter of a book I was writing. I never really finished the book, though I thought that story would make a great final chapter.

The end

Fishing Adventure

The week that followed was a long , hard fought week of tedium and hard work. Lloyd’s attitude of being the hard ass was still very much there, though he had occasion to soften up a bit following a day at work.

I received a letter from Mom, giving me my monthly drill letter plus another from my college buddy, Hector. He apparently was trying to start his own business of publishing an independent college news magazine in Seattle and wanted to know if I’d be interested in joining.

Number one, if it was anyone else I knew in college who majored and had a degree in either Business Administration, Journalism or Marketing, I would have gladly replied, hell yes, but this character did none of that. His major was Chemistry and he somehow got lucky that he wasn’t in prison. Last year as a college prank. We, meaning hector, myself and another senior who was also a former roommate, decided to plant seeds all over the Pullman campus of Washington State University. The seeds in question were from a bunch of marijuana he separated from that did nothing to get anyone high. To this day I’m convinced we were smoking hemp, not marijuana.

At any rate, I figured what the heck and wrote back telling him sure, adding an op-ed piece for him to place into that journal he figured was gonna make him rich. I figured he was full of crap but didn’t have the heart to say that to him.

Lloyd and I got along by not talking over controversial subjects. I figured right that he was a political and possibly a social conservative. He had to guess that I wasn’t, but since neither of us dared tread those waters, we were okay. Saturday came and his wife awoke from her well-deserved slumber to make us some lunch. I ate over the log I was bark shaving. It was a ham and cheese sandwich.

“My, it looks like you got this pile of logs pretty much knocked out,” Lana stated proudly. She smiled down at me and asked, “Y’all got a fishin’ license?”

“Dad got us one last week before we came up here. I think we were hoping to go fish the next day before I agreed to work for you guys.”

“Tomorrow being it’s Sunday and all, I’ll talk to Lloyd about fishing.”

“That would be nice,” I replied and went back to work after scarfing down that sandwich.

A couple hours later, we called it a day. I had wrote down in my ledger I kept tabs on, the running tally of logs I skinned. I had started out slow, one and a half the first day, but after a week, I was up to five logs. I still had a long way to go.”

“I guess, we’re going fishing tomorrow,” Lloyd announced as we sat down and ate dinner. “Oh, I got a call from Richard, he’s in Colorado and will be up by Monday.”

Lana gave him a noncommittal glance and continued eating. “That’s fine, dear,” she finally replied after she swallowed her food. “I also got a call from Billy; he’s coming up this week too.”

“Oh, Billy huh. He bringing his girlfriend or wife too?”

I could tell by Lloyd’s tone, he didn’t approve of either person, but it apparently wasn’t his place to tell her. Or, he intended to tell her is honest opinion to her in the privacy of their trailer tonight. Apparently the news they shared was not good news. I was to find out too.

The next day, we worked on the cabin until just before noon, then we all loaded Lloyd’s pickup with poles and tackle boxes, along with an ice chest and picnic basket. WE then drove approximately one mile from his property to above the Snake River. I was used to the other end of the Snake where it empties into the Columbia just south of Pasco. This part of the Snake I wasn’t familiar with. It was a fast-moving river that I could easily throw a rock across and it would land on the opposite bank. We overlooked a drop off of granite into a bubbling pool below. I looked upstream and the downstream. While I appreciated the spot he chose, I opted to go exploring a bit further up and figured I’d cast a line closer to the shoreline from a sandy point that jutted out and created another natural pool. I had to meander my way along the cliff’s face first though.

“You be careful, Jerry, I don’t want to have to call Mary Jane and tell her fool for a son got himself drown.”

I wanted to tell him to go to hell, but curbed the urge and just smiled back, telling , “I got this. I’ll be fine. I reached the spot I wanted and began placing a wiggling, squirming worm upon the barbless hook, the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish require us to use. Twice, I casted out and twice the worm became disengaged from the hook. I was certain a big old Spotted or German brown was laughing the free lunch I offered him. Finally, a third time I placed eggs on either side of the worm and casted it out. It got snagged on an underwater limb or something and broke the line.

I heard Lloyd cussing a blue streak and figured his luck and patience had run out too. Lana caught herself a couple two-pound trout and proudly laid them on the hood of the truck to show up Lloyd.

“You done Jerry?” I heard him call down to me.

“Yeah, I didn’t have any luck this time either. I’ll be right there,” I replied as I gathered the tackle box and fishing rod in my right hand and kept my left arm free for maneuvering back up that cliff. It wasn’t much of a trail and was very careful not to overdo myself, but I did anyway. Just as I reached the part where the trail ended and the cliff began, I grasped a rock that wasn’t secured. The rock, myself and Lloyd’s tackle box and fishing rod fell seven feet to Snake River’s cool waters below.

I didn’t panic, and I held a death grip on the gear so it didn’t go down to Pasco almost a thousand miles away. I spotted an alternate way up when I waded back to shore and took that. Lloyd and Lana looked at me with a surprised expression on their faces. “I told you to be careful.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t drown neither. It’s only hip deep, Lloyd. And I didn’t lose anything neither.”

“Well, that’s something. I take it you struck out too.”

“Yeah, I got skunked.” I saw the shit-eating grin on Lana’s face as she posed with her fish holding them up for me to see.

“You know, pride is a sin,” I told her.

“Yeah, I pray for forgiveness tonight before I go to sleep.”

“I guess that fire is messing with the fish,” Lloyd stated with disappointment in his face.

“Yeah, I’m sure that must be it. No way is she a better fisher man than us Easleys,” I replied with a crooked smile.

“Oh, you two, stop. Y’all just jealous, that’s all.”

We laughed. “Let’s get you home and get you out of them wet clothes.”

We drove home and I had to smile because at that point, it was the most fun I’ve had that entire time there.

Work Began

The next day Lloyd gave me a crash course on log shaving or debarking, the technical term. The morning felt cool to my bare arms and legs. I hadn’t planned on dressing for more than a day and only brought with me an extra pair of cut-off shorts and a sleeveless v neck shirt. The sun wasn’t up yet and for me, this time of day is the most glorious, especially when God bedazzles us with a spectacular sunrise, along with my cup of coffee and my cigarette, I was ready to enjoy the peaceful tranquility of morning.

“You ready to get started?” Lloyd boomed out as if he were my Army drill sergeant back in Basic Training from eight years before. “The sooner we get going on this, the more we can get done before it gets too damn hot.”

I smiled at him. I could distinctly smell wood smoke wafting about us this early morning hour. “Good morning to you too,” I stated with sleepy eyed delight. “Is someone doing a campfire nearby?”

Lloyd let out a laugh. “Campfire? Didn’t you hear? Yellowstone caught fire a week or so ago from a powerful lightning storm that blew through Montana. There’s a forest fire an hour or so away from here. Hopefully, it stays there and don’t come here.”

The news sobered me up. This wasn’t what I’d sign up for. But, I wasn’t afraid either. I learned to fight fires from following Dad’s footsteps as a volunteer firefighter in West Richland many years ago. It was a short-term gig though. Apparently the newly appointed assistant chief and I didn’t get along and he fired me. Plus I briefly worked one summer for the Forest Service. I fought one fire near John Day, Oregon before going back to college.

“Yeah, that would be a bummer,” I said as I took a sip from the coffee. “Tamarack?”

“No, I believe they’re lodge pole pine. As long as the draw knife is sharp, it should shave the bark of reasonably well. If you run into a knot, work around it as best you can and then we’ll cut it out later when we fit the log to the cabin.”

I nodded at his lesson, though what I was actually referring to was the burning wood from the forest fire, not the logs he purchased from whatever logging outfit he procured these dead trees from.

He brought out a hatchet and straddled a log that was already positioned for shaving. Two smaller logs were underneath it, raising it above the grass covered ground. A large pile of dead fall laid nearby. “Now, Jerry, you start with this here hatchet, like this.” He swung it at a right angle into the bark until a chunk flew off and landed nearby. “Now you get this draw knife here and carefully slide it toward
you. Don’t get too aggressive or cocky, or you’d be going home without yours.” He laughed at his own wit.

I watched move the knife, whose blade was inverted, slide toward Lloyd’s crotch. I wondered if that was the best method but surmised it most likely was and had to be extra careful. “Can I stretch my back out further and slide it in?”

“I suppose you could. My back don’t stretch like that no more, but you being young and all, you can probably do that just fine. Like I told you, the sooner you can get started the sooner we can finish up before it gets too damn hot. Now, sometime after supper, I usually do a couple more just after the sun set. Then I turn in for the night.

What does your wife think of that?” I had no idea what she did in regard to this.

“She’s normally at work. She’s a night shift nurse at the hospital in Idaho Falls.”

I nodded, though I knew from my own experience, driving home in the early morning after working graveyard was no fun neither. “That’s a bit of a drive.”

“She has her car; that Eagle wagon over there. It’s four-wheel drive and can get her anywhere, and my truck if it’s even worse. If it’s even worse than that, which sometimes happens—look we we’re wasting time jawing like this. Straddle your ass to this here log and start shaving bark. I’ll go and see how breakfast is going. I figured, an hour and you should have this first side done, then I’ll help you move it
to the next position using this P-tool here.”

I switched spots with Lloyd and began shaving the log, doing as I suggested, nearly placing my entire torso over the log until I was nearly perpendicular and the slowly raising my body and moving the blade back at the same time.

After an hour, I felt sweat pouring from my back, chest, and head. The leather gloves I wore were wet inside from my sweaty hands, and the sun had just cleared the eastern mountain ridge and fully exposed us to what promised to be another scorcher of a day.

“Hey Jerry, come in and wash up. It’s breakfast time,” Lloyd announced from the front porch of the garage where my aunt and parents were converging.

“Be right there.” Mom told me and my sisters long ago, never waste an opportunity at a family reunion to eat. “You might not have anything left over by the time you get there.” I moved with a purpose, though the muscles in my back told me to take it easy. I quickly washed my hands and face of the dirt, grime and sweat. I didn’t remember seeing a shower in the WP that sat in the corner of the garage-like structure last night when I took my customary 3 o’clock whiz.

“Lloyd, where do we shower?”

I saw Lloyd’s mischievous expression on his face. “Lloyd, no,” Lana stated firmly.

“Oh, you can use the shower we have inside the travel trailer.”

It’s common knowledge in the Easley clan that when one asks a question, one should expect a smart-ass answer to come out from their mouths. “What were you going to tell me? Wait for it to rain? Or I’ll pee on you when you’re asleep?”

“Lloyd smiled. “For half an Easley, you catch on quite well.” Laughs came from his three sisters and Dad held an amused expression as I sat down next to Dorothy. Being it was Sunday, Lloyd said grace and then we dug into bacon, eggs, biscuits, and gravy, along with servings of Potatoes O’Brien.

I ate everything on the plate and then went outside with another fresh cup of coffee and a cigarette in hand. Lloyd came out a moment later. “As soon as you’re done with that, I’d suggest you get to crackin’s on them logs again.”

“That’s what I intended sir.” I slowly walked toward the work site, sipping on the black coffee, sucking on the cigarette, and thinking. I always thought. It’s generally what got me in the most trouble with Dad, and undoubtedly may well be the case with Lloyd too.” He better appreciate what I’m doing for him. I don’ see anyone else around here going out of their way to work. I butted out the cigarette then field stripped it because I figured if I didn’t’ Lloyd would have something else to harp over.

Just before I got back to work the family reunion closed as Mom and Dad took off with Mom giving me a hug, then my two aunts came out and hugged me as well before they got in to Brenda’s car, a Ford I think, and they slowly drove down the road and out of sight. I went back to work, finishing the side I started.

“Lloyd!” I yelled out at him. He was standing on the cement foundation doing some kind of measurements and looking angry. He looked up at me with a disgusted look. “Come help me with this log. It’s ready to be rolled.

His face lightened and he smiled. “Yeah, sure, I can do that.” I watched him approach and he grabbed his tool. There was one next to the log I was working on. The Peavey Logging tool worked like a crowbar except it had a gaffing hook that was hinged and swung back. I watch Lloyd use it and I followed suit. “Now you’ll need to learn to do this on your own. Either that, or if I’m busy, you just start shaving on another log until I’m done with whatever I’m doing.

“Anyway, you attach the pointy end over the log, you maneuver this pole under the log and leverage it over like this.” I watched him effortlessly turn the log over and smiled at this tool’s utter simplicity. The man who invented this tool, is probably saint and is enshrined in the wood cutters and logger’s hall of fame.

I continued where I left off, shaving on this new side. I t was a side pock-marked with nobs and knots. It became a clear lesson in the virtues of patience and perseverance. I ran out of the former halfway through, but didn’t quit, though I was frustrated and exhausted from the effort when I finally finished. I then grabbed my Peavey tool and rolled to a final bark side. My brain buzzed from the heat that cooked the back of my head. Lana came out to where I worked and handed me a tall glass of water which I gulped down in three swallows. “What time is it?” I asked her. I forgot to put my watch on this morning when I rolled out of bed.

“It’s 11:30. Lloyd? Let’s call it a day. We need to do some shopping anyway.”

Lloyd was still measuring the plumbing where presumably the bathroom was supposed to be. He wore a bemused expression and scratched his head, as if something weren’t fitting right. He looked up at her in mid-thought. “Yeah, okay. Something ain’t right here anyway. I’ll need to talk with Frank tomorrow and have him look at this foundation. The piping ain’t looking right.”

I dusted myself off and went to the garage and washed my face and hands. I even pulled off my shirt exposing my reddened back and neck and shoulders to Lana’s gaze.

“You got yourself a nasty burn there. You don’t go out in the sun much, do you?”

“Is it that obvious?” I knew the contrast was stark from my white back and the red burns I just described.

“Damn, Jerry, don’t you ever get out in the sun?” Llloyd asked in astonishment the moment he walked inside. Though only a box fan blew, it was definitely cooler inside than outside.

“Well, Lloyd you know as well as anyone that I am government property and we aren’t allowed to purposefully harm our bodies by being exposed to direct sunlight. When I’m out on drill I’m wearing my Kevlar helmet, my BDUs have the sleeves down and we aren’t supposed to wear sunglasses unless they’re prescribed. Of course that rule is violated quite often by everyone.”

“You didn’t bring any other change of clothes did you?”

“I didn’t know I was planning to stay here. So, no, this shirt and shorts are all I have.”

“You’ll need good work pants. Wranglers preferably, and a long sleeve shirt too. The shoes will work I suppose. There’s a thrift store in Idaho Falls we can go to get you some decent work clothes,” Lloyd surmised.

“Hey, whatever works, I’m easy.”

“You got a list made out for the groceries we need?”

“Right here, dear,” Lana replied.

“Oh, could I get like a six pack of beer and some cigarettes?”

“I get you your cigarettes, but there ain’t no alcohol here. I can’t drink and neither should you.”

I felt crushed by his mandate and wanted to rebut, claiming my first amendment right here along with the 21st Amendment were being violated. I stared at him long and hard before I replied, “Fine, Lloyd.”

I placed the shirt back on. I stunk of my body odor. “I’ll need pit spray too,” I told Lana referring my military jargon for underarm deodorant.

She gave Lloyd a confused expression. “Right Guard,” he clarified. She nodded and wrote it down.

Summer in Jackson, Wyoming

Last weekend sister number one texted me about anyone in our family: uncles, aunts, cousins, who lived near Jackson, Wyoming. I informed her we had an uncle who tried to make a go at building a cabin there. I promised her I would give her the truth about what happened.

So, Cathy, here it is. In the next three weeks or so, I will relay to you, my readers what I did back in the summer of 1988 on my uncle’s property. The truth is never easy to retell, especially after 32 years have gone by. Right now, I’m listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon to get me in the proper frame of mind.

You see, the truth of the matter was that I considered all my uncles, Mom had seven brothers of a large family who grew up during the depression and war years in Texas and Oklahoma, to be my favorites, but Uncle Lloyd seemed to like me and I thought it was okay and I accepted his opinion of me. Years later at a family reunion that Mom attended, their animosity came out and she swore she would never go to another reunion again. I don’t know if their bitterness was just their old age catching up to them, or some other dynamic. The truth was that I didn’t truly know my uncles at all, and Uncle Lloyd was going to open my eyes wide open.

But I digress. Sometime in June 1988, Mom got an invitation from her brother Lloyd. He had purchased some property near Jackson, Wyoming just above the Snake River. Dad and Mom were all hyped up to go and since I hadn’t found my job after graduating from Washington State University yet, Mom asked if I’d like to come too and share in the driving. It was a ten-hour jaunt from where they lived in Tri-Cities, Washington to his homestead.

We left in Dad’s 84 Ford Ranger F100 July 4, early in the morning just as the sun broke the eastern horizon. There wasn’t a cloud anywhere in sight and the weather person promised hot and dry weather throughout the holiday weekend. It was a mostly uneventful drive with the three of us switching drive responsibilities. I said mostly right? Mom foretold her own demise twenty-one years later when she unexpectedly started nodding off while she drove. It was along a stretch of I-84 just outside Mountain Home Airforce Base outside Boise.

I sat next to her and was watching the truck slowly drift toward the center medium. “Mom get in your lane,” I told her.

“Mary!” Dad barked and I saw her asleep at the wheel. I jerked the wheel back. “Are you alright?” He asked with some concern in his voice.

Mom jerked herself into consciousness and saw I had the steering wheel in my left hand. She still had her foot on the accelerator. “I guess I fell asleep.”

“Get off the road and let Jerry take over,” he ordered her. She did and I did until we reached Idaho Falls, then Dad drove the final leg. We reached Jackson at around late afternoon or early evening. In summer it’s so hard to tell unless one is wearing a watch. I forgot to reset mine to Mountain time and was an hour behind. We stopped at a convenience store, filled up the truck, it had twin saddle tanks, which was convenient for Dad when he worked near Kansas City three years before. Dad also bought a half case of beer, remembering our last family reunion down in Texas before Grandma passed from breast cancer, how Lloyd liked his beer. Mom called ahead for directions. We then headed up a road off the main highway, US 189, by a homestead that I still remember to this day had a sign out front that read “Mi Casa Costa Mucho Dinero. It was a sprawling rancher with pole building and split rail fence with expensive vehicles in front. “Is that it?” I asked.

“No, he said it’s up the road a way further,” Mom replied.

Five minutes later, we arrived finding a warehouse or garage looking structure, a trailer and three vehicles. Dusk arrived quickly and light was at best, minimal. But I did notice beginning of a base and some logs scattered haphazardly about, along a large pile of rough logs laying nearby. Dad parked the truck and got out. I followed suit and held the door for Mom to exit from the passenger side. Lloyd walked out from the garage first, lighting from inside casted shadows outward. Aunts Brenda and Dorothy followed behind surprising all of us. Hugs and kisses were exchanged. We all went inside where Lloyd introduced us to his wife (can’t remember her name after 32 years) Lana, who was a tall, slender woman in her fifties. They were all in their fifties, though Dorothy, who I shared a birthday with was going to be 60 September 2nd.

Dinner was simmering in a pot, and I smelled cornbread baking in the oven. It was chile and it smelled homemade. “I brought out some beer if anyone wants some,” Dad mentioned to Lloyd.

“Oh, I had to quit drinking; costed me two divorces and a shit load of money in child support and alimony,” Lloyd replied. He laughed. Like Dad, Lloyd was relatively average in height, slightly taller than me, but stocky with a good-sized beer gut. His full head of brown and wavy hair had grayed significantly. “You plan to stay around and help me build my cabin, young man?” He asked me directly.

The question caught me totally by surprise. Yes, I wasn’t working, and I wondered even to this day if there wasn’t some conspiracy afloat between my parents and Lloyd to get me out of the house for a while. I pulled a can of Budweiser from the half-case and opened it with a resounding crack. Some of the contents spilt onto the cement floor. I took a drink and saw his

discomfort at this very action. “Sure, I suppose.” My mind was waiting the details. How much was he going to pay me? That question set out front and center for me.

He smiled at me. “I need you to shave the bark off those logs out there. I’ll pay a dollar per log, and you get room and three squares a day.”

“How many logs do you got?” I asked him as I took another pull.

“Over two hundred with more on the way.”

“Can I see your blueprints?” Dad asked.

“After supper I’ll show y’all everything.” Lloyd’s Texas drawl came out loud and clear.

As if on cue, Lana announced in a soft Texas accent, “Y’all get washed up now. It’s supper time.”

After dinner, Lloyd placed the rolled blueprints flat on the table and showed us his dream home where he planned to die in. The design showed a two-story cabin with main floor and loft on the second where the bedroom would be. I didn’t mention anything then but wondered where he planned to sleep once he got too old to climb the ladder to his room. Dad, being the experienced draftsman and design engineer that he was, studied it in much more detail than I did. He asked Lloyd a bunch of technical questions about peeks and trusses, stuff way over my head. If he’d asked about American literature or great writers of the 20th century, I would understand. But I think even Lloyd looked befuddled by all of this. He gave Dad a pleasant smile. I went outside and smoked a cigarette, wishing I’d bought some pot before I left West Richland.

Mom came outside. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

I looked at her. No, I wasn’t sure. I had no more of an idea about building log cabins than Lloyd did, as I surmised from inside when Dad was grilling him. But I wasn’t going to confess that to her. “Oh yeah, sure, I’ll be alright.”

“You be careful with him. He has a hair trigger temper; worse than Dad.”

“Sure, I’ll keep that under advisement. Anything else?”

She hugged me, “No, just be careful.” She released me and went back inside. Brenda announced, “Put that crap away, Lloyd. We’re fixin’ to play dominoes!”

Next week, the work begins.

What is Freedom Really?

There’s a quote from Robert F Kennedy that defines to me what freedom is all about, treating all Americans with justice, understanding and tolerance. But, there are those people out there who define freedom as a choice to disobey mandates set forth by a Democratic governor because doing so mean giving up their own freedom of choice.

Instead of doing the right thing for the common good of all, these people see wearing a mask as some sort of gesture toward totalitarian rule. I suppose these people see traffic laws and other laws as infringements upon their freedoms and rights too.
It wouldn’t surprise me if these same people believe this whole pandemic is some sort of hoax, a conspiracy to throw Trump out of office and install a Democrat as the next president. I’m sorry that I don’t share these views.

Instead, I see freedom not so much as an individual choice to do whatever he or she desires, but in the broader picture of cooperation. An all encompassing understanding that being a citizen means sometimes making the right decisions to better serve everyone.

This other view seems to presume that laws and mandates are only for certain people and that they are seemingly above the law. This is considered, in my view, anarchy and in a country where the rule of law must be adhered to, anarchy does not work, and will never work.

Freedom in this society is not anarchy. freedom is speaking one’s mind without fear of repercussion, making choices of worship, and protecting oneself and his property from government persecution and repression, and having a fulfilling life free of want and need.

So my next question I wish to pose at these pro-freedom people, did they ever serve in the military? If they had, they know or should know that sometimes freedom comes at a cost to your own individual liberty. The entire military machine is founded on principles of discipline, honor and duty to country. We are a brotherhood, esprit de corps is every branches’ motto, not just the Marines. There are no individuals, but units that work together as a team to achieve a common goal.

If these patriots believe that by refusing to wear a face covering, they are achieving some higher standard, they are ignorant to what this country was founded on. We have no right to expose our countrymen to sickness and death, period.

The Joys of Owning A Camper

As I informed you my loyal readers earlier this year, my wife and I bought newer Dodge Ram 2500 and later a monster-sized Arctic Fox camper. We haven’t used it until my stepdaughter asked we let her and the grand kids go on a well-deserved vacation.

In the midst of this pandemic, it’s okay to travel, though highly not recommended. She wanted to leave Thursday until she informed my wife that she wanted to take them all the way to the North California coast for over two weeks. I had assumed she wanted to make this a reasonably local excursion for a few days. Needless to say, I put the brakes on that, telling her no one was ready for this, least of all the entire camper itself.

I had no idea what it takes to have a camper readied ,until now. Needless to say, my eyes are wide open and definitely don’t recommend investing into something like this if aren’t 100 percent prepared for every and all possible contingencies that might arise, because it will as she has found out.

To start with, none of us had clue about this beast’s, which is what I’m calling her, many idiosyncrasies. Did you know there are holding tanks and a water pump and all the faucets and plumbing that goes with it, which if you forget to do one little thing, can destroy the $40,000 unit you just bought?

Luckily for all of us, she has a friend who was a maintenance technician at the Goodwill store they both worked at until this thing hit and everyone was laid off. He also knows his way around campers, and is smart enough, if he doesn’t quite know where something is, he’ll search around until he finds it. When I came home from work Thursday evening, she was there along with her maintenance friend and all of us together, got to work, learning, and finding everything we needed to know about this camper so that she could safely travel down and back.

The hardest part isn’t going to be going forward, though of course one needs to do that in a safe and comfortable manner, it’s backing up and loading the camper onto the truck, then the many steps it takes to remove the beast from the truck. I did it once, flying at the seat of my pants, but relying mostly on my years of experience from the National Guard backing trucks even bigger and badder than the one I have into impossible situations. The number one thing I learned then was to trust your ground guide and patience: lots of patience.

So after many hours of getting everything looked at dumping the water, refilling and dumping again, we also discovered how to run the heater and air-conditioner, turned on burner to the stove and we also realized you have to be either very tall or possession of a stepladder or stool to reach say the knobs to the LP tanks or the overhead vent. After about 9 o’clock, he felt comfortable about leaving us to safely takes the beast down and back.

Monday I will make sure the camper gets licensed and she leaves on Tuesday for the great vacation adventure that awaits her. God willing, everything will work out just fine.

Tearing Down Monuments

I may not have told my readers this, but I’m also a history buff and have strong opinions when it comes to revising history because it’s the thing to do at the time. I’m not a big fan of those people out there who are so ignorant of the facts that they feel compelled to tear down monuments from the past to suit their political agenda.

Yes, racism in all its forms and functions is ethically and morally reprehensible. My best friend, who is politically conservative, is with me on this too. But, to tear down monuments of Confederate soldiers and generals, or even our former presidents because they at one time held views that are not now mainstream is also ethically and morally wrong.

I can’t emphasize enough how damning it is to fall into a trap that is and always will be a method of censorship. Tearing down monuments of whomever because their belief system was counter to our more enlightened views is like burning books because they hold truths that we don’t believe in anymore. Creating history out of vapors isn’t history but fiction. Modern historians often are condemned as revisionists because their perspective of the past has fundamentally changed. An example of this is that of Capt. John Smith and Pocahontas. The truth of the whole thing was that she was but a child when they met and later married someone else, went to England where she died from Smallpox when she was 21.

I’m using two examples to show why I feel as I do toward removal of these statues; symbolisms of history, whether we like it or not, Jefferson Davis and Robert E Lee. Lee himself opposed his image being used in such a manner, believing instead that the South needed to move forward following their defeat, but thanks to this lost cause ideology, those statues were built and placed in parks and other public places throughout the South. Jefferson Davis may have been but a brief footnote in history had it not been for this same group of Southern expatriates.

Rather than tear down monuments that represent our historical past, we should instead break down walls of misunderstanding and mistrust and build bridges to unify our country to our better angels. Or we too will be left with nothing to remind future generations of our collective history, right, wrong, or in-between.

Visit With Dad

Last night I was watering my yard when Dad appeared. We visited while I placed hoses around the yard and set sprinklers in strategic locations.

I asked him what he thought of everything going on in the world these days.

“Pray that it ends soon,” he replied with ominous tones. He’s always been like that and then he would laugh as if he were telling me this in jest.

But, this time he didn’t laugh. “What’s up Dad?”

“Nothing that concerns you in this world. I would definitely prepare yourself for the next one though. Are all your affairs in order?”

“I got plenty of time for that Dad.”

“You know time is finite, don’t you?” He gave me a cursory glance at the lagoon at Long Lake at Tum Tum.

“I know, I remember. But it was your time, then. You had lost hope wanted this.”

“I didn’t lose hope. I had another plan that’s all. God helped me out, as well as he did your mother. Some day he’ll do the same for you. Are you ready?”

“I supposed I am. Do you have an exact date?”

“I gotta go visit your sisters. They’re expecting me to come visit too. You’re putting too much water on that bush you got there.” He then walked away down Rowan Street.

I awoke and thought about what he stated. Obviously, the crap we are faced with is of no concern for him anymore. He’s with Him and will be undoubtedly forever. I’m sure he knows something is up and that what we are faced with today is not all that bad as long as we have hope and faith that this will eventually work out.

I sometimes wish he were still around, but am, also glad he’s not. What little advice he offered me last night was about par when he was alive; more elusive than forthcoming. It was as if he was telling me, “figure it out for yourself; I did.”

So what that I’m dealing with a pandemic and racial injustice that has spurred to racial unrest. He had remnants of the Great Depression, followed by World War Two and then the Cold War and the craziness of the 60s to contend with. Granted he was but a child in those first episodes of his life, but an adult later. There was very much uncertainty in our country then. Blame was spread far and wide across both political parties as to who was at fault.

Then there was the personal baggage he had to contend with: making a living, feeding, and putting a roof over his family’s heads, being responsible and not having anyone to talk to. His dad died just after my first birthday in 1959.

Maybe grandpa visited him in his dreams too like he did mine last night. Maybe this was his way of saying Happy Fathers’ Day.

My New and Improved Website

Last week, my web master Frank asked me about changing my site to make it look newer and fresher. Since I got two new books coming out shortly, he thought it would be a good idea to give you, my readers a better look into my projects that I worked on what will undoubtedly show up on bookstore shelves in the future.

So, if you normally go through my website first, then you already are aware of the changes that occurred. If you usually go through the social media sites I use to post my blogs, then please browse around and see what Frank has done. It’s quite remarkable to say the least. I just wish I was more photogenic than I am.

So, when my first published book–outside Amazon’s KDP–is ready and available, Frank will show you the product before it becomes available to the public in bookstores or online. That’s A Man’s Passion. I was hoping it would be ready by October, but after emailing my editor at Austin Macauley, it may be delayed more because of the COVID-19. It’s still being readied for proofreading.

Where We go From Here

Sunday evening after coming home from work and doing my usual chores before relaxing and preparing to get myself motivated for the next day I watched TV and saw a special report that I should stay away Downtown Spokane because of a civil disturbance occurring.

A half hour later,. local news reporters holding microphones and standing rigidly before news cameras used sobering tones to express a serious situation rapidly developing in downtown Spokane. The quiet and reasonably peaceful protests of a couple hours ago somehow got highjacked by not so peaceful looters, vandals and other all around not-so-nice people.

It’s a scene that played out in every other major and not-so-major city in this country, as if it was planned and orchestrated to publicly show the world our true colors. The day after, news of the craziness here in Spokane showed all too clearly what had occurred and many including myself figured outside demonstrators were to blame. People who live here, couldn’t have possibly done this to our town. Yet, it’s possible the opposite is true.

Think about it. Think about the people out there who are marginalized, poor, and always hurting. I know I look the other way when I see a homeless person panhandling; assuming that what he or she wants isn’t food but drugs or alcohol from that cash donation. The tribal casino I work for has any number of people who grace our presence with their foul odor from not bathing in days because they don’t have that luxury where they’re staying at. Think of how many minorities you’ve run across and automatically assumed they were less than honorable or trustworthy. My wife assumes all Muslims are terrorists, can you say that too?

Then we have a President who sees more fit to group those on the far left as terrorists than those on the far right who he sees as loyal Americans.

Where do we stand from here? The problem isn’t just about us versus them as Shawn Vestal of Spokesman Review elegantly stated it: “Us is all of us, like it or not. At this moment of extraordinary national tension, so full of the potential for violence, so fractured at the core, so full of venom and incitement radiating from the White House, and so vilely attended by bigoted online calls to shoot protesters or run them over, us versus them is a disastrous formulation.” We need to stand united whether some of our leaders like it or not.