Wednesday, April 30, 2008

No Calls - Or Else!

When the national "No Call" list was first initiated, I got my name on it the first day. No calls, no problems, it worked wonderfully! I tried in vain to get my Dad to put his name on the list, but he's old and he gets some enjoyment listening to people prattle on about things he has no intention of buying. (I think he also reads his junk mail!) Good for him, but I have more important things on which to waste my time.

I never renewed by "No Call" registration after leaving Noel a few years ago, and until I got to Arizona, it was never a problem. Out here, however, telephone solicitations are a savage business. And what are they selling? Condos. Mondo condos! Every evening I get one or two calls from some chirpy young person who gives their first name, and then follows up with "How are you doing tonight?" And I tell them. Boy howdy, do I tell them! If they can ruin my supper, or television, or sleep, I want the satisfaction of knowing that my sadistic, blood-drenched response, always personalized with the use of the cretin's name, may weave its way into his or her dreams late some night when its very, very dark.

This week I finally relented and signed up for the "No Call" list at: It will take 30 days to kick into effect. Until then, sleep well my lovely telemarketers! I'm coming for you - and I have a chainsaw!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Lee Nida

One of my best friends during my wild and wayward youth was an old man (probably about the age that I am now!) named Lee Nida (pronounced “Ni-dee”) who lived in a ramshackle cabin on the side of a hill in my home town of Noel, Missouri. Lee was a town character that I had known most of my life.

I spent a couple of summers working for the city of Noel when I was in high school and college. On most days Lee and I were the entire work crew. Our supervisor, a really old rascal named Jim Woody, would drive up and check on us at various times during the day to make sure we weren’t goofing off. Lee could lean on his shovel or rake for hours smoking and philosophizing, but he had an uncanny sense of when Woody was about to make an appearance. I would be enthralled with one of his outrageous tales, when he would suddenly stop and say that it was time to get back to work. Sure enough, Woody would soon come puttering along to ensure that we were busy.

Lee had a couple of fingers missing on his right hand, possibly due to frostbite because he lived very primitively, so he had to roll his cigarettes with his left hand only. That skill alone earned the respect of many teens in the 1960’s, and, try as we might, my friends and I had to struggle to roll a decent smoke with two good hands!

Lee also liked cold beer. He would make a purchase for any teen who would transport his out of town to the liquor store and buy Lee a six pack for his trouble. Most small towns had a guy or two like that back then, and most parents knew what was going on. The activity was tolerated, and any parent who was forced to comment on the situation would reply with something like: “Kids will be kids.” Or, “At least he’s not doing drugs.”

After I hit the magic age of twenty-one, one of my favorite activities when I was home from college was to go out and buy a twelve-pack or two and drive up to Lee’s cabin to spend the afternoon. Lee had electricity to run his radio and refrigerator, but those were his only modern conveniences. He had no water, and a trip to the bathroom meant a trip out behind the cabin so as to be out of view of the highway below. He kept an old barrel under the eve of the cabin to collect rain water for bathing. The less it rained, the riper Lee became!

The cabin, a one-room affair, was dirty – greasy, grimy dirty – but I could sit at his old kitchen table for hours and listen to Lee’s unique take on life. He was a strong Republican and would go on and on about how no wars had ever been started by a Republican. One of the city fathers, who was dead by the time that Lee and I became friends, had been Lee’s employer for menial jobs over the years. Any time an election came along, this small town plutocrat would gather up all of his employees and take them to the polls and tell them to vote Republican. Lee couldn’t read or write, but he knew an elephant when he saw one! After all of his workers had voted, the city father would take them to the tavern as a reward. Chicago politics didn’t have a thing over the Noel machine!

Lee died while I was in the army serving on Okinawa, so it was sometime during 1972 or 1973. My mother wrote and said that he had been found in his cabin several days after his death. I didn’t know how old he was, and I am fairly certain that he didn’t know either. He had spent his entire life never traveling more that a few miles from Noel. He had never married and claimed no children. Lee did have a sister and nephew in Noel that he didn’t claim, but as far as I know there was no other family.

There weren’t many around to mourn the death of Lee Nida, but I did. He was my friend.

Monday, April 28, 2008


I didn't really need a new computer, but the devil led me into Best Buy anyway last Saturday evening and marched me straight to the back of the store where the shiny new laptops were on display and blinking seductively. A young man wearing the company shirt approached and asked if he might be of service. I told him that I wanted to look at the laptops, but that I definitely would not be buying during this visit. The young man, his name was Matt, assured me that he did not work on commission and that he would be glad to take the time to answer my questions.

Matt asked about my computer needs, and I carefully outlined the massive databases of useless information that I have compiled, along with my new-found love of blogging. I told him that I wanted a computer that I could take anywhere and connect to the Internet upon getting there. We looked at everything, with Matt carefully stating the pros and cons of each machine. Eventually the selection narrowed to one in the mid-price range that could definitely kick some cyber-butt.

It was sometime later as we were discussing software that Matt asked me what I did for a living. After stating that I was a social worker at Luke AFB, he looked surprised and said that he was in the Air Force and stationed at Luke - Best Buy was his part-time, second job. As I thought about this young airman (actually he was a staff sergeant) serving his country full-time and then moonlighting to get ahead, I realized that I was dealing with a true patriot. I told him that he had made a sale.

Patriotism isn't about guns, or religion, or lapel pins, or even Old Glory. Patriotism is about what you do for others. John F. Kennedy had it right about not asking what your country could do for you, but rather what you could do for your country. How did we lose that spark of idealism? How did we go from the grandeur of JFK to the smallness of Bush and his cronies?

America has gone off the tracks in recent years. We are now focused on getting instead of giving, greed instead of Christian charity, cynicism instead of hope...and we are poorer for it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Another Road Movie

Road movies have been a staple in the Hollywood plot formulary since Bob and Bing perfected the concept in the 1940's and 1950's. Two guys travelling to exotic locales and having comic misadventures along the way. Films like The Road to Morocco, The Road to Zanzibar, and The Road to Bali were funny and easy to enjoy. And, they were films that the whole family could watch.

And then there was Ishtar...

This weekend I watched the 21st century version of a road movie: Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo. The movie begins on the morning after the conclusion of their last cinematic adventure, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. In the first film the boys, righteously stoned, spend the entire night driving around New Jersey trying to get to a White Castle while encountering all kinds of obstacles to their quest: a college party, having their car stolen by Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Houser), going to jail, breaking out of jail, and hang gliding. Harold is also suffering from an unrequited love for a beautiful girl who lives in their apartment building. As the film ends, she is flying off to Amsterdam for three weeks.

The second movie begins the next day with Harold and Kumar preparing to follow their neighbor to Amsterdam. Unfortunately, they are pegged as terrorists during the flight, given a summary butt-chewing by a room full of Homeland Security types, and shipped off to Guantanamo where they manage to promptly escape. The remainder of the film focuses on their trek across the southern United States in search of a person who can "fix" their situation with the government. They again encounter Neil Patrick Harris who leads them into misadventures in a Texas whorehouse, and they manage to stay stoned for the majority of the film.

This, of course, isn't a film for children or uptight adults. But for anyone who ever wondered what it would be like to sit around the ranch at Crawford and smoke weed with the President (and who hasn't?), this movie, like the first, is a lot of fun!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sebastian Update

My daughter, Molly, included the following paragraph in an email that she sent to me yesterday:
Sebastian's top two teeth are really coming in. We met Scott at the mall for lunch today. After Scott went back to work Sebastian and I strolled the mall. There was a lady in the Gymboree store that upset him by trying to play peek-a-boo with him. He started crying and screaming.. and staring her down. Everywhere she went in the store his eyes followed. When their eyes met he would start screaming and crying again. We had to leave the store! After that he was fine. I was holding him and he put his hand out in the air.. waving at everyone that walked by.. and laughing. People thought it was funny.

Little Sebastian will be one-year-old on July 5th. I really miss Molly and her wonderful family.

Pa Rock

Friday, April 25, 2008

Rusty Pails #36:
Queenie Finds a Home

by Rocky Macy

Living in the country ain’t all sunshine and roses. There’s plenty thorns in the greenery, and I usually manage to find most of them! One thing about country life that particularly galls me is the propensity of stray critters that come ambling down my lane. It seems that when people get tired of their pets, they dump them out in the country so they can lead idyllic lives in some sylvan dell.

I’ve had more than my fair share of strays show up on my doorstep. Generally I feed them and then try to find them a home. Sometimes I wind up taking them to the local animal shelter and pay the fees that their original owners avoided by bringing them to me. Baker, who was in labor when she arrived at my back door, was already part of my family by the time her thirteen puppies were ready for new homes, so she stayed. I also kept Shadetree Mike’s calf, Annie, because he had the courtesy to ask if he could dump her on me – and also because Baker took a shine to her.

But no more! I have taken a vow that I will no longer care for other people’s castoffs. Old Rusty is done with being a welcome mat! Well, at least I was until yesterday afternoon.

It was getting late, and I had fallen asleep in my lawn chair while watering my small garden. My old hose has developed a few leaks over the years, probably because I keep forgetting to take it in during the winter. At the time that I nodded off, a couple of those leaks began to fill a big depression in my driveway.

I was dreaming about making the world’s most delicious Rustwich when a drumming sound began to weave itself into my dream. Knowing that it was about time to go in and start supper, I lazily propped open an eye to see who was beating the tom-tom. There, staring back at me at eye level, were two soft brown eyes and a big beak.

I was suddenly wide awake staring at a monster bird who was plopped down and lounging lazily in the lake that my leaky hose had made. As I struggled to get out of my chair, I fell over backwards. Then fighting my way out of the chair, I managed to trip the trigger on the hose and wound up giving myself a good soaking!

I ran toward the barn with the lawn chair in one hand and the hose in the other. When I thought that I might be safely out of reach, I glanced over my shoulder and saw that the big bird was still enjoying her bath.

Baker showed up about that time, better late than never, and quickly assessed the situation. She ambled over to the monster bird as though it was the most normal thing in the world to find bathing in your driveway. After taking a leisurely stroll around our visitor, Baker decided to gather more information by sticking her nose where most dogs do when they want to strike up a friendship.

That did it! The bird, all six feet of her, jumped up and looked way down on the bothersome dog. I could tell that one swift kick from those mighty legs would send poor Baker flying over the house. The bird really cranked up her noisy chest thumping, Baker began a low growl, and Old Rusty backed up even further. The stand-off was broken when Baker began barking. The bird turned and let Baker direct her toward the gate to the pasture. When she stopped to scoop up a couple of my cherry tomatoes, I rushed over and opened the gate. After a little more direction from Baker, our visitor lumbered into the pasture and I closed the gate behind her.

Today I learned that my new freeloader is an emu. Several years ago people were going to get rich by raising emus, but when that didn’t happen, some turned theirs loose. And, like every other neglected soul in these parts, this one found her way to my house!

I’m calling her Queenie, but the next time the vet is out this way I’ll find out if I need to change the name to King. She is very gentle and likes to be sprayed with the hose, and she has already cleaned out all of the cherry tomatoes within a neck’s reach of the pasture fence. But the best part is that Queenie is quickly bonding with Annie and Baker. If old Rusty can have his friends, I reckon other critters should be able to have theirs!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Young at Heart

Every now and then when I get to feeling down, or worse yet, old, something will come along to lift my spirits. Tonight, after slogging away at retyping another installment of my old genealogy column - featured on my other blog - I plopped down in front of the television to veg awhile. And there, as if ordered from some cosmic menu for spiritual rejuvenation, was a double dose of Jay and Silent Bob: Dogma and Clerks II! I am revived and made well! (Just in time, too, because Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo opens in theatres this weekend.) You're only as old as the movies you watch!

Speaking of Harold and Kumar, there is a petition on the Internet to bring a White Castle to Phoenix. There are only eleven signatures. I tried to sign, but couldn't get it to accept me. But I remain serene and smiling, though, because I am headed to the movies this weekend!

Bring on that mind-numbing typing!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Exiles

Thomas Macy, one of the original settlers of Nantucket Island, was my ancestor, though surprisingly not through my paternal Macy line, but instead through my maternal Sreaves line. His move to the island is recounted below by Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whittier.

The Exiles
John Greenleaf Whittier

The goodman sat beside his door
One sultry afternoon,
With his young wife singing at his side
An old and goodly tune.

A glimmer of heat was in the air,--
The dark green woods were still;
And the skirts of a heavy thunder-cloud
Hung over the western hill.

Black, thick, and vast arose that cloud
Above the wilderness,
As some dark world from upper air
Were stooping over this.

At times the solemn thunder pealed,
And all was still again,
Save a low murmur in the air
Of coming wind and rain.

Just as the first big rain-drop fell,
A weary stranger came,
And stood before the farmer's door,
With travel soiled and lame.

Sad seemed he, yet sustaining hope
Was in his quiet glance,
And peace, like autumn's moonlight, clothed
His tranquil countenance,--

A look, like that his Master wore
In Pilate's council-hall:
It told of wrongs, but of a love
Meekly forgiving all.

"Friend! wilt thou give me shelter here?"
The stranger meekly said;
And, leaning on his oaken staff,
The goodman's features read.

"My life is hunted,--evil men
Are following in my track;
The traces of the torturer's whip
Are on my aged back;

"And much, I fear, 't will peril thee
Within thy doors to take
A hunted seeker of the Truth,
Oppressed for conscience' sake."

Oh, kindly spoke the goodman's wife,
"Come in, old man!" quoth she,
"We will not leave thee to the storm,
Whoever thou mayst be."

Then came the aged wanderer in,
And silent sat him down;
While all within grew dark as night
Beneath the storm-cloud's frown.

But while the sudden lightning's blaze
Filled every cottage nook,
And with the jarring thunder-roll
The loosened casements shook,

A heavy tramp of horses' feet
Came sounding up the lane,
And half a score of horse, or more,
Came plunging through the rain.

"Now, Goodman Macy, ope thy door,--
We would not be house-breakers;
A rueful deed thou'st done this day,
In harboring banished Quakers."

Out looked the cautious goodman then,
With much of fear and awe,
For there, with broad wig drenched with rain
The parish priest he saw.

Open thy door, thou wicked man,
And let thy pastor in,
And give God thanks, if forty stripes
Repay thy deadly sin."

"What seek ye?" quoth the goodman;
"The stranger is my guest;
He is worn with toil and grievous wrong,--
Pray let the old man rest."

"Now, out upon thee, canting knave!"
And strong hands shook the door.
"Believe me, Macy," quoth the priest,
"Thou 'lt rue thy conduct sore."

Then kindled Macy's eye of fire
"No priest who walks the earth,
Shall pluck away the stranger-guest
Made welcome to my hearth."

Down from his cottage wall he caught
The matchlock, hotly tried
At Preston-pans and Marston-moor,
By fiery Ireton's side;

Where Puritan, and Cavalier,
With shout and psalm contended;
And Rupert's oath, and Cromwell's prayer,
With battle-thunder blended.

Up rose the ancient stranger then
"My spirit is not free
To bring the wrath and violence
Of evil men on thee;

"And for thyself, I pray forbear,
Bethink thee of thy Lord,
Who healed again the smitten ear,
And sheathed His follower's sword.

"I go, as to the slaughter led.
Friends of the poor, farewell!"
Beneath his hand the oaken door
Back on its hinges fell.

"Come forth, old graybeard, yea and nay,"
The reckless scoffers cried,
As to a horseman's saddle-bow
The old man's arms were tied.

And of his bondage hard and long
In Boston's crowded jail,
Where suffering woman's prayer was heard,
With sickening childhood's wail,

It suits not with our tale to tell;
Those scenes have passed away;
Let the dim shadows of the past
Brood o'er that evil day.

"Ho, sheriff!" quoth the ardent priest,
"Take Goodman Macy too;
The sin of this day's heresy
His back or purse shall rue."

"Now, goodwife, haste thee!" Macy cried.
She caught his manly arm;
Behind, the parson urged pursuit,
With outcry and alarm.

Ho! speed the Macys, neck or naught,--
The river-course was near;
The plashing on its pebbled shore
Was music to their ear.

A gray rock, tasselled o'er with birch,
Above the waters hung,
And at its base, with every wave,
A small light wherry swung.

A leap--they gain the boat--and there
The goodman wields his oar;
"Ill luck betide them all," he cried,
"The laggards on the shore."

Down through the crashing underwood,
The burly sheriff came:--
"Stand, Goodman Macy, yield thyself;
Yield in the King's own name."

"Now out upon thy hangman's face!"
Bold Macy answered then,--
"Whip women, on the village green,
But meddle not with men."

The priest came panting to the shore,
His grave cocked hat was gone;
Behind him, like some owl's nest, hung
His wig upon a thorn.

"Come back,--come back!" the parson cried,
"The church's curse beware."
"Curse, an' thou wilt," said Macy, "but
Thy blessing prithee spare."

"Vile scoffer!" cried the baffled priest,
"Thou 'lt yet the gallows see."
"Who's born to be hanged will not be drowned,"
Quoth Macy, merrily;

"And so, sir sheriff and priest, good-by!"
He bent him to his oar,
And the small boat glided quietly
From the twain upon the shore.

Now in the west, the heavy clouds
Scattered and fell asunder,
While feebler came the rush of rain,
And fainter growled the thunder.

And through the broken clouds, the sun
Looked out serene and warm,
Painting its holy symbol-light
Upon the passing storm.

Oh, beautiful! that rainbow span,
O'er dim Crane-neck was bended;
One bright foot touched the eastern hills,
And one with ocean blended.

By green Pentucket's southern'slope
The small boat glided fast;
The watchers of the Block-house saw
The strangers as they passed.

That night a stalwart garrison
Sat shaking in their shoes,
To hear the dip of Indian oars,
The glide of birch canoes.

The fisher-wives of Salisbury--
The men were all away--
Looked out to see the stranger oar
Upon their waters play.

Deer-Island's rocks and fir-trees threw
Their sunset-shadows o'er them,
And Newbury's spire and weathercock
Peered o'er the pines before them.

Around the Black Rocks, on their left,
The marsh lay broad and green;
And on their right, with dwarf shrubs crowned,
Plum Island's hills were seen.

With skilful hand and wary eye
The harbor-bar was crossed;
A plaything of the restless wave,
The boat on ocean tossed.

The glory of the sunset heaven
On land and water lay;
On the steep hills of Agawam,
On cape, and bluff, and bay.

They passed the gray rocks of Cape Ann,
And Gloucester's harbor-bar;
The watch-fire of the garrison
Shone like a setting star.

How brightly broke the morning
On Massachusetts Bay!
Blue wave, and bright green island,
Rejoicing in the day.

On passed the bark in safety
Round isle and headland steep;
No tempest broke above them,
No fog-cloud veiled the deep.

Far round the bleak and stormy Cape
The venturous Macy passed,
And on Nantucket's naked isle
Drew up his boat at last.

And how, in log-built cabin,
They braved the rough sea-weather;
And there, in peace and quietness,
Went down life's vale together;

How others drew around them,
And how their fishing sped,
Until to every wind of heaven
Nantucket's sails were spread;

How pale Want alternated
With Plenty's golden smile;
Behold, is it not written
In the annals of the isle?

And yet that isle remaineth
A refuge of the free,
As when true-hearted Macy
Beheld it from the sea.

Free as the winds that winnow
Her shrubless hills of sand,
Free as the waves that batter
Along her yielding land.

Than hers, at duty's summons,
No loftier spirit stirs,
Nor falls o'er human suffering
A readier tear then hers.

God bless the sea-beat island!
And grant forevermore,
That charity and freedom dwell
As now upon her shore!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Rusty Pails #35
The Pearl Jam

by Rocky Macy

Every spring Esther Pearl drafts me to run her junk shop while she hightails it off to her family reunion – the Pearl Jam. This year was no exception. Her cousin-fueled catastrophes generally run from Friday through Sunday, and by the time they are over, Esther and I are both ready for a break.

I arrived on Friday morning just in time to help Esther stow her last suitcase into the big trunk of her Edsel. I couldn’t help but notice that there were two other suitcases of equal heft already in the trunk.

“Esther,” I laughed. “I wouldn’t wear that many clothes in a year!”

“A girl’s got to be prepared, Rusty. Besides, you ain’t got that many clothes.”

Well, she had me there. I could put my whole wardrobe in a grocery bag and still have room for a six pack of root beer!

Esther turned to give me marching orders as she was about to drive off. “Rusty,” she said, starting the engine. “Don’t rearrange stuff like you did last year. Junk ain’t supposed to be alphabetical.”

“That was Heck’s doing,” I protested.”

“And no loafers. This here’s a business.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, snapping a salute. If Shadetree Mike and the boys wanted to move the domino game over here, they wouldn’t technically be loafing. “Anything else?” Stupid question!

“And no more bartering! I darned near never got rid of that pair of goats that you traded for last year.”

“They were worth more than that old sofa.”

“Maybe,” she conceded. “But that sofa never ate my best rosebushes or head-butted the mailman.”

“No more goats. Check. Is that it?” I was spitting out stupid questions faster than Judge Redbone could kiss babies!

“Nope,” Esther replied. “There’s a fresh pot of coffee and a bucket of chili simmering on the stove – for you and all of the loafers that ain’t gonna be here.”

“And root beer?”

“A case for every day that I’ll be gone. What type of hostess do you take me for, anyway?”

“The best, Esther. The very best!”

Auction Tip: Examine every item before the bidding starts. Bargains aren’t accidents.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Army Life (2)

Ft. Eustis, Virginia, is located on the James River about five miles from historic Williamsburg. It is close to Yorktown, Jamestown, Ft. Monroe, Ft. Lee, Newport News, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach. I had been a history major in college, and being assigned to a post in historic Virginia was a stroke of luck. As I arrived at Ft. Eustis in April of 1971, I was determined to make the most of being thrust into the highly historical area.

I was going to Ft. Eustis to complete the Army's 9-week basic Transportation Corps Officer's course. I lived in a BOQ (Bachelor's Officer Quarters) that was something like a glorified college dorm, only there weren't as many restrictions. The other guys in my class all lived in that same BOQ. Those who were married left their wives at home during the training.

I rembember that I had two good friends in that class, Ron (?) from Cannonapolis, NC (where they made Cannon towels) and Joe Spagna who was from Delaware or Rhode Island or one of the smaller northeastern states. The three of us found a roadside dive that had really good food, and we would drive out there most nights and chow down on the house special. The spaghetti was a particular favorite of ours. We also did a few weekend trips to Virginia Beach.

The Officer's Club was a new experience for me. We would sit around one of the bars on weekends and drink beer and watch TV. I remember sitting in that bar with a group of friends watching the Tricia Nixon and Edward Cox get married on the White House lawn. That wedding had a lot of history in attendance: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy's daughter, was there, as was Martha Mitchell who was soon to be famous during the Watergate Era. Mrs. Mitchell, the wife of Attorney General John Mitchell, had an alcohol issue that eventually was a factor in ending the presidency of Richard Nixon. She showed up in a flamboyant dress and hat (orange, if memory serves) that one TV announcer jokingly said made her a frontrunner for best costume.

The queen of the Officer's Club was an oriental lady named Peaches. She ran the place, and was always there to commisserate with any young man who wanted to share his troubles.

Ft. Eustis was, and still is, the Army's transportation center. It is located on the James River. The 558th Transportation Company (of which I would become executive officer three years later) has a floating machine shop whose mission was to make marine repairs on the water. The post also had its own small railroad called the MGB (Main Gate and Back). Our classes also had a strong emphasis on map reading, convoys, and truck transportation - skills that would serve me well at my first actual duty station.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Daniel Alexander Sreaves

by Rocky Macy

This piece was written for my newspaper genealogy column, Rootbound in the Hills, to commerate the 100th anniversary of my grandfather, Dan Sreaves. It has now been nearly 120 years since his birth. Of Dan's seven children, only my Uncle Floyd is still with us.

This week's column is dedicated to the memory of my grandfather, Dan SREAVES, one of the finest people I've ever known. Special thanks are extended to three of his children (Ruth MARBLE, Christine DOBBS, and Floyd SREAVES) for sharing their memories and reflections about Granddad.

Daniel Alexander SREAVES: 28 Oct 1888 - 29 Sep 1970

The Ozarks were ablaze in their flaming fall glory, much as they are today. Grover CLEVELAND was in the White House, but within a couple of weeks he would be defeated for reelection by Benjamin HARRISON. Folks in the cities were discussing the tariff and the huge U.S. Treasury surplus of cash, while their country cousins were more concerned with practical matters, like whether to expect a repeat of the past winter's awful blizzard.

It was near Huntsville, Arkansas, a century ago this week that Alex and Mary Jane SREAVES welcomed their first child into the world. The boy, Dan, would spend twelve years in the hills of Madison County playing, going to school, working on the farm, and developing the self-reliance and strong characted needed to stand him well over the rough trails of life.

Family legend has it that Alex SREAVES had a violent argument with an unstable neighbor in 1901. Whatever the case, Alex did gather his family into two covered wagons and head for Missouri that year. Mary Jane's brother, Tommy ELLIS, drove the second wagon. The small group of adventurers walked, rode, and camped out for three days and nights enroute to their new home in Anderson, Missouri. Before long, however, the family again pulled up stakes and went to an area between Goodman and Seneca, MO, known as Swars Prairie. It was on this prairie that Dan SREAVES spent most of the rest of his life.

Dan married Nancy Jane "Sis" ROARK on 13 March 1912 in McDonald County. This union brought forth seven children: Harold Dean, Mary Ruth (Mrs. Fred MARBLE), Ned Roark (married Gwendolyn WALLACE), Ruby Florine (Mrs. Garland MACY), Virgie Christine (Mrs. A.G. "Bob" DOBBS), Betty Lou (Mrs. Dalton MACY), and Floyd Edgar (married Shirley MEANS). Dan and Sis also raised her nephew, Ivan ROARK.

The SREAVES family attended church and Sunday School regularly. Dan always tithed, even during times when it seem as though the money just wasn't there, and for years he was instrumental in providing the necessary financial support to keep the doors open at the small Swars Prairie Methodist Church. (My mother, Florine, told me on several occasions that there were so many SREAVES in that small church that the hymn Bringing in the Sheeves would often be sung as Bringing in the SREAVES!) Throughout his life, Dan sought counsel in the Bible before making important decisions.

Dan SREAVES was a farmer, and at times he supplemented the modest farm income by hauling milk and driving a school bus. He and his brother, Jess, were also sorghum producers. Dan had a special filtration process that used local red clay to ultimately render a clear, bitterless sorghum. He would load the sorghum into his old Model-T Ford and take it to stores in Joplin and the surrounding area. People always knew that the SREAVES name of sorghum meant quality.

The devotion that Dan SREAVES had toward his wife never wavered. Sis died in 1953, leaving her husband to endure a period of grief and loneliness. But Dan was not destined to live out the remainder of his life in solitude. He eventually married a widow, Martha THOMPSON ROARK, who had been his childhood sweetheart. There are still people in Seneca who remember Dan pushing Martha down the street in a wheelbarrow on their wedding day!

Dan SREAVES made two significant pilgrimages during his later years. Both were life-long dreams. In the early 1960s his daughter, Christine, and her family took him back to Huntsville. It was the only time that he ever returned to his birthplace. After much searching he found his old schoolhouse well hidden in an overgrowth of Arkansas brambles. The little building was being used to store hay. He also was able to locate a childhood friend while on this trip. Dan and his buddy from yesteryear visited in the man's yard until well after dark.

The other important trek was to California. During hard times the family would often say, perhaps only half-jokingly, that they might just sell out and move to California. They never made the move, but in the summer of 1970 Dan, Martha, and his granddaughter, Sharon SREAVES, did fly to Los Angeles to visit his daughter, Ruth, and her family. And what a wonderful time they had! Dan kicked off his shoes to wade in the Pacific Ocean, and he even rode the rides at Disneyland!

Dan SREAVES passed away quietly just a few weeks after returning from the west coast. The crowd that gathered at the little church on Swars Prairie for the services was so immense that loudspeakers had to be set up outside for the ones who were unable to find seating inside. With the same minister who had buried Sis officiating, and grandsons serving as pallbearers, the funeral was a fond and emotional farewell to a wonderful man. It was as if the many kindnesses that Dan had shown to others throughout his lifetime had been summoned forth as mourners.

The SREAVES name still meant quality!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Army Life (1)

I entered the U.S. Army thirty-seven years ago today. My first duty station was Ft. Eustis, Virginia. I had left my hometown of Noel, Missouri, two days earlier. I remember pulling into Don Davis's Phillips 66 station and filling up as I was leaving town. Don was an institution in Noel, and his wife, Boonetta, had been my fifth grade teacher. He had served in World War II in Europe and had been personally decorated by Charles DeGaulle, yet that was an achievement that he never bragged, or even talked, about. When I told Don that I was leaving for the Army, he pulled me aside and told me how proud he was of me. He said that I would make friends in the Army that I would know for the rest of my life.

During the following four years I would be stationed on three continents, get married and become a father, and meet people from all over the United States and the world. And, yes, I still have good friends that I met while serving in the Army.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Rusty Pails #34
Shadetree Mike's Grand Plan

by Rocky Macy

When Shadetree Mike works up a sweat, it’s usually from exercising his imagination.

Last week the domino discourse at the Pump and Git was interrupted by Mike’s sudden pronouncement that he was making plans for his retirement. (Ermine, as she raised one of Mike’s feet to make a pass with her mop, responded that if Mike gets any more “retired,” she’s sending for the undertaker.) Mike ignored his Bread-and-Butter with a skill that can only come with decades of practice, and proceeded to tell the group about a business venture that he was considering for his golden years.

“The future,” declared Mike to everyone except his Missus, “ain’t in the stock market, it’s in the flea market.”

Mike’s sort of like a pet volcano, liable to pop off at any time and spew most anything. The folks at the domino table are so used to his surprises that this latest blast barely caused a ripple in the conversation.

Mike persisted. “I’ve been thinking about what this country needs, really needs, and I’ve decided flea markets are the answer!”

“Why’s that, Mike?” Some fool asked.

“Because, Rusty, they’re fun places to shop.” Mike leisurely dominoed as he continued. “The people that go to flea markets don’t know what they’re looking for, and they usually buy plenty of it.

“Granted. But Sprung Hinge already has three flea markets and Esther’s Pearls and Swine.” Despite knowing better, my interest was starting to percolate. “What’s yours going to have that the others don’t?”

“You’re thinking too ordinary, Rusty. I’m not talking about just one flea market. I’m fixing to open a chain. We’ll clean out every yard sale and auction in the country and stock our shelves with America’s finest seconds.”

I couldn’t help noticing that the venture had expanded subtly from “I” to “we”. “What’s my part in this operation going to be, Mike?”

“Why, Rusty Pails, you’ll be our chief buyer. Our stores will be filled with the treasures that you drag in from the sales.

“And what will we call our chain?”

“Flea Mart!”

I knew that he wasn’t serious all along. Where would Ermine find time to run a chain store? And me? I’m just going to walk my old trails and leave chain stores to the folks who haven’t learned to do the sales!

Auction tip: If you’re planning on paying for auction purchases by check, let the cashier know before you do any bidding. Taking a few minutes to learn the rules of payment might save a big embarrassment later in the day.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rusty Pails #33
The Brunt of the Storm

by Rocky Macy

Heck Frye’s got a lot of good qualities - leastways, two or three – but dependability ain’t one of them. Just look at the catastrophe he nearly caused by driving me to the auction last Saturday.

The fact that it was fixing to storm caught everyone by surprise. As people were scurrying to pay off their purchases and hit the road, I noticed with a sudden panic that Heck was nowhere to be seen. To make matters worse, I spied Gladys Clench smiling across the crowd in my direction and waving her car keys!

I cautiously circled the group that remained, attempting to keep Gladys in my sights and at a safe distance. Try as I might, I couldn’t find nary a one of my cronies! Heck had probably slipped back into Sprung Hinge to entertain the new waitress at the “Spit and Whittle,” but that didn’t excuse the rest of the gang from not being there when on of the troops was in imminent danger! Hope was fading fast, when, all at once, Fate rolled into the picture.

“Now here’s a classic! The auctioneer bragged as he wheeled out a bicycle that could have been used by Gramma Pinkins when she started school. “Who will start the bidding at five dollars?”

“Ten!” I yelled.

Gladys Clench ain’t the smartest person in town, but even she could figure out what I was up to.

“Fifteen,” she chirped merrily.

“Twenty!” I shot back.

Gladys, with her innocent smile pasted firmly in place, tried to pound me into submission. “Fifty dollars!”

The few people who were left had taken root as they watch the insane bidding duel. “Seventy-five,” I thundered. “I need that bike!”

“One hundred,” she answered. “So do I!”

Reaching down into my overalls, I pulled out my wallet and took inventory of my finances. Seventeen dollars and twenty-three cents coupled with four grocery coupons was the best I could muster, and I was saving those coupons for Truman. Under normal circumstances, that stake would have bought at least two bicycles like the one that was on the block, but not today. It was time to start walking.

As I turned to leave I was almost run down by Heck Frye and his wandering truck. “Get in, pal,” he yelled. It’s fixing to storm!”

“I know,” I laughed, looking back at an angry Gladys who was counting out her money to the sale clerk, “but we’ve got plenty of time. The brunt of the storm’s riding in on a bicycle!”

Auction tip: If you can’t use it, you don’t need it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Sad Ballad of Randy Leach

by Rocky Macy

Twenty years ago yesterday, April 15th 1988, a young high school senior in Kansas told his parents goodnight and headed out for a pre-graduation party at a friend's house. That was the last they ever saw of him.

That young man, Randy Leach, was an only child, and, by all accounts a fairly normal kid. He had attended school in Linwood, KS, from kindergarten through high school, and most of his friends had gone to that same small school for all those years also. Randy was part of a close family in a very close community. He played basketball, did well in school, and worked hard. His dad had just bought him a new John Deere lawn tractor, and Randy had spent his final afternoon at home mowing a neighbor's yard. He was excited about the new mower and the income opportunity that it provided. He was also excited about the used Mustang that his parents had purchased as a gift for his high school graduation. The Mustang was being refurbished in a local body shop.

Randy Leach was a good kid living in a good community.

But changes were happening in rural Kansas, and much of rural America, in the late 1980's. Drugs were becoming commonplace in small towns like Linwood, and rougher elements were heading out of the inner cities and into the suburbs and beyond. At that particular time, there was also a lot of talk about cults and Satanism having an impact on youth.

A new girl enrolled in Randy's school during his junior year. It was her mother who hosted the pre-graduation party the night of his disappearance. Everyone who was anyone at Linwood High, and from neighboring towns, went to that party. The girl, who had moved to Linwood from Kansas City, also invited several of her urban friends to join in the fun. The result was a large crowd of probably over a hundred young people, drinking, and probably some drugging, around a large bonfire.

People who saw Randy at the party said that he appeared to be very impaired. He was last seen in the girl's house around two a.m. waiting to use the bathroom. Friends were supposed to drive him home, but reportedly couldn't find him when it came time to leave.

Harold and Alberta Leach began the search for their son at six a.m. the next morning when they realized that he had not returned home. In the ensuing twenty years, they have heard lots of gossip and theories, and chased down hundreds of false leads, but they have learned nothing of what became of their only child. They have talked to psychics, argued with lawmakers, prodded law enforcement officials, made public appeals, offered rewards, and opened their homes and hearts to hundreds of strangers in the desperate hope that somehow a breakthrough would occur. But there has been no breakthrough.

My youngest son, Tim, and I met the Leaches two years ago when Tim wrote a play about Randy's disappearance for his master's thesis at the University of Kansas. That play, "Leaves of Words," was performed to packed houses for three performances in Lawrence in October of 2006. It stirred lots of comments and controversy, and put the Leaches back in contact with some of Randy's high school friends, but it never solved the mystery.

Harold and Alberta Leach are wonderful people, but they have a hole in their lives that cannot heal. Their son and the car he was driving disappeared twenty years ago without a trace. Some people believe that he witnessed something that he shouldn't have seen, maybe a drug deal, and was silenced. Others think that he fell victim to Satanists who were talked about frequently in news reports of that time. Some believe he may have tried to drive himself home and accidently veered off into a lake or river. Or maybe he overdosed and died, and scared friends found a way to get rid of the car and the body to cover up drug activity. Lots of theories, no results.

What an awful thing for any parent to ever endure. The answer is out there, and somebody needs to do the decent thing and let Harold and Alberta know what happened to their son. The Leaches need the peace of mind that comes with knowing Randy's fate, and somebody needs the peace of mind that would come with getting an awful secret off of his conscience.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rusty Pails #32
More Work for Ermine

by Rocky Macy

“These days everything’s a bargain,” according to Shadetree Mike, “because by the time you get it home the price has gone up.” As always, the Dean of Dominoes is right on the mark…prices generally don’t go down.

That’s why Mike and I both make our major purchases on the used market. Seconds cost less than new merchandise, and if you shop shrewdly, used will appreciate.

I watched Mike in operation at a sale this past weekend. Mike stood quietly by as the auctioneer commenced working his way up and over the mountain of musty memories. Esther Pearl snagged the curtains, hand towels, and yarn. After she pulled her plunder, I found a postcard album that promised a full afternoon of quiet enjoyment. As other members of Sprung Hinge’s smart shopping cadre picked off their prizes, I began to wonder just what it was that Shadetree Mike was after.

It wasn’t long until I had my answer. There, buried beneath one last box of National Geographics and six or eight coats of different colored paints, sat a remarkably sturdy oak kitchen table. Not top of the line material, but a piece that could be restored with a small investment of stripper, glue, and elbow grease.

Truman Treetopper, who likes bidding but avoids buying, bid seventy-five cents and hurried on to the next pile. Esther and I smiled and stayed quiet. (After all, Shadetree Mike hadn’t bid up our purchases.) Some of the others sense a bargain, but Mike still managed to walk away with his gem-in-the-rough at a very reasonable price.

Somewhere today, probably out behind the Pump and Git, Ermine is busy restoring an oak table that will support elbows and dominoes for years to come. And the next time that old table surfaces at a sale, it will wear an expensive label like “antique” or “primitive” … and Mike will have proved his point!

Auction Tip: When something that you were interested in gets sold in a group of several items, step up and the winning bidder if he will sell you what you wanted. The other bidder may have been after something entirely different.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I submitted the following to a blog on the Anderson Cooper 360 website today:
"Billary is absolutely poisonous. Her aim isn't to take this nomination away from Senator Obama, but to ensure that he can't beat McBush in the fall. She hopes to rise from the ashes of the party that she destroyed and become the nominee in 2012. She may well do it, but it will be without my vote.

While Senator Obama stays positive and is occasionally too honest, Billary is all about lying, manipulation, and race-baiting.

I heard a comment a few days ago lamenting that Billary was the only woman "in the pipeline" to become President, and if she didn't do it now, it might be generations before another woman stood a chance. It sounds to me as though the pipeline in need of a good flushing! I submit that any of the following would be more electable and would make a far more honest and reliable Chief Executive for our country than the junior senator from New York: Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Gov. Janet Napolitano, Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator Blanche Lincoln, and even Senator Barbara Boxer.

The curtain needs to fall on the Clinton drama. No third term!"

Sometimes it helps just to spew!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Rusty Pails #31
The Invitation

by Rocky Macy

The Ladies of the Sprung Hinge Sewing Circle and Bucket Brigade have done it again! Just when I think I’ve fought the final battle in defense of my bachelorhood, some “Desperate Dora” rides out from the ranch and tries to rope old Rusty into the tight, unrelenting, bonds of matrimony.

I was at a four-family yard sale a few days back checking out the pre-owned overalls. After picking out a pair that was in better repair than myself, I turned to pay for my purchase and came nose-to-nose with Hazel Harness. Hazel, a matronly type who always smells suspiciously of hot, home-baked bread, seized the initiative and my wrist in one swift motion.

“Rusty,” she gushed, “you’ve saved me a stamp.”

I stepped back quickly, but she managed to get an envelope in my hand with the skill and speed of a veteran process server.

“You’ll speak to our group next week, wont you?” A response was futile because Hazel was on the march. “Of course you will. Any topic, Rusty. Just anything!”

I tried to stammer out polite regrets, but my speech sailed into a sandstorm of dizzying chatter borne on bakery breezes.

“And after your fine talk, you’ll be our guest for an afternoon dessert. Most of us cook as well as we sew. You’ll be surprised!”

Nothing surprises me – especially in Sprung Hinge. I thanked Miss Hazel for the invitation and promised to do my best.

I think my “best” will be getting laryngitis and asking Judge Rufus T. Redbone to pinch-hit for me. (All politicians ought to be good for something – and besides, the Judge loves to hear himself talk!) The Sprung Hinge Sewing Circle and Bucket Brigade will get the surprise, and old Rusty will be free to roam the range and do the sales!

Auction Tip: I’ve known people who carry a general merchandise catalogue to sales to use as a price reference. Paying more for something used that it costs new can take the shine off of your apple!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Meeting David Wilson

MSNBC presented a major event last night, a film that every person in America who has the capacity for rational thought needs to see. It was called Meeting David Wilson. David A. Wilson is a 28-year-old black man from New Jersey with a passion for exploring and understanding his culture, to include illuminating his family's life in America. Through careful research he was able to locate the plantation where his family, then slaves, had acquired the surname Wilson from their masters. Further research lead him to find a contemporary descendant of his family's white masters, David B. Wilson, a 62-year-old restaurateur in North Carolina. The two David Wilsons joined together to explore their past and to talk extensively on the subject of race in America.

This film was amazingly well done. The two Davids met at the old North Carolina plantation house which had been abandoned since the 1950's. Later David A. Wilson fought his way through brush and brambles and succeeded in locating one slave cabin that was still standing. As he explored the barely standing shanty, it was unclear whether David was absorbing his ancestors, or they were absorbing him. It was beautifully done.

There was an engrossing segment where David A. Wilson's extended family of one hundred plus members met David B. Wilson's wife, children, and grandchildren. They spent a day picnicking and getting acquainted, and attended a church service together where the two Davids sat next to each other while taking communion.

David A. Wilson had his DNA tested as a part of this project to see if he was related by blood to the white Wilsons (he wasn't) and to learn where in Africa his family had originated. He learned from that test that his roots were in Ghana. He traveled to Ghana and saw firsthand the prison where his ancestors were kept before being sent in shackles to America. In one of the most moving segments of the film, David told the ghosts of his ancestors in that prison that he was there to let them know that their prayers had been answered and their descendants had finally achieved freedom and dignity.

This film premiered to a packed house at Howard University in Washington, DC. Howard University is a predominately black institution of higher learning that produces more black doctoral degrees than any other university in America. There was a raucous standing ovation for the film as it concluded, followed by ninety minutes of a panel discussion among prominent individuals who discussed the film and its implications. The panel was hosted by NBC news anchor Brian Williams and included a wide range of individuals, both black and white.

The panelist whose words touched me the most was Malaaka Compton-Rock, the wife of comedian Chris Rock. She is a social activist in a poor section of Brooklyn. When the topic of reparations for slavery came up, she commandeered the conversation and lobbied hard for allocating more money toward educating black youth and providing libraries and computer labs equivalent to those that most white youth take for granted.

Every child needs access to good libraries, and all libraries (and schools, and churches) need to have a copy of Meeting David Wilson. If we are truly to understand one another, the process must begin in childhood - and this film is a good place to start the conversation.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Made from Scratch

(The following was published in my former newspaper genealogy column, Rootbound in the Hills, on 28 June 1988. This re-publication is dedicated to my children: Nick, Molly, and Tim Macy. I hope that they treasure the rugged stock from which they emerged.)

Mary SREAVES CLOTFELTER of Monett is a talented writer who has an intense interest in preserving family history. She recently submitted a biographical sketch for publication in The Crowder Quill, the literary magazine of Crowder College. The sketch, "Made from Scratch," won the Gold Quill Award for best non-fiction from a member of the community. The subject, Mary Jane ELLIS SREAVES, was the author's grandmother and my great-grandmother. Cousin Mary and Crowder College have given me permission to share this special piece of family fabric with our Rootbound readers.
"Made from Scratch"


Since I have been appointed to help compile a "centennial cookbook," I remember my widowed paternal grandmother who was a "scratch cook," and wish I had her recipe for horehound candy. Beginning with the leaves of the horehound plants that grew beside her chicken house, she produced pieces of medicinal cough candy which became the forerunner of today's molded cough drops.

Then there was her smothered chicken, which she served when her large family returned home for big pot-luck family dinners on Sunday. Since Grandma hatched her own eggs, she had a surplus of roosters, and they, one by one, became the main dish for those special occasions. Hen's were granted a reprieve because they were destined to become layers of eggs for breakfast, ingredients for the good sorghum cakes Grandma made, and, most importantly, farm income.

Most young roosters are elusive birds and prone to making erratic turns and skids, sometimes becoming airborne when pursued. This made capture difficult for a grandmother past her prime. As a result, Grandma had a "chicken catcher," a long bamboo fishing pole with a wire noose attached at the end. With the aid of this contraption, the target rooster never lived to crow anothe morning, but did utter a few squawks when he was beheaded. This, of course, was the beginning of Grandma's smothered chicken, a real meat stretcher of tender fowl covered with some sort of steaming cream gravy and seasoned with a pinch of this and that. I wish I knew the spices she used.

I also remember the rich blackberry jelly Grandma made from berries she foraged, scratch by scratch, from her rocky hillsides. This delicacy, combined with sweet cream butter churned daily, spread atop a warm slice of her fresh sourdough bread, was a treat to be remembered by her grandchildren, and then passed on! Her house always had a lingering smell of all the good things she had cooked from scratch on her old wood stove.

Now as I reminisce, I realize Grandma was a real "made from scratch" pioneer filled with fortitude and grit. Perhaps it was passed down to her from her ancestors, the earliest settlers of Nantucket Island, and the other hardy folks, including native Americans, who had added to her gene pool along the way. Then there was the circumstance of providence which had helped to give her a perserving spirit.

I wish my children and their children had known this gentle, brave lady, Mary Jane SREAVES, who chose to spend her remaining years on her wilderness land and face the thorns of life. Now owned by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the people of Missouri, it has been set aside as a natural history area.

Little did Grandma know that the last residents of her land would be the wild things, but I think some of her Indian heritage would cause her to be pleased. The wild plum thickets drop their overripe fruit on the ground, the blueberries stain the mouths of the creatures who relish them, and the blackberry brambles cover the old paths and encroach upon the abandoned garden. Daffodils mark the edge of Grandma's long-ago yard, and the sweet smell of her lilacs permeates the springtime air.

Alex and Mary Jane SREAVES lived on their 80-acre farm in northern McDonald County during the early days of this century. Their property, which lies in the hills just beyond Buffalo Creek, was purchased a few years ago by the Missouri Conservation Department and is now known as Buffalo Hills. The state has preserved the natural beauty of the old homestead, and Cousin Mary has captured, on paper, some of the essence of that sprightly pioneer woman who did so much to turn the patch of wilderness into a home. Their efforts help to maintain and fortify a rich family heritage.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Boone at the Bee
by Uncle Tim

To one and all,

Erin and I made the drive down last weekend to see young Boone Macy at the spelling bee. I am happy to report that he blazed through like he'd been spelling for fifty years before finally being tripped up by "anonymous" (which is a hard word to spell for me). He was composed and courteous and even when he had to step out of line he never acted like anything but a gentleman.

They all seem to be doing well down there.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Biggest Losers

Three people on the periphery of this presidential election cycle have proven themselves to be world class losers.

#3: Obviously Bill Clinton (with all of his braying, bullying, and race-baiting) damaged not only his wife's camapign, but also slapped a heavy coat of slime on his legacy.

#2: Senator Joe Lieberman, once a respected member of Congress, now has his nose so far up John McBush's butt that he's little more than the human equivalent of a Depends adult diaper. Old Joe thinks he is going to be Secretary of State, or Defense, or even Vice-President. The trouble is, of course, McBush can't even remember where he parked the Straight Talk Express, much less manage a country - and President Obama probably won't even invite Lieberman to the inauguration. You're riding the wrong horse, Joe!

#1: And the biggest loser - yesterday, today, and for the forseeable future - is George Corley Bush. Yes, the W has slipped into total irrevalance as the nation focuses on the future. His war is being debated by the people who will ultimately have the responsibility of extricating our forces and rebuilding our reputation in the world, and nobody cares what the Prez thinks. He's all hat and no cattle - and the hat is just a beanie! What a wasted presidency!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Rusty Pails #30
Ermine's New Vacuum

by Rocky Macy

Some fish grow faster on dry land than they did in the water, ‘specially in Sprung Hinge!

Shadetree Mike outbid me on a vacuum cleaner a couple of weeks ago. It was a classic --leastways a relic -- that could have entered the used market at Mrs. McKinley’s White House yard sale. For less money that it would take to buy a good cane pole, Mike snagged his prize, complete with a few of its original attachments.

I helped him load the catch into his old pickup truck for the short ride back to town. The vacuum, I figured, would probably be spruced up and presented to Ermine as a birthday or anniversary gift. That Mike sure is a thoughtful cuss!

A few days later, as some of us sat around the domino table at the Pump and Git listening to Mike belch endlessly about matters of no great importance, I noticed Ermine clearing a path with her old straw broom. When Mike finally paused for effect, I interrupted with a question about the fate of the vacuum cleaner.

“Durndest thing I ever saw!” said the Dean of Dominoes, skillfully enticing me with a simple lure.

I nibbled. “It was a junker, wasn’t it?”

“Oh my, no!” Mike stretched his arms to stress the enormity of what was coming and continued. “That old sweeper was just too blamed powerful for the little woman to handle!”

Sensing that Mike’s fish tale was starting to grow, I made a vain attempt to bend the hook. “You mean it pulled the flowers off of the wallpaper?” I chortled.

“Or drew all the heat off of the wood stove and floated out the window?” interjected Judge Rufus T. Redbone, a seasoned political angler.

Now you boys are getting too far-fetched for this neighborhood,” Mike laughed, spit, and continued, “”Ermine had me get rid of it ‘cause she couldn’t change the bag.”

“How’s that?”

Mike laughed as he set the hook and began reeling me in. “The blamed thing sucked the carpet tacks out of the floor and nailed the bag inside the sweeper!”

Old Rusty had been nailed, too – leastways hooked and landed!

Auction Tip: If something you want is about to be auctioned off in a lot, ask the auctioneer to sell your item individually. There’s no point in bidding on things you don’t want.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Correspondence as History

The following was also taken from a Rootbound in the Hills column from twenty years ago. It was good advice then, and it remains so today:
More Ramblings: Last week I discussed the importance of preserving the history of your immediate family, and suggested keeping a daily journal as one way of meeting this important obligation to the future. I neglected to mention that a lot of family history is written down and then thrown out. Personal letters, those from relatives and friends, offer a wealth of information about the day-to-day ordinary experiences that make up life. Most good family historians supplement their journal-writing with a correspondence file. Gramma's letters may not mean much today, but they will after she's been gone for a few years! Some people even go so far as to copy the letters that they send to others, and place the copies in their files.

If you don't preserve your own history, some day your trail through life may fade to little more than what's chiseled on your tombstone. Think about! And don't even get me started on the importance of labelling photographs and snapshots!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Journaling in the 21st Century

As mentioned in this blog on prior occasions, I am busy placing my old genealogy column, Rootbound in the Hills, into another blog. Today, while carefully typing column #35 out of 242, I came across something that I wrote 20 years ago about the importance of preserving family history. It is shared below:
Rootbound Ramblings: Genealogy involves far more than just tracking down ancestors. A significant aspect of the work is the preservation of your immediate family history. Most genealogical "how to" books stress the importance of keeping a journal, a daily account of your journey through life. Imagine how excited you would be to discover a journal or diary that was kept by an ancestor 200 years ago. Wouldn't it be fascinating to hear that ancestor's story, in his or her own words! That's the same type of impact that your story might have on your descendants a century or two from now. But they won't have it to read unless you take the time to write - everyday! Get started - I have!

Today, I no longer journal like I did somewhat obsessively for over ten years, but I do blog. Pa Rock's Ramble is the dusty old diary that I am setting aside for my descendants. I hope that they find it. I hope that they enjoy it!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Russia (9)
Night Train Out of Moscow

by Rocky Macy

We had been in Moscow for the better part of a week when the time came to move on to St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg, which had been called Leningrad during the Socialist era, was built 300 years ago on the Gulf of Finland by Czar Peter the Great. He had the swamps drained and built a beautiful winter capital along the lines of the more modern cities of Europe.

We left Moscow late in the afternoon. One of our Russian guides, Irina, saw us off at the train station. I remember her lamenting that once we saw St. Petersburg, we would forget all about Moscow.

Our British guides stayed with us through the remainder of the tour to St. Petersburg and on to Sweden. Our train ride would take the entire night, and we were warned repeatedly by our guides to lock ourselves into our compartments (3-man) and not to answer the door for anyone unless we knew absolutely who was knocking. It was, they assured us, extremely dangerous to go to the club car and mingle. Not wanting to die on a train (or be robbed and then thrown off of a train), I heeded their advice. There was absolutely nothing to be seen from the window in our car, and I slept soundly until sunrise which found us arriving in St. Petersburg.

Irina was right. St. Petersburg was a beautiful city.

More later.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Russia (8)
Street Life

by Rocky Macy

Russia in the late 1990's was going through a complexity of social changes. As a socialist state for most of the century, it had marginal health care, but that marginal health care was available to everyone. Russia was establishing itself as a decidedly non-socialist democracy by the time of our visit in May of 1999. The people were experiencing more freedoms, but they also were acquiring some of the worst features of the purely capitalist world. One of those features was pay-as-you-go health care. Many times during our brief stay I saw people lying on the sidewalks writhing in pain and moaning in despair. A person who had no money or a family capable of assisting, would find himself living on the streets - much as the legions of homeless who live in America. The collapse of socialism also brought down the social safety nets.

The streets were full of people making a living the best they could. Young people would approach tourists selling everything from hats, to Russian nesting dolls, to religious icons, to coins and stamps. They worked in cash and were eager to negotiate. Some of these vendors sold water. We quickly learned that unless you specified "no gas", you were given carbonated water - and it was awful!

There were street musicians and entertainers, especially in the subway stations. One day as I was walking several blocks from downtown to our hotel in St. Petersburg, I remember stopping and watching a woman standing under a bridge who was covered with live snakes. Passersby would drop money into her tip jar.

One evening a few friends and I decided to go on a nocturnal adventure in Moscow without our tourguides. We got directions for how to get to an area on the other side of the city where there were street musicians and a lot of music. We boarded the Moscow subway and somehow managed to get to the area that we sought. The bands were just shutting down, but we walked around and visited with the young Russian night people. Later we made it safely back to our hotel.

(The Moscow subways are located several stories below ground - even deeper than the Metro in Washington, DC. We were told that they were designed that way to serve as a shelter in case of nuclear war.)

Another time my friend Andy and I were trying to ride the subway back to our hotel from downtown St. Petersburg. We asked several people at the subway station, but weren't having any luck communicating where we wanted to go. Finally a lady took pity on us and directed us to follow her. She led us throught the station, up a back set of stairs, and to a taxi!

God doesn't have time to solve all of the world ills because she is too busy watching after tourists!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Greetings from Arizona

Spring is less that two weeks old, and it is already becoming uncomfortably hot in Arizona. In fact, Arizona only has two seasons: hot and not so hot. It is heating up so quickly that the snowbirds will soon start packing up and returning to their homes in Missouri, and Minnesota, and Maine, and other places that boast four seasons instead of two.

The cacti are blooming, and they are beautiful! Yesterday I watched as a hummingbird flitted from bloom to bloom on a large cactus. The orange trees are littering the sidewalks and driveways with their sweet fruit, and the grapefruit are starting to drop as well.

Arizona is still gun crazy. The state legislature spends an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out ways to get all citizens to arm themselves. This in a state where you can't buy a firecracker! Go figure! Maybe heat makes you stupid!

And, to frost the cake, a local is running for President. John McBush thinks he is going to move into the White House. McBush will probably carry Arizona because the average state age is about 90, and many would like to give the "kid" a break!

Meanwhile, me and the scorpions will hunker down in the shade of a sun-scorched cactus and enjoy the hot season.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Rusty Pails #29:
And the Band Played On

by Rocky Macy

You may have already heard about it on the scanner, but, if not, notice is hereby given that the Sprung Hinge Clank ‘n Clatter Brigade (one of the best kitchen bands in town) is practicing again on Saturday nights behind Shadetree Mike’s Pump and Git.

Mike’s Ermine and Miss Lucy Longtooth are conspiring on some new vocal duets that could crack an engine block on a Mack truck as it flees down the Interstate. The ever-versatile Judge Rufus T. Redbone vacillates between playing lead saw, kazoo, and spoons. Esther Pearl is back on the washboard after one season with cowbells and the four-slice toaster. (Miss Lola Longtooth, our newest member, will debut on bells. Esther sold the toaster.) Gladys “Is there a man in the house?” Clench plunks a banjo she made from a cake pan and a girdle, while Truman Treetopper sits beside her playing his false teeth with one hand and his armpit with the other.

And Rusty? Well, I’m still on the electric blender. My high notes leave something to be desired, but man, can I puree!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Rusty Pails #28:
Hat Pins and Lug Nuts

by Rocky Macy

It’s not a magic word, but just whispering it around an auction is guaranteed to drive the price up on almost anything. Would you like to know the most expensive word in an auctioneer’s vocabulary? Well, sirs (and ma’ams), here it is: collectibles.

That’s right. Collectibles. And it doesn’t make any difference what you hang it on – or what shape it’s in – just say it’s a collectible and some durned fool will plop down U.S. cash money!

Anyone can collect anything – salt and pepper shakers, political buttons, and costume jewelry are always in demand. Truman Treetopper, when he was still in his prime, ‘acquired’ a collection of ashtrays from every business within a fifty-mile radius of Sprung Hinge. His assortment was so complete that when the Chamber of Commerce needed a business address or phone number, they would just phone Truman and he’d check his collection!

Other collectors lean more toward the exotic. Take for example the case of the Longtooth spinsters. Miss Lucy works as the night cashier down at Herb’s Truck Oasis. She has a collection of lug nuts off of big rigs from every state in the nation. Her sister, Miss Lola, specializes in hatpins. (I speculate that the hatpins are for protection in case some crazed truckers ever figure out what’s happening to their lug nuts!)

Not even old jaded Rusty Pails is immune from the “collectible” craze. I have a collection of busted household furniture and appliances that are too big for the trash man to take. I’ve been working on it ever since the dump closed!

Auction Tip: Bad weather can be good news. It will keep some people away from a sale and increase your chances of getting bargains. Just break out the old umbrellas and see if it ain’t so!