Para Skiing

In the winters of my youth I remember while it could get bitter cold inside our drafty wood heated three room shack, we rarely got much snow. What snow we did get blew south into Texas.

One year the wind had died down and about twelve inches of the white stuff was on the ground and I get an idea.

 Going out to the shed I dig out an old pair of water skis that someone had left there. Then going to my uncle’s pasture I “barrowed” the genuine US Army parachute with lines attached that he used to cover his haystack. I didn’t bother to ask. I knew it was okay. : )

 Our house was just below the crest of a long steep hill and with the paved road that ran in front of it froze over, it made the perfect setting for what I had in mind.

Putting the parachute in a box I haul it and the skis to the top of the hill. I was just getting ready when Raymond showed up wanting to know what I was doing. I explained, knowing what was next and sure enough he pulled the “I’m older than you, so I go first” card.

He slipped his boots into the ski binding and I tied the parachute lines to his belt, under his coat. The wind had picked up considerably. Taking the parachute from the box, I wadded it as tight as I could and at his signal, threw it high into the air.

Raymond disappeared !

Were it not for the tracks in the snow and that blood curdling scream, you’d never knowed he was there.

 I ran to the crest of the hill and see Raymond crossing Skull Creek a half mile away and picking up speed. Looked like he was dancing, but I found out later that he had his knife out trying to cut the lines.

There was nothing to do but follow him. That road ran straight as an arrow for three miles, then doglegged to the right. Raymond had picked up enough speed that he was just hitting the top of the small hills on the straight. The first one, he made perfectly, but on the second one I saw a broken ski off the side of the road and on the third one, it looked like someone had tried to plow the snow with a sack of taters.

The tracks didn’t turn at the curve and I saw where he had jumped the ditch, was dragged up the bank and canon balled through an old wood fence. I found the second ski in pieces in a field of corn stubble. The parachute and Raymond I found flapping in the wind on a barbed wire fence. I heard Raymond tell my granny later that had it not been for that fence, he’d a been having his supper in Houston.

So there ends my story. The skis were broke , the parachute ripped apart and Raymond looking like he’d went three quick rounds with a bobcat.

I never did get my turn and have since realized that when Raymond was around, I never did have any fun. : )

J C 

Raymond

I have mentioned Raymond a few times in my blogs. Raymond was my cousin a couple of years older than me. Back in the day he was my best friend and favorite victim. Yeah, I loved him like a brother.

Every summer Raymond would spend a couple of weeks with my grandmother and I, but being a city boy, would grow bored and homesick after a week of fishing and running the woods.

One morning we sit on the porch doing the “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” game, when I mentioned a game of hide and seek. Though we were both a little old for that Raymond thought it a grand idea. The rules were he could hide in the house, but not outside and I’d search for him. Yeah, as I lived there and knew everywhere he could hide, the game was slightly rigged. Just the way I liked it.

So I give Raymond the count of one million nine hundred thousand five hundred forty three. That took about five minutes. (I never was too good with numbers) Going in I look in every nook and cranny. No Raymond. Finally with my superior powers of deduction I hear him breathing in my grandmother’s closet. That closet was two wide boards. One going up and the other going across on top, set against the wall. A large piece of cloth across the front was the “door”. I don’t say a word to Raymond, but go outside and in a short time found what I was looking for.

Going back in, I stand in front of the closet and call, “Raymond!” No answer. “Raymond ! I have something to show you!” Still no answer. I try again. “Raymond. I know you are in the closet. Stick your head out here and see this. You’ll really like it !”

Sure enough Raymond pokes his head out of the closet and said “What is it?”

“A dry cat turd!” I yell and “Here! Smell !” I shove it up his nose.

Oh my!

 It was Frankenstein in drag, wearing the door cloth as a cape that came charging out of the closet, giggling and drooling in an insane delight at the mayhem he planned to do to my personage ! I didn’t stop to tell him that my grandmother’s two dresses hanging off him actually didn’t look that bad on him.  I was too busy leaving.

I hit the front screen door at warp speed with Raymond hot on my heels. I cleared a three strand barb wire fence, but Raymond hadn’t quite reached it when my grandmother’s shout brought us both up short. She wasn’t happy with Raymond wearing her dress, much less two. I made sure not to be alone with Raymond the rest of the day and that evening his mother came to get him. I was safe for another year. : )

JC

 

What it was, was Grizz !

Raymond and I had talked about our very first alone over night fishing trip for months before school was out for the summer. It was my sixth year and Raymond two years older and I set out the weekend after our last day of school. Those were the days when there was no camp trailers or RV’s with modern conveniences.  Our total equipment was two fish poles, a few hooks, two blankets, a fry pan, some matches, a couple cans of sardines and my grandmother’s ax.

We set up camp on a sandbar on Skull Creek, a half mile from the house. There was shade, the sand was soft and the water deep. A perfect place to camp. It didn’t take long to gather firewood, catch a few grasshoppers for bait and get our lines in the water, but the fish weren’t biting. After the longest fifteen minutes I can remember with no bites, we decided to look for fish, just to be sure they were there, you understand. Some might think we were just swimming and playing in the water, but this was scientific research in it’s purest form. Everyone knows that you can’t catch fish where there are no fish!

The day wore on and soon the shadows grew long and darkness was upon us. We lit the fire and each ate a can of sardines. A fish camp counsel decided that we’d go to bed early and be on the bank waiting when the fish got up for breakfast.

I was rolled up in my blanket and it seemed that I was barely asleep when a stick bounced off my head. Looking up about to explain to Raymond the dangers of messing with me while I was sleeping, I see him pointing a finger into the darkness. In the dying light of the campfire I see eyes ! Horrible huge unblinking eyes! Hungry eyes that surrounded us! Scooting over to Raymond for a war counsel, it was decided that a pack of hungry grizzly bears ha us trapped on the sandbar.

Those bears thought that they had an easy meal of two young boys. Little did they realize that they had encountered a couple of fierce warriors of the Creek Nation. Oh. We would die. There was no doubt, but we would sell our lives dearly!

At a given signal, we jumped to our feet. Raymond with the ax and me with a stick of firewood. Back to back we stood waiting for the charge, but the grizz was coward! After a few moments, Raymond  threw the ax and charged the closest bear. His Creek war cry echoed off the hills. Proud I was of him. More my brother in bravery than my cousin. Could I do any less? My war cry on my lips I charged the bear in front of me. Oh coward bear! To this day I hold you in contempt for turning tail and running. The sound of your retreat as you crashed through the brush marked your shame !

As I was facing the direction of the house, should I stay and die trying to avenge my brother’s death or should I go warn everyone and gather others to track the marauding bears and exact revenge from them all? I chose to warn. My feet barely touched the ground as I flew across the fields. I heard one grizz giving chase, but I left it in my dust.

I had just burst through the gate when a miracle happened. Raymond was already on the porch ! To this day I’m not sure how that happened. My grandmother seemed more concerned about being woke at 2 a.m. than bears and ordered us to the bed in the screened in porch. It was noon the next day, armed with bb guns we were under strict orders to return for her ax and the rest of our gear. Keeping a close watch in case he bears had planned an ambush we approached our camp and saw the proof of the night before.

Cow prints all over the place! Those sneaky grizz had tied cow hooves to their paws so no one would know they were around! An old grizz trick, but every one knows that ! : )

JC

 

Red Ryder

On my sixth Christmas my cousins all got bb guns. I got a new homemade shirt and a new ax to cut wood with. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

One of my uncle’s girlfriends gave me an old Red Ryder bb gun that she had as a child. Life was good!

I can’t tell you of how many invasions by the tin can nation, I saved our country from. Gotta watch them sneaky critters as they mass silently then attack with no warning. : )

With my trusty Red Ryder I feared no evil and would skulk the underbrush for hours on end, always on guard against tin can attack.

One day as I lay concealed I saw my grandmother heading for the clothesline with an aluminum wash pan of wet clothes under her arm. I knew that once the pan was empty it would attack her and chomp her into so much Injun goo. I waited and watched.

When the last shirt was on the line, she picked up the pan and apparently in a good mood, skipped a little as she went back toward the house, swinging the pan behind her as she went.

Mentally adjusting for windage, elevation and the swing of the pan, I took aim and fired!

Oh my!

My grandmother yelped in pain and rage! Turning on her grandkid radar she wheeled around and zeroed right in to where I was hidden.

When it came to my grandmother I believed in the old adage “He who shoots Granny in the butt, then runs away, lives to shoot another day!” I left my position.

I cut across an open space thinking to put a few hundred miles between me and home for the rest of the day. half way across, the piece of firewood comes from out of nowhere and I’m suddenly eating dirt. I imagine that dirt might not be too bad with plenty of seasoning, but plain dirt tastes like … well, dirt ! 

I didn’t lose my gun nor get switch and the lump on my head only lasted a few days. Not bad, as it helped keep my hat on in the wind. So I guess I got off lucky. : )

JC

 

Old Sam the inspiration for Potlicker in my books.

I first met Old Sam when my running partner and I was out looking for old car bodies to restore. We saw one in a field and pulled into the farmer’s yard. We were greeted by a pack of mongrels that barked, yipped and wagged their tails in anticipation of the boy leg dinner they were about to have. Luckily for us the farmer came out and asked (demanded to know) what we wanted. My partner was the talker of the pair of us. I generally can’t do more than grunt when some beast is chawing on my leg.

About that time the farmer pauses in his conversation with my partner to look at me and said, “Don’t let that dog chaw you, boy! Kick him away!”  I mutter something about how I like dogs and it didn’t hurt. The farmer may not have heard what I said, but the dog did and redoubled it’s efforts to gnaw some of the meat off my bones. Finally the conversation between my partner and the farmer was over. They had agreed to disagree. My partner offered the vast sum of nothing and the farmer wanted something for the old car. Me, I was just happy to be going, as that dog was getting intense. As I turned to go to the passenger side of my partner’s car, when this dirty, stinky huge dog critter jumps up and puts his forepaws on my shoulder. One bite and my head would be checking for oil leaks under my partner’s car. When the dog licked my neck, the only person more surprised than me was the farmer. “That’s Old Sam.” He said. “Sam don’t like anyone. He barely tolerates me!”  I pat the dog’s massive head and he licks me again. “You oughta take him home, he likes you so well,” said the farmer. So I suffered through twenty miles of hot stinky big dog in my lap to my house.

Sam was a great dog. He put himself between a prairie wolf and me. I know he was too smart to fight it, but he would if he had to protect me.

He was also a serious hunter. When Sam sniffed around and then put his forepaws on a tree trunk, there was a squirrel in that tree. If you didn’t see it or worse, missed your shot, he’d figure you weren’t  really trying to make meat and would go home, leaving you there.

I once stopped the tractor I was driving in the hayfield to catch a baby rabbit to take home to my little cousin who stayed with us. It was a wasted effort, as my cousin could care less about some flea ridden rabbit. I took it into our pasture to let it go. Sam went with me. I set the bunny down and it dashed into some weeds. I get this idea and tell Sam to go get it. He looked at me like I was stupid. Had I wanted the durn thing then why did I let it go? As I was going to town that night I went back to the house. When I was ready to go to town, I walked out and saw Sam sitting by the gate. The bunny hung limp from his mouth.

I felt bad and told Sam that I had said “Get it”, but had said nothing about killing it. He lowered he head and set the bunny on the ground. It dashed off into our garden. Sam got a half pound of bologna for that one.

The years passed and I went into the service. Two years later I came back to the farm on leave. Old Sam growled and snapped like he was going to tear me up. I talked to him and let him sniff my hand. In fact I couldn’t get my hand away from the big wet nose. After a bit he remembered who I was and you would have thought that he was a puppy the way he ran in circles yipping and carrying on. Finally he sat beside me and took my hand in those huge jaws. Not to bite, but to hold while he licked my hand.

A short time after I returned to the service I got a letter from my granny. She wrote “You know, Old Sam died:. Reckon you’d want to know.”

Someday in the not too distant future Old Sam and I will hunt again.

JC

 

aka Jesse James

The summer before I started kindergarten my mother ran off and my dad was nowhere to be found. My little sister and I hadn’t eaten in a couple of days. I carried her to some good neighbors and asked if they had a extra sandwich or some leftovers they didn’t want and maybe they would feed her. Mighty fine folks in those days. They took her in. When they asked me if I wasn’t hungry, I said “No. I had just finished off a big plate of boiled cabbage.”  It was a bald faced lie, but even in those days I had a foolish pride, though being barefoot wearing only a pair of dirty ragged shorts, I can see now I didn’t have much to be proud of.

I didn’t hang around to watch Cherri, my sister eat, but instead went down the block to the corner drugstore. Back in those days drugstores also had a place where you could order and eat ice cream. That was my destination. I climbed up on a stool and the kid working behind the counter asked what I wanted. I pulled out my six shooter finger and told him that I was Jesse James and would shoot him if he didn’t give me a strawberry ice cream. The young man (who seemed old to me at the time) had the wisdom to believe me. Which is just as well because I’d have surely plugged him. He must have been a brave person as his hand didn’t shake much when he set the dish of ice cream in front of me, topped with whipped cream, crushed nuts and a cherry. After I had eaten and was walking out the door, he said, “Oh and Jesse? We don’t have a lot of business here, so only rob this place once every summer.” I agreed, but you know, I think that was the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my life.

I left Cherri with the Bowens and they raised her as their own for fourteen years, until dad remembered her and tracked her down. Me? I went on home. Figured if I cleaned the place up, maybe either mom or dad would come back. I guess Mrs. Bowen called my grandmother. She came and got me. Now times were hard back then and she couldn’t afford both my sister and I living with her. So the Bowens kept Cherri and I lived with my grandmother until I went into the service.

Like I said, there was some mighty fine folks back then.

Inspiration for my book The House in Banes Meadow

I’m a packrat and have been one since childhood. I once carried, pushed, rolled and tugged a fifty-five gallon drum for over two miles in the summer heat with visions of hidden treasure sealed inside. I was right! If your idea of treasure is a couple of gallons of crude oil. (We used the barrel for a burn barrel, so it was not a totally wasted effort.)

When I first “discovered” the two story abandoned house that had been there since the dust bowl days, once again visions of found treasures danced through my head. I searched the first floor and found nothing except a very dark cupboard off the kitchen. It looked a lot like a snake den, so I just poked my head inside and went on looking around the place. In the living-room there was a massive natural stone fireplace with stairs that went behind it leading to the second floor. Upstairs there were four empty bedrooms and two more steps up to a door going to the attic.

Just before my hand touched the doorknob a feeling of dread washed over me. Back then I wasn’t “chicken”, but I did have henhouse ways. I left in haste.

For a couple of days my mind was occupied wondering what lay behind that door. Was it pirate booty, millions of dollars stashed by some long departed miser? But how to get past the obvious spook who guarded it … Then it came to me ! My cousin Raymond !

Raymond was a couple of years older than me, but was rather gullible in his youth. I looked him up and told him, “I found this old house, but haven’t gone inside as I was saving it for us to explore together.” (I was known to stretch the truth a bit back then) “Let’s go there in the morning and you take the upstairs. There may be a staircase beside the fireplace and once upstairs if you see a door leading to the attic, check that out too. Oh and Raymond? Bring your rifle.”

 We got there around ten the next morning. Raymond goes upstairs and as I had already searched the first floor, I sit down on a window sill and light up a smoke I had “borrowed” from my grandmother.

Upstairs I hear Raymond clumping around in each bedroom. Then silence.

“Raymond?” I call. No answer. I called again. Still nothing. After the third time, I’m getting concerned. Why doesn’t he answer?

“Raymond!” I yell. “I’m coming up those stairs and if you jump out and scare me, I might shoot you!”  Nothing.

In my best Sergeant Saunders from the TV show “Combat”, I charge up those stairs ready to wage war against the Nazi horde that held Raymond hostage.

I come to a screeching halt when I see Raymond on the first step, his hand on the doorknob of the door leading to the attic. I ask him what’s wrong. No answer. I step beside him and his eyes look at me, then at the doorknob, then back at me again. I realize that he is frozen in fear. Not wanting to touch him with the bare skin of my hand incase I get frozen too, I kick his hand off the doorknob. As soon as he’s free he yells “Get the hell outta here!” He runs down the stair in such a hurry he forgets his rifle leaning against the wall. I snag it on the run and find him waiting in the yard. As we were outside anyway, we thought it best to postpone any more exploration for another day and went home.

Years later a tornado took the second floor off the house. Scattered across the pasture was old trunks, clothing and broken furniture. All the things a young treasure hunter would love to find.

But yuh know … To this day I believe that there was something in that attic that didn’t want any kids messing around.

I like Pie

It was a different time and place in the Oklahoma of my youth. Back then there was no special taxes or levees. If a school or a church needed extra money they would have a pie auction. The local women folk would all prepare a homemade meal and a fresh baked pie to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. The winner of the bid would not only get a great meal, but also the company of the woman who cooked it. AND if he was very lucky and she was unattached, she might consent to a stroll under the bright Oklahoma moon, where he might even get a kiss. Now don’t get me wrong. This was in the days before sex was invented. Not even married folk did “it”. Makes me wonder how the species survived! Must be some truth in my grandmother telling me that I was found under a cabbage leaf … But I digress.
In addition to the auction there would be a barn dance, a fist fight out back for those with a grudge and a jug of moonshine for those with a thirst. Yup a good time was had by all.

It was in my thirteenth summer that I fist bid in a pie auction.
I had worked all week for Old Man Adams, the meanest stingiest man in the county. On Saturday I drew wages and hurried home. I washed up in a tub, as we didn’t have running water, used a little of the same grease to slick back my hair as I used to put a shine on my boots and got into my Sunday go to meetin clothes. In my excitement I had forgotten that I was riding Tippy, our mule. So back into my work clothes and out to saddle her up, before going back into the house to change again.
I arrived at the church only an hour or two early and was recruited to help set up chairs. Afterwards I stooged around hoping to see which female brought what picnic basket into the back room of the church. The rule was that only the auctioneer (in this case my uncle) knew which basket belonged to who. He told me that he would give me a signal when the basket belonged to someone I’d like.
Finally after what seemed forever, the auction started. No hawk ever watched a rabbit closer that I did my uncle. After a few decades (or so I thought) I had decided that he had forgotten about me. Then he looked straight at me and raised his little finger. I joined the bidding. The only problem was that Mike Sanders (My best friend and main competitor) and his rich pappy sat in the row ahead of me. Mike saw the signal too and figuring out what it meant, joined the bidding too.
Back inthose days money was money and most baskets were won around five dollars or less, but that amount was gone in about a minute and soon it was just Mike and I bidding against each other. The bid increased in fifty cent increments and eight dollars flew by so fast, I didn’t see it. Then the unheard of amount of ten dollars zoomed by and I’m starting to sweat. I only have fourteen dollars and twenty-five cents to my name. At thirteen dollars, I see Mike’s dad elbow him in the ribs and I won the bid.
She was beautiful. Though time has erased her name, I can still see her face. I have no idea of what was in the basket nor what kind of pie there was. For all I know I may have eaten the napkins too. She was down from Kansas visiting kinfolks, but was going home the next day. And yes, she agreed to taking a stroll and yes, I got my first kiss from a real live girl.
That evening as I rode home, old Tippy walked on clouds as my heart followed my mind somewhere north of the Kansas border.
And yuh now … to this day I like pie!

Dale Clancy

Dale Clancy was a friend of mine and my hero when I was a child. He was a drifter and in early years would have been considered a hobo.

If truth was known, it was Dale that gave me my first drink of beer and taught me how to cheat at poker. All things that a boy should know, though had my grandmother found out there would have been Ned to pay on both our parts.

Dale was a ranch hand for the Alllens and slept in their bunkhouse along with the rest of the hired hands. I think my granny was sweet on him as she was always having me take homemade pies to the bunkhouse and inviting him to Sunday dinner.

Back in those days we (my grandmother and I) did what’s called “dry land farming”. We’d put in an acre garden by hand so her worthless kids who rarely helped in the garden, could fill their larders come harvest time. (Yes, grandma ! I’m little and mean and got no sense of family) We didn’t have running water. You try watering an acre of garden by hand and carrying a water bucket and then talk little and mean ..but I digress.

Part of dry land farming is you burn the dried garden and plant in another garden. That lets the nutrients go back into the ground.

One fall my grandmother and I were burning off that years garden when the fire got away from us. The whole durn countryside went up in flames. Back in those days people were people and soon there was cars parked in our drive and along each side of the road by people we mostly didn’t know, fighting that fire. (May God bless everyone of them) As soon as folks started to arrive, my grandmother had me pumping buckets of water, handing out tow sacks and keeping an eye on Poppa Tip (Her blind father and my great grandfather)

 After a while there was no more buckets nor tow sacks. I go in and check on Poppa. I sit down on the couch and go fast asleep.

 Of a sudden I hear someone yelling from the back of the house. I ran out to find Dale covered in soot trying to beat the flames coming at the house with a dry tow sack. I grab his empty bucket and fill it. By the time I get there, the tow sack is on fire and he’s beating at the flames with his jacket. Together we put that part of the fire out.

A couple days later, my grandmother tells me to go find dale and invite him to supper. When I got to the bunkhouse it was a pile of still smoldering cinders. When I looked up Mr. Allen he told me that his pastures were burned and he’d sold most of his cows that survived. He didn’t need but one or two hired hands to work what he had left and had paid off the rest and sent them on their way. I went back home and told my grandmother. I think I may have heard her crying in bed that night, but can’t be sure.

Though the years have been many since I last saw Dale and I’m sure that he crossed over years ago, I’d still like to shake his hand and buy him some expensive sipping whiskey. But I ain’t playing cards with him!

About my books

My main reason for writing this series was to give new life to the old Native American legends before they fade into history. Yes, I have changed the tales to fit into today’s world, but have tried to convey the smell of a small lodge fire where the grandmother’s and grandfathers sit in the shadows teaching the young the legends of their tribe.

In respect to the two main characters in this series, Ray Corngrower and John Littlefeather. I’d like to point out that both of these men suffered loss. Ray, his fiancé and John, his wife were both killed. The series demonstrates how each copes with his loss. Ray grieves in the most dejected manner, but picks up and goes on with life. John rides the vengeance trail and has many adventures. His son loses all memory of him and believes that his father (the man who adopted him) was killed in an accident. John cannot bear to look at his son, as he sees his deceased wife. Thus her spirit does not go on out of concern for her husband and her son. While John is brave in the face of physical danger, he is also an emotional coward. The underlying story is how both men overcome their pain of loss.