Friday, December 10, 2010

Blobbing for Connor's Swim Team

Recently, we received a schedule of Connor's swim meets. I decided that I would not miss a single meet. Well, I missed the first one because I'm me. You know... Flagboy. On the day of the second meet, I found a good parking spot on the east end of the school and ran inside to find the pool.(Me? Running? Yeah, rright.) But I was hurrying.

I hustled like a man on a quest. I kept thinking I could smell the pool, or at least, feel the dampness in the air. When I got to the FAR west end of Jordan High, I finally lost faith in my keen nasal instincts and asked a guy where the swimming pool was. He seemed like a fellow who had been asked many many stupid questions by many decades of students, but this one had him stumped for a second or two. "There's no swimming pool."

Acting on his instructions, I went screaming for Mount Jordan Jr. High School where Jordan was competing with Grantsville. Connor is a senior and a team captain. The meet was fun and, of course, Con-man did really well.

I decided that, considering my navigational skills, I would stick to "home meets" for awhile. I had MJJH's location down pretty well, because we had watched Jodi compete there in gymnastics. The next meet was against Pleasant Grove. By this time I had my swagger back and went strolling in a half hour early. Things were looking smooth. But, alas, a girl met me at the door. "We need timers! Will you help?" I politely declined. "But it's really really easy, and you will do great." This poor girl had no knowledge of the whole "Flagboy" thing. She was very determined and I soon found myself sitting on a timer's bench. Connor came along, quite surprised to see me there. He was really excited for me. He, too, had no real grasp of "D-flaggs".

Okay... Ya hold two buttons. Ya push the right hand button at the instant the heat starts and both buttons at the instant the heat ends. Simple. I had no idea what the second button did, but I didn't care. I was on lane six where the younger kids compete, and sometimes lane six was empty. Nice. The kids all jumped off a platform. I was doing well. That is until the kids all jumped into the pool and then took their starting spot IN the pool, for the backstroke. I was confused, but just for ONE second. The starting horn was, for me, the STARTLING horn. I was most of one second late. I felt sooo bad. I worried about being arrested and thrown into a cell with Brian David Mitchell or Mark Hoffman or the guy with all the facial tattoos. The swim meet went well the rest of the way. The timer sitting next to me casually said, "Oh by the way, this is just "backup" timing. The actual timing is all electronic."

I was so busy with that stupid timer that I almost didn't get to see Connor compete. Oh well, it was great being ther with him. I assumed for some insanely wacky reason, that the boys dressing room was on tne south end and the girls were on the north. Oh, no. As I started out the south door, the one I thought I came in, a woman grabbed me and said, "you can't go out through the girls dressing room."

But, really, I am finding my way around the facility quite well. No. Really. I just wear a fake mustache and shades so the timer girl will never remember me.

And to think: Barbara called Jodi one day this week. She thought she heard some background noise. "What's going on?" Jodi replied, "Oh, I'm just feeding fifty swimmers." Sometimes I wonder if Jodi realizes how much I sacrificed that day to help Connor out.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Still 500 Miles Away From Home

Once in a while I come across an old old song by Bobby Bare.(This is an old, old, old song in blobfish years.) The name of it is "500 miles from home". This song became a favorite the instant I heard it in the 1960s. It struck a chord with me because I had hitch-hiked a lot when I was a kid. A whole lot more than my parents ever knew about! Living in La Sal, near Moab, I found that "thumbing" got me into Moab or Monticello much more easily than trying to arrange rides. (Thumbing could be pretty tense. I remember being stranded near Church Rock, 20 miles north of Monticello, for many hours one Sunday afternoon with NO traffic and a snowstorm blowing in, and me in a t-shirt.)

I yearned greatly for my old home town of Alma, Co. In about 1956, when I was about fifteen, I announced to my parents one day that I had saved almost enough money in my baby-sitting account to ride the Trailways Bus from Moab to Fairplay, Co. and back again two weeks later. All I needed was a few dollars for spending money. They agreed and my plans were made. Jack and Margie said they they were looking forward to seeing me.

Problem. The bus came through Moab at 3:30 a.m. Dad woke me up at 2:30 and we were on our way. We got into town soon after three o'clock on a warm July morning. Dad offered to sit with me 'til the bus arrived. I said "oh, no, I will be just fine." As his taillights disappeared around the corner I broke into a run. I was danged if I was going to waste 13 dollars and a few cents on bus fare!

I got to the north end of town in really good time, heavy suitcase and all. Ten or fifteen minutes went by. Here came the bus. The wind-draft off that big old thing 'bout blew me over. I felt some real remorse as I stood there in the darkness.

I absolutely cannot remember who picked me up and dropped me off at Crescent Junction. My next ride was with a trucker. Hmmm... Maybe he picked me up in Moab! Hey, this happened 53 years ago! I should remember everything?? He told me to be ready for a very sudden jolt at any time. He said it was his policy to slam on the brakes full blast if he saw anything that remotely resembled a cop-car. People who gave kids like me rides were in great need of someone to talk to. He dropped me in
Grand Junction.

My next ride was with a guy who was having some car trouble. No surprise. 63.28% of all cars had trouble in those days. We made it through Montrose before his car boiled over. He told me to watch the car while he (A looked for a large tin can and (B walked down to the river to fill it. I was silently cursing my luck as he wandered along the highway and then down to the river - a river that I couldn't even SEE! Being a stupidly loyal kid, I could not jump out and flag down the next driver.

I sat there wishing I had elected to take the north route through Glenwood Springs, but being trapped on Hoosier Pass with NO traffic didn't appeal to me. I knew that feeling. We chugged into Gunnison without further incident. As I stood there on the east end of Gunnison, my heart sank. Here came an older car pulling a large trailer house. Being a stupidly caring lad I could not say "go 'way. Move on!" The auto was filled with a huge family of Hispanic people. They spoke more English with their hands than they did with their mouths. There were at least four of us in the front seat and who knows how many urchins in the back. I thought I could see about ten legs and eleven arms back there, all moving randomly about. A very happy family indeed. The driver, whom I shall call Pepe, cheerfully regaled me with nonstop chatter as we crawled along.

My mood was a strange cross between despair at our turtle-pace and my growing admiration for this beautiful family. If there were ten people in the car, and if you multiply that by thirty two, then there had to have been 320 teeth smiling at me the whole way. I knew nothing of heaven but this seemed pretty close to it. They told me they were off to Saguache. With heavy heart I saw Monarch Pass coming up. Being a stupidly selfish boy, I said "my aunt lives here in Sargents. I'd better stop and say hello." They dropped me off and I sadly watched them drive away. Really, I could have run beside them for the first 300 feet. That car was that slow.

My next ride was with a guy who introduced himself as a rodeo performer. About 500 yards up Monarch Pass, we went flying around the old mobile home. I ducked my head to avoid being recognized. This rodeo guy was driving a '50 ford. Remember those old '50 fords? They could HAUL. As we raced across South Park (yes, THAT South Park) this guy said he traveled North America on the rodeo circuit. Broncs, bulls, he rode 'em all. He made belts and other leather goods to pay the bills between events. He may not have been a real person. He may have been a country song posing as a person. He told me all about his endless injuries; broken teeth, broken arms, broken legs and other broken appendages. I wished like crazy that I could have gotten one of his belts, but my thirteen dollars and a few cents was very precious to me. The belt would have become a useless lifetime momento. I was a size 32 at the time and I'm an expanding 42 these days.

I didn't have a watch, so I must have asked each benefactor fifty times what time it was. He dropped me off in Fairplay at 4:30 p.m. The bus had only beaten me by about 15 minutes. I felt like the king of the world as I trudged through town, savoring all those familiar sights.

Six miles to go. I'll bet you have never heard of a PlymFord. Warren Good was an eccentric genius/handyman/mechanic/inventor. He had done something nobody had probably thought of. He had combined a trashed out old Plymouth with a thrashed out old Ford. The Good kids (yeah, for the most part, they were good kids) called this thing a PlymFord. Warren went sailing past me heading up Fairplay Hill doing about forty mph. He cleared the top doing about 30 mph, which is a testament to his ingenuity. Soon he reappeared, having finally recognized me.

The whole trip was almost exactly 500 miles. From my house at Cal Uranium in San Juan County, Ut. to my brother Jack's house in Alma Co. in less than 14 and a half hours. No freeway in those days. Two fun-filled weeks later I was on the bus heading for home. Well, I couldn't have fibbed to Jack saying I had to leave at 2:30 a.m. when he knew the westbound bus left in the afternoon.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More Misadventures at Chuckarama

A person on a serious crash diet shouldn't think Chuck-a-rama. However, I have discovered a very healthful menu there. Grandma and I were there at 11:00 a.m. when they opened. Less competition that way. People in search of food can be very dangerous. My menu goes like this. Start with a simple salad. Then move over to the pot roast. Today it was pot TURKEY roast, but that was o.k. I can dip up anything in that tray except the potatoes. Turkey, carrots and onions. Good stuff. And probably okayed by Dr. Oz. (Do you think that is his real name?) Not! Then on to the WHOLE WHEAT rolls. No butter. "A" whole wheat roll! ONE ww roll. And that's it. Marie Osmond herself couldn't have steered me any better. I was so proud of myself that I allowed myself a sliver of carrot cake. Carrot cake is more vegetable than junk food if you avoid the frosting.

To my dismay, the carrot cake, instead of being light and fluffy, was sludgy and heavy. Unlike anything I had ever experienced. I shoved it aside. Grandma looked at me somewhat askance as I went for some peach turnover. The crust looked dark, but I thought nothing of it. INEDIBLE. The crust was burned beyond repair. I was not going to let one small dessert issue ruin my otherwise excellent meal. Grandma looked downright suspicious as I went and got my favorite, chocolate pudding. The nice thing about chock puddin' is: a very full dish doesn't look much fuller than a regular dish. I assured her that the peach dish would have had more calories.

The place was filling up with crying children. The people behind us on her side kept banging the seat, jarring her quite badly. She said, "this never fails." She got up to leave. "Right behind you", I said as I finished the last bite of pudding. As she turned the corner, I quickly ate the perfect peach streudel and wolfed down the perfect carrot cake, frosting and all. I caught up with her before she got even halfway to the car.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


We all hate fog. Fog seems to be the most universally despised weather condition. Pilots hate it. Ship's captains hate it. Some love Phoenix for the heat. Some love Minneapolis for the cold. But we all hate fog. Jodi, Todd and the Big Kids are leaving the SLC fog and heading out into the fog of the Uintah Basin to see Barb, Amanda and the Little kids. I'm jealous. It's worth braving the fog to see that group!

Well, anyhoo, we all have a favorite fog story to tell. The story often goes like this: Ya couldn't see the railroad tracks that ya were standing on at 12:00 o'clock noon. Ya couldn't see the powerful headlight of the approaching train! Ya hadda stoop over and feel the track so's ya would know which way to jump just as the train came whistling past!

My friend Buster told of driving in the "thickest fog of all time". He had the good fortune to get behind another motorist. He admitted that he was tailgating like crazy. This went on for mle after mile. The other driver suddenly stopped. Buster was lost and spooked. The other fella opened his door. Buster opened his door. The other guy stood up. Buster stood up. The other guy said "what are you doing in my driveway?"

My best/worst fog story goes thusly. Uh oh, another Moab story. I had just bought my first auto, a '55 pontiac. (Well, this doesn't include the $5.00 I spent to help buy a $20.00 Buick with some of my Carbon College friends.) That car had real good springs but no shocks. This allowed us to overfill the Buick with a ho-bunch of crazies and go down the main street of Price, hopping up and down, causing the green car to imitate a giant grasshopper, almost leaving the pavement on the upswing. What fun! The ticket we got was more than we paid for the car.

Burton! Wake up! Hey, Flagboy, get back to the story. Coincidentally, my friend and co-worker at the uranium mine, Buce, had also just bought a '55 Pontiac. Identical! Same lime-green and white. Heading into Christmas of 1961, I was excited to head for Price, home of my girlfriend, now known as "Grandma". Bruce was going in the same direction (to Utah County)for the holidays. We decided to travel through the heavy fog caravan style, just in case of mechanical problems. I was leading as we left Moab at about 6:00 p.m., having just finished our shift. Price lay 120 miles ahead.

Bruce was a bit of a drinker. He had a pint of "Old Sunny Brook" to help keep him company, along with his girlfriend and her four children. SIX PEOPLE IN THAT CAR! We no sooner left Moab than I lost his headlights in my rear view mirror. I stopped, assuming it was one of those "routine" stops for one of the young children. His car didn't appear for awhile. I turned back, wondering if he was already experiencing mechanical problems, so common in those days. Mistake. Here he came, hustling right along, trying to catch up with me.

I spun around and tried to catch him. The fog was so thick that I could only see about three white stripes ahead. I pushed the ol' greenie. I knew he would be wondering where in the heck I had disappeared to. I soon glanced at my speedometer. Seventy miles per hour?? Wow! I would knock his rear bumper into his radiator if I caught up at that speed. I slowed to about 30 mph, which was still a bit fast for the conditions.

Nice Christmas. Lotsa fun. When I arrived at the mine on the next workday, Bruce came running up to me. "What in the he** were you doing? How the he** fast were you going? I drove 80 miles per hour all the way to price looking for you"