LAST RESPECTS AND BURNING QUESTIONS

LAST RESPECTS AND BURNING QUESTIONS
I had rode my motorcycle into Rochester Cemetery only once before today. It was on July 26, 2013 when I came to lay my mothers ashes to rest between the graves of her parents. Rochester Cemetery sits on a hill on Menninger Road on the northwest outskirts of Topeka, Kansas. The cemetery was chartered in 1850 and is the final resting place of Kansans, not Kansans and everyone else in between. It is also the final resting place of 14 members of my family. Someday my earthly remains will rest within the grounds of Rochester Cemetery.
As I maneuvered the big Harley Ultra Classic up the steep drive and into the cemetery I wondered if the thump, thump, thump of the big V-Twin was disturbing the dead. Silver Streak, the name I christened my motorcycle with, navigated the tight, thin roads of the cemetery. “C’mon Silver, I urged the bike, let’s find Stanley.
Stanley is a large memorial stone on a family grave plot. The white stone features a palm leaf and the word Stanley carved beneath the leaf. Stanley has been the marker I have used since a child to locate the graves of my grandparents and now my mother. Stanley is directly across the road from their resting places and without him I would have a harder time of finding them within the maze of cemetery roads. We located Stanley and I saluted the stone, “Thank You Stanley.”
As I shut off Silver Streak the tick, tick, tick of the cooling engine replaced the sound of the crickets that would normally be heard in the cemetery during the summer months. But on this early day in March the children of crickets past were sleeping below the ground within their tiny eggs. I dismounted the bike and headed across the road towards my mother and grandparents graves.
As I approached the graves I was pleased to see that the marker I had set for my mother had weathered the rough winter well. It made me feel good that even if I was never able to afford the marker she had dreamed of at least my humble effort would endure for years to come. I knelt down and placed my right hand on the marker and my left hand on the spot on the ground where my mothers ashes lay beneath. I knelt in silence trying to calm my heart which was in turmoil. I had come to the cemetery that day to seek advice from my ancestors. I had things in my life that were troubling me and I needed their wisdom.
There are those who will say, “The dead do not speak.” But they would be wrong. The dead speak loudly if you just take the time to listen. I spoke my concerns to my grandfather and grandmother and while waiting for their response I turned to my mother. I leaned on her cross and looked up to the sky. “Mom, I really do not know why I am asking your advice. You usually get sidetracked when faced with a hard subject and never give a straight answer. But I am going to assume that once you got to heaven they fixed that flaw and you can listen and give straight answers.” I told my mother what was on my mind.
I knelt with my head down in silence. The cemetery was still, not even the sound of an early Robin chirp broke that silence. After long moments I looked up and around. My eyes wandered down the hill towards the low area of the cemetery. In all the years I had visited here I had never been down the hill to the tree line beyond the graves. I stood up and I wandered in that direction.
Walking through the gaps between the numerous graves I crossed the lower road and winding my way through a small section of graves I found myself at the tree line. Through the trees I could see a small pond. Walking through the trees and down the embankment I stood on the edge of the pond. It was obvious that it had been constructed as a runoff for the cemetery. How long in the past the pond had been made only the spirits of the cemetery knew. Towards the south end of the pond was a drive. A large pile of gravel and raw dirt rested there. On the north end of the pond a large tree had fallen across the expanse somewhere in the past. Woodpeckers had pocked its surface and its branches that reached into the pond no doubt created a haven for small aquatic creatures; salamanders, frogs, insects and maybe even minnows.
I stood and looked at the still waters of the pond and the tree. This simple pond next to a cemetery was a symbolic example of the circle of life. Life sprung forth then death came. From death came life which thrived and eventually died giving life to a new generation; a never ending and vital circle. A bright red Cardinal landed on the dead tree and cocked its small pointed head at me as if to put a punctuation mark on my thoughts. The small bird took one hop towards me and then flew away to signal that it was time for me to move away from the pond.
I headed back up the embankment and wound my way through the graves. I paused a moment at my mother and grandparents graves. I touched my mothers cross marker and smiled. I liked the marker, Though just a couple of feet high it resembled the type of stone markers that you would find on ancient graves in Europe. My family had migrated from Germany to America so this cross marking the grave of a Hummel seemed appropriate and right. I said, “Bye Mom, Bye Grandpa, Bye Grandma. Wish I could have known you Grandpa. Miss you Grandma, Miss you Mom. Love you all.” I moved away and returned to the road. I still did not have the answer to my questions and I had other ancestors to visit.
As I walked up the road I passed the graves of Samuel and Amanda Dykes. I stopped and said hello to Grandma and Grandpa Dykes. Sam and Amanda are the parents of my Aunt Patricia, the wife of my Uncle Karl. Karl Hummel is my mothers brother and passed in April of 2020 after a long fight with cancer. Though the Dykes were not blood they were still family and out of respect I was taught when a child to call them Grandma and Grandpa. The house they once owned sits just a couple of blocks from my home. I have found memories of stopping by that house to visit with them. But what I remember most was Sam’s Harmonica playing.
Samuel Dykes carried a briefcase with his various harmonica’s inside. A couple of times a month Sam was asked to come forward to the church podium and play a hymn on his harmonica. Angels could not have sang those hymns more beautifully than Samuel Dykes played them on his harmonicas. Sam passed away suddenly in 1964 and left many people grieving his loss, myself included. I was just 8 years old at the time and the passing of Samuel Dykes was the first time I had to deal with the loss of someone I cared about.
I noticed that Sam’s Birthday was on March 4th. Today was March 2nd and I would not be back in the cemetery to wish him a Happy Birthday on the 4th so I said, “Happy Birthday Grandpa Dykes.” I bid him and Grandma Dykes farewell and moved on up the road. As I walked away I smiled; I like to imagine that God calls Sam up to the podium every Sunday to play a hymn and show the Angels how their voices should sound.
I stopped at the graves of my Great Aunt Harriet and my Great Uncle Karl Hummel, my Uncle Karl’s namesake. Next to them is the grave of Lucien Vick. He is a relative but how I do not know. My Great Aunt Harriet was the first woman ever stationed at the Kodiak Base Naval Station on Kodiak Island in Alaska. My Great Uncle Karl was a singer with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. I paid my respects and moved off to visit the gravesites of their parents, my Great Grandparents, Walter and Priscilla Hummel.
I stood at the graves of my Great Grandparents and my head bowed. Walter had been the first Livery and Tack maker in Topeka making mule harnesses for the 7th Calvary. Priscilla had been a devoted wife and mother giving birth to Harriet, Lucius, Karl, Ralph and Oscar, my Grandfather. I spoke my questions to them then remained silent, listening. In a few moments my head turned and I looked towards the gravesite of my Great Uncle Ralph Hummel and his wife Buena Vista, the namesake of Buena Vista, Arkansas.
Between the graves of my Great Grandparents and the Graves of my Great Uncle are two empty spots. Someday those spots will not be empty, they will be where me and my wife Raychel will be laid to rest. As I looked at the empty spots the answers to the questions that had been troubling me suddenly flooded into my head. I now knew that my ancestors had spoken to me and had answered my questions. Now with those answers my turbulent mind and heart knew peace. I sighed and said, “Thank you, I knew you would help.”
I believe strongly in the power of prayer and I believe God answers prayer. I also believe that he sends his Angels to help us in our time of turmoil. The Angels he sent this day were the ones that were responsible for giving me my life. Life sprung forth then death came. From death came life which thrived and eventually died giving life to a new generation; a never ending and vital circle. I had one more stop to make before leaving Rochester Cemetery.
I stood in front of the grave graves of my Uncle Karl Lennox Hummel and my cousin Deanna Hummel. My cousin Deanna had been a police officer in Shawnee Mission, Kansas and had been murdered by a drunk driver while on duty. My Uncle Karl having succumbed to the cancer on April 28, 2020 had been laid to rest next to his daughter with no memorial service.
The Coronavirus Pandemic robbed many families of their chance to say goodbye to loved ones. I shook my head feeling a mixed emotion of sadness and anger at those that deny the Pandemic. They claim the virus is not real, they refuse to practice social distancing and refuse to wear masks. Many are refusing to take the vaccine. They wallow in their ignorance and inconsideration of others shouting, “We are exercising our rights”, while violating the rights of others. Here before me was a victim of the Pandemic. It is true that my Uncle died from cancer but he was denied his right to have his family come together and say goodbye because of the Pandemic. How many more must suffer this indignity because people refuse to do the right thing?
I knelt down and placed my hand on the long flat stone that bore the names of Karl, Deanna and Patricia Hummel. My Aunt Pat is not here yet and hopefully it will be a long time before she is. But her spot is waiting for her next to her husband. Karl, Deanna and my cousin Lenny who passed away during a bicycle race years ago when a car ran him off the road and over a cliff will be waiting for her at Heaven’s gate. My Aunt Pat shares a birthday with my sister thus being my sister Patricia’s namesake.
I was happy that I was finally able to pay my respects to my Uncle Karl. He loomed large in my life when I was a child. Partial owner of a bicycle shop, he gave me my first bicycle, a Huffy. He also made an 8’ by 4’ board into the home of a Lionel Train set for me on my 7th Christmas. Family gatherings featured my Uncle Karl and Aunt Pat along with their seven children, my cousins. My cousins and I spent many a summer afternoon in a field near their home on Massachusetts street collecting grasshoppers and fireflies in jars. Uncle Karl and Aunt Pat had offered to raise me because of my mothers mental condition but she refused. I have often wondered who I would have become if I had been raised in that family. Yet I realize that I am exactly who I am meant to be.
I last saw my Uncle Karl on July 26, 2013 when I laid my mother to rest. He stood by me at the graveside as we sang Amazing Grace which my Mom had requested. We spoke and caught up with each other before he left me to say my final goodbyes to my mother, his sister. When I left Texas and moved back to Topeka in November 2013 I thought several times about contacting him and my Aunt Pat. But somehow I felt like I would be an intrusion because of the years that had passed between us. I never contacted them instead keeping track of their lives through my cousin Scott and my Aunt pat’s Facebook page. In 2015 I led the team that restored Animal Land in Gage park. My Aunt Pat sent me a short message that simply stated, “Your Uncle Karl is proud of you.” That meant a lot to me.
I rose from the grave and said, “Well Uncle Karl, looks like I have to buy more flowers from now on.” I had made a vow years ago that as long as I was alive my relatives, buried in Rochester Cemetery would have flowers on their graves. I place flowers on my grandparents and mothers graves. Flowers are laid on the graves of Grandma and Grandpa Dykes. I place flowers on the graves of Lucien Vick, Great Aunt Harriet and Great Uncle Karl. My great Grandparents get flowers as does Ralph, Buena Vista and Lucius Hummel. I have always left flowers at Deanna’s grave and now I will leave them at Uncle Karl’s grave. I wonder if anyone will ever lay flowers at my grave.
I returned to Silver Streak filled with a mixture of melancholia and joy. I had finally had the answers to my burning questions and I had finally had a chance to pay my respects to my Uncle Karl. As I put back on my riding gear I surveyed the cemetery. Rochester is an odd mixture of an old peaceful cemetery and a dark gothic burial ground. There are portions of the cemetery whose serenity gives way to a place where the living dead would be at home. I like the feel, I like the contrast. It feels like life not death.
As I mounted the big Harley and prepared to start it a Robin alighted on top of Stanley’s Stone and sang to me. “Ah, there you are.” I said. I started the bike and the Robin watched me ride away and out of this hallowed ground. I left with the knowledge that love is eternal.
-The GYPSY- March 8, 2021

HI-YO SILVER AWAY

HI-YO SILVER AWAY

There are times when you walk into history. There are times when history walks into you. Then there are times when you fall face first into history and history comes crashing down on top of you. Today was such a day for me. As I pulled myself out from under the weight of the history that fell on me I knew I would need to share the moment with you dear reader.

My wife Raychel and I decided to spend the day doing some random shopping in Lawrence. If you want to do random shopping Lawrence, Kansas is about as random as it gets, especially on Massachusetts Street. Downtown Lawrence is peppered with a wide range of random shops selling an eclectic mix of random items.

The eateries on Massachusetts Street are just as random. If you cannot find something to your taste in downtown Lawrence then you weren’t really hungry to begin with. Raychel and I were hungry and something to our taste was The Mad Greek.

I am not ashamed to admit that The Mad Greek is our favorite eatery in Lawrence. I am also not ashamed to admit that we happily devoured Gyros and Chicken Provolone washed down with ice cold beer.

We sat, talked and enjoyed each other’s company as we let our feast settle. Then we found our way across the street to The Toy Store. As we walked through the doors our inner child found its way out of our psyche. I threatened to buy Kazoos and start my own Kazoo blues band. Raychel bought a whirly gig throw off to occupy her very active mind.

We left The Toy Store and headed down the street to Love Garden. No it is not another restaurant. If you guessed that it is a floral shop you would be wrong. No it is not a bordello and it is not a Hippy Head Shop. However if you said music store full of vintage vinyl record albums then you would be correct. It was in this magical place that History jumped on me and beat me to the floor.

I browsed the thousands of albums not 100% sure what I was looking for. I have been trying to replace albums I sold or gave away a long time ago. I also keep my eyes open for albums my mother once had. I grew up listening to her albums so for me it is a matter of nostalgia. I also am a sucker for strange and unusual albums.

I found two Uriah Heep albums; Magicians Birthday and Wonderland. Uriah Heep is one of my favorite groups and if I would have left after finding those albums it still would have been a good find and a good day. But my day was about to get even better.

As Raychel held the Uriah Heep albums I flipped through the one dollar bin. Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Ventures and Henry Mancini all made it onto the stack in Raychel’s hands. I got excited when I found the Fabulous Thunderbirds and the soundtrack album to the movie The Great Escape. Then it happened, I took the first step into the attack on my person by history.

As I flipped through the one dollar rack my hand fell on a four album set. On the front of the box were two familiar figures; Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. Emblazoned across the top of the box were those magical, heroic words, “The Lone Ranger”.  My mind instantly took a trip back to those golden days of yesteryear.

The year was 1989 and I was driving a big truck over the road coast to coast. I pulled into a truck stop near the Arkansas/Oklahoma border on the Arkansas side. I pulled into a space next to a big silver Peterbilt Truck.

As I walked around the nose of the truck a movement caught my eye. There, clinging to the truck’s grill was a tiny brown bat. Horrified, I started looking for a stick to remove the little bat from the grill. While looking for a stick a man walked up and asked me what I was doing. I showed him the bat and said I was looking for a stick to remove it so it wouldn’t be injured.

The man pulled a pen from his pocket and carefully removed the bat. He carried the bat over to a nearby tree where the bat quickly transferred itself from the pen to the tree. The man said he was glad I had seen the bat as it was his truck and he would not want to pull out and hurt the little guy. I agreed. I told the man how I had once been a Zookeeper and how I had an affinity for animals, especially Bats.

As we stood there talking I could not shake the feeling that I knew this man. I finally asked, “Do I know you? Have we met before?” The man laughed, “In a way we probably have met.” His voice was familiar and mysterious.. “What do you mean, in a way?” The man laughed again and said, “Hold on this may help.”

The man opened the door of his big silver truck and reached inside. When he turned back around he was wearing a large pair of black Foster Grant sunglasses and a white cowboy hat. I looked at him, silver truck, white cowbo… “Dear God, you are Clayton Moore! The Lone Ranger!” He laughed, “So I guess you do know me.”

Mr. Moore offered to buy me a cup of coffee and I took him up on it. As we drank coffee and ate pie he told me how he had come to drive a big rig.

He said that he had signed a contract that had made it so that he could never make a public appearance without the mask. “It killed my film career but I receive a very nice pension and get paid for personal appearances; those are not as numerous as they once were.” 

Mr. Moore told me that the ranch where the series had been filmed had been given to him as part of the deal. He was bitter about the lawsuit that had forced him to remove his mask. “I am grateful that Foster Grant made it possible for me, in a way, to keep the mask. I am glad that awful movie failed.”

I asked him why he was driving a truck. His answer was simple and straight to the point; “I get bored. I have everything I want but having everything comes with a price. Before I was a successful actor I made ends meet by driving a truck. Seemed a logical way to ease my occasional boredom.”

All too soon it was time for us to go our separate ways. I headed for the eastern horizon while he drove his mighty truck into the western sunset. Who was that sunglassed man? Pretty sure I know and he left me with a silver memory.

Bringing myself back into the present I placed the Lone Ranger box set on top of the other albums in Raychels arms.

When we returned home to Topeka I immediately started checking the albums. Repairs to covers and checking for any scratches that might have to be dealt with. I saved my treasure, The Lone Ranger box set, for last. I opened the box and pulled the first album from its sleeve; perfect condition. I set it to one side and picked up the second album. It was at this point that the history I had taken a step into when I found the cherished set tripped me and fell on me with the force of a fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty ‘Hi-Yo Silver’.

Resting on top of the 3rd album was a greeting card size envelope. The postmark on the Twentynine cent stamp showed 12 December 1994. The envelope was addressed to Wayne Glenn at KTXR in Springfield, Missouri. The return address showed the card had come from Fred W. Foy in Reading, Massachusetts. 

Inside the envelope was a homemade Christmas card. The front had a deep green design of a stylistically drawn Christmas tree. Inside the tree were a pair of cowboy boots and intertwined in the boots were FWF in a Saloon font. Above the design was written ‘Merry Christmas’ in the same Saloon font.

The inside of the card featured a red horseshoe design. Above the horseshoe was written in the familiar Saloon font ‘…And A Hearty…’. Inside the top of the horseshoe the Saloon font proclaimed, ‘Happy New Year’. Between the two legs of the horseshoe was the name, ‘Fred Foy’. Opposite from the greeting was a date stamp, ‘Received Dec. 15, 1994 KTXR’.

The card felt like something important. I sent up an entreaty to the Google Search God and its Keeper of Fates the Mighty Wikipedia answered my call.

Wayne Glenn is known as the “Old Record Collector”. He had a weekly show on KTXR in Springfield, Missouri from 1977 to his semi-retirement in 2019. Mr. Glenn has more than 15,000 albums. He had 2,139 episodes of his “Remember When” radio program. The show ran for 7 hours on Saturday mornings and 3 hours on Sunday evening. On August 10, 2019 he scaled back to a one hour show on KTXR. 

Wayne Glenn has written 13 books on Ozark history. With 42 years as a radio show host and accomplished author Wayne Glenn has a lot to be proud of and has made his mark on broadcast history.. 

Fred W. Foy had felt that Mr. Glenn was worthy of receiving a Christmas Card and I needed to know who Fred W. Foy was. What I found was way beyond anything I could have ever expected or imagined.

Frederick William Foy (March 27, 1921 – December 22, 2010) was an American radio and television announcer and actor, who used Fred Foy as his professional name. Radio historian Jim Harmon described Foy as “the announcer, perhaps the greatest announcer-narrator in the history of radio drama.”

Fred Foy was a Corporal during World War II and did World Series play by plays for the GI’s. He was an accomplished radio announcer and pitchman doing narrations for shows such as The Green Hornet and Challenge of the Yukon. In 1948 he first uttered the words that would become the most recognized opening in radio and television history:

“Hi-Yo, Silver! A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty “Hi-Yo Silver”… The Lone Ranger! With his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early Western United States. Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. From out of the past come the thundering hoof-beats of the great horse Silver. The Lone Ranger rides again!”

And there I sat, holding a Christmas card in my hand sent to one of greatest record collectors in America, Wayne Glenn, from one of the greatest radio and television narrators and announcers in American History, Fred Foy.

How this box set of the greatest hits of “The Lone Ranger” radio program, that had apparently belonged to Wayne Glenn at one time, ended up in a $1.00 bin in a Lawrence, Kansas bookstore is anyone’s guess. How the Christmas card from Fred Foy found it’s way tucked neatly between two albums in the box set is also anyone’s guess. What isn’t anyone’s guess is that this Historic piece of American Radio and Television History now rests in the hands of someone who will protect and preserve it.

Yes history fell on top of me and this was an important tale to be told. With that thought in mind I would like to leave you with this seldom heard song that played on The Lone Ranger syndicated television series in the 1970’s. It was heard just before the Fred Foy opening was played and featured edited scenes from the color pilot episode of The Lone Ranger from 1955 which retold the Masked Man of The Plains origin story:

“Six Texas Rangers (Hi-yo, hi-yo) rode in the sun (Hi-yo, hi-yo);

Six men of justice rode into an ambush, and all were killed but one.

One lone survivor (Hi-yo, hi-yo) lay on the trail (Hi-yo, hi-yo);

Found there by Tonto, the brave Indian Tonto, he lived to tell the tale.

(Hi-yo Silver, Hi-yo Silver away! Hi-yo Silver, Hi-yo Silver away!)

His wounds quickly mended (Hi-yo, hi-yo) and there in the night (Hi-yo, hi-yo),

Six graves were put there to hide from the outlaws that one man lived to fight.

He chose silver bullets (Hi-yo, hi-yo) the sign of his name (Hi-yo, hi-yo); A mask to disguise him, a great silver stallion, and thus began his fame.

(Hi-yo Silver, Hi-yo Silver away! Hi-yo Silver, Hi-yo Silver away! THE LONE RANGER IS HIS NAME!) 

-The GYPSY-

MAKING NORMAN

Now Available As An eBook On Amazon.Com
MAKING NORMAN: A CHRISTMAS STORY
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084DRXPD3

Making Norman is the story of Norman The Nutcracker who does not know he is a Nutcracker and who does not know his name is Norman. But most importantly of all Norman the Nutcracker does not know what his purpose is. The only thing Norman really knows is that he must find his name and purpose which he soon discovers is not being a Nutcracker.

Follow the adventures of Norman the Nutcracker from his creation in the Toy Makers Factory to his abduction from the toy factory to his quest in the downtown streets of Topeka, Kansas to discover his name and his purpose.

This is the first children’s book by one of America’s favorite artists James A. George AKA; The GYPSY. Illustrated by the author young and old alike will delight in Norman the Nutcrackers adventures and the amazing friends he meets on his way to discovering himself.

OCTOBER 25, 1956

Today, October 25th, I was born in Topeka, Kansas at Saint Francis Hospital. In remembrance of my Birthday and the people that conceived me I would like to share with you an excerpt from my upcoming book; “Never Say Never: An Epic Journey – Volume One”. This excerpt involves things that happened surrounding and associated with my birth and does not begin in 1956 but opens in a cemetery in Holton, Kansas on a cold wet March day in 1979.

You would not give what I have gave – What did you gain, what did you save? – Shaping words not my own – Recalling memories never shown A touch, connection which cannot stand – Left on the surface of the cold still hand

I twirled the end of the cigarette between my fingers feeling the heat come off the glowing red tobacco as I forced the smoldering cherry from the end of the smoke. I watched the burning ember hit the hard ground and I could hear the sizzle as the wetness swallowed the cherry. I had no desire to disrespect the dead by tossing my cigarette on the ground in this sacred place.

I looked towards the coffin and the small group gathered near it. Some were standing but most were sitting in the folding chairs that faced the coffin like the seats in a theatre.

The funeral director with an air of solemnity that he performed on a daily basis, lifted the lid of the casket and busied himself with laying back the shroud and tidying up the body. He did this swiftly with his back to the assembled audience like a magician preparing to amaze and astound. Observe, an empty box, PRESTO a body.

The undertaker silently moved away from the casket and folded his hands in silent reverence. I slowly approached this odd tableau that I did not want to be a part of.

As I drew nearer I could see the tip of a nose then a rounded head with dark greased back thinning hair. A paisley shirt and burgundy polyester leisure suit hung loosely upon a thin, gaunt body.

I drew closer to the casket, all eyes upon me, boring into my back and pushing me onward. I looked down upon a face made of wax, a mannequin dug out of the dusty storeroom of a defunct department store. Someone as some sort of cruel joke had painted the mannequin to resemble a thinner, older version of me.

Was it made of plaster? It could be or maybe plastic.

I reached out a trembling left hand and touched the shoulder of the wine colored polyester. My hand rested there for a moment as I studied the features and let my gaze drift down to the bloodless hands crossed one over the other.

Wow, what detail they get into these mannequin’s. It actually looks like real hair on the back of the hand and on the fingers. Fingers, finger, ring finger, empty…

I looked at my left hand, the hand that rested on the shoulder of the mannequin, the hand upon where the middle finger held a ring. The ring had rested upon that finger since 1968 and had only been removed three times. Each time it had been removed I had suffered a broken bone so suffice it to say I was more than a little superstitious about it and it’s significance. Now standing here, in this mist on this cold gray day next to this overpriced box that held the earthly remains of Lee Roy Everett George the true significance of the ring suddenly hit me like a rock fired from the sling of a Sheppard boy. The ring had belonged to the man in the box. The ring had been a promise of love, a promise that had been broken. The ring had been given to my Father by my Mother and later to me by my Mother as a connection to my Father.

My Father who now lay pale and silent before me and no longer belonged to this earth but who would soon be beneath her surface. Oh God, the rain has blocked out my vision, my breath is gone and my heart now resides in my throat.

******

Shirley’s pregnancy had been difficult. She had contracted toxemia and had almost lost the baby.

Little Jimmy had been born exactly two months to the day premature at 8:35 pm on October 25th of 1956. He had been a King James birth, his head twisted around backwards which the Doctor had corrected before the small baby had left the birth canal.

Shirley thought that the child had looked like a little peanut and had sobbed with joy when they placed the small squirming bundle in her arms. She had a miracle baby and Lee Roy had a son.

Lee had been driving a taxi in Houston and Shirley had been able to get a call through to him the day after the baby was born. They had both agreed that James was a perfect name for their child considering the circumstances of his birth. They had also decided to give him the middle name of Alan. Not because it had any special significance but because it just seemed to flow off the tongue, James Alan George.

After the incident in Houston with Wesley, Lee Roy had moved the pregnant Shirley up to Topeka, Kansas and placed her into the care of her Mother. Pearl did not like Lee Roy and made no effort to hide it but she had remarked to Shirley that she had been thankful for him to, “Have enough sense to bring Shirley home where she could get proper care.”

Shirley, for her part, was actually thankful that the incident with Wesley had occurred.

Ever since it had happened she no longer felt as if Lee Roy’s affections were split between her and Wilma. Lee had become very devoted to her. It was Lee Roy who had returned home to find Wesley forcing himself on Shirley and it had been Lee Roy who had hurtled the body of his brother into the television set. Lee Roy had a temper and it had been on full display that night. It was all he could do not to kill Wesley for his trespass.

Lee Roy gave up the Merchant Marines to drive Yellow Cabs and had gone back to the logging camps. He had told Shirley that when he wasn’t logging up North he would work the Texas oil fields for the good money to make a life for them and their baby. Lee Roy had been good to his word and was even now setting up a home for the three of them in Texas.

******

Shirley stood in front of the jewelry counter at Pelletier’s department store looking at the wedding sets. Lee Roy had promised her that they would be married as soon as he could get Wilma to agree to a divorce. Wilma had been fighting him refusing to let go but Shirley was confident that Wilma would eventually give in and turn Lee loose. So until that time Shirley would continue to browse and window shop the stores for those things that would one day make the wedding she dreamed of the most glorious moment of her life.

Shirley had been at the counter for a quarter hour looking at the rings in the glass case. She was just starting to move away when a glint of light caught her eye.

At the back of the case amid the numerous displays of diamond and gold rings a single black velvet finger stood at a slightly arched angle. Upon this finger rested a wedding set consisting of the man’s band, the woman’s band and the engagement ring. There was really nothing unusual or spectacular about the set that made it more outstanding than any of the other sets. It was in fact almost too simple in it’s way when compared to the other sets around it.

The engagement ring was a simple gold band with a small quarter carrot diamond solitaire. The woman’s band consisted of another simple gold band in which small divots were cut around the top and bottom edge of the ring.

Between the divots the ring slightly bowed out creating a curved effect. The man’s band echoed the design of the woman’s band except that it was a little larger and wider in size.

No, there was really nothing special that would make this set outstanding except it’s simplicity. It was the purity of design that attracted Shirley. She had always felt that as complicated as the relationship between her and Lee Roy had been that their love was simple and pure. She felt that this set in the diamond solitaire represented the complexities of their relationship while the bands were a symbol of the simplicity of their love. “Harrumph!”

The sound brought Shirley out of her revelry making her jump. She turned to see Mr. Harrison, the floor walker, standing at her left elbow.

“Mr. Harrison you startled me.” Shirley said as she placed a hand over her heart.

“Evidently!” he dryly intoned, “And does your Mother know you are here?” Shirley hated his pompous attitude and snooty manner. Does he think he is talking to a child?

“No Harrison, my Mommy doesn’t know I am here. Why don’t you run upstairs and tell her. Or perhaps you would like a dozen vestal virgins to carry you up while naked children throw rose petals at your feet.” Shirley knew that the suggestion of Harrison’s rumored desire for younger lovers would get under his skin.

She doubted if he had ever dated anyone under eighteen but for a man nearing 50 Shirley found it disgusting that most of the women he was seen with looked like girls barely out of High school.

Harrison tugged at the corners of his slick gray vest, brushed off the sleeves of his immaculate black wool jacket, readjusted the red rose in his lapel hole, cleared his throat and turning to leave said, “Ladies.”

Slightly dipping his head and touching the edge of his mustache Harrison walked away.

Ladies? Why did he say ladies? “

I think you hurt his feelings!”

Shirley turned around to see Alice MacElwayne standing on the other side of the jewelry counter. This was her department and she ruled it with the pride that comes from the knowledge that it was her efforts that kept this department running smoothly and making a profit for the company. “Oh, Hi Alice,” Shirley said a little sheepishly, “How long have you been there?”

Alice shook her graying head and let a small smile cross her lips, “Long enough,” came her reply.

“He just really pisses me off,” Shirley stammered, “what I am doing is none of his business!”

Alice shook a finger at Shirley, “Language dear,” she admonished. Shirley grimaced under the reprimand. Alice and Pearl were best friends and at times Shirley felt like she was talking to her mother when she spoke with Alice.

“He thinks he owns the store,” Alice chuckled, “Sometimes I wish I could live within my delusions.”

Shirley sighed, “Do you think he’ll tell mom what I said?” She asked. “Without a shadow of a doubt,” answered Alice. “The little weasel is probably in her office now re-enacting the whole scene.”

Both women looked up as if they could see through the ornate tin ceiling and into Pearls second floor office.

“So, were we doing a little daydreaming dear?” Alice asked.

Shirley blushed as Alice nodded her head and reached below the counter. “Here,” she said sliding a layaway form across the counter and laying a pen on top of it, “fill this out.”

Shirley looked at the form and back up at Alice who was removing the wedding set from the velvet finger.

“Hurry dear, your mom will be here any moment and we don’t want to let her in on our little secret, do we?”

-J.A. George AKA; The GYPSY

www.Facebook.com/Rubberbiskit

Copyright Tatman Productions LLC

The GYPSY’s Blog: Sharing A Moment In Time.

On October 25th I will celebrate 63 years on this big blue marble. This year also gave birth to another classic, besides myself, that is celebrating 80 years of being the most loved movie of all time. In honor of that movie and my upcoming birthday I would like to share this excerpt with you from my upcoming book: “Never Say Never: An Epic Journey – Volume One”. What you are about to read is a true story involving real people. This part of the story is of a journey that starts in July of 2013 and ends in August of 1939.

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As I approached the Ghost Town of Bomarton, Texas the big road machines were busy on the east side of the road turning dirt into highway. Up ahead on my right I could see 3 Cotton Trucks waiting to turn onto the highway. Cotton is a major crop in that area of Texas and though Bomarton is a Ghost Town they still have a working Gin.

As I approached the intersection at 70 mph the first of the three trucks pulled out in front of me.As the big red truck lumbered into the highway I found myself left with a split second decision; Hit the shoulder, hit the truck or pass quickly due to an approaching hill. Hitting the shoulder was not an option as there was no shoulder, the road crews had seen to that. Hitting the truck was definitely out of the question as I did not want to mar his pretty red paint job with my pretty red blood. So that left option number three; pass quickly due to an approaching hill.

Opening up the throttle I accelerated and forced Black Betty, my 2001 Harley-Davidson Roadking into the oncoming lane. As we maneuvered around the slow moving giant I checked the lane ahead. At the top of the hill was an intersection and a silver car was approaching it quickly from the left road. Without slowing down or stopping the driver turned his silver death machine right and into the oncoming lane and straight towards me. I was at the point of no return and I opened the throttle all the way; 85, 90, 95 at 100mph the big V-Twin shot past the front of crimson killer and back into our north bound lane just in time to have the discourteous and oblivious driver of the four wheel casket zoom on by heading south and barely missing me. I saluted the driver of the cotton truck with my middle finger to assure him that he was number one in my book. I then said a silent prayer of thanks to God and the Angels he had sent to watch over me.

I stopped in Seymore, Texas at the Allsups Truck stop to top off my tank. I was 125 miles from home. My tank will take me, on the highway, 175 miles before it goes to reserve. The highway between Seymore and Wichita Falls is a long and lonely stretch with no services in between. It is a section of road that no one would ever want to find themselves broke down on for any reason as help would be a long time coming. And I had no desire to find myself without gas on that road on this particular day.

Seymore, Texas is a dying town even though it can lay claim as the county seat it is dying just the same. It is a victim of that all American village murderer; the by-pass. Like so many towns in Texas and elsewhere the powers that be have seen fit to take away the towns economy by moving the highway from the center of town to the outskirts with only one or two inconvenient exits for travelers to enter or leave.

******

I imagine Seymore, in it’s heyday, to be much the same as Silver Lake, Kansas must have been at the time of my Mothers birth on July 26, 1935. My Mother was born in a barn on a farm on the outskirts of Silver Lake near Highway 24. The barns loft was now an apartment. It was the middle of the depression and my Grandfather had lost everything due to a nasty divorce from his first wife and the stock market crash of 1929. My Grandfather was a Dentist with a practice in Dodge City, Kansas when my Grandmother became pregnant with the child that would one day be my Mother. There was already a son, Karl, and Pearl was hoping for a baby girl. A couple of years previous the Hummel’s had lost their oldest child, Priscilla (named after Oscars Mother), to the whopping cough. This baby was important because Pearl was a small woman and this might be her last child as she gave birth to large children and it was very hard on her.

That was not to say that she was weak or frail, she was not, Pearl was of pioneer stock. She was born in a sod house on the Clang homestead in the Texas Panhandle in 1904. Cowboys came from near and far to see the first “White” baby girl born in Canadia, Texas. Pearl Adaline Clang Married Oscar Lennox Hummel in 1926. Oscar called Topeka, Kansas home and was quite a bit older than her. My Grandmother once hinted that it was an arranged marriage that was financially beneficial to her parents. Be that as it may she loved him and bore Oscar his first child, Priscilla in 1930.

******

I finished fueling my Motorcycle and grabbed a couple of Chimichanga’s and a bottle of water from Allsups deli. If you are ever traveling through Texas or New Mexico stop at the Allsups and treat yourself to their Chimi’s, they are not to be missed. As I sat on my bike savoring the Chimi’s a stray dog wandered the truck stop parking lot looking for scraps on the ground. The dog, looking for a hand out approached an old man who was limping down the street. The old man shooed the hungry animal away with his cane and continued on his way.I watched the old man hobble away and thought about Oscar. He had a club foot yet was still able to serve his country during World War I in his capacity as a Dentist and it was while serving his country that he became incurably crippled with the disease that would one day take his life 40 years later.

******

As I left Seymore and maneuvered Black Betty back onto the highway I thought about my Grandfather. I thought about how Oscar had graduated from Dental School in Kansas City, Missouri. I thought about how badly he wanted to serve his country when America entered the war in Europe. I tried to imagine his elation when he discovered that he would be able to go over to Europe and help Soldiers with their dental problems using a relatively new invention called X-rays. I wondered how he must have felt when he found out those same X-Rays had poisoned him and that he would never be vital and vigorous again. I shook my head at his dubious honor of being the first Dentist to be recorded with Radiation poisoning.

******

As the miles rolled away I enjoyed the bright crispness of the day and I looked in anticipation to each milestone that would bring me one more mile closer to my goal. As the big bike rumbled under me I smiled remembering one of my Mothers favorite stories about her Father.

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When my Mother was about 3 years old her Dad was outside the barn pulling weeds. The farm where she was born belonged to Oscars Dental partner and he and Pearl helped out as they could around the property in exchange for the Barn Loft Apartment, As he was hoeing out the weeds a fancy Packard Sedan pulled up outside the fence. A stranger in a tan 3 piece Sears and Roebuck suit stepped out of the car. The first thing Oscar noticed about this stranger was not the fancy car or the tan suit but the bright white spats he was wearing. What a fool, Oscar thought, them spats will be dirty in no time out here in Farm country.

As Oscar limped towards the fence to find out what was going on the stranger pulled out a camera, and started taking pictures. Oscar noticed that it was one of those new box cameras and he wondered how something that small and cheaply made could take any sort of descent photo.As Oscar approached the fence the stranger called out, “Sure is a hot one today.” Oscar allowed that it “Sure Was A Hot One” then asked the stranger, “Whatcha doing?” The stranger produced a card from his vest pocket and handed it to Oscar. The plain white business card read; Joseph Levin, MGM Location Scout, Hollywood, California. There was also a phone number on the card with an exchange that Oscar did not recognize.

“Well Mr. Levin…”

“Please call me Joe.”

“OK, Joe. What exactly are you scouting?”

“The studio is making a movie based on a popular novel and they want to build an authentic looking Farm set. So I am out taking photos of various Farms so that we can build a set with authenticity.”

Oscar scratched his head, “Wouldn’t it be easier just to come film on a Farm that is already built rather than building one to look like a Farm that is already here?”

“Sir… what’s your name?”

“Oscar.”

“Well Oscar, there are a lot of technical hurdles to over come and it is easier for us to recreate a farm and film in Hollywood rather than try to solve the technical problems on location.”

“Uh-Huh, well I just think it is a waste of time and money to build something that is already built.”

Joseph Levin waved off the statement and said, “Oscar, your Farm may well be the star of a movie someday.”

Oscar chuckled, “Well if this Farm becomes a movie star then I will have to buy that mule over there a pair of Sunglasses so it will look like all the other Hollywood Jack Asses.”

******

I laughed out loud with the wind carrying away the sound of my laughter. I always laughed when I thought about that part or when my Mother would relate the story; “Mule, Sunglasses, Hollywood Jack Asses.” I said out loud as another laugh escaped my mouth.

******

A little over a year later Oscar, Pearl, Karl and Shirley were sitting in the Jayhawk Theater in Topeka waiting for the movie to start. They were not movie going people and with money tight it was a luxury they could ill afford. But the children wanted to see this movie and after all it was based on a famous children’s story so they did not see the harm in splurging just this once. The News Reel played talking about the European war that Oscar prayed that the US would not get dragged into yet he knew it was inevitable. With that lunatic Hitler in charge in Germany and sending Jews and Gypsies to death camps Oscar knew it was only a matter of time. He worried about his own Gypsy Hummel family still in Eastern Europe and said a silent prayer for their safety.

The children laughed and clapped at the antics of Tom and Jerry on the screen and even the normally stern Oscar found himself smiling and letting out a small chuckle. Then it was time for the main feature. Pearl admonished the children to behave as the curtains parted and the powerful overture began to play. The movie was not even 5 minutes old when Oscar sat bolt upright in his chair, his jaw dropping open. He reached across the children and grabbed his wife’s shoulder. Pearl turned and looked at Oscar and mouthed the words; “I know, I see.” At this point little Shirley cried out with glee, “Mommy, Daddy, our farm!” Oscar placed his head in his hand and mumbled, “I sure hope that damn Mule don’t want a set of white spats to go with his sunglasses.”

As Oscar, Pearl, Karl and Shirley watched the Tornado rip the small house from it’s foundation on the movie screen Pearl said a silent prayer thankful that the movie was just a fantasy and gave thanks that she had never really been in a Tornado. Her Mother had been deathly afraid of the deadly Twisters so her Father had sold their homestead in the panhandle of Texas and moved to Kansas. Looking back on it now she could see that his logic had been pretty silly.

******

The Wizard of Oz is my favorite movie of all time. I honestly have never felt like it was because of my off handed connection to it. I have just always liked it’s message of faith, love, hope and it’s promise of home as well as the music; ah, the music and as I rode the miles away the tunes drifted through my head as the wind carried me home to Kansas.

-J.A George AKA; The GYPSY-www.RubberBiskit.comCopyright 2019 – All Rights Reserved

Gypsy’s Blog: A Lament For Home

A LAMENT FOR HOME
There are times that I feel that I do not belong. I wonder if I truly know where my home is. Born and raised in Topeka, Kansas I knew where my home was until I was fifteen and then that summer of 1972 I was relocated, against my will, to Saint Joseph, Missouri and I have had no home since then.

From the smell of the Saint Joe stockyards to the glorious fall colors of the Weston, Missouri Bluffs I have been from one extreme to another. From the crystal clear mornings of Nemo, South Dakota to the struggle of living out of the back of a car in Cameron, Missouri I have seen full days and hungry days. From running away from the horror of the streets of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to the hope of a better life in Abilene, Texas I have seen Hell and Heaven. From the indifference of Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri to the Comforting embrace of El Paso, Texas I have seen Hate and Love. From the Crack Whores of San Angelo, Texas to the dust blown hopeless streets of Midland, Texas I have known the living dead and their haunts. From the small minds of Baxter Springs, Kansas to the driven souls of Independence, Kansas I have known ignorance and inspiration. All those places, all those lessons, all that time wasted and back to a place I once considered home yet my grip on that concept is not what it once was.

When I returned to Topeka after a 43 year absence I was energized, excited and ready to re-establish myself within my home. Yet what I returned to was not the Topeka of my youth. It was a place filled with crime encouraged by corrupted institutions that would have once fought against the onslaught but now have grown lazy. If it don’t affect me then why should I be concerned? Has become the mantra heard all to often.

Community organizations have been infiltrated by those who think that to help means to climb the social ladder. Oh yes I am a volunteer would you like to see my portfolio? They have forgotten that it is about something greater than them.A city that was once beautiful has allowed itself to be taken down a sewer pipe by individuals that destroy that which was once viable and now lies in ruins. Absentee landlords are not held accountable and buildings that once housed commercial business sit stark and silent collapsing in upon themselves.The state in it’s infinite wisdom opened the doors of the asylum and set the patients lose upon the street then closed the doors behind them so that they could no longer have a safe haven. The homeless and wanton wander the streets encourage by those who claim they help. The helpers line their deep pockets with the dollars spewed forth by well meaning people who feed not with food but with enablement as the lazy give birth to cardboard signs on city street corners.

I see glimmers of hope by those within the Topeka Community who have witnessed what I have and do not turn a blind eye to it. There are those that struggle and fight against the Avant-Garde invasion into their efforts. They fight to find ways to end the corruption, the blight, the despair and the collapse of the city they love, These are the warriors that go into battle with a pin knife and a candle to show the way. They pray that more people like themselves will bring their candles and pin knifes into the fray so that they may create a mighty fire and many sharp teeth to rip to shreds the apathy, corruption and divide that destroys the community.

I look at Topeka’s History and my heart aches for the loss of what once was. I look at the communities future and it is gray and uncertain. I know that the community must reinvent itself if it is to survive. I know that the community is striving to rebirth itself yet I worry. I worry that unless the dark elements that have crawled into the community are not dealt with first that instead of rebirth Topeka will suffer a miscarriage of the fetus of progress.There are times I want to join the fight and charge forward. Then there are the times, like today, that seem like a waste of my time. I fight to stay strong but I see ignorance, sloth, avarice and apathy. My stomach turns and I ask myself; Why do I even try? Yet the next morning I awaken and go forth to add my candle and pin knife to the fight, the fight where I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. Frustration fills my soul and sadness grips my heart. Where is my Topeka? Where is my home?

Are you still with me? Have you traveled on my journey this day? Do you feel what I feel? Do you want to move ahead and not fall back into the abyss? Are you thinking I may have the answer? The truth is I do not; I wish I did.

I reach down deep inside and my Gypsy blood calls out to me; Release material possessions, put it all behind you and head off to the next spot in the road over the next hill and at the end of the horizon. It is tempting however I will stay, for now, because deep down inside I love Topeka and I Love my state of Kansas; it’s people, it’s places, it’s history, it’s today and it’s tomorrow. I will stay not out of a sense of duty or obligation but because I know that if everyone ran when frustration fills our souls then we would never step into the better future that it takes each and everyone of us to create. For today I will call Topeka, Kansas home and try to ignore the times that I feel that I do not belong. I wonder if I truly know where my home is.

-The GYPSY-

www.RubberBiskit.com

Copyright 2019

Oasis On 66 By J.A. George