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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Merry Christmas Again

Tales from Conley

Toys for Tots,  A Christmas Tale (sort of)

Pitka's Point is along the Yukon River on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

It is not exactly known when the first settlers came to Nigiklik, but they brought with them the Yupi'k Eskimo culture along with the name of "Nigiklik," meaning "to the north." Nor is it exactly known when Mr. Pitka decided to open a trading center.

Mr. Pitka and the trading center are long gone. The people of Pitka's Point enjoy their quiet little village and feel privileged to do so. One hundred and twenty-one Yup'iks live here. The school is the smallest in the Lower Yukon School District. So I went from the largest village and school in the Lower Yukon School District to the smallest.

The high school has been transferred to St. Mary's a few miles down the only road in the Delta and that leaves our school with a population of 32 in K-8. My class size was six. The teacher-to-student ratio could have overwhelmed one. The other three teachers had about the same class load but one of them had the responsibility of being the lead teacher and site administrator. Because of the astronomical class load, we had three aides, a librarian, a Yup'ik instructor, a maintenance man, a custodian, a cook and a secretary who didn't really need the rest of us.

Cynics might think Pitka's Point is a place where teachers go who want to retire but don't want to give up the fat paycheck. Think again. I had four subject matter preparations a day along with at least three and some times four levels for each prep. I also coached cross country, sponsored the student council, was in charge of the yearbook, showed movies every Friday, and held open gym each night for those students who could control their behavior during the day. And, oh yes, my favorite because it was so nondescript – special projects coordinator.

One afternoon just a little after Thanksgiving, I was passing the time away drinking hot chocolate, warming my feet by the stone fireplace and watching a sled being pulled by dogs on TV.

The phone rang and the caller said, "Is this Conley McAnally?" Without waiting for a reply he continued, "This is Sgt. Jones." I paused a moment and said, "This could be Conley McAnally. What do you want?"

Sgt Jones laughed and replied he got a lot of comments like that lately and assured me he was not a recruiter or the one who tracked down retired National Guardsmen for reactivation. I immediately became suspicious, though, because how did he know I was a retired NG?

"Conley," he said hurriedly, interrupting my paranoia, "your name was given me as the contact person for Toys for Tots for the kids in Pitka's Point." I relaxed and we coordinated the arrival of the packages.

At the scheduled morning a C-130 landed at the St. Mary's air strip – no small feat for such a big plane on such a little landing strip on such a cold snowy day. I drove the school truck to the rear of the plane and three Marines jumped down off the ramp and loaded four big bags in the truck bed.

We could not hear to speak over the roar of the engines, but the young Marine who seemed to be in charge – and I mean young – smiled, we shook hands, and he and his small band of brothers jumped back on the plane and took off.  I suppose they went to some other small arctic Eskimo village.

Driving back to Pitka's Point, it occurred to me that I did not even get the kid's – man's – name. He was doing the kids of Pitka's Point such a huge favor and they would be receiving Christmas cheer from a total stranger.

As I sit here writing this I realize how many Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force young men and women are allowing us to enjoy a Christmas this year and how they are giving us the most precious gift of all. All are giving us their time many have given their lives and like the young Marines that delivered toys to a bunch of Eskimo tots, we don't even know their names.

Friday, June 21, 2013

From Alaska - Log 11 (last)


Gee, no entry for a long , long time.  I am in Pitka's Point. Paula stayed back to take care of the boys.  I'm alone up here and really don't like it - the part about being alone.  But that has always been one of my fantasies, to winter in the far north alone and isolated.  Well perhaps I am not that isolated there are three other white teachers, several native staff, and 120 other villagers.  Interesting place so far.


This last week has been spent getting ready for school.  It starts Wed the 25th.  I went for a walk after dinner tonight and found myself on the banks of the Yukon River talking to a couple who were kayaking to Nome.  I told them they could come up to the school and use the Internet to check mail.  They may come up later.


School starts tomorrow.  I am about as ready as I ever am.


School is OK.  I only have seven in the class.  A real dream job.  There are only 35 in the whole school.  The grades are K - 8, and then the kids transfer to St. Marys, about 15 miles down the one road in these parts.  There is one young man named Gabe who is very smart and one other who is funny as all get out.  The others are good kids, but there is always one with an attitude.  The problem is that his grandmother is my assistant.


I am the cross country coach which is stupid because I don't know the first thing about it, but some one had to do it and I am the only man on staff and the ladies did not want to.  I got a book about it and set up a practice schedule but the kids sort of come and go at will.  They don't like to practice for very long.  Their parents take them netting or hunting, or they have to baby sit.  There is always some reason.  Gabe seems to be the best.  There is a district rule that they have to practice 10 days before a meet.  To accommodate the kids I have practice on Sat and Sun, sometimes 2 per day so they can get in the required practices, gee what a nice guy I am, but it is not like I have much else to do.


Went to church in St Marys.  They have a Jesuit society there.


Got paid, $3781 clear.


Took Claudia, our principal-lead teacher to the airport this moring.  She is going to Anchorage for a principals meeting.  Left me in charge.  Perhaps I will call school off for the rest of the week.

Note to reader:  For some reason I stopped keeping a log as such and have no more day to day entries to make.  Some how now and then I run across items that seem to fit this narrative and if I do I will plug them in a long the line.  

I didn't call off school that week.  I don't remember the names of the other teachers except for Claudia and I can say we were all friends but not close ones.  Some of my story's take place in Pitka's Point and when they do I identify it as such.   I had thought that that would be my last year but Paula filed for divorce when I was there and sort of left me in a financial bind.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but usually for some one else.  That is not really fair, she had a host of family problems  to deal with and one can only do so much.  We tried to reconcile but its is hard to do over the phone etc.  I saw her once the following year but nothing really came of it. I have not seen her since, that shipped sailed.  I came back one more year (four years all toghether with a summer school thrown in) and have visited three more with a tip planned for this late spring.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

From Alaska - Log 10

... Continued from Log 9


No entry for a long time.  Went to Dixon and KC, had a nice time visiting kids, better than usual.  Been doing most of my writing working on stories, trying to get them ready to send to friends.  There is a lot of snow and the weather is very cold now.  Alexa came back with us.  She doesn’t appear to like me much, perhaps time will change that.

The teachers are all in a ditty because they heard that a consultant was making a hit list.  I’ve gotten along well with the guy but people like Mike Jump says he is not to be trusted.

There are some things wrong about the educational system in Alaska.  The Administrators by and large are inept and have no long range programs.  The school boards are comprised of well meaning but culturally different Eskimos who think tradition should over shadow all.  There are a lot of teachers that just give up and are staying for the money only and find it easy to fool the administration and community that they are doing a great job.  All one has to do is keep the status quo, tell the parents how great their kids are doing, and basically just not rock the boat.  All so the parents are very lenient.  Given the combination above it doesn’t make for a good learning environment. 

There are many ways to solve this problem one of which is to have everyone held accountable via standardized tests.  One problem I can see is how do you standardize a test for Eskimos, some of which have never seen a side walk?


Snowing, cold, and basketball game.  Have spent the morning doing little except studying on my Alaskan History course and sending emails.  Paula cooked a nice breakfast – Egg omelet, bacon, raisin bread, yum, yum.


Saw the northern lights.  Spent a long time getting on my clothes to go see them.  Not a real good display.  Reports of polar bear prints north of town.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

From Alaska - Log 9

Continued from Log 8


I went out tonight and walked around hoping to see the northern lights.  I didn’t so I then hoped I would see some Hooper Bay night life.  All I could see was a bunch of 4 wheelers running all over town, going God knows where.  Which brings something up, I did run into one of my students out in the dark, he said he was just walking around until he ran into his friends.  It is starting to get cold now , don’t know exactly what the temp is, but it is cold..


No entry for a long time.  Thanksgiving was spent at the Principal’s house.  Paula left for Dixon – I’ll leave on the 21.  she said she spent 26 hours in travel time including airport waiting areas.
At a pot luck for the students an old Eskimo man asked me if he could borrow Paula.  I wasn’t quick enough to ask him how many seal skins he had to trade. 
Things are quiet.  I did manage to piss off the post mistress, but am still getting mail.
The kids are very restless in the afternoon.  The morning class is good though.
Paula and I thought we would go to the Amboy Church Xmas eve – that ought to be interesting if my second wife is there also.  I need to some how make contact with Darren while there.


Got stopped in the hall on the way to lunch.  Marta was furious.  She got a bad evaluation.  I have never seen her teach but she can’t be a bad teacher.  In fact I have never heard anything but praise about her skills.  The administration does not like her because she is out spoken.  She is also the union rep.  She says she is going to appeal the evaluation than sue the principal personally.  Pot luck ought to be fun tonight.

Monday, June 17, 2013

From Alaksa - Log 8

Continued from Log  7 


November already, amazing.  The computer is set up, I am on line but still need to hook up the scanner and printer.  Paula got her second pay check today for subbing.  The twist is she was supposed to get it yesterday but the plane was not able to come in – where else does that happen? 

Halloween was calm. Nothing exciting.  Big to do  tonight.  Dance and a spook hallway up in the school.  Looks good, will have to walk through it later tonight. 

One couple has been here twenty years, love to camp, own a boat, four wheeler, and snow machine.  They live in one of the nicer places.  He is a jack of all trades, fixed our cable when it went out, let us use his satellite unit, very helpful but remains isolated a little from the rest of us.


We had a housing inspection yesterday by the central office.  They are looking at all the teacher housing in the district to levelize rents. Some units better than others but the rents are not equal.  Ours is OK for the most part, don’t expect the rent to go up or down.

One of the new teachers is kind of a sad case.  Flunked out of a PhD program, should not be teaching middle school, poor class room management.  No real friends, no TV, no stock pile of food.  We had him over for dinner once, nice enough guy to talk to , seems to know a lot about Russia.


Megan had Eva yesterday or the day before depending on the time between here and there.  Seems as though Dad left an insurance policy to be divided between us kids and Marsha – don’t know how much.  There is little to write about my Alaska adventure right now and it is to cold to go out exploring without transportation of some sort.  Been writing some stories.


One of my students is dieing from a head injury she suffered from a four wheeler accident.  Chasing around at night, hit a log on the beach, flew off.  She is on life support.  Benise Smith, 13,  Two other girls were hurt also.  Benise is in the hospital in Anchorage. Her parents flew there, they have no money to speak of.  The father is one of our janitors and her mother is a sub and works with Paula sometimes.  We will have to go to the funeral – I hear it is an ordeal.  I will let you know, dear reader.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

From Alaska - Log 7

Continued from Log 6


Last weekend our friends Bill and Sue came over for dinner and brought two quarts of beer (home brew.) It was a little on the dark side but I enjoyed it none the less.

The satellite keeps going out and I spent almost all day climbing around buildings and up and down poles. I got it going but weather conditions keeps the signal erratic. Have emailed all my friends to send up some videos of normal TV as a back up if one day I cannot get it fixed.

I have changed the seating configuration of my room about five times trying to do some internal levelizing, not that it makes much difference. They are all still behind.

I enrolled in another class, so this year I will pick-up nine college hours from the University of Alaska - so what - perhaps I will learn something though. It is about the History of Alaska, required for full certification.

So far I have heard that the the following teachers don't want to come back next year - VP, first grade, second grade, seventh grade and a kindergarten teacher. Two teachers say they want to transfer to Russian Mission and the Principal had a heart attack. It is only October.


Just got back from Jane and Jim's. Great couple. Jane is about my age, Jim a little older. They have a daughter named Kimmy who teachers here also. We go for coffee and roles on Sunday usually. They are from Idaho and have some connection to Tennessee. Their summer home is in Soldotna, about 3 hours from Anchorage. Kim says she is going to Nevada next year and teach.

It has started getting cold, down to around 0 with the wind chill a lot lower. The ponds that dot the Tundra are freezing over. The kids go out and play on them - running across the thinnest parts and are surprised when they fall through. I am sure they do this just for fun and not training for when they are adults and hunt on the pack ice, but I bet it is a carry over for when it really was necessary to have that skill.

Had a good size snow yesterday but it was a very fine snow so the wind whipped it around and you still see brown spots.


Visited with Marta. One of the old hands around here.  Between her and Jane they have made life easy here.  Nice lady.  Friendly to the "newbees" as we are called.  Comes from Florida.  Summer home is in Anchorage.  Always willing to give a helping hand.  Does not  like the principal much.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

From Alaska - Log 6, first snow

Continued from Log 5...


School is going well, at least the preparation of the lesson plans.  I seem to have a knack for it.  I could improve my presentations I think. I went to the local Covenant Church yesterday.  It was a little more interesting than the local Catholic service.  The church is headed my a missionary.  A relative young couple in their mid or early 40's I suspect.  They own an airplane and he teaches natives how to fly along with being a real assets to the community.  There is going to be a teachers retreat next week.  The sponsoring organization picks you up in a plane and you flys to some location, stay in a cabin, have religious services, and they feed you.  It will be a nice change of events.

I am glad I have done this, coming up here, but there is a part of me that wished I hadn't.  Seems a long way from home.  Overall Paula and I have a pretty good balance on things.

They say it will start snowing soon.

There seems to be a lot of interest in keeping the Yup'ik culture and language alive, at least the language is about to disappear.  But how do you do that, merge a subsistence life style with the 21st century.  The parents want to help and most see the importance of an education but a lot of the time it does not carry over into the classroom.  The state is demanding that the kids pass tests to move on to another grade level, and they should but how do they do it.


It snowed today.  It came down real hard and blowing in from the sea.  A white blanket covered the ground in no time.  My first thought was that I hoped it did not effect  our TV reception.  But within an hour it had stopped.  The sun came out, no snow, but did have TV.

The water pump went off for a day or two.  No water for the school or our place.  Had to walk a quarter of a mile to get water from the center of the village.  It got fixed OK.

The village ran out of money and could not pay their 10 city workers for about 2 weeks.

A friend -  Jerry, went to Mountain Village for a math conference.  He didn't know when he was to supposed to leave, where he was going exactly or where he was staying, or if they would even feed him.  Typical Hooper Bay travel arrangements I am told by the veterans here.

Apparently the school is built on an old Eskimo cemetery.  There is supposed to a ghost running around.  One teacher at least says she has seen it.  There is also a story about little people that live out on the Tundra.  It is sort of interesting that the same legend about the Little People is told among the Greenland Eskimos.  Might make a story about that some day.

Friday, June 14, 2013

From Alaska - Log 5, Dad died

Continued from Log 4 dated November 4, 2010

Dad is still not doing well. Brian and Traci keep me posted. They have to return to their homes tomorrow which will leave Marsha to deal with it by herself. Johnny and Marlyn are out of town, at least Rene is there. Shannon keeps in touch. I told Darren not to return for the funeral, concentrate on his Chicago experience.

Some of the kids brought by some berries. They wanted to make us some Eskimo Ice Cream. I declined but paid them for the berries. Don't know what kind of berries they are, little round blue things. One would think they are small blueberries, but every time I ask I get a different answer.

Mike Jump is coming for lunch today.

Last week a moose came into town or at least close enough to cause a lot of excitement. The elders say  it was the first time that has happened. A girl in my class dad shot it. The district had a cross country meet yesterday. 150 kids flew in from all over the district. The fourth season of the Sopranos begins tonight.

It is raining again. The TV is out - satellites and rain don't mix. We need to start taping movies or something. Mike Jump fixed the short wave radio. I signed up for a college class at the University of Alaska. Not looking forward to it.

The regional newspaper is called the Tundra Drums. Just regional stuff, nothing I am much interested in. Paula has fixed up the small bedroom and made it a den. She picked up another cleaning job, is the only one to have applied for the special ed position so far. I wrote a short story about seal hunting.

Marsha called Dad is doing worse. I am not surprised. Brian emailed me and said that Dad wrote on a message board. "Tell Snapper I love him." Later he wrote, "Tell Paula I love her." That is the first time I remember dad saying that to me or anyone else. I am sure there were other times but I don't remember. They must have faded from memory. This is a memory I will keep.

Marsha called. Dad died at 6:30 PM CST. I am blank, the feelings will come later.

Dad's funeral was today. I talked to Seann, he called, so did Traci. It was a nice funeral by all accounts. Seann said it made him feel close to the extended family. He said he spent a lot of time with Brian and JQ.

I finally cried for the first time. Afterwords I wrote a funny email to the kids and Brian and Traci. Time to move on and with good memories of dad. We were not physically close most of our lives, but we had come to an unspoken understanding. There was nothing left unsaid between us.

Bye DAD, see you in the morning.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

From Alaska, Log 4

Continued from Log 3 posted in October.

My first full week of school.  It went OK.  Need to prepare more and better.  The AM class is very good, the PM class is a challenge.  We went for fresh baked salmon to a teachers house last night, yesterday afternoon we borrowed a four wheeler and drove to the beach. We heard they (Eskimos) had killed 2 whales yesterday and were butchering. We didn't go far enough down the beach because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find my way back. We cruised along the surf, picked up a shell and stopped and examined a jelly fish that had been washed up on the shore.

The fly's are getting less numerous the cooler it gets. Still light at 11 PM.

The place we live is roomy, plain, but adequate. We will be ordering meat for the rest of the year but for odds and ends we are done spending money for food.

I keep the email going frequently.

My overall impression is that it is an experience and as of right now I am not inclined to return because I fear for my health. I have a back pain and being the hypochondriac that I am fear the worst, but don't really know what to do about it. Besides by doctor buddy Don said that if it hurt it is to late anyway. I don't want to up set everyone so I just suffer in silence.

Today my teaching partner George and I are having an open gym for the kids from 1 to 3 p. Tomorrow is Labor Day we are having people over for tacos. Our social life is full.

Another week of school has passed. Dad is in the hospital and not doing well. His kidneys and lungs aren't functioning well. He had gangrene in his intestines and they cut part of them out. I have talked to Brian and they all understand that I wont be coming home if and when dad dies, if soon.

The AM kids are great the PM kids still lack a little. I almost told them today they were acting like a bunch of wild Indians, but changed my mind at the last minute, good thing I guess. Wild Eskimos would be more appropriate, but I let it go.

We had Jodie and Katie over for dinner.  Last night we went to our weekly pot luck at Marta's. It was Andy's birthday, Jodie and Katie's boy. Sweet Downs kid.

Paula has made friends with the vice principal. He is a good guy, all 350 pounds of him. He is from New Mexico and has always worked with Native Americans. He and Paula hit it off ever since she told him that this place is a $%#@& zoo. There is a job opening for a special ed assistant she applied for but probably wont get it being a non native. She does some house cleaning and volunteers in Katie's room.

It was Sean's birthday a couple of days ago, 30.  I called but he wasn't home. I left a message.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Ozark Music Festival

If you were there I don't have to describe it, if you were to young or not there you have heard the stories and I don't need to repeat them.  If you heard it was full of nudity, public sex, and drugs-you heard right.  But there is another story you might not have heard:

The local National Guard unit and those units in the surrounding area as far away as Kansas City were put on duty that weekend.  We went about our business as usual.  The Adjutant General of the state of Missouri visited our unit and went on a fact finding mission to the festival.  He wore civilian clothes and without a huge entourage. 

About 1 a.m. Sunday morning I received a phone call from my commanding officer that told me to report to the armory immediately and to put on civilian clothes.  The Chief of Staff of the Army National Guard got us all together, about 100 of us and told us that there was one drug overdose case every five minutes being taken to the the Bothwell emergency room.  The concern was that there were many more that were not making it to Bothwell and needed assistance.  "You are on a life saving mission, you are not there to enforce laws.  You have about 10% hard core out there but the remaining 90% are just kids raising hell and having fun in their mind."

A dawn we all board army vehicles, given a Security T-shirt, and given sectors to patrol and radio in if helped was needed to evacuate some one from the grounds.  A make shift hospital was set up near the site of the fair administration building manned by army doctors and nurses flown in from a Kansas City armory. 

About half way through the day I received a call that my wife had called the armory, that she needed me and I was to come home immediately.  I was whisked off by a highway patro car, found my wife in labor.  I took my wife to the hospital where she gave birth to our first daughter.  She asked me if I was going back to the fair grounds and I said no, they can manage without me. 

For the most part the Ozark Music Festival was handled just fine.  I don't know if any deaths occurred or not, it has been a long time ago and far, far, away it seems.  Perhaps some of you can share what the aftermath was.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

From Alaska, Log 3

Continued from Log 2...

Quaint is not the right word. The town for the most part is a ghetto. Everyone seems poor. There is no running water in any of the homes and the water supplied to the school is yellow and must be distilled. White clothes look dingy after washing. The housing in the old part of the village is nothing but plywood shacks it seems. There are a few, very few, newer homes a little sturdier and are painted bright colors.

Went to church this morning. Part of the mass was in English, part in Yupick.

Our food and TV still have not arrived. We are thankful for the generosity of the staff for letting us buy or borrow needed items.

Called Mom today to have her send some things.


Called Dad, left a message. First day of school, no problems. The kids seem no different than kids the same age anywhere.


Talked to each one of the kids today, except for Shannon. I left a message. Last night we had two couples over for dinner, nice people, will probably become friends with them.  George and Sandy, Katy and Jodie, and their son Andy.

I have been walking around the village and have taken a few pictures. TV got here and is up and running.

Kids keep stopping by to visit. I don't let them in, am polite but don't want to get it started or it will never end.

Still haven't gotten Paula to the beach yet, have walked around village. Food is expansive here and all the stuff we ordered from Anchorage has not arrived yet.


Three kids knocked on the door tonight and offered me some dried fish. They said it was Chum, which I think is part of the salmon family. I tasted it after making them taste it first. They gave me the whole fish, said it was for my wife too. I thanked them, closed the door and through it away. So much for the taste of the local food.

Note to reader: After reviewing what I wrote back then it seems callas, but I was in not the best state of mind as you will tell in subsequent logs. I did start letting the kids visit and they came by a lot, and I even developed a taste for Chum.  In fact I even started feeling affection for the kids.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

From Alaska, Log 2

Later the same evening. 8/15/02

I have tried reading a book and magazine, listened to the radio, and tried a crossword puzzle. I am already bored and the evening has just begun. I have thought I would do a character sketch on the people I have met so far but I really don't know them well enough to be accurate. So I have decided to write down what has happened so far since we left Tucson but only hit the high points.

Mom dropped Paula and I off at the airport. Mom did pretty good saying good bye, didn't even cry, at least not in front of me. The plane left on time at 6 A.M. The two and half hour flight to Seattle was uneventful as was the hour and half lay over. The three and half hour flight to Anchorage left a lot to be desired because it was over cast and Paula could not see the mountains below. She was disappointed.

We went from the Ted Stevens International Airport to the Sheraton Anchorage. Got settled in the room then walked around town, had a drink at a bar named Humpys, went to a School District reception, met a couple named Kroll, went to bed, got up the next morning and went to some meetings, then to Sam's to buy supplies, went back to Humpys for dinner, bed, meetings in the morning, caught a flight at 6 P.M. which didn't leave until 6:40. While waiting we met a guy from Kansas City who was going to Bethel also to fix some sort of medical machine and also an Albanian who had once lived in Dixon.

We landed in Bethel and got the last room in town at a place called the Long House. Bethel is a poor excuse for a town. It has no central business district and what shops there are are stretched out along the roads more or less hidden from view.

We asked a cab driver, all cabby's seemed to be Korean, about a restaurant and he suggested the Depries. Sounded exotic, but it turned out to be no more than a cafe, food wasn't bad however

The next morning our flight was supposed to leave at 9 A.M. ended up departing at 1:30 P.M. It was an hour flight to Hooper Bay in a nine passenger bush plane. The bags were in the same fusel lodge as we were.

We flew over the tundra and it looked like flying over the great planes, but flatter. The area was very green and there seemed to be ponds of water everywhere.

We circled Hooper Bay once and from the air the village looked very quaint. We were met at the landing strip by the school principal and taken to what would be our home for the next nine months. More Specifics later.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

From Alaska, Log 1

look back on my time in Alaska with smiles, happiness, and humor.  Today I came across a log I wrote at the time I was experiencing all the wonders of Alaska.  Realities and memories don't match up sometimes it seems.
8-15-02.  Hooper Bay, Alaska

We arrived yesterday.  This is the most dismal looking place I have ever been in.  It is dirty, the houses are little more than plywood shacks and the teacher housing, at least for us, is some where next to the type you would find in the ghetto.

There are flies all over the place, our food has not arrived, we have no phone or TV yet and we only get one station on the radio.  We are very remote here, you can feel it, we feel forlorn and even with both of us here we cannot help feeling alone and isolated.  A silence has fallen between us but it isn't out of anger.  I think I might have made a mistake.

Women are the ones who are the real pioneers and are the back bone.  They make a house a home.  Paula is doing all the right things but I can tell her heart is not in it.  It pains me to see her unhappy.

It is 52 degrees outside, the wind is out of the west at 17mph.

The school building is the pits.  My classroom is OK and in all fairness everyone we have met, native and teacher, have been very nice and helpful.  This is a good thing I guess given the fact that yesterday we were all strangers.

To be continued

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sedalia Housing Authority

Back in the 1960's the Federal Government wanted to improve the conditions of those who lived in sub par housing in their opinion.  Local communities wanting to cash in on the "free" money applied and housing was built in areas that qualified, and what those exact qualification were I am not sure, but Sedalia received a grant to build apartment type dwelling on the north side of town.  For many years the area was just referred to as the "Projects."  I think it might have had a different name but it never took hold if it did.

I was asked to become a member of the board of directors.  I accepted and one or two nights a month I would attend a meeting and voted on matters that the head administrator  brought to our attention.  Everyone took their position very seriously and thought long and hard about the decisions they were asked to make.  After all we were dealing with people's lives. 

The Director of the board's name has long escaped me as all the other member's names.  I do remember the administrator because his son was a student of mine and he was a minister in a local church.  All of this is much ado about nothing because the real point of the muse is making fun of how a group of people, no matter how well intended can make fools out of themselves.

The Director honestly did not like the community always referring to the projects as the projects and thought if we would give the streets a name in and around the buildings that it would help lesson the stigma of living there, which was always the case where poor people gathered, especially if 99% of them were black.  He was very sincere.

We thought on the issue and since it was the time Scott Joplin was becoming identified with Sedalia more and more some of the streets were named after him and names associated with the era and Jazz.  The trouble came in when it was suggested that the reamaining streets be named after the board members.

I thought it was a terrible idea but so as not to hurt every ones feeling I went along, perphaps secretly wanting my name to go down in history some where.  The Sedalia Democrat the next evening had a front page story which headline read  "Board Honors Themselves."

The next time you are in the area and see McAnally Ct, that is my street and you can tell everyone you know a guy who claims that street is named after him, and so it was sort of, I guess I named it after myself though.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Murder in Sedalia

My memory is a little vague concerning the names of who shot who, so I am not going to use any of the names I think I know but really don't know, you know like Jack Webb said, "to protect the innocent."

There was a house if ill repute, shall we say, on the north side of the tracks years ago.  The house was very famous or infamous and everyone knew it was there and why it was allowed to operate was never really explained.

A young man found out that his former girl friend had gone to work there.  He didn't like the idea and showed up at the house and caused some sort of scene.  The owner of the place took offense at the man's presence and behavior and shot him dead. 

The owner was arrested and for such a big event in Sedalia I cannot remember what the out come was.  

The one thing that does stick in my mind is that the sister of the young man killed was in my eighth grade class at the Sedalia Junior High and so was the son or step son of the man who killed the boy.  They were in the same class, same period etc.  There must not have been any particular problems because nothing stands out that there was a problem in the school between the two famalies. 

If anyone can fill in the blanks I would be interested in knowing.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sedalia-Heber Hunt Chocolate

Students remember some teachers but what they don't realize teachers remember some students.  I for one remember all my students but not by name.  Recently I received a class picture of the first class I ever taught and I knew everyone of them.  There was only one without prompting that I could put a name.  Here is why -  It was around some holiday and it was the custom back then that the students would bring the teacher a small treat like candy or a small token.  A couple of boys brought me a box of chocolate covered cherries.  My wife and I liked chocolate covered cherries so as soon as I got home we opened the box.  I took one of the pieces, bit into it and discovered it was paraffin with a not to good tasting chocolate covering.  Well I saw the humor in it and I wish I would have taken the box back to school the next day and passed it around telling the class how delicious they were and give credit to the boys who gave it to me.  However the boys admitted the next day after being much to eager to ask how I liked their gift, that one of their grandmothers had helped them make the "treat."  I didn't make an issue out of it of course because I thought it was funny.  One of the mothers came up to me after school one day soon afterwards and told me that I had permission to do anything to her son short of breaking bones and drawing blood.  I never did of course, but Brian Dickman beware I might find myself in the northwest portion of the US some day.  I have a good memory and a long one.  I don't think I will order a pizza from you unless you taste it first.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sedalia - Heber Hunt

It was not planned that I would go live in Sedalia.  Yet it seems that one persons misfortune turnss sometimes in to an others fortune.

I was waiting around for my military orders to come through that would undoubtedly send me eventually to Viet Nam.  I had resigned myself to that venture.  My wife at the time was teaching art at Smith Cotton and she came home one evening and said she had heard there was a job opening at Heber Hunt elementary school. 

My student teaching had taken place under Larry Whiteside at Smith Cotton so I was a know quantity in the district and they only wanted someone to fill out the year due to an illness of a 6th and 7th grade teacher. 

I applied for the job, the principal "Bud" Thomas hired me and I started teaching.  I am not sure how much I really taught anyone but I remember the classes seemed to have about as much fun as I did and I met some very nice and interesting people that I would eventually weave into the fabric of my books and short stories.

As luck would have it I received a letter from the army saying that they had more officers than they needed and that my full time service was no longer required. 

I signed a contract for the next year and was very excited that the school district was going to build a new junior high school.  Perhaps I could get a job there I thought after it is built.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Crisp Lake Chronicle, Circa 1950

 A farewell party was held for Uncle Bill last Saturday evening at Hutcheson Park on Lake Drive. Uncle Bill has been the head Post Office official at the postal station in Fairmount ever since his return from the war. He was a natural for the job because he had done the same thing for the Army APO - European Theater, in London, England. Uncle Bill says he is not real happy about the transfer but would make the best of it given the fact that it was politically motivated. "You play with a snake and you are going to get bit," was one of his replies. He claims it was politics pure and simple and had nothing to do with his performance. He said he made a mistake and told his cousin Walter on his mother's side that he had voted for Dewey and not Truman in the last election and Walter told Mr. Jones the precinct captain who in turn told Bill Serman. Well that is possible I guess but upon further inquiry I found out the real reason for the transfer to the Kansas City office. It was no secret to anyone living in and around Fairmount that Uncle Bill had acquired the habit of drinking a beer with his lunch each day. It was against postal rules to drink in a government facility so he would take his sack lunch over to the Calico Cat each day to imbibe in a brew but never more than two. So as not to inconvenience the postal patrons he would leave his cousin on his wife's side, Homer, in charge who was the custodian but whom he had trained to sell stamps with instructions never to sort mail or do anything else around the office - only sell stamps. One day however after arriving at the Calico Cat Uncle Bill found a birthday celebration in progress for Herb McIntosh. Two beers turned into six so my informant recalls because Herb's brother Hal was buying and Uncle Bill told folks he could not be rude and leave the party early. Besides Homer was capable of selling stamps and anything else could wait until the next day. The whole matter could have been a non incident except when Uncle Bill did not return at his normal time Homer decided to take his lunch break anyway. He left instructions on the counter along with a role of stamps and a jar. The instructions stated that customers should take however many stamps they needed and leave the correct change in the jar or bring the money by the next day. Leaving the post office unattended and the stamps on the counter would not have been a problem either either except just by chance a Kansas City postal inspector was on his way to the Independence branch and thought he would stop by the Fairmount station just to say hi! The audit that followed found that there was nothing missing at our local branch. Homer has been transferred to Sugar Creek and Uncle Bill to the Kansas City main office. His assignment is on the mail train that runs between Kansas City and Chicago where he helps sort and put the mail bags out for pick-up and delivery for the towns in between. Uncle Bill says that the job is OK in and of itself but the main problem is that the mail car is always attached to the rear of the train and there are too many train cars in between it and the club car where they keep the beer.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Crisp Lake Chronicle

Crisp Lake Chronicle

The Crisp Lake Chronicle was an underground newspaper published in the early to late 1950's. It's circulation never mounted to much and the best I can determine from reading the now yellow toned pages it was a paper that printed all the news that was really unfit to print anywhere else.

Some might call it a gossip rag, others might say it was a collection of a bunch of stories that were meaningless to anyone other than the reporter, still others might say everything was made up and untrue. I on the other hand believe every word of what I read in the CLC and look at it as little slice of Americana.

What is really strange to me is that other than my grandfather's collection there does not seem to be any record of it ever existing. The Examiner has no mention of it in its archives, the Jackson County Historical Society has no record of it among their catalog of the Inner City News, nor does the Internet give it any mention. It is like a conspiracy. It is a mystery.

So I feel it is my obligation to resurrect some of the articles and place them from time to time in my blog. Social historians will applaud me, my readers will gain some in site as to what it was like back in the 50's living in and around Fairmount, Maywood, and even Englewood but even more so on Crisp Lake proper, and some might even be offended if they have a thin skin about their ancestors.

The big mystery however is that in all the papers I have perused so far there is not the slightest mention of who the reporter was or who actually was the publisher or distributor.

The few old timers left in the old neighborhood claim they have no knowledge of the publication and change the subject when questioned about an event that was claimed to have happened.

My grandfather left a note on the outside of the box the papers were in that said not to open until 40 years after his death. A note in side the box, just opened recently, says that anyone reading the contents could do anything they wanted with the information contained in the CLC because most of the people mentioned would be dead or to old to read anyway.

First edition coming soon.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Caught in a Trap and Defriended

Remember that old Elvis song ..caught in a trap, cannot walk out I love you to much baby... or something like that.  Well it has happened to me on this blog.  Some guy or phantom electronic bug started sending me great comments about one particular post I made.  I was at first flattered but was puzzled as to why that particular post was causing so much interest.  Well I still don't know why, but the person, persons, or thing that keep sending me kudos is trying to get me to respond back and perhaps buy something he, she, it are selling.  I have resisted the temptation and I really don't care.  Perhaps he, she, it, lingers long enough on my post to spike up my AdSense account. 

I have been defriended twice on Facebook.  Both were my fault.  I did not realize in either occasion how thin skinned people were.  The first time was by a woman who kept trying to convince all who would listen that the conservative view point was the only view point worth having and that Obama was not an American and all the other stuff you hear about.  That part didn't bother me very much but many of those who took the bait  were very bitter and those who responded to the bitter comments the lady made were more bitter and it sort of got out of hand.  I finally responded and said for both sides to lighten up, Facebook was supposed to fun etc.  Well I may not or may be correct on that score but the lady (whom I had known years ago when square dancing) wrote back and said some words that I don't recall presently but was very upset but sincere and informed me she no longer could be my friend.  That was the first defriended.  My fault for trying to bring reason to people who were being unreasonable (in my opinion that is)

The second time I told a joke that I had heard over 20 years ago at least, but  I inserted it into a squabble about football teams in one state being better than one in another state.  Of course I had to interfere again and inserted my joke.  One of the guys took homage to my jest and told me something like my brain was like a Beebe in a box car and he was defriending me right then and their.  The other guy made not comment and I still hear from him.  I did get a small lecture from one guy I have always respected since a recontact was made via FB.  He said I was a little out of line.  Probably so but no disrespect was intended.  Oh well I have stumbled along the last few moths having two less friends in my life, I guess I will last a few more months.  I will try not to say things from now on that irritate people (Ha!)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Far Horizons - A get together

Last night a friend of ours decided he wanted to have a corn roast.  He went out bought a bunch of corn told a bunch of people to come to the open grill by the pool at five P.M, to bring your own eating utensils, something to prepare on the grill, and whatever you wanted to drink.  This is not an abnormal occurrence here in our little community on the east side of Tucson.  What made this one different is that no one new anyone else or just had a passing acquaintance.  I am not sure if the guy doing the inviting new this but I for one thought it a great treat.  To often there is a party and the same people get together all the time.  Nothing wrong with that but your horizon is limited and isn't this place called Far Horizons? 

There are about 1200 people down here at anyone time, many are just for a few days at a time, others are here from one to six months out of the year.  Still others like myself live here year round, there are about 60 of us who do that.  There are other parks in the state that are much bigger but for me if I wanted to live in a place much bigger I would stay in Independence at paint cati on the walls and sit under a heat lamp.  But bigger places have there place and many enjoy them.

I made some new friends last night and although they wont be the type of friends that I grew up with it will be nice to see more familiar and friendly faces.  Sometimes you like to be where every one knows your name. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Just a Basic Day - Graduation

When ever a Basic Training Cycle is completed the military has a "Pass in Review."  That is when the entire brigade and brigades assemble on the parade ground and pass in front of the reviewing officer, after said officer gives a short speech congratulating everyone for completing the training.  It is sort of an elaborate and complicated affair but has been done often enough that it goes without a hitch.  After the speech the commander of the unit  parading in review shouts out "Pass in Review."  The review is lead by an army band and each unit at company level marches and when they pass the reviewing officer the commander of the company level unit sounds off "Eyes Right."  The officers leading each company and platoon size units salutes, the squad nearer to the reviewing stand keeps their eyes and head straight ahead and the other columns turn their heads to the right.  After the reviewing stand is passed the same officer yells "Eyes Front."  The salutes are completed and the heads snap forward again.  It sounds sort of hokey but those participating do feel elements of pride.  I practiced the event several times but was unable to attend the ceremony.  I was recovering from an event that happened the night before.

A bunch of us were celebrating are completion of basic at the beer tent.  Another guy and I decided we didn't like each other and my only one real fight in my life ensued.  The guy beat me to a pulp.  I would like to say I put up a good fight but in reality I did not.  I remember very little about the fight and was black and blue and my face was swollen.  Several of my comrades helped me back to the the barracks and propped me up in the shower.  Several guys from the other platoons came by and said they would go down and beat the other guy up if I wanted them too.  They said they really didn't like the guy anyway and he had been a bully the entire eight weeks.  I told them not to bother, it was my fault for letting my masochism get in the way of sound judgement. 

Needless to say I was somewhat embarrassed and had no desire to see the guy the next morning before the parade.  So when the platoon fell out the next morning I remained in bed and did not get up till noon when the troops arrived back to the company eara. 

We started processing our way out of Fort Benning, several of my closer friends and I jumped in my car and headed home.  My basic days were over and while I don't dwell on them or want to relive it in any way shape or form, I don't want to forget even the most horrific parts of it and will treasure many of the events that occurred in the summer of 1968.

Monday, January 28, 2013

I Digress, again

In my last post I made a mistake.  The tornado was on May 20, 1957, not 1947 on May 5, both of which were my birthday of course.  There is a small epilogue however.

I eventually got over air sickness and have spent many hours in small air crafts while in the army and living in Alaska.  My fear of storms was overcome and even resulted in my working for the state version of what is now FEMA where I encountered severe weather all the time.  The air sickness was over come sort of naturally but my fear of storms took on a mystical quality.

It seems that after the tornado on May 5 of '57 the summer was full of storms and storm warnings.  We did not have a basement so every time a warning would come up we would go to the neighbor's house and either sit in the basement or their front room ready to head for the basement if things got sticky, so to speak.   I was always petrified during the warnings or even when a bunch of clouds gathered.  So like most people when they get scared I would pray or even resort to reading the bible. 

One evening I was prone on the floor reading some passage of the bible, don't remember which one, full of fear and anxiety.  A breeze came in the front door and caught the edge of the page I was reading and blew across the bible and my eyes fell on a passage that went something like this, "you shall not be afraid because you do not know my ways." 

I have tried several times to find that passage or something like it but have failed every time.  However I was never afraid of a cloud, storm, or tornado from then on.  I wish all my fears could be handled in the same way.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I digress

I was in a quandary on what to do with a bunch of Pilot Log books my dad had kept for many years.  They were almost a complete set of logs dating from 1944 when he began flying.  I hated to toss them out but was tired of moving them from place to place.  So while backing stuff to take to Tucson I thought that perhaps I could donate them to some organization like I did his letters from Korea (they rest with the Missouri Historical Society right now.)  I first tried the TWA Museum at the old down town airport, they were not interested, then to the Airline Museum across the field.  They were not interested either.  On a fluke I went to one of remaining pilot training centers close by and asked if anyone there would be interested in having them for nostalgia or historical purposes.  To make a long story short the owner of the flight training and charter service remembered Dad and said that he (dad) had given him his Check rides and that he was sure that dad had written his name in the logs.  He as them now.  When I got back to my house I noticed that a log book had fallen out of the box and as I was thumbing through it noticed a entry dated July 28, 1957.  I read "snapper's first flight."  I decided to hold on to that book.  All I remember of the flight was that we followed the path of the Ruskin Heights Tornado rebuilding project (a tornado ripped through Ruskin Heights on May 20, 1947, my birth day.)  I also remembered I got air sick and almost threw up.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Just a Basic Day - Religion

If I were to be a preacher or priest or rabbi, I think I would join the military.  There are always plenty of sin going round and those who need to be saved or at least brought to the light.  I do not remember attending church while in Basic but I do remember a LTC Chaplin coming by the beer tent just to see if we were all doing OK and hinted that he was willing to talk to us anytime we wanted.  Of course we were not going to admit that we needed anything he had to offer, being the macho soldiers we were.

One other time a minister who was not in the army came out to one of our bivouac areas and held a small little service.  He gave us some inspirational words and let it be known that God would take care of us if we would only let him.  That he would clean our souls with his tears.

That night God cried a lot because there was a drenching downfall of rain that washed our camp site out. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Just a Basic Day - Propaganda

There is a great big sign or at least there was right outside of the basic training complex.  It read, "more sweat in training, less blood in battle." 

Getting one all charged up is one of the major reasons basic training was invented.  Of course there was the conditioning and the learning how to be a soldier, but without being mind washed the rest is all for naught.  There are numerous ways the army and the military in general go about psyching one out.  Music is used, giving awards to place on your uniforms, different kinds of uniforms and some are by signs.  I had my share of awards, had four differnt kinds of uniforms, could choke up when an army band played but signs seemed to be every where.  A few I remember are "Think War," "Mission First, People Always," "God Hates Communists."  There were more but 40 plus years have erased most of them, but I am sure if you go on a military base today the signs and slogans will be displayed.

As almost an aside I remember that one day at Ft Benning we were all in an out door class receiving instruction on how to enter a village.  They had a mock up of a Vietnamese village.  The tactic are not that important here, but I thought then and do today how funny it was that the narrator said, "after the village is stabilized, you go to the village bulletin broad remove the enemy propaganda and replace it with our information."

Monday, January 7, 2013

Just a Basic Day - Camping

(my spell check just went out.  It will be wrose than normal.)

My cousin asked my dad to go camping once.  Dad said he did not want to go and when asked why and had he ever been dad replied, "Yes once, but we called in Korea."   Well I almost think the same way and if I had gone to Viet Name or something like that, I'm sure dad and I would agree.

As an officer you are given to shelter halfs to make one small, what we all call, "pup tents."  They were made from canvas, green, and very heavy.  If you were an enlisted man or a traniee you were only given one shelfter half and you had to find a guy who you would share a another shelfter half with. 

Depending on if you were tactical or administrative you would sit you tents up in neat rows, dig drainage ditches around your tent in such a way that if it rained the water would run to another trench that others had dug in front or behind their tents.  In theory the water would run off your tent into the trench surrounding your tent and then flow into the trench that would carry the water away and you would stay high and dry.  It never seemed to work that way though.  If it rained a lot you just figured on becoming wet.

If you were tactical you just put your tent where ever you wanted with in a defined area and make sure you were at least 10 meters away from the other tents (the distance that a hand granade would kill at) and make sure you were camouflaged, an art in itself.  (If you were really hard core you could use your poncho and poncho liners together with commo wire and make your self a nice little abode. I am far from hard core but I have done it, it works and I prefer it.)

With all the technology I hope the military has figured out a way to make the tents lighter weight and individualized by now.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Just a Basic Day - DI's

Drill Instructors, Drill Sergeants or just plain DI's were and I assume a dedicated lot.  The are also mean, cantankerous, sadistic, funny, and think all basic trainees are stupid and beneath contempt.  Most of them did not quite know what to make of us.

The average age of a basic trainee back in 1968 was about 19.  Most had never been away from home, most were draftees and I am sure most didn't want to be there in the first place.  The ones that were not scared to death had an attitude and a bad one to boot.  Our cycle, with all the two year ROTC candidates were an average age of 23, didn't really want to be there but given the alternative kept a good attitude about the whole thing.  Like one guy told me, "I'd hate to get killed because I wasn't paying attention in class."  To the DI's we were just as stupid and little less contemptible than most recruits and we were also giving them a break.  They didn't worry about us going AWOL or smartomg off or being thrown in the guard house, or be given Article 15's, it was sort of like a vacation to them.

They tried to act gruff but we knew it was all a game and knew that they knew and that we knew they knew that we knew. 

I cannot remember any of their names except for our platoon drill sergeant.  I can remember what they looked like however.  All of them were black except the one I had.  His name was Sgt Redman.  He had been in the army three years, this time.  He had been in and out of the army three times and had gone thru basic as a recruit three times.  He drank a lot or so his red cheeks said and he wasn't that smart but sort of a nice guy.  He seemed to be pretty realistic about us, and didn't give us any amount of harassment.  He just told us to do things and we would do them and he did it with out yelling.  I have often wondered if he stayed in the army.  All the DI's wore smokey the bear hats.

Some of the guys in our company had a lot of problems going through the physical things required.  The DI's tried to help them and encourage them.  They would not give up and told the cadets that they could not give up either.  Most did not.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Just a Basic Day - Recycle

Just a Basic Day - Recycle

It seemed like every time the commander of our basic training company got mad at us for some infraction, usually not getting some place on time, he would threatened to "recycle" all of us.  We knew he couldn't do it of course but we did not want to challenge him either.  Recycle meant that we had to start basic all over again.  That was always a depressing thought.  In our particular situation it would never have happened, but to the regular draftee it was devastating.  Even the threat of being sent to Viet Nam was not enough for you to want to repeat basic.  The worst he, the commander, could do to us was kick us out of the program and there were a few that should have been.  It scares me just a little to think that some of the goof balls, and duffaces I saw in the ROTC Basic Training program made it thru and became officers.  Hopefully they were in the fiance or admin branch or some such place where they could not get someone killed easily.

Of course one of my greatest fears was that I would someday be put into a position that unless I made the right decision I could get someone killed.  The Fiance and Admin branches were not that bad a deal for any of us I guess.  I for one was a reluctant warrior at the very best.