The Key FOB Story

 

Mary’s — Colorado City, TX

 

After leaving Mary’s Country Café in Colorado City, I was feeling bloated and wondering how and why I packed away so much of their chicken-fried steak. I was driving down a depressingly hot and joyless west-Texas country road, 20 miles east of nowhere special.

 

Chicken Fried Steak, gravy & extra, fries, Texas toast, green stuff

 

The desperation of the settlers who first moved there is unimaginable for me. They didn’t even have a/c in movie houses, movies at all, or a/c for that matter. The middle of nowhere may be overused and trite, but this place is there.

My excuse for being here is that I married a native. Her family and what is now our tribe live around there. I reckon they don’t know any better, but I’m here cuz they are.

After a while, I spied one of them plug-in jobs on the roadside. Casually leaning against the car was a hot (in both senses of the word) little number lookin’ plumb distressed in her flipflops, cutoff jeans, and a sweaty, thin tanktop. She was on the highway side with her arms folded looking at her cell phone like she might get service. Not out there.

 

See the blue dot on curve, right side?

 

I forget which rule it is that says no honorable man shall pass such a sight without rendering aid, so I just pulled on over after slowly driving past. It was a hot dry day, too miserable to be stuck in a fix of any kind. But that sweet little pumpkin-head was dressed fer it.

“Howdy ma’am. I’m Billy Don Russel from o’r West Bumbfuch. Y’all doin’ a’right?

That little girl acted plumb excited to see me. “Oh-Em-Gee. Thank God!”

Did I mention she had long black hair pulled tight into a quarterhorse tail that was sitckin’ out the back of a ball cap, like they do? The cap said Daisy Riding Service.

I managed to keep my eyes on hers and my eyebrows down. Men in them parts follow a strict role or can’t be trusted. And women like that are usually packin’ small caliber. Texas, ya know. We got critters, some are human.

With a neighborly smile I asked her, “What seems to be the problem, young lady?”

She held up her key FOB and screeched through her bright white teeth for the world to hear, “My clicker thingy won’t unlock my effing door and I can’t get into my gee-dee car.”

“Would you like me to try, Ma’am?”

She handed me her keys. I quickly glanced around expecting to see if a candid cell phone recording all this. First, I tried to open the door with the handle. Sure ‘nuff, locked. Pressing the unlock button changed nothing.

I looked closer at the metal portion of the key and then back at the distressed damsel. She gave me a “told ya’” expression and shrugged her hot, sweaty, bare shoulders.

I gently slid the metal portion of the key into the little hole near the door handle and twisted slightly to an audible click. Handing her the key, I suggested she drive off first to be sure everything else is ok. She got in her car and rolled down the window.

“Thanks, Grandpa. I’m so embarrassed.”

“You drive careful, young lady. It’s dangerous country out there.”

“Please don’t tell Mom or Dad. They already think I’m a brainless twit. Tell Gramma I said hi.”

I managed to get back into my pickup with a straight face. My wife asked, “What was that all about?”

I looked at her and smiled, “Jessica said to tell you howdy. I’ll tell ya the rest over dinner, but she was having some technological issues.”

“She didn’t know how to use it?”

“More like didn’t know how not to use it.”

 

Look both ways on them deserted roads.
Tumble weed and roadrunners will get cha if ya don’t mind the gaps.

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Essay: My FWB Neighbors (4 of 4)

This is the last of my four-part neighbor-knocking recall from our time on the Redneck Riviera (Florida Panhandle).

 

Part 4 of 4: Meet Dangerous Dixie

Directly across the street lived an inspirational hero named Dixie. I met her when she was 97 or 98 years of age. I went to the 99th Birthday bash at Dixie’s home, the same house she and her late hubby moved into 50 years prior, in 1964, when the houses and the neighborhood were all new.

A wee bit bent over, Dixie walked unassisted and talked bitingly sharper than many folk decades younger. If I had a favorite people list, Dixie would be in the top five. I don’t know what it was about the little bull dog that we found so compelling, but Dixie was a treat to behold. A pill, but one you must love.

Meeting and making new friends when they are in their late 90s (Dixie was 30 years my senior) is like no other relationship. There were many things special or unique about her (not all of them sweetness and love), but at that point in life, attitude is more important than ever. One of Dixie’s last great adventures had been an excursion to the Galapagos Islands ten years earlier. She told me all about the trip, remembering many specific details and saying that she got around much better back then, at age 88.

Dixie was convinced that a local lawn guy had dumped a pile of yard-waste at her curb. He hadn’t, but that was not the point. She refused to permit me to dispose of the waste. My wife talked to the guy and offered to pay him to clean it up. He said, “I know she thinks I did that, but I did not. However, I will clean it up without charge.” He did. In Dixie’s mind, he was guilty, and she had won because she had waited him out. We let her go with that.

I have attended exactly one 99th Birthday Party in my life: Dixie’s. She wore two-inch heels and personally greeted each of the many guests. As she would introduce them around the room, naming each guest, she accurately told a little story about each person or couple.

That went on for more than an hour before Dixie finally sat down and took her shoes off. Dixie looked at my wife and asked if she still drove. Dixie’s Mercedes was parked in her driveway, but she had only recently stopped driving. When Yolonda said that she did drive, Dixie said, “Good. Because we need to get out and do some running around and have some fun.”

I don’t know what doctor thought a cardiac pacemaker would be good for Dixie at 99, but a few months following the party she had that surgery. Some weeks later, Dixie was found dead in her split-level home, ostensibly from some form of cardiac failure. Dixie’s 100th Birthday Party was combined with a memorial of her passing as well as celebrating her life. I knew Dixie for less than two years of her long life, but I will not forget her.

In many ways, I would like to be like Dixie. However, I could never measure up to her spark, enthusiasm for life, or love of nature.

Look both ways in life, even when there is a lot more was than will be. Mind your gaps.

 

Essay: My FWB Neighbors (3 of 4)

 

I have always liked the Diamond Rio song, Norma Jean Riley, so it follows this dribble for no other reason than I like it.

Part 3 of 4: Norma Jean (not Riley) and Mac

I met Norma Jean and her hubby, but I recall little about either of them. He was quiet; she was not. I had no judgmental opinion, but my wife seemed to like them. That means they are “fine.” They were longtime residents of the neighborhood and had raised their kids there and all of that. But, we all have our foibles, right? So, I will set this up for you.

We rented the house on the cul-de-sac we lived in for three years. When we announced we planned to move, the owner put it on the market and sold it. The couple who bought the house had children, were of some middle eastern ethnicity or nationality, and of the Islamic faith. I never met them, but I may have seen them when they looked at the house, since it was being shown while we lived in it.

As I understand, after we moved (bless her heart) sweet ol’ Norma Jean, who is of the Southern Baptist tradition, went to meet and welcome her new neighbors. It’s what we do. Being neighborly, right? In classic, southern, Bible Belt fashion, she invited her new neighbors to attend church and especially invited the children to Vacation Bible School.

The father of the children explained to sweet Norma Jean that he and his family were Muslims. He added that while his family would be following their own religious tradition, Norma Jean and her hubby were invited to a sit-down discussion of religion so that they might understand Islam better.

I don’t know what Islamic sect or part of that tradition the family followed. The conversation ended there. I’m sure Norma Jean sweetly declined the invitation. But then, bless her heart, Norma Jean shared the experience and her take on it all with my wife.

Apparently, Norma Jean was quite upset (shocked?) by the invitation for a chit-chat on the topics of Jesus and Mohammed. In righteous indignation she contacted my wife and shared her venomous opinion of such a request. “I have never been so insulted,” is how she felt about it.

I asked my wife how Norma Jean could in good conscience invite a Muslim family to a Southern Baptist church and to Vacation Bible School, but be offended by an offer to compare notes, quid pro quo, especially about two of the three Abrahamic religions of the world.

Some things I will never understand. Most people I will never understand. Southern Baptists and Muslims are two groups that fit both categories. But, that is fine since it is unlikely that they understand me either.

Look both ways in comparing notes with others. Turnabout is fair play but mind the gaps.

Essay: My FWB Neighbors (2 of 4)

Part 2 of 4: Parents and Children

This is the second of my four-part ‘tattletale’ series about our neighbors in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. I had three kids, and my kids have kids. So, I have some street cred opinions about this.

I never met the man who lived in the house to the right of us before he died. A younger couple with several children and a dog eventually moved in. I forget their names.

Their children were girls and the girls always seemed to have friends around, so I never got a good head count. I think someone in the family had enemies as evidenced by regular TP in the trees and spray paint (much more serious with ugly messages) on the house.

I recall seeing the children routinely jumping off the roof of the house onto the trampoline in the back yard. It looked like fun, albeit dangerous. Yet, I recall no 911 or EMS calls – at least not for that address. Except for our house and that one, all other homes on that cul-de-sac had at least one emergency call during the time that we lived there.

I think the youngest of the daughters was regularly under severe attack from zombies or some other mean and vile creatures, and their dog tried to save her. I could tell this by the blood curdling screams (her talent) and the crazy loud insane barking which provided accompaniment. We lived with it – but she and their dog both had very capable lungs. Her sudden screams were startling and a bit funny.

Then one night the kids were about 20 feet from my bedroom window and playing loudly on the trampoline. It was a weekend night, so being up late was no big deal. However, after midnight I got a flashlight and decided to join the party. I did not turn on the flashlight until I was at the fence, thus eliciting more screams. Yes, I scared the crap out of them. And yes, I intended to.

I advised the girls that I appreciated there was fun was to be had, but I wanted to sleep and my bedroom was nearby. I asked if there was an adult nearby. They said there was not. I got lots of “No sir” and “Yes sir” answers to my questions, so the kids were polite and just having fun. But still. My intervention stopped the noise. I don’t know if parents were ever aware of the situation, my complaint, or were even home.

I suppose my wife and I may have been overbearing parents compared to those folks. They had cute and polite kids, but I never saw the children and the parents in the same place at the same time. I seldom saw evidence of adult supervision, period. All of this was more experience than problem, if that makes sense.

It was only a few more months before we moved. Following one of the loud, panicked, world-ending screams, I looked at my wife and said, “I wonder how much I will miss living here.” Shortly after our relocation to a Seattle area 55+ community, I made the comment, “The silence here is deafening and disconcerting.” It was too quiet. For a while, I missed the little boogers.

Look both ways. Children are everywhere. Mind the gaps, too. They hide there.

 

Essay: My FWB Neighbors (1 of 4)

We moved from San Antonio, Texas to the Florida Panhandle (aka southern Alabama or the Redneck Riviera) in 2012. It was to be my last assignment before retiring three years later and subsequently relocating to live near Seattle for a few years.

I got the idea to blog about my neighbors from reading one of Joey’s posts. To be brief, I’ll post it in four parts, each with a featured glimpse of one of the real-life characters/neighbors I met whilst living in the Sunshine State.

Part 1 of 4: Wheeler-Dealer Danny Boy

Not the real guy, but almost.

The neighborhood was built in 1964 and was mid-century semi-modern (i.e., small and old). A man who was a native of either the Empire or Garden State named Danny was my neighbor and lived in the house to the left of ours. Several feet separated our long, sloped driveways.

Danny was an interesting character. If I were to write a book titled, Wheeler-Dealer Meets Reality, Danny would be the main character. His first name was the same as my estranged half-brother and I noticed similarities. Danny’s house was in an uncertain stage of foreclosure. For whatever reason (I neither knew or cared) Danny-borrowed using his home as collateral when the housing market value was increasing. He told me that several times he went to the bank for more as the assumed value increased.

After the collapse of the housing market, Danny owed far more than the property was worth. So, he stopped making all payments. He moved out for a while, opening the door for repo, but then (with legal advice) he moved back in so that they could not repo so fast and easy.

Danny went to different doctors for medical care and used two services. VA for free and some other docs covered by his mail carrier’s insurance. The way he explained it to me was, “I kind of play them against each other.” I cannot recall responding to that comment, but I know what I was thinking. Irony is coming.

I am not sure exactly what marriage Danny was on, but it was number three or four. I never asked him if trading in wives for newer models was precipitous to his financial problems. For as long as I knew him, Danny was deep in debt, in default, and living in a house that was going to be taken away “any day now.” But living there virtually for free. He kept the lights on, but was no longer buying his house. Danny was interesting and while I liked him, I was not gunna follow any of his get rich quick plans.

One day a pre-teen boy knocked on my door. He was a pleasant lad between the ages of 10 and 13. He asked me if he and his friends could use my driveway, which was probably the largest hill in Fort Walton Beach, to ride their bikes (and skate boards and whatever else with wheels) down. I was impressed that he asked, so I said yes provided that their parents knew about the deal. I agreed to this in a town where all children’s swings in the parks had been removed for fear of litigation. While there were some minor crashes, no serious injuries resulted, and I have not been sued. The kids had fun almost every day and I liked the idea that I contributed. It was my driveway on my rented property, or so I thought.

I forget how I learned that Danny had told the kids to go away and that they were not allowed to use my driveway for recreation. But, he did exactly that, and I was pissed. Before I could calm down enough to confront him, Danny had a severe heart attack and was hospitalized for bypass surgery. He recovered, and I decided to let it go. The kids would not return, even if I explained the problem. Danny and his wife eventually moved (evicted), and his home was finally repossessed by the lenders or banks, flipped, and then sold. I don’t recall the new neighbor’s name, but they were not as interesting as Danny. Normal neighbors can be boring.

Look both ways to see your neighbors. Mind the gaps and the children.

Poetry: Honor the CAS Brigade

Memorial Day greetings as we acknowledge our remembrance with parades and poems, and we mark the unofficial threshold of Summer with humbled celebration.

I wrote a poem for Memorial Day…

Agree.

Honor the CAS Brigade

Not the six hundred, your life or mine.
My life for yours, in what noble cause?
You, comrade, have set my stage,
presented me with this chance,
and roll life forward to repay.

Has the world truly lost you?
Is it peace we’ve all gained?
Willing you were, but not for the price
to pay for my freedom, this high liberty.
Did you pay all my dues? What is my debt?

You did not die to win over another,
’twas peace you willed not mere death.
Shall I follow your glorious footsteps?
What cost for Liberty the price to pay?
Was the sum too dear for us to say?

Back to you, no debt can now be paid.
Was there glory in your demise?
Hail Liberty! is now your shroud,
I bow my head and we salute your life,
as today we stand to morn your death.

Comrade be known to only so few,
your loves, your bests, your suffering pains.
Dress right in honored memory
and in memorial spirit. Your life for mine –
no greater sacrifice, no higher honor.

Me. Standing before you,
your stone,
your memory.
Your life!
I’m humbled.

Yet honored.
Not that you died,
But that you lived.
And because you lived, you died,
So I may live. That we can live.

To my fallen fellows,
to my comrades of ideal,
may your sacrifice be honored
within our best brigade.
I salute your life.

Bill Reynolds © 27 May 2018

Look both ways in Memorial to our fallen comrades, yours, mine, ours. Allow no gaps.

Poetry: A Blaze of Glory

Warned ya: F-word used cuz I do.

A Blaze of Glory

I should be dead.
Hush! Be quiet.
Listen to me.

I shudda been dead years ago.
Every rock wall or cliff I ever saw
was for climbin’ up or down
got kinda hairy sometimes, ripped pants,
scrapes, scratches, and snakes
got bee stung once.

Every train was our ride, tracks for playing
and high trestles for wide river crossings.
A train’s comin’?
I knew two guys who
killed themselves
jumpin’ off a them bridges.

Every roof was to be jumped from
after a building’s been climbed, got
wrenched, twisted, and sprained —
never broken.

Me and Jimmy swam
butt-naked
in that filthy, dirty, Susquehanna
in our bathing suits, which means naked.
Immunity.

We climbed up shit.
Like towers, bridges, trees, buildings.
Shinnied up rusty poles. If we fell,
we’d die. Motivation!
If a train came, we’d die.

Fucking people jumped
from there
into the river
to kill their selves.
My uncle did – Dad’s brother,
Was his name? James maybe,
Something. Yes it was James. Same as Dad’s dad.
His sons said he was trying to save a dog.
Uncle Jimmy weren’t savin’ no fucking dog,
But glorious if he had.

We poached – fish. Got shot at!
Fuckers missed us – on purpose likely.
When you get shot at,
you hear the bullets buzz past.
Crack, crack,
buzz
buzz.
We left — pronto.
Fish were prolly scared anyway.

It was fun to be
scared. And nothing
scared us more than
death.
But Jimmy and me – we
would live forever.

Then Jimmy died
after heart surgery.
Took him off a machine that
breathed
for him – how fucking
inglorious!

I’ll die too.
Too fucking late for
glorious.
Or is it?

Tom died too. Jumped
off a tower. ‘chute didn’t open.
BASErs say gear malfunction.
Midnight. New Year’s Eve.
BASE jump. Glorious.

Jack died of fucking cancer.
He knew. He called me cuz
he knew. I knew too. When his
wife called to tell me. I
fucking couldn’t talk – I
went totally fucking Dumb.

Give me the Light Brigade.
Fuck pas. Gimme a rifle,
a cause, a revolution, a reason.
Fernando!

Teach me how to
die. All the lessons of
life – not one teaches
me how to die.

Love hard, live fast,
die old. But die for a reason.
If yer gunna die, have a cause.

¡viva la revolución!
Aces’n eights ain’t my hand.
I’m not motherfucking dead yet.

There’s more.
More to tell, more to do.

I toast my comrades: to their glory. Salute!

(Bill Reynolds, © 14 May 2018)

In life, there is a reason for each season. Look both ways and mind the gaps.

NOTES: While I think a poem should stand on its own without gloss, my editorial reconsiderations include these.

If you like, read the Charge of The Light Brigade (esp. last stanza) by clicking here.

Pas is physician assisted suicide.

Fernando is the song by ABBA, click here to listen.