Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Happy Hallowe'en Grandpa!

Sharing these memories of Grandpa... and adding Alice's poem at the end...

Grandpa Davis
W.C. 'Red' Davis (1903-1978)

The first pumpkin I buy in the Fall is designated as Grandpa's Pumpkin in remembrance of my Grandpa on the maternal side who loved Hallowe'en and the Fall. I place it by the hearth and pin his photo to it. At the end of the season when the pumpkin is past its prime - it goes out under the bird feeder where the squirrels and other critters make a feast of it.

Grandpa was quiet spoken and good-natured. Every memory I have of him brings a smile.

Grandpa Davis told great "yarns" and spooky stories. Late one Fall, as we walked from his friend's house in the twilight of the evening, he showed me the official haunted ghost house of the small Texas town where he lived. The old abandoned house, complete with creaky porch and dilapidated shutters was a couple of blocks from Grandpa's house. We peered through cloudy windows at what I know now was a couple of saw horses and a carpenter's tool box, but at the time looked every bit like the coffin of the old, mean guy Grandpa told me it was. Being the oldest and a bit of a yarn-spinner myself, I couldn't wait to share the story with younger cousins and my little brother. I couldn't wait to lead them past the big old bare pecan tree with its limbs scratching the sky like claws, and up the creaky steps to show them the coffin of the meanest man who had ever lived. I imagine Grandpa got a big kick out of all of us (I believe the number was five or six)... who came screeching around the corner a short while later, full of wild ideas and big stories. Of course, the coffin lid had moved and of course a spooky face was seen in the window as we high-tailed it out of there... We were certain the mean man's ghost was chasing us... why would he chase good kids we wondered. (wink! wink!) I bet Grandpa is grinning still.

Another time near Hallowe'en Grandpa told us (myself, the brother and the cousins again, five or six of us) about the mean old boogey-man who had a bad leg. I don't quite remember how the man's leg went bad in the story, but it seems like he got it caught in the cellar door where his mean old step-mother locked him when he was bad. (That part of the story might have originated with Grandpa or I might have added that part in the re-telling.) According to Grandpa, this old man came to town on Hallowe'en night to carry off all the bad children. Grandpa himself swore he had seen the old cripple crabbing his way up the road beside the house at sundown.

My Grandma bedded us down all on one big bed beside the window one Fall evening. I remember curtains swaying to and fro in the slight breeze. Outside was the road the boogey-man traveled every year according to Grandpa. I and another cousin saw that old man out the window that night. First he was there, limping and dragging his bad leg through the dirt, scrabbling noisily through the gravel near the bar ditch, then, next glance… he was not there! After a few minutes, a face appeared at the window and booed us. Loudly. Kids and covers scattered everywhere. Our screams and cries gave Grandma quite a fright. Later, I overheard from the kitchen, Grandma giving Grandpa "what for" about riling us up at bedtime... mumbling it was gonna take forever to bed us down again. Soon, we were settled in again and whispering amongst ourselves under the covers about the boogey man. It was many years before the man in the road and the face at the window became one in the same with my Grandpa’s visage.

Mom tells a story about Grandpa seeing a ghost when she was a girl. They lived on a farm at the time. Grandma wore a long white nightgown. One night she visited the "out house". Grandpa happened to look out the window about the time the gown and her black hair billowed out in the wind... which gave him quite a start. He said that's about as scared as he'd ever been.

I guess it is no big surprise that I love the season well... the sights, the sounds, the spooky stories, and it is no big surprise that Hallowe'en is my favorite holiday. I learned to appreciate Hallowe'en and the things associated with it early in life. These days the stories would not resonate with children of the same age as we were when Grandpa told spooky stories and played make-believe at the window. Kids of this day and time are smarter, more grounded in reality and more worldly-wise. I cannot find fault with that I guess, but it also escapes me how much they might be missing of the wonder and the thrill of innocence lost, of times shared with old people and Grandparents, of Fall afternoons screeching through the dusty streets of little town Texas and of spooky stories fabricated and embellished under the covers.

Oh well! I have my stories and I still like to spin them. When a youngster in my neighborhood asked what the creatures on the shelf were (see photo – it’s a dam doll Hallowe’en collection) - I told him "oh those are last year's trick-or-treaters". I had him for a minute... He took a step back and gave first the dam doll collection a hard look and then gave me a hard look before he realized I was pulling his leg

I reckon Grandpa could have put quite a spin on that little bit of mischief... I know, if he were telling the tale, I would have bought it hook, line and sinker. And then, I would have borrowed it, embellished it and passed it on. That’s what story-tellers do. Ha!

A poem by and for Grandpa's youngest daughter Alice (written in collaboration with Octoberwych)...

My Daddy, he loved Hallowe’en…
This I and my sisters remember well.
How he delighted in the squeals of wide-eyed children
as they shivered through his spooky tales,
told rightly, just before bedtime,
much to our Mother’s dismay…
he said, such stories are better told in the dark of night
than by the cheerful, bright light of day.
In a voice as dry as the whisper
of dead leaves skittering down the road,
with somber eye and leering grin
he would thrill us with the folk tales of old.
With covers pulled up to our eyeballs we heard
of raven-haired, broom-riding witches,
of bats fluttering hungrily at dusk
and Trolls lurking under bridges.
From the far shadows of the bedroom he warned
of Pumpkin-head monsters prowling
through cornfields haunted by shimmering ghosts
and unlucky black cats howling.
He said he knew of haunted houses to visit
and where skeletons crawled out of the grave…
He promised we could go trick-or treating,
but we would have to be very, very brave.

My Daddy, he loved Hallowe’en…
This I and my sisters remember well.
If we could have but one Jack-O-Lantern wish
It would be to hear Daddy tell one more tale…

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Happy Birthday Mom

August 4, 2015

Happy Birthday to the woman who was my first gal pal and remains my favorite gal pal. Here's to US! Still having fun and making fun out of nothing more than being together.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Grandma on my mind today

March 19, 2015

I lost her three years ago today... and I miss her every day. My memories are many and glad. Though my heart is sore I know that everything is gonna be alright.

Grief never ends but it changes over time. It is a passage not a place to stay but lingering along the way is allowed. Grief is not a sign of weakness or depression, nor is it indicative of a lack of faith in a divine plan. It is ultimately - the price of love.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Birthday Remembrance: Grandpa Davis

March 14, 2015

One hundred and twelve years ago today Withers Clay "Red" Davis was born.

Withers Clay "Red" Davis circa 1940s - Oklahoma

Grandpa Davis (that's how my generation addressed him) was a good-looking man. Tall, lean, angular in build, and clean cut like one would expect a natural born Texan to be, he was neat in his dress and his person. I don't remember him having much hair, just a neatly groomed comb-over. Perhaps he once had red hair and that's where the nick name "Red" originated. He was always clean-shaven and smelled of Old Spice after-shave. His clothing was always clean and pressed. He favored light-colored, long sleeve, western-cut shirts and khaki pants, boxer shorts and sleeveless undershirts. He dressed in muted tones of brown and beige. Most of the time he ironed his own clothes, although I remember earning a trip to the store for soda-pop a few times when he conned me into ironing a shirt or two in the summer. There was always lots of ironing to do back then with clothes coming in fresh from the clothes line. Grandpa often wore overalls for work clothes and white painter's pants. I don't believe I ever saw him in a pair of bluejeans.

Grandpa usually wore a hat or a ball cap, most often sitting at a slightly jaunty angle on his head. The felt or beaver hats he favored usually had a tall crown and a wide flat "farmer" brim (not the typical up-turned cowboy crease). Grandpa's straw hats had a little more of a cowboy crease, probably because they came that way from the store. It was from Grandpa that I learned one wore straw hats in summer and felt hats in winter and why. Other than the lace up boots he wore to work (as a carpenter and painter) and slippers in the early morning, I do not recall Grandpa wearing anything other than cowboy boots on his feet. I do remember he wore sock garters which, as a youngster, I found very curious.

Did you ever see Grandpa roll a cigarette? I was always fascinated by the process and marveled at how Grandpa's large hands could manage such fine work. I never picked up smoking but I loved watching him smoke. Grandpa usually had a cigarette in hand. I have memories of him sitting on the front porch for what seemed like hours on end, watching the day slowly sink into the west. I can remember the orange end of a cigarette glowing in the dark of a still evening and a ribbon of pale smoke curling over his head.

Grandpa - Vickie - 1957Red Davis and oldest granddaughter Vickie - April 1957

When I was a young girl, Grandpa tended a back yard garden that yielded tomatoes and cucumbers and other country veggies. He had a pear tree. Alongside the old house he "wasted water" (said Sadie) on a spectacular stand of orange ditch lilies with a few gladiolas sprinkled in. Grandpa's favorite flower was a gladiola. I suppose he was tending flowers his mother might have planted since the place was the family home.

Grandpa loved to play dominoes. The dinner table was always immediately cleared after a holiday meal and the men-folk played dominoes all afternoon. Someone was always accusing Grandpa of cheating which seemed to greatly amuse him. I don't know if he was really cheating or just pulling a prank by testing the attention of the other players. After he retired, Grandpa spent a good many afternoons at the pool hall in downtown Henrietta, playing dominoes, perhaps a bit of pool, sitting around smoking with his cronies and solving the ills of the world, no doubt.

He sometimes cooked his own breakfast and washed his own supper dishes. It was from Grandpa that I acquired a taste for sorghum molasses which he often had after supper with white bread or biscuits. Sometimes he would have cornbread or toast in buttermilk (claimed it settled his stomach), but I never acquired a taste for that.

Grandpa was not a drinking man although he would have an occasional nip from the bottle, for medicinal purposes you know. He seemed to prefer vodka which he pronounced "vadke" (like bad-key only with a "v" vad-key). He used to call Dad (Ted) and tell him to bring a bottle of vadke on his way to Henrietta whether Dad was planning a trip to Henrietta or not. Ha!

Grandpa liked going to car races and other sporting events. My Dad (Ted) tells a story about Grandpa making illegal bets at the boat races they once attended. He was always playing some sort of prank on young people at the rodeo (Clay County Reunion Rodeo). He would pretend he was lost or had amnesia, asking young people what year it was and what town was he in, things like that. He would say, "Little girl... I wonder if you could help me..." I believe baseball was Grandpa's favorite sport. He would watch games sometimes on TV, but, I think he mostly listened to night games on a transistor radio with an earphone.

Grandpa went to bed with the chickens and rose before the early bird could get the worm. That's what Sadie always told me. When my brother and I stayed with Grandma and Grandpa, I slept with Sadie and my brother slept with Red on big beds (they seemed big because the mattresses were so tall I guess) which sat across the room from each other. Not too long ago, Mom (Inez) reminded me of something Grandpa used to say. My brother whistled all the time. She and her sisters used to sing in the bed.

Whistle at the table, sing in the bed,
The boogie man will get you by the hair of the head.

Grandpa drove fast. I can remember him barreling up and down the dusty streets of Henrietta with a back seat full of sweaty, sunburned, freckle-faced grand kids. Sometimes he took the long way to town, threatening more than once to leave us with some mean ol' woman on the wrong side of the tracks or the creek. Excursions with Grandpa usually ended up at the small grocery store downtown where he bought us a soda pop or a popsicle. We never had to share our treats when Grandpa was buying. Once he showed us how to dump salted peanuts in a coke. We felt really naughty when we did that. Grandma (Sadie) did not allow kids to eat nuts.

Grandpa was a slow moving, quiet-spoken man, never in a hurry and never speaking much above a whisper. His laugh was more a dry, raspy chuckle. Still, when Grandpa decided to tell a story, we [the grand kids] grew quiet and listened. Grandpa told the best stories... long, drawn out tales full of detail. We never tired of the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. The troll was much better (and more ornery) in Grandpa's version of the tale.

He was often surrounded by his grandchildren. If he spoke to one of us in particular, he would run through our names until he lit on the right one. We found that extremely amusing.

As a teen, I still spent a good bit of my summer with my grandparents. Grandpa and I would sit on the porch trying to catch a breeze, talked about normal every day things, sometimes took a stroll. He liked for me to wash his car (more grumbles about wasting water from Sadie) and at least once a summer I waxed it.

To this day, I cherish every minute I spent with Grandpa. I cannot recall a time where he was cross or ill-tempered or hard to get along with. He was always the same, calming presence, no matter the passing of years.

Withers (Weathers) Clay "Red" Davis was born March 14, 1903 in Denton County, TX during what is known as the first Oil Boom in Texas. He was number six or seven of twelve children born to Samuel Oscar (1868-1946) and Alice (1870-1954) Davis. I saw six or seven because he was born twin to Voss Willis Davis aka Uncle Willis. His father was a farmer in Clay County and a former saloon owner and café owner.

Sadie and Red were married November 7, 1936 and remained married for just shy of 42 years. Between them they had five children, a son, W.C. Davis Jr from his first marriage and four daughters, Inez, Kathy, Hallie and Alice with Sadie.

He was a farmer for most of his life. In later years he was a carpenter and I believe a janitor in his senior years. When it came time to collect Social Security it became apparent that he could not prove his age. He did not have a birth certificate nor were those records available in Denton County (I believe because the records of that era were lost in a courthouse fire). I remember Dad (Ted) driving Grandpa around trying to find something that indicated his age. In the end they used the birth certificate of his oldest girl, Gertrude Inez to approximate his age and eligibility.

Sadie & Red with Inez and Kathy - 1940sSadie & Red with Inez and Kathy - early 1940s

This is a photo of Vickie (me - oldest granddaughter) and Red on his 75th birthday in 1978 - Henrietta TX.

Grandpa Davis died October 27, 1978. He was 75 years old and I was one day shy of 23. His loss was the second significant loss (in the same year) I experienced in my life. But I have my memories and the stories that the daughters tell -- all of them worth sharing and I will. Grandpa liked to tell stories and so do I - maybe I got that from him.

Here are a couple of shots of Grandpa Davis recently recovered from some old slides. The first is a rare shot of Grandpa outside without his hat.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

American PSA

American PSA

I am an American. Texas born. Whether you like it or not - that makes me a native. I am not hyphenated. I am the real deal. Born here. Bred here. If you cannot say the same - we are not equal. End of story. If you have assimilated legally - you are close. And thank you for respecting the law of the land.

Otherwise, if you think that statement makes me seem like I think I am better than you... well... It is what it is. I am what I am.

I have decided that no matter what side of an argument I land on... I am going to be labeled a racist, a bigot, a crank, a domestic terrorist or worse. I will own them all.

I am an American Infidel. Worse - I am of that pesky female variety - with a mind and an attitude. I eat bacon. I eat beef. I drink beer. I make no apology for my activities that offend your sense of smell or taste or undermine your testosterone level. I tote a gun. I know how to use it. I insist that people who bother to speak to me - speak English - good English.

NO is a universal word. Contrary to popular belief the word NO (as in no, I will not bake a gay cake for you) is not racist or gender specific (sexist) or indicative of a religious or moral belief or anything other than the negative value of yes. I use the word NO when and where I feel like it. If you don't want an honest answer to your question - don't ask it. NO does not require explanation or justification or for that matter, reiteration. Even N-n-n-no = NO.

If we are not personally acquainted I have no interest in sparing your feelings because who I am offends who you are.

I support law enforcement and the military and veterans. I fly the American flag every damn day. I wear patriotic shirts and Harley gear and blue jeans where ever I roam. Whether you think I am dressed appropriately or not is irrelevant in my world. I am not going to cover my head or wear a sack or cast my eyes downward or lower my voice to suit the sensibilities of you and yours.

People who think special interest groups deserve some sort of tolerance and consideration upon my part need to think again - I am not moving over for you or altering my route because of you. If you are intent upon playing the role of human speed bump in the middle of the road, I am happily available to make certain you get the full 4WD experience. If you plan to deface a memorial, the flag or engage in any other form of disrespect for the USA in the name of free expression - expect opposition. Free speech/expression does not bear a disclaimer that guarantees it have the last word. My country. My rules.

I demand other people's children whether they speak the language or not yield the right of way to me in stores and on the sidewalk. I do not owe you my spot in line at the post office because you are obviously foreign and too ignorant to understand the difference in priority and express mail. It is dollars buddy - wait your turn. Yes, I said that.

As a legal citizen of the USA I will speak out against a government that does not serve my interests over foreign interests or the interests of invaders and terrorists. I pay my debts. Despite what the government says and does, I don't owe you anything - not time, money, interest, consideration or respect. All of those are earned expectations in my way of thinking.

Tolerance is an overused and much abused word. It also falls in the category of earned expectations. I am mostly intolerant these days. The only cure for it is either adapt and assimilate or stay the hell off my radar. Consider that statement fair warning.

This concludes this public service announcement.

For the love of literature

Reading can result in boredom or transcendence, rage or enthusiasm, depression or hilarity, empathy or contempt, depending on who you are and what the book is and how your life is shaping up at the moment you encounter it. -- Wendy Lesser, Why I Read

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Remembering Grandma

Ollie Odell Whitehead Foster 1906-1978

Thirty seven years have passed since she left our world rather abruptly... and not a day goes by without some thought of Grandma. Cherished memories of gentler times keep a candle lit in my heart for a woman who is dear to my heart. As long as we keep a person close in our hearts they remain ever constant in our lives.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rod McKuen 1933-2015

I've been going a long time now
along the way I've learned some things.

You have to make the good times yourself
take the little times and make them into big times
and save the times that are all right
for the ones that aren't so good.
― Rod McKuen, Listen to the Warm


I received a copy of Rod McKuen's Pastorale on my 16th birthday in 1971. I have added volume after volume of his poetry since that time. He's been with me through the best and the worst of times.

RIP Rod - Your voice will be missed but not forgotten.

Monday, January 19, 2015