Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Common Ground

It’s funny how different we all are as human beings. We have so many different beliefs and disbeliefs, cultures and customs and traditions. Yet it’s the smallest things that can instantly brings us together if only for a small moment.

This is a short little story that starts in a Doctor’s office waiting room. The last place most of us ever want to be or spend any amount of our time especially during the cold and flu season. Recently I had been dealing with an old problem that had reared it’s ugly head yet once again, kidney stones.

The pain of this condition had forced me to convince my local Doctors Office to squeeze me in to avoid a costly trip to the Emergency Room and they granted my request out of the sheer kindness of their hearts. I mean they are the greatest group of medical care professionals around, if I do say so myself.

Anyway once I arrived at my Doctor’s Office I checked in and grabbed what seemed to be the only empty seat in the room which was pleasantly placed very near and in a great view of the television. The room as I said before was nearly full and everyone was quiet. But when I first walked in the room it didn't take me long to understand there everyone in that room was sick or ill in someway because no one was smiling and no one was talking. It was almost like being at a funeral only with a little more despair.

I decided not to focus too much on the sickness in the air so I turned my attention to the television. Now usually when I am in the Doctor’s Office the tv programming is almost always a soap opera of some kind but not today, this time it was The Price is Right! Oh wow I have always loved this show ever since I was a little kid. So as you can imagine it had my full attention right away.

Now right at first there was the three lucky contestants spinning the wheel to see who was fortunate enough to make it the “Showcase Showdown”. And this segment was over fairly quickly and then it was time to start the bidding war on the new shiny items to determine who would play the games on stage for all of America to see.

Now as the show continued on it was clear that everyone in the room was watching by the occasional low toned comments of certain little events as they unfolded in the contestants bids on certain items. Nevertheless the show continued on and a nice lady in her 40’s won the bid and made her way to the stage very excited and hugged the host Drew Carey and everyone in the crowd was very cheerful.

Now the nice lady was lucky enough to get to play “The Shell Game”. All she had to do was correctly guess that the price listed on five different items was either too high or too low, and with each correct answer she would be awarded another chance to guess which shell the ball was under and if correctly guessed she would win a trip to Alaska.

Now if she guessed all of the correct answers on all five items she would win the game by default. And if that happened she would then be given another chance to guess which shell the ball was under and if she guessed that correctly should would also be given the cash amount of the Alaskan trip on top of the trip itself which was almost five thousand dollars.

Well the game began and before you knew it the items were presented and the guessing was underway. The first item was a little obvious and the nice lady guessed correctly and the first chip was awarded. Then the second items presented and voila another correct guess and then a third and a fourth and just like that we were at the last item. I don’t recall the items particularly but the last one seemed a little difficult for me. You could literally feel the tension building in that little waiting room and the audience was shouting louder and louder with their shouts of their answers that the lady should guess.

All at once the lady gave her guess and it was correct, and she won herself a nice trip to Alaska. You could feel the excitement in the room yet not a word was spoken by anyone. Well of course now came the time for the nice lady to take a guess as to which shell the ball was under. Now the crowd was even louder and I expected it to last a great deal of time but it wasn't as the nice lady make a choice almost right away. Of course the host, Drew Carey, had to remind everyone the award for the correct guess and then with great anticipation lifted the nutshell of her choice and EUREKA!!! THERE WAS THE BALL!!

It was at that instant that everyone in that little waiting room almost cheered in excitement and had several different comments and accolades to award the young lady. You could feel the rush of emotion come over that rooms like an ocean wave pouring over a beach at high tide. The smiles on the faces of the people were huge and all of them in that room suddenly broke out in conversation.  I was taken aback and just a little flabbergasted. But in the end I was given a little more faith in the human race.

You see it’s the little things in this life that I tend to notice sometimes and savor them like sweet honey on a hot biscuit. And those little things to me are everything.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Halloween Shenanigans

Hello again everyone I hope this message finds you all well. I don’t know why this particular memory from my childhood popped back into my head today but it did and therefore I have to share it with you. And after all it’s springtime and it would only seem logical that a memory from Halloween 1983 would be relevant for this time of year right? Yes that’s my kind of sarcasm.

Well to paint the picture my parents and I were living out on the farm back in 1983 and we lived a good little way from town and there was not a whole lot of little kids trick-or-treating in our neck of the woods. So there was not a lot a fourteen year old boy could do on a Halloween night. I mean I was too old for trick-or-treating and I was too young to drive.

Well as luck would have it my cousin Steve, who lived just down the road from me, was dealing with the same frustration of what to do on a Halloween night. After all we couldn’t just sit at home and watch horror movies on television or wait around to scare any little kids dressed up as God knows what that wanted some Halloween candy that wasn’t coming. Well we just had to do something. After all it’s Halloween. So we hatched a plan.

We put our heads together and decided to come up with a prank per se and spring it on any passers by that we could inflict it on. Once we started comparing idea’s I had a memory from even younger in my childhood. And for me it was a scary one.

When I was even younger, around seven or eight years old, my Mom would take me a few times a week to the rest home in Sapulpa to visit with my Grandpa Emory Hankins. Well we visited so often I would find myself getting bored and sometimes I would go outside to play on the front lawn.

Then on one occasion in the month of October I was there playing out on the front lawn of the rest home and was not paying too much attention to the things going on around me. When all of the sudden my playtime was interrupted by a blood curdling scream of a woman! I whipped around to the house across the street just in time to see the figure of a human being fall from the rooftop of the house and land face down in the front yard.

I was stunned! I was beside myself! Time seemed to slow down as I stared in terror at the lifeless body. My heart literally skipped a beat. I was just about to start at a dead run to tell my mom what had just happened when I heard some giggling coming from the same house. I then observed two very entertained teenagers pick up the alleged BODY and carry it back onto the rooftop of the house.

Suddenly the breath returned to my lungs as I realized what had just happened. It was a prank! And it worked very well. I mean after all it just scared the heck out of me! It was then obvious that it was a dummy that these young hooligans threw off of rooftop and then screamed as any car was passing by. Trying their best to scare the crap out of those passing by.

So several years later in 1983 it turned out to be just the right idea for the level of terror we wanted to dole out to any unsuspecting victim that would come our way. But how were we going to do this? More planning was needed. We lived down a dead end road, no one was going to be just driving by for us to terrorize.

After some much needed planning we had our plans laid out.

We started with the dummy, but not just any dummy, one that would appear to be very human like. Well our resources were limited so we acquired a pair of old overalls and an old long sleeve western shirt and a whole bunch of old newspapers. We labored for a few hours on our creation until it was just right. But still the problem remained, where to deploy our evil plan?

After a little more thinking we had it! Where our private drive met with the county road was a railroad underpass that the county road went under. So we decided to dress up as hillbillies and take our dummy and a length of rope, just after dark, and climbed to the top of the railroad overpass bridge and began setting up or plan. We walked to the middle of the bridge where the passing cars would be directly beneath us as they approached.

We tied the rope to the bridge directly in the middle and then tied the dummy to the other end at a length that would put the dummy’s feet just a few inches above the top of any car that would pass under it. We even tested it a few times just to rehearse our evil plan. After much preparation we laid in wait for what we believed would be many victims for a very scary Halloween night.

After what seemed like an eternity we finally observed a set of headlights in the distance that were headed in our direction. The anticipation began to build. We sat on the edge of the bridge, each of us holding the dummy into place. I was thinking the whole time “This is going to be good, and I hope to God that I don’t fall off of this bridge in the process”. The car was getting closer and closer.

At the last second I told Steve that we have to both scream as loud as we can as we drop this dummy towards the car. Then suddenly the oncoming car was at just the right place then we dropped the dummy with perfect timing and let out the loudest screams we could muster! The car slammed on its brakes skidding from side to side almost going off into the ditch to avoid hitting the alleged human hanging from the rope.

Steve and myself were beside ourselves with laughter! I mean I almost fell off that bridge laughing so hard. But all the good entertainment was about to come to an abrupt end. You see we really didn’t plan on what to do if the vehicle we victimized didn’t just keep on going. Because the first victim of the night didn’t just keep on going. As a matter of fact they stopped and got out of the car. UH OH!!!

Well when the driver stepped out of the car we could tell right away it was a female and she looked all too familiar. As she stepped out of her car she looked straight up at Steve and I and Immediately recognized us as we recognized her. It was our dad’s cousin Earlene! Oh crap it’s someone we know!

Well I can’t remember verbatim what Earlene said as she was trying to catch her breath but we were very clear on the message that we had to stop right away and go home before our parents were called. What??!! After just one victim. Well we hurriedly agreed and took down our Halloween prank and were on our way home.

Now I don’t know about Steve but I ratted myself out just as soon as I got home because God help me if the phone call from Earlene came and I hadn’t fessed up. So I spilled the beans to my dad and mom and through my dad’s smirking grin and mothers disappointment I felt that they were going to let me live.

Well I came away from the whole experience with mixed feelings. I was bummed out that our little prank was only inflicted on one person, and I was very regretful that it was a relative. But the entertainment value it had was priceless. Later I realized that our actions could have gotten someone, including ourselves hurt. And looking back I am very thankful that no one suffered any pain from our fun.

I guess the moral to this whole story falls well within a great saying that was passed on to me in later years. “If you fail to prepare, then you are preparing to fail”. Think out your plans and carefully consider what effects it may have on others.

Thank you for taking the time to read this essay. God Bless.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Well hello again everyone and Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope this message finds you happy and healthy.

Ever since I was a little kid I would become a little extra festive when the holidays came around. But now that I am an adult I find that it takes a little extra effort just to be festive. And the more I wonder why I feel this way now leads me to think about perception. Now I know almost everyone's perception of certain things are not all the same but I am smart enough to know that most of our perceptions on certain subjects are similar.

Now anyone that is familiar with me knows that I come from a big family in a small town and that I spent most of my youth on a farm in the country. And all of our neighbors to that farm were all family and we all were a part of each others lives in one way or another. This arrangement was not a perfect one but it worked and there was a lot of love involved.

Almost every late fall when Thanksgiving was close by the family dinner's at my grandparents house seemed to increase. When your a little kid that lives in the country these dinners were a very good thing because that meant that my cousins were going to be there also and we all played together and had fun. Let me be clear that this time of my life involved some of my most fondest memories as a child.

Then eventually the big day would come and the entire family gathered at grandma and grandpa's house for an all day gathering for food and family fellowship to celebrate Thanksgiving. And the whole event was carried out every year in a very similar way that was not out of the way to any of us kids but as we grew older our perception of the event became different.

Now it all come together like this. Everyone arrived early carrying in loads of food in all shapes and sizes, main and side dishes were put into the kitchen and deserts were put on a separate set of tables in the dining room.

The ladies of the family were the backbone of this entire operation, and without them it would have never gotten off the ground. They would literally work themselves to a sweat putting this entire event together and would all be talking and singing the entire time and you would never hear anything of a complaint out of any of them.

Before you knew it the dining room table had been extended to it's maximum length and another table or two attached to it and table cloths covered them all and extra chairs all the way around the table. Then came the food, the side dishes, the main dishes and the finger licking good turkey surrounded by broccoli and cheese casserole, oven baked ham, shimmering cranberry sauce and home made yeast rolls just to name a few. The smell flowing throughout that house was one I will not soon forget.

All the men folk would all be gathered around in the living room sitting on one of the two couches or any of the metal folding chairs or anywhere that was to sit. And unless you were raised around any of these men you probably wouldn't understand anything that was being said in that area of the house. Why you ask. Because there would be at least four or five different conversations going on at once and some of them would be crossing in front of another and you really had to pay attention to keep track of the conversation you were in.

If you weren't currently weren't involved in any of these highly philosophical conversations then the remainder of the men were gathered around a card table playing a mind bending game of “MOON”, witch is a domino game that some folks call “SHOOT THE MOON”. Winners of this game hung on to the bragging rights of victory at least until the next family get together.

That left all of us kids, and we numbered anywhere from 8 to 15 depending on the year, all running around the house but usually gathered into one of the two spare bedrooms usually playing board games or whatever we decided to do from moment to moment. And before you would know it half the day was gone and the house would begin filling with this wonderful culmination of a Thanksgiving Feast that could not be denied. And since we all arrived there so early most of us didn't have much of a breakfast that day if any at all and appetites were in strong supply.

What happened next is where our family tradition differed from most family traditions I discovered later in life, don't get me wrong I don't regret it, it was just different from most families.

Once the table was set with food, drinks, and eating utensils at least one or two lady spokespersons would call out to the men and tell them it was “TIME TO EAT”. And it usually didn't take them long to get to the table. But it was only the men that sat down at the table. There was a certain order to things in reference to were you sat to eat your Thanksgiving meal. The men in the family always ate first. Then once they were seated the kids had to prepare their plate. The kids always had to eat in the utility room using the deep freeze as a table or in the living room camped out around the coffee table.

Once all the kids were taken care of and the men folk began to wander away from the table then all the women in the house made their way to the dinner table sat down and ate their Thanksgiving meal. You know for years I never gave it a second thought, but as I grew older it kinda struck a nerve at how unfair it seemed from my perspective. But I never knew anyone to complain, I certainly never heard any complaints it was just always the way it was done.

The only real exception to this rule was when one of the older kids had a boyfriend or girlfriend visiting and they were invited to sit with the men as they ate. It always seemed a little weird when it happened but it was always accepted.

After everyone had their Thanksgiving meal all the adults would all sit around the house and regale each other with the latest word around town or start up another never ending game of Moon. While all us younger kids would, depending on the weather, play some more board games or would go rabbit hunting with our BB guns or what ever meanness we could get ourselves into. One year my cousins Steve and Clifford were caught in the act of shooting grandma's chickens with their BB guns and were brought in front of the whole family while grandma scolded them. Not exactly the game we would usually hunt.

Well those times were some of my most favorite. But the good Lord blessed me with many more since then. Like I said before it wasn't until I was older when I experienced the way other families celebrated their holidays and it really put my life into perspective. At first I looked at it as something different from the way I use to it happening and didn't like it. But the good Lord opened my eyes and let me see things in perspective and it suddenly clicked, just because it's different doesn't make it wrong.

It it my wish for all of you this holiday season to take others into perspective and give your fellow man the benefit of the doubt. Be easy to forgive and difficult to judge. Don't go through this wonderful life trying to figure out who to blame for the problem, just do your best to fix the problem or make life better.

It is my wish that you all have a very happy Thanksgiving. God bless you.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Personal Cry Baby Bridge Experience

Well as you can tell from the title of this particular essay that this is going to be another one those Cry Baby Bridge stories, well your right. With the exception that this one is a “BONA FIDE” real one. You know everyone has a story about what they have heard or what they have experienced at one of the many Cry Baby bridges in this fine country. But you know you have always wondered if any of the stories were real or at least if there was anything to the legends or the stories.

Well I can't speak as to the validity of the actual legends but I do have an actual experience of mine and I have two witnesses that experienced it with me. But before I get into my story I must give you some background on the bridge legend itself. I assume there are still some humans out there that have not heard the legends of the infamous Cry Baby Bridge. Also just to be clear, I am only referring to the Cry Baby Bridge in Creek County Oklahoma south of the town of Kellyville, and the coordinates are as follows: 35.901509, -96.197607

I am not disputing the other locations in Oklahoma or the United States that claim to have Cry Baby Bridge locations. I am just saying that I believe that this is the actual one.


Well the legend is very short but does not disappoint. The legend goes that many years ago (accounts vary, possibly 1950's) a woman was driving fast down Indian Road (181st street) with her infant child in an attempt to escape her husband who was chasing her in a separate vehicle. Now those of us who know where the Cry Baby Bridge was know that the road curved sharply on both sides of the bridge. The legend continues that the lady, in her haste to escape the husband, accidentally drove her car off of the bridge and into the creek down below. And it was a fairly substantial drop of approximately 16 feet or so.

The Cry Baby Bridge was a crossing over Mountain Creek which is an offshoot of Polecat Creek which is an offshoot of the Deep Fork River. Now these mentioned waterways do not always have water in them year around but during the spring and fall they almost always do. And some accounts of the legend say that the vehicle accident took place near the end of October, yes you guessed it Halloween.

Anyway after the vehicle accident the body of the woman was found deceased in the wreckage but the infant child was never recovered and was assumed deceased.

Since that time there has been numerous accounts of people visiting the bridge near or at the midnight hour and having some unexplained or even paranormal experiences. Some accounts are as simple as having unexplained engine trouble or a combination of engine or electrical trouble with their automobiles while crossing the bridge.

Other accounts are more skin crawling. Some people say that while visiting the bridge at midnight they have actually heard a baby crying down below the bridge but were unable to find the source. Some claim to have also seen a soft ball of blue light floating around the area while also hearing the baby cry and this is sometimes combined with the vehicle they are driving being shook side to side while it is sitting still on the bridge. This is also sometimes combined with the unexplained engine and electrical trouble with the vehicle.

Now I still have a newspaper article titled “FLYING FROM CRYBABY BRIDGE” that was either in the Tulsa World or Tulsa Tribune newspaper from the 1980's that goes along with some of these accounts. The article tells about a radio crew from KRMG radio that had heard about the incident and the legend of Cry Baby Bridge and decided to do some investigating of their own. Once I find this article, that I know I still have, I will cite the writer of the story.

Well the article tells of the KRMG radio crew driving a transmitter truck out to the bridge and parking either near or on the bridge to see what would happen. Long story short, at or near the midnight hour they also experienced electrical trouble or outage only for it all to return later so that they could finally leave and that their wristwatches all stopped on the stroke of midnight. There was no sighting of the mysterious blue light or hearing of the baby cry, but from the context of the article it seemed very frightening for them.


The year I believe was 1985 or 1986 and it was October. It was not quite Halloween and I believe it was a week or two away. I had worked that day at Staiger's Grocery and Hardware in Kellyville and got off work somewhere around 4 pm. Now in those days at that age there was never a whole lot of money to go around so I and my friends usually found something to do that didn't require very much money. So after work I met up with my best friend Jimmy Heath and my cousin Brian McGuire and we started tossing some ideas around of what to do.

Brian had mentioned an alleged haunted house south of town and since it was on the way to Cry Baby Bridge we just figured we would check them both out and see if we could find some spooks. What the heck it was almost Halloween; it seemed like the festive thing to do. Now we all had made regular trips out to Cry Baby Bridge but I don't recall ever stopping for more than a few seconds, usually because there were other folks our age from other towns drinking the adult beverages and acting up and not everyone was always welcome visitors. And also because there was a small shack of a house on the south side of the bridge they could never be fully seen from the roadway, but you could tell it was old and run down but had electric because there was a small yard light nearby to the house.

The little shack always creeped me out because of all my little visits to the bridge. I always seen the yard light on but never seen anyone at the house. Just a little weird to me. No car, no other signs of human life, but electric to provide simple conveniences.

So off we went, driving my truck since I had a tank of gas and my truck was running which was always a good thing back in those days. We drove south of out Kellyville on Maple drive then to Indian Road to the west stopping first at the alleged Haunted House.

Now this Haunted House turned out to be an old abandoned home in the middle of a cow pasture. We parked my truck alongside the county road and we actually had to crawl through a barbed wire fence and walk about 100 yards out to this old house. Once there we had to keep an eye out for the cows that lived there because they all seemed a little too curious about our presence there and we weren't sure how friendly the neighborhood bull was.

We spent about a whole fifteen minutes at the house finding no spooks at all and losing all expectations that the quest was going to get any better. The house was barren and would have made a good fake spook house having broken out windows and no doors, but was apparently not a good actual Haunted House.
Feeling a little let down we walked the 100 yards or so back to my truck and piled in and was all set to continue our journey until our fortunes took a turn for the worse. My truck wouldn't start.

Now back in those days it was a well-known fact how many starter motors I went through with my truck because I had been seen all over town changing them out in local parking lots and roadsides. Well on this particular day another starter motor incident had struck. Thank goodness it was not quite dark yet but it was in the fall and the days had been getting shorter.

Upon a quick inventory of my truck we quickly discovered that I had in fact left my tools at home so working on our problem on site was going to be impossible. So we waited for a little but hoping someone, anyone, would drive by and give us a ride back to town, but in those days this particular road wasn't all that well-traveled so our only disparaging option was to walk.

As our luck was consistently turning bad the closest direction to walk to our needed destination was towards Cray Baby Bridge. Yes that's right towards the bridge. I had never walked over Cry Baby Bridge, but hey I was a strapping young man, I could do this with no problem.

Before we knew it we were on our way, walking and talking and wondering how long it would take us to get some help to get us out of there. By the time we were getting near the dreaded bridge Jimmy, Brian and I had all found sufficient sized sticks for each of us and we were carrying them in a semi-defense position when we were not swinging them at tin cans or each other. The sticks were more like walking sticks and I think were more of a psychological advantage than anything else, and it was already dark outside.

Soon we started our approach to the bridge and we were about 100 yards away I could see the light to the old shack. I was about 60 yards in front of Jimmy and Brian who were lagging behind me and my heart rate started to pick up out of apprehension of the fact that I was going to have to walk across the dreaded Cry Baby Bridge, but I was still walking towards it a good steady pace.

Once we were about 20 yards or so from the bridge I stopped in my tracks because I could feel something was not quite right. Then all of a sudden I could hear it. Between the edge of the road and the old shack was a good deal of high grass and weeds probably knee-high to me and I could see something moving the weeds. The grass in front of me illuminated only by the yard light of the old shack would only allow me to see about 50 feet or so in front of me and my eyes began to strain to try to make out what I was looking at.

Those few seconds when your mind starts accessing data from your brain to try to make a possible match to the thing you are looking at seemed like a short lifetime as my heart picked up the pace and I could feel myself breathing a little harder. Then a new sound came to my ears, it was something hitting the ground very quickly over and over again and then a slight metallic jingle sound followed by what sounded like quick breathing. My mind was in overdrive by this time frantically taking these clues and trying so very hard to piece them together to make sense of these sights and sounds. Suddenly all at once the last clue came to my ears and my brain snapped all the pieces of evidence together to make a safe assumption and that sound was that of a very angry barking dog, and not only one, more than one.

DOGS! I screamed aloud as I instantly turned completely around and began sprinting for all my legs were worth. Let me tell you I was running with every bit of energy my body could summon up. Granted that at this point I had not seen any dogs but my senses told me that they were there and in an instant they were on my heels.

Now remember Jimmy and Brian were behind me, but I was now running toward them, and I have never been known to be a fast runner but on that night I was setting a new record, and in just a second I had passed Jimmy and Brian and once again yelled out “DOGS”!

I have never known anyone who had out ran a dog let alone more than one and this was flashing through my mind and once again I focused on running just as fast as I could. And then all at once Jimmy and Brian who were now running with all their might passed me like I was standing still, and I stated to them as would any friend would as they passed by, “DONT YOU FREAKIN LEAVE ME!!”

Suddenly my senses picked up on even more dire sounds. Loud ravenous barking and snarling and the jingling sounds of more than one dog collar and they were again right on my heels. All my mind could visualize was huge black Cujo sized Rottweiler’s with red eyes ready for the taste of human flesh. That's what my mind saw but I couldn't waste precious energy to turn around and look, I just poured on the last of my energy and kept running like my butt was on fire.

It was October and the night air was cool however the sweat was collecting on my brow faster than a late summer rain. My joints were burning in pain, air was getting harder and harder to pump in and out of my lungs and my chest was pounding like a drum. Now I was really nervous, I was about to run out of steam and the dogs were still there just waiting for me to give up. What the heck was going to happen then?

Then just as quickly as the sounds arrived they faded off and the last of the energy left my body and I started hitting the brakes and slowed way down. Once I was able to stop I found myself just gasping for air and then I just had to turn around to look and make sure I wasn't going to have to start the race all over again, and that's where the shock hit me like a ton of bricks.

The dogs were nowhere in sight! I mean gone! Nowhere to be found and out of sight. What the Heck! Where could they be? I just heard them before I stopped and should have been easily in sight range. I mean all I could hear were the sounds of my friend’s feet still pounding the ground running away from me. I stood there for a few seconds with sweat rolling down my face in total disbelief.

Finally I was able to muster the words to tell Jimmy and Brian that the dogs were gone and we stood there a moment and scratched our heads, counted our blessings and re-routed our course. After a short discussion we unanimously decided to do an about-face and start back for the truck, and most of the return walk was a quiet one.

Misfortune did not follow us back however for when we returned to the truck we were not there all that long when help arrived. A good friend of ours, Bobby Richardson, just happened to drive by and he gave us all a ride back to town. And yes I asked him not to drive over the bridge. Now grant you at the time I knew I had just lived through one of the most terrifying adventures I had ever experienced, but ever since I have laughed my hind end off when I think about it. But no matter how you slice it, to this day I still can't explain what happened. The mystery of Cry Baby Bridge lives on.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 3, 2011

What Dreams May Come.

So the other night I had a dream about my paternal grandfather Walter McGuire. Now before I tell you about the dream you have to understand my relationship with my grandfather or grandpa as I called him.

Next to my dad my grandpa was one of the hardest working men I know and he was all about getting things done that needed to be done. Now keep in mind as a young man I didn't fully appreciate his work ethic because I was a kid and didn't care that much about hard work and the benefits it gives a man.

Grandpa wasn't a man they wore his emotions out on his sleeve, he didn't give you a hug and told you he loved you all the time but with him you just “knew it”. He wasn't mean but he was very serious about the work that he did. If he had you working with him he would kind of bark orders to you but you could tell that he was trying to teach you something, and make you believe it was something that you needed to know to survive in life. He was always trying to help you in some way even though at the time it may not seem like it.

Now grandpa wasn't all work, he played too and knew the very definition of having fun in his own way. And he had his own ways of spoiling (to a degree) his grandchildren. I can remember when I was at least seven or eight years old grandpa let me drive the riding lawnmower by myself, with his very close supervision of course. But it was one the coolest moments in my life at the time. And then later that day he let me drive his truck while I was riding in his lap because I couldn't reach the pedals. Once again very cool moment.

There are at least a few thousand memories that I will cherish the rest of my life but I won't mention them all here but I think you get the point.

Now from the time I was born until I was nine years old my parents, siblings and myself all lived in Kiefer, Oklahoma and grandpa and grandma McGuire lived outside of Kellyville, Oklahoma and I didn't get to see them all the time but it was pretty often. But grandpa had a great idea and he decided to give all his kids 20 acres of his land each. So my dad had an ever better idea and decided to move us all out there onto the new land and I was able to visit with grandpa and grandma more often.

Well as someone once said all good things must come to an end. Just a short time after we moved nearer to grandpa he began getting sick and soon we learned that he had been diagnosed with cancer. Now as a young man I knew a lot of friends and relatives that had been sick with one thing or another but at that age I knew nothing of cancer. I just figured at the time grandpa would get better and things would be back to normal. That was until one day my father told me that the hospital was sending grandpa home but that he wasn't getting any better but in fact was getting worse. That was my first indication that grandpa wasn't doing so good.

My fears were confirmed later on when all the family was at grandpa's and us young kids weren't allowed in the house for very long because grandpa was in a hospital bed in the dining room so that he could be easily cared for. One day I needed to go into the house to use the bathroom and my mom told me it was okay and I had to walk past grandpa on the way to there. What I saw there changed me forever. My grandpa, whom I hadn't been able to see for a while was a lot skinnier than I remembered and he was lying in bed with all his children around him.

My dad was talking to grandpa and I paused briefly to take a look at grandpa and was secretly wanting to talk to him. It was then that one of my aunts asked my if I wanted to say hello to grandpa and I said yes and she told me it would be okay. I then took a few steps closer to him and said “Hi grandpa” and received no response other than a blank stare from his face. He looked at me very confused and it became quickly clear that he didn't recognize me, it was a very sobering moment for a young man. And it was then that I began to accept that his time with us here was getting shorter by the day.

A few short weeks went by and the inevitable happened and grandpa passed away and I watched in horror as I seen my loved ones weep in sorrow and some that I had never seen cry before witch was equally traumatizing. As you can imagine this was a hard time in my young life and in time I learned to deal with it but those times didn't come without a few short periods of missing him in my life and feeling depressed that he wasn't there. But I did manage to cope and continue on with my life.

But from time to time I would have the occasional short dream about grandpa doing something or hearing his voice but they were always short and left me wanting more but as always I dealt with it and moved on. That is until recently. As I said when I started this essay I recently had a new dream about grandpa.

The dream I had was fairly short but was also very realistic and very cryptic. The dream goes as this and starts with nothing more than just knowing that grandpa is back and he is alive. But how could this be, he had been dead for years. Then the visual scene opens and I can see grandpa sitting in his dining room but not at a table just in a chair in an odd place among a crowd of relatives that I could not make out. Now I was standing across the room looking at him sitting there as he was listening intently to the conversation that the men sitting around him were having.

I became overwhelmed with emotion and acceptance that this was really happening so I stepped closer to him, but as I did the traffic of relatives passing between us going in and out of the kitchen became more and more frequent. It was then that grandpa noticed me. He looked me right the eyes. It was amazingly clear and real. He was sitting there looking about the age he was when I was very young wearing a lite blue long sleeved button up shirt and wearing his glasses and seeming very real.

I spoke out to him but I can't remember verbatim exactly what I asked but I know it had something to go with the idea of “are you here to stay”. And he looked at me even more intensely but he wasn't smiling at all and had a look on his face that told me he had something very important to tell me. But the traffic between he and I became even more frequent and I could tell he was getting frustrated but after a few moments I discovered that it wasn't the people flowing by us that was the focal point of his frustration, it was the fact that he couldn't speak to me at all was the thing that was aggravating him. He kept trying and trying but he couldn't get the words out.

And finally he just looked at me defeated with a look of soft despair as if to say “I can't say the words, but you already know the answer to the question”.

Now as you can imagine I woke up with tears in my eyes and in total disbelief of what I had just dreamed. But as I became more aware of what had just happened I became more at peace with the message I believe was being conveyed to me, witch I feel was the notion that it's okay to remember your past, but it's not okay to live there.

It was so ironic because during that time I had been fixated on “the way things used to be when I was a kid” and the differences of our lifestyles then compared to the present day. I think it was just someones clever way to tell me to live life one day at a time, do the right thing and try to make the world a better place in my own special way.
This much is for sure. This is one dream that will live in my heart until the day I get to see grandpa once again.

May God bless you all.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Precious Time

Some of my biggest concerns as a child was who I could get to play with me that day or were there any cookies left in the cookie jar and one I remember the most was how many pieces of bacon I would get at the breakfast table. You see I was the youngest of five kids in our family and only one of my parents worked, because my wonderful mother was a housewife, and we lived on the conservative side of life. But that wasn’t a bad thing; there was always plenty of love to go around. But it is pretty obvious to all of us that our concerns as children are completely different than what they are as adults.

My brother and I had to share a bed for many years and I was always a little jealous that he was the one that slept closest to the bedroom window in the summer and I could never convince him to switch sides of the bed with me. We didn’t have air conditioning so in the summertime at night my dad would turn on our attic fan which would draw air into through the windows creating a breeze; witch on an Oklahoma summer night was very comforting to sleep to. So as you can imagine the person sleeping closest to the window received all the benefits of the cooling breeze. It never failed my brother would end up sleeping on his side and create this human wind break that blocked most of the breeze from me and I would wake up in the night sweating. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t hate my brother for any of this; I just learned to accept it as we do with many things throughout the course of our lives.

Then when I was about eight years old a marvelous thing happened. My brother and his girlfriend were married and he moved out leaving me to be the only male child left in the house which was glorious because that meant that not only did I get a bed to myself, sleeping next to the window, but It also meant that now I had the whole bedroom to myself. It was some high times for me. Then one smaller miracle occurred at the first breakfast we had after my brothers marriage was when my mother gave me two pieces of bacon instead of one. It kind of made me feel like I was almost all grown up. It’s amazing what life teaches us as we get older.

For some unknown reason I was always very fascinated with “The Old Days” I always heard the older folk s talking about. The little stories I always heard the grownups speak about from time to time interested me immensely. But as time went on and I became a teenager I found other interests and such as the opposite sex and my social life with my friends and spent more and more time away from my family and thought nothing of it.

Years later my brother and I began working on our family tree research and started collecting old photos and videos from our family members and one in particular almost broke my heart. My brother and I acquired a copy of a wedding video of one of our cousins from the 1980’s and I remembered that was then year that many of our relatives from California were in town. It was a momentous year because the McGuire elders had planned a large family reunion that year and I mean all the family came in from California and Oklahoma.

Well after the wedding video was more content that covered a large part of the dinner of the family reunion. My Aunt Pat operated the video camera at the end of the food serving table so that all that made themselves a plate to eat could be recorded and a little part of our history preserved.

Then after the meal most of the younger members of the family gathered outside for a usual game of volleyball while the elder members stayed inside in the cool air to visit and catch up and talk about “The Good Old Days”.

It was toward the end of the video I began to wonder and ask myself, “Where am I”? I could remember the wedding ceremony almost vividly but did not recall the family reunion at all. The more I searched my memories there more I began to realize the truth. The answer was simple. I just wasn’t there. The why I wasn’t there was the sad part.

As a teenager with something to drive I was not to be bothered with too many family events. Ever since I had obtained my license to drive and obtained my first vehicle, the world to me seemed almost limitless and I had to get out there as much as I could and experience it. While some of that is okay, I realize now how much of my family I missed out on.

Now I realize that even when I was a teenager that going to every single family event wasn’t the most practiced activity. But I also remember that before I was old enough to drive that my mother and father did take me to a lot of family events. And when I say “take me” I meant dragged me to almost every family event. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my family and most of those events I wanted to go to. But the events I didn’t care to attend and had to kind of rubbed me the wrong way. But a lot of that was just being a teenager with growing pains.

As I said before I love my family, and I mean everyone in my family. We may not be best friends with all of our family members and we may not like everything they do, but at the end of the day they are still our family. I don’t love them because I have to; I love them because I want to.
Now since my brother and I began the family research I began to realize how much information I missed out on, but most of all how much heritage I missed out on. I was told once by my Junior High history teacher, Phyllis Holcomb, that we should sit down with a tape recorder now with our grandparents and have them tell us about their childhood and their “Good Old Days”. She said it was some of the most valuable information we could ever have, and she couldn’t have been closer to the truth.

Now I am not preaching to you on how to raise your children or live your life. I am just saying it is something to ponder on while you take your steps through the lonesome pathways we walk through in this life. You never know what or who you will find along the way.

An unknown wise man once said “For one to know where they are going in life, they must know where they come from”. I never gave that quote much thought as a young man, but today it speaks volumes to my soul.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A little trip back in time.

“For one to know where they are going in life, they must know where they come from.”
-Author Unknown


This past August I had the opportunity to drive to Jefferson City Missouri to the state capitol. You see my wife and I plan, in the future, on moving to south west Missouri and I really needed to be a certified police officer there if I have the need to continue working in Law Enforcement once we move.  So I submitted my reciprocity packet out with Missouri and they accepted it and scheduled me to come to the state Department of Public Safety and take the test that would certify me as a police officer in Missouri.

So like the semi responsible person that I am I began on planning my trip and checking prices on motels and setting the quickest route there and all those plans that I really enjoy making. One of the first web sites I visited of course was Google Maps, and made a general plot from my home to Jefferson City.

Since I am somewhat unfamiliar with that part of Missouri I began to look closer at all the towns and cities I would be driving through. I like to think that I know most of the names of the towns and cities in that area but there was one in particular that stood out in my memory, Decaturville Missouri. Now where had I heard that before? I stopped and thought for a while. Now my parents and I had traveled to Missouri several times when I was young and that town was associated with a memory.

After several minutes of thinking it hit me! Decaturville Missouri was the birthplace of my paternal grandfather Walter McGuire. Now I thought this could be a very potentially awesome little place to visit along the way. Now most of you don’t know but I have been working on the McGuire family tree for years but have not been working on it for some time due to being very busy at work and life etc. Well I instantly thought this could be a great opportunity to stop and take some pictures just so I could say that I visited the birthplace of my grandpa.

Well my plans for the trip continued and the day finally rolled around and I was on my way. Since the trip was about 6 hours I tried to keep myself entertained for the trip by listening to audio books and music on my mp3 player and made the best of it and the trip seemed a lot shorter than it actually was.

One of the little snags in the navigation of my trip was that Decaturville was so old and small and virtually dead that my GPS did not show it, so after I turned north from Lebanon Missouri and drove about 6 miles or so I found a country store. I went inside and inquired about the whereabouts of Decaturville the attendant there was very helpful in getting me there. About 4 more miles and I rolled into Decaturville. Well it was about what I had expected, one closed convenience store a half dozen houses and a church.

I parked at the closed store and looked around and snapped a few pictures and then looked east and noticed the Decaturville Church and then it hit me! There has to be a cemetery somewhere close by.  Now that could be a virtual gold mine of information, so I began driving around the short little streets in town and keep my eyes peeled. Around the corner from the church and EUREKA! There was the Decaturville Cemetery.
I quickly found a safe place to park and stepped out of the car and began a visual survey of the area.
The Cemetery itself was about an acre large and had quite a few gravesites and some of them appeared rather new, relatively speaking.  The first headstone surname I read as I walked up was Caviness and then the memories of my family tree research started flowing back in bits and pieces.  I then knew that we are related to some Caviness’ from this area.

So I began shooting some video with my camcorder to do some quick documentation because my time here was limited. I found some McGuire’s whose names were vaguely familiar and some others and was getting excited about how they fit in to the family tree.  Well it was about then that I decided that I really needed to get back on the road and was walking back to the car when I noticed there was another headstone that I had missed and as I walked up to it my heart about flew out of my chest.

It was John McGuire and his wife Rachel and they both shared the same birthday with different years. Well I remembered these names and dates for sure because John and Rachel are the parents of my great, great grandfather Nathaniel McGuire but I always assumed they were buried in Tennessee.  So I took one last video shot and a quick still with my camera phone and quickly back on my way to Jefferson City.

The drive there was just wonderful, because the countryside it just awesome and beautiful to look at. Before I knew it I was checked into my motel and then I quickly went out and scouted my route to the DPS building and ate some supper and returned to the motel room and began to study for my test the next morning.  After a few hours of study I couldn’t fight the urge any longer and I opened my laptop and connected to the internet and contact my brother Mike and told him what I had found.  You see Mike has been working on the maternal family tree of our family and would appreciate the find that I had made.

Well Mike was just as excited as I was and we both began some initial searches on Google for McGuire’s and cemeteries and like in that area, and then boom! Another memory hit me that there was another church and cemetery in that area called Mt. Horeb. Well I began a frantic search for that church and cemetery and wasn’t having much luck and then took one last look at the Google Map of Decaturville and then noticed a road going west called Mt. Horeb Road, so I thought that must be it.

Well I hardly slept that whole night, between worrying about passing the test and finding the Mt. Horeb cemetery, my mind was racing.

So the next morning came faster than I thought and made my way to the DPS building and after almost an hour of searching found a parking spot and made it in time to start the test and then two short hours later that was behind me. The lady there instructed me to call her after 1:30 p.m. to get my results and so I departed Jefferson City and scurried all the way back to Decaturville.

Once I arrived back in Decaturville I returned to the Decaturville Cemetery and took stills of every headstone and of the overall cemetery so that I would have them for reference. Then I began my search for Mt. Horeb and there on the south edge of town was a small sign that read Mt. Horeb Church and Cemetery 2 miles.  That was good enough for me and I drove two miles west down a long winding dirt road in the middle of the country and there it was with a nice sign that read Mt. Horeb church and cemetery est. 1895.

And to my amazement it was in excellent shape and very well kept. As a matter of fact it was very beautiful and just a very relaxing spot with shade trees out front that provided some much needed shade from the August heat. 

I went straight to work and began photographing all the headstones I could see that seemed pertinent to the family tree and let me tell you, there were quite a few. I was there for about two hours and about passed out a few times from heat exhaustion but I made it through.

As I went from headstone to headstone my mind would speculate how they fit into the family tree and what their lives might have been like. Most of them were pretty old and some not too old and then there were a few that where McGuire’s that are really close to my age and felt a little sad.

There was one in particular was a young lady whose portrait was embossed into the top of her headstone and I just had to have a picture of it but there was a floral arrangement on the top and most of it was covering the picture and I was wondering how I was going to take the picture. My camera phone had to hold very still to get a good picture and I usually require two hands while on one knee to get the picture. Well I attempted the one handed shot and was just reaching out to raise the floral arrangement and a rare and welcome breeze came out of nowhere, because it was a freakishly still HOT day outside, and the breeze raised up the flowers and leaves from the arrangement and gave me a perfectly clear shot of the picture.

I thought was that a coincidence? Was it a little divine assistance? Well the whole little experience was quite emotional and motivated me even more to finish the job.

So after all the time I spent there I noticed that I was very near dehydration because I forgot to bring something to drink and I was getting hungry because I had also skipped lunch in my haste to get back to Decaturville.  So I decided what I had was enough and packed up and started back home.  Well once I was back in the car I remembered that I needed to call the DPS back and check on my test score. I couldn’t believe that I forgot, I looked at my watch and it was 2:30 p.m. I hoped that it wasn’t too late.

I found the number and made the call to the nice lady at Missouri DPS and she gave me my score and I had passed comfortably.  My mind switched gears back to the original reason why I had made the trip and started feeling pretty good about myself. Another personal challenge under my belt and for a few minutes was a little proud. I had been studying for quite a while for that test and then had the cram session the night before and still there were questions on the test that was not in the Missouri Criminal code book but I did well regardless.
After several hours I had made it back home and over the next few weeks I had spent a little time with my brother Mike and shared the information and pictures with him and after a while we came up with a plan. We both figured that there had to be a lot more of information to be gleaned from the area and started making plans to travel there for a weekend and attend church at Mt. Horeb and speak with the parishioners there and surely one of them had to be related to us in some way.

The first thing we needed to do is speak with the pastor of the Mt. Horeb church and see when a good time would be to visit. Well it took a little doing but a few days later I was speaking on the phone with the Pastor Paul Burns and his wife and soon discovered that we were cousins. We also found out that the Pastors son Paul Willard Burns had done the family tree research on Burns and McGuire and other surnames related for many years and suggested that we meet with him and we really couldn’t wait to get there now.  The excitement had now tripled and we began making serious plans for October to get up there and get some good information.

Here once again I had the pleasure of planning another trip and while doing that research I discovered that Camden County had a Historical Society Museum just east of Camdenton in Linn Creek and we planned our trip around their annual Apple Butter day’s event. We figured that it would be a great opportunity to see what information we could find about the McGuire family at the Museum and some homemade Chili and see what the local vendors were selling.

Well the time finally came to make the trip. After much planning between Mike and me we had packed our laptops our scanners, printer’s camcorders and still camera’s. We could not afford to miss anything and then we decided to take a change of clothes along as well, I mean after all we were staying a couple of days we might as well be presentable.  We decided to stay in Lebanon because it was closer to Decaturville and the motel prices were al little better that Camdenton’s and there were more available because of some other event happening in Camden.

We left Sapulpa, Oklahoma around 6:00 a.m. on a Friday and before we knew it we were in Lebanon and checked in to out room. By the time we arrived at Linn Creek it was nearly noon and we jumped right in to everything the Camden County Museum had to offer. It was really cool. That place was full of Camden County history in many ways. The smell of homemade chili filled the air of the inside of the museum and I was finding it hard to concentrate but we pushed on and took several pictures and I purchased a local book telling about the Ha Ha Tonka area and the old castle there.

Before you know it Mike had purchased some of the local apple butter and I had purchased some homemade Elder berry jam and we had taken several pictures and visited most of the museum. But the time had come to eat some of that chili we had been smelling and let me tell you it was good. After lunch we finished our museum tour and did find two pictures of the Mt. Horeb church, the original church built in 1895 and the one that stands today.  We didn’t find the cornucopia of family information we had hoped for but we did find a few references.  It was defiantly worth the visit.

We drove around the area a little and then back to the motel room for supper and more research and preparation for our visit with Paul Willard Burns the next day with all his family tree research.

The next morning came quickly and we had a wonderful breakfast at, of all places, McDonald’s. The service there was awesome the whole town seemed to be there and things moved quickly in the order process and the food was good. But soon after we were on our way to Decaturville and received a call on the way from Paul Willard Burns and he was ready now so we went ahead and met him at the church.

Once at Mt. Horeb church we met with Paul and we all went inside and started comparing information. Let me tell you, that man was prepared. We discovered he had been doing his research for the past 19 years and could back up every piece of information he provided. It was simply awesome. Surprisingly Paul had most of the information committed to memory he was just amazing and accommodating. We soon discovered that we had a common ancestor in Nathaniel Clay McGuire who is my great, great grandfather and that he had donated the land for the Mt. Horeb church and was on the founding board and also helped build the original church. Wow, we had more history there than we even knew.

Well everything after that was fast and furious. Paul helped up correct all the mistakes in our research and Mike would print out pictures we had for Paul and at the same time scan in pictures that Paul provided to us.  It was insanely awesome and it was getting hard to keep up so began taking a lot of notes and making corrections in the family tree database.

The next thing we knew four hours had gone by and Mike and myself was feeling a whole lot of information overload. One of the really amazing moments was when Paul would show me a picture of one of his relatives and in the same picture were my relatives from Oklahoma that I grew up with. Just one of the coolest days I had spent with family in a very long time.

We found out more about our family history that any family member back home had. But to their defense back home a lot of that information about our Missouri relatives they just could not remember or just didn’t know.  Now Mike and I knew that our grandfather Walter McGuire had moved to Oklahoma with his family when he was 11 years old, what we didn’t know was why. The best we can figure is that it was out of necessity.

It was the mid to late twenties when they moved to Oklahoma and it was hard times all over and a long draught and difficult countryside made it hard on a farmer in Missouri so the move to Oklahoma seemed to make sense. Unknown to them at the time that soon after they arrived in Oklahoma the dust bowl days started and made life even harder.

So once my grandpa moved here to Oklahoma he had a few years to grow up some and get married and the next thing you know he and all his siblings move to California for a better life. Grandpa Walter and Grandma Tressie we here and there for a while living in California and Oregon and who knows where else and then they moved back to Oklahoma. When everyone was settled he and his sister Winnie and their families were the only ones to stay in Oklahoma all the rest of their siblings stayed in California. Of course Grandpa Walter’s dad Oscar and wife Rachel and some other cousins and uncle’s stayed in Oklahoma but they had even more relatives that were still in Missouri. It must have taken amazing courage to leave it all behind to start a new life in an unknown land.  It was a difficult era to live in.

After our meeting with Paul Willard Burns we drove on to the Ha Ha Tonka State Park and visited the old castle ruins there on the banks of the Lake of the Ozarks. It was an absolutely beautiful view and a wonderful day to view it. We also went and took some pictures of the Ha Ha Tonka post office and then drove on to Camdenton and ate a late lunch.

We even hit a few more old cemeteries in the area that Paul told us about and collected even more pictures.
Before we knew it Sunday morning was upon us and we were driving into the parking lot of the Mt. Horeb church and almost right away we were chatting with some of the members there and finding more relatives we had never met. We officially met with Pastor Paul Burns the father of Paul Willard Burns and he introduced us to the church members who we are related to and it was almost all of them.

The man that delivered the message that morning in church was also a McGuire and he was just wonderful. Everyone there was friendly and accommodating. Before we knew it the time came to head home.  We really hated to say goodbye but we were told that we could come back anytime and just knowing that made it a little easier to leave. 

We had a great time, met some new family members and I got to spend some real quality time with my big brother. He has been super supportive in this whole endeavor. I love you big brother. So folks this holiday season go out of your way to visit with your family, especially those you have not seen in a long time.  God Bless and Have a very Merry Christmas and remember Jesus is the reason for the season.

Pictures of this trip can been viewed at this link

Missouri Family Trip