Sunday, August 8, 2010

Weekend at The Range . . .

. . . or how I woke to find a Budweiser bracelet that smelled of Pinot Grigio on my keyboard.

The day started out quiet as usual, though there was a lot going on this weekend, Gen Con down in Indianapolis, several gun matches and of course. the usual chores to do around the place.

But Dateless On Saturday (like Sleepless In Seattle but with reloading) was not going real well. The Big Game cougar had already bitten my head off before I could even get off shot number 2 (note to gamers, shotgun, NOT .223). Meanwhile, out in the back, G Dog and Barkley were patiently waiting for another stuffed squeaky toy to wander into the yard so they could protect me by killing it.

Still I had plenty to keep me busy. I got drywall dust dusted up on the furniture that is bunched while the walls are redone and painted in the bunkhouse. I'm sleeping on a futon at friends while there are multiple showings of my house. I miss my own bed, I miss my privacy but staying here I know will allow the realtor to really pursue the sale, without myself and my weird hours and the dog around.

The family was gone for the night, so it was just me and the dogs and I was getting hungry.

Let's just say my attempt at making blackened salmon did NOT go well.

So, as the sun started to settle in the sky, I was thinking of Plan B for dinner. I'd heard there was a street fair going on down south in town until about 11 PM but wasn't sure if I wanted to drive in. The decision was made for me as a car pulled in the long drive. Two of my Secret Squirrel buddies rolled in for some of the activities around the state and came by to snag me and take me out. They'd mentioned it last week but I figured they'd forgotten about it. Then M. and N. are at my door! So to the street fair we went!

The little town I live closest to is small. Locals refer to it as a village with a main street of brick and thriving small businesses that can make you forget that generic strip malls are out there somewhere. We arrived in early evening, walking down the main street which was blocked off for the activity.

It seemed that all the local restaurants had things to offer, and not just your mundane burger and hot dog offerings.

I went for the Rib's from a local bistro.

While my friends some of the more exotic offerings.

We sat and we ate and we laughed, telling stories of 44 magnums and the relevance of "pickle, pause, pull" for Flying Squirrels everywhere. It reminded me of evenings as a kid, usually around Fourth of July or Labor day. We'd go to the big city park, with a basket of cold fried chicken and apples and cheese and lemonade and sit and wait for the festivities to begin.

My folks were childhood sweethearts and were planning to marry and start a family as soon as Dad graduated from college, when war got in the way. In ROTC, he went in as a Captain and they made a decision to wait for his return to marry, he not wanting leave my Mom alone and perhaps pregnant when he shipped off. He didn't see her again for four years, riding off from the high ridges of Montana to a galloping cavalry of battle and glory, fulfilling the duty he took as seriously as his devotion to her.

Four years. In the big scheme of their lives, it was only a blink, yet it colored everything about how they lived after that, like the war was a lens that they would forever look through. I look at all the pictures they sent to one another during that time, pictures Dad still treasures. There are photos of fun, the laughter of just being 20-something years old; photos of Mom hamming it up with her friends, and photos of my Dad in his uniform, on a rare afternoon free. But if you can look real close, you can see the worry about their eyes, anxious nights and sleepless waiting, not for days. . or months. . . but for years. . . . . wondering when they would see the the bright clear eyes of the one they loved.

When he did come home, outwardly unharmed, unlike much of his squadron, he had changed. Changed with what he had seen and witnessed, and, like most soldiers, he had developed his own survival ritual, his system of integrity and his concepts of what it meant to be worthy of the uniform he wore. With this, he and Mom married immediately and settled into a comfortable, steady, uneventful life that the youth of today would indeed consider dull. They didn't have a huge mortgage for a house that was too big, multiple cars, or exotic travel or trips. They created a steadiness in their life, mowing the lawn, washing the car every Saturday, dancing in the living room to music from the stereo, a quiet sanctuary of quiet routine and sameness. Then very late in life I came into the picture with "we can't adopt babies now - we're retired!" -and life changed, but not by much. When Mom died of cancer, Dad remarried, a couple of dark years later, the widow of another Veteran, a passionate, funny and giving woman who brought into our lives the same steadiness and love.

As a kid, small town lived seemed rather boring and I wished that something big would happen. Something exciting. But it didn't. Something big had already happened to them, and not that many years back. Still vivid in their memory were fighter aircraft limping home in pieces only to crash before their eyes; flag draped coffins of family and friends being sent home, losses beyond redemption. And then there was the waiting. There was no instant communication then, no emails or cell phones to keep in touch. Their memories were days of silence and snippets of news, of worry and gas shortages; survival in a nation at war, the fear greeting them each day as they waited, hoping for news of a homecoming. At night they prayed for the one they loved, so far away, speaking the same words themselves, words half heard in the stillness, separated by an ocean of distance and an honor requiring duty.

Maybe after all of that, Dad's goal was simply that nothing big happened again, nothing except safety. That and the warm embrace of the woman he loved around him each night, in a world at peace because of the one big thing that you did.

So it is my thoughts go back to those family celebrations at holidays where we'd sit out, awaiting the night and the start of the fireworks show. At the end of the display, as the rockets rained down, ones that exploded like living thunder, and the small lit ones that draped across the sky like a lei, flowerings of light floating slowly down to our safe little spot I'd glance over at my Dad. As the last one, the showstopper, exploded in a blinding red and white of a thousand suns and a burst of sound that hurt the ears, I saw the tear on his rapt upturned face, his hand over his heart, as he remembered his comrades, and thanked God and those night stars for the beautiful girl he had proudly fought for, for the years he had with her, with the great love he had then and after.

Dad has not forgotten such times, and neither will we, for a nation without history is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern of such timeless acts. So while the light dims on a summer evening in small town U.S.A, history is now, history is America.

So we remember as we watch, those who laugh and love here, men and women, some alone, some hand in hand, children, the elderly, the small flags and small memorials to a small town that thrives as a nation remembers. The light has almost failed out of the sky and soon it would be night again. But there is music and there may be fireworks that spark the night; spots of brightness that illuminate a heart's hesitant suspire, making a little light on earth, even though night is looming.

It is worth waiting for, for the orange and red lights that blaze brighter than firewood, tongues of flame that fall into the folds of darkness, falling to earth, to a field of flowers, until the fire and the flower are one. For tonight, as the sky fills with refracted moon glow and the popping sounds of celebration, I raise my glass, a toast in the windless night that is the hearts heat. A toast to those we love far away, A toast to small towns, safe places, and friends. To the remains of honor and pride of life. To hope. And most importantly, to the men and women who fought and served so that we may have such nights.


  1. Aux camarades absents pour une juste cause.

  2. I raise a glass to toast with you. Well said.

  3. There is a life in small villages that big cities try to recreate, with very little success. Yet the small town people pour into the big city and become another face in the fabric of the frenetic pace. You hint at the changes that some want to impose and you talk about the traditions that our parents battled for. The big city clouds the mind of the independent person and the city folks become a part of the herd. The country bumpkin has to be self sufficient or wither.

    Very poignant memories and a yearning for a simple life without much clutter.

  4. Felt, blessed and toasted. Beautiful.

  5. I am spending a couple of weeks in the small Iowa town where I grew up. It's been twelve long years, and I have missed it more than I realized.

  6. Beautiful piece. I enjoy your writing and expression. I wander over here when I get the chance. I was raised in a small, mid-atlantic town. It's not so small anymore and it has lost a lot of its charm. I still have small town ways, even though I now reside in the Great Nation of Texas.

  7. Not many can pull off the spatula at right shoulder arms with welding helmet look.

  8. Wonderful, and I am officially jealous of your toys :) AGAIN!

  9. I always loved coming back from adventures (one term for them) against the godless Communists to the quiet small town I had grown up in, Summer fairs and carnivals had been great places to go for entertainment or just different than normal. My father would agree with yours, raise a fine family and work hard quietly - enough noise had happened in his life when he lost his nineteenth year.

  10. "Breathes there a man with soul so dead...".

    As a Navy brat, I bounced back and forth from city to country, enjoying the worldliness of the big city (New York, we were based out of Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn), plus every s--t heeled Navy airstrip on the east coast, and the quiet and family ties of Killingworth and Durham CT.

    I enjoyed them all, and still do. But more and more I wax nostalgic about the woods, the lumbering and hunting, the first .22, the all night coon hunts, the suicidal car stunts on back roads.

    And the stories of all the old ones who were there before me. I still remember the personal quirks of great grandparents dead before I was born, have traded stories with cousins and seen my parents and grandparents from the eyes of theirs.

    Wars and widows, depression and poverty, and always the solid walls of family and church.

    Mostly I remember the feeling of extended family for the whole town I suppose would be called a sense of community today. Everyone from the priest and preacher to the loudmouth and town drunk.

    A sense of forgiveness, or perhaps of simple acceptance. It can't be stretched too far without becoming a cliche, but it was real.

    I haven't been able to explain it to urbanized liberal aquaintances, who choose to socialize only with clones of themselves and demonize all others, blithely assuming they are the end and pinnacle of history, that their superior culture will somehow keep the monkeys and the wolves away.

    I feel so sad for them. I'm certain history will someday tell them that they lived and died, and were never here at all.

    Drat, Madam, you do get a simple gearhead thinking. Good thoughts and memories. Thank you.

  11. You know if you ever get JWs or similar on your doorstep, I'd pay good money for the look on their faces if you answered the door with the helmet and spatula.

    In the meantime, I'll try to remember exactly why it is that I've moved to the big city.



I started this blog so the child I gave up for adoption could get to know me, and in turn, her children, as well as share stories for a family that lives too far away. So please keep it friendly and kid safe. Posts that are only a link or include an ad for an unknown business automatically to to SPAM..