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The Less Remembered

If you mention the Sunshine Skyway, most people remember the disaster that claimed 35 lives in 1980, when the MV Summit Venture collided with a support column during a freak squall, later identified as a Microburst. That morning six cars, a truck, and a Greyhound bus fell 150 feet into Tampa Bay. May 9th, 1980.

By St. Petersburg Times, Fair use,

What most people don’t remember, myself included, was the first disaster near the bridge that happened on January 28th of that same year.

USCGC Blackthorn (WLB-391) was a 180-foot seagoing buoy tender, commissioned on March 27, 1944, with a crew of 50. In 1979 the Blackthorn was at Gulf Tampa Drydock Company getting an overhaul. January 28 1980, the overhaul completed, the ship was outward bound from Tampa Bay.

The tanker Capricorn, owned by Kingston Shipping Company was standing (traveling with right-of-way) into the bay. Blackthorn‘s captain, Lieutenant Commander George Sepel left the bridge to investigate a problem with the newly installed propulsion shaft, leaving Ensign John Ryan with the conn.

Earlier, the Blackthorn had been overtaken by the Kazakhstan, a Russian passenger ship. When requested by Kazakhstan to pass, the Blackthorn navigated starboard permitting Kazakhstan to pass. The Blackthorn then navigated to mid-channel and resumed course.

Below is the text of what happened next from the official USCG report.

“On 28 January 1980 at approximately 2021 e.s.t. the U. S. Coast Guard Cutter BLACKTHORN and the U. S. tankship CAPRICORN collided in Tampa Bay near the junction of Cut “A” and Mullet Key Channels. As a result of the impact, the port anchor of CAPRICORN became imbedded in BLACKTHORN’s port side. The momentum of the two vessels caused the CAPRICORN’s port anchor chain to become taut and resulted in the capsizing of the BLACKTHORN. The Capricorn grounded on the north side of Cut “A” channel and the BLACKTHORN sank in Cut “A” channel. Twenty seven BLACKTHORN crew members were rescued, however, twenty three crew members perished. There were no personnel casualties aboard the CAPRICORN.”

The collision of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn and the U.S Tankship Capricorn is the less remembered tragedy in the waters of Tampa Bay in 1980. May the twenty three crew members who lost their life that day never be forgotten.

Hey Joe!

When I was a teenager, she and I had tons of little personal jokes. Some came from television shows, books we had both read, music and really just anything that came up. I think we both had the same bored sort of brain that made us notice all the goofy little things that struck us as funny.

Music was a huge part of my life back then. Not making it so much as listening to it. Most of my life there has been one song or another playing in my brain all of the time. So, lots of my inside jokes referenced lyrics that had gotten stuck up there at one point or another.

That’s why I started calling her Joe.

She was known by all to have a bit of a temper. I laughingly blamed her for any sort of cuss word that slipped out of my mouth. If you startled her or scared her, there was no telling what might come out. It was usually quite colorful. Whenever she would be mad, lines from one or the other of two songs would play in my head. One was was a line from Get Back, by the Beatles, “get back, JoJo”. The other was from Hendrix’s Hey Joe, “Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand?”. If I sang one or the other of those lines when she was mad, it would usually earn me a look, you know, that look, but it would also usually cause her to laugh or at least relax a little.

So as time went on, it just seemed natural to call her Joe. Plus, it ticked my Dad off, which in turn, made her smile. Kind of two for the price of one.

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One of the other things we shared was a love for poetry. Reading it and writing it. She wrote the coolest poetry! She had kind of a no nonsense poetry voice that was brilliant. Her poetry wasn’t all frilly and dainty, it was down to Earth and a little in your face. I always wished I could write poetry as well as her. I also wish I had kept every poem she had ever shared with me but through moves and upheavals, I didn’t end up with many.

I remember nights when I would be writing and it would be getting late, she would stick her head in my door and say, “It’s getting kind of late, Longfellow.” Funny the things you remember, huh? Funny all the little things you forget until you spend some time remembering.

Whenever I see someone hanging out wash, I think of her singing. When I was just a wee little lad, she would bring me outside while she was at the clothesline, and she would sing. Most of the songs I don’t remember but one that has always stuck in my head is “Little Boxes on the Hillside…”. I always kind of thought she sang that one as a warning to me.

So here comes another Mother’s Day. She’s been gone for a few years now and I miss her…a lot. I’m hoping she sees me out here in the shade, listening to the hawks flying over the pond across the street and it makes her smile.

I just wish I could read the poetry she must be writing these days.

The Watchman

Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.

The Watchman knows this. He also knows that an aging body needs a purpose to get out of bed every morning. Without that purpose, days have no meaning and nights have no end.

His talents are mighty but their focus is sharp and his mind is as sharp as his focus, even at 82 years old. It’s hard to see that much age in his face and it’s easy to see him as the wide-eyed boy he must have been as a child. It’s only when you stop and study him that you realize how many years have drifted past this loving soul.

Twice a week he wanders the market, looking to buy old and tattered watches. He doesn’t work on clocks anymore, he has further focused his talent. Watches were always his favorite. So much movement and regulated power. Springs and gears set with precision. All packed flawlessly into the tiny space.

The Watchman always asks with such hopeful eyes but has mastered the art of taking no as an answer. His face hardly registers the difference in outcomes. His smile stays just the same, with only the fleeting flicker of disappointment in his eyes.


The wind is but a damp rustle of air here on the ground, as I pull myself from below the branches of the fir tree where I have spent the night. I gently stretch upward, reaching outspread fingers towards the sky.

The sky. The vast open horizon, the clouds puffed to heights, dizzying from here among the boulders and trees sprinkled unsparingly about this hillside. The blue, in between, so deep. Like the blue of an icy pool whose depth is unreachable. The sight pushes and prods me with an unseen but greatly felt force. Telling me to catch my fullest breath, brace against the cold dampness and dive head long and high. This force leaves me no chance for second thoughts or changed minds. I must leave my perch, to plunge deep into the blue that dazzles my eyes and grasps my heart.

I must join the clouds.

I must, if I am not to be torn limb from limb, heart from chest, mind from brain, I must dive and I must dive deep into the blue. This I have known since my eyes first haltingly opened to the sight of this immeasurable depth above.

First, though, I must seek the healing warmth of the sun. I must stretch my wings into the air and let stiff muscles and damp feathers be changed into that which makes my mere existence a life worth living and savoring. I must become that which I was created for. I must freely use the gifts given me so freely.

I reach again for the sky, but this time my reach is much greater and instead of skin covered fingers, I reach feather covered wings. Slowly they unfurl and stretch the muscles that attach them to my back and shoulders. Slowly they reach, twice as wide as my head is high and half again higher than that. Feathers shine as dampness is taken into the air, rising in misty steam above me, disappearing into the slight breeze.

Finally all feathers are dry, all muscles are supple and strong. I look into the clouds and take in my mightiest breath. I bend at the knees and with a great collaboration of muscle, feather and bone, my feet lose the feel of the ground. The boulders fall away behind me, as the very tops of the trees loom just ahead.

As I skim just over their skyward points, there is a great rustle in the branches. To my dismay, I see that I have startled other, smaller winged beings into flight. I see at once that they aren’t bothered by this intrusion into their morning. In fact, they seem quite happy to rise with me, above the morning, newly dawned.

As I climb higher, they slowly lag further and further behind. I have reached past their domain and into that of the heavier, heartier winged creatures of this world. That of the eagles, the hawks and the owls. Oh yes, and the creatures like me. The creatures given wings to rise, above a life that normally would have left me with but feet to walk and but imagination to soar.

My climb reaches a comfortable level, one with lifts and breezes brisk enough to sustain a glide by such a large and heavy two legged. I can feel my body suspended below these massive wings that carry me above, but it is more than that.

They are not merely an add on, they are uniquely part of me. As much a part of me as my arms or my legs or my head. The muscle of my back and my stomach and even my arms and legs flex and unflex to complete the miracle of flight. This is a process shared by the whole of my body. Each downward thrust of feathers forces the air from my lungs and each drawing up of wings, sucks air back into my chest. Only in a glide does my breathing return to normal.

I am aloft! I have been gifted with these great feathery masterpieces and I am ALOFT!

I know now that what is contained within our dreams at night, is as much a part of us as what is contained within our open eyed days. Maybe in some ways, it is even more a part. For it is the gift, to be and do that which our short seeing mind deems much too great a possibility. We experience both, yet only one do we accept as real. Reality is explained within our minds, so can’t it also be contained within our minds? We are, in part, what we experience. I am, in part, a beast given the the gift of wings. I am, in part, what I experience inside and outside my mind. I am a two-legged, impaired by gravity. But I am also a two legged that knows the feel of outstretched wings and damp feathers on a newly dawned morning. My weight weighs heavy upon the soles of my feet but my feet can launch my soul above these hills. And with all my heart and with all my soul, I know deep within my very being…


Home From the Hunt

I’ve been trotting and I stop upon the hillside to catch my breath. I look across to the next hill and see the shadowed entrance to our den, eyeing it for any trouble that may have arrived during my absence. There are no signs of life anywhere close.

I drop the rabbit to the ground and stand panting. I’m trying to settle my breathing down so I can howl “hello” to my mate. Finally, I fill my lungs with the cool air of an early Fall night and let my lonesome voice drift out of my throat. All other noises stop for a moment as all ears listen to my call. I open my heart and tell the world that I long to be back inside our den, snuggling the muzzle of my mate and bringing solid food, that she will turn into milk for the pups curled at her side.

image by AvaZelda13 used under Creative Commons License.

I can feel the ache that always comes when I’m away. The gnawing that tells me I have a home that is waiting for my return. This feeling always increases minute by minute until I stand across the small valley, reaching a distracting pitch right before I enter into the world that holds the meaning for my existence.

I pick up the rabbit and cover the short distance in leaps and bounds. I can no longer wait or put off my homecoming. I slip into the opening in the hillside and I can smell and hear the whimpering of the three pups.

I feel the nearness of my mate, though my eyes have not yet adjusted to the darkness. She nips my nose, to say hello, and although her teeth smart a little, I welcome what this “hello” means. It means that I have survived another hunt. It means that I have a place where I am always welcome. A place that I belong to, as it belongs to me.

I drop the rabbit in front of her and roll down onto my side. The puppies, feeling me near, scramble towards me, attacking with their needle teeth and covering my face with puppy breath. I inhale the sweet smell of them and know that I have found my place.

Suddenly, the puppies are sent sprawling and a bigger face appears before mine. Her eyes shine in the limited light, picking up every stray moonbeam that has found its way underground. She pauses for a moment to search my face for the look of love that she knows is there. I try to tighten my jaw and let out a low growl but it comes more like a laugh and she nips my ear for the sake of the game.

She moves her head closer and the side of my face touches the side of hers. Time stops as her heart reaches up and touches mine. We have but a moment of this peace before we are both attacked by yapping puppies.

I let myself be overrun and as I roll back on my back, I can hear my mate’s breath in her throat. I know that she feels the same things as I do. I know that nothing is as important as what resides in this hole we call home.


A Bit of the River Rat


If there is to be paddling involved, then yes, I will take a small, slow moving river with trees hanging over both sides, with sun streaming through the branches and the leaves turning the world a tropical green. Those kind of rivers are for paddling and drifting the morning away. They are for alligators and manatees, for fishing and watching the turtles tumble off the fallen trees that hang out over the water, for dragonflies alighting on the bow.


I have little interest in the wide and mighty kind of river, though. Oh, they are interesting enough to see from time to time but I am of the opinion that the wider a river is, the less personality it has to share. Yes, they are all well and good for barges and tugboats but what do the massive rivers offer the wanderer, the explorer? Very little, I believe.

Yes, if paddling is involved, then I will take a river.


But if there are no kayaks or paddles to be seen, then I will take a little creek for watching and listening to. The tumbling antics of the bubbles and leaves as they slide from rock to rock and stick to stick. Striking out on their own at times but mostly gathering in little pockets of foam where the current is blocked from pushing them down the stream. Creeks are also for listening, playing their own brand of music. Music that can draw you in, the tempo might be fast but the melody is still relaxing.


If relaxing is not what you crave then creeks can also provide an endless source of exploration and if you are lucky, there will be plenty of rocks and logs to dance along on. Oh, a creek is completely different if you can travel along it from within instead of from beside, allowing you to be part of the blood within the vein, so to speak. To stand on a rock in the middle of the stream and watch the leaves float by and the fish drift by, that is a worthy way to spend a morning and if there be a rock big enough to sit upon, well that is twice as nice, now isn’t it?


Creek or river, the water calls to some of us like a home we are forced to abandon on a regular basis. Maybe not where we were born but someplace almost as familiar and inviting. I’ve always wondered if the fact that we are made mostly of water has anything to do with that. In any case, I believe a bit of the river rat lives in quite a number of us if we will but spend a morning and give the idea some time to develop.

A Different Kind of Explosion

One of my earlier posts told about an explosion involving an old Sear’s truck that was loud but relatively harmless. Well, except for the exhaust system and who may have possibly hit the exhaust system but then we don’t know for sure that anybody actually hit it because I was directed by a fireman to keep moving. Okay, he was off duty and kind of complicit in the whole explosion thing but I was young and impressionable back then.

All of that leads me to something that happened just last night which involved quite a bit more clean up but was ultimately just as funny. And nothing was truly broken, exactly. Let me tell you the tale of A Different Kind of Explosion. (and no, there are no pictures)(not of the explosion anyway)

It all started two nights ago when Lori and I went to Texas Roadhouse because we had some money left on a gift card someone had been so nice to give us. (you know who you are but just as a little clue to everyone else, we still haven’t used the Krispie Kreme coupon that came with it)



Usually, Texas Roadhouse has pretty good service and we’ve never had to wait long to get our food but apparently ordering catfish at a steakhouse must have thrown the whole kitchen into a tizzy because, although we got the fried pickles and our salads pretty quickly, it was going on 45 minutes for Lori’s steak and my catfish. I know it was the catfish’s fault because it was hotter than…..well, it was just really really hot and Lori’s steak was not. It was warm but certainly not hot.


Lori wanted to go to Michael’s (what’s the chances of that happening) after supper, so we were kind of rushed and decided to take most of our main meal home in a box. Lori did something that she rarely does and complained to a manager. Usually, Lori will call for a manager so she can praise the wait person or say something positive  about the restaurant but their tardiness had messed with her plans to go to Michael’s, that is unforgivable.


Now she didn’t actually go off on anybody but she explained the problem to a manager and he was very nice, checked on the time the order was put in and decided it was not acceptable to have to wait that long for a steak and some catfish. Even if it was a steakhouse and somebody was silly enough to order catfish. (he didn’t say that but I just assumed) He was a good sport, we were a good sport and he comped us 50% off our meal. Usually, we don’t accept comps because we are really only trying to let the manager know there is a problem and not get free food but…..well, did I mention that Lori wanted to go to Michael’s?

Okay, I’m spending way too much time on the lead in and I haven’t mentioned anything about an explosion yet.

So, we went home with steak and fish in their respective boxes, Lori actually still had time to breeze into Michael’s and buy something, so we were happy campers and/or crafters.


I was a happy camper because it meant that I got to have catfish for breakfast the next morning and well, that just makes me happy. We decided to use Lori’s steak for an omelet for both of us for supper and all was right with the world. So far.

I made the omelet but as sometimes happens, it stuck just a little and it turned into scrambled eggs with steak in them. Hey, it happens to the best of us and besides, it still had all the same stuff in it. We were still unsuspectingly happy but we weren’t full. I should have gotten some stuff at the store to make that omelet a little more robust but I was too busy getting hurricane supplies and it ended up being a kind of weak omelet. It was good but there just wasn’t enough of it.

I knew this was going to happen and so I had already thought of the shaky pancake mix as a way to make us a sort of dessert that stayed right with the breakfast theme that the omelet had begun. I’m not sure if everybody knows what shaky pancake mix is so I will offer a short explanation because it is important to the tale but I still haven’t gotten to the explosion part yet.


Shaky pancake mix is the pancake mix that comes in a little plastic container and all you have to do is add water and shake it to get pancake batter. (told you it would be quick) (man, this has gotten to be a long story)

As I knew would happen, we were not even close to full from the omelet so I mentioned the possibility of dessert and Lori and I hastily agreed that it should be sooner rather than later. I paused the show we were watching and headed for the kitchen.

Now let it be said that I have used shaky pancake mix hundreds of times over the years. I could prepare it with my eyes closed, and funny I should say that because………wait I’m getting this out of order. So, I measured the water into the little plastic container that held the magic powder that soon would be our most excellent dessert, screwed the top back on and started to shake it up.

I want to be clear about the fact that I haven’t used shaky pancake mix for some time but what could go wrong? Never ask that question. Never, no matter the circumstance.

I’m not sure if I used warm water instead of cold water or if I shook it extra hard or if I screwed the lid on way too tight. It remains, to this very day, today……..from last night……..a complete mystery.

A complete mystery why that shaky pancake container, just like all the other shaky pancake containers I had shook over the years, exploded.

Yup, this is finally the explosion part. And boy did it ever. I really didn’t see it coming or really see much directly after it happening because it filled both my eyes with that shaky pancake mix. I mean it closed them tight and there I stood in the middle of the kitchen unable to see, still holding the shaky pancake mix container in my hands, still tasting the taste of slightly crunchy, well-buttered pancakes in the mouth in my mind but something had gone irreversibly wrong.

There have been many times in Lori and my married life that I have been very happy that I did not live alone, this was most certainly one of them. I mean, I can handle most catastrophes that happen around the house but there I stood, in the middle of the kitchen, shaky pancake mix container in my hands and I was blind. Like completely blind.


Opening my eyes only worsened the problem and, in case you were wondering, made my eyes sting that much more. One of the wonderous things about how God made our eyes are their ability to keep themselves clean. Now I believe that God is all knowing and all seeing but I’m not sure he ever thought about the possibility of the catastrophic incident that I now found myself part of because my eyes weren’t doing a thing to clean themselves out. Not a thing.

There I stood, wanting nothing more than a simple dessert of pancakes, shaky pancake mix container in my hands and my eyes completely useless. I calmly called Lori who was still in the living room. I know I called her calmly because she actually remarked about that later. The sight she was faced with as she calmly ambled into the kitchen caught her completely unaware because of how calmly I had called my beloved’s name. She was not prepared for what she saw.

I know she was not prepared because of the way she started laughing so abruptly. I’m not sure if I reasoned that out then or if I am just now coming to this conclusion but at this point in time I can assure you she was not ready for what she saw.

It would have been so much simpler, and I certainly would have taken one for the team, if it had only exploded in my face but no, it was an equal opportunity explosion. We may still find pancake batter somewhere in our kitchen for quite some time to come. I know I was still finding dried shaky pancake mix batter in my hair hours later. It also complicated the whole rescue operation for Lori to transport me to the sink to wash out my eyes. A small amount of slipping and sliding were involved but absolutely no falling. Lori is pretty good at the rescue thing.

Things could be so much calmer in our house if only…………well…..nobody lived here? I don’t know but what I do know is that french toast is almost as good as shaky pancakes and there’s nothing to shake and absolutely nothing explodes.

Web Sites Are Such Fun

In switching my provider to, I seem to have lost most of the content of my original site. Not happy but have to do the best I can with what I have. So as time goes by, you will start to see some of my older posts slowly return to this site. You’ll also hopefully start to see some new posts.

Ever the optimist, half full kind of person I am, I see this cloud as having a bit of a silver lining. First and foremost, it declutters Traveler’s Tales, something I have needed to do for years. Second, it has refocused me to share only those things that are bits of me. Things I have written and pictures I have taken. All rules are made to be broken or bent at one time or another, you can read more about that in the new version of the About Page. There is good and bad in everything, that is true enough, but if I focus on the posts I might have lost and might not be able to recover, it would be too much like grieving and I’m not up for that.

Prayers for recovery of older posts though  are most appreciated.

The Explosion

Finding a job in the late seventies, when I first got out of high school, wasn’t difficult. Especially if you were looking for an unskilled minimum wage job. I had worked in restaurants since I was too young to work, but I wasn’t too hot on the restaurant business. I’d had my fill, you might say.

I went through a long list of jobs in a short span of time. I really didn’t see much sense in staying anyplace I didn’t like, jobs were everywhere and I usually had another one by the time I got home from quitting the one I started with in the morning. Looking back, that probably was not the ideal way to look at a career but then, I wasn’t looking for a career. I just needed a job.

Before long, I ended up working at a Sears store. It was coming up on Christmas time and they needed someone to assemble bicycles. We weren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination, so all but one of the bicycles I ever had as a kid were pieced and parted together. Plus, we were always trading parts back and forth, so this was a job I knew a little about and I put a lot of bicycles together that year.

I guess I did a good job, because, after Christmas, they offered me a job in the Display Department. That was great by me because you got to build things and decorate for all the different holidays. I loved it and I worked with good people. They were a quirky bunch but they were good people.

One of the things we did on a regular basis was to pile into a big old green box truck that had been retired at least once but because we were the display department and didn’t need it for much that was big and heavy, we inherited Big Green. It wasn’t the normal Sears green, although I’m sure it started out that way. But Big Green had seen better days and what paint wasn’t scraped off or covered with screwed on sheet metal, was certainly faded way past the normal Sears green.

The fact that we got the hand me down, mostly dead and dying Big Green, wasn’t lost on us and I must admit we probably did not treat that big old dinosaur with any of the respect it was due, if only for surviving as long as it had. It had been beaten and battered long before it ever made its way to the Display Department and we certainly saw no reason to change its fate at such a late date.

I had never driven a big box truck before. I’d driven cars and pickups since I was old enough to sit on my Dad’s lap and steer, but this big old monster was well beyond anything I had tackled before.

One of the people I worked with was a fireman named Gary that had probably spent way too long running into buildings that citizens were running out of. There was nothing especially wrong with Gary, he just had probably seen too much scary stuff and so he spent the time that he wasn’t fighting fires, being happy. He pretty much was either smiling or making other people smile. And then there were the practical jokes but they ran rampant in the Display Department anyway.

I was always up to get out of the store and ride to the warehouse where a lot of our supplies were stored. Gary felt about the same, so he and I were often the ones sent. Gary had driven fire trucks, so Big Green was nothing to him. He realized I never offered to drive and figured out I had never driven anything that big, so of course, he set out to change that.

It really wasn’t long until he had me weaving my way through Pinellas County traffic in Big Green like a rock star. Well, maybe not quite like a rock star but I never hit another car or caused any damage. Well, until the explosion.

Gary had this trick he did that I thought was funny and would scare the snot out of the people around us in traffic. He would push in the clutch, shut off the ignition, pump the gas a few times, turn the ignition back on and then pop the clutch. The result was some, quite excellent, backfires. Excellent for us, terrifying for the surrounding drivers, but it woke them up and they were paying much better attention to their surroundings after we were done with them.

To be honest, I kind of looked up to Gary. I mean, he was a fireman, he was crazy, and he taught me how to drive this big old truck.

One day, I was driving and Gary was riding and he told me to make it backfire. I’m not sure if he had spotted an especially ripe target or he was just bored or both. Turns out, I wasn’t so hot at doing the whole backfire thing. I’m not sure exactly why, probably just didn’t have my timing down quite right but whatever the reason, I was not yet proficient.

I tried a couple times but I was having an especially bad day of it and Gary thought that was very funny. I was getting frustrated and probably a little embarrassed, but whichever got the best of me, I finally asked him, quite loudly, I’m sure, what in the …….heck, was I doing wrong? That just made him laugh more.

I quit trying and we rode on down the road. Then he looked at me and told me to make it backfire again. I told him I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I should have noticed that he wasn’t exactly laughing anymore, that he still had a big smile on his face and a kind of twinkle in his eye. I should have noticed those things, but I didn’t.

He said, “You’re just not pumping the gas enough.” I should have figured it out but, I was young and I had reached that perfect point of frustration that meant, I was going to show him I could backfire with the best of them. All those times I had tried and failed and he had laughed because I wasn’t coordinated enough to do what he could do without even half trying. I should have noticed that extra twinkle in his eye, but I didn’t.

I waited until we were headed down a little incline and I pushed in the clutch, turned off the ignition and pumped that gas pedal for all I was worth, turned the ignition back on and popped the clutch.

Now, I didn’t see any flames or even a flash but I did see the looks on the faces of the drivers around us in traffic. There were so many stark white faces that it was a little like an instantaneous snowstorm had come out of nowhere right in the middle of that hot summer day. Of course, I didn’t think all this then, I didn’t think about much of anything, directly after the explosion.

I know that the truck did not literally raise up off its wheels, I know that, I do, but it sure felt like it. I had popped the clutch and the noise that came from under Big Green was like no other backfire I had ever heard. I was proud, I was. Until I noticed the noises that came after the initial explosion. I say explosion because it was more than just a backfire, it was more than any backfire Gary had ever created. It was the kind of noise that seems to suck all the other noises right out of the air. Like a huge vacuum, like being in outer space, like sitting directly on top of an explosion.

The part I couldn’t figure out right away was all the other noises that happened after the explosion. There was bumping and scraping and grinding noises. And the most interesting part was that those noises, the ones after the explosion, weren’t stopping. They were continuing on, chasing us down the road like a…………..well, like an entire exhaust system from a big old mean nasty green Sears truck. And then there were no more noises, well except for the fact that the truck was quite a bit louder now than it had been before the explosion. I guess I hadn’t noticed up until then because of all the other noises and how your ears kind of feel like there’s too much air in them right after you’ve been way too close to an explosion.

That’s about when  I looked in the mirrors and noticed there were no cars behind us for quite a ways. At first I thought it was because we had scared them off, you know, with the explosion, but then I saw it, the entire exhaust system from a big old nasty green Sears truck laying across the lane quite a ways behind us, in fact just about the same distance as the first vehicle I could see behind us. I was never quite sure whether that first vehicle behind us had actually hit that entire exhaust system from a big old nasty green Sears truck, but I do know it stopped.

I looked over at Gary and he was doubled over in his seat holding his stomach, at first I thought he was injured, you know, from the explosion but then I realized he was laughing, but he wasn’t making any sound. Then I noticed the tears on his face. He saw me looking at him and I’m not sure what kind of look I had on my face, but it just made him laugh harder. I was concerned about the vehicle in the mirror and I asked Gary if we should stop or go back, but he just shook his head from side to side and laughed. His face was beet red, his eyes were bloodshot and I think the front of his pants might have been a little wet but he kept shaking his head from side to side, so I took that as a “no” and drove on.

It wasn’t long before the traffic was all around us again, almost as if nothing had happened at all. But I knew something had happened and Gary knew something had happened and I’m pretty sure that vehicle back there, that I could no longer see in the mirrors, knew something had happened.

We had returned some things to the warehouse and had been on our way back when the explosion happened. We coasted into the parking lot behind the Sears store and slowly got out and started for the loading dock. No one had seemed to notice how much louder the truck was. No one seemed to notice us at all. I felt a little let down for some reason but Gary hadn’t completely recovered, so I knew it had really happened. As we walked along he put his arm across my shoulders and said, “Nice backfire, kid.” I told him, “that was no backfire, that was an explosion!” He started up laughing again and headed for the restroom.

A Life That I Love

Our road is most likely similar to many other rural lime rock roads. Rutted and overgrown in places by grass and weeds, with low spots that collect the rain and high spots that shun it. A very ordinary lime rock road indeed. Dusty and bumpy, with overgrown shoulders.

Should I find it hard then, to explain why it would produce such comforting emotions in me, by simply making the turn down it at the end of a day at work? Or even on a day off, when I’ve been wandering, which is one of my favorite things to do, there is something that welcomes me as soon as I pass the mailboxes at the end. It is an embrace that begins at the corner and grows warmer and tighter the further down the road I come.

I guess it is obvious, I suppose, that it is the home at the end, that beckons and whispers in my ear, but there are so many pieces and parts that make this place a home. The familiar gate, the canine faces that appear and bark and whine, just within it, as if to sing a song of welcome to a lonely traveler’s heart. The paws that bounce off my legs, no matter how many times I have scolded them to stay down, that in fact are just a part of the song and dance that is hello. A bit of roguish misbehavior that has never quite been trained away, perhaps because I secretly love the act and what it means.

The ragged yard that is never quite evenly cut with random holes dug in the chase of some bug, unseen. The messy flower beds that never seem to grow exactly what is planted in exactly the way they were planned. Trees in need of trimming, weeds in need of pulling, shredded toys in need of discarding. Steps in need of sweeping, leading to a porch that always has an odd assortment of things that decidedly, do not belong on a porch but never seem to find their way back to where they do belong. A porch with a swing for sitting that never quite has enough open space to allow much sitting at all.

On those days when I am the last one home, sometimes if my timing is right, the door opens and the one who makes this old house in need of much, seem so abundant and so much like the best house around to be coming home to, smiles a “hello”. Not just a simple “hello”, though not flamboyant, but one that means so much more because not only is it spontaneous but because I know it is mirrored on my own face. Our smiles of greeting for each other are complete, they are not just a passing gesture of the mouth but a choreographed movement that engulfs the whole of our faces, from laughing eyes to the affectionate tilt of our heads.

Why should this messy, ill kept, dusty old house reach out to hug my soul so? Because it holds all that makes a life. The memories and mementos of time spent between best friends. The odd ticket stub or yard sale find that never quite found its place. The empty box saved for some long forgotten use that once held some long forgotten treasure. Dusty pictures on the dusty mantle of days gone by but fondly remembered. A perfect example of what makes a structure a shelter, a shelter an abode, a house a home.

The cross on the wall reminds me of how much I am blessed and how much I have been blessed. It represents the One that is greater than either or both of us. The One who made sure we met, in the most unlikely way. The One who pushed us back together when one or both of us were ready to call it quits. The One who blessed us with more than a love but a friendship and a camaraderie that rises above the romance of a young love to a kind of joining together that mere love or lust could never attain or sustain.

This rutted and overgrown lime rock road draws me back and welcomes me in because it leads to a life that I love, with all its trials and troubles. A house that is home and a heart that is true and ruthless in its love and friendship. A comforting hug, a hand in mine. A place where I will always matter, a soul that will always care for me. A dog in a window, steps that will always lift me back up, and a porch light that will always show me my way home.