My Mind

My Mind
This is my mind

Friday, April 27, 2012

It's called half rubber, nef...

"Whatcha got?" I asked Clyde as he came into the house.
"I found this in the trash on the way home," he said holding up a broom whose straw bottom made a C at the end of the handle. Its days of sweeping were long over. The trash was the only place for it.
"What good is that old thing? You sure can't sweep with it."
"Sweep?! I'm not going to sweep. I'm going to educate you on the game of Half-rubber."
"What's that?"
"You poor ignernt foreigner. It's a game we invented. Come on, nef, lemme show you.”
He took me outside to the garage and found a saw in granddaddy's tool box.
"Hold that end steady while I do some cuttin' here."
I held it fast and he buzzed through the broom where the straw was attached to the handle.
"There. Now we don't need that part. Here toss it into the trash."
I ran off with that portion of the broom while he stood there swinging the newly released handle like a baseball bat. Whoosh! Woosh!
I ducked.
"Hey!" I yelled. "You nearly hit me with that."
 Woosh! I ducked again.
"Well, get out the way, nef. Yeah, that's nice. Just thick enough to grab the ball and heavy enough to give it a good clobber. OK. Now we gotta find a rubber ball."
He looked at me.
 "Didn't you just buy one?" he asked.
 "Yeah. We gonna hit it with that stick?"
"Well, yeah, but..."
 I knew something was coming.
 "I gotta cut it in half."
"Oh no! You ain't cutting my brand new ball in half."
"How else you gonna learn the game. I don't have money for one and you already got it, so let's see it."
I fussed a bit but I knew he'd win. I wandered inside to fetch the brand new rubber ball I had bought the previous weekend. The door slammed as he snatched it from my hand.
 "Oh yeah. Perfect." He pulled his knife from his pocket and unfolded it. "Now you gotta be real careful when you cut these so's you have two perfect halves."
He commenced to cutting as I started to protest.
"Oh knock it off, ya baby. This game requires half this ball and if one of us should hit it so's we can't find it you'll have the other half to use. You'll thank me."
 I knew I wouldn't. He spent a good while cutting into the body of the ball with his knife.
"Ain't very sharp, that knife," I said.
"Oh shut up. This is a very delicate thing. Leave me alone while I concentrate."
He cut through it with the result of two perfect half-rubbers.
 "OK," he said. "Now we need some players. Come on we'll give 'em a call."
 Since we were on a party line we had to wait because it was in use. He picked it up and stayed on the line listening and mimicking our neighbor's conversation with all the facial expressions he was convinced were happening in the house across the street. There was a silence on the other end and I heard a very urgent tiny voice saying, "Who's that listening in. You better get off this line while I'm on!"
 Clyde hung up. Every 5 minutes he would pick it up to check and give the other person a hint to get off. About a half hour passed when he picked up to hear the dial tone. He called his friends and they agreed to meet at the Riverland Terrace School grounds.
"Here, carry these."
He handed me the two half rubbers and the stick, or bat as he called it. We began the walk to the school grounds. His friends were gathered at the basketball court on the edge of the playground. He took the bat and balls from me.
"Hey guys. Try this out while I teach my nef how to throw this ball."
They began swinging the bat and sailing the half to each other.
"Come 'ere nef. Now stand over there and try to catch this."
He held the ball round top up, crooked in his first finger and thumb space. He reached behind parallel to his waist and whipped it to the front sending the half along a straight path to my open hands. It bounced from my hands into my face and behind me. I ran to get it.
"Hold it like I did and sail it back to me."
"It looks like a flying saucer the way it floats through the air."
"Yeah it's called lift. Now try it.”
I mimicked his hold on the half and sailed it right into his hands. The look on his face was shock. "Wow, that was a heck of a throw. Try it again."
 He whipped it to me. It sailed into my hand but bounced off, into my face and behind. I ran back to get it. Getting back to my position I let it fly right into his hands.
 "Wow. Hey guys How about letting my nef pitch. He's good."
 They said yes and we took our places.
"Alright, nef. Throw it like you mean it."
 I threw it right into the space and the batter connected. The half flew over our heads and past the swings. Clyde ran to get it. He flipped it to me and I let loose, right into the swing of the batter. Off it went again past the swings. Clyde ran to get it. He ran back handing the ball to me and said,"What the heck are you doing, nef. He's hitting the ball every time you throw it."
 "I thought that's what I was supposed to do. I throw it, the batter hits it."
“NO, no,'re supposed to throw it so he misses it."
"HUH? But..."
"No buts, get with it if you want to have a turn at batting."
He returned to his spot behind me. I looked at him, puzzled, then turned and zipped the ball smack into the bat and it flew, once again, passed the swings. Clyde ran to get it and ran back to me.
"Go on, get back there and get 'em when they fly passed."
“But I want pitch some more."
"You pitch too good, nef. You gotta learn how to make the ball do what you want. Just watch."
I ran close to the sidewalk and stood waiting. He flipped the half and it sailed up to the batter and dipped as the broom handle whooshed around. The catcher tossed it to him. Again he flung it hard and it rose as the broom handle whooshed through empty air.
When the game was over, the sky was growing dark. We began to walk home after he tossed the halves and the bat into my hands.
“How did you do that?" I asked.
"Make that ball dance around the bat like that?"
"You know, nef, I really don't know. I just look at the guy standing there, line up, then zip it around and it seems to do what I think it to do."
"So, you gonna teach me how to do that?"
 "Like I said, nef. I don't know how. I can't teach you if I don't know how I do it. It's almost like magic."
"You mean you can't show me?"
"Nope. How about I teach you how to whistle instead."
He had a way of whistling that sounded like Tarzan's yell. He warbled a few bars of whistling from high to low notes. I listened astonished and began trying immediately to copy it. It took a long time but I did finally learn to whistle like him. That was all well and good but danged if I could ever throw a half rubber with such precision and style.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A fish tale

One summer morning I walked out of the house hearing the sharp slam of the screen door behind me.
"Don't slam that door!" my grandmother said. 
"Yes'm," I replied as my pace picked up and I ran down the porch stairs.  Looking around the yard shaded by a huge weeping willow toward the back I stepped under a limb beneath the china berry tree closest to the house and grabbed the limb above me pulling myself up to my chin then swinging out onto the grass that was in need of a trim.
Rex and Ginger, Clyde's two dogs, were lying on the porch waiting on me to make up my mind as to what to do on this fine summer morning. School had let out for the next three  months and this was my first day to do exactly what I wanted to do without thought of books or teachers or bells telling me to take out my geography which I thought was the dullest book in school.
Top of Form
As I looked around trying to decide what to do with my newly found freedom a couple of honeybees buzzed past in search of pollen. They zigzagged here and there soon finding a patch of clover blossoming in a splash of sunlight. I ran over and dropped to my knees checking to see if I could find any four leaf clovers but I didn't see any. 
It was early and the sun was just beginning to warm the air around me. I walked over to my granddad's bait box and dug into the loam for worms. They were close to the top and felt cool and liquid against my palms. I freed several from the loam and watched them wiggle and crawl around in my hand. Seeing them brought to mind fishing and I looked around for one of granddad's poles. 
They were laid along the rafters in the garage. They lay just as they had been placed with the string wrapped around them and the hooks embedded in the bobbing cork. Maybe I could reach them I thought. I jumped several times in an attempt to jostle one free but they were on the rafters over 6 feet high and my best jump missed by 3 feet at the best of jumps. 
That's not going to work, I thought, plus granddad might not take to kindly to one of his poles being used without permission.      
All of a sudden this day's purpose was born of an idea. I'll get my own pole, I thought. I commenced to running around the yard in search of a long stick that I could tie string to. There was nothing. So I looked up at the branches on the willow and the Chinaberry tree. To no avail since I had no knife to cut one with. Well, I thought, maybe I can toss a line in like we do when crabbing. So a new hunt began for string. 
 I ran into the house the screen slamming loudly followed by "Don't slam the screen door!" from my grandmother. 
"Yes'm!" I yelled back. 
I began looking through all the drawers and under the furniture until my grandmother came in to see what all the ruckus was about.
 "Rickey what are you doing?" she said wiping her hands on the dishtowel she carried with her. 
"I'm looking for some string and I need it real bad." 
"Come along child. I know where some is. What are you going to do with your string?" 
"I'm going to catch some fish for dinner tonight, just like granddad does." 
"Where in the world are you going to catch any fish?" She asked with a laugh.
 "Why over at the pond on the golf course." 
"Oh, well I better get the skillet ready for your return." 
"Yes'm, you better." 
"Here you go. Is that long enough?" 
"Yes ma'am. That's plenty long enough," and I took the string admiring its sturdiness and clean white sheen.
"What will you use for a hook?" 
"A hook?" I was stunned. I hadn't thought about a hook. "I guess I'll have to go to the store and get one."
 "What will you use for money?" grandmother asked. 
"Uh, I got some pennies in my pocket. How much do they cost?" 
"Well, I don't rightly know but I'm sure you'll need more than a few pennies." 
"Maybe there's some under the cushions." I ran into the front room and began rummaging under the seat cushions on the couch and chairs. Nothing. "Gosh, I don't know. Guess I won't go fishing." 
"There're a couple of things you could do for me. Maybe a quarter's worth. A quarter should buy a hook for fishing." 
I carried the garbage out to the trashcan, filled up the dog's water bowl and pulled weeds for a while.The sun was getting higher and the heat was getting hotter while I sweated in the flower garden pulling weeds. 
"I think that should be enough. Here's your quarter and a glass of water to cool off." 
"Thank you grandmomma, but if I'm gonna get any fish today I gotta go now." 
 I grabbed my bike and jumped into the saddle to peddle my Columbia bike up to the Greek's and find some fishing supplies.Back then Maybank Highway wasn't the raceway it is today and I slowed at the corner of Stono Shores and Maybank looking both ways to be sure no one was coming. It was safe so I shot across the road and turned at Golfview up to the end angling to the left and sailing along the road heading for the Terrace. I whizzed past the Piggly Wiggly, whipped right, slipping past Jack's filling station and up to the pink grocery store. I leaned my bike against the wall and run up the stairs and into the aisles checking for fishing gear.
 Over in the corner was a counter, which had a few things for an old cane pole bobbing corks, sinkers and hooks. Well, I thought, guess I'll be needing a sinker and a cork as well as a hook. I checked out the price and those three items came to close onto twenty-five cents. 
"Yay!" I yelled. "I got it!" 
The clerk looked at me like I'd lost my mind. I grabbed my items and headed to the counter. 
"Looks like somebody's going fishing," said the man behind the counter as he took my items and ringing them up on the cash register. 
"Yep, gonna catch a mess o' fish for dinner tonight." 
"Sounds like you'll be eatin' good tonight. Wish I didn't have to work so I could go fishing on a day like this." 
"Yes sir!" I said as I took the bag he'd dropped my gear into and ran out the store. Up on my bike and peddling hard I flew like the wind back to the house to get some worms.
The sun was getting hotter and the air still and humid. I leaned into the driveway and jumped from my bike allowing it to slink to the ground as I made my way to the back yard bait box. I grabbed a handful of fat wriggly worms and shoved them into my pocket. With slimy loamy hands I clutched my bag and ran across the neighbor's yards to the pond sitting in the shade of tall pines. 
As I walked from the edge of the road into the shaded area I found a stick, which would prove to be the perfect pole to tie my string on. I sat at the edge of the pond across from the small utility house at the other end of the square pond. At the narrow end of the stick I tied my bright white cord in a strong square knot, which I'd just learned about in scouts. I lay the stick down and the freshly tied line dipped into the pond water while I pulled out my hook. 
With eyes crossed and tongue twisted in concentration, I attempted to slip the cord through the eye of the hook. After several tries and a quick shake of the head to right my crossed eyes I had achieved my goal. Once again a square knot held my hook securely. 
Time to slide on the cork and the sinker, which was done quite easily and I was ready to bait it. I stood up to make it easy to grab a worm in my pocket. It wiggled and slipped from my grasp so I reached in for another. This one I successfully hooked. The line swung over the water as I picked up the pole. It dropped with a ploosh. The worm slipped down into the dark water invisible to me. I sat in heart stopping anticipation. 
A minute. 
Five minutes. 
And then it happened. The cork bobbed. I stood up to brace myself for the fight of boy against nature. I yanked it upward.  The line sailed up into the air as I fell back onto the damp grass. 
The line was dripping but empty. 
No fish.
No worm.
 No hook. 
What happened to my hook?
 Deflated I lay back on the sloping ground, pole in the air with corked and leaded string dripping slimy water into my face. 
My hook was gone. 
My quarter was gone. 
I had worms in my pocket and a stick void of dreams. No fish dinner tonight. No struggle of boy and nature to acquire fish tonight. All because of a crummy square knot that acted like a slipknot. 
I tossed my make shift fishing pole onto one of the boards crisscrossing the pond and walked off. Trudging on the hot pavement in defeat back to Clyde's backyard. Then I heard my grandmother calling so I ran to where a peanut butter and jelly sandwich waited for me to be followed by a Popsicle on this hot first day of summer vacation so many years ago in the Terrace.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It's a sailor's life for me.... NOT!

"Do we hafta?"
"Don't you remember? You wanted to go deep sea fishing. If you want to go then you gotta get up."
"But it's still dark out."
"Yup. The boat leaves really early. We're going out to sea and it takes a while. So get up.'
My son was trying to ward off the early rising.
"Come on. We need to eat breakfast. You can't fish on an empty stomach."
Sliding out from the covers he sat there a moment. "I don't know if I wanna do this."
"Sure you do. When we are out on the water tossing a line over the side waiting for the big strike you'll be glad you did."
Over a plate of eggs and toast he said, "Hey. Aren't we supposed to take dramamine so we won't get sea sick?"
"Sea sick?" I laughed. "Sea sick? Only pantywaists get sea sick. I've never been sea sick. Why I slept through a hurricane on the Atlantic Ocean. When I was a little older than you I worked on a deep sea rig for a day. The boat climbed mountains of water and plunged into watery valleys. I offered all those wooseys below part of my sandwich and laughed when they raced for the railing. You won't get sea sick. The sailing blood runs in the family. your granddad was in the Royal Navy for seven years. We have sea water coursing through our veins."
"You sure, dad?"
"Of course I'm sure."
I handed him his jacket as we slipped out the door. It was chilly and the car stalled out.
"Cold blooded thing. Never liked cold weather," I said as I pulled the choke out. It cranked revving high. I backed out of the drive and slipped it into first. We were on our way to high seas adventure.
"Maybe we should stop at the Piggly Wiggly on the way."
"Why? What for?"
"Dramamine. Just in case."
"Pfft! No way. We're already late. And don't forget, sea water in our veins, Royal Navy and all that."
"Yeah, but just in case? I could run in real fast."
I answered with a glare and continued on to the marina.
"Wow! Lookit all the people."
"Yeah, and they all probably have taken dramamine or got one of those patches behind the ear."
"Yeah, and every one a woose," I said with disdain.
"Don't forget the sandwich bag and the sodas. Here give that to me and you take this," I said taking the heavier container.
"No. That's alright. I got it." He leaned away struggling to balance the cooler by countering with his weight. I tossed the sandwich bag in the air as we walked along.
The boat was large enough for about twenty fishers of fish along with the captain and two mates. The early morning air was cool with the smell of salt lingering along with the plough mud's tang. We looked into the east as everyone settled into a seat. The sun was beginning to color the morning sky with a purple tint. Talk was light as the engine came to life. Mooring ropes were tossed from the dock. The rumble of a hundred horses encased in the Evinrude pulsed through the deck and seats. We watched the dock ease away. The sun's rays began to peep over the horizon as we slowly left the confines of the marina. A few minutes later we were beyond the safety of the barrier walls and heading up the Ashley River to connect with the Cooper River and their conjoining to form the Atlantic Ocean. The coolness of the morning air was invigorating.
My son was up and happily watching James Island slip past to starboard. He ran forward to watch the entrance to the harbor slide aft. The salt air seemed to bring him to life. The jetties which had softened the roughness of the ocean slipped into the distance beyond our stern.
Hah! There it is, I thought. The motion of the sea. I stood to walk over near my son. The roll of the boat caught me by surprise and I nearly fell over.
"Gotta get my sea legs," I said.
"Wow! The ocean is so much bigger than I thought. And the waves are bigger too."
The captain began to speak over the intercom.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please have a seat as we head out to our fishing ground. We'll be several miles off the coast in the Atlantic ocean. Please keep your life preservers close at hand at all times. The weatherman has given us fair warning that the waters out there will be choppier than expected so bear with us. Coffee and a bite to eat are available below."
We followed the descending folk to the galley.
"Can I have coffee?"
"I don't see why not. You need to be wide awake and alert. Try some of that hardtack there," I said pointing at the biscuits. "Mind there are no weevils."
He looked at me as I chuckled over my humour.
'I think I'd rather have one of the pastries."
"Suit yourself." I poured coffee and grabbed a danish.
He finished his and looked at me. "Can I have another?"
"We are here to have fun. Knock yourself out."
He grabbed a couple of patries and poured another cup of coffee.
"You might want to lighten up on the coffee though. You don't want to get too jittery."
The trip out took about an hour and some change. Just before arriving we had all been issued our lines with hooks, several being attached to a single line. One of the mates showed us how to bait the rather large hooks then left us a bucket of cut fish bits.
"Whew! This stuff stinks."
"All the better for the fish to smell."
"Fish smell."
"Yeah, they pretty much stink." I chuckled again, amused at my sparkling humour.
"Oh, dad." My son was not similarly amused.
"Yeah, they smell under water pretty much like we do above."
"Oh, yeah. We learned about molecules in school. They diffuse through the air and enter our noses when we breath."
"Nicely put, son. Sounds like you are getting something out of your eight hours a day."
"I got one!" he yelled as his line tugged downward.
"Pull him up!" I shouted. The bait mate came to our side as my son pulled on the line.
"That's right," he said. "Pull up slow and steady. you don't want to lose him."
He had brought a bucket to toss the catch into. Up and over the railing. The mate separated the fish from the hook, held it high to be admired and dropped it into the bucket where it flailed aginst the sides.
"He's big!"
"Yes, he is. And you caught the first fish. Congratulations."
We rebaited his hook. Over the side it went. He let the slippery line slide through his hand.
"When are you going to catch one?"
"Have to wait and see," I said. I was concentrating on the line as the water surface decreased and increased faster. The roll and heave had been slight all the while. My sea legs had been acquired long before reaching the fishing hole. But now I began to notice my knees bending with the roll. The rocking and dipping slowly began to increase when the captain's voice was heard loud and clear.
"Folks the sea is going to get a little choppy, moreso than we thought. Please put on your life vests for safety. We're not expecting a problem but the Coast Guard rules out here so let's be safe. Hope you all took your dramamine before setting sail."
My son looked at me. I looked at him and shrugged a grin plastered on my face which was beginning to glow with sweat. It might have been sea spray since the boat was rocking so actively breaking waves with its motion. My son's gills were greening when I looked at him. He wasn't smiling. He was holding his line but he was no longer wrapped up in the idea of fishing.
The boat dropped suddenly and we stared straight into a wall of water. The choppy seas had turned to mountains and valleys. My stomach was at the peak of the mountain we had dropped from. As the boat climbed the side of the water mountain my stomach tried to reenter my body but was left behind in the valley below. Then down again we plunged while rolling starboard. It was at that moment I threw my head over the rail to look straight down into bottom of the valley. AS the top of the wave blocked the sun my stomach found me giving its contents up to the deep. Often.
I held the rail with a death grip. Though there were no more pastries or coffee I continued to retch overboard. All thoughts of fishing along with fatherly concerns were gone with all those food chunks. As the spasms eased I suddenly remembered I had a son. I was supposed to protect him from alll manner of evil which included a watery grave. I looked over at him. He was a bright green open mouthed with all manner of undigested food blasting over the rail. Soon he settled with a moan. Then he was heaving over the side once again.
The boat's raucous behavior was overwhelming. The waves towered over us as we pitched downward then we mounted the wave and saw the dark valley to the stern. Once again we leaned over the rail. Like father, like son. It was messy.
Eventually my stomach settled somewhat. The only thing that helped was lying down.
"Let me die," I moaned over and over. "I just want to die and be done."
"We should have gotten the dramamine," said my son through his own moan.
"Yes, we should have. Now leave me alone."
Once my son had no more to contribute to the sea he brightened up. The sickness passed for him and he returned to baiting his hooks. He pulled in several more. Each time he had a big smile. I lay in my spot and moaned for the next four hours. The sea calmed a bit. My stomach never did. When the engine sparked to life and we began to move at a steady pace we leveled out. My sickness eased a bit more. I sat up. My son was looking forward into the distance salt spray splashing across his pink cherubic face. He had a grin the size of Charleston on his mug. I was leaning over the rail. He looked back at me and grinned. I knew what was on his mind.
"My dad. What a woose." He brought home a good catch. He was the sailor home from the sea. His dad was just glad to be home.
Never again! Has been my stand on the subject of deep sea fishing. I think my son feels the same. But then again he has become quite the adventurer in his old age. MOre so than his old man.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Too much crimson in the face...

In the last century I took several art classes.  A few of them were taught at Charleston's Gibbes Museum of Art. My uncle taught a few classes there and suggested I try one or two.  It was my desire to be a painter of portraits so a class in oil painting was available and I paid 'em my money.  We met once a week for six weeks.  A list of supplies was provided and I purchased them at an art supply store down town.  When the day arrived I was loaded for bear and eager to begin.
Here we go, I thought, I'll learn how to get a likeness and paint flesh tones.  Several people walked into the classroom in front of me.  I chose an easel laying my satchel with paints, brushes and paper towels on the floor.  Everyone was quietly setting up their space laying canvas on the easel and gathering tubes of paint to squirt onto their palettes.  Brilliant colors oozed from the tubes along the sides of our palettes.  Cadmium red, burnt sienna, green and a large blob of white.  As we were doing this the instructor walked in.
"Don't put out your colors yet," he said as I squeezed the cadmium yellow bright onto the wooden palette.
The moans from everyone doing just that filled the room.
"I need to speak to you first.  You will want to follow the rules I have for just such procedures.  So lay your tubes down and let me orient you to my class."
Everyone sat on the stools provided while he looked around at us and quietly began to speak.
"We will be meeting each week at this time for approximately two hours.  I would appreciate your coming a few minutes early to set up your canvases and your paints.  I have models who will be be here each week for you to paint.  Please treat them with the courtesy they deserve.  Sitting in one position for any length of time is very tiring so I will have them pose for twenty minute periods with a five minute rest.  My models have agreed to this and I would like you to show them your appreciation when our time is up.
"As to colors, you have the list of supplies.  Every artist has his own method of laying out those colors and I would appreciate it if you would use my method while you are under my tutelage, thank you.  Let me show you how I want them while our model takes her seat."
Our instructor wandered from student to student pointing out his arrangement for us.  It seemed logical progressing from bright red in a rainbow pattern ending with a huge glob of white.  The colors were on the periphery of the palette so that a large area in the middle could be used for mixing.  When everyone was set up and the model was in her pose we looked up and a beautiful young lady sat in front of us in her birthday suit.  It was my first life drawing  experience.  A warmth traveled up my neck to to the top of my head as my face lit on fire.  It was not my custom to see a lady in the all together sitting in the middle of the room with ten or twelve fully clothed folks standing around gawking.
"If this is your first life drawing class," said the instructor with a mischievous grin looking straight at me, "it might be daunting for the few minutes it takes you to beginning drawing.  First, I want you to make some quick drawings of our lovely model on your sketch pads to get the feel of the pose."
I looked away to find my sketch pad while my face continued to smolder.  I placed it onto the easel, leaned over for my pencil and stood straight looking directly into the eyes of the model.  She had a similar mischievous grin on her face as our eyes met.  She winked.  The fire in my face roared to incendiary proportions.
I placed my pencil on the paper and began to make marks.
"Feel your way around her body," said the instructor.
It was more coals into the fire.  I began to sweat, the heat was turned up so high.  I looked to see if the windows would open hoping for a cool breeze from that autumn night.
"Look at the model and make your marks as if you had the pencil directly on her skin," he said with a smile in my direction.
Shaking a bit I placed my pencil on the page and tried to draw as he said.
"Lose yourself in the contours and the marks you make on your paper."
His words eased my tension and the pencil began to move in conjunction with my eyes.  My mind lost sight of the fact I was drawing a beautiful women, naked, in front of me.  I was viewing and translating the work of art before me.  My embarrassment left as quickly as it had come.  I was now an artist learning my craft.  In front of me was the chance to acquire the knowledge needed to create an oil to be proud of.
The night went well after that initial confusion.  The model was a friendly young college student who sat for artists to earn money for school.  During the breaks she would wrap up in a warm blanket to move around amongst us budding artists to see how we saw her.  I am happy to say she thought my interpretation of her was very flattering.
She was our model for three sessions.  The last night we all thanked her as we said farewell.
"Next week," said our instructor, "we have one of our student's daughter sitting for us."
Whoa, I thought.  That could be embarrassing.
"Til next week then.'
We returned the next week to see a chair on the small platform in front of us.  Everyone began their set up as we waited for the instructor and the model.  He walked in with a very young girl who had on a silk jacket.
"Good evening everyone.  This week we have a new model.  She is the daughter of one of your fellow students," he said pointing at a beaming lady on the other side of the room.  "It is her first time modeling so we will have to be easy on her.  She may need more breaks than we are used to.  You will enjoy working with the silk material of this jacket she is wearing.  Alright get your pads and pencils ready while we have her pose.  We will spend the next fifteen to twenty minutes sketching so that you become familiar with the pose."
We drew her until she needed a break.  While she walked around we laid out our colors getting ready.
For three weeks we painted this young lady.  I don't remember the instructor saying anything to me to help.  The one time he did come over to my easel, he stood back watching and said only, "You know what you are doing."
I felt flattered but disappointed because I didn't know what I was doing.
Those last three weeks flew by.  Each session was two hours long but it wasn't long enough for me.  I never finished it but I do have the canvas and the memories.  It was one of the better classes I took last century.

Spring fever

The sound of birds and the copper color of robins flitting from the ground to the trees woke me to the fresh beauty of the day. The air was filled with the song of newly arrived birds of spring. The sun was shining in the blue expanse above and cool breezes, flowing across rosy cheeks, awakened the sense of new beginnings promised in the first moment the spring is realized...within.
I ran around the yard in a burst of joy.  I was a happy little boy who was simply enjoying the wonder of life.  Not only was the weather providing the warmth needed to pull us outside without the need of thick jackets, but there was also the promise in the air of newness to life.
It was the first year I was old enough to understand growth  from seeds. I wanted to buy some Burpee packets and grow flowers.  I got the seeds  from the store--ten cents from my twenty-five cents allowance. When we got home with my packets, promising purple flowers, I jumped out of the car and ran around looking for some place to plant them.
Top of Form
“How about there?”  my mother suggested.  It was a spot near the top of the drive just beneath a pine tree that reached to heaven when I looked upward through its top branches.
"OK," I said taking the proffered shovel. For a little guy the thing was a bit unwieldy but I dragged it over to the spot, leaving a dugout trail behind the blade.
"Find a good sunny area there. Flowers need sunlight," said my mother watching my progress.
"Here?" I asked.
"Perfect," she said.
Naturally I picked a spot that looked great but the underground roots proved a problem. I broke earth by sticking the pointed blade into the dirt, then jumping as high as I could, landing both feet on the back of the scoop repeatedly. I kept at it until the area was somewhat softened. Tossing the shovel aside I got on my hands and knees, and like a crazed farmer began clutching clods of dirt, holding them up in the air and allowing it to pour through my opening fingers, all with a wild grin clamped across my face.
"Will these tiny things make flowers?" I said, doubt clouding my voice..
"Yes, with the proper care and God's help."
"What do you mean God's help?"
"He has supplied the ground to plant them in. Over time He will send rain to water them, especially when you forget to use the watering can. And, He will provide the urge inside each little seed to grow into the sunlight He shines down on them."
"Easter comes in spring. You remember? Just like those seeds that look dead, God's son looked dead but he rose up from the tomb and lived again in the sunlight."
"You mean Jesus?"
"I do. Spring comes each year to provide us a hint of the newness of life after the cold grey days and nights of winter. The warmth flows back into the earth and from it life returns with the promise of beauty and wonder."
"I can't wait until my flowers grow up," I said looking at the patch of disturbed ground that now held my packet of seeds individually poked into their holes with tiny child fingers.
"OK. Let's give them a drink of water and then let them soak it in. We'll leave them and let God tend to their growth."
Throughout the remainder of the day I kept running out to see if anything had grown, disappointed each time.
About a week later I began to see tiny green sprouts breaking the ground cover. Each day I watered when their cradle of dirt seemed too dry. I'd sit for a while each day and will them to grow but they never moved any faster. Unconcerned that I had no power to do that, I'd jump up and run to the neighbor's to play.
Then one day the first hint of purple begin to appear. I ran to fetch my mother to show her. We both stood there admiring God's handiwork as the fragile buds swayed in the light breeze.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Knock off the noise!

"Careful, now. We don't want to spill it," I said to my friend. He was carrying the heavier end of the washtub. It contained a pitcher full of Kool-Ade, grape, along with a container of ice and a stack of paper cups. We were balancing on an old two by four we'd found. It sat about four inches above the water that had crept up with the tide. It was a drainage ditch that ebbed and flowed with the waters from the Stono River. On the other side was the fifteenth green of the Municipal Golf Course.
Our intention was to flip the washtub over near the green just off the fairway. The bottom of the tub would furnish a table upon which the pitcher of Kool-Ade would sit, the ice to the side and the cups stacked next to the pitcher coated with rivulets of condensing water. It was coming on hot this early morn and we hoped to earn lots of money from selling cool drinks to hot golfers.
We could see several people in shorts pulling golf carts behind them. They were still a good ways off so that we had time to set up our drink stand.
"Look at that," I said. "They're mopping their brows with handkerchiefs. We've got captive customers." My eagerness came across with loud enthusiasm.
"Shhh," my buddy hissed. "Golfers don't like noise when they are on the green. Watch 'em when they get here. They concentrate real hard about gettin' that ball into the hole where the flag is."
I quieted down as they parked their bags at the foot of the green. Each of the three men pulled their flat putting irons out and walked to their respective golf balls. Two of them stood quietly leaning on their putters while the third hovered over his ball making pendulum movements just above it. After several swipes he leaned into his putter and sofly whacked it. The ball moved swiftly and accurately making a plocka-pock-pock noise as it dropped into the small hole.
"Nice one," said one of his companions as the next one began the same routine over his. His preparation was shorter and he clicked the putter against his ball. It rolled swiftly and accurately. He retrieved it and the last member of the group prepared to tap his in. He missed. It went farther away and up the sloping green to stop then roll back even farther away.
"Tough luck," said one of his companions.
A second stroke sent the ball two inches past the hole for a another miss.
"Ooooh," groaned both his friends. They stood silently as he made his third attempt. It went directly to the lip of the hole circled quickly and zipped into the rough.
"Take a three on that," said one of the men. "We'll allow it."
The man picked up his ball mumbling words under his breath. We caught a couple of them and giggled.
That's when they noticed us.
"Well, now. What do we have here?"
"We're selling cold glasses of grape Kool-Ade, sir," I piped in.
"You got plenty of ice?"
"How much?"
"Ten cents."
"It's a deal. Fill the cup full of ice," he said pulling change from his pocket.
I scooped ice into the Dixie cup and poured. He gave me a dime and I gave him his cup.
"Hey, boys. These enterprising young men have a cold drink for a dime. Give 'em your business."
His friends took the handle of their bags and wheeled them over reaching into their pockets for the coins. R-- poured two cups and handed them out in exchange for nickels and a dime. They took them and ran the cups over their foreheads.
"Nice and cool," said one. With clubs rattling they walked over the grass and onto the path to the next T-off mound.
"Thirty cents! We're gonna make a killin'," I said.
"Yeah. We got a captive audience," said R--.
While we were talking on about our sales and prospects the next group came to a stop. They looked at us and hissed loud SHHHHHH'S our way.
We clammed up immediately looking at each other reaffirming our closed mouths.
While they went through their rituals to knock the little white ball into the hole in the ground, we began getting ready for a sale by pouring ice into cups. The rattle of ice into Dixie cups was too much for them because one of them yelled at us, "Dammit! Will you kids knock off the noise!"
We both froze so that not a sound came from our position.
They finished up and grabbed their clubs wheeling right past us. We got harsh stares from these guys as the moved toward the sixteenth fairway. 'Why do they let these brats on the golf course?" we heard one of them say.
"I didn't think we were that noisy."
"Aaah, they were just rotten players taking it out on us. Hush. We got more customers on the way."
I turned to see a group of four approaching the green. They parked their bags and withdrew putters. Their countenances showed stern concentration as the quietly made their way to the balls at different parts of the green. Each one pocketed his ball with the first stroke. They were loud in their jubilation and with smiles came over to our table.
"Whatcha got, boys?"
"Grape Kool-Ade, sir," we said.
"Lotsa ice?"
"Load up four cups. How much?"
"A dime apiece, sir."
"Fair at the price. Here ya go."
"Thank you, sir." I took the four dimes and R-- offered the cups.
"Uh, how about a fillup," said one of them after downing the drink in one gulp.
"Yessir!" I poured his refill.
"Anybody else want a second glass?" he asked his comrades.
We refilled two more glasses. They smiled and walked on. I looked at the pitcher. Their wasn't enough for another round.
"I better go mix some more," I said to R--. "I'll be right back. Hold down the fort."
"OK," he said.
I ran across the two by four and along the canal to my back door. I put down the pitcher and grabbed another nickel bag of Kool-Ade dumping it into the bottom of the receptacle. Then came a cup of sugar. Under the spicket and up to the top of the handle, I poured the water. A clanking stir with the big spoon gave a beautiful purple liquid. I tossed the spoon into the sink and headed out with the pitcher cradled in both arms.
I got back as a group of three were walking off.
"We just missed a sale," R-- said.
It would have been another thirty cents. We should have brought the Kool-Ade packs and a jug of water with us so we could mix it here," he said.
"Great idea. I'll go get them." I was up and off as the next group of golfers rolled up.
At the house I found two more packs of Kool_Ade powder. The bag of sugar was half full so I grabbed it. My next problem was finding a container for the water to mix. Looking around I spied the kettle. Why not? I thought. I filled it and was out of the house and across the creek again.
"I just sold to those guys."
"Terrific. It's a good day to sell this stuff."
"Is that all the water you brought?"
"It was the biggest container I could find."
"I was thinking, maybe we should put the ice into the pitcher."
"I'm OK with that," I said.
Before the next grooup arrived we scooped ice into the pitcher until it was full again.
For the rest of the afternoon we sold our drinks to the players as they came off the green. When our product was gone we packed everything back into the tub. For a few minutes we sat under the oak with its waving Spanish Moss, feeling the cool breeze waft across our skin and listened to the choir of birds singing about the happiness of the day. We counted dimes, nickels and pennies which we split on the spot. It had been a very good day for a Kool-Ade stand on the golf course. I took my money to town and bought the chess set I had been wanting. I think R--- put his in the bank for his future education. Either use of proceeds was fine because it was a good day for kids. The golfers didn't have a bad one either.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Marjory Daw...

"She's the yellow rose of Texas!" The song rolled off my lips like metal off sandpaper. The high note came as I flew upward in the rubber sling serving as a seat in the swing set beside the fence. The A-frame metal poles supported a horizontal bar. Six swings were attached and six kids were pumping for all they were worth to reach the sky. The six of us swung back and forth like six out of sync pendulums. From a little push I had worked the swing until it slowed to a stop practically parallel to the ground. The sinking feeling in my stomach as I whipped back was wonderous. It was as close to flying as a kid could get and the exuberance bubbled over in loud squawking lyrics from the most popular song of the day.
"Jump, Rickey!" Came the cries behind me. Jump? I didn't want to jump. It was too high to jump.
"Come on! Jump!" My friend's eagerness for me to jump was overwhelming. Against all good judgement I released my hold on the chains straining at the upward swing. I left the seat. For a split second I floated several feet above the sandy soil of the school yard. I looked around in that second. In front of me stood the huge red brick building we called Rotten Tomato Soup from the initials RTS in yellow stitched on the maroon curtains of the stage in the lunchroom/auditorium. The RTS actually stood for Riverland Terrace School. It was our home away from home eight hours a day from our sixth birthday to our twelfth. This side of the sidewalk was our playground of tan sandy soil. Oak trees lined the street in front along the fence enclosing the school yard. To the left of my lofty position stood the monkey bars alive with movement and jabber as kids climbed, swung and jumped to and fro in the box of metal bars. Just to the right of this jungle jim were the see-saws and as I began my downward arc I saw one of the kids jump from one side of the see-saw from his squatting position to watch his partner come crashing down on the opposite side. It was the last thing I saw as gravity sealed our fates.
I smacked the earth with a woomp. Sand settled around me as I struggled for breath. With a gasp air returned to my lungs. I looked over toward the see-saw as I wiped a tear from my eye. The boy's partner lay on the ground still straddling the board. A loud wail came from her direction. I saw one of the teachers running to her side. The boy who had jumped from the other side stood nearby, a smile on his face. It was soon wiped away by the teacher's scolding tone. One teacher stayed with the girl as the other dragged the boy toward the principal's office.
Seated in the dirt I turned to see my friend had taken the swing I had vacated. He was working hard to equal my heights of swinging. Determination rested on his face as he leaned into the swing. My dalliance placed me in the path of his trajectory when time came for his release so I scrambled away on hands and knees. My timing was right. I flipped over to watch him arc into the sky screaming, "Geronimo!" followed by a loud woomp and "Oof!"
"Joo see that?" he yelled. "I was flying!"
"Yeah. Now it's my turn again!" I yelled as I jumped up to grab the swing. I was too late, though. One of the girls was sitting in it swinging ever so lightly back and forth.
"Aren't you going to see how high you can go?" I asked her.
"I just want to swing. I don't want to jump," she said.
"Ah, man! You girls are such sissies!" I yelled back at her.
"Come on, Rickey. The see-saw is open."
"Yeah, let's see-saw," I said thinking about the last two kids using it.
There were three boards teetering on a metal bar. Each end had a t-bar for the occupant's hands. We grabbed the one the teacher had led the crying girl from. Leveling it off we both hopped on. Up and down, foot hit the ground, on bended knee, push me free. We both pushed hard when our feet made contact. The board would only go so fast. Up, down. We were laughing with each teeter. Then I saw the gleam in his eye. I knew he had seen what I had seen. He was going to jump. I knew he was going to jump. I had to jump first I decided. It was jump or dump. He saw that decision as his feet hit the ground. With that, he rolled off the board. Once again gravity took hold of me. Blam! My butt hit the ground. The solidity of the board rattled my spine. I slowly fell back against the earth. A puff of fine sand clouded over me. It mingled with the tear brimming over my eyelid forming a trail down my cheek. A soft moan drifted past my lips.
I moved my head from side to side looking for a teacher to come to my aid. Someone who would offer sympathy and a helping hand to the nurse's office. Someone to drag my buddy to the Principal's office. No shadow fell over me with sympathy. Only my buddy who laughed and laughed.
"Boy was that good. You shoulda seen your face," he kept saying over and over.
I kept looking for the teachers who would haul him off for a bite of the board that sat in the Principal's office. No one. I was left on my own.
"Oh, come on, ya sissy. You were gonna jump. I saw ya."
He was right. He was first. That was my mistake. And it would have been funny to see him go crashing to the ground. Next time, I thought to myself. Next time. As I made my decision screams came from the dreaded Principal's office. Muffled whacks followed by high pitched screams escaped through the open windows.
That should be you, I thought. Yeah, but it could have been me except for that slit second of decision.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Charles Parnelle, artiste extraordinaire

Way back when, I almost got my name in the paper.  My uncle, who is a well known artist about town, was profiled in the local news.  It was a very nice article which covered his younger days, his development as an artist and, then, provided photos of his latest work.  At one point in the article he was asked if anyone in the family had the creative gene.  He said he had a nephew who had an interest in art.
Yup.  Charles Parnelle is my uncle.  He has been drawing and painting local scenes for a lot of years.  I'm not sure he would appreciate my telling how many decades that encompasses but it is more than seven and less than nine.  his influence can be seen in any number of local artists who were fortunate enough to take classes under his tutelage.  His works have included pencil, ink, water color and oils with a few acrylics thrown in for good measure.  The only medium I have not seen him work with is pastel but I am confident he would produce fine works with that medium as well.
He was very young when he worked for a bit with his dad in construction.  One very hot day he turned to his dad and said, "I think I can find something better than this for my profession."  He became a draftsman at the Naval Shipyard.  It was not the first time he had taken pencil in hand to draw.  As a child I used to sit in wonder at the drawings in his bedroom.  His walls were covered with wonderful characters straight from the adventure stories so popular.  Sinbad stood, scimitar drawn, on the wall as one entered the room.  A gypsy in a low cut blouse stood along the adjacent wall with a come hither eye.  But the one that always captured my young fancy was the Indian riding full gallop toward me with arrow drawn in a straining bow, his eyes steadfast on his target which was me.  I stood in awe until the day my granddad rolled paint over them, something I could never have done.
He retired early from the draftsman job and began to devote his life to painting.  He studied under local artists as well as national artists.  His artwork improved with each new tutor.  This was evident in his sales of watercolors on Queen Street during the annual Sidewalk Art shows.  The Charleston Artist Guild sponsored this spring event. It was always a festival to me and I would go every year to marvel at the paintings attached to the fence along the churchyard.  I would always stop to admire his paintings because I always believed them to be superior to all the others.  The sold stickers were proof enough.
In those early years he decided he wanted to give back to the community so he began to teach the skills he had come by over the years. His workshops were very popular.  His method was simple.  He provided an example for his students.  The he would lay his brush aside and walk amongst them to give individual encouragement and instruction.  It was a very effective means of teaching and his workshops became quite popular.  He taught locally and throughout the Southeast.  His influence can be seen in many of the artists within the Charleston area.  Many of his students became members of the CGA with artistic skills acquired in his classroom.
I studied in a few of his classes and his influence can be seen in several of the pieces I have hanging in my home as well as several sold to local collectors.  One of the last paintings from my easel was a portrait of this local giant.  It won no prizes nor any fine words from critics but it told it all in my mind.
 His shoulders are too wide, I was told.
"And why wouldn't they be," I asked.  "When one looks up to a mentor, he is a giant and so I depicted him."
I have a lot to be thankful for in my life.  I was fortunate to have such a talented uncle.  He was a far better teacher than I was a student.  He brought a lot of happiness to a lot of people through his penchant for sharing knowledge.  I am grateful.  I believe many others feel the same way.