It’s Not Easy

Today, I have to depart from my usual type of storytelling. We have a topic here that can no longer be denied.

A famous frog once sang, “It’s not easy being green.” That’s true, not only for frogs, but also for peas. People are always bad-rapping the pea and only because they have never learned how to properly prepare it. Nowadays, the pea is used more for its color than it is for its nutritional value. A cook or chef will plate up a pork chop or a chicken breast, add mashed potatoes and gravy, and then realize that what they have dished up really looks boring. So, to add a little color and excitement to the plate, they toss on a bunch of peas. It’s true, that they have added some color, but they have also added a component that is cold and dry and boring as hell. What a crumby way to treat a pea.

To properly prepare peas, open some canned peas or frozen peas, and put them in a pan. Add enough water to cover the peas well, and then do a good job of cooking them. When the peas are hot and well-cooked, ladle them into a side dish and make sure you add enough juice to cover them. Add a sliver of butter and some salt and pepper and you have a tasty dish that is ready to serve.  Eat the peas with a spoon so you get plenty of that delicious juice.  Bon Apetit!

That’s all I have to say about peas.

Dave Thomas

August 8, 2019




Houses on the Move

It’s always been a surprise to me to pull up to a stop sign, diligently look both ways, and see a house coming down the street at me. That always wakes me up. Houses are supposed to remain fixed, and not be coming at you. That kind of thing isn’t seen much anymore, but years ago was quite common. When towns were formed, the businessmen built their homes within walking distance of the main street. Later, as the towns grew, the citizens moved a little further out. The original homes, now much older, were torn down or, if in good condition, moved to a new location. The land had value though the homes themselves may have lost theirs. Sometimes the homes were sold and then moved, or if someone just wanted to develop the property, they might give the house away rather than suffer the expense of tearing it down. This is how house moving developed into a business, and it became quite popular after the 1930’s. I don’t know much about moving houses, but I can tell you a couple of stories.


My cousin, George P. Sicks, graduated from high school in Iola, Kansas during the days of the dust bowl and the Great Depression. There wasn’t much work in farming country for a young man at that time, so George looked for greener pastures. He hitchhiked to Los Angeles and walked the streets looking for work there. Finally, in the city of Long Beach, he hooked up with a man who moved houses. There was enough work to keep George busy most of the time. However, George wanted to do better for himself, so he continued to look for work. He finally found the perfect solution. He found an evening job building movie sets for one of the movie production companies. So, when there were houses to move, he did that during the daylight hours, and in the evenings, worked on the movie sets. He finally was making enough money to live comfortably without wondering where his next meal was coming from.


When I was growing up in Augusta, Kansas, we had one man who specialized in moving houses. His name was Boler Wilson. Boler was a quiet man with a set of shoulders that gave the impression that he could pull a house down the street by himself. Boler and Mrs. Wilson lived in the eleven hundred block of School Street, I think, the last house before 12th Street. Every now and then, as kids, we would spot Boler towing some house down the street. Aside from the trucks pulling the house, there were usually men on foot with long polls to push tree branches and telephone lines out of the way.


My dad, Al Thomas, was a brick layer and concrete block layer. Boler sometimes hired him to build a foundation for a home after it was moved to its new location. Normally, it was a concrete block job, and when I got older, I was able to work for Dad, mixing mud and carrying the concrete blocks.

That’s really all I know about the house-moving business. I’m still amazed by the memory of houses going down the street.

Dave Thomas

July 31, 2019


Money’s Pond


Augusta High School’s football field was known as Worl Field, named after a coach from the 1920’s. The school, built in the early 1920’s, and was located at the corner of State St. and Clark St. To find the football field, you went around the south end of the school and turned north to find the access road to the field. That road was located a few yards down the building and went downhill and to the west to reach the field.


The land bordering the road and football field on the north was occupied by a man named I.M. Money and his wife, both senior citizens. Mr. Money, by some called “Old Man Money,” was a nice old guy who farmed that land around him. Mrs. Money was a pleasant lady who was good to us kids. A few times, when we were cutting through their property on some expedition, she waved us to the house, and provided us with cookies.


The Money’s home was kind of in the middle of that adjoining land. Nearby, and not far from the road, was what we called “Money’s Pond.” I don’t remember if the pond was spring-fed, or if it was created by run-off. The pond was shallow, and its main inhabitants were crawdads. Also, this is where I learned to ice skate. Gary and Bill Casner, my neighbors on Cliff Dr., were usually with me. H.H.Robinson, the Superintendent of Schools, also a Cliff Dr. resident, was a frequent skater. Mr. Robinson, a man who enjoyed all sorts of physical activities, was a good skater and a good instructor. He taught us how to skate, how to play hockey, and how to just have a good time.


Gary and I had clamp-on skates. You know the kind; they had an ankle strap, and clamps on the front that were supposed to anchor to the soles of your shoes. Good luck with that! I don’t know where he got them, but Billie Bob Casner had shoe skates. Due to the shoe skates, and the fact that he was two years older than us, Bill was a much better skater.


Most often, we were skating in the evening after dark. We built a bonfire to provide light as well as warmth. Sometimes, there were as many as a half dozen other kids skating, but I can’t remember who they were. I just remember that we all had a good time.

Dave Thomas

March 21, 2019



I was working in an electronics factory in the 1960’s. People looked the same in our plant as they did in most business places in America. The women in the front offices wore attractive dresses and tailored suits. The managers, supervisors, engineers, accountants, and other professional men all wore white shirts and neckties. They appeared to be in uniform. This was contradictory to what happens in nature where the males are brightly colored, and the females have a more subdued look in order to protect themselves and their young.


We had a manufacturing engineer named Bob Scholl that worked with us who was a pretty sharp dresser. He was always well-groomed and looked really good in his clothes. One morning, the door to the production area opened, and in walked Bob wearing a charcoal gray suit, pink shirt, and matching tie. The ladies in the assembly area were aghast, and the room went silent. After a moment, the comments started. “Look at Bob!” “What is he wearing?” “What does he think he’s doing?” “He can’t wear that!” “Do you think he’ll get fired?” It was as if the world had been turned upside down. No one could believe what they were seeing.


Bob went about his work that day, and, as usual, was seen in most of the departments of the factory. He was not fired, but his pink and gray outfit certainly caused some excitement.


It was like Bob had opened the floodgates, and the rainbow spilled out. We soon began seeing shirts of many shades of blue, green, yellow, and every other color. In our world, Bob was the Darwin of the spectrum.

Dave Thomas

January 18, 2019

George’s 86th birthday

Cousin George’s 86th Birthday

My cousin, George Phillip Sicks, had an 86th birthday party that is really worth talking about. It consisted of a boat trip to and from Catalina Island, lunch at a fine restaurant, checking out the local shops, touring the island, and just visiting with some nice people. George’s wife, Justine, and step-daughter, Kathy Kingsbury did an outstanding job of planning and organizing. They invited George’s kids, grand-kids, cousins, and friends. They came from the east coast, Missouri, and several places in California. I don’t know what the count was, but there must have been at least 30 people.

George and Justine lived in El Cajon, a suburb of San Diego, as we did. We were to catch the boat for Catalina at Long Beach harbor. Having previously lived in the Los Angeles area for many years, George and some of the others were quite familiar with Long Beach and were going to drive up and be there by the 7:30 AM boarding time. Pat and I didn’t know the area so well, so we drove up the evening before and got a motel room. The next morning, we were lined up on the pier and waiting for the 7:30 boarding call. As we waited, we visited with those around us and made the acquaintance of those we didn’t know. Along came Kathy and Justine, passing out blue baseball caps with”80SICKS” embroidered on the front. How clever and perfect is that for George’s 86th birthday? I thought that was special and almost 20 years later, I still have that ball cap.

We boarded the boat and found a good seat on the outside deck. We departed and settled in for the 22-mile trip across the channel to the town of Avalon on Catalina. The hydro-foil boats make the trip in about an hour. It was a beautiful day with a blue sky and small waves and we were hoping to see some flying fish. The flying fish visit the waters around Catalina for several months of the year. It is said that they can soar out of the water to a height of 30 feet and then glide for up to 2/4 mile. We saw a half dozen of them while crossing to the island. It takes you by surprise when they first get airborne and then you watch them in disbelief.

We soon arrived in Avalon and disembarked. We were told when and where to meet for lunch and were turned loose to wander around town and see the sights. I didn’t know anyone in this branch of the family but as Pat and I wandered around town and spotted the blue “80Sicks” ball caps, we would strike up a conversation with that new-found relative.

At the appointed time, we all met at the specified restaurant for lunch and George’s birthday party. It was interesting to be in a room full of relatives I hadn’t seen before. There was a lot of laughing and carrying on and George seemed to have a great time.

After lunch we were free again to wander around until about 4:00 o’clock when we would meet at the pier for the return trip to Long Beach. Pat and I took the tour of the island and got to see the herd of buffalo and the interesting views from up on top. It’s a fascinating place. About 4:00 o’clock we met back at the pier for the boat trip back to Long Beach. Pat and I had a wonderful day, and George had a jim-dandy 86th birthday party.

The reason I didnt know these relatives was that I just met George when he was 82, and I was 63. When we did finally meet, we really hit it off and visited many times. Pat and I moved to Texas for 7 years, and George and Justine flew down and visited us twice. The way I finally met George is interesting, and if youd like to know, please read my story Finding George P. Sicks.

Dave Thomas and Terri Gray
June 22, 2018


Patio Talk 8b: Miz Pat’s Wild Ride


Summer was ending. Russ, Doug, and Terri had enjoyed a wonderful vacation with their grandparents in El Dorado, Kansas. Pat was going to make the drive back to pick them up and bring them home.

Friday afternoon, Pat left work early. She drove home, changed clothes, grabbed a bite to eat, tossed her suitcase into the car and took off. It was a beautiful evening and Pat made good time, clearing the mountains and Imperial Valley and crossing the Colorado River into Yuma before dark. She continued across Arizona to Eloy and turned north, finally stopping for the night in Florence.

Pat was beat, working all day and then driving this far had taken its toll. She checked into a motel and pretty much crashed. She was awakened in the middle of the night by a lot of loud shouting. A man and woman were having a knockdown, drag out fight in the room next door. Pat tried to go back to sleep and after what seemed like hours, finally drifted off. Unfortunately, she couldn’t stay asleep. The noise next door seemed to rise and fall on a regular basis and she awoke as it reached it’s peak each time. Finally, she could stand it no longer. Sunrise was still something to be hoped for, but it wouldn’t be happening real soon. Pat gathered up her things, loaded them into the car, and headed out.

It was a joy to be in the car and away from the screaming. The warm Arizona night felt good and the clear desert air enhanced the abundant display of stars. Pat and her little Renault rolled across the desert floor, hit the first upgrade, and headed into the mountains. The sun came bouncing up and suddenly there was blue sky, red rocks, and green junipers to enjoy as she sped along.

Pat knew she was getting close to Salt River Canyon and, sure enough, she spotted the first signs,” Downgrade” and “Test Your Brakes.” She dutifully tested her brakes and then got to wondering what would happen if her brakes failed. Would she be able to get down the hill safely? By downshifting, could she control her speed and make it to the bottom in one piece?

To help you picture this, I should interject some information about the car. It was a 1969 Renault 4-door sedan. It had a 4-cylinder engine and a 5-speed transmission (5 on the floor). It had quick steering, disc brakes, and Michelin steel-belted tires.

Pat considered the attributes of the car and decided to give it the test. She knew that the road zig-zagged all the way to the bottom with a lot of hairpin curves and switchbacks. She downshifted as she headed into the first turn and was on her way. She was busy shifting up and down and steering into the tight turns and it seemed she was going faster than she was. The windows were all down and the radio was blaring and it all contributed to the thrill of the ride. “Woweeee…this is more fun than Disneyland!” She had a busy time of it but made the curves safely. As she reached the canyon floor, she could see two Arizona Highway Patrol cars blocking the road with lights flashing. As she brought the Renault to a stop, one of the officers

approached the car and gruffly demanded to know, “Why were you trying to evade the police?” “I wasn’t evading the police” Pat said. “Then why didn’t you stop for this officer?” he said as he pointed to a car behind Pat’s car that also had flashing lights and a siren that was giving its final screech. Pat was amazed to see the cruiser behind her. She had been concentrating on the road so hard she hadn’t noticed the flashing lights and with the radio turned up full blast, hadn’t heard the siren.

They ordered Pat out of the car and all three of them were barking questions at her. “Where are you coming from?” “Where are you going?” “Why were you speeding?” Pat explained what she had done and apologized for having made a bad decision. The Highway Patrol guys were getting agitated and were becoming more intimidating every minute. They stepped away, a few feet, and were discussing arresting her. Pat suddenly, with a stroke of brilliance, remembered that a former high school classmate was high up in the chain of command of the Arizona Highway Patrol. Pat yelled at the officers “Why don’t you call your boss, Ray Smith (not his real name) about me.” “What”, said one of the Troopers. “Call your boss, Ray Smith, and tell him you are talking with his high school classmate, Pat Lee. He’ll vouch for me.”, she said.

The Troopers talked it over and one of them got in his car and got on the radio. Pat could see him talking and gesturing as he tried to explain the situation to Ray Smith or whoever was on the other end of the conversation. The trooper finished with the radio call and got out of the car and talked to his fellow officers. After a short discussion, all three of them approached Pat. The officer who had made the radio call looked Pat straight in the eye and said “You are to proceed straight to the New Mexico State Line. You are not to speed or break any other Laws. Now, get in your car and get going.” Pat jumped in her car and got on down the road. Checking her rear-view mirror constantly, she observed tat an Arizona Highway Patrol car was behind her all the way to the New Mexico line.

Completing her trip with no further drama, Pat arrived at her folks’ house in El Dorado anxious to see the kids. They greeted her with a glum “Hi Mom” and no hugs or kisses. She was crushed, expecting the kids to be as overjoyed about the reunion as she was. “Have you had fun?”, she asked. Doug said, “Grandma is a good cook and she bakes bread!” “Yes,” said Russ, “and we had something fun to do every day.” Terri wanted to back up her brothers and said “Yes, the food was good, and we went some place or did something fun every day.” Pat realized that the kids had indeed had a good time and were lamenting the fact that their summer was over. She perked up as she listened to the kids’ stories and they all had a good final visit with her folks.

Pat and the kids left for California the next morning Pat had promised herself that she would be a responsible driver and would not engage in any downhill races or other high jinx. Wouldn’t you know that her resolution couldn’t last? They had gotten most of the way home. They crossed the border into California at Yuma and crossed the Imperial Valley. They had left the desert floor and started up that long mountain grade that eventually gets you up above 6,000 feet. The Renault, with four people aboard, was laboring as they went up hill. Suddenly, there

was a honk, and Pat looked over at the VW that was creeping up beside her. The young man driving the car made a motion and mouthed the words “Wanna race?” Pat laughed and thought to herself that a Volkswagen and a Renault racing would look like two turtles in slow motion going up that grade. The kids were all for it and were begging her to race. Pat is thinking that anyone can beat a little underpowered VW “toy car”. On the other hand, she remembered her promise to herself not to do anything stupid on the way home. The competitive Pat won, and they were in a race. The kids were yelling and as they inched past the VW, they were waving at the guy to”c’mon’. They won the race, such as it was. A kid on a 10-speed bike could have taken them both. Regardless, it was a fitting end to a wonderful summer.

This story never seems to come to an end. Twenty years later, Pat went to a high school class reunion and ran into Ray Smith and his wife, also a former classmate. They spent a few minutes “catching up” and then Pat recounted her Salt River Canyon story. They all laughed about it and then, as they were parting, Ray said “Don’t ever use my name that way again!”.

Dave and Pat Thomas
May 24, 2018


Baby Cat: Here And There

We had never traveled with a cat. When we went off on vacation the cats and dogs stayed home. This trip was to be different, though. After retiring from work, Pat and I decided we needed something different. After living in California for forty years we wanted to get in a more central area and picked Texas as our new home. We made an exploratory trip and decided to buy a home. A cousin of mine owned a van line, an affiliate of United Van Lines, with offices in Wichita, Emporia, and Houston. His people gave us a decent quote and we decided to go with them. Also, I was thinking that if anything went wrong, I could call Cousin Ken and he would fix it.

At this time, the only animal we had left was Baby Cat. She was a mellow old girl, but we had no idea how she would do on the road. We didn’t want the two-day trip to be a traumatic experience for her, so we put some thought into her well-being.

Pat was going to be the driver. Macular degeneration had already messed up my vision. The State of California had already declared that my driver’s license would expire on December 31, 2001. We were leaving for Texas the next day.

We had a 7-passenger van and it was set up in the standard configuration. There were two sliding doors, two bucket seats in the front, two bucket seats in the middle, and a bench seat in the back. Behind the back seat there was a cargo area. We were only going to carry some personal items in the van and we stacked them on the back seat and in the cargo area.

To take care of Baby Cat, we placed a bath mat on the floorboard behind the driver’s seat and then placed a litter box on top of the mat. We hoped that would take care of any “accidents”. On the floorboard behind the front passenger seat, we placed a bowl of water, a bowl of dry food, and a small plastic plate for canned food. Under the driver’s seat, and handy to the litter box, we put a box of Zip-Lok plastic bags. The litter was the “clumping” kind so cleaning the litter box was no big deal. We put a roll of paper towels between the front seats and Pat kept her purse there. Those items served as a roadblock and kept the kitty from going between the seats and getting under Pat’s feet or between her and the pedals.

Baby Cat ended up with food and drink, a floor to stroll on, and the two middle seats for napping.

When traveling, we soon learned that the first few miles were the toughest. We could start down the road and within the first 15 minutes, Baby Cat would jump in the litter box and stink things up so bad we would almost gag. Pat would pull over at the first opportunity and we would clean the litter box. Once the poop was sealed in the plastic bag there was no odor and we would dispose of the bag at the first coffee stop.

Baby Cat always had an encore, too. Within the first 30 minutes, she would get sick at her stomach and throw up. What was funny, was that she would always run to the litter box and throw up in it. She never once made a mess on the carpet. After she had pooped and thrown up, she was good for the rest of the day. I know she was throwing up due to motion sickness. I remember, as a little kid, my Mom would always tell my sister and I not to look at the telephone poles as they flashed by or we would get sick. I think that’s what was getting Baby Cat. I had stacked that stuff in the one seat, so she would be high enough to see out the window, but she wouldn’t stay there. I even tried holding her, so she could see out and Pat could reach over and pet her, too. However, she would soon start squirming. I would reach back and set her down and she would run to the litter box and barf. This stuff happened on every trip we took with her. We finally realized it was inevitable and quit worrying about it.

Getting back to our move to Texas, we left San Diego early, on the morning of December 31, 2001, heading east on I-8. The weather was perfect for crossing the desert. We stopped for coffee and snacks in Yuma, Gila Bend, and the junction with I-10. By this time, we had developed a routine for caring for Baby Cat. We pulled into McDonald’s and parked where the van could be seen from a booth by a window. The temperature was mild, but we always cracked the windows for the kitty. By the time we got back to the car, Baby Cat would be wide awake, so we would spend a few minutes petting and talking to her., Sometimes, I would hold her for a few miles or until she got bored with it.

We headed south on I-10 with Baby Cat asleep most of the time. We went through Tucson where the walls of the embankment along the freeway are decorated so well. When we got to Willcox, we pulled off the highway at Rex Allen Drive to stop at McDonalds where Pat had a Diet Coke and I had coffee. You young whippersnappers may not know Rex Allen as “The Singing Cowboy” in the movies or as Frontier Doctor on TV. Oh, well.

We got to San Simon where my Grandpa once owned a quarter section of desert land and then crossed the border into New Mexico. We had considered spending the night in Los Cruces, but Pat said she had enough energy to go a little farther. We found a nice motel in one of the towns on the outskirts of El Paso. When we checked in, I told the desk clerk we had a cat with us. At this motel and on subsequent trips to Kansas and back to California the motels didn’t care and didn’t charge extra.

We took Baby Cat to the room first and let her look around. Then, we brought in the suitcases, litter box, food and water. We thought we had taken care of her needs well and we went on to dinner. When we returned to the room, Baby Cat was hiding under the bed. Leaving her alone in a strange place was more traumatic than we thought.

The next morning, wanting to get an early start, we quickly took the luggage, cat paraphernalia, and Baby Cat to the van. Pat and I went back inside and had a quick breakfast. We came out of the restaurant and headed for the van with Pat slightly ahead of me. She got there first and, peering inside, didnt see Baby Cat. She yelled that the cat had escaped and started unlocking the door. Im a diabetic and had my glucose meter in my hand. Hearing the urgency in Pats voice and worrying about the cat, I did something stupidI put the glucose meter on the roof of the car. We both had our sliding doors open and were looking like crazy for Baby Cat. Suddenly, Pat yells Here she is!Baby Cat came strolling out from the very back of the van. Relieved, we climbed in the car and tried to get back to breathing normally. We would both have gone nuts if the kitty was loose in that parking lot.

We got on the road and headed for El Paso. We hadnt gone far when I realized that my glucose meter wasnt in the glove compartment. I told Pat and she pulled over as soon as she could. I jumped out and checked the roof but of course, the meter was long gone. We realized there was nothing to do but find a drug store and buy a replacement. Of course, we also realized that it was just after 7:00 AM on January 1st, a holiday. As we hit

the outskirts of El Paso, we spotted a Wal-Mart and Pat got off at the next exit. We went into the Wal-Mart and found that the pharmacy was closed. We located the manager and asked her if she could get into the pharmacy and sell us a meter. She said she couldnt do that but if we would be patient she would be right back with some answers for us. A few minutes later she re-appeared and told us that there was a drug store about two miles down the road that was open and could take care of us. She gave us directions and sent us on our way. Sure enough, we found the place, bought a meter and were soon on our way.

Once that crisis was over, the rest of the day went well. In a couple of hours, we switched over to I-20 and went through Midland, Odessa, and Weatherford, and on to Keller. Traveling with Baby Cat went well. If anyone asked me for advice about traveling with a cat, I would first tell them what Ive told you. Next, I would suggest that they have a microchip implanted in their kitty and that she would wear a harness always, so shed be easier to catch.

Dave Thomas
March 18, 2018