It was one of those hot August afternoons in Augusta, Kansas. Jack Watson and I were on our bicycles and cutting through the Elmwood Cemetery. The cemetery was a great place to go riding as the street was level and smooth, and the large, old elm trees provided a canopy that shaded the entire area. As we rode, we noticed movement behind some of the monuments and as we got closer, we could see that it was a horse. We didn’t want to scare it, so we walked our bikes between the plots and headstones until we got close enough for a better look. We were both amazed and speechless at what we saw. Neither of us had ever seen a horse as swayback as this. He was so badly deformed it looked like some monster had chomped out a big piece of his back. Just looking at him, you could almost feel the pain he had suffered over the years. It was strange, but his condition didn’t seem to bother him now. He was as quiet and docile as could be.
We stood around and talked about his deformity and wondered what we could do to find his owner. Also, instead of referring to him as “horse,” we thought we should give him a name. Since we found him in the cemetery, “Graveyard” seemed like a fitting name. It also seemed perfect since he certainly looked like a bag of bones. Graveyard was wearing a halter, but we needed a lead rope in order to move him. We decided to take him to my house because there was a vacant lot across the alley from us. We thought we could picket him there while we looked for his owner. Jack’s house was the closest as he lived on Ohio Street, so he jumped on his bike and rode home to get some rope. He returned with a few feet of clothesline. Then he attached it to the halter, and we were in business. We left the cemetery going south on Ohio Street, and then turned west on Clark Street.
We hadn’t gotten too far down Clark Street before a man in a pick-up pulled along side us. We all stopped, and he got out of the truck and said, “Thanks for finding my horse!” He said the horse was a retiree that he was giving a home. We talked another minute, and the guy got back in his truck. He stuck his arm out the window, and we handed him the lead rope. As he drove off he said, “If you had left him alone, he would have come home by himself!” That possibility had never occurred to us.
This is not Graveyard- he looked a lot worse than this.
August 29, 2019
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.
August 8, 2019
We recently had a rainy November morning. Any rainy morning in Southern California is a happening. I’m thinking now of a rainy morning that occurred many years ago, probably 1965 or 1966.
It was 6:00 am, and I had shaved, dressed, and had breakfast, and was ready to go out and feed the horse. The horse was a three-year-old bay filly named Sweetie. I know it sounds like a corny name, but she was so mellow, I couldn’t call her anything else. There was a gentle rain falling, so I pulled on my boots and windbreaker, grabbed a flashlight, and went out the back door. Sweetie was standing in her shed, looking out the door, and watching me cross the backyard. As I slipped through the fence, she came up and nuzzled my arm. (You can’t kid me. I know that your greeting is 25% that you are looking for companionship, and 75% that you want to be fed.)
We walked to the shed, and I entered the door on the storage side, and picked up an old coffee can and filled it with a couple of inches of sweet mix. I took the sweet mix into Sweetie’s side of the shed, and dumped it into the feed box. She went after it like a kid going for ice cream. I had to be careful in how much I gave her because the stuff could make her high as a kite- like a kid on a sugar high. I took the can back to the storage side, and I grabbed an armload of alfalfa and brought it back over and dumped it in the manger. Sweetie went after it right away, and I started stroking her neck and talking to her. As she munched on her hay, she moved a little and pressed her shoulder up against me.
It was warm and dry in the shed, and we were comfortable with each other, so I continued to stroke her neck and talk to her while she had her breakfast. After a few minutes of this pleasant interlude, I headed back to the house. Nothing big, just two beings sharing a moment before starting the day.
I exchanged my boots for dress shoes, and the windbreaker for a sport coat, kissed my wife, and left for work.
My wife, Pat, turns 79 today. Two years ago, I sent the kids and grand-kids a little story about the picture she had taken for her 50th birthday. It is my favorite picture so I’m posting it to the blog today.
November 29, 2016
My wife, your Mom/Grandma/Great-Grandma, Pat, has always been self-conscious about having her picture taken and usually dodges the issue. However, as she approached her 50th birthday she thought it might be a good idea to have her portrait done. Being a Sears employee, she made an appointment with the Sears Portrait Studio. She showed up at the proper time but had to wait because the little boy who was scheduled ahead of her wasn’t cooperating. He was unhappy, wouldn’t smile, and just flat didn’t want to be there. His Mother was doing her best to encourage him but it wasn’t helping. The photographer, an old hand at dealing with kids, reached into a cabinet behind him and came up with some sock puppets. He put one on his hand and started talking in a goofy voice and quickly had the kid laughing. The photographer soon had all the shots he needed of the boy and it was Pat’s turn. The photographer got Pat situated with a proper background, made suggestions for posing, and was ready to take pictures. However, Pat went into her normal tight-jawed, picture-taking mood and wouldn’t smile. The guy kept talking to her and trying to get her to lighten up but it wasn’t working. Finally, in desperation, he asked “how do I get you to loosen up and smile?” She says ”Well, you might try treating me like that little boy.” So, the photographer puts on the sock puppet and starts talking in a goofy voice and all of a sudden Pat is laughing! The guy starts snapping pictures and gets some fantastic shots. He captures the Pat I know so well with laughing eyes, maximum dimples, and full of fun. The picture I’m including is the best and most real picture you will ever see of her. You might want to save it.
October 9, 2014
I’d like to thank you for reading the stories on my blog, crittersandcats.com. I’ve posted a total of 125 stories, now, and hope you’ve found something that makes you laugh or means something to you. I started writing these little one and two page stories for my kids and grand-kids to tell them about Pat and I and things we’ve been involved in. I also wanted to remind the kids of some of the things we enjoyed or suffered through together.
One person asked if I enjoyed living in the past and he thought that I must miss the “good old days”. I had to tell this guy that the good old days are right now. A lot of my stories took place 50 or 60 years ago but could have happened this week. The year doesn’t really matter. What’s important or funny is what you were doing or thinking back then.
Today is a wonderful example of a good old day. I can hear my wife doing things in the kitchen. That’s amazing in that she received a Pacemaker two months ago. Though there have been some other medical issues, we are getting through them. She is still talking and laughing and petting the cat and feeding the hummingbirds and sitting in the swing and holding hands with me. She is making the most of every day. Back in 1950 or 1960, those so-called “good old days”, I would have lost her. Thank God for the technical advancements we enjoy today.
I haven’t been in the mood to write or do much lately but I’ve got a few more stories and will start posting them. They probably won’t make you feel any smarter but maybe I’ll get a laugh or grin out of you.
If you haven’t had much time to look around the blog, the stories can be categorized. On the right side of your screen, scroll down a few inches and you will find the heading, “Categories”. Listed below it, you will find Birds, Cats, Critters, Horses, Kids, and the rest of them. Just click on the one you want. This makes it a little quicker to get to the subjects you like best.
June 21, 2016
I can’t remember exactly what year it was but WWII was still going on. Our friends, the Watsons, had invited our family to take a drive one weekend to Peabody, Kansas to see the Prisoner of War Camp.
Peabody is a small farming town about 60 miles northwest of Augusta. It’s surprising to think that it was the location of a German prisoner-of-war camp during the war. When I was older, I learned how it came to be that there were several prison camps in Kansas and in other states as well. During WWII all of our able-bodied men were either in the service or working in a job that was critical to the war effort. There was no one left to plant or harvest the crops that were so desperately needed. A lot of the women were working in the factories as “Rosie the Riveter” or some other much needed capacity.
Someone came up with a plan to use the captured German prisoners as farm-hands and it worked out well. If you would like to learn more about it, check the Internet. I did a search on “German P.O.W. Camps in Kansas” and found a lot of information.
Getting back to our trip, we kids were a little bit apprehensive about going. Every day we heard the news about the Germans killing millions of people. We heard about how they gassed them and some people were skinned and lamp shades were made from the skins. Altogether, we thought we would be facing some real monsters and the idea was pretty scary.
We got there and the compound was a large area contained by chain-link fencing. The place was full of men in black uniforms, some sitting and some standing, and all of them just taking it easy. Our Dads, Al and Frank, went up to the fence and started talking to a couple of the older men who spoke English. After a time, Jack and I got a little closer so we could look things over. What we saw were a bunch of young guys much like we would see on the streets of our town. This was not the dreaded SS. They may have been brave and loyal soldiers but they were just kids. They were probably thankful for 3 squares a day and a chance to work without being shot at.
Well, more lessons learned. You might enjoy spending a few minutes researching this.
May 10, 2016