Saturday, July 31, 2010

Slotted Yellow Dashes

The motor leaned into the curve Paul could feel the heat from the exhaust roll up across his leg. On a cool day like this it was no big thing. The arms around him tightened and he could feel the warmth of the body snuggled against him. The curve straightened out and Paul brought the motor back upright.
Ahead lay the arrow straight black ribbon, dotted with a broken yellow center line. At the crest of each hill the road appeared to be narrower going on forever. Rolling over the crest and going downhill Paul eased off the throttle.
Off to the right was a sand creek dappled with trees just budding out in light dim green. Down the hill into the bottom of one of the draws that fed the sand creek. Up out of the draw Paul rolled back on the throttle to charge up the hill. Ahead was a flat pan until the next draw.
The warmth of his old lady on his back felt good as the wind curled through his hair. Paul’s loins were relaxed as the black ribbon sped by under his motor. Flying across the open pasture Paul spotted some antelope standing by the fence watching him approach.
Startled, the antelope surged forward, racing along the fence. Paul rolled on the grips and the motor picked up, the antelope were now at full gallop just ahead running along the fence. Slowly they were leaving Paul. The motor leaped again the yellow dots were becoming a blur. Slowly Paul was catching up to the gorgeous pronghorns. Glancing down at the speedometer Paul seen he was approaching 90mph and just barely catching up to the high flying animals.
A little more gas and they were passing the animals. Suddenly the antelope turned away and came to a stop to look at what was riding beside them. Paul flew past them, glancing back he could them milling about staring at him.
Paul heard a whisper in his ear, “Aren’t they beautiful.” Overhead was a faint out line of the moon. Paul tilted his head backwards and howled. Elation, joy a scream of happiness, the pulse of the motor came up between his legs, the warmth on his back was ever warmer. A race won, a life full and open road ahead

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Moon Shine in the Hog House


Mention White Lightening and a person will think of Tobacco Road or the hollers of Kentucky not the barren plains of Eastern Colorado. Yet there it was below the hog shed. Pull on the rope and the wall in the back swings away to reveal a stairway to a cellar. Cooking Moonshine below the pigs, what a great place to keep a still under cover.
Recently a local rancher passed away and a local man from a neighboring town was at the ranch helping to clean up. The Hog Shed was dilapidated and falling down. He was going to finish tearing it down. His son was over with him to help. They were inside looking things over and checking on things to see what was weak and what was holding the shed up. A wall was pushed on, it moved, the rope was swinging, and a slight tug and the wall began to swing in. Pulling on the rope and pushing on the wall it moved inwards to reveal a stairway. Curious…….Yep, down the steps they proceeded and there was everything to keep a still going.
In 1920 Amendment 18 to the US Constitution was passed: No longer was it legal to sell alcohol. The age of prohibition was beginning and it gave rise from a small business that grew into a thriving growth organization, gangsters, runners, larger stills, basement breweries and speakeasies. The roaring 20’s grew with prohibition and illicit booze.
Hollywood glamorized the age of gangsters and their molls. Blazing guns, smashing kegs and barrels, Federal agents tipping over stills, taking axes to casks, the gangster was the focus of getting the illicit alcohol to the speakeasy. This was in the big city and out in the woods were the stills. Backwoodsman in their overalls, floppy hats and chewing tobacco, nearby was the still, fire flickering under the still, smoke rising through the trees. Such was the image of the moonshiner and his cronies.
During the 20’s a whole new government agency grew to combat the moonshiners and the gangsters that ran the transport of white lighting. The gangsters usually also had an interest in the speakeasies. A place where they could hang out, party and get crazy. This was their office from where they ran a business of non-prohibition.
The rancher had a little lower key of operation, not quite as flashy as the city slickers. When the still was discovered on the ranch there was shock and indignation with some people, others there was a smile.
Head out for the barn dance on a Sat. night there would usually be one or two real popular people at the dance. Setting someplace close to the front door would be a pick up or a coupe that various groups of people would walk out to and visit with the driver.
The driver would get out, there would be a nodding of heads, to the side of the pickup he would step, flipping a piece of canvas back. “I have some grapefruit,” he would comment. The other guy would nod his head, the driver would reach in, pull out a qt. mason jar full of grapefruit juice. The lid would spin off, the driver hands it to the other guy, and he moves the jar to his mouth and takes a sip, swallows. There is some sputtering and some choice words. The other guy says, “God was that good, some of your best stuff.” Sets the jar down, reaches in his pocket, pulls out a couple of bills and hands them to the driver who has spun the lid back on the Mason jar. The driver slips the money into his pocket and the other guy saunters off to his car and his friends. They have some Kick-a-poo Joy Juice for the evening.
The driver slides the cover back over and flips the canvas back on and walks towards the barn. Another night’s business is under way.
The high plains had their moon runners, most of them were pretty discreet and the local constables tended to leave them alone. Sometimes it was the town man that was picking up the Mason jar, usually gratis.
Putting the still under a hog shed was slick. It was found that one of the feed troughs was a chute to the cellar. So hauling in corn or potatoes to feed the pigs did not look suspicious and other stuff came in by gunny sack or cardboard cartons. Fire the still up at night, let it cook all night so the fire would be out by daybreak. Wonder if the hogs enjoyed the leftovers?
The local moonshiner was also a banker. A few of the neighbors would borrow money from him. They would go over to visit and talk. The moonshiner would say, Well I’m not to sure, come back and see me tomorrow afternoon.” The neighbor would go home and the following afternoon would go back over there. On the table would be sitting a pile of bills, some nodding and pointing, a quick thank you, back out the door and home.
The guy that had helped his father tear the shed down made the remark, “My father said, I could never figure out how he was always driving a new car in the depression when none of the rest of us could.”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Teen Boppin' 50's Style-- Small Town part III

Sunday afternoon, the sun was out and the apple tree was in full blossom, Del eased his car out of the driveway and headed for his friend’s house in the country. He and jerry went to school together and now were in the University. Home for the weekend and cruise around and visit some old haunts. Few minutes Del was rolling into Jerry’s driveway, his parent’s house was set back off the road behind a tree break. Del drove to the end of the drive and turned into the house drive, jerry was already crossing the walk and to the front gate when Del came to a stop. Jerry jumped in and off they went.
At the entrance to the highway Del stopped the car, lowered the visors and released the top. Slowly the top rolled back into the boot. On the highway there was clean air and it was a great day to put the top down. With the top secure they jumped back into the car and sped off down the road, reaching a 100mph in no time. Cresting the hill the neighboring town came into view, Del eased off the gas and the coasted into town. Down the main drag the convertible rolled, there were a few others out cruising and they recognized some of the guys, a few nods and honks were exchanged. At the traffic light Del turned left and headed up main. In low gear they eased up the slight hill past the stores on main.
In front of the stores a few cars were parked. Del drove past and at the end of main flipped a u-turn and cruised back down the street, easing into a parking spot in front of the drug store. There were a couple of guys sitting on the hood of their car passing hot air, Del and Jerry walked past them on slid into the soda fountain.. Ordering a couple of sodas they looked around and spied a couple of girls sitting at a table by the window. One girl they knew from school, she was a couple of years behind them. Jerry and Del walk over to the table and ask if anybody is sitting with them, the girls respond no, the guys ask if they can join them, the girls nod yes.
The fountain is busy that day, there is couple at the next table sharing a malt and starry eyed, two bubble gummers sit at the counter all giggly, two HS guys sit at the other end sipping on sodas and then there are the loud outbursts from the table at the far end. A group of HS guys and girls are setting there, laughing and talking loud, occasionally getting up and going to another seat.
On the wall are the posters for ice cream, cola’s, floats, sundaes or a banana split. The tables had wire legs with a wood top well rubbed and the chairs are wire backed with a small round wood seat. Nearby is a poster of the top forty singer urging the girls to use such and such lipstick and the is the poster for acne cure. The drugstore is busy that Sunday afternoon. In and out goes the crowd.
Del and Jerry asked the girls if they would like to go for a ride. Out the door they head for the convertible.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Teen Boppin" Part II

Saturday morning was clear and a high blue sky. The weather had been hot and in a few weeks school would be starting. Dad said we were going to town to get me some new clothes for school. Climbing in the barn, swimming in the wheat had been rough on the clothes and they were showing the wear. Dad also said he had to get some parts at the implement store. Going to town was an adventure and a chance to see friends that lived in town.
After breakfast Dad rolled the pickup to the gas barrel and put gas in. He then backed over to the shed and loaded up a piece of machinery. He walked into the house and sat down drank a last cup of coffee asking me what I wanted. Soon we were on the road. I sat there nose glued to the window looking at all the houses as they whizzed past. We were going to town.
Once in town Dad stopped at the implement store and unloaded the piece of machinery, we then drove into downtown and main st. Here were the stores, dry goods, movie theater, drug store and hardware plus others. I jumped out of the pickup and we headed into the dry goods. Dad said hi to the clerk, they had known each other since high school. Dad explained we needed some school clothes. Down the side aisle we went and there were the clothes my size. It took some time for me to get fitted into my new clothes. As Dad was paying for my new school clothes he asked me you want an ice cream cone or a soda, surprised I looked at him for I wanted both. I looked at him, winced, squirmed and tongue tied. We headed out to the pickup and my heart began to sink.
The packages were stored behind the seat, Dad twirled around and looked at me, well have you figured out yet what you want, and I hung my head. Come on Dad told me and off we went for the drugstore. Through the door was the counter, there were high backed stools that spun around, a huge mirror with shelves holding all sizes of cups, glasses and bowls. My mouth began to water, there was a little kid on a picture there drinking a green river. It was panic time. Dad leaned over and said, “How about a root beer float.” I smiled and nodded yes.
The drugstore was a great place to set and look. As the soda jerk fixed my float, I looked at everything I could see from my perch. Over there was the girl stuff, perfume, make up and jewelry, there were notions, what that is, the aisle with the drugs and over there were the candies, milk duds, black cows, dots, big hunks, licorice………and on…… Then there was the counter. I would watch the soda jerk reach up and bring down a bowl, he would peel a banana and cut it in half, lay it in the bowl, scoop up ice cream and place it on the banana, three different flavors, then pour different syrups over the ice cream, sprinkle some nuts on it and cover it all with whip cream. Oh did it look good. There were milk shakes, sundaes and ice cream cones. Just to sit there and watch him make all the different things.
Dad looked at me and asked if I was ready yet, only half of the float was gone, soon we had to leave. Dad said he had to get something and that I should set here and finish my float while he went and got what he wanted. I slowly sipped on my float all the time my eyes were wandering around the store. By the time dad got back I had almost finished the float. With a long handled spoon Dad dipped into my float and got a small piece of ice cream. “Good stuff,” he said, “But we have to be leaving, I have to pick up the machine I left and then get home before supper time.”
I slurped up the last slurps, glanced around and said good bye to the soda fountain.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Teen Boppin' 50's Style-- Small Town


Skipping along the side walk was a group of five girls, chattering back and forth, turning around to talk to the girl behind her while walking backwards, another girl skipping around them to be in front. Back and forth goes the conversation. School was out and they were headed downtown after a pep squad practice. The weekend was the big game with their neighboring town, a football rivalry that had ebbed and flowed for decades. The girls had school books and notebooks, the breeze swirled through their hair of either pony tails or bobby pins held the tresses in place. Cold weather wasn’t around yet so they had on light sweaters or jackets. It was a happy carefree bunch walking the sidewalk.
The group was almost too Main Street when they cut across the street. In a small town there wasn’t much traffic. Across the street they went to the corner and around it they went to their destination. It was the drugstore and in the front door they went, giggling and laughing, it had been a fun day at school and here they were.
The counter stretched out in front of them, swivel stools along the counter, tall massive mirror behind the counter, supported by pillars to the ceiling, signs for ice cream, cherry coke or a root beer float. The girls bunched up around the end of the counter as the soda jerk walked up to them. He had graduated from high school a few years ago and stayed in town working at the drug store. He did more than work at the fountain, there were shelves to stock and floors to sweep. It was working at the fountain that kept him there. He would flirt with some of the girls and they would flirt back with him.
The girls placed their orders, went to a table and set down their books and went back to the counter to get their order. A soda or scoop of ice cream, then go sit back down at the table. Another table nearby had a group of girls sitting there already, they would nod Hi, take a few minutes to talk about something, laughs would break out. Finally everybody had their order and they were sitting around the table when another group of girls would enter and the scene would repeat.
As sodas and ice cream disappeared, books and paper appeared, there were a few groans but most of the girls had a few chores to do when they got home and they wanted to get some of their homework done plus it was to have help from some of the girls. Laughter and chatter continued, a magazine came forth. It had the latest Hollywood gossip, blue Eyes was still popular, there was a new guy by the name of Brando and dream by the name of James Dean. Suddenly there would be oohs and ahh’s, there was a blonde sitting in a chair by a soda fountain just like theirs. Quickly eyes would wander around the store to see it there was a stranger who might discover them sitting in their drugstore. It was a dream to be discovered by a Hollywood agent while sitting in the drugstore.
The dream was broken up by a hot rod flying past the store. Practice was over and some of the guys would be stopping in. Most of them had a car that dad had gotten for them, a few had taken the car souped them up and put on loud mufflers. Decorate them with spinners, something hanging from the rear view mirror, usually dice, fender skirts and white walls. They would roar past the drugstore down to the end of main, flip a U and cruise back stopping. In the fountain they would pour, hootin’ and a hollering about what they were going to do the guys at the neighboring school at the football game. Order a cola and a bag of peanuts to pour into the soda bottle. A few had girl friends, mostly it was flirting with the girls asking if they were going to the sock hop the night of the game or maybe if they would like to go to a movie at the other neighboring town. Sodas were drunk and peanuts gone, hop in the cars and go home, sister or neighbor would ride along with.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Country Roads

The Spring

Heat waves rolling off the grassland, birds setting in the shade of the grass beneath the trees, The breeze creates, a slight rustle among the tree branches, Butterflies and other insects move in the shade of the trees. Afternoon heat settles on the prairie but among the trees is a cool shade. Spring water oozes out of the ground creating small pools as it glides down the hill to the creek. The small trickle of water feeds the tree grove creating a respite from the sun’s heat.
The spring provides enough water for a small grove of trees on the edge of the sand creek. The grass is greener, wild flowers bloom and dapple the green with their colors. Birds build nests in the branches, flying in and out capturing insects, four legged critters come in for some refreshment. The collection of trees is home to numerous dwellers on the prairie.
Pioneers would select places like this to build their homes nearby. Wells could be easily dug and there was spring water. On the banks of the creek homes were built overlooking the spring fed grove of trees. Cattle could come in and have fresh water, some shade. The children had trees to climb and play around, maybe hang a rope with an old tire for a swing.
On Sundays after church the family could go down to the shade of the grove on a hot afternoon. A picnic lunch was prepared, a blanket spread out on the cool grass in the shade. Children would chase the butterflies or see what was in the pond, maybe play hide and seek. Mon and Dad would sit on the blanket and talk, discuss the days, the crops and school days. Drowsy, dad would take a quick nap, mom lay next to him and the kids romped among the shade of the trees.
Today the pioneer families are gone but these little groves are still out there. The birds still fly among the branches and the critters come in for a drink and the insects crawl and fly about. It was a simple pleasure to enjoy a Sunday picnic with the family. Get away from the daily work. Give thanks to the creator for all of the blessings.
Country roads wind around these spots of greenery on the high prairie that goes straight to the horizon. Pause, catch a glimpse of times gone by.

Friday, July 2, 2010



` There it was a drawing of a three tine wooden pitchfork and it appears to be made out of one piece of wood. Seeing that makes me ponder on the tools our forefathers had to work with. Going to heritage, pioneer or threshing days gives some insight how tools like a wooden pitchfork would be used. Give one to sonny and he would probably whine it was too small and the job would not be finished till next year. It was what our forefathers had and they made the best with what they had.
To make a pitchfork out of a single piece of wood would take some creativity and thought. When settling in new country there seldom was a store there and the pioneer had to be resourceful. Making tools from wood takes few tools; a saw, draw knife and a gouge of sorts. Out of the log comes a pitchfork.
Here in the prairie I doubt there were many wooden forks but the hay still had to be hauled in and put in the haystack or barn and to watch the old times at threshing day work with their forks is like watching choreography of harvesting.
The hay or feed would be cut with a scythe or mower, and then raked into windrows, tied off by hand or a binder, two guys following behind with pitchforks, scooping up the bundles and setting them together to start a shock and then add more bundles till it was built. Smooth effortless motions as the bundles were picked up by the guys with pitchforks and on down the field they would go building shocks to set and dry.
Later a rick would come by and the shocks were loaded on to the rick to be taken to the barnyard, either thrashed or stacked for cattle feed depending on the crop. With a flip of the wrist the bundle would float up on the rick, one guy on each side building his stack. The Bundles would go floating high up in the air to settle in a tight load, sometimes as much as 10 feet high.
Working loose hay is another rhythm stacking and cross stacking to keep the hay on the rick so it will be there when they get to the barn. Loading into the hay loft, a block and tackle rig would hoist the loads into the loft. Pitching the hay into the carrier, then getting it stacked in the loft so it would come out easy for feeding in the barn. A hay dance for the coordination these guys would have working their pitchforks through the hay and moving it from place to another for storage.
Watching these guys work was watching a craft that is disappearing. Most of them today are in their late 80’s and 90’s. I thought I had it rough handling bales until I watched these gentlemen work a field of cane, horse drawn binder, and hand formed shocks and hand loaded, the ease with which they did it.
Someplace in the country there is a kid with a little bit of spunk that could make one. Setting the curve and spacing of the fork and how the handle comes back would be tricky. The first few times I used a pitchfork I almost threw it away. I had my forks tilted wrong and I went to pitch the hay and everything went flying. Walk into the barn today with a wooden pitchfork would probably produce a more than a few guffaws, but if it works……who gets the last laugh.