Jan 5 2014

The Marauder

My dad once told me the story of his uncle Delmar’s car:

“Your uncle Delmar never had kids, so of course he had lots of money.

Back in the 60s this racecar driver told Mercury that he wanted them to make him a car, and Mercury figured that if they had to make one, the might as well make six.

Your uncle Delmar bought one. When aunt Nancy wasn’t around he’d take your uncle Donnie and me with him out on the highway and really open it up.

When he decided to sell it, me and Donnie begged him to sell it to us, but he refused.”

Delmar said, “You idiots will kill yourselves in it.”

“And we would have,” Dad admitted.

“So Delmar sold the car to your uncle Alfred.”

Dad said it kind of derisively, and did his impression of the permamellow Alfred driving the Marauder; it was much like Bill Cosby’s impression of Weird Harold driving his go-cart Continental–slumping sleepily in his imaginary seat with his arm outstretched on the imaginary wheel.

A few years ago I asked Alfred about it, and told him what Dad said about him tooling about in it all slow and stuff.

“That’s not really true,” he said.

“I had it up to 80 one time.”

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Nov 9 2012


A while back the family and I were on our way back from Sunday lunch, taking the long way back, and talking about our favorite smells. It wasn’t as boring or short a conversation that you are probably thinking. Some of the mutual faves: pipe tobacco, rain, old books, decaying leaves, freshly tilled earth, clean line-dried laundry, and coffee. It was a mixed bag on whether we actually enjoyed the smells, or enjoyed the memories that the smells triggered.

I think I was the only one who enjoys the aroma of diesel exhaust. Every time I get a whiff of it, I’m a kid riding the tractor with my Dad cutting hay.

One smell that didn’t come up in conversation was another of my favorites—the smell of the Folgers coffee plant in downtown Kansas City. Denotatively, I love the aroma, though I think it smells like waffles. Connotatively, it reminds me of riding with Dad in downtown KC late at night after one of his union meetings (bleh).

Still, every time the wind is right I think of Dad and want a big plate of waffles and a cup of coffee.

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Oct 17 2009

Alms for the poor

Back in the 60s my grampa, my dad, and my uncle used to drive to Kansas City to stay in an apartment and work all week, then drive back home to southern Missouri on the weekends. Dad said when they got back to the apartment, my uncle would get out an old can and say, in his most pitiful voice:

“Alms, alms for the poor!”

Dad and Grampa would laugh and throw change in his can.

Dad said they thought it was pretty funny–until the end of the month when my uncle had an extra $20.

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Oct 7 2009

My first float trip

When I was seven and my brother was four we went with my Dad and his friend Roy on a float trip. I don’t remember the river, but I do remember a lot of things about the trip.

One thing was at one point in the river, over to the side, there was this circle where the water was literally blue. My Dad said it went a hundred feet down. I have since found in a book of Missouri Folklore that the spring, called Blue Spring (not to be confused with Blue Springs, Missouri), was created when an Indian maiden jumped into the water and drowned herself.

Some time later someone said, “Hey! Look at that! There’s a skeleton on that branch!” I looked up, anxious to see a human skeleton dangling from a rope in the tree–maybe a pirate or a cowboy that was hanged. I was disappointed to see that it turned out to be a huge frog skeleton in the water. It was intact, despite the lack of any flesh at all, and it appeared to be biting on a submerged branch.

The last event of the trip was when we were in the home stretch of the float, a wide slow-moving section of water, that Dad decided to be funny. He was an excellent swimmer, unafraid of any body of water, no matter how snake-infested. I was never a good swimmer.

Dad starting rocking the boat, acting like he was going to tip it over. My brother and I held on, trying not to be thrown overboard. I was terrified; Dad was highly amused.

Once he had finished having fun trying to drown us, he realized that he had inadvertently knocked his steel-toed boots overboard and they had sunk to the bottom of the river. It was good for him that he was such a good swimmer, as he had to dive down and retrieve them.

And then I was highly amused.

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Aug 17 2009

Dad’s Volkswagen

As long as I could remember my Dad always drove American cars, so it was a great surprise when my uncle mentioned that my Dad and his twin brother had once owned a Volkswagen Beetle–for a short time.

“They were coming around a  long curve on our gravel road. Our neighbor and his wife were pulling out of their drive. He didn’t see them, and she did, but she talked really slow.

She said, “Les, here come those boys in one of those–”


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Aug 15 2009

Life at the potato chip plant

My Dad told us he once worked at a potato chip plant. My brothers and I were fascinated at the prospect of working at such a magical place.

“Did they let you eat any of the chips?” we asked.

“They let us eat all we wanted,” he replied.

We were completely in awe.

“They knew that after two weeks of eating all you want, you wouldn’t want to eat any more.”

That made sense, even to us.

“It was the only job I ever quit,” he said, and then he told us the rest of the story:

“Me and my twin brother were working there. I had the task of lifting 80 pound sacks of sliced potatoes and dumping them in the oil to fry. ‘Hurry up before that oil burns,’ the boss would say. Well I’d been lifting these sacks all morning, and I was pretty tired, so my brother and I switched places. The boss couldn’t tell us apart, and he wouldn’t have known if he hadn’t seen us switch.

‘You get back up there,’ he said.

‘No,’ said Dad. ‘We quit.’

“As we were walking out, I looked back and he was up there heaving those sacks of potatoes himself.

I hollered back up at him, ‘You better hurry up before that oil burns!”

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Jun 5 2009

Three crosses

My dad had a funny sense of humor. One time we were passing a church with three crosses on it, and he made this observation:

“You know, that one thief went straight to Hell, but he still gets his cross on the church.”

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Apr 9 2009

Dad stories: grandpa shot a man in the back

It’s not as nefarious as it sounds. It was the middle of the depression and my grandpa Roy had a small farm. In the middle of the night he heard some racket, and saw someone riding off on a horse. The stranger had one of my grandpa’s pigs under his arm.

So grandpa grabbed his shotgun and fired, peppering the thief’s back with bird-shot. 

It turned out the would-be thief was one of grandpa’s in-laws. It took them hours to pick all the shot out of his back.

They tell me that years later at family reunions they would always tease the guy.

“Talk to Roy lately?”

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