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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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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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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Jul 19 2009

No, ma’am

My dad, Lonnie,  had a lot of skills: auto mechanic, aircraft mechanic, small aircraft pilot, welder, torchcutter, and storyteller.

You can see how most of those overlap quite a bit. So it was a great surprise when he told me he had taken typing when he was in high school. It came out like this:

“One day I was in typing class and I had done a terrible job that day, and at the end of class our teacher called on us to tell her how many words a minute we had typed.”

“Jim?” she called.





My dad called out his abysmally low score.


“Did you say ten?” she asked incredulously.

“Yes!” my dad answered irritably.


Remember, this was back when corporal punishment was legal and encouraged.


“Do you want me to come back there and slap you?” she asked.

“No, ma’am.”

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Mar 20 2009


My dad was a welder and a torch-cutter. Years ago he was working night shift a place in the Kansas City area.

One of the pranks the guys would play on each other is to make a little bomb out of a plastic bag filled with acetylene and oxygen, put a masking tape fuse on it, set it behind someone and then light it. The guy would be working away, and then BOOM! The guy would jump, and everyone would have a good laugh at his expense.

One year he had to work New Year’s eve, and as the night wore on the guys got more and more loopy, and they started making bigger and bigger bombs. At one point, they saw one guy head off behind a large stack of girders with a bag the size of a large pillow.

A few minutes later, they were back to work welding when KABLAMMO!

The aforementioned guy with the giant bag came staggering out from behind the girders. His cap had been blown across the room, his hair was standing up, and he was holding himself where guys don’t usually hold themselves unless something uncomfortable has happened. Like, say, a pillowcase full of flammable gas exploding in close proximity.

The other guys found out quickly that he had also shattered his ear drums.


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