OOooh! Look what I see!

The Swimming Hole

Summer’s about to fade. That is, I am hoping so.

Back in the days of my childhood, I was a very nice girl.

That is, most of the time. One of my best friends, Jill, lived out in the country with grandparents. Spending the night with Jill was one of my very favorite things to do. She had a twin brother named, of course, Bill. Bill and I never got to know each other very well. If you have read “A Rose…” below, you understand why. But most of all, we were both timid.

Jill also had lots of cousins, all boys, who came to stay for a short while and some who lived there with her grandparents for longer periods of time. Jill and I paid little attention to the boys, and they to us. We were in Junior High, and did not get wrapped up in the opposite sex as soon as young people today. Mostly, the girls did things together and the boys did things together.

One summer, there was a brother, Jack, and sister, Samantha, from Austin who came to spend the summer with their grandparents who lived not too far away from Jill’s. At some point one of the girls told me Jack had a crush on me. He was a year older, and I have to admit to being completely smashed, but too timid and shy to admit to it.

Time for school was drawing near, and that meant Jack and Samantha would be going back to Austin. All of the girls went home with Jill and me after church on Sunday. Jack joined Jill’s cousins and came too. After dinner the boys went off to the woods. We figured they would go across to Grady’s farm about two miles away.

We decided to go wading in the creek. The water was so cool it tickled our toes and refreshed us in spite of the hot Texas summer. As we went farther down the creek, we became more and more playful, splashing water on each other and soaking each other’s shorts and tops. About a half mile from the house, the water began to get deeper. Pretty soon, we came to a place where the creek widened and Jill warned us, “The water gets really deep around here, so be careful.” This was like her own personal swimming pool. Someone said, “Too bad we didn’t bring our bathing suits. Jill said, “Who needs bathing suits?” Everyone started giggling and splashing a lot more.

Jill went up on the creek bank, stripped and jumped in the water! We all stood aghast. She hit the water with a great big splash and said, “Try it, you’ll like it!”Well, one by one, each girl took her turn. Hitting that water was one huge shock. The water was so cold, the only way to survive was to stay in it. We splashed and laughed loudly just enjoying the chance to be cool.

Suddenly, it seemed that one of the laughs was way deeper than ours. We stopped and heard, “OOooh! Look what I see! Girlie panties! What is this dearie?” in falsetto while waving a bra. Up on the bank, the guys were holding our undies up as though modeling them. When they were sure they had our attention, they laughed until they almost split their sides. They started whistling, taunting us to come out. Several of us went under the water. Then the guys said, “Well since you girls don’t need these things, we’ll just be on our way.” Off they went with our undies.

We were so mad. Finally, Jill, the one who had to live with these ruffians said, “Oh, they wouldn’t do that. Grandma would kill them.” She climbed back up the bank and motioned for us to follow. There in the bushes at the other side of the bank were all our undies.

That night at church, I was too embarrassed to even look at any of the guys. One of the other girls kept smiling at Jack. Pretty soon, you guessed it, she had a new boyfriend.

So much, for my wild side. That, my children, was the first and last time I went skinny dipping. It is too bad that our world has changed so much that today’s children are not safe in an environment or fun activity such as the one I described above. We can laugh about yesterday, though.

The Price of Victory

The Most Memorable Kiss

Today is V-J Day, the sixty-fifth anniversary of WWII Victory in Japan. So kiss your friends and lovers, call a veteran and celebrate our freedom. But never, never forget that every victory is bought with a price.

…The thundering of running feet coming to Social Studies is still a cherished memory. Luckily, my room was at the end of the hall and other teachers cared little that these guys and girls were in a hurry once they passed their doors. These seventh and eighth graders could not wait. They hurriedly ran in, sat alert breathlessly waiting, not one wanting to be last. Placing a pencil in my gradebook after checking roll, laying it on the desk with a smile gave signal. Everyone crowded into the corner on the floor just leaving room for me to wiggle through with our treasured book.

John Hershey’s Hiroshima written first in 1946 and updated in 1985 gave us almost a face to face account of what it was like to live in Hiroshima when “the bomb” fell and afterwards. These students forgot that they were in Social Studies for the first fifteen minutes each day. They forgot that Japan was once our enemy. They eagerly learned all they could after each reading. They listened without moving and then asked ponderous questions.

I cannot answer the questions about the efficacy of that decision. I can rejoice that my dad came home. He saw the flag raised on Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945. We waited with great anticipation for each letter always wondering if he would return. We were lucky. He did. Some were not so lucky.

So here below are some scenes to help us remember.

Marines at Iwo Jima

Now let’s enjoy a look back at more folks at home on that day.

Ben and Katie in Haiti

Dr. Carroll's, Live From Haiti

                       What does it mean to really make a contribution? Ask Katie, she will tell you:

11/16/2009 Ben and Katie, newlyweds announce to their bosses and the world, “We are moving to Haiti?”

11/23/2009 Katie blogs, “I feel a strange power when I window shop, when I see a commercial – I can’t buy anything even if I want to. It’s really cool.”

12/29/2009 Ben and Katie leave DFW for Port-au-Prince. They dream of making a difference. Of course, they also are enamored with the vast and contrasting beauty of this new home to which they journey.

Katie remembers well the words of C.S. Lewis in Chronicles of Narnia, “Make your choice, adventurous Stranger; Strike the bell and bide the danger, Or wonder, till it drives you mad, What would have followed if you had.”

Ben and Katie did. Little knowing what awaited their advent.

1/12/ 2010 Ben and Katie feel the first tremors rapidly becoming the catastrophic 7.0 magnitude quake.

1/20/2010 Katie, back on her blog, “I know disaster is disaster and pain is pain, but there’s something incredibly creepy and psychologically upsetting about earthquakes, and aftershocks…. the GROUND is MOVING. I feel them all the time, even when they’re not happening.”

Later she posts, “Every person you can see is missing something. But there were 3 physical therapists at Espoir yesterday, praise God, and so the hard work of getting moving again is beginning.”

From: benandkaitieinhaiti

4/11/2010 A bunch of kids played with a well-loved and broken-down chalkboard.

     If you dare, go to:  Warning: You may never be the same. 

4/17/2010 “…to be free is dangerous and the act of making us free is dangerous.” Kat

Thanks for this true story to my friend, Gayle, and Kaitie’s amazing blog.

The Writer’s Journey

McMurtry at Home-Photo by HUD

     Why do I stare at this computer screen?  Why is it empty?  This is hard, really hard.  I’ve been a writer all my life; this is different.  Words come, but they are not personal words.

     After visiting Larry McMurtry, a group of writers were asked to write personal essays. With copious notes, I began happily hacking away, clickety-clacking. My title, “Shaking Hands with a Legend.” McMurtry said that without reading, he could never write. When a teen, he sneaked to the barn to read, at track meets, anywhere.  My fingers flew across the keyboard.

     That evening, George Getschow, Writer in Residence, asked for volunteers. Wow! Theirs were personal, seriously personal. That word was just beginning to etch into my brain.  Later, in the Spur Hotel room, a Mexican sarapé for a valance and a couple of old books the only decor, doubt was overwhelming.

     Maybe some personal reflection will help.  Fingers flying: “Shaking Hands with a Legend # II”. Next day, the class read more personal experiences, amazingly introspective and meaningful. All excellent. Immobilized, afraid others would notice my red-faced solemnity, without reading I offered my six pages almost slight handedly, “Please let me know if it is salvageable,” still hoping for, “Of course, it is.”

     Personal doubt grew. Pedagogical history held me hostage. Finding time in a 5:30 am to 12:00 am day is like searching for water in the desert.  My expectation for this three week seminar was a virtual oasis. Get one article written and spring from there into a book over several years.

     Others read.  Courage failed.  McMurtry herds word.  Besides his own books, he’s leaving a legacy of four antiquarian bookstores, called Booked Up, in Archer City. I am the most prolific in the group.  I pen a plethora of words.  Man, do they need herding!  They are academia: analytic and formulaic.  My printer uses invisible ink, spits out blank pages. I can’t describe a tree…green…deeply green…intensely green? Have the years of writing easily read words robbed the rich vocabulary once mine? Words…still bland and lifeless.

     Getschow politely advises, “You’ve written a very precise report with extensive detail.”  Something else…I don’t know that word, but suspect strongly that the root is “regurgitate.” 

     Reflect! Fulfill this assignment and the longing inside to be better…“Shaking Hands with a Legend # III:”… Fingers don’t fly so fast. Holding my work to the mirror of others is increasingly debilitating.  My sentence…silence.

     I begin to wonder if Hud’s gentlemanly regard for me removes him from the arena of critic and colleague. Well, we move past that, “Sweetheart, what you have done is very good.  Just do something else for now.”

     “Oh, oh, oh!  Look Dick.  Look Jane. Hud does not think BJ can write.”  This is the greatest wound of all.  At least, he is honest.

     In pre-dawn, my mind wanders, and my heart hurts.  Where are those words?  Can they be retrieved? Are they gone forever, left in the wake of grading papers and meeting deadlines? My prison – years of assigned reading and pedagogical writing.

     McMurtry pays little attention to technique. When I mentioned his well developed personification, he replied, “If you say so.”  There will be far less emphasis on technique in my classroom.  Students must be free to roam the range of imagination unencumbered. Me too.

Epilogue: The article BJ wrote at the three week writing camp about her college BSU Director, Donnal Timmons, was published two months later. She exchanged full-time teaching last June for full-time collaborating with hubby, Hud, on their first book. She still teaches writing online with the University of Phoenix.

Snow on Carroll Hill


Photo by Hud

Snow in Fort Worth on March 20th! Imagine! Poor Eskimos, they must be running out of ice for their igloos since they’ve sent so much our way.

     Hud and I settled down to a warm dinner about six in the evening when we looked up to see lovely swirls full of glittering flakes gyrating first one way and then another around our back yard. Surely these flurries would soon be gone, but much to our surprise, by late evening, a white blanket completely covered the grass.

     It brought back memories of being seven years old on Carroll Hill. We had the biggest snow I had ever seen. My brother and I loved every minute. We made snowballs and nearly froze our fingers off since we were not used to snow, had no mittens and used socks instead. Daddy skimmed the freshest snow to make snow cream; we ate every bite even though our jaws hurt from the cold before we finished.

     Only our living room had a heater. Our bedrooms were frigid that night. Mother warmed bricks by the fire, wrapped them with towels and put them under the covers of our blankets and quilts just about the right spot for our feet when it came bedtime. She smoothed our chapped hands with Vicks and covered them with clean socks, tying a piece of yarn around our wrists to keep them secure. What a warm, cozy feeling!

     Our hands were like new the next morning. The snow kept coming. It froze and became quite hazardous. School closed. We loved it even more. That day Mother kept the door to our room open; my brother and I spent a lot of time playing on our beds to stay off the cold floor.

     My quilt was called Dutch Dolls. The dolls were appliquéd into the center of off-white domestic squares with pretty print dresses and bonnets which were often matching fabric or solids. My favorites were the delicate lavenders and pinks, though the brighter yellows and blues were a close second. The squares were set together with triple runners of soft green bordering a center of pink. The entire quilt was finished with the same soft green and pink border. I loved running my fingers across the tiny, little stitches my mother, her sisters and the Mimi, I couldn’t remember, sewed.

Photo by Hud

     Rayford and I made believe the green runners were streets, pushing little cars and trucks around. Sometimes we raced the cars. My arms were longer since I was three years older. Guess who won? Tired of cars and trucks, we colored in coloring books. When cajoled, Rayford played paper dolls, but that never lasted. I finished by myself while he played cars again.

     We looked out the window at the porch covered with snow and felt the ice crunch beneath our fingers as we drew snowman figures in the frosted patches on the panes. We looked to see if the little snowman made the day before was still there and listened eagerly for the sound of Daddy’s car coming up the lane to the house.

     Mother called and we ran to the living room. She had placed our little kitchen table and chairs in the room by the stove where steaming bowls of rice now set. We dug in. If we were lucky, when Daddy came home, she would make hot chocolate, and let us melt marshmallows on top.

     Daddy came in that evening with a very somber look on his face. We often went home with one of my best friends, Carrie Jo, on Sundays after church. She and her mother had the rosiest cheeks and always seemed to have something to laugh about. She had a bunch of brothers and sisters. Because of his large family, her father went to work that morning.

  On the way home, Carrie Jo’s father noticed some of the chains wrapped around his tires were slipping. He pulled into a truck stop, slid under his car and began tightening them. Neither the bus driver, coming in for his regular stop, or Carrie Jo’s father saw the other as my friend’s dad pushed his way back out into the drive from under the car into the path of the bus. The whole community was devastated by his death.

     It is my first memory that everything good does not last forever. We moved away, but I never forgot my friend. It would be nice to know how she and her family fared.