WE DODGED DHS

My Family@ 2017 Bill Murphy

In our home state of Mississippi, DHS stood for the Department of Human Services, which was once tasked with the awesome responsibility of protecting innocent children from neglect, abuse, and sorry parents. Today that agency is the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services. Carol and I somehow missed their attention on numerous occasions. Whew!

Our 4 girls are rather close in age, averaging 20 months between birth dates, so ‘big sisters‘ were never all that big, nor helpful. It was often like having quadruplets.

Our first parental semi-catastrophe occurred in 1970 when Lois was around 6 months. Carol and I attended Southside Baptist Church in Jackson, and were Sunday School teachers for high schoolers. Down the hill behind the church, was a softball field. We’d planned an after church picnic and ball games for the class. The teenage girls clamored over who would ‘take care of’ baby Lois.

This day, in the hectic rush to change clothes, transport food and equipment to the field, etc., Lois somehow ‘fell by the wayside.’ At the ball field, a full 15 minutes later, someone asked, “Where’s the baby?” She was just where we’d inadvertently left her, in her carrier, on the back steps of the church! Oops.

Several years later, it was Molly’s turn to be abandoned.

We were then attending First Pentecostal Church. Sunday night service was ‘the’ service of the week. We were present and accounted for at 6 PM, and considered it a ‘short service’ if the final amen came by 10. Sunday nights didn’t end there. It was either a late meal at Shoney’s, or else 3 or 4 families gathered at someone’s home for coffee and sandwiches. That particular night, we were the host. Molly as about 3 or 4 at the time.

All of our girls had friends from church, so they often as not rode to the after-church gathering with another family. We’d been home several minutes before anyone counted noses – are realized that Molly was not accounted for! The last time we knew where she was, she was fast asleep under the pew. Oops again.

A quick call to the church, and the person locking up for the night made a dash to the already locked sanctuary. Molly was none the wiser – still sleeping peacefully under the pew. Poor neglected child.

Some time after this, we were on vacation in the Smokey Mountains. See the photo above. The kids loved to hike, and we found a trail. Earlier, it had rained rather heavily, but we braved the soggy path anyway.

Shortly, we came to an ‘obstacle.’ The trail crossed a brook, with no bridge. A large, round log, perhaps 12 to 15’ long spanned the water. And what had once been a picturesque babbling brook, now, because of the heavy rain, was a mighty torrent rushing down the mountain side. Yes, we did. One by one, Carol and I walked our precious children across the wet log, several feet above these mighty rapids. If we’d slipped and fallen, our bodies would not have been found for days – and then, many miles away. Yes, we all made it. And no, we never told our parents about this foolhardy adventure.

We also lost Liz in crowded New Orleans in the French Quarter, for a long, long 2 or 3 minutes – when she turned left at an intersection and we walked straight. She was around 12 at the time. That was a heart stopper!

I’ll save the best (or should I say worst) example of our parenting decisions for last.

I can’t remember the exact year, but Tricia and Liz must have been around junior high age. Carol’s sister, Mary Ellen, and her family lived in Humble, Texas. We made the 450 mile trip several times each year, often leaving after 5 PM of Fridays and returning home in the wee hours of the following Monday. It was during this period that Carol developed her NASCAR/Indianapolis driving skills.

We left Mary Ellen’s late in the afternoon on our way home. This was in the days before cell phones and mobile internet. We had a CB RADIO! It was fun talking with the truckers.

While still inside Texas, we happened upon a trucker going our way… his destination that night was Jackson, MS! He was driving at a good, steady, speedy clip, so we stayed in his dust, chatting away continually. Soon we knew all about his kids and family. We even stopped for coffee, and met him face to face. I think he enjoyed our human company a few yards behind his rig. He had his dog beside him as a traveling companion.

Somewhere along the way, one of the kids made the remark that they wanted to RIDE WITH THE TRUCKER. You see where this is going.

It was finally decided that this utterly foolish idea was, perhaps, plausible. At the next truck stop, we pulled in, and exchanged two of our children for his dog. Looking back, I’m thinking what you’re thinking – WHAT WERE WE THINKING?

At the time, it really did seem like an educational adventure for the kids. I’ve never ridden in an 18 wheeler myself! But my 4 daughters have. Oh, we did have his license tag number!

After Liz and Tricia had their turn, and were safely returned to us, Lois and Molly had their turn in the big rig! The story doesn’t end there.

Sometime just before midnight, we arrived in Jackson. We followed him to the truck stop, not far from where we lived at the time, and brought him home with us, where Carol made a hot breakfast for everyone. Then we returned him back to his truck.

Amazingly, all 4 girls turned out amazingly well, in spite of their ding-a-ling parents … and without assistance from DHS.

 

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Peter B. Green

© 2017 Bill Murphy

Who was your favorite teacher? Who was the most memorable, the most unusual? Who was the one most likely NOT to succeed as a teacher today? For me, that could only be Mr. Peter B. Green, 8th grade science, Enochs Junior High, Jackson, MS.

Mr. Green made school FUN! Mr. Green made life fun. I apologize for the poor quality of the WWII era B/W newspaper photo, but it clearly illustrates Mr. Green’s quirky, mischievous grin. That’s how I remember of him. It’s the only photo I have of him.

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Today Mr. Green wouldn’t last a day in a public school classroom.

1950s classrooms were far different from what they are today.  More expectations were placed upon students. We were expected to pay attention, participate in class, be punctual, be respectful, study, succeed and of course, obey the rules of the classroom/teacher. In Peter B. Green’s classroom, it was understood that he was the teacher, and we were the students. If we wished to live and do well, we accepted our ‘place’ in this ordered, classroom society, where authority was recognized, not challenged. Amazingly, we were happily comfortable in this setting.

Mr. Green had a strong arm and a long wooden paddle. His ‘board of education’ was about 18” long, with a broad, flat business end. It was designed so as to leave neither scars nor bruises. Yet it could inflict a maximum amount of pain per square inch.

There was a firm belief in the 50s that pain was undesirable. It was also believed that students who did not follow the rules, and then received pain upon their softer hinder area for breaking afore said rules, would be deterred in the future from breaking said rules again. Amazingly, this simply cause and effect principle worked 99.9% of the time. It’s a lost art today.

Yes, I sometimes pushed the .1% upper limit. Or would that be ‘lower’ limit?

Rule #1 was the simplest rule of all. BRING YOUR SCIENCE TEXT BOOK TO CLASS. It’s amazing how many students often ‘forgot.’ The book-reminder ceremony was simple: Step back to the doorway, face the hallway, bend over and place hands on the knees. Hold still and receive your just and deserved reward – a single, powerful swat on the seat of knowledge – ‘sending you on the way’ to retrieve your book. I can’t vouch for Mr. Green’s racial beliefs, but I do know that he wasn’t a ‘sexists.’ Boys and girls alike received the SAME book-reminder-retrieval sendoff.

LEAVING an errant book (or gym shorts/tennis shoes) earned a different reward.

Mr. Green surely checked under every desk, every class period. He always knew from which class period a particular item was left. After we’d been given a reading assignment, and our heads dutifully bowed in study, he’d retrieve the offending object, then taking careful aim, throw it at the culprit who’d left the offending item/items. I know this because I peeked. I’d never wanted to miss this ceremony, and witnessed many a pair of tennis shoes bouncing off unsuspecting heads!

Believe it or not, no one ever called the school board, parents, or police.

Did I mention that he really was a great teacher. In addition to teaching us awe and respect for authority, he also taught us the awe and wonder of science. I always looked forward to his class, even test days! Until… One day it became my turn to be on the receiving end.

At the time, I dabbled some with 8th grade level writing, and wrote a clever little poem about Mr. Green. It described his untimely passing on. Not making the heavenly grade, he descended into the great fiery below. I mentioned that he was issued a pitchfork.

But I made the insane mistake of passing the poem around in class.

You guessed it. The gleeful work of Bill the Poet was intercepted. Strangely, he didn’t say a word. I was terrified. I could only imagine what wrath I had kindled inside him.

The next day, I crept into class, literally shaking in fear. Still, No reaction from Mr. Green.

Shortly after class began, he gave us a multi-page reading assignment. Oh no!

I propped my book on the desk like a drive-in theatre screen, to give me some small degree of forward vision. It’s a good thing I did.

Over the top of my book – I saw Mr. Green, fire in his eyes and a devilish grin on his face, marching toward me – A PITCHFORK in hand!

Quick as a flash, I jumped from my seat, and dashed for the door, Mr. Green in hot pursuit. Down the hall I ran, and out the school building door. He was still after me. I ran across the school yard, across the street in front, and into Poindexter Park across the street from the school.

By this time I was winded. Deep down, I reasoned that in all probability he wouldn’t actually run me through with the pitchfork. Probably he wouldn’t. Maybe.

I stopped. He didn’t spear me. Whew!

We walked back to class side by side, laughing together most of the way. I think he even remarked about the cleverness of the poem.

It was one of those rare moments in life that one can never forget – when you’re glad to be alive, and you’ve just experienced an event that is truly rare, memorable, and totally unbelievable. And yes – that pitchfork chase actually happened.

Thanks Mr. Green!  And as Bob Hope said and sang, Thanks for the memories!

 

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Ole Bill, Horse’s Butt

© 2017

I’ve been a lot of places and done a lot of things in my life, and that’s not a boast. It’s a simple fact.

Some of those things might read like a creative ‘bucket list,’ that is, things to remember with pride. Others… well, not so much. Let’s forget those, shall we?

Tonight I was looking through an old photo album from childhood, and found a most interesting photo. My mother, always with camera in hand, or in easy reach, recorded everything. It was like my sister and I had our own personal paparazzi. I’m sure that Dad’s household expense ledger had a column labeled PHOTO PROCESSING. Oh if Mom had only been in Dealey Plaza that fateful Friday in December of 1963. Her photos would have quickly settled any and all controversy.

A few nights ago while watching TV, Carol and I viewed a commercial for fabric softener. The scene showed 2 guys in a horse costume. The guy in back was fortunate enough to have on the front end, a fellow with sweet smelling clothes. Now I ask you, what is the percentage of people in the world today who have ever supplied the legs to a horse costume?

I have. And here’s the photo to prove it!

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That’s yours truly in the southern most portion. My baby sister, (older than my wife Carol), is in the stroller, admiring her big brother.

Mark another one off the ole bucket list!

 

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1950s Sci-Fi Movies

Planet X

© 2017 Bill Murphy

The 50s were the hay-day of Sci-Fi movies, and I missed very few. Among my favorites was the then horrifying “The Man From Planet X.” Yes, I have a copy of it today.

I must add, that by today’s standards, it was horrifyingly lame. The fact that it was low-budget, is painfully obvious. But in 1951, the movie terrified us. And might I add, it starred Sally Field’s mother.

Although my grade school was in walking distance of down town Jackson, MS, my junior high and then senior high were much closer. Many an afternoon after school, we headed straight for the movie theatre running the latest creature-feature. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore. Destination Moon. Rocket Ship X-M, Expedition Mars, It Came From Outer Space. No wonder we all wanted to be astronauts. If nothing else, it sure made us pay close attention in Science and Physics class.

In the 50s, a coke and popcorn at the movie didn’t cost more than the cost of admission. But to growing boys, anyone could buy popcorn. We wanted our movie experience to be special. On the way to the theatre, we’d stop by Krystal!

For those not so southern friends who are not familiar with Krystal burgers, they’re the southern equivalent of White Castle burgers… one of those fine delicacies you either love or hate. There is no middle ground. I can best compare Krystals to skunks. When you smell one, you know instantly what you’re smelling. And, you can smell both from a very long way away. Because those delicious little Krystal burgers then cost less than a dime each, we each got a bag full. You know what’s coming.

No more than had we sat down in the darkened theatre, than you could hear the sounds of noses everywhere – sniff, sniff, sniff. I’m sure some were offended… interpreting the savory aroma as ‘stink’ – while others were asking themselves, “Why in the world didn’t I think to get me a bag of those?” Yes, we really turned some heads!

My favorite horror movie story came from my brother-in-law. I’m not sure if he was the actual participant in this jewel, or not. As the story goes, you take into the movie theatre a can opener and a can of vegetable soup. The soup is kept between you legs, until it is warmed to body temperature, and then you open the can – and wait – until a particularly gory scene. Oh, did I tell you that you should sit in the front row of the balcony? As gore fills the screen, you let out a resounding, “UUUUUUUGH!” and empty the warm soup onto the unsuspecting heads below. (They don’t think it’s soup. Get it?)

Who said that the 50s must have been a boring time in which to grow up? NOT!

 

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STRONG COFFEE

© 2017 Bill Murphykeurig

Two days ago I had a TEE procedure.  According to the American Heart Association –

A Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE) is a test that produces detailed pictures of the heart. TEE uses high-frequency sound waves to make pictures of the heart and the arteries that lead to and from it. Unlike a standard echocardiogram, the echo transducer that produces the sound waves for TEE is attached to a thin tube that passes through the mouth, down the throat and into the esophagus. Because the esophagus is so close to the upper chambers of the heart, very clear images of those heart structures and valves can be obtained.

This test was to determine if I had a tiny hole in the heart,  allowing blood to flow where it should not.  Thankfully,  I ‘passed’ the test,  and no hole was found!

The test (to me anyway) was not exactly as advertised.

I was told that the probe was ‘tiny.’  I beg to differ.  When I wasn’t looking,  they switched mine to one the size of a small shoebox!

They gave me an injection to ‘relax’ me.  I think it was plain water.

They said that I wouldn’t remember a thing.  If that were true,  then I wouldn’t be writing this now!

Either somebody lied,  or I really am just a big baby.

In retrospect,  I’m forced to admit that the injection did have some type of narcotic in it.  I was rather dopey while walking (with assistance) back to the car.

When back home,  what I did next caused me to re-think plans for the afternoon.

I wanted coffee. We have a Keurig, one of those one-cup-at-a-time coffee makers. We buy ground coffee, and fill our own plastic Keurig brew cups. My habit is to add my creamer and sweetener into my coffee mug first, and brew the coffee into/onto it.  So, I arranged the necessary elements,  added a spoonful of sweetener to my mug,  added a spoonful of creamer to the mug,  and then – added a spoonful of ground coffee into the coffee mug.

Like I said,  that injection must have had something in it!

 

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The Dog Trot

© 2017 Bill Murphy

Uncle Earle received a letter from Tennessee.  His favorite uncle,  his Half-Uncle Edward, passed away.  This is the story of Edward:

Uncle Earle’s Grandpa Clovis settled in Tennessee, way out in the sticks … in the foothills of the Smokies.  Grandpa married late in life, after he’d started a little pig and tobacco farm,  supplying all the snuff and bacon he wanted!  Back then, you didn’t hire farm hands,  you HAD ‘EM!  So Grandpa Clovis married Adeline Wilson and started a family of farm-hands.

Dog Trot Blog

While she was expecting their first child,  he built a simple,  but comfortable, ‘Dog Trot’ house.  A dog trot was somewhat like two houses joined together,  but sharing one big roof and floor.  The two house areas were separated by an open hallway.  Because this hallway was open,  yard dogs simply trotted through,  hence the name.  It had a porch all the way around,   with bedrooms on one side and kitchen and entertaining on the other. Of course the privy was out back.  Grandpa Clovis expected to have a large family, so he built a three holer.

About that time,  Grandma Adeline’s younger sister Elvira married a fine hunk of a man named Rudolph Benson,  who worked at the local saw mill.  The old saw mill was shabby and barely hanging on by a thread.  The huge yard wide saw was powered by an old stripped down Model-T Ford on blocks,  and with a long belt from Ford to saw.  As I said, the old sawmill was run down.

From time to time, the apparatus that fed logs into the spinning saw needed manual assistance.  And Elvira’s new husband Rudolph provided the muscle,  manhandling a 4 x 4 as a ram to push the logs forward.  If you’ve ever used a table saw,  it’s the same principle.  If you’re not careful,  the spinning blade will KICK the wood back at you.

That’s what happened one day to Rudolph.

One moment Rudolph was pushing a log forward with his 4 x 4 ram,  then suddenly log and ram kicked back.  They struck Rudolph squarely.  The blow crushed his chest like an egg,  killing him instantly.  The rough wood hurled him backward,  slamming him into the Model T and rupturing the gas tank,  splashing Rudolph and everything for six feet in all directions with gasoline.

It was early spring,  with a nip in the air … and they had a fire going in a 55 gallon drum nearby.  WHRRRRRRUMPHHH! … everything exploded in a fireball.  It quickly consumed   the old T-Model,  the saw mill,  Rudolph, and everything.  Everyone escaped but Rudolph. After the fire died down,  all that remained of Elvira’s poor husband was ashes and a few brittle bits of bone,  charred to a snowy white.  Perhaps this was a blessing,  for had Rudolph’s body survive the accident complete … Elvira would have had SOMETHING to cling to,  a tangible OBJECT of her love.  But now all was gone,  except for a small jewelry box of ash and bone.

After the funeral,  Clovis and Adeline invited the grieving Elvira to move in with them … for a while.  Grandpa Clovis converted one of the rooms on the kitchen side of the house into an apartment for her.  ‘For a while’ stretched into years,  and years,  and more years. The three of them lived in that house for the remainder of their lives.

It wasn’t long before the grieving widow and hospitable sister were sharing more than just the kitchen and privy.  And the yard dogs weren’t the only ones trotting back and forth through the hallway.  You see,  Grandpa Clovis and his wife Adeline raised six kids in that old house,  and Grandpa Clovis and Elvira,  (his wife’s sister),  raised five kids there.

“Clovis was no better ‘n a dog his-self,”  raved Aunt May when she first heard the story. “DOG TROT was a fittin’ name,  that’s fer sure!”

Uncle Earle’s father was Clovis’ six child by his legal wife Adeline.  And Uncle Earl’s favorite uncle,  Edward,  was the fifth child of Clovis and Elvira.  So because those two boys were HALF brothers,  Uncle Earle just naturally considered Edward to be his HALF-UNCLE.  Hey!  It makes sense to me!

This story is loosely based on my real great-grandfather!  Names have been changed to protect the ‘innocent.’  The photo, taken in 1937, is believed to be the actual dogtrot.

 

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Put On Your Thinking Cap

© 2017 Bill Murphy

Oh that it was always that easy. The first step is to find your thinking cap, what ever that is!

I can’t remember the first time I heard that time-honored admonition. But I must have paid attention. Carol says that I can make (or repair) anything using DUCK TAPE. Not so. My Dad was the Duck Tape Hero and Poster Child. He was always Duck Taper of the Month.

Just a few minutes ago, I discovered a sidewalk, solar powered path light which had not survived the last weed-eater edging. It was sheared off at ground level. With thinking cap on my head – hot glue gun, section of coat hanger wire, and a small amount of mandatory duck tape – I repaired the thing. Don’t say that I’m not a chip off the old block! Now that light is (almost) as good as new.

But years ago, the following (simple) problem stumped me.

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Everyone SAID it was simple. And now, that I know the solution, I understand that it is.

Using only 4 (FOUR) straight (STRAIGHT) lines,      connect ALL the dots. 

One. Two. Three. GO!

 

That day on my attempt, my thinking cap did me absolutely no good, much to my shame and embarrassment. It really should have been a snap for me. I’ve always enjoyed picture-based puzzles.

In school, one of my favorite subjects was GEOMETRY! Algebra was a chore, but geometry was a world filled with lines, shapes, and spaces. Pi and square were only concepts – but triangles, rectangles, and circles are REAL things!

And SOLID Geometry was a dream come true! I still use it today in my model airplane building and design.

So – how are you coming so far?

No, I won’t be so crass as to tell you to come back next week to the exciting conclusion of “Put On Your Thinking Cap” and find the solution to this perplexing problem. That would not be nice.

Don’t skip too far ahead – the solution is below.

Don’t cheat!

 

 

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So here’s the solution: 

 

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So now you know. This problem is the famous one that inspired the phrase “Thinking OUTSIDE of the box.” A simple thinking cap won’t do here. Sorry.

 

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