My Rod McKuen Period

Bill Murphy 2020

      Fifty years ago, there was a period in my life when I was between marriages.  As the delightful music in ‘Sleepless In Seattle’ (my favorite movie of all time) said… I was ‘back in the saddle again.’  I’m the domestic-type, so I was destined to pair-bond with someone out there.  My heart and eyes were on the look-out for a future lasting relationship.

      For the first time in my life, I turned to poetry!  I called that my Rod McKuen period.  He had some great stuff on the airways at that time.

      Here are three short examples of my soul-searching musings.


I’m no artist with words.

Don’t judge them harshly.

Just share my thoughts,

   Which lie within them,

      Between them,

         And beyond them…

For the words are only clues.


Someone lives behind those eyes;

    A life, a heart, a soul.

If I may meet but one these,

    Who knows what you I’ll find!


I’ve learned a lesson from life:

    First loves seldom last.

For in loving,

    We learn.

In learning,

   We hurt.

And in hurting,

   We fail to love.

If I am your first love

   …be kind! 





    During my school days, I was a football hero!  Ok, I played football.  Alright… I went out for football.  But in my defence, I STAYED with it for the entire school year of 1954-55.  I also was awarded the coveted Enochs Junior High maroon and white football jacket with the big ‘E’!  The December 10, 1955 article in Jackson Mississippi’s Clarion Ledger attests to this.  I was counted in the number.   Maybe I was ‘last on the list,’ but I was on the list!

    The truth of the matter is: the letter ‘E’ on my jacket was not an award for Excellence on the football field, but a recognition of Effort on my part.  The coach pointed this out, saying that I never missed or was late for a practice… not one.  I’ll take that ‘E’.

    I wasn’t good at football.  I was too small and underweight for one thing.  During practice, I endured (to me) some rough treatment, often times to the great glee of my more macho teammates.  

    The bulk of that football season, I sat out most the games on the bench.  But one game, we were trouncing the other team by a very wide margin.  It got down to the closing seconds of the game, and we were on defence.  The coach had mercy on me, and SENT ME IN!  We held them with no advance, so with seconds to go, we we now on the offence.  I turned and headed back to the bench… but the coach yelled for me to stay in the game.  So, I played my second actual game play, this one on offence.  And then, the whistle blew, and the game was over.  I’d played a play of defence, and one of offense.  And that was total field-time experience in football.

     The truth:  I was not a fast runner, nor an acurate passer, so I was never considered for the backfield.  The ‘safest’ place for me, underweight as I was, was on the line!  I played right tackle!  Yes, I got ‘busted’ lots of time during practice, but knowing I’d not be ‘used’ in real games… I was best used as a practice dummy.  Oh well… this dummy still earned his coveted Enochs E.

     So when anyone asks today, ‘Did you play football in school?’  I can honestly reply, “Yes, I played Right Tackle.  I played offence and defence!” 





2 CokeBill Murphy  2020    

I was young and impressionable at the time, hardly thirteen at most.  Impressions can be both negative and positive.  This one was a most positive impression, one that’s stuck with me all of my life.  

     It happened around 1953, the dawn of rock & roll.  Soft drinks were a nickle each, and came only in glass bottles.  When returned to the seller, you were paid a two-cent deposit on the empty bottle.

     On weekends, I worked in the Jitney grocery store that my father managed in Mart 51.  I did odd jobs around the store, keeping the shopping carts orderly, and bagging groceries.  I was also tasked with emptying the trash containers in the check-outs stands.

  I was emptying a bag of trash into the dumpster when I heard the distinct clink of glass.  “Oops, ”I remarked aloud, “Someone carelessly threw away a bottle.” 

     “No, not one, but two!” The remark came from Authur England, one of the store’s full-time employees.  “One bottle can’t rattle!”

     I stood frozen in my tracks, allowing this jewel of truth to sink in.  

    Almost seventy years later, when my grandkids and great-grandkids begin to bicker and fuss, most often as not pointing a finger and proclaiming, ‘They started it!’  I stop them with this simply truth: It takes two to rattle.

     Thanks Arthur, for sharing your wisdom!






Bill Murphy 2020

The ascent to a mountain top is by progression, a step at a time.

Yesterday, a line from an old hymn we sang in my Methodist Church came to mind so vividly.  “God is so good… He’s so good to me.”  This life experience in my life brought these words to mind.  They also brought to mind that they too can be a step in progression.

The word ‘good’ is an adjective, describing somethings of meaning or value to us.  The opposite is, of course. ‘bad.’

Yesterday, yet another ‘issue’ had confronted our family.  This was an automotive issue, which spilled over to involve more than just a car.  Our daughter’s vehicle is old, and well used.  But she and our granddaughter were not a quarter mile from home when the issue occurred.  They were over six hours away… hundreds of miles from home.  And the car suddenly ran hot!

She’d just gotten the car out of the shop the week before.  What needed repairs, was repaired.  It was deemed ‘good to go’ by professions.  Obviously not.  Now came the dilemma, ‘What to do?’

Two law enforcement officers stopped to give assistance.  They added water, got the vehicle running properly, and escorted them to an auto/repair/parts company located right across the street from a motel.  The auto shop told her they’d be closing for the day within 5 minutes.  They’d look at it tomorrow.  Our daughter called us.

Yes, Carol and I were distraught, worried and concerned.  Yes, they very near automotive help.  But we were not near them!  We were also not helpless.  We prayed.  God can help.

Our daughter also called the mechanic who’d given her car a clean bill of health.  He offered suggestions on how to get home safely driving the vehicle.  She called us, and we suggested that the information sounded plausible, but not to be foolish.  Be wise.  Try this in daylight hours, beginning the next morning.  So they did.

Their six hour drive home took almost nine.  And God rode with them, and in front of them, preparing the way.  They got home, with the vehicle, safe and sound.  God is good.

Many years ago, I began my climb to the mountain top.  I’ve gotten off the path before, and tumbled painfully back into the valley of darkness.  But with God’s help, I’ve gotten up, brushed myself off, and began the ascent once again.  No, I’m not at the tippy-top yet, I’m still ascending, one step at a time.  I’m more careful of where I step today than I was at twenty.  The view is far more beautiful the closer to the top that one ascends.  And part of my ascension is learning that God is not just good… He’s the BEST!

Once again Dear Lord, Thank You, for being so good… so good to me!





   We all lost a ‘keeper’ earlier this week when we lost Debbie, the former Debbie Barnett of Jackson, MS.  Right now, when our loss is new and acute, we only think we know how much we’ve lost.  The future will show us just how great our loss has been, and is, and will be.

   Debbie was a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.  She was up when all the world was down, the positive that banished all the negatives around us all.  She was a treat to have around… no, she was more than that… she was a necessity. 

   Our family met Debbie and her family at church, and it was an instant connection.  Debbie was a teenager, and our brood of four daughters were much younger, so Debbie baby-sat a lot.  When not ‘working,’ she came over to simply hang out.  She and Carol grew close, even though there was a large gap in their ages.  But their’s was more than a big sister/little sister relationship. 

   I honestly don’t think we’ve ever owned a home with doors that were ever locked.  So our home was a home-away-from-home for many of the teens from church.  Most were simply in and out, at all hours of the day or night.  And some came and stayed, for days, weeks, even months.  But Debbie’s home was only a short drive away, and her pillow normally remained at her home.

   After church, there were five or six homes (including Shoney’s) where we congregated Sunday nights after church (finally) dismissed.  Debbie’s perpetually under renovation home was one of our Sunday Night Food Troughs… as was ours.  Billy and Earline Barnett (Debbie’s parents) really put on a spread… and we gobbled it up!  The food was always plentiful and tops-notch.  But the fellowship topped that!  Oh the sweet memories.

   Yes, Debbie was always one-of-a-kind… they broke the mold when she was born.  She’s the only individual I’ve known personally whose day and month of passing is the same as that of their birth.  She’s that unique!  But what you might not know is that Debbie came very near to passing many years before… while she was in our home!

    Debbie was there baby-sitting for us.  Who knows where Carol and I were, I can’t remember that part.  This was back before the days of plastic drink bottles, and all soft-drinks, even the big ones, came in glass bottles.  We were big Dr. Pepper drinkers at the Murphy’s.  There were usually one or two in the frig, and two or three more sitting on the floor around the frig.  Debbie was bare-foot.  You see where this is going.

   She reached inside the frig, and accidentally knocked over a large bottle of Dr. Pepper.  It crashed to the floor and the glass shattered.  Somehow, the base retained its shape, on the floor, right side up, but with long razor sharp shards sticking up like shark’s teeth.  Debbie stepped back… and one of those long sharp shards sliced deep into her ankle, not just cutting her, but slicing an artery in her ankle!

   Long story short… Earline and Billy rushed to our house, saw the damage, and sped Debbie to the hospital, where, Earline promptly passed out. The doctors told Billy that within a few minutes more, Debbie would have bled out!

   I believe that my favorite ‘Debbie Story’ is the one about tomato sandwiches, hence the photo above.   Debbie enjoyed two things a LOT.  One was swimming, and the other was having a customary tomato sandwich after a swim.  We got a call one day from her Dad.  He was calling from home.  “You won’t believe this,” he said.  “I wouldn’t believe it either unless I’d just witnessed it myself.  But Debbie got back from swimming a while ago, and she’s just consumed EIGHT TOMATO SANDWICHES!

    Bob Hope was famous for his ‘Thanks for the memories.’  Debbie, we don’t really want just memories.  We want to be still making memories with you.  That’s what we really want.  But since we can’t have that, we can all be thankful for all the wonderful memories that do have, and will always have and cherish, of you, and of your bubbly, positive life.  Thanks Debbie!  Thanks for all the memories you made with us!  



Diminsion X

Back in in the late 40s and maybe very early 50s, when CDs were certificates of deposit, and disk were heavy round objects thrown during the Olympics, there was a fantastic program on the radio named Dimension X.  Or as the intro proclaimed… Dimension X-X-X-X-X-x-x-x-x.  Who (besides me) remembers it?

I habitually had nightmares, no doubt fed and watered on the likes of Dimension X!  But, I was enthralled with that radio program!  A lot of its stories centered on space travel!  This was right up my alley.

I distinctly remember one night after I’d been put to bed.  I was far from asleep.  Dimension X was on that night.  So… boys being boys, and me being a boy… I’d slipped Dad’s portable Philco radio under the covers, and was listening to some space-alien thriller on the radio!  Mom caught me!  Oops.  Now THAT was real-life scary!  Sometimes a space-alien can’t hold a candle to an upset mommie.

Yes, I’ve listened to that above new CD many happy times!



 Lieutenant Colonel Bradley Newman stood at the window of his prison-like but sterile hospital room.  If only he could see the runway – his runway – and his brave boys as they flew out and returned.   He’d heard the planes as they returned a few minutes before, and it sounded good.  He’d heard nine leaving, and nine returning.  He’d take that math any day of the week!

Colonel Burns, his second-in-command should be due any minute now, with the morning’s mission report.

There was a knock at the door.  “Enter!” He shouted.

“Good morning sir, I have good news this morning,” replied the adjutant.  

“Do you mean nine out and nine back in?  I head that.  Or do you mean that the idiots in the north have finally come to their senses and agreed to end this madness?

“I wish, sir.  Oh how I wish that were true.  At least then you’d feel comfortable in leaving this god-forsaken land and returning home where you could get topnotch care,” replied the adjutant.

“Let’s hear the report.”

“As you already know, it was nine out, and nine back in.  If that was not good news enough, they hit the target, and really plastered it!  Yesterday afternoon the Navy boys had spotted an AA battery on hill 713, just above the Valley we hit this morning, and they took out that battery fifteen minutes before our boys arrived!  So it was smooth sailing for 132nd.  We were able to make three passes, and they boys report multiple secondary explosions.  So they hit something for sure… something besides simply jungle!”

The Colonel grinned broadly.  “When you get it typed up, send me a copy please.  At least they let me read the reports here!”

“Yes sir”

“And tell the boys that I’m proud of ‘em, and that I promise that I’ll be back with ‘em soon.”

“Yes sir.”  Then the adjutant snapped to attention, gave a quick salute, turned and walked out of the room.”

In the hallway, a nurse in white was waiting.  “So, how was he this morning?” she asked.

“About the same.  About the same as he was yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that.  Cynthia, I think it was General William Tecumseh Sherman who said that ‘war is hell.’  And he was right.  It especially is and was and still is for Colonel Newman.  Sixty-seven years later, and he’s still fighting the Korean War.  Yes, I’d say that war certainly is hell for Colonel Newman.

Father’s Day 2020

    Tomorrow is Father’s Day.  That means a lot of things to a lot of people, on both sides of the gender gap. It also inspires many wonderfully happy thoughts to some, but sadly, unhappy thoughts to others.

     I suppose you could say that when it came to fatherhood, somewhere in my deep sub-conscience I must have pre-planned to do it up with a flurish.  One does not always direct every step of one’s future.  In most instances we don’t know what’s behind the next door, right?

     As for fatherhood steps one through five, five did and didn’t actually happen, not to fruition anyway.  The first wife and I lost five, three miscarriages and two tubals.  Technically I suppose, I ‘can’ count those babes-never-born as they were ‘fathered’ by me.

     But she and I parted ways.  And I sincerely hope that her later happiness was as complete and full as mine proved to be.

     Carol and I married in 1970.  She brought three very young daughters into the marriage, and before you knew it, we produced a fourth, also a daughter.  Those four girls proved to be every bit as fertile as their mother, which made for very, very large future Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners around our table, with various and assorted TV trays, etc. 

    That all said, I was thinking about Father’s Day this year, and just where I fit into the holiday.  I do have a very checkered fatherhood history.  ( And I wouldn’t have it any other way! )  I like to say that ‘it’s been quite a ride,’ and it has been… a bit bumpy at times, but who of us have not had a gravel road or two in their past?  Those bumps are CHARACTER BUILDERS, and God Himself is most often the One who pushes us off the easy interstates of life.)

     Oops, I got a bit off track.  I was thinking about Father’s Day, and where I fit in.  It suddenly came to me that I’m actually ‘more’ than ‘just a father,’ as most fathers are!  In a way, I’m set apart… even a bit unusual, and that makes me special, huh?

     You see, I am a bonified ‘regular’ father.  I’m also a step father.  I’m a grandfather.  I’m a step-grandfather.  Oh, and I’m a step-great-grandfather.  And if you factor in the spirits of those five who began life only to have it snatched away… I’m a pre-birth father too. 

     Yes, I’ll answer to “Dad,” from several directions.  Now all that’s left is living up to that honorable position of ‘Fatherhood.”

     Happy Father’s Day my fellow fathers!    



A very short flash fiction by Bill Murphy 2020

Their second floor bedroom was dark and quiet – dark save for a trickle of light from the street lamp which filtered thru the drapes.

Sheila lay on the bed fast asleep, finally.  Today had been a bad day.  She lay on her stomach, much as a baby often does. She now slept peacefully, like a baby.

Johnathan sat on the wingback chair across from the bed watching his sleeping wife of thirty years.  It had been a good thirty years.  Yes it had been.  

Theirs had been a unique bonding from the start.  On the outside they appeared to be an imperfect couple, mismatched in every way.  But the mismatch was the perfect match for them, right down to the fact that neither was capable of producing children.  Fate had stepped in with the assurance there’d be no issues on that point.

“I love you,’ he said in a soft whisper.  She mumbled something that he understood must have been a “What?….”  He didn’t respond.  He let her sleep.

His mind drifted to when they met, how they met, and what transpired after that first chance encounter.  It was a story that might not interest the world. It was certainly not movie material, but it was their story. And now that story was ending.

How long he sat there gazing at her, he had no recollection.  Minutes?  Hours?  Who’s to say.  And then he thought to himself, “It’s time I suppose.”

He stood and crept slowly to her side of the bed.  He then whispered as silently as he could, “I love you” one last time.

He placed to barrel of the .38 inches from the back of her head and pulled the trigger.


Johnathan Boyd layed the still smoking .38 on the nightstand, and returned to his seat near the foot of the bed.  Taking his cell phone from his pocket, he called 911 and reported his wife’s death.  He gave them little details, only that he was certain that she was dead and of course, the address.

Dawn was breaking outside just as the EMTs and authorities were arriving.  He had no idea that it was that hour of the morning.  Two and two quickly added to four when the responders noticed the pistol on the nightstand.  There was no question of what had happened and Johnathan Boyd offered no resistance to the police investigators.

Within the hour he was sitting across from two detictives in the police station.

After all the formalities of reading him his rights, the lead detective began questioning the new widower.

“Can you tell us what happened last night?”

“I shot her,” was Jonathan’s honest reply.  

“Perhaps you need to tell us about it.”

“Sure. I have nothing to hide.”

“Mr. Boyd, I’d like to remind you that this is being recorded.”

“I know.  I see the recorder on the table, and the little red light is on.”

Dective Johnson sat back, ready to hear what Jonathan Boyd had to say.  He’d never seen a murder suspect quite so calm, cool, and collected before.

“I been planning this for weeks now,” began Johnathan.  It was all a surprize for Sheila.

“I’ll bet it was,” interjected Dectectve Floyd, the younger of the two detectives.

“OK, I’ll admit, it is what it seems. But then it’s also not what it seems.”

“Please explain,’’ replied Detective Johnson.

“Sheila had cancer.  She found out a year ago.  I’m sure you’ll do an autopsy and it will confirm that.  She didn’t want chemo or radiation.  She’d seen far too many friends and relatives suffer throught that.  She made the remark to me dozens of times that she hoped she’d go quickly, to ‘get it over with quickly,’ because she knew that the end was inevitable and that it would be painful.  So I suppose you’d label it a ‘mercy killing.’ However, it was far, far more than that I assure you.”

Leaning forward, Detective Johnson replied, “Go on.  I’m listening.”

“I’m a writer… a struggling writer to be sure, but I do love to write.  And I write because I believe that I have something to say.  But writing has always had to take a back seat.  I’ve been a good husband to Sheila, ask anyone.  I’ve been a good provider too.  Sheila worked also, before she took sick and she had to quit.  That left us a bit strapped, so my writing suffered too.  Now don’t get me wrong, my writing wasn’t suffering nearly as much as Sheila, bless her heart, but my writing practically came to a standstill, because I was putting in as much extra time at work as was possible.”

“I’m having a hard time following this writing thing,’ remarked Detective Floyd.

“I may be exicuted for what I’ve done, and I know that,” said Jonathan, “But, you’re never convicted on Monday and exicuted on Tuesday.  I might sit in a cell for decades awaiting that fate.  That’s a lot of ‘spare time’ to write.”

“So what you’re saying is that you killed your wife so that you’d have time to write?” Asked Detective Johnson.

“Heaven’s no Detective!  I loved my wife!  I cared for her!  I cared so much for her that if she no longer wanted to suffer, as she was doing, I could and did take care of that, for her.  She’s happier today than she was yesterday, I can assure you!  So now you can lock me up for that, where I’ll have time to write.  As I see it detective, that little .38 slug solved two problems and it benefitted Sheila, as well as it benefitted me.  I call that a win-win situation!”

In all of his twenty years of police investigation Detective Johnson never had a case basically solve itself so quickly.  And he’d never in all of his experience had a murder case that seemed to make perfectly good sence!  As they say, all’s well that ends well.

                                         ~~~~~~~~~~~~ The End ~~~~~~~~~~~~


I’ve heard it said that any man can father a child, but it takes a special man to be a Dad.  And, yes, I had such a Dad.  He was there to help me, instruct me, lead and protect me.  He taught me how to shave, how to (properly) use a hammer, how to tie a neck-tie, how to drive… and  countless other things.  He was THERE for me!  I miss him dearly.

My wife says I’m still a kid at heart, and I suppose I am.  I still build model airplanes, but that’s OK, I’m retired, I can do that now without guilt.  But, the kid in me still needs the help and assistance of a DAD, and I have that, in the ‘person’ of my Heavenly Father!

Much to the exasperation of my ever patient wife, I ‘lose’ my glasses several times a week.  She’s learned to have a ‘special place’ to put them when she happens upon them in places where they ought not be.  You see, I’m near-sighted.  I can see perfectly well working on my computer, reading, and cutting balsa wood.  I need them to watch TV, or see what making all the noise outside.

My earthly Dad is no long by my side, but my Heavenly Father (Dad) is right here now!  

Yes, I pause and ask ‘Dad’ if he’s seen my glasses?  Oh course He has!  My Heaven Father sees and knows everything!  Yes, I’m saying that I pray over such a trivial matter!

That’s what makes Him so awesome!  My reasoning is, He can be great enough to create the stars above (I refer you to the Hubble Space Telescope photo above) and yet small enough to help His individual children, even with a trivial matter, like telling me where my misplaced glasses are.  And He always does! 

Thanks Dad!