Monday, May 28, 2018

Framed Reflections

Sitting in my comfy chair this weekend I noticed the reflection in the china cabinet of the flag flying in our yard. My mine wandered through the years of memories and landed back in my third grade music class when I learned the Star-Spangled Banner. My singing that day must have caught my father's attention, not for its beauty, but for its volume. "Tizzy," Dad hollered at me, "Tone it down before you wake up the neighbors." 

"But Dad, this is our National Anthem and I want everyone to hear it."

Dad listened and then we read the few paragraphs about Francis Scott Key together.  We both imagined what Key must have felt as he watched his county and his people being bombed by the British. I imagined Key writing down the words on a tablet, probably not the Big Chief tablet I used, but close.  The song lingered in Dad's mind, and he said something about the noise and terror of bombs that he'd seen during World War II.  Sadly, I don't remember this story, but I will always remember the feelings I experienced when Dad told a story about the war.

Star-Spangled Banner

A few years later I experienced the sounds and fear of 'incoming' rounds when I was married to Don Rains and living in Killeen, Texas.  Somewhere in the night the soldiers at Ft. Hood were in the field shooting rounds of ammunition. The land shivered around us and my heart skipped beats. Unlike Francis Scott Key, I just wanted to hid or run away. 

With my mind still whirling through memories I reflected on one line of poetry that I learned in fifth grade.  The line read "Music rescues the soul from the depths."  Our assignment was to make a booklet of pictures to match each line in the poem. The context of the poem was about the value and beauty of music, but I was stuck on the meaning of that line. I didn't think pictures from National Geographic helped me, because why would any person drowning in an ocean think of music? So I asked Dad what he thought.  

For a long time he didn't answer, then he began looking through Life magazine and others that we collected. At last he found some black and white pictures of men hunkered over and leaning against the walls of buildings in big cities. The men all appeared broken to me.  Several were missing legs and arms, others just seemed lifeless.  

"Tizzy," Dad finally spoke, "Remember the bums and crippled men we've seen in New Orleans and Wichita who live on the streets?" I nodded yes, because Dad often drove down skid row in Wichita and other cities and handed money to the men. He said that many of them were damaged by war or alcohol.  One time he handed me money and told me to get out of the car with a smile and give it to someone who needed it. I did it without fear and I smiled. 

Placing his index finger on a picture he touched it over and over. "These are the men whose souls can be lifted by music. Like this," he said, as he went to his bedroom dresser and pulled out his harmonica and played a melody. "A lively tune can lift the soul." I understood. 

I cut out that black and white picture of the men and put it in my book proudly.  Later, when the teacher handed back our music booklets I received a minus for that page. I didn't ask her why. Even in my child's heart I knew the teacher was wrong, and Dad and I were right. 

War affects each of us. I hope no one forgets the tragedies of war and the memories we share.  
July 4 celebration Hutchinson, KS

Monday, May 14, 2018

Golf Gypsy Slays a Dragon

Being a teenager in any decade is NOT easy. Working in the golf shop at Miami Golf and Country Club during those years opened my eyes to the vast array of personalities walking through the golf shop. 

MGCC 1960's lady golfers Florence Dawson, Clara Barton

Mother stared at me with her hazel green eyes and tightly pursed lips.  When I heard the sucking sound of her lips pursed together, I knew I was in trouble.  “Letty, if you can’t say anything nice, then say nothing at all.”

“Mother,” I labored throwing my body into a forward slump, “If I say nothing at all, then I’d never talk. You’re always telling me to ‘kill them with kindness’, but I’d much rather trip those girls, and watch them fall in front of the boys.” Shaking my head, I continued ranting.

Placing a hand on each of my shoulders, attempting to calm herself she sighed and said, “Never, never stoop to their level of rudeness. You will only be the loser.  With kind and thoughtful words, you will be a better person, and people will respect you.”

“But these girls are the most popular and all of the boys like them!”

Now her voice steamed, “You must learn to control your mouth.  Your father’s job could depend on your behavior.”

My only defense came in a few lines, “Fine! Then why did you have me? I’m not attractive and I’m certainly not pretty with these pimples and flyaway hair. And I think telling the truth is more important than spreading rumors.”

With a heavy sigh mother growled one last time, “Go to your room now. One of these days your words will come back to haunt you.” Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my little sister spying on us from her middle bedroom. 
Letty Stapp, member of the NEO boys Golf Team 1965-67

During my teenage years I worked summer mornings at the golf shop and spent afternoons practicing my game or swimming. Evenings were my favorite time when Dad and I took the scooter (golf carts in the '50-60 were often called scooters) out to the driving range to chip up the range balls.  The Kildeer was our favorite bird to watch and dad would often put sticks around their nests so machines and people would not step on them. We rescued more baby rabbits than I can count, all with no success but many memories. 
1962 MHS Girls State Champions, Letty Stapp, Diana Oliver,
Carole Luttrel, Pam Smallwood

One night I overheard my parents talking in the kitchen. My father’s voice seemed quaky like he might cry. I knew that tone of voice meant something was wrong. Slipping out of my bedroom, I crawled into the living room and hid behind the large cushioned chair.  “Helen, he is just plain nasty to everyone at the club.  He glares at the women’s breasts. He rudely burps and belches in front of decent people. He embarrasses the women with his vulgarity and condescending remarks. He calls any man who disagrees with him a Son-of-a-Bitch, no matter whether children are nearby or not. So, I finally told him to take his business elsewhere, if he couldn’t be a gentleman around women and children.  Now he says that he’ll have my job. At the next board meeting he plans to ask them to fire me.”

The tension shook the floor of the house that night. I barely took a breath because I knew they were talking about a club member who we nicknamed “Nasty.” I understood that those words stayed inside our four walls, or else!

“Johnie, will you have a chance to speak at the board meeting to defend yourself?”
Nearly stuttering my father replied, “I certainly hope so, but I have nothing nice to say about him.”

Bob Hill, Dickie Neal Miami High School State Champions 1960

“Then say something nice about the families of the board members. Remind them of the advancements we’ve made at the club with golf carts; how we host golf tournaments that make money for the club; how you conduct one of the best Jr. Golf programs in the state of Oklahoma. Bring some of the state trophies that our junior boys and girls have won.”
Mabel Hotz Memorial tournament winner 1964, Donna Fox, ?, Susan Basalo

I could hear my father’s fist nervously pounding the table. My mother continued, “Always focus on the positive. Somehow Letty cheerfully greets the club members every morning on the job with a smile on her face.  She listens to their complaints and never says an ugly word. Remember that time Nasty came in and yelled at her about the condition of one of the greens, and how he couldn’t make a putt.”

“See that’s what I mean, Helen, he has no respect for any of us. Letty didn’t need to be confronted with those harsh words.” 

“My point, Johnie, is this. Remember how she handled him? She listened, then said something like, ‘Mr. B, I know you are a very good putter, and I can see that it makes you mad to miss a putt. I saw you sink that putt on number 9 the other day when you won a wad of money off the Springfield guys. That was fun to watch, and all of the people in the bar upstairs cheered and tapped on the windows.  You are a great golfer.’” 

It was quiet in the kitchen, but my heart pounded in the living room. “Johnie, she simply fluffed his feathers and softened him by treating him kindly and with respect, even though I can guess what she might have been thinking.”

That night, I felt like crying tears of joy. For all of the times that I had said it wrong, my mother remembered the time that I said it right, and slayed a dragon with kindness.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Calm Before the Storm

Calm comes when there is no wind
Grand Lake of the Cherokees
  No sense of impending doom

Calm dances in hues
  Of violets and blues

Calm radiates when petals
  Turn skywards

Calm floats on the horizon
  Like a flock of geese flying towards sunset

Calm softens the heart
  And refreshes the mind

Calm days are few


Whammy comes when spring rains RoAR through

Sirens ring and people scream

Joplin, Mo. tornado 2012

Whammy crACKs the silence slashing the clouds
Thunder booms and nature hides

Whammy ROLLS across the prairie 
Winds swirl whipping twisting trees

Whammy BATTERS and BRUISES the lands
Boiling clouds expel cold rains

And Calm is stricken with FEAR.