Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

Hang out with the old preacher by browsing my blogs.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Jerome, Arizona

When we visit Sedona, as we did again this Summer, we always take a day to see Jerome again.  It is a tourist trap with personality.  There are galleries, shops and restaurants that all have a glint in the eye because they know they have something few little towns have.  They have a wild and scandalous history that lingers in the air--or at least in the museum.

One of the infamous madams of this town served as mayor  for a while.  At least two sheriffs have had to shoot and kill the bad guys.  When the copper mine was founded, workers needed housing, and that is the beginning of Jerome.  It became a bustling settlement on the side of the mountain where the main street is a switchback that becomes narrow enough in one place that it becomes a one way street.  This is the infamous highway 89a.  T shirts and caps carry the slogan "I survived highway 89a".

At one point in its rich and varied history, the high school boasted a state champion football team.  But where you find hard working men such as these, you will probably find the provision of wild entertainment designed to help them spend their money on a "good time".  And so there grew up with this town several bars and more than one bordello.  The unique topography of the town, everythting being on a steep hillside, afforded an escape route out the back door of the brothel to the street below.  When a suspicious wife came looking for her husband, he was seldom found thank to this service.

The fortunes of the town rose and fell dramatically, depending on the need and price of copper.  At one point in her history, Jerome was the fifth largest city in the state of Arizona with fifteen thousand citizens in 1929.  But after that fateful year, copper lost it's value, the mine closed and men looked for work with the WPA.

What eventually saved the town seems to be the influx of an artisan crowd of hippies and flower children, moving to the hills and making it an artist's village, cashing in on the rich history of the town to interest visitors and keep things going as a tourist trap.  Whatever the town was, it is now a charming town above the Verde Valley where, just incidentally, the OPC is "mining" for souls with a fledgling church plant in Cottonwood.  If you are ever in the area, you must visit Jerome, and if it is a weekend, visit our little church in Cottonwood.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Memorable felines

I always had a cat, growing up.  Early blogs of mine tell of Blondie, my favorite feline of my youth.  But after we were married and had kids, we had cats adopt us.  There were many.  Open the front door and in walks an adorable cat.  It meows and rubs against your leg so affectionately that suddenly you have a cat.  Of course it is true, what they say about dogs may have masters, but cats have staff.  All those sayings about cats have at least a strong element of truth.  Thousands of years ago cats were worshipped in Egypt, and somehow they never got over it.  If this intimidates you, you become a cat hater.  If this amuses you, you become a cat lover.

We had a cat named "Mahershallelhashbaz" (which, roughly translated, is: "hasten the spoil, rush on the prey")  Now that seems a fitting name for many a hungry feline.  It has the added benefit of being a Bible name.  But alas it was not really clever for us to name it thus, because Corie ten Boom mentions her cat by that name in her famous book, "The Hiding Place".  The only remarkable thing I can remember about this cat is that it left some poop on the stairs which Barbara discovered as it came up between her bare toes.  Cats know who likes them and who doesn't.  They have this way of making a statement with a turd.  Our friends, Barry and Trisch Dorsch, had a cat who held a mutual contempt with  Barry.  One day after tossing the cat out of his desk chair, he found an exclamation poop behind that chair.  Now that's an eloquent statement!

Once we actually owned a pedigreed Persian cat.  All other experiences were with the alley cat variety that adopts it's owner, er... staff as mentioned above.  But our youngest, Jonathan, had made up his mind that he would like to have a Persian cat.  His mother bargained that if we made enough money in a coming garage sale, he could buy the advertised bargain Persian.  It worked very well, and he was a beautiful model of fluff, posing for the admiration of all.  We named him Cyrus, after the great Persian king of old (also a Bible name).  But other than laying around, looking beautiful, he did nothing.  The most boring cat we have ever owned.  He got some ailment, caused by his delicate digestive system, that cost us $180 at the vet.  Not long after this he seemed to have the same ailment, but this time he disappeared, presumably to die.  I'd rather think that some Persian admirer swiped him, but we will never know in this life, because they didn't have micro chips in those days.

I'm sure I mentioned our white cat in an early blog of mine.  The story of her chasing savvy squirrels into the trees of Wilmington, Delaware, is a favorite.  How they would jump from the end of a limb, leaving her clinging to this bobbing tree branch, was fun to repeat.

We had another white cat that moved with us from Modesto to Carson.  This one was named "Pernicious" (you know, as in "pernicious anemia").  In order for us to get her in the car to travel with a modicum of calm, we had to drug her with a powerful pill from the vet.  Wow, did she fight against the effects of that drug.  She could barely open her heavy eyelids (actually cats have a dual set, and we could see one set she was unable to open).  As I drove the VW bug down highway 99, she would occasionally emit this low feline noise, a miniature version of a lion's growl.  But she made it.  And she grew old with us.  By her 13th year the family was strongly lobbying me to put her to sleep.  When some sort of infection ate away one of her ears I finally relented to the ugly assignment.

Most of our cats were necessary to serve as pets for our famous dog, Talitha.  We discovered that during a period without a cat, our dog was moping around the house.  She was always a peppy, friendly canine, and so we noticed her poor mood.  But as soon as the next cat adopted our family, Talitha revived her interest in life.  Our eldest son, Phil, taught our dog to "get that cat."  She would catch the head of the cat in her mouth, while the acclimated cat would kick with her hind legs.  They frequently played like this and nobody was hurt.  That night we would see them curled up together to sleep.  It was only a problem when Phil took the dog for a walk and gave her the order with a neighbor cat.  Since the neighbor cat didn't know the game, she was usually treed.  So I say most of our cats were pets for Talitha.  She was not really a pet.  She was a member of the family and she grew up with our children.  We had her for more than 16 years.

Bill Cosby had it right when one of his routines, describing the difference between cats and dogs, pictured the dog as carrying master's slippers and saying, "What else do you want, Master?"  But the cat is sitting on the couch watching TV.  He says, "Hey, you, cat." 
"You're not talking to me."
"You haven't caught any mice lately."
"I'm full, man."
Yeah.  Cats have staff.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

More baseball lore

When I was a kid I could play baseball all day long, and on more than one occasion I did exactly that.  My first "organized" team was in a playground league at Ladera Park, near Dorsey High School.  We were a scruffy bunch of rubes who just liked the game, even though we stank at playing baseball.  As the season progressed, and we lost every game, some of my friends lost their loyalty to the team or to me or to the institution of baseball itself.  We were not unlike Charlie Brown's team.

The team evolved and new players asked to join.  Inevitably they were an improvement.  Eventually we came to the point that I was the last player from the original ragtag group.  But I didn't want to quit.  It was my team (i.e. it was my name that was registered with the playground organizers as the contact person for this team).  So, since all the new guys were better players, it turned out that no one wanted to play catcher.  Neither did I, but I wanted to play, so I became the catcher.  When Tim McCarver refers to the catcher's gear as "the tools of ignorance", I know with intimacy just what he is talking about.  It's uncomfortable to squat for the whole game.  When the batter just nips the speeding pitch, the ball changes direction just a tad, and that is enough for it to miss my glove and hit me.  When opposing runners are trying to score, and someone pegs the ball to me, it never comes into my glove.  It frequently hits the dirt just in front of the plate, raises a cloud of dust, and I have to try to snag the ball and make the play.  It all looks so simple on TV, but it's not.  I ate a lot of dust, and took a few hits from sliding runners, and if I didn't succeed in tagging him out, my team mates would get all over my case for not making the play.  That was my introduction to organized baseball.

The playground announced that there would be a baseball clinic for us to attend, and a local celebrity would be there.  It was Billy Schuster, who played shortstop for the Cubs, and then for the triple A Pacific Coast League "Los Angeles Angels".  He was known to be a clown, as many ball players seem to be.  I went to the clinic, and learned tips on throwing, catching and batting.  It was the basics that I needed to learn.

Billy Schuster told us the following story.  There was this guy we'll call "Joe" who played for a professional team.  This team was making a tour of small communities and playing against the local men and boys all across the country.  (They did that in the old days before the Major Leagues moved west.)  Well, as the story goes, the team visited a town so bush league that the ball park didn't even have fences. When the batter hit the ball hard enough it might roll for 600 feet or more while the batter rounded the bases.  The outfield melded into desert landscape with mesquite and tumbleweed bushes dotting the landscape.  Joe played center field, and didn't want to get stuck in that position.  Joe had an idea.  Early in the morning of game day he took a bag of baseballs out to the park, and carefully hid one behind each bush he thought might be useful.

Well, game time arrived, and Joe was ready to surprise the local yokels.  And it worked very well.  Some big cowboy would drive that ball between fielders and start running.  But Joe just reached behind a bush and tossed the planted ball to the infield, holding the runner to one or two bases.  This worked without a hitch for 6 innings.  But the local cowboys were hitting well, and Joe's pitcher was not one of the club's premium players.  Finally it happened.  Joe chased another line drive to left-center, and when he reached behind the bush he found that ball had already been used.  He tried the next bush with the same disappointment.  The runner was rounding second at full speed, and Joe had to do something to stop him.  The next bush was a real surprise to Joe because when he reached behind the bush, his hand grabbed a rabbit by the ears.  Here he was looking at this little rabbit in his hand while the runner was rounding third, heading for home.  Joe thought, "What the heck.  I've got to do something."  So he tossed that little bunny into the infield.  The shortstop relayed him to the catcher, and guess what!  The runner was out by a hare!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tubing the Stanislaus

I always wanted to be the young people's leader in all the churches I served.  Sometimes it clicked and sometimes it flopped.  But I do so enjoy being with jr. and sr. high young people.  Truth be told I enjoy all ages.

Well my story today is about youth group I enjoyed in Modesto sometime between '74 and '83.  I decided we ought to go tubing down the Stanislaus River.  There are no rapids to maneuver and it looked like a perfect day's outing for the group.  The problem was that I had no experience.  I didn't think it required experience to float down a river in old inner tubes.  What's so complicated about that?  Have you any idea just how meandering a river can be?  By my estimation we should be in the water by nine and at the bridge by mid-afternoon at the latest.  No one corrected me.  If someone expressed doubt I plunged ahead with a leader's confidence.  "Follow me!"  You know that a leader should exude enthusiasm to engender the confidence from his followers that he needs.

We passed one home that I recognized, and I was alarmed to think how near the beginning of our little outing this home stood.  Families began to express concern.  Little Ruthie got snagged on the branch of a submerged tree, and I rescued her.  It didn't appear to be a life threatening situation, but she was very grateful nevertheless.  As sunburns were brewing and parents were pacing it became apparent to all of us that something was amiss about my calculations.  There didn't seem to be any neutral stopping places along the way.  All we could see were the back yards of bordering estates.  Joel was bold enough to stop along the way and approach one of those homes, and knocked at the back door.  When no one answered, he walked in and borrowed their telephone.  Remember those were the days way before anyone had a cell phone.

Now at least thanks to Joel's bold home invasion and phone message all the folks at home were aware of the fact that we were safe and floating.  I think it was nearly nine o'clock in the evening before the last of us tube adventurers was fished out of the Stanislaus River.  We all ached for a couple days, and even laughed about the whole trip.  It was a memorial monument to the foolishness of their fearless leader, but they loved me enough to just laugh and not hold it against me.