Sunday, March 27, 2011

"A Bird in the Bush" a short story from my new Book , "A Piece of My Mind"

yay I call it done cept for some editing haha

A Bird in the Bush

       It was a wonderful birthday gift for sure. A brand new Daisy, single spring action, 1873 Winchester replica, a want of millions of young boy’s. It looked just like the gun Chuck Conners used in his TV show, The Rifleman. I knew that when I carried this out onto the barn yard all my friends and brothers would look on in envy.
    I could not figure out what I had done to deserve this most wonderful prize. My Mom always said, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth.” I think that was the first time I understood that old expression.  Now I could go out and shoot at bottles and cans and perfect my aim and become the finest shot in the mid west.
    Getting up from the table, my mother, wringing her hands, looked at me and smiled a strange sad smile. She turned and walked away into the kitchen.  My father looked at me with a great big smile on his face. This was something he had wanted for me too. I could see it in his eyes and in his smile as he shook my hand and said, “I guess congratulations are in order.”
    I think he felt it was like a right of passage for a young boy to a young man. Funny, I still felt like a boy. I was all of a fresh 10 years old. He gave me another wrapped gift and I opened it quickly, this birthday could not have gotten any better. My older brothers looked on at me. I knew they would argue later as to who would try my new  B-B gun first.
“Wow!” “Thanks Mom, thanks Dad,” It was a package of targets and four tubes of B-B’s for my new rifle. I was so overwhelmed. My father looked at me and said,
“Now you take this and practice and practice hard and then you can join your Brother Dale and help kill sparrows and rats down at the barn.”
I heard what he had said but I had not truly listened. Because I did not realize how much the word “kill” and this B-B gun would change my life that year. The summer months blew by.  I took my B-B gun everywhere, I shot up bottles and cans and I had become the envy of my friends. They all wanted to shoot my gun. It was a wonderful summer but before I knew it the harvest months were upon us.
    After dinner that fall evening I came in from taking the trash out to the burn barrel. That was one of my chores.  I wasn’t to burn it but just take it out to the barrel. I wasn’t old enough to manage a fire yet.  My father sitting at the table in the kitchen, drinking a cup of coffee, looked up at me and said, “You ready to show me how good of a shot you are?”  Excited, I said, “Ya, Let me go get my targets. I began to run off when he stopped me and said that’s not what he had meant. He told me that starting that weekend a few of the farms in the area would be paying for dead pests. The bounty was, fifteen cents a sparrow and ten cents a mouse and a whopping fifty cents a rat.  Mom was standing behind him drying one of the super pans and was putting it away in the cabinet. Throwing the dish towel over her shoulder she looked at my father with a squinted frown upon her face and then looked at me and winked and went about her evening. She patted my arm softly as she passed by me and went into the living room. I stared at her so intently trying to figure out what was going on.
“You know you can start helping out around here more and you could use the extra money for school.” he said. I snapped back to pay attention to him and what he was saying.
“Yes Sir” I replied. He chuckled a little and took his cigarette box out of his shirt pocket and started snapping it in his palm. He took one out of the pack and put it in his mouth and lit it with his lighter. Snapping the lighter lid shut, he tossed the shinny silver lighter at me.
    We were never to touch his lighter.  I used to put my nose on the edge of the table close to it when he would leave it lay there. I always loved the smell of the metal and the lighter fluid. It smelled like Dad.
    I fumbled a bit but caught it. Why was he giving it to me?  I looked at him with a big question on my face.  He said, “Go ahead use it to start the trash barrel on fire. You’re old enough to take on that chore.” “You know what to do don’t  ya?” he asked.
“Yes sir, I’ll bring it right back to you Dad.” I said.  I kind of just stood there dumb founded looking at the shiny metal lighter now in my hand. When I heard him say, “Go on, get it lit, it’s getting late and I don’t want you out there to long after dark.” Part of that chore was to stand there and watch the fire till it burned down so if there were any hot ash that flew out you could put it out. It is a very grown up and responsible chore.       
    Standing there that night watching the fire, I held the cool metal lighter to my lips. Enjoying the smell and thinking of the weekend ahead.  I looked long into the flame and wondered how the next couple of days were going to go for me. I had never actually killed anything before, unless you count ants, worms and a couple snakes. I hate snakes. Oh, and stink bugs and the occasional Grand Daddy long legs. The killing of a bird a mouse or a rat is different.  It couldn’t be that bad could it? Ya, I can do it, nothing to it right? If Dale can do it I can do it…I had mixed feelings about this and didn’t want to think about it anymore.
    The fire was burning down so I took the big stir pole and stirred the fire like I’d seen Jim and Dale do. The ashes settled a bit and a large puff of red ashes gushed upward out of the barrel. It felt like the imagined hot breath of a dragon. I jumped back and watched the red sparks fill the air and whirl around popping and a snapping. With a few more pops and snaps they were all gone. Then my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I could see out across the dried yellow weeds that now filled Mom's garden. There, just on the other side stood a large Mulberry tree. The coming fall had now bared its limbs like a thousand skeletal  fingers, dimly lit by the half moon sky. I could also see the smoke from the burnt trash as it hung eerily above the valley like a blue gray ghost. It seemed to wonder off  and taper down to nothing into the darkness of the wooded creek beyond. The smell of  the smoke filled the night air. the late Indian summer crickets were chirping and other bugs were rattling. I could hear a cow bellow from a distance. I felt my body shiver a bit from the nip of  fall as the warmth from the fire waned.   Out there in the blue cold starlit darkness, the night was alive.
    My father called out to me, bringing me back “It’s time to come in John, I need my lighter son.” I propped the stir pole up against the gate next to the trash barrel and ran back towards the porch I could see my father standing there silhouetted against the light from the kitchen that fell through the back porch door. My Dad was a tall rugged country man and I respected him very much. He was my very own renaissance man, my hero and my father rolled up into one. I wanted to grow up and be so like him. “Thanks son, he said, as I handed him his lighter.  “Now wash up it’s almost bed time.” He bent over towards me and I kissed his cheek and I said goodnight.  He exclaimed, “You smell like smoke boy!” Scruffily he messed with my hair. His work hewn hand felt so large upon my head. He then said, “Go on, it’ll be tomorrow before you know it.”
    I walked through the house and looked back through the dinning room window just as I saw his face appear in the dark. Glowing from the fire of his lighter, I could see his contrasted heavy brow and his dark eyes glint from the red yellow glow.  He lit his cigarette and with the quick metal click sound he faded back into the night.
    Still with the lingering smell of his lighter upon my upper lip, I thought to myself, I love him so much I never ever wanted to let him down. 
My father was one that rarely ever said I love you either. It was sort of like it never had to be said but you just knew that he did. I fell asleep that night comforted by this. Even still with a bit in trepidation.  I could feel the weather of my life was changing.

    Most of Saturday came and went uneventfully. Whew!,  I had worried half that day,  my Brother Dale had been gone all day so it was a good excuse to use, for not being able to hunt and kill  with my B-B gun.  Well, that's what a ten year old mind was deducing until dad got home. Man, was I wrong. I thought Dad was going to pop a cork. Not only was he upset with me but with Dale for being gone all day. I really think he expected a gunny sack full of dead bounty.
    Dad said, "You don't need Dale to kill Birds!" So I ran and got my gun and a tube of B-B's and lit out for the barn. That late evening I tried and tried to shoot a sparrow and or find a mouse or a rat to bring back home and save face. It was as if someone had told them there was a danger lurking out there and they all scattered and hid away. I was so afraid of coming back empty handed. It was getting late the evening sun had just gone down and the light of day was dimming. My Dad's Brother, Uncle Mike and his new wife had dropped by to visit that evening. The light from kitchen window revealed them all sitting at the table laughing and enjoying each others company.
I had finally caught site of a few sparrows. I was determined and in luck for they had not found the right place to roost for the evening. I came around the back porch as I saw the birds fly between the house and the smoke house. So I played the stealth hunter and went the long way around the smoke house. I creepd up the north side of it and settled myself against the corner. There next to the drive way stood a huge Lilac Bush The Sparrows had stopped there to roost for the evening. Back dropped by the dimming western light of the horizon I could make out a clear shot of one of the sparrows. I slowly brought my gun up and pointed it at the unsuspecting little bird. I took my time and aimed my gun. My trigger finger was now shacking. I could hear my inner voice in a loud whisper say, "Take the shot!...Take the shot!"  Suddenly I saw the Sparrow flutter and the other birds scattered into the darkness and I saw the unfortunate one tumble to the ground. My heart Pounded with excitement, "I got one!...I got One!!! My inner voice shouted out. I ran over and looked down upon the  bird. What I saw next changed my life.
    I saw the bird lying there it's beak moving as if trying to chirp or breath and I could see it's feet moving back and forth slowly as if to be running and the the bird fell lifeless. My mind swirled with a tornado mixture of emotions. My heart began to feel so very heavy. I had taken the life... of a bird while he slept. He didn't have a chance because of me. I began to hate what I had done. I picked him up so gently. his little head fell back and off the edge of my hand. I pulled at his wings a bit hoping he would some how revive and breath again. I began to cry. Big tears filled my eyes. Standing there in the light from the kitchen. I almost felt like a spot light had shown down upon me, because what I had done. I walked towards the window. I could see Mom, Dad, and my uncle sitting there laughing and talking about what ever adults talk about. I knocked on the window and held up the dead bird. My Mother turned and could see me crying and the dead bird. With a blank look on her face, She reached over and pulled down the blind. I felt totally lost just then and put the bird in my gunny sack. and wondered off to the front porch and sat there. I cried for a while and thought about what had just happened. This was a turning point in my young life. It was one of those moments you'd like to forget but actually shapes and molds you into the person you grow up to be.
    It was about an hour later and My uncle and his wife had left. The dust from the gravel road that had been stirred up from their car,  still lingered over the field just behind our mail box. A cool evening breeze touched my neck and I shivered a bit.  Then came the sound of the back porch screen door squeaking open. I just knew it was my Father. He  called out for me from the back porch. I just sat there with no answer to his call. I heard him call out to me one more time and I then heard his unmistakable walk coming up towards the front porch. He saw me there huddled up on the front steps.  He came over and sat down beside me. Sitting there quietly for a few moments he then spoke up and said. "The First time always Hurts son." Big tears refilled my eyes once more and there was an even longer Silence. Then he said,  "I Love you John no matter what. There is nothing you'll ever do that will ever make me not love you."
    He put his big arm around me and pulled me close to him and we just sat there for a little while longer. I know Mom must had told him that I cried and I felt like I had let him down. But then He said. "Fifteen cents won't buy much for school  so how about you clean out the horse shed and I'll pay you?"  In the awkward stillness that followed,  I could tell he understood me. Timidly, I said OK, warmed by his big arm and the words he'd spoke, he squeezed me again with a hug and we sat there in silence watching the evening stars fill the sky.

Music to bring back late summer 1966

Sunday, March 13, 2011

In the Hay loft

Boy, this old picture tugs upon my heart and stirs my memories like a warm bowl of soup. Can't you just smell that dried clover and wheat straw?  You could almost taste the thick humid morning air. My mind spins and reels from the memories of the tunnels and secret passage ways we created with in the bails of hay.  Oh, the adventures we had...even my first stolen kiss, confessions and secrets never to be told. My life explored was reborn in a hay loft just like this one. If the old barn wood could speak it would echo our thoughts, the laughter and the tears it captured years ago within its weathered grain. Just imagine the things the hayloft keeps. Not just bails of hay or straw but the young lives spent there or the swearing in of the childish alliance "cross your heart and hope to die", kind of stuff.  I have to laugh now because it was a promissory seldom broken till it proved necessary to save ones own behind.
    It is amazing to think of the life that this building witnessed and supported.  From the sparrows that nested every year in the high corners and trusses and the barn swallows that would gather under its eaves. Including the mice, that one could probably count into the thousands.  Oh and don't forget the ground hog family that had a burrow just under the north corner stone near the corn crib.
    I can remember lying upon the loose chat that covered the floor like a thick soft mattress. Nestled back looking up at the shafts of sun light that broke through the slats of the barn siding. Just like search lights of the night they illuminated the loft softly and sparkled from the dust with in them. The sparrows chirped and spoke quickly to their young. I almost believed I could understand there urging. "Fly, Fly, Fly" and the little ones would flutter from beam to beam.  I noticed one of the scraggly gaunt barn cats hiding in the shadows that had been waiting with hungry eyes.  Watching and waiting for one of the young birds to fail in its attempt...............I slowly reached behind myself and pulled out my inner tube gun from my coveralls and pulled one of the big black rubber bands tight over the trigger. The Cat had not taken his gaze off the sparrows. I noticed a few pigeons had landed on the edge wood of the bay door and were cooing and pertting, heads a bobbing, as if to say, “is it safe? Is it safe?”
    I took aim at the cat and let loose the black ammo. With a throng sound my large rubber band flew and then smacked the barn wall with a thud and the cat jumped like he'd been shot out of a cannon and vanished like the magicians they are. The pigeons popped into the air instantaneously with their wings making that rushing weeping noise with feathers flying.  Then out of the darkness from the peak of the roof came a huge screech owl, swooping down into the light, towards the bay door.  Wafting the warm mid morning barn air with his huge wings just over my head he flew. My heart pounded with excitement, I jumped up and watched him wing his way and disappear into the big walnut tree just across the pasture. That entire ruckus wrapped up in just a moment. Life’s sudden dramatic chain of events was only broken by my labored breath.  I stepped forward into the sun light that haloed the bay door and felt its warmth and wondered to myself about what other adventures this magic place would bring. With a shiver through my shoulders and down my back, my real life daydream was broken and came to an end.  I stood there looking at my spent gun and where the owl had flown... wow that was fun. I looked back up into the sunbeams and they sparkled even more fervently from the dust just stirred.
    A familiar ring filled my ears, I heard my Mother banging on the wash pail that hung next to the back porch screen door, 1965 technology at it's finest.  In those days we always kept one ear bent towards home.  Sometimes I would use my imagination and become the famed Marlin Perkins, the MC of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. I can hear him now...
"Lookout Jim, that jungle jaguar does not look happy."
"While we continue searching for the ever elusive flightless, three legged, Red throat Congo bird, you can hear the drums of Borneo calling the tribesmen together."
Gosh it was fun to be a kid...
Back to my Mother, What an amazing woman, she had to do this almost daily because right after breakfast we would all scatter like Dandelion seeds to the wind.
"Jim... Dale Lee... John... Jerry Joe... Cathy!  Donita !!!"
" it's time for Lunch!" she'd call out.
You'd think with as many brothers and sisters, my mother would have just said,
" Hey, You all get your butts here now!"
My Mom was great though, she said, if she didn't call us all by name then she wouldn't know who to expect.
But if she called us individually and by our given name, trouble was a brewing.
"John! Charles! Blackford! She would snap the last syllable of each word and with a quip of authority. Her tongue could be like the crack of a bull whip, and our behinds suddenly grew a brain and could remember that very hot sting as our legs would begin to quiver. Because we all knew the business end of Mom's big wooden spoon all to well. Besides the fact after being re educated, by her first, she would always say, "wait till your Father gets home..."  Mom never liked the word punished.   That's another story in and of it self.

So, My how time can just fly, I had to sneak out of the barn because we weren't allowed in it while Dad was away... yes, I lived dangerously........I wonder what ever happened to Jim and that jaguar?

10 great Music hits to bring back the summer of 1965

this was my favorite song of the day in 1965


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Just something that came to mind today.

Just a memory...
I miss days like this…
    It was a late summer afternoon. I can remember walking down that gravel road back to my home. I had been fishing down at the old steel bridge that day. I had just stopped at the artesian well on Old man Evan East, property.  Ignoring the “No Trespassing Sign” and the fact that we all knew “old man East” would sometimes come busting out of his front door waving his shot gun, yelling, “You good for nothins” even firing a round or two just over our heads to scare us off his property. Knowingly with a bit of respect and an ounce of adolescent fear, I still drank my fill of the deep wells ice cold water. All the while, with one eye on my escape route and one on Mr. East’s house, just down the road.  I brushed the sweat from my forehead and then squeezed back through the falling down wooden gate there at the corner and made my way towards home. 
    The willows that lined the gentle bend of the creek that also followed the road, rustled in the warm Indiana afternoon breeze and their limbs brushed along the road side, like a broom dusting my path as I walked. I looked down as my feet shuffled through the gravel, my eyes always looking for that fossil or amazing stone to add to my collection.
    My life and my mind were simple then.
    I was a lucky boy living outside the city life. The country side is filled with so many different things to excite young senses. From the trees came the vibrating rhythmic beat of the invisible cicada’s song. It would rise and fall as it filled my ears. The flying grasshoppers chirped and rattled about in the tall grasses and wild Jasmine that also grew there. The smell of fresh cut hay laid slightly upon the early evening, as well the aroma of the corn fields that had been heated by the day.
     I remember as if it were yesterday. I kicked the rocks as I walked along, I can still taste the gravel dust.  I stopped and turned to look up and watch a red winged black bird as it cawed, while flying above the corn rows in the field next to me.  Then I turned back to continue upon my way. To my surprise, I looked straight up into the dark hazel eyes of this huge white tail deer. Looking into the wide frozen gaze of this massive animal scared me ... I froze and he froze. It was as if time stood still. I believe I could even feel his heart beat while I felt my heart rise into my throat, my chest tightened I couldn't breathe or even break the riveted stare. I can remember that feeling of rigid fright. Then I saw the deer’s nose twitch…he snorted and with a grunt he jumped an unbelievable distance across the road and over the small ditch and the broken wire fence next to the corn field. He disappeared into the thousand corn leaves. Like an actor at the end of a play, he took a final bow and in a wisp, as if the curtain briefly parted, he disappeared behind it. The road fell silent as if he’d never been there. Still in a bit of a daze, I shook my head, I realized I was sitting in the middle of the road … I grabbed my cane pole and my spilled coffee can of worms. Jumping up I ran the rest of the way home. Excited to share a new a tale, one of many that filled my evenings and those funny shared stories at the super table. Including a special place in my thoughts forever.

It's just one of those moments one never forgets.

hear are 10 of the top hits of the summer of 1964...Enjoy


Saturday, March 5, 2011

I'm stuck in Dragon mode hahaha "A dragon Bus Stop"

I drew these today while waiting for my wife at a class she had today.
These were a bunch of fun to do I actually caught the characters in my mind as I watched real people sitting on the bus bench outside the school.

Available in Small Print and Poster sizes

If you are interested in any of these paintings (or any other particular piece of my art)please contact me for further information. My e-mail address is

The Serpent King

The Serpent King

Comfy Magic

Comfy Magic

a man named Leonardo

a man named Leonardo

Moon Mist

Moon Mist
A painting for my Father also available in print poster or 8.5x 11

yellow house

yellow house

A stroll to the Bistro

A stroll to the Bistro

Vinice Water Way

Vinice Water Way

In the Shallows

In the Shallows

Low Tide

Low Tide