June 3, 2007

A Day at the Zoo

We went to the animal fair...

...the birds...

...and the beasts were there.

Isa named this one Dumbo.

Hullo, Zeeba neighba!

Dumbo walking away.

Amazement was everywhere to be found this day!

Isa's favorite pose.

Isa rides a rhino!

Watta face!

Sitting on top of the world!

There's something down there, grandpa!

Could that be a Democrat bird? It had it's head in the sand!

Love my cat!

Isa's MM impression from "The Seven Year Itch!"

And again the Marilyn bit!

You talkin' to me?

That's the one I saw!

Down we go!

May 25, 2007

Memorial Day Post

Each quarter I receive a magazine entitled Thunder Run. It is the official organ of my Regiment from Vietnam – 11th Armored Cavalry (Blackhorse). I always read this rag cover to cover. Some names I recognize...most I don’t. That doesn’t matter. Many were once my closest friends.

In the current issue is a short article by the Regimental Historian, Rex Harold. The article concerns the upcoming regimental reunion to be held in Louisville, Kentucky. In it, Harold wonders why so many troopers return each year (I haven’t been to a reunion since Joshua and I went to San Antonio eons ago. I’d love to go to Louisville in September, but I probably won’t.)

Anyway, the writer answers his own question, and I want to share it here with my multitudes of regular readers:

I now know why men who have been to war yearn to reunite. Not to tell stories or look at old pictures. Not to laugh or weep. Comrades gather because they long to be with the men who once acted at their best; men who suffered and sacrificed together, who were stripped of their humanity. I did not pick these men. They were delivered by fate and the military. But I know them in a way I know no other men.

I have never given anyone such trust. They were willing to guard something more precious than my life. They would have carried my reputation, the memory of me. It was part of the bargain we all made, the reason we were so willing to die for one another. As long as I have memory, I will think of them all, every day. I am sure that when I leave this world, my last thought will be of my family and my comrades...Such good men.

I think that is something I have wanted to say for 37 years.

One more thing: each issue has a message from the current Colonel Commanding the Regiment. In this report, the Colonel was telling how the current Regiment, stationed in Fort Irwin, California, had received a gift. I quote:

Jack Daniels Distillery hosted an event on Fort Irwin to unveil 6 customized barrels of their famous Tennessee Whiskey that they donated to the Regiment. Three barrels will be auctioned off later this summer to raise money for the Blackhorse Heroes’ Scholarship...

Now that sounds like the Regiment I remember. The first three barrels had to be taste-tested for safety.

May 20, 2007

My Family - by Bennie Harris

I've been spending lots of time with my brother and sister and their families recently. Well, relatively speaking, lot's of time. We've been getting together more than once a month lately, and for us, that's lots of time together.

My immediate family has never been a group who hang out together much. That doesn't mean we're not close. I've always looked up to my brothers as examples of what real men are and I've always looked to my sisters for support and love. None of the five ever let me down.

The sisters have always been around, but the brothers were always off in some mystical world called "the Air Force." Except for a brief experience guarding "the Air Force" at Bien Hoa, Vietnam, I haven't trod in that world much. I really wasn't that impressed with any of the boys in blue. They lived in brick barracks, wore clean clothes, and ate hot chow in a mess hall while I lived on the ground, washed my clothes whenever we forded a stream, and ate C-rations warmed with CompB explosive while the rain ran down the back of my pants. They went to bed with clean sheets at night while me and my buddies crawled around in the woods keeping gooks off the air planes. Sometimes I'd see one or two "airmen" walking dogs on the flight line at night, but there was always a tall fence between them and me. They looked like a bunch of pussies to me. But I digress (and poke a little fun).

My brother Seth and I used to share a bed when we were growing up. At our house there were lots more people than beds. Seth joined the Air Force right out of high school. To get his own bed, I guess. My brother Bill left for the Air Force when I was about 6. To get away. I know I have just a few real strong memories of him. Like the time he told mom he smoked. Now wonder why that sticks in my mind? Or the time he came home for Christmas and brought me an electric train. Or the punch boards he won while working at the Starlight Grill. The little cedar boxes full of delicious chocolate candies. He'd always give them to mom and she would always share them with me.

Later, when I was serving in Germany (in the Cavalry – the folks who do the real fighting!), Bill was TDY in Turkey. Somehow, he made it to Germany and we spent a couple of days together. Those were great times. He introduced me to cordon bleu…and cognac!

I never get with Seth or Rita that we don't talk about Bill. He may have taken up roots in California, but he lives right here with us under these Blue Ridge Mountains.

My brother Seth moved back to our hometown about a year and a half ago. Now he only lives about 12 miles from me. My sister Rita has always lived in Elkin, so she's about 12 miles away also. Sometimes we get together for dinner. Lots of those times, Seth cooks. The Air Force made a pretty good cook out of him.

Our spouses all get along, too. Of course, Risë is really easy to get along with. Most of the time. And Bente, Seth's wife, is a doll. She is so friendly and one of the finest southern Danish belles I know. And cook...wow, I don't know what she cooked in Denmark, but she can lay out a Southern spread with the best of them. And, then there is Robert, Rita's husband. He's a peach. And like a peach he's mellowed over the years. Robert has been in our family about as long as I have, so I never think of him as an in-law, just a brother.

Why this stroll down such a mushy memory lane? I don't know. I just wanted to. And like my three brothers, I do pretty much whatever I want. (If it's o.k. with Risë.)

May 9, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Sunday is Mother’s Day.

My mom, the model used for all fantastic mothers, passed on in 1976, but I’ll still think of her. She did without a lot so I could have everything. I look forward to someday (in due time) being with her again.

But it isn’t my mother I want to write about.

It’s Joshua’s. And Justin’s. And Quentin’s.

Risë Jan Crissman was a young high school girl serving beer and pizza in a neighborhood dive when I met her in 1974. When she came out of the kitchen carrying a pizza headed for the table next to me, I thought, “Cute...young, but cute.”

She was, too. Young...but cute. Long red hair. Jeans. Hippy-looking.

But I was a big tough over-the-road truck driver. I was hard-drinking and easily antagonized. I was the here-today-gone-tomorrow type. I sure didn’t have time to spend with a kid.

I teased her. “What time do you get off?”

“Eleven,” she answered.

“Past my bedtime,” I joked, and walked out.

That was our first meeting.

Later, she called me up and begged me for a date. Offered me her car and $10. I said o.k.

Not true.

A mutual friend who was the assistant manager at the pizza place got us together. I owe him. Big time.

But this isn’t about dating, it’s about mothering.

Risë turned out to be the best at it. She had three wonderful sons and she loved them dearly. She was always there for them. With cookies, fudge, and a swift slap on the butt when needed. She was a righteous mother in Zion who loved the Lord and taught her sons to love the Lord. Sometimes they wandered, but she always reined them in. She went to ball games, school concerts, and parent-teacher conferences. I went to airports, out-of-town hotels, and meetings.

She sang Primary songs with them and taught them to wash dishes and do the laundry.

She was there when they came home from school each day.

I started college when the boys were small, so in addition to my job I had years and years of school. She was there for me and them.

I could go on, but that “righteous mother in Zion” pretty well says it all.

Risë is a terrific mom.

And the best friend I ever had.

Thanks, babe. I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

May 3, 2007

This, That and 'Tother

The history class went well. I had a lot of fun finding out just how little those kids really knew. They possessed a very superficial knowledge of history. Actually, they possessed a very superficial knowledge of anything. I’d probably need all semester to really explain how the Franco-Prussian War was related to World War II. As we talked, I saw an intellect formed by the entertainment media. It was sort of disappointing.

But, of course, I’m just an old dude and they are the hope for tomorrow. Times like this really reveal God's wisdom in making His children mortal. I’d hate to live so long that such puff-pieces are the majority!

Another topic: I recently came across a web page dedicated to Lewis Grizzard. That’s GrizZARD, not GRIZzard. I was ecstatic. (Remember when he played the Sugarbaker girls' half-brother on Designing Women? He cracked me up!)

Grizzard was my favorite columnist back in the 70s. As you all know, he wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but was syndicated around the country. His books include Chili Dawgs Always Bark at Night; I Haven’t Understood Anything Since 1962...; Don’t Bend Over In the Garden Granny, You Know Them Taters Got Eyes; If I Ever Get Back to Georgia, I’m Gonna Nail My Feet to the Ground; and that wonderful volume with the best title ever, Shoot Low, Boys, They’re Ridin’ Shetland Ponies.

A long time ago I read Lewis’ advice on what to do if you were in Atlanta and nuclear war broke out. Recently, I saw that statement again. Let me share it here:

"If you live on the South side of Atlanta, get on I-75 and go south. If you live of the North side of Atlanta get on I-75 and go north. If you are a Yankee get on 285."

To quote the title of one of his columns which told of the passing of his precious Lab, Catfish, let me just say this about Lewis:

“He up and died and broke my heart.”