No one seemed to know how Dirty Dale got his name, and Dale wasn’t telling.
Gladys, who came in off the rigs to put her cooking talents to work in the cafe she purchased after years in the oil patch, had plenty of opportunity to watch the locals in action and she watched Dale a lot. She insisted his nickname came from his good-natured willingness to pursue every female in sight. It was a reasonable assumption. No matter how oblivious, uninterested or irritated the woman might be, Dale’s confidence was absolute as he slid into the seat next to her or leaned against her car. “Hey, darlin’,” he’d say. “I’m here to improve your life.” Lord knows he tried. (more…)
As parents will to children and teachers to students, most craftsmen seem to enjoy passing on accumulated wisdom in the form of pithy sayings. Some are humorous, like my carpenter friend’s reversal of common-sense advice that always leads to giggles. “Measure once, cut twice”, he intones with a straight face before we both laugh, knowing how many disasters from the past still lie scattered along that ill-advised path. Other snippets of practical wisdom are more serious and reverberate with truth. No less a wall-tender than the poet Robert Frost knew the distinction between a job and a career. He described it as the difference between working forty hours a week and sixty, a reality some discover too late, and much to their chagrin. (more…)
In the depths of interminable winter, there was no sound. No words schussed across the silence, no song delighted the heart. No voice, mysterious and enthralling, beckoned willing and wary alike into the heart of the fields. Winter crackled with stubble and ice, purified herself with snow, hid away her fields. Dark and loamy, smelling of glaciers and frost, the earth remained empty as a night without stars until the season turned and the earth warmed, and voices returned to the land.
“Here? Is this where it goes?” “Yes, child. That’s where it goes, the seed that will become the corn. Remember the rhyme?”
“In rows long and lovely, in rows long and straight,
in rows that reach out from the house to the gate…”
He wasn’t someone who flattered you with his answer, someone you felt reached out to pull down a word here and a word there like plucking cherries, throwing them into the bucket of your mind just to make you happy. His answers seemed good and wise and true, born of knowledge older than the corn. (more…)
In her latter years, my mother often seemed to be engaged in an on-going conversation with herself. Her streams of thought flowed like a hidden river, subterranean and unnoticed until a few words bubbled to the surface, spilling over and inviting response.
We were folding freshly laundered towels one afternoon when she surprised me by breaking the companionable silence to announce, “We had Facebook when I was in school.” “What?” I said. “Facebook? There wasn’t any Facebook when you were in school.” “Of course there was,” she said. “We just had another name for it.”
Bemused, I asked if she meant her high school annual, and heard the slight intake of breath that always signaled impatience. “No, we didn’t have those. I just can’t think of the word right now. I’ll think of it.” (more…)