Monday, June 28, 2010

Short Story: "The Long and Short of It"

My friend, John Roof, has again graced me with one of his short stories -- another true one, too, right out of his bank of memories. May I once again present John Roof:

John and Betsy Roof
The Long and Short of It
A True Story
by John A. Roof

It was about 1:00 p.m. when Betsy, (my wife, master and boss), informed me that we had an appointment that evening to go look at some furniture someone wanted us to restore for them.

My heart fell to the floor, for it meant I would not be able to go fishing that evening.

On this day of days, the sun was in its perfect position and the moon was a new moon. The day was without doubt one of the best days of the year to go fishing - -that is, if you get to go fishing.

I returned to my workshop to finish working on a table that I had started that morning, feeling forlorn and brokenhearted. As the afternoon progressed, I reached a point on the table where I knew I was going to finish early. I made my plan as if I was going to assault an enemy-held fortress.

At 3:45, I approached my wife, making sure I looked worn out, hot and lost. I made sure I groveled before her and begged, “Please let me go fishing. I promise I'll be back in time to get cleaned up for the appointment.”

Betsy knew I loved to fish and these big Sad Brown Eyes of mine wore her down. She gave her blessing and I was off. I had made a decision to go to Amy’s landing on the San Marcos River.

When I arrived at the river, the wind was blowing out of the northwest. I further decided I would make a few casts in Lowman’s Tank on my way home. The river was a deep emerald green and so clear that you could see if a nickel was heads or tails in three feet of water.

I reached in to the back of the truck, grabbed my rod, checked my bait, put on my wading shoes, walked to the river's edge and removed all my clothes. I fish in the raw, butt naked. I believe this gives you an advantage. You’re showing the fish everything you have.

I looked up river and down river, making sure I was alone so no one would find out my secret -- how I catch so many fish - - the fact that I have two worms is better than one.

After ten minutes of the most perfect peace, I heard a noise approaching from downriver. It was two girls in a canoe counting strokes. They must be practicing for the upcoming canoe race, I thought. (Thank you, ladies, for counting so loud).

This gave me time to retrieve my shorts and not allow them to see my "shortcomings". They turned the canoe around as they reached the bend in the river and then headed back downstream. I was afraid they might return, so I moved to the other side of the log jam so I could see them if they reapproached.

Once I was on the other side of the log jam, I again removed my shorts and made a cast downstream. Just my luck, it went into the darn bait-eating tree. As I was working to remove the bait from the tree, I heard a faint noise approaching from upstream.

This time, it was a man in a small boat with an outboard motor. I made a fast decision. I ran to my shorts, leaving my fishing rod swinging from the tree, and zipped up just in time to get my hand in the air to wave. I was lucky not to get caught doing 'the naked fisherman bait caught in the tree' dance.

At this point, I took a swig of Gatorade and decide there was just too much traffic on the river today, so I had better put on my Speedos. This would allow me to expose as much skin as possible without showing the rest how the river worshipped my fishing secret.

The time was slipping by way too fast, so I gathered my equipment to head towards home. Then at the last minute, I decided I had just enough time to make a few casts at Pa’s Point at Lowman’s Tank.

I again removed all my clothes to get as much sun on my bare buns as I could, walked out onto the point and made a few casts. I was hoping that a big lunker was there and lying in wait, but there was to be no such luck this day.

I gave up and returned to the truck, afraid I would be late and get in trouble with my wife -- but the desire was too strong! I made one last cast. I swung the rod behind me and made the strongest cast I could. The sound I heard was not new. I had heard this sound way too many times and this one was the mother of backlashes! There I was, naked with a bad backlash, and hoping no one would come down the road.

At last, the reel was cleared and I began to reel it in. Oh God, now I’m hung up on the underbrush! I gave a tug and felt the live give. Hmmm, it must have been a small branch -- and then it hit. It was if someone had locked the reel!

“There she blows! ” This fish was trying to fly! Go, baby, GO! The fight was on between the lunker of the deep vs. the naked fisherman, who will win! Then I thought just for a split second, "What if someone comes along and sees me? Well, the heck with them! Let them catch their own lunker!"

After the fight of the century, the fish was in my hands. Wow! It was a big twenty inches and at least four pounds! Nice fish! I smiled as I approached the shore of the Tank to release him back to his kingdom. As I put him in the shallow water, he made a small circle and I swear, he smiled at me and mouthed these words: “Small rod.” and then he was gone.

I laughed all the way home, and I haven’t stopped laughing yet. It was a good day -- I went fishing.

About the Author

John Roof graduated from Texas Tech in December, 1973, with a BFA in studio painting.

Bill the Calf and the Ride Down the Road

The Walk: Short Stories of a Teenage Boy in the 60's

Visit John's Website

John and his wife, Betsy, live in their home amid  the wildflowers and fruit trees in Staples, Texas, where they are accomplished artists and photographers.  They also love to build and restore antique furniture together.

He's one of the nicest and most regular guys you'll ever want to meet.

John is fond of saying, he has found his garden ...

"A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write." ~CJ Heck

Friday, June 25, 2010

Age is Subjective

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

My birthday is coming up again in a few weeks. I was thinking this morning with my coffee how funny this whole aging thing is.

Every year you get a little bit older and then a little bit older, until one day, you just wake up suddenly at MY age. WOW. It all happens so damned slowly, that you don't ever feel any older at all. It just sneaks up on you -- and yet the mind, (which is supposed to be the smartest part of us), takes way, way longer to catch up. I'll let you younger ones in on a little secret. Most of us "sixty-somethings" still feel the same in our minds as we did when we were say, eighteen -- it's when you pass a mirror and take a peek, well, that's when Mother Truth stares back at you.

It makes me think of what Jimmy Buffett so wisely said in one of his songs, "... wrinkles only go where the smiles have been ..." Hmmm, I guess I must have been a pretty happy lady.

Here's my new outlook on getting older ...

The Adonis
by CJ Heck

Young god,
head held high,
proud mane blowing
in the city's dirty breeze,
clothes just enough wrinkled
to make a woman believe
you just climbed out of a quickie
or stepped out of page 42
in this month's GQ.
Do you mind
that I turn and look
as you walk by?
No, of course not.
You don't see me as a threat.
You don't even see me
at all.
But just give me
another ten years ...
by then,
I'll be old enough
to reach over
give your butt a squeeze
and say,
mmm ... nice ass!

Mmm, Mmm, Mmm ... life is beautiful.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Memoir: White Woman's Rock

White Woman's Rock, Coshocton County OH

by John A. Roof

It was the summer of 1961, in mid July.

The excitement of summer vacation had worn off and the celebration of fireworks for July 4th at the Coshocton fairgrounds had come and gone.

All there was left to look forward to was the coming of August, the dreaded Hay Fever Season, and then the start of school.

Summers back in the 50’s and early 60’s were the greatest time to be a young boy. There seemed to be adventures everywhere you looked. You could leave the house in the morning and, as long as you were home for dinner, all life was grand. But fail to show up with hands washed for dinner and the dreaded mother of "You're grounded!" would come alive.

This July day was going to be super because my best friend, John Unger, from Chestnut School, was going to spend the day with me. He showed up and brought a friend of his along, Rex. I had a couple of my friends from Sycamore School there with me, John Zing, and Barry Ackerman. This was going to be a great day.

At first, we hung around the house trying to decide on what great adventure, or trouble, we could do or get into.

"Lets go to the bulk stations and throw rocks in to the swamp."

"No. How about going to the river?"

"No. Mom will find out and we will get in trouble."

Then out of the clear blue sky, someone suggested we hike to White Woman’s Rock and have a picnic and fool around the rock climbing on it. It was not that far. White Woman’s Rock was where a white woman jumped to her death into the river with her baby, instead of allowing the Indians to capture and make them captives (or worse) of the Delaware Indian Nation. This was back in the 1770’s.

"Yeah!" We all yelled. What a great adventure!"

We all went running home to make sandwiches and grab our WW II army surplus canteens and backpacks. Every boy back then would spend hours in the army surplus store looking at and drooling over all the items left over from WW II. I remember I had saved my allowance for a whole month so I could buy an ammo belt and canteen. My Father had recently taken me to join the boy scouts so, of course, I thought of myself as the next Sir Edmund Hillary or some other great explorer. We were off, but first I told my Mother where we were going and she reminded me to be home in time for dinner.

We walked over the bridge that crossed the Tuscarawas River, and then up the road to the highway crossing that led to Lake Park. We talked all the way. John and I were the oldest. Someone always seemed to come up with a story that was supposed to make you scared, and afraid to leave your house, but it never worked.

John and I shared the dreaded Hay Fever and that's all we talked about. There were only a few more weeks before we would suffer from Hay Fever. If ever there was something bad that a young boy back then did not want, it was Hay Fever. You would sneeze forever, your eyes would swell and water and itch, and you always had to have five or six handkerchiefs with you -- and sleep was impossible. John and I were not looking forward to this yearly war, because it cut your summer vacation off by a month.

As we walked past Lake Park, we could see the people and kids swimming. The road was narrow there by the lake, so we had to be careful not to get in the road. About a half mile past the lake, we could turn off the main road. Then we would turn off at Mills Creek and head for Bouquet’s Camp. There, we could refill our canteens and rest for a while before the final few miles to White Woman’s Rock.

Coshocton County had natural water springs all over, and Bouquet’s Camp was clearly indicated with both a marker and a basin to water horses, from the old days when there were horse and buggies. Sadly, these days, most people just drive past ignoring this historical site.

Now the final assault. Two more miles and we would be there. When we arrived, we ran down the steps, dropped our packs and canteens, and raced to the top of the rock -- another ritual that all boys back then had to do -- be the first to the top of anything! We could see the Walhonding River.

I've wondered for years how the woman could have jumped that far holding her baby. Some years later, it was explained to me that the river had changed its course, due to all the floods. But I always thought, back then, that this woman was a great jumper and she could have gone to the Olympics.

We fooled around at the rock, read the sign and all the names carved into the rocks and trees, then settled down and ate our sandwiches. After a brief rest, we climbed down the back of the rock and headed to the river. Now we all knew that if our mothers knew we went to the river, there would be a week's grounding, but we were here now, and we were in charge.

There was a small island that the river had made and it was easily reached by wading across a very shallow, narrow stretch of water. Our mothers would know if we did this, because our shoes would be wet. It was decided that we would take our shoes and socks off, roll up our blue jeans, and wade across to explore the island. Maybe we would find a treasure or something of value.

We all reached the other side, sat down, and put on our shoes and socks. Then we stood and began to look for a way through the undergrowth. Suddenly, there was a loud scream from one of us. "Anaconda! Run!" We turned and looked and there was the biggest water snake we had ever seen! It must have been five, six or twenty feet long! (Well, maybe eighteen inches).

Anyway, we all ran back across the shallow stretch of water to the safety of the rock. Once we reached the other side, caught our breath, and felt sure we had put a good distance between us and that Anaconda, we looked down at our wet shoes. There was going to be hell to pay for that.

We climbed to the top of the rock, grabbed our packs, and began the long walk home. We had spent much more time at White Woman’s Rock than we had planned. Someone played a dirty trick on us and made this day way too short. Now we had gone to the river and that was a 'no-no'. We were going to be later getting home.

We headed for Bouquet’s Camp. We were all hot, tired, dirty, hungry, and our shoes were wet. We all looked at the sky and knew we were in deep trouble. We reached Bouquet’s Camp, filled our canteens, and headed down the road. Just then, I saw a car coming down the road towards us. We were saved -- it was my dad. Mom had sent him looking for us. He stopped and smiled and asked, "You boys need a ride?"

Dad took all of my friends to their houses, waved to their parents and smiled. When we reached home, I thought for sure I was in deep trouble, but nothing was said. My meal was in the oven staying warm. My Mother placed it on the table and never said a word. It was some years later that I understood what had actually happened that day.

John and I suffered though that summer of Hay Fever and we began the seventh grade that fall. I remember all the times we had back then. Those were great adventures and my friends were the best. Now I cherish those memories of times long ago.

About the Author

John and Betsy Roof
John Roof graduated from Texas Tech in December, 1973, with a BFA in studio painting.

Bill the Calf and the Ride Down the Road

The Walk: Short Stories of a Teenage Boy in the 60's

Visit John's Website

John and his wife, Betsy, live in their home amid  the wildflowers and fruit trees in Staples, Texas, where they are accomplished artists and photographers.  They also love to build and restore antique furniture together.

He's one of the nicest and most regular guys you'll ever want to meet.

John is fond of saying, he has found his garden ...

"Writers soon learn that easy to read is hard to write." ~CJ Heck

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Poem: Love at First Sight

Handsome Man

"Like butterflies in Spring
Poetry awakens the Spirit,
stirs the imagination and explores
the possibilities with each stroke
of its rhythmic wings."
~Jamie Lynn Morris

Love at First Sight

by CJ Heck

I've never believed
in love at first sight.
I've never had it happen,
so it never occurred to me
to give it space in my mind.
I did see someone once
across a crowded room.
He was handsome
in a rugged sort of way,
yet acutely aristocratic,
with bedroom eyes
to die for
and just a hint of vulnerability
to make him real.
I don't care what they say,
clothes do make a man.
It was easy to imagine
what I might find
beneath his dapper wrapper.
I still don't believe
in love at first sight,
but I do believe in lust.
It's a private thing.
No one gets hurt
and who the hell's to know?

[From the Book, "Anatomy of a Poet", by C.J. Heck]

"A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write." ~CJ Heck

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Soapbox Derby

Our three-story duplex commands a spectacular view of town from where it's been for years on top of a steep hill here on West Long Avenue, known as "Pollock Hill" by the townies. As a matter of fact, from our upstairs bathroom window, you can see the rainbow of soapbox derby cars parked between the freshly painted lines up the street on the curved curb.

I remember excitedly watching the soapbox derby as a child growing up in Coshocton, Ohio. I was such a tomboy during those younger years. I was always more comfortable up in a tree building a tree house, or with a hammer and nails helping daddy with one of his projects, than playing dolls with my sisters and friends. I was usually barefoot with bandaids covering my stubbed toes and skinned knees, and dirty from digging for pirate treasure. No, I was never a girly-girl.

I would have given my left leg to have been allowed by the derby folks to build a soapbox car and then race it. In those days, only boys were allowed in the derby. But I remember being there watching it and imagining ... and sitting there in the grass, I could almost feel the wind against my cheek as I headed downhill at full-speed towards the black and white painted finish line.

Last year was the first year I got to watch a soapbox derby as an adult. It was my first year here in DuBois in this house. Imagine my excitement when on derby race day, I awoke to the clamor of voices and cheering and trucks as they hauled the race cars back up to the top of the hill for their second heat. When I looked out my bathroom window, I was astonished.

As I dressed to go outside and watch, I was suddenly that little tomboy again, filled with the sweet joy, the awe and wonder of the soapbox derby. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the number of girls wearing derby numbers on their shirts. At last! How exciting it was for me to cheer as they did get to feel the wind on their cheeks as they raced downhill full-speed toward the finish line ...

Oops, I've gotta go! This year, the derby is today and it's nearly time. I have to go get dressed. Then, I'll just walk out my front door ... 'n be a kid again.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

A Good Morning


"Our grandchildren accept us for ourselves, without rebuke or effort to change us, as no one in our entire lives has ever done, not our parents, siblings, spouses, friends -- and hardly ever our own grown children."  ~Ruth Goode

I was just thinking ... what could possibly be better than Christmas, a warm spring day, the gentle sound of rain, the first cup of coffee in the morning, walking barefoot on a beach and holding hands, the blue-blue-blue of the Caribbean, the first snow of winter, the sweet smell of freesia ...

It could only be the warm and fuzzy feelings I enjoy when I'm with my children and grandchildren.

Robert and I have a few things to get done yet this morning and then we're off to Connecticut. We've been invited to my three-year old grandson, Jack's, "birf-day pah-tee".

So, I'm going to be a little scarce, until we return on Sunday evening, but I'm sure you'll understand.

After all, what could possibly be better ...

"Gram-mee, you're not old. You're ... you're special, like a cupcake with frostin' onna top ..."

Ya gotta love 'em.


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Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Innocent Voyeur

An Innocent Voyeur
Being an author is having angels whisper in your ear - and devils, too. ~Graycie Harmon

Not all writing is easy to understand, especially when it comes to poetry.

A poem and it's meaning is subjective, and depends on the whim and mood of its creator.

We are taught to show, rather than tell, when we write and to make the poem have both voice and rhythm, even when it doesn't rhyme.

We're taught to invite the reader the freedom to bring their thoughts and feelings to the poem and make of it whatever they may.

I love writing poetry -- there's a burning need to write. My thoughts and words are uncomfortable where they are. They seek the validation of flowing through my fingers.

The following poem was born from my overactive imagination. I was on a walk one evening and I passed an old Victorian home.  As I was standing there admiring its beautiful lines, I noticed a window on the third floor. The slats in the blinds were either broken, or just bent and gaping from age.

The house next door had a window straight across from it, but below on the second floor. It was easy to see how a peeping tom, even an innocent one, would have an unobstructed view into the the window below.

The Innocent Voyeur
by CJ Heck

An old man glances
through a window
to one in the building below.

Through slats awry
in seduction's haste,
candlelight strobes on
sweat-glistened bodies.

He watches, transfixed,
lewd images through the blinds,
eyes too frozen to obey.

(Turn away! Go to bed!)

Two bodies move, unaware
of the innocent intrusion.
He watches, aroused,
passion rising in two rooms now.

A goddess bent over a sofa,
Adonis behind
in the flickering light.
A conqueror
and a conquest.

Memories of his own youth
rekindle and burn
and the old man cries.

Bittersweet memories
haunt through the blinds
and he cries.

[From the book, "Anatomy of a Poet", by CJ Heck]

"A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write." ~CJ Heck

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Breakfast in Bed:

Ahh, kids, ya gotta love 'em ... and I do. I so love their innocence and their unbridled joy in just being alive.

One of my grandsons, Jack, turns three this coming weekend. He's so adorable -- about as smart as they come -- and he's a good boy, too. Robert and I are driving to Connecticut for the weekend. We're looking forward to having some warm and fuzzy time with my daughter, her husband, and Jack and Tyler, (his little brother). Of course, we're also going to attend Jack's birf-day pah-tee on Saturday.

To quote Jack: "Gram-mee, you comin' to my birfday pahtee? I'm gonna be free yizz ode!" (He was so excited. How could I ever say no?)

I remember a birthday, a long time ago, when my girls were about five, seven and nine. It was the very first time they brought me breakfast in bed. They were so proud of themselves and, like Jack with his birf-day exuberance, when they brought their surprise in to wake me, there was pure joy on their faces as they stood there smiling and giggling in anticipation.

Breakfast in Bed
(from the book "Barking Spiders, Too")
by CJ Heck

Wake up, Mommy Mommy.
We’ve got a BIG surprise.
Me and Sissy made you breakfast.
Please, open up your eyes.

Here’s the paper from the porch,
just in case you want to read.
Please wake up and put your glasses on
so your eyes can see.

There’s cereal with milk on it
and toast with butter, too.
(Sissy scraped the black stuff off).
We made it all for YOU.

We didn’t make the coffee,
but, Mommy, that’s okay
‘cause me and Sissy found some
in the pot from yesterday.

Our eggs look kind of funny,
not like the ones you make.
Ours are way too slickery.
They keep sliding off the plate.

We’re sorry there’s no muffin,
but there weren’t any more.
Well ... the one that WAS left over
got smushed on the kitchen floor.

There used to be a donut,
it was right there on the plate.
Me and Sissy got real hungry,
but it’s the ONLY thing we ate.

When it comes to making breakfast,
there's a LOT of work to do,
but we made it just to show you
Mommy Mommy, we love you.

I was so proud of them. I didn't care that the breakfast wasn't perfect. It was perfect for me -- I felt their love and that's what really matters.

Have a great day! ~CJ

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