From the song “I’ve been everywhere” by the late great country recording artist Hank Snow:
I’ve been everywhere man
I’ve been everywhere man
Across the desert bare man
I’ve traveled I’ve had my share man I’ve been everywhere
Reno Chicago Fargo
Minnesota, Buffalo Winslow Oklahoma, Tulsa Wichita
Amarillo Paddilla Barranquilla
And on down to Tocopilla
I’ve been everywhere man
I’ve been everywhere.
Haven’t been everywhere, maybe not anywhere much by some folks estimation but admit to putting a few miles behind us over a span of years nigh onto so numerous hard for a country boy to count. Yep, been to Reno, (Got married there ‘way back in 1952) to Minnesota (where dwells my eldest child) to Oklahoma, Tulsa, Wichita, Amarillo and all points between but never to Paddilla, Barranquilla or Tocopilla, which in the order given are located in Bolivia, Colombia and Chile. As a matter of fact ol Hank had to do a bit of “traveling’” in order to flush out his lyrics in rhythm and rhyme.
Myself, well I’ve traveled a lot but never far from where first I hit the tracks back at that little Appalachin shanty on a sandstone ridge high above the headwaters of White Water Canyon District 68 Crawford County, Ark. To say it was a primitive beginning is an understatement of the fact. Looking back it’s a wonder we survived that Depression era chapter of our lives at all, much less become long-lived, somewhat healthy and generally prosperous at the latter end of it. Yet here we be, the cotton pickers the ridge-runners and squirrel hunters with our homes our automobiles and our pensions in hand, whether by fate, fortune or the hand of providence back to within a short drive from the railhead where we laid our first tracks.
On the day of my birth, I managed to bolt from my mothers breast, jump down, run to the window, and looking out upon this great beautiful world, cried in amazement, “Good Lord” what do we have here! Sure, the wrong time to be born: not all peaches and cream but the hard times of the Depression never once deterred.
Not only a bad time to be born, but also the wrong size. My Mother had to alter every store bought shirt because the sleeves were longer than my arms. Today I can’t get blue jeans with leg lengths under 30 inches. What gives here anyway? Either the manufacturer for whatever reason can’t cut ‘em short or the outlet won’t stock ‘em. Which means we end up fraying the leg cuffs ere the new wears off’n the dang pants.
‘Way back “then” it didn’t matter, just roll the extra cuff material always up to the knees if necessary, stylish and sharp back in the day. ‘Ain’t that way now son, and a man do have his pride. And hats: anytime there’s a hat we fancy down at the store (pick any store) it’s too large as is every hat like it in stock and every hat not like it, just the fit. The upside is that no one can accuse me of being “big headed.”
Look, there’s a whole passel of people out there same stature as me and they’re complaining too, so what gives?
At age 18, I lost my seamstress. At age 18, I was forced - against my will, to leave home by my father who purchased bus tickets for me and my 16-year-old brother, gave us a few bucks each and shipped us off to California. Actually, in the winter of ’51, pap leased a chicken farm up in Washington County, the fowl got sick, the market went south, Dad moved home and we (my brother and I) facing an idle unproductive summer went west.
We arrived at Susanville, Calif., on July 1952, and went to work for the goverment over in the high desert. Bro went home when school began and was soon in the Navy, I stayed and come Nov. 31, with gainful employment and money in my pocket traveled over to Reno, Nev., with my new California girlfriend and got married. Turns out that little deal forever determined the course of my labors and career; the bride was from a family of loggers and wasn’t long ere I got inducted.
I shall just say this about that: Loggers are a “different” breed; “greenhorns” aren’t given that much respect or patience and If you’re a shy and somewhat sheltered preachers son the experience can be a bit ‘disconcerting’. From the ‘mild’ to the wild. There’s a story here but these articles are space restricted.
Once worked with a fellow, every day at lunch sat and badmouthed fellow employees or people connected to the job but not present at the moment. Other members of the crew sat, listened and knew that when they were out of sight he talked about them too. Sure there are folks I little admire but don’t obsess it; whatever character deficiency they may possess happens to bug me, well it’s more their problem than mine, I say.
One 230-pound coworker often burdened this 152 pounder with half his workload, but when the chips were down, the rascal saved my ornery hide. Which proves the adage that everybody has worth. He’s gone now and I hope the final trajectory of his ornery old hide was upward instead of downward.
There’s always something: There are lots of things to dislike along the way if one has a tendency to complain. My own philosophy is that if one is charitable enough to put up with my ‘bull’ surely I should be somewhat charitable of theirs. The puzzle is that there are people we don’t ‘like’ and don’t know why but figures I, we should examine our own motivations ere we examine theirs.
Pondering the mysteries of our likes and dislikes: I do not like the taste of water from a porcelain (ceramic) container. Glass is the way to go. Bottled beverages always taste better than beverages from a can. Can’t drink from an unwashed cup that’s lain around the kitchen an hour or two, but will not hesitate to drink coffee from a cup that has rolled around on the floorboard of a cluttered work truck forever. I like ice cream but shy from ice cream drumsticks, ice cream bars and ice cream sandwiches because they leave a preservative aftertaste. There’s nothing quite like a frosty throat scorching Coca-Cola when the heat rolls and the thirst reaches crisis proportion but it is not the wife’s favorite under any circumstance because of the aftertaste.
Don’t like mayonnaise, but as a kid ate mustard by the spoonful. Cool to catsup, not much into any kind of sauce (we’re talking food not drink) or salad dressing. Matter of fact not much into salads at all. Rabbits. Rabbits have the teeth and taste for salads. Don’t like being forked food from another plate, wanted it would have ordered it myself. Don’t like cold, lukewarm or sweetened coffee - and don’t like service that ignores the empty cup. Don’t like yard dogs hanging around inside the house, rabbits in the pea patch or Mr. ‘Possum inviting himself to the bird’s table atop the storm refuge out back. Yet there’s so much more to like than to dislike, and in that category, as one might have guessed, I like hanging out with old memories.
A few of those “old memories” are represented by a set of three canvasses hanging from the wall of my living room. From an old picture album circa 1965 they depict a logger in the coastal Red Woods of California striking various poses around a felled tree 14 feet in diameter at its base, representing thousands of board foot of raw lumber. Looking at them now it’s hard to believe the lad was ever capable of such a task, remembering now, harder yet to believe that anyone at all could have survived seven years in the steep rugged canyons of Jacoby Creek, Humboldt County, Calif., where the pictures were taken. The canvasses are a Fathers Day gift from my wife; without she, not they as the old guy, busy with other interests having procrastinated years intending having them done but now at last, finally, there they be hanging on the wall, mementoes reminding of roads once traveled, people I’ve known during the long trek along the track from the “shack” to wherever and back again.
The Good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise, come August 2018 we will have reached 85 percent of my aspiration to become a centenarian. Wow! Now mind you, personal circumstance may bring a change of mind about longevity: Should I lose the remainder of my hair, my last tooth goes missing and the soft smooth texture of my baby-butt skin morphs into the wrinkled skin of a prune, when more hair grows from my ears and nose than on my head and looking into the morning mirror I’m horrified at the sight, then may I choose to resign and seek to peacefully ‘recline’.
After all, what the heck is there left to do? Just like old Hank, I’ve been everywhere. And back again.