Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mount San Jacinto

I am the Queen, majestic in my white veil and flowing green attire as the winter sun rises to my eastern face;
no foul stench of the valley wind assails my nostrils, no blanket of brown, particulate-laden poisonous air gets any further than my foothills, the poor things. But with any luck they will ascend through the mess.

I feel the encroachment of the human race; they are like mites as they rustle up my flanks; some of them are good, but mostly they care not a whit what happens to me. They're not Avon oriented, I guess, but they do love those oily products which destroy them and which pronounce my own untimely demise.

There is nothing I can do; I am aging, my beauty fades---there are loyal followers who pamper me, there are still people fainting when they reach my bosom and find that mother Earth breathes and sighs. Oh, the beauty of youth is fleeting; my sisters across the globe have the same problems, although a few still have their their pert pointed pulchritudinous peaks and arrogance of youth, some exhaling the breath of fire to keep the multitudes a good distance away. Their royalty is assured for...for who knows how little precious time?

I see, more than anyone, the sooty cloak of death from the metropolis spread, the urban sprawl in the west, yet that and those terrible fires produce some beautiful sunsets for me, and I am flattered that photographers find my countenance so commanding, so alluring. They help me forget. They seem to focus more on my coiffure than the majesty of me as a whole, however, but that's just the nature of the beast, I guess.
I have given them the best days of my life, wearing a necklace of gossamer mist, my face aglow with the fading sunlight; I always look best in the evening, don't you agree? I can't help it, I'm female, part of Mother Earth, so forgive me if I blow up a little storm. You're lucky I don't let off a little steam.

On rare occasions I wear a crown, sometimes two. Those are very special to me. I embrace the photographers and they give back to me. So they are my special people, along with the poets. I may age, my beauty may fade, but I am always willing to accommodate admirers. Oh, where are those Avon ladies?

Friday, December 26, 2008

My First Bigmouth Bass

My dad took us to Alexandria, Minnesota for a week's vacation in the early '50s. He took me fishing, from a rental boat. I remember the lure: a Hula Popper.
He told me where he thought the big bass in the lake was, and how to look for the places that would provide good ambush points.

Dad pointed out a likely location, a break in the lily pads away from the huge mass of them, and told me to cast the frog design Hula Popper into the small clearing separating them and to let it sit.

I did. The Hula Popper's rubber tails (like a hula skirt, which gave the lure it's name) danced and wiggled and I could imagine a huge bass giving it the eye as it enticed him into the strike.

Nothing happened. Then dad said to just twitch the lure a little bit.

The water exploded and I was completely hooked on bass fishing!

Although the bass only weighed 2.5 pounds, it was enough to pull me in for a lifetime in pursuit of the Largemouth Bass.

December 22, 2008 11:07 AM


I wore a set of longjohns underneath my jeans and had my uncle's wool navy watch cap on my head; my mom cut two eyeholes in it so I wore it down to my neck and she wrapped a scarf around it and tucked it in to my coat. She wouldn't let me go outside without making sure I was dressed properly.

It was cold outside, but no wind. Snowflakes--big, heavy ones--fell so thick I could barely see my friends on the levee not 100 yards away. I ran out the gate, my warm breath condensing on the inside, wetting my lips.

My American Flyer sled flew down the levee dozens of times, faster than the others, and the snowflakes coated my eyebrows. It was always wet snow in southern Illinois, not the powdery stuff, since we were so close to the river, and snowballs were easy to make. Lifesized ones, too. We had a great time, zipping down the hill, running back up, zipping down again, repeat...snowballs flew at the moving targets, but no one got hurt today.

By the time mom called me I was wet, shivering with the cold, my nose beginning to run and to freeze despite the wool. I was glad she called, and I left my friends to go in for some hot chicken noodle soup. What a great morning. I prayed it would keep snowing so I could go back out after my clothes dried and the soup warmed me up. Unless I was hurt, mom would let me. So if I was sore, I never let her know it. It was fun when I was a kid.

Now I'm in southern California...and the snow is above 4000 feet. Can't quite run up that hill at all! But I remember the taste and feel of the snowflakes of my childhood. I wish I could go back to that levee of so long ago.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Life: My Favorite Hobby

We were talking about giving and receiving a little while ago, and here are my presents (giving) to my significant other:
(1) diamond pendant on gold chain
(2) gold earrings, large hoop
(3) gold earrings, medium hoop

In return, I received:
(1) Clapper Plus
(2) Handbook for Geriatrics, Treatment of Problematic Foot Odor and Care Of The Colon

Christmas 2008.

Moley Willows Corner

Moley Willows Corner


You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.

Unknown source

Trains and Planes--Christmas in the '40s

I love old steam trains and jet airplanes. Both were just coming into regular service in the late '40s, when I was still a kid, not even ten years old. Everyone still stopped and looked up at the jet trails in the sky, but no one paid much attention to the new diesel engines. Engines were still on the front of the train, and cabooses were on the rear. I had always wanted a model steam train.

Christmastime was special for the family. Although not devout churchgoers, my family (which included my grandma M who lived with us) was like most in the area, dependent upon the railroad for livelihood. I grew up with stories of adventure alongside the tracks where my dad and uncles had 'hitched' a freight to the West Coast (and Alaska) before the war to find work during the depression years. My uncles and he were borne off to fight WWII by the old steam engines. My grandpa P was an inspector for the old Illinois Central RR, whose tracks were not 100 yards in back of our house. The house shook as the GM&O Special sped by with its load of freight.

There were no TVs in our neighborhood yet, so the family gathered round the radio or the old Victor gramophone to listen to Christmas songs. Caroling was also popular and some Christmases we would be treated to a bunch of people who braved the cold to sing their carols, usually 'Silent Night' and 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. You know the kind. Before Bing Crosby's White Christmas. I was a teenager when that became 'the song'.

Anyway, the story of this particular Christmas morning foray was told to everyone on the morning of Christmas Day when my step-father (never called him dad, wish I would have and told him so later in life--he was a great guy who raised us the best way he could) told everyone what I had done the night before, after the tree was off. Everyone conserved electricity in those days, a carryover from the war effort.

My step-dad followed my tracks in the snow from the back door, where I had snuck out because the living room was 'sealed off at the french doors' early on. I had gone out the back basement door, around the side of the house to enter the front door, leaving a trail of boot tracks in the snow coming and going, tracking snow in all the while. Puddles of water where each boot stepped led to the tree, which was encircled by a beautiful little Lionel HO gauge model train. It smoked. It had a headlight. It had a whistle. Wow. I had a blast playing with it while eating Mars bars and cookies. I went out the front door when I was startled by a noise and went back to bed, where I'm sure I dreamed of a jet airplane, and next Christmas.

It's now 1:15am on Christmas Day as I remember this; having a glass of vanilla spice eggnog and piece of Cadbury chocolate as I write. They don't make Mars candybars anymore. Burp. Goodnight, and Merry Christmas! Oh, yes...I did get the jet airplane too!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lost Sailor Epitaph

Seven Times The Ship's Bell Rings
Seven Stars Overhead
Seven Angels Spread Their Wings
Seven Seas My Bed

I wrote that aboard ship back in '63 for a good officer and friend, Lieutenant Commander J.T. Park, USNR, who was last seen in his F-3H Demon heading straight down in afterburner somewhere in the huge dark Pacific Ocean. His manner of leadership was not what he wore on his collar, it was more like being a friend--unlike some fighter pilots, the prima donnas we despised. John went on liberty with us enlisteds in places like Olongapo and Hong Kong. We searched the black ocean for 72 hours but recovered nothing. RIP.

Oh, by the way, there is reason to the use of the number Seven: Biblically, it meant 'many.' However, Seven Bells in this case was 2330 military time (11:30pm) when he disappeared. Seven Stars is the Constellation ORION, which has four major stars including the brightest in our night sky outlining the archer and the steed, three stars in his belt, and three stars in the dagger sheath The Hunter wears. Being a Fighter Pilot, he was indeed a 'Hunter.' Seven Angels is the protecion from the highest order he received, and Seven Seas is what the ancient world knew existed.

I was going to write about Davy Jones but since he was my boss (First Class Parachute Rigger) in Fighter Squadron 193 (The World Famous Ghostriders) aboard the U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) I thought it prudent not to. That's the story, and in Navy vernacular, since it's true, it should begin with, 'Now, this ain't no shit.'

Jim Pankey, USN (Ret.)

The Wild Hatch

We're Old Hen's Brood, in Uproarious mood--
We've Emerged our Shells today!
Arrived in a Quandary, as an Old Maid's Laundry,
Instinctively at Bay:

Though we're Safe in the Yard,
Who says the Gate's Barred To Keep the Fox Away?

We Would Like To Play!

But Old Mother Hen's Wing is the Heaviest Thing
And All Our World's Her Nest,
So Who's to Stop Our Wondering,
Or Protest Our Protest?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Observing A Poetry Reading Group

Sitting at the high table facing the window
marveling at the watercolored orchids
on the door you're not supposed to use (but everyone does)
Listening to the coffee grinder as it chews up the beans
for consumption in a brew--mine is currently pumpkin spice--
Realizing no one has picked up the spoon I had earlier dropped
on the floor
Great stuff, I think, as the poets are grouping
very small, tight, not recognizing me; it was then I
realized that the bored group was not really
celebrating their surrounds, but reading mechanically from
classic and hardly original or contemporary musings until a
small girl, maybe ten or eleven, spoke about wondering if
anyone heard her, which was an indictment of the group--they
didn't even realize what her poem was all about!

I keep wondering at the colors on the door and if
it is the only fresh thing here besides the wonderful
tasting aromatic brew and the echoes of the
little girl's words.

I sat in about a month ago and just one person
seemed to want to allow me to speak; but I read
one of my poems, The Wild Hatch, and then the
epitaph for a sailor lost at sea.

I felt then as he must have. lost.

They can only hear their words as echoes
in the emptiness of their verse,
They're like penguins in the winter, huddling,
with their backs to life--and that sustains
their existence. I wonder how happy they are,
and if they have a life, and if it's worse. I
doubt it. Only the little girl has that, and
she is under a heavy wing.

The group seems so far distant although they're
a few feet away
I may as well leave,
There'll be no poetry for me to recite today.

I'm leaving. I can't talk to the colors on the door.
nor to the brilliant little girl in this paranoid society.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Answer to a post by Angie

I join the multitudes crying out for peace and justice, harmony and eradication of disease rather than spend any more on the weaponry and art of war; it's like a huge video game, except for those who suffer from it.
I've suffered since I was a child (born in 1939, the year WWII began. I've lost uncles and cousins, friends and acquaintances. They all died in vain, in my humble opinion, because there is no such thing as a 'just' war or a 'good' war. There are only political ambitions and territorial imperatives, and an occasional madman. We should reverse our attempts to protect ourselves by building a world of peace and harmony, diplomacy and reward rather than a destructive one that threatens mankind wholly. Let's build peace, not bases on foreign soil.
Let's celebrate living, not dying. Let's abolish warfare and nuclear weapons forever, and concentrate our money on battles against disease and hunger. We don't need the mushroom cloud perpetually hanging over our heads. We need comfort, not misery, and leaders, not greedy warmongers. We need to re-direct our priorities, politically, spiritually (embrace all) and economically. One vision: a world of peace and harmony in tune with the universe, not in opposition to it. We don't need red or blue states, we need a United States and a world representative body.

Desert Scene

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Squirrel Hunting With Grandpa

To Be Edited

Squirrel Hunting With Grandpa

Three a.m. on a winter morning in the 1940s
I water and feed the rabbits (why do I always get the cold job?) as grandpa put homemade biscuits in the top warmer
of the woodburning 4-burner stove. Grandma slept in.
Grandpa made the coffee strong
Handful in a pot of boiling water, one of those gallon sized
Blue Ceramic with white flecks coffee pots.
To the smoke house, slice off fresh cured bacon with rind on
Fry to a crisp, remove coffee pot from stove
Put bacon on towel to drain
Crack two brown hen eggs at a time
Into the smokin' bacon grease they go
Throw the shells into the coffee pot to settle the grounds
(In those days there were no electric coffee makers with paper or gold filters)
Turn the eggs once when edges are brown
Butter the biscuits (real butter) and call Jim
Fix his plate first while his eggs are frying.
Grandpa had everything down to a science. His coffee was so strong it was a task to close one's eyes after drinking a cup. Without cream or sugar. Black Coffee. Steaming hot. The perfect drink preceeding a squirrel hunt, Grandpa's favorite prey. Couldn't even blink!
Eggs were done clear through, bacon crunchy, biscuit crusty,
soft buttery inside, gone in a flash.
Grandpa sits down, drinks his coffee, tells me to go start the truck, a 1949 GMC 3-speed stick shift green farm work stinks like chickens and pigs and hay vehicle. Grandpa trusted my driving skill since both he and my step-father taught me to drive when I was six years old. We gleaned corn from farmers' fields to feed the pigs. My cousin Denny never learned to shift too well...because I always put it in high gear when it was his turn to move up the row. He stalled the motor every time, and Grandpa would yell, 'Danny, get out and let Jim move the truck.' Denny fumed. He didn't like to hunt or do anything outdoors, I guess that is why Grandpa favored me.

Grandpa put the guns we had oiled and checked the night before into the space in back of the seat (he never put them outside where they could be stolen). Unloaded, of course. Three primary rules never to be broken around Grandpa was that you always assumed a gun is loaded, never point it at anything you're not going to shoot, and never run with a gun. Violation of any of Grandpa's rules resulted in a painful trip to the smokehouse, where he kept a cured rawhide paddle. Three whacks on the bare bottom was the usual fare, and one dreaded a fourth swat. He rarely went that far, however, knowing the embarrassment that just going to the smokehouse caused. Everyone knew the procedure: Enter, drop your drawers, bend over. No pleas for mercy, no whimpering, no screaming. Just endure the three, then you're done. The worst part is walking out to the twitters of the assembled friends and relatives. Part of the punishment was the humiliation. I only went to the smokehouse three times. That first trip brought me four whacks. I learn fast.

Driving 50 miles to the Younger farm (yes, relatives of the Jesse James gang) in Chester, Illinois in the pre-dawn darkness took over an hour, so it was almost sunup when we arrived. We took our position in the hickory woods and waited, usually back to back. Grandpa usually got his limit of 5 squirrels in just a couple of hours. He was a combination stalker/camouflaged ambusher. His trusty .22 rifle was his preferred weapon for squirrels, and a 16-gauge double-barreled shotgun for rabbits. His squirrels were normally shot through the head, as Grandpa didn't want to waste the meat. He bought me my first gun, a Savage-Stevens .410 gauge double barrel, which I learned to use with deadly proficiency under his tutelage.

Making a mistake with a gun was something Grandpa never did, and if we did, we paid for it. I did on two occasions. One, after my very first kill at age 8, I ran with the rifle to retrieve the squirrel, I was so excited. I remember begging with Grandpa not to take me into the smoke house, all the way home. It did no good, only made matters worse. I got the four whacks.

I drank coffee most all the time at Grandma and Grandpa's. They also let me smoke. Bull Durham, roll-your-own. I was twelve.

I smoked for 20 years, up to 4 packs of Pall Mall or Camel or Lucky Strike (no sissy filters for me, like Marlboro) before I quit cold turkey. I also quite drinking. I still drink coffee, though, hot and black or sometimes with a bit of cream.

Jim Pankey, USN (Ret.)
December 3, 2008

Introduction to Wildspiritjim

My friend Laura opened a website entitled Pictures, Poetry & Prose which offers anyone an outlet for their artistic talents. I don't claim to be an artist, I am a hobbyist who has lived a fairly exciting military life and have adventure stories to tell. I hope that this simple blog will provide insight into my personality through my writing and photography as well as inspire some younger people to open up and let it all hang out.

I spent 20 years of my life in the U.S. military during times of national and international crises; I joined the Navy in June 1961, just in time to be shocked by the assassination of president John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. I had already had one 7th Fleet Asian cruise (Vietnam) and the Cuban Missile Crisis (we were 50 miles off the Kamchatka province of Russia ready to launch a nuclear strike against the USSR) under my belt aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard, (CVA-31) assigned to Fighter Squadron 193 Ghostriders (F-3H Demon) as a Parachute Rigger. I was going through nuclear weapons training in Lemoore, California, at the time of the assassination. My next cruise to the Far East and Vietnam was aboard the USS Constellation, (CVA-64) this time as a Parachute Rigger Second Class with Fighter Squadron 142 (Ghostriders) flying F-4B Phantom II fighters, which we had transitioned to in 1963. During the cruise, the infamous Gulf of Tonkin Incident happened; our air group (and that of the USS Oriskany, I think) made the first raids on North Vietnam. What really transpired was a political war that waged for almost twelve years, which saw no military victory.

Rather than go through the rest of my career, I will say that I served on four more aircraft carriers and had a lot of years at sea. I loved it, whether calm and serene or typhoon. I retired as a Recruiter in Memphis, Tennessee, having earned 5 Gold Wreath Awards in 2.5 years of recruiting. I missed out on two more due to crappy leadership by a superior. My retirement date was 31 January 1985.

I traveled in my motorhome from coast to coast, was a typical 'snowbird' going from southern Illinois to Memphis Tennessee and points south for about 17 years. I settled in Valmeyer, Illinois in an idyllic lakeside lot for 7 years until the landlord died. Then I decided to move to the Armed Forces Retirement Home (formerly the Naval Home) in November, 2002. I stayed there til February 2005 when I moved to Hemet, California to be with Patsy, who has cheated death twice in the operating room.

My regrets are few, my gripes keep my BP elevated, but I'm an optimist and think the new Obama leadership will prove to be one boon in leadership, compared to the 8-year previous administration debacle. I hope to survive the financial mess we're in and to keep Patsy as happy as I can. My hope is to buy us a home rather than rent.

She is an artist in her own right, and a true miracle to boot. Go to her site, http://www.thedigitalbarn.com and look around. Be sure to congratulate her.