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?