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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Adventures With David

    Sometimes I think it's a good thing my dad kept me as busy as he did on the family farm. Even with my physical problems and all the time spent working, I still managed to have a few boyhood adventures. When David came to spend the summers at his grandparent's house my summers really livened up! They lived directly across the road from our home. David's family lived in the big city, and he got into so much trouble there that his parents had him spend the summers at his grandparents. He was average height, dark haired, muscular framed, and sort of talked through his nose. And the wheels in his head never stopped turning!
    One year his dad brought him out a new, three speed, English bicycle, much like mine. David wasn't much for riding bikes, so he completely dismantled it and sold it for parts to the neighbor kids. I bought a spare tire and wheel, myself. The next summer his dad bought him a big, red, classy looking, 26 inch bicycle. One day David said, "Lets make it look like a motorcycle!"
    We searched around his grandpa's garage and basement and found a length of three inch vent pipe and some wire. We wired it up the right side of the bike and then went into his grandpa's garage again. His grandpa owned a bulk station and gas truck that he delivered fuel oil to homes and gasoline to farmers with. In the garage we found a can of gas, a five gallon can of oil, a bunch of rags, and a broom. David quietly went into the backdoor of his grandma's house and got some matches from the kitchen.
    We began dipping the rags in gas and oil, and stuffing them into the vent pipe. The broom handle worked great for jamming them down in. Soon the vent pipe was full of gas and oil soaked rags. His grandparent's driveway and our drive across the road were perfectly aligned. David got on the bike and said to me, "Ok, light her up!"
    I struck a match and touched it to the end of the vent pipe. At first it was great. Big, black puffs of smoke came out, one then another and so on. David began vibrating his lips to mimic a motorcycle's sound, and then started pedaling down the drive. He made it to the end of the driveway, across the road, and into our drive when suddenly the side of the bicycle burst into flames. He slid it down and jumped clear. My Mom and my Aunt Wilene were having a peaceful, summer visit on the front porch when they suddenly screamed in horror and ran toward the burning bike. David was ok, but his new bike was destroyed.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Farm Boy

    I don't believe my father ever truly acknowledged my handicap.By the time I was eight years old he had me driving the tractor and hay baler while he stood on the hay wagon behind the baler and pulling up the bales of hay with a hay hook. He was always in such a hurry. He worked the 3:00pm to 11:00p.m. shift at the factory in town besides working his farms, and keeping a herd of cattle. All Dad ever seemed to think of was getting his work done. He had dual personalities. He could be the sweetest, kindest, man, but when he was working the farms, he was the meanest man ever. I remember one day in particular, I was driving the tractor and baler, and Dad was stacking the bales on the hay wagon. I seen a large clump of hay in the windrow ahead, and knowing it would plug the baler, I stretched for the clutch and brakes. We stopped abruptly, throwing Dad off the wagon. He immediately began cussing and screaming at me. I jumped off the tractor to see if he was alright. As soon as I reached him, he began kicking and slapping me. It was about then that my Uncle Leland came driving his old green truck around the corner of the barn and down the lane to the field we were working. He was Dad's older brother, and a big, rough looking bachelor. He grabbed hold of Dad and shook him around some. He told him, "Don't  you ever let me catch you hitting on that boy again!"
     I think Dad believed him, but that never stopped him from cussing me and the name calling. I believe I was in my mid-twenties before I realized my name wasn't "Dumb Son-of -a-Bitch!"
    I guess the thing that always amazed me was how we'd go to the Grist Mill and Dad would brag on me to the men that were there on how I was only eight years old and drove the tractor and baler.Judging by the looks  the men gave, I don't think they were that impressed. People just don't put children that young running such dangerous equipment.... Well, most don't.

Walking and Riding

    Seems like I wore that Dennis Brown Club Foot Splint for a long time. My feet at long  last outgrew the orthopedic shoes. I went to the doctor and then Mom took me to an orthopedic shoe store in downtown Battle Creek to be fitted for a new pair. I hadn't learned to walk yet, but shortly after arriving home, I took my first steps.The shoes were big and bulky. They resembled men's work boots. My legs were very skinny, having very small muscles. A visiting nurse came quite often and made me do exercises, and on occasion my Mother would take me to the 'Crippled Children's Clinics" where they could check me over and measure my progress.
    I learned very quickly not to wear shorts with my skinny legs and over sized looking work boots.I took a lot of teasing. One day when I had taken enough teasing and bullying from my cousin(who was considerably larger than me) we got in a knock down, drag out fight in the front yard. Growing up in the Fifties it seemed every boy wore tennis shoes, or cowboy boots. I wasn't allowed to wear either. I learned to put up with the teasing as I continued through grade school. My leg muscles remained very weak and at times my knees would dislocate causing extreme pain.
When I was a little tot, I used to love to ride on the farmall H tractor with Dad. While he was driving it up the lane one afternoon and I was a three year old sitting on his lap, I looked up at him and said, "Can I drive and you walk?" That tickled Dad so that he never forgot it and mentioned it often. Seriously, I don't remember learning to drive the tractors. I know my shoulders were against the front of the seat when sliding down to reach the clutch and brakes when stopping. And my legs barely had the strength to push down the pedals.
    My parents bought me a big, red, heavy, 26inch bicycle.  We lived in farm country on gravel roads that had plenty of hills. My weak legs could peddle the bike on the level fairly well, and I could coast down the best of hills.When going up hills, I tired quickly. The neighbor kids would reach the top of the hill and then wait somewhat patiently for me to walk my bike up the hill. We used to ride a little over a mile to the country store and I had tried to ride to Lacy Lake, but the three or four miles was too far for me. The start of the next summer, I was 12 years old, and my parents bought me a brand new, light weight, 3 speed English bicycle.It was much easier for me to keep up with the others and I had no trouble riding to the lake. I felt some of the kids were jealous because I got a new bike. I would have been perfectly happy with my old bike if I could have got along with it.


    I guess there's no place to start telling my life's journey like the beginning, so here goes...I was born in February 1950 at Community Hospital in Battle Creek. I was born right smack in the middle of the Twentieth Century. As far as I'm concerned, my life started just as the two best decades of progress this country had, or has ever seen was getting under way. It was a great time to grow up in!
    I was the third born of my parent's four children. I had two older sisters and one younger brother. Marilyn, the oldest, was born in August of 1945 and is mentally disabled. Joyce was born in July of 1948. I can only imagine my parent's delight when I was born, and their disappointment when it was discovered I had a birth defect. My legs and feet were not completely developed. My Mom later told me the bones in my legs were soft and this might be a slight exaggeration, but she said they could have been tied in knots. My feet came up and were wrapped around my lower legs. My Mother also told me later that she made up her mind that she "was not" going to have a crippled son!
    Mom fashioned Popsicle sticks into make-shift braces, pulled my feet into position and some how managed to keep my feet in the proper shape until I was seen by one of the best known orthopedic doctors in the state. He put both feet and legs in cast to keep them developing properly. I don't know how long I was in cast, but I do know it was a long time. Mom used to tell me how women would come up to her in places like the grocery store, and seeing me in cast, say,"What in the world happened to that poor,little boy!?"
    Later, when the last pair of cast were removed, I was fitted with Orthopedic shoes (special shoes fitted to keep my feet in proper growing position). Then a steel bar was attached that kept the shoes connected to each other. This was called a "Dennis Brown Club Foot Splint."  I had to wear it day and night, 24/7. My Mom said I'd crawl on the floor with this splint attached to both shoes, and my legs and feet reminded her of a fish tail going back and forth. I've often wondered if my older sister's mental deficiency and my birth defect might somehow be connected. We seemed to have an abundance of mentally impaired children in our area of the township. Plus, this was in the days before the spraying of DDT was outlawed. No way of knowing for sure. Anyway, this is how my life's journey got started and how I became the "Forrest Gump" of the family farm.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Journey's Told By Roger

For those of you that don't know me, My name is Roger. This is my newly made blog. I look forward to sharing my memories old and new with you.  You will read about my journeys through life, some good some bad. I hope this inspires you to look beyond the bad and make the most out of each day. Now onto the journey's told by Roger.

My wife Louise & I

My Girls, Louise & I

Me as a Kndg.
Keep checking back. New posts to come!