Finding Floyd

GET THE LEAD OUT

A small chapter from one of my manuscripts.

We didn’t hear our dad talk about the twenty two caliber rifle incident often, and after we were older we learned not to bring it up at all.

My dad bought a used twenty two that didn’t shoot straight. Of course he didn’t know it didn’t shoot straight or he’d never have surrendered cold hard cash to get it… those are the ingredients for stories that stand the test of time through generations.

 

Now a rifle that won’t shoot right is just an expensive club, and not even a very good one at that. Not to mention the fact that it’s mighty hard to kill varmints with a club, least wise until they’ve been shot or trapped.

image courtesy of arms list.com

Turns out that the rifle barrel’s machining was full of lead from the scads of bullets that had been skedaddled down the pipe; where the old adage, “Get the lead out,” comes from.

 

When my dad took the worthless gun back to the man who sold it to him, dead set on getting his money back one way or the other, the man was in a less than agreeable mood. I don’t know who the man was, but I gotta give him some credit, he was tough. Or maybe he was dumb, but he was willing to go fist-uh-cuffs to back up his less than honorable ways, or he was betting that the young man wouldn’t resort to less than civilized ways.

 

That flick of his wrist at the end of my dad’s vicious left jab was powerful and effective, even more effective than he’d meant it… no wonder we got all the speeches about using it for the just cause.

 

It was just something that my dad would have to live with; the regret of tearing the man’s eye out of his skull at the end of a punch. He permanently blinded the man in that eye for his remaining days stumbling around this earth.

 

It takes time to figure out the cards we’ve been dealt in life, which ones to keep, which ones to throw away. There are some that will bluff, but know when to fold, and sometimes winning isn’t worth the price it costs. The man that sold a useless rifle was gambling. My dad was just figuring out the hand he was dealt.

 

Just because violence becomes a way of life, and even if a person gets good at it, doesn’t mean they love it. Some of them did, but my dad didn’t. The world sees a man who can get what he wants as a tough man, a strong man. My dad looked at this life and those types of matters with a different perspective. Although he’d been molded and taught how to survive in an unforgiving world, he didn’t see it as strength. He never uttered the words to me, but I knew in most cases he saw it as weakness. The strength the world saw was really his weakness. He was like the nail that couldn’t be driven straight into the heart of the wood. It looked strong, but it bent at its weakest point. Only God can use a bent nail…

THE DREADED “F”

REPOST from March 2011.

If you’ve read my “ABOUT” section then you already know of my getting kicked out of journalism class my junior year in high school. If you had any doubt about my youthful ignorance from that year I’ll share another story that should remove any lingering doubt… The dreaded F.

Right across the hall from my journalism class was my art class. I’d taken art as an elective my freshman and sophomore years which qualified me to take commercial art my junior year.

We had an amazing teacher named Mr. Parker. The class was advanced and other advanced kids from within the school district were allowed to attend Mr. Parker’s classes and receive credits at their school.

There was an event called the World Of Wheels held at the Civic Center downtown, it was a pretty big deal in those days. The schools had a contest at the event in which a local car dealership brought new white vans to the event and the schools art classes would paint murals on the vans.

A house I designed a while back. He was a better teacher than I was a student

I wasn’t close to being the most talented kid participating from our class. In truth there were wildly talented kids who became even better under the tutelage of Mr. Parker.

There was about six of us including my friend Beth representing supposedly the best of the district since we were fortunate enough to be under the supervision of Mr. Parker. I guess we were considered the heavy favorites to walk off with 1st place.

We collaborated  in class as to what our mural would be. Although not the most talented artist I must have been the pushiest. My concept and sketch was a dark cowboy pulling his two pistols as if drawing to shoot the person gazing at the mural.

The smooth canvas of a metal finish and the time limit had us struggling to finish the mural. Due to the talented classmates I was working with it was looking pretty good. The only thing we had to finish was the face. In retrospect, the most detailed part of the mural should have been started earlier.

As the clock was ticking down to zero, prankster Scott painted a cartoon face with a goofy smile and one big tooth accenting it. We were having fun and laughed to exhaustion over our failure.

Mr. Parker was humiliated and embarrassed… I don’t think any of us considered his perspective at that time. In my opinion, the problem with art class is the subjective grading system. That system cost me yet another credit… I was the only mural painting participant who Mr. Parker failed that semester.

It took me a while to get over being gotten even with. I was hurt, I didn’t share my feelings at the time, but everything else I’d done was dismissed as failing. Not a good feeling… Especially when it was my favorite class and I’d given genuine effort.

The gift God blessed me with, I used to convince my classmates to paint my mural. The responsibility that went along with that gift I shirked. Instead of showing regret for coming up short, I showed indifference to hide some insecurity. Although the face Scott painted was pretty funny, I suppose a good leader would not have allowed it.

There have been many times in my life when I used the gifts from God for my advantage then dismissed the responsibility that accompanied those gifts. God’s word says, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

If God were passing out grades on this lesson, I’d have failed more times than I care to admit.

I wonder how many more times I’m gonna have to learn this lesson?

A DREADED DROUGHT

I think about a dreaded drought like an irrigation-less farmer. He studies and ponders The Farmer’s Almanac along with the cloudless sky. Farmer John’s is a physical reality, especially in the Southwest. Mine is real too, but it’s not physical – mine is mental.

I’ve seen those kind of farmer’s eyes. Root beer brown Cherokee eyes. The ones with the worn out skin surrounding them that was as jagged and dry as the Southwest desert surrounding them. They looked hopeless, especially as they searched the hopeless sky, then the endless rows of pathetic crops.

image courtesy of Bharat.com

My grandpa always had a fifth of whiskey stashed in his pocket to help him make it through the day. Those work days would last longer than the vicious sunshine. More whiskey and his harmonica would get him through the night. Now and then he’d find inspiration to scratch down lyrics to a new song.

I’m not a lot like Troy, but we do have some similarities. Music and writing is in my blood, along with some of the bad tendencies my grandpa’s had. I still struggle with a short fuse and have a memory like an elephant. Genetics are a peculiar thing.

A dreaded drought is inevitable for all of us regardless of what we do. Nothing earth shattering or profound or productive happens in the midst of a drought. But just like rust, our minds never rest.

I’ll keep pushing my rope up the hill of words that seems as steep as Everest right now, but I know the day will come when I do reach the top… then the downhill side will put an end to this dreaded drought.

As vast and endless as the empty Arizona sky is, it’s full of promise, just like the mind we’ve been given by God almighty. I know I’m not the only soul stumbling through a dreaded drought. Hang on. The rain will come.

 

 

 

 

BIG BOYS DON’T CRY

Edited repost from November 2010. I’m fascinated by the events in a person’s life that helps determine who a person is. The lumps along the path of life are common to all of us. I heard early and often, “Big boys don’t cry”. Many of us learned to silently process the pain that eventually healed into scars that we carry forever.

Up until I was in about 2nd or 3rd grade I had a speech impediment. Before the age of “Political Correctness,” I was fair game. Even adults back in those days made fun of me. Not fun for the kid who couldn’t pronounce “R’s.”

image courtesy of iTunes

I remember my uncle Buck driving his truck into the middle of our front yard in the middle of the night. I remember him pounding on our front door calling for my dad. I heard him telling my dad to get his boots so they could go get those “Sons-a-_itches.” My dad calmly told him, “Buck, you know I don’t do that anymore.”

I was the only one of my siblings who wasn’t tall enough to see over the edge of the casket at my grandma’s funeral. My dad didn’t shed a tear. My uncle Galen, the youngest of the nine, cried like what was forbidden. My uncle Buck didn’t cry either. I was learning the lessons of life without shedding a tear, just like my hero’s.

I’ve pondered the events and the ultimate impact they might have on my life. These few incidents are just a thimble of water in the swimming pool of life, but for the few and total here’s what I’ve got so far.

I didn’t let my speech impediment damper my love of Halloween. Sometimes even while laughing at the way I said “Trick or Treat,” I scored double the candy. That speech impediment landed me in Special Ed class with the kids that rode the short bus. Partially due to speech therapy, I read at a college level while in grade school.

My dad was the only person in the world to have some control over my uncle Buck. I learned of my dad’s quiet strength. I learned of his self-control, sacrifice, and love for his family. I watched it in times of testing. He never failed.

I think God spared me the confrontation with death at an early age. I strained on my tippy-toes trying to catch a glimpse over the edge of my grandma’s casket, but my dad nudged me along gently.

I wondered most of my life if I would be strong like my dad was in public. I wondered if I’d scream with nightmares in the middle of the night like he did after he lost his mom. I’m certain that everyone deals with death one way or the other. I just wasn’t sure how I would.

God used all the events in my life to bring me to a place of understanding. His will is perfect and everything that happens in our lives has a purpose.

Just before God took my dad home, I told him how proud I was to be his son. I shared with him how honored God and his family were by “The good race he had run.” My dad cried… so did I.

I think maybe big boys don’t cry from physical pain. At my dad’s funeral, I cried again… not caring who thought what…

CHANGE YOUR STARS – PERSEVERANCE

Repost and edited from October 2010. I write because I enjoy it. When I can relate to others with words it brings gratification. Like many labors of love, the payoff is worth the struggle. The process to change your stars takes perseverance.

Sometimes when I write, the words push out of my pen sorta’ like pushing a rope uphill. Other times the words flow from the end of my pen like water from a faucet.

A blank page or screen is available to everyone. What a person does with their thoughts and a blank page or screen can be magical. The world of words is like everything else in life, it’s crowded. There are far more books written every year than get published.

There are scads of wildly gifted writers who’s work will never see the light of day. Being gifted alone will get a person almost zero. A God given gift without perseverance is like trying to see the world by sitting on your couch.

It doesn’t matter what the dream is, without perseverance it’s not going to happen.

I enjoyed the movie “A Knights Tale,” starring the late Heath Ledger. It was a story about a peasant who worked hard to hone the gift of Jousting, a sport restricted to Noblemen. The character William was sent away by his father as a lad to apprentice for a Noblemen. As William was disappearing into the fog his dad shouted after him. “CHANGE YOUR STARS, WILLIAM!”

image courtesy of fan pop.com

When it was discovered during a Jousting match that the grown up William was not of noble but of peasant ancestry, he had a chance to run in order to save his life. He chose to stay and face imprisonment because he believed, and said, “I am a knight”.

Though it’s a fictional story, that is a truth of this life. What you believe defines who you are in all aspects of life.

When a person sets their sights on “Changing Their Stars,” they come in conflict with the rest of the world. Whatever it is we’re trying to change there will be forces trying to prevent it. Just like that story, so it is with the story of real life.

The Noble’s don’t want competition. They want to keep their small world unchanged. The door to their exclusive country club is not open with a tidy welcome mat.

Likewise, the masses want to keep the rest of us equal with them. They don’t want to see someone “Change Their Stars”. Misery loves company. The masses have settled for mediocrity and don’t want to be reminded of that fact by someone getting ahead.

For anyone who has broken through the barriers to “Change Their Stars”, my hats off to them.

If someone has changed their stars due to a gift from God that they’ve coupled with perseverance and desire to accomplish it, I say, “Good for them”. That means it can happen again, it’s not impossible.

I’d be disappointed in myself if I gave up striving, that’s for the masses.

The truth is I just need to persevere to change my stars. Isn’t that the true definition of success?Recognized for it or not, I’ll write…