The Apple Cider Trip

Reading my last blog, I realised that I had not written about my friend Vinnie’s funniest moment at the lake called Wedington. This moment will always be burned into my memory as the apple cider trip.The town we lived in was called Lincoln. Obviously named after Abe. In fact my grandfather on my mother’s side played Abe Lincoln in a Fourth of July town parade. As you drive into the town limits of Lincoln from the north you will pass an apple orchard. This orchard has been there for as long as I can remember. The folks who own it sell apple produce in the shops by the road. One of their biggest sellers has always been their ‘preservative free’ apple cider.

Now this cider is not hard cider aka alcoholic cider. No, that would be illegal  for them to sell as Lincoln is a “dry town” and alcohol for human consumption is not allowed to be sold within the town limits. In other words this cider is really apple juice. It is mighty tasty regardless of what you call it.

On this particular day Vinnie’s dad, and Vinnie of course, had invited me to go fishing at Lake Wedington. I have to explain that our family did not “do” lake fishing. We had always gone “creek fishing.” This meant driving until you found a farm or ranch where the owner did not mind you crossing his land to get at the creek  running through his property. Most farmers/ranchers readily gave permission as long as you closed gates behind you and did not litter up the place. The most important of these “understood” rules was closing the gates. If the owner’s cattle got loose and had to be rounded up, then the next person who wanted access to a good fishing hole was not welcome. After getting the required permission you then “walked” the creek. This involved sometimes walking for miles to find the best spots where the fish were “biting.”

To get a chance to go on an actual boat and fish in the middle of a lake was something I wasn’t going to pass up.

I got to Vinnie’s fairly early in the morning. But his dad had been out even earlier and bought two plastic gallon jugs of delicious apple cider. Vinnie was in the kitchen drinking glass after glass of the stuff. It was a little like watching an automaton. He would go to the fridge, open it and extract a plastic jug of cider. He would fill his glass and state, “Boy! I love apple cider!” He did this each and every time he drank a glass of the stuff. He did not stop until he had emptied an entire plastic gallon jug.

Apparently Vinnie was not affected by this massive consumption of fruit juice. We got all our fishing equipment loaded in the car and went to the lake. It is a fairly good distance, if memory serves me correctly, it is about a forty-five minute drive out to the middle of nowhere. During the longish trip Vinnie and I talked with his dad about fish, girls, school and other things. There was no sign of the problems that would soon erupt.

We all got to the lake, got our boat, loaded it and put it in the water. Vinnie’s dad took us right out to the middle of the lake. We got our poles baited and cast into the water. Then we sat and waited.

Well, we would have sat and waited except that now Vinnie was starting to act very strangely. I noticed that he had started squirming the minute we cast our lines from the boat. His dad had so far not left the meditative state that was required for lake fishing. Suddenly Vinnie bent over so far that his face was within kissing distance of the boats bottom. Then he started groaning.

“I’ve got to go to the bathroom…NOW!!”  This was said with an almost hysterical edge to it. “What’s wrong?” Vinnie’s dad asked. Vinnie just looked at his dad, his eyes bulging and veins throbbing in his face. “I’ve got to go, NOW!!! “Just get me to the restrooms!” Vinnie’s dad was completely nonplussed. “I told you to go easy on that cider. Well, I’m not going all the way back to the restrooms. You’ll have to go into the woods.” With that pronouncement he started the motor up and went to the nearest shore.

Before we got within ten feet of the shore, Vinnie vaulted out of the boat and legged it for the tree line. From where we sat, it sounded like an elephant on a rampage. I swear he even knocked down small trees in his rush to go for a “dump.”

“Where’s he going? Texas?” Vinnie’s dad asked. We waited for what seemed like ages. Finally Vinnie came staggering back out of the woods. His face was pale and he was sweating like a racehorse. He climbed slowly and creakily back into the boat. Vinnie’s dad started the motor and took us out into the middle of the lake again. He had just shut the motor off when…”Goback,goback,goback!” Vinnie was yelling this as if it was one word. He was doubled up again. Only this time he was rocking up and down, as he tried valiantly to keep his bowels under control. His dad dutifully started the motor and back to the shore we went.

Like before, Vinnie did his rampaging elephant routine. After we sat there for awhile with no sign of Vinnie, his dad looked at me and sighed. “I didn’t come all this way for Vinnie to go into the woods and shit himself to death.” He looked in the direction we thought Vinnie had lumbered, “Vinnie! We going back out to fish! When you get done, come out to the edge and wave. We’ll come get you!” Without waiting for an answer, he started the motor up and we went out to resume fishing.

I’d like to say that Vinnie finished voiding himself of all that cider and continued fishing, but he did not. We checked the shoreline repeatedly looking for him with no sign. After awhile, we just sort of forgot to keep looking. Hours later, we remembered and there was Vinnie waving weakly from the shore. Vinnie’s dad mumbled something under his breath and we went to pick him up.

As Vinnie got back into the boat, he had gone through some kind of transformation. He looked and acted like he was about a hundred years old. His face had gone a horrible shade of white and he was now drenched in sweat. That pretty much ended the fishing trip.

I was, of course, very sympathetic towards Vinnie’s plight…NOT. All the way back to his house, I was in literal hysterics. I kept saying over and over, “Boy, I LOVE, apple cider!” And each and every time I said it, Vinnie’s dad and I laughed until we cried. I can honestly say my face hurt from laughing so much. Vinnie took all this in good spirits considering.

As far as I know, he does not drink apple cider any more.

I was also never invited to go fishing again.

Lake Wedington or The Tale of the Dead Fish

When I was old enough to drive on my own, summers were spent with various friends at Lake Wedington. I cannot remember ever laughing so hard at any other spot. So many memories and so much laughter. Once, a friend and I rented a canoe. I’ll call this friend Vinnie, as I do not know his whereabouts to ask permission to use his real name.
Vinnie was one of the funniest guys I have ever known. He had a knack at spontaneous humour that has never been matched by anyone else I have been friends with. Vinnie also had a knack of having funny things happen to him. Not because he was stupid (he was not, that spontaneous wit was the result of being incredibly smart) but, because he liked to try different things. Whether it was shooting buzzards from his bedroom window, or making a bomb to explode on his parents property, Vinnie was up for anything.
So Vinnie and I rented a canoe at Lake Wedington. Our aim was to do a sort of Deliverance trip, without the inbred dangerous yokels. We were going to traverse the many creeks that fed into the lake. Whereas this plan had seemed brilliant when we were discussing it, we had failed to plan for the narrowness of the creeks. We had also failed to take into consideration the lack of sufficient water in the creeks. And the wasps. These angry creatures immediately dive bombed the canoe the second we stopped because the creek had run out of water. This made navigation of the creeks almost “too dangerous” to continue. After almost being stung repeatedly while turning the canoe around, we gave up.

We decided instead to explore the lake’s shores. Of course while we did this we splashed one another with oar backlash and and generally tried our best to over-turn the canoe. While we were engaged in this horseplay, one of us spotted the fish.

The fish was huge. It must have been a carp, my memory is a bit hazy on this detail. I do remember it was about twenty-four inches long. It was also at least eight to ten inches high and about three inches wide. Like I said it was a monster fish. It was also just floating on top of the water. *this should have warned us immediately, but we chose not to think about what would cause a dead fish to float*

“Wow!” Vinnie was super impressed by the size of it, “That sucker is huge!” I agreed and we sat looking at it for at least ten minutes before one of us had, what we thought, was a brilliant idea. I cannot for the life of me remember whose idea it was. But the gist of it was this: We would get the fish into the canoe and row ashore. Once ashore we would tell all and sundry that we had caught it with our bare hands. Of course it never entered our juvenile heads that folks might just not be interested in this fact.

I was in the front of the canoe and closest to the fish. I put my oar under the fish and lifted it straight up and over my shoulder to land in the middle of the canoe. This is precisely what it did, hitting one of the canoe’s struts as it came down. As it hit the strut, it exploded. The fish suddenly turned into a green watery mess of fish guts, maggots and the foulest stench imaginable. Vinnie “feaked-out,” and leaning over the side of the canoe he began helplessly dry heaving into the lake.

After what seemed like ages (it seemed a lot longer due to the overpowering smell this mess made) He straightened up and in a strangled voice said, “Oh my God! If you had flung that fish back any further it would have landed on me!” He stopped and thought for a moment and then said, “And if you hadn’t thrown it far enough it would have landed on yourhead!” That was my cue to lean over the edge of the canoe and dry heave for a spell.

Of course the entire time these histrionics were occuring the stench seemed to build. We then started power rowing to the shore. We headed for the stall where we had rented it. Reaching the shore, we jumped out of the vessel and threw our life-vests and oars at the vendor. We ran all the way to the car.  We drove back to our respective homes with all the windows open. We also avoided going to the lake for about two weeks for fear that the vendor would remember the state of the canoe we had turned in

Of course having Vinnie as a friend meant that the next time we got together we would be doing something exciting. The next time we met it was to make a bomb.

Of Just Being…

I remember watching the last film that Peter Sellers starred in. It was called Being There, I don’t really rate the last film he did which was The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu. No, in my mind at least, the last really good thing he did was to portray Chance the gardener in Being There.

The plot of the film was fairly simple and straight forward. Chance has been in an isolated life from infancy. His only contact to the outside world has been through the television. His sole purpose in life has been to maintain the gardens of his employer/guardian. When his employer dies, he is ousted from his lifelong home and meets a lady who will be instrumental in getting Chance involved with politics.

Throughout the entire film Chance is just there. He offers nothing in the way ofreal interaction with the people he meets. They all read intoChance what they need to. He is merely a mirror that they use to get the answers they seek. For Chance is in an almost holy sphere, the sphere of just being. The holiness is hinted at in the last few frames of the film where we the audience see Chance walking across water. This Christ-like ability is possible because Chance doesn’t realise that he cannot walk on water.

The point of all this film plot musing is this, Chance had reached (through no fault or endeavour of his own) the ability of just being. I have mixed feelings about this. One part of me feels that it would be truly wonderful to just be. Not influencing or affecting anyone or anything else. A truly Zen-like existence that doesn’t hurt, or please, or disturb.

The other part of me is horrified at the very idea. How horrible to be in this world and accomplish nothing but just being there. That would surely be like living in some sort of Hell. You would feel almost like a ghost. For in reality, unlike the story in the film, if you did not interact with the people who surround you; you would be ignored.

I had this thought yesterday. I was attending the funeral of a comrade. It was a lovely service and it was the first time I had seen many of the folks that I usually work with in a couple of months. I have been “off-work” due to a work related injury.  The event was a sombre one with everyone wrapped up in their own thoughts and memories of a lovely chap gone too soon.

It was not until I reached home that I realised that I had only spoken to four people. Apart from being told where to stand after I got there, I instigated the other (extremely short) conversations that occurred. I did not think anything of it at the time. I was under the influence of “heavy duty” painkillers and suffering muscle spasms down my right leg. So I was more than a little bit preoccupied myself.

It was this morning when I woke up that I had a momentary feeling of just being there. I felt that I had been a ghost at the funeral and was still a ghost. I felt that my presence anywhere was minimal.  But rather than this idea or feeling depressing or upsetting me, it just felt right. I am at this point and time in my life happy at the thought of just being here.

I don’t have the energy to be anything else.

The Ice Factory

I had a sort of word association moment when I saw this image. I had a flash of memory that had to do with a red wagon, my Mom, a magic slate, and getting a block of ice from the ice factory.

When I was about four years old, we lived in Springdale, Arkansas.  I am not sure, but I think it was on Cedar Street. It was a small bungalow style house with a chain link fence around the back yard and a built in garage. We had a Lassie-type dog who was my best friend in the whole world. I am told that when I had begun to walk, that I would sling an arm over the dogs back and “explore” the neighbourhood. I had that child-like capability to disappear the second my Mom’s back was turned for these jaunts. But I digress.

I remember a hot summer day. We needed a block of ice, I cannot remember why. I get a mental picture of watermelon, but, I think that is a false memory. What I do remember is Mom and me getting my red wagon and taking the long walk to the Springdale ice factory.I do not know why we did not take the green and white Chevy.

I remember us walking down the sidewalks trying to stay in the shade. It was very hot. I pulled the wagon all the way to the factory. I can also see the ice factory. It was right across the street from a “Mom and Pop” store. Mom said we would stop there on the way back from the factory to get something cold to drink.

In those days you could get blocks of ice, or if you wanted to pay a little bit extra, crushed ice. It was generally cheaper to get the blocks and you got a free wooden handled ice pick. It was a lot more frugal to chip your block into pieces than to buy the expensive crushed stuff.

Mom and I took the wagon to the back of the factory where you got your blocks. The nice “ice-man” put a huge block of ice into my wagon and gave my mother two free ice picks. I guess the bigger the block the more picks you got. We then pulled the wagon across the street to the shop and Mom not only got us an ice cold coca-cola a-piece, but she also got me a reward for helping to get the ice.

It was a magic slate. Magic slates were a piece of cardboard about the same size as a sheet of A4 paper. It had a plastic sheet over the front of it. You drew on the sheet with a stylus (a piece of plastic shaped like a small pen). When you had finished your drawing you lifted the sheet and it “erased” your picture. I can still remember my delight at getting this magical toy.

I have written about memory and it’s reluctance to leave our minds. It is amazing that something so trivial as a picture of an ‘old fashioned’ ice cube tray can bring such a strong memory out of hiding.

Portents and Signs…

Grainy B&W image of supposed UFO, Passoria, Ne...
Grainy B&W image of supposed UFO, Passoria, New Jersey Edited version of Image:PurportedUFO NewJersey 1952 07 31.gif. By Bach01. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There is a lot of strange things going on at the moment. I had “googled” a few things for my last blog, mostly to do with UFO’s and the loud “humming” noises reported around the world. While doing that I then remembered the phenomenon of birds falling out of the sky…dead. This led me to articles about dead fish.
Of course if you look at both of these occurances, you will find references to the weather.Just last week the thriving metropolis of the Dallas/Fort Worth area had seven or eight tornadoes go ripping though their suburban streets. I was thunderstruck (pun not intended).Seven or eight! When I was growing up, you might just get two, but not at the same time, or one after the other. It almost seems like some sort of “following the leader” game that the weather has decided to play.
When I first moved to the United Kingdom in 1980, I was informed, with wry amusement, that England “doesn’t have tornadoes old bean.” That information was not totally correct, but pretty close. There were the occasional ‘twisters’ but they were small and caused little damage. Now it seems, we have several a year. Still not doing too much in the way of damage, a roof here and a tree there, with the odd wall blown down. But still much more than the odd one that occurred when I first moved here
.I first became aware of the “dead birds” in 2011. That was also the year that “thousands” of dead fish were discovered in an Arkansas river. Now I think about it, Arkansas also had their share of dead blackbirds. If you google the phrases ‘dead birds’ and ‘dead fish’ you will find a lot of reports of same all over the USA. More importantly, it also happened again this year in Arkansas. Dead birds fell out of the sky as recently as February this year. Just what the hell is going on?

I wrote about the multiple UFO sightings last year, and by multiple I mean more than one ‘bright light’ or ‘flying object’ at each separate sighting. Some of which occurred in broad daylight and witnessed by thousands of people. I also wrote about this new phenomenon, the “loud humming” noise that is being reported all over the world.

Is someone or something trying to tell us something?

My daughter and I watched the film Signs again last night. It is a  permanent favourite in our house. M. Night Shyamalan’s brilliant tale of a Reverend coming to grips with his wife’s death and his subsequent loss of faith. I only mention the plot because it also revolved around signs or portents if you prefer. The final message of the film is thatnothing happens by chance. We are given clear signs of what is going to happen. Unfortunately we don’t always recognise the significance of these when we are shown them or even realise that we are being given a “heads-up”

Cover of "Signs [Blu-ray]"
Cover of Signs [Blu-ray]
After we had watched the film, I got to thinking about all the strange things that are going on in the world right now. I started surfing the net and found references to HARP, that stands for High Altitude Research Program. In a nut shell, the articles I read indicated that this program can change the weather. It also intimated that they are indeed using the program for just that.
Now I don’t know, I am not a rocket scientist – hell, I am not even scientifically minded – but if I was running that program, I would start to get a little worried about all the strange things that are happening world wide right now.I know there are a lot of people who will see these happenings as religious portents that have been written about in the Bible.

I don’t know whether they are right or wrong, and I am not part of the HARP program, but, my “spidey-sense” is tingling and I think something life-changing might just be around the corner. The only problem is this, I don’t know if I should be excited or scared.