Gramma and Papa Get the Giggles

It was perhaps the best vacation we have every had…and it was on our honeymoon too!

The week started off as we left the wedding reception in our car just driving…who knows where. The “plan” was to leave Escondido, California (where we were married), drive to Oceanside for our first night together, and then just drive up the California coast as far as we wanted to. We stopped for a time on a beach in the Los Angeles area and then went to a drive-through wild animal park where we saw Lions and Ostriches and Cheetahs walking right beside our car!

Then we drove up to see Hearst castle and then on to Big Sur and Monterrey, where we saw the 17 mile drive and ate dinner on the wharf (steak and lobster…yum!).

Then we went to San Francisco and stayed near the wharf there and rode a trolley car downtown to see a play called Fiddler On The Roof. Here we also ate San Francisco sour dough French bread and cheese at 2:00 in the morning, seafood on the wharf, and Ghirardelli chocolate fresh from the factory…yum! We just wanted to be together and travel and see some beautiful scenery and relax and talk and eat.

Boy did we eat ! I think we both gained about 5 or 10 pounds in that one week !

Then we drove to Lake Tahoe to see the mountains as well as the beautiful lake. It was a beautiful springtime trip for us and everywhere we went the flowers were blooming, the grass was green, and the weather was warm but not hot. And we were SO MUCH in love !

Then to top it all off we decided to go to Yosemite National Park for the last day and night of our honeymoon. Here we were able to rent a small cabin for the night right in the middle of Yosemite Valley. And the top of the top of our trip was being able to get up the next morning and worship our great Lord Jesus together out under the giant trees in the valley. For you see this was Easter Sunday morning and we wanted to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. What a setting for such a time!

At that time the National Park Service had a small chapel in the Valley and allowed a pastor to come and lead worship. That year they held a time of worship out under the trees at sunrise and then another one in the chapel a little later. Gramma and I so enjoyed the worship under the trees that we decided to go to the one in the chapel too.

Now, before I go any further I need to tell you something about two people who are very much in love. Oftentimes when two people enjoy each other so much they come up with many little funny things that they joke about that nobody else would understand. But it usually means something special to the couple because of all the thoughts and experiences they share with each other.

Well, one of the little things that Gramma used to tease me about was my little tummy. If you know me now you know it isn’t so little. But back then I hadn’t been out of the Marines for very long and I had a very flat tummy. But as we traveled and ate so much my tummy would bulge out a little, and sometimes Gramma would lay her head on my tummy and call it her “paunchy pillow”.

That morning we went to church in the chapel in Yosemite Valley we were in a very happy place in our hearts. And as the preacher began to preach and tell the story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion and resurrection we were very much celebrating in our hearts. He was very serious and very animated about what he was saying. But when he mentioned Jesus standing before Pontius Pilate the same thought occurred to Gramma and I at the same time … You guessed … it was my paunchy pillow tummy … and I giggled … just a little. But so did Gramma … just a little. But when I heard her giggle … just a little … I knew she had thought of the same thing I had thought of. So I giggled … just a little more. And then she giggled … just a little more. And that made me want to giggle … a LOT more. And that made her want to giggle … a LOT more.

The next thing you know we could hardly contain ourselves from laughing right out loud ! We struggled and struggled to keep it in, but almost burst inside. And we knew there was only a small gathering of people in that chapel, and the preacher was so serious, and the message was so important! But we just couldn’t stop the giggles from coming out. Finally we just had to get up and walk out to keep from totally disrupting the service. But we knew that it still must have bothered others, not to mention the preacher himself.

It was very embarrassing for us. We just hoped and prayed it didn’t hurt them too much.

But I have to confess, Gramma and I not only laughed about it out loud when we got into our car to drive home, but we have had quite a few giggles over it ever since. 

Gramma at the beach

There is nothing quite like smelling the salt air, seeing the seagulls soaring overhead, hearing the waves crashing on the beach and feeling the cool, wet sand squishing beneath your feet!! Add to that the adventure of hunting for special shells and rocks, digging holes or building castles in the sand, trying to jump through or ride on the waves…and you’ve just described a perfect beach afternoon!

When I was growing up, going to Oceanside or Moonlight Beach was about my favorite place ever. We did not get to go on many trips or vacations, but on a beautiful, summer day, it was a real treat to go to the ocean for the afternoon…and then we would usually have supper there too. Now supper at the beach was part of the experience. We would take quite a bit of wood – so we could build a large fire in the cement ring on the sand. We would wrap potatoes and corn-on-the-cob in foil and put them down in the coals of the fire. Somehow my daddy always knew just how long they needed to cook. While they were baking – we’d get out some hotdogs or hamburgers and grill them as well. Yum, what a meal…and of course, it was always sprinkled with sand that blew in from somewhere…I guess it made things taste better! Then when we’d eaten our fill, out would come the marshmallows. We’d put 2 of those big white fluffy puffs on a roasting stick and get as close to the fire as we dared and roast and toast them until they were golden brown. Now here’s a funny story…I always liked to let my marshmallows catch on fire and get pretty black before I’d eat them. Well, one time, I guess I didn’t blow on it enough – and I put the marshmallow in my mouth and it still had fire in it…I sure didn’t waste anytime spitting that out…and from then on I was much more careful about how I toasted my marshmallows!!

The other thing we would do at the beach was gather sea weed (called kelp) and put it in large silver tubs to take home to put on our garden. Kelp is slippery and looks like long ropes that have leaves on them…It also has these cool bulbs that you could step on and POP!

When the moon was full, sometimes we would go to the beach at night to hunt grunion. Grunion are tiny little silver fish that wash up onto the sand to lay their eggs. They are also good to eat. We’d have our flashlights to shine on the waves, waiting to see them coming in on the high tide. You had to be fast to grab them before they would wash back out to sea on the following waves. It was great fun!! Just being at the beach in the dark was exciting…everything sounded and looked different just by firelight.

Oh – how I enjoy the ocean…It calms and soothes me and I have many happy memories of being there!!

Papa and the Shark

I learned how to swim really well when I was 7 years old…and I LOVED IT ! Sometimes in the swimming pool, sometimes at the beach, but I would spend hours and hours enjoying swimming. My favorite place to swim was at a beach called the “Army/Navy” beach, when we lived in Puerto Rico. (That’s an island in the Caribbean Sea. Look it up on a map.)

It was at that beach that I also learned how to snorkel. The is a way to swim around on top of the water with your face looking down. I would wear a mask so I could see under water just like I can in the open air every day. I could keep looking down without raising my head up to breath because I also wore a snorkel. (That’s like a long tube you put into your mouth that sticks up out of the water through which you can breath). I also wore flippers on my feet that would allow me to paddle very fast and move me through the water.

I really loved to snorkel. When swimming in shallow water I could touch the bottom with my hands where I would run them under the sand looking for sand dollars (These are round creatures in a hard shell that live just under the sand.)

Sometimes I would gather up many sand dollars, put them in a bucket back on the beach and take them home. (Until one day when the sand dollars I took home all died and they began to stink and my mom told me I couldn’t bring any more of them home.)

There are so many beautiful and exciting things to see under the water! There are all kinds of fish, each with different shapes and colors. There are many different kinds of crabs that crawl around on the bottom. Sometimes I could even see little tiny sea horses too.

One of the more interesting kind of creature looked and felt just like rocks! They are called coral and they can form hard rock-like structures under water.

And then there was different kinds of plants that grow under water with different shapes and colors.

So you can see why I liked swimming at the beach so much and snorkeling too. It was a whole different world down there. Every time I would go I would have a hard time making myself quit swimming and go back to the beach, and then home again. But there was one time I didn’t have any trouble at all getting out of the water. It was the day I came face to face with a ten foot long shark !

I was swimming and snorkeling along just like I always did, but I lost track of time and the direction in which I was going. I just kept swimming and swimming, looking down and around at all the beautiful and interesting creatures. Suddenly I noticed that the bottom was getting farther and farther away from me. That meant that I was moving away from the beach instead of toward it! About that time I looked up ahead of me and there right in front was a great big metal net with iron bars blocking my way.

But what was one the other side of the net is what really caught my attention. There, not more than twenty feet in front of me was a ten foot long hammerhead shark !

Boy, did I turn around and swim as fast as I could to the beach !

I got out of the water and told my mom and dad about the big shark, but I was so out of breath and excited I could hardly talk. But they told me not to worry because that was what they had put the net in the water for. It was to keep all the sharks and barracudas away from the people swimming.

Well, I can tell you, I still loved to swim and snorkel, and I still went to the beach and did all the fun things I always did. But it took me quite awhile before I would let myself swim out close to the shark net again. In fact, I’m not sure I ever did after that.

Holy Cow!

Cowboys & Indians. That was one of my 2 favorite games to play when I was a little boy. Here is a picture of me (at the front of the horse) with my mom and 2 cousins. This was taken when we were visiting my cousins on their farm in western Oklahoma:

I had a couple of sets of cowboy clothes, but my most favorite was when I dressed like Hop-A-Long Cassidy. I had so much fun making up different games. Sometimes I would make a whole town out in our yard by placing sticks on the ground to outline the different stores in the town. Then I would ride down the “street” of my “town” on my stick horse and pretend I was the sheriff of the town. Or maybe I would be chasing the bad guys and have a shoot-out on “main street” with my two cap pistols that I always wore.

On one particular occasion my friend and I were playing like were out rounding up some cows and driving them to town to sell. At that time my family and I lived on an Army post in Puerto Rico, and the housing area that we lived in was right next to a huge field that grew grass over 6 feet tall ! In that field were also some real cows just eating the grass.

Well since we were cowboys; and since we were supposed to be rounding up cows to take to town to sell … You guessed it. My friend and I decided we would go after the real cows and see if we could make them go where we wanted them to go.

As soon as we got into the field where the cows were they started to run through the tall, tall grass. And off we went, chasing right after them. Boy what fun we were having! However, the cows were much faster than we were and pretty soon they were so far ahead of us in the grass that we couldn’t even see them anymore.

As you probably know, real cowboys know how to track animals pretty good and we thought we could easily follow these cows…especially since they bent the grass over wherever they went. So off we ran after them as fast as we could.

Now, when you’re running through tall, tall grass as fast as you can, you really can’t see very far ahead. All of a sudden I burst through some of that grass and standing right in front of me was one of those cows with it’s back to me and I almost ran right into its rear end.

About that time the cow lifted its tail way up high and started going to the bathroom right before my face. “YUCK !”, I yelled and jumped backwards just in time for the cow to barely miss me. My friend started laughing so hard he could hardly stand up.

Well, we decided right then that we didn’t want to bring those cows to our “town” as much as we thought we did. Beside, I knew my mom probably didn’t want me to anyway.

The Night of the Big Scare

One of the scariest things that ever happened to me was when I was about 8 years old. One night I went to bed just like any other night. My big sister, Sharon ( who was 4 ½ years older than me) , had gone out for the evening with some friends. My mom and dad were in the living room reading and talking softly. I was safe, secure, and happy so I just snuggled down in bed until I finally fell sound asleep.
Pretty soon I started feeling real, real cold. I didn’t want to wake up because I was so tired, but I kept getting colder and colder. Finally I did wake up … but I wasn’t in my bed ! I was in the back seat of our car which was parked out on the street in front of our house!
I sat up and looked all around but there was no one to be seen. It was dark outside and all the houses on our street didn’t have any lights on at all. All I had on was my under ware shorts so that’s why I was getting so cold. I started to get very scared. Where was my mom and dad? Where was my sister? Why was I in our car all alone? And at night?!
When I couldn’t take being out there in the street any more I opened the car door and ran up to our house door…but it was locked! That’s when I started to cry and bang on the door as loud as I could. For a long time nobody came to the door, and nobody turned on any lights. That just made me even more scared and I cried louder and banged harder and harder.
Pretty soon my mom came to the door half asleep. When she opened it she was shocked too !

“Duane,” she cried, “What are you doing out there?!”

“I DON”T KNOW !” I sobbed.

Well she took me in her arms and by then my dad was up too and he hugged me. Neither one of them had any idea how I had gotten outside into the car in the middle of the night. Boy was I scared. Finally, after I calmed down we figured out what had happened.

During the night, right after my mom & dad had gone to bed, I must have gotten up and walked in my sleep! I must have dreamed we were going someplace so I had gotten into our car and laid down on the back seat. Meanwhile, my sister had come home from being with her friends, gone into the house, locked the door , and turned out the lights.

It was the first, and only, time I ever walked in my sleep. It had scared me so bad that for months afterwards I couldn’t go to sleep at night without my mom tucking my sheets in around me tightly on my bed.

The Giant Sunflowers

On a tiny little farm in the center of the valley lived a family who had 5 lovely daughters.  Their father enjoyed planting a garden and raising animals to help provide the food they needed.  This wasn’t just an ordinary garden – this was a large, huge, gigantic garden with every imaginable kind of food.  There was the sweetest corn on the cob that you ever tasted, there were big red tomatoes and little yellow tomatoes that looked like tiny light bulbs.  There were many different kinds and colors of squash, potatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, okra, spinach, green beans, carrots, peppers, watermelons and cantaloupes, and even awful tasting parsnips… and then…there were sunflowers.

Now sunflowers are not exactly vegetables, but they have seeds that make very tasty snacks.  With bright yellow faces they grow on a stem that makes them look something like a small tree.  They certainly made a nice border around the large, huge, gigantic garden.

Raising a garden is a lot of work.  The dirt has to be dug up, the seeds have to be planted, the plants have to be watered – and in the center of the valley, the plants had to be watered every day.  Then there are the weeds – those other plants that try to grow where you don’t want them too…and they have to be pulled up and thrown away.

So the father of the family needed lots of help from his lovely daughters to take care of the garden.  While each of the girls did their part, Kathy seemed to do especially well at watering the plants.  She would get up very early in the morning to make sure the garden had a good long drink before the day became too hot.  She got lots of freckles on her face from standing out in the morning sun, but there was a feeling of satisfaction from helping care for those plants.

The garden made the family happy – but the father was especially proud of the sunflower plants.  As the days went by, they grew taller and taller and their bright yellow faces shown brighter and brighter.  He would tell his friends that he had never had such grand sunflowers…they were taller than Kathy…taller than her father…before long they were taller than the house…they were a sight to see!

And then, a sad thing happened.  One day after Kathy gave those big plants a drink, she forgot to turn off the water…so the hose ran water on them all night long.  When the father came out in the morning, he was very surprised that he couldn’t see his tall, bright sunflowers.  What had happened to them?  Where did they go? Oh my, their roots couldn’t take all that water – and they had crashed right down to the ground. There lay those big giants with their faces in the mud.

So the father was sad and Kathy felt bad – but from then on, she remembered to turn off the water!!

The Day Papa Met Gramma

Editor’s note:  Today is my dad’s birthday, and low and behold he gives ME a present.  This was my favorite story growing up.  I’m so happy to be able to share it with my kids…and all of you!

Oh what a special day !  Of course, I didn’t know it was going to be so special when the day started out.  It was just like every other day:  I got up to go to class at the college I was attending; then I went to work; then I went back home to have dinner and rest for awhile so that I could then go back to college to attend a night class that I had to take.

You see, just a few months before this day I was released from duty with the US Marine Corps and had gone back to college to study business.  But because I got out of the Marines too late to get all the classes I needed I had to take a class in US History at night.   My sister, Sharon, had agreed to take the class with me, since she was trying to get her college education too.

Being a young man of only 23 years, and not married, I would flirt with all the girls in class, trying to get to know them, and asking them out on dates.  This particular night I was sitting in the first seat at the head of a row of desks waiting for the teacher to come in and start teaching.  My sister was sitting in the first seat on the row of desks next to mine so I was turned sideways talking to her when I noticed this blond girl sitting behind her.  At first I started to speak to the blond girl, but then I noticed sitting behind me another girl.  So I turned all the way around and just looked at her right in the eyes…and she just stared right back at me in my eyes.  I didn’t say anything and neither did she but we just kept staring at each other.

Pretty soon the teacher came in and started to teach, but there I sat with my back to him, staring into that girl’s eyes.  We must have stared at each other for 5 or 10 minutes (at least it seemed like it to me), all the while the teacher just kept on talking.  Of course I didn’t have any idea what he was saying because I was so focused on that girl behind me.

When our class took a break for a few minutes, I went outside and right up to that girl I had been staring at.  The night before this my dad had given me a couple of tickets to an Elvis Presley concert (he was a famous singer that most girls loved back in those days).  So I thought this girl would be eager to out with me to hear him sing.  But the girl told me, “NO , thanks. I don’t like Elvis Presley at all !”  Wow. I didn’t know what to say because I had been so sure she would jump at the chance to go.  So I just found out where she worked during the day that her name was Kathy.  Then the class started again and we didn’t speak any more that night.

However, the next day I just couldn’t get Kathy out of my mind.  All through breakfast, then driving to college to go to class, and all during the classes I took my mind kept coming back to Kathy.  As I was driving home from class I thought, “Maybe I’ll just go by and see if I can find where she works.”  And I did.  Then just as I was going to pass her office I thought, “Maybe I’ll just go in and see if she’s there today.”  And I did.

When I walked in the door there she sat behind the counter talking on the phone.  So I just sat down to wait.  Soon she hung up the phone and said, “Oh, Hi!  May I help you?”

Well, I hadn’t thought ahead of what I might say to her, so, with a smile on my face, I made up the first thing that came into my head.

“Yes,” I said, “As you know I’m taking business classes at the college and I’m doing some research for one of them.  I’m surveying all the secretaries in town to see if their employers give them time off for lunch.  Does yours?”

“Uhhhhh,  yeeessss, “ Kathy said a little suspiciously.

“And how much time does he give you for lunch?”  I asked

“Uhhhhh, 30 minutes” she said even more suspiciously.

“And what time does your lunch hour start?”  I asked innocently, but with an even bigger smile.

“11:30” replied Kathy.

“Fine I’ll be back to pick you up then.” I said now grinning.  Then before she could say Yes or No I turned and walked out, got in my car, and drove off.

I had no idea whether she would go with me when I came back, or whether she would even be there.  But I came back at 11:30 and, to my great delight, she was ready and willing to have lunch with me.  We went to Love’s restaurant, where I first asked her, “What is your last name anyway?”  and where we talked and talked, AND where we made plans to go out in the evening.

Well, we saw each other practically every day after that for weeks on end.  And a couple of months later we decided to get married.  And, as I am  writing this, we have been married for 39 wonderful years, have had two beautiful children that we named David and Deborah, and five marvelous grandchildren named Katie, Josh, Ellie, Scott, and Luz.

We are sooooooo blessed !!!

The Run That Came To A Stop

When I was a little boy, about 11 or 12 years old, I went to a school that was a couple of miles from the housing area we lived in.  Between the school and the housing area there were several big hills and no roads.  Most of the time I would ride the school bus to and from school.  But sometimes, when the weather was good and I had plenty of time, some of my friends and I would walk over the hills to get home.

One time we walked and when we got to the top of the last hill we could see all the houses below us where we lived.  One of my friends challenged us all to a race, down the hill, across the cow pasture, and into the housing area.

Now I was never a very fast runner.  Usually I would come in last in any race, but I decided I would do my best no matter what.  So I hitched up my school books under my arm and took off running downhill as fast as I could.

It was all I could do to keep from falling down because the faster I ran the harder it was for my feet to keep up with my body.  I would stretch out my legs as far as they would go and keep looking ahead to make sure my feet would land in just the right place. Every little mound of dirt became a launching pad that I would step on and from which I would jump as high and as far as I could.

In this way, for the first time, I found myself actually beating the other boys in the race.  Boy was I happy about that.  I had just a dozen or more long strides to make and I would win!  I looked ahead and there was one more dirt mound that I could use to spring from and dash into the housing area.

As my left foot stepped on the top of the dirt mound I glanced down at my feet and there, coiled up just on the other side of the mound, was a very big and very black snake.  With just a glance I couldn’t tell what kind of snake it was, but my right foot suddenly came to a stop beside my left foot.  The problem was my body didn’t stop at all.

My books went flying out of my hand as I reached to catch myself as I fell across that snake.  My hands stopped my body, my feet didn’t move, and that snake was curled up right under my belly.  With a loud yell I pushed with all my might and sprang forward from over that snake and just sat there with my heart racing.

It turned out that the snake was a harmless king snake, even though it was about 6 feet long.  After I calmed down, we captured the snake and played with it for awhile then let it go.

Oh, yes.   I still won the race, because all my friends had stopped to see the snake too.

Big Red

In a tiny little farm in the center of the valley lived the meanest baddest big Rhode Island Red rooster ever!  Just before sunrise Big Red started in with his Cock a doodle doo – Cock a doodle doo – Cock a doodle doo .  All throughout the day he strutted around the pen where the chickens were scratching, eating, generally clucking and laying eggs.  He made sure all those chickens knew he was the king of the roost.

Also on the tiny little farm in the center of the valley lived a sweet little girl.  It was Kathy’s job to scatter the grain for food and make sure the chickens had plenty of water.  She had to go into their pen every afternoon to gather their beautiful brown eggs.

This is where the trouble began.  Big Red – thinking he was totally in charge, did not want anyone coming into his territory.  Kathy needed to collect the eggs and there was no other way to get them except by going near Big Red.  He would flutter and hiss and make noises trying to scare her.  Actually she was afraid and did not look forward to going into the pen, but it had to be done.

One particular afternoon, Big Red must have been feeling especially mean and as Kathy came in to take care of the chickens, he started running toward her, jumping to scare her.  What he didn’t realize is that she had the watering hose in her hands.  A feeling of power came over her and she turned the water on full force and began squirting Big Red showering him with water, hollering at him and chasing him all around the chicken pen. The more he ran, the more she chased and sprayed him.  He was one soaked bird!!

From that day on, Big Red never again tried to scare Kathy!

The day Papa changed schools

When my Papa, your great-grandfather, was 13 years old, he went to junior high school in a small town in Oklahoma.  His daddy was pretty well known in the town because he had been in charge of building all the roads.  That year, the year that Papa was 13, the old principal of the junior high school retired and a new man, George Pierce, became the principal.  Principal Pierce was a big man who walked with a little limp, and he didn’t like Papa’s daddy because he disagreed with him about how the town should be run.  The principal knew who Papa’s daddy was, so he watched Papa and waited for a chance to make trouble.  That chance came one day when Papa’s teacher asked him to run down to the corner drug store to pick up some medicine for her.  Papa went down, got what the teacher needed and came straight back to school.  Just as he came inside, though, Principal Pierce saw him and accused him of skipping school.  Papa tried to explain that he’d just been down to pick something up for Miss Lawrence, but Principal Pierce wouldn’t accept that.  He said that he was going to give Papa a whipping for skipping school.  At first Papa didn’t think too much of it.  Spankings were pretty common then, and a little whack wouldn’t hurt a strong boy like him.  But Principal Pierce had something else in mind.  He went down to the shop teacher and had him make up a special paddle, a big one with holes drilled in it.

When he came back, Papa said, “You aren’t going to touch me with that paddle.”

“I certainly am,” said Principal Pierce.

“If you touch me with that paddle, I’ll tell my daddy and my brother, and you know what they’ll do to you,” said Papa.

“I am the principal of this school, and I’m telling you that I am either going to paddle you with this or you can go home suspended for three days.”

“Oh, I’ll go home,” said Papa, “but not for any three days.”  And with that, he walked out, cleaned out his locker and marched straight down the street to where the Catholic school was.  Protestant kids could enroll there by paying one dollar a week, so Papa signed himself right up.  He had a job at nights, and he knew he could pay for it.

And he never even told his Mama and Daddy.  He paid that dollar a week all by himself, and every morning he left for school with his twin sister, and then she went to the public school and he went on down the street.   That was the last year that Papa went to school, and the beginning of his independence.