Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Halloween Mask

It was getting close to Halloween, a Holiday that all of us working at the funeral home tried to keep low key for obvious reasons. We tried to maintain the dignity of the profession as best we could.
However, one incident seems to stand out. One of the young apprentices had obtained a full head mask of a rough looking old man. As was the custom, after visitation was over for the evening, and the place cleaned and locked up, someone would go for a bag of hamburgers for all of us.
The young fellow told us he was going to hide in the bushes by the front door and when the runner for the hamburgers got back he was going to jump out at him. So out he went to hide by the front door!
Unknown to us, was that an elderly couple had gotten back into town late after a trip, and wanted to pay their respects to the deceased, hoping someone would let them in, so they could do this before going home.
Well, the kid with the mask only heard footsteps and jumped out of the bushes at them thinking it was the burger runner!
Later he told us, the old man grabbed his chest and fell to his knees, and his wife started screaming for all she was worth. We heard the commotion and let them in. They were soon back to normal telling us what had happened. We had a hard time keeping a straight face,. explaing that it must have been some Halloween trickster.
I think it scared the kid with the mask, more than it did the old couple! He thought he had given the old man a heart attack!
Later that evening we ate our very cold hamburgers, talked about what could have happened, all in the presence of a very young, scared, and quiet apprentice! Once the "shame on you" talk was finished, we all couldn't hold it any longer and laughed like Hell!
The legacy of that Halloween at the home lived on for years! Undertakers being dull and boring....if you only knew!!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Riding The Rails

I'm sure a few of you out there, can remember the mournful sound of a steam locomotive whistle in the night. It wasn't until many years later that I learned that each engineer had his own signature sound with the whistle. I had always thought the whistle would make those mournful sounds on it's own, but it took a special touch with the whistle chain to do the job with finesse!
Then there was steam every where, when those old locomotives would start to move, and the "I Think I can, I think I can" cadence of the steam pistons as they fed power to the wheel's.
Seems a though I was always around trains. My mother's whole family had always worked for the Illinois Central railroad, so I got plenty of exposure to the railroad world. After high school, I worked for the I.C.R.R. for a short time, had to keep the tradition alive, or so I thought! By then steam locomotives were just about gone, and the diesel locomotives were being phased in. I can remember two engineers, one steam, the other diesel, almost coming to blows over which could out pull the other. The steam was more powerful, hands down over the diesel units of the time, just a lot dirtier to operate!
After riding "The Extra Board" for a long time (railroad lingo for work for free, until you learn the job,) I finally got a job as a fireman trainee on a diesel locomotive. Since there was no fire to feed on a diesel, the job was to watch a few gauges, and make sure the engineer was well coffee'ed up! The job soon got boring, even though the pay was great. So I broke tradition, and bid the railroad farwell!
Next, I thought I try a little 'Undertaking"....that job lasted 44 years. Still, everytime I see a locomotive I can still feel the vibration of the steel floor plates under my feet.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mountain Memories !

I think this is the first summer in my 68 years that we did not take an extended vacation! For the most part, it was just too hot to even think about several days on the road, and once arriving at a destination, the heat would wear you down pretty quickly.
Now that the weather has cooled down we  decided a "short" trip might be in order, maybe somewhere here in Tennessee. Since our state is long and narrow, that leaves two choices, Memphis (No way!) or the mountains of east Tennessee. We packed the Accord and headed for The Great Smokey Mountains!
I guess all of the other Geezer's must have had a call to the mountains as well! Gatlinburg was full of them, I'm talking busloads of  'um. Now,  I'm no spring chicken, but these folks were old.
We fit in pretty well with the "senior" scene, and to be honest, I'll take an old Geezer any day over a screaming, bratty kid in a restaurant!
I am still amazed at how the early settlers got across those mountains. I know there are Gaps here and there they could get through, but still, they had to be pretty tough to make it. I'm sure that holds true with the Rockie's as well. We had a great trip!
This coming week end there are all kinds of Bluegrass Festivals to go to. Now for us ridge runners, a good Bluegrass group is about as good as it gets! My good friend, Dapper Dan and I have thought about making an appearance as "The Deep Holler Boy's",  Dapper Dan on his Silvertone guitar can keep up with the best of them, but, my old five string banjo can't seem to get the right notes, or completely forgets what song we are playing! Must be "CRS" creeping up on me!  Some of these folks that play at these festival's, come out of the hills around here and have virtually been playing and singing Bluegrass music since they were kids! Tough acts to follow.
No frost yet here on the ridge, but you know it's coming. Keep your wood dry!