Monday, February 15, 2010

A COLD, COLD DAY

click on photos to enlarge
 
It is now morning of the 15th of February, 2010 and it is very cold outside.  The morning started out with rain falling and slowly turning to snow.  The wind has added a blustery, cold touch to an already miserable morning.  It won't be long until the wet roads freeze with the low temperatures.  Already, schools have closed and most government agencies have shut down or canceled daily business.  Of course, I have already made my drive to the lake with Happy just to see what was on the water.  I only saw white caps.  If the wind decreases in speed I may get the dogs out for a romp in the woods.  I brought the canoe into the habitat (where I live) last night and will do some preparation to it for the coming summer adventures.  Actually everything is fine but, I simply want to keep her looking new.  I wonder how the bike is doing out in the shed.  I wonder if the bike is still out in the shed.
While eating breakfast at the little Greenback cafe across the street;  my thoughts started rambling around from this to that and I remembered a comment I received from a coworker at the store, Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson, where I work.  He said, "why do you work so hard on that blog?"  I really didn't look upon the task as work.  But sitting there forking food into my mouth;  the statement came to mind and I gave it some thought.  The following is what I came up with: 
I have had the good fortune to be blessed with fabulous parents and the opportunity to travel across this enormous country numerous times.  My vehicle of choice was the motorcycle.  It still is today.  Every moment I was not working I was astride a motorcycle.  Many years I would own as many as three at one time.  One year I owned and rode six.  I have been in every national park several times and have ridden to and across British Colombia and Canada.  New Brunswick is in there somewhere.  A ride start to finish and back on the Skyline Drive, Virginia was a Sunday ride.  A five or six hundred mile ride on any given day was the normal.  In 1974,  when I worked at a cycle shop named Cycle Sports and Service, a coworker and I actually tried to see who could put more miles on his BMW R90.  Every morning each of us would sneak up to the others bike and check the speedometer to see if he went out the previous night to gain more mileage.  If he did show an additional hundred miles on the odometer;  I would go for a hundred and fifty mile ride that evening just to get ahead.  I won that contest at the end of the year with 78,000 miles showing on the speedometer.  Nick, my friend, showed 77,000.  The point of all this is that it is a memory.  A simple occurrence that was unique in my life.   It held no earth shattering meaning.  It just happened.  But, I never wrote it down and it is lost in the past.  When I mention it to the current flock of bikers;  they look at me with a doubting face.  It doesn't matter what they think really.  I did it and I know I did.  But it was a meaningless accomplishment that was of personal importance.  I beat Nick out on the miles.  Congratulations Gary;  you get to wear your bike out first.
There have been many motorcycles in my life.  Most have been great rides.  One of the most satisfying rides has been my 2001 Harley Davidson Road King that I named Big Red.  Her picture is the first at the top of this blog entry.  What a gorgeous motorcycle.  I loved her.  She has taken me on many wonderful rides.  The bike to the right is a 1979 BMW R100S, I think.  There have been so many.  The roads have been long over the years and the joys many.  I have met countless faces who have disappeared from memory but have contributed so much to what makes me who I am.  Countless miles and countless faces.  Conversations come to mind but the faces remain shadows in the past.  These words I write are from memories.  The memories have never been written down.  No journal has been kept.  The scenes and words from the past reside in my memory, which isn't too good anymore.  I should have kept a journal as I went through life.  But an eighteen or twenty year old would never think of the importance of it.  Not when he had two wheels to keep rolling.  Mountains to cross and places to see.  Had to go.  Go, go, go, go!   I guess I evolved into somewhat of a responsible person as I got older because I have always been able to secure responsible positions.  Industry was the popular place for a young man to seek employment and I chose it as my profession.  I worked my up through the thirty five or so years to a plant managers position at a very reputable company.
Now, I don't want this to sound like the story of my life because there isn't enough room on this computer to put all that mess.  There's method to my madness here.  Bear with me awhile
The plant manager position was great but, it had it's down side too.  I was not happy in that position.  I liked supervisory work.  I could go to work and make things happen.  I enjoyed correcting deficiencies.  It was hands on.  Plant management was an oversight position.  The job encompassed the big picture of a business.  I liked it but not as much as being on the front line where the action was.  In  2004 I was at an age and of the mind where I felt I had risen as far as I could in industry and there were no more ladders available to me to climb any higher on the building called success.  So, off to Tennessee I would go.  And go I did. 
I felt like a traveling gypsy.   Everything I owned in my entire life was on that bike trailer and in the U Haul truck.  When the old farm house and barn was sold and the contents auctioned off;  my ties to Pennsylvania were broken.  Actually the real severance with anything reminiscent of home was when mother and father both passed on.  That was the real breaking point.  The selling of the property by relatives was the final slap across the face.  So it was off to Tennessee.  I figured it was a warm place to go and the motorcycle could be ridden year round.  Was I mistaken!  With the help of a close friend I made it to the great South.  A house in Jefferson City was rented and I was set.  Now;  to find work.  I found that at my age;  finding work was difficult.  Interviews were positive but I kept getting the idea that interviewers suspected I wouldn't stick long with their company.  Then a wonderful thing happened.
I had bought a small bass boat and was putting it on Norris Lake on day when a gentleman in uniform walked over to me and started a conversation with me.  We talked for about an hour.  He thought a lot like I do about things.  In short we hit it off.  He worked for Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and made a comment that I'd fit into the agency perfectly.  The discussion led me to pursue that avenue of employment and I did land a position.
That gentleman and I are best friends to this day.  A full year of service to that agency found me with an insurmountable financial crises and I was forced to withdraw from TWRA.  I loved that job more than any I had ever held.  It also paid the least.  But there is more to life than money.  I just didn't have a lot of money at the time.  Still don't.  But, I'm better off now than then.   I needed a companion to ride with me on those long lonely days cruising the lakes.  Enter one Golden Retriever named Douglas.  He is still my companion to this day.  If you read this blog you'll know what I mean by companion.  I love him and would stop a bullet for him.
We've covered a lot of water together and hopefully will continue to cover it.  Anyone who reads this blog will know how much I love and appreciate these lakes and, Douglas.
My journey through this life has taken me many places.  Marriage passed me by, or I it,  and therefore never had children to handle.  I've faced and handled many difficult situations;  the biggest was the passing of my mom and dad.  That was traumatic.  But, it was something I got through with the help of a wonderful lady I grew up with.  My Aunt Josephine was like a second mother to me.  She resided with her husband, my dad's brother, in the same farm house that mom, dad and I lived in.  Yes;  two separate families raised children side by side in the same home.  They worked the land and found enough money to feed all the mouths and put two of the three through college.  And even with those expenses they still prospered.  Wonder what's so socially wrong today.  But, Aunt Josephine was a blessing in disguise because when dad lost his legs and my mother came down with cancer;  she was the angel of the moment.  She was the salvation of us all.  So when I got the news from her daughter that Aunt Josephine was on her death bed I rushed to Pennsylvania.  
One of my fondest memories of her was Christmas 2004 when we were together at her small home that sits on the outskirts of the old original farm.  She was delighted with my visit and I held her tightly in my arms and told her I loved her;  something I never told my parents.  I enjoyed that visit and told her I'd see her soon.
The phone call was urgent.  When I arrived at the nursing home I was appalled at what I found.  My aunt was lying in bed with a curtain drawn across the room.  Her memory was fading and she would forget who I was moment to moment.  I couldn't believe this was the woman who pulled me through the worse of times.  This was my aunt lying here in this place that appeared to be a holding room for those waiting for death.  So, this was what it's all about.  Turn in a life of hard work and worry;  raise a family, watch two of your kids die early, help the black sheep of the family survive the passing of both parents and end up in this place.  I stayed a couple days and on the last day I made my final visit.  She was not coherent.  As I left, I leaned over her and put my arms clear around her and hugged her.  My face was close to hers and I said, "I love you Aunt Josephine."  Her eyes opened and a smirk appeared on her lips.  She closed her eyes and that was the last time I saw her alive.  I received word two days later she had started her personal journey alone.
What does all this mean or have to do with this blog?  What is a blog?  It's the writing down of memories.  It is documenting things important.  It's just writing thoughts.  I have had many unique experiences in my life. 
 I've visited an airplane that has been under the ice since WWII and has been resurrected to fly once more.
I've had the privilege to make good friends on a dude ranch in Wapitti, Wyomiing
I find adventure here in Tennessee on a daily basis.  I seek it out.
          I work in the finest Harley Davidson store in  the country                                      
I've even owned a neat little cabin on a mountain.  That is, until someone bought the mountain and sent the bulldozers to push down the trees.
This sign has seen more of my motorcycles in front of it than I can remember.  I can't remember past 23 different bikes, I think.  I now live within a few hours driving distance from this old sign.
And here's Big Red after she got into an argument with a big farm tractor over on the road that runs beside Cherokee Lake.  I put her back as good as new.
 These experiences are but a single grain of sand on the beach in my life.  Your life is the same.  Think of all the experiences that only you know about.  Some you may not want known.  Some you can be proud of.  I know that I came from a family rich in ethics and hard working people of the soil.  They wrote nothing down.  Their hardships are going to be forgotten when I pass.  I am all that is left.  There is no written word for them.  This little blog makes me feel good.  I return to past entries from time to time and remember that day, that hour, that occurrence.  I only wish I'd started the process earlier.  I rarely go to the lake or woods without paper and pen.  Lately a camera accompanies me.  This simple blog, when eventually copied and printed, is my only legacy to my life.  I may expound upon it as I get older and write down detailed events in book or journal form.  But, for now it is an ongoing saga of my existence here in Tennessee.  A meager existence, I might add.  One should find time to jot down events as they happen.  I could write a book about my life and half of it would be about my farm life when growing up.  It's amazing what a person goes through in one life.  But, its the only life we have.  So, why not document it?  Enough of this.  Lastly, one of the most important happenings in my life is the acquiring of my current family, who you will see time to time in this blog.  They have been my salvation while so far from my original home and have given me much comfort in bad times.  They're troublemakers also.
This is Douglas.  He is my son.  He's the main guy.  Expedition leader would be another title.
This is Shade.  She was rescued from an island where she was cast out.  She is constant companion to the expedition leader and absolutely adores me.
Happy is a rescue dog.  She was in a pen being molested by a bunch of playful puppies and I let her out to be with Douglas.  I just sort of kept her.  Happy is an accomplished swimmer.  She learned well from Douglas.  She also adores me.  I'm still not adapting well to her shrill yippy, yappy bark.  Drives me nuts!
And Homer.  He is the little cat, then kitten, who I discovered eating out of Douglass food bowl when we lived down in the Cherokee forest.  I knew who his owner was and I knew Homer's life was due to be shortened.  So, Douglas and I took him with us.  Homer also adores me.  
And, of course Sea Foam.  She just showed up here one day all skinny and not much hair on her body.  Her front and real legs had absolutely no hair on them.  The fear was feline leukemia.  Tests proved negative..  Good food produced a basketball size cat with a tiny head on her shoulders.  And, eyes that would melt your heart.  Hence the name Sea Foam.
So there you have it.  A little story has been told about me.  A blog entry.  Most of you will forget it very quickly.  Some will not.  But it's here if you want to remember about something I wrote down.  And it's here if I want to remember this cold, miserable day;  this cold day when I just felt like writing something.