I think it was about 1937 when I heard my dad say those words to Mother. Dad had been up the road a ways and had seen the Gypsies and he high-tailed it home to warn us. He had guessed that they would set up camp on a beautiful spot on his farm near the creek and, sure enough, he was right. This painting was frustrating to me because most of my art is from events, plus lifetime memories and I think I am out of memories that can be put on canvas. I thought a clear memory of this would come to me as I painted, like it had in many of my other paintings, but it didn’t happen. As I said, I can remember Dad saying to Mom, “Gypsies were heading our way.” Another time I remembered Dad working in a field far from the house and him telling Mom to watch the hen house and if any of them headed toward the barn or house, ring the bell for him. They must have camped there for a couple of weeks. I remember the Gypsy women with really bright-colored dresses and the men were rough and dirty. I remember that they had really old vehicles and my guess is that they were of the 1920s era. That is it. Nothing else comes to mind, so this painting is full of fantasy and that is what frustrated me. I like dealing in reality, which makes me wonder if I will ever do another painting unless I come up with a decent memory. People questioned why would anyone allow people to just camp on their land. Youngsters don’t understand. In my world, people didn’t get bent out of shape if others walked through or hunted on their property as long as nothing was destroyed. You didn’t bring a silly lawsuit against the owner if you got hurt on someone’s property. Besides, anyone who owned a large farm, like Dad and had chased people off an acre or two would be considered a cheap ass..
Ella, Gypsies are Heading our Way
Medium: acrylic on canvas Size; 171/4 x 341/2 Price : $5,500.00
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You Haven’t Paid Your Rent
Medium-- acrylic on canvas Size--14 x 16 Price -- $7,200.00
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I created this composition with memories of sights similar to this painting. I see a large, peaceful farm with the closest neighbor two miles away, a dirt road around a pond, a fine hardwood timber woods in the distance, a Massanutten mountain ridge beyond the woods, a sky that I love and I say it must be the month of June. The foreground has plenty of action at the edge of this other woods as crows raise hell at some coons who have invaded their territory. The crows must have just discovered the coons because in reality there would be many more than four crows fussing at the coons, so my guess is that other crows haven’t heard the call yet. Just wait, before long the woods will echo with the racket and it probably will go on all day. Dwell on the painting and you might hear them; I can.
It is about 1935 and the location is an area named Rinkerton about two miles from Mt Jackson, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley.
I had been riding in the family car with my two sisters, coming back from a trip to Mt. Jackson and Mother is at the wheel. We crossed Mill Creek on the trestle bridge and the land to the left is where the Funkhouser farm started.
We saw Dad heading to the house for lunch. He had been working in the woods dragging logs and had unhitched the drag sleigh from his work horse. Mother stopped the car to talk to him and Dad said, “Come on Jimmy, ride with me.” Mother lifted me over the fence and I was ready for a happy ride with my dad.
It just so happened that there was a mulberry tree close by. Dad stood me up on the horse and held me while I reached for those sweet berries. We both stuffed our faces.
It was hot. Bees were buzzing and gnats were getting in my eyes, but it was a really good day. I remember the smell of the sweaty horse and my dad as we road about a quarter mile to the house.
Dad and I Stuffing Our Face Under the Mulberry
Medium-- acrylic on canvas Size --18 x 31 Price -- $4,600.00
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People ask how is it that you are able to remember so much from long ago. The reason, I guess is that I grew up in an un-congested area in a period in history that allowed time to reflect. We weren’t bombarded with events, so the events that we had were big events and they stuck with us. We didn’t have electricity until I was about seven or eight plus no indoor bathrooms. I doubt that my memory is above average and in fact my short term memory is terrible.
My granddaddy was a livestock dealer and dad raised cattle. Granddaddy Funkhouser died before I was born and for some reason dad lost his farm when I was about four or maybe four and half years old. It was about 1936 or 37. I can still see dad’s and mother’s faces as I road between them in dad’s truck as we left with the last load of our belongings. We had just crossed Mill creek and turned right. At that point one could look back and see the farm. Tears were streaming down mother’s face and dad looked so very, very sad. No words were spoken until we got to a rented house in New Market where we lived for over a year.
I don’t think that dad really ever got over losing his farm. It was a failure that ate away at him. Times were rough. As I grew older, I saw the despair in his face as he applied for work and never got the job. He was of the wrong political party and that had a lot to do with it. He was able to survive by doing many different odd jobs. He was a very special person with many talents and just needed for someone to tell him that. I failed him. He knew that I loved him, but I should have told him that he was really special. I was so concerned with making my own way in the world that I let time go by until it was too late. I was a God damn dumb ass.
New Market was where I attended first grade. I was a kid who hadn’t been around a town much and was scared of my shadow. Of course there were a couple of bullies. One was a preachers son who enjoyed beating me up. School was only a short distance from home and everyone in town walked to school anyway. I ran faster than anyone to the house. I never got even with that bastard until many years later while playing against him in baseball.
Many youngsters view things much different than reality like, forty year old people seemed really old, two miles was a long way, etc. Maybe a lot think they really had it rough as a child. No doubt many did, but judging who had it rougher than others is very hard. A state of mind is a very large factor as to how hard one had it or has it.
All I can say is that I feel like I grew up in one of the luckiest places and luckiest times in history. All the hard times were adventures. Plenty were adventures that I didn’t like, but I am very glad I had them. I feel like the youngsters for many years now, have missed out on all the fun. I love the memories, but would I want to go back? Hell no. I would like to be able to correct my mistakes of not telling my parents and loved ones how special they were. For me, it isn’t what I said, it is what I didn’t say.
I kind of got off the story about the mulberry tree, but I think the truth and what comes to mind is important. So what if it isn’t a well written story.
Sunday Morning Fly-In At The Pig Patch
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 12 x 42 Price -- $20,000.00
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Most of my art is about my experience of years ago or about some place that I loved. In other words, my art usually has a true story, such as this painting that is titled “Sunday Morning Fly-in at the Pig Patch.” I paint so I can re-live and keep my memories from fading away.
The painting shows a typical Lakeland, Florida Sunday morning with a bunch of tail-dragger pilots flying into the field that pigs once ran. The Pig Patch property was located off the Old Polk City Rd. which was owned by and leased from Mr. O’Doniel.
I claim that the fly-ins at the Pig Patch was what “hatched” the Sun-n-Fun; I will get to that later because now I want to explain the story that this painting tells.
The property of this grass strip was about 50 acres (I guess) and this painting is a close depiction of the lay of the land with some small changes. As we look due west, we see Ronnie Boutwell’s plant farm that is just west of the hanger, which is south and adjacent to the 27-9 grass strip. What is NOT in the painting is Wilkerson’s rose farm that was south and adjacent to Boutwell. Next was Francis Langford’s old home place that Charlie Dykes owned that is NOT shown. The Coca -Cola Company grove in the painting was next but did NOT come as far north as shown, but I wanted to include it. That grove ran from there south to I-4 and included all of what is now the Sandpiper community. Looking to the right and north, O’Doniel’s house wasn’t shaped like that nor do I remember a barn. There was NO cattle loading ramp that is shown on bottom right corner. I needed something for the boys to “play” on.
Look closely and you can see another mowed strip that runs really close, in front of the main hanger, crosses the other strip and continues in front of the hanger that I built where my old panel truck is parked. That strip probably was about a 22-4 strip. I was unable to show the many pines that were north on the property that we flew around.
The activity is Rocky Sawyer (you might know Rocky’s son, Forrest Sawyer, a retired TV news correspondent) standing on the running board of his truck pointing to Wayne Thomas who was doing a fly-by in his Corsair. I don’t think Wayne ever landed his Corsair there. Wayne also owned a T-6. Someone dropped a T-6 on the Pig Patch one day but I don’t remember who. Bob Aliva and his wife are about to get into what looks like a Stearman. (They were so nice and a pleasure to be around.) That is Jack Bowling leaning on the wing talking to Merl Jenkins as they watch the Corsair. Johnny Best is propping the J3 Cub for Charlie Miller and his student. Smokey Castner is just walking up after landing his gyrocopter.
The red plane flying is me in my 1942 90 hp S-1A Interstate Cadet. I can bet most have never seen one or even heard of one. If you have flown one, you will know that it would out-perform every plane in its class. About 320 were built by Interstate Engineering Co. in Calf. in 1941-42 and about the same number for the military, which was called the L-6. The blue plane taking off behind me is a 65 hp Interstate that someone from north Florida flew in just for the day. (The 65 hp Interstate was kind of sick.) Duffy Thompson and Billy Henderson are over under the hanger talking. A friend is flying Duffy’s Stinson and I don’t know where Billy’s Tri Pacer is. Maybe Floy Sawyer (Rocky’s wife) is flying it? Em Avery is also under the hanger getting ready to gas up that biplane.
Every one of the characters and planes in the painting are real to me, but of course mean nothing to you. For me, it is a way to bring back memories and have a feeling of being right there. Many times, as I do a painting, I can get the smell and emotion of that time gone by.
Now, to my claim about the Pig Patch being the start of the Sun-n-Fun. I certainly don’t know who the first person to bring up about having a major fly-in in Lakeland, but I do know that right there on the Pig Patch there was plenty of talk about doing it and Rocky Sawyer had the strong voice and I know that he worked hard on the site preparation. I am sure many others did also. I remember sitting in on one meeting and thinking, “Gee, these guys aren’t just talking; they are going to make it happen.”
Not once did I ever offer any input. I was just happy having my plane at the Pig Patch; besides I was not an EAA member and didn’t think I should speak out. The Pig Patch was sold for development and I drifted away from flying. I do relive flying and other life events through my art.
Belittling the Belittlers...Days of Sensibility
Medium--acrylic on canvas Size -- 12 x 42 Price -- $20,000.00
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Some weeks ago, I found myself working in some dust and wishing that I had a respirator close by to grab. It made me think back many years to when I had worked in dusty conditions without using protection (except tying a handkerchief around my face), like working in cement dust, chicken house dust, jack-hammering limestone rock and feeding thrashing machines. All of this brings me to the reason for this painting titled “Belittling the Belittlers”.
At around 15-16 years old, I followed and worked with a threshing machine crew for about 10 days. Not many had threshing machines, so usually one owner traveled around to different farms, threshing either for legal tender or being paid in grain.
My first day started with the boss deciding which person would do each job. He said, “I need someone to feed the threshing machine for the first three hours because I want Ivan, who is my feeder, to repair my shucker the first thing.”
I volunteered that I would and everyone laughed. From that moment on, I hated their guts. The boss (I can’t remember his name because I supposed I never wanted to) said something like, “Sonny, as frail as you are, you wouldn’t last a half hour.” I was angry inside, buy I calmly said that I could handle the job. He said, “Okay, but you better not fall behind and have wagons lined up waiting for you, or you will be sent away from here with no job at all.”
It turns out that Ivan couldn’t get his repair work completed. I had kept up with the wagons coming from the field, but the boss came around and said, “Sonny, I will send another person to do this so you will be able to work tomorrow.” I said, “Nope, I told you I could handle it.”
I showed up every day after that and grabbed a fork, ready to pitch wheat. I can tell you that I was sore all over every day, but I wouldn’t let that bunch see it and laughed to myself as I watched them drag their smart asses around. Feeding the machine was very hot, dusty work. I was galled between my legs and under my arms. My hands were full of blisters caused by sweaty hands gripping the pitchfork handle, and I had a large blister in my right palm from pushing on the end of the handle. Slitting the blisters with a knife was the best way to ease the pain. My hands and legs cramped all night, especially the nights after the evenings that I had set up duck pins at the bowling alley. I remember sleeping those hot nights in the nude and the sheets being wet from sweat. I think that I blew dust out of my nose for days. I would drag out early every morning, pushing myself to look peppy as I arrived for work. The pay was 75 cents per hour in those days, but if I remember correctly, he only gave me 50, but I wouldn’t have begged off that job, even if my testicles had fallen off. I made all those laughers eat crow and it felt good. I wasn’t as strong as most of them, but I had built up my stamina and could stand more on-the-job misery for a longer period than anyone that I knew. I never made fun of anyone for their physical make-up in my life and I hate the guts of any inconsiderate/rude bastard who does. Now, please don’t anyone come to me and tell me that I shouldn’t hate. I was born with emotions and I will use the hate emotion when needed. Belittling is one of the cruelest acts done to another, and there isn’t much defense for it without making a fool out of you except showing them up, make them eat crow, so to speak. I knew that I had beaten them. I never let them see me smile, though.
I couldn’t remember much about any of the farms that I worked at, but it gave me an excuse to use the farm and the house I was born in for the scene of my story. I had lived there for about my first 4 ½ years before we moved, but it was amazing how much memory came back as I searched my mind for the way the house, barn and land looked.
Like many farms there in the valley, it was beautiful, not as beautiful as some. Nonetheless, it was very pleasant to the eyes in every direction. The barn and house are still in excellent condition and my guess is that they are 150 years old and will still be standing another 200 years or more. The farm must be around 250 acres. My grandparents’ farm of another 200 acres or so was adjacent on the southwest side of that included another very large barn and large house with high ceilings, winding staircase, etc. Granddaddy’s house is very old and its condition says that it will stand a very long time also. However, the barn is not in good repair. Both farms were cattle farms.
Back to my painting: my placement of the house and barn, plus looking southeast about four miles to the Massanutten Mountain that you see coming from the left side are very similar, plus the yard fence was like that, but reality stops there. The barn did not have a stone foundation and the side porch of the house was a little different. I see nothing wrong with mixing a little fancy with the truth as long as the true story is kept intact.
We are looking at a wheat threshing operation in progress at around noon. It is very hot. I am feeding the machine. Another person is maneuvering the chute. One is carrying a full burlap bag and placing it out of the way. The 1947 Ford truck is hauling a load away to the mill and a young child is thrilled that he is being waved to. The boss is operating his steam engine tractor and notice how far away from the thresher he is set up. That is done so the large belts can twist freely, plus not crowding the feeding operation. The man under the shade tree is gulping down water and you see the man handing a wrench to the boss, plus the fellow coming away from the johnny house fixing his belt.
In the field, you see two men loading a wagon and one loaded wagon heading in for me to unload and I had better move faster. As you can see, we have threshed three-quarters of the field and it is about noon. As soon as we finish, we will head to another farm.
You see the two women preparing the long dinner table in the yard. Women at the farms always furnished very large meals, with steak, pork, homemade bread, every kind of vegetable under the sun, plus three or four different kinds of pies and cakes. Top that off with homemade ice cream that you see that young man making.
As you see, transportation to the farms varied. My bicycle lies against the fence, followed by a 1937 Willys (my dad had one like that) and next is a 1940 Chevrolet. Up by the chicken house is about a 1930 Model A Ford.
Depending on the farm location, I rode my bike or hitched a ride. Rough work, but I took pride in all my jobs, trying to be the best. And so goes another segment of my life.
I'll Lick His Face
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 14 x 18 Price -- $4,000.00
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This painting was done to remember how that buck had the last laugh on me.
I was about sixteen years old and hunting deer in the foothills of the Massanutten. It had warmed up to be a great day to just enjoy the beauty, stillness and the fresh air. I sat back against a tree and leaned my 30-30 against a dead maple tree. Nature was so peaceful and I fell asleep. I don’t know what woke me up, but when I did, there was a beautiful large buck staring at me, only about sixty feet away.
I very slowly moved my left arm to get my gun, but that was a smart buck. He leaned forward with his head low in a butting position, and then moved his head up or down a few times as if to say, “I know what you are up to”. Then he raised his left leg, pawed the ground, barked, spun to the right and started running like lightning. In about three long jumps, he was in the thickets. I didn’t have time to get the gun to my shoulder to get off a shot. I didn’t really care because I thought he needed to live anyway.
There are three things in the painting that wasn’t in the real life event. First, I would never have worn a stupid camouflage outfit, even if they had them back then. That was for people who want to play macho. I didn’t have a bottle of wine, but if one had been available, I would have been drinking it. I had never heard of Hustler magazine back then, but I would have been reading it if I had. In those days, I had two things on my mind--sex and baseball. That day when I fell asleep, I most likely was fantasying on sex as I drifted off, so those three things, camouflage clothes, wine and the Hustler magazine do help tell the story about my mental make-up.
Little Joe Likes To Be In The Traffic Flow, But Mom??--
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 14 x 24 Price -- $1,800.00
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Sometime back I met a man named Joe and he told me of growing up in the small town of Pine Level, NC. We had things in common because I too had grown up in a small town in VA. One thing led to another and he told me that as a child of about 3 to 4 years old he rode his tricycle all around the small town ( from research I guessed at that time period Pine Level population was around 400, about like my town) and one day he decided that he wanted to get on the road and be in the traffic flow through town. What the Hell! Maybe he thought that his daddy was paying plenty of taxes going towards roads, etc., so he might have figured he was entitled to use the road also.
Anyway, little Joe was doing his thing and I doubt any of the motorists were all that upset because they must have had cramps from laughing.
Now as a small town boy myself, I know that everyone in these small southern towns knows each other too damn well. So the story is that several town folks called little Joe’s mom and she came running through town fast as a deer to give little Joe an attitude adjustment.
In my painting I took a true story and put fantasy into it. I dreamed up my style of vehicles, multi-story buildings which I doubt there are any there even now. My research gave me some early names to put on the buildings and on the truck. You notice that little Joe knows how to obey the traffic laws by the way he stopped at the painted traffic bar to wait for the train to pass. Something lots of drivers don’t follow.
This story needed to be told and what better way than through a painting?
Gooney Bird Battles Mosquitoes
Medium -- acrylic on aanvas Size -- 10 x 32 Price -- @2,200.00
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It has been said that the Gooney Bird changed the world. That is a broad statement, but there is no doubt that it played a big part in the changes that we have seen in more recent days.
When I was young, during World War II, I went out to see every plane that I heard and the DC3, as well as other planes, had its own distinct sound, but it was really different with a smooth hum as it lumbered across the sky. That plane played a huge part in the war and of course it was a workhorse in passenger travel. I never forgot its sound and as the years went by I seldom saw one.
In 1992 I was living in a 20 foot long camper while I was building a house in the boondocks of Kentucky. The nights usually were very dark with only lights way off in the distance, which made star-gazing enjoyable. One night, about 1 or 2 o’clock, I heard that steady hum of a Gooney Bird. It boosted my morale so much that I got up from the bunk and went outside in the cold to watch its wing lights creep across the sky. It was a bit like I had company in my lonely existence. I wondered if some company was still using one for a mail haul. It was heading southwest, and I guessed what city it was coming from and going to.
The next night was a repeat at about the same time. On moonlit nights I enjoyed seeing its silhouette. I looked forward to each night when I heard it.
Now, let us go back to the Gooney Bird and mosquitoes. We lived in Lakeland, Florida, and around the early seventies I started to fly airplanes. A neighbor (Elmer Ashley) was a pilot for Polk County and he flew a Piper crop duster plane that was used for mosquito control. The plane was based at the Winter Haven airport where Grover Summers had a flying/plane maintenance operation. At that location there also was a Gooney Bird which belonged to Polk County too. I don’t know for sure how they came into possession of it, but I think it was confiscated from drug runners. Anyway, Grover Summers, along with Elmer’s help, rigged the old DC-3 up to spray for mosquitoes.
That old workhorse was put back into action. It hauled a much larger payload than the single engine Piper crop duster. It was quite a treat watching that twin engine bank around and come down skimming over the terrain.
One day, Elmer called me and asked if I would like to go along on a mosquito run the next morning. I remember having lots of work that I needed to complete, but I had to make time for that little adventure.
At around 4:30 AM I met Elmer and we headed to the Winter Haven airport. Safety preparations had to be made before going on the run at daybreak. First, the usual safety checks on the plane; then, with the chart in hand, there was a lot of discussion about where and how the run would be made, such as the location of tall structures, wind direction, allowable elevation over buildings on the route to the run, no noise zones, etc. Grover and Elmer made sure they were on the same page with the plan before the flight was to begin, kind of like a bombing run.
After the two had their morning coffee, the sun was peeking over the horizon, so it was time to go. I always loved flying in the early morning. It is so smooth and the beauty will stay with me forever. This morning was no different. The Gooney Bird got off the ground in short order. It was a matter of (maybe) 15 minutes and we were ready to peel off for the runs. I had loved flying my plane to the swamp and dropping down to maybe 20 feet and weaving around the cypress trees, but it was really a special feeling sitting in the cockpit, way in front of the wing as we skimmed over the ground.
Well, guess what? They let me take the controls and make a few maneuvers. Years ago, as I adored those old DC-3s, I never dreamed that many years later, I would get to handle the yoke of one.
I owe Grover and Elmer many thanks for the trip and I bet that they were taking a chance on getting into trouble by allowing a (non-county) employee go on that government-funded flight.
This painting puts me back there in that Gooney Bird. I can re-live that wonderful, subtle adventure each time I look at my painting. It is hard to put a price on that.
Mother, I Saw A Big Noisy Bird
Medium -- acrylic on canvas size -- 17 x 25 Price -- $3,100.00
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This painting represents the first airplane that I saw in my life and yes, here I am again between two and four years old playing outside with my dog “Sport” where I lived on Daddy’s farm about 2 miles from Mt. Jackson, VA in the Shenandoah Valley.
Sport and I were near the hen house doing whatever. All at once there was a purring, humming noise and to my left came a bright two-winged bird very, very low to the ground. As it sailed by a man waved to me from that thing. Sport was terrified and the chickens were flying against the chicken wire in the hen house.
I watched it fly low until it got near Granddaddy’s barn (which was a half mile away) and then it made a lot of noise as it climbed high. I wondered why Mother hadn’t come outside and I ran inside to the front room of the house, where Mother was sewing on her treadle machine, to tell her about the noisy bird. She didn’t know what I was talking about.
After growing much older and learning about things of the world, I pondered the event. I think Mother hadn’t heard the plane engine because it was throttled back and her treadle sewing machine was making just enough noise, plus the right frequency to blend in with the plane engine sound. I also surmised that the plane had been a Stearman since it was a bi-plane and they were very popular in those days.
I Said That You Needed To Mount The Spare, But NO!
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 17 1/2 x 29 1/2 Price -- $6,500.00
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Yes, as you can see, my (used to be) friend and I were going to go over the mountain to Stanley to play in a baseball game. My friend, who I will call “Buster” (I will not mention his real name for non-essential reasons), owned a Model A Ford. Buster and I had been close friends since the second grade and at this point in life we were around 15-16 yrs. old. I didn’t own a car, so I paid a share of the expenses of our journeys.
From time to time, we went to games by this method. We had been battery mates since we knew about baseball and by traveling this way, it gave just the two of us time on the way to talk about a strategy against their hitters and then on the way back after the game we could replay the game, no matter who won.
In those days travel was not very heavy on main roads, much less on secondary mountain roads that Buster and I traveled frequently. Most travelers took the paved roads, but we were different animals. On this hot Sunday the game was set to start at 1:30 and we wanted to get there by 12:30 for batting practice, so that meant that we should leave no later than 11:45.
Buster wasn’t the type to plan ahead for the worst situation and what to do in case that happened. I never figured out why he was like that since playing baseball (at least for me) was about “what will I do if the ball is hit to me, or if so and so happens?” In other ways, Buster was a schemer, so I couldn’t figure.
At the last minute (as usual) as we started to leave, I noticed that the spare wheel/tire was not mounted to the rear of the car. I said to Buster, “Even though it will make us a little late, you needed to mount that spare”. He said “No! My tires are in good shape, so no need to worry about that.” I said, “You know that there will probably not be a car on that road all day to catch a ride with.” His retort, (in his precocious, Shenandoah Valley, hick voice) “Ahhhh Hellll Dewey, you worry and do too much planning.” Yes, he had been precocious since I first knew him at age seven. Well, off we go…
My memory tells me that we had gone over a few ridges, got about halfway there and as we were having serious conservations about the upcoming game, bang, bump, bump, bump. I spouted out, “You see, I told you so.
Why don’t you just leave it parked here because we lucked up with it going flat at this spot, there is room for anyone to get past if someone does come along. The end of the world won’t come if we miss batting practice, so we can walk the rest of the way and make it by game time.” Buster argued that he wasn’t about to walk that far in the heat and we didn’t have all that much water with us. His car-- I lost the argument.
He said that he had a jack, a tube patch kit and tire pump and that he would have it fixed in no time. Yeah, Uh hum. We chunked the front wheels, jacked the car, got the wheel off, pried the tire out of one side of the wheel and got the tube out. There was more than one hole in the tube, but we never could find any nails or cause and never could figure out how we got into anything sharp on that road. Across the road and down in a dip there was a perfect rock for working on the tube. Buster got down on one knee and did the tube patching while I fussed at him and pointed out the time on my watch from time to time.
It took us about 45 minutes to get the tube patched, mounted in tire, mounted and pumped up. We got to the game in time, but just as we got there the tire had lost air again. Buster’s patch work was lousy. After the game was over it was time to tackle the problem again and here is where my memory fades out. I can’t remember the game outcome either. Wish I could. Maybe if I keep looking at the painting, it all will come back.
Buster and I have not been close friends for around 55 years now. As we got older we just drifted apart. There were no harsh words spoken between us, but our views about America’s policies and social issues just weren’t compatible. If we met now, we would just say hello, ask polite questions about families, talk a little baseball and say good bye.
Really, as youngsters, we were always quite different in character and that never once bothered me or (I am sure) him. We were together a lot when I didn’t have chores or work. Buster didn’t work. He was of the haves and I was (you might say) of the have-nots. Oh no! He wasn’t lazy. I was just a hard worker and with my limited vocabulary I will just say he was more of an entrepreneur. He would get up early in freezing weather, tramp through the ice, check his muskrat and skunk traps for his catch and he sold the pelts. He dug and sold fishing worms, sold fish that he caught, seined for minnows and hellgrammites then sold those. Well, that was work, I suppose, yet he liked it. As you can see, he wasn’t lazy. His parents had modest means, he just had ambition for more money and you can’t condemn him for that. I could say that he was training himself to become an entrepreneur.
Hell! I wasn’t going to get up in the snow and ice to trap. If I had to or wanted to, it would have been another matter. Besides, he always had warmer clothes than I did and I didn’t like being cruel to those little critters. A quick kill of wildlife was what I was about. I did make box traps to catch rabbits for food. They didn’t suffer. I hunted deer, squirrels, rabbits, plus fished and Buster hunted that way also. Buster made some money his way and I made mine by asking to do jobs. People found out that I worked hard, then the word got around and I got more different types of jobs. I got experience one way and Buster got his experience other ways. He learned how to take advantage of other people’s needs. I don’t want to say that he was an out and out user, but always on the alert for something that benefited him. Yes, he would squeeze a nickel until the buffalo pissed. Here again, nothing wrong with that, it is just that we are different; though it didn’t matter to him or me years ago, it does now.
I Got You Home, But I Am Glad That You Can't See
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 17 x 33 Price -- $6,200.00
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I bet your first thought is that I am a Civil War buff, but it can’t be further from the truth. The little that I know about it was told to me mostly when I was kid.
I did grow up in a house ( which I think is listed on the National Historical Record) that was in the thick of battle located in Edinburg, VA. We dug mini-balls out of the house siding. Dad found an artillery shell that never exploded on the hill behind the house. My cousins found five or six cannon balls in the creek. One guess is that they dropped off a wagon as they crossed the rough rock of the creek bed.
I was told by my friend’s great grandmother (who was about seven at the time this happened) that battles raged from what was called the Schoolhouse Hill across the creek to the hill behind the Whissen house. My estimate is that the distance from point to point was around 2,000 feet. Also a Yankee general came through and burned a number of buildings and other items, including the covered bridge at the north end of town.
No! My interest, or lack of interest in the Civil War did NOT inspire me to do this painting. What inspired me was a few weeks ago I started to think how America glorifies war and macho things. Hell! We have to look and act military. We wear (NOT ME) camouflage clothes and this is big business. It may be the most popular fabric now… This war push is almost as profitable as religion with the promotion of camouflage step ladders, keys, knives, baseball uniforms including the caps, plus so much more that I can’t even recall all of it right now.
Have you noticed that every politician makes it a point to bring up the slogan “support the troops”? WHO DOESN‘T SUPPORT THE TROOPS?? Most of us are working hard and paying for the troops’ salaries. I say support the working people. Of course all of this support the troops thing requires throwing in a few words about Jesus and God, some seem to think. Got to let people know that all is with God’s approval. “Its in the Bible.”
Preachers who claim they are doing God’s work wear the military garb, plus push for the destruction of others. Many huge Hummers are driven proudly with military logos all over the windows, showing that the owners are Goddamn tough and the gun rack in the window just goes to show that to everyone.
Of course these people have never grown up and they have the John Wayne mentality, plus are very brave in a group, but have no idea how miserable war can be as the scene in the painting shows. This could have easily taken place somewhere back then. The story goes that before the Civil War, men and women thought it would be a ’glamorous” experience to fight in the war. Some records show more than 600,000 Yankee and Rebel troops died, but doesn’t record the relatives whose lives were turned upside down with grief. The number who experienced that would number well over a million, according to some historians.
Yes, there is a time there has to be war, but condoning this war mood in America means you are stupid, blood-thirsty or don’t mind the beheadings or torture in the world. Whatever is pushing this “fever“, it is aclear indication that we live in a “sick” society today.
She Could Do It All
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 10 x 19 Price -- $13,000.00
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My mother really could do it all.
Yes, my mother was a special woman. She was an all-around person doing things like growing a garden, chopping wood, milking cows, pitching hay, butchering, washing clothes with a washboard/wringer machine, making dresses for my sisters on her treadle Singer, etc., but she was a whiz-bang in her kitchen. I can still taste some of that food, especially the bread slices coated with butter and sliced tomatoes, mashed potatoes and her great gravy. Those large bread rolls coated with honey weren’t bad either.
Dad would come in with large strings of fish, frogs and turtles. Mom fixed them all just right, but in those days frog legs were my favorites. The turtles had different types of meat, and I remember the very tender white meat. Any of those meats and plenty of different vegetables on the table could top any restaurant anywhere. We had homemade ice cream, chocolate cake, strawberry shortcake, taffy and more…Well, you get the picture. Mother did all that work and she still stayed beautiful.
As years went by, Mother didn’t seem to cook the same way and I could see that she didn’t enjoy the kitchen as much.
I got lucky and married a woman who could do many of those things too.
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 10 x 14 Price -- $1,200.00
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I understand this was a huge tobacco facility here in Greenville, NC where we now live, and that what you see in the painting was only part of the building. A major portion of it was already gone, and I have no idea what happened to it.
I have only lived in Greenville since 1999 and I have not searched for information as to the history of that facility. I just know that I liked to go there and stand off at a distance and look at it. I loved to see those tan bricks against just the right shade of blue morning sky with a very light burnt sienna tinted area just above the horizon. The railroad track, smoke stack, old rusty water tank, a runner, plus a little girl and boy balancing themselves on the rail in the foreground just makes the scene AMERICAN.
I had heard that it was going to be destroyed soon. I am very happy that I didn’t procrastinate and captured on canvas what I had loved to look at in real life before it was destroyed.
Pat On Track
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 10 x 22 Price -- $1,300.00
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The Shenandoah Valley is a beautiful place, but back before around the nineteen sixties, it was a gorgeous place. Stupidity and greed has been destructive there, just like all across America.
In the late forties and early fifties, I couldn’t wait to leave there, however, looking back, I had experienced much that many never do, as well as being around some of the most beautiful landscape/agriculture in America, plus a diverse group of characters with many talents and trades.
I would argue that the true Shenandoah Valley runs from N.E. (at round Winchester) to the S.W. around Staunton. The towns are about 4 to 8 miles apart through the valley. My guess is that you have been through the valley, but most likely on I-81 and not on US11. If that being the case, you have missed the many interesting towns like Strasburg, Toms Brook, Woodstock, Mt. Jackson, New Market and Harrisonburg and their residences with names like Dingledine, Hosaflook, Motons, Wine, Didawick, Poffenburger, Painter, Sheetz, etc.
Those towns had many characters and the town I lived next too had it’s share and I don’t remember any conformists. I don’t say character in a negative tone like some do. I like them. They aren’t fakes. Usually, what you see is what you get.
This brings me to “Pat On Track” I will not use last names for fear of some thinking I am being disrespectful, which I am not and I liked and respected all in this story.
Pat was a hard working and talented man. He reminded me of Jiggs in “Maggie & Jiggs in the funnies. I got to know him by him picking me up when I was thumbing to work. At about 14 to 16 yrs old, I sat up duckpins most nights from 5:00 to 12:00 at a bowling alley in another town. Pat would happen along and pick me up. He always had an interesting look about him. He kind of leaned over as he drove, with his hat on side-ways. He had funny stories to tell as he rolled a perfect cigarette as he drove. Amazing! Course the speed limit was only 35 mph back then. I remember holes in the floorboard that could be used to spit tobacco juice (if one so desired), National Bohemian and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans. I liked Pat and I think he liked me.
This painting tells of just one of Pat’s adventures. I did not witness the event, but it was told to me and of course everyone in a small town finds out about almost everything. I personally know that when one has an unusual happening, they never let you forget. It was all in fun, but you had better know how to laugh at yourself when others laughed at and with you.
Well, one night Pat was back in the foothills of the West Virginia mountains drinking White Lightnin’ with his friends. Some time in the middle of night, he decided to head home. I was told that it was around 1:00 AM. His route home took him on a rural road to US11 where he was supposed to turn left. About a ¼ mile before US11 was a railroad track running parallel at that point to 11. When Pat came to the track, he turned left onto it, thinking he was on US11. It could have been foggy, plus the White Lightnin’ might have struck him?
So, now Pat is straddling the track and the railroad ties are giving him a really rough ride. Later, he said, at first he thought that the lousy state road department had been working on US11 again. Then, when he realize that he was on track, it was too hard to back all that way off and he wasn’t all that worried because the cattle train didn’t usually run that time of night.
It must be a mile or more to town, but Pat bounced all the way and across the very high, long, truss that spans a gorge and water at the edge of town. Now, walking home are “Cue Ball”, “Big Tom”, and “Little Chippie” getting a shock as they see head lights bouncing, coming toward them. Pat calmly drives his car off at the smooth road crossing and finds his way home.
The next day, as word spreads, Pat (as the Lightnin’ cooled down) tries to recall details and takes kidding in stride.
I use my art to relive and remember others.
Florida Crackers Going For The Green
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 19 x 34 Price -- $19,000.00
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I love Florida Cracker cattle, some call them scrub cattle. No matter, to me they are beautiful and amazing. Before I go any further, you might say that Dewey doesn’t know what he is talking about because the name Florida Cracker refers to early Florida people. Yes, and the story is, that is how scrub (Cracker) cattle got their name. The Cracker cows developed in the seventeen hundreds from criollo-type breeds brought to Florida by the Spaniards.
I think the name is appropriate because we could usually tell if a person was a Cracker. The skin tone, tough leather-like with plenty of cracks from sun exposure, endurance, demeanor, dress and voice, etc. I say that some of that fits the scrub cattle, so it was easy to identify Cracker cows.
I love watching the Cracker cows. I stopped along lonely roads many times and just observed them in particular and of course other breeds were interesting like the Herefords, Charolais, Shorthorns, and Brahmans, but by far my favorites were the Crackers. You place them in a scene with scrub palmettos, pine trees, cypress with moss, weeds, hot sweaty weather with thunderheads building up against a blue sky and if you don’t think that is beautiful-- Hell! Something is seriously wrong with you…
Hang On Little Feller
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 13 1/2 x 23 Price -- $2,000.00
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I love Florida cattle country. In fact, I love the Florida terrain. It is why I love to paint my memories of it. My painting doesn’t do what I had seen justice, but what the hell? I will continue to try any way.
When I went to Florida in 1953, people were telling me that the state was one of the leaders in U.S. cattle production. I laughed to myself and thought about all the cattle in the Shenandoah Valley where I grew up. Oh! How stupid I was. Glad I hadn’t really opened my mouth and shown my ignorance.
As time went by, I traveled the state and saw many pleasant scenes of cattlemen riding the range. Some days thunderheads would be building up over those beautiful grazing lands as Spanish moss in cypress trees whipped from the winds that were building up for a storm. The combinations of colors from the gray clouds, rich blue skies showing through the cloud breaks, lightning strikes, moss, cypress trees, scrub palms, broom sage and green grass and the “Florida Cracker” range cattle made a gorgeous sight.
I never saw a cowboy lasso a calf that was stuck in a muck pocket, but I can picture that happening often, so I painted Florida nature and added a little drama to it!
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 26 x 34 Price -- SOLD
This painting came about because a man “Doug“(who I had grown up with at school) pressured me to do it. He had a photo of himself driving his team of horses pulling his 100-year-old sleigh in a parade with his grandson beside him, plus the lady grand-marshal of the parade and her daughter riding in the sleigh. That is his son walking along beside him.
I insisted that I had never painted horses before, but he keep on about it, so I thought that the challenge would be fun.
Every year on the third weekend of September, Edinburg, VA celebrates its existence with a parade, games, plus crafts for sale, old car show and other activities. Doug always had his beautiful horses in the parade. It was his trademark. It you wonder why and how he was pulling that sleigh without snow, he told me he had installed narrow steel runners to the bottom with small, wide rollers, plus those horses are extremely strong. It doesn’t show in the painting, but there was a light rain that day and the pavement was slick.
The person who you see standing against the right edge of the painting is my sister. No need to go into the names of the other characters. As usual, there has to be a dog barking at the horses. I put a sign at the bottom left edge so I could list names of old time residents.
That is my story and I am sticking by it.
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 12 x 18 Price -- $1,800.00
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This story is for mature readers, plus, if you are one of those people who wail about prayer being taken out of schools (which it hasn’t been) or contend that a person has to be a Christian to hold a public office and want your religious theory imbedded in our government, then your mind will not open enough to understand Peewee’s life or appreciate him. Don’t waste your time because this story will not benefit you.
I departed the Shenandoah Valley in 1950 with only short residential returns until I left for good in 1955 when I settled in Florida and married Penny. We called that our home for 39 years. My work never allowed me to have what people call vacations. I could get away from work by stealing a few days sometimes and even a week most years. About once a year when I was able to break away from work for four days or a week I made sure to use that time to go visit my parents and sisters in the Valley.
So, Penny and I did one such visit in a summer around 1986. Most times, back then, I would get very depressed when we got over the mountain and dropped down into the Valley. Why?? I think it became a habit because it was a flash-back from the first time I left home briefly and had to go back. You see, I had failed in what I had set out to do in life and had to return to what I wanted to get away from. It was always a gnawing, cold, lonely feeling. I also felt so guilty that my relatives never had a chance to get away and were stuck in a rut. Males have had (and I think still have) many more options than females, but of course there are exceptions.
Once we reached my mother/sister’s house (dad died in1962) I was feeling better. They seemed in good health and the summer days were beautiful. The house is located on a hill and sitting on the deck viewing the Valley toward Winchester with the mountains on each side is always a treat.
About the second day, (after a day of catching up) Penny and I decided to ride in to town which was about 2 miles away. The town of about 300 had two restaurants, or you might call places to eat, a post office, 2 lumber supplies, a mill, 4 service stations, 3 old grocery stores, hardware, blacksmith shop, Farm Bureau feed store, movie theater, two drug stores, furniture making shop, dentist and two doctor’s offices.
We landed at an old hangout of mine that used to be Maude’s Restaurant, but was now Dickey’s restaurant. I knew Dickey when he was a youngster and he had grown into a handsome man. He was about seven years younger than I and always full of life.
Penny and I settled into a booth, ordered a couple draft beers and punched a bunch of Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Hank Snow, etc. in the juke box. We are enjoying our music and beers and ordered another round. It was about 3:00 P.M. and we were about the only couple in there. I had seen Peewee at the other end, talking to Dickey and another person. I didn’t holler over to say hello because I had never known Peewee very well and doubted that he remembered me. What I did know about him, I liked.
Before long Peewee came staggering over to our booth and said “Dickey said that you all were real nice people and wouldn’t mind if I ask you all to drive me home when you got ready to leave.” I had never known of Peewee owning a car and he either depended on some one with a car or his legs to walk the 3 or so mile trip home. Naturally, we said that we would take him home.
Penny has always been interested in peoples’ activities, so she is asking him all sorts of questions. He said, “You know, I was over to a dump the other day and I found a beautiful violin and it had the numbers inside it of 1634.” Penny said “Oh! My goodness, was it a Stradivarius?” Peewee said “HELL NO LADY! I TOLD YOU IT WAS A GODDAMN VIOLIN”. He told us about being put in jail for being drunk and it was so cold in there that he sat on his feet to sleep, trying to keep warm. He said the sheriff (who we knew) came in there and asked him why he slept on his feet. Peewee said, “Your Goddamn new jail isn’t built right.” He said that the old jail was warmer.
He told us about him being friends with a famous TV fiddle player’s dad. I knew that what he was saying about that was a fact. He said that his friend fixed him up with a real nice girl. Just one story after another was passed around between us.
After we finished our beers, we headed out to Peewee’s house. As we passed each homestead along the route, he would tell us what job he had done at each of those locations. He was proud of the work that he performed.
As we pulled up to Peewee’s house, he said, “You will have to excuse my mess, but I did get started to clean up by mowing a spot of grass by the front steps.” As we got out of the car and passed through the yard gate we asked him why that one section of fence had a chain across it with a sign hanging on it that read “ bicycle shit keep out“. He said that a bunch of boys/young men had been picking on him by pulling all sorts of pranks on him; wouldn’t let him get sleep and so forth. He said one night, he heard them coming down the road in their old car (he knew the sound of their car) yelling. He said, “I jumped out of bed, grabbed my double barrel and ran on to the porch. They came past setting off a bunch of those cherry bombs and as they went past with those things going off I was buck-ass necked, in a slight squatted position, I unloaded both barrels into the trunk of their car. I heard poor Miss Nellie way back there at her house yelling and crying. Later, she told me that she thought that the Japs had come after us again and was ’bumming’ us. Those punks haven’t bothered me since.”
As we sat there on the porch enjoying the beautiful day along with the good beer and letting Peewee be Peewee, Penny said “Peewee, show us your violin” A sparkle came in his eyes and he went in and came out with it. He played us a tune or two and then picked it like it was a guitar, also put it behind his head and played it. We complimented him, he smiled and said well, my friend can really play it.
Peewee never invited us into his house and was easy to see that he was ashamed of the mess inside and outside. It didn’t make us unhappy that we weren’t invited in.
As we were sitting on the steps, I said, “Peewee, there has been a snake crawling around there in the yard listening to you play your violin and there he is over there.” He said, “Oh hell yes, this is a God-damn snaky place around here. I keep a shovel or hoe close by so I can whack them. One was in the house and I don’t like that.”
We stayed several hours listening to his stories and long enough to let the beer wear off. As we left, we felt very sorry to see the loneliness on Peewee’s face. He needed people like us who have open minds, able to understand where he has been and where he might be headed. He was a good person who hadn’t had the greatest of opportunities in his past. He didn’t need a hard-nosed nut feeding him a sermon, he just needed understanding and someone to appreciate him.
It was time to head back to Florida and then a few years went by and we were in the Valley for a visit again. I ran into my oldest friend (Josh) from about seven years old. We were very close until we went separate ways to make our way and then have drifted apart. When we do meet we catch up somewhat. I asked Josh about Peewee. Josh said, “Well, about six months ago I went out and picked up Peewee to put a metal roof on my work shed. Just before he got finished he started feeling very sick and his side hurt him very badly. I took him to the hospital and they kept him and removed his appendix. I kept in touch with the hospital and told them to call me when he was to be discharged so I could take him home. He was all smiles when I picked him up and seemed anxious to get home. The place looked nicer than usual when we drove up. When we got in the house, there was a woman ( Sally) in there and the inside was all neat and clean. Peewee whispered to me that his friend had sent him a woman. They were all happy acting as I was leaving. I told him that I would come get him in a week to finish the small amount of work left to be done on my work shed after he had rested up and recuperated.
“In a week I knocked on Peewee’s door. He came to the door looking very down and Sally was not there. I said, ’ how are you feeling?’ He said, ’All right,’ and just sat down in a chair without much to say. I said, ’Are you well enough to finishing the job?’ and he said, ‘Well, maybe.’ ’ I said. Sally gone?’ He responded with a weak, ’Yes.’ I said, ’Damn it Peewee, what is the matter? ’ He said, ‘JOSH, WHEN THAT DOCTOR OPERATED ON ME, HE CUT MY HARD-ON NERVE!” Yes, Sally was gone, not much reason to stay. Peewee just didn’t recuperate fast enough and what little confidence he had was shattered. Josh said it was all he could do to keep from laughing in Peewee’s face. Peewee did go along with Josh and finished the work.
Two or three more years went by and on our visit I inquired about Peewee. He had died and to make it all the worse, it was a senseless, unnecessary, disgusting death. I got the story from two different people and hope that my account of the event is a close depiction of the event.
Peewee was always seeking a ride home or wherever and made friends with someone who would haul him cheaper than the one-owner, one cab operator in the town would charge. The story goes that someone called Richmond (the state capital) to the department that licenses such business and reported that a person was operating a cab business without a license. Two men came from the Richmond department and showed up at Peewee’s house (I picture two smart asses) to question Peewee. He comes to the door with his shotgun. One of the men shot and wounded him. Disgusting! If they had bothered to inquire about Peewee before they went to his house, they could have clearly understood that he wasn’t about to hurt anyone and was no threat. There are lots of people who should never be allowed to hold a gun, much less be an enforcement officer.
The way I understood it was that while he was in the hospital for his wound, he developed pneumonia and died later.
I doubt that Peewee had anyone that would stand up for him trying to get justice for what happened. Of course I must remember that I shouldn’t pass judgment since I wasn’t there and only heard from other people as what took place. We just understood and liked Peewee. It wasn’t hard to see that he was a caring human being and deserved a better shot at life than what he got.
South Fork Fireballer
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 16 x 44 Price -- $1,800
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This painting and the story don’t match up well. The painting was supposed to tell about a baseball-playing experience that I had in about 1948 or ‘49, but as I got deeper into painting, the actual ball park for the true-to-life story was so boring that there was not much to paint. So, I just started to fantasize and painted the ball park like I preferred it to look. There are a few things about it that are related to the real story.
The story is about our team (Edinburg) playing the Shenandoah team at their field. Shenandoah had to win that game to be in the end-of-season playoffs; our team was already in the playoffs. I was pitching and I noticed several times during the game that some of our players didn’t seem to be trying very hard to catch batted balls.
I wondered, “What is going on?”
Then I remembered that some on our team had said that they wanted Shenandoah to make the playoffs and I started to put two and two together.
We were ahead 4 to 3 with 2 outs in the last of the ninth. Shenandoah got a runner on and their best hitter was up. I had 2 strikes on him and got him to pop out to our third baseman. Game over? It was easy to see that our third baseman intentionally dropped the ball. Then the next pitch was hit for a home run and they said it rolled all the way to the south fork of the Shenandoah River.
I was then named the “South Fork Fireballer” and it stuck for years. I didn’t mind the teasing, but I was unhappy that our team had “thrown” the game.
***Note: When I got my stories all together for this book, I started to think about my baseball days, so I just sat and thought about those years.
I had always felt that I was born in one of the luckiest times in history. I was able to be around many older people who had character and substance; you know, self-made, hard-working people who knew how to do things and make do with a little of nothing. It was a time when we worked hard and played hard. No one sat still long enough to get fat. From Harrisonburg to Winchester I cannot think of but one fat person and she was just heavy, maybe around 200 lbs. In fact, I can’t remember any obese people anywhere that I traveled in those years.
How did I get off on that?? Back to baseball! It has changed so much. When I was a kid, we didn’t have our parents chauffeuring us to games, giving us lessons on how to play, yelling at the umpires and other young players, even scolding their own kids in public about erroneous plays that they had made. We weren’t given uniforms that promoted a business. We just didn’t have any uniforms. Who needed uniforms?
A lot of parents have stars in their eyes, dreaming that their child is going to get a professional contract with a large signing bonus, so they push their sons whether the son wants to play or not.
When I think of young ballplayers developing and advancing to the major leagues, it reminds me of raising cattle or raising steers to show at a fair. The little leagues are organized to the hilt. They having training sessions from visiting college coaches and former major league players; they watch training videos, have super manicured diamonds to play on, have aluminum bats sized just right for them, have TV coverage which gives exposure that helps each kid know how to speak properly enabling them to sell themselves to scouts. All those things help a young player feel relaxed with the attention fans and the press shell out. They mature at a much younger age than players did in the years that I played.
In about 1950 I got on a Greyhound bus for a 250-mile trip to Portsmouth, VA to see if that Piedmont League team would allow me a tryout. Could you imagine that happening today without a reference from a well- known coach/player?? Hell! You can’t even get close to players during batting practice now. I went to watch a game at Kinston, NC about nine years ago and walked out of the stands to go down to the right field bullpen to watch a couple pitchers warm up. I just wanted to see what kind of stuff they had. I was on the other side of the fence, not even close to them. Security came and got me as if a dried up old man was some kind of threat. I just left and haven’t been to any games anywhere since. I am not interested in seeing any college games because the sound of aluminum bats kills any desire I might have.
I have thought for many years that players of today are better than we were in my day of play. They are much larger, stronger, faster and just better all around, but I just don’t have the enjoyment watching these players as I did watching fifty years ago. The game has changed so much. I get so bent out of shape when I hear an announcer keep talking about a pitcher being close to 100 pitches in a game. My goodness, it is as though every pitcher’s arm is conditioned to throw only 100 pitches. Hell! Very few pitch a complete game in a season. They seem to be satisfied if they make it to five innings, or long enough to get a win. I was always embarrassed when a manager replaced me with another pitcher. Now, it is the norm. There is a middle reliever, a late reliever and a closer. All this might be the way to win, but it doesn’t make me like the game better. My position is very unpopular and I realize that there isn’t a soul that cares what I think.
Another peeve of mine is the “radar gun” talk. Yes, it is interesting to know how fast a pitcher can throw, but in my view, it encourages pitchers to throw rather than pitch.
No need to go on about what I like or dislike about baseball comparing years ago and now. Who cares?? I will just continue to pitch to my strike zone and pretend it is way back then.
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 11 3/4 x 19 1/2 Price -- $4,500.00
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Yes,” Osteomyelitis” is the title. I hope I have succeeded in painting a feel of a very, very, cold, icy, December day in 1940 and how it is a worrisome day for my parents and sisters.
I was in the third grade at Edinburg, Virginia, and it was the last day of school before the Christmas holidays. I didn’t feel well that day. I thought I had the flu. When the bell rang to end the school day, my day at school wasn’t over yet because I had an hour or more to wait until my bus came back from the first run to take our route home.
I laid down belly first on my desk seat trying to feel better. The seat was long enough for me to stretch out with only my feet hanging over the edge.
Robert Smallwood came by, leaned over and hit my left thigh with his fist. It really hurt. Robert wasn’t a mean kid; he just liked to hit other kids. I really felt lousy after that with chills, and my leg hurt constantly. Finally the bus came and I was really glad when it pulled up to our house. I dragged myself off and into the house and hit the bed. My leg was swelling to (maybe) larger than a football, which was large for my young, small leg.
Mother called Dr. Downey and before he came, my uncle came and sat down beside my bed and laid his hat on the bed. Just that light jar that the hat made caused my leg to hurt worse.
Dr. Downey arrived and after examining me, he decided to get a second opinion and called another doctor. The two of them decided that I needed to make the long 90-mile trip across the mountain the next morning to the Charlottesville Hospital. Travel was quite a bit different in those days, compared to now.
The next morning was colder than the day before, with icy conditions. The ambulance came and I still remember being carried down the icy steps to the ambulance. Standing on the front porch was my mother looking so sad and my two sisters crying. I felt so sorry for them. I don’t think they thought I would ever be back. There was no penicillin in those days and some years later l learned that a lot of kids with Osteomyelitis had died.
My dad rode in the back of ambulance and sat by my side. He gave me comfort as we went over the rough and icy road. I could tell that he was very worried. Going over the mountain was very slow.
I remember being wheeled on a stretcher across a high walkway to the hospital with the really cold air blowing around my neck. Then I was placed in the hall along the wall with many other sick people, because there were no rooms available. They doctored me there in the hall for maybe two days, and I had one operation on the outer side of my left leg before a room became available… I really hated being put to sleep with that gas cup over my face. No shots ahead of time then. After being put in the room, a second operation was performed with another 9-inch gash on the inside of my leg. After that operation I was able to lie on my left side and I felt so much better. I think Dr. Valentine was one of the surgeons. The long 9-inch incisions on each side of my leg gave them room to dig out the diseased part of the bone. No stitches were ever put in and a cast reached from my waist to below my knee. Weird smelling, greenish/brownish, fluid drained out for days and every few days they would saw the cast off to clean the debris out and inspect the bone, plus view the progress. I remember times when the gauze stuck to my flesh or bone as they unwrapped the old to put new in under a new cast.
I was in the hospital for three weeks and my memories are how sore every one of my fingertips was from being pierced for blood testing. As time went on, they slacked off taking blood from my fingertips from many times a day to just a few times a day. My mother came down with phlebitis and wound up in the bed next to mine and didn’t get out of the hospital until a week after I got home.
About two weeks or so after I was released I had an appointment to go back to hospital for follow-up; stayed there overnight and the next day on the way home dad had to drive his 1937 Willys car through a terrible winter storm. Sleet, snow mixed with freezing rain, you name it. A lot of cars then did not have defrosters as was the case with Dad’s car. In fact, I don’t think it had a heater in it. Those days, most people bought add-on heaters that fit under the passenger side dash. I remember we both had blankets wrapped around our legs as we rode home. He stopped many times trying to clean the windshield. It was a long, cold, dangerous trip. That winter must have been a really rough one around that area.
I recovered well and still can walk constantly for 10-12-14 or more hours a day, plus run, so I really was lucky to have super doctors who knew what to do and do it in a hurry. They made bold decisions and incisions. I will always have reminders of that illness because the long wide operation scars stand out with only thin tissue protecting the bone on the inner side of leg and it is still extremely tender if it is bumped. About a year or so after the operations some small bone chips worked their way out through the skin, but there was no pain. Ten years after the operations the leg stiffened up and was painful for about two or three weeks, but I’m not sure if it was some sort of recurrence.
Life wasn’t easy for my parents from about 1937 on through until their deaths. They had a lot to deal with. My illness was just one issue for them. Other families had and have hard times, but it doesn’t take away the hurt that one feels for his/her own family. Some families are luckier than others.
Damn! And Here Comes Big John Breathing Fire
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 13 1/2 x 25 Price -- $4,600.00
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When I was in my late teens I worked for Johnny Poole who was part-owner of Garrett, Moon and Poole which was based in South Boston, Va. John Poole was an interesting man. He was around 6’4’’ tall and maybe 230 pounds. He was a kind, gentle man away from his job, loved hunting and sports, especially baseball.
On the job he was all business as any boss/business owner should be. He was a ram-rod, fair-minded, no foolishness, straight focus. Fair enough? Yes!
Anyway, we were doing underground work in Winchester, VA on a one-way street (named Loudoun Street, I think?). One part of the work was digging a long deep cut (maybe 4 feet wide and 5 feet deep) on the right- hand side right-of-way of the street. My duties were any and everything from working with an 80-pound jackhammer, swinging a sledgehammer and driving a dump truck.
This particular day I was driving a dump truck and the deal was to follow the one-way traffic flow, back the truck to the cut which was on my right (blind side) to be loaded by the shovel operator. One of the duties of the shovel operator was to stop the truck drivers when the truck backed to the correct spot and keep the trucks from falling into the cut. I was backing up and I knew damn well that I was getting close, but he never hollered, so I stopped anyway. In a few seconds after I stopped the bank caved away. Down went the back of the truck, into the cut with the front of the truck off the ground.
I stepped out onto the running board and saw Big John already stumping down the street toward me. He looked even larger than he was, kind of like a raging giant breathing fire. Oh, damn, here comes big John breathing fire. No damage was done to the truck, but time/money was lost by stopping the bulldozer from its duties to pull me out, plus a slowdown of the hauling process.
I didn’t feel good about squealing that the shovel operator hadn’t stopped me, but I didn’t feel like taking the blame when he hadn’t spoken up. Big John didn’t fuss at me all that much and didn’t fire me. He said what he said and it was never mentioned again.
Just Together At Lake Agnes
Medium -- acrylicon canvas Size 16 x 31 Price -- $5,000.00
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The cars date the time, and not many years after that my family had some great times together at Lake Agnes. That is what pushed me to do a lake scene painting while thinking about beautiful Lake Agnes.
Lake Agnes didn’t really look much like this painting, but most of what is in the painting was there, like the grove in the distance, cypress trees, and other features.
For about three or four years any time of the year if the weather was warm or hot, we would steal time in the evenings after I got away from work and head to Lake Agnes to water ski for an hour or so. We had a 15-foot boat with a 65 hp. Johnson motor and it had plenty of power to pull two skiers out of the water and do our thing.
Our son (Shad) was skiing one evening and for some reason he decided to drop the rope and sail onto shore at the far side of the lake and he was right on top of an alligator bed. He signaled us and we got him away from there in a hurry.
All four of us were good skiers, but of course not champions and we enjoyed it very much, plus it was very good exercise. I think the most pleasure I got was teaching other people to ski. A lot depended on a good boat operator as to when to pop them out of the water and it was a joy looking back and seeing the smiles on their faces.
The Shenandoah Valley Story
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 12 x 42 Price -- $20,000.00
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This painting is about a small part of my life. The scene is at the edge of the small town of Edinburg, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia where I spent my young life.
The house is a pre-Civil War house (Whissen House) on about 14 acres and about 150 feet away from the front porch there was the Whissen's mill, on the bank of Stony Creek. The property holds the secrets of many Civil War battles. We dug mini-balls out of the house siding and we also found artillery shells nearby.
This painting reveals a typical early summer evening for our family, probably 1945. Daddy (Clarence) just arrived in his 1942 Chevrolet truck after hauling railroad ties all day. He habitually went to the garden fence, propped his foot on the fence wire, smoked a “Marvel” cigarette while observing the garden's progress and contemplating what work he was going to in it after he ate supper.
My older sisters (Dot and Jan) are working in the garden. Jan is on the right with her mud boots on, hoeing weeds. Dot has been picking up small rocks, putting them in a bucket and taking them to the rock pile.
You can see me walking toward the woodshed carrying the milk after milking two cows; Daddy had just called out to me, “Hey, Jimmy, don't forget to slop the hogs before you go to the ball park.”
Mother (Mary Ella) is walking down the yard to tell Daddy about a few calls he had gotten that day, from people placing their orders for corn from the garden.
My little sister (Katrena, in red dress) is playing with her friend (Dawn Didawick) over by the cellar doors.
If you saw the movie “Erin Brockoich”, you would have seen Dawn playing the part of the receptionist at Albert Finney's law office.
You might be able to see the girl over by the Hottle/Heishman house standing on her head. She is Virginia Hensley. If you like music, you probably heard Virginia sing many times: she was Patsy Cline. She loved to stand on her head, plus practice dancing. Daddy teased me and said, “Here comes Virginia again to stand on her head and show you her new panties.”
Up close to the road, you can see Mr. Hensley (Sam) working in his garden.
The red chicken houses were built just prior to WWII and Mother raised broilers during the war. I think we had chickens going to market alternating from each house every 14 weeks. So, if my memory is correct, every seven weeks it was my job to help catch chickens and then clean out the manure. You can see the soiled red paint under the windows, caused by me pitch-forking the manure out for fertilizing the garden. Mother doctored those chickens when they got sick, plus made dresses from the feed sacks, cooked, baked, canned, worked in the garden, plus much more. She was a remarkable woman and a beautiful woman.
Daddy had another garden patch out past the stable and a large patch on the top of the hill next to Frank Dinges' apple orchard. Dad grew everything that could have been grown on that property.
That very old Civil War house and property has its walls and soil overloaded with stories of joy, misery and just plain existence. A fantasy that I always had was that sometimes while opening the front door of that old, well-built structure, all the history would knock us down as it rushed to get outside, shouting to the world what it knew. The giant walnut tree in the yard and others scattered over the property watched over the place as if to guard it and its history.
Some years ago, I got permission from the present owner to go on the property. As I walked in various areas, it brought back memories, emotions, smells and I could hear family members' and friends' voices.
Some things in space hang there. Now and then, we catch them for reflection.
We were an active family, or at least we were active with what we had to do with. The word “love” was never spoken, but it didn't have to be used. It showed in our faces and by the way we cared about what happened to each of us, what each did and how we stood up for each other. Yes, we had hard times, but just like a lot of families, we endured. A lot of my fond memories are about our parents. They were special, honest, hard working, talented people and their “purpose” in life was to prepare their children to be good, responsible, law-abiding citizens who would give back to the world during their lives.
I can't paint fast enough to put all memories I want to save on canvas, but if anyone wants to have some of their memories come to life on canvas, contact me and maybe we can make it happen.
Mr. Fox Stole Our Chicken, But We Ate It
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 11 x 23 Price -- $7,000.00
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One evening as mother, my sisters and I were working in the garden (of course at my age I wasn’t much help) a fox came trotting through with a nearly dead chicken in his mouth.
Mother jumped into action and ran after the fox swinging (according to my memory) a rake at him. I suppose it was a “him.’ In those days it was always a male anything that was the bad dude. The fox made it through the fence and mother jumped the fence after him and down the hill they went.
My sister Janice was looking out between the corn stalks laughing at the event. My other sister Dorothy and I were cheering for Mother and we were so very proud of her.
Mother got so close to Mr. Fox that he dropped the chicken so he could run faster and escape her furor. Mother retrieved the chicken and she fixed it for our supper. Fried chicken was better in those days. Why? Maybe it is because they weren’t raised in chicken factories. Fried in lard might have had something to do with it too?
Jimmy Hammered The Car Window & He's Hiding Under The Hen House
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size 16 x 43 Price -- $12,000.00
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Here again, it is about 1935 and I am around 3 years old. The location is on our farm a few miles outside Mt. Jackson, VA. The scene is similar to the true –to- life property arrangement, but not enough to go there with this painting in hand and pick out the property. However, the way the house and barn looks and sits, you might be able to accomplish that feat, but I doubt it.
Dad had two small hammers. One was a ball-peen and the other was a cross-peen hammer. They were just the right size for me to handle. I remember having one or the other in my hand many times. At that age I was not able to drive a nail unless it was in soft wood or the nail had already been started. However, I suppose hammering on anything made me feel like I was accomplishing something.
One late afternoon while Mother and Dad were at the barn milking the cows, I was walking around in the back yard with the ball-peen hammer. I walked around the front of that old car and kind of stood there looking at the car windows. I don’t know what made me do it -- maybe it was the devil -- but I dragged an apple crate over to the car, stood on it and made one blow to the back, driver’s side window. Even as young as I was, I still had sense enough to know that it probably was going to break and that the glass would fall to the inside of the car. I JUST DID IT! Then I had a fear that my parents would really be mad.
I ran to the house and told my sister Dorothy what I had done. I ran back out to the hen house and hid under it. Dot came to the car and looked at the window and headed toward the barn to meet Mother and Dad as they were walking in with the milk. As I peeked out, I still remember seeing Dot telling them about what I had done as they walked my way.
I suppose Dad saw how frightened I was. Of course, he never ever spanked me that I can remember. What he did was just stared at me. I remember how relieved I was. I also remember that car with cardboard in that window for a while.
Some weeks or months later I was with Dad in his truck hauling long bean poles. I was in the truck kneeling on the seat watching him out the back cab window as he threw those long poles on the truck. One pole was small enough to get through the protective metal mesh and shattered the window. I didn’t say anything. I thought he had seen what he had done. He sees that the glass is broken as he gets into the truck after he finished loading.
He thought I had broken that glass also and said, “Jimmy, why did you break that?” I had a hard time convincing him that I had not done it. I was surprised that he would think that I did it because it was easy to see that the glass was bulging to the inside. I remember thinking, why am I able to realize that and he isn’t? After all, parents are supposed to know everything. Maybe he really did know what happened and just wanted to make me think what I had done earlier…he was a very smart man.
I still have that hammer.
Dad Loved Us And Our Help
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 12 x 24 Price -- $4,800.00
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Between three and four and half years old I would often take water and grain to Daddy. He worked very hard and was always glad to see me come.
I did the painting with a little girl in it resembling my little sister even though she wasn’t alive then. She was born six years after I was and we had already moved to Edinburg, VA. The reason I represented her in the painting was because when she got to be around four she always helped dad and mom. I just wanted to remember her helping out like we all did.
I doubt that anyone else cares if the painting is all factual? It gives me the emotions that I want to hang onto. .
Nature Is The Stimulator
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 18 x 14 Price -- $3,700.00
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If you can't figure this out, you need help.
God Damn Snake Bit Me
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 16 x 27 1/2 Price -- $1,800.00
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This story took place at Stony Creek in Edinburg, VA, but first I want to talk about the painting.
I started the painting with intentions of getting the composition just like the setting was back in the day, but I didn’t plan my work well and soon into the painting I got very disgusted, then I just dreamed up a landscape to suit my taste. About the only thing in the painting that is true to the terrain are the boys doing their thing in the creek. The bridge and road are similar. There were two houses and an old mill in real life. The creek never looked that pure and blue and the mountain could not be seen from that location.
An intended near-accurate painting (which I didn’t accomplish) was supposed to match up with this story, but few are alive now who remember how the landscape was back then, so this painting along with the story will do for now.
The true story goes like this; it is a hot summer day and I am in the creek seining for hellgrammites. They made good fish bait. To my right is “Hogeye” Bowman and to my left is one of the Cooley twins (Donnie or Lonnie? I had trouble telling which was which) who had just ridden up on his horse and gotten in the creek with ‘Hogeye” and me. We were around 12 and we spent lots of hours in the creek. We skipped rocks, fished and anything else we could think of. Anyway, I was seining, Hogeye was doing something and the twin rode up on his horse, got in the creek not far from us and immediately found a small snake in the water. He was playing with the snake and it bit him. In anger he hollered out “The Goddamn snake bit me!” He gripped the snake tight and pulled it in two. It doesn’t sound funny now, but in real life with Lonnie/Donnie loving the snake one minute, the next an about-face and us in a fun mood, it was funny. “Hogeye” was falling backwards into the water laughing and I couldn’t keep my mind on seining.
It is just another one of my boyhood memories.
Dog Days At The Old Mill
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 16 x 20 Price -- $2,500.00
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Please don’t look at this painting and say “another lazy pair.” Folks, it is “dog days” in August and if you have ever worked in a mill, handling 100-pound feed bags all day, you will understand that a break once in a while is needed.
I am going to get off this painting for a minute or two and tell about one thing that people do and say that really makes me angry.
An example is when laborers are working on any type of construction and people drive by and see one man working and five or six workers are standing and watching. The car occupants make statements like “Lazy bunch”, “No one wants to work”, “They complain that they aren’t paid enough.” Well, to all you narrow-minded folks, those statements show that you are the ones who have had cushy jobs and haven’t been out there doing labor, getting your hands dirty, and don’t understand how jobs are run or what they require. For you who are uninformed, let me explain that you didn’t drive by when they all were working like slaves, but at times something has to been done that only one man can/should do because if all tried to do, they would be in each other’s way. The next time you want to complain about the working class, stop and ask the boss for a job and work a while, then you might know if you have a right to paint any of them as lazy and looking for a handout.
Of course, the business corporations, Chambers of Commerce and others want to keep the lower class dumb and poor so they can control them and pay them peanuts if they haven’t already shipped their jobs overseas.
Now, some of you are probably so mad that you don’t want to look at any more of my paintings and that doesn’t upset me. But, if you do want to, here is what is behind this painting.
Yes, it is “dog days” at the old mill and the person on the left is supposed to be me, I never was that nice looking, but since I had the brush, I painted myself like I wanted to look. The person on the right was Bud and I will not use his last name to protect the innocent.
I knew Bud before he went off to war and got to know him better after he came back because we played baseball together. I was the youngest baseball player on the town team and I suspected that a lot of players resented me, but not Bud. I was a pitcher/shortstop. Bud was about five or seven years older than me (he was maybe 22?) and just back from the military. He also was on the team as a pitcher/third baseman. He and I became friends, shared baseball strategy, hunted together and I dated his wife’s sister.
We were as different as night and day, and he might have had influence over me. He was big strong, tough and I was anything but. Bud always had a line of bull, knew everyone for miles around. His wife was married, but Bud wasn’t, he would fight in a second. Strange friends indeed, but we had baseball and hunting in common. We always had plenty to talk about.
My summers were filled with baseball, working at any and every job I could find. One day at a ballgame, Bud said that they needed someone to work a while (maybe several days) at Lantz’ Mill where he worked and for me to come the next morning (Monday) to work. Monday morning, bright and early I was on my bike for the 3 or so mile trip to the mill.
It was very heavy work and I didn’t weigh much more than those 100-pound bags of feed. It was always a good smell to me in a mill, oats, wheat, barley, cracked corn and other scents. Even though we were inside most of the time out of the sun, dog days were rough no matter where you were working, but I was happy to have a job, plus I enjoyed hearing the stories from farmers who stopped in.
Lantz mill is a very old mill (I think from Civil War days) and a couple years ago when I was by there, it was still standing. The beautiful old large house across the road where the Lantz family lived isn’t beautiful anymore. I think by being so large, maintenance cost were so much that present owners couldn’t keep up.
Back to the story... at work, playing ball, Bud and I were together a lot. He scared the hell out of me the way he drove that 1937 Ford panel he owned. One Sunday we had a game with Luray and I was riding to the game with him. He said we will go over there by the way of Fort Valley, across the mountain that way. The rest of the team drove up Route 11, turned at New Market and went across the mountain that way. All good paved road. The way we went was all gravel roads, but Bud said that we might see some good hunting spots, looking ahead to winter hunting season.
During batting practice, I heard Bud and others on the team arguing about which was the fastest way across the mountain, the way he came or the way they came. I wasn’t paying any attention because I was having fun. After the game, Bud and the others decided they would find out who was right. We were all to start at the same time and I was naive to think that they had worked out a certain speed to drive. How stupid could I have been?
Well, it wasn’t long before I found out that speed was the name of the game. We were sliding around those mountain turns going as fast as that ‘37 Ford would go, down and up hills, feeling the G forces. I begged Bud to stop the crazy crap. I couldn’t grab the keys because of fear of crashing for sure. I climbed over the seat into the back. He had installed a 2x4 across, behind the tops of seats for division. I grabbed a turned-over five gallon bucket and sat down on it with my feet spread far apart planted against the floorboard, hung on to that 2x4 with my hands far apart, knowing full well that we would wreck. I tried not to look. We sailed through Fort Valley, up across the Massanutten and made it to the Atlantic Service Station meeting place. We were safe. I couldn’t believe it! I had my feet on terra firma. We had beaten the rest of the team and when they got there, Bud told them about me crawling in the back and holding on. They all teased me and Red Hawkins (another friend of mine) took a screwdriver and made marks on the 2x4 so to look like teeth bites, then he spread the word to all. He brought everyone that he could round up to see the so-called teeth marks that Dewey had made out of fear.
After my work days were over at the mill, there were other jobs, baseball season came to an end, one thing and another and before long it was hunting season. Bud had four coon hounds and a lot of nights he loaded his hounds in his 1937 Ford panel truck and we headed to the mountain to hunt into the morning hours. He had a couple Black-n-tans, and a couple Blueticks. As soon as we hit the woods and opened the back panel doors, they were gone, chasing deer. Of course Bud told everyone what great coon hounds they were, but I can tell you, I don’t ever remember them treeing a coon. Yes, I do remember them treeing a possum or two.
If you have ever been in the mountains hunting at night, you will know the soothing feeling of cool/cold, clear star-lit nights, town lights off in the distance, the quiet, except for the hounds yelping way off in the distance, plus the sound of those old steam engine train whistles way over in Page County. We hiked up and down the ridges, trying to keep in sound of the dogs, getting thirsty in the cold dry air, then pulling out a National Bo beer and downing it. There aren’t many things that I have experienced that are better than that!
When we finally got completely exhausted, it was time to call the dogs in. Bud had a cow horn that he claimed he had trained the dogs to. Well, he must have been lying because he never could blow it out in the mountains, so it was up to me to give the loud call. I could really blow it loud and it was fun hearing the echo as the sound bounced from ridge to ridge. Of course, there were very few times when we could get them to come back. Many times we went home without them. The next day, someone would leave word at the mill that Bud’s hounds were at their place, were being taken care of and fed. It might have been more than five miles away from where we were hunting. Everyone knew Bud and his dogs.
That following season in November, deer season was just over. In those days there was only 3 days buck season and one or two doe days. On a Friday night, Bud,” Nitter” Bowman and I went to a movie in Woodstock. After the movie, “ Nitter” needed a ride to his house over at the foot of the Massanutten. The route took us up Rt.11 to Red Banks, turn across the Shenandoah to the road parallel to the mountain, turn back northeast, let “ Nitter” out at his house and head back through the Palmyra farming area. The moon was full and it was as much like day as possible. We were cruising along on the gravel road and of course there was no traffic nor humans out in this sparsely populated area. Only farms. Down in the field 100 yards away (I know because I stepped it off later) there were 15 to 20 deer grazing. Bud stopped the truck, took the 30-30 from behind the seats and shot one. I was in shock! What in the hell are we in for now? I knew the man at his farm, over the hill, not more than a mile from there would have been awakened, so I told Bud to get those lights off and keep moving. Go down there to a lane and turn around while I run down there and drag that deer back because it wasn’t dead. I didn’t want it to lie there all night, suffering.
When I got there I saw that it was a grown doe, had been shot through the spine, just behind the shoulder and was paralyzed. The deer’s hoofs were not a danger to me because of being paralyzed. Fear can give one strength because I dragged that deer the hundred yards in no time. We lifted it across the fence, put it in the vehicle and took off. Now, Palmyra road that we were traveling took us down a hill past my house, which sat on a curve within thirty feet of my bedroom wall. ( NOTE ) you can get an idea of it from my two other paintings, titled “Osteomyelitis” and “The Shenandoah Valley Story” which have the house in them) My daddy always sat in his mission oak rocking chair in the dining room late at night reading his paper. He was easy to see in the lighted room by anyone driving by and sure enough when we drove by, there he was. Of course he couldn’t see us, but it gave me plenty of fear anyway.
Out to the mill we went. Bud went over to the mill owner’s house and he came over, opened the mill, hung feed sacks over all windows, then took the deer in a back room and used only a lantern to see by for fear someone would stop by if a light was seen. After the butchering was over with, the owner and Bud split up the meat. I couldn’t take any home. I didn’t sleep much that night and the next day I remember Daddy saying, “Jimmy, you are acting strange today.”
It gets worse. Sunday night, Bud, “ Nitter”, and I went to another movie. The same story all over again. After letting “Nitter” off at his house we are on the same route and when we get to the same “crime spot”, you will have a hard time believing this, but at the same distance away at the same spot were 15 or 20 deer. All standing in the same direction, grazing as the Friday night herd had been doing. Exactly, plus the moon was still very full.
Bud stopped and said, ”Now that I shot one…I dare you.” Before I thought, I said, “Hell! If you can hit one with a 30-30, I will down one with a .22.” I took the 22 from the back, leaned over him, shot one the same 100 yards away. It went down right away. We followed the same routine and when I reached the deer, it was a young buck and HAD BEEN SHOT THE SAME EXACT SPOT AS THE DOE THAT BUD SHOT! Can there ever be another event that would be repeated as this one has done?? I don’t believe so, kind of like it has been said that no two snowflakes are alike, but can it be proven??
The young buck was paralyzed just like the doe and I dragged very fast through the field to the vehicle. He was much lighter than the doe. He bawled a few times and I doubt that I have every felt any lower than I did then.
Down the hill we go past Dad’s house and sure enough, he is in his rocker, reading the paper again. We don’t dare go to the mill again, Sunday night the road is busy past there. If people see that ‘37 Ford there again, might draw attention, plus the mill owner said that once is enough for him. So we go to Bud’s uncle’s house. This man is also my dad’s best friend. Milt came out and said back up to the smokehouse. He hung sacks over the window and used a lantern to see. Milt was a professional butcher by trade. Now Milt had meat and Bud had more too. I ask Milt to please don’t tell my dad. He said for me not to worry.
I suppose it was about Tuesday of the next week when Bud’s wife’s sister met me in the hall at school and said, if you were with Bud lately, you might be in trouble. She said that the game wardens (Tootsie and Elon ) were at Bud’s house this morning, looking for deer meat and Bud’s wife had hid the meat under the covers with the baby in the crib when she saw them coming. Fear swept over me. It was just before lunch, so I skipped school and headed for town because I knew Bud came there every day for lunch.
I met Bud in town and tried to make sure that I wasn’t seen talking serious stuff with him. I acted real happy and like I just happened to bump into him. After lunch, he drove me back to school, so I was able to ask him what was coming down. He said that the wardens had been to the mill that morning and told him that a farmer had seen his vehicle there and heard a shot Friday night about the same time. They found blood in the field and asked why blood was in his panel truck? He told them that his hounds had killed a coon, got blood on their paws, and they tracked it into his truck. The wardens took blood samples from the truck to send to Richmond along with the blood they collected from the field to be tested for a match.
I was so fearful that Dad would find out that I must have stopped growing. After he had heard that they were after Bud, he asked me if I had been with him. I lied, knowing that I could even be in more trouble about the lie later if he found out.
I heard people ask Bud, “ I heard you shot a deer” and he would come back and say something like, “Sure I did, you know I need to feed my family, then the next time he might say, You think I would do something like that? He kept all the nosey ones off-guard.
Well, months went by and the wardens never came after me. Why? They must have known? Finally, as luck would have it, the blood that they got from the field was from one deer and what they got from the truck was from the other one. We found out that there was not a blood match through the grapevine. The farmer may have not heard the 22 go off, so maybe they only thought one deer was shot anyway.
I drifted away from Bud after that, not that I thought he was a bad influence. I was young, but I had a mind of my own and knew I was responsible for my own actions. Situations just took us in different directions.
Sometime later, I heard that Bud sold his hounds to a wealthy man from Woodstock. He had spread the lie for so long that his hounds were super coon hounds that it became the truth. You know just like the Bible thumpers have done against the Liberals, the lies become the truth.
That was a very low time in my life. I didn’t respect myself after that for a long time. The reason I was so ashamed there was no reason to kill an animal except in hunting season. It was just a punk act that didn’t have any good purpose.
Well, yes, I have shot close to 80 deer in my life after that, but it was for a reason. I got no pleasure out of shooting them. There were hunting seasons and deer were destroying trees on our farm. I finally gave up because there were so many that it wasn’t saving our trees anyway. At that point, I was only destroying a life for no reason. Hunting seasons are good because one purpose is to thin out exploding animal populations for a healthier nature, but the deer population has gotten so large in many areas that it is almost a lost cause.
Well, that is how Lantz Mill was a small part of my life. The painting pulls up memories in many directions.
I am so happy for art. It can reveal a host of events.
Toddler Happy, Piglets Happy, Sow Angry, Granddaddy Horrified
Medium -- acrylic on canvas size -- 15 x 23 Price -- $5,300.00
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The approximately year was 1935. I was about two and a half years old. Damn! Seems a lot of my memories are from that era.
Anyway, I am at my Granddaddy Getz’s farm. I spent lots of time there and have vivid memories there, some that even bring back smells.
The farm was located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley at Getz, VA which consisted of Granddaddy’s general store/Post Office, on State Road 42 (I think) with homesteads scattered (maybe a thousand ft. apart) along that road. A one- or two-room schoolhouse was about a half mile from the store as one headed N.E. on the road. The store was set about 25 ft. from the (maybe 20-ft wide) road. A concrete walk parallel to the road inside the yard fence led from the store through a beautiful yard to the residence about 100 ft. away. The house was separated from the road by the continued yard fence that went about 50 feet past the house before turning to create another side yard. Inside that side yard and to the back was a shop with outside stairs to the room above. The barn was also close to the road and about 250 feet from the house. Other buildings, along with the hog pen were behind the barn, away from the road.
There wasn’t much going on at the store after I was born, but (I think) the post office operated for some years until I was about 14. I loved going into that store and messing with all the merchandise that was left unsold. There were all sorts of stuff that I hadn’t seen before. Also, I liked going upstairs in Granddaddy’s shop building and looking at his tools.
One day as I peered at the hog pen some distance away, I opened the yard gate (which I wasn’t supposed to do) and headed over to see those very cute little Berkshire pigs. Of course, I didn’t know one breed of pigs from another in my very young days, but later in life I learned about Berkshires. They were so very cute and I wanted to get into that hog pen and hug them. So I climbed over the wooden fence and got right down in the dirt with those sweet little critters. They smelled so good. Their noses were wet and ears so soft. Their little legs felt strong and smooth.
I don’t remember how long I got to be with those sweet little hams, but it wasn’t long enough for me. I remember the large sow at the other end of the pen looking at me and heading my way, but I didn’t have enough sense to be concerned. I saw Granddaddy coming from the barn, moving fast and throwing up his arms and yelling. I seem to remember thinking that he was waving hello to me. He came rushing through a gate and got me out of there just as that sow got close to me. My fun was spoiled, but I was old enough to reason out that Granddaddy had done it to protect me after he explained to me that that big momma hog didn’t want any other kids playing with her little, darling pigs. The rest of my visit to Granddaddy was spent watching the pigs from outside the pen.
The next trip to the Shenandoah Valley I am going to make time to visit many of the locations that had an impact on my life, such as the farm and house that I was born in, get permission to go in the barns, walk through the fields that I worked in, etc. Of course, it will not be the same, but it will pull more memories up and it might stir up another painting.
Daily Scene At The Stable
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 11 x 14 Price -- $1,800.00
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Yes, this was the scene in the morning and the evening. Most the time I never minded milking the cows. We only had two to milk. I did mind if I had something interesting to do at that time.
The cats always followed me to the stable and wanted their daily milk. I have heard lately that milk was not a good food to give to cats. It is a shame that we didn’t know more about what animals needed or didn’t need back in those days.
I have always loved animals and I am glad that I married someone who did also. Our son and daughter were animal lovers from the beginning. I always believed that if a person abused animals, one had better watch out because he or she would abuse anyone or anything if the opportunity presented itself.
Just another painting to keep memories from fading away.
Some Gossip, Some News
Medium -- acrylic on canvas size -- 12 x 16 Price -- $5,000.00
For information and to purchase, email--dpfunkhouser@hotmail. com
This is my father, Clarence Funkhouser in his favorite mission oak rocking chair reading the Northern Virginia Daily. Dad worked really hard and long days, but he finally got to read the paper, usually late at night.
Dad was one of two of the most honest men I ever knew. The other was my wife’s dad, Harry Edward Freeman. Dad clawed out a living doing various things just like Mr. Freeman did. Dad had a truck and hauled railroad ties, apples, peaches, ice, cattle, sand, coal, chickens and hauled groceries from DC/Baltimore to the local stores before World War II. He always raised lots of vegetables and sold to the local stores and individuals.
People from miles came to buy dad’s sweet corn. He always gave customers an extra ear to make sure he was fair to them, but if anyone ever crossed him, he never ever forgot or liked them after that. They never ever got any freebies from him after that. He would do what he could to help people, but the ones who crossed him found out that there was no need to ask him for anything.
He was a true liberal, honest, hard-working, believed a worker should receive a fair wage, be treated with respect, strong believer in separation of church and state, never tried or thought he should push his religious theories on others, encouraged the protection of our environment, a good sport, knew how to win and lose, a super bowler, loved hunting and fishing. He could fix and build anything he tried to do.
If he were alive today, he would be so upset about government and religion corruption. He would so despise Reagan for deregulating the financial industry and labeling the government as the problem and giving big business special interest power over average citizens. He would be shocked at how Reagan got in bed with the corrupt Bible thumpers and how the so-called religious rights have gained almost total power over the nation under Bush. His anger would be against the crocked Far Right for their destruction of America and be very mad at the timid Democrats for allowing them to get away with the lies which fueled the unjust aggression on Iraq.
He would laugh at how people don’t want government in their lives but they want the government to help them to push their religious theories on others. He would say, “those @$#%^&*#?/ hypocrites”
Dad was such a hero to me and was always on the correct moral side of everything and he would not see any decency in the evil so-called religious leaders of today. Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh would confound him with their treasonous lies.
I cherish my time working with Dad. We talked a lot about world things and it was clear to me that he was trying for me to be interested in what was right and wrong by the way he brought up topics. I wish I could hear him speak out against this nationwide corruption. I miss him so much and wish I could talk to him now. I regret saying a couple things to him, but what I really regret is what I didn’t say to him. I wish so much that I had told him many times how special he was.
"Love Rides The Rails" or maybe "Hot Tracks Bring Hot Love"?
Medium - acrylic on canvas Size -- 16 x 42 Price -- $10,000.00
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I acted in four or five Community Theatre plays some years ago. One was titled “Love Rides The Rails” written by Moreland Cary. I played the part of Fred Wheelwright, the engineer.
Most individuals in the painting represent characters in the play. I created in my mind a scene that I would have liked to have been part of the play, but of course was not.
Just a painting that I enjoyed doing and to hold on to some memories related to the play.
Clark's Power House
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 16 x 20 Price -- $ 8,200.00
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No story with this painting. I just wanted to do a painting of this very, very old (I forgot how old) stone structure. The owner allowed me to go inside and it was impressive. There were very old pre-Civil War artifacts in it. Many thousand gallons of spring water flow past that wheel every day and when he wanted more electric power, he diverted the water over the wheel.
The stone work was what I really loved about this building. I worked with stone at some times myself and can really appreciate the workmanship on that building.
The property is located about 5 miles from where I was brought up.
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 17 x 23 Price -- $2,800.00
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Bertha Bullet Motoring To Albany
In the spring of 1951 or ‘52 (?) I was in Albany, GA doing baseball stuff. As I walked down the street with a friend we heard a loud engine knocking and back-firing. When the engine stopped the yelling and laughing began as black exhaust smoke hovered overhead. I looked across the way and there was a large attractive black woman. She was flashily-dressed and stood by her beat up truck yelling hellos to passersby. My friend was a native there and didn’t pay much attention to it.
I asked him, “What is that all about?” In those times black people kept a low profile because of having to deal with the bigots and just plain mean people. He said, “That is Bertha Bullet and she comes to town every week and sells produce out the back of her truck.” He added, “And she isn’t afraid of anyone and the bigots let her alone because she has good, fresh food for them to get cheap.” He also told me that some of the local merchants weren’t happy, but didn’t put a stop to her because of fear they would look “cheap”.
She was a type of person to admire and happy-go-lucky enough to not forget. Also, that small truck of hers was a memorable sight in itself, with the left fender off, right headlight hanging down, no doors, no hood cover and just plain rusted up. It was easy to see and hear her coming as the exhaust smoke filled the air.
Pooch Won't Catch Them
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 16 x 20 Price -- $ 7,200.00
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I am sure a lot of my paintings have very little appeal to people because there isn’t any flair, vivid colors and contrast, but I paint for me so I can bring back the actuality of the day/event to be able to hang on to the memory just as it was. If other people do enjoy them, that is just a plus.
The scene is at Mary Jane Watson’s parents’ old home and farm near Dysforvburg, Kentucky. The period is a Sunday in January, 1995 at around 3:00 PM.
About 2:00 PM that Sunday, our friends, Jane and Buddy Watson called Penny and I to ask if we would ride out to their farm with them. Buddy needed to go there to use an ax to chop a hole in the ice on their lake so his cows could have water to drink.
It was a cold, overcast, depressing, lonely day (sparse populated country with neighbors miles away) and we were glad for the invitation. However, being lonely isn’t all that bad if you compare it to riding with Buddy behind the steering wheel. All those country roads are narrow with many curves, small hills, steep hills, little to no shoulders with deep drop-off ditches. Even though one seldom met another car, Buddy drove like he actually knew that there was no one stopped just over a crest of a hill. I mean we were on the road, so isn’t it possible that another nut is using the roads. I probably warped his floorboard with my right foot pushing so hard. The pedal to the metal was Buddy’s motto.
Well, we got there and as we drove down the lane to what was left of the old barn, the cows were standing in the barn yard. Large round bales of light golden colored hay gave the scene some warmth. Four wild turkeys were nonchalantly strolling into the barn yard. I’ll talk about the dog in the painting later.
The ice was thick and hard chopping, but the chore was accomplished. The trip back home was uneventful and Buddy hadn’t scared me once. It was around 5:00 PM when the Watsons dropped us off at our house. The temperature was hovering around zero by then.
I had taken some photos of that Sunday outing and one day on the spur of the moment I decided I would use one for reference to do a painting. The painting turned out to my satisfaction, but there is one thing in the painting that is not factual. It is the dog. I meant for it to be a coyote, but it turned out to look like a dog. I decided not to change it to a coyote just to have a conversation piece.
I can tell you, from experience, unless you have a super dog, you will never see a dog get that close to wild turkeys, plus I have serious doubts that coyotes could get that close to them either. See what I mean about a conversation piece?
I framed the painting and hung it on our wall and never thought much more about it. A few months later Jane and Buddy came for a visit. Jane saw the painting and she got very emotional and cried. You see, Jane was trying to hold on to any structure on their farm and what was left of that barn was the last evidence of a building remanding. Even though there was little of the barn that served any purpose, it was part of her past that was fading away. She could see it dying and it hurt inside. All the close family love, struggles, accomplishments raced through her mind as she viewed the painting. I am sure that some who read this who have grown up in a close knit, struggling, hardworking family know where Jane was coming from. Family farms and those old wooden barns are almost gone. Ugly metal barns make up so much of the landscape now, facilitating big business farms.
After Jane and Buddy left that night, I knew that Jane needed that painting. She was a nurse and managed a medical facility in a small town seven miles away, so the next day, I took the painting to her office for a gift to her. She cried and hugged me. That is when I felt so good about doing something that meant so much to someone. I really didn’t do anything special, because I was able to paint another one for myself almost exactly like the one I gave her. I enjoy the painting and think of Jane when I look at it.
The barn is gone now and so is Jane. She died suddenly this year. She and Buddy had built a nice, modern house about four years ago within 100 feet of where the barn had stood, about seventy five feet from the lake, also were very happy there. Everything comes to an end. Relish while you can.
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 11 x 23 price -- $3100.00
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People will have no idea what I mean when I talk about a swamp buzzer, so I will explain. As I indicated many times before, I am a nature lover. I have been lucky enough to have lived in a time before our nation has taken so many detrimental actions that have harmed our wildlife/environment.
Also, I believe what our scientists are telling us about climate change. Of course we have the evil Bible- thumping Republicans spreading their lies for greed with the usual yelling “Too much government intervention”. “ it is all a contrived lie,” they chant! Just let me ask you naysayers this question: I can see and believe that man is doing great harm to our planet, but just suppose that I am completely wrong. What will it hurt to have laws and practice good behavioral habits to respect and conserve our planet?? NOTHING is the correct answer.
I came to love a lot about Florida landscape with its subtle beauty. I think I saw more and enjoyed more Florida outdoors than most people did. I loved very early mornings, waking up with the wildlife. It would be so still, quiet and the colors had soft edges. The late evenings were wonderful also.
I was lucky to have an old tail-dragger airplane and many mornings I would have that thing cranked up and in the air while watching the sun come up. The air was so very smooth and I would head for the unpopulated swamp areas. I would throttle back to just above stall speed, drop down to below tree top levels and fly with the egrets. That plane would be traveling not much above 30 miles per indicated air speed, but of course I had to be alert to avoid hitting a bird. Knowing the birds’ habits was a huge help in avoiding them. It was fun watching the deer scamper just below me.
So, you see I was what I call a swamp buzzer. Weaving in and out between those old cypress trees loaded with Spanish moss was a thrill to me. I did the same thing a lot of evenings, depending on my work load. I liked the long summer days. I suppose my summer flying habit was from around 6:30p.m. to 8:30p.m.
Moved To Detroit, Looking For Work
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 11 1/2 x 15 1/2 Price -- $3,600.00
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This painting was inspired by the urge to paint a sky like this, but after completing the sky I knew that I had to put a farm scene with it. Since nature and farm scenes are my love, it didn’t take long to get an image of a farm, then memories of sad sights of auction signs by farm gates. So, this is what this painting is about.
It puts me back in the late thirties, forties and fifties. Let us pretend a little. Like the auction sign states, this farm consists of 200 acres bottom land, 150 of timber, 150 crop land, 70 grazing land. The sign states that the auction will be Sat. Oct. 26, 1940. The owner has already moved, but will be back for a few days during the sale. Standing on this side of the gate, the house looks so lonely and run down. The only noise one can hear is from a tractor that a neighbor is running down there in the field by the barn, making sure it is in running condition for the sale. A raccoon appears to be reading the sign while the little ones peek out from the hollow dead tree. For some unknown reason, I picture this farm in Fort Valley, Va.
Our nation’s landscape has changed so much over the years with the break-up of family farm land because of the Great Depression, and other hardships. I get happy when I see a wood barn still standing. I know it is a must be, but God damn those metal farm buildings.
My dad lost our farm located close to Mt. Jackson, Va. in about 1936-37 or ‘38? I still remember clearly riding between Dad and Mom in Dad’s truck with the last of our belongings. As we crossed the bridge about a half mile from the house I saw a sad stare on Dad and Mother was looking back crying. I am sure that scene has been played out many thousand times.
What Does The Fox Say?
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 14 x 18 price -- $1,400.00
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In about 1980 at our Florida home, very early in the morning I went out to get the newspaper. It was extremely foggy that morning. We had a ten-acre field next to the house and the paper box was next to the field gate.
I heard a very loud noise which sounded like two cats fighting to their death and the fight wasn’t very far away. The sound was close enough that I could have seen the action if it had not been so foggy. I rushed through the gate and when I got inside it, maybe 30 feet from the action, I could make out two animals fighting and they looked larger than cats.
I got within about 15 feet of them and I could see that it was a good-sized bobcat nearly killing a fox. The fox looked like he was about to be finished off. I got about 6 feet from them before they both realized I was there. The bobcat scampered away and the fox moved away, but not as fast as the bobcat.
The fight took place close to a gopher hole and my guess is that the bobcat had squatter’s rights and the fox was hoping a rattle snake or maybe a field mouse would show up out of that hole so he could have a meal, but maybe the bobcat was hiding and guarding his property close by.
Whatever the case may be, I think by me happening by that morning, the fox’s life was spared.
They'll Tear You up, Chatters
Medium - acrylic on canvas size -- 15 x 32 price -- $2,200.00
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I talked about Chatters in a previous story, but this painting sheds more light on one of his near-disastrous
This gives an idea of my camper setup in relation to our western Kentucky home construction site that you aren’t able to see in the foreground. You might say that you are standing at the edge of where the front edge of the house will be built and looking northeast. The terrain depicted in the painting is not completely accurate, but close enough for the story.
The camper was a 20-footer and would be my home for the next ten months, while I built the house. You can see one of my many pairs of worn out work shoes that I had brought with me from Florida. I was glad that I did because I needed to change shoes several times a day because of mud. I hung them in the maple tree next to the camper to keep Chatters from carrying them off. A thermometer hangs on the tree, plus a mirror for shaving. A small homemade table holds my wash bowl. Digging tools lean against the camper, next to my food in a cooler that sits on two five-gallon buckets.
I dipped water from a spring for bathing until the weather got too cold. The camper had a gas heater under the bunk, but about the second day there I was trying to light the heater and it didn’t light, then according to the directions I was supposed to wait 5 minutes before I tried again. I got anxious and tried again. Boom! It blew up and singed my eyebrows. There went the heat forever….
About the 20th of November it started to get very cold. After that point I never took my clothes off. I bathed with alcohol, reaching under my clothes to do so. I slept in my clothes, shoes and cap with ear flaps for months. After about two months I drove 8 miles to the little town of Marion where the Tobin Tourotel motel was located. I rented a room for one night and got a nice long warm bath. After working for about a half hour to whack my beard off I got a good night’s sleep. It wasn’t a terrible winter, but it was plenty cold to be living in a “tin can” parked on an open hill with wind whipping around it from every direction. The temperature was 6 below zero two mornings. I listened to a Paducah radio station (35 miles away) and the temperature there usually registered about the same.
Early one October morning not long after I started to build our house, Chatters awoke me with loud, frantic barks. I threw the camper door open and there stood Chatters and two coyotes. He was barking at the one to the northeast. The coyote to the right and south of Chatters was quietly positioning himself to do Chatters in.
Being in the boondocks with other citizens a very long way off allowed me to talk to Chatters like he was another human. It was only a short time before we were communicating and could read each other well. I knew that the coyotes were ready to lure Chatters into a trap. I yelled to Chatters, (as he barked and looked at me several times for my approval) “They’ll tear your ass up, Chatters”.
Chatters was hard-headed and wanted to show his bravado, so he took off after the coyote. They were heading northeast at top speed and the other coyote on his right flank was moving in very fast. They got about 300 feet away when Chatters picked up the right flank coyote out of the corner of his eye. It was so funny when he jumped up and did a 180 in the air and raced back and looked at me as if to say, “See how I got them varmints away from our home.” I said. “You are very lucky that they didn’t kill you!”
Chatters went from an uncontrolled shivering and shaking, lost dog when he appeared under my camper that first day to a happy, cocky, loving dog who had found a home that he loved. It was as if he was telling me, “Thanks for feeding me and taking me into your life and I will guard you and our home and all this land; just don’t worry.” He was so very proud of his home and of his job protecting it. He never ever growled or snapped at another human though.
From the county road, our “driveway” was a mile long, heavy graveled road to our home and when anyone turned off the county road onto our road Chatters’ ears would perk as soon as the first gravel was struck. Even I could hear it. He would make a mad dash through the fields and escort them in. Then when they left, he ran beside the vehicle all the way out. He did the same thing when I went out or in.
Chatters lived with me from early October until the 30th of June. I was going to town and as usual, he started running along beside my car. He had a terrible habit of running very close to the front passenger side wheel, plus sometimes cutting in front of the wheel. Anyway, this day I was able to get ahead of him as he cut through the woods and chased deer. I made the gravels fly as I sped to the county road and turned left. I was racing down the road when my left eye picked up something moving with me up on the roadside bank. Damn! It was Chatters. He came down off the bank toward me and his speed carried him under my car. He was very, very, seriously injured, so I killed him as quick as I could so he wouldn’t suffer any longer. That country was quiet after that.
Yes, Chatters was gone and missed, but I had given him love, care and made him happy while he was here. I think of him now and then. After all, he was a part of who I was at that time and probably gave me morale and enough strength to complete what was a very huge undertaking building a one-of-a-kind house way out in the Kentucky boondocks. And for that, I will always be grateful to him…
Wish I Could Afford A Car
Medium -- acrylic on canvas 12 x 16 Price -- $3,900.00
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The name of the man in the painting is Roy. He was A good, caring man with a very kind heart. Roy was a hired hand on a farm, lived in a tenant house and had a lonely existence. He was uneducated and the owner of the farm where he lived expected him to work very hard: Roy never complained about his station in life and accepted the fact that hard work was his duty.
I really liked Roy and miss him. The long summer days allowed Roy to walk to town in the evenings a couple times a week. I always made it a point to spend some time with him, trying to find something that he enjoyed talking about. He liked for me to pick on him, so when he caught me it gave him an excuse to scare me by picking me up and holding me high over his head. At that time I weighed around 130 lb. He was six feet tall, weighed a least 220 pounds, had large, thick hands and it wouldn't have surprised me if I had heard that he had squeezed a bear to death. He was so very strong.
About the only joy Roy got was every Saturday night he walked to town (about 3 miles) and played dominoes with others in the Atlantic Service Station located on US highway 11 in Edinburg, VA.
The painting shows Roy walking home late one Saturday night with his dog along US11 between Edinburg and Mt. Jackson, VA after participating in the dominoes games. As the cars drove by coming from DC or wherever, I am sure Roy was sad and thought many times as the headlights hit him, why couldn't he have money enough to own a car, just any kind of old car.
Roy gave much more to the world than he got.
Where Are The Chevrolet Impalas?
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 16 x 20 Price -- $7,200.00
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A quick answer to the title: in the junk yards. Think about it, have you seen one lately, or even in the last 20 years?
I had been stationed at Fort Lewis near Olympia, Washington for about 18 months before I was discharged from the Army on June 26, 1958. My wife (Penny) worked at the state capital during that time. We didn’t have two dimes to rub together when I was drafted, but Penny got a fairly decent paying job there at the capital, so we saved some money.
We had a 1949 Chevrolet Fleetwing, (high mileage car) that we had bought shortly after arriving in Olympia, which used a quart of motor oil every 50 miles. It was all we could afford at the time. Good car though, just needed a ring job.
All the rage then was the 1957 Chevy, which was nice, but, we decided that we wanted to buy a 1958 Impala, which I thought was one of the most attractive cars ever built and I still think that, but a new car there (at that time) cost around $1,000 or more than one would have to pay in Florida (transportation costs).
We already had the car loaded in preparation for our trip home as soon as I was discharged. A large wooden box was strapped to the top rack, full of belongings. The car was packed, but we had left enough room for our cat, Princess, who we had adopted there in Olympia. In the trunk there were a small suitcase or two and maybe a few small boxes, but that was about all of our personal belongings we had room for because I had 17 gallons of motor oil in there. In prep for the over 3,000 mile trip to our Florida home, via the way of Edinburg, Virginia where I grew up, I had bought bulk motor oil from Sears and other outlets, depending on the price. I remember getting some for 12 and 15 cents per gallon. I think I had two five gallon cans, three two gallon cans and a one gallon can.
There was no need to check the oil because I knew what to expect. I just watched the odometer and every 50 miles I stopped and put in a quart. The car wound up using 15 gallons of oil at the completion of our trip to Florida.
About 3:00 p.m. we left Olympia for the trip home. We tried to make it a sight-seeing trip even though we were anxious to get home. Our route took us to Grand Coulee dam, Couer d’Alene, Idaho; Butte, Montana; Yellowstone, Denver, Topeka (where it was 106 degrees), Kansas City, St Louis. We had spent a night in every state we traveled through west of the Mississippi. Looking back, I kind of regret that we didn’t spend more time visiting the tourist attractions, but we had always budgeted our money.
We didn’t have any mishaps except for a small one when the car got too hot going up the steep hills in Yellowstone. Another small event there in the park took place as I got out of the car to take a picture of a bear and her two cubs coming down the road about 120 feet away. She saw me and charged as I rushed around the car to get in. We had a habit (along with others in that part of the country) of tying a blister bag on our car for a cold water drinking supply. Our bag was tied to the box on top of the car and the bear stood up by the passenger side front window, reached above the windshield and ripped the blister bag apart. The car was rocking as the bear did that. Our cat jumped to the floorboard and hid under the seat, not to come out without being dragged out when we got to Denver. She had to be very hot and miserable under there. Most cars didn’t have air conditioning in those days.
Just east of Denver, our car was making a rough noise. A car dealership mechanic told me that it was the timing gear getting ready to go out. I am not much on car repair, but from a little experience, I knew damn well it wasn’t a timing gear problem. He was going to charge me a huge sum to fix what wasn’t the problem. I didn’t fall for it. I stopped at a one-man garage several miles east of Denver. The owner/mechanic told me that he felt sure it was the bearings in the water pump. I pondered the problem of cost, plus time to fix and decided that I would take a chance and wait until I got to Virginia and put a new one in myself. I paid the man a small amount for his time and headed out.
It was very hot and when we hit Kansas we realized that we had been away from hot country for so long that we had forgotten how hot it could get. Like I had seen many times in my younger life, it was easy to see the heat rising up from the wheat. We got to Topeka, Kansas late in the evening and there was no place available to stay overnight. After spending a lot of time looking for a place, we wound up sleeping in the car, sitting up. We were wringing wet with sweat. It had been 106 degrees there the day before and didn’t seem to be much less that night. After having junk food for breakfast, we were on our way. About 10:00 AM we had a flat tire among the very sparsely populated wheat farms. I had to unload the trunk to get to the spare tire and after cursing the bumper jack, I was able to get the wheel high enough to get the spare on. I stopped at the next closest service station and bought another spare tire.
We had no other problems and when I got to Edinburg, I bought a water pump and installed it myself. We stayed at my parents’ house for 10 days and during that time Penny picked lots of berries. We ate lots of home-churned ice cream, cakes, pies, home-made bread, roast ears of corn, ham, tomatoes, etc.
The trip to Lakeland, Florida took two days and our cat was happy to get to a home of her own. After we got settled in and ready for a life away from the Army, it was time to buy a dependable car, but of course that was an excuse because we wanted a new car. The Chevrolet dealer in our town did not have an Impala like we wanted, so we headed to Tampa. Ah Yes! In their show room was just the thing for us. A lemon colored two-door hard top Impala. A beautifully designed piece of metal it was. It didn’t take long for us to decide. I think the price was $2,600.00.
We were so proud of that car and it was the only one that I ever saw with that paint color. I am sure there were plenty in other parts of the country, I just never saw one. We were asked to drive it in a parade hauling someone. Who? I can’t remember.
After about a week of ownership we started to have problems with it, such as dark smoking exhaust, using oil, gauges not working properly, etc. Numerous trips to Tampa and phone calls to the dealer didn’t do much good. A request to the local dealership to work on it under the warranty wasn’t a pleasant experience because we had not bought it there. They had it in their shop for a day and said that they worked on it, but I feel sure that they never touched it. I made several calls to the factory rep in Jacksonville, but was given the run-around.
I, like most people don’t like to be cheated or made fun of, but I probably fight back more than most. I made signs and taped them to both sides of the car. They read, “THIS IS A LEMON AND I DO’T MEAN THE COLOR”. “THINK FIRST OR YOU WILL GET ONE TOO”. I drove it all around the county, but Penny felt embarrassed in it and only was in it when she had to be. I had a lot of enemies at the local dealership. One day when I had it parked close to their establishment, the owner and all his employees came out on the street and stood there looking at me very mean, plus some threating comments were made.
One day a factory rep called and said if we would take the signs off our car, the company would fix it. I said. “Okay, but it is a hell-of-a- note to have to do something like that in order to get you to stand behind your product.” The car was worked on, but I never was satisfied with its performance. I advertised it for sale and I wound up trading it to the buyer for his 1954 Mercury.
I lost my desire for new cars and never really kept up with what was on the car market after that. From about 1979 until now, all the cars are just a hunk of metal needed to get me from one location to another. I can identify about two or three makes/models of them and that is it. I still enjoy seeing the old cars of my young age, but I have no desire to own one of them. Cars just do not impress me.
That Impala was the first and last new car that we bought until we bought a 1974 Ford LTD Brougham. I had always seemed to get good deals on used cars from people who thought they needed a new car. I just offered them a couple hundred dollars more than they could get on a trade in. I saved a lot of money in those years by having cheap, but good, cars, or I thought it was a lot of money. Since 1994, we have only owned new cars. It seemed to me that I was unable to feel confident about used cars anymore for numerous reasons.
I wish that I had kept track of, plus taken photos of all the many vehicles that we owned, not that we were wealthy, but because of my age and the need we had for them. With the help of our daughter and wife, I want to make it a point to make a list of them. It will be an interesting undertaking and fun looking back.
Getting back to the Impala, after around 1966 until about 1972, I bet I didn’t see a dozen ‘58 2-door Impalas in my travels over Florida. Then, from 1972 until 1992 I could not remember seeing any until one day I spotted a black one only 5 miles from our house. I followed the driver for many miles to his house and asked him if he minded me looking at it to bring back memories. He agreed and told me that he was restoring it. It looked nice already. Since that time I remember seeing only two. In 1999 I spotted a red ‘58 Impala convertible equipped with a continental tire kit, parked under a carport in Fuquay-Varina, NC. I knocked on the door wanting to talk to the owner about the car, but no one was home. That car was in perfect condition and could not have looked better if it just came from the factory.
That is my painting and story about the ‘58 two-door Impala. This painting will let you see what one looks like, but you will not have much chance of seeing one just driving down the road.