Someone Always Messing With Me
Medium -- acrylic on canvas Size -- 13 x 21 Price -- $500.00 SOLD
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The painting tells a little, but not nearly all. A little back ground will help a reader understand where I am coming from.
I started a one-man striping business in 1959 in Lakeland Fla. The work consists of layout work of parking lots, roads, game courts, airports, warehouse floors, lettering etc. and then striping with traffic paint. About half of the jobs were re-stripe jobs which required no layout work. I had started the business from scratch and had one striping machine and a panel truck. I made 3 or 4 concrete car stops some nights by a pole light, mixed by hand. I built my car stop stock up that way. As time went by I added a concrete plane to remove un-wanted stripes, plus I acquired a total of 10 striping machines, most all practically new and bought from people all over Florida who tried the striping business, but couldn’t hack it. I worked by myself for 18 years before hiring anyone. The car stop business grew and got so overwhelming that by the time I sold my business in October of 1992, I had 5 employees. In those thirty years, I had built the business up to be something special. For many years I seldom missed doing a new job that came into the Polk County area and was called to do work from all over Florida and even a few out-of- state jobs. The company still operates under my name in Lakeland. I still stripe, but alone and not on a grand scale like I had done in Florida. This makes 53 years that I have been striping and I still enjoy it even with all the weird and sometimes dangerous nuts that seem to find me.
Why am I putting this in print and who might be interested in this story? Maybe it is to show sheltered people what some have to deal with and/or maybe so my memory will allow me to be proud of myself for accomplishing what I did while dealing with some very difficult people.
I started thinking about many of my encounters recently, while striping a New Bern shopping center parking lot of which a major grocery store (I will not name it for various reasons) is the anchor store. From experience, I have found so many of those managers are narrow-minded asses. I was hired by the owner of the center to stripe the lot. I was there very early in the morning, and when a grocery store manager came in to work, he came at me like a wild bull, never introducing himself, telling me when and how to do my work, plus being abusive. That doesn’t go over well with me. I am not surprised because after doing maybe hundreds of shopping centers and dealing with deranged nuts, I know that is a little normal, but I still get mad. Yes, at my age, I should be above letting a punk get to me, but I am just me.
As I striped that center, I started to recount some of the confrontations that I had over the years. Trying to remember all would be impossible. Probably on an average of once a week there was a near-fight with someone harassing me by intentionally running over barricades, through my wet paint, plus any other thing they could think to do. Think that is funny? Besides the lost profit, try cleaning that mess-up from a new asphalt lot which the owner expects to be turned over to him in beautiful shape!
Here are just a few such encounters that I can remember. I was striping a Publix shopping center parking lot in Jacksonville, Florida, and it was around 8 PM. I had the 90 degree-to-the-curb parking stalls blocked off all along the front of Publix with folding, flashing light, barricades. I had just striped all those parking stalls with a heavy coat of traffic paint. In comes a long semi-trailer truck delivering bread. I will not give the company name because I am not sure about the legal ramifications. Anyway, the driver knocks down the barricades, runs over them, driving parallel to the curb, tracking my paint all of the 200-foot distance. It was a hell-of-a mess. The driver stops the truck in front of the Publix entrance door so he could unload the bread from the trailer side door. I size the driver up as he gets out and the first image I got reminded me of Lil’ Abner. He was about 6’4’’, large feet, small at the hip and his body widened out to very broad shoulders. I said something like, “What the hell did you do that for”? He said “ I don’t give a God damn about you and your work, you runt, I want to unload at this spot and I am going to do it.” I pondered what choices I had dealing with this bastard. I knew I would not have a chance with him in a fight unless I had a weapon and why let that no-good cause me to go to prison? I just started to clean up the mess and later I brought back my grinding machine to remove the paint that had dried while he was unloading.
About 4 days later, I was in Saint Augustine striping another Publix center. It was on a Sunday and in those days Publix was closed on Sunday along with the other stores. I was on the job very early in the AM as usual and had all the entrances barricaded off. No one had any business in there anyway, well, except the bread delivery company. Speaking of which, about 10 AM, here comes a semi bread truck running thru/over the barricade, drives over all the freshly painted stripes next to the front sidewalk and tracks it as the driver swings the big rig around to the left and heads out into the big lot 90 degrees to the store. He backs up to the Publix front door so he could unload out of the trailer back door.
I was a long way off from the action (maybe 300 feet) at my truck loading my striping machine with more paint. It was about time that I should try not getting so mad, which was injurious to my health. Why risk getting killed or killing someone. It was time to get smarter. “Don’t get mad, get even.” Guess who got out of that truck? Yes, big, walking tall, tough-talking, broad-shouldered Lil’ Abner. He saw me up there by my truck, but went about his business of unloading from back of his truck. I got my 4-inch roller and long handle out of my truck, dumped some Alkyd oil, yellow, traffic paint into a bucket. I sneaked down to the front of the semi while Lil’ Abner was unloading in the back of the trailer. I rolled on about 8 rollers full of that Alkyd yellow on the front of his cab. Now, I can tell you from experience, that paint is almost impossible to get off without grinding down to bare metal. Lil’Abner might not have owned that semi, but he was responsible for it.....
I went back to my panel truck and got out a 1 inch by 16 inches long iron rebar that I had carried for years. I propped my foot on the back bumper with the rebar lying on the truck bed where I could grab it quickly. I thought about the different reactions that dude might have. One, he might not notice my paint job on the front of his semi until he got back to the plant. Two, he might call the police and that would make me happy because the damage that he did was easy to see. Three, he might see the yellow on the cab and make his way to me for a physical assault. I knew the contemplated third reaction had extreme consequences, but this harassment was kind of like an illness: you don’t want it, but you got it and have to deal with it the best way you know how. I knew that if he came after me one of us could easily die. I had to get the first blow in with my rebar or I would be destroyed. If I killed him with a blow to the head, I go to prison. He could easily kill me with his strength unless I had very good fighting skills, which I haven’t had. The fact is, my family could have been without a provider no matter which way the fight went. My mother said many times to me “Jimmy, revenge will kill you.” All of this went through my mind as I waited for his move.
I could not believe what took place. He finished unloading, closed the back doors, walked around to get into the cab, paused and looked out there to me, thought for a second, walked around and looked at all that yellow paint on the front of the cab, glanced at me, got in the truck and drove off. What a relief! What caused him to do that? I’ll never know.
Several days later, I am down the coast in Daytona to do another shopping center. That center closed around 9 PM and I had most all the striping complete by then except maybe 2 hours’ work to do. I was finished by the time all the employees had locked up and gone home. I barricaded the entrances off and headed to my motel for a night of rest. I would go back to the center before daylight and pick up the barricades. However, about 1:30 AM I got awake with a thought that something wasn’t right at the center. I dressed and went there. Yes, the barricades had been run over at one entrance and of course, it was the bread company again, unloading down at the other end of the center. The paint was dry enough that it was not tracked, but of course the flashing lights barricades aren’t in good shape after being run over. Just the night lights shining through from the Publix store allowed me to see that it wasn’t Lil’ Abner this time. Same company though. I parked my panel across the entrance to block it. I got my roller and paint out to be ready. I feel sure that the semi driver hadn’t really noticed my truck across the entrance until he got close or he would have headed to the other outlet and run over those barricades to get out. He hollered out for me to move my truck. I hollered back from behind a pole base that I would be there in just a second because I was just finishing some work that I had forgot to do earlier. I headed in from behind the truck and painted about three long streaks of yellow on the back of the trailer, then rushed around to the back right dual/tandem set of tires and made a swipe of paint on each of those tires. I moved my truck and waved good bye to him and laughed as he went down the road with those tires swirling like the reflectors on bicycle wheel spokes.
That stopped the abuse by that company. Several times after that I was working on centers and those bread company truck drivers would drive to the entrances and toot their horns and I would say, “sure, I will let you in, but please don’t run over my fresh paint.”
I was laying out and striping the new lot at I-4 and U.S. Highway 27 for the new Circus World attraction (I think that was the name, later I think it was KC baseball that bought it.) Anyway, the crew that was building the rollercoaster ride seemed to be real bad dudes. I did the lot in two sections by blocking off one half with traffic cones so the construction workers could park in the other half. Things were fine until the roller coaster crew left from work in the evening. Two evenings in a row they drove their cars along the row of cones and passengers would reach out the window, grab cones and take them to the highway, then drop them.
My short-term memory was okay then and I remembered their cars. After several days of work, I finished the job, but the next day I made a special trip to the site to locate one of the cars. I removed all the tire valve cores with my valve core wrench and threw them away. I bet they were really late getting home that night. The lot bordered on Highway 27 and the construction site was far off, so I was not detected doing my revenge.
Another event comes to mind, which took place on a Sunday in a shopping center at Bradenton, Florida. The drive in front, adjacent to the stores had 3x5 foot, painted “SLOW” on the pavement, 50 feet apart and alternated 50 feet in the opposite direction lane, the entire length of drive. There were probably about 8 of these signs in each lane. I had just finished painting all of them and had traffic cones on them. The drugstore was open on Sunday. I had just gone to sit down under the canopy to wait for the paint to dry when a new, red convertible driven by a young man with a female passenger came down the drive weaving back and forth from one lane to another, testing (I suppose) his driving skills. He hit some cones and tracked some paint. I got a bucket of paint and a brush and sneaked down to where the car was parked at the drug store. I watched the foot traffic and thought all was clear. I got down on my knees between the red car and another car. I had just brushed on a long yellow swipe on the beautiful white sidewall back tire. I sensed someone was near me. I looked up to the front and there was a handsome, nicely dressed man looking down on me. He looked startled, then looked away quickly and walked off. I then proceeded to paint the front passenger side tire yellow and went back to the bench to watch the expected explosive action.
Well, out comes the young driver and his perceived girlfriend skipping and laughing all the way to the beautiful red car. The girl skips closely around the car and doesn’t notice the ugly yellow tires. The driver spins his car around and heads back down the drive doing the same maneuvers, zipping back and forth and clipping cones. Those yellow tires made that beautiful car look very ugly. I bet they were unable to remove that paint without lots of expense, if then.
I was striping the Grove Park shopping center lot and had a section blocked off that was seldom used except by carpool people who parked there to go off to work in just one or two cars. Two mornings in a row, one of the drivers moved my barricades while I was at another part of the lot and got away before I could catch them. It cost me another trip to finish the job. Lost time and lost money. I cost the culprit money, or at least made his heart ache when he saw his car. I used my sharp key to dig a scratch the length of his car.
Oh my! I can hear the readers now, talking about how cowardly and destructive that I am. I can hear them say that they would deal with the culprits directly and not sneak behind their backs. Well, I have heard all that brave, flag-waving bravado crap all my life and all of those who were spewing it were full of easy talk, but were failures.
There is no justice for the asses who harass and abuse others, nor is there any protection from them. What would a police officer do if I had called them?? NOTHING! What I did was better than getting into a fight, getting killed, or killing and going to prison, all causing families of those who were involved misery.
Cause me loss of money, anguish and I will do my best to cause you the same. Don’t like me?? TOUGH!
Open The Gate At Ichepuckesassa
Medium -- acrylic on canvas size -- 14 x 18 Price -- $700.00
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Re-Playing The Game At Stoneburner's Filling Station
This painting idea came from a farm located southwest of Washington DC. The entrance of that farm looks very much like this painting. I took that view and used my ideas and visual desires to do this painting.
The farm made me think about our farm in Kentucky and long for its vast beauty and pure air. I had many plans for our farm, but it would take too much time to tell why my plans changed, plus, who would be interested? One plan was to construct a stone entrance to our land by using the stone from our creek. I had used stone from the creek on several projects such as walls and our fireplace which turned out beautifully.
Penny (wife) had named our farm “Ichepuckesassa” which means “black water” to the Seminoles.
I had made a plank with the name on it and put it on a very large oak tree by the entrance and intended to put a nice one on the stone entrance when I got it constructed.
I don’t care if I do say so, I love looking at this painting, because I captured what appeals to me. The fall color brings on a wonderful sensation to me and shows the peaceful interaction between the squirrel and turkey. Nature at its best...
It is 1948 and about 1:00 on Saturday afternoon at Ken and Frank Stoneburner's Atlantic Filling Station. We had just finished a baseball game about a half hour before. It was habitual to re-play the games there at the station.
We played morning games sometimes on Saturday so we could play another game later that afternoon, or so we could have a big time out on Saturday night, which we usually had anyway, but it just made it easier for us to be sobered up and ready for play on Sunday afternoon.
I am still amazed at how each of us was able to remember each inning clearly and hash out all plays over and over. The re-plays were filled with talk about how well we made some plays and how awful other plays were and how to improve. The pitching was discussed pitch by pitch, why an opponent hit or didn't hit a certain pitch. Of course there were the usual arguments and angry people, but all that was put aside before the next game.
There was always a much larger crowd at the station than what I show in the painting, but there is enough in the painting for me to keep my memories in tact.
Those were the days of hot, sweaty work, vienna sausage, tomatoes/mayonnaise on homemade bread, RC Cola, Sealtest ice cream sandwiches, homemade ice cream, lemonade, watermellon, frog legs, oysters, hot dogs and lots of National Bohemian beer, but of course, baseball, baseball, baseball. That is living.
Mother Kept Us Clean With Lye Soap
Yes, I still see my beautiful mother working her hands to the bones (so to speak) using that strong home-made lye soap on wash days. Mother's hands looked red and chapped after wash days, but she was still beautiful. I didn't realize how pretty Mother was until I was in my middle teen years. She was what I had always seen without comparing her to others. I just always took her looks for granted.
I think about all the work my parents did and how they did it with what they had to do it with. I just regret that I didn't tell them every day how special they were. That is the main reason why I did this painting, so as to never forget their deeds and their love for us kids. This painting shows how I remember mother on wash days. Early in the day water would be drawn from the cistern, fire was made under the large iron kettle and filled with water and heated. Three wash tubs were lined up, one for scrubbing clothes on the wash board in the hot water tub and put in a rinse tub and then run through the wringer into a catch tub. Sometimes Mother would rinse them again in another rinse water tub and run them through a wringer again into a large basket ready to be hung on the lines. Ironing was done by heating irons on the kitchen wood cook stove until hot enough for ironing. You get the picture.
I saw on Facebook (you know, the page on the computer where many have to tell how many times a day they pee, how many gallbladder operations they had, sex gland functions, etc.) that a person asked the question, who doesn't have a dishwasher and how would we do without one? I thought how many spoiled asses we have in America. They don't even have a clue.
Lye soap was the only type of soap I knew until I was (maybe) six years old. Dad and mom made it every year at butchering time. Don't ask me how it was made because I didn't take advantage of the talents that people had back then. I regret that; I could have learned a lot if I had been interested.
As I said, butchering time was soap-making time also. I think about all that was involved in making lye soap was mixing lard (hog fat) with lye chunks, plus water and boiling it in a large kettle for a period of time. I remember cutting it into square bars after it had cooled. It was off white in color (tan or rich beige) and I think what the hogs were fed had to do with the shade of the finished product. I thought it was pretty to look at with it's rich earth-tone shade, but it was strong. It hardly lathered, but I can testify that after a bath with lye soap, you knew you had enough cleaning for a while.
I think I will come up with homemade lye soap one day so I can take a bath with it, so I can get a stronger feel of back in the day. Well, maybe I don't really mean that.
I Picked Up Social Skills At The Palmyra Orchard
Well yes, I am using satire in the title. I'm just trying to point out that a boy, somewhere between the ages of 13 and15 years old learned how some people lived in their world and how it could be used in dealing with others down the road of life. Some of it was very eye-opening to me and, quite frankly, shocking.
I wouldn't trade my experience in that orchard for anything. The orchard was a mile or two away from my home and was nestled in the foothills of the Massanutten. It was a gorgeous sight looking back to the valley from there, plus I can still see and feel that beautiful countryside just as it was back then when I had ridden my bike to the orchard. Up the hill I went, past Frank Dinges' orchard on the right, Irvin's large tract on the left, down a shallow hill past Joe Grove's estate, around a sharp right curve past Fred Humpston's huge farm, a sharp left on the trestle bridge crossing the Shenandoah River, past Cave Springs, passing by Ted Lantz's very beautiful huge farm on both sides of the road. On I rode maybe another mile (?) to the Palmyra Orchard. Even though it was early morning, by this time I was thirsty on this late August/early September morning, so I headed to that very cold water spring coming out of a rock bank. I laid down on my belly and slurped up that wonderful water. Now I am ready for work as the other pickers rolled in. All different type characters with all sorts of stories, some far-out stuff, some about their cars being better than other models, such as Ford being better than Chevrolets, and vice-versa, some sex stories, some politics, arguments, near fights, and some divulging their medical history. You name it. I kept my mouth shut asking only questions about work.
Each day we were given our stack of picking identifying numbered cards.. We kept our same number that we were given the first day. We placed our number card in every bushel/box of apples we picked. There were the usual accusations that someone had stolen another's card number and put theirs in the box. Most of it was joking, but when some didn't recognize a joke, then it could get heated.
It disturbs me that I can't remember how many boxes were a good day's work. My guess is that it was around 125 boxes. I can tell you that I never got near that. I think about 35 boxes for me. I remember being very upset that I was far behind the others, however I picked mine correctly by not pulling a bunch of stems with the apples, but I still should have been faster. Other things that disturb me are not being able to remember how much we were paid per bushel ( a guess of 15 cents) and what kind of apples we mostly were picking: Stayman, Winesap and McIntosh come to mind, however, many more varieties were grown there.
When the apple picking day was over I made faster time going home because it was mostly downhill. In the house I went grabbing tomato/mayo sandwiches, tenderloin meat and a couple glasses of milk. Then milked the two cows and rushed to the baseball park for a relaxing time.
The painting gives me images that provides a basis to dig up those days more clearly. I do wish I could remember about the wages and species of apples we were picking. Oh, well, It is good that I got this much clear that brings back good feelings.
Don't Do Business With Relatives or Friends
The painting could depict happiness because it is Christmas time with expectations of family being together to celebrate, but it doesn't show the stress that these trees led up to after a hard day's work of cutting, fully loading dad's truck, then driving 250 miles in the wee hours of the next very cold morning to Portsmouth, VA where they were supposed to be sold to happy buyers.
My sister married a nice acting, young, handsome man, born and raised in Portsmouth, VA. They set-up household there. My brother-in-law was an ambitious, hard working person. He was from a (maybe a fairly well to do family, depends on one's concept) and his father was a kind of hyper, wheeler/dealer, go-get-em type of person in my opinion and from a hustle-bustle city of dog-eat-dog atmosphere which also is my opinion.
Our family was from a slow paced, hard-working environment of the Shenandoah Valley, VA. Dad and Mom only knew how to work very hard to provide for us. One might say that the population there wasn't large enough for there to be a dog-eat-dog atmosphere.
I think you can get a picture of conflict here where two parties of different upbringing, demographics and character are about to do business.
So, that being out of the way, here is what transpired. My sister's father-in-law (we will call him Mr. P) sold Christmas trees every year and in those years (if my memory is correct) there were very few, if any trees grown in the US specifically for Christmas trees. Canada was the place to get beautiful spruce trees and that is where Mr. P got his, but of course every seller was trying to figure out how to get much cheaper trees, so that cheaper desire brings Mr. P to my dad in a business relationship.
Through a casual conversation about Xmas and Christmas trees, Mr. P found out that our family just went to the fields and picked out a cedar tree for our tree. We thought they were pretty trees and mother and my sisters always decorated them very beautifully. We had plenty of pine cones and we white-washed them for a snow effect. Mr. P asked me about cedar trees and I said that they are very plentiful around the valley. Cedar trees seem to like growing around limestones and poor soil. I told him to call my dad if he was interested. Mr. P did and scheduled a trip to our house for a weekend so
Dad could show him property with plenty of cedar trees.
I was home at that time and rode with Dad and Mr. P to a settlement called Cedar Creek (maybe that wasn't the name, but it was not far from Strasburg). Dad had contacted the property owner who had agreed to sell the trees if they suited us. It was cold as blue blazes which caused us to not walk in the cold to inspect all the trees. Mr P said that the trees were beautiful and said that they were what he wanted. A deal was made. I got at it and built a bed out over the cab with side racks so we could haul as many trees as possible.
The day came in a hurry to cut and haul and there was about 5 inches of snow on the ground. I remember on the way in on the private property road to start cutting, there was a fox in our way. It was kind of clear that it was sick and acted like it was rabid. Daddy got out of the truck and the fox made a motion at him, and then ran into a scrub tree thicket. We went to the property owner and reported it so the man could be on alert. We went back down to the thicket with his dog and the dog immediately pushed his way in and there was a terrible fight. The fox lost the fight and was dead. The dog had to have shots and later died.
As we started cutting, we got a shock. A lot of the trees had double trunks. They looked great in the field, but once cut, each had a flat side. With no cell phones in those days, calling to discuss the situation with Mr. P was out of the question. Going back home to use the land line In those days with the weather conditions wasn't a very good option either. We wound up cutting from four to eight feet out of the tops of large trees to fill out the load.
I guess it was about 3 AM the next morning we headed out for the long haul to Portsmouth. When we pulled up to the tree sales yard, Mr. P and his businessman friend walked to the back of truck to see the trees. When he saw those tree trunks he turned into a wild man, yelling and cursing at us. My dad nor I either one were not known to take much of that kind of abuse, but we both realized right away that this would put a huge strain on my sister and brother-in-law, plus her relationship with her in-laws. I kind of took over from dad and told Mr. P that he would only have to pay us less what they cost us. He still was not a happy man, but relented.
Over the years I have noticed some people will find any little thing wrong to keep from paying what they owe. While I thought that of Mr. P, the trees really were a huge disappointment. Looking back, we should have gone back home, called Mr. P and explained the problem, but knowing him, he would have been angry at us about that. It was kind of a no win situation that we fell into. It cost us money and stress to learn that lesson.