Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Naaah! It’s Just a Scratch, I’m Fine

Hi Bill,

I woke up this morning thinking about some of the painful injuries that I endured during my childhood. I suppose my pain was pretty much the same as what most other kids endured. Anyway, I remembered the following painful incidents.  

In a previous letter, I believe I mentioned the application of my teeth to the street pavement after flying over the handle bars of my bike while our family was living with Grandpap in Altoona. That was the first appearance of the “Flying Clark Show” and it was a stunt that I was proud of for a long time. My crooked teeth continued to remind me how acrobatic, daring and entertaining I could be, especially after picking myself up from the concreate while screaming in pain. However, this morning I remembered that my self-mutilation did not end with that smooth move.

Let’s skip a few years to when we were living in a fairly rural neighborhood on West Plank Road. I was in maybe third or fourth grade. Evidently, the pain and humiliation of my teeth-to-the-pavement trick didn’t instill much fear (or wisdom) in me. I loved the swings in the playground area of my elementary school. As I think back now, I realize how high those swings could go when you really pulled on those chains and leaned appropriately. It felt like I was flying when I was on them. Of course, hanging onto the chains and keeping my skinny butt on the seat of the swing was not really flying, and my friends and I really wanted to fly. I’m sure you remember what the consummation of wanting to fly required. It required flying off the swing and through the air as high (and far) as you could go. Yes, flying on the school playground was strongly prohibited and the consequences of flying were not something to be trifled with. Those teachers were like concentration-camp guards. However, us grade-school guys were not going to be intimidated by them. We had to fly and we did it anytime those guards were not watching. We also tried to get as high in the air as possible before leaving the plane (I mean the swing seat). I wasn’t going to be outdone by those other guys either. I could get higher than they could and fly higher and longer than they could. Unfortunately, I didn’t always have a very well-functioning landing gear, which finally resulted in a very unorthodox landing from that high-flying swing. I was told by other playground friends that the landing was very comical, but I wasn’t laughing. My left arm was screaming in pain, but I did not scream or cry. The guards would know that I had jumped from the plane and I did not want to face their rage. I also did not want my comrades to think I was a sissy. Luckily my flight took place late in the day and I was able to sit in my classroom the remainder of the day and to ride the bus home without showing my pain (I think). When I got home, I cried and screamed a lot until Dad got home from work. Then I screamed a lot more at Dad because he took me to the hospital, where they examined me and x-rayed my arm, and informed him that I had fractured a bone in my arm. I proudly wore a cast on that arm for a while and thought of it as a combat incident. Luckily, it healed very well and has never caused me any more pain. Also, I was much more careful about flying after that experience.

However, that wasn’t the end of my pain. A few years later, after riding the bus home from school I had another agonizing encounter while roughhousing with a neighbor from across the road. You probably remember Mike O. He was several years older than me, but like the other older boys in the neighborhood, he would hang out with us younger guys sometimes after school. Actually I believe our parents encouraged some of the older boys to try to keep us squirts under control and safe. Mike O was a good guy, but he was also a bruiser, which meant he was a big boy who was very strong for his age and liked physical contact. Us younger (and smaller) kids got along very well with Mike, but we had to be careful to protect ourselves. Well as I said, Mike liked physical contact and we often got caught up in wrestling or some other contact-type activities. I don’t remember what exactly we were doing, but during some type of roughhousing in the backyard after school one day, Mike (The Bruiser) accidently stomped on my middle finger (yes, the one you Flip The Bird with) on my right hand. One of Mike’s huge feet, with a huge and heavy shoe on it, just squished my finger like it was a worm. It hurt like hell and I screamed in pain. Boys in our neighborhood had to be tough and crying and screaming in pain was not acceptable. Therefore, I muted further expressions of my pain as much as possible. Mike knew what he had accidentally done, and he was very sorry about it. He didn’t know what to do to help me, but I told him I would be okay, although I didn’t want to play anymore that day. He went home and I went inside and cried with pain for an hour or so until our father got home from work. He was somewhat irritated about Mike smashing my finger, but he understood how boys liked to play rough and knew that it had been an accident. Surprisingly, he didn’t take me to a doctor or anything. Instead, he cleaned the blood and dirt off the finger and then soaked it in some warm water with Epson Salt, which was a popular home remedy for bruises, minor cuts, strains, contusions, and all kinds of other painful afflictions back in the day. I don’t remember that the soaking helped much, but repeated soaking seemed to help some. He also applied some antiseptic cream and band aides to the finger. That injury was another lesson in dealing with pain for me. It took a while for that finger to recover. The finger nail has never been the same since that stomping day. It still remains mutilated and needs frequent attention. In addition, the joint near the tip of that finger remains noticeably deformed although it functions well and without pain. Every time I look at it I remember Mike O and wonder where he is and hope that he is well and happy.

Clark - age 10

There were certainly other minor injuries that I endured but nothing worth remembering, until my Junior High days. Surprisingly, I decided that I wanted to play football in 9th grade. I was tall and felt indestructible and strong at that time, but I was also very thin. Our parents were not enamored with the idea of football. Instead they encouraged basketball, and of course I played baseball every summer. However, I wanted to be a football star! Although I suffered an injury during preseason practice, I got through the preseason training fairly well and played an “End” position during most of the season. You can read about my football prowess (or lack-there-of) in a previous letter entitled: I Don’t Wanna Play Football.

Bill - Since you are eight years older than me and you finished high school in Altoona after we had moved, you were not around much during most of those times, except during some summers. Usually, you were either in school, spending time with friends in Altoona, playing in the Altoona HS Band or in the Tyrone Gardner Guards Drum & Bugle Corps, or working. As I got older, you were off to college at Clarion, PA. The parents and I missed you, but you did what was right for you and you certainly deserved to do so. I appreciated that you still kept in touch with me and made time for me when you could.

Anyway, I hope these letters evoke some fond memories of me and that West Plank Road neighborhood “Back In The Day.”

I also hope all is well with you and your family.  Take care.



Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Family Fun in Fargo

Hi Bill,

This morning I decided to write about our recent trip to visit Zeb in Fargo, ND.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Rayna, Pat and I drove to Fargo this afternoon to celebrate Zeb’s birthday with him. We have visited Fargo many times because both Rayna and Zeb went to college at Moorhead State University just across the river from Fargo in Moorhead Minnesota. Zeb graduated from Moorhead State with a double major in Economics and Paralegal and landed a paralegal job in Fargo a few years ago. He likes Fargo very much and Pat and I have come to also like it very much.

Anyway, we got up early (for us) and drove our three dogs (Lenny. Squiggy, and Zuzu) to Dells Veterinary for three days of kenneling. You would think that the dogs were unhappy to go to the kennel, but they were not. They seem to like it at the kennel probably because of all the other dogs that they get to play with. We always feel bad leaving them, but they really don’t seem to mind.

After returning from Dells Veterinary, we spent some time finishing packing for the trip and waited for Rayna to arrive at about noon. We got on the road by around 1pm for the three-and-a-half-hour drive. Pat took the first driver shift and it was a nice day to make the drive. However, as we drove north the weather changed and we hit some rain. I took over driving a little south of the halfway point and the weather continued to decline as I drove north. Soon I found myself driving through some heavy rain and eventually through some very thick fog, which was really no surprise because we have experienced bad weather on that particular stretch of road during previous trips to Fargo. I carefully followed the car in front of me at a reasonable distance until we emerged rather abruptly from the darkness into beautiful dry and sunny weather. Then Rayna took the wheel and we arrived in Fargo a little before 5pm.

Pat and I checked into the Fargo Holiday Inn Express where we have stayed many times during past Fargo visits. We rested for a short time in our hotel room until Zeb finished work and joined us. Then we talked for a while and decided that we would eat some burgers at Culvers. Rayna joined Zeb in his car while Pat and I drove separately. We had a nice conversation while eating.

Next, we decided to meet Zeb and Rayna at Barnes & Noble where Zeb used the B&N gift card that Pat and I gave him to buy a few new vinyl albums. I believe Rayna also bought some albums for Zeb while at the B&N. Rayna, Zeb and I are all hooked on buying and listening to music on vinyl, although we usually buy used vinyl instead of expensive new vinyl at B&N. We hung out in the B&N browsing and talking until it was about to close. That Fargo store has been our favorite Barnes & Noble store for many years. Of course, it is very similar to the B&N in Sioux Falls and others where we have shopped. However, the Fargo store seems to have a more cozy feeling, we believe because the ceiling is lower than most other B&N stores we have visited.

It had been a long day for Pat and I so we went to our hotel and sort of crashed. Rayna and Zeb went to Zeb’s new third-floor apartment in downtown Fargo and they stayed up till who knows when talking.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Hallman Family in Zeb's Apt.
Pat and I got up around 9am today and had a very nice breakfast in the hotel, where we just relaxed throughout most of the morning. Then we drove downtown to meet Rayna and Zeb at Zeb’s apartment. We were amazed by how neat/orderly and clean his apartment was. During our many visits to his previous apartments we had to endure less than orderly and less than cleanly apartment visits. However, now he seems to be really serious about making this apartment clean and inviting. In addition, he had actually accomplished some very nice decorating, with appealing furnishings and wall decorations, including concert posters, etc. It was hard to believe this guy is our son, but we are happy to claim him. I guess having a real salaried job as a professional paralegal can work miracles.

The Hallman Family in
Zeb' s Downtown Apartment
Both our daughter and son have always been very interested in music and they both were in their HS bands. Unfortunately, neither of them plays a musical instrument now. However, they are both music enthusiasts who collect vinyl records. I wonder where they got that monkey! Anyway, we devoted today to finding vinyl recordings that we must have to enhance our collections. Zeb took us to some vinyl shops in and near downtown Fargo.

Pat joined us for a short time for the first vinyl treasure hunt at Orange Records, where I have shopped during previous visits with Zeb. Pat eventually left us and went to the Nordic Needle where she spent considerable time and managed to find cross-stitch and sewing supplies to keep her busy for several months.

Orange Records has a large inventory of very interesting vinyl and knowledgeable employees to help find what you want. Shoppers are also amazed and soothed by a huge Pit Bull that belongs to one of the employees and hangs out in the shop during business hours. It is a truly amazing dog who could eat someone in a few seconds, but it is extremely friendly and loves to get attention from the customers. Pat, Rayna, Zeb and I all love that dog. Anyway, we spent a lot of time petting the dog, but I still managed to buy four used vinyl albums. Rayna and Zeb also acquired several albums.

Orange Records

Orange Records
Next, Zeb drove Rayna and me to Vinyl Giant, (another vinyl record store), which I had not visited previously. It seemed to be a smaller space than Orange Records, but it was jammed with vinyl, possibly more than we saw in Orange Records. We spent a lot of time looking through their inventory of used vinyl. I walked out of there with six used vinyl records and Rayna and Zeb both acquired probably more than I did. Interestingly, Vinyl Giant also has a resident dog. This one is a small cute fluffy thing named Butters. I guess dogs love vinyl too!

New Vinyl at Vinuyl Giant

Used Vinyl at Vinyl
After leaving Vinyl Giant with our groovy treasures, Zeb drove by the Nordic Needle where we dropped Rayna off to join Pat. Then Zeb and I went to a Starbuck’s where he is a regular. We got some coffee and a snack and found an empty table among the busy coffee crowd. Zeb knows everybody who works at that Starbuck’s and many of their regular customers and they were all very friendly to Zeb’s father. We sat there talking for a while and Rayna and Pat eventually joined us.

Then we went back to Zeb's apartment, got some really delicious takeout pizza at a local shop and relaxed while eating and talking.

Rayna in Zeb's Apt.

Rayna and Pat

Later that evening we all went to the movie, The Magnificent Seven, which we all enjoyed, even though we had seen the original version of that movie long ago. After the movie, we went back to Zeb’s apartment and just relaxed and talked for a while. Then Pat and I returned to our hotel room.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

We met Zeb and Rayna at noon today for our traditional “goodbye breakfast” at Perkins. Then we hit the road for an uneventful trip back to SD.

It was another very nice visit in Fargo with Zeb. We wish Zeb lived closer to us, but we don’t think that is going to happen. However, Fargo is a great town and a great place for him.

Bill - I hope all is well with you and your family. Unfortunately, it has been a long time since we have been able to get together with you and your family, but I think about you and your family often. I hope my strange letters provide an interesting sampling of my family’s lives over the years. I hope you and your family are well and happy. Take care.