Tuesday, December 5, 2017

That one Christmas they were together

As Christmas nears I know that I am not alone in feeling that Christmas is frought with mixed emotions, bringing back memories that are both bittersweet and precious. One of my favorite writers, Lewis Grizzard, wrote a story in 1981 about a memorable Christmas of his. I can relate. Maybe you can too. (My illustration is from my friend's family, not Grizzard's.)

That one Christmas they were together
by Lewis Grizzard

We had only one real Christmas together, my mother, my father and me. We had only one Christmas when we were actually in our own house with a tree, with coffee and cake left out for Santa, with an excited 5-year-old awakening to a pair of plastic cowboy pistols, a straw cowboy hat and an autographed picture of Hopalong Cassidy.
I was heavy into cowboys when I was 5. A man never forgets when he scores big at a Western Christmas.
My first Christmas I was barely 2 months old. That doesn’t count as a real Christmas. Then, we were traveling around for a couple of years. The Army does that to you.
Then, there was Korea. My father went off to Korea and was captured, but then he escaped, and then we had that one Christmas together before whatever demons he brought back from Korea sent him roaming for good.
We were living in Columbus, Ga. My father was stationed at Fort Benning, which had been my birthplace. Army brat. War baby. That’s me.
We lived in a tiny frame house with a screen door that had a flamingo, or some sort of large bird, in the middle of it. You remember those doors. They were big in the ‘50s.
My father, despite what was going on inside him, was a man who found laughter easy, who provoked it from others at every chance, a man easily moved to sentimental tears.
The year after he came back from Korea, I used to climb in his lap and feel the back of his head. There were always lumps on the back of his head.
“What’s these lumps, Daddy?” I would ask.
“Shrapnel,” he would answer.
“What’s this shrapnel?”
He would attempt to explain. It all sounded rather exciting and heroic to a 5-year-old boy. He, my father, never complained about the pain but my mother said he used to get awful headaches, and maybe that’s why he couldn’t get off the booze.
But that one and only Christmas, my father had duty until noon on Christmas Eve. I waited for him at that screen door, peering out from behind that godawful bird.
Finally, he drove up. We had a blue Hudson, the ugliest car ever made. My father called our car “the Blue Goose.”
I ran out and I jumped into his arms. “Ready for Santa?” he asked me.
“I’ve been ready since August.”
My father, whatever else he was, was a giving man. He couldn’t stand to have when others didn’t.
He’d found this family. I forget their name. It doesn’t matter. The old man was out of work and in need of a shave and a haircut. The woman was crying because her babies were hungry.
“They’re flat on their butts and it’s Christmas,” I heard my daddy say to my mother. “Nobody deserves that.”
My father could work miracles when a miracle was needed. He found a barber willing to leave his home on Christmas Eve and open his shop and give the old man a shave and a haircut. He bought the family groceries. Sacks and sacks of groceries.
He bought toys for the babies. There was a house full of them. The poor, they are usually fruitful.
We didn’t leave them until dusk and the old man and the woman thanked us and the babies looked at us with sad, wondering eyes. As we drove away in the Blue Goose, my father broke down and cried. My mother cried, too. I cried because they were crying. We all slept together that night and cried ourselves to sleep.
Next morning, I had my pistols and my hat and my picture of Hopalong Cassidy and maybe the three of us only had that one real Christmas together – the old man had split by the time the next one rolled around – but it was a Christmas a man can carry around for a lifetime.
On the occasion of my 35th Christmas, my father long in his grave, I thank God it’s mine to remember.

The Register and Tribune Syndicate

Friday, January 20, 2017

Kent F. Johnson

When I moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, in August of 1970 I searched every day for a job, any job, and after about ten days was hired by the Everitt Companies to work at their manufacturing facility, Union Manufacturing and Supply Company, a manufacturer of modular homes and component homes, as well as a lumber yard for contractors. I had no experience in the lumber industry, and really no training on how to handle phone messages either, but Louie Priestcorn, the man who interviewed me for the job, told me he decided to hire me because he already had one employee named Pam and she, too, was left-handed, so he thought it would be fun to have two left-handed Pams. You just never know what will get your foot in the door.

One of the very first friends I made there was Kent Johnson, the company purchasing agent. My job was to answer the phone and I did a little paperwork too, mostly for Kent, whose desk was near mine. Kent's wife, Bernadine, soon became the day care provider for my son, Patrick. In fact, it was Kent and Bernadine's youngest son, Ricky, who potty trained Patrick by taking him along to the bathroom every time he needed to go. They were only about a year apart in age.

Kent and I talked to one another every day across our desks about our customers, our families, and how we liked to spend our free time. We soon became confidants and friends. Kent grew up in Fort Collins and was a very social guy. Every day about ten o'clock in the morning he left the plant and met up with his old high school buddies downtown for coffee. He left me "in charge." They were a tight-knit group who were friends for life. One of them, Don Weinland, became my own lawyer. Another, Bob Cushatt, became my insurance agent. Kent treated me like family and drew me in to his circle of friends. He had a fun sense of humor and kept me laughing much of the time. Unfortunately, sometimes when I start laughing I cannot stop, a kind of hysteria overcomes me...it's a family trait. That's not good when answering incoming business calls with a comedian sitting nearby.

My soon-to-be-husband, Bob Russell, worked at Union Mfg. also, but in another building. He and Kent were friends and when Bob and I started dating Kent was all for it, telling me what a fun guy Bob was. They had travelled back to Kansas together for some company-sponsored training and had a blast, partied hardy. Every Monday at work Kent would ask me what we did over the weekend for Bob was introducing me to his friends and taking me dancing and dining every Friday night and sometimes Saturday too.As a married man with three little boys Kent's partying days had dwindled.

I worked for Union Manufacturing for almost fifteen years, working my way up from receptionist to outside sales representative, becoming the first female outside lumber sales rep in Northern Colorado, thanks to the company owner, Bob Everitt, and the manager of Union Mfg., Bill Lewis.  Kent's job changed too and we didn't see as much of one another ever again but we remained friends. Within the ever-expanding perimeter of the city of Fort Collins is an smaller community of oldtimers, people who were here before Old Main burned. People who owned businesses in town when the south end of town was Prospect Avenue. Thanks to Kent Johnson, I got a glimpse of that society and understand the shared experiences that bind them even today.

Those who know Kent know that Bernadine was the love of his life and her poor health and death six years ago was devastating to him. He never recovered from that loss. I am thankful for the friendship of this funny guy who made me feel that Fort Collins is my home forever more. The memories come flooding back as I write this and they are all good memories. RIP, Kent.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Love Song

As I look back over the forty-five years of our marriage I realize that music has overlaid our lives like a gentle fog, shifting and changing, but always present, making our lives together one continual song, a moving melody.

On our wedding day we said our vows to the music of Neil Diamond's Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show..."pack up the babies and grab the old ladies and everyone goes, cause everyone knows brother love's show..." playing on the portable record player at the little Methodist chapel on East Elizabeth Street. A little unconventional for a wedding but it was our music.

1971, the year of our courtship, we not only danced to Neil Diamond while partying with friends, but both fell in love with the rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. We knew all the words to every song and still do. And we danced to country western music at Bruce's Bar in Severance, to Three Dog Night's Joy to the World (Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog), The Colorado Sunshine Company, and collections of rock and roll music from the 50s and 60's on reel to reel tapes produced by several of the guys in our group.

Oh, I mustn't forget, the Dutch Hops, an annual Harvest Festival in Windsor with polka bands and Dutch hop dancing upstairs at the Grange. We even attended a few Square Dances at the Lodge Hall in Wellington, with Bob's father calling the steps. One of my favorite events was the outdoor dance at the Well-o-Rama, late at night after a long, hot day of parades, games, sunburns, motorcycle races. Yes, we danced our way through the seventies, to the beat of an eclectic mix of music, and I'm so glad we did.

Somewhere in there we became friends with several musicians who started coming to our home where they played and sang, stayed for dinner, became part of our extended family. Dave Yeaney played guitar and sang Bill Staines' Last Dance At Salinas "Oh, she says her name's Betty Grable, and he says he's really John Wayne, when you're five miles from nowhere with nothing, who gives a damn 'bout a name?"...aww, Dave, you were so talented, and you made us laugh, and sold your favorite guitar to Bob for a song ....but you took your own life..."like lovers often do...I could have told you, Vincent, this world was never made for one as beautiful as you...starry, starry night." Yes, Don McLean's songs were woven into our mix too.

And there was Moose, aka Michael Buchanan, who brought the music of John Prine and Willis Alan Ramsey into our lives, our own Spider John. Moose's bluegrass sound was plaintive, authentic, soulful. "There's a hole in Daddy's arm where all the money goes..."...oh, I remember how he made those songs his own. Then Moose was gone and took all that talent and possibilities with him.

Charlie Butler, "Good time Charlie's got the blues" played and sang, taught me about plants, took our son, Patrick, fishing, was a big part of our lives, musically and otherwise. He and Bob played guitar together many hours, upstairs in the dome, cussing and discussing. 

Charlie's piano-player partner, Steve Johnson, taught Bob to play the piano. They didn't start with Chopsticks, no, Bob wanted to learn MacArthur Park by Richard Harris, "Someone left the cake out in the rain, I don't think that I can take it, 'Cause it took so long to bake it, And I'll never have that recipe again, Oh no!" They practiced that song until they both could play it well, and by then they were sick and tired of it! I loved it...got to hear it played many times as they practiced all the complicated chord changes in that mysterious song. 
My sister Fran introduced us to The Moody Blues and we immersed ourselves in "Nights in White Satin", "Tuesday Afternoon" and more. Listening to that album now is calming and soothing to my soul. And Bob taught himself Maybelle Carter's Wildwood Flower, forever etching itself in my brain. My brother, Mike, brought his own musical tastes to our lives, enriching our musical lives, broadening our horizons. Carole King, Chuck Berry, and Jim Croce come to mind.

Throughout the 70s and 80's, as we learned to love the new music of John Prine, Moody Blues, and others we had our own standby favorites in Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins, Roy Clark, Kris Kristopherson, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Dolly Parton, and Judy Collins. 
And there was music on the radio too. Lenny Epstein hosted a weekly show we came to love, playing folk songs by Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Utah Phillips, and folk artists we'd never have known if it weren't for Lenny.

The music continued into the 80's and 90's, an ongoing serenade of joyful sound by the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Kate Wolf, and Mary McCaslin. Always new voices bringing their lyrics to the chorus, weaving their words into our song. 
And there were minor chords too, songs that accompanied death of a family member and will forever be associated with them in my mind. My mother loved Patsy Cline and when I hear "I fall to pieces each time someone speaks your name" I think, yes, Mom, that is how I feel when someone speaks your name, even now, after all these years. When my sister Kathy died her daughter Rachel sat on the floor at the funeral with her guitar in her lap and sang her mother's newest favorite song, John Prine's "Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery" with such sweetness and sensitivity that it broke my heart. On the day we buried Bob's mother her longtime friends Ed and Opal Turner came to our home with their guitars and sang and played to comfort us in our grief. Bob sang with them, a fitting dirge in the folk tune Long Black Veil, "She walks these hills in a long black veil, she visits my grave where the night winds wail, nobody knows, no, and nobody sees, nobody knows but me." That mournful voice was a son, Bobby Russell, singing his sadness for his mother as she made her transition from our world to the next. 

Now as we celebrate forty-five years of marriage our song has mellowed. No longer do we rock the rafters with the raucous sound of Bob Seeger's Old Time Rock and Roll or Peter Rowan's The Free Mexican Airforce. Now our son, Patrick, brings his guitars and sings and plays his music in our home. His daughter, Isabella, is finding her own voice in the modern day music of her time. Our daughter-in-law, Alejandra, expresses herself beautifully in dance and so does Lucas, our grandson. Our older grandson, Cortland, shares his appreciation for Lady Gaga with his younger brother and sister and together they are trying to bring Grandma into the light. And so our song continues, and this house is never without music, gentle, thought-provoking music these days.

Thank you, my love, for the music and the memories. You have some favorite musical quotes like Jimmy Buffet's “Some of it's magic, some of it tragic, but I've had a good life along the way.” and the Oak Ridge Boys "Nobody likes to play rhythm guitar behind Jesus, everybody wants to be the leader singer in the band" but I think the lyrics that best express my feelings are Bette Midler's The Rose.  "Some say love, it is a river, that drowns the tender reed. Some say love, it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed. Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need. I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed." Happy Anniversary, Bob.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bella's Jelly

About eleven years ago our granddaughter was born and I planted a tree to celebrate the occasion. First I gathered a seed from inside an overripe apple beneath our oldest apple tree. I had done the same thing almost two years prior when our grandson was born and his tree was growing successfully, out in the yard. Then I planted the seed in a small pot until it was big enough to transplant in the yard at which time Bob drove a steel post beside it so we wouldn't accidentally mow it down. I think we protected it with horse wire for the first few years too, so the rabbits and deer wouldn't munch on it. 
Last year we got a few blossoms and fruit but it was this year, 2016, that the tree really came into its own with a bumper crop of pretty little yellow apples with a pink blush. I've since learned that growing an apple tree from a seed rarely produces good tasting fruit. That kind of experimentation is best left to the professionals, and sure enough, these little apples are bland and not very sweet, but they are very pretty. They hang in clusters like cherries and resemble the Queen Anne variety, but not as red. 

We decided to make jelly with them this weekend. Bella and I picked a big bag of apples and added a few Jonathans from a nearby tree, thinking we might need some of their juiciness. The plan was for us to make the jelly together but other projects intervened so that on Sunday while watching football I sorted, cored, and otherwise prepared the apples for jelly making while Bella attended a birthday party up in the mountains.Bella, I told you I would explain how I made the jelly so this is for you. 
I placed the washed and chopped apples in a pan with water to cover them and cooked them about fifteen minutes, adding about 1/3 cup Brach's Cinnamon Imperial candies, or red hots, as we know them.

That's a tip from my mother-in-law who taught me the candies add a little spice and color to an otherwise bland juice.  When the fruit was soft I gently pressed it against the side of the pan with a big spoon to release the juice, then poured it all into a bowl lined with a single layer of cheesecloth. 

Holding the cheescloth-filled bag above the bowl, and gently pushing against the sides of the bag to get the juice out, I soon had almost six cups of apple juice for jelly making. It's tempting to really squeeze the bag to get more juice but that extra apple pulp makes the jelly cloudy. Using my favorite apple jelly recipe I added the sugar and fruit pectin to the juice and brought it to a boil in a pan on the stove. Oh, I forgot to say that in another pan I was sterilizing the jelly jars and lids so that when the jelly was ready the jars would be very hot and clean.

After the jelly boiled for a full minute, just the like recipe says, I ladled the juice into the hot jars and put the lids on. The next step was more difficult than it should have been for I had forgotten that somewhere in storage I have a deep pan with a rack in it that is perfect for the last step in jelly making so I had to make do with the same pan I sterilized the jars in. Putting a rack in the bottom of the pan to keep the glass jars off the too-hot bottom I was able to place 5 jars full of jelly into the pan and boil them for five minutes, making sure the water covered the jars. Boy, was that tricky! I had water boiling over onto the stovetop the entire five minutes because my pan was barely deep enough! If we make another batch of jelly we'll definitely use the right equipment.

When the jars are removed from the hot water bath and placed on the countertop the sound of success comes with the popping noise from the lids as they suck down in the middle, insuring a good seal. I was happy with the looks of the jelly and the fact I got eleven jars, more than I expected. However, hours later, after the jelly was totally cooled, I could see that instead of eleven jars of jelly I had eleven jars of syrup! Dang. This has happened to me before. I surely do wish I had my mother-in-law here to tell me her trick of testing the jelly to see if it is going to set up before going to all the trouble of filling the jars and giving them their final hot bath. 

Google told me what to do and I almost started on it yesterday but then realized I needed new lids! The old lids can not be reused for once the seal is broken it can't be relied on again, unlike the big, red rubber seals our grandmothers used back "in the olden days." So this morning I removed the apple syrup from the jars, put it back into a clean pan, added the mixture of sugar, water, lemon juice, and pectin recommended, and boiled it again. Bob took the temperature of the boiling mixture and found it to be only 175 degrees so we think the jelly failure might be blamed on our high altitude which causes liquids to boil at a much lower temperature than at sea level. Of course, I had to wash and re-sterilize the jars, and the new lids before filling them with the jelly. I could tell right away that this jelly is much thicker than the original batch. I gave them their 5-minute bath again and added a few minutes to adjust for the altitude. Tonight I'll open a jar and sample it, hoping to find just the right jelly consistency and not a pink rubber ball!! That has happened to me too, jelly so firm I couldn't get my spoon into it. There is an old saying that fits this situation, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Family Reunion

My family on my mom’s side just had a family reunion today, June 4, 2016, the first in Southern Indiana, I believe. Most years they were held in Southern Illinois in July because my mother’s parents lived there, and July was sure to be hot and dry. At least I think those are the reasons. The one today I didn’t attend and tonight I’m missing my cousins so. Colorado seems so far away.

I’m almost 70 years old now and have been attending family reunions with these relatives (and so many who have died) all my life. I don’t remember any bad times, no arguments, certainly no fist fights or gun battles. My memories are filled with good times, laughter, and fun with cousins. I could write a book about those reunions but instead I’d like to make a list of abstract memories, snips of images etched on my mind like those captured in the flashbulbs of old-time cameras.

The squeak of the porch swing
Lighting bugs in the yard
Grandma’s chuckles amid the soft southern voices of each of her kids

Sleeping on pallets in the living room
Cousins piled up on the feather beds
Pillows damp with perspiration and mattresses that smelled of pee
The grape vine outside the bedroom window

The chiffrobe, chamber pot, and quilts in the bedroom
Grandpa calling out "Verlie, Verlie", and her quiet answer, “Oh, Wil.”
Grandma with her snuff, rose water glycerin, her only cologne
Grandpa in his white socks, black coal dust stains on his ears

The distinctive odor of lime in the outhouse
Cucumbers planted on hills
Mulberries staining the ground
The smoke house that no longer smoked hams

Piles of scrap metal by the garage
Coffee grounds saved and spaded for fishing worms
Green apples in the trees beside the house
Mustard worms on the sidewalk

Iced tea and lemonade, made with real lemons
Dew berries growing low along the road
Blackberries and chiggers seemed to go hand in hand
Lois’s store for candy and orangesicles

Cousins arriving by car to squeals of excitement
Grandpa sitting in those cars turning the knobs, playing the radios
So many cooks in the kitchen, adding beans to the pot

Uncle Todge came in the door as a one-man carnival
Talking like Donald Duck
Giving out candy from his pocket
Making us laugh and loving his antics.

Aunt Betty and her stories, oh, she could tell good stories
Never cut her hair and always wore dresses with sleeves
But first to jump into Harco Lake
And splash and chase and act like a kid

Uncle Jay took a personal interest in every one of us
Remembered the old times, the names and dates
Never talked of his hardships, his time in the Army
Loved us unconditionally and we felt the same about him

Aunt Tootsie is what we called her
And I don’t know why
She was the take-charge sister who got things done
Kept an eye on us kids and we knew she saw everything

Aunt Barbara didn’t make it down home as often as the others
She had four kids and Uncle Jim in Indiana
So when they did arrive we celebrated big
Took those kids around and showed them everything

Aunt Lou was a little on the fringes
Liked her cigarettes and drink
But loved her family, every one
Had a sad little smile that spoke of a sad, sad life

I saved my mom for last, Mil, to all her family
She reverted to a little girl when she came down home,
Giggled and laughed, called me Betty instead of Pam
The only time she was truly happy was when she went down home.

I love you all, my cousins, I hope you know that
We share lots of memories and good genes too
Most of us are healthy and have families of our own
May our love for one another and our reunions continue forever...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dolls, Dolls, and more Dolls

I love dolls, mostly old dolls who've seen better days. Some would say dolls who've seen a lot of love, but I think my favorite dolls have seen a lot of neglect.

After I retired from my full time job I started frequenting a local auction house on Friday nights. At first I was cautious and conservative with my bidding and buying but then...oh, my. Some nights I'd get home at midnight and my car would be packed, front passenger seat, back seat, and trunk. It was great fun. Bob would wait up for me on those nights and help me unload my treasures. The plan was for me to sell those treasures on ebay and make a killing. Well, I certainly did sell a lot on ebay but when I entered my purchases and sales into an Excel worksheet I discovered that I was barely breaking even. But it was great entertainment and I believe those several years of auctions helped me make the transition from full time work to retirement...at least that's what I tell myself.

I bought and sold a lot of "stuff" and for years kept records and photographs but now I'd be hard-pressed
to recall even ten percent of those transactions. However, I remember the dolls. I started out buying old porcelain and bisque dolls about which I knew nothing so I spent hours online learning about them and figuring out how best to describe and sell them. This was back in the years 2000 to 2004 when ebay was more seller friendly. Collectibles sold quickly to people who had suddenly discovered the thrill of adding to their collections without having to traipse through flea markets or flit from garage sale to garage sale.
I added old composition dolls to my acquisitions and one night even bought a slew of Asian dolls from someone's personal collection. The "biggest" night I came home with several large boxes that filled my car with dolls that apparently came from the Goodwill or Salvation Army. That group had been picked over carefully and only the worst were sold at auction. I thought I could clean them up, find clothes, fix their hair....what was I thinking!

I sold the best, all the porcelain and bisque, all the old composition baby dolls and beautiful Asian dolls,and what I still have are all those boxes of end-of-the-line dolls. One day my husband had the bright idea to hang some of those worn out dolls from our old pear tree, sort of like Christmas ornaments in June.
Within a week or so we were visited by a local sheriff's deputy who requested we take them down as people driving by were offended, or at least one person driving by was offended enough to call the sheriff and suggest there was something not right about hanging dolls from trees. That was the end of that!
In the four or five years when I was most active on ebay I must have sold over a hundred dolls. I'm including in this blog photographs of a few of my favorites.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Duane Johnson 1942-2015

Just found out that Duane Johnson has died. He’s been failing for a long, long time. I hope he did not suffer in the end, but those with breathing problems, like Duane, often go down hard, suffocating slowly.

I first met Duane in 1971. My husband and I had recently separated and although he was moving back to Illinois he threatened to show up at our three-year-old son’s babysitter and whisk him away from me so I needed to hurriedly find a new sitter. Duane and his wife, Rosie, had an in-home childcare business and they were longtime friends of Bob Russell, my new boyfriend, so Rosie soon became our new daycare person. Rarely did I cross paths with Duane since he worked long days at Woodward Governor, hardly knew him.

Back in the early 70s Wellington celebrated the paving of Main Street with an annual festival, the Well-o-rama, and one of the popular events was a motorcycle race, not so much a race as a series of short races staged on the school’s football field. Duane entered the races along with his two sons, Vic and Vince, and I have fond memories of watching them compete in the wacky motorcycle events, such as holding a spoon in your mouth with a raw egg in it, then trying to be the first to the finish line with the egg in place and unbroken. Duane was a big guy and there was no mistaking him out on the field, slowly motoring through the events, competing with guys half his age riding faster, louder bikes, having fun and acting like a big kid. That’s the Duane I like to remember.

Years later Duane and Rosie moved out here in the country, just down the road from us. Rosie drove a school bus then, Duane still worked at Woodward, and they added two more children to their family, years after Vic and Vince. We waved when we saw them but didn’t socialize. Then we heard through the grapevine that they divorced, and after that the rumors were never happy ones; we knew that life was difficult for Duane. I saw him at the grocery store several times, saw he carried an oxygen bottle with him, leaned on the cart for support. I recognized a sad person in those eyes, but he was always friendly, always stopped to talk.

Bob first met Duane when they were in the seventh grade. The Russells had moved to Wellington in 1953 from Pierce, Colorado, over in Weld County, and the Johnsons arrived in the community about two years later, recently from the Wyoming oil fields, originally from Kansas. The two families became friends and Bob and Duane were thrown together at home as well as school and quickly became friends. They shared adventures the way farm boys do, hunting, fishing, and exploring the land. Duane had a younger brother, Maletus, usually it was the three of them out hunting and fishing and learning about life.

Duane and Maletus liked to fight with one another. It might start with a small disagreement, then progress to some shoving, but shortly punches were thrown, hard punches traded between brothers. If their father was within earshot he stormed in, grabbed them both, held one down with a knee while he flailed on the other, then traded kids. Bob remembers being in the middle of that scene more than once, shuffling out of the room to avoid the pandemonium.

Both the Johnson boys worked hard, a man’s work, from the time they were young teens, handing their wages over to their mother who controlled the family’s purse strings. She rewarded them with enough money to buy a car, every Wellington boy’s desire back then. Duane had a car, a girlfriend, and he was All Conference, All State Football offensive lineman in high school….life was good. He landed a much sought after job at Woodward Governor and worked there until he retired, over thirty years at the same job. Duane told Bob that when he retired there was a groove in the floor where he had stood in the same spot, doing the same work, for thirty-plus years.

Duane had four sisters, all younger than he and his brother. He is the first to depart this life and leaves behind a large family of nieces, nephews, grandchildren, all too young to have known the boy who liked to hunt with his friends, trade punches with his brother, play football with his team, and ride motorcycles in silly races. Duane Johnson was a good guy who had a hard life; I’m proud to have known him. Rest in peace, Duane, finally.