'I Lost The Dog'

09 October, 2018rodster385Comments (0)

The Best Of 'Strange Thinking' With Author Rodney Strange


It's Saturday night as I sit down to write this and, well...I'm all alone. The house is eerily quiet and empty and I sense it deep within my very being. Aw...no, this isn't a pity trip. Not an 'I'm so lonely I could cry' story, some country 'cry in your beer' ballad. My daughter has reached the age of freedom, has her own wheels, and is frequently absent. I've grown accustomed to spending time alone most every evening as she spreads her wings in search of her very own life apart from boring ol' Dad. Heck, I would worry about her if she never left the house...it's just not natural for a teen to stay home, especially on a Saturday night. So. I'm good with all that...except for this one fact: she took the dog!

I hate to admit this, but after spending five years together, I've grown fond of that damn dog. It's always here, granted asleep most of the time, but tonight the dog is gone! And doggone it, I miss it! Never thought I'd reach this point. In fact, I recall the first week my daughter and her little dog came to live with me. Me, not accustomed to having another living thing to watch over, managed to lose that dog just days after it showed up in my life. I'll tell you the story...pull up a chair...

She stepped through the kitchen door, me following behind, my arms laden with clothes on hangers, a suitcase, and her backpack. This was not an every other weekend visit nor the customary summer vacation with dad. This time it was different…it was for good. A change in her life had brought this little city girl to the country, to a new life…a new adventure.
She brought along baggage. Yes, the typical baggage that follows a teenage girl, but then there was the dog. I’d not had one of those underfoot in years and had not had one who resided in my house in even more. I eyed the bug-eyed Boston terrier and she eyed me. As we sized each other up, it appeared we both came to the conclusion at the same time. It was the girl who had brought us together and as she was the most important person in either of our lives, we would just have to tolerate each other.
And after ten days, with the girl and her dog and me, my life had not been the same. When the weekend rolled around, she entrusted her loyal pet to my care as she headed off to a friend’s house for a sleepover. I could handle watching over this city dog, I promised. How much trouble could a canine standing a mere fourteen inches tall get into? Yes, run along and enjoy yourself, I told her. Me and…what’s its name again? …we’d be just fine.
It was a beautiful Friday evening and I decided to take full advantage of it. I cooked myself a steak on the grill and a weenie for….um….the dog, whatever her name is. Then, with the sun sinking into the western horizon, I settled into a chair on the patio and sipped on a glass of sweet tea. With a magnificent sunset, a cool breeze, and a puppy dog frolicking around the yard, what more could a man ask for, I asked myself. Before I had finished that thought, my cell phone rang. Ah, that’s what would make the evening better…a good conversation with a good friend…a good, smoking hot friend.
Dusk settled upon us as the conversation carried on. The talk turned to the dog. Yes, I was dog sitting on a Friday night. No, the little critter was no trouble at all, in fact…
The dog! Where was the dog? My eyes scoured the backyard of my country home, which consisted of around ten acres.
“Hey! Dog? Here Dog! Where are you?”
OMG, I’ve lost the dog!
“I’ll call you back!” I thrust the phone in my hip pocket and stepped off the patio. What was that dog’s name?
“Here puppy! Damn you dog! I can’t lose you…not on my watch!”
I frantically circled the house then expanded my search area. With just moments left of dim light, I began to panic. I leaped into the pickup and backed out of the drive, heading through the pasture. When I found no sign of the black dog in the blackness of the night, I turned into the pecan orchard, driving slowly as I called for the nameless dog.
Precious moments had passed when I turned onto the highway in front of my place, headlights illuminating the road. Fear swept through me as I prepared myself to find the Boston terrier splattered on the asphalt. With no sign of the pooch, I turned onto a side road, driving through a cotton field where I prayed I’d not find my daughter’s pet slaughtered by a pack of wild coyotes. My mind raced, visuals of every dog I’d ever had passing through my mind…and their demise, some on the highway, some at the jaws of the coyotes, and two from buckshot fired from a shotgun when they had ventured too close to the edge of that cotton field where a double-wide trailer sat.
Do dogs go to heaven when they die? I asked that question as I searched the darkness. It was the very same question I had asked as I buried so many of my loyal companions throughout the years. The Bible leaves it a mystery, but could heaven really be heavenly without dogs? Well, maybe just a few dogs. We wouldn’t want heaven to be overrun with packs of dogs that had met their fate in the middle of a highway while munching on roadkill. What would I tell my daughter? She was a bit too old to be pacified with, ‘But honey, your pet is now in heaven. It crossed over the magic rainbow…”
I winced as I imagined the fury of my child when I told her I had let her dog escape.
“Dad! Dad, you let my dog die! How could you? You had one job, just one!”
She would be devastated! Heartbroken! Tears would flow for days! She would be pissed! Our relationship would be forever changed.
After an hour of futile searching, I turned onto the dirt road leading back to the house. As the headlights of my pickup lit up the patio, my eyes lit up even brighter than the high beams. There sitting on the step with tongue hanging sat the little Boston terrier. I leaped from the truck and dashed toward the critter, swooping it in my arms and hugging it, tears of joy running down my face.
The dog licked my face then paused and looked into my eyes and…I swear I could read its mind…”So why did you run off and leave me here all alone? It’s spooky out here in the dark!”
I gave the pup an extra helping of Old Roy and a bowl of fresh water, then stood and just watched it. A text came in from my daughter:
“Dad, how is my dog? Are you taking good care of her?”
“Oh yes, sweetie! It’s been quite an adventure! We’re just…bonding.”
At that very moment, a putrid odor filtered through the kitchen making me force back a gag.
“BTW…your dog’s farts really stink!”



'A Junk Drawer Memory'

24 September, 2018rodster385Comments (0)


Jim Bonnett and I had lived in the same town all our lives. We had graduated high school together, started our families right here in our hometown, and attended the same church for decades. While we were never best friends, we were alright with each other, having occasionally run into each other at football games or the grocery store. We'd often give each other a nod at church even though we sat at opposite side of the sanctuary. On this particular fall morning, we had bumped into each other at the coffee shop and found ourselves sitting at the same table catching up on a whole lot of nothing. Old men our age really don't have that much to tell generally. The conversation paused and Jim leaned forward, a nervous look on his face.
"Do you remember that girl from high school, Susan Mills?"
I nodded, "A skinny little thing. Sort of a big nose. Always wore daisy dukes and short blouses with her belly button showing. Yep, I remember her."
Jim took a sip of his coffee and continued, "I've had this memory, just a junk drawer memory that never seemed to have a purpose, of her all these years. I remember her coming over to my house one summer afternoon. I had mowed the yard and was asleep on the couch when she knocked on the door. I was so shocked to see her standing on the porch dressed, well like you remember. I couldn't imagine why she was there but invited her inside. I remember I was only wearing a pair of cut-off shorts and felt a bit embarrassed about her seeing me with no shirt. She sat on the couch beside me and within minutes was really putting the moves on me, touching my leg, running her hand down my back. I had no interest in her. She was sixteen, a sophomore in high school. I was nineteen and through a whole year of college. I found her annoying and immature and was really put off with her making moves on me. Finally, after a half-hour or so, I basically told her to leave. You could tell it really pissed her off."
He shook his head and stared at the coffee cup in front of him, "The last thing she said as I shut the door was, 'you'll never know what you missed out on."
I raised an eyebrow and listened intently.
"I never could figure out why that memory stuck with me all these years until the other day. I was plowing one of my fields. I really like to plow. My mind just wanders when I'm out on the tractor. Just never know where my mind is going to go, sort of like meditation. Anyway, it came to me, as clear as if I were watching a movie on Netflix. A memory from way back then hit me like a bag of rocks!"
My eyes grew wide as I noticed a bead of sweat run down his forehead.
"Do you remember the old gym out west of town? The school had burned years ago but the gym was saved. Someone had taken it and opened it up as a skating rink?"
I nodded and replied, "Oh yeah. It opened the first Saturday night of each month during the summer. Kids from all over would come out to skate. They had pool tables, foosball, and pinball machines. Yep, had some good times there."
"Well, out there on that tractor the other day, it came to me as clear as if it had happened yesterday. I was in my car, that Dodge Charger, parked across the road from the gym under a big elm tree. Susan Mills was there with me and we had drunk a whole bottle of Wild Turkey. We were making out, I mean heavy, sweating and panting. She unbuttoned my shirt and was grabbing me places she shouldn't. I was all over her. I can still smell the whiskey on her right now. She was wearing a pair of short blue jean cutoffs and a little white blouse with flowers on it, and yeah, that belly button exposed. A streetlight in front of the gym cast a blue eerie light into the car and I could see the wildness in ner eyes as she took my hand and shoved it beneath her blouse. Suddenly, she peeled off her shirt and before I could blink, she had kicked her shorts into the floorboard."
Jim paused and wiped his sweaty palms together, "I sat there on that tractor and had a full blown panic attack! I freaked out! I looked down at her lying naked in the seat of my car and realized she had the body of a twelve or thirteen-year-old girl. She was sixteen! She was jailbait! What was going on in my mind that night?"
He stopped and stared at me.
"So what happened next?" I asked.
"I don't know! That's the end of my memory of that night. I have to tell you, this has me all torn up. With this news of some woman accusing that Supreme Court Justice nominee of something that happened over thirty years ago! What would something like this do to me? My life could be ruined! I honestly don't know what I did with that girl that night!"
"And that's all you can remember?'' Our eyes met for an uncomfortable period of time and then a smile spread across my face, "Well, let me tell you the rest of the story."
He cocked his head and stared in wonderment.
"You and I went out to the gym together that night. I remember The Who's 'Behind Blue Eyes" was playing over the speakers when we walked in. We stood around with other guys and watched the girls skate in their little short shorts for a bit, then you went to play pool with someone. I ended up at the foosball table with a bunch of little high school girls. You eventually came over and whispered in my ear that Susan Mills had a bottle of Wild Turkey stashed outside and you were going out for a drink with her. I didn't see you the rest of the night. When the gym closed down at midnight I went outside and stood around with those high school girls, them mooching cigarettes off me. We were standing right under that street light when Susan Mills got out of your car, literally pulling her shirt over her head as she came toward us. She walked by in a huff, raising her arms and shouting, 'Can you believe he passed out! He passed out drunk! He'll never know what he missed out on!"
"Really?" he responded as that sank in, "So, she came over to my house a few days later to give me a second chance and I turned her down."
He nodded his head as a look of relief came over his face.
"You know, Jim, there isn't a soul on this earth, especially of our age, that doesn't have a few things they'd rather not share with their mama or their wife or their preacher. Not one. The Good Book says, 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.' I think that's something to carry in your back pocket at all times. Live your life in the present. That memory...belongs in your junk drawer."
We rose from the table and headed toward the cash register.
"Say, Jim, remember when I loaned you fifty bucks back in '78 for a battery for your car?"
My friend paused and thought for a moment. "You never loaned me fifty bucks! I'd remember that!"
I grinned and slapped him on the back, "I thought it was worth a try seeing how your memory is on the outs lately! Good talking to you, Jim. See you around..."

'Asking For Directions'

05 September, 2018rodster385Comments (0)

The Best of 'Strange Thinking' with author Rodney Strange  


This week I want to take a break from all the current happenings throughout our nation and just tell you about the day I got lost. I know the first thing that passed through the minds of my female readers when they read that last sentence was,

"And you're a man and wouldn't ask for directions."

You are wrong, Chicklets! I did ask...and that is the story I wish to tell.
It was a beautiful fall-like Saturday morning that I sat out on my adventure to the city. My daughter's volleyball team had a game scheduled at LCHS in Lubbock, Texas. I had glanced at the schedule hanging on the fridge several times throughout the week, and in my mind, which is not always the right mind, I knew exactly where she was playing...LCHS, a private Christian school in the center of Lubbock, right over by the K-mart. I had judged that it would take me forty minutes to get from here to there, and right on schedule that Saturday morning, I stepped out of the house at nine-fifteen. The clock on the dash of my pickup read nine-fifty five as I pulled into the parking lot. I switched the key off and stepped out onto the asphalt. That's when the eerie feeling swept over me. As I glanced around the empty parking lot, a wave of fear rushed through my body as I came to the realization I might not be at the right school. I glanced at a sign looming before me, 'Trinity Christian School' which obviously would not be LCHS.  I whipped my not-so-smart ten-year-old phone from its holster and stared at the time. I had three minutes to find the right school.
Frantically I pulled out of the parking lot, and in a panic, swerved into the next parking lot I saw...a convenience store! Someone in that store would surely know where LCHS was! As I leaped from my vehicle, a postal worker exited the store. As hurried as I was at the moment, I immediately noticed she was unlike any postal worker I had ever seen. A long and lean little filly, her blonde hair in a french braid, her official USPS issued shirt unbuttoned one button too many, and shorts far too short to be officially licensed by the Post Office...she took my breath away just watching her saunter across the pavement toward her little square postal jeep.
"Excuse me, miss...um, Postal Officer!"
She paused and a broad smile spread across her face as I approached. I explained that I was lost and now sort of late to a volleyball game and could she tell me where in Lubbock, Texas LCHS was? She whipped her enormous iPhone X out from where I did not know, as her shorts could not possibly have pockets big enough to hold that thing.
"Let's just google it!" she exclaimed, drawing her body closer to mine to share her screen with me. My heartbeat picked up a notch just watching her slender fingers type on the screen.
"Um, I think it would have to be Lubbock Cooper High School. It's about fifteen minutes from here."
I protested that I really was under the impression that I was looking for a Christian school...didn't she know of one with those same initials? Yes, she replied, there was a Lubbock Christain High School, but she had no clue where it might be. I hesitantly thanked her for her help, and with one more glance of over my shoulder to eye those long, tan legs, I bounced back into my truck, briefly pondering how it could be possible a mail carrier would not know where anything was.
Thirty minutes later, I again began my fruitless search for the illusive LCHS, having wasted precious time and gas driving out to the Cooper High School only to discover that, alas, it was not the right LCHS. Perhaps it was Lubbock Coronado High School, a woman standing outside of Cooper High School had suggested. Frustrated, I had driven back to where I had begun my search. I ventured down the street a bit farther...ten miles, eventually passing a sign that read, 'Lubbock Christain University.' I held my hand to my forehead and sighed. The initials did not match up! LCU was not LCHS. Nevertheless, I pulled into the campus, all but abandoned on this fall-ish Saturday morning. I spotted a jogger on the sidewalk and rolled my window down and gave her a shout. She continued, oblivious to me, her headphones drowning out my voice. I desperately tapped my horn...and she stopped.
As she came toward my vehicle, I could see she was young, attractive, athletic, and bra-less. She stooped and stuck her head through the passenger window, her arms crossed, resting on the door. My eyes unavoidably focused on what could have been two very distinctly protruding marbles beneath her thin tank top. OMG, don't stare at those, I told myself silently, averting my eyes to...OMG, hairy armpits! Don't stare at those either! I forced my line of sight upward toward her face where I saw the most beautiful smile and the greenest green eyes staring back at me.
"Sorry to bother you, but I'm looking for LCHS?"
"Oh, it's right over there," she pointed her finger toward what appeared to be a stadium, "Just head toward those lights at the football field!"
"I did mention it was volleyball, not football?"
She giggled and spread her arms wide, armpit hairs blowing in the breeze, "Yes silly! The school sits right beside the football field."
Then she was gone. I watched her jog away, admiring her lime green Nike shorts, then turned the truck toward the lights.
Minutes later I scurried into the gym, making my way toward the rest of the parents of our volleyball team.
"Well it's about time!" several of the mothers chastised me.
"I liked to have never found this place. How much have I missed?" I questioned as I stared at my not-so-smart smartphone, which told me it was just past eleven.
"About fifteen minutes. You know these games never start on time." One of the mothers responded, "You want some advice? Ask for directions! Ask a woman! We'll never steer you wrong."
I nodded in faux agreement, my eyes focusing on my daughter on the court below. She glanced up into the stands, spotting her dad, and the faintest smile crossed her face. A huge sigh escaped from within me...I had made her game. Beyond the walls of that gymnasium, far from the city limits of Lubbock, past the boundaries of where I call home...the world may be crumbling beneath our feet. But at that exact moment, there was nothing more important than watching my daughter play volleyball.

'Millennials, I Get It'

27 August, 2018rodster385Comments (0)


with author Rodney Strange

The other night I was cruising around Twitter looking for folks who might share some common interests with me and ran a search for #babyboomers. Whoa, was I shocked to discover that, fellow baby boomers, WE are the enemy! Not one baby boomer did I discover, but rather what appears to be an all-out preparation to go to battle with US! I was disturbed, to say the least at the revelation that WE are to blame for everything that is wrong in America. I have spent considerable time researching this since that discovery...and there are indeed some points to ponder.
First, I must make it clear that I personally fall at the very end of the Baby Boomer generation, in fact, my outlook on life tends to fall in line with the Generation X'ers, which first began to make their appearance in the sixties. As you can see, I land right in the middle of all this. Let's get on to our Millennials.
In an issue of Time Magazine I discovered at the doctor's office, author Josh Sanburn describes Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) as narcissistic, lazy, coddled, and even delusional, and he cites a decade of research to back it up. After spinning a considerable amount of negative backwash about the people who will one day rule the world, he wraps up with the conclusion that their self-centeredness, overconfidence, and optimism is a result of adaptation to a rapidly changing world.
Now here's what I think. I think it is our fault...we, the baby boomer generation did this to our kids. We did coddle them, hovering over them like she-wolves over their suckling cubs, ready to pounce on the first thing that made a move. We showed them what we had accomplished with our half million dollar homes with three brand new SUVs in the drive. We spoiled them with worldly treasures their entire lives. We told them they HAD to get a college degree and in fact, could do so with readily available student loans. We painted this rosy picture of what life would be like for them in the twenty-first century, then like mama birds, gently shoved them from the nest...and the world came crashing down around them. Those degrees earned with borrowed money can no longer land them a job. They are still living in the bird's nest, sleeping in the very beds they wet as toddlers. The future is bleak and sure to become even more so when the effects of tens of thousands of dollars in student loans will haunt them until their dying day. Our children, educated to the max, aren't stupid people. They see no bright future...and so they have taken on the role of survivor. Yes, they think they are entitled to a better life, and by gosh it has become every man for himself to scratch out some facsimile of the life their parents have lived.
We the baby boomers saw that the sky was the limit. We could achieve anything our hearts desired. Dad worked all hours of the day and night to achieve success, and when we wanted more, Mom went to work, leaving our Millennials to fend for themselves. We missed their ball games, piano recitals, and school functions. To compensate, we bought them stuff...TV's, iPods, Nintendos, X-boxes, and Wii's. We gave them phones so we could parent them from the other end of the line. We, the baby boomers amassed great fortunes which we spent on our turnkey children who raised themselves like abandoned bear cubs. Then we turned them out into the wild, wicked world and told them, "You too can do this." We lied to them. It's no wonder they are who they are.
We have failed our children in more ways than one. In our frenzy to have more than the guy next door, we sacrificed what is important. We gave our kids more 'stuff' than they could ever use up, but we failed to give them the love and nurturing we as parents are bound as parents to give. We also failed to deliver the most important necessity of all, we failed to give them a spiritual education.
The very beliefs our parents instilled in us...we were too busy to pass along to our kids. We worked long and hard all week. Sunday was just another day. We didn't take our children to church. We were just too tired to tuck them into bed and listen to their bedtime prayers. There was no organized suppertime, therefore no blessing before the meal. It's no wonder our children's beliefs tend to swing to the extreme.
I personally find the younger generation full of love and hope and determination...determination not to make the same mistakes we did. Millennials, I love ya...and I really do get it! Put me in the GOOD rest home when the time comes!

'Just Made This Up'

12 August, 2018rodster385Comments (0)


I caught some flack from a couple of people after I published last week’s blog post. These people, who I associate with on a personal level, seemed concerned that I had implied that I just haphazardly toss my personal life out there for the entire world to enjoy. Of course, that’s not really what they fear. They are scared to death I just might tell a secret about them. So, just for fun, I thought I’d rock the boat a little this week and really tell something that will rattle a few cages…here goes!
I gingerly placed the palm of my hand against her cheek as I peered into her eyes and beyond, far beyond into the very depths of her soul. I watched a tear form in the corner of her eye and I brushed it from her lash with a finger.
“I can hear your heartbreaking,” I whispered softly.
She remained silent, pressing her face further into my hand.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” I continued, placing my other hand against her heart ever so lightly, “I’m here now. Please don’t cry.”
Her lips drew closer to mine and I closed my eyes and tasted her sweetness, sensing the passion of her despair.
Well, there you go! That’s about as personal as one can get, don’t you think? I should never share a moment like that with anyone, much less on the internet with, ummm….I’m going to guess around twenty-five thousand will see this week’s blog post. Let’s take a closer look. I did not divulge any descriptions that would give this person’s identity away. What color were her eyes? Her hair? Did this event happen earlier this evening or twenty years ago? Or…did it happen at all!
I am a writer…I write fiction. The above is nothing more. Who I visualized as I wrote is not the same person you saw as you read the blurb. If in the course of writing something I do happen to refer to a true event that passed through my life at some point, I’ll guaran-damn-tee you you’ll never know if it was fact or fiction…even if I wrote it about you. I’m just that good!
When I sat down to write ‘Nineteen Seventy Something,’ I had intended to base the story on my teen years. Page after page, I diluted the truth with embellishments and falsehoods until upon completion; the novel was just a story...fiction. Sure, there are half a dozen people who might recognize a random event within the book, but they’d be hard-pressed to accuse me of letting any skeletons out of the closet.
Let’s face it. Everything is fiction these days. The news…is not the news. It’s embellished and slanted in every which direction to the point that it borderlines fiction. When I studied journalism way back in the day, we were taught that one’s personal opinion was to never bleed into the news story you wrote. Today the news is simply someone’s twisted opinion.
Politicians are perhaps the best storytellers of our time and they produce much fictitious fodder to fuel the media’s fascination with fiction. By the time the general public gets the story, it’s apt to be a fiction doubleheader. We, the American people are often befuddled and bedazzled as we wade through the inaccuracies that bombard us daily.
So who can we trust to tell us something true? Surely scientists wouldn’t fill our heads with fiction! I fear that the scientists of today are more storytellers than their predecessors. Recently scientists proclaimed that as much as fifty percent of the earth’s water is older than the sun. But wait…doesn’t that nullify the ‘Big Bang Theory?’ Scientists overload us daily with new revelations, many of them unbelievable and likely most of them mere fiction.
The late famed physicist and devout atheist Stephen Hawkins told us we no longer have any reason to believe that a God exists. We now have enough scientific evidence to support the hows and whys of the universe that we can put the Supreme Creator theory to rest. He said, and I quote, “In my opinion, there is no aspect of reality beyond the reach of the human mind.”
I’m a simple minded person and there are a lot of realities beyond my reach. The fiction of today’s world tends to confuse my mind. When I search for facts, I turn to the only reliable source of fact in existence today. The Holy Bible, written over a period of two thousand years by forty authors from three continents in three different languages, has not a single contradiction within its pages. That WOWs me!
Gotta go…I see a smokin’ hot blonde coming down my road in a shiny black Camaro! Haha! Can’t believe everything I tell you!

'I Go Back'

04 August, 2018rodster385Comments (0)


It's been a tough week for me, just one of those weeks that beats a man down. And when I get beat down so far, I throw a party...a pity party. Weeks like this get me to thinking about how, if I were really honest with myself, truthfully...my whole life has been pretty tough. So, I've moped around for a day or two contemplating that perhaps I should throw in the towel. Give up. Not anything major, mind you, like eating rat poison. No, more along the lines of piling up on the couch, turning on Netflix, and devouring an entire family size bag of Lay's potato chips. If you know me, you know that if it comes to that, I've pretty much given up on life.
We all go through these little bumps in the road and I suppose we all handle it differently. Some drink. I'm not much of a drinker...I've still got a beer in the fridge from 1999. I just haven't had the urge to drink it. Some folks turn to drugs. The last time I laid eyes on any illegal substances was the night Sticky Nikki pulled a baggie out of her panties on some dark country road back in Nineteen Seventy Something. Ah, and there you have it. I just gave it away with that last sentence. When I get down and out, I go back...to Nineteen Seventy Something.
I wrote a book titled 'Nineteen Seventy Something' a few years back. It's a good book if I do say so myself. I wrote it during a pretty tough time in my life, much tougher than this week has been. Looking back, I didn't realize it then, but writing the book was a form of therapy, probably the best therapy I could have gotten. As I wrote what would become a fictionalized account of my early years, I began to realize just how bad those days were...and I never knew it at the time.
I found myself on my own at the age of seventeen with my senior year of high school looming ominously before me. I had a piddly job sacking groceries that brought me a paycheck of around seventy bucks a week. I had a car payment, rent, and all the usual bills, and somehow I had to feed myself with what was left over. If I had a twenty dollar bill in my pocket, I thought I was living in high cotton. More often than not, my money usually ran out a couple of days before payday, and most of those days, supper was a piece of bread or a few saltine crackers and the scrapings from an empty peanut butter jar. Those were the good weeks. There were weeks where I'd have to buy a tire or a starter for my car, or a jar of peanut butter. Then there was the senior ring, a tux for prom, and all those expenses that come with graduation. When the soles of my boots wore through to the pavement, I made insoles out of cardboard. That'd get me by for a few days, and then I'd put more cardboard in my boots. I suppose I could write a book about those times...oh yeah, I did.
Not much of all that made it in the book. When I allowed my memories to rattle loose from their hiding places within the depths of my mind, it wasn't those times that I remembered. It was the good times. Only in later years did I realize that in spite of all the trials and tribulations I endured in the seventies, I looked back on them as the good old days. I asked myself why and the only answer I ever came up with was...because I survived. And I grew up strong!
I was a kid at the end of his teen years, full of hope and dreams, and I never let anything take either of them away. I took life by the horns and held on tight for the ride of a lifetime. I never even considered failure a possibility. I worked forty hours a week and made the A honor roll. I was in the senior play, active in FFA, editor of the school paper, and won second place in the state in the UIL journalism competition. I paid off my Plymouth Roadrunner and never missed a payment. I had friends, best friends. I had girlfriends...two at once and they didn't care! I discovered a love of such magnitude that few would ever experience in a lifetime. I received a scholarship to college and never missed a day of class. I moved from a shack that had been converted from a chicken coop into a three bedroom, two bath house, charming and quaint...with carpet and air conditioning! I promoted up through the company to become the youngest store manager in its history...then promoted to become the youngest area supervisor ever. I accomplished all of this before the age of twenty-one. Not one time did I ever consider giving up...not once.
I've had more tough times since the seventies, lots and lots of them. I call them adventures. The Good Lord grants some folks immense success, financial wealth, enduring love. ageless beauty...me, I've been blessed with lots of adventures. I'm grateful for every one of them. Through it all, I've never lost the hope and dreams...and I've never lost faith. I suppose without those bumps in the road, there'd be no adventures...and no stories to tell. Am I really going to let one lousy week get me down? No...because I go back...
My eyes focused on the girl sitting beside me on the hood of my car out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. She was all I had in this whole world at this exact moment...and I couldn't bear the thought of losing anything more than I'd already lost. My hand drew her face close to mine until our lips touched and I let Sticky Nikki D take my loneliness away, if only for the night. Rising up through the air like the smell of colitas, the wail of the guitars of the Eagles played on the 8-track and the words rang in my ears,

'We are all just prisoners here, of our own device...'

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