I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone, from the beginning to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth. And spoke of the following date with tears.
But, he said, what mattered most of all–was the dash between those years.
For the dash represented all the time she spent alive on Earth.
But now only those that loved her know what that little line was worth.
For it matters not how much we own, the cars, the house, the cash.
What matters is how we lived and loved and how we spent our dash.
So, think about this long and hard, are there things you’d like to change.
For you never know how much time is left, you could be at dash mid-range.
If we could just slow down enough, to consider what’s true and real.
And always try to understand the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more,
And love the people in our lives, like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile.
Remembering that the special dash might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read and your life’s action to rehash.
Would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent the dash
… Author Unknown
We read in the papers
We hear on the air
Of killing and stealing
And crime everywhere.
We sigh and we say
As we notice the trend
“This young generation!
Where will it all end?”
But can we be sure
That it’s their fault alone?
That, maybe most of it
Isn’t really our own?
Too much to spend;
Too much idle time;
Too many movies
Of passion and crime;
Too many books
Not fit to be read;
Too much of evil,
In what they hear said.
Too many children
Encouraged to roam
By too many parents
Who won’t stay at home.
Kids don’t make the movies
They don’t write the books
That paint a gay picture
Of gangsters and crooks.
They don’t make the liquor,
They don’t run the bars,
They don’t make the laws
And they don’t build the cars.
They don’t make the drugs,
That addle the brain;
It’s all done by older folk,
Greedy for gain.
Thus in so many cases
It must be confessed
The label “Delinquent”,
Fits older folk best.
By “The Patriot” (Adelaide, Australia)
…. Author unknown.
My son started school this week. It’s going to be strange and new for a while.
And I wish you would sort of treat him gently. You see, up to now, he’s been King of the Roost. He’s been boss of the backyard. I have always been around to repair his wounds and to soothe his feelings. But now… things are going to be different.
This morning, he’s going to walk down the front steps, wave his hand and start on his great adventure, one that will probably include wars, tragedy, and sorrow.
To live his life in the world he has to live in will require faith, love, and courage. So, World, I wish you would sort of take him by his young hand and teach him the things he will have to know.
Teach him… but gently if you can. He will have to learn, I know, that not all men are just, that not all men are true.
Teach him that for every scoundrel, there is a hero… that for every crooked politician, there is a dedicated leader… that for every enemy, there is a friend. Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest people to lick.
Teach him the wonders of books. Give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on the green hill.
Teach him it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat.
Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone else tells him they are wrong.
Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone else is getting on the bandwagon.
Teach him to listen to all men, but to filter all he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.
Teach him to close his ears on a howling mob, and to stand and fight if he’s right.
Teach him that the word, “American” ends with, “I Can.”
Teach him gently, World, but don’t coddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel.
This is a big order, World, but see what you can do. He’s such a nice little fellow.
As a young teen, I was visiting with a neighbor of our family in Virginia, Mr. Sherman Whited. He was all excited about purchasing a new shotgun, an awfulmatic (automatic) and he had purchased it at the Raven free market (flea market) that weekend. He leaned back on the cane-bottom chair and rolled a cigarette out of Prince Albert and OCB papers, as was his custom after dinner!
As things go in the Southeastern United States, the conversation suddenly turned to ghost stories. This usually happened when dusk fell and things got deathly quiet! Being very impressionable in those days, I was a glutton for punishment for asking about ghosts as I had to walk home afterwards passing several abandoned mines on the way!
“What is the most unusual encounter you have had with ghosts, Mr. Whited?” I enquired.
“I s’pose it’d be the time at Mountain Top Lake over in Russell County that I saw the weirdest thang ah evah seed!.” Sherman had a way of whetting your interest when there was a ghost story to be told!
“Dad and I wuz fishin’ there one night, night fishin’ was legal in them days, when all of a sudden lights came on in a lil’ cabin acrost the lake. I cried, Dad, do you see that? Them folks air getting’ up mighty early!”
“Musta been ‘bout one in the mawnin’.”
“There’s no one livin’ over thar, dad replied. All that’s there is an old dock house for changin’ clothes when a person wants ta swim.”
“Well, they’re thar just the same,” I replied. Sherman was always straightforward with a reply to anything.
“Why, looky thar, thar’s a maid servin’ some men suppah, or was it breakfast?”
“We could hear the dishes a’rattlin’, the spoons and forks a’clankin’, we could even hear the men talkin’ and a’laughin’.
“After the meal was served, the men sat back and lit up seegars and the maid served them some coffee or tea as they continued to talk and laugh. I thought, these men shore have got a lot to talk aboot.”
“As suddenly as the lights had lit up, they suddenly turned off. We halted our fishin’ for the rest of the night and sat around discussin’ the recent happenin’. The fire felt safe and warm just about then and who needed them lil’ ol’ bluegill fish anyhow?”
“What do you thank ‘twas, dad?” I asked.
“Well, more’n likely ‘twas some folks that died heah’bouts, and their souls are caught ‘tween earth and paradise. They can’t go forward and can’t come back. They’re like in limbo searchin’ for somethin’!” was dad’s solemn explanation as a minister of the gospel.
“Anyhow, Sherman continued. At daybreak, we went around the lake to check out what had happened to see if thar wuz any human explanation. All we found was the deserted dock house, with a few mice runnin’ ‘round, with not a live human bein’ in sight. Them haints had disappeared completely without a trace. There was not even a table or dishes in the place or a light of any kind much less any silverware to be seen!”
I could only sit wide-eyed with wonder and amazement! In fact, cold chills ran all over my skinny frame. Our ghost-telling was cut short after that one! How could I ever top Sherman’s story? I sure longed for someone to walk home with me, but was too proud to ask!
I believed what Sherman Whited told me as he didn’t have any reason to lie to me. After all, his dad was our pastor!
by Larry Fields
(based on true events, mostly)
“Hey Heck! What do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?”
“Don’t reckon Santa will be a-comin’ to our house this year Tommy Joe”, Heck answered. “But iffen he does, I’m just a wantin’ me a bullwhip . . . and that’s all I want! What about you, Tommy Joe?”
My name is Tommy Joe Hall, and that’s part of a conversation I remember having with my best buddy the last day of school before the Christmas holidays in 1955.
My answer to Heck Hadley that day was a lie. I told him I only wanted a bicycle, when in actuality I wanted the exact same thing he did . . . a genuine Lash LaRue bullwhip….
This is the story of why I answered the way I did, and why I still say today, fifty years later, the Christmas of ’55 was my favorite Christmas.
Heck Hadley and I lived in a coal mining camp in rural Southwest Virginia. We were both ten, and our daddies were employed as coal miners by Bull Creek Mining Company. Several hundred people lived in the camp, in side-by-side, spittin’ image houses.
Heck had a knack for discovering fun things to do. Just walking to Bull Creek Elementary School each day was a wonderful adventure. Things like smoking out a hornet’s nest and catching a crawdad, or even swinging across Bull Creek on a grapevine, made the two-mile trip fly by. And we had fun with each other’s names….
I was always saying—”Aw Heck! Heck”. One day at school Heck yelled:
“Get out of the hall, Tommy Joe Hall!” 😂
I will say that school was hard for Heck. He was always getting in trouble for not paying attention or dropping a marble on the floor. In his defense, he was such a good marble shooter he couldn’t help but drop marbles. He could go outside for recess with two marbles in his pocket, and twenty minutes later when the bell rang, he’d come in with two hundred marbles bulging his pockets out.
But with class work, it was kinda like Heck got things backwards, and the teacher just thought he wasn’t trying (since he couldn’t even read or write).
Heck didn’t’ know what to think when the teacher, Mr. Wilkens, told him he would never get out of the Fifth Grade. I thought that was a mean thing to say.
One fine Saturday in late September, Heck and I caught the passenger bus to Grundy, a booming mining town about ten miles away.
Arriving in Grundy, the first place we visited was the Ben Franklin 5 & 10 cents store. Heck wanted candy and some caps for his cap shooter, and after purchasing those items, we went over and looked in the western comic books section. We looked at several before settling on one we knew we didn’t’ have . . . a Buck Jones.
Back on the crowded streets, we hurried to get a closer look at the posters describing the movies at Grundy’s’ three theaters (Lynwood, Morgan, and Alamo). Two of the theaters had Double-Feature westerns starting at noon . . . but the other theater, the Morgan, was the one that caught our eye. The Morgan was having a live show at noon featuring a western star named Lash LaRue. The marquee announced him as “KING OF THE BULLWHIPS”.
Heck and I agreed that we had heard of him, but we were pretty sure we hadn’t’ seen any of his movies. Right away, that was where we wanted to go. Just one thing was holding us back . . . the one- dollar admission price. Quickly checking, we determined that we had 50 cents between us. Ordinarily, that would be enough for the 10¢ admission to any of the theaters, plus enough to buy popcorn and soda, and the 10¢ bus fare back home to Bull Creek.
Don’t’ get me wrong. Money was never a problem when Heck was around, and we had a whole hour to earn the money . . . as announced by eleven loud bongs on the courthouse clock.
As it turned out, Heck didn’t’ need an hour. Heck was a masterful shoe-shine boy. Not only did he give the best shine in town, but also his whistling entertained bystanders royally.
Four shines at a 25¢ a customer, with one man giving a dollar tip, and Heck had earned the money we needed for the show, and we didn’t’ even move from our spot in front of the Grundy Drug Store. My contribution was holding on to the funds.
“Give me a quick one son”” said a man in black wearing a black cowboy hat, I’ve got a show at twelve over at the Morgan Theater.””
“Say, you must be Lash LaRue mister” Heck said, as both of us looked on, kind of starstruck. “That’s me” said the man in black. (Years later Johnny Cash would introduce Lash LaRue as the original man in black.)
“How would you boys like to make a quick buck?” he asked, as Heck popped his rag and whistled the “Chattanooga Shoe -Shine Boy” song.
We nodded, knowing we didn’t need the money right then, but from the looks of things we were going to see his show for free anyway.
As it turned out, we not only saw it, but we were also co-starring. Lash LaRue marched us right into the Morgan Theatre and right up on stage where he told us what he wanted us to do.
What a show! We both agreed later that we had discovered a new number one cowboy hero that day. With bullwhips, guns, strength, and magic, Lash Larue kept the packed audience in the Morgan Theater on the edge of their seats for nearly two hours.
The show opened with a movie clip that showed Lash LaRue getting shot. A split-second later, the house lights came on and Lash LaRue jumped out from behind the screen, his guns blazing! It scared me and Heck and everybody else half to death.
My hands trembled as Lash had me stand on one side of the stage with a piece of paper held between my hands. Lash stood on the other side with a bullwhip at least 15 feet long.
“R-R-R-R-ip!” . . . and the paper I was holding pulled apart like it was cut with a pair of scissors. The audience cheered and Lash asked me to hold just one half of the remaining paper. I closed my eyes when he brought the whip down. When I heard the sound, I opened them . . . and he’d done it again.
Since I’d felt the wind the last time, I refused to hold the smaller piece. Then Heck volunteered and held it ’til the paper got so small you could hardly see it. Finally, even Heck wouldn’t hold it.
“He could shore whup a young’un!” yelled a snaggle-toothed woman, suddenly standing up in the first row.
About that time, a man came running up out of the audience, grabbed Lash’s gun belt from the stage and started running up the aisle.
Lash’s whip sounded like a thunderbolt as the tip popped in the air above the head of the running man!
And then the cracker end of the whip descended around the man’s neck like he’d lassoed him….
When Lash pulled tight, the man’s tongue shot out, causing the audience to roar with laughter.
Lash continued pulling and soon the man was right up on stage, looking embarrassed and whipped. It may have been part of the show, but the sheriff came up and escorted the man out the door.
Lash LaRue was quite a showman with the whip, even catching coins out of the air and jerking the fire out of a man’s cigarette, leaving the cigarette still dangling in the man’s mouth.
Then Lash asked Heck to whistle . . . and did he ever . . . bowing to a standing ovation.
After the show, Lash gave us our dollar and an autographed picture of himself sitting on his horse, Black Diamond. A big bullwhip was curled around Lash’s shoulder. A picture to treasure forever!
Everyone wanted to shake our hand on the way out. I was surprised to see that Mom and Dad had been in the audience. Mom invited Heck to stop by our house for her Saturday night special; hamburgers, and home-made fries. Sooo Good!
Heck and I made a good number of whips in the days following the big show . . . but none of them were worth a plug nickel. We had fun, but to be honest, sticks and old shoestrings don’t make much of a whip.
Shortly after the big show, tragedy struck the Hadley household. Late one October night, Heck’s dad was working the hoot-owl(midnight) shift at the coal mine when he was pinned in a roof-fall. Luckily, his life was spared, but my dad said it was doubtful if he’d ever walk again.
Heck became the breadwinner at the Hadley place, doing all sorts of jobs, including shining shoes on Saturdays. Unfortunately, since Heck had to miss a lot of school, we rarely saw each other during November and December of that year (1955).
On the rare occasion I saw Heck, he wasn’t his old jolly self . . . and neither was I . . . without Heck to keep me company.
As Christmas approached, I thought a lot about Heck, and my lie to him about only wanting a bicycle for Christmas. The lie to Heck was a Hallmark event in my life. There, in that moment when Heck asked me what I wanted for Christmas.
For the first time in my life, I valued another person’s wishes above my own. IF THERE WAS JUST ONE BULLWHIP IN SANTA’S BAG, I WANTED HECK TO HAVE IT.
On Christmas morning I couldn’t believe my eyes when I hurried to the tree and saw a beautiful black bicycle. But what really caught my eye was the genuine Lash LaRue bullwhip coiled around the handlebars and seat. Lash’s name was carved right in the handle. I was jumping up and down happy when I saw it.
Being so excited I couldn’t eat, or even watch for a minute what dad said was the first television in the Bull Creek mining camp. I hopped on my bicycle, quickly christened it Black Diamond, after Lash LaRue’s horse, and letting out the reins on Black Diamond, and leaning out over her neck, I arrived at Heck’s house in record time.
If any boy had been a good boy, it was Heck. I knew in my heart that Santa had delivered Heck a whip just like mine and a whole lot more.
But no, that didn’t happen. I was just readying myself to ‘hello’ to everyone in the house when Heck stepped out on his porch . . . looking like a little whipped pup. 😞
“Santa d-didn’t come to o-our h-house”, Heck said, choking back tears.
I didn’t hesitate for a second. “What the Heck, Heck, Santa left your present at my house” I said, sailing the coiled whip through the air into his outstretched hands.
Heck didn’t return to school in January 1956, and when mom told me his family had moved to Montana, I cried for two days.
I looked up Montana on the map and vowed I would visit there some day.
That day came this past October. My wife Mary Jane, and I, were touring the West . . . when the big sky country of Montana beckoned.
It was surprisingly easy. I asked a guy at a truck stop, near Helena, Montana, if he knew Heck Hadley.
“Everybody knows Heck Hadley, he has a 5,000-acre ranch for troubled kids just south of here” the man said. “Several thousand kids have graduated from his ‘Hope and Help’ ranch. Just follow the signs, mister.”
Twenty minutes later, we were parked in front of the gate at the “H&H” ranch. “Look at the bullwhip!” Mary Jane said excitedly, as she pointed to the sign above the gate.
I looked . . . It was the same genuine leather Lash LaRue bullwhip that Santa had left for Heck Hadley at the Bull Creek mining camp.
Just then, a black horse cantered up to the gate. Mary Jane touched the power window, and I was pretty sure I recognized the rider because he was whistling.
Merry Christmas from the H&H Ranch and Ol’ Corn.
It is indeed more blessed to give than receive…… Larry