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Archive for December, 2006

Himni had a little theater called the Cozy. It had an aisle down each side and about fifteen rows of eight seats. There was a hole in the screen where Butch had pierced it with a pop bottle while trying to join in an on screen saloon fight. The movies were never current, for those you had to drive over to Roosevelt or up to Vernal. There was always a cartoon before the movie. I never think of that theater and cartoons without remembering Rob Hanke.Rob was a Jekyll/Hyde sort of individual. He could be found hanging with us, drinking pop and eating popcorn, but he was just as likely to be seen having a beer with Butch. There was room in his heart for all of us. It was one of his most endearing qualities. I don’t recall either side trying to reform him. It’s not like we didn’t care, we just somehow knew he was alright.

Rob worked at Dal’s Sporting Goods Store and took much of his wages in ammo. He loved shooting things. One year during the deer hunt, he and Butch Farley went hunting down in the Book Cliffs. They took 30.06 shells and beer, a case of each! They got ploughed and started taking shots at the trunk of a large Ponderosa Pine. After a while Butch knocked a pretty large chunk out of the side of the tree. It then became a contest to see who could shoot off the biggest piece. Before the night was over the beer was gone, the bullets were gone and they’d felled the tree!

Anyway, one night a bunch of us went down to the Cozy to see Cat Ballou, we were in love with Jane Fonda. Rob showed up a but tipsy. Not as bad a Lee Marvin, but almost! There was a Pink Panther cartoon showing before the feature. Rob climbed onto the small stage in front of the screen and attempted to keep his shaddow in front of the Pink Panther all through the cartoon. It was hilarious and even Mr. Hornby the owner of the theater got a kick out of Hanke’s performance.

We laughed about Rob and the Pink Panther for weeks. Everywhere he appeared it seemed someone was singing the the Pink Panther theme music. Da Dum, Da Dum, Da Dum Da Dum Da Dum Da Dum, Da Dum, Da Da Da Dum. Rob didn’t make much of it himself, he wasn’t the show off type, but the rest of us carried the ball for him.

In the Spring it came time for the Senior Assembly at school. I hadn’t been invited to participate. That was understandable, it was, after all, a talent show. Mr. March was Senior Class Advisor and was ramrodding the event. He was so good at such things. He’d followed our class though all three years at HHS and thus, we had the best decorations at Prom and won the Homecoming Float Contest all three years. We loved Mr. March.

One day Mr. March cornered me after Algebra and asked if I would please attend the Assembly Dress Rehearsal after school. He wouldn’t tell me why, but he made it sound urgent. I went and sat next to him in the audience. They had decided to build the program around a Hogan’s Hero’s theme. You remember Hogan’s Heros, the comedy about a bunch of American prisoners in a German Prison Camp during WWII. They had cast it pretty well. Lew Hopkins was Sargeant Schultz. Douglas Winger was Hogan. Gavin Richardson was Colonel Klink. The talent was great but the dialog between the Hogan’s Heros cast was pretty dull. It was due to show in the morning and Mr. March was desperate! “How can we give this some life?” he pleaded.

I pondered for a moment and the light came on. “Leave it to me,” I shouted as I headed for the door.
“But what do we do?” He lamented.
“Nothing, leave it just the way it is. I’ll take care of the rest!” I still can’t believe he trusted me.
“Oh,” I shouted, “and tell the cast that no matter what happens the show must go on exactly as planned!”
I couldn’t hang around to explain, I was going to be busy ’til show time. Besides the success of my plan depended on complete surprise.

The next morning the student body assembled in the auditorium, not exactly excited but glad to be out of class. I seated myself next to Mr. March. He was as nervous as an expectant father outside the delivery room. I urged him to relax, but he seemed to take little comfort from my confidence.

The curtains rose to display a pretty reasonable representation of the prison camp barracks. Hogan and Schultz were having a bit of a tiff which was artfully leading up to the first talent presentation, a solo by Marjorie Green, who has since performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. As she was finishing, the back door of the Auditorium opened and in stepped the Pink Panther. Rob’s mom had been up all night building him an amazingly accurate costume. He carried a brush and a pail of pink paint.

Marjorie stepped off the stage and the Pink Panter stepped on. Many in the crowd were singing, “Da Dum, Da Dum…. Colonel Klink began dressing down Sargeant Schultz about some incompetence and the Pink Panther began painting Klink’s costume. The cast did a marvelous job of not noticing while Rob painted everything pink including the barracks and most of the soldiers.

The audience ate it up! When the curtains came down the crowd roared, Rob Hanke took a bow and Mr. March gave me a bear hug. When he thanked me, I put on my best German accent and replied, “I know not’ink!”

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On the North side of Cogburn’s Knob, facing away from Town is a rather steep hillside that has been cleared of brush and rocks. It was well worn by a few Jeeps and dozens of motorcycles. Four Wheelers hadn’t been invented yet. My gang had none of that, but we loved Suicide Hill anyway. In the summer we’d roll flaming tires from the top and watch them boil as they rolled into the large canal at the bottom.

In the winter we’d tube. We’d build a big bonfire, then haul our tubes to the top and ride them down for half the night. We rarely made it anywhere near the depths of the empty canal, some distance across the flat, but we tried. As each night wore on, the run would get slicker and faster and scarier. Few ever thought of going shy of the summit. We were immortal and the faster the better!

One winter it had been bitter cold for several weeks and we stayed off the hill. When the weather finally broke though, we planned a big party up on Suicide. We invited everyone who dared. About an hour after we got started Ronnie Mayhew showed up. We’d been too busy to wonder where he was. He’d been to OK Tire looking for a used tube he could afford, but we’d already cleaned them out. Out in his barn yard he’d found a huge tractor tire and decided to use that. He spent most of the evening dragging the monster to the summit. As we passed by we kept telling him it wouldn’t slide, but Ronnie was determined. Finally, we all pitched in and helped him up the steep last stretch.

When we finally reached the top, Ronnie laid the tire down, stepped back several feet, ran for all he was worth (to get momentum) and leapt on top of his tire.
It didn’t move an inch! He tried and tried, but the beast was not going to slide. We teased him. We offered him rides on our tubes. We tried to help him get it started. All to no avail. Ronniejust sat there on his tire with his chin in his hands while we made several more runs. We couldn’t get him or the tire to budge.

On our last run of the evening we all climbed to the top planning a giant chain to go down all together. As we were getting ready, Ronnie was cooking up plans of his own. He called our attention and requested we hold the tire up while he climbed inside so we could roll him down the hill.

Now we were not physicists, or physicians, but any dern fool knew such a ride would be suicide. Suicide Hill is not small and it begins with a very steep slope for 100 yards before it even begins to level out. We all chimed some version of, “No Way!” “Besides,” we told him, “if the ride doesn’t kill you the smash into the dry canal bed at the bottom surely will!”

“Naw,” said Ronnie. “Jinx and Pee Wee can launch me and the rest of you toughs can get down there and catch me before I crash.”

We were scared, but also excited! If he survived it’d be the greatest stunt ever pulled!

The guys all slid down to the bottom and got ready. They stood in two parellel lines on either side of the run. They braced themselves and hollered, “Ready!”

It took all three of us to get the thing standing in an upright position. Pee Wee and I couldn’t believe Ronnie had actually got the oversided pile of rubber up there. Ronnie crawled in and got tucked nicely down in the belly of the behemouth. After several are you sure you wanna do this‘s, we shoved him over the edge.

Pee Wee and I had intended to follow Ronnie down on our tubes, but he took off so fast! We just stood there amazed and in shock. Meanwhile, 16 or so tough guys were standing there waiting to catch him. They each had their arms stretched eagerly in our direction. It was two rows of hands and faces gazing intently at 400 pounds of hurtling flesh and rubber. As the tire ran that braced guntlet nothing moved but their heads as their astonished eyes followed it’s path. 16 pea-brains were at least smart enough to conclude that it wasn’t wise to step in front of a locomotive.

The Leviathan completely cleared the canal! Then, it rolled 100 yards up the opposite slope and headed back! The crew, at least, tumbled pell mell through the canal bed and up the other side before Ronnie could crash back into it. When I got there, I had to muscle my way through the circle. There, in the snow, lay Ronnie, half in and half out of the tire. Vomit was everywhere. 360 degrees of corn, carrots, peas and other less distinguishable stuff. We carried him to a car and drove our sick pal home. We didn’t see hide nor hair of him for a week.

All Ronnie got for his efforts was bragging rights and standing ovation in the school cafeteria a week later. Oh, and perhaps a little smarter.

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Down behind the house, across a hay field, past a large pond and into some Cottonwood trees (on somebody else’s property) we found a a tremendous Tarzan swing.  Todd and I had been down that way before trying to sneak up on ducks (skill we never developed) when we stumbled onto the swing and finding no one around to stop us, decided to give’r a try.  Holy Cow!  It was good!  We spent the whole afternoon arching into that deep green shady chamber of glory.  Vines covered the ground and a thick canopy of leaves concealed the heavens.  I’ve seen a lot of  rope swings in my life, but never one to beat that one.  I’ll bet it had a 30 foot rope and a good 50 foot arc.  It’s quite a trick to find the perfect tree, the perfect branch and of course the perfect hollow space to swing through.  The rope was 2 inch hemp with a great knot tied at the end.  Leaning against the tree was a pole with a hook affixed to the end for retrieving the rope when it dangled.  The bank stood nearly as high as the branch the rope was tied to.  The gulch beneath fell a way quickly leaving all the room in the world to swing into space.  And swing we did!  Extravagantly!

It was the Summer before I went to work.  We had plenty of time for horseback riding, hiking, building forts and various other potential mayhem.  We had our freedom most afternoons and never ran out of great things to do.  Then Uncle Dan accepted a TDY assignment for the Air Force, in Denver and Aunt Olive decided to go with him.  She called Mom, her big sister, and asked if she could take the kids for a couple of weeks.  Todd and I gathered what was happening and with pleading looks on our desperate faces mouthed the word NO!!!!

Mom, didn’t seem to notice and happily said, “Yes.”

“Aw Mom!”  we lamented as she hung up the phone.  “We can’t be baby-sitting Durrant all summer?”

“Not all summer, just five weeks.”

“Five weeks!”

It was worse than we thought.  My stomach turned green just thinking about it.  Durrant had to be the most pesky, obnoxious little kid on the planet and not only were we going to be charged with keeping tack of him, it would have to be done outside – all day long.  Three weeks of the summer had already flown by and now another five weeks had been yanked from under us.  Why couldn’t we be Aunt Wanda’s kids, she’d have said no.  Probably already had.  Todd and I had thought we were free of Durrant after the Geronimo incident.  We were sure his parents would prevent him from ever seeing us again, especially after it took Dad and  Uncle Dan 45 minutes of howl accompanied peril to rescue him from the top of Grandpa’s biggest apple tree.

We both sank into a deep dark gloom.  We retreated to the cool basement to await our doom and to hide as many treasures as we could find hiding places for.

They arrived the next morning at nine.  Durrant has two sisters who are just about the sweetest kids you’d ever want to meet.  The same age as our sisters, we’d hardly see hide nor hair of them.  The girls would be allowed to play inside.  Barely, out of their car, Durrant kicked Todd in the chins so hard he yelped, then headed for me.  I swatted him like a mosquito and as suddenly, Mom cuffed me up the back of the head, before giving Durrant a big squeeze and peenched his wosy wosy cheeks.  Like he was some kind of adorable little angel or something.  Amazed.  Shocked.  Worried.  We just stood there.  There was no way we were gonna get out of this unscathed.  We were either going to be lined up and shot for killing Durrant or we were going to die trying to save him.  The former being our preference as it was  quick, humane and worth it.

“Why don’t you boys saddle up the horses and give these sweet kids a ride,” Mom told us.  No I didn’t get the punctuation wrong.  It most certainly was worded as a question, but there definitely wasn’t a question mark at the end.  I saddled up Chico, while Todd rubbed his shin.

Chico’s a great horse.  Remind me to tell you how we got him some time.  Anyway, with an adult in the saddle, Chico is a spirited eager mount.  But with the children he’s a doting old nanny.  We took him into the pasture and put Carrie on board.  Chico took her for a nice stroll around the perimeter and brought her back, joyful, where we helped her down and Emily up.  Chico strolled around the same course, carefully, casually and then dutifully returned.  Durrant was next and Chico walked him over to the clothesline and scraped him off on the wires and then faithfully returned to give Carrie a second turn.  While Todd and I helped a howling Durrant down from the line Chico sweetly took his sister around the field on his usual course.  Once again he was nice to Emily as well.  But Durrant’s turn was a brief as the last having once again been gently, but definitely, left hanging out to dry.

In Durrant’s mind it couldn’t possibly have been Chico’s fault.  Todd and I had trained him.  I think Mom thought the same thing.  Todd and I were just delighted.  Exonerated by a horse.  Of course a horse is a horse, unless of course….  Chico really was special and now there was no denying it.  We were not surprised that Chico took the initiative, that was his nature, but we’re were amazed that he took the liberty.  Perhaps, Dad, the horse whisperer in the family, had compassionately given him permission.

The next day, the pressure of Durrant became too great and just after lunch we ditched him.  We’d made it across the canal when we heard the dinner bell ring.  We were on a long leash, but there was no quarter for disregarding the dinner bell, even if it wasn’t dinner time.  We dragged our butts back home.  After a Scotch Blessing from a lass whose ancestors are entirely Swiss, we headed back out with Durrant in tow.  We’d resolved to return to the Tarzan Swing.

At first our little nemesis wanted nothing to do with the swing.  He just sat on the grass and moped while we flew back and forth across the gulch.  Eventually though, he began to see how much fun we were having.  We told him it was too dangerous, but he’d seen us come to no harm and dared to venture.  Durrant’s health and safety were no concern of ours.  We sat him on the knot, instructed him to hold on and gave him a mighty shove into space.  He went out in terror and came back in ecstasy!  Durrant isn’t one to share.  We gave him a few more rides and then, literally had to peel him from the rope.  Promises to take turns didn’t appease his howling protests, so we quit and went him home.

The next morning it was, “Can we go to the swing?”

“No.”

“Can we go to the swing?”

“No!”

“Can we go to the swing?”

“NO!”

“I’ll take turns.”

“No.”

“I’ll take turns, I’m promise.”

No!

“Cross my heart and hope to die.”

“Us too, but the answer is no!”

“Aunt Mable….”

We went to the swing.  And, wonder of wonders Durrant took turns.

Todd gets bored more quickly than most people.  After awhile, just plain swinging wasn’t keeping his interest.  Next came upside down swinging, spinning swinging, climbing on a stump for higher swinging and eventually sky diving.  At least that’s what he called it.  On the opposite side of the gulch was a mat of vines about 12 feet deep.  Todd calculated that landing laid out flat on those vines one would bounce like on a bed, something he was expert at.  Now the surface of the vines wasn’t horizontal, more like 45 degrees.  Todd would have to swing out, kick his feet above his head, let go of the rope and somehow land at that angle in order maximize the striking surface and minimize the concussion.  A matter of pounds per square inch; if you get my drift.  He took a deep breath and flew.  And with the grace and finesse of a circus performer dismounting from a trapeze to the net below, Todd landed on that mat of vines.  He rolled off the vines and scrambled to my side in mere seconds eager for another try!  It was a beautiful thing to behold and I, after Todd accomplished the feat three times without difficulty, finally dared to try.

I am no where near the athlete Todd is.  Nor am I in anyway a dare devil.  Still, I can recognize and a good thing when I see it and after a few nervous moments and one false start I too, pulled skydiving off without a hitch.  It was every bit as fun as it looked.  Even more fun than swinging out and dropping into a pond, I later found out.  We sky dived to our hearts content, still taking turns with Durrant.  He hadn’t seemed the least bit interested in sky diving, just sitting on the knot.  When we were ready to go home we gave our little cousin one last swing during which he apparently mustered the courage to emulate his elders and much to our surprise let go of the rope.  His timing was impeccable and he sailed majestically off toward the vines where he stuck the landing, literally.  Instead of his back, he landed on his feet and in an instant vanished from sight.  There was dread silence for a few moments and then this eerie awful howl that went on for the better part of the next two hours, for that is how long it took us to extract him.  We had to return to the house three times for more equipment, so dense were the vines and so deep was Durrant.

That afternoon Mom went to town.  She came back with materials for a butterfly net and  a box, some pins and some formaldehyde.  The next morning she set Durrant to catching bugs and we hardly saw him for the balance of his stay.  Aunt Wanda has nothing on her.

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