Friday, June 25, 2010

Somewhat Tired In My Retirement

I retired this past March 1. The very next day, my wife Mardell bought me a lawnmower, weed eater and a pressure washer. It had not yet become apparent to me that in reality I had not retired at all. But these purchases (on my card) should have made very clear just what was taking place.

Since Mardell is still working, I have learned several things. In addition to yard work, I now do the vacuuming, laundry, dishes and most anything else that comes up to do around the house. Mardell still does the grocery shopping. She does not like for me to go to the store because she says, “You always buy extra things that we do not need.” Recently I accompanied her to buy groceries and just as I feared, she spotted the Boston cream pie that had mysteriously ended up in our shopping cart. But I digress.

There is one thing I still am trying to learn about this new order. That thing is the proper procedure for using the dishwasher. I had always helped Mardell unload the washer. But what I had to learn once this retirement schedule went into effect was to clear the table, get the dirty dishes ready and load them into the washer.

Now I have a thing about dishes and the dishwasher. I feel like I need to completely scrub every dirty dish with soap and hot water. All the foodstuff needs to be removed. The dishes need to be sparkling prior to my loading them into the washer.

Mardell tells me that it is not necessary to scrub the dishes prior to loading, that I should just load them in and let the washer do the work. I cannot bear to do that so I continue to shine them up before loading them up.

My daughter was visiting the other day and she saw me cleaning the dishes in the sink. She said, “Dad, you don’t have to wash the dishes twice. If you are going to get them squeaky clean, just dry them and put them on the shelves.” I told her that I just remove the stuff, and then the dishwasher removes the germs.

As a side note, I should reference the fact that my daughter loads her dishwasher with all the stuff clinging on the dishes. Then she lets their West Highland White Terrier rear up on the open door and lick all the stuff off of the dishes. Now, my question is: Would you prefer to eat at my daughter’s house or at our house?

Ed, my brother-in-law, learned that I was having a little problem dealing with all of this. He said, “The proper name should be ‘dish sanitizer’ as the dishwasher sanitizes, but fails to wash. You must wash the crud off first, then place them in the dish sanitizer.” For years, Ed was a health and safety inspector for Albertson’s. I call the foodstuff “stuff” but Ed calls it “crud.” Since he is a professional, I know he knows what he is talking about.

Nowadays, there is more time for writing. I love to write essays and poetry. I just finished writing a booklet on the New Testament book of Galatians in rhyming poetic form based on the New International Version. And I really enjoy writing guest columns for the Beaumont Enterprise. Guess I’ll keep on doing this as long as opinion page editor Thomas Taschinger puts up with me.

Another thing about retirement is I can sleep in every morning. That is something I haven’t done since starting 17 years of school in 1941 and working for an additional 52 years.

That is unless Mardell decides it’s time for me to mow, weed eat, and/or pressure wash something.

Winston Hamby

Thursday, June 17, 2010

For Goodness Snakes...

She was one of my favorite teachers at South Park High School in Beaumont back in the early 1950s. The strange thing about this is that I never took any classes from her.

Several have suggested that I write a column about her. Most recently I received a note from Julian Galiano, retired copy editor from the Beaumont Enterprise. Julian wrote, “Ethel Jo Simkins should be in the Biology Teachers’ Hall of Fame.”

Ms. Simkins taught biology at South Park for many, many years. I used to stop by her classroom after school to visit with her. At first I did this because I was fascinated with her snakes. She had two snakes in separate glass cases. Later, I began stopping by her room to visit with her because she was such a fascinating person.

The biology classroom was #101. When you entered the building from the north door ground floor, that room was the first one to your left. Incidentally, that room no longer is there. The reason for that is because five clowns working in a five-ring circus under a Thomas Tent demolished that entire historic building. But certainly I digress.

One afternoon I stopped by to visit with Ethel Jo. She said, “Winston, as you know in about two weeks school will turn out for the summer. I need someone to keep my snakes and watch after them till school reconvenes. Would you be interested in doing that for me?” Immediately I agreed.

When school turned out, I went to Ethel Jo’s room and picked up the two snakes in two separate cardboard boxes. I carried them to my house. The rear entrance to our house was the one we used as it was near our carport. This entrance was a small screened in area. You entered through a screen door and then entered the house through a regular wooden door. The screened entryway was about six feet by six feet square.

I spread pine straws and leaves over all the concrete floor of this entryway. Then I placed the two snakes into their new summer quarters. One of the snakes was a feisty water snake about two feet in length. He was not very friendly. Mainly he did a lot of hissing. The other snake was four feet in length and was known as a mud snake. His back was a shiny black and his underside was red. He had a boney, pointed tail. The old timers called this type a “stinging snake” because the tail looked like a stinger. But actually the tail was used simply to hang onto things such as tree limbs and suchlike.

Now then, during that summer, my parents and I used the rear entrance as usual. We just had to be careful not step on one of the snakes. But Ann, my big/older sister was another story altogether. She would walk from our carport all the way around our house to the front entrance.

One day I decided that if she was officially introduced to one of the snakes that she would act more cordial toward the creatures. I draped the mud snake over my shoulders around the back of my neck and went into the house. Ann was in her bedroom reading a book. I walked in. Ann looked up, saw the reptile hanging around my shoulders, screamed, threw her book to the floor, and ran out of the house. I was dumbfounded. You know, it seems like there always is a thing between big sisters and little brothers.

Anyway, when summer ended, the snakes and I slithered back to school. Ms. Simkins said, “Thank you.”

I hissed with gracious air, “You’re welcome.”

Winston Hamby

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I Am Myth-tified; Are You...?

Do you remember as a kid your world of “make believe?” It was great fun to pretend. Fact is that we adults still love to pretend. We tend to reach for the unreachable. Does this have anything to do with why our literature includes collections of fairy tales and/or myths?

The dictionary defines “myth” as, “…a traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon...” Sounds impressive doesn’t it? But wait, there’s more. I understand the following somewhat better: “…or an unfounded or false notion.”

Myths are neat in that they can and do change over the years. One generation might take a myth and enhance it somewhat thus improving the story. Or it could go the other way. One may omit a portion of the story making it shorter or more palatable.

Someday I want to write about such things as Big Foot, UFOs, Hoop Snakes, the Loch Ness Monster, Crop Circles, the Saratoga Lights, the Jefferson Theater Ghost(s) and such like. Most of these are myths but not all. For example, I have had personal experiences with the Saratoga Lights and ghosts of the Jefferson. So I cannot define these two as “myths.”

There is an interesting myth, assuming it is a myth, of the “Drop Bear” that has its roots in Australia. I was researching “hoop snake” when I stumbled across this “Drop Bear” thing. Here is my paraphrase from information gleaned from

A drop bear is a member of the Koala Bear family, only much more aggressive. Basically, a Drop Bear will attack its prey by dropping from a treetop onto its intended meal. This surprise attack catches the victim defenseless. It has been reported from down under that Drop Bears can and do injure or kill humans. Thus the following rules should be noted if ever you go hiking in Australia:

· If for some bizarre reason you feel like lying under a tree and spitting upward, Drop Bears typically will spit back at you. If this happens, move quickly before the Drop Bear drops.

· Rub toothpaste (non-gel type) behind your ears. Drop Bears cannot stomach the smell of toothpaste.

· Drop Bears seem to be allergic to submachine guns. Always carry a submachine gun in plain sight at all times, even in cities and around pigs.

· Try not to walk under any trees that growl at you.

· If you find yourself trapped by a drop bear, try talking to it. The bear may think you are an idiot and lose interest.

· If you suspect an encroaching attack by a Drop Bear, walk on your hands. This can so confuse the Drop Bear as he begins to wonder if he is actually below you looking up through the ground. This stressful confusion often can trigger the onset of loneliness. No Drop Bear can attack when it is lonely.

· For some weird reason, Drop Bears never eat Aussies. Pretending to be Australian does not help. Drop Bears are always suspicious of accents which remind them of Texans.

· There have been instances of Drop Bears moving into the city. One confirmed case states that a Drop Bear dropped from the 40th floor of an office building. This resulted in not much being left of the victim or the bear. Identification was next to impossible.

· Leave Australia! For some reason, 99% of attacks are on that continent. If you leave the Southern Hemisphere, your chance of being involved in a Drop Bear attack drops by 87.6783%.

So here you have a myth, that wonderful world of make believe.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise