Posts filed under ‘Letters’

Crap to Iraq

Copies of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five were actually burned in a school furnace in North Dakota for being unwholesome and obscene.  The infraction?  In Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnuegut had the hardened nerve to have a soldier under fire utter… a curse word.  The horror!  In 1973, Vonnegut wrote to the chairman of that school board:

It is true that some of the characters speak coarsely. That is because people speak coarsely in real life. Especially soldiers and hardworking men speak coarsely, and even our most sheltered children know that.

I sure do hope soldiers of this day still speak coarsely (I’m pretty confident that’s a resounding yes).  My cousin is in Iraq and I try to write him letters semi-regularly.  Lately, I’ve noticed quite a trend.  No matter what topic I start with… I usually end up with a story about poop.  For example, one letter went Greetings->Random News->Sean’s Bad Luck->Sean Stepping in Dog Pee Right Out of The Shower->Poop Story!

I think similiar to Vonnegut’s curse words, my poop stories are pretty benign.  And maybe, just maybe, they have some lessons to teach too.   Here are two examples:

Bandit and Instant Justice
This excerpt is from my June 6, 2007 letter.  Sean says this story is one of the best examples of instant justice he has ever heard.  He compares the satisfaction level to watching someone barrel through a red light and then seeing a cop pull them over.

When we were children, we lived near a family called the Picks.  They had a hearty household– mother, father, four boys and two dogs.  They also had a Nintendo which made the house quite a draw in its day.

One afternoon, Jay and the Pick boys returned to the house.  It became a mad dash to the Ninento.  All [the] boys sprinted their way to the family room.  As they descended the stairs, they discovered one of the dogs, Bandit, had left a present in the form of poo on the stairs.

In the Pick household– they had a rule.  Whoever saw dog crap first had to pick it up.

As the boys ran down the stairs, the oldest one, Ryan, shielded his eyes and said, “I didn’t see it!  Haha!  Kevin [the second oldest] has to clean it! Ha ha!”

Ryan’s laughter did not last long.  It turns out Bandit had also peed on the linoleum at the bottom of the stairs, making an extremely slick surface.  As soon as Ryan stepped foot on it he slipped and fell…backwards…on to the stairs… and the dog poo!

So it turns out Ryan had to clean it afterall.  🙂

In case my words didn’t quite capture the moment, I included an illustration in the letter:

Cartoon from my June 6, 2007 Letter.  Larger version available on Flickr.

Jay Teaches Thomas
This one is from my July 2, 2007 letter.  It shows that you may not be able to teach young dogs new tricks.

Oh!  Can you believe it– “beagle” and “dump” brings to mind a childhood memory!!!

That last line was sarcastic because this was just one in a line of letters where something reminded me of poop.

My Grandmother Turnock was always fond of beagles.  Perhaps you remember Thomas– the three-legged one?

When Thomas was a puppy– Carolyn, Jay and I were charged with watching him while Grandma was out of town.  We had a good ole time, but one rainy day posed a problem.  No matter hard hard we tried, we couldn’t get that puppy to poo.

Little Jay came up with an idea.  He had to answer nature’s call himself.

“Why don’t I go out there and show [Thomas] what to do?” he said.

It sounded like a good idea– so Jay ran out into the rain, squatted and did his business while Thomas watched from inside.

As soon as Jay was done, Thomas sprinted outside.  All three of use shrieked with glee.

“It worked!  It worked!”

The power of demonstration reaches beyond species!

Our celebration, however, was premature– […] Thomas came sprinting back into the house… with Jay’s dump in his mouth!!!  🙂

I don’t remember what happened after that.  I’m willing to bet money that it involved my mother cleaning something up!

After weathering the deserts and dangers of Iraq, I’m quite certain these tales wouldn’t even register on my cousin’s coarse radar.

Uh oh.  Unless his morale was irreparably damaged by the Roanoke Star being white

July 3, 2007 at 7:20 pm 3 comments

Anne T. Sawyer Letter: Halloween 1970 and Lost Dog

Next week Sean and I are getting hardwood floors installed on the entire first floor of our house.  As part of that effort, we have to move everything off the first floor (And by “we”, I mean those of us who don’t have crutches).  I was going through some papers and I found a number of letters from my mother to her parents.  From context, I believe it was fall of 1970, but I don’t know for sure because my mother did not date the letters.  Tsk…tsk… Just like Ashlawn.

My parents were newly married (they wed July 22, 1970) and were living outside of Savannah, Georgia where my Dad worked in the army.  They lived in a trailer park with two dogs — Chico and Susie.

Anyway, I found the letters to be incredibly interesting, so I’m going to share installments:

Letter Dated “Monday” (Early November 1970)

Dear Mom and Dad,
     I decided to write a new letter instead of continuing Friday’s.
     Another weekend went by very fast.  We went to a party Friday night.  It was fun and something different, a halloween, ETS and birthday party all in one.  ETS means getting out (End of Term of Service as far as I can figure).

Now I love this next part.  My entire life, my mother was picking up stray animals.  We had quite a zoo in Occoquan (goats, dogs, cats, ducks and a pony).  Nowadays, my mom is pretty satisfied with two dogs and three cats.  She takes her dogs for long walks regularly and knows all the other dogs and dog owners in town.  This next tale just really sounds like my mother.   But my father’s reported behavior– doesn’t sound like him at all!

     We found a new dog Saturday.  It had a leash and collar on and our dogs were playing with it under the trailer.  I walked around with it a little and started talking with my neighbor down the road.  I have never met her before, and she seemed very nice.  Well, Lowell came home from golf and thought it was Chico, then realized it wasn’t and wondered who resembled me so much.  We kept it a couple of hours and Lowell gave it a bath, then I suggested we walk around with it and see if someone happened to recognize it. 

Hold up.  My *DAD* gave the dog a bath?!?  That doesn’t sound like him at all!  My Dad’s job is to pretend he doesn’t like the dogs and then cook hamburgers for them (my mother got yelled at when she started to throw away meat Dad was planning to prepare for the dogs), slip them food (like Carolyn saw him do for Henry on Christmas) or take them for rides in the surburban.  But baths?  That’s not in his repertoire. 

So we walked around the trailer park for the first time, and it was really a lot of fun.  It was the first time we ventured out of our little area.  Chico and Susie followed us and we acquired five more dogs along the way. 

I wonder how many of these 8 dogs I would recognize as trailer park dogs

We passed one trailer and this cute little baby chihuahua in a red harness came out barking at us and I went to pick it up and it screamed the way Chico used to.  Lowell told me to put it down before someone thought we were dognappers.  Finally a little boy came running out of a trailer and our little orphan went running to him. 

My mother always refers to Henry as “my mother’s little orphan” because my grandmother died when he was just a puppy (Sean and I inherited him).  It appears that Henry wasn’t the original “little orphan.” 

I really think Lowell was disappointed.  I sure wasn’t.  I wouldn’t have minded the chihuahua, though.  I just realized I forgot something – the dog was a Pekinese.
     Halloween was exciting.  We stayed here to answer the door and really got into wild moods.  Lowell made snowballs from our undefrosted freezer and went outside and threw them at trailers, we dressed Chico in a towel to look like a ghost and laughed at the kids.

My Dad was throwing snowballs? 

I forgot to mention, one time we were sitting here and there was this hug[e] bang on the door.  It was two little girls on bicycles who Susie was bothering.  So Lowell went outside, asked [their] names, told Susie who they were, and had them pet her.  They got carried away, and stood next to Lowell and said he was taller than their fathers.  Well, Halloween we had this big bang on the door, and I said it must be Sherry and Michelle.  Sure enough.  Michelle’s mother was with them and she was as cute as she could be.  I would say she’s about my age.  Well, Michelle dropped her trick or treat bag, so Lowell got a flashlight.  The mother told them not to pick up anything that wasn’t wrapped.

There’s a sign of the times– unwrapped food given away at Halloween.

Then she saw Susie under the trailer, so she handed her a cookie.  Chico appeared right then, so she emphatically said, “Share it!” It was really hilarious.
     We didn’t do anything yesterday but sleep.  We went to the movies last night to see The Landlord.  It was an interesting movie.
     How are you doing there?  I hope the job is going along fine and you find a buyer soon.  Write back soon and tell me all the news.


January 26, 2007 at 1:11 am 3 comments

Well Rounded Weekend

One of my contract work projects recently went live. Without that ongoing obligation, I had something that resembled free time! I got a number of things done:

  1. I started a cleaning effort of our house– knocking out two bathrooms, mopping the kitchen floor and preparing the carpets to be shampooed later in the week (that’s a fancy phrase for “vaccuumed”).
  2. I caught up on some letters. Kicking off that effort– a lengthy letter to my cousin Adam who recently arrived in Iraq. Another cousin, Allison, also made my list.
  3. Installed new showerheads in two bathrooms.
  4. Replaced a broken toilet seat… unfortunately, I was under the impression our toilet was white. Once home, it was painfully clear the the toilet is in fact beige. Regardless of color, the white toilet seat is slightly more presentable than a toilet seat with a big ole crack in it.
  5. Contract work — I didn’t escape it all, but my obligations were such that I only had to work in the evenings!

And finally– Hiking! I didn’t go on the 20 mile hike (and wouldn’t you know it– the other hiker reported seeing 4 black bears), but my shin and I were able to sneak in a 4.6 mile hike this afternoon with Jimmie, Henry and Mike E. We went down the War Spur Trail to the AT Connector Trail to the AT and then to Wind Rocks. Not a toughie– but a wonderful outing.

Some pictures:

(Jimmie enjoying the view at Wind Rocks)

(Mike E and I have hiked hundreds of miles together, but this is the very first picture that features both of us.)

The rest of the pictures of our War Spur-Wind Rocks hike are on my website.

August 27, 2006 at 10:26 pm 1 comment

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