Tag Archives: trials & tests

Fix It Right

I wish I had a Rolex watch because it’s simply the best.   For decades they have been the premier watch in all the world. The Swiss have always been excellent watchmakers.  For some reason, it had been in their gene pool for centuries. A Rolex watch symbolizes all that is of the highest quality. 

If I did have a Rolex, and something happened to it that needed repair, I would be foolish to take it to any watchmaker.  I would want to take it back to Rolex, the ones who crafted it and perfected it in the first place.  They would know how best to fix it so the time would once again be accurate, and I could once again trust my watch to fulfill that area in my life it was meant to fulfill.

I wish I had a Mercedes Benz sports car because it’s simply the best. For decades they have been the premier vehicle in all the world. The Germans have always been excellent at making high quality vehicles. Foe some reason, it has been in their gene pool for centuries. A Mercedes symbolizes all that is of the highest quality. 

If I did have a Mercedes, and something happened to it that needed repair, I would be foolish to take it to any auto repair place. I would want to take it to a certified Mercedes mechanic, the ones who crafted it and perfected it in the first place. They would know how best to fix it so the engine would once again run smoothly, and I could once again trust my car to fulfill that area in my life it was meant to fulfill.

If I was going to travel the countryside in a motor home year long, I would want a Winnebago. Manufactured just 35 minutes from where I live, they are simply the best in the world.  I have been through their factory, and have watch the care and precision that goes into each vehicle.  The best of everything.

If my Winnebago broke down, I would not want to take it for repair to just anyone. I would want to find out where the nearest Winnebago certified technician was located and get it to them.   They would best know exactly what was needed to fix the problem and get me on my merry way.

I am much more valuable than a Rolex.  The working mechanism within my body is much more intricate, and it has to last me for 70, 80, 90 or even 100 years.  Mt DNA is woven together in such a way that makes me, me.  My circulatory and respiratory systems are a science wonder, and my eye is a marvelous instrument that no scientist can match.

I am of much higher quality than a Mercedes. The materials that made me might be the equivalent of dirt in this world, but they are all fashioned and framed to make a completely individual person. There is no one like me in all the world.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

My ability to take in all that is around me is much more than a Winnebago’s ability to travel everywhere. My eyes, ears, mouth and nose see, hear, taste and smell all the uniqueness that this world has to offer.  These senses teach me what I like and dislike.   They guide me through this world every day, leading me to the good thing in life, and keeping me from danger.

When I had cancer, I chose to go to the best place in the nation for my type of cancer. The University of Iowa, just 3 hours away, was just that. They had the best long range remission rates of anyone in the nation. I wanted to be healed, not just treated. I wanted the cancer gone, not just in remission. And that is what I received. 

When my life seems to be going the wrong direction, or when I get depressed or discouraged why do I go to someone else who may have the same problem?  Why not go to the creator?  After all, I would do that for my watch, or car, or motor home.  How silly of me to think my own life should be any different!  Am I too proud to seek out the one who knit me together in my mother’s womb?  Am I scared because I don’t think He could possibly love me?

Throughout my battle with cancer, He was always with me because I trusted Him. He led me through any discouragement or disappointment, and He strengthened me when I was weak.  My creator was always there, and He always will be near my side.  He knows everything about me. He knows everywhere I go.  He always wants what is best for me.  No matter what I go through, He will work it for my good.

The Bible says that He made all things.   His name is Jesus, and He not only does all these things for you, but He also died in your place. He became the sacrifice for all your wrong doings.   He can fix whatever is wrong in your life today if you just put your faith in Him.  Just like we take our most valuable possessions to the one who made them when they need to be repaired, so also can we go to Him when we need repairs.

Extra-Curricular Activities

Life does not seem complete unless there are things you are involved with outside of the daily living experience.  There i no doubt that was true with me.  It started at age 6 with Cub Scouts.  My mom was a den leader, so that made it easy to be involved with scouts.  I loved the activities and camping out was my favorite thing.  I enjoyed learning different kinds of knots, learning about nature and being outside when it worked out.  For many years, we went to Boy Scout camp.  I remember that my first merit badge was for weather.  I have always had a fascination for weather, even up to this day.  I don’t remember much about the Cub Scout years, and even what the various ranks are.  I know I made it to first class, or star, before I lost interest around 12 or 13.  I also remember a winter camping trip when it got very cold out.  I recall that my tent was hot enough to make the ice underneath us melt, and then it froze again when the fire went out.  My sleeping bag got stuck in the ice!  I also recall one summer camp when we went to wilderness camp and had to catch a chicken (they brought them along), kill it, take the feathers off and eat it, I had done this with my grandfather, so knew the procedure.  That chicken came out really good! 

One of the things I really enjoyed about boy scouts was the penny carnival held every Fourth of July.  This was a huge money maker for our troop every year.  We took up one of the paved tennis courts in the center of all the action.  Fourth of July was the biggest event on the West Boylston calendar each year.  First there was a parade, and as a boy scout I walked in many of them.  The parade went through the center of town and ended up at Goodale Street Park.  This was a very big complex, with two baseball fields, three tennis courts and a basketball court.  There was also a summer house that served as an observation place for many of the events.  A big bandstand was further down on the park, and the high school soccer and baseball fields were on the far end.  On the third of July, the city took about 100 railroad ties, which were full of pitch.  They piled them like a pyramid in the field and covered it with gasoline.  The pyramid was about 20 feet tall, to my recollection.  When they lit I on fire, it went up like a blaze of glory.  This was one of my favorite things about the whole weekend. 

After the parade they had baseball games, and great recreational events like sack races, three-legged races, and egg tosses.  My brother and I were the kings of the three-legged race, as he was left-handed and I was right-handed.  Then we had the penny carnival, which ran until the evening festivities.  West Boylston had the bet fireworks for many miles, and we drew a crowd of up to 20,000 for the fireworks.  Many people came earlier for the penny carnival and other events, which made the carnival a great success.  My brother and I always helped put the booths up and the games together, and then ran the booths as well.  It was fun for all ages!

The Boy Scout pledge was “A Boy Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, obedient, kind, cheerful, brave. clean and reverent.  These qualities are mentioned over and over again in the Bible, and are great to live by.  When I was young, I did, and I am working on them every day as an adult.  It’s a lofty pursuit, but with the help of God I know I can achieve these things, It seem to me that much of our society and culture today steers away from many of these lofty attributes.  There is a lot of distrust in our world today because many have no problem lying to get around a problem.  Add to this to the deteriorating morality we face.  One example I think of is hitchhikers.  We used to be able to hitch hike, or pick up hitchhikers with no worries.  Now, you wouldn’t dare pick one up because you could lose your life.  People are not loyal any more, whether it be to job, souse or church.  Most are too consumed with their own lives to be concerned with someone else’s

The motto was “Be Ready.”  I try my best to be ready for anything that might come my way, and the only way that happens is when we place our complete trust in God.  When we do that, we know that whatever come our way will turn out for our good, so we are ready to endure any trial or test that may befall us. I am ready to serve and worship God. I am ready to go about my life living by the above pledge. I am ready to be the husband, father, grandfather, friend or employee I should be.

Church was a major factor for me in my younger years, then disappeared for about 6 years before I came to know Christ.  After that, it was a major factor.  Another chapter will discuss the various churches throughout my life.  But there were also extra-curricular activities that were church based.  We went to church camp every summer for several years, and I really enjoyed those.  Singing the songs around the campfire, seeing friends we only saw once a year, swimming and being involved in other activities was always fun.  The church had a very big Christmas Celebration each year, and part of that was a craft fair.  There were dozens of different crafts you could make all over the church, and they all had to do with Christmas.  I really enjoyed those fairs.  Vacation Bible School was also big at our church and I went every year.  In my later teen years, a friend and I decided we wanted to start a teen center in one of the upper rooms that was rarely used.  The church was all for it, so we went to work.  There was a big upright piano up there that was in very bad shape and needed to be removed.  We took some sledgehammers and broke it into little pieces in order to get it downstairs.  That was fun!  The place was well received and we had some good times there before we grew tired of it and nobody wanted to keep it going.  I also remember one winter selling live Christmas tree at the church to raise money, I think for boy scouts.  I worked that lot many afternoons and evenings to sll all the trees in time.  That was also a good fundraiser.

Sports were also very big in my life in many ways.  Our backyard was pretty good size, and was the perfect place to have kickball games.  There were easily enough kids in our neighborhood to get a good game going, and we often did.  In the outfield, there were three very big pine tree that worked as a backstop.  There were very few who could clear the trees with a kick, and it happened rarely.  I was one of those.  My friend David (later Jason) and I were the home run champs both in my back yard and on the playground during recess.  We could kick it farther than anyone else.  I was also a pretty good pitcher.  I threw a back-up pitch that caused many newcomers to swing and miss, often falling flat on their rear end.  Behind home plate, in our neighbor’s yard, was a pear tree that we would often raid.  We also played some whiffle ball back there. 

The tennis courts previously mentioned were also a hangout for us.  We would ride our bikes there and play very often, all the way through our young adult years.  It was easy to go down there and just sit around a pick up a game with someone, which we would often do.  And the courts were lit, which made night playing a lot of fun.  These were clay courts and were very well kept all those years.  My brother and I both played on the high school team for all 4 years.  He was two grades ahead of me, but in his senior year, we got to play double together against the other schools, and we did very well.  As I said, he swung from the left, and I from the right.  We looked pretty similar. A fact which made it difficult for opponents to tell where the forehand was at any given time.  Add to that the fact that we were constantly switching sides, and the opposition was baffled!  We went undefeated that year until the state finals.  That was a great year!

Tennis continued into my adult years.  AT Norton Company, where I worked for 7 years, they had a tennis league.  We played once a week, and there were some very good players there.  I made it to the semi-finals three years in a row, and lost to the same player every year!  In West Boylston, they also had a city tournament each year.  One year I was very excited that I had made it to the finals against the guy that had won the last two years. I really thought I had a good chance to win against him this year.  But the night before the final match, I was playing basketball with some friends and tore some ligaments in my ankle.  I had to forfeit the match, which was disappointing to me and the 100 or so people that showed up to watch it.

Then came the Frisbee and we picked it up and ran with it.  My friends and I would take up half of Goodale Street Park and throw that Frisbee what seemed like a half mile sometimes.  Accuracy really didn’t matter much because we loved to run and catch that little disk.  With out four-corner approach, we covered a lot of ground.  And we played a lot!  Personally, I enjoyed taking my Frisbee for long walks in the woods.  I would spot a tree quite a way ahead of me and see how many shots it would take to hit that tree – an early version of Frisbee golf before it became a thing.  This improved my accuracy quite a bit, and I would do it often.  Another thing that happened often were road trips all over New England.  We would take our Frisbees and stop in city parks whenever we felt the urge.  The Frisbee was with me when raising my family as well.  We would throw them all over town and make up a Frisbee golf course of our own.  I would also always have on in my car when I was a travelling salesman, and would stop at Frisbee golf courses in many cities to play during lunch breaks.  I still play Frisbee quite often when I have the time.

Golf has also been a part of my life for most of my life.  I was a caddy for many years at Wachusett Country Club in West Boylston, often carrying two bags and making some pretty good money.  We had the opportunity every year to play in the caddy tournament, and later I played on occasion with friends.  As an older teen and young twenty something, we golfed at several different golf courses.  Once I moved to Iowa, golf went away for many years simply because I was raising my family and just did not have the money of the time.  But in my forties, my company actually paid for my membership in Belmond, and I played almost every morning before work.  I got my core down close to 80 during this stretch, but it was short lived, as my time with that company came to an end after three years of membership.  It was fifteen years later before I joined the country club again, although I still played occasionally.  I even once got a hole-in-one, but it was early in the morning and I was all by myself on the course.

When summer was gone and winter set in, sledding and snow-ball fights took over.  New England is a mecca for sledding, and no place was better suited than West Boylston.  This story would not be complete without a description of perhaps the best sled run in town history.  It started at the second hole of the Wachusett Country Club.  This hole was a long par five which started out with a very steady slope, then went at about a 45-degree angle downhill before coming to a small creek.  Beyond the creek about 10 yards was an elevated green.  Behind the green, a trail went through the woods.  This trail was only wide enough for a double runner led to fit through, but would around trees all the way.  It was about a 45-degree downhill to a bridge over another stream, and then it was uphill before you got into the Bancroft’s’ backyard.  Starting in that backyard, the bigger kids had built a bobsled run, complete with high sides, down through the next two back yards. They had even brought out water to ice it down and make it very slick.  At the bottom of the bobsled run was a bridge that went uphill into a field, where the sleds would stop.

It was extremely difficult to make this run without stopping once.  First, you had to decide, when coming down that second hole, if you wanted to even try to make it.  Because if you wanted to try, you had to jump the creek. If you steered over the bridge on the right side, you could not have enough speed to make it all the way. You see, that hill faced East.  During the day, it was not unusual for some of the snowpack to melt, only to freeze overnight.  This left the entire hill a sheet of ice. To make the bridge, you had to decide at the top of the hill, or you would never get over there in time.  I usually chose the bridge, but once in a while, I would choose to jump the creek.  I made it twice!  On those occasions, I proceeded over the green and onto the trail through the woods. In order to make it all the way to the bobsled run, I could not afford to lose any steam going through the woods.  I would be dodging tree trunks going quite fast all the way down that trial and over the creek.  I barely got to the bobsled run and then went whooshing down that icy stretch and into the landing field.  Not many people were able to make that whole run, and I was one of them.  It was over a mile long, and was one of those things you did once a day, maybe once a year!  We had other runs, and toboggan runs, but none came close to this!

The snow-ball fights were also epic.  It was not unusual that they happened right in front of our house.  The snows in New England were almost always perfect for a snowball fight as they were moist and could pack easily.  This also made for very good snow forts.  We always had huge piles of now in front of our house as well as across the street, so the forts would be constructed there.  Three or four kids on each side of the street would be hurling snowballs for many minutes, creating an atmosphere of laughter and fun that’s hard to duplicate anywhere else.  One particular winter, we had 24” of now one Sunday with two days off from school, and 36” the next, with three days off from school.  The snow forts became snow huts, and we reveled in the size of our forts.  So much fun!  I would have a few snowball fights with my kids, but nothing came close to these wonder years!

One year-round activity was bowling.  I started bowling the junior leagues in West Boylston.  Those lanes are no longer there, and my memories of those early bowling years are few.  One thing that stands out, though, is the one time I watched on of the older boys start throwing strike after strike.  One, two, three four. The place was starting to buzz a little now.  Five, six, seven.  Everyone started to gather near his lanes.  Eight, nine, ten.  We were so excited, yet you could hear a pin drop.  I had never seen anything like it.  He was beside himself under pressure.  We just never saw 300 games in junior bowling.  Eleven.  The air was tense.  The mood was excitement.  We all wanted to see him throw that last strike.  He wasn’t the best liked bowler, but today everyone was rooting for him.  He got up to throw that last ball, holding it up jut like he always did.  Nothing seemed out of place or nervous now.  He approached the line, swinging the ball high above him on the backswing.  That ball came down right where all the other eleven had.  It rolled down the lane just like all the others had.  It hit the packet just like all the others had.  Everyone was holding their breath.  The pins scattered quickly and just disappeared – all but one.  That ten-pin stood there, defiant and unflinching, ruining his perfect game by one pin.  I’ll never forget that day.

In my late teens and early twenties, I became friends with a group of guys I had met in bowling league.  We became good friends, and bowling became our passion – along with beer and pot.  And we were all pretty good.  Every one of us had an average above 180, and we won the league many years while drinking the bar dry.  We were loud, flamboyant and had a boatload of fun.  We went to several state tournaments together, but never could bring home the gold.  Three nights a week we were at the bowling alley perfecting our game and drinking plenty.  Those were fun years

Life really changed when I grew up a little and moved to Iowa.  I got married and started a family.  Extra-curricular activities were few and rare. There was just no time.  I did do some bowling, but not near as much as in my teens and early twenties.  Kids and work kept me plenty busy.  Tennis was also a thing of the past.  From Fairfield to Chariton to Belmond we moved our family.  For the rest of my life, I would not find time for any of what I call extra-curricular activities except for Toastmasters (see the chapter entitled I Love Words for more about this).  Writing also became my passion.

I have enjoyed a lot of fun things in my life, but nothing was as exhilarating as raising my family. And watching them or joining them in more extra-curricular activities.  These things are the icing on life. And I love icing!  God loves us so much that He gives each of us the time and ability to get involved In things and events that make life more interesting. He desires us to have happiness and fulfillment in this life.  I am so glad I serve a God who loves me enough to give me this liberty. I hope you realize how much He loves you.  He has given you abilities to do things I could never dream of. Maybe it’s mountain climbing, or hang gliding, or surf riding. May be your good at football, or baseball, or bocce ball.  Maybe you can curl or twirl or paint surreal.  Play an instrument or lead a symphony.  Be a doctor, a lawyer, a baker, a pilot, or do construction.  Whatever it I you do, whatever it is you enjoy in your spare time, whatever you feel good at, God gave you that talent.  Use it to its fullest.  And Give Him praise!.

Drive Time

From the very first time I drove a car, anyone should know that there would be trouble coming down the road every time I was behind the wheel.  I did not grow up on a farm, and never had a chance to drive a tractor or farm vehicle, so the first time I drove was in driver’s education class.  We had gone through all the classroom stuff and the real fun was about to begin.  I don’t remember details, like the make and model of the car, or who the driver’s ed teacher was, but I certainly remember the first time I drove.  There were two others in the car and we headed north from the school toward Oakdale.  The road was a long downhill stretch from the school, and then flattened out as it swept around Wachusett Reservoir.  Just before the river, we turned left onto River Road.  So far, so good. About ¼ of the way down the road, I was asked to make an infamous Y turn and head back to the main road.  I slowed down and turned the wheel to the left-hand side of the ride.  Once I had gone as far as I could, I stopped and put the car in reverse.  I looked behind me and in the rear-view mirror, then proceeded to back up.  CRUNCH!  We topped quickly and realized I had backed into assign post on the other side of the road.  The student driver sign on the back of the car was all banged up, and I quickly had my first lesson in what not to do!

The rest of driver’s ed was a breeze, and I didn’t hit anything else, so a passing grade was given.  Now, I needed a car.  I was working at a local restaurant, washing dishes at the time and money was scarce.  My mom had a 1965 tan Ford Fairlane that I could borrow on occasion, but I would have to earn my own money to buy a car.  Cars could be found for a few hundred dollars, but that was a lot more money back then than it I today.  I was no mechanic; I would need a car that was in good working order. That made the price a little more difficult.  One night I borrowed the car and headed to Lincoln Bowling Alley to bowl with some friends, which was a regular event.  It was a very cold winter night after a fairly warm day.  I was headed home about 8 pm, and was driving across the parking lot.  I came to a row of cars and proceeded, only to have a car come up from my right side.  I tried to out on the brakes, but slid on some ice that had formed on the pavement.  Since we were in a parking lot so neither of us were going very fast, so no one was injured.  But the grill pushed back into the radiator on my moms’ car, and it could not be driven. Fortunately, my mom was friends with a local mechanic so she had no trouble getting it towed.  The accident was deemed no fault, so my mom got a check from the insurance company for another car, and she sold me that Ford Fairlane for one dollar.  I now had my first car! I may not have fame.  This car lasted me through high school and into the beginning of college.  We had a lot of wild times in that car during the summer of 1970.

The next car I bought was a Triumph Spitfire convertible.  I had a friend who had a BMW Midget, and I was envious, so I sought out a car that was similar.  This was the epitome of a party car, and we had a lot of parties in it.  I would crowd as many people as possible into that car and we would go riding all over the countryside.  Touring New Hampshire and Vermont during foliage season is an absolute must for anyone who loves nature, and we did that every year.  We would to far north the first week and follow the peak colors down each weekend after that until they got to Connecticut.  I was not a particularly cautious drive either.  If you’ve ever driven the side roads in New England, and even some of the state highways, you know hey can be full of twists and turns that keep the speed limits down in the mid-thirties and forties.  I liked to drive like a Garand Prix driver though, and we would go whizzing around corner passing cars and having a great time.  It really is kind of amazing I am till alive.

I had two friend named Steve at this time, and one named Pete.  Pate and Pete (me) took off in my Spitfire on weekend, and Steve and Steve were in his Camaro convertible.  We were going to just go cruising up to the mountains and make a day of it, drinking and stoning along the way.  I had the lead, and Pete and I decided to pull a fast one on Steve and Steve when they got stopped at a red light.  We floored the car and took off up the road, leaving the other two far behind.  We were going to pull off, and then come up behind them once we knew it was safe to do so.  We got about three miles up the road and pulled into a culvert.  We waited, and waited and waited, watching for them to go by, and they never did.  We finally decided they must have gone passed when we were turning around, so we took off up the road to try and catch up.  It was useless.  If you have riven these roads, you know how many side roads there are that take off at all different angles.  They could be anywhere by now, and we might never find them.  We decided to double back and head toward home.  About two hours later, we were just driving along an came to a stop sign.  We looked to our left and, lo and behold, there was Steve and Steve coming up the road!  It was impossible to miss Steve’s bright orange Camaro.  Pete sat up on the back of the seat and yelled out to them, waving his arm wildly.  They looked at us and just laughed, then pulled over.  It was a time I will never forget.

I enjoyed that Spitfire for a year or so, but it came to a sad demise.  We had ben bowling one day and drinking profusely.  A friend was heading back to the service the next day, and we were partying with him before he went.  This was in the middle of the day, and we decided to go cruising afterward.  We were travelling down a road I was very familiar with, so we were taking the curves a little faster than we should, especially since we were pretty drunk.  As we came around one curve, we hit a patch of sand on the road and lost control.  We went into a farmers field and came up to a drop off.  I am so glad the top was closed or we would have been thrown from the car.  The car tipped down, hit the front bumper and flipped over just once, landing on the wheels again.  I remember being crammed up under the steering wheel when we came to a top.  My friend got out and threw the pot we had into the field before coming around and getting me out.  Neither of us were hurt, and no charges were filed, but the car was shot.  I loved that car!

My next car was a Toyota Corona.  Toyota was just starting to come into the states, and this was one of the better models in those days.  It was a really nice car with all the bells and whistles of the day.  Just because we had a little more normal car did not top the crazy driving though.  With this car, we could lay the seats flat and have people sit around in a circle while driving up in the mountains, so we would take off with anywhere from seven to ten of us in the car when we went on those adventures.  But the best adventures were with less people. I had a friend named Kenny at the time and he was a crazy man.  One day we had a couple girls in the back eat of the car and decided to pull a stunt we had practiced before.  We were going down a straight backroad, travelling about 30 MPH.  Kenny was driving and I told him I wanted to drive.  Right on cue, Kenny started climbing out the drivers’ window and I started moving over to the drivers’ seat.  The girls were screaming as he made his way across the windshield and got back in through the passenger window to be seated in the seat that I had vacated.  We did not exchange a word, but the girls sure did!  They weren’t really happy with us.

This car lasted me about 2 years.  I was on my way to my brothers wedding in Southern Connecticut, having drank a bottle of Lancer’s Roe wine on the way.  I was the bet man, and was due to arrive in time for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.  Everything was going along fine, and I was going to be on time until, I met some stalled traffic just south of my destination.  I decided I did not want to wait, so started passing the cars on the shoulder.  Unfortunately, some one came crossing in front of the last car and I T-boned him in the passenger door.  I had my seat belt on, but hit my head on the visor and got a nice cut from it.  They took me to the hospital to make sure I did not have a concussion and I made it to the rehearsal dinner, but not the rehearsal.  I attended the wedding with a big bump on my head and a bandage across my brow.  That was the end for the Toyota!  Are you starting to see a pattern here?

My next car was a Buick Opal that I affectionately called Sophie.  I really do not know where the name came from, but it fit the car well.  It was a coupe, and got great gas mileage, which would come in handy for the three trips I made to Iowa in her.  The first trip, in 1976, was on my way to salvation and back, ending up with a broken tie rod.  The second trip was to my best friend’s wedding in 1977.  The last trip was when I met my wife in 1978, which is chronicled in another chapter of my life.  After that trip, and once I knew I would be moving to Iowa permanently, I traded her off for a station wagon to fit all my stuff in when I moved.  It was one of the most practical things I had ever done in regards to cars, but it made a lot of sense.  I did not have enough to my name to get a moving van, but had too much for the Opal.  We packed the car full and headed off for Iowa. In 1987, we added a Ford Aerostar van when we received a stock option from the company I was working for. That year we made another trip to Massachusetts with the family, but I would not return again until 1995 for my 25th high school reunion. That car lasted me through the Pamida years, from Fairfield to Chariton to Belmond.

One of the things that really struck me about Iowa was the roads.   There was a big difference between here and Massachusetts.  The roads in Mass. were lined with trees, many times right up to the side of the road in the country.  And they wound around all over due to the stone walls, hills, mountains and valleys.  I have no idea if they were the same width, but they sure did not look like it.  In Iowa, the roads seemed much wider, that all had shoulders, and beside the road there were ditches.  These ditches were sometimes very, very deep.  The reason for the ditches was for drainage in the wet springs, and for holding the snow down in the winter. I came to understand that when the ditches were full of snow, ground blizzards were more likely.  There is no doubt that if some of the farm machinery that travels the roads in Iowa during planting and harvest were to come down a country road in Mass, it would be hitting trees on both sides of the road!  Iowa also has thousands of miles of well-maintained gravel roads which are travelled every day.  It’s a very defined network of roads that were put together to ensure the farmers could get their grain to market in an efficient manner.  There is a gravel road just about every mile, from North to South and from East to West.  In 1969 these roads were named and numbered to create an excellent 911 system for the rural areas, which comprise most of the state.  Through years of driving I finally figured out how to decipher these roads.

I was busy with family and building a career at Printing Services, Inc selling office supplies, printing and office furniture.  Through my years there, I drove the station wagon for many years, and then drove the van when my wife got another car. Since I had bought the van new, the 30,000 miles a year I was putting on did not make a lot of difference.  It was a good van, and had a long life.  The way it usually worked in our house was when my wife needed a new car because she outgrew the old, I got her car and she got a new one.  Well, not new, used, but new to her.  I was not as particular about what I drove as she was.  When the mileage on the van finally gave out, my wife decided she wanted a different car because of her back.  She was driving an Olds Alero at the time, and it caused major problems with her back.  I took that car and she got a Chevy Equinox, which is much higher off the ground.

Winters in Iowa can be brutal when it comes to driving.  I was one of those people who felt they could drive through any kind of weather, so I rarely stayed in because of bad winter weather.  I remember one year there was a bad ice storm and the roads were coated.  I called my clients and told them I was not going to make it that day, and one of them said “If you did come, I would think you were crazy.”  Several times, I got caught up in blizzards that came suddenly.  When a blizzard comes, you can’t stop or turn around because the person in back of you might run right into you.  You just have to keep going.  One time, I was in Fort Dodge, about 50 miles from home, and thought the bad snow was going to come later at night.  I had a meeting to attend which got out at 7, so I stayed.  When I got out of the meeting, it had jut started snowing a little, and I thought I was OK.  I knew the blacktop roads well, and did not anticipate the snow getting too heavy. I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  Soon, the wind was howling at 30-40 MPH and snow was coming down so hard you could hardly see the road.  I was on an east-west blacktop road I had travelled hundreds of times before, so I knew if I just kept it straight, I would be OK.  I was going along at a pretty good clip, and had the steering wheel ‘turned a little to the left to offset the strong wind coming at me. I could not really see the road.  All of a sudden, the wind cut out – there was a wind row of trees planted on the north side.  I went right into the ditch, but thought I might be able to get out if I turned the wheel and kept the accelerator down.  I started out of that ditch and just missed a mailbox.  The car swerved back on the road, and I felt great until it started to skid and went into a snow pile on the other side of the road.  I was stuck! I tried and tried to get out, but to no avail.  Then I remembered the mail box, and thought there must be a house there.  I got out of my car and made my way back to that house.  The people there were so nice!  They let me use their phone to call my wife, who was at work.  Her boss at work said he would drive her to get me, and the man living at the house said he would drive me to the main road about a mile away.

It was a long wait for them, as the weather was still howling, but they eventually got there and got me home.  I had to get the car towed home the next day.  I was much more careful after that about going out in storm.

 After a few years of driving the Alero, my back was a real problem also, so I bought a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer with all the trimmings.  That was a nice vehicle, probably the best I ever owned from a practicality standpoint.  But in 2014, I hit a deer straight on and totaled that car.  Since that time, we have had a Buick Enclave and a Chevy Sonic. and are currently driving a 2015 Chevy Trax and a 2002 Chevy Cobalt.  My wife just purchased a 1995 Chevy Camaro convertible, which is beautiful.  She always wanted a run-a-around car to have fun in, and this fits the bill perfectly.

One thing that was always missing from driveway was a truck.  We had started to do a little camping and wanted to get a larger camper, so we needed a truck to pull it.  We found a 1995 Ford F-150 long bed that was in pretty good shape, so we bought it.  That truck served us very well for many years, and we had three different campers to pull with it.  Janeen also used it to plow driveways in the winter, but the plow was more trouble than it was worth.  In 2022, we decided our camping years were over and sold our camper.  We also traded off that truck for another one, also a 1995.  Both trucks had their problems, but the trade was probably pretty fair.

As you can see, I have never had any brand loyalty when it comes to vehicles.  I drive what I can afford, and so does my wife.  Neither of us does near the amount of driving we used to do, so we don’t need newer vehicles.  My car has over 200k miles on it, my wife’s’ has about 70k and the Camaro has 96k.  I still love to drive, but my ability to drive has been hampered by Sleep apnea., which makes me tired when I drive.  We are working on that problem, but in the meantime, I am content to stay within a small radius of home.  The less I drive, the less likely I am to have an accident!  Janeen drives all the long drives now, and I am content to ride along.  Only local drive time for me now! A I look back on all the various cars I have had, and all the accidents, it is amazing I was never hurt really bad, or killed, many years ago.  I rove drunk or stoned, high as a kite, many times.  I drove crazy, mostly over the speed limit.  I hated to let anyone pass me on the Interstate, so I usually went very fast.  I was truly a maniac on the road.  I look back and see the hand of God all over those year, even though I did not know exactly who He was at the time.   He kept me from harm because He had a plan for my life, and it did not include an early demise.  For some, that is His plan, but not for me.  I am forever grateful for His protection during those early years.  I have a lovely wife, three great children and 7 grandchildren to enjoy this life with!  And I drive much more carefully

Boxed In

I was a bit crazy in my youth.  Maybe more than a bit.  Maybe a lot.  Especially when it came to driving. I wrecked three cars and should have died at least once, but God had some other reason to keep me alive, and here I am to tell about it.  I also was not serving God despite being raised in church, so this is not going to sound anything like my typical posts, at least not at first.

I purchased my first car from my Mom.  It was a 1965 brown Ford Fairlane.  The year was 1969 so it was a fairly new car.  I bought it for a buck.  Quite a bargain, right?  It was far from a perfect car though.  You see, I was driving through a shopping mall parking lot on a cold winter night.  There were slick spots everywhere.  I came to one of those cross aisles and a car came up from my left.  I put the brakes on, but was on a slab of ice and T-boned the car.  Granted, I was only going about 10 MPH, but the front end was damaged pretty good.  A new fender and radiator was in the works.  My mom collected the insurance and got a new car.  I got the Fairlane for a buck and fixed it up.  Not a bad deal.

I drove that Fairlane for several years, drunken rides, high rides, sometimes pretty blind rides.  We went to concerts and came home drunk, hopped bars all night long and were not at all sober. Drove to the Cape, to the mountains, to the Canadian border.  We would drive to New York on Sundays to get liquor because they didn’t sell it in Mass on Sundays.  I don’t know if I ever really drove sober.  I know, that’s a bad thing.  But it was a different era and there was not as much fanfare over drunk driving back then.  I remember once driving home from a day on the cape where we had driven to P-Town, drank beer all the way there and all the way back.  We got in the middle of a traffic jam in Plymouth and the cops were right there in the middle of it.  We had the floor of the back seat filled with beer cans and one of us passed out in the seat.  Nothing happened, but we were worried.

I finally traded the Fairlane off for a Triumph Spitfire.  This white car with a convertible black top was my dream car.  Fast, maneuverable and good looking.  This was the ultimate party car.  We drove it everywhere in new England, flying down the curvy roads at 60 or 70 MPH, weaving in and out of traffic and just not caring a bit.  I’m not sure if I had a death wish or not, but people would think so because of my driving.  The times I remember most fondly are when we would have about 8 of us in the car.  We folded the front seats all the way down and sat semi-circle in the car, passing beers and joints all day as we drove through the White and Green mountains viewing the most beautiful Fall scenery in the world. 

One time we were driving at night looking for a friend of mine who was high and tripping out.  We were flying around the countryside when a cop pulled us over.  We had definitely been drinking.  He came up to the window and asked what the hurry was.  I told him of my friend and that I was pretty sure we could find him, but we needed to do it soon or he could fly out of control.  The cop actually let us go!  We did find our friend and all turned out OK. 

Another time we set our sights on a vacation to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We had our stash in hand, a cooler full of beer and cash to boot.  We set out in the evening only to get 90 miles down the road and have the head gasket blow out of the car.  It was late at night and no one was around.  We limped back home, putting water in the motor several times before we arrived at my house round noon the next day.  When my mom came home from work, we were sitting on a sofa in the basement, oblivious to the world.  She asked what happened to our trip, and we just groaned and said the car broke.

Yes, I had plenty of adventures and misadventures with cars in my youth, but one stands out from them all to this day.  As I said before, we were speed demons in that little Triumph Spitfire.  We would dodge in and out of traffic going 10 to 20 MPH over the speed limit all the time.  I hated it when someone passed me.  Of course, the semi drivers hated my little car whizzing up from behind them and then ducking back in.  One day as we cruised down the 3 lane Massachusetts Turnpike, I was on just such a mission.  I wove around several semi-trucks and was just cruising fine.  I came up behind on in the right lane and screeched out from behind him to pass, only to find another semi was in the middle lane up ahead.  As I went to veer into the far left hand lane, another semi came up fast behind me, boxing me in on three sides.  I tried to pull out, but a fourth one came up behind, and we proceeded to go 60 MPH for about 5 miles.  I was out of my mind, as was my friend.  We were boxed in with no place to go.  These big rigs could crush my little car without getting a dent. I seriously thought about creeping under one of them on my side, but the car was a little too tall for that.  That was the most harrowing 5 minutes I ever spent in my car. 

Finally the semi behind us slowed down and the one in front pulled ahead so we could get out.  They all blasted their horns as we drove off up the road ahead of them.  I got the message loud and clear.  They were in charge of the road, not me.  They had mu number anytime they wanted to, and I better remember.  My days of weaving in and out of semi-trucks was over.  I respected them from then on.

There are times in our lives when we are going along without a care in the world.  We’re just having fun and enjoying this gift of life that God gave us.  We are not overzealous, but we are good Christians doing what God has asked us to do.  The road seems clear ahead and we just keep going forward.  Then someone comes along and says something that offends us.  We are taken aback by that, and are not really sure what to do.  The good book says we should go to them and clear it up, but that seems a bit too much for this small offense.  It will just go away.

This offense festers in our mind until we have to talk to a friend about it.  Well, now our friend is upset about it too!  They want to get back at the offender but instead they start to say bad things about them to other people.  Before we know it we are surrounded by negativity toward this person, and it was all such a small thing when it started, like that first semi I passed.  No big deal.  It’s just one truck.  But then another and another got involved, and before I knew it I was boxed in.  Before we know it I was boxed in with guilt that this whole thing has gotten out of control 

Now you have to do something.  You feel bitterness start to arise within you, and know it must not fester.  That’s the worst thing that can happen.  Finally you go to the person who originally offended you and you open up to them.  You tell them what happened and you apologize profusely, asking their forgiveness.  You back track to everyone else and let them know the truth.  This is a hard lesson, like being encircled with big rigs was for me, but you learn it well.  Take care of offenses at the outset.  It will pay great rewards and relieve you from a lot of regret down the road.

I have never again driven like that.  I learned my lesson well.  And I hope that I never let offenses go too long without taking care of them.  I never want to be boxed in again!

Pete Gardner

MY Life, In So Many Words

Several months ago, I started writing a biography of sorts so that I could better acquaint myself to an online friend I had met through my blogs. This biography is far from complete, but I want to throw it out on this site and maybe get some feedback from those of you who have not heard from me on this site for a while. My other two blogs have been getting all of my attention, and this main site has been stagnant for quite some time.

This biography is written a little different than most I have read (which are not too many). My understanding [f how a biography should be written is that it should follow a chronological pattern, bring the reader from early years to the fulfillment of a persons life. The story of my life is, instead, told by categories. Things like my love for words in many forms, driving experiences, churches I have belonged to are all chapters in this book. There are also addendums to some of these chapters, as certain stories really belong in a chapter by themselves. Many of these chapters are not complete yet. but I put as much information in as I could think of at the time. I’m sure, after I read them over and over, I will think of other events or people that should be mentioned. This is a start, though.

At this time, I am going to schedule these blogs to go out two times a week, on Sunday and Wednesday. I have several chapters completed, and will be scheduling them now in no particular order. By the time these finish running, I hope to have more chapters written.

I hope you enjoy this journey, and I really hope to hear from you, my readers. Your input into this endeavor is much anticipated and appreciated. be honest with me, please, and tell me if these stories catch your imagination, and if you think this will make a good book one day. I am just a regular guy who does regular everyday things – nothing spectacular. But I love to write, and this is a legacy for my children and grandchildren.

Thank you for reading! The first addition will be posted Wednesday.