Archive for January, 2007

therapy in a flyer…

January 31, 2007

survivors art hand-bill

Originally uploaded by jayfherron.

If anyone of you has been brave enough to read all of these things from beginning to present you would have learned that my formal education fairly well came to a halt when I was in junior high school. I one day will write about that in more detail,I have only written about it enough to describe the circumstances leading up to my enlistment-all complicated,I got on the complicated bus when I was born-I think !!
So point is-I never responded to schooling after my family moved to Virginia and I was about 13 or 14 years old….or about the eighth grade.
Basically-one has to read back to be abreast of the story…but the lacking of an education-missing the schooling-missing the events-missing the satisfiying the hunger a kid has to want to learn….it was there,and I could have had it-but things just did not go that way or that well.
In the Navy-on board the USS Vulcan during my orientation tour I met with the education officer on board and he later gave me some exams and I was good enough he offered to help me get into a program that would get me a college education and he started procedure to get me through the GED-which I never take to take a test,at least in the Navy…I ended up in barracks D.
All this pieces together.
About a year a ago my therapists at the VA mentioned an art exhibit at the University of Florida in the gallery at the Rietz Union building,which is a central building on campus and a very prominant one at that-its a huge place with a hotel and a theater-both kinds,and an open air theatre if those others werent enough….it is almost a small city with all there is to offer.
The exhibit was sponsered by the Survivors Art Foundation (,dot org!
I have always diddled with drawing and painting-it always seems to work arond stress and my art is not appealing to every one-that is for sure….and I was thrilled to have such an opportunity to have my drawings on display where everyone can see them-it was such a reward the night of the show to sit aside on a sofa in the galley lobby and watch the visitors as they reacted to each work of art-it was like being a rock star on stage…except no one knows who you are but it gave me the same feeling of stardom.
I felt exhilerated by this experience-it surpassed my want for a diploma and gave me such a boost in my self exteme. So-I like a lamb at slaughter pushed my shyness aside and asked if I could do anything to help to be sure there would be another….So,here I am!
I am phobic of large spaces-buildings,and definantly restrooms….and crowded ares are not very comfortable to me at all. Let me just be honest-they scare me to no end-terror rings in my ears like a sour violin note like the ones in a Alfred Hitchcock horror film-those notes that go on and on to ensure our fear factor is in full gear….peoples voices are amplified and I become self concience and think they are plotting against me-saying things about me,and along with the fear for me to volunteer to do something so public as to roam around the college campus and in and out of buildings to find posting boards where I can staple up a flyer like the one in the picture…well,it just ain’t me!
Guess what??
I am walking around the University of Florida campus with a brief case full of these flyers and a staple gun….yesterday I went through six or eight different buildings ( gladly I did not have to pee ) and was able to go from floor to floor in some of these buildings and soon it became kind of fun.
One of the things I am finding I should have done many many years ago is to stop and turn around and fight my attackers-I did not have a chance back then in barracks D,and never fought since-until now…and seeing I need to endure in this battle. So taking on this task is another form of therapy to me…I confess,yesterday as I was posting these I felt the presence of the students all around me-gawd…I must stand out like a sore thumb -this old guy in the midst of all that youth.
I rips at my heart…thinking about it. The Navy-so the education officer had said,was going to send me to college.
I wrote before about how I went to school through my sons-I lived a life that I wanted to have back as a kid….lived it through my sons-being in marching band,and I a band parent. It was glory to sense all that once again-I wanted so much to do it when I was in my high school years,those days were a wreck.
My oldest son-through all my lamentations of what happened in the Navy-joined the Navy and excelled…just for me. So much was taken from me on one side….but through my sons so much has been given back.
Well….if I keep on going about this those flyers won’t get posted ( will they?) and to me it is such a reward to be a part of something-and to be able to use it for good,good inside of me-and good for others like me.

the coffin maker

January 29, 2007

coffin maker

Originally uploaded by jayfherron.

Six years ago I was doing the morning thing-drinking a cup of coffee and listening to the wrens wake up the world and our local news program on NPR. The news anchor was giving a special report about the local population of homeless people and how the city of Gainesville ( Florida ) is deemed the most unfriendly city in the USA where the homeless are concerned.
One of the points the speaker made was how the indigent in our area are buried in nothing more than a cardboard box which is normally used to cover a casket when they fly one across country.
I could not stop thinking about that and knew it was so because years back when I worked in mortuary service I saw the same thing it recalled how it bothered me. So-I took what memory I could retain from Fred who I spoke about in yesterdays story-Fred hand built coffins,a trade he had learned growing up in a family of old time undertakers.
I decided to build one for myself first. Now you talk about a burglar deterent-keeping a coffin in your living room will certainly cause one to think before they go about robbing you.
But not to get off the track…I decided after completing mine and getting the pattern back down on paper that I could keep myself occupied by building one of these right after another and giving them to funeral homes to keep aside for someone who has no money and to keep them from breaking thier bank for expensive items to bury someone in-when I could provide someone with a decent nicely crafted simple box .
Having been poor-a position thats been mine most of the time,I know the dignity we try to keep…head up,eyes straight,and people tending to judge you with thier own conclusions as to why you are poor-and homeless….and much of the time are mistaken by thier foolish conclusions.
The woman that interviewed me for this article must have not paid any attention to what I said about my intentions because the article is not accurate-she even goofed with my name (I guess to keep people from finding me-but I live so far out in the middle of no where it would be to challengeing to look me up). I find most truth is messed with during newspaper interviews. It just bugged the daylights out of me-we judge people so much while they are alive and with us….and judgement is not ours. We can be wrong about someone by the danger of our immediate reaction to whom we might be introduced to and because someone is homeless does not mean they are and have been useless to life and society…even though I agree there is sadly evil and bad seeds among any crowd any where and any position in society,rich or poor. I became homeless years and years ago because I trusted my employeers who made it appear they were highly religous folks-and one of the owners of the company had a father on the bench in a local court-a man who had once been a state senator….they went to prison,I became a homeless man with a young family-all because I trusted.
So it is’nt drugs,and it is’nt being a drunk-not those alone,although they fit into the homeless definition-I’ve been to the highest society clubs in West Palm Beach-or Miami,and seen people in thier BMW’s tooting coke,staggering drunk! A man or woman can become homeless with out announcement and any fair warning…and even by trusting someone else.

These are’nt just pine boxes. Every one I have made and given away have been embellished with some kind of crafted ornate design such as how I laminated pecan-a crucifix -onto the top,which was made of cedar. I have no idea whom has been put in my coffins-except Bill,he is buried in Maryland…his family sent a grandaughter to pick up the box. It was kind of funny about Bill…he knew he was sick for a few years and he got real bad and the family thought he was going to die and he had heard of my coffins and requested one. It seems as soon as it was finished old Bill got better-and stayed on for another two years. I build each one thinking about who it may be for-somehow feeling that person might be comforted knowing someone cared and was thinking especially about them while thier burial cabinet was being crafted. Funny how a guy could be so nutty to imagine such a thing….but in reality-I think it is special.
I fondly carved each end of Bills coffin-celtic crosses out of pine. And any one that knows me knows how symbolic birds are in spiritual things-and as I was putting the frame together for Bills box I found this feather from a hawk and placed it inside.
It is a very interesting thing to think about-knowing the time and care that is going into my art and carving is eventually going to be buried and never to be seen ever again.
But the reward to me is the imagination that entertains me while I am working on one-of helping some one special.

a funny thing about funeral homes…

January 28, 2007

stiffners mortuary

Originally uploaded by jayfherron.

In general circumstances no one ever thinks about funeral homes-unless one has worked in one. As a matter of fact I notice peoples reactions when they learn that I once was a mortician,a somewhat startled reaction-I guess I just don’t look the part….I’m not sure.
I do believe there is a stigma that morticians must be the coldest darkest person there can be-but in every aspect of life,or death-there is a source for humor….funeral homes are not exempt and morticians have senstive ‘funny bones’.
Funeral homes are interesting to me-the various types of architecture each mortuary takes shape in…I’ve seen many great examples as I traveled back and forth across this country-seeing grand old homes that became family funeral parlors and store front funeral homes and have even seen an old 7-11 store converted into a mortuary.
I learned the business in an old family home-a building that looked more like a three story office structure than a home-but the moement you came in off the street the interior took you to the comforts of an old grandmothers living room The people I learned it from were the sweetest people-the old man called me Junior,a nick name I was not to pleased with but was proud that he felt enough about me to call me that.
I walked into this families office-a husband and wife and thier two sons…and asked for a job (1973) and the old man took me back into his office and we chatted and eventually we made an arrangement-I would work there for a month and if everyone seemed okay with me-and I seemed okay with the surroundings and the duties then we would talk again about me staying on.
It was way over a month before anyone died but by then we all seemed attached to each other and the old man was beginning to compromise his attitude about my staying on-so we agreed….a second month.
The first trip to the morgue for me seemed almost like it was in slow motion. I felt like someone so special riding in that hearse that I was’nt going to let anything bother me about the morgue ar seeing this dead guy or any of it….I wanted to drive that hearse!
I ended up having to live in the funeral home. That part was not as fun to me as being able to drive the hearse-but it did have its moments.
The building was right down town in the city-out of respect,I need to keep the city private-but it was a river city and a coastal city so there were ships that actually came up the river and docked near by and the area was not the best for downtown so sometimes the morning would start and there would be a drunk sleeping it off on the front steps of the place. We were told at night if ever we needed to have a security check that phoning the police would bring a cruiser around and the cop would sweep the building with his light and the police department would call and say that all was well.
One night I had to call because someone was ringing the back door bell on a delivery door on the ground floor in the back of the building. I started hearing noises and called the cops a second time-and then while I was on the phone with the police department I hear glass breaking and the dispather on the phone told me to find a safe place and that the officer had to be there soon.
I went to a little sitting area at the back of the building where there was a few windows that offered a view of the parking lot-but not much else. There was an exit door there-that was at the top of the fire escape and then I heard a noise that was downstairs and I was’nt about to stand there any longer-so I went for the door and there on the other side was the cop and we both jumped backwards and screamed…he falling backwards down the fire escape.
After he collect himself from the fall-embarressed more than skinned up…we did a tour of the funeral home and there in the chapel was a drunk seaman from the port sleeping it off on a pew. Good thing these drunks did’nt find the casket show room!
After a few years there I went to the big city-back to Washington DC and had pre-arranged a job at a huge funeral home there.
The place was like comedy central-truthfully!
There were so many people working in that place we did not all know each other-because of the shifts and schedules,and things frequently got mixed up….bringing the wrong priest to the wrong funeral,or goung to the wrong cemetery with the wrong funeral with the usual one mile long procession following and snakeing through the cemetery and back out onto the roadway again to find the proper place. We had one funeral director that would always insist on driving the preacher in the lead car-the hearse and the family in the limo following-and behind that would be thirty or forty or more cars all loaded with mourners and this guy would never miss going to the beltway and screaming across all the lanes to the HVO lane because of the funeral following….giving the preacher a for sure chance to test his faith….and loosing everybody else in the traffic behind.I think it was something he did on purpose-to loose most of everyone in the cars…the hearse and the limo would catch up-but everyone gave up at the entry of the beltway,no one was going to risk that. It ensured that it would be a short term funeral and we would be able to get done faster-no one around to act like undertakers with.
We had a guy named Fred-an old time funeral man from back when the funeral parlors were located in furniture stores in small towns where there would not be a call for a full time establishment. Fred was a space cadet-his mind was a vast space that held distant thought but lost track with this moment….but the founder of the funeral home kept him around because he was one of the last of the hand crafters of coffins-a skill he learned in his families funeral parlor where they hand made every coffin for every person they cared for.
Fred once was supposed to drive a hearse to Union Station and send a casket in a shipping crate to somewhere.
He was so absent minded that he forgot to close the back door of the hearse and also forgot the stop that holds the caskets steady during travel-and as he pulled out onto Georgia Avenue with all of us chasing after him as he was driving away-screaming stop…stop,the casket in the crate rolled right out onto Georgia Avenue and Fred kept driving on oblivious to anything in this world.
After several cars screeched to a halt avoiding the crate-we managed to get it into a second hearse and hurried it off to meet its train at Union Station. In the meantime we all sat around and plotted the exact way we were going to goof with Fred….he was’nt that daft that he would’nt notice there was a major part of his task missing.
When he finally called the owner of the funeral home kept him in a stammering postion-the boss kept saying ” Fred-how are you going to explain to the family how YOU lost thier loved one?” and then the boss would hold the phone up so everyone could hear Fred try to talk but sounding like a stammering fool. The poor man must have smoked two packs of cigerets on his drive home pondering up an idea…the boss never letting on the casket in the crate was well on its way to where it was supposed to be going-and Fred even had a few hair brained ides ( which troubled every body ) about how we could sort this problem out but eventually he caught on that all was well and the boss was the one playing the joke on Fred.
As a matter of fact-now I think about it,it was Fred who led the funeral procession to the wrong cemetery-usually there is a guy in a golf cart that meets the funeral at the front gate of the cemetery,but of course-there was not one then…and thats when Fred figured it out we were in the wrong grave yard so with about a hundred cars following him we all snake through and as we are makeing the full circle through the cemetery we are passing other cars in the procession who have yet to catch up and make the circle-oh,now that I think about it WAS Fred who left a priest and loaded another from another funeral into his car-the lead car that took the funeral procession way out to Olney Maryland before any one realized the priest was the wrong guy!
One day I will tell some other stories from within the walls of the mortuary-for example the time one of my lady neighbors said she was a spiritualist and always wanted to visit a mortuary to see if she could contact spirits. I took her there one night-after hours,which was the best idea….she entered the place and saw we had a few dead folk layed out and requested seeing one. We did that and the moment she saw this human remains in the casket it became obvious her abilities in the mediums lifestyle were only something she had read in the National Enquirer and thought she could do herself….it was about one of the nuttiest things I’d ever seen-she laid her hands on the guys body and did this hoo-doo sort of chant and kept calling this guys name as if he was going to sit up and come back from the dead.
Yeah-I could probrebly go on for six months writing the funnys from the funeral home. You had to have them to keep it together!

I met a man in Ozona Texas…

January 27, 2007

my sons and the old road commander from a long time ago

Originally uploaded by jayfherron.

I’m sure the man I met in Ozona Texas one night will not be able to tell this story the same way I can tell the story. As a matter of fact-I think if I were him I would want to know the rest of the story-how it all happened.

In the late 1970’s I was hauling chemicals for an outfit in Florida running I-10 all the way from Florida to Los Angeles. The truck I drove-a White Road Commander-is in the photograph. They were production truck and most of them came with a fairly standard paint job so they looked alike. To make things worse,our company leased the trucks from a large leasing service and they painted all thier trucks alike and they owned a bunch of them-White Road Commanders,some called them ‘Road Commodes’ as sort of a joke.
Along the route through Texas the highway west of San Antonio goes into some really desolate country-desert lands for sure,and very few places to stop (back then) and someone took advantage of that and built an oasis in Ozona Texas…a truck stop.
I stopped in there one night while the place was still under construction but the fuel desk was open for business and there was a half finished snack bar where you could get coffee and sandwiches and that was about all-then,now its a full service truck stop…if its still there!
It was about three in the morning-dark and a bit chilly at the time of night. I got in my rig and stuck into gear and up the ramp and onto 10 I went,and I am cruising down the highway feeling funny about something-but not sure what. And I’m going along at a fair clip still feeling odd about something-as if something just did’nt seem right,so I lit up a cigerette….and it was a menthol,and I did’nt smoke menthols so I flicked on the dome light to see what the deal was with my cigerettes and there in the bunk behind me was a huge old fellow sound asleep in the bunk.
I was in the wrong truck.
It took me about three hours to hitch back to the truck stop…I walked most of the way. I was not about to go any further in that truck for fear the guy would wake up and the distance to the next exit was many miles off,so I did not want to risk the chance of this guy waking up….so I eased over to the side of the road and ran for all I could muster. I did’nt lock the brakes,for fear the sound of the air wooshing would wake him….and I did’nt the door-that was obvious when I passed the parked truck later that morning in my own truck-the door was flapping in the wind that came off of the other trucks that went by,the suction of thier speed causing the door to swing.
I often wonder about that guy-what he must have thought when he woke up later that day,he was for sure a sound sleeper-all that noise from the door alone!
I often wonder if he remained sane,or did he become someones babbeling old uncle that just sits out on the front porch and mumbles about the truck stop? Sitting there saying over and over for all these years….there was a truck stop,there was a truck stop,there was a truck stop.
Back in those days the use of the good old ‘pocket rocket’ was prominant-California turn arounds,meaning you could swallow a black beauty and that sucker would keep you wide awake for a great number of hours and cause a guy to chew more gum than Wrigley’s could ever make-and smoke one cig after the other. It used to be that toothpicks would be dipped into an amphetdamine solution and you could sit in a truck stop and just look down the line of drivers sitting at the coffeee counter chewing on a tooth pick….boosting the speed with a high tone cup of caffiene.
California turn arounds could easily make illusions out of things after you keep using them regular-bridge over passes look like large mouths readying to swallow you and your truck or imaginary monsters of other sorts would appear-how many old time truckers thought they saw ‘big foot’ because of speedo tooth picks?
So it is very possable my new found friend from Ozona was sleeping off several days of back and forth of wide awake and when he came to after my leaving him along side the interstate highway he probrebly thought he had the ultimate of illusions thinking he saw a truck stop-parked there and all….and it never really was there.

I hope I left him heading in the right direction.

I sure hope I left him heading in the right direction.

my grave…

January 25, 2007

my tombstone

Originally uploaded by jayfherron.

” Sunset and evening star ,and one clear call for me.
May there be no mourning at the bar when I am put to sea”

I worked in several funeral homes in the early 1970’s and I attended so many funerals and heard so many ministers and preachers and priests bring up that poem that I could lip sync it knowing it by memory from hearing it so often.
I went to work in mortuary service when I was 21-a job I sought out to learn what happened in the embalming room to repair my baby brothers body-a desire I had carried on from seeing Mr.Hoke (a neighbor my friend and I saw shoot him self,we were just boys) having seen the damage to his head-and then later in the week seeing him as he usually was and the head wound gone. I learned enough and after four years that desire was behind me-I had seen up near a thousand human remains in different orders of death and that was enough for me to see death is not a respector of persons.
Around the later part of the 70’s a friend of mine got sick and he was told he had cancer-a young guy my age,we were in our mid thirtys. Big Mike refused treatment-he said he wanted to take what was given him and deal with it as a man and not falsely stretched out to a longer misery by the use of chemicals.
Big Mike earned that name-he was a giant of a man,but sweet and never had I heard a laugh like that man had. I cleaned up his body the day he died- the final task to help out a friend so he could look fairly respectable as we carried him out the door.
Death and everything about it does not have me scared. I lived above a funeral home in Jacksonville-the casket show room was just across the hall and the embalming room on the other side of that….folks laid out in parlors downstairs,sometimes-sometimes not.
There was often times humor there,and boy in other times I saw grief beyond description and death in ways that horror movies cannot equal with special effects. So the whole point of that….death don’t
much bother me,I’ve written that I faced it in more ways then one-seeing the real peace in it-but also seeing the whole picture,no-death is not what we all think.
A couple of years ago I started making caskets for poorer folks who have a loss-and have no money….it had actually started out to provide them for homeless people who turn up dead,but that was not an obtainable goal-so I have given them to a funeral home to keep aside for when someone with little or nothing comes along they can have a nice coffin.
There was an old man named Bill who I came to know-he had cancer,fought it with a brave spirit-stayed away from the drugs and chemicals and accepted the facts. At his request I made him a coffin-Bill and I loved each other like a father and son should-but I always saw it so odd because his son lives right here near by and Bill showed more affection towards me than he did his own son-()his son is my sons father-in-law). Every time I saw Bill he’d grab me and hug me and treated with such love,he and his wife Pat.
I always thought of how ironic this was-there was his son and they hardly spoke…and me. Then theres my own father and we hardly speak,and it was so strange to me hjow this was so mixed up-and why was this so?
Once my brother came to visit-it was just him and I can’t remember the occasion but I believe he stayed over night and we had gone out to the truck stop for breakfast and the truck stop is near the cemetery I am going to be buried at so I wanted to how my brother my grave marker-and we went there ( he did’nt know my grave was there) and as we walked up to it and he saw the tombstone he reacted like he had just seen a rattlesnake and turned away and never looked at my grave stone. He told me can go all around the cemetery-but he did not want to see something that was marking my grave.
My brother made some angry remarks responding to my recent writing-the 200 dollar hangover story.
My brother does not know what is in my heart-he does not understand my own grief and how I can face the deaths of many people but cannot face the death of my own father.
My brother does not know how the pain of my fathers suffering-silently…is eating me up and like my brother not being able to see my grave I cannot see the illness of my father eating him up.
A year ago crixmix ( Christmas to the lay folk who do not know how much I hate the crixmix pattern of celebrating a God who I cherish) my mother called and told me how my father and her were going to a crixmix gathering for some man who worked at the local grocery store-and my dad had only a month before gotten out of hospital from major gut surgery…and on this raining crixmix night my elderly folks-dad still healing from his surgery,go out in the rain in the car to find the crixmix party. They did-had a crash doing it,which no one ever reported-and the way my mother was telling this story was like someone had takek a butcher knife and was gutting me…she told me they found the house-and they decided not to stay,a little panic stricken from the crash-the hit and run crash….and my dad was going in the house to say merry crixmix,and they were going to go. But-dad fell and instead of going into the house he sat in the rain for 30 or 40 minutes,he could’nt get up-someone found him there.
As my mother was telling me this I could not keep from crying-as a matter of fact I had to hang up on her because the story was so painful to hear and the vision of my dad sitting on the street holding my nearly dead baby brother kept going through my head back and forth seeing him sitting there with in the street with Carl in his arms and then seeing him sitting in the street in the rain a sick old man.
Some years ago there was a song by a group called ‘Mike and the Mechanics’ called ‘In the Living Years’. The song was sung as a son would sing it and it was about his regrets that he did’nt say how he loved his father while his father was alive and how he wished he could do it-have that chance again. I was about 32 or 33 then…and I drove to my parents and asked my dad to go into another room so we could talk,I wanted to tell him that I loved him. Our relationship had always been strained-we hardly spoke.
The day Carl-my baby brother-was killed my father came home from the hospital and my mother was laying on the sofa…my father grabbed her up and they wept. It was the only time in my life I realized my father loved us-seeing that.
My brother Joe made comments yesterday out f anger-love turns to anger when one has no idea what the others silence might mean. I hate seeing my parents slipping away into old age and feeble knees and dead hearing and shuffled paces as they try to walk-and seeing my father ill,and seeing the day will come that my having a part in his life will be gone forever….losing the ever wanted opportunity for understand of what all happened to fuck my life up.
I’m sorry I’m not doing what you want me to do!
Bring back the ever gone years of how many times I telephoned and everytime he heard my voice he turned the phone over to my mother-lasting in the never talking to his son mode….and change them for me.
I’m sorry that seeing the interaction between my side of being a son and the other side of being a son where my brother is has broken me to the point I need to step aside….kind of like Esau and Jacob when Jacob stepped aside-pretty much,as the story goes. (these are brothers in the old testament-Bible).
When Carl was killed I had to grieve alone,just like when my sister JoEileen died,I saw her carried out of the house when she got sick-I saw her in the casket-I saw her last as the funeral drove by my grandparents house on Beech Street in Pottstown,her casket covered in flowers…but no explaination where my sister had gone from there on out.
.And I am grieveing now,alone…pretty much as its always been.

Wells Nevada and the $200 hangover!

January 22, 2007

wide load in mirror

Originally uploaded by jayfherron.

For a period in my life I thought that I was going to make a career out of hauling these concrete buildings across country. They took forever to pull. They were solid concrete-oversize…and weighed way more than your standard highway load which meant you nearly walked up hills with them…mountains were worse.On the other hand-they were a breeze because of the distances we were pulling them we encountered cities along the way that restricted us going through except for certain hours-so there was a lot of stops to wait and at the same time…rest up.
I hauled the one in the photograph from where they manufactured them in Alabama to a to a place about 30 miles into the middle of no where off of the paved road. Wells Nevada was the nearest town.
I have never been to Nevada to spend any time. I have been through it many times to reach Sacramento and always stopped to fuel and eat at Sparks before crossing over Donner Pass. Theres not much to interest me-I don’t gamble,so that idea is lost on me-but trust me…they give you every opportunity in the world to be sure. Theres games in every place you go-you can even play video poker while you poop,the slot machines are everywhere. Go to a fast food place-the tables have a video poker game in the table! It just did’nt figure.

When you drive west out of Salt Lake City the territory gets a little bit more open than much of the east is. Lets put it this way-theres a place called Oasis Nevada that is so far out in the middle of the desert that theres a prison there that has a little short fence surrounding it and no guard towers. Perhaps its a miminum security prison-but man alive,who in the world is crazy enough to want to try to walk away from that place-day or night. There is nothing….the isolation is unbelievable,but theres one thing you can count on-you pull off the highway to some little lonley gas stop to buy a soda and a snack and sure enough theres about twenty slot machines and twenty folks sticking nickles into them.
My only ever load to Nevada was this building-and as I said it went into the desert outside of Wells.
Theres several nice truck stops there and since I had to wait for a crane and crew to arrive the following day I parked and showered and decided to go across the way to one of the casinos to see what they were all about….and had a beer and that one was so good and cold I had another and the place was really going to town and the activity-so I had another and I got so drunk I could’nt stand up,so I managed to get back to my truck and pour myself into the bunk and go to sleep.
The next morning the crew chief woke me…he had bad news,the crew was delayed with the crane in Salt Lake City and everything was put off until the following morning. They were going to pay me an extra two hundred for the wait and my head was screaming from all the beers I forced it to accept the night before…so it did not hurt my feelings and I praised all and went back to sleep.
The next day the crane and support truck and the crew showed up and every one was ready so we drove out onto the highway and rode a distance until we came to a white one ton truck waiting on the side of the road-the driver of that led us down a dirt two track lane. We followed that for thirty miles-the lane paralleled a rail line which we were instructed to follow his trucks lead and instruction….everytime a train passed-which was surprisingly often-we had to hug the roadways left side to clear the train.
There was another reason we had to stop along the way. It was this guy in the white one tons job to stop and remove dead cows from the train track-he had a winch set up on the back of his truck and he’d have to cable that winch out and attach a cable to the cows leg and drag it down off the rail bed and over to the side of the road. The man later told us us following him that day was the best he had in years because everytime he stopped to pull a cow off the tracks we all just got out of our trucks and pulled the thing off ourselves.
The old guy in the white one ton said he had that job with the rail road all his life. He told us it took him usually eight hours to go one hundred miles along this rail line and at the end of the hundred miles he had a travel trailer where he stayed over night and the return trip he’d be at home in Wells .
What a job.

‘Sir’ (the guy on the right)

January 21, 2007


Originally uploaded by jayfherron.

My second post this morning…I just forgot to point out that my grandfather ‘Sir’ is the fellow on the right-the cat in the cap!
I hope you read the installment I wrote earlier this morning…its about him!


January 21, 2007


Originally uploaded by jayfherron.

As I’ve said before-they called my fathers father “Sir”. As kids we never called him Grand dad or Pops or any thing endearing like that,we all called him Sir.
As grandfathers go,this was a great guy-out of my two he was my favorite.
Sir was a quiet man-its been too long ago so my memory is not accurate,but I honestly cannot remember him saying much at all.My grandmother-we called her Wickie,she made up for his quiet ways.
Both of my grandparents-Wickie and Sir-were interesting people. During the days of ‘Hooverville’ in Washington where all the broken promise veterans encamped to get the government to make good on the promise they broke…Wickie would make buckets of coffee and my dad as a kid carried those buckets over to the waiting vet’s-cold and damp. These were the same vets-with wives and babes camped along withier thier husbands-were chased off by the mounted calvery-the US Calvery,led by MacArthur-ordered by President Hoover.
Sir at one time was a river boat pilot which back when he was given that title it meant that he hung over the front of a river boat and looked for logs stuck in the river…he had this job when he was a teenager.
Sir was born the same day that the state of Washington was given statehood. I mistakenly said the other day he was born in 1899-his birth date is November 11,1889. It facinates me to know that as a boy I held this mans hand to cross the street,a man who lived in the days before telephones.
I am not sure how my grandparents ended up in Washington DC. My grandfather lasted his life out there as an iron worker-setting steel in many of the post world war two buildings in the city-he even worked the iron when they gutted the White House and renovated the entire structure. Once Sir gave me an old wooden handled claw hammer and stamped in the handle was the government identication-he told me to take care of it because the government must have paid a lot of taxpayers money for it. I still have it and always felt that it came from that job at the White House,he seemed to hint at that when he gave it to me.
I had heard that during the depression my grandparenets did all kinds of thing to make ends meet. My grandmother took in sewing for the upper class and many of her clients were almost as poor so they bartered a lot of the time-my grandparents apartment was filled with objects of exotic back grounds,happily I have a few artfacts from their home.
I was told Sir walked across DC with a small tool box that had red and silver paint in cans and brushes and spirits and stencils-and for seven cents each he would walk across the city and paint the fire call boxes brite red and in silver would stencil the numbers on the box…but after the depression steel was going up everywhere and my grandfather became well known in his field-that may be where the title’ Sir’ came from.
My grandfather once took me to the museum of natural history-he and my uncle had been working that job during its construction. He told me to be in bed when he came home from work that day-that was all he said. That meant I had to be in bed around four in the afternoon so Wickie let me lay in her bed in the bedroom,a place I had never been before,and I tried my best to sleep but the room was filled with treasures for a boys eyes and the anticipation of as WHY I was tod to be in bed so early.
Sir came home about five and I lay there trying to listen to see if I could hear conversation-but they never talked.
After it got really dark out Sir came in and woke me and after I dressed we went out front and caught a bus and went into the city-just me and him. We went up by the Washington Monument and sat on the grass and ate thesehard boiled eggs Sir had brought in a sack. He had this little piece of wax paper that had salt and pepper mixed up in it and we sat there in the grass and peeled these eggs and rolled them in the pepper mix and watched and waited and chewed on those dry old eggs.
Then down Constitution Avenue came these blinking lights and sirens and we got up and headed for the din and there was the neatest thing I’d ever seen. A big riggers truck was pulling a huge locomotive down the street-the truck with its yellow flashing lights and police cars and thier red lights and it was all exciting. I think I was the only kid there-but that might have been because it was so special and my grandfather was so special that I might not have noticed any body else. It is so cool to go to that museum and see that big green engine sitting there and recalling my own personal experience with that big machine.
When my young family became homeless and ended up out in these woods miles from town-we did’nt a car and I would get up up and walk out of here every morning around three-my mind would think of Sir walking across that city painting those boxes and the jobs I usually held had a great deal to do with some of the larger construction jobs andone in particular I hauled all of the iron/steel to the project-the south endzone of the Florida Field.
I’d alway wished Sir could see-and much of the time I feel that he did see.


January 19, 2007

death picture

Originally uploaded by jayfherron.

Now theres something not everybody is getting up in the morning and enjoying as a conversation over first coffee. But-it is often on our mind.
As a people-we fear it and its random ways. Why is that? Why is death so feared and yet so curious to us?
Now I know one can say that the experience I am about to describe is only the results of too much crystle meth….but I can say with confindence that it was not but that the drug was only leading me to where I was-at the footstep of death.
It was in 1993 when I was hooked up with the cattle hauling job…a job that was a job-but was’nt,I had been asked to fill in with another driver who was sick and they had no one else to go. As a matter of fact,I was living out here with no electricity and no water-because the well needs the electric to run the pump….no food,the car was busted as always-so the guy who owned the truck was a man who I had know ever since he was just a boy and when he offered me a chance to make a few hundred bucks real fast I went for it.
It was only supposed to be a quick trip to Demopolis Alabamba-hauling 250 head of cattle from the market in Webster Florida…a trip that ended up lasting about a year or a little longer.
I had drug problems before. I had gotten deep into cocaine in the early part of the 80’s and pushed a lot of money up my nose in less than a year until it was suttlely pointed out to me that I needed help-which I got. I truely thought that after those days it was all behind me-but I was wrong.
Other than the young man that asked me to fill in as a driver-I did’nt know any of these people and the nature of moving cattle takes a large group of people-horseman and other drivers and it truely is a different kind of trucking and it is also crazy crazy work-each animal weighs about 880 pounds give or take and theres usually 250 of them at a time and each one of them is as stupid as a box of rocks but has enough sense to be really obnoxious-a true way to heal a vegitarian is to let them work around cows.
But-I’m getting off track. All of the people I was around that first day were absolute strangers to me-but there was no hesitation to have someone in the crowd to bust open a baggie of white powder crystles and offer the finished little lines of it to you. So-there went my nose…an automatic response.
It is kind of funny-this drug and these people. The general overview would easily say these are not people involved in drugs-and in thier mind they are’nt and if one was to be in the crowd and offer cocaine they would run you out of Dodge swiftly. This part of trucking the use is almost acceptable and percieved as a tool of the occupation of moving cattle across country.
Death? I stayed awake an entire week-fully eyes open no naps awake. We went from the Cow Palace in Lakeland to Brawley California and back to another cow barn in Lakeland-thats Florida,right! And across again to Lamar Colorado and then over to Mericopa and up to Garrden City Kansas and back across to Rebecca Georgia when it all caught up with me…no sleep in 7 days all because of a drug someone made in a motel room somewhere??
It felt like someone hit me from behind with a sledge hammer-literally knocking me to my knees.I tried to stand back up but the force of the sledge hammer feeling hit me again right between my arms and I fell flat on my face in the dirt.
The other drivers helped me up into my truck and boom-it hit me again and I fell into the rack and passed out-somewhat. I felt different-real good different. Soft…pure,calm. I could hear these voices speaking in a tongue not familier to me but yet I knew what they were saying was pure and truth and was comforting. I could see a light a very beautiful light and I was being led by the voices towards the light,there was a darkness-but it was too far away to disturb the direction I was going.
And like a dumb ass-I started to think about this and that I was actually going to die and wanted to wake back up…! What a fool. I was there-it was good,and I turned around.*

*writers note:I want to say that trucking and especially cattle hauling is an honorable way of life and my details of drug use are true and is indeed a part of that industry but I believe in many cases it is more limited to certain groups who wildcat loads and I don’t want to dishonor any body in what I have said at anytime,but like it or not-it does exist .

my rattlesnake bride-part two

January 18, 2007


Originally uploaded by jayfherron.

I don’t want to be mistaken in my writing about Misty and giving her the moniker that I have.
It is true that she had serious problems-no one lies like that,and no one is supposed to steal from others. But there was one thing for sure-the afternoon she brushed up against me and whispered in my ear the words ” I love you Jay” was the most beautiful way I had ever heard it spoken in my life.
Michelle Ann is her real name. I thought it was so much more nicer than Misty and I used that name the most. She and her kids had only been in my home short of a week when she whispered that in my ear-but I was already way ahead of her…I loved her-every minute of her…I wanted to be in her presence and have her recognition and yet there was so much anger and confusion because this beautiful creature only had six months to live-if that! It was overwhelming…I had wished that she had not whispered like that in my ear-I could have handled her death better not knowing she loved me too.

You know-you can walk through the woods and walk right past a rattlesnake and that thing will just lay right there and you’d never know it,you’d be safe and it’d be easly contented to lay right there,you don’t molest it-it won’t mess with you.
Misty was’nt like that. You had no idea when she was going to strike
Now I realize that many might be reading this and begin to think I’m some kind of nasty guy for talking about her like this. It could be considered that my feelings reflected here are a revenge-but thats not true. The thing Michelle Ann was’nt able to see was there was someone who wanted to be with her-and who really loved her and even after learning of all the lies and all the background-this guy was still wanting to see through to a clearer day.
She was one of the most intelligent persons I’ve ever known-not educated,but seriously smart. When we spent the time in the long haul truck we could be loading in Baltimore for the west coast-say Los Angeles…and she could sit there with an atlas and an address and get that planned before we ever left the shippers-and she was remarkable to get it so accurate. And all the while as she would direct me as we found our destination she would be so alive and wonderful.
I really miss that.
Its really sad! I said yesterday that she left here nearly 9 years ago-it was sort of a relief because it was like trying to hold a lightning bolt being with her…she drank so much and lied so much that it was always tense,and me trying to understand what my body was going through with the effects of the stroke ( and of course that period of time was when ‘Rose’ came into the picture-Americas Most Wanted) and I admit that her leaving was a relief and a good heave ho might have been said afterwards….but I’ve wished for nine years that she would find a change.
I learned this summer that our being married still created a problem at my bank and in other ways so it was suggested-almost required,that I seek a way to divorce her. An attorney was hired and it had been learned she had not slowed down since she left in 1998. She had been arrested several times-did a year in a county jail and some time in prison for reckless endangerment and fleeing the state with her children (again) and the record showed she was arrested for use of others names-her sisters too. So she had not found the way to change.
Funny-sad funny…I truely loved her-and kept loving her like in one of those old time style love stories.
There was one night a long time ago when she and I first met and I saw in her eyes this look of such peace and I never have forgotten that look.