Tornado Sirens In The Dark

February 10, 2019

Well, I live in Texas, and in Texas we have tornadoes. They can come in the heat of teh day or in the dark of night.   Here is a Note from Notes To Stephanie: Days Remembered about such a night

Tornado Sirens in the Dark One of the things that make living in Texas interesting is the weather, especially the storms that arise to lash us in the spring. With each passing storm front, you are given a show full of nature’s fireworks and surprises. Each performance is different; each has something new to show. And one night, there was something fresh to see or hear, I might say.

That early spring night was like many others. It was humid and cloudy, and the storms were coming towards us. A strong squall line was tracking in from the west where storms are usually born. The Weather Service had posted numerous warnings and watches for severe thunderstorms and some tornadoes as well. I went in and listened to the NOAA Weather Radio to hear the storm reports and new warnings, which inched their way to Tarrant County and Fort Worth. As my dad once said, “Someone was going to catch some hell that night.” It appeared we were next.

You weren’t there when this was happening; you had a function at school. I had spoken to you before it started and told you about what was coming from the west. As the evening wore on, your program ended, and you called to tell me you were on your way home. You were just in time for the storms to sweep across our part of the world. And that they did.

Storms are not unusual in North Texas; but sometimes, some of the events that are around them are a bit different, and this was one such night. Like a scene in some movie, it became calm and still outside. There was no wind, and the clouds overhead streaked from the southwest at high speed. In the distance to the west, one could hear the low, rolling growl of thunder sweeping across the rolling prairies and hills to the west. Sometimes, a sheet of lighting would be seen illuminating the cloud deck above the quickly fleeing scud clouds below. The calm was the most noticeable; you always heard that if it was calm before a storm, something bad was on its way. A tornado was near, the old timers would tell you.

That old tale was about to become true, it seemed, when I first heard the tornado sirens fire off far to the west. Usually, you heard the siren in the neighborhood on the top of hill one half mile way, but not this time. The sounds in the distance were being blown to the threshold of hearing by the wind coming from the west, which had picked up again. The wind and the siren’s wale made you think that people miles away were in the path of destruction and doom. The sounds grew louder as another belt of sirens nearer to the house, but still not the ones nearby, were set off by Fort Worth Emergency Preparedness. The mental image in my mind was that the storm’s edge, or the violent swirl of a large tornado, was inching its way eastward towards us—the sirens being sounded as this angry weather woe approached.

I called you again to tell you this and to see where you were. You were not far from the house; you could see the storm with its large bolts of lightning very clearly just to the west of I-35W. The rain was not far behind it. You beat the storm to the house, and the final interesting event took place. That is, the local siren finally went off. You could no longer hear the ones in the distance, just the one up the street from the house wailing and accompanied by loud cracks of thunder. It seemed that the meteorological monster was about to stomp its way to our very door. The high tide of the storm’s wave was due
to strike at any time.

Not much longer after that, you drove up to the house, and the rain started. You were safely home; and in the end, the storm was not so bad. Indeed, there was a lot of thunder, lightning, wind, and rain; but no tornadoes were actually seen near us. The storm was not as severe at our home as it was west of there. Thus, the sirens were sounded for not it seemed, their cries of warning heralded not the thing they were supposed to advise us about. But that was okay. No one was hurt, and the show itself was ghostly, fearful, exciting, and magnificent all at the same time. The waves of tornado sirens going off and the wave of storms provided another night of free entertainment to those people willing to watch its performance and notice how unique weather can sometimes be even when set on a stage of what is familiar and expected.


Loving In The Pool

February 10, 2019

This Note is from my second book, Notes To Stephanie: Days Remembered.  This one might surprise you if you have read some of the other excerpts I have posted.

Neither of us is in to inappropriate public displays or actions that would seem improper, but one day we did something that I never thought we would do.

One day in the summer, we were in the pool on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. We had been drinking some, and we were both a bit tipsy. Not drunk, but we were leaning to the side of thinking we were invisible. We started getting frisky with each other; and without much hesitation, the bathing suits came flying off. Soon, we were making love by the step on the north side of the pool by the fence and bushes there. It is one thing to do that in the dark, which we also did, but in broad daylight is another thing entirely. Lucky for us, the trees, the fence, and the geometry of the houses meant no one could see us doing The Wild Thing.

Soon, we completed The Act, got our suits back on, and laughed about it later as we sobered up. Even better, the neighbors did not see us, did not complain, or call the police. You having been in Citizens on Patrol/Code Blue and both of us being in CERT would have made being arrested for public lewdness even worse. We were probably lucky, you know. Oh well, it was fun and one of the special moments that we had together, albeit one caused by the “demon brew” on that hot afternoon. Certainly, it was hot in more than one way, but we won’t go into details about that here.

This goes to show that sometimes things just happen; you do something you never thought you would do, but later realize that you did do it with some surprise. Hopefully, you remember the event in question with some fondness and laughter as well. Such inadvertent acts are part of what make us human after all. And as long as you don’t go to jail or get hurt, they are a good thing in the end. They should be treasured as much as some deliberate act of greatness that we are more apt to share with others. Their effects, while sprouted from spontaneity, are just as important as things we planned to do. So the next time you do something you thought you wouldn’t do, just forgive yourself and go on to life’s next adventure—perhaps in a swimming pool.

Uncle Hark and Aunt Hazel

June 14, 2017

Something about a dear great aunt and uncle.  And an old car.


We had a great aunt and uncle who lived a few miles from us in Bolivar.  Uncle Hark (Harvel) and Aunt Hazel Martin.  Hark was Muh’s brother and Hazel his wife.  They had a son but he died from leukemia and in many ways they never got over that loss since he was their only child.  Regardless of that tragedy they were always special to us.  Not just because they were kind and loving to us but also for a possession of theirs that also was special.  And what was that unique and wonderful thing Jeff?  A Model A Ford that Hark had restored.

By trade Hazel, like most women then, was a housewife and Hark was a car mechanic and worked in Denton at Beck’s Garage near our old house on east Congress Street near downtown.  Of course Dad and Mom took our cars there for repairs but we went and saw him there too when we were out and about.  I can remember his big smile as he would come up to us in his oil stained overalls inside the garage.  Nowadays no one wants you in the garage due to OHSA’s zealous pursuit of safety.  But not then, we would just go in like the cars.

Due to his trade, Hark had bought and apparently restored an old Ford Model A.  And that is the ultimate reason for this Note.  Sometimes on Saturdays he and Hazel would jump in it and drive to our house in Ranch Estates which was about ten miles south of their house in Bolivar.  I do not know if he came down I-35 or drove the farm roads down through Krum but come he did with the Model A’s motor running loud and fine.

When they arrived my sister and I would pile in it and we would go for a ride.  To us it was almost like riding a carnival ride, the experience was something wondrous and fun that we always looked forward to and loved just as much as we loved him and Aunt Hazel too. But after we grew up we did not see them as much and they grew old and the cars of our own lives went down different roads.

Over time cars wear out, run no more, go to the junk yard to be disassembled, and are largely forgotten. All while the shiny new model takes you for a ride.  And like an old car Hark and Hazel passed on too, and were buried.  And someone I do not know got his old Model A and like them it too is forever gone.  But unlike some non-descript, mass-produced new car Hark and Hazel live on forever young and gleaming in the familial car showroom of my mind and drive strongly still like that old Model A once did.


Music Lessons with Mrs. Smith

August 16, 2015

Did you ever do something embarrassing that was remembered fondly?? I sure did. This will be in “Notes About Growing Up”.

Speaking of Les Mills’ Studios above and taking organ lessons, here is what that was about. When I was five my mom thought my sister and I should take music lessons. We took organ lessons not piano lessons for some reasons – maybe since TR had an organ at his house, one at the bank, and no piano (he restored old organs as mentioned above). Regardless we took lessons mostly from Mrs. Wesley Smith who worked at Les Mills’ Studios. Les was a bachelor who had a big house and smaller house filled with pianos and electric organ where music teachers gave lessons. It was across the street from where we would later get our braces too, so it was frequently visited place over the years.

Each week we would go for a 30 minute lesson. Mrs. Smith who was very technical would work with us on songs of course but also deeper things like chord progression and different keys. She was always a nice lady and we went to school with her lids like her son Curtis. As a technique repetition was the key, doing something over and over would load the piece of music into your mind and reflexes so you could do it at will. Well, that never worked too well with me since I also never had any natural rhythm as far as music went and I was never a good musician, even in band playing the trombone for our band director Mr. Rooney.

The repetition continued at home since we were expected to practice there too which I did not want to do, mom had to gripe at me to do my lessons on our organ. I’d rather have been reading a book, playing with my toy soldier, or floating model ships down at the creek.

But the yearly recital was the actually the worst thing about it really. You would have to learn a song and be able to play it by memory in front of the assembled parents and students one terrifying day. I could usually do it OK but day I really screwed up on my song and turned around to the audience which was silent wondering what I was about to do and simply said I was going to start over since I had not done so well the first time. I did start over and played the song without further incident. That little incident was not forgotten by many and least of all not by me.

Asking to start over taught me something. If you make a mistake admit it early and the next time you do whatever you messed up doing, do it better or right. That is another way of admitting a mistake, asking forgiveness, taking your lumps, and moving on, eh? Too many folks use Dilbertian “blamestorming” to obscure their failures blaming others for their shortfalls and I just don’t do that, I instead offer up a “plan B” to fix an issue just like I did that recital day in the basement of a bank in Denton long ago. It’s easier and people will remember that more fondly than being blamed for something.

Notes About Growing Up – The Table Of Contents

August 9, 2015

I ‘m sending Notes About Growing Up to my editor Margo Dill soon. Here is the table of contents.

Introduction 9

Part I – Valley View, Texas 11

Merry Christmas Granddad 12
The Roach Place 18
The Leach Place, Duck Creek, & The Hundred Acres 23
Working & Feeding the Cattle 29
Combining the Wheat and the Picnic Grounds 34
Turner Grocery 40
Valley View National Bank 46
Clem and Leta Bell 51
TR and “Muh” 56
Uncles, Aunts, and Cousins 65
Going To Church in Valley View 73
Dad the Athlete and Mom the Majorette 79
Spending the Night With TR After Muh Died. 83
The Houses on Lee Street 86
The Leach Place Bee Hives 92
The Dreaded Visit to Hagerman’s Wildlife Refuge 95
Couch Oil 98
Xmas and Turkey Day at Valley View 103
See You in The Funny Papers 108

Part II – Denton, Texas 110

A Bottle Rocket Fight On The Brazos 111
DCNB 116
Congress Street & Ranch Estates 120
Apollo 11 129
A Haberdasher’s Hanger 136
Uncle Hark and Aunt Hazel 139
Homemade Chinese Food 142
Models, Army Men, and Wargames Too 146
He Does Not Read Kid’s Books 152
Two Miss Americas 155
The Boats 159
Times With Mom and Dad 164
The Cloud Roaring and the Aurora 171
Working at the Rent Houses 175
New York Subway Sandwiches, Taco Inn, KFC, MacDonald’s, and Sonic 181
Troop 132 187
Our Pets 191
Stitches And Casts 197
Music Lessons with Mrs. Smith 203
Family Vacations 207
My Old Schools 214
The Big Weather Balloon And Helicopter Fleets 219

Part III – Gainesville, Texas 223

Metzler’s BBQ 224
Dances and the Ranch 228
Working in the Oil Field and the Sample Library 232
Three Tornados And Touch Football 240
Drunk Driving On Golf Karts 244
I Caught A Fish And A Cloud Came Up 249
Football Teams and Coaches 256
The Church of the Divine Fermentation 262
The Evanston War 267
Speech and Debate 274

Part IV – Back In Denton, Texas At College 278

The Frat 279
Playing the Chime in the Tower 287
Bruto’s Pizza, Taco Inn, and Captain Nemo’s 293
Drunk in the Dorm 299
Driving TR’s Grain Truck 307
Spring Break with Mom and Dad 311
Working at Derrick 313
KNTU News Casting 318

Part V – After College In Fort Worth 322

Arthur Andersen and Other Jobs 323
BBC 329
Buying the Monterrey House 333

Part VI – The Long Road 339

I-35: My Life’s Road 340

Afterward 343
Thanks To & Pictures 345
For More Information 347

Our First Date

August 1, 2015

This is from Notes To Stephanie: Days Remembered. A tale of a very wonderful first date.

As we were getting divorced, you once e-mailed me that you would always remember our first date. While I have not forgotten it either, I do not get sentimental about it. But it was a very wonderful evening, and that is what I will recount below.

I remember you came over to my house, and you rang the door bell. There you were in the pretty greenish dress that fit you so well; your legs looked great, as did your hair. We talked a little, I showed you my house, and we got in my truck and headed out for dinner.

I remember talking about various things like our life histories as we drove south to Haltom City and the Thai restaurant I had picked out. You and I liked more than one type of food, and that was one of the biggest things that first attracted me to you.

We got to the Thai place and went in, sitting towards the front of the place, which was not crowded at all. I think I had a hot green curry dish, and we had Thai beef salad as an appetizer. It was all good, and the meal hit the spot. Our conversation, of course, continued.

After that we drove downtown to Sundance Square and wandered around, we finally ended up at Billy Miner’s Saloon where I had eaten lunch years before when I worked downtown. We had some drinks and talked some more. One thing that was interesting was that a lot of people gazed at us through the window as they walked by—one guy in particular as I recall. Were they gazing at you or were they gazing at us together since we were so enthralled with each other? Who knows? They looked at us—that is for sure.

Regardless of the people looking at us, we also looked at each other throughout the evening. The night went on that way until we left to go back to my house. When we got back to my place, we got out of my truck, had a little good night kiss, and said we wanted to go out again—our arms around each other. We said goodbye, left, and I went back inside thinking about the night. It was a good first date, I thought. And my gut told me the same thing, too.

That humid summer night in July was our official beginning as a couple. I wish we had found a way to keep that interest alive and had not stopped looking into each other’s eyes, longing for the other as we did that night.

That evening was a magical time that I still see clearly in my mind as I write this now. However, in time, it will be just another memory like other things that have happened over the years. But it will be a good memory, nonetheless, when it surfaces at some future time now unknown.

Driving TR’s Grain Truck

August 1, 2015

This is one of my favorite memories from college and ties back to my childhood.

When I was pledging the frat I had an idea. Use TR’s old but still running grain truck as our float. I asked Granddad and my parents and they somewhat reluctantly agreed to let me do just that. So one Sunday we went to the Roach place and fired the old four wheeled girl up and I drove it to Denton BD the frat house (the old one – Prairie Street? Maple? – and not the newer one on Mulberry).

We decorated it with fraternity’s letters and NTSU “Mean Green” décor and were ready to go. The Brothers piled in the back and we drove to the assembly point and waited to go. We started off and ultimately went down Hickory Street, going past DCNB and the Campus theatre of my youth around the square, and west on Oak back to the end point and finally the frat house. It was a lot of fun and I of course thought about all of things we had driven by that were important to me as a kid – St. Andrews where the Scout troop had met, my old playmate Dan Herd’s house, Voertman’s, and others as you might guess. On top of all of that most of us were actually sober for obvious reasons, not a Miracle On 34Th Street but one on the streets of Denton, Texas.

And I was thankful to TR who had let me drive it. But that happy time in my life was overcast by a dark shadow of sadness. TR learned that he had terminal brain cancer. Mom would take me to see him in Baylor Hospital east of downtown Dallas each week after classes were done. At first he tried to make the best of it all by joking about things like the radiation treatment’s alignment marks on his head being Indian warrior paint and also how he tipped the nurses with cash – they were always good to him by the way. But as time went on and the pain got worse it took its toll – I remember him telling my Mom how he couldn’t stop crying. I do not know if he was merely scared as anyone would be or maybe he pondered things in his life and was facing some regrets within his soul. If there is a Heaven – I hope there is and I hope he is there – I will certainly ask him that as we stand together in the never ending pure brightness of eternity with my other departed loved ones like my Dad.

After a time he did pass, my Dad called me near sunset one evening at the frat house where I living for the summer, and simply said “Jeff, your Granddad just died”. And I shed some tears too thinking about him and his own cries.

But going back to my question to ask him above I’ll remind him about letting me drive his beat up old grain truck too and thank him for that again since it proves we are human with joy in our soul as is remembering the good things that made our life what it is or was, and who made those wonderful things happen, and not just dwelling on the bad things the trip down life’s road brings.