Angel Wolf

The brisk cold is bone-shattering,  flesh

shivering as I walk along the Wasatch Front

between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Salt Lake.

The stars above sparkle and glisten, frozen

in time and space, some long dead,

their light still in the heavens.

I am in the city, filled with street lamps,

traffic signals, office building lights and signs,

home fires.  Several miles away in mountain canyons,

forests climb the slopes and harbor the wild.

The wild.  The call of the wild.  Wild savage hearts

pounding and racing fiercely; paws flying through the

snow; rushing to fill bellies of mate and young.

The heart that is intent, loyal, strong and true

belongs to the wolf…a lone wolf on the hunt.  The pack

has moved on; low valleys filled with prey fills

their noses with the scent of raw-flesh meals.

Hunger of the belly-kind draws them on

in frantic search, to hunt, to kill, to feed.

While hunger of the heart keeps the lone wolf

close by to den, to mate, to their young.

In this city by a great inland sea, atop spires pointing

toward twinkling stars, standing watch is an Angel.

Angel of light, Angel of peace.  Angel of compassion.

Angel of mercy; yet an Angel standing for justice.

A lonely walker in the city street, with an ear

and a heart for the wild and its beckoning call…

I turn my eyes up toward the skies, and view

the Angel descending from heaven.

“Come to me”, says she.

I will warm you from the cold.

I will fill your eyes with light.

I will fill your senses with all that

is tranquil and pleasurable,

yet savage, primitive and wild.

Let me fly close to the ground.

Catch me, hold me, embrace me, run with me

Into the mountains, the forests, the canyons;

along streams and lakes, waterfalls and ponds.

Run into the wild, side by side, into the night.

At My Desk

Would love to sit at my desk.
Read poetry, history and science.
Write poems and stories about my life and times.
Fondle the treasures stored in all the drawers,
cubby-holes and secret storage compartments.
Sit with my grandson on my knee and
read him stories and tales of yore.
Check the time on my watch with him
and see if it is time to go for ice cream.
Or a walk to the park,
go fishing in a nearby pond or stream.
Go look for a puppy to adopt
or a book to borrow from the library.
Look at faded photographs and recall
dim memories so that they are vivid
and come to life once again.
And pass on the love and legends from
past generations to the newest lives.
Scriptures and stories.
Poems, prayers and promises.

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A Texas Boy

When I was a boy of eight or nine years old, while visiting East Texas with my family for a Lindsey Family Reunion, I witnessed an interesting set of events unfold in a coffee shop involving a Texas Ranger.  As his actions played out, I found his sense of “law and order” most instructive.

The month was June, perhaps in 1959 or even 1960.  I had ridden in our family car (a 1956 Ford station wagon) with my father, with one of his brothers…either my Uncle Raymond or Uncle Don (I can’t quite remember which)…to meet up with another of their brothers, my Uncle Parley.  We were to meet Uncle Parley at a small coffee shop (or diner) on the highway that ran through Gladewater, Texas.

We all sat at the counter, three in a row, and my father ordered breakfast for us.  There was a radio station playing lowly back in the kitchen.  I’m pretty sure the radio dial was set to a “country western” station.  Even at that young age, I was accustomed to hearing Hank Williams, Ernest Tubbs and Bob Wills playing on our car radio whenever my Dad could find a “hillbilly” station on the dial.

There was a tall, good looking man sitting two stools away from my Dad.  He was wearing a Stetson hat and a gun belt with a “big iron” in the holster.  I was fascinated by him and his “hog leg”.  I kept leaning backwards and forwards to try to get a better view of him, straining my neck and leaning towards my Uncle (Raymond or Don).

My Uncle bent his head and whispered in my ear, telling me not to be too obvious and warned me not to stare.  He told me that the man sitting near us at the counter was a Texas Ranger.  I did notice that he was eating a slice of berry pie and had been gulping black coffee from a big Texas-sized mug.

After just a few minutes of sitting at the counter, the waitress brought out my plate and my Uncle’s.  She was followed by the cook, dressed all in white with a white apron and wearing a white sailor’s cap pulled down over his ears.  The cook served my father his order, walked back to the kitchen window, snapped off the radio and then walked over to a juke box on the other side of the cafe.  He fished some coins out of his pocket, fed them into the slot and then began poking buttons that corresponded to his choices of music.

The first (and probably last) song that he played on that jukebox was an Elvis Presley song:  “Jailhouse Rock”.  As soon as the song began to play, the cook reached behind the juke box and increased the volume.

Almost immediately, the Texas Ranger set his coffee mug down firmly on the counter and looked up and toward the cook who was now heading for the kitchen door.

“Turn that thing down”, the Ranger ordered.

The cook walked on, seemingly ignoring the Ranger’s demand.

When the cook re-entered the kitchen and began working at the stove again, the Ranger balled up his fist, slammed it down on the counter and bellowed toward the open kitchen/order window:  “I said, TURN THAT DAMN THING DOWN!  Better yet, TURN IT OFF!”

The cook never quite looked up but managed to smile a wry, little smile almost as if he was satisfied to be irritating the Ranger.  Except for that little bit of a grin, he ignored the Ranger’s demanding order to turn the juke box down or off.

My Dad and Uncle looked at each other, back to the Ranger, over at me, beyond me to the cook in the kitchen window, and then we heard the bell at the front door ting-a-ling as the Ranger strode out of the cafe towards his car.  We wondered if he was going to drive off and leave mad.

We soon learned that this Texas Ranger was not going to avoid a confrontation or suffer his words to be taken lightly or ignored.

I got just a glimpse of the big man wearing the star fashioned out of a Mexican peso coin as he strode past the front window from his car back toward the coffee shop door.  I did see that he was carrying something (just what, I was not quite sure).  The door exploded open and banged with a crash against the wall.  In four large strides the Ranger crossed the diner’s floor, raised what he was carrying in his hands, racked a round into the chamber and blasted a big hole into the front of that jukebox with a Remington .12 guage pump-action shotgun.  The Ranger then turned toward the window and yelled at the cook:  “I TOLD YOU!”  He then turned back toward the jukebox and fired two more rounds of .12 gauge 00-buckshot through the glass front and the speaker grille.

The Ranger then glared at the cook, walked back to his seat, laid down 6-bits for his pie and coffee and a half-dollar tip for the waitress.  He then turned toward the door he had just burst through and said aloud for us all to hear:  “When a Ranger gives you an order, it is a goddamn order!”

I think in that moment I decided I was going to become a State Trooper if I could not manage to become the President of the United States or the country’s most famous archaeologist that would discover the world’s most mysterious, lost civilization.

You think big thoughts and make big plans when you are a son of Texas…or the son of a Texan.

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Morning Worms and Corn Bread

The red-breasted, mother robin flew back to her nest,

high up in a forked branch of a very tall avocado tree.

She had flown off in the early morning California sunshine

to find an early-morning worm as breakfast for her chicks.

“The early bird catches the worm”; that’s what his Dad

had just said as he sipped a cup of cocoa and his Dad a

mug of steaming coffee.  He was perched, as he was most

mornings, on his Dad’s knee, his chin resting on his hands.

Elbows planted on the red formica table-top and his eyes

gazing out their big, second-story, kitchen window in an

old Oakland victorian home that had stood since the

War Between the States until now, the end of the Korean War.

It was a Saturday morning.  Or was it a Sunday?  His Dad

was always home on those two days and they spent the

mornings together as many Dads did, with their boys and

girls, in the years after the end of the great World War, Two.

His Mom was frying bacon and scrambling eggs.  She’d

make toast, too.  And maybe he’d make a bacon and egg

sandwich.  He did not like his eggs all runny and yellow

like his Dad.  His Dad would dip his toast into gooey yoke.

His Dad and Mom ate weird things that only grown-ups

liked.  Oysters, chicken livers, stuffed bell peppers, pig’s

feet, hot sauce, horseradish and even avocado dip.  None

of those things appealed to him or his tasted buds.

The really good stuff to eat was hot dogs, french fries,

strawberry shakes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,

fried chicken, corn on the cob, cotton candy or bologna

sandwiches all washed down with an ice-cold root beer.

He did like the slices of apple that his Dad would slice off

with his pocketknife, or orange segments from an orange

his Dad peeled in one long string of orange peel.  He and

his Dad liked the same kinds of candies, cookies and pies.

They liked biscuits, too, dripping with butter and jam,

or pear preserves that his Mom would can.  His folks grew

up on a farm, in East Texas, and they still liked to put up

and eat their own foods, made by hand and kept in a pantry.

He loved it when his Grandmother or Aunts would come

to visit from Texas and spend long days in the kitchen;

kneading bread, making cinnamon rolls, sweet bread or

bake sweet potato pies or cornbread they’d have with milk.

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A Cop’s Day off in 1975

Spring 1975.  Warm and sunny

in El Centro, California.

The desert was warming up

but still not baked.  Errands

to run, things to do, on a morning

off from duty and job.  So, he

gathered up his two-year son

and off they went in his orange

VW that never ran hot in even

worst desert sun.  The morning

was filled with questions.  “Dad,

what’s that?”  “Dad, can we go

fast?”  “Dad, why do you have

your gun?”  “Will we see a bad man

today?”  “What if he goes to our

house?  Will Mommy be okay?”

Stories and reasons, laughter and

smiles, assurance and lessons.

Father to son.  Cop to boy.  Law

and order, fun and games, home

and work, kisses and hugs, badges

and jails.  Wind, sand and sun, east of

mountains, ocean and the setting sun.

So much sun, blowing sand, ancient

soil, all the water from the great Colorado,

brought so much life to this desert

valley.  Still, not as much life as in the

eyes of this little boy.  All done

with chores, errands and stores.

He takes his son for his most favorite.

Into Jack-in-the-Box right off of the

interstate.  Up he jumps, just like out-

of-the-box.  Scrambles onto his Dad’s

lap, behind the wheel.  The window comes

down and face-to-face with a plastic,

grinning, talking Jack, the littlest and

bigget of boys places his order.

“Gimme a hamburg, Jack.  And some

fwench fwies, too.”  Turns back to his

car seat and remembers what he forgot

to say, so back he goes.  Leans out of the

window and face-to-face with Jack-in-the-

Box on a spring Imperial Valley day,

orders again:  “With a stwawbewwy shake.”

The Hawthorne Avenue Gang

The first eleven years of my life spent living in the same neighborhood in three different houses.  One, a century-old Victorian on Telegraph Avenue.  Two, the lower floor of a two-level flat across the street, was another.  And then, three, around the corner, behind Knapp’s Market, on Hawthorne Avenue.  A three-story Victorian, divided into three apartments.  We lived upstairs and downstairs, with two kitchens.  The upstairs kitchen served as our laundry room.  The downstairs kitchen was for our meals, and where Dad fell asleep on the linoleum floor when he was too drunk to climb the stairs.

The Key System train tracks ran right up the middle of Telegraph Avenue.  “Pill Hill” was right behind us, with three big white hospitals ready to receive the dead and the dying, some of them soldiers airlifted by grasshopper green heliicoptors.  Nikita Kruschev pounded his shoe on the podium in our Emerson black and white television set with a screen that looked like the bowl for my goldfish “Peppy and Salty”.  They all said he was going to bury us, but he just meant that Russia would just leave us in their dust, just like Artie, Mike and David would do to me somedays.  They all had Schwinn bicycles and I had a J.C. Higgins bike.  Their’s were bigger and blue, mine was smaller and red.  On the way to Mosswood Park to play or to go fishing at Lake Merritt, they’d sometimes leave me in their dust; clothes-pinned playing cards popping against our spokes, handlebar streamers in the wind.

Artie, Mike, Chock, Billy, David, Melvin, Phillip, Ronny and Ward, all on bikes.  We were the Hawthorne Avenue Gang and we ruled Telegraph Avenue from Sears and Roebuck all the way up to Neldam’s Bakery, and owned the sidewalks on Broadway from the car dealerships all the way up to the Mayfair Shopping Center, where we’d camp out in the hifi shop and listen to Elvis, Fabian and Ricky.  There was a gaggle of girls in our neighborhood:  Judy, Mary Ann, Lovette, Pamela, Sherian and Ruthie.  They were mostly a nuisance, but laughed with us usually, not always at us.  We would leave black-rubber skid marks on their chalked hop-scotch squares and tie scooters (made with their roller skates) on behind our bikes with their jumpropes.

Somedays we’d just park our bikes and hang out with Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, the Hardy Boys, Batman and Robin or Superman.  We all sailed on the Bounty, mutineed in the South Pacific seas and lived out our boyhood on Pitcairn Island.  Or sometimes we’d fly away with Sky King and his neice, Penny.  Sometimes ride off into the sunset with Hoppy, Gene and Roy.

We ruled the roost, ran the neighborhood and guarded the grocery store, barber shop and bakery when our old men were working seven to five at the cannery, the foundry, the oyster beds or the shipyards.  Six-foot tall Officer Kelly with size twelve boots walked the beat from one call box to the other.  There was no way we would ever let him catch us pinching an apple or swiping a pop.  He’d collar us sure, boot us in the ass and usher us home just in time for old men’s Pabst Blue Ribbon time.

Mess up the Wednesday night or Friday night fights on TV, brought to us all by Gillette Cavalcade, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Hamm’s beers…and we’d catch the razor strap or the belt whipped out in a flash from the belt loops of our old men’s Big Bens.  Worse yet, we might be grounded from going to the Saturday morning matinees at the Paramount, Fox or Grand Lake movie theaters…or be left behind when Casey Stengall sent his Oakland Oaks out onto the baseball diamond.

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