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It was the next to the last Babe Ruth baseball game of the season.  As we parents watched our teenagers from the good seats (our lawn chairs).  My wife commented on what a nice evening it turned out to be.

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From the street behind us, we heard a strange noise.  It was a loud rubber smudge sound.  Everyone in our row of chairs turned in time to see an old, orange, Ford station-wagon nose in between two parked cars, jump the curb, and was about to crash through the 6′ cyclone fence, on its way to us and the baseball diamond.

As we sprang to our feet, the car made a sharp right turn avoiding the fence and continued along the grass way with the fence on one side and parked cars on the other.  It traveled nearly a block on the same lawn traversed by baseball players, parents and siblings, grand-parents, coaches and umpires.  Luckily, no one was walking there at that moment.

In a couple seconds, another dad and I were running after the car.  We raced along the fence, made the quick jog through the narrow gate, and chased after what I thought might be a drunk driver.  I shouted his license number so one of us might remember.  The car finally rolled to a stop.  The two of us were pounding on the door window, shouting, “Turn it off!”  The guy with me slid one finger left to right under his chin (signaling, kill it!) in case the driver didn’t speak English.

The driver turned the motor off, got out and walked to the back of the car.  I reached in and pulled the keys from the ignition and tossed them in the back seat.

By this time, a white van came racing down the street with horn honking, and nosed into an empty parking space near the station wagon.  The driver, a very large lady, was extremely excited, shouting, “Are you okay!?  I didn’t expect you to hit me so hard!”

She left two babies in the van and approached the driver of the wagon.  “I just didn’t expect you to hit me so hard!” She panted.  A crowd was gathering, and the wagon driver was waving his arms, saying, “I’ss okay, sheez my wife.  Andat’s my van, too!”

Realizing he may not be drunk, I asked him why he drove his car over the curb and all that distance on the grass.  He explained that he was driving it to the repair shop (at seven in the evening) because “he had no brakes!”  He knew his car had no brakes, so he had his wife drive ahead of him in the van, and if he needed to stop, he would bump into her.  She would be his brakes.

A Stop Sign was waiting for them at Ninth Street where they would have to turn or drive through the baseball field.  She brought the van to a stop, angled slightly to the left.  He ran into her with enough force to knock her out of the way, cross the street, jump the curb and make a turn before eventually stopping.

The smudge noise we heard was the spare tire on the back of the van.  I don’t know if his emergency brake worked or if he considered using it.  I don’t know if he shifted the transmission out of gear.  He didn’t think to turn the motor off.  He apparently didn’t think about a lot of things.

An ambulance came for his wife; she was so upset and having trouble breathing, she had to lie down on the grass.  The Police also showed up and cited the man for careless driving.  As I started back to my son’s ball game, I noticed something was printed across the front of the wagon driver’s baseball cap.  I was curious what this guy might endorse, so I got closer to read it.  I swear to you this is true.  His cap announced: “God must love STUPID PEOPLE because he sure makes a lot of them.”

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Happy Birthday, Little Brother

My “real dad” came to see me one day when I was about seven years old.  I recognized him right away, even though I hadn’t seen much of him since he and Mom divorced when I was about three.

from Paula (132)_edited-1On this rare visit he brought me a present, a shiny new bicycle, my very first!  It was a sturdy “one speed,” Huffy, black with white pin stripes and shiny chrome.  I had already learned to ride on the neighbor kids bikes, so I was very excited!

My horizons were immediately broadened.  I was amazed at how quickly this thing would move the pavement under me; and it was mine!

Before long, I had transformed my bicycle into a faster and sleeker pedal fast speed machine.  I took the fenders and chain-guard off to drop dead weight, and I lowered the handle bars for more peddle pumping leverage.  It was so cool!  Some left over model car decals added that perfect finishing touch.

I rode that bike everywhere, on road and off.  I rode it daily to Lake Shore School until it disappeared from the school bike rack, it was gone!  Stolen!  Somebody stole my bike!

Imagine my surprise and relief when I found it lying in a friend’s driveway as I walked home.  He didn’t steal it, he was walking with me.  I didn’t have a bike lock, so after that, I walked to school.

One day walking home, I followed my daily path through the empty lot that bordered our back yard.  When I reached our patio, there was my step-dad working on my bike.

Before this day, he had never given me anything, and he had never done anything with me, and he had never done anything for me.  That’s just how it was.  But now he had installed new fenders, a chain guard, a basket, and even a headlight on my bike!

I was very confused.  I didn’t know why he was doing this for me (it was completely out of character), and though he was doing this very nice thing, I was doomed to be terribly ungrateful because I really didn’t like what he was doing to my bike.

I stood there in silent disbelief, watching him from behind, not knowing what to say or do.  I finally said, “Gee Dad, you don’t have to do all that for me.”

Without turning away from his work, he answered, “I’m not.  I’m giving this bike to your brother for his birthday.”

I stood there waiting for more words, the kind that would sometimes follow disappointment.  Words like, “Don’t you worry – your birthday is coming soon and I’ll bet you get a brand new bike,” or maybe, “Christmas is just around the corner and I’m sure Santa will bring you a better bike than this.”  I waited, but, there were no more words.  That was it.

Happy Birthday, little brother.

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Dinner at Dad’s


Diane took this picture of me in my Chevelle a couple years after dinner at Dad’s

I was driving my ’65 Chevelle home from my first real job after high school.  My dad put in a good word for me with a business associate and I ended up working as a shipping and receiving clerk for George Marandas Inc., a clothing manufacturer on Sandy Boulevard in Portland.  I had no plans for college.  Really, I had no plans or direction for my life, so this was good for now.

My folks divorced when I was three, and my dad was not part of my life.  I rarely saw him; he was in some sort of cult known as the United Plymouth Brethren.  He would step briefly in and out of my world every few years; I knew who he was.  Our short conversations were uncomfortable.  He made contact with me about the time I was graduating from high school, and helped me get this job.

I knew where his house was, and I also knew that in his cult, he was not permitted to socialize with me, or anyone not in the cult, but I stopped anyway.

My teenage half-sister answered the door, I’d only seen her a time or two since she was a baby.  They allowed me in and we all sat on the couch, my dad, his wife, their two boys and daughter.  My half-siblings seemed quite fascinated and reacted to me as if I were from another world, which I was.  Their mom soon returned to the kitchen, dinner was cooking.

We would break the silence with small talk; there was no radio or TV in the house – that was one of the many cult rules.  Soon I could tell their dinner was almost ready and I should excuse myself and head home.  But, it smelled very good, maybe there was a chance they would invite me to stay.  Dinner in my little $65-a-month duplex in Newberg would either be macaroni and cheese or bean soup, again.

I thought the awkward moment finally ended when my dad stood up and ask if I would like to stay for dinner, but awkward was just warming up.  Trying not to sound too pleased, I answered, “Well, okay.”  As if rehearsed, the others stood at once and quickly disappeared into the kitchen.  I stood up and hesitated, wondering if I was supposed to follow – they didn’t say.  Just then they returned, each carrying a TV tray with food, more food, and something to drink.  It was all placed in front of me without a word spoken.  They disappeared again, except for my dad.  He explained, “We can’t eat with anyone who is not in our fellowship, so you eat here, we’ll eat in there, and if you need anything, just ring this bell.”

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The Coffenbury Sea

It was summer, 1966, Fort Stevens State Park on the Oregon coast.  I was 14 years old and on a family camp-out that included my new step-brother, Ronnie (age 7) and three new step-sisters.  The sky was blue, the air was sweet and warm, and I was racing through the camp on my Stingray bike with its high-rise handle bars and banana seat.  I swung by our camp-site to tell my folks I was going to ride down to the beach.  They said, “Take Ronnie.”  I said I didn’t want to take Ronnie.  They said to take him or I couldn’t go, so I sat him on the handle bars and begrudgingly headed down the road.  Biking down the pathway was fun; it came out of the trees at a small lake between the campground and the ocean.  With Ronnie still in the handlebars, I peddled towards the lake and stopped at a pick-nick table resting my foot on the bench seat for support.

“Well, there it is,” I said to Ronnie, “the Pacific Ocean.”

“Wow!” was his reply.

“And see those trees over there?” I pointed across the lake, “That’s Europe.”


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Blended Family


The Policeman’s Right of Way

8 tail lightsTo the best of my memory….. I was driving my girlfriend home from high school in my ’62 Impala. She lived about five miles out on the Yamhill Highway. Before we left town, heading north on Main Street just before we crossed the rail road tracks, she remembered she was supposed to bring home a gallon of milk. I hit the turn signal and made a quick left onto Grant Street to circle back to Nap’s. I hit the gas just enough to spin those chrome wheels and fish tail a little on that gravel street as we headed for the T in the road about two more blocks up where we would make another left. Just as we neared the intersection, a police car was approaching from the right. I was not speeding, but I was going fast enough that if I hit the brakes for a near panic stop, I would only skid foolishly through the gravel intersection, sloppily coming to rest in front of the oncoming patrol car, so I took my only real option, hit the turn signal and pulled a quick left – right in front of him.

I wasn’t completely surprised when his overhead lights came on; I pulled to the side of the road. There was a series of Dodge commercials on TV in those days featuring a southern police officer complete with cowboy hat, mirrored sun glasses, loud chewing gum and heavy accent; I swear it was that same officer who strolled up to my window and asked to see my Drivas’ license. I dutifully produced it along with registration and proof of insurance.

“Now Son….” He began, “Whad thay tell ya when you gotcha drivas license about the car on the right?”

That’s easy, I knew the answer so I quickly said, “The car on the right always has the right away.”

“That’s Right, That’s Right!” He shot back, “But I was on your right back there and you turned right in front of me.”

“I thought I had room,” was my best answer.

“Well, you made it, you made it,” he admitted, “but what woulda happened if I’d been goin a little bit faster and we’d had an accident?

That sparked a memory from the Traffic School classes I was sentenced to after an illegal left turn warning and then a run red light ticket. I knew the answerer to that one as well, so I very carefully said, “If you had been going any faster you probably would have been exceeding the speed limit, therefore forfeiting your right of way and the accident would have been your fault.”

He suddenly lost his footing as he stumbled back a step or two from my car, and after a brief, awkward silence, “That’s right….. That’s right!” he confessed with just a hint of reluctance in his voice.

He stretched his arm back through the window to hand me my papers and said, “You drive on now, and have a nice day. Ya hear?”

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I Don’t Repeat Myself For Idiots

I had a job washing dishes at Bowman’s Restaurant my sophomore year in Newberg. The cast of kitchen characters changed frequently, and for a while I worked with a guy named Dave. He was a year or two ahead of me in school. We had a good working relationship that included a lot of teasing and joking around. My job was washing dishes: scraping them off, loading them into the racks and sending them through the washing machine. Dave manned the large double sinks washing pots, pans, and large things.
One busy day, Dave offered a comment on something, but I didn’t quite hear what he said. I asked him, “What did you say?”
He answered, “I don’t repeat myself for idiots.”
I asked again, “What?”
He announced rather proudly, “I Don’t Repeat Myself For Idiots!”
I asked again, “Huh?”
Very loudly he began, “I   DON’T  REPEAT  MYSELF……… UGH!!!” He slammed the pan he was washing into the water, looked to the sky and let out a great moan, because he had just repeated himself three times for an idiot!

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Thirty-four years, one owner

When I was 15 I bought my first car, a ‘55 Chevy. I think I paid $75. It wasn’t a classic yet, and I didn’t own it long before trading it in on a Corvair. Years later as an adult, I really hoped one day to own a classic car. I never dreamed it would be my ‘79 Toyota SR5 pick-up.


ImageIt was Tuesday, March 20th, 1979. I was 27 years old when I signed the papers and brought home that brand new SR5. It was a beauty, and drove even nicer than our Celica. It aged gracefully, and over the years required little in repairs.

I still have the brochure and window sticker showing the price, $5,809.75. It was always garaged when not driven. After several years, I was accused of not liking to drive it because of the low miles on it. Now, after 34 years, 155,000 is still relatively low miles.


Last week I was on my way to an afternoon appointment when a young man in a Ford van ran into the back of my Toyota. I wasn’t stopped or stopping, he just came up on me fast and ran into me. He said he fell asleep. I suspect he was texting. It’s not against the law here to fall asleep at the wheel.


It doesn’t look like a lot of damage, tailgate and tail light, but upon closer inspection, the passenger side of the box is rippled, and the entire box is slightly tweaked counter clockwise. There’s even a dent in the back of the cab where my bucket seat hit on impact. Two body men and the insurance appraiser agree the pick-up is “totaled.” The independent company that calculates the pre-wreck fair value of the vehicle has not contacted me yet with their conclusion. I was warned that sentimental value will not increase the bottom line.

The appraiser said it’s not often you find someone who’s owned a car for thirty four years. Has it been that long?

The follow-up:

The insurance company representing the guy who hit me finally came up with a value they would give me for my truck, $1000. I told the agent that number was way to low; I would never sell it for $1000. She was not rude, but remained quite smug through the conversation with a, “take it or leave it – what else are you going to do” attitude. I suggested she find me a comparable Toyota pick-up as a replacement. She said, “We don’t have to do that. The law says all we have to do is pay you the fare market value.” I asked her who determined this was a fair market value, because it wasn’t. She made the offer again and I refused again saying I would never accept. I told her I had the truck covered for $3000 with Hagerty Classic Car insurance. She said, “Then why don’t you go collect from them?” I told her that I might, but I was suspicious that she didn’t have my best interest at heart with her suggestion.

I talked with my insurance agent. He said with an agreed value policy like I have, making this claim would not affect me negatively, so I made the claim. After another vehicle inspection, Hagerty paid the agreed value and sold the pick-up back to me for a very easy price. I’ll probably just keep it, maybe another thirty four years.