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The Policeman’s Right of Way

To 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Bike Basket Ride

By Scott Canfield 2012

Main Street, Newberg, Oregon, 1956.  I was four years old, sitting in a basket as big as a grocery cart on the front of a big old fat tire tank of a bicycle moving under the power of my teen-aged uncle.

We turned north on Main as we left the gravel of Fifth Street.  We were making good time, but I don’t remember where we were going.  Doesn’t matter, we never made it.  There was no traffic on the street, and my uncle started swerving the bike left and right, gradually sweeping wider and leaning the bike farther with each pass.

I’m hanging on tight inside the basket yelling, Stop! Stop!  Uncle Larry is warning, “Whoa, we’re gong to crash!” as we leaned hard left.  “No, no, I got it,” as the bike became vertical again. Then, Woop, woop, oh no, here we go,” as the bike leaned dangerously to the right side, and then, “No, no, we’re okay, I got it.”

And then on the next sweep, “Oh, no, look out!  I think we’re gonna ……..”  This time, the bike was leaning so far on its side that the pedal hit the pavement and the bike flipped on its side and slid.  I was thrown from the basket and rolled like a Presto Log to the curb.

I did a quick self inventory, all limbs were attached and there was no blood.  It was time for Uncle Larry to pay for his error in judgment.  I employed the only weapon I had.  I opened my mouth, tipped my head back, drew in a deep breath and cried as loud as I could, “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

Feet Won't Reach

That's me at Grandma's house on 5th Street,
on the two wheel tank

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One Last Walk Through

By Scott Canfield ~1995

How strange for this house to be empty.

I mean completely empty. Silent, except for the spattered, vacant nail holes in every wall, each mourning their loss. All the pictures of family faces are gone. The buffalo head is gone, as are the walrus tusks and the king crab. The painted saws, long horns, and hooked rugs are gone. The big paintings and the little pictures, the calendars, the ticking clocks, the thimble collection, all the things that testified to the personality of the inhabitants; all gone.

Now I can see the carpet reaches all the way to the walls. Permanent impressions mark where the chairs and end tables dropped anchor years ago.

There are so many memories in this house. We removed all the contents but the memories are still here, more vivid than ever, as if highlighted by the sun shining through the bare windows. The memories seem to be shouting and waving their arms, competing for attention as I walk from one empty room to the next. How can I gather them up? If I don’t take them with me to a safe place, will they fade from my mind?

The memories were content here when the folks were home and the house was warm, always a welcome place, always-good conversation, always people you want to grow up to be like.

They say time marches on, but in the solitude of this deserted house, time seems to drape like cobwebs across the bleak walls, it leans up in the corners, and stretch across the windowsills.

 

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TOP SPEED

By Scott Canfield ~1995

I made the 30 mile bicycle trip from Newberg to my old neighborhood in North East Portland to visit my girlfriend.  A significant gesture, I thought, for a fifteen year old on a ten speed.

The summer weather was good, and except for the bike chain coming off a couple times, the journey was enjoyable.

I made my return trip the next afternoon.  The sun was setting as I passed through Sherwood; eight more miles and I’d be home.

After the day’s heat, the cool late evening air felt good on my skin; I was wearing only my old ragged cut-offs and a pair of moccasins (to protect my feet from the sharp metal peddles).

When I started down Rex Hill’s steep, mile long slope, I shifted up into tenth gear and got the pedals going around so fast that my feet couldn’t keep up with them.

The bicycle tires were spinning with such speed they made a strange hum I had never heard before, I’d never gone that fast!

Coasting, I rested my fingers across the top of the rams horns handle bars and relaxed as the swiftness of my flight through the twilight air swept away the sweat from my body.

I could feel how the gyro force of the spinning wheels gently resisted my steering.

In the murkiness ahead, I noticed a shadow about the size of half a loaf of bread, directly in my path.  Before the message to turn could get from my head to my arms, I hit that rock and was immediately riding a wheelie, teetering on the bike seat with my empty hands reaching out ahead of me, my feet dangling behind the pedals, and the gooseneck and handle bars up in front of my face.

For an instant, time stopped, then it raced very quickly.  As I balanced there, at what felt like the speed of light, I didn’t breathe and I didn’t hear a sound.

In a fraction of a second, I wondered how much skin I’d lose on the pavement before sliding to a stop at the bottom of the hill, and if I’d then be able to crawl off the road before getting run over by traffic.

The front of the bike began to drop back to the ground.  I knew my only chance of remaining upright was to somehow grab the handlebars and straighten the wheel before it touched down.  With one desperate try, I found the familiar grip, and then felt the wheel hitting the street.

The bike swerved a hard left and then right as I recovered my balance.  I was suddenly aware that my heart was pounding harder than ever before in my life.

I gently squeezed the brakes and slowed to a stop, got off and walked the bike until my body stopped shaking.

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Cooked Cabbage

By Scott Canfield 1997

We sat around the heavy wooden dinner table in the middle of the kitchen.  On one side of us was the huge porcelain kitchen sink, at the opposite wall was the old wood cook stove that kept the kitchen a very dry warm, and produced the daily supply of corn bread.  On the third wall was the electric stove and refrigerator; the door to outside was opposite that.

It was 1962 in Vancouver, Washington.  Although we’d lived there a year, this was still a stranger’s house.  I was ten, my two sister’s (the twins), sitting to my left were eight years old, my two half brothers to my right were six and five.  Across the table from me sat the Foster Mother, who in my memory would always resemble the wicked witch of the west.

This was the third foster home we’d been held in, counting our lock-in at the Juvenile Detention Hall, that brick building with bars on the windows.  Mom took us there, cried and said those foreign words, “I love you,” then left.  This was all happening while my brother’s dad was divorcing our mom.  There was a custody battle, and we were being held in the court’s custody.

I remember the day we arrived at this third stop on our unhappy journey.  Mom and Grandma were allowed to transfer us from the last foster home to this one.  We rolled up the long gravel driveway in our ’59 Impala, stopping at the farm-house with green aluminum siding.  I remember a lot of crying, I cried my eyes out.  I didn’t realize it then, but in a way it was good for me, I used up all the tears and wouldn’t have to cry again for a long, long time.

After mom left, the old woman there and another hostage (a thirteen year old girl) offered us gum to stop our crying.  I learned that it is in fact very difficult to cry and chew gum at the same time. Then the old woman sought to get our minds on other things, so she asked us the question that was on many third grader’s lips, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

I don’t know,” I answered.  “It was the CHICKEN,” she proclaimed, “And I can PROVE it!”

Proof?  “OK”, I said, “Prove it.”

She then pulled out a bible and read in Genesis how God created all the animals and birds, it didn’t mention any eggs.  Then she explained that the people in her church go to church on Saturday, and that the rest of the world was wrong for going on Sunday, and that she could prove that too.  Without the invitation, she pulled the bible again, cracked it open and read that God rested on the seventh day.  She poked her bony finger solidly on the wall calendar and beginning with Sunday she counted out loud, “one, two, three, four, five, six, SEVEN.  See?  Proof! “Saturday is the seventh day!”

She didn’t like it at all when I suggested counting from Monday, the first day of the week.  “We don’t start there.” was her only defense.  I thought it was funny that they still called their Saturday morning bible study classes “Sunday School.”

This strict, cold, old woman had a few acres of land with some cattle and chickens, and a very large garden.  She had no husband, but from time to time, a grizzly, unshaven old lumberjack named Todd would stay with her.  I soon came to realize that in keeping foster kids, she got paid to have farm help.  I fed the chickens and cows daily, collected the eggs, worked in the garden, and carried irrigation pipes.  I looked forward to going to school.

For that year, we never watched TV.  There was one in her living room, but she told us it was broken.  I got in trouble when I asked if I could turn it on and see how broken it was.  I asked her when she was going to get if fixed.  “Not while you’re living here,” she scowled.

This two faced old women was as sweet as sugar when our mom or our case worker came to visit.  The case worker asked good questions, but I couldn’t answer truthfully because the old women would be hovering just around the corner, and we would (and did) get in trouble for anything we said.

One day when she had my sisters and I in the basement, helping her feed wet cloths through the “ringer”, I said to her, “Mom’s going to court to get custody of us.  Then she’s going to take us away from here.”

She sneered down at me and said in an accusing voice,” Yur mother’s never gonna  get you, you’re gonna stay right here.  And if by chance she did, don’t worry- you’ll be back.”

Dinner time had its standard menu items, we ate brown beans and corn bread with every evening meal.  Then there were the occasional special items from the garden, like fried squash or cooked cabbage.  The old women would force us to eat what ever she put on our plate.

Our options for making this food disappear were this: wash down tiny bites, rearrange the food on the dish so it appeared to be disappearing, or, as the others tried unsuccessfully, drop bits of food to the floor.  But they were stupid, I knew it was much better to drop it to your chair, then with your finger, flick it to the floor under someone else’s chair.

At least once during each dinner, as was her daily hideous routine, the old woman would rise from the table, step over to the wood stove, put the chrome handle into the slot and lift open the small, round, black cast iron stove lid, then, loudly snorting, gagging, and back-of-the-throat clearing, she would conger up and then expel this long, slimy brown gob of gook.  It would stretch from her mouth to the stove before breaking loose.

Today, at this particular meal, we were served cooked cabbage.  She slopped it onto our plates and told us we were going to eat it.  Each of us were working on it in our own way, except my next younger brother, Loren.  He ate the other food, but completely ignored that little soggy green pile.  The old women looked at him and promised, “You will eat it!”

To make her word good, she got up and stood behind his chair with the whipping stick, and commanded, “Eat it!”  Loren, under duress, slowly put a fork to the limp green slop and poked at it as she shouted again, “EAT IT!”  He was fighting back the tears, as were we all, when he asked, “Uh, can I put it on some bread, like a sandwich?”

The old women’s eyes looked down and then up, and still standing guard there she agreed that he could eat it with bread.  All eyes were on Loren as he timidly reached for a slice of white bread and plopped a portion of cooked cabbage onto it, and then folded it in half.

“NOW EAT IT!” She demanded in her witch of the west voice, as she raised the whipping stick over her head.

Loren slowly raised the sandwich to his mouth and held it there as he made some muffled moaning noises.  “EAT IT!” She screamed again.

“Uhhhhh, uhhhhhhhhh; BLAAAAAAA,” were the noises Loren made up to the point when he vomited hard into and through his cooked cabbage sandwich, and all over the table.

He was screaming and crying as she was yelling and whipping him down the hall and up the stairs to our bedroom.