If you’ve read here long enough you know how much I love StoryWorth. They’ve sponsored weekly wrap-ups and helped keep things running and this week they bought an ad so I could buy 8 more coats for kids for the James Garfield Miracle. I also love them because they gave me the best Xmas present ever, a book filled with stories from my father.
Here’s how it works…StoryWorth emails a new question every week to whoever you gift with a StoryWorth subscription. (You get to help pick the questions you are most interested in.) The person responds with the answers and every week you get an email with wonderful/terrifying/baffling stories you never knew. Then at the end of the year StoryWorth prints it up into a hardcover keepsake book. Right now it’s just $59. I cannot recommend it enough and I thought I’d share a few of the recent stories I’ve gotten from my dad because they are amazing and also insane:
What are your favorite memories of each of your children growing up?
We lived in Austin when Jenny was born. I was in the Air Force protecting all of you draft dodgers. My bravery showed itself everyday when I would go to work, sit at a desk all day, and do paperwork. This was during the Vietnam war and I couldn’t even get a medal for a paper cut.
I remember that once while we were traveling, Jenny was not having a good time, and she started crying. Nelda was trying to calm her down, but the crying persisted. I, being a tough Sargent in the Air Force, told Nelda to just let her cry it out. Nelda told me that if she would let her cry, Jenny would make herself sick. Seconds later, Jenny throw up all over me. That’s when I realized Jenny outranked me.
Lisa is my youngest. She’s not only my daughter, she’s my little boy. She loved to go fishing and hunting with me, and she loved all the wild animals I would bring home. Lisa was not afraid of anything. She didn’t ask questions all the time. It seemed like she knew all the answers. You had to watch what you said around her, because it would get back to her momma.
One day I made some rifle targets out of metal. I cut them out in the shape of buffalos. They were anatomically correct buffalo bulls. I welded on a 5/16 hex nut in the appropriate place. Lisa helped me paint her new targets and observed the additions that I had welded on. “Daddy. What’s that?” I couldn’t lie to Lisa. “Baby Girl, that’s a 5/16 hex nut.” No more questions from Lisa. She bought it. That’s my boy!
Lisa was five years old and she had her own 22 rifle that I had miniaturized for her and we painted it pink. We set up her herd of buffalos and loaded her rifle. She was a good shot, soon she was killing buffalos. Momma was standing at the back door, watching the excitement. Lisa ran out to set the targets back up, but brought one bull back with her.
She had made a marginal shot on the buffalo but had managed to knock the welded part off.
Lisa ran to momma with news of her accomplishment. “Momma, Momma! I knocked its “NUT” off! Nelda screamed at me, “Henry, What are you teaching this girl?”
Once I went to the feed store and they had just got in some baby turkeys. I always wanted to get some turkeys for the kids (and me). I heard that turkeys were hard to raise, so instead of buying four, I brought home 18.
I guess I was just lucky or something, but all 18 turkeys lived. They all grew and they loved the kids. Jenny and Lisa loved them too when the birds were little, but they keep growing.
It wasn’t long before the 18 little turkeys weighed about 15 pounds each. Being followed by these stupid pet turkeys was beginning to be not as much fun. The girls wouldn’t go outside if the turkeys were around.
Jenny and Lisa attended Fairview School. It was located about 100 yards from our front door. I know it must have been a real hardship for these two little girls on the prairie, but they had to walk to school. They had to make sure the turkeys didn’t follow them.
One day near the end of school it was pretty hot inside the old school house so the teachers opened the front doors to enjoy the breeze. This just happened to be the day that the turkeys got lonesome for the girls. They strutted over to the front door of the school and since the doors were open, they realized it was an invitation to come in.
The janitor had just waxed the hall floors and the turkeys found them quite slippery. The turkeys were not potty trained and the slippery floors scared the turkey poop out of them.
The door to Jenny’s class was open and turkeys started flocking in. Jenny and Lisa were asked to escort their foul poultry home.
The turkeys were gone by the start of the next school year, and I had made a promise (under duress) to Nelda that there would be no more turkeys. Well, guess what had just arrived at the feed store? I only bought 6.
Tell me about one of the best days you can remember.
The best day that I can remember. My Mom died. Does that make any sense? I’ll try to explain it.
My mom was 68 years old when she died. She was 27 when I was born. When my Mom was 47 years old, she had an operation. The operation went okay, but she was given some bad blood in the transfusion. She got Hepatitis.
The doctor gave her 3 years to live.
Momma lived with a lot of pain. She constantly ate crushed ice just to ease the burning from the liver sorosis. She never drank alcohol, but she was dying from a disease that kills many old drunks.
Momma’s stomach was super extended and she had terrible pain in her legs from the knees to her feet. She would wrap them as tight as she could, but the pain did not go away. I would rub her feet, but I don’t think it eased the pain that much.
I stayed with her in the hospital there at the end. She couldn’t talk to me anymore. She was like in a trance. She kept repeating, Oh Yes Dear Lord. Oh Yes Dear Lord. She was ready to go home to Jesus.
I was watching E.T The Extraterrestrial on TV. E.T. was dying and the little boy was brokenhearted. The little boy, with tears in his eyes, asked his fading friend, “Will I ever see you again?” E.T. slowly raised his glowing finger and placed it on the boy’s temple. He said, “I’ll be right here.” I couldn’t hold the tears back. My Mom was talking to me thru E.T.
The next morning my mother was gone. Her body was cold. She was no longer in pain.
I realized that my pain of losing my mother slowly diminished over time, but I still remember her vividly. She is right there where E.T. said she would be.
What gives you peace of mind?
Watching old cowboys movies with my dad 60 years ago made me feel secure.
My dad made sure that we got home from town on Saturday night well before 6 p.m. The lineup was The Texan, Have Gun Will Travel, and Gunsmoke.
I remember getting up on my Daddy’s lap while he settled back in his recliner. Daddy would hand-roll a Bull Durham cigarette and let me lick the paper. Then we would watch cowboys, and I would play with the heavy smoke layer suspended in the den. Only during commercials. Sometimes Daddy would blow smoke rings for me.
As I remember these cherished times, I have peace of mind. I feel security, love, and purpose. I was relaxed after a hard day of playing, someone carried me to my bed, and I slept with a peaceful mind…and my teddy bear.
What is one of the most selfless things you have done in life?
A couple of years ago, Nelda and I were going to a movie around Christmas time. Nelda parked the car and I stepped out of the passenger seat. There was a large western wallet sitting on the asphalt just inches from our car’s rear tire. I opened the wallet and was shocked to find six brand new hundred dollar bills. We checked at the concession stand to see if anyone had reported losing a wallet but no one had.
We looked thru the wallet to identify the owner. There was a picture of a teenage cheerleader wearing a uniform from Sonora High School and a young boy’s drivers license in the wallet. The address showed him to be from Big Lake.
Nelda and I called the sheriff from Sutton county. He was a friend of mind. I told him about the wallet, and he gave me the number for the school superintendent.
The school superintendent from Sonora forwarded the info to the girl, she called the boys mom, who me immediately. Her son was frantic and was currently at IHOP. I told them I was on my way.
When I walked into IHOP, most customers looked my direction. I knew some of them. Others thought they knew me, cuz I was dressed like Santa Claus. Three teenage boys sat quietly at a back table. They weren’t happy. I sat down at the table next to them, ordered some water, and sat there for another minute.
I asked them “Why the long faces?” One kid told me that he had lost his wallet.
“Was there any money in it?”
“Yes sir. About six hundred dollars.”
“Wow, what did it look like? Did it look like this one?”
The boy, about 16, almost cried. They thanked me and said that they would continue to believe in Santa.
A few days later, the kids mom sent me a thank you letter. She said her faith in humanity was restored, and her belief in Santa was refreshed
I don’t know if I could call this incident selfless, cuz I received a great deal of pleasure being part of it.
How has your life turned out differently than you imagined it would?
I can’t imagine how my life would be different than it turned out. Everything in my life has been a surprise or a disappointment. Things that I had prepared for (or planned for) never turned out with the expected results. Nature got in the way. Finances (or lack of money) stood in the way. My changing dreams and changing ambitions changed the way. My faith ,and sometimes lack of faith, choose a different way.peace, sickness, and good health shaped my life. Good fortune and hardships took me on roads that I figured I would never travel, and see things that were unseeable.
I imagined that I would be a cowboy, tall in the saddle, riding a black horse with a long white mane and tail. I am tall (5ft. 16inches). I wear boots, and I have a barn full of old antique saddles. I have not rode on any of them. Real cowboys wore them out for me. I have dozens of spurs, but I have never put one on. My only horse is stabled in my shed and may never run again. I call him Penny Pony. He was a beautiful coin operated Mustang rescued from an amusement park in San Antonio. I put him out to pasture, but some day God willing I will get him galloping for the grandkids and great grandkids. They will all be cow-pokes. I will paint Penny Pony black with a white mane and tail. Or maybe I won’t.
I imagined that some day I would get married. I never imagined that it would be to Nelda. She was already spoken for,and I knew that there was not another girl like her. I couldn’t imagine that the whole world could change to allow me to have her as my wife.
I couldn’t imagine that we would have such beautiful children. Our children are pretty on the outside, and they are even prettier on the inside. Can you imagine that?
I went to college off and on for 10 years. I have almost got enough hours for three degrees, but I never graduated. Life got in the way. Or maybe Life took the reins and led me where I was supposed to go instead of where I thought I should go.
Every course that I took in College gave me pieces of information that brought me here. I didn’t get a diploma, but I got a lifetime supply of life lessons.
Before I’m gone, I’m going to organize all this junk, and finish all the projects that I have started but never finished. Unless Life gets in the way.
What was your favorite tv program when you were a child?
Our TV was broken a lot. Volume control worked good, but channel selector dial wore out quickly. We had a pair on vise-grip pliers permanently attached to the channel selector cuz the knob wore out. The rabbit ears antenna were always sagging, and I had to hold them up so we could get a picture. That was my job. Sonny, stand by the TV and hold that antenna.
I think that’s why I got such bad eyesight. Momma would say, “Sonny, don’t stand so close to the TV. You’ll ruin your eyes! Oh, I see you’re holding the Rabbit. Well, Stand over to the side a little. You’re blocking Lucy.”
One day I got an idea to make my antenna job easier. I got a piece of used tinfoil ( tinfoil was too expensive to use just one time). I attached each end of the fishy smelling tinfoil to each ear of the rabbit antenna. Not only did this keep the ears up, but the reception got better too. My momma thought her son was a genius. She picked up the phone to call my aunt Marcella and spread the news of her inventive son. She was delayed becuz we had a party line and it was busy. You never knew how long someone would be using the phone, so Momma would just listen in so she wouldn’t waste any airtime. We couldn’t have the volume up on the TV, cuz she didn’t want to interrupt anybodies private phone call. Before Momma was able to spread the news of the new invention, Someone hinted the news to some lady named Heloise, and everyone who could read a newspaper used my discovery. A patent on the idea would have made my family stinking rich for generations to come. But that was the 60’s, and household hacks, and youtube wasn’t around yet.
What did you hide from your parents as a child?
My parents knew I was a responsible kid for my age, so they let me make my own cannon fuse and gun powder instead of just buying it for me. Some parents now days will just buy their kids all the bomb-making supplies they want. They weren’t teaching their young aspiring rocket scientists anything about resourcefulness. A kid with the eagerness to learn a new trade that had all the diesel and fertilizer at his disposal was sure to go places. Prison, hospital, reform school, and the cemetery are a few of these places.
I never did make bombs. Bombs were illegal. I just made very powerful firecrackers. Very powerful! I would put a firecracker under a tin can, and record high it would go. I would put a double firecracker under a five gal. bucket, and would record how high it would go. My parents taught me to record this important information just in case I stumbled across an experiment that I didn’t want to repeat. If my parents lost a child because of something going wrong out in the barn, they would at least have something to laugh about in later years. They would also have an alibi that would satisfy child protective services.
What is one of the craziest things that’s ever happened to you?
What was one of the craziest things that ever happened to me? For my father’s day last year, my weird daughter gave me a strange gift. It was this thing called Storyworth. Every week, I’d get an email asking me a strange personal question. They wanted me to type my answer out on this damn computer. I don’t type and I don’t compute. Then I would have to hit a send button, and wait for a reply. A reply never came. Finally, up pops “Thank you5b0c0edde0250004e12f71-6c3a6.” I think their spell check got stuck or something. Speaking of spell check- Both of my daughters said they would show me how to use spell check. I’ve written 52 stories and now that it’s over, they still haven’t showed me how to use it. I’m 66 years old. I could spell good when I was 12. but I’ve forgotten even the easy words now. Whoever said.” Look it up in the dictionary!” must not have the same learning disablities that I suffer from.. I need a book that lists all the uncommon ways to misspell a word that I stabb at. At my age, I couldn’t lift a book that heavy, but maybe if I push it off the table, it will make a loud enough “BANG” to get my wife’s attention so she’ll come in here and spell “DISABLITIES” or “STABB” for me.
The craziest part of this ever-beckoning task was- I enjoyed it. It brought back memories that I forgot to remember. I remember things that I forgot or tried to forget. I can’t remember how much I forgot but if you don’t care, I don’t either.
My dad’s StoryWorth subscription is over and now I have this lovely book:
A few months ago I started a new subscription for my mom. I cannot recommend it enough if you’re looking for a great present to give someone you love. You can even buy one for yourself if you want prompts to help you write about your own life.