He who laughs last is usually a parent

“Some children threaten to run away from home. This is the only thing that keeps some parents going.”—Phyllis Diller

Just to clarify, I know it’s Father’s Day weekend. But, this week was also special because June 12th was my mother’s birthday. Indianola (“Inky”) Johnson Aldridge was born June 12, 1923. She’s been gone since December 8, 2010, but there has never been a June 12 that I don’t think about her, or any day for that matter.

If I knew where she got the nickname “Inky,” I’ve since forgotten it. Some assume she acquired it working for the Mount Pleasant Tribune for 17 years, but she was known as Inky a long before she ever saw the inside of a newspaper office.

I was blessed with wonderful parents. If you’ve followed the missives in this space for very long, you already know about my father and that was my hero for many reasons. Mom also blessed me with excellent traits for which I am thankful. Things like a love for books and reading, a “mostly” even-keeled temperament, an appreciation for music, the joy of friends, and a deeply-seated faith. I had no Saturday night curfew, but there was also no question where I would be Sunday morning—in church with her. It was mandatory, not an option.

Looking back, I tried to demonstrate my appreciation for the things my parents did for me the best way I knew how although I think at times, surely I was misunderstood.

Like the time when I decided to help out with family haircuts. Snip, snip and my little sister, Leslie, had a new haircut. Done playing barbershop, we took off down the hall past the closet mom was cleaning out. She looked up, then turned back to what she was doing. An instant later, her head snapped back toward us and her scream shattered any silence that may have prevailed. It scared me, I thought something was wrong with her. Well, something was wrong with her, but little did I realize it was my hair styling skills.

How was I to know that mom had done everything she could to make Leslie’s hair grow? I thought all little sisters required taped-on bows for church.

She picked up Leslie, looked at her head, and started sobbing. Sensing something was awry with our beauty shop game, I continued on toward the kitchen. Mom set Leslie on the floor and without taking a step, reached out, grabbed the waistband on my pants and began reeling me in.

Mom used her hairbrush to dispense corporal punishment in those days. Guess she figured that particular day if she didn’t need it for Leslie’s hair, she might as well apply it other ways.

Things settled down by Sunday when off to church we went, everyone with their hair nicely combed and Leslie sporting a bonnet. When mom tried to explain to friends what happened, the crying started all over again.

Another effort to show mom how much I appreciated her was a couple of years after the haircut when I thought she might be proud of my decision-making skills when I decided to go for ice cream with the neighbors. Ice cream is always good and we had good neighbors, there was nothing wrong with there either. And it wasn’t like I didn’t ask for permission— I did. The problems all started when she told me, “no.”

The neighbors were Catholic, had enough kids to field their own baseball team, and drove a big black Buick to haul them in. They were loading up to go and I could taste the ice cream. So, despite the fact that mom told me I couldn’t go, I went anyway.

Upon our return, mom was glad to see me—so glad that she was crying and babbling something about how she had been looking all over for me. When I told her where I had been, we reviewed the terms of our conversation after which she applied another dose of hairbrush helper. The fact that she was now able to use it for brushing Leslie’s hair didn’t deter her from using it once again for punishment purposes.

Another of mom’s good qualities was that she was understanding. As time went along, we both laughed about these episodes and others that followed through the years.

Best I can recall, she started laughing about them somewhere around the time I had children of my own.

—Leon Aldridge

Photo at top of the page—Undated snapshot of my parents, Leon (Buddy) Aldridge and Indianola (Inky) Aldridge published for memories of Father’s Day and my mom’s birthday. I suspect the photo was taken about the time of the episodes chronicled above or maybe slightly before. Certainly not the same day because they were both smiling.

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas Light and Championthe Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune, the Taylor, Texas, Press, the Alpine, Texas, Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Enforcing the rules while teaching by example

“If you set a good example, you need not worry about setting rules.” —Lee Iacocoa

If you earned a driver’s license in Texas about the time I did, you know it was a time when one small piece of pink paper was a rite of passage—a revered step toward adulthood. If like me, you also crossed that threshold in Mount Pleasant, you remember Gene Campbell, the Texas State Trooper who served in the Driver’s License Division for 37 years.

When I first got to know Mr. Campbell as a neighbor, a bicycle was still my means of transportation. And, I later knew his family from sharing a pew at the North Jefferson Church of Christ in Mount Pleasant.

Growing up on Redbud Street on Mount Pleasant’s south side in the late 50s and early 60s was a time when kids spent summer evenings after supper making memories playing neighborhood games like hide-and-seek, Red Rover, and dodge ball. The concentration of kids on Redbud then included Kris and Kim Campbell who lived three doors up the street from us where the Highway Patrol vehicle, as it was called back then, was a neighborhood fixture in the driveway.

It was also a time when we learned by example to show respect for others, to say, “yes sir” and “yes, ma’am,” to obey the law and respect the men and women who enforced it.

My parents left no doubt in my mind about an example of what to expect should I get into trouble at school or with an officer of the law. No questions asked—the word of the teacher or the police officer was enough. I knew the parental punishment awaiting me at home was worse than any I might have already received from those whose duty it was to enforce the rules.

Those examples set at home are why Gene Campbell and a generation of officers of the law then might have asked a young person regarding questionable conduct, “What would your daddy think?” Nothing was harder than the thought of having failed in my parent’s eyes or standing before my father to account for disrespecting the examples set for me. It was far more painful than a properly applied switch to the backside.

Like Mr. Campbell, Mount Pleasant Police Chief B.C. Sustaire was of that same generation of officers who understood that when a badge was respected, officers of the law could temper strict law enforcement with a dose of common-sense wisdom when the latter better served the purpose.

Skipping the details of the night that landed my friends and I at the police station to face Chief Sustaire, I’ll simply say that the chief quizzed us sternly about the mischief we he had been accused of and let us go home. We thought we had lucked out, but he knew that word traveled faster than wheels in a small town and when it reached our parents, we would be back. And he was right.

The chief was gracious when my father marched me to the police station a couple of days later. He knew justice had been served because he also knew I respected the example set by my father…who was somewhat less gracious once we got home.

DL book 1962-sm
1962 Texas Department of Safety Driver’s Handbook

As a driver’s license officer, about the worst outcome of any meeting with Mr. Campbell might have been failing a driving test. Fortunately, my experience with him as a freshman for a driver’s license, a commercial license the summer I graduated from high school, and a motorcycle endorsement while in college all had good outcomes.

Still, Mr. Campbell was the perfect example of a uniformed officer of the law who commanded respect. His military-style stature and esprit de corps step exemplified dedication to the uniform he wore. More importantly, however, he was at the same time always polite, always  professional, and always a good example to young people. I know he was to me which is why I was saddened to read that Mr. Campbell passed away May 25.

Although his job was to enforce the rules, I remember him as someone who set a good example as a neighbor, a Christian, and an officer of the law.

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas Light and Championthe Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune, the Taylor, Texas, Press, the Alpine, Texas, Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The best part about memories is making them

“We had no idea we were creating memories, we just thought we were having fun.” —author unknown

“You’ve enjoyed many adventures,” a good friend complimented me a couple of weeks ago. “Adventures? I just enjoy having fun.”

The conversation started while recounting a fun story involving a mutual friend, Jimmy Mason at Mason Hardware in Mount Pleasant, Texas. I was a brand-new pilot in 1974 with less than 100 hours logged, Jimmy was a student pilot working on his license, and we shared a common instructor in Grady Firmin who suggested, “Let’s go to the CAF air show down in Harlingen.” The CAF, aka the Commemorative Air Force, has for decades produced one of the best air shows in the country celebrating vintage military warbirds. Their spine-tingling re-enactment of the 1941 surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War II, “Tora Tora, Tora,” is something not soon forgotten.

CAF Tora
Commemorative Air Force, “Tora, Tora, Tora,” 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor reenactment. Photo Credit — Commemorative Air Force / CAF Wings Over Dallas / tora_Brian Silcox

A plan was forged for flying to the southernmost border of Texas loaded with bags and bedrolls for camping under the wings. For reasons lost to time, I was designated pilot-in-command, student-pilot Jimmy filled the right seat, and Grady, a Vietnam veteran combat pilot with logbook entries for flying Huey gunships and F-8s off aircraft carriers took the back seat. Go figure!

“Let’s go,” Grady said. “Wait,” I objected, “We need weight and balance checks with all this baggage and a full load of fuel.”

“Give it ten degrees of flaps,” Grady commanded. “Run up to full power and release the brakes. If she doesn’t want to fly by mid-field, stop. We’ll throw some of this stuff out and try again.”

The plane lifted off albeit begrudgingly, and we were headed south as sunlight slipped away. I still maintain that the most memorable sunsets and sunrises are those viewed from a mile high or more.

A stop for the night in Corpus Christi and we were back at the airport early the next morning. I prefilghted the plane and requested a Brownsville sectional to get us to Harlingen. Navigation then was with paper sectionals, not a whole lot unlike a Texaco road map.

“Sold out,” the attendant replied. “Everybody’s headed to Harlingen.”

“How do we get there without a sectional?”

“Easy,” he said. “Fly the coastline south toward Mexico until you don’t hear English on the radio any more. Turn around, fly back about 30 miles and you should be pretty close.” His intent was humor…I think.

The serenity of the early morning flight down the coast was interrupted when we began to encounter hundreds of other planes swarming the area heading for the same place. “Enter holding pattern over Combes,” the radio repeated, “Maintain 500-feet vertical spacing, when the last digit of your N number is called, switch to tower frequency and enter left downwind for 35, maintain one-mile spacing on final.”

We joined the others circling the tiny burg of Combes below us where we stayed until I had memorized the recorded instructions and the fuel gauge was about to bottom out. Finally, I heard the magic number—ours. On final approach, airspeed was bleeding off and runway was rising up to greet us when the tower directed, “Go around—you’re too close to the aircraft ahead of you.”

“Forget it”, Grady said from the back seat, “You’re fine!” Who was I to argue with the veteran? Keying the mic, I replied, “Negative Harlingen tower, insufficient fuel for go-around.”

Seconds later, I pulled the nose up to flare for landing and breathed a sigh of relief as the tires chirped on the runway confirming our reunion with Mother Earth. We had arrived.

Loaded with memories of one of the best airshows on earth for the return trip home a couple of days later, we touched down at Mount Pleasant about midnight with no clue regarding the value those memories would have in the years to come. After all, we were just having fun.

—Leon Aldridge

A&A 4-11-17 group photo-sm
“Long-time Friends” (from left to right) Albert Thompson; retired CAF “Tora” pilot Charles Hutchins; Jim Chionsini; and Leon Aldridge. (2017)

P.S: “Tora” footnote—Not long after this adventure, I was fortunate to meet Charles Hutchins, one of the CAF “Tora” pilots, and to call him my friend ever since. Charles retired as a Tora pilot a few years ago, and his son, Patrick, now flies the same replica Japanese Zero aircraft in the CAF airshows. The replica airplane Hutchins flies was built by 20th Century Fox Corp. for the 1970 movie “Tora! Tora! Tora!”

 

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas Light and Champion,the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune, the Taylor, Texas, Press, the Alpine, Texas, Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I’m not going to sleep before the dogs do

“If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm”
— Frank Lane, American baseball executive

“I slept through the whole thing,” my Abilene cousin, Fred Scott (better known to family and friends as Derf) laughed Saturday evening. After learning about the tornado that hit the West Texas town where he lives Saturday morning, I was quick to check on him.

The twister inflicted heavy damage on dwellings, businesses and a nursing home in the South 7th Street area, but there were thankfully no fatalities. Derf and his family live on South 20th, a respectable distance away geographically if you live in Abilene but way too close for comfort when the topic is tornadoes.

That same system made its way to East Texas Saturday night and was bearing down on Center by bedtime. The wind was wailing and thunderstorms raging as I waited out the 2 a.m. tornado watch expiration time. Spring weather in East Texas reminds me of West Texas tornado nights as a youngster where storm cellars were commonplace in the 1950s. When not providing shelter from storms, cellars served as a cool place for storing vegetables from the garden and for kids to play on hot summer afternoons.

When skies darkened and weather threatened, however, nights were spent in the cellar napping on cots by the warm glow of kerosene lantern light. My father often stood at the top of the stairs in the cellar doorway to watch the storm as he did the night in Seymour when I watched with him. The black funnel across town danced through the night sky illuminated by lightning and snapping power lines. Those memories of the twister gyrating through the small West Texas town leaving what the next day’s sunrise revealed to be a path of destruction have endured for 60 years. Images of weather’s wild side illuminated by the storm that spawned it plays vividly in my mind every time one of nature’s most violent forms of wrath comes to life.

Last Saturday night was no exception. I grew uneasy as did our three dogs when the storms rolled in. One, too old to jump on the bed, went under it while the other two hit the topside and burrowed under the cover amid whines and whimpers.

With the security alarm set and weather notifications on my phone turned on, I joined the two on top of the bed but kept my options open for joining the senior canine hunkered under it.

Weather alerts were frequent tracking thunderstorms, flash floods, and tornado watches into the wee hours. Both the dogs and I maintained our respective bed positions until I drifted off still holding my evening cup of tea. My dream-like memories of long-ago stormy nights and the dog’s nervous antics were quickly interrupted when a lightning flash and resounding clap of thunder made me jump sending tea across the bed and the dogs into another round of frightened frenzies.

With the same curiosity my father displayed decades ago out in West Texas, I stepped into the garage to watch Saturday night’s storm. Mere minutes had passed when another bolt flashed near enough that the ensuing thunder cracked before the flash had diminished to darkness. “That’s enough storm watching for me,” I said to the dogs, but I was talking to myself. They were long gone back in the house. Resuming our respective spots in and under the bed, I soon drifted off to dreamland as storms diminished, tornado watches expired and dogs relaxed.

I don’t think sleeping through a storm like Derf did would ever be an option for me. There’s no way I’m going to sleep before the dogs do.

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune, the Taylor, Texas, Press, the Alpine, Texas, Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

My life story could not be told without Sears & Roebuck

“My dad’s idea of a good time is to go to Sears and look around.” —Jay Leno

I’m not sure that looking around at Sears ever scored any treasures, but rummaging around antique shops for treasures or memories and finding a 1970 Sears catalog at Nettie’s Nook in Center, Texas, a couple of weeks ago was some of both.

The treasure was expanding my catalog collection to three adding to my 1966 Winter Sale and 1955 Summer Sale catalog. The pièce de résistance will be a copy of the Sears “Christmas Wish Book.”

On the memories side, anyone who remembers spending hours with the “Wish Book” trying to decide what you wanted Santa to bring, raise your hand. Yep, just as I suspected. Those hands in the air belong to those of us who are a little more “experienced” in life while the younger hands are busy scratching heads. “Wish Book?”

The once retail and mail order giant whose obituary was finalized as 2018 ended will apparently survive to fight another day, albeit different from the business those of us with our hands in the air grew up with.

Sears cameraMy life story could not be told without mention of the chain of department stores founded by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck in 1893. Thanks to my grandmother, I was in the first grade before I learned that I wasn’t sourced from the iconic catalog. Granny always referred to the catalog company as Sears’s which she pronounced “searz · iz.” By whatever name, even at a young age, I knew it was time to straighten up and fly right when she said, “You better mind me or I’m gonna send you back to Sears’s!”

That threat spoke volumes about the retailer’s role in small-town life in the 20th Century. First, Sears was more than a store, it was a way of life. The variety of goods and services available for ordering was the ultimate marketplace, much like Amazon is today. Find it in the catalog, fill out the order blank, and mail it off to the Chicago-based company along with your check or money order. Within a couple of weeks, your anticipated package was on your doorstep or at the local store.

Also, if the Sears Easy Payment Plan didn’t close the sale, the Sears Guarantee printed in every catalog would: “If for any reason you are not satisfied with any article purchased from us, we want you to return it to us at our expense.”

Most of my grade-school shirts that Mom and Granny didn’t make came from Sears advertised for 84¢ in the Summer Sale catalog when ordered in lots of six.

In junior high when I was certain I would be scarred for life if I didn’t have a motor scooter, the Cushman Allstate advertised at $229 in the Winter Sale catalog was my dream.

Sears tires

My first car in high school ran on tires: $41 for a set of four and batteries that sold for $10.45 ordered today and picked up next Tuesday at Sears in Mount Pleasant, Texas.

My son, Lee, who is celebrating his 39th birthday the same day I am writing this, was already an ardent angler at age 10 when he fished Lake Murvaul in a small boat from Sears ordered from the Center, Texas, “catalog store” on Shelbyville Street for $184.95.

After a 97-year-history, Sears big-book catalogs disappeared in 1993. Only the Wish Book endured in smaller versions. It has randomly reappeared since, but nothing resembling the holiday tradition treasured by generations of children looking forward to Christmas morning.

I miss the Sears catalog. And while I did eventually see Chicago, fortunately, it was on my terms and not with Granny exercising the Sears return policy.

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune, the Taylor, Texas, Press, the Alpine, Texas, Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One little word can float your boat or sink your ship

“It’s only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away.”
—Song lyrics by The Bee Gees 1967

Having been a lover of words and a writer of one persuasion or another all my life, I tend to get fired up over words and the power they possess. There is gratification in choosing the right words and assembling them in the right order to create precise and effective communication. Yep, I’m a word nerd and that’s why my eagerly awaited Merriam-Webster (M-W) vocabulary word builder email can very often fuel that fire into a frenzy.

The M-W topic one day last week was about correctly choosing the word “boat” or “ship” to accurately describe a specific variety of watercraft and recognizing the defining characteristics of each to make the right choice. After polling a fleet of knowledgeable sources for definitions that have been floated on the topic, the final analysis was that most of them lack the exacting language a dictionary is expected to contain.

One of the more thought-provoking examples was, “You can put a boat onto a ship, but you can’t put a ship onto a boat.” Another was, “A boat is what you get into when the ship sinks.” My personal favorite was, “a boat is a dish you put the gravy in.”

Discussion docked at the conclusion that terminology more specific than “ships are bigger than boats,” was yet to be put into words. I’m thinking this confusion could be clarified with a quick note to my seafaring friend, Jim Chionsini, who could easily chart a course to the right conclusion.

Sailing on to smoother water, M-W succinctly stated in another article that, “The English language never sleeps, and neither does the dictionary.” Noting new words added by the 191-year-old company’s vocabulary volumes as of April of 2019, M-W stated, “a dictionary is a work in progress and reflects the shifts in culture and communication.” That is something of which every wordsmith worth his or her weight in words is keenly aware. And, if there’s anything that will spark more vigorous conversation among writers than determining which word is the best choice, it might be debating the use, or sometimes the usefulness, of new additions to the dictionary.

Some changes for April included, “snowflake” declaring it something other than simply frozen precipitation. The word has been bantered about in the media so much that it has now been branded as “someone regarded or treated as unique or special” and “someone who is overly sensitive.”

The same goes for poor “purple” which is no longer seen as just one of the 64 happy Crayon colors in the big box with the built-in sharpener I coveted as a kid. It’s now officially defined as a reference to “geographical areas where voters are split between Democrats and Republicans.”

Even Goldilocks’ picky porridge sampling in the classic story about her encounter with the three bears has made her name a metaphor that astronomers use to describe as “an area of planetary orbit in which temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold to support life.”

Whether it’s the freshly-minted words or those new definitions asserted to some old familiar faces, shifts in culture and communication can keep a wordsmith busy by day searching for the right definition and awake at night evaluating connotations within society. After all, the choice of one little word for your next literary masterpiece just might be the difference in whether you float your boat or sink your ship.

I used to worry that with my luck, my ship would finally come in on a day when I was at the airport. I’ve decided there’s no need to fret about it, though. As the song goes, “It’s only words …” And, the meaning of those words will likely have changed by the time my ship comes in anyway. Or, is it my boat?

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune, the Taylor, Texas, Press, the Alpine, Texas, Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What’s needed most is a sense of humor

“Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.”—Will Rogers

That humorous view by one of the country’s wittiest philosophers of the last hundred years is funnier today considering both groups are a joke that can’t be taken seriously. All at a time when what society needs most is a sense of humor.

Apparently, things are not funny out in California at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area where dune buggies have enjoyed the sand ever since a guy named Miller is said to have invented the first sand buggy in the 1930s. Residents building homes near there in the last 15 years now claim “particulate dust” and excessive noise from the recreational vehicles is deteriorating the sand’s natural crust that permits vegetation to grow on the dunes. The dune buggy crowds disagree, they say it’s a natural occurrence.

 

Pismo duens 1967
Two buggies meet in the Pismo Beach sand dunes – Summer 1967

Me, I’m just enjoying memories of that same sand when it was called Pismo Beach in the summer of ’67 between college semesters. It was a summer of muscle cars, hot rods, Beach Boys on the radio, bikinis on the beach at Malibu, surfboards, and dune buggy weekends at Pismo— a summer like nothing I had experienced in my 19 years in Texas.

 

Mom’s younger brother, my Uncle Bill, was one of several San Fernando Valley area Volkswagen body shop managers who built and enjoyed dune buggies—a VW chassis, motor, roll bar and seats with farm implement tires on the rear to dig into the sand. Uncle Bill was also my summer host and my employer.

After the three-hour Saturday trek up Highway 101 north to Pismo, camp was set up on the beach before hours of challenging the sand commenced. Charging up dunes slowing just enough for the front wheels (or sometimes all four) to become airborne before coming back to earth on the other side was a test of man and machine. Not to mention a lot of fun.

Pismo buggy 1967Memories were made where fun prevailed and a sense of humor was standard fare. Perhaps the biggest jokester was Ralph, the seasoned veteran painter in Uncle Bill’s shop who taught me how to paint a car. He was a bit crusty, if anything, but a magician with a paint gun who imparted skills to me I parlayed into a job back in Texas to pay for my education.

Ralph’s finest moment had to be the flag incident. Buggies were fitted with “whip antennas” topped with brightly-colored flags designed for visibility from the other side of a dune when two buggies were coming up opposite sides.

 

Ralph’s new flag that weekend was noticeably … different. “Where’d you get that flag, Ralph,” someone asked. In his gruff tone, he responded with a smile, “Ladies department at the dry goods store—the biggest one they had.” The unique design of Ralph’s “double-barrel” flag combined with the emergency orange paint job he applied to the device emphasized its size so that no one missed it.

The first trip out that weekend, however, Ralph came roaring back into camp where someone pointed out that his flag was missing. Visually confirming the flag’s absence, he lamented that maybe he didn’t fasten it securely enough. Then he started chuckling before finally laughing out loud.

“What’s so funny,” Uncle Bill asked.

“I’m thinking about the poor guy who found it,” Ralph laughed. “He’s probably still out there running the dunes with a big smile, trying to find the woman who lost it.”

With politicians who are jokes, comedians who are too political to be funny, and squabbles over the use of public land, seems to me that more folks with a sense of humor like Ralph’s are sorely needed.

—Leon Aldridge

(Photo at top of the page by “Uncle Bill” Johnson at Pismo Beach, California in the summer of 1967. Dune buggy driver is yours truly and the passenger is Ronnie Lilly, my friend and MPHS classmate who made the memorable summer trip to California with me.)

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas Light and Championthe Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune, the Taylor, Texas, Press, the Alpine, Texas, Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.