Bud and Schoolie ©2014 L.E. Taylor

American history lesson, recounted by L.E. Taylor

When you’re crouched down behind home plate, a baseball game looks different than ordinary spectators ever see. Through the steel bars of a mask it’s framed, more focused. The ball gets to the action zone faster than a civilian can imagine.

A late August sun pounds the dusty Jayne Field diamond under a brassy sky. This ballgame has been tied twice over eight hot innings. Now with two outs, the team at bat has a man on second. The pitch comes like a lightning strike and the hitter drives a sharp grounder into right; the charging fielder gathers it up and throws in one motion. The relay and the runner arrive at the plate in a dust cloud of pink clay and chalk. It’s a dead tie.

“Yer-OUT!” the umpire barks.

1944. South Pacific War Zone

The muzzle end of a sawed off shot gun prodded the Jap officer along the deck of the USS Icefish. The yeoman, 2nd Class had plunged into dark waters to pull the guy from his sinking junk. It was the Jap’s lucky day.

They proceeded along the slippery deck, down into the American submarine, the yeoman sailor guiding his prisoner from behind. It had been a violent night of surface fighting. The war was in its last dangerous months and the Japanese were trying to evacuate (sneak) their important personnel back to Nippon, but the Navy was onto it and one prize of this particular patrol off the New Guinea coast carefully descended the ladder, dripping wet and sullen.

In the captain’s cabin, the interrogation began. Nineteen year-old Yeoman Masinick handed the shot gun to a mate and stood at rest next to his Exec, eyes on the Jap. Captain Petersone opened the Japanese-English manual and awkwardly began the questioning. Masinick, also the sub’s scribe (log-keeper), tried to follow along, using his own text. Finally, the prisoner looked at the captain, then quizzically at the young sailor. “What’s wrong with you, don’t you speak Engrish?”

It was twelve years later before anyone laughed.

Julius Masinick was the son of Ukrainian immigrants. On 08 December 1941, graduation from Detroit Eastern High School was just six months away. That morning, one day after the Pearl Harbor attack, his counsellor assembled senior boys in the gym. He said, “I know you want to enlist. Don’t be stupid; get your diploma; you’re gonna be drafted anyway.” Julius listened. In June, he found himself with a high school diploma from the best public school system in America, and by summer’s end, he was getting used to his new home in the United States Navy.

Julius was restless. He was six feet tall, fit, and no dummy. This was a chance that only comes once in a lifetime. So he volunteered for submarine duty. His personality and his physique got him the nickname “Bruiser”. In no time, it got shortened to Bud.

Navy boot camp would consist of eighteen weeks at Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago. Bud had been a good kid-ballplayer in the tough American Legion League on Detroit’s East Side. At Great Lakes he was just another sailor learning the ropes. It happened, though, that the navy’s premier baseball team, the Bluejackets, was also stationed there. The All-Star services league was formed as a morale boost for U.S. troops. Bob Feller, Johnny Mize, Dom DiMaggio, Barney McCosky, Virgil Trucks were a few of the sixty or so pros at Great Lakes who’d put their careers on hold for the Duration.

The Bluejackets team was led by Hall of Fame Tiger manager Mickey Cochrane. For some reason, maybe Bud’s Detroit roots, Cochrane took a liking to the kid. So did the great Tiger pitcher, “Schoolboy” Rowe, star of three pennant seasons and a World Series Championship. By the end of Bud’s boot camp, the green sailor and the veteran pitcher, Schoolie, had spent countless hours talking baseball.

Then the kid was gone, shipped out to sub school in Connecticut.

After New London, Bud found himself in Pearl Harbor for assignment at sea. Passing a practice diamond on his way to the sub pen, Bud recognized a pitcher wearing the distinctive Bluejackets jersey. “Schoolie!” Bud called out.

“Julie!” The big Texan jogged over to the low fence.

“They call me ‘Bud’ now Schoolie.”

At age fifteen, Lynwood Rowe had pitched phenomenally in an adult league, and in 1932 he won nineteen games in the Texas League. The Tigers signed him in ’33. He won twenty-four games for the ’34 American league champs. Now in his thirties, Schoolboy Rowe looked at the submariner insignia on Bud’s collar. “Well, you done it. Why’d you go and do a dumb thang like that, boy? You could get killed.”

Bud laughed. “You only get one chance, Schoolie.” The veteran smacked the ball into his lumpy glove, nodded, and extended his hand. “You got that right, Bud.”

By V-J Day in 1945, Bud had been on five 60-day patrols with the Icefish, in three battles, and had endured the heart-pounding terror of depth charges more than once. “It was like being sealed in an oil drum,” he recalled, “while ten guys beat on the outside of it with baseball bats.”

Postwar found Bud playing first base in the Carolina Leagues, and he went to one spring training with Toledo. But he had a different world view now. It was time to settle down and he got hired by a Detroit chemical company.

“Well, that’s baseball,” old pal Schoolboy Rowe opined. “At least ya made it out alive.”

Bud married and needed extra income. He’d earned a little by “reffin’ ” youth basketball at Franklin Settlement, one of the city’s big housing projects. One day, a friend said the DABF needed umps; lots of ballgames every week, good pay. Bud was thirty-five.

2005. Jayne Field, Detroit East Side

“Yer-OUT!”

The dust hasn’t settled and the kid leaps to his feet, screaming. “Bull sh…”

“That’s enough of that.” Bud Masinick removes his steel mask. “You slid around the plate. You gotta touch it.” The player explodes, his face is inches from the ump’s.

Bud looks directly into the blazing eyes of the eighteen year old. “Son, you didn’t hear me. Play’s over. Go sit down.” The tantrum continues, spittle and curses fly. “Son, you’d better go back to the dugout and sit down.” Bud leans in closer to the kid and whispers, “Or you’re gonna have to explain to your friends why you got knocked on your ass by an eighty year old man.”

Bud walks away, pulls out a bandana. “That’s baseball, Schoolie,” he says softly to no one. He wipes the sweat from the inside of his mask. “Yep. That’s baseball.”

Those Who Will Not Speak

A stream of consciousness by L. E. Taylor

We’d only been in the new house for a month or so. The neighborhood was being built from scratch along a new treeless street called Harvard Road. It was paved with some kind of coarse unfriendly composition. You could clearly see the rough particles of crushed stone that made up the surface. It was solid and looked smooth, but to the tender knees and elbows of a four-year-old whose perception was informed much closer to the ground than an adult’s, it was unfriendly.

I’d just taken a spill off my red tricycle making a quick turn at our driveway. The knee was scraped and bloodied. I was sitting on the greensward between the new concrete sidewalk and the gently beveled concrete curb. It was low-sloped, and not easy to sit on unlike the higher squared curbing on the older streets. (One street over, Grayton Avenue, had trees and was paved with the black, tarry stuff that got steam-rolled and then congealed into a smooth seamless roadway. It looked like rubber, and softer. Well, it wasn’t really, but that’s what I thought until years later when I tried for a diving catch in a tag football scrum.)

Everything about this lonely new place on Harvard Road was strange, and it depressed me as I watched the bright liquid of my life roll down my white shin.

“Hi,” the new boy said.

I looked up to see an older kid, at least six by the leanness of him. Short pants, short sleeved cotton pullover. Blond wavy hair, freckles and a smile. I wiped away a tear. “Hi.”

“I’m Rudy. We just moved in.” He pointed a thumb over his shoulder. “I live in the house next to the house on the corner.” He up-righted my trike and sat on the seat, feet on the sidewalk. “You wanna be friends?”

“Yeah.” I got up by myself and stood next to the occupied tricycle.

“Wutchername?” Rudy said.

“Larry,” I said. “I have to go in. Let’s play later.” He dismounted as I reached for the handle bar. “Okay,” he grinned and skipped down the sidewalk toward the second house from the corner as I limped up my driveway toward some motherly cosseting.

And? – you ask.

Well, it just came to me now, seven decades later, as I was looking up the difference between macadam and asphalt. (Some brains work that way, try to be patient with me.) Over the next twelve years, Rudy would become my mutually acknowledged ‘best friend.’ We were buddies. We read the same comic books; as we aged, we studied the men’s adventure mags, and we shared cowboy storybooks. We’d go to the Friday night movies together. We built and sailed toy gliders, played hardball catch, and did a lot of laughing. He would usually be one of the street boys who played baseball and touch football out front and on the overgrown vacant lots and various crude playing fields of the 1940s East Side. In the winter, there were fewer cars about, so when Harvard iced over, we played galoshes hockey. Rudy went on to high school two years ahead of me, made a letter in track, and matriculated to Michigan State where I visited him once or twice before he quit and joined the Army; he wrote me from boot camp and the battlefield. When he returned from combat in Korea, he took a job with an IT company in west Michigan.

That’s the last I ever heard of Rudy.

But there is an oddity to reflect upon in this boyhood casebook. About ninety percent of our fellowship was just the two of us. When others were around, Rudy retreated. Not from the society of others, but from me. He refused to accompany me to the places of my expanding world. He never saw me play shortstop in organized baseball; he refused every invitation to be my guest at any of the social clubs my parents had joined in the halcyon years of plenty.

My boyhood (World War II) summers were spent in the idyllic lakefront countryside of Ontario, Canada, 10 miles distant from the American shipping channel where it cuts through Lake St. Clair. Every summer’s day I could swim in the shallows of this mini-‘Great Lake’, flop down on the isolated sand beach in front of my Auntie Kane’s old clapboard house. At any time of any day, I could glance toward the northwest and see in the distance, magnificent giant ore boats plow up and down the Michigan coastline. The boats laboring left-to-right from Detroit and the Lower Lakes were usually “bow-high”- empty. They would disappear over the horizon to the right, as new lake boats loaded with iron ore and grain from the U.P. and the Great Plains appeared low-in-the-water, fo’c’s’les elevated magically above the horizon, until they emerged from the heat waves at the earth’s curvature, and cut the water low-bowed right-to-left and were gone in a half hour, lumbering behind Peche Island on their way to the Ford Rouge Plant, Toledo, and the mills and markets of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

During WWII, I watched a world go by as I tanned brown as a berry, and dreamed on a beach in another country.

But I was always alone. There were yammering little squirts around, but no pals. Rudy came over to Canada just one time, it was a year or two after the war. As soon as my parents dropped him off, he claimed to be sick, went to his bedroom, and had to be collected the very next day and fetched back to Detroit, the second house from the end on Harvard Road.

There were times in the neighborhood when older boys would bully me. Rudy would never interfere. Never took my side. Once or twice, he even joined in the taunting. I was puzzled. Still am.

What is wrong with people who cannot be kind when it counts? What happens to stunt the souls of ordinary children of God, boys and girls who grow to be men and women unable to offer an atta-boy, or at least tolerance, to another who may be hungering for reassurance?

The question is valid, but also moot. Might I not ask it of myself – where has my own impulse to reach out in brave witness been withheld? Maybe not today or last week, but once upon a timid time.

Reading back over this odd meandering, it dawns on me that I hadn’t been looking up macadam and asphalt at all. I was looking up a phrase that had popped into my head as I read this morning about a destructive anger that smolders between my countrymen. An anger I share passionately from one side of the conflict. The phrase that niggled my conscience turns out to be from Jeremiah 5:21.

None so blind as those who have eyes, but will not see.
And ears but will not hear.

And what of those, I pondered, who have valid words to share but will neither utter nor write them, whether in argument or in love, even though the act may nourish or inform or revive life in another? Or in a nation?

Before the pavement rises to greet your face, friend, speak! And brave the consequences.

Onward.

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No Training Wheels or Water Wings.
Just Daddy.

A remembrance by L. E. Taylor

When I was a young dad, I made my way in life as a freelance “ad guy”. I’d started out as a trained graphic designer, then drifted into being my own copywriter, and finally, I was providing the whole marketing package to small, ambitious clients. I was no flashy “Mad-Man” (well, that came later). But I was no 60’s bohemian either; I just looked like one. Mostly at church.

I worked at home – on my drawing board in the living room. Summertime, I was at my Smith-Corona out on the patio, in the sunshine. My wife was an elementary public school teacher; our incomes together made the monthly nut. Usually. I worked my own hours – often twice what I’d be clocking with conventional employment, at a fraction of the take-home pay. I did a lot of stuff around the house, but it wasn’t a political posture; I was good at it – a good cook, an okay decorator, and there was nobody I’d rather spend time with every minute of every day than my kids. (They were smarter than the alternatives. And funnier.)

Kathy had come first, and then four days short of four years later, Christopher. Both were on purpose.

Let’s admit it; I was blessed. And I was fit. For years, I’d kept that way by swimming at the Y, by walking miles every day and night whatever the weather, by never smoking, and by eating both well and smart. My kids and I seemed to think of each other as equals. Though discipline was always in order, discipline was seldom an issue of conflict; they just trusted me – like ducklings trust their mom.

Kathy was about seven when she got her first two-wheel bike, new and shiny blue. To my diminutive, shy, intelligent, freckle-faced Katherine Melanie, the bike loomed BIG. It smelled like a new bike. We walked it down the hill onto the court behind our duplex. I held it steady as she placed one foot onto a pedal, hiked herself upward, and sat down on the strange untested saddle.

“Ready?” I said.

“I guess.”

The solo maiden voyage around the circular court lasted about two seconds and twelve feet. I arrived at her side as she leaned to starboard. Kathy remounted, still pointed in the same direction. Handlebars wiggling wildly right-left-right, pedals rotated barely a circuit, and the second try ended in four seconds, leaning to port.

Aground, less than half way round the court, the little girl looked up at her Daddy. Eyes began to well with tears. The chin and lower lip quivered. “Oh, I’ll NEVER learn to ride a bike,” she wailed.

I stood back and began to laugh. Not a fake laugh of derision, the real thing. I composed myself, and said, “Oh, I get it! You’re going to be the first kid in the history of the WORLD to not learn how to ride a bike.” I sighed, still amused. Then, serious. “Get on.”

Kathy sniffed and wiped her face with a bare hand. She got back on, frowning through her tears. I walked the girl and the shiny blue two-wheeler just one fast step, then another, then shoved them off into the world.

Kathy giggled all the way around the circle, eyes not yet dry.

That same summer was one of a half-dozen summers that the kids accompanied their, well, “unusual” Daddy every afternoon to the community swimming pool at Veteran’s Park.

I would dive in first, swim a length or two, then they got into the shallow end while I read or worked at my clipboard, one eye on them, as I worked on a gorgeous case of skin cancer. (What the heck, you’re only young once.) In their younger days, the moment often came that it was time for daddy to hop in, do a surface dive, then come up right in the face of one of his munchkins.

Years before, Kathy had learned to swim using the Daddy Method, and now, in 1967, it was time for her brother. I would shout, “Come on. Flop in and swim to me,” In he would go. I was already paddling slowly away from him. “Grab my shoulders.” Then Christopher would grip my Copper-toned shoulders and I would do the tired swimmer’s carry in figure-eights all about the pool, deep end included. “Toot-toot!” I’d yell. “Here we come.” Swimmers young and not so young would make way. “Let’s hear it, baby!” I’d call over my shoulder, “Toot-toot, Baby.” And Christopher, kicking as hard as he could, hanging onto his dad’s red-brown shoulders, would exclaim, “Toot-toot, baby-toot-baby-toot-baby… toot.”

And soon, he would be swimming beside me.

Well, I feel exactly as young today as in 1968, but in the mirror, the shock is a surprise every morning. I appear more, uh, experienced.

But whatever I’ve loused up as a dad, I’m glad I never attached training wheels to a bike or water wings to a child who might come to depend on them.

Onward.

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Fat Bob, Synchronicity, Serendipity,
and Karma

Backstory; a true tale of closure by L. E. Taylor

Chicago IL
June, 1954.
The gentleman was last to board the 4:40 p.m. North Central flight to Detroit. Well back in the Convair, only one seat was available, at a window. The turbo engines were revving up with a powerful whine. He slid his attaché case into the overhead bin, slipped out of his tailored grey summer-weight suit coat, folded it neatly and placed it on his briefcase. Last, he removed his straw fedora, set it upon the jacket, and excused himself to the occupant of the aisle seat.

The burly fellow looked up from his magazine and said, “I can take the window if you like.

“Thank you,” the gentleman smiled. “But whatever you prefer.”

The flight would take no more than thirty minutes in the air, but this was Midway Field, it was raining, and they were not in the air yet. The stewardess made her way back through the aisle checking names and noting seat assignments for the FAA log.

The gentleman said, “Taylor.”

The burly fellow said, “Taylor.”

Ann Arbor MI
October, 1976.
Fat Bob closed the front door, stuffed the bandana into his overalls pocket and tousled the big Saint Bernard’s ears. “Go lay down.” That was fine with her, and she flopped onto the freshly vacuumed living room floor.

Bob stared at the brass door knob for a moment. He walked to the antique desk and slid open the hood. He found his readers in a cubbyhole and slipped them on. In a few minutes he found it, yellowed and smudged there it was, after twenty-two years. He peered at the formal calling-card as he had so many times, once or twice poised over a waste basket, only to replace it into the chaos of the old desk. “Clark Equipment Company, Buchanan, Michigan,” it proclaimed. “Elgan Taylor, Assistant to the President.”

Ann Arbor MI
November, 1976.
“Bob!” the young man says. “Good to see you, man; have a seat.”

Fat Bob Taylor, The Singing Plumber, sits. “Nice office, Larry,” he says.

“Thanks, Bob. I hope you know how much your performance meant to my mother, and everyone else, at the uh… at the service.”

“I had to do it.”

The words hang there. Bob’s hard stare gives way to a twinkle.

Curious, the young fellow waits. Just outside the open door a typewriter clatters; a telephone buzzes twice. Bob reaches around and gently closes the office door. He clears his throat. “When you came to my house that day… that was not the first time I’d heard of your dad.”

A beat.

“One day many years ago,” Bob continues, “my own father came home from a business trip. He’d been to Chicago. He was impressed with someone he’d met on the plane and he wanted to tell me about it.”

“Yeah…?”

“Yeah. My dad was a plain-spoken, regular guy. A tradesman. A good man to talk to if you didn’t need a lot of conversation. But as he told me about the man on the plane, Dad spoke… differently, more animated.” Bob fidgets, glances out the window. “The gentleman he’d met on the plane – that’s what he called him, ‘gentleman’ – the gentleman, it turned out, was also named Taylor. The man was well informed on the origins of our name, and was glad to discuss it with my father. He said the French version of our family name came over to England with the Norman Conquest. The trade reference – you know, a clothes maker – was older than that. And so on. Anyway, they got along real well and they exchanged business cards.” Bob digs into his jacket pocket. “Here.”

Larry studies the scrap of pasteboard. Muffled office sounds outside the door fade to silence. He looks at his famous guest. “Yes. I know about that day,” he says.

Bob chuckles. “You’re playing with me. That was twenty years ago.”

“No, I’m not kidding, Robert. If I wanted to joke, I could be funnier than that.” He hands the card back to The Singing Plumber. “My dad, Elgan Taylor, told me about that conversation as soon as he got home that day. Until just now, that was the only other time I heard of it. He even showed me your dad’s business card.”

Bob bellows a big theatrical barrel-laugh. “Well, do you have my dad’s card?”

“No. I threw it away. Why would I keep your dad’s card?”

When the laughter calms down, the two men, sharing one surname but not related by blood, immerse into an afternoon of world-weary banter and war stories, irreverent jokes, and confidential tale-telling. Finally they circle back to the jarring coincidence of these two sons of absent wayfarers two decades removed, and of the cosmic mysteries of fate.

Finally, Fat Bob rises stiffly from his swivel chair and announces it’s time to go feed his dog. He stretches an aching lower back. “Urrghh. Getting old is hell,” he mutters. “Big Five-O coming up next month.”

Larry, for no reason he can explain, says, “Sagittarius.”

“No. Capricorn. The worst Capricorn: December twenty fifth.”

“I’ll send you a Christmas card, brother.”

Onward.

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Right There in Black & White

Memories of an ex-munchkin among young women and summer breezes, by L. E. Taylor 

The diversions of television and Internet notwithstanding, we who have more life in the rearview mirror than through the windshield often find ourselves drifting off the road and into the past.

Recently, I found myself stock still in the living room with a glass of merlot in one hand and the TV remote in the other. Then I was gone.

The year was 1942. It was summer at my old Auntie Kane’s house on the Canadian shore of Lake St. Clair. I’d been sent across the river and into this bucolic yesteryear by my parents to protect me from the annual hot weather curse of cities: polio. Infantile paralysis, it was called, and it loomed over every household, in every neighborhood.

My Auntie (actually, my “great aunt,” my Grandma’s sister) was a widow whose only asset was a two story summer home built in 1912 by her late husband Will, a nineteenth century British emigrant, speedboat whiskey runner, illegal Detroit saloon proprietor, real estate speculator, and family character. Because the Kane’s had lost it all, as the saying goes, in the 1929-30 Crash, Minnie Kane was dependent for income upon a parade of family members and friends from the old days, and the pals they brought along for weekends in the cooling breezes off the blue lake.

That first year, 1942, was a test to see if I could handle June, July, and most of August on the lakeshore and permanently away from my mother and father, my baby brother, and my neighborhood chums (I could). Also, they needed to see if they could handle it (they could, too). So, summers during the War came to mean Canada for me. Not only did I meet a lot of interesting adults of all types and humours, but also (young men being away on urgent business, in uniform), a good portion of these folks were women. Young women.

Now I was only eight when the parade began, but as summers advanced, so did my curiosity about adult ways. I learned a lot. When the adults were relaxed on holiday at Auntie’s, they spoke freely among themselves – about politics, business, sports, sex. Well, the man-woman thing didn’t have a word connected to it then, but the phenomenon was present, always. My parents and their circles of couples would play gin rummy or poker indoors or Indian dice out on a sunny blanket; the men would go golfing; everyone swam in the sandy shallows of the clear lake; meals were always uproariously entertaining and the humor was always ironic and irreverent and full of salty information for the only kid there.

And he was certainly there. Always right there, not missing a syllable or a nuance. In fact, he wrote a book about it.

Many of the long forgotten bits of information little Larry absorbed in those four summers came from the brides and girlfriends of absent young warriors. The military men were my heroes, especially the Marines and the fliers. One of Auntie’s summer girls was married to an Air Corps pilot named Burton, which fascinated me. Her name was Pat. Then there was Mary, and Peg, and Ruth; these three only had boyfriends who were overseas. They were always gabbing, joking, and sometimes one would retreat into herself. They were all lonely. They masked the loneliness with an edgy gaiety that would come in bursts and then disappear like a summer lake squall.

And I was always there.

One day, they were talking about a movie that made a big impression. They settled into a serious conversation about it. Its title intrigued me. I asked what’s it about? Pat did a double take as though to say, “What? Are you still here?” Mary said, “It’s about a homely girl who meets a handsome man who’s engaged to a pretty woman. He goes off to war and comes back with his face all scarred up and ugly. When others are around, they are both ugly, when they’re alone in the cottage you see what they see, two beautiful people.”

Well, I never saw The Enchanted Cottage, but it did show up sixty-nine years later in my living room in Dallas Texas.

Black and white. Good movie.

Onward.

 

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Coming soon, essay: When Movies Didn’t Need Color.

 

 

 

Green Kid Heroics

Veterans Day Reflections By L.E.Taylor

The historian, Stephen Ambrose, author of Band of Brothers, said in an interview, that on D-Day, June 6th 1944 the men who took the Normandy beachheads were mostly privates and corporals led by sergeants and other corporals, because within an hour of landing most of the officers were dead.

Those privates and corporals and sergeants were in their teens and early twenties. When I was a small boy, these men were my heroes.

A twenty-year old in 2013 may not think he’ll find common ground with men and women who occupied his place on our mortal stage a century or two ago. Regrettably, in too many respects, he’d be right. But this soul-stunting myopia is not a flaw in the DNA of today’s youth; it’s born of ignorance. Misconceptions about history can beget a hubris that childishly crows, “We are who we’ve been waiting for!”

History books are not about old, dead people. They are mostly about young people.

The green kids of 2013 have neither experienced, nor been educated about the heroics of green kids who came before. My regret is not that these young men have no wars to test them, certainly today’s troubled society has no shortage of need for creative energy and youthful valor.

Young people who’ve read my book, Elgan and Grace, A Twentieth Century Saga, have remarked (with maybe a tinge of doubt), how different from their own friends, these Americans of earlier generations seemed to be. Still, the anecdotes that comprise that carefully crafted book are true; otherwise, why bother?

The heroes of my childhood were not all conscripted warriors. They were mostly the tough-minded men and women in my life who held together the home front. But for all their virtues, neither those who went to war nor those who remained Stateside were perfect. They simply did their best in a time of peril.

As 2014 approaches, who are society’s heroes that will grace the pages of our history? What are their great accomplishments that reflect our American values and esteem our sacred virtues as a civilization?

We’ll see. Say your prayers.

Which brings us to your Veteran’s Day treat for having so patiently stayed with my ramble. Get comfortable now, good reader; turn on your speakers, and enjoy a few minutes with Spitfire 944, and a green kid who really was a hero. Click here –> American Spitfire Pilot in WWII .

Onward.

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References:

Ambrose, Stephen E.; Band of Brothers; Simon & Schuster; NYC.

Ambrose, Stephen E.; D-Day; Ibid.

Ambrose, Stephen E.; Citizen Soldiers; Ibid.

Taylor, L. E.; Elgan and Grace; Friesen Press; Victoria B.C., Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living the Mulligan

A True Story – Reflection by L.E. Taylor
Don and I were late for our tee-time because we had to stop at his buddy’s house so I could borrow the fellow’s clubs and spikes.

I was only visiting my brother in Florida for a few days and he wanted to play some golf as we used to on the public links in Detroit, when we were kids. Don was a Delta pilot, working only three or four days a week by law, so when he wasn’t sailing or fishing he’d spend an afternoon at his club sharpening his game.

I hadn’t been on a golf course in fifteen years.

As I jammed my normal-sized tootsies into the size eight-and-a-half shoes, my kid brother, confident that this would be my only chance, said, “Your honors.” So I grabbed a driver.

It was a par-four with a slight dogleg-right and a wooded rough along the left. The flag was a wee dot, far, far away. With no time for a warm up at the range, I teed up, addressed the ball, shoulders square, overlapped grip, knees slightly bent, slow, deliberate backswing. The breeze from my whiff disturbed snoozing seagulls on the next fairway.

Don glanced at the pristine Acushnet still smartly on its yellow tee and chuckled. “That’s okay,” he said. “We didn’t have time at the range; let’s call it a Mulligan.”

Embarrassed and a little pissed off, I focused and went through the ritual again. The click was like music. The trajectory was straight and elevated before the ball came to rest on the left apron about two-hundred-twenty or so yards away.

“Nice shot,” Don said, and teed up. His drive was long but hooked into the rough at about a hundred-sixty yards. He drove the cart, stopping in the fairway near his lie. He waded well into the tangled rough, past a stand of big trees, found his ball and hacked impressively. The shot advanced the ball nicely past the trees and beyond my lie, but it remained in the rough. He grumbled, got in, and the cart hummed silently to a halt near my ball.

(The rest of this mundane tale holds the point of our conversation. So stop fidgeting.)

I went round to the borrowed old canvas bag of clubs and withdrew an iron. A five-, maybe a three-iron. My ball was slightly raised on the deep apron. It had been so long since my golfing days, I was very deliberate and I remember telling myself the drill: Line up the ball off your left heel… align thumbs… square shoulders… head down… fix eyes on the ball… bend knees… touch the club-head to grass one inch behind the lie. I turned my head just enough to see the flag, but it was gone, replaced by a foursome of Lilliputians who’d got to the green and were busy putting out. Good enough – I lined up my shoulders with the green. Slow backswing, swivel at waist. Keep left elbow stiff, cock the wrist. Fire!

Because dad taught me to keep my head down through the swing, I stared at my divot for a second or so before craning to search the fairway for my shot. The foursome was leaving the green. Suddenly they were animated, shouting nonsense in our direction and waving putters overhead.

In the cart, Don’s back stiffened. His eyebrows rose, his jaw dropped. “It went in the cup,” he said. “The ball went in the cup! You made an eagle!” I was stunned but don’t remember what I might have said. The four guys nearly two hundred yards away were yelling – I did make out, ‘great golf shot,’ but I just stood there. Don scowled at me. “Get in the cart!” As he pressed the pedal to take us to his ball (still in the rough), my wonderfully funny, albeit very competitive, young bub muttered, “I’ve never even seen an eagle.”

Question: Did I really make an eagle? Well, in a friendly round of golf, I guess so. But, these three decades later, it makes me think. (I told you to be patient.)

Now that I’m committed to the writer’s life, 24/7, I’m finding that my mind races from topic to topic faster than I can write it all down. And all this reading makes it even worse. Last week, deep into the night (my most fertile thinking time – a curse!) I mused, ‘If only I could just keep going hard, learn all that I can, write well, and teach and help others on their own journeys, and then, exhausted, follow in the way of all flesh to Heaven for a rest and some soul-work, and then come back, wiser and ready to go at it again.’  If only.

Then I asked in so many words, “I wonder if I could have a Mulligan.”

And without missing a beat, the Lord replied: “You’ve got one,” He said. “This is it.”

Onward.

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A Gift from the Sea

Remembrance and Reflections: By L.E.Taylor

This posting, as always, is for seekers. But in this case, you’ll have to be motivated to actually rise up, and seek. In other words, you might want to look stuff up.

Got it? Okay, here goes…

There had been a monstrous tidal swell across the Pacific in the Sea of Japan, and from the three-hundred-foot-high cliffs of Northern California’s coast, I’d safely witnessed amazing thirty foot breakers roll in from beyond the horizon, and crash upon our shore.

Then, on a sunny and calm new morning, I walked down to the hard packed sea-perfumed beach, a young journeyman with no purpose but to harvest whatever came my way. And there it was, a glistening aquamarine globe, hand blown by some anonymous Nipponese craftsman, and deposited by fate in the flotsam of seaweed and bright shells and bleached driftwood, nicely within reach. It had been one of thousands of glass buoys woven into fishnets three thousand miles westward. And now it belonged to me. I caressed the imperfect orb. I brushed off the sand and held it in both hands. It went into my sack of treasures and I walked on.

Later, by the light of a driftwood fire, I studied the softball-sized globe. It was obviously handmade, sturdy and with an irregular navel where the umbilicus had been snipped from supple molten glass. Continue reading

Bully Boys – Part IV: How Long Has This Been Going On?

Remembrance and Reflections by L.E. Taylor

Fourth Hour was the first class after lunch and the post meridian routine in Mr. T’s shop class always began at 1:01 with Roddy Floutz pulling shut the faded green wooden door and the young teacher calling roll. The shop was in the basement of the old junior high, with steel cyclone insets covering half-windows that allowed in light, and a clear view of only the foot-part of passing foot traffic outside.

The minute-hand clicked. Mr. T loosened his brown knit tie and opened his class book. “Close the door, Roddy,” he said to… no one. The class of 12-year-old boys was unusually restive, peering over their shoulders here and there in a muffled commotion.

Robby and another kid burst through the open doorway. “Mr. T!  Some ninth grade boys have got Danny in the furnace room and are taking his money!”

The ‘furnace room’ was a dark passageway with a wall of lockers, just off the hallway across from the seventh grade shop. It led to a back stairwell.

Still in his natty tweed blazer, Mr. T arrived at about 1:01, point-five. Four sullen mid-pubescent punks pulled aside revealing the little tow-headed Danny. His face was tear streaked and a red welt shone on a pale freckled forehead. Continue reading

Bully Boys – Part III Street Smarts

Remembrance and Reflections: By L.E.Taylor

1945.

He was the youngest in his neighborhood of street boys and therefore the most vulnerable. Since infancy he had known physical suffering through chronic illness and it showed. Living in dread of more pain himself, he was not inclined to inflict pain onto others. It didn’t take the lads long: They knew he wouldn’t fight.

One day at the age of ten he was accosted by the usual pack of know-nothings. Their taunting was mean but not brutal, just a baseball cap that they grabbed from his head and tossed back and forth simply because they could.

He’d taken their abuse for years in many forms, but on that sunny spring afternoon a new impulse stirred his blood.

The nastiest boy, Stewart, sneered and toyed with my cap. As I came for it, he sailed it to Abbott. I ignored Abbott and took Stewart by the neck and rode him to the ground with a thump that jarred us both. Abbott began pummeling my back with the buckle end of his rolled up patrol-boy belt. The others laughed and yelled for a real fight. I got up off Stewart and came at Abbott, the much bigger menace. He grinned in feral delight at the prospect of drawing innocent blood.

“That’ll be all.” My father stood poised, at a distance. He’d seen enough. His voice was rich and controlled, his meaning clear. The boys backed away, resumed their way home. Abbott ran. Elgan wasn’t interfering with a fight, he merely recognized the Old Adam in human nature and sternly, he did the job of a civilized man.

Young boys are Barbarians. Stupid and venal, and without two strong parental hands to teach virtue, they tend to be cruel.

I’ve had many fights since that afternoon in 1945, some in the street, some in the classroom and on the playground, and many in the course of doing business. Gradually, I came to know what they are about.

The bully may or may not be mean, may or may not hate his prey. But the bully is always eager to assert dominance over the weak. The bully is a coward. He understands and fears one thing.

I say, give it to him.

Onward.

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Next time:  Bully Boys, Part IV – How Long Has This Been Going On?

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References:

Taylor, L. E.; Elgan and Grace – A Twentieth Century Saga; Friesen Press; 2012.