When my dad was getting up in years, I recorded all his stories. I have his voice on six or seven cassettes; his tales of growing up in coal mining towns in Illinois are at my finger tips. Who would have ever guessed that I should have done the same with Don’s stories? All I have of his pre-stroke voice is: “Hello, you have reached 5-3-yada, yadda, yadda. Please leave a message after the beep and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” The message was in a tapeless telephone/answering machine combo and I couldn’t bear to record over it, so I bought a new phone. I kept the phone until I downsized to move here and thus that little bit of his voice was finally gone too. After his stroke some times when we got together with close friends someone will tell one of Don’s stories for him. He loves that. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same recall that Don but if I did I'd tell about the time we roamed around rural South and North Dakota, just checking out what made those states tick. That was our style of travel: back roads, small town restaurants, local color, garage sales and auctions, if we could found them.
Of course, you can’t travel South Dakota without stopping at the Wall
Drug store. We did, and loved that blatant tourist trap because back in those days it was literally the only thing around for miles and miles. I still have one of their their signs in my curio cabinet and if you'd ever been in South Dakota back in the past century, you'll understand the humor of that. Those Wall Drug
Store signs were everywhere in a hundred mile radius advertising their free glasses of ice cold water.
Don was a masculine and virile looking guy back then in his Levi's, Stetson cowboy hat and Pendleton shirts. No tourist trap, weekend cowboy gear for him. He also had the tooled leather gun belt for his 357 that matched his fancy Tony Lama boots. He lived the western look here in Michigan whenever he could get away with it. And even though he had a gentle soul, he could bluff the Clint Eastwood tough guy thing whenever the situation called for it.
In North Dakota, I had been driving when we stopped at their version of a rest stop---a pull-off with two outhouses. I had to go, Don didn’t. Just as I got back near our Chevy pickup two locals pulled up and asked for directions to an address in Chicago. Chicago? you're thinking! Who asks for directions to a street in Chicago when you’re sitting in the middle of no where, several states away? Don, he told me later, thought they saw me get out of the truck and they’d planned on hassling what they thought from a distance was two women alone. Anyway, Don got out of the passenger seat, grabbed a map and unbeknownst to me he jammed his 357 in the front of his jeans. It was clear that these two guys had been drinking and were up to no good. So I’m thinking, Damned it, Don! Get back in the truck so we can get out of here! Don had another idea. He tells me he’ll drive and makes a big production out of putting the gun on the hood of the truck---within easy reach---pulls open the map and says to the guys: “Now what was that address you were looking for?” Talk about leaving a dust trail. Those two Native Americans couldn’t get out of there fast enough. No one messed with Don when he was in his Clint Eastwood persona.
But my favorite thing that we found by chance while traveling The Dakotas was a herd of buffalo. I was so excited when we came up over a hill and spotted them that all I could say was, “Buff, buff, buffalo!” And from that day on neither one of us ever said just plain old ‘buffalo’---it’s always “buff, buff, buffalo.” I'd give anything to hear Don tell about one of our adventures out west again even if it was only on a recording. ©
Note: I wrote this 15 years ago and if you recognize it you're either a long time reader or have been doing a deep dive in my archives. I needed a writing break so my social life has a change to create something new to write about. Should be a good week for that. The photo is of Don when he was a kid.
Thank you for sharing that! I wish you could have known to record some of the stories.ReplyDelete
I my own way I did record my favorite stories ...in writing but of course it's not the same.Delete
---from Cheerful MonkReplyDelete
Don sounds like quite a character. Life with him had to be fun and interesting. What a blessing it is to have good memories!ReplyDelete
I remember my first trip to Wall Drug. We ate the most delicious cinnamon rolls there and, of course, bought souvenirs. My parents were members of Hart Ranch, in Rapid City, SD. They used to take their camper out there and stay for weeks at a time and truly enjoyed it. Many years ago...
How are your ribs healing Jean?
I remember those cinnamon rolls! In fact somewhere out west every small town we ate in had the biggest cinnamon rolls we'd ever seen before or after.Delete
Ribs are doing well. I can now lay on my side so sleeping is a little easier.
What a nice-looking boy he was!ReplyDelete
I love that photo! He never out grew his love of western clothing.Delete
What nice memories you have of Don. Thanks for sharing this previous post with us.ReplyDelete
My pleasure....having a reason to share and think about the good times.Delete
I wish I had recorded the stories mum would tell about her childhoodReplyDelete
Me too. When she died is when I realized I needed to record my dad's before his stories got lost too.Delete
I don't remember it, so reading it is a delight. Yes, I have a couple recordings of my dad and I wish I had more. I wish I could remember my mother's voice.ReplyDelete
Don't we all which is a lesson for people in our age bracket to record messages or video for their grandkids.Delete
I had an uncle whose stories were 'numbered' in the same way, although I'm not sure anyone really associated a certain number with a certain story. There were some stories that were told so often they were cause for a great deal of eye-rolling. Of course, the benefit of hearing them so often is that I can remember them now!ReplyDelete
Despite making the Corn Palace, we never did get to Wall Drug when I was a kid traveling with my family. In those days, it certainly was well advertised; I can remember seeing signs for it even in Iowa. What I remember even more clearly were the Burma-Shave signs: roadside poetry at its best! When we weren't reading those signs, we were looking for out of state license plates. Finding one from New York or Arizona was akin to finding one from Timbuktu; those states seemed impossibly far away, and exotic as could be.
That is true about hearing a story so many times you can remember the details...well most of them in my case. But they were more colorful coming out of Don's mouth.Delete
I love trips like that, but much more so as two adults than a whole crew. We visited Wall Drug and the Corn Palace on the trip we "lovingly" call the Winnebago Hostage Crisis. It happened during the actual Iran hostage crisis (we have a lot of dark humor in our family) and there were 9 of us driving cross country, we picked up my nephew in San Francisco and came back through the southern parts (Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, etc.). None of us would repeat the experience but it lives on in infamy.ReplyDelete
Have you seen the herd of buffalo living on the land out behind our airport? They started with a couple and now there are many.
Nine on a road trip? That doesn't sound remotely fun. LOLDelete
I have seen that herd. So cool and always makes me smile. We used to know the guy on the north end who had a herd so we got a close up look at them. Those suckers are BIG.
Great Storytelling is a Gift. Fond Memories of those Stories are priceless and the retelling keep them alive... Dawn the BohemianReplyDelete
It sure is!Delete
I'm glad you still have so many amazing memories about Don. Sometimes I'm surprised at how my memories get dredged up. When he finally retired, his management team put together The Book of Ralph. We get it out every year on his birthday and read a page or two then explain to his grandsons. Mr. 9 never got to meet him but he knows Poppa is one of his best friends. And surely he would be.ReplyDelete
I'm hoping the written stories of my dad will someday be read by his great grandchildren so they can know the kind of man he was. Glad you got the Book of Ralph.Delete