Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Chapel Hill Christmas, 1956

1956

“There’s nothing I can do about it, Lula.  I’ve got the least seniority on the force, everyone wants off on Christmas Eve, and there have to be at least a minimum of 5 guys in cars and out on the streets.  I’m lucky actually, some of the others got their duty tomorrow, on Christmas.”

“Just great…just absolutely great.  You know Dean has the play tonight.  He’s all revved-up,  I got to get him over to church by myself, make sure he gets into that costume, and you know darn well it’s you he really wants to see in the audience.  I know you can’t help it, but this just stinks.  You just couldn’t be happy at the hardware, you wanted what did you say…some respect?  Well I haven’t seen any respect yet, and this is just more of the crapola they’ve been giving you ever since…ah forget it.  Get out a here.”
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Dean, 2012

That’s a reasonable facsimile of the argument as I remember it, but I was just 6 years old at the time, so it’s a little foggy.  I watched as mom followed dad out to the front door.  There were some muffled words spoken, and then the door closed quietly.
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Stan, 1956

 I did really want to see that play, I hated missing Dean’s big night, but things wouldn’t always be like this, I thought.  Next year I won’t be the rookie anymore.  I checked in at the station at 6:00 pm, got my orders and headed out to the lot.  Damn it was cold.  I hadn’t felt bone-chilling cold like this in Chapel Hill since I was a kid back in grade school.  I climbed into the ’53 black and white, worst car in the pool, praying that the heater worked.

I’d been assigned to the downtown grid, just patrolling.  “Eyes and ears fellas, eyes and ears,” the Captain had said.  The heater did work, hallelujah!  Streets empty, the stores all closed, it was a tough night to try to stay focused.  I needed coffee.  The truck stop out on 54 would be open.

Back in town I decided to park along Rosemary Street for a while, have a cigarette and enjoy the coffee.  It was around 8:30, and traffic was picking up as families headed home from church.  Dean would be on his way home too.  Wish I could have gotten him something special this year.  What the…a car  passed right in front of me on Kinston and hadn’t stopped at the light.  I could see the driver, smiling happily, even making arm motions, his head turned toward his wife.  I could just see the head of a child in the back seat, a small boy.

I pulled away from the curb, turned north onto Kinston and was accelerating when the car suddenly slowed and turned into a driveway.  I pulled up in front of the house just as the three passed into the house and closed the door.  I don’t know why, but I didn’t get out right away.  I looked toward the modest house and could see the family through the front window, removing coats.  The Christmas tree lights went on as they settled in.

After a few minutes I got out of the car and headed up the walk.  The doorbell first, the door opening and I still didn’t know exactly what I was going to say.  Standing in the door then was a face I knew, it was Horace Sutter.  He did odd jobs for folks around town and on weekends sold carved animals at the farmers market.  Horace had been a star running back for East End and I’d actually played a game or two against him.  The boy came up quietly behind his dad, put his arm around his dad’s leg and looked up at me.
“Oh, it’s you Horace, ah…could you step outside for just a minute.”

After the door had closed, I could see the youngster had slid over to the window to watch us.  I made up my mind.
“Don’t know if you recognize me, Horace, but I’m Stan Poythrus.”
 
A bit nonplussed yet, he stammered, “Used to work in the hardware, din’t ya?

“That’s right… ah you don’t have the foggiest why I’m here do you?  Well I was down on Rosemary and couldn’t believe my eyes when your vehicle just cruised right through that red light as if it wasn’t even there.  You weren’t paying one lick of attention to what you were doing.  So we got us a situation.  I asked you to come out here cuz, well, I got a kid too, about the same age as yours.  I hope he looks up to me, as I can see your kid looks up to you.  I got a suggestion as to how we can handle this.”

Horace looked a question.

“Horace, you coulda killed someone back there, but it’s Christmas Eve for cryin’ out loud.  I don’t want to embarrass you in front of your wife and son, and I don’t wanna give you a ticket, but you gotta be more careful.  What I’m suggestin’ is you give me your  word  that you won’t let somethin’ like that happen again.”

As Horace looked at me the tension went out of his face. 
“You got my word, Stan.  I won’t forget this.  Is there anything else I can do?”
“There’s nothin’, Horace, wouldn’t be right anyway.  Merry Christmas.”

He offered his hand, and I took it, and I walked back to the car.
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Dean, 2012

Dad hadn’t gotten in until sometime during the night, and I remember that he and mom were still in bed when the doorbell rang.  I’d been up early shaking the presents under the tree.  I went to the door, but saw no one out there.  But there was a card board box sitting there on the stoop.  Mom had heard the bell, and slid up behind me.
“Who was it, Dean?”
“I don’t know, mom, but there’s a box out there.”

The carved and painted horse that came out of that box has been a prized possession all my life.  I assume my dad had something to do with its showing-up like that, on our stoop, on Christmas morning, but he never explained it.  As I look back now, in the 62nd year of my life, I think of my dad, that Christmas and how wonderful a little mystery can be.
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The story above has some element of truth in it, but is largely fiction.

Happy Holidays loyal readers.  May you and yours enjoy the special joy and mystery of this time of year.  Thanks for reading.

Need Ice?

Did any of you notice that one day last week the newspaper carried two stories about ice at the North Pole?  In the first article, researchers reported that the arctic area lost ice in the past year that equals the size of the United States.  In the second article it was reported that a massive area of ice was located at the north pole of the planet Mercury.  Are you seeing the possibilities here?  We don’t have enough ice; Mercury has plenty, hmmmm.   I say we get some a take-over outfit to do a hostile take-over of Mercury.  We can put Mercury’s cap on Earth’s cap and voila!  No more global warming threat.  We could call the newly formed and somewhat strange-looking planet “Earcury”  The new planetary mash-up would look something like this.Earcury

Ok, maybe not.   How about “Mearth.”

Many months ago I pulled up behind a car that had a bumper sticker that said, “I’d Rather be Driving my Tractor.”  I thought, oooo, I’ve got to have one.  I sent an email to the credit outfit that had its name on the bumper sticker, and a week later received one in the mail.  I waited though before putting it on the car.  I just didn’t feel like I deserved it until the tractor actually ran.  So, yesterday, following the Pony’s first successful outing, I planted that thing on the back of the other red vehicle, our Camry.  Take a look.bumper sticker.1

Sweet!

Now, the Pony being the Pony, you will probably not be surprised that after his big outing he has gone on strike.  At first we could barely get the engine to run, and now it won’t even start.  There was some thought advanced by experts on the Tractor Forum that the problem might be the ignition coil.  I bought a new coil at NAPA and put it on yesterday.  Here’s a photo of me presenting the Pony with his Christmas present.

New Coil.a

I guess the Pony wasn’t impressed with the present.  Gene and I tried a start-up with the new coil and…nuttin!  The engine fires, goes “vrum,” and then dies.  Even though I’ve done it once before, I’ve taken the carb off and will be examining the interior for problems.  This is driving me nuts!

I’ve gotta get to work on that carb, so that’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.

The Pony’s Big Day

Two years, three months ago Gene and I dragged a tractor out of the woods that had been sitting in there (based on tree growth around it) from 20 to 25 years.  It was an absolute mess.  Today the Pony, as Massey Harris called it, is still a mess, but just a little less so.  The Pony still has a myriad of physical problems, I swear, even a few mental ones.  This post is dedicated entirely to the Pony, so if you usually tune in just to find out what idiotic thing I’m going to do or say next, well, you’ll just have to bear with the Pony on this one.

Yesterday dawned a perfect fall day.  With lots of sun and mid 60’s temperatures, I headed out to Gene’s.  Gene and  I got the tractor in position in the garage, and the Pony cooperated by firing-up fairly easily.  Lynne served as the videographer for what Gene and I hoped would be the Pony’s first successful drive.  I won’t keep you waiting any longer, except to say that you should watch in the video of a special trick the Pony does of driving on his side.  I thought Lynne really captured that well.  Here’s the YouTube video.

And here are some more images from the Pony’s big day.  I took a second spin down and around the cul-de-sac and then we celebrated.  You can click on any photo to view a larger image.

In one of those shots you see me scrubbing the mud off the back tires, so at least now, the rubber looks better.  The final image shows the Pony tucked back in the garage with its clean tires and resting after its big day out.  What a fun day it was.  It was just enough to “juice me up” for the completion of the restoration.  Just knowing now that every now and then I can take the Pony out for a spin is pretty special.

Thanks to Gene and Lynne for putting up with the Pony and me, and thanks to all of you for reading.  Have a great week everyone.