Tuesday, December 4, 2018


I was in the third grade, back in the early 1950's, when life was tranquil, and Daddy decided we needed to move. He announced that living with too many neighbors was making him claustrophobic. There was a neighbor on each side of us, one across the street and three more down our lane. That was fine, really, but when more houses began to be built, on some land behind us, that was too much. We had to move. He bought some land on the outskirts of Alexandria, Louisiana, on the other side of the Red River, that was still considered country, and began plans to build the house we would live in until I went off to college. It would be a huge brick ranch house with plenty of room for all four of us kids, in fact, the fireplace, itself, would be large enough to build a small house, he told us. There would be plenty of room to roam. “I would have enough land to raise some crops, have cows to milk and horses to ride and no neighbors, except one on each side of us.
“But we already have cows to milk and a horse to ride, and a neighbor on each side of us,” mama said.

“But others are building around us and we are getting crowded out,” was his reply. “The neighbors, at the new place, are farmers. The one on the left isn't and just has a small parcel of land. I could live with that,” he said. “It's just the size to have a small farm, and the kids can each have their own animal.” He was on a roll, and Mama knew that once he made up his mind then that was that and there was no need to keep arguing. The plans were in place, and we would just have to get used to it.

I was apprehensive about moving. I enjoyed our two story house in the Paradise community that I had lived in since I was four years old. I really didn't remember any other house. I enjoyed our little shed of a barn with chickens roaming about and the cow and horse we owned. I loved the house. I started school from this house. I didn't like changes. I even loved the bed room I shared with Bobby, on the second floor that was next to a screened porch where we kept our collection of white mice and where we slept on hot summer nights. So what if Mama and Daddy had to cross through our room to go to the main upstairs bathroom. That wasn't our problem.

We weren't going to be moving into a ready made house either, I found out. We were going to build this house, something Daddy always wanted to do. He wanted to have his own house as long as he could remember since he grew up as a sharecropper's son.

That glorious brick ranch house, with the too many bricks in the fireplace, was built and we moved in the summer I turned nine and Bobby five. Becky was ten then and Jane only three. That summer we discovered it wasn't all that bad after all. We had the freedom to roam all over the place. There were no houses around us except our two neighbors. Just land and woods and things to explore. We became free range children.

The first thing Daddy did, after the house, was build a barn. After all, our cows and horses needed a place to be. He spent his evenings planning and drawing and thinking how the barn should look. Daddy consulted his architect friend, Claude Boutte. Plans were drawn up. It was a simple tin barn with a hay loft upstairs and stalls on each side of the open space below. Daddy's hunting dogs even got a place next to the barn. They each had their own dog house and an area to roam, complete with a tree in the middle. We loved playing among the rafters and spaces as the barn was being constructed having no idea how much this barn would become a huge part of our memories years down the road, good and bad. The stories that barn could tell of the Blair children and their escapades, thankfully, may never come to light....well, the bad ones anyway, not on my watch.

This was the life the four of us enjoyed. There were trees to climb, horses to ride, woods to explore, secret places to hide under the canopy of pines telling secrets. These were the carefree days without cell phones and indoor distractions. We made caves from the hay bales and hid in the barn reading books or listening to rain on the tin roof on rainy days. Of course we had chores to do, too, but the freedom to be ourselves and explore was priceless.

Life just couldn't get any better for a boy and his brother who spent practically every waking moment riding horses and making forts in the tiny strip of woods nearby. Jane was still too small and Becky, well, Becky read books, hiding in the hay.

I'm not sure we noticed that Alexandria was growing, especially out our way. Sure our street began to have more houses, but they were few and far between. There was still plenty of farm land all around us all the way to Twin Bridges road. But progress was moving our way like a black cat sneaking up on a mockingbird. When I turned twelve and Bobby eight, one of our first sub divisions began to be developed. Plantation Acres. It was on land on the other side of our farm neighbors on the right. There was even a part that bordered our property. Houses went up. Street lights and cars showed up, and people and dogs and snotty nosed children with bicycles moved in. Our little freedom of riding horses and roaming our property was spied upon by the suburbs. Children stood on the other side of the fence gawking at us and our country way of life. They threw things at our animals;we threw cow patties back at them. We were thrust into a modern day range war. Our free range suburb neighbors were causing problems for these free range country children and our land, and we didn't like it one bit. The Plantation Acres gang cut sections of our fence down so they could roam at will, riding bicycles and making ruts in daddy's cotton field. We put dead snakes at the entrance where they cut the fence with a note: “This this could be you.” It got ugly.

In time,Daddy repaired the fence, and the war settled down. One day, Bobby and I were riding the fence row, checking for breaks when some of the Plantation Acres gang asked if we would let them ride our horse. How dare they, we thought. We told Mama, knowing she was unaware of most of the meanness we threw back at those snotty nosed instigators. She said that as nice little Christian boys we should let them ride. We could be good neighbors, and perhaps they wouldn't cause so much trouble. “You boys could hold the reins and let them walk around with the horse; they probably never rode one before. It would be a very nice thing to do.” We said we would think about it.

Two weeks passed before Bobby concocted a scheme. “Sure we could let them ride, for a price,” he said. “We can use Sheba, the biggest horse.” I agreed, after all Sheba was so huge that I could lie flat on my back, feet outstretched, with room to spare. We decided we would charge a nickel a ride and put seven or eight on at once. The arena they could ride on was plotted out on the edge of the cornfield near where the gang crossed our fence, and put ruts in Daddy's cornfield. The rule would be only one ride around the area mapped out, per child. No exceptions. If they wanted a second ride they would have to pay again. We built a step so they could mount the big horse. We took the saddle off so we could squeeze as many as possible on that dear horse's back. We opened our piggy banks so we could make change. We told the gang our plan. To our surprise they thought it was wonderful. Our business began.

It was summer time and Daddy was in Baton Rouge every week on business since the legislative session had begun. Our devious minds knew what we were doing. The first morning, the children lined up on their side of the fence as I collected their money and helped them mount. Then Bobby would take the reins and walk them one time around the area. We thought we were the most clever entrepreneurs around. Word spread that we were giving rides. More children came. Our revenge on these suburb children was paying off. A month went by. We were raking in the money.

Oops. Daddy came home early one Friday and caught our little enterprise. We were busted. He made us give the children back the money we collected that day. After the children left, he wanted to know how long this had been going on. Bobby said we had just started. I kept my mouth shut. Hey, I was twelve. Bobby eight.

I never did tell daddy that we had been making money for about a month. This is one of the biggest regrets I think I ever had. I know that I have asked the Lord to forgive me of my indiscretions. Not so sure about that brother of mine tho!

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Image result for fall leaves clip art 
After Mama arrived, we took Mrs. Hall around Kentucky to caves and museums. The three of us in that tiny Karman Ghia. Mama sat in the back since Mrs. Hall was elderly and crippled. I sure wish I had taken out that Pentax and gotten a picture of Mama in the back seat, or even her getting in or out of it. The third day, we threw our suitcases in the back seat, and took off like horses at the derby. We were on a road trip to see the big city down some roads less traveled. It reminded me of the poem, The Road Less Traveled by Robert Frost. The last lines told our story well:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,”
No interstate for us. We needed to see the glory of the fall leaves in all their splendor. If we saw a road less traveled by, we explored it. We loved the way the car held the sharp mountain curves. We wound around curves as fast as if in the Indy 500, laughing at the image of me, a twenty-something soldier and she, the elderly lady, (her words, not mine) traipsing around the mountains without a care in the world. We stopped at interesting places on a whim, sampled apple cider till we were full as ticks, took picture after picture of fall leaves, each time declaring the current tree had the best color. But, bless our hearts, we were wrong. Suddenly we rounded a curve and there she was. Standing tall at the foot of the hill, in the middle of a sharp curve, the most beautiful tree with the most colorful leaves. We gasped. This elegant Sugar Maple definitely was the best. We pulled off the road and admired her. I took pictures, and more pictures. We wanted to stay there till the cows came home,but it was getting late. We drove into the night to get to Alexandria, Virginia.
It was late and we were worn slap out. We couldn't find a motel. After driving around a while we finally found one with a vacancy. They only had one room, but, we were so tired we didn't care what condition it might be in. We only brought one suitcase into the lobby, for some odd reason, and were laughing and being silly. The clerk, a gray haired elderly woman, with disheveled clothes, looked at my mama, then looked at me and frowned. Just one night I said. She gave me another dirty look as if I was hooking up with some cougar. She wouldn't even look at Mama, who snickered while putting her arm around me. We went to the room, laughing, while the clerk mumbled under her breath, “They ought to be ashamed”.
Horrors! There was only one double bed in the room. One. We started laughing again. No wonder she gave us dirty looks. No wonder her thoughts were in the gutter. From the looks of the room she shouldn't have been so snotty. The place did look like it was rented by the hour. Mama said, “It don't amount to a hill of beans, she doesn't know us and never will see us again, bless her heart.” We survived the night, Mama in the bed and me on the floor.
The next day we went into Washington. We toured the Abraham Lincoln monument, we went to the top of the Washington monument, both scared of the height. We ate lunch from a food vendor, before finding another motel suitable with two double beds, again getting looks from the clerks. But we didn't care because we were having fun and both of us were tightwads, not wanting to spend so much on a room we would hardly be in.
Over supper, when talking about that tree, I mentioned how I loved the yellow leaves and how bright they appeared in the headlights. She corrected me. “They're red leaves,” she said. “And yes, the red just popped in the headlights”. Unlike today, I couldn't instantly scroll through my pictures to prove my point, I had to wait until I could get the film developed. Therefore we argued about the color of the leaves the rest of the trip.
We called Gillis Long and tried to get a tour of the White House, but he wasn't available, we walked and admired the Cherry Blossom trees, we window shopped and ate at wonderful places, before ending up at the White House toward dark. Since we weren't able to see the insides, we decided to walk around the perimeter. Somewhere, in the corner of this iron fence, Mama spies something lying on the ground, on the edge of a magnolia tree. It was shiny. “I don't know what that is, but it would make a great souvenir,” Mama said as she reached through the fence to retrieve it. She couldn't quite reach it, so she found a stick just by the fence, retrieved it, placed her foot on the iron fence and began reaching again for her treasure. A guard, immediately, came running over. He wasn't pleasant, shouting at us to halt and move away from the fence. We did while Mama begins explaining to him who we were, where we came from, how I was in the Army, and she was my mama, and she had never been to Washington before, that her husband is a state senator from Louisiana and knows Gillis Long, on and on. He stood his ground and let us know that he didn't care who she was or who her husband was, or who she knows, but she will not reach through that fence ever again unless she wants to be arrested. He asked us to leave. We did, half scared, but, laughing about our adventure at the White House.
Going home, we decided to return the same route so we could find that tree again and end our debate. It was getting dark again when we found it. The tree was on a curve with a high embankment. I back the car up as close as I can under the tree. I take off my shoes, climb on top of the car and jump to grab a branch. I fall against the embankment, twice, I try again and am successful with a small branch and several leaves. I hold the leaves in the headlights. We laugh. We were both right. The tree had both red and yellow leaves. Some were yellow and some red and some had both colors.
“I told you so,” said Mama, as she slaps me on the back of my head.
And so we drove home on our merry little way.
The End

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

( A blog in two parts)
It was August 18, 1970. I was into my third year in the Army, and stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky as a photo lab specialist, after my tour in Vietnam. This was the day I rode a bus to Louisville, to a Volkswagen dealership with some friends. We were fixin' to buy Karman Ghias. All three of us. Mine was a beautiful blue. It looked like the blue of the sky on a clear day. My favorite color. Theirs were convertibles, red and green. I was leery of convertibles, and rightly so, it appears, for my friend's eventually had leaky roof problems every time it rained. I paid cash for it from money I saved overseas, $2,800.00. Can you believe it? My first real car to buy on my own. I loved this car. “Why not splurge?” my tight wad conscience said.” After all I'm single and need transportation.” So I did. This wouldn't be my first Volkswagen though, I had an old used tan beetle when in college. But this would be a sports car, a brand new sports car. There's just something about single guys and sports cars, isn't it? Granted, mine wasn't a fancy sports car like a Lamborghini Miura, or Ferrari, or Mazda RX-7, not even a Pontiac Fire bird. I was a poor single guy still in the army, not even finished with college, foot loose and fancy free, with a beautiful blue sports car. So what, if it was a Volkswagen? I loved it, it suited my personality. Girls still looked and smiled.
I felt like a rich, grown man with money to burn. There is just such a special feeling about buying a vehicle on your own, with cash, and driving it off the lot the very same day. I declare, I traveled to Timbuktu and back before going home to Elizabethtown.
I couldn't wait to share the news with family, but that had to wait until I got home and found a phone. Remember, this was 1970 and there were no cell phones, so I had to wait until I got to Mrs. Hall's. I no longer lived on the base and was renting from a dear, sweet, 87 year old lady I considered a grandmother.
I called home as soon as I could. Daddy, of course, answered with his usual greeting saying, “Hi, son, you want to talk with your mother?” So I gave Mama all the details about the car and promised to send her a picture. (Again, remember, this is before cell phones, so I had to take out my Pentax K1000 camera, make sure I had loaded it with Kodak Gold Ultra 35mm color film, take the picture, then wait to develop it the next work day in the lab.) Mrs. Hall was just as excited as Mama was. She couldn't wait for me to take her around the block, I used to tease her about her middle name being, “yes, let's go.” She and I got along famously.
Eventually, the photo made it home by snail mail. Daddy thought I had wasted my money and should have gotten a truck, Mama, the free spirit, thought it was perfect. The more we talked, the more she wanted to come visit. We decided that I would use my leave time and the two of us would take a road trip across the mountains in the fall. Mama had never really seen fall leaves that only the Appalachian states can produce. We planned to drive through the Cumberland Mountains to Washington, D.C. Just me and Mama, together on a road trip in a, basically, two seater sports car.
We planned for October when the leaves would be at their peak. “We could drive to the east coast in my new Karman Ghia. It would be super fun,” I said. “After all, you and I are good traveling buddies,” I emphasized. “Oh, heavens to Betsy,” Mama said, “we're gonna look like hicks come out of the woods in that big city.”
“Not in my Karman Ghia, we won't,” I laughed. “Remember, I promised you, that if the opportunity ever arrived, I would take you to see Washington, D.C. Besides, you have done a lot of work for Daddy calling representatives for him and making decisions that were national matters, not state. You won't look like a hick, you know those people.”
She smiled, “Then the time has arrived,” she said. Mama had never been to Kentucky or to Washington, D.C for that matter, well, she had been to D.C., but not really. You see, back toward the end of World War II, she had been to Washington, but it was too brief to see anything. It was during the end of World War II. I was just a tiny baby. My George grandparents were keeping me while she rode the train from Alexandria, Louisiana, to Washington D.C., so she could see my daddy one more time before he shipped off to China. He was to spend the end of the war spraying for mosquitoes to help prevent malaria, since he had a degree in Entomology. I became sick after she left. Sick enough that I was about to die. They had to fly me and grandma to Shreveport where I received several blood transfusions. I never have learned exactly what illness I had, no one ever talked about it. I guess that's a mystery I'll never solve. Daddy was holding the telegram, when she arrived at the train station, saying how deathly ill I was. They had an hour and a half together before she caught the first train back home. She never left the train station. Poor mama. I heard this story several times about her missed trip, how Daddy had a week off and they were going to see everything they could in D.C. I don't think she said it out of guilt or to make me feel bad, it was just a story about me about to die, and how thankful she was I survived because of those blood transfusions. So I had always promised her that one day she and I would travel to Washington D.C., so she could see the city. I never asked why Daddy didn't take her himself after the war...but then, Daddy did say that he never wanted to travel anywhere again, and he really meant it. I often thought, as a young teenager, that it would have been the gentlemanly thing to do and a romantic trip after the war, but then, again, I was just a kid and didn't really understand the logistics of having four children and the need to support a family. Besides, he had his own business to run and politics and such. Understandable, now.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.