Home Page Schedule Fees Contact us Private Smoke Schools Other links to information about our training
Smoke School Stories
Merry Christmas 2006
Have you been Dreaming of a White Christmas?
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
I hope you and yours are having a very Merry Christmas. We are having a very White Christmas here in Southern Indiana. I remember all of those years growing up in North Louisiana singing that old Dean Martin song, I'M dreaming of a white Christmas. I take it all back. It is pretty, ain't no doubt about it. There is this small problem of having a foot of snow at the door, all down the porch, on my rocking chair and my swing, on down the side walk, and a foot high down the driveway. Getting that ole Chevy truck onto the snow covered street-- well.
There's a big umbrella casting shade over a empty chair
Palm trees are growing and a warm breezes a blowing
I picture myself sitting there
On Some beach, somewhere
I was down to the hardware store yesterday and actually picked up one of those snow shovels. The pretty brass ones. 42 bucks worth of shovel. It felt good. I asked the man if there was a better way to dispose of this snow. I had a snow shovel in Louisiana but I only used it to scoop up the dog yard. It worked good for that. I asked the man If I could use a weed eater for getting rid of the snow. He looked at me as if he had a weed eater loose in his fruit of the looms. Then I said excuse me, I mean a leaf blower. I have a souped up leaf blower that will blow them all the way from Dallas to Fort Worth.
I had a girlfriend in High school. Now she was a real looker. This was back in 1966 at Neville High School in Monroe, Louisiana. She was a looker and she drove the only brand new Corvette Stingray I had ever seen. Let me tell you what, That baby would go from Dallas to Fort Worth in three minutes flat. She had big hair, lots of it- blonde. The only problem with her was, she was just a little cross eyed. Took some getting used to. Her right eye looked at Dallas and her left one looked at Fort Worth.
Her name was Judy and she was a real looker. Judy had that big hair. It was blonde and it came form a bottle of Channel number 5- nope that is the perfume. Judy's hair color came from Miss Clairol. The hair made Judy look a foot taller than me. Which made slow Texas-two-step dancing a lot easier on your back. She made her hair big by teasing it. I had a lot of time to kill so I took the privilege of watching Miss Judy tease her hair. She rubbed her hair with a comb over and over again and made it stand straight up on her head about two feet high. All that hair standing up to attention looked a kin to what it must look like to stick your finger in a light bulb socket or maybe taking a wiz on an electric fence or a spark plug on a running lawnmower.
I reckon back when I had hair, that I had it teased a few times. I used to do a lot of electrical work back with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. Back when I had spare time between smoke schools and was the only maintenance person for all of the air quality monitoring sites for the entire state. I was changing a thermostat on an air conditioner in one of the portable monitoring buildings I had scattered out in the air quality monitoring network. My voltmeter had a bad battery I guess. I took off some of the wires and was twisting them on the new thermostat when it lit me up like a Christmas tree. My trainer, James Gibson, had told me that you can't get shocked unless you are grounded. So he told me to always hop up and down on one leg He also said I had to make all of the fittings on the conduit tight or all of the electricity would leak out on the ground and trip any breakers that came by.
And then there was the time at my grandfather's, Roddy White, house. We were having one of those rare North Louisiana freezes when the temperature stays below 30 degrees for more than 2 days. All of Roddy's pipes froze up. He had the pipes running above ground and bolted to the beams under the house. I had noticed that he had his electrical wiring wrapped around the pipes running across under the house. I took a crescent wrench and was loosening up a fitting. I guess one of those wires must have had a bare spot and that made the connection between the pipe, the wrench, and my left hand. That baby teased my hair. I guess the only thing that saved my life was the wrench slipped of the pipe. Now I can still feel that.
I had a run in with an electric fence one time. It was during one of those three-day rains, when a cold front moves in from up north and makes its way down below New Orleans in the gulf, then stalls out, and starts moving north again. It seems to usually happen right in the heart of deer season. It was a grey day drizzle rain and a bit cool. I had watched about all of the football I could stand that week, so I decided to go squirrel hunting. I had a Dalmatian dog named Toby Jr. that my daddy gave me. I had noticed that Toby had treed a few squirrels out in the front yard amongst the live oak trees. So I put on one of those yellow slicker suits and headed out to the deer hunting lease we got from International Paper.
I lay down on the wet ground under my wooden platform deer stand about 100 yards behind Eugene Dunn's house in Caldwell Parish Louisiana. Eugene was a game warden. So we had to make an extra effort to make sure that the deer had horns. I would not like that big doe to run into Eugene's hay field, lay down and die. That would be hard to explain. You had to watch out and make sure the deer was a deer and not one of Eugene's cows or goats. Goats do look a lot like a deer in the woods and they have horns. Over the years, I must have used that thirty-ought - six a thousand times to scope in Eugene's goats
Sound travels a long way in the woods. When I was deer hunting in the stand, I could hear Eugene's kids playing in the house. I could hear them flush the toilet. I knew more about Eugene and his family than Eugene knew. I never heard an argument coming from that house. I always admired Eugene Dunn. When he decided to quit being a game warden and run for Clerk of Court, well I just had to vote for him.
I was laying on the wet ground trying to stay dry. Toby, the Dalmatian was out running and playing in the woods looking for squirrels or wrabbits, who knows. Ever once in a while, Toby would start yelping and I would get up and walk through the woods to see if he had treed a squirrel. Most of them turned out to be false alarms. Toby had found one of Eugene's cows or goats. So after a while, I quit getting up and more or less laid down there in the woods and went to sleep on the wet ground. Ever once in a wile Toby came back and licked my ear to wake me up. Then he would give me one of those dog eyed smiles and take off.
Toby woke me up barking and yelping like I ain't never heard. I figured he must have tied up with a wild boar or something. I ran out across the woods and found Toby pinned between one of Eugene's electric fences and the wet ground. Toby's hair was teased, standing straight up. That fence would hit him and he would bite the fence. I stood there looking, trying not to laugh. Thinking, "What a revolting situation this is."
I grabbed Toby by the wet leg and that fence teased my hair. Boy oh boy did that hurt. I can still feel it. I found a limb and shoved Toby on the other side of the electric fence. He stood up and looked at his body for blood. I looked at Toby and Toby looked at me. Between us was two rows of electric fence. One was about a foot off the ground and the other was about chest high. I tried to put my large body between the two layers of fence and grab Toby by the collar. That fence hit me front and back. It teased my hair. I yelped worse than Toby. I am surprised Eugene did not hear me and come to the rescue.
Finally I managed to get between the two layers of fence and make it on the other side. I patted Toby on the wet head. Then I looked at the fence and knew my old Chevy Truck was on the other side. Toby weighed a lot and he as wet as a wet dog. I picked him up in my arms and lifted him towards the fence. Toby yelped again and bit my arm. I looked into his brown eyes and said, "Boy, If we are going to get out of here, we have to cross that fence. The truck is on the other side. If you will trust me, I will stop at McDonalds and get you a double cheese burger."
That worked. Toby loved McDonalds.
Meanwhile back here in Indiana: Well, I ended up leaving the snow shovel on the floor against the wall. Picked up about six forty-pound bags of rock salt. Slipped and slid on down Walnut Street home. Took out a few bags of rock salt and sprinkled them on down the porch, driveway, and sidewalk. There was a slight problem. The snow was deeper than my boots. Completely filled up the right boot, then it melted. My toes shriveled up like a piece of bacon. Sloshing around in the snow with a boot full of water and bacon toes that were beginning to hurt. Well wouldn't you know it, the rock salt did not melt the snow and about 4 more inches fell down last night. Darn; a fellow on a John Deer tractor just passed my window over Walnut Street.
There's no where to go when you got all day to get there
There's cold margaritas and hot Seņoritas smiling with long dark hair
On some beach
He had one of those snow plow things on front of that tractor. I ran out to the front door to see if maybe I could get him to plow the snow off my front porch. I stood there at the door looking at that white cold stuff on the porch and my bare feet on the dry side of the door. I yelled HEY. He did not hear me. Maybe I will catch him next time.
Hard to think it, but last week we were in southern Texas. Wore short sleeves most of the time. Ended up down in Mexico. The boys with me grew up here in Indiana and they were amazed that the trees were still green on December 7- the day that will live in infamy. Catherine said it was nice to have me home for Christmas. She had a whole pile of honey-dos left over from the last time I was home. I guess they will have to wait till I get this snow off the porch.
Catherine said that I should think about letting the boys and Paula take care of the smoke schools coming up in Florida in January. She said we have a good crew and they can handle it. I could just stay home and be with the family for a month. I felt the toes freezing in the snow. I did not say anything. Just thought about being on some beach - somewhere. There at West Palm Florida in a few weeks. I have already had about as much winter as I can stand. At least we could have got a house with a two car garage attached to the house.
There's a beautiful sunset burning up that atmosphere
There's music and dancing and lovers romancing
In the soft evening air
Some beach, somewhere
Darn, I ought to go down to the gun rack and get my shotgun. Take that baby out and go wrabbit hunting. I would be one of the major wrabbit hunters like John Wayne, G I Joe, and Elmer Fudd. Dang, I ought to get ole Betty Lou- the Browning sweet 16-guage, triple choked, 30-30 triple barrel, scud busting, heat seeking, laser guided, photon powered shotgun, with a cigarette lighter up the butt. That baby would bring down Frankenstein.
Track em' silly wrabbits right down in the snow. Give dem' silly wrabbits the power ball in the bingo hall. Excuse me MR. Bugs Bunny but it is hunting season and you are a wrabbit. Might just do that after I finish this letter.
Duh'- What's up Dock.
Things went very well in Texas. Loved it there. Nice weather nice people. I felt just a little like the Marines coming to the rescue back in WW 2. The Texas folks were stuck for three years with a smoke school provider who had a technique of making life rather miserable for people trying to earn a smoke school certificate. Life can be bad enough- my momma used to say- don't rock the boat. You can catch more flies with sugar than sour cream- that's what my momma always used to say. Life is like a box of chocolates- never know what you are gonna get.
Everybody here is anxious to know what they are getting from ole Santa Clause. Santa got Catherine a satellite radio. She likes to listen to Garrison Keehler Prairie Home Companion on National Public Radio. The closet station is in Henderson Kentucky. The only place we can pick it up is next to the coffee pot way down in the kitchen in back of the house. Catherine likes to sit here at the computer playing solitaire. That radio is on now- I can barely hear it. Well, if you know me you know that I am hard of hearing anyways. Nearly deaf, form all of those jet engines and thirty ought sixes. Been looking for a good hearing aid on Ebay. Got one, but it did not fit. My ear hole was too little. The man said I should sand off the hearing aid to make it fit. Maybe I will do that after I shovel the snow. I wonder exactly how you would go about sanding a hearing aid. I guess I should ask MR. Wizard- my other Brother Daryl.
That satellite radio comes with a boom box. So I am sure Heather will be listening to it. Heather turned 13 last week. We had a birthday party down at the roller dome. I actually thought abut putting on a pair of skates, then I thought of the last time I had on a pair of skates when my rear end hit the ground so hard I had to spend a month at the chiropractor's office. I think I paid to send all of his kids to college. Right now Heather is sitting in front of the TV dancing to some juke box thing they put on TV these days. Now I can hear that-
That was some birthday party. We took about 5 of her female friends. And my other daughter (might as well be- she spends most of her time here). Margaret is 10 she lives 2-doors down. Her Daddy is Louis and he is from south Texas. He is the commissioner of streets here in Washington, Indiana. Great person- as a matter of fact he loves beer.
At one moment Heather and her friends were all skating and next thing I know, Heather is dancing skating hand in hand with some boy who looked 18. She said he was 14 but he looked 18 to me. I asked her to check his driving license. What is a father do do? I guess it is God's little payback for all those times when I paid Don Coker to drive my 57 Chevrolet to pick up Terri Smith while I hid in the trunk. Her momma felt like I was too old too. Terri was a ballet dancer. She was 16 and I was 19. Lets see, that was 1967.
My momma ain't well. I took her up to Arkansas with us last month. I guess the trip was just a little hard on her. Or it could be that her clock is just about to run down. Put her in the hospital three weeks. Congestive heart failure, diabetes, kidney failure. I'm not home that much and Catherine has her hands full with both of her parents having fatal illnesses. So we put momma in a nursing home just down the road. It is not bad as what I expected. It is almost like an apartment. She has a private room and people waiting on her hand an foot. I sat with her yesterday and she reminisced on how it was like to be raised by a logger back in the 1920's. She went grocery shopping on a horse. Had a bag of groceries on the saddle horn. Well- life does go on. I am fond of what Catherine's grandfather used to tell her. "Spend all of your life taking care of the old folks. Turn around and blink- You are the old folks." Merry Christmas to you friends. Keep your chin up.
Momma grew up Johnnie Claire White, the second daughter of Roddy White who owned a logging company that ended up in Caldwell Parish Louisiana. Her momma was Lois Harp from Minden Louisiana. They lived at the time in Minden until Roddy and Lois Divorced. Momma stayed in Minden and Roddy moved back to Caldwell Parish. Momma was the drum Majorette for Minden High School and later Northwestern College. She had four years of college but quit before graduation to marry Daddy when WW2 ended. She majored in Physical Education and earned a position on the United States Olympic Team as a high-diver. She specialized on the 25 foot board. She quit the Olympics because she did not want to leave her momma. She was a very attractive woman- part Choctaw Indian with long jet black hair. Momma was a great diver. I saw her in home movies jumping out of the water and going 25 feet up and landing on the diving board. Whoops, I guess Daddy must have hit the rewind button. Momma taught me how to swim when I was 2-years old. Actually we were fishing on Gunby Dam on the Boeff River by Hebert Louisiana and I jumped off. Momma found me on her third dive into the boiling water below. I guess that is one reason I am still here on this White Christmas in Southern Indiana.
PS- We got a total of 23 inches of snow. Now Partner, that is a White Christmas. I did find a tractor passing down Walnut Street. He had the plow. I got him to plow out my driveway, Ed's driveway- Ed is Catherine's daddy. We rented them a second house next door. They stay in it from time to time when the weather is bad. I also got the tractor man to plow up my next door neighbor- My other Brother Daryl. Daryl is a good friend of mine. He is a retired truck driver. He hangs out in his garage with his heater, TV set tuned to the Cardinals and a case of beer. Daryl reminds me of Mr. Wizard. He has a table saw and sanders. He can make anything. Most of us end up there in the garage at least part of the day. The snow plow set me back 80 bucks.
Daryl is married to Rose. Rose has Alzheimer's. She is probably the most peaceful, pleasant, and most happiest person I know. She spends most of her time outside sweeping the concrete driveway, walking her dog, or playing with our old white tom cat. Nothing seems to bother her. She is so easy going. I guess if you can't remember your problems, they can't bother you. I am not so sure that Alzheimer's is as bad for the people that have it as it is on the family of people who have it. Everyday when I speak to Rose, it is like meeting her for the first time. And we have been here two years.
Back to the snow plow: The man said he was using the money to support his son's soccer team that was playing in Europe later this year. I caught up with him about 3 PM and he had been up and around town since daylight plowing up driveways. There were also a lot of teenagers with snow shovels walking the streets trying to earn enough money to buy momma a Christmas present. And that friends is the way it is here in southwest Indiana on Christmas Eve, 2004. I think my toes are still frozen.
PS Again The day after Christmas: Heather got a combination DVD, CD, and TV from Santa via Wal-Mart-- If you can't find it at Wal-Mart then you don't need it. Turns out she wanted just a little something else. The answer my friends was no. I just have not had very much luck with puppies. I was drug into court in Baton Rouge because my dog got out. Right up there next to the murderers, wife beaters, and armed robbers. Judge says to me,
"Your dog got out- How do you plead?"
"Uh- your honor- may I ask a question?"
"NO- not allowed - How do you plead?"
"Guilty, but it was not my dog."
"Guilty- $50 fine and cost of court. That will be $275."
And then there was the time here in Indiana, when I got this letter from the Judge. "We had some complaints about your dog barking. I listened to the dog barking on my telephone at 3 AM this morning. If another person wakes me up to listen to your dog barking, you are going to jail. Please take appropriate action immediately."
Anyways the answer is no but here is the letter Heather wrote. Click here to read it.
That call from the judge reminded me a lot of the years when I was an inspector with the Louisiana DEQ. My pager would wake me up around thee o'clock in the morning. I would have to get dressed and drive to a plant on the Mississippi River. Talk to security. They never seemed to like the sign in the side of the Dodge that said Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. I sniffed the air searching for that odor that made my pager go off. Wishing I could find another job and sleep all night like most other folks. I found the plant operator. They did not like to see me either. One asked me if I had any friends. I thought real hard and, said, "No- I can't think of a single one."
I tried as best I could to get the message across, if your plant odor makes my pager go off again tonight. We gonna have to fine you 30,000 bucks. I need some sleep.
I guess the most amazing odor complaint I ever worked was from a little old lady who lived in a house trailer down a gravel road about 15 miles downwind from the Georgia Pacific paper mill in Saint Francisville Louisiana. My daddy always used to say that paper mills smelled like money to him. That's what my daddy always used to say.
The lady invited me inside and asked me if I could smell it. The wind was blowing the other way and I could not smell the paper mill nor anything. I said that I could not smell a single thing except for the smell of her septic tank that was drifting in the open window. She said nope, that is not it. Now try real hard and you can smell it. I said that I did not smell anything and asked her what it was that I was supposed to be a smelling?
She said, "The Russians. They have been spying on me for thirty years. They have a radar beam focused across this trailer and they are watching my every move. Can you smell that radar?"
"Nope, what does radar smell like?"
"Like that," she says and sniffed loudly.
"Oh- radar? That is not an odor problem, that is a radiation problem. We have a nuclear division here at DEQ and that sounds like something they would be very interested in. Let me give you one of their cards. If you smell that radar again, please call them and please don't call us again.
Meanwhile back in Indiana: I still have snow to plow. Thank you for this white Christmas. Yawl have a merry Christmas. Thanks for stopping by.
of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten,
and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white
Are you still dreaming of a White Christmas? Well I could have mailed you a snowball. I decided to take a few pictures instead.
Shelton Blake lyrics to Some Beach
More smoke school stories and family stories
What to bring
|EPA Method 9 Visible Emissions Form|