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Stories that will make you laugh and cry- from Uncle George- an old hippie

I yam what I yam - Little League Baseball influences- The Pool Hall Culture-Family and Fishing- The basic training of life

Holy Cow- I was raised on Harry Carey calling the St Louis Cardinals games

Harry Cary Singing Take me out to the ball game for the Chicago Cubs

Other sounds of Harry Carey

 

I'm Popeye the sailor man.
I'm Popeye the sailor man.
I yam what I yam
And that's all what I yam.
I'm Popeye the sailor man.

I'm Popeye the sailor man!
I'm Popeye the sailor man!
I'm strong to the finich,
'Cause I eats me spinach.
I'm Popeye the sailor man.

 

I was born down in Monroe, Louisiana on the Bayou State in 1948. My daddy was George Wesley Whitlow, a Harley Davidson riding motor cycle cop and my momma was Johnnie Clare White. Momma delivered Sears and Roebuck catalogs door to door. My papaw on my mommaís side was Roddy White; he was a logger from Caldwell Parish in Clarks Louisiana. My other papaw and mama on my motherís side was Huge Wroten and Louis Harp {Roe). They owned a pool hall in Minden Louisiana. They always gave me a big smile and took me to Church and Sunday school for cool aide and cookies at The First Baptist Church.

My grandparents owned a series of pool halls in Shongaloo, Monroe, Haynesville, and Minden. During the 1950s I spent a lot of time in my grandparentís pool halls. These pool halls served a great social function. I remember the pool hall in Monroe the best. It was called the Loinís Den because it was next door to the old Ouachita Parish Lions High School on South Grand Street that ran along the most beautiful river in America, the Ouachita River.

 

The Lions Den had about 20 full size pool tables and the kids would fill the joint during recess, lunch, and after school. They would bet their lunch money on different games and shots. The sounds of shouts, laughter, and balls crashing into balls and slamming into pockets filled the air.

 

The back room of the Lionís Den was the card room. This was the cultural gathering place for card games like Rook and Penny Anti Poker, I remember the smells of the cigar smoke and the sounds of the shouts of the players, the cards being dealt on the table, and the poker chips. I remember the old men with bear guts playing dominoes- Moon and 42. The old men laughed a lot and they all called me Side Kick and Easy Money.

 

My grandparentís pool hall in Minden was downtown on Main Street. The pool hall was just down the brick paved street form the hardware store that became world famous for the cigar smoking wooden Indiana Kaligia. Hank Williams got his start on the Louisiana Hayride Radio Show on KWKH in Shreveport. Hank had to drive down Highway 80 to get to Shreveport and he passed by Kaligia many times. Elvis and Johnny Cash also got a boost from the Louisiana Hayride. Elvis makes a guest appearance in my novel Blue Bayou Days- The Summer of 61/ a novel by Uncle George. Read the novel and get to meet Elvis up close and personal- Forest Gump style. Life is just like a box of chocolates. Refer a Friend to Smoke School and win a free genuine autographed copy of the novel.

My papaw on my daddyís side Artie Whitlow and my grandmother Mamie Whitlow, Mother Whit owned several general stores in Cotton Valley and Minden Louisiana. They called my daddy the Cotton Valley Flash because he was the center on the Minden football team and he could run the hundred yard dash faster than Flash Gordon. Artie died of a heat attack at a young age. He received a telegram that my uncle Artie Junior Whitlow was missing in action while flying a bombing mission over Germany. Artie got over the first heart attack. The he received another telegram that Artie Junior was dead, because his parachute did not open. The second heart attack killed my grandfather. Therefore I never met either one of them because they passed away before I was born. I was named after both of them and after my daddy, George Artie Whitlow. Momma said that they had wished that I had been a girl, and they would have named me Georgette. I looked in the mirror today and I would have been a fat ugly woman. That ainít no lye.

Daddy was in line to receive the family general store in Minden, but he and my momma dropped out of college at Northwestern Louisiana University during their last semester before graduation to elope in Longview Texas. Mother Whit and Roe had a big wedding planned. When they heard momma and daddy were already married, the crap hit the fan. Mother Whit sold the store and worked the rest of her life as a cook in the Veterans Hospital in Shreveport. She made the best homemade rolls and thanksgiving turkeys I ever had. She lived alone most of her life near Barksdale AFB in Bossier City. Her best friend was Duchess, a beautiful tan German Sheppard that barely tolerated our family when we came to visit.

I was my Mother Whitís favorite, although looking back I canít think of why. I was always playing practical jokes on her. One Christmas I went out in her front yard and got a brick from the flowerbed. I wrapped the brick in one of her hairnets and three layers of Christmas wrapping paper and put it under the tree. She gave me that gee ainít you clever smile when she opened it very slowly. During her last few years she moved to Houston with my aunt and uncle Jay Vee Profit and Eloise Whitlow. They all had season tickets to the Astros so I would try to visit them often when on leave from the Air Force.

Mother Whit died in Houston of lung cancer. She never knew she had it. Eloise and Jay Vee refused to allow the doctor to tell her. She lived a good quality life 4 or 5 years without any chemo or surgery. She always had a great smile and lots of laughs. She went to all of the Astros and the Colts games. She was a big sports fan. Mother Whit went into a comma the last few days and was put into the hospital for the first time in her life.

I took leave from the Air Force and spent the last couple of days by her side. She couldnít talk and she struggled to breath. I took her hand and asked her to squeeze my hand if she could hear me. She did. Then I asked her if she remembered the brick for Christmas. I think I saw her smile. She passed away about 30 minutes later. I decided if I ever get terminal cancer, that this is the way I want to go out.

 

Back when I was a young buck in the 1050s, we had an all-day black maid and baby sitter named Suzie Q who ruled the roost in the Whitlow Family. She took me fishing every day on the Ouachita River where I caught catfish as big and your finger and Suzie fired them whole. Now if that ainít country, Iíll ----.

 

I also had a cousin whom I never see except from the nickel seats at concerts now and again. His name is Merle Haggard. Merle did come to the Harp Family Reunion to sell a record about our mutual relative Grandma Harp. But I was in the Air Force then and missed the reunion.

I had another cousin named Betty Lou and she was the rodeo queen of Longview Texas. She was and still is beautiful. When I was 11 we were at a family reunion at the old community center in Minden. Betty Lou was 15 and we were playing hiding seek with the other cousins. She and I were hiding under the Grand Piano on the stage with the lights out. She held out her hand and there was a worm in it. She smiled at the worm and she smiled at me. She said that she would show me her panties if I ate the worm. I found out one thing- worms is good eating. Now if that ainít country. Betty Lou, if you read this, you know this story ainít true, but it makes a good story. I believe it was Larry the Cable Guy, Get-er-done.

Later on daddy and momma retired from the 9 to 5 job and ran second hand junk store named Nu-ta-U when they moved back to Clarks. They bought junk and sold antiques. Our house and store had the Fred Sanford look about it with a million and one hubcaps on every outside wall, and 16 junk refrigerators and washing machines on the porch. Now if that ainít country, Iíll ----.

In the early days back in the 1950ís when I wasnít hunting, fishing, or pitching baseball, I would walk around the neighborhood of 713 Nichols Ave in Monroe and mow yards for a quarter. When I earned $3 I would get a dollars worth of gas to last me for the week and head to the Paramount Theater and watch 5 movies on one screen on one Saturday for 50 cents all day. I watched the Popeye the Sailor Man Cartoons on Saturday, but only acquired a taste of spinach just lately.  I love spinach and artichoke dip on my nachos. I yam what I yam.

What is the world coming to? Today it takes over $100 of diesel fuel to fill up my Dodge Ram Mega Cab at $3.50 a pop. I used to drive all week and a dollars worth of gas. My momma always amazed me, she never filled up her gas tank and she only drove Toyota trucks. She always put 275,000 miles on them and they were all so rusted out, they had to be held together with bailing wire and duck tape- quack quack. Right up to the day she died, she would pull into a gas station and say give me three dollars worth of regular. I donít think I could back out of the driveway with $3 worth of Diesel.

 

Back to the fiftyís again. My daddy was our head little league baseball coach for the Monroe Police Department baseball team. Hilton Roberts was our pitching coach. He was a major league pitcher along side Dizzy Dean. Later he was a scout for the Houston Astros. When he coached our team, he was looking for prospects. Coach Roberts lived in the most unusual house that I have ever seen. During World War 2 he was in the Navy on a battle ship and he built a house shaped like a battle ship with port holes for windows.

It was the most unusual house I had ever seen until about 10 years ago when I spent 3 days fishing with Earl Maloncon on his houseboat tied to a big tall tree near Shell Island where the Atchafalaya River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. We put the boat in at Morgan City and left civilization. It was really beautiful, nothing around but blue sky, water, saw grass, marsh, a ton of huge long legged white Egret birds, and alligators. I have heard it is the best fishing in the world when the redfish and the speckled trout are running. The only trouble is that every single time we went down there, the fish were not biting and Earl needed something else painted on the houseboat. Earl had two 90 horse motors on his new boat, but every time we went down there the boat stopped running and we had to get an off shore oil crew boat to tow us back to Morgan City.

We did see 3 or 4 people now and again down there in the marsh of the Atchafalaya Delta. There were several camps scattered here and there. I recon the two sister twisters Katrina and Rita took them out, but the camps were there about 10 years ago, the last time that I was there. There are no roads within miles of this place. You can only get there by boat. We stopped by one of the camps to visit some of Earlís friends that actually lived in the camp year-round. Like Earl and most of the people around that part of the state, they were full bleed Cajuns. Their camp looked exactly like a house trailer. I asked him how in the heck he got the house trailer out there without any roads. He told me that it was not a house trailer, it just looked like one. He said his wife always wanted to be trailer trash, so he built her a house trailer by hauling the lumber out there, a boat load at a time. It qualifies as an unusual house, looking exactly like a house trailer, fender skirts and all. I hope there were able to evacuate before the twister sisters came.

Every 6 months at the Lake Charles smoke school, I run into a good Cajun friend who had tears in his eyes when he told me that he lost his house and all possessions during hurricane Rita. They lived along the coast around Grand Chenier- I gave blood in Grand Chenier, the mosquitoes look like B-29s. I asked him about his boat. He smiled and said he took his boat with him when they evacuated to Lake Charles. You have to know just what your priorities are. They lived in a FEMA trailer for a year but are finally back in a new house.

Tragically there are a lot of people still living in FEMA trailers. We can fight a war in Iraq and Iran but we canít take care of our levees and our own citizens. We have shipped most of our manufacturing jobs to foreign countries and we are totally dependant on foreign countries for fuel. The economy is crashing in around us like the houses form Katrina and we are headed for a depression that will make the dust bowl look like a tea party. That and it cost $3.50 a gallon for gas and it cost $20 for movie tickets and $20 for popcorn and cokes. Who would a thunk it?

I was living in Indiana when the twister sisters came along. We had the Shreveport smoke school scheduled 3 days after Rita come on board. I called my little brother Ricky in Columbia Louisiana and asked him what the weather was like. He said the wind was blowing 70 miles an hour and the rain was coming sideways. He was sitting in the front yard on a yard chair with the thunder and lightening crashing all around him. He said the weather channel predicted the storm to stall over the area and dump 20 inches of rain. Louisiana does not do well with large amounts of rain. The rivers and bayous flood all too quickly. I decided to cancel the Shreveport school. That made a lot of people mad with me. I guess you canít depend on the weather man. It really is not a weather forecast, it is a weather guess. The next morning when I woke up in Indiana, Rita was all around me. That storm was really hauling.

There was limited flooding in north Louisiana. The next evening I saw a news flash of an idiot wading in flood water up to his neck in the rain and lightening. He was toting an umbrella. Wouldnít you know it, it was my brother Ricky.

Now letís go back to my younger years and Little League baseball. My little brother John Roderick Ricky Whitlow, Columbia LA actually turned down a promise to catch for the Astros and a full scholarship Oklahoma State University because of a girlfriend that wanted to go to Northwestern University in Natchitoches, Louisiana (Steel Magnolias). They broke up during the fist semester. His student job boss would not let him off work to walk on the baseball team so Ricky dropped out of college, became a Baton Rouge Cop, and coached little league along with myself for 20 years.

Our other Monroe Police Department team coach was Scottie Daniel. He was a very strong influence in my life. No matter what the score was, how many batters I struck out or how many I walked, he always had this smile and encouraging word. He would stand or kneel at the dugout gate and always constantly sing this song: Well hello Mary Lou, Goodbye heart. Sweet Mary Lou Iím so in love with you. At first Scotty ran the printerís press at the New Star Paper, then he owned Daniel Printing Company in Monroe. His two sons Scottie and Danny Daniel, played 2nd and 3rd base and they still own Daniel Printing on Forsythe We use Daniel Printing and Ewing Printing in Vincennes Indiana for all of our smoke school forms.  

A lot of my Monroe Police teammates have gone on to be business owners or politicians. One teammate was Herby Kilpatrick and he played 3rd base. Once he fell off of a tractor wagon at a hayride at Dr. George Wrightís (Wright Bendel Clinic Monroe) farm. Actually Daddy and I pushed Herby off the back of the trailer while we were wrestling around. Herby yelled that he broke his arm when he fell off the trailer. but daddy and I did not believe him, so we let him walk back to the farmhouse.

Many years later daddy and momma got called in by the IRS for an audit of the Nu-ta-U store. For years they had claimed a loss on the store. When the auditor saw daddy enter the door they shook hands and Herby smiled. Do you remember when you pushed me off the trailer and broke my arm? It is payback time. Actually Herby let daddy off the hook. They could maintain the store as a hobby, not maintain any more receipts, donít keep tax records, and donít turn in any more tax returns. I guess baseball has been velly velly good to us. You can read all about the Monroe Police baseball team and hunting and fishing in Louisiana in my only novel Blue Bayou Days- The Summer of 61/ a novel by Uncle George. You can win a genuine autograph copy if you Refer a Friend to Smoke School.

Why did I write this story? I donít know, my mind wonders from time to time. It is 7:45 am here in the woods outside of West Monroe. I am drinking a coffee and looking out the window across our large front yard at the giant pink pigs by the road. The white oak, wild pecan, and hickory trees in the front yard are still bare of leaves, although the winter has been mild. I walked around most of the winter with sleeveless shirts and shorts. I have been accused of being Larry the Cable Guy, Get-er-done. The dogwood tree in the corner of the yard is white with blooms. There are patches of green grass down at the bottom of the hill.

It actually snowed here the first of last week. It snowed most of the day but it did not stick. We donít have any snow plows or rock salt down here in the bayou state so all of the kids got out of school early. A couple of days later it was back in the 70s and I was back in my sleeveless shirts. I think other than Christmas in Indiana; I have only worn a coat 4 times this year.

I yam what I yam. I started writing this story about this time yesterday before I learned that our webpage crashed. It was another fire that I had to put out. It took most of the day to fix it. This is our busiest time of the year. Everyone wants smoke schools March, April, and May- itís the weather.

It is not so mild everywhere we travel. Daveís crew is on Milwaukee today and it is snow and ice. The first time I did a smoke school there it was the day before Christmas and the cold wind was blowing off the Great Lakes. The ice was a foot deep and the chill factor was minus 37. My fingers, toes, and face hurt from the bitter cold. I have this warm Louisiana blood. Tears were in my eyes and the diesel fuel for the smoke machine froze up in the plastic fuel lines. I had all of the 30 or so attendees by a warm fire in a metal maintenance building. They were observing my smoke test through a rollup open door. They were pretty comfortable but I was freezing to death.

At about number 19 on the white smoke school test, I inadvertently stepped on the power cord to my public address system and nobody heard my stories and nobody heard me say number 20, read. I was not aware that the cord was unplugged. So I rapidly finished the test and walked into the shed to call out the answers. That is when I learned that nobody heard a word that I had said after number 19. Well there was no way I was going back into that snow and ice, so I did exactly what you would do in the same situation. Number 20 was 35, and 21 was 45- so forth. I guess I cheated. Hope the EPA Auditors out in California ainít reading this. When Angie and I were out there in Los Angeles for a train the trainer session, they referred to me as a legend in my own mind. Technically, they are not allowed to support nor reject me as a smoke school provider, but I take great comfort in that they consider me a legend. I hope in my own mind that when I exit this world that I may have made someoneís life just a little bit better, that I have made at least one person laugh and smile. That is how I want to be remembered. I have cried a million tears in my life. My daddy was the president of the Optimist Club here in Monroe for years. I wish I could be more like him.

I yam what I yam and I canít help it. I own 2 suits. I think they are boxed up in a storage shed down the road. We have been in this house about a year. We started the construction of the main bedroom about this time last year. Sometimes between IRS and the payroll we get a little extra cash and do a little more construction. We are in the hole now and need to go back to peanut butter and jelly for lunch. After yawl good friends start signing up for the April rush for smoke school, I intend on finding an air conditioner man to tie into our central air and move into the bedroom. We built lots of shelves everywhere. I would love to get everything out of storage and put up some more pictures. I would love to have one of those giant screen televisions to watch LSU football, Gun Smoke, and old western movies. I need that surround sound because I am going deaf and I hate my hearing aids.

 

Last Sunday Aaron, Angie, and I went to the mall. The daylight savings time slipped in on us and we did not have time to shop. We did make it to the food court for some Japanese food.

We entered Pecan Land Mall through Burlington Coat Factory and we passed the display of suits. I have been thinking about getting a new one because from time to time I think about attending a function at the Chamber of Commerce, or making a presentation at what used to be Northeast Louisiana State College. I think they call it ULM now, University of Louisiana at Monroe. We do have a college in Lafayette called U LA LA, that ainít no bull. I will admit that I still like to look at college girls. I have been accused more than once of being a dirty old man- if the shoe fits wear it.

I have worn a few salvation army suits like at funerals or in court as an inspector for DEQ, but the ties choked me and the truth is that coffee spills do not look good on starched white shirts. I feel more comfortable in shorts or my hippy blue jeans with my flowers bell bottoms sewn in. I like my sleeveless shirts and my overhauls. I like my Harley Davidson cowboy boots with my spurs, but they hurt my feet. Do you know who the true cowboy is? It is the guy with the tennis shoes on. And that is why I wrote this story, I yam what I yam.

In basic training for the Air Force back in my favorite year 69, we all had shaved heads and we all wore green uniforms. We all cried ourselves to sleep because we were all homesick. I really missed my momma and daddy- I miss them now. Wish they could be here for the fun of smoke school. Momma did travel with me when we first started for a few years. You may remember her.

My daddy taught me a life long lesson back on the Monroe Police team. I had walked the first three batters, the bases were loaded and the count was 3 and 0. Daddy called time out and walked out to the mound. He picked up my rawsin bag and shook it. The white powder stained the red dirt on the mound. I could smell the fresh cut grass and the sweat felt good on my red and green uniform. Daddy spit some Red Man Chewing tobacco juice on the white power stain on the ground. He took the baseball out of my hand and gripped the seams. He looked at the base runners and he looked at the batter. He said, ďI think I want to go fishing after the game. Can you strike this guy out? He puts his pants on just like you do- one leg at a time.Ē

I try my best to keep that pattern for my life, treating everyone the same. At smoke school I do not know if you own the company, are the plant manager, the operator, the security guard, or if you are the electrician. It really doesnít matter. We are all the same. We all want to support our family and ourselves. We all want to be the best that we can be. We all want to learn about opacity and we all want to pass the test so we can go fishing after the game. Some of us just have bigger and faster boats. And some of us have houseboats tied to big tall trees that need a coat of paint.

A few years back I was conducting a smoke school in Ohio. We were out in the woods at a state park. It was lunch time and we were sitting on a picnic table eating our wonderful Cajun fried catfish that we serve most days at smoke school. I was in my traditional faded overhauls with the side buttons open so my belly could flop around. It turned out that the fellow sitting next to me owned the plant. As usual I was telling some old story. He looked at me and said that he was thinking that I was putting on a front. I looked him, grinned, and said I yam what I yam.

Before I retired form DEQ, I planned this business in my head. I wrote this webpage that you are reading at night months before I retired. After a month or so in the business, I hired three student workers from LSU. They were in marketing. They had some very bright ideals. They wanted to redesign the webpage to make it look professional. I did change the webpage and for a while it looked just like everyone elseís webpage.  But the truth is that I am not a professional. I may be a perfectionist and I may be dedicated 110 percent to whatever I do- always have been- starting at pitching for the Police. I need you in my life.

The last couple of years we have taken in about a million dollars a year. It is not the money, money never has really mattered to me, it slips thought my hands like water and like powder from the rawsin bag. It doesnít matter weather we win or loose, it is how we play the game. And that is the rest of the story.

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