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Thursday, October 27, 2011

No. 79 Cliff's mama at the fence

(As related by Cliff, himself, to my older brother, Ralph, when the latter was a young boy)

Cliff Guthrie was a mama's boy. Born on Shackleford Banks in 1886 and the youngest of Eugene & Mary Guthrie's eight children, he was his mama's favorite. Like almost all children of his era, he was nurtured as a child on genuine mother's milk. And like at least some of his contemporaries, his diet continued to be supplemented by maternal nourishment even beyond his years as an infant and toddler.

In fact, when he was already old enough to be playing shortstop on his neighborhood ball team, his mother would sometimes respond to her own biological signals by going to where the boys were playing and calling her little boy over for an afternoon snack. Positioning herself beyond a tall latticed fence, Cliff would stand erect on one side, and she on the other, and within a few minutes, both he and she were content and ready to go on.

Eventually, however, even her “Cliffie Boy” had to be weaned and assume full responsibility for his own sustenance. But because he had been nursing for so long, he was forced to break not just a routine, but also a habit. As with other long-term habits, there were times when it was harder than at others, and certain activities served to trigger an intense longing for the old routine. In Cliff's case it was playing baseball that caused him to remember and miss his mother's affection and attention.

So it was that one afternoon, well into a baseball game with his friends, that one of them noticed that as Cliff leaned over in his fielder's position, ready for the next ball hit in his direction, large tears flowed down his cheeks. His face evidenced a deep sadness and sorrow so much that his playmates were concerned.

Running over to see what was wrong, one of his friends put his arm around his shoulder and asked, “Cliffie, what is it? What's the matter?”

“Just leave me alone,” he responded, “I'll be alright. I just wish I could see my mama standing at that fence waiting for me just one more time!”

(This story has been edited from the original as told to and by my brother, but only a little. Remind me sometime to share the original.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

No. 78 Workin’ the Wayz (or, gettin’ a boat out of the water)

Why are they called a wayz ,” I asked. Daddy was too busy and too concerned that something could go wrong to pay much attention to my question. He just kept pulling and pushing on the sides of the ”Montgomery” to get her as straight as he possibly could.
Full view of the wayz that belonged to
Calvin, Neal, & WeldonWillis.
After Daddy sold his thirty-six foot trawler, the “Ralph,” he bought a much smaller twenty-two foot open boat from our neighbor, a Baptist preacher who had remained at the Island even after his pastoral calling was over. The preacher’s last name was Montgomery, so that’s the name he used for his new commercial fishing boat. This morning, he had Mike, Teff, and me to the landing to help him get the Montgomery ready to be “copper-painted.”
Once he got his boat in the right place, directly atop two strong wooden timbers that ran perpendicular to the bottom of his boat, so as to distribute the weight evenly on the beams, he positioned Teff and me to hold her as steady as we could so that he and Mike could start the lifting.

Mike was already standing on the wayz. He was holding one end of a ten foot long pole made of solid oak. Daddy climbed hurriedly up the ladder built onto the pilings and to the other end of the pole so he could fit the forked end of the pole atop a small platform and under the lower of a pair of ten-inch long iron spikes. Each of the spikes was fitted inside one of a series of holes that had been drilled exactly three inches apart along the entire length of an iron slat. The slat was at least eight feet long and maybe longer.
There was a corresponding platform that included the same kind of slats and spikes and positioned at each corner of a wooden structure that was about sixteen feet long and maybe ten feet wide. This larger platform had been built well out beyond the tide line, no more than twenty-five feet from the shore.

With Mike at one end of the pole, using his muscles and weight to maneuver it up and down, and Daddy at the other end repeatedly moving the forked end of the pole under the lower of the two spikes, the two of them used the pole as a lever and were able to raise the boat slowly out of the water. They would work one corner, and one end at a time, usually for about a foot, and then move to the other end, and finally to the other corner. The fourth and final corner would then become the first corner as the process continued and repeated for at least another foot beyond the level at which the cornering process had begun.
Eventually, after as many as four of the cornering routines, two men, this time with two young boys helping to keep the boat in place while it was still floating, were able to lift a two thousand pound boat completely out of the water. By the time they had finished they had set it in position where the same two men, and boys, could clean and paint its bottom, repair a shaft or wheel, or even replace a plank or skeeg.
If and when a wayz was unavailable, fishermen had to be creative in finding ways to get their boats high enough out of the water to paint their bottoms. Because of the high salinity of the water, barnacles and other marine life were quick to attach at and below the waterline of local boats. Even with the best available anti-fouling paint, always called “copper paint” by the people I knew, boat bottoms had to be repainted several times each year. If not, the growth would be so thick as to make it all but impossible to move the boat through the water.
Aerial view of the boats that lined the Island shoreline. Notice
the trawler on a wayz near the center of the photo, just to the
west (bottom) of the fish house extending from the south shore.
There were hundreds of boats of all sizes, from eight foot skiffs to forty foot trawlers, along the shore that stretched from Red Hill to Shell Point. At any given time, as many as a quarter of them might be undergoing some kind of re-working that required that they be dry-docked; meaning they had to be out of or above the water.
One alternative was to run your boat aground in the hook of the Cape on high tide, and then wait for the ebbing tide to leave it high and dry. This allowed the waterman a few hours to clean the bottom and then paint it before the rising tide floated it again. As with the wayz, a long oak pole placed under the boat and used as lever allowed even a single fisherman, with a strong back, to pivot the boat from one side to the other as he worked on the bottom and keel.
Yet another way, at least for the smaller boats, was to pull the boat up and out of the water, usually with the help of wooden rollers and a block and tackle or wench. Again, taking advantage of the falling and rising tide, this could be made much easier than it otherwise would have been. But it was the most labor intensive of all the methods, and usually required several strong men and boys to position the rollers and help in shoving the boat up onto the shore.
It was also the most dangerous for the men involved since the boat was prone to shift its leaning from one side to the next with no warning, sometimes leaving a single worker beneath the full weight as it titled. Often, the only alternative was to scurry out and away as fast as possible, even if it left the boat laying on its side. Another risk was that the rope in the pulley or wench might break and spring back in both directions and towards unprotected workers. I never saw anyone get hurt really bad, but I did see some people who got scared so bad that they quit the project.
Since this was usually done at the shore of your own landing, there was not the same rush to complete this process as when ebbing out at the Cape. Indeed, some boats were left on the shore indefinitely and so long that the wooden planks would draw open in the heat and sun.
When that happened, water would leak freely as the boat was lowered back into the water, at least until the planks swelled back into a tight fit when the moisture returned.
Calvin, Neal, & Weldon Willis working the wayz and raising
 Weldon's boat out of the water so it could be serviced.
There was a time when Daddy had a wayz of his own but it had fallen into disrepair by the time I could remember. After giving up on trying to maintain it he made use of the ones that belonged to Calvin and Neal Willis. They were his cousins and closest friends and lived on the shore just two houses and directly to the west of our landing. Both Calvin and Neal, along with their brother Weldon, are shown in the video that accompanies this post.
On the morning of my question about how it got its name, he was working the wayz like he had done many times before, and just like it was his own. After he had his boat, and next to his house his most valuable physical possession, securely in place, he was able to turn his attention to the question I had asked as the exercise was beginning.
I don’t know son,” he muttered, still wading around and beneath the boat to make sure everything was just as it should be. “I guess it’s because it’s something we use instead of a real railways.” That’s what was used on mainland harbors to pull big boats up and out of the water so they could be worked on. “We can’t afford none of that, so we use this instead. Maybe that’s why we call it a ‘wayz.”
I know another reason,” my brother Mike suggested as he too continued working to secure the Montgomery as it sat up, out and above the water. “It’s the best wayz we know of to get this thing done!” 

Monday, October 24, 2011

No. 77 My Rooster that was a "Chicken"

“What ya looking for?”

That was not an unreasonable question to be asked in this situation. Here I was bent over on my hands and knees with my head almost on the ground peeking under our neighbor’s house. I was trying to find an angle where some of the morning sunlight was bright enough that I could maybe detect if anything moved.

My older cousin, Sno’ball (Creston Gaskill) whose house it was, had stepped outside not expecting to see me, especially not there, so he was wondering just what was going on.

“I’m looking for my game rooster,” I told him. “He’s run away and he’s camped under your house and won’t come out for nothing, not even some corn pellets.

“I think he’s scared I’ll try to get him to fight again.” I explained. “He’s not much of a fighter, and he’d rather play hide-n-seek with me than risk having to 'rassle with another rooster.”

I was only ten years old but I had learned enough about chickens, at least this one, that all these years later I’m still convinced that I was right. That rooster stayed under Sno’ball’s house for another two weeks. He must have come out some at night, waiting for everyone to go inside, so he could eat the handful of feed that I used each day trying to lure him out in daylight. We could hear him under the house, and once in a while he would peek out around the block foundation that lined it. But he was determined not get anywhere close enough to the outside that I, or anybody else, might reach or retrieve him.

Finally, acting on a tip from my cousin Paul who lived across the road, we pushed another fighting rooster into the same space my bird was using, and sure enough, my game rooster ran out a cacklin’ to where my brother Teff was able to fall on and hold him. A few minutes after that he chicken-rooster back in the coop in the corner of our yard.

Later that same day we took the bird back to Mike (Lloyd Nolan) Rose, who had sold him to us just a few weeks earlier and told him to keep the bird and the four dollars we had paid for a full-blooded “War Horse” fighting rooster.

A photo of me with my "Fighting Rooster," taken by my
my brother Tommy the same day he bought it for me.
He invited some of my neighborhood friends to join me
and my dog, Dash, in the picture taken in our front yard.
Thus ended my days as a chicken-fighter. Don’t get the wrong idea. The chicken fights that were orchestrated by a small group of Island boys was far removed from the “cock fighting” that remains an ugly part of some cultures. And though our version may not have been pretty, at least by today’s standards, it was more an exercise in showmanship than in fighting.

We would stand in a circle consisting only of the boys who were watching and launch our birds into the middle. The roosters would then raise their wings and spread their feathers and ready themselves either to attack or defend, depending on their temperament. After just a few seconds, one of the roosters would begin to lunge at the other and the two birds would bounce off and start again. As they did, we would grab the ones that were ours and that was it. The parade that preceded the contact was what we loved to see. Once the fighting had begun, for us at least, the show was over!

For one thing, genuine fighting roosters cost money, sometimes lots of money, unlike the laying hens that everyone had in abundance. Two dollars, five dollars, sometimes even ten dollars may not seem like a lot now, but it was a small fortune then, especially if it had been earned picking up bottles out of ditches or opening scallops on the dock. No one was about to see that investment go to waste in an exhibition that offered neither money nor rewards, other than the excitement of watching two birds dance in circles.

There were dozens of adolescent boys in our neighborhood, and several of them had taken to the sport of roosters. The aforementioned cousin Paul (Hancock), Rennie (Moore), Billy (Beaman), and especially Dallas Daniel (Guthrie), each had at least one prized bird that they loved to show off against the other’s. Watching them perform I came to marvel at both the beauty and grace of the large birds. Sensitive to my interest, my daddy found me a small bantam rooster that had the same traits, if not the size, as the larger roosters. But “Junior,” that’s what we called him, soon became so much a part of the family that I couldn’t risk even a “show-dance” that involved the chance of his getting hurt.

So it was that I started hinting that I was anxious for one of the bigger and more storied fighting birds. Because of my young age and my family’s finances, I remained an onlooker until my brother Tommy came home for a visit from his Coast Guard assignment in Louisville, KY. (We used to say that he was stationed off the coast of Kentucky.) When he learned what was going on he offered to buy me a “game rooster” if I could find the one I wanted. Mike Rose was a few years older than me, and lived more than a mile to the east’ard, but he was recognized as having the best birds that could be found anywhere on the Island. One Saturday afternoon Tommy drove me to Mike’s house and a few minutes later we were headed home with a my chosen rooster nestled under my jacket and arm, and for less than half of what we had expected to pay.

After just a couple of days, Tommy had arranged for Paul to bring over one of his bevy of fighters so we could see just how willing my new pet was to be part of the combat dance. It was then that we learned why Mike had been willing to part with this particular bird for such a low price. He was pretty, and he was loud – you could hear him crow from anywhere in the neighborhood, but it was immediately evident that he was more a lover than a fighter. He refused even to make the stance of a fighter. He just turned his back and ran for any opening he could find to get out of the fighting circle. And not only did he leave the circle, he kept on running until he had found safe haven under Sno’ball’s house. And that’s exactly where he spent the next two weeks.

By the time we finally got hold of him again, Tommy was back in Louisville, and I was too ashamed even to watch another chicken fight. So my “War Horse Game Rooster” ended up where he had started, and I moved on to some of the thousand other things that made being a boy on Harkers Island such a never-ending adventure.

Monday, October 17, 2011

No. 76 "The Seasons of My Youth" by Ralph Louis Hancock, born 17 Oct 1928

The Seasons of My Youth
Ralph Hancock

The cold and rainy days of January give way to the signs of spring in February. Everything is bleak - no fish in the sound. Boats swing at their stakes and moorings with no place to go. Suddenly a warm spell, and hard-shell crabs appear at night.

In March, sea mullets begin to appear at the Cape as the warm south winds blow. Early in the morning, very high above, a loon can be seen flying north.

April brings more evidence of spring. More fish are now at the Cape and warm days suggest summer is not far away. Easter is here - new dresses and white shoes for the girls.

It's May now - school will end soon. All summer - an eternity to enjoy before school starts again. I caught some soft-shell crabs just yesterday. Big sea mullets, blue fish, and sometimes a sturgeon appear. Big shark holes mysteriously are found in the nets.

Sometimes hot days - other times fresh north winds reverse the season. The fish are gone - nights are cool. Only for a little while - winds swing to the west and become calm. It's summer again - waters show signs of fish. The clear waters of winter now become colored as when fish are swimming in the sound. The first pony penning of the year is in June. Hog fish in that first hole in Cab's Creek. Maybe someday we'll catch those three mullets, those wild ones up at the next landing. Maybe there will be some shrimp next week, when the tide makes better.

It's the Fourth of July - maybe if we go to the landing, we can see the fireworks from Atlantic Beach.

The warm winds of August blow across the banks and the smell of salt water fills the air. Clamming causes my back to ache, but I feel great after catching my first bushel.

Old Pa wants to catch those mullets at Ephraim's Camp Bay. The grass makes the lead lines roll, but we'll catch more next time. Old Pa's "Ole Ben" had to be bailed out. Someone took the centerboard stick and it's so hard to step the rudder with the sails up.

By the smell of the pines and feel of that northeast wind, it must be September. School begins soon - where did the summer go?

It's October now. I'll get to wear my new shoes and jacket to school.

It's November - and it's better to stay in bed this cold morning. I hear Mama and Daddy starting a fire in that old three-legged stove. The kitchen will be warm soon. That light bread smells good - maybe we have some mullet roe left.

Christmas comes this month. I hope those orders from Montgomery Ward and Sears get here in time for Christmas. The lines are long at the post office window.

The tree is up in the corner of the living room. Those red and green rope-like decorations hang from the ceiling. A big red ball hangs from the center of the room. The smell of Christmas pies make me hungry. I got a cap pistol and a box of fireworks from Spencer's - smell that powder, see that flash - that one almost went-off in my fingers.

There is a Christmas party at the church. Santa will hand out bags with fruit and candy. We'll have ham and eggs for supper. It think it's Daddy's favorite. Christmas is so much fun. The "Silent Night" feeling makes me feel so good. I can just see the Christ Child and the Three Wise Men on that quiet night, with that big beautiful star up above.

All the seasons of my youth were good ones. I loved my people and I know they loved me. My family was the greatest and Mama and Daddy made me feel good just to be near them.

(These writings are dedicated to my parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, and all the good people of my youth. RLH)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

No. 75 Dr. James A. Morris, Jr., Presidential Award Winner

Page forward one generation from mine – make that one and a half ...

Science awards, White House honors, research grants; these were totally foreign to the world I knew as a boy. A few days ago, they all came together when I was able to watch as my son-in-law was one of a select few who received a Presidential Award for "Scientists and Engineers.” Sitting between him and me was his wife - my daughter Joella, and as she looked up towards her husband, I could tell that she was the least surprised of anyone that he had earned such a signal honor.

First and foremost James is Joella's husband, and as much as that he is Jacy's, Riley's, Zoey's & Charlie's dad. But in addition, he is a widely acclaimed research scientist; and that was pretty much accepted even before he received this award. He travels the world (yes, the world) speaking to groups who want to learn from the work he is doing. He has been interviewed on national news shows, including the “Big Three” network stations and Dan Rather did a feature program last year in which he played a prominent part.

Seeing and hearing him as he accepted a National Science Award, standing at a podium ensconced in velvet with the D.C. monuments clearly visible from the window behind him, accepting a stipend funded by Congress, feted in the heart of the Nation’s capital, then meeting and shaking hands with the President himself in the East Room of the White House, I could not help but reflect on two unrelated themes; one sublime and the other now seeming more and more ridiculous.

First, I was sensitive to the path he has followed and that started as the son of a commercial fisherman in Sea Level; learning early on what it meant to work long and hard in the water, and growing to appreciate the traditions into which he was born. In more ways than one he was a prodigy. His love for the life of a waterman was augmented by an aptitude and a fascination with understanding the biological bases for the natural world that was both his playground and his workplace. And perhaps even more especially from his father, Jimmy, at a very young age he came to accept the importance of thrift and work; so much so that by the time he graduated from high school he owned not only a car, but also a boat and a house – yes, a house!

Later on, while supervising the building of another home for his growing family, he and Joella lived with us for several months. During that entire time I hardly ever saw him in the morning. All of my life I have loved the mornings and been an early riser. But even though I was up and about each day by the time that the sun broke the horizon, James was already out of the house and making good on his plans for the day.

The other stream of consciousness that kept popping into my mind as James spoke that morning was of the first time I met the boy whom I had heard was interested in dating Joella. Early one Saturday evening in 1993 he came to the home where Susan and I had nurtured our family of six children. He was there to pick one of them up for a ride into town. I was somewhat amused, and more than a little nervous, when he pulled into our driveway behind the wheel of a rough-looking mid-sized pickup, jacked up several inches for off-road adventures, and making noises so loud that our dog came out barking at the disturbance.

Getting out of the car I saw a tall and lanky boy, whose blond and curly hair made him look more like a surfer-dude than the budding gentleman I had long anticipated for my second daughter. There was a part of me that wanted to tell him “no thank you” and send him on his way, but another part of me had confidence in the choices of the one of my girls who was most like her mother. Still, I could not help but feel a little chagrined as the two drove off, so much so that I have been reminded of that feeling many times since; especially when confronted with just how mistaken my first impression had been.

One of the greatest blessings from my daughters has been the sons-in-law they have given me. Each of them has become much more than that – so much so that I consider them not as in-laws but as sons. Kevin, James, Kyle and Rodney have each, in a unique way, filled voids in my world; usually one that I was not aware of until they made it evident, and they all are now both my friends and my confidants.

Because of his love and appreciation for the disappearing world of the waterman, the one that I knew as a boy, James has become for me a forward-facing link to my past. He keeps his and our boats – so far we have owned three together – and he is always doing something fun and interesting in the water. He cultivates both oysters and clams on leased bottom, and keeps the entire family stocked with all types of seafood. More importantly, he loves and appreciates the stories that are so much a part of the local maritime tradition, and often adds some of his own to my growing collection. In an important way, at least to me, he helps me feel that both the stories and the tellers still matter.

These were some of the thoughts that flooded my mind as I sat in the audience for his recognition and award. I wondered if he knew just how proud I was of him and for my daughter and their four children – my grandchildren. I wanted others who knew him, especially his close friends and family, to better appreciate just how significant that day was for him, and even for them. And most of all, I wanted somehow to capture that moment when all the work and worry of being a father are swallowed up in the look on the face of my daughter as she senses that everybody else, including her papa, had caught a glimpse of what she had been seeing all along.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No. 74 “Standing on top of a Whale”

On Friday, 18 February 1898, Elder William Hansen, a Mormon missionary from Logan, Utah was visiting with friends he had made at Harkers Island. Word soon spread that the crew of Thomas Lewis had brought in a whale on the beach at Shackleford. Anxious to see the cause for all the commotion, the visitor and his companion accompanied a party to the Banks. That evening he wrote in his journal about what was one of the last whale catches ever made off of Diamond City.

"We soon found ourselves in a boat and shortly were landed on what was called “The Banks” where we beheld the whale. It was lying partly in the water and partly out of the water; seven feet were in the water, and eight feet above water, making the whale fifteen feet through. The whale was sixty feet long and weighed about fifty tons. The crew anticipated securing from its body about 4,800 gallons of oil. The bone in the whale’s mouth, which is the most expensive part of the whale, was eleven feet long, three feet wide, and thirty inches thick. With the oil from the bone the crew expected realizing about $1,800.00.
"There is something very peculiar about a whale. It has fifty‑two joints in its back bone, the same number as the weeks in a year. And it has three hundred and sixty‑five bones in its mouth, the same number as the days in a year. When on top of this fish it seemed as though we were on a small island."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

No. 73 "Blind Lilly"

Aunt Lilly was blind and had been since birth. Like many others with her condition, she learned to compensate for the loss of one sense by sharpening another. For her, it was her touch. Her fingers became her “eyes” of a sort. With them she not only negotiated around the home and neighborhood, but more especially, she learned to recognize faces by their feel. She would make her way around a room, touching faces to learn and then recognized the chins, noses, ears, and eyes of the people she knew and loved.

Lilly Larson, known to the family as "Blind Lilly"
She was the oldest daughter of my great-grandparents, Louie & Emeline Larson. Left fatherless at only two years old, she became part of her mother’s new family after Emeline married Calvin Farr Willis and moved her two small children, including my grandmother Agnes, to the spot near what later would become Hancock Landing where they would all live the remainder of their lives. She was soon surrounded by a mushrooming group of relatives, including two half-brothers, and seemingly countless cousins, nephews and nieces.

Others most certainly could see and sense her disability, but she remained happily oblivious to any distinction and was a special part of her extended family. She moved freely about the pack of houses that made up her small little world as her friends and family served as both her eyes and her guardians. As she grew older her physical deformity became increasingly pronounced and apparent, but by then she was so familiar that it was more a distinction than a difference.

Rather than intimidating the children she met, her soft hands accompanied by her gentle voice evolved into a welcoming ritual that was comforting and un-frightening. It was familiarity as much as sensation that allowed young children to feel so comfortable in her presence.

Lilly had passed on before I was born, but she was very much a part of the day-to-day lives of my older brothers and sisters. Once, looking at a picture of her as a seemingly aged old woman, and noticing the obvious deformity in her eyes, I asked my older brother, Tommy, if he was uncomfortable or scared by her in any way. “Scared?” he responded, “Why would you be scared of somebody you loved so much?”

An aged woman, carrying all the baggage of a lifetime without sight, was comfortably at home around an entire neighborhood of children of all ages. She, like dozens of her contemporaries was not confined to an institution, or even to a secluded corner. She remained very much a part of the world she had known from her own childhood. For Tommy and the others of his age group, familiarity and intimacy had allowed love and compassion to overcome the innate tendency of children and adolescents to shy away from anyone they considered unfamiliar or unusual. A lack of the same, especially with older people, could be why many, if not most, of today’s youngsters seem so uncomfortable in the company of some adults; even if their only deformity is being older and a stranger.

Except for a few formative years with Ole Pa, my paternal grandfather, and his enduring influence and aura, I never knew my grandparents. But that does not mean that my childhood was devoid of time with and around older, even aged, people. On the contrary, old people; aunts, uncles, older cousins, and scores more whose exact relationship I didn’t really know at the time, were a constant part of my daily childhood experience. Indeed they were and are both the source and subject of most of the tales that have formed the fabric of these stories.

In a time before rest homes and assisted living there was no place for aging, even infirmed seniors to be other than with their younger family members, either nuclear or extended. Even as I learned to love and respect that older generation, I also gained an appreciation and confidence in interacting with them individually and as a group. Having to listen more attentively and speak a little clearer and slower was a small price to pay for the lessons they told and taught.

As an adult, my professional, civic, and church responsibilities have often brought me in contact with children of all ages. Gowning old(er) I have observed a seismic change in how children and adolescents relate and engage with their elders. Many, if not most of the youngsters I meet seem uncomfortable, even frightened, when they are obliged to interact with seniors with whom they are not familiar. Often they hesitate to look me in the eye, and then respond in mumbled tones, if at all. Sometimes they look to their parents as if to ask longingly, “please rescue me from having to talk to this old man!”

Admittedly, I may have less to render than Ollie (Willis) or Aaron (Moore) or Cliff (Guthrie) did to me. But there are many of my now “graying” generation who have much to offer if allowed to be a friend. Today’s children may someday look back with regret at the stories they did not hear or even at the questions they did not ask when the opportunity was there just for the taking (see No. 17 "Mullet Fishing, an Old Man, and World War I").