2 Years. Really!?


2 years ago today we changed up our lives big time, for the better, and now it’s a day I celebrate every year.

About this time we were heading into Ladue to meet Kathleen Mills Lovett and Laura Parsons Donovan and Paul Turin. We sold our house in Imperial, had a drink of water and a couple of deep breaths while fighting back some tears, and then bought our new home in Fletcher. After a brief celebration we flew back to Imperial to meet the movers and started the trek to the country. We had a heat wave that week, too.

While this is all old news to everyone else, it still feels like it happened “yesterday” to us. Country life has been good for our soul, and that’s an understatement. I miss my friends, and I wish I could share this place with them more. But, that’s one of the things that comes with moving to the sticks and not leaving much. This move was about us, and what we needed most. With every sunrise, and every sunset, I’m reminded that we did the right thing, and we’re much better for it. And now, with Kathy’s fight with cancer, I’m glad she gets to come home to this quiet sanctuary to rest and heal. (#fuckcancer)

So, what am I doing out here? Well, I don’t sleep late much anymore. The sun comes up and I really want to be outside. I like taking walks with no destination, at any time of day, especially late late night. Mowing 4-5 acres of parkland lawn takes some time, it seems like we do that a lot. I’ve been doing a fair amount of tractor service and repair, because we use them a lot. I’ve gotten a good handle on the pool, opening and closing is easy and I’ve been able to keep it crystal clear for 2.5 seasons. I think Kathy enjoys the pool even more than I do. My big garage (also known as “The Shop”) is really starting to feel like “MY” space, but I still have a ways to go… I still haven’t hung up all my license plates, but my American flags are up. I saved us about $11,000 by building my own fence after getting a quote from someone in town. The dogs (all 5 of them) LOVE having all that space to run and roam out back. We’ve been working on opening up new areas of the property… there are still 10-12 acres out back that we want to get opened up and cut some trails through… that’s my ongoing project that I’ll probably be doing until I can’t do it anymore. There’s never a shortage of things to do or places to explore without ever leaving the property, and I leave the property the least amount possible. And when I’m tired and want to take a day or two off, I haven’t found a better place to relax and unwind than right here. I’ve made one new friend since we moved in… Bill the Junkman, who I affectionately call “Wild Bill,” comes over about once a week to collect my aluminum cans and tell me crazy stories. We have several walnut trees, and he’ll be coming over more often to collect them and take them to the market. That means Fall is coming, which means we will be burning leaves and brush before we know it.

Some will tell you that changing your physical location will not change your life. I say that’s true of folks that either 1) were not ready for the move or 2) didn’t move to the right place. Less traffic, less pointless commuting, less fast food, less shopping, less noise, less neighbor drama… all of these things (and more) came with our change of location, and our quality of life has improved dramatically. Yeah, I’d say this moved changed out lives for the better.

We have some friends and family that may be reading this right now and thinking “wow, he’s selfish!” Yeah, maybe at 47 years old I’m thinking about myself, my wife, and my kid a lot more than I’m thinking about anyone else. Like Reese’s… not sorry. I do miss some folks quite a bit, and I’m sorry I made it more difficult for us to spend time together. I’ve even lost a friend or two because of this move. But, I’m hoping those folks are doing everything they can to improve their quality of life. I hope they are chasing their own dreams and finding their own version of happiness. I don’t hold our lack of visitors against anyone, so I think it would be kind of fair if folks wouldn’t take our move, and our love of country solitude, personally and hold it against me.

If I could go back and do it again, I wouldn’t do anything different.  Many thanks and much love to all the folks that helped us get here.

This Old Rugged Cross

“So I’ll cherish the
old rugged cross,
Till my trophies
at last I lay down.”

My mom, Beatrice C. Sparks, known to most as just “Bee” died 3 months ago this Saturday just passed. Sunday would have been her 90th birthday.

I remember, before Dad died, Mom often wearing a silver cross on a slim silver chain. Mom worked as the Dining Room supervisor at Camp Mihaska, and was a “Lunch Lady” at Clayton High School for more than 20 years. She was fond of white polyester “smocks,” as she called them, and I clearly remember her cross hanging from her neck as she leaned over to wipe down another table, swap out another pan of food, or pick up another dustpan of mess from the floor. It was a lot shiner back then.

Sometime after Dad died, Mom gave me her cross. I remember her telling me she wanted me to wear it so I would remember that Jesus died on the cross for me, and that I would see my dad one day in Heaven. I wore my mom’s cross regularly, almost daily, for a number of years, as the reminder she wanted it to be.

I actually believed that bit about seeing my dad in Heaven until I was about 18-19 years old, when the doubt (and reality) started to sink in. By the time I was 20, I had no place in my life for a cross on a chain, even if it did once belong to my mother.

A few more years passed, and with time came experiences, and experience. Some better than others. I think I really got in touch with my Irish Temper from age 20-24, and at some point I came to the personal realization that I needed to chill out, and to make the challenge of being a better man a part of daily life. Somewhere in there Mom’s cross came back out of the jewelry box and made it back around my neck. This time, Jesus and Heaven had no part in my decision to wear the cross. Years later, when I was 28, I met my wife-to-be, and once she asked “Well, if you don’t believe in God, Heaven, and Hell, why do you wear a cross around your neck?” My answer, “It’s my reminder from my mom to be good. To try to be the good guy.”

As time moved relentlessly forward, new experiences and adventures with my wife and daughter gave me a variety of new neck wear, and I started swapping out necklaces for mood and occasion. Somewhere along the line, the slim silver chain holding Mom’s cross, now dark and tarnished like the cross itself, broke. The chain disappeared, while the cross went into a jewelry box to be temporarily forgotten.

A couple of weeks ago my new HOG (Harley Owner’s Group) membership packet arrived in the mail, with a brand new 2019 HOG pin. Every time I get a new pin, I can’t find the whole collection (because I haven’t pinned them to my vest, yet) which results in a time of panic trying to find my important jewelry, pins, mementos, etc. This time was no exception. But, this time, we decided to go through all of the jewelry boxes and re-familiarize ourselves with the contents, and hopefully find my stray HOG pins. We found the HOG pins, and Mom’s old, worn, and tarnished cross, without a chain.

My favorite silver chain is one I got with a gift card from my mother-in-law almost 10 years ago now. Two Christmases ago my daughter gave me an awesome dog-tag key chain, which I decided to make a neck pendant rather than a key chain. When I found Mom’s cross, I added it to my chain along with my “daddy dog-tag.”

Now, I wear Mom’s cross every day, not to remember Jesus, not to remember to be good, but to remember my mom. When I think of Mom, I’m still having difficulty thinking of good times through years long passed. My mind and heart still wants to think about the last weeks, months, and year of Mom’s life, and not the good parts. When I straighten out the cross around my neck, or I see it in the mirror brushing my teeth, I think of Mom, and just Mom. I think of Mom, young, happy, and surrounded by people she loved, doing a job she loved. I remember Mom loving me, trying to give me a happy life, and trying to keep me on the “good path.”

I don’t have many tangibles from my mom. An afghan that’s extra warm and comfy. A Christmas tree skirt my wife made for her many years ago.

And, this old, rugged, cross, that I will cherish till my trophies at last I lay down.

Evel – Our 1955 Ford F600

This truck appeared on the side of the road about 5 months ago. My wife saw it first, and knew we were in trouble. I saw it next, and fell in love.

With a little help from Kathy I was able to make an offer to the owner last Wednesday, before Spring arrived and someone with a wrecker or a nice trailer showed up and snagged it before I did. He accepted my offer, and even brought it to the house and helped me get it up the driveway and into it’s temporary spot in the gravel parking lot out front. (It’s wreaking havoc on FedEx and UPS, as the gravel lot is their preferred turn around spot!)

I named him Evel because the custom paint job reminds me of Evel Knievel’s suit. He’s a Ford F600 1.5 Ton Dump Truck, manufactured in 1955 in Chicago, IL USA.

I bought this truck under the assumption that it does NOT run. However, I was told that the Ford 302 motor that’s in it runs just fine, it just needs new fluids, filters, fuel, and a battery. We’ll see about that. I am having a somewhat difficult time finding the engine ID tag, but what I have found so far is leading me to believe the Ford 302 V8 statements are accurate. I was told that the biggest problem with the truck is the brakes… nothing more than that, just that the brakes don’t work. I feared the worst after finding an old rusty brake booster in the front seat of the truck, as it had been cut out of whatever vehicle it was in. I expected to find missing parts and cut brake lines when I got under the truck, but I found a fully intact brake system with booster, master cylinder, and brake lines. I am now much more optimistic that I’ll be able to figure out what’s up with the brakes and get them working again.

This is not a full on restoration project, at least that’s not the plan right now. This is a “let’s make it work and have some fun” project!

The next step, realistically, is to figure out how to get it inside the garage. Once it’s inside, I can see about stuffing some oil and gas and a battery in it and test the running motor theory, and I can get all the way underneath it, with some lights, and get to work on the brake system. For now, it’s going to stay parked where it is, as there are two other Ford’s already in the garage needing attention. I’m going to get the 1931 Ford Model “A” Coupe, and the 1929 Ford Model “A” Truck, running this summer… then we can see about making a home inside for Evel.

Hopefully, within a year or two you’ll see Evel in the Richwood’s parades, giving hayrides around the property, and helping us (and friends?) with various projects.

Denali Day

Until now, I haven’t done much in the way of customization with the new truck. I shouldn’t really say “new,” as she will have been in our fleet for 3 years this September. I think I had the windows tinted by Cool Shades (https://coolshadestint.com/) in St. Peter’s within a month or so of bringing her home. It’s been nothing but wash, wax, and miles on the road since then.

It really wasn’t much of a customization/upgrade. I kind of wanted a specific set of tires. At minimum, I wanted tires made in U.S.A. If you’ve ever looked for tires made in the United States, you know it’s not an especially easy task, and there isn’t exactly a huge selection.

A few months ago, I ordered a set of Dick Cepek tires in what I thought was the correct size for my truck. I goofed and gave the guys at the tire shop the wrong size, totally my bad. So, when I got to the shop they were not able to put the tires on, as they wouldn’t fit without some adjustments to the truck. Adjustments I wasn’t prepared to make at the time. We discussed different tire options, but they were all Chinese/Japanese options. So, I decided to do some more research, and do a little saving, to try and get what I actually wanted, rather than another tire compromise.

I bought a set of 2″ BORA (Bulletproof Off Road Adapters) from a little company in Reno/Sparks, Nevada, called Motorsport Tech (http://www.motorsport-tech.com/). They make hub-centric wheel spacers, right here at home in the U.S.A., for cars, trucks, ATV/UTVs, and tractors. The 2″ spacers allowed me to give adequate space between the larger/wider tires in the back, without grinding or cutting the factory wheel studs. And, it’s not for everyone (in fact, in this case it’s for me, exclusively) but my back tires fill out the wheel wells nicely now. They even extend out past the wheel wells a little bit, which I think looks fantastic. A 2″ Leveling Kit from Rough Country Suspension Systems (also made in U.S.A.) (https://www.roughcountry.com/) leveled out the truck, and brought the front end up enough to keep the Dick Cepek Extreme Country 285/70/17 tires from rubbing, even at full turn. I love having the truck leveled out during normal driving. I am really diggin’ the look, and the ride is super nice. My old tires were pretty well shot, so between nice new tread and an alignment, the truck drives better than it did when I brought it home 2.5 years ago. I can take my hand off the wheel and she roll straight as an arrow.

Plaza Tire & Auto in Potosi, Missouri did the work for me, and I am super happy with the result. So far, Plaza Potosi has taken care of passenger tires, tractor tires, and now truck tires and suspension upgrades. If you’re anywhere near Potosi and need tires, I highly recommend you give Jeremy a call: (573) 436-2777

Site Work Continues

Getting this site/blog the way I want it has been a difficult process. I am trying to simplify my life a little by using WordPress and their tools, rather than start from scratch in Visual Studio and spend who knows how much time building my “perfect” personal site/blog. So, I have been trying to find the right WordPress theme that gives me the right balance between the features I want and a display layout I can live with. It has been a long and not-so-fun process of “trying and customizing” different themes to evaluate their features and layout. Just when I find one I can settle in to, I find a reason to hate it. It has not helped that most of the posts written before mid-2017 were written without themes or features in mind. When evaluating themes, it helps to have posts with content that expose the features of the theme you are evaluating. I have had to do a fair amount of editing or, more accurately stated, “temporary hacking,” of older posts to try and get them to play nice with the particular theme I am evaluating.

The above is a long way of saying, “getting this site the way I want it has been a real pain the ass.”

I think I found the “right” theme today. It is a cold, dark, and snowy winter day in Fletcher, and I am bored and feeling cooped up. I really enjoy being outside, especially on private property. By that I mean to say I am not much of a public park person anymore, but I prefer being outside to inside. Winter is bumming me out hard core this year. Anyway, I am hanging out in the office with the wife and decided, considering my level of boredom today, that working on the WordPress site would not be as painful and frustrating as usual. And, what do you know, it worked! I did a little searching on a particular issue I have been having, and read up on a couple of the features I have been wanting to try out, and in pretty short order I found the theme you are looking at now while reading this post. The layout is something I can live with, and it has the post-format features I have been looking for to create a distinction (beyond post categories) between my posts.

I have some more work to do. I am happy enough with this theme that I am going to go back and edit (not hack up) all of my previous posts so they display well in this them. I will probably be doing some experimentation with additional post categories, and actual pages within the site. As far as posts go, I will be using post-formats based on the type of content I am posting, and hopefully that is going to lead to a site that is visually more appealing and interesting, and easier to use.

And, yeah… I have not been writing recently. I blame it on winter. I am not going to dwell on it, I am just going to hope that getting the site working and looking the way I want will help me write more.

As always, thanks for reading!

Grumpy Buds

Harley and I are not having the best day. He is a bit grumpy… didn’t sleep well, and I think he’s feeling some kinda way about all the attention the puppies have been getting. Me, well, it is Monday, opened Facebook too early which put my mood in a funk, and my back has been hurting for a week. It is super cold, icy, cloudy, and everything is frozen. Harley and I both are ready for summer sun and outside time.

2018… Not so Great for Writing

Like riding my Harley-Davidson, 2018 was not a great year for writing. Like this year, I started 2018 with a series of plans and goals for writing, and the best intentions for working to complete and reach them. As it turns out, I did very little writing here last year.

And, 2019 has started out worse. My first goal for 2019 was to write my first post on January 1st, and then write at least one post each day, every day, for the whole year. Since this is my first post of 2019, that has obviously not worked out.

I hope to change that with this post. I have simplified my plans, but raised my goals, for 2019. From here on out, I am going to write at least one article here every day, even if it is just my end-of-day public journal entry. I am going to achieve this by not trying to plan what I am going to write on any given day. I will continue to start blank drafts with titles when I have an idea but do not have the time to write, and will come back to them when it seems right. I will write about whatever is on my mind at the moment, or a topic I have been spending a lot of time thinking about recently. Or, if I am not in the mood for non-fiction, I will write some short fiction. And, who knows, maybe I will get back into Haiku.

I understand re-reading, editing, and re-writing, is a big part of published written work. However, I do not plan on spending a lot of time on any of the above at this blog. This is not a novel, or a commercial piece for a publication. This is my house. Here, I write from the head and the heart at about 135 words per minute. I re-read to make sure what I have written conveys what I want to convey, and to proofread for grammar and spelling. I am not going to spend much time, if any, editing. Once an article has been written, I am going to publish it quickly to avoid the traps of editing, censorship, and publishing procrastination. Keep this in mind, if you plan on becoming a regular reader.

Besides trying my hand at some fiction, I have a lot to write about in 2019 already. Work. Facebook. Country Life. Family. Mom. Especially Mom. I look forward to sharing thoughts about, and memories with, Mom. Before I go there though, I have a message or two on my mind and in my heart on the subject of Mom that I need to unload before I can move on to remembering the good times. Which brings me to another point.

I will do my best to keep my written word free of vulgarity and offensive language (profanity.) I feel I must point out that “vulgar” and “offensive” mean different things to different people. What I find profane, you may find acceptable, and vice versa. I am positive this will be a topic I will return to time and time again in the future. I am not a fan of censorship, and choosing language and vocabulary based on the personal feelings of the reader is censorship. Ultimately I will write what I want to write, how I want to write it. I will say what I want to say, how I want to say it. I will make no apologies. And, I will make mistakes. I will say things I will regret. I will write and publish things, and I will come back to them later and say “I wish I hadn’t written that,” or “that could have been said better,” and that is called growth. I will write. I will learn. I will grow.

And, while I will try to keep my readers in mind when choosing from my vocabulary, I will not censor subject matter. I will write about any topic I choose at any given moment.

Some of what I write is going to piss some people off. There is no way around it. Well, actually, there is, but I am very tired of playing that game. My Mom is gone, folks. I no longer have the responsibility of protecting her from my honest thoughts and feelings. That means I do not have to worry about publishing something here that would break my Mom’s heart and have it get back to her by word of mouth. I do not have anyone else in my life that I feel requires that protection. Those around me that believe they require, or prefer, or want, that protection have not earned it, and have benefited from it in the past only because of my Mom. That means the gloves are off. If you are not used to hearing the truth about how I feel and how I think, some things may shock you, and some may just flat out make you mad. Again, no apologies from me.

This is my site. These are my words, you are not required to read them.

I have gone a little dark here, and that is not where I wanted to go. So, I am going to wrap this one up, and thank you for visiting and reading. It is not going to be all doom, gloom, and anger. There will be some of that, but if you know me, you know I am always looking for the sun on my shoulders and the wind in my face… and DOGS!

Happy New Year, and thanks for reading.