Stung By A Beaver
5Sep/140

A Lake, Some Creeks, and that Leech-Infested Swamp!

Posted by Jim Ed Hardaway

Lake Creek Swamp

It was hotter than h-e-double hockey sticks growing up in South Texas. My Aunt Carolyn would've washed my mouth out with soap for saying "hell", a surefire remedy for curing even the mildest of profanities. It was true none-the-less. There were only two seasons in Texas during the year; summer lasted for about eleven months and a mixture of fall, winter, and spring made up the other month. It wasn't uncommon for me to be wearing a tank top and cut-off shorts at Christmastime. If we were lucky we'd have a handful of days in the year when it was cold enough for me to wear a stocking cap and a coat, but my mom still smeared ungodly amounts of sunscreen all over me. Unfortunately, it only took five minutes of me being in the sun to get blistered! I sunburned so bad my mom had to keep me away from lightbulbs when I was indoors, and covered from head-to-toe in sunscreen when I was outdoors. Except for that one time when out-of-the-blue she determined I could get a suntan and didn't put any sunscreen on me. Let's just say I could sympathize with a crawfish in a boiling pot. Heck, I couldn't even bend my arms because they were burnt to a crisp and stuck out from the side of my body like the wings on an airplane.

Texans were in water from Spring Break until Thanksgiving to avoid a heatstroke. I spent most of my childhood playing in some form of water. If I wasn't splashing around in a lake, creek, or pond I was riding my bicycle to get from one to the other. When I was a teenager, and got my drivers license, I went to the beach. It was pretty simple really: eat and swim. If there was any extra time in a day I would sleep and dream about swimming. Cow Creek August 1977Yep, I have a lot of memories around certain bodies of water, from family reunions on the lake to wearing my bright-orange arm floaties and jumping off the high dive at the public pool. Floaties were inflatable armbands you'd wear on your arms to keep from drowning, and boy did I love 'em! I never took those glorious water-wings off and my mother would have to wrestle them away to get me in the bathtub.

When I was growing up we spent every summer at my grandparent's house in the hill country near Austin. We'd load up the lawn chairs, inner tubes, and ice chests early in the morning, jump in the back of pickup trucks, and take off on what seemed to be a forever drive to a watering hole called Cow Creek. It doesn't take much to entertain a group of Texans beyond grub and a place to dip your feet. Cow creek had it all: running streams, trickling rapids, and best of all a waterfall! Why does everything seem ginormous when you're a kid? I remember standing mortified at the top of that waterfall—my knees shaking—while my dad waited in the deep waters below waving for me to jump. Life was too precious! I would find out later the waterfall was only about four feet tall.

Another popular hill country destination was Inks Lake State Park. We'd have our annual family reunion there with horseshoe and fishing tournaments and everything! Uncle Bob would bring trophies for the winner of each. It was hard to beat the old folks at horseshoes, and it was a miracle if somebody caught anything bigger than a 6-inch perch when fishing. Inks Lake Early 80sMy two favorite things at Inks Lake were the country store at the cove and Camp Longhorn. The Mrs. Baird's cherry pies from the store would hit the spot when you were starving from swimming all day, and I got to see teenage girls in bikinis if we drove the boat close enough when passing by the camp! It was fun being a kid at the lake... That was until my cousins told me the story about the boat that went over the side of the dam killing all of its passengers. I threatened to jump overboard in my floaties if they ever drove our boat too close to that dam, and they seemed to get a kick out of seeing me squirm when they did so! My teenage years would eventually come when I learned to waterski and wave at those pretty girls at the camp.

When my dad became pastor at the Baptist Church in Cedar Lane, Texas we moved into the parsonage behind the church next to Caney Creek. That's when the real adventures began. I made a bullwhip out of an old piece of rope and pretended to be Indiana Jones along the creek. I built tunnels in the thick brush, navigated the currents in our flat-bottom boat, shot my .22 rifle at snakes and Alligator Gars in the water, and rode my dirt bike up-and-down the steep banks until it was out of gas. On my fourteenth birthday my friends Korey, Bill, Mike, and I made a long mudslide that zig-zagged down the main trail to the creek bank. We were completely caked in mud and it was still leaking out my ears weeks later.

The Caney Creek Goonies 1985If I wasn't exploring Caney Creek I was hanging out at my best friend Dennis' house. We spent a lot of time together carving Star Wars spaceships out of styrofoam, annoying his sister Virginia, and listening to 80s albums on his record player. Dennis' mom worked at T.S.O., an eyeglasses store in town, and would sometimes take us to work with her during the summer. There was a movie theater next door and we would watch movies back-to-back until she got off work. I think we watched E.T. the Extra Terrestrial four times in a row one day!

Dennis was adventurous too and we spent most of our time outside. His family had a duck pen in the backyard and sometimes we'd spray the poo off the concrete duck pond with a water hose and then swim in it. There was also a small swamp in the cow pasture behind his house; it had a lot of moss in it and was kind of stinky. I remember one time Dennis caught a fish out of the swamp and its gills were covered with tiny leeches... Leeches! But that didn't stop us from putting on our goggles and snorkeling around through that murky water looking for treasures. Which reminds me... I never went to the doctor to get checked for leeches.

* This story is taken from the Memoirs of a Red-Headed Preacher’s Kid writings. Read more:

Prison Escapes and Sinking Ships
Lemonade Moonshine
All I Want for Christmas is an Atari!
Beetle Mischief
That Coveted Navy Blue Corduroy Jacket
The Science Class Debate
Up Your Nose With A Rubber Hose!
Playground Superheroes!
The Scrawny Little Leaguer
The Chicken Pox Christmas
Hurricane Ghost Story
The After School Fight
Tale of the Snipe Hunters
The Half Court Basketball Shot
Pledge of Allegiance Dare Master

More great writings at: www.jimedhardaway.com

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26Jun/140

Beyond the Ceiling Tiles

Posted by Jim Ed Hardaway

Beyond the Ceiling Tiles

Life was simple in the 1950s, especially in the small rural community of Burnet. The town was nestled in the Texas hill country northwest of Austin and home to a minute population of farmers, local businessmen, and road construction workers. Those folks believed in hard work and strong family values. The surrounding countryside was encompassed with acres of aging oak and cedar trees on beds of granite rock and limestone, colored with Indian Paintbrushes and Bluebonnets in sprinkles of red and purple.

It was an age of innovation and a time to dream of ways of building a better future. The automobile industry continued its progress producing vehicles that would later define an era—long, broad-bodied cars with signature tail fins, big engines, and glistening chrome bumpers and trim. But it was the mechanics under the hood that fascinated a curious, eleven year old boy, and he wasn’t afraid to disassemble a carburetor and get his hands a little greasy. In fact, most of his Saturday’s were spent digging through his father’s toolbox and tinkering with dysfunctional gadgets around the house that needed repair.

Every Saturday was an especially welcomed day because it rescued him from a boring, never-ending week of school, which was a constant struggle for him academically and often, tested his patience. He would much rather breathe the strong fumes from the exhaust of a filthy muffler than have his nose stuck in the dreadful pages of an English book. Every Sunday was an important day of the week too when his family would faithfully attend the local Baptist church. Among the tall suited deacons and well-dressed ladies with their towering lacy hats, was this chubby, narrow-eyed, dark headed boy sitting in between his older siblings on the long wooden pews. He was nicely dressed, minus a few wrinkles in his collared shirt, and his well-combed hair was slick and neatly parted to one side.

The congregation joined in singing a few hymns, following along in the hymnals held in one hand while fervently waving the church bulletin in the other to ease the summer heat. Then they were all seated as the pastor positioned himself at the pulpit to deliver the message; while the fanning continued. There were a few coughs and amen’s; probably more coughs than amen’s, and somewhere during the preaching his attention drifted. The boy’s eyes moved from his fidgeting hands to the tiles on the ceiling. No one would know what was working in his mind, what he was thinking about as he carefully counted each one above him. He counted them all—two thousand three hundred forty-six total—the corner of his mouth lifted slightly with a feeling of success. He took a half chewed, dull pencil out of the pocket of his pants and opened his small Gideon New Testament Bible. On the inside cover, between other doodling and sketches, he recorded the number of tiles he had counted as if discovering a revolutionary mathematical equation. His imagination was like every other kid in his Sunday School Class—wild, carefree, and reckless—but he was different than the rest because his heart dreamed of fixing things and making them better.
Beyond the Ceiling Tiles 2
What he didn’t know was that one day he would fix things that had an eternal significance.

The years went by and he grew into a bright young man. He completed more years in high school than most of his peers but eventually graduated and moved on, in search of a destiny that had marked him for greatness. He was hired on as an electrician for a local company and found himself stringing wires, installing lights, and testing plugs at another Baptist Church. This was no coincidence because it was during this time that he met the love of his life and they were soon married.

Something happens to a man when he discovers the passion of his heart. A sense of purpose is born and the need to satisfy this craving brings him to a defining moment, the place where he embraces his calling. He set off on a new path, one that strengthened his character and expanded his horizons. The next several years would prepare him for his mission; taking him through change, adversity, and risk. He worked hard as a mechanic, now digging through his own toolbox, to pay the bills. He attended seminary and studied the scriptures in hopes that one day he would stand in own church, not just to install a breaker box, but also to preach his own sermons and repair broken lives.

His family grew with the adoption of a son and now he had the responsibilities of being a father. His education had now been increased from turning rotors and writing term papers, to dirty diapers, and he quickly found out that they had to be changed more frequently than every three thousand miles.

Finally, the time had come for him to begin his ministry as a pastor and he moved his family to a small town not far from the coast. Every Sunday morning he could be found standing in the doorway of the church shaking hands and giving hugs, as the members left the sanctuary to go home to pot roast and peach cobbler. He was a man of vision, whose spirit was contagious and his ideals absolute, and his patrons would know him as a minister with integrity and a person of great influence. Behind the suit and tie was a genuine friend and a living testimony of the faithfulness of God, and his loving wife on the front row was a reflection of the same.

The ministry years became many and they were filled with revivals, church wide picnics, dunking booths, campfires, pot luck fellowships, baptisms, late night prayer meetings, and yes, even a few deacons meetings along the way. Churches changed, people came and went, tears were shed, and laughter shared. There were break downs on church buses, holes in baptismal waders, thousands of plastic Lord Supper cups filled, inadequate budgets, and offering plates passed twice. On bad days there were toilets that overflowed and grippe old ladies that complained about the music, but there were also good days when everyone showed up for the Sunday night reel-to-reel showing of Pilgrim’s Progress, or people came forward for the altar call.

After more than forty years of ministry and forty-plus years of marriage their memories were more colorful and far outnumbered the wildflowers that painted the landscape. It was hard to believe that the day would come when they would announce their retirement from what they had done so well. The final church they pastored he built with his own hands and ministered faithfully over for more than twenty years. The numbers of ceiling tiles here are more then the ones he counted as a little boy so long ago. Which brings us back to the question of what was going through his mind as he wrinkled his forehead and scribbled his findings in the cover of that bible? We may never know. What we do know is that if ceiling tiles represented the number of souls changed because of their ministry... There are far too many to count.

If you enjoyed this post you'll like: Prison Escapes and Sinking Ships

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12Jun/140

Prison Escapes and Sinking Ships

Posted by Jim Ed Hardaway

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*Dedicated to my dad Father's Day 2014... Thanks for the memories!

The doorknob rattled and swung open as my dad came home from a full day at the church office. He was the pastor of our local Baptist church. Normal days for dad meant working on Sunday's bulletin, meeting with deacons here-and-there regarding the dwindling budget, scribbling scriptures in his sermon notes, or reserving the community dunking booth for summer outreaches. And hardly a day went by that dad didn't have to run into town for hospital visits. These visits were as important to a Baptist minister's daily routine as Welch's Grape Juice was to communion. I hated going to the hospital for visits. There was always a chance some vile germ would jump onto my arm, or I'd catch a painful glimpse of some elderly's rump exposed out the backside of those revealing patient gowns!

Evening shadows crept in around our small, wood-framed house as the sun slowly dropped below the horizon. On the outside of our home a soft, blue light flickered threw our front window, streaming from our television set in the living room. The vinyl cushions squeaked as dad settled into the couch and grabbed the remote control. We called it the "clicker". I guess it was because it made clicking noises when you pressed the buttons. The only thing greater than the invention of the clicker was second-run syndication, or reruns. That's when smaller T.V. networks acquired rights to air movies and television shows over-and-over-and-over. I'd drag handfuls of Star Wars action figures and LEGOS into the living room and bury myself in the shag carpet to watch T.V. with dad.

Dad was a master channel surfer. That's when you click through every available channel on the television multiple times. Now, there are many reasons a man loves to channel surf. First, it's simply to aggravate the mom, who eventually wanders off into the other room mumbling things under her breath. Another reason a man channel surfs is to watch several shows at once... In a determined dance to avoid the lame commercials. Some of my dad's favorite shows to land on were M.A.S.H., The Rockford Files, Quincy, and Trapper John, M.D. I remember that show because one of the doctors named Gonzo, like the Muppet, lived in a motor home in the hospital parking lot!

Our Televsion SetDad's T.V. shows occasionally kept my attention, but most of the time I was busy chasing TIE Fighters with X-Wing Fighters through the galaxy. The coffee table made a great Rebel Base; that was until *click*, *click*, *click*, and dad channel surfed right into a thriller movie. I loved movies! There were a couple of movies that dad loved too and, thanks to reruns, he'd stop and watch them every time. There was no manly way possible to channel surf past them! I'd crash-land my star fighters and glue myself to the T.V. screen too; the Rebel Base would have to defend itself for the next two hours.

Some of the best movies were about prison escapes and sinking ships. The first was about the most notorious prison of all time and it was called Escape From Alcatraz. Superstar Clint Eastwood was in it! I sat so close to that T.V. set that my head was tilted back, my jaw dropped, and my red bowl-cut hair glowed a subtle shade of purple. "If you disobey the rules of society, they send you to prison; if you disobey the rules of the prison, they send you to us." the warden told Mr. Eastwood.¹ Most of the movie was dark and spooky, with lots of lightning flashes, creepy prison cells, and mean-looking prisoners all wearing matching clothes. Except for this one guy, he had a big nose and his name was Charley Butts! That made me laugh... Butts! My mom didn't like that word and somehow heard it from the other room. I think she had bionic ears. Remind me to tell you about the time I said the word: "crap"! It was a miracle I saw my thirteenth birthday.

The worst scene in Escape From Alcatraz happened in the wood shop. An old prisoner named Doc chopped his fingers off with a hatchet because the warden took away his painting privileges. Good thing I still had my own fingers to cover my eyes because that was freaky! Charley Butts got wobbly-kneed too and almost passed out! Every second of that movie was thrilling as we cheered for Mr. Eastwood and his buddies to break out of The Rock... Secret tunnels, scary paper mache heads, and lots of Bible reading. That's why dad liked it.

Another movie we loved to watch was The Poseidon Adventure starring Gene Hackman when he was younger and had more hair. He was a reverend in the movie, Reverend Scott, and I started to see why dad liked these movies. Unlike my dad, Reverend Scott yelled at God a lot and said dirty words. I think it was because he paid too much for his cruise ticket and then the ship flipped. You see, that's what happened in the movie... A ginormous tidal wave flipped the ship over during a New Year's party, and a group of survivors had to escape before it sank. Everything was upside-down! I imagined the movie-makers had to stand on their heads just to build the sets. There were explosions and flash fires, lots of rushing water and girls screaming, and even a big, blue Christmas tree!

Movies and shows always fueled my imagination. Mom sewed me a Batman cape from an old navy blue sheet to tie around my neck, so I could protect the neighborhood against the Joker. My bicycle tires were bald from zooming around the block picturing myself as Speed Racer behind the wheel of the Mach 5, and speeding toward the finish line as the crowd cheered. I even carried around an old golf club as my Jedi lightsaber, and watched for Darth Vader lurking in the shadows. Those were the good 'ol days when my love for movies and adventure was born, and it was only the beginning.

¹ Escape from Alcatraz, 1979 Paramount Pictures (Paramount A Gulf+Western Company)

* This story is taken from the Memoirs of a Red-Headed Preacher’s Kid writings. Read more:

A Lake, Some Creeks, and that Leech-Infested Swamp!
Lemonade Moonshine
All I Want for Christmas is an Atari!
Beetle Mischief
That Coveted Navy Blue Corduroy Jacket
The Science Class Debate
Up Your Nose With A Rubber Hose!
Playground Superheroes!
The Scrawny Little Leaguer
The Chicken Pox Christmas
Hurricane Ghost Story
The After School Fight
Tale of the Snipe Hunters
The Half Court Basketball Shot
Pledge of Allegiance Dare Master

More great writings at: www.jimedhardaway.com

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13Mar/140

Lemonade Moonshine

Posted by Jim Ed Hardaway

IMG_0698

I grew up in small-town America, towns where long lines of traffic piled up behind tractors occupying single-lane roadways. Towns where everybody went to the local high school football game on Friday night just because it was Texas State Law. Towns where the local donut shop was filled with old men on Saturday mornings griping about politicians and reminiscing about the Vietnam War. On that same Saturday morning kids would flock into Milt's Mini Mart—with pockets full of quarters—to spend them all in the only Pac Man Arcade Machine for miles. Towns where occasionally a bale of hay would fall off the back of a beat up old pickup truck traveling on a dirt road. They were winding, dusty roads beneath giant pecan trees, lined with barbed wire fences on either side and grazing cattle in the distant fields. I rode my bicycle down many of those roads pretending I was Bo Duke in the General Lee, being chased by Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane in hot pursuit.

It was the early 1980s and I was obsessed with the Good Ol' Boys… The Dukes! As far as I was concerned our county was Hazzard County, I had a distant make-believe relative named Uncle Jesse, and a smokin' hot cousin named Daisy, who I could not marry some day because it would make things complicated. This was an upsetting situation I tried working out in my 5th grade mind on many occasions because, although I was from the South, I did not go to the family reunion to look for women.

God bless CBS for airing The Dukes of Hazzard, one of the greatest action-packed shows in television history! Not only was it one of my most favorite TV shows for its unpredictable adventures, but it had one of the coolest cars in it since Adam West and Burt Ward's jet-black Batmobile! Bo and Luke Duke blazed around Hazzard County in a 1969 Dodge Charger. I can still see the flashing light of the television screen as that Hemi Orange muscle car—with the colorful flag on top and number "01" on the doors—slid around dangerous curves and jumped high in the air over rocky riverbeds. It belting out its signature horn which played the melodic sounds of "Dixie". I could never convince my father to install one of those horns on the handlebars of my bike.

Those high-speed stunts and chases were spectacular, but why would a couple of good ol' boys be running from the law? Well, the Duke brothers had a past history of running illegal moonshine, and their hillbilly Uncle Jesse a habit of brewing it. This put the Dukes on the bad side of the devious and scheming, cigar-totin', Jefferson Davis "Boss" Hogg, Hazzard County's corrupt commissioner. Boss Hogg loved to eat raw liver. I had to look away from the TV set every time he did it!

I remember going to visit my grandparents in the hill country and playing The Dukes of Hazzard with my friend Johnny, who lived down the road. I was Bo Duke, he was Luke Duke, and my Granny would make us a tall pitcher of cold lemonade to use as our moonshine. We would run around her yard, sweating in the summer heat, and sipping on plastic cups of our refreshing "lemonade moonshine". We kept a sharp eye out for Boss Hogg and Rosco P. Coltrane. I would drive the General Lee while Johnny would shoot his bow and dynamite-laced arrows at barns and empty cop cars. Every once in while we'd find some random kids to play Rosco, Deputy Enos, or Cooter the mechanic. Nobody ever wanted to be Boss Hogg… "Get them Duke Boys!" Our attractive cousin Daisy Duke accompanied us only in our imaginations, because we didn't want a real-life stinky girl ruining the part. Sometimes my Pa Pa's shed out back doubled as the Boar's Nest, a local restaurant and bar where Daisy worked.

Don't ask me how a Southern Baptist preacher's kid got away with drinking "moonshine", getting in trouble with the law, and fantasizing about a scantily dressed brunette in her signature high-cut Daisy Duke short shorts! Ah, but those were the good ol' days pretending to be the good ol' boys, and I can still sing every word to the theme song sung by country singer Waylon Jennings (sing along below). I wonder if I ever asked Santa Claus for a banjo for Christmas?

Just'a good ol' boysMy Dukes of Hazzard Tshirt
Never meanin' no harm.
Beats all you never saw
Been in trouble with the law
Since the day they was born

Straightnin' the curves
Flatnin' the hills
Someday the mountain might get 'em
But the law never will

Makin' their way
The only way they know how
That's just a little bit more
Than the law will allow.

Just'a good ole boys,
Wouldn't change if they could.
Fightin' the system like two modern day Robin Hoods. [Yee-haw]¹

¹"Theme from 'The Dukes of Hazzard' (Good Ol' Boys)", Waylon Jennings, Music Man, Copyright ©1980 RCA Victor

* This story is taken from the Memoirs of a Red-Headed Preacher’s Kid writings. Read more:

A Lake, Some Creeks, and that Leech-Infested Swamp!
Prison Escapes and Sinking Ships
All I Want for Christmas is an Atari!
Beetle Mischief
That Coveted Navy Blue Corduroy Jacket
The Science Class Debate
Up Your Nose With A Rubber Hose!
Playground Superheroes!
The Scrawny Little Leaguer
The Chicken Pox Christmas
Hurricane Ghost Story
The After School Fight
Tale of the Snipe Hunters
The Half Court Basketball Shot
Pledge of Allegiance Dare Master

More great writings at: www.jimedhardaway.com

LIKE US on Facebook: StungByABeaver
FOLLOW US on Twitter: @StungByABeaver

27Feb/140

Remembering Slain Action Figure Guy Too

Posted by Jim Ed Hardaway

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What could be worse than lying in the street unconscious, bent, cold, and face down in the snow? Try the aforementioned plus: embarrassingly exposed with only your cobalt blue underwear on! Another Slain Action Figure Guy found carelessly discarded on a busy street.

I pulled up in my car behind a long line of traffic to pick my son up from school. As he approached the car to get in he smiled and pointed towards the road. When he opened the door I saw Slain Action Figure Guy lying there by the street curb. I shivered just looking at him, his frozen plastic body stuck to the dirty ice.

Slain Action Figure Guy's jet-black hair was wavy and molded into perfection, but it would do him no good. His left arm was bent backwards and up into the air, and his right arm outstretched as if reaching desperately for help. There was a folded piece of paper by his hand that appeared to be some sort of ransom note.

I thought momentarily of the child who was without their toy, or the Barbie who had been tragically separated from her Ken. My son would have no part in my silly sympathizing. This was one of the funniest things he'd ever seen, and his thoughts raced towards the massive amounts of "likes" he would get after posting a picture of Slain Action Figure Guy on Instagram! So we both snapped some shots, for different reasons, then slowly drove away.

As my son giggled and posted I recalled the first Slain Action Figure Guy I saw a few years ago, the one with the tiny muscular body, bearded face, and revealing red Speedo with matching sweatbands and boot. This was the sequel! What is our world coming to?! Broken, exposed, and humiliated action figures littering our streets without cause! So, here’s to you Slain Action Figure Guy Too. May this blog post serve in your honor in the hopes that Barbie coincidently drove by in her groovy, pink Corvette to your rescue.

*This piece is dedicated to my contagiously happy son Carson.

If you enjoyed this post you'll like: Remembering Slain Action Figure Guy

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8Jan/140

January 8, 1971

Posted by Jim Ed Hardaway

January 8

I am a big believer in birthdays. It's the one day of the year that you own, and it's completely your day. Sure, there are a plethora of others that have your same birthdate around the planet, but who cares? Chances are good that they are not sharing the same party room with you at the local pizza joint, so you'll never even know. My birthday is January 8, 1971. There are some other significant people in my world that share January 8th as their birthday: Elvis Presley and my Aunt Rose. Elvis, for obvious reasons, is not around to celebrate his birthday anymore. Unless you believe he's still alive and working as a senior citizen greeter at a small Walmart somewhere in South Carolina. However, a gazillion dedicated Elvis fans will descend upon Memphis and shower Graceland with artificial roses and cheap candles from the dollar store. Shake a hip for the King of Rock 'n Roll! My Aunt Rose is probably at a Dairy Queen somewhere in Texas enjoying some yummy Tex Mex tacos.

The year 1971 has an important place in American history: Cigarette ads were banned from television in January and the Golden Gate Bridge's lights went out an entire night from a power failure in December. More importantly—considering I am the biggest Dallas Cowboys fan of all time—America's Team defeated the stinky Patriots, 44-21, in the grand opening of Texas Stadium in October. The year 1971 also gave us Walt Disney World in Orlando, Starbucks, Dirty Harry, Uno the game, Hard Rock Cafe, the first pocket calculator from Texas Instruments, Sean Austin, who starred in The Goonies, one of the best movies ever, and The Willy Wonka Candy Company. Who doesn't love Fun Dip, Nerds, and Bottle Caps?!My 5th Birthday

My wonderful parents always made sure I had the best birthday parties growing up. On my very first birthday I had a ginormous, colorful carnival carousel right on top of the cake. It was mesmerizing! For my tenth birthday I had a Snoopy cake and party, my favorite cartoon character. I still have my Snoopy lunchbox from the first grade. And for my thirteenth birthday I had a Texas Longhorns and Dallas Cowboys cake and party, my favorite sports teams.

I was born in Dallas, Texas on a Friday which happens to be my favorite city, state, and day of the week. January is my favorite month of the year because it begins with the letter "J" like my name. I realize you could say the same about June and July, but they don't hold the spot on the calendar as first month of the year. Oh yea, and red velvet is my favorite cake. Did you know that my birthday, Jan 8, is always on the same day of the week as Christmas, Dec 25, and New Year's Day, Jan 1, and they are each just one week apart? As they say, you learn something new every day. Happy Birthday to me!

More great writings at: www.jimedhardaway.com

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26Dec/130

All I Want for Christmas is an Atari!

Posted by Jim Ed Hardaway

All I Want For Christmas is An Atari

Christmas morning is a kid's most favorite morning of all mornings in the entire year. The sun is still sneaking over from China, the roosters are still snug in their coops, and parents, for some odd reason, are still fast asleep. Until I became aware of the whole Santa Conspiracy, I had no idea why parents insisted on sleeping in. The magic moment when a kid can get up on Christmas morning lies shrewdly and covertly between five-thirty and six o'clock in the morning. Deciding the precise minute it's safe to wake up the parents is completely at your own risk. I failed miserably more times than I had fingers, toes, and freckles to count. The anticipation for Christmas morning began with the traditional writing of your wish list to jolly 'ol St. Nick.

There have been some extraordinary items on my Christmas lists over the years. My imagination peaked to pinnacle heights of momentous grander when it came to making a list of highly coveted toys, trinkets, and games to get from Santa Claus. I remember the Chicken Pox Christmas when I got that glorious Batman Big Wheel. I wore the tread off those plastic wheels before Saint Patty's Day. Also under our brilliantly colorful Christmas tree that year were the Dynamic Duo - Batman and Robin action figures! There was also a Joker action figure too, because no crime fighting would be complete without an evil villain to conquer. That Christmas goes down in history as one of the most epic of all time.

Then there was the Pigskin Christmas. My most favorite football team was the Dallas Cowboys, so Santa made sure that every square inch of my scrawny, pale body was covered in navy blue, silver, and white. I got Cowboys jackets, T-shirts, hats, and socks; even a training camp shirt with the number thirty-three from my favorite football player Tony Dorsett! There was no question that I had become the greatest fan the storied franchise had ever seen. But that wasn't all, I also got an Atomic Arcade Pinball machine and a handheld Entex LED Space Invader Arcade Game. Holy electronics Batman! I think my parents must have bought a gazillion double-A batteries that year.Image 12-25-13 at 4.59 PM

Those were some memorable holidays from my childhood, when forgetting to look both ways when you crossed the street was as common as forgetting to brush your teeth. Then I become a teenager and my Christmas lists progressed like my personal hygiene habits. I made sure to cake on thick layers of deodorant and I drank Scope mouth wash like it was a soda. There were bigger things to dream about than 64-count boxes of crayons with the built-in sharpener on the box… Things like BMX bikes, boogie boards, VHS movies of my favorite 80s movies, and enticing colognes. Thanks to Atari, Inc., video computer systems were on most Christmas lists, and holding the number one spot at the top of my list in the early Eighties was their prized Atari 2600 Video Game Console.

The morning light broke through my bedroom window that Christmas morning, as I stretched and yawned and crawled out of bed. When you became a teenager you were still excited about Christmas mornings, but you managed a single ounce of self-control to stay in bed a tad longer. Puberty did strange things and you didn't want to overshadow your obvious signs of maturity, like peach fuzz on your upper lip, by appearing too anxious. I shuffled my stinky bare feet down the hallway weaving my way passed the kitchen, zig-zagging through the dining area, and finally into our living room. There it sat beneath the Christmas tree, in its magnificent dazzling-colored box. An electronic ring of light glowed around it in a sunset tint of amber, and the melodic piano sounds of the Vince Guaraldi Trio played in the cosmos.

My parents quietly appeared in the background which signaled it was now legal to tear open my gifts. The red and green bows on each present stared at me as if begging to be opened first, but they would all have to wait. I gently took that Atari 2600 box in my hands and pulled open one side. I slid out the styrofoam protected contents to reveal the stunning game console with its elegant wood veneer, space age silver control switches, and four black and orange joystick and paddle controllers. Also included were the game cartridges Pong and Combat, and I soon opened another present containing the popular Pac-Man. I adored that round, yellow, chomping character and his gobbling ghosts like I adored that most rad Christmas.

During the following months my parents could find me stuck at the Atari Video Game display in JC Penney's while shopping at the mall. I stood there for hours staring—with my head titled in wonderment—at the rows and rows of colorful game cartridges for the Atari 2600. My collection of games eventually grew to include: Vanguard, Space Invaders, Astroids, Centipede, Defender, Missile Command, Pitfall, and the mysterious Yars' Revenge.

* This story is taken from the Memoirs of a Red-Headed Preacher’s Kid writings. Read more:

A Lake, Some Creeks, and that Leech-Infested Swamp!
Prison Escapes and Sinking Ships
Lemonade Moonshine
Beetle Mischief
That Coveted Navy Blue Corduroy Jacket
The Science Class Debate
Up Your Nose With A Rubber Hose!
Playground Superheroes!
The Scrawny Little Leaguer
The Chicken Pox Christmas
Hurricane Ghost Story
The After School Fight
Tale of the Snipe Hunters
The Half Court Basketball Shot
Pledge of Allegiance Dare Master

More great writings at: www.jimedhardaway.com

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28Oct/130

Say “When” For Crying Out Loud!

Posted by Jim Ed Hardaway

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Is it just me or is it awkwardly embarrassing when you let the waitress stand there for five minutes, grinding layer upon layer of freshly ground pepper on your dinner salad? You know what I'm talking about... You sit down for a meal at a nice restaurant and order a fresh garden salad to kick off your highly anticipated night of gluttony. Getting a side salad is for one of two reasons: A) it's only a buck ninety-nine or, 2) you feel guilty that everything else you ordered is fried and fattening, and the salad makes you feel better about yourself. Regardless, a nice pepper-crested salad will help tide you over until that entrée arrives.

So, the moment comes when the waitress delivers your salad to the table and ask if you'd like some freshly ground pepper. With an affirming "yes" and a casual nod from you she begins twisting on the oversized wooden pepper mill. Those pepper mills are so big they could double as a pirate's peg leg! It's like a weapon! Anyway, she begins twisting on the mill sending showers of black pepper raining down on your salad, and then kindly says: "Say 'when'".

I can't help it, I like a LOT of pepper on my salad. Around the three-minute-mark the waitress usually glances at you and flashes that artificial smile as if to beg: "Say, 'when' for crying out loud!" That is the moment I usually oblige, releasing her from the twisting and grinding of that pepper mill. I always stop way short of the amount of pepper I really want, just because I feel sorry for her endless grinding. The moment she walks away I reach for the pepper shaker on the table and shake off a few more rounds.

Excessive amounts of pepper is usually not a problem unless you're having dinner with friends and carrying on a conversation. Those grains of pepper seem to find themselves in every nook and cranny of your mouth, on top of teeth, between teeth, and that one grain stuck right in the middle of your bottom lip. And they're not coming out. Those pepper grains can defend themselves from even the most daring and aggressive toothpick on the planet. They will battle toothpicks, endless tongue swipes, and countless napkin rubs all night. I've carried on full-length conversations with teeth that had more pepper in them than the shaker on the table.

More great writings at: www.jimedhardaway.com

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18Oct/130

Beetle Mischief

Posted by Jim Ed Hardaway

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It was 1980-something and we had one thing on our minds: high-speed trashcan tipping! That's when we'd drive by trashcans at high rates of speed, knocking down as many as we could all over town. The garbage trucks had them emptied by breakfast, and we'd have them tipped over by lunch. This time we had our sights set on the large plastic trashcan sitting by the street curb in front of our school principle's house. My friend Jamie gripped the steering wheel and revved the engine of his 1972 Volkswagen Beetle, pumping the gas pedal with his foot as he flashed a mischievous grin my way in the passenger seat. He was the driver that meant I was the tipper. I stretched my arm out the window like the wing on a DC-10; ready to smash the trashcan over when we drove by. Jamie floored it and the rear tires of his Baby Blue Bug spun into action, spitting gravel and dust high into the air behind us. I leaned further out the window and my mullet waved in the wind like the mudflap on an 18-wheeler. In the nano second my fist hit the trashcan I realized it wasn't empty but completely full, which meant it didn't budge. Principal Greer must have filled that thing with ready mix concrete or something! My arm flew backwards from the impact, slamming it hard into the metal window frame and sending shockwaves of pain down my spine! I winced in agony, rubbing the back of my arm and my throbbing triceps. Jamie couldn't stop laughing as he zoomed away.

I know what you're thinking, that we were mischievous and asking for trouble. And you'd be correct about the mischief, but trouble we wanted no part of. Something peculiar happens in a teenage boy's brain that no scientist, or doctor, or father has ever been able to successfully diagnose. The doctor might say the medulla oblongata is still developing. The parent might say it's a form of brain damage. Mothers tend to blame it on puberty while fathers label it as idiotic, moronic, or just plain stupid. I can't deny that all of this may be true, but the fathers probably hit the proverbial nail on the head.

We executed the common pranks with precision and triumph... Things like tipping trashcans, wrapping houses with toilet paper, and backing through drive-through windows to order fast food. But these things got boring, so we moved into the adolescent phase of inventing our own pranks. Jamie had the '72 Beetle, while I had an old Honda Prelude. That thing had more rust than Van Halen had hit songs, but it did have a super cool trunk hatch release just below the driver's seat. So, we rigged a handle on the trunk lid where it could be closed from the inside and put Jamie in there. We'd drive through town—on main streets and in parking lots—popping the truck at ideal spots like stop lights or crowded shopping areas. I'd pull the lever and Jamie would pop up, scream or bark at innocent pedestrians, and then slam the truck lid back down as I sped away. We laughed so hard at people's reactions! It would either scare them half-to-death, or leave them smiling and shaking their heads at our ridiculous behavior. I would like to say that our pranks ended there, but it got worse.

When you finish reading this you'll be asking yourself why I would ever confess such vile acts of foolishness, especially now that my brain has fully developed and I have brain damaged teenage boys of my own. Well, I would say that confession is good for the soul and I can't imagine my parents being able to ground me almost twenty-some-odd-years later. Seriously, can they do that? Now my God-fearing parents have never heard this story until this day, and I fully expect my mother to call me and excuse it away as some rare case of extended puberty even though I can grow a full beard. Besides, what we did is not near as bad as the time some of my friends threw a ginormous water balloon and hit an off-duty police officer.

Adult grocery store clerks were trained to give teenage boys the evil eye when they arrived at the checkout stand carrying several dozen cartons of eggs, knowing full well they were not planning six months in advance for the community Easter egg hunt. They were going egging! And I am ashamed to tell you we weren't, in fact, doing our civic duty to donate eggs for the community Easter Egg hunt when it was still November. You've already read between the lines. It was getting dark when Jamie sped down side streets as I hurled eggs at mailboxes and other nameless targets. Tires squealed and laugher filled the car. It was all fun and games until we kicked it up a notch and decided to egg the row of parked cars near the center of town. Heaven help us, we had just egged the fine patrons of the First Presbyterian Church!

What I won't tell you is that we ended up being chased by an angry egg-covered victim through the narrow streets of our small town, finally losing them in the billowing smoke of a mosquito spraying truck with our hearts pounding for fear of our lives! And I won't tell you that we ended up at our school basketball practice that evening where my uncle, who was an assistant coach, was also a sheriff! And I won't tell you that our prank days were finally over from fear that we might not make it into Heaven. I'll leave all that to your vivid imagination and just say that I like my eggs scrambled instead of splattered.

* This story is taken from the Memoirs of a Red-Headed Preacher’s Kid writings. Read more:

A Lake, Some Creeks, and that Leech-Infested Swamp!
Prison Escapes and Sinking Ships
Lemonade Moonshine
All I Want for Christmas is an Atari!
That Coveted Navy Blue Corduroy Jacket
The Science Class Debate
Up Your Nose With A Rubber Hose!
Playground Superheroes!
The Scrawny Little Leaguer
The Chicken Pox Christmas
Hurricane Ghost Story
The After School Fight
Tale of the Snipe Hunters
The Half Court Basketball Shot
Pledge of Allegiance Dare Master

More great writings at: www.jimedhardaway.com

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22Aug/130

I Went to The Goonies House!

Posted by Jim Ed Hardaway

I Went to the Goonies House

I carry a lot of great memories with me from my teenage years in the Eighties... Can't help it, I'm just a nostalgic kind of guy! Let me paint a better picture for you of the impact this still has on my life: I recently bought a Sony Walkman on eBay, I have a large collection of cassette tapes, there's an Indiana Jones shrine in my office, I still wear checkered Vans, I would rather have a Swatch Watch than a Rolex, and I daydream at least once-a-week of owning a real DeLorean. And if it actually had a Flux Capacitor I wouldn't know what to do with myself! Speaking of time machines, I was a major Michael J. Fox fan in the mid-Eighties. I tried hard to enjoy drinking Pepsi Free like Marty McFly did in the movie Back to the Future, and I begged my mother to buy me sport coats with elbow patches like Alex Keaton wore in the television show Family Ties. So, it is no coincidence that some of my greatest memories are from 1985.

Welcome To Astoria PostcardSomething magical happened that year that captured our generation's attention, from the "Goon Docks" neighborhood of Astoria, Oregon to be exact. On June 7, 1985 pop culture was gloriously invaded by four spirited friends on the big screen, hanging out for one final weekend before their homes were torn down. "What is this? A nuclear Saturday or something? Come on, guys. This is our last weekend together. Our last Goony weekend. We gotta be going out in style," encourages Mouth. With that, the Goonies: Mikey, Chunk, Data, and Mouth rummaged through the attic and discover an old, tattered map leading to "One-Eyed" Willie's pirate ship and hoards of hidden treasure. With the help of a Spanish Doubloon, the Goonies find themselves in a swashbuckling adventure - running from villainous criminals, dodging booby traps, confronting skeletons, and befriending a deformed monster named Sloth. The Goonies take viewers on a roller-coaster ride through underground tunnels and down rapid water slides, and I felt like I was a part of it all right into the lagoon cavern where they discover Willie's derelict ship and pirate gold!

County Jail PostcardVisiting the quaint fishing town of Astoria—to see The Goonies film locations—was high on my bucket list. Over twenty-eight years after the release of the movie I got that opportunity. Honestly, I was pretty giddy as I rolled passed the green "Welcome to Astoria" sign and the mingled smells of the ocean filled my car. I felt like a kid again. Over the next two days I visited more than a dozen film locations, even driving some of the chase route when the Fratelli's are running from the cops in the opening scenes of the movie. "Listen, okay? You guys'll never believe me. There was two cop cars, okay? And they were chasing this four-wheel deal, this real neat ORV, and there were bullets flying all over the place. It was the most amazing thing I ever saw!" says Chunk. Needless to say, I didn't find One-Eyed Willie's pirate ship, but I did see Mikey and Brand's house, Clatsop County Jail, Data's house, the Fratelli's Jeep, the Lighthouse Hideout site, Mouth's house, Haystack Rock, and more!

Haystack Rock PostcardMy imagination tends to runs wild and things like time machine travel, bullwhip swinging archeologist, and hunting pirate treasure only fuel the adventure junky in me. Would it surprise you if I told you I have The Goonies soundtrack playing in the background as I write these words? The truth is, I'm a big kid... And it's something I fully embrace and not ashamed of. I wrote these words several years ago and I am still passionate about them today: ...Something happens to our pretending. As the days turn into years, and the birthdays come and go, the joy that once was driven by imagination becomes enslaved to obligations. What’s labeled as "maturing" is really a masquerade, as we put on shows to prove and impress those around us. Our true selves are hidden behind masks of unfulfilled dreams and discontent. We become unsatisfied and our disappointments lead to compromise. Now our pretending is no longer about our childhood imaginings, but a rigorous climb to social status.¹ That's not the life for me and I hope the same for my three Goonies, my kids... May we always be whimsical.

Ecola State Park PostcardThe Goonies taught us more than the Truffle Shuffle, they showed us what true friendship is all about. They taught us to take risks for passionate causes, and to live like there's no tomorrow because Goonies never say die! The Goony Oath: "I will never betray my Goon Dock friends / We will stick together until the whole world ends / Through heaven and hell, and nuclear war / Good pals like us, will stick like tar / In the city, or the country, or the forest, or the boonies / I am proudly declared a fellow Goony." And speaking of the Truffle Shuffle, do you think I worked up the nerve to do it at the Goonies House? Guess you'll have to watch the video and see. Trust me, I'm a Goony.


Watch the swashbuckling video of my trip to Astoria... My Goonies Adventure!

Planning a visit to Astoria? Purchase your Goonies Film Locations Map here (much like the one used in my video)!

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¹ Excerpt from Pretend by Jim Ed Hardaway, www.epictrek.com, Copyright © 2008, 2013