Texas Angels

Some background:  Longtime Reader and Buddy Dave L. and I have known each other for years, and along the way, we’ve swapped stories back and forth, talked guns and such, and shared good times and bad.

Both of us lost our beloved wives to illness, I only a couple of years before he did, and we’ve taken it in turns to talk each other away from the abyss.  You know, what friends do.

Another thing we have in common after our respective losses is that somehow, without trying, we both lucked upon women who were prepared to take the enormous risk of marrying a pair of cranky old widowers — I already did, and he will be doing it too, later this year.

Anyway, a couple of days ago he sent me this email, which I’m posting almost unchanged (other than anonymizing it a little) with his express permission, because it is just too damn good a story not to share, and Dave is an excellent storyteller.

Hi Kim:

I want to share a story with you about the goodness of two people that I encountered last week. As with all Dave stories it’s a little long and involved but you’re an observer of all that’s wrong with our society so I hope that this brings a smile to your face.

A couple of weeks ago the “soon-to-be-wife” and I decided that we needed a little “us” time. I’ve lived in Oklahoma for 42 years but I’ve never made the detour south of Amarillo to check out Palo Duro Canyon. We decided to drag our small camping trailer out to the canyon for a couple of quiet days.

I want to lay the foundation for the story. I have an 18-foot single axle camper. It’s about six years old and is in very good condition. I have less than 15,000 miles on the unit. I’ve never overloaded the trailer and I’ve been very careful about inspecting the tires and maintaining the proper inflation pressures. In short, I’ve done about all that I could to keep the trailer safe and in good order. (I later learned that most of the new trailers come from the factory with a set of cheap Chinese tires that are commonly called “Chinese Time Bombs”. These tires look okay but literally disintegrate at the six to seven year mark.)

We were heading down I-40 last Monday afternoon. I tow with a 2020 F-150 that has the towing package and is a well maintained truck. We were running at about 65 — I don’t feel comfortable driving much over that when towing — and we’d just crossed the Oklahoma/Texas border when I heard a loud bang and saw pieces of tire flying from my wheel. We got the rig shut down and I found just a little rubber and lots of steel cord on the wheel rim. Last Monday afternoon the temp was about 95 but STBW and I managed to jack up the trailer and change out the bad tire for the spare.

While we doing this a typical Texan (God bless him) pulled up behind me in a big dually Dodge and helped us with the job. We were on our way to finishing the job, but when you’re 71 years old and out in the hot sun, any help is sure appreciated. I noticed that he was wearing a blue polo shirt (this becomes important later). I offered to buy our friend a beer or lunch but he wouldn’t hear anything of it. So I gave him a bottle of cold water and we went on our way.

About two hours later we’re south of Amarillo heading toward the canyon and I heard another loud bang. Yes, the second tire decided that it was at the end of its useful life and let go as well. So now we’re stuck without a spare and I’m looking for a place where I can park the trailer on the jacks and find a couple of tires late in the afternoon.

A guy who ran a local landscaping business saw our trouble and came out and suggested that we park the trailer right there in his yard. He said that we could leave the trailer on his locked property and he’d help us with it in the morning. That sounded like a good idea so we found a motel room.

On Tuesday morning we used the landscaper’s floor jack to get both wheels off and I made a trip to Discount Tire for two tires which were not made of Chinesium. Total time spent doing all this on Tuesday morning was about two hours. I insisted that the landscaper guy have lunch on us, and that was the best $50 I’ve ever spent.

Now for the good part. The second guy was also wearing a blue polo shirt. Your mileage may vary, but I’m convinced that in Texas, angels wear blue shirts.

All the best,

Dave

New Wife and I will be going to Dave’s wedding in a few months’ time.  After all these years of friendship, it will be the first time we’ve actually met in person, and I cannot wait.

RFI: Ireland

From Adopted Daughter:

“Hi Papa.  Could you ask your Readers for advice on visiting Ireland?  I’ll be staying at Lough Rynn Castle near Carrick-on-Shannon in August, but other than the castle itself, I don’t know anything about the area (County Leitrim).”

Here’s Lough Rynn, which appears to be a shabby little place:

I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ babies  traveling in Ireland, never having been there myself, so all advice, experiences and warnings will be welcome.

Memorial Day

Charles Loxton was a small man, no taller than 5’6”, and was born in 1899.  This means that when he fought in the muddy trenches of France during the First World War, he was no older than 17 years old — Delville Wood, where he was wounded, took place in July 1916.

Seventeen years old.  That means he would have been a little over sixteen when he enlisted. In other words, Charles must have lied about his age to join the army — many did, in those days, and recruiting officers winked at the lies.  After all, the meat grinder of the Western Front needed constant replenishment, and whether you died at 17, 18 or 19 made little difference.

Why did he do it?  At the time, propaganda told of how the evil Kaiser Wilhelm was trying to conquer the world, and how evil Huns had raped Belgian nurses after executing whole villages.  Where Charles lived as a young boy, however, the Kaiser was no danger to him, and no German Uhlans were going to set fire to his house, ever.

But Charles lied about his age and joined up because he felt that he was doing the right thing.  That if good men did nothing, evil would most certainly win.

It’s not as though he didn’t know what was coming:  every day, the newspapers would print whole pages of casualty lists, the black borders telling the world that France meant almost certain death.  The verification could be found in all the houses’ windows which had black-crepe-lined photos of young men, killed on the Somme, in Flanders, in Ypres, and at Mons.

He would have seen with his own eyes the men who returned from France, with their missing limbs, shattered faces and shaky voices.  He would have heard stories from other boys about their relatives coming back from France to other towns — either in spirit having died, or else with wounds so terrible that the imagination quailed at their description.

He would have seen the mothers of his friends weeping at the loss of a beloved husband.  Perhaps it had been this man and not his father who had taught him how to fish, or how to shoot, or how to cut (from the branches of a peach tree) a “mik” (the “Y”) for his catapult.

But Charles, a 16-year-old boy, walked out of his home one day and went down to the recruiting center of the small mining town, and joined the Army.

When years later I asked him why he’d done it, he would just shrug, get a faraway look in his blue eyes, and change the subject.  Words like duty, honor, country, I suspect, just embarrassed him. But that didn’t mean he was unaware of them.

So Charles joined the Army, was trained to fight, and went off to France.  He was there for only four months before he was wounded.  During the attack on the German trenches at Delville Wood, he was shot in the shoulder, and as he lay there in the mud, a German soldier speared him in the knee with his bayonet, before himself being shot and killed by another man in Charles’ squad.  At least, I think that’s what happened — I only managed to get the story in bits and pieces over several years.  But the scars on his body were eloquent witnesses to the horror: the ugly cicatrix on his leg, two actually (where the bayonet went in above the knee and out below it), and the star-shaped indentation in his shoulder.

The wounds were serious enough to require over a year’s worth of extensive rehabilitation, and they never really healed properly.  But Charles was eventually passed as fit enough to fight, and back to the trenches he went.  By now it was early 1918 — the Americans were in the war, and tiny, limping Private Charles Loxton was given the job as an officer’s batman: the man who polished the captain’s boots, cleaned his uniform, and heated up the water for his morning shave every day.  It was a menial, and in today’s terms, demeaning job, and Charles fought against it with all his might.  Eventually, the officer relented and released him for further line service, and back to the line he went.

Two months later came the Armistice, and Charles left France for home, by now a grizzled veteran of 19.  Because he had been cleared for trench duty, he was no longer considered to be disabled, and so he did not qualify for a disabled veteran’s pension.

When he got back home, there were no jobs except for one, so he took it.  Charles became, unbelievably, a miner.  His crippled knee still troubled him, but he went to work every day, because he had to earn money to support his mother, by now widowed, and his younger brother John.  The work was dangerous, and every month there’d be some disaster, some catastrophe which would claim the lives of miners.  But Charles and his friends shrugged off the danger, because after the slaughter of the trenches, where life expectancy was measured in days or even hours, a whole month between deaths was a relief.

But he had done his duty, for God, King and country, and he never regretted it.  Not once did he ever say things like “If I’d known what I was getting into, I’d never have done it.”  As far as he was concerned, he’d had no choice — and that instinct to do good, to do the right thing, governed his entire life.

At age 32, Charles married a local beauty half his age.  Elizabeth, or “Betty” as everyone called her, was his pride and joy, and he worshipped her his whole life.  They had five children.

Every morning before going to work, Charles would get up before dawn and make a cup of coffee for Betty and each of the children, putting the coffee on the tables next to their beds.  Then he’d kiss them, and leave for the rock face.  Betty would die from multiple sclerosis, at age 43.

As a young boy, I first remembered Charles as an elderly man, although he was then in his late fifties, by today’s standards only middle-aged.  His war wounds had made him old, and he had difficulty climbing stairs his whole life.  But he was always immaculately dressed, always wore a tie and a hat, and his shoes were polished with such a gloss that you could tell the time in them if you held your watch close.

Charles taught me how to fish, how to cut a good “mik” for my catapult, and watched approvingly as I showed him what a good shot I was with my pellet gun.  No matter how busy he was, he would drop whatever he was doing to help me — he was, without question, the kindest man I’ve ever known.

In 1964, Charles Loxton, my grandfather, died of phthisis, the “miner’s disease” caused by years of accumulated dust in the lungs.  Even on his deathbed in the hospital, I never heard him complain — in fact, I never once heard him complain about anything, ever.  From his hospital bed, all he wanted to hear about was what I had done that day, or how I was doing at school.

When he died, late one night, there was no fuss, no emergency, no noise; he just took one breath, and then no more.  He died as he had lived, quietly and without complaint.

From him, I developed the saying, “The mark of a decent man is not how much he thinks about himself, but how much time he spends thinking about others.”

Charles Loxton thought only about other people his entire life.

In Memoriam

No Right At All

Here’s a story which is guaranteed to get me going, and it’s a topic I’ve discussed before.  Seems as though this Old Phartte popped his clogs at age 91, and decided that because his grandchildren had never bothered to visit him while he was in hospital, that they weren’t worthy of getting any of his loot once he was gone.  So instead of cutting them out of his will, he left them each only a few bucks.

Needless to say, the grandchildren sued the estate, claiming that they were “entitled” to a third, rather than the 0.0001% thereof specified in his will.

Where do these people get the idea that they should be entitled to anything?  FFS, his estate, lest we all forget, is his own property — something that people (and governments, a rant for another time) seem to forget.

So if Grandpappy wants to leave his dough to Someone Not His Foul Grandchildren because they ignored him while he was alive, he’s perfectly within his rights to do so — just as if he were to give a birthday present to one person and not another.

This business of heredity “entitling” someone something is all well and good when it is, ahem, an actual title (e.g. royalty / nobility), but in the cold hard world of law and finance, descendants are entitled to nothing, if the owner of said estate says so.

Anyway, this group of ingrates lost their case, and a damn good thing it is too.  And for the record, they’re as ugly as they are greedy.

Gone Greek

Following my earlier post about Going Greek, I got this from Frequent Reader and Looongtime Friend Mrs. Sorenson (a.k.a. The Catholic):

Going Greek?  Why yes, yes we have. Twice this year actually 😌

Parga and Lefkada.  Go there.

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To start you off, breakfast from the Green Bakery, Parga.  All fresh, all made on the premises.

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One of Parga’s beaches.  Clear water everywhere you go.  Why is the bottle in the picture you say?  Because this is a taverna half way up the hill from the beach.  One simply HAS to stop and have an icy beer and nibbles, in order to make it up the rest of the hill.

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A little something from our favourite port-side restaurant.

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Said Green Bakery – fresh bread, huge fruit salads, fantastic coffee, great service, tables in the small courtyard to the left, lean-on bars at the shop inside.  Quick moving queues every morning.  Less than 50 yards from our apartment.

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This is Parga.  Hideous eh?  Lined with restaurants and quirky shops of all sorts, bars overlooking the port.