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Sometimes I Find Wi-Fi Hotspots … Sometimes I Just Finds

December 29th, 2008 · Tags:Satire



As my teacher told me in grade four, “If your head wasn’t tied on, you would lose it.” Maybe so … but I have also found some pretty interesting things in my day to compensate.

I think my eye for all things lost began with an educational/historic interest. On the farm as kids, my siblings and I would walk up and down the dirt roads around our pasture every time it rained. There is nothing like the smell of a recent shower in that dusty part of the world … As the rainwater ran down to the ditch, it would erode the topsoil and reveal lots of pieces of flint and occasionally arrowheads. If memory serves, that part of Texas had once been the home of Kiowas, Comanches and perhaps an Arapaho or two and Apache. We found their discarded arrowheads, probably used for hunting small game, judging by the size.

Most of the farmers and ranchers in that part of the world have jars and jars of arrowheads, once lost, then found. My dad retrieved a large spear point while digging a hole for a natural water tank, at one end of one of our playa lakes on our “home place.” The playa lake had a buffalo wallow at one end, where herds once grazed and cooled themselves in the mud and buffalo grass out on the open plains. Good times. So, I always have my eyes open, looking … looking …

How about you? Ever find anything bizarre?

I am still looking for the “mother lode” of random discarded items – like a box full of money or something like that – but over the years, I have compiled a decent collection of worthless objects and invaluable memories.

… Like the musical compilation that would become known as the “junkyard tape.” When I was a kid, people played music on those now-antique 8-track tape cartridges. The things were always breaking or messing up. So I would take them apart and fix them, splicing broken tapes for me and my friends.

Then one day I encountered the ultimate 8-track challenge. I was throwing away some junk from the family garage at the local landfill, just outside my tiny Texas town. As I finished up, I saw a discarded 8-track tape with no label sitting in the rubble. Part of the celluloid was dangling outside the cartridge. I don’t know why, but I was compelled to take on the challenge, ignoring any thought of hygiene. Could I fix it? What, pray tell, sort of music would it contain? Was it thrown away because it was broken, or was it thrown away because the music was no good?

Well I fixed it. That led to many questions. Who in the world would have made this unlikely music compilation? There was quite a variety of music. First up … the tape included my introduction to a Cajun artist called Fiddling Frenchy Burke (long before Cajun music was getting any attention). Search his photo on the Internet “fo yo own sef.”

Rain gauge made of WWII shell

Rain gauge made of WWII shell

So, with what type of music does one follow the Cajun/French yowls of FFB? Why, Black Sabbath of course. And this wasn’t your top-40 variety of Black Sabbath … it wasn’t “Paranoid” or “Iron Man” – the songs featured on every jukebox in every Pizza Hut back in the day. This song was almost too Black Sabbath for Black Sabbath – and yes, it was called “Black Sabbath.” It features Ozzy sounding as if he has an audience with “Old Scratch” himself. (I used that nickname for the devil, because it is the least scary of the ones I have heard.)

IF you are in a dark mood, read all about the song at this link … actually pretty interesting:

Hmmm …. What else was on that tape, some 30 years ago? … oh I am still perplexed by one of the songs. It had the general sound of The Moody Blues … but it was something about a guy searching for some lost person (“Carie”) during a great societal upheaval. I think it was some sort of musical War of the Worlds or something. Anyone know? Wait, I just Googled … Google is awesome. Yes! It is a bunch of musicians, most notably the vocals of Justin Hayward of the Moodies doing a musical War of the Worlds. Richard Burton, rest in peace, did a great narrative voice over for the piece … perhaps the most interesting find on the junkyard tape … check in out at:

So, like I was saying it was a weird mix of musical styles, and it was particularly weird that a skinny teenage kid would find and fix a junkyard tape. And yet …

….What else? Oh get this. I was always finding stuff on our farm. I am renowned — at least among my siblings — for once finding a rattle snake that was sleeping in the shade, behind the barn. I was only 3 or 4, and my brother actually saw me pet the thing! I kid you not. And somehow, I wasn’t bitten. It rattled a lot and I ran, no questions asked.

I also found a set of teeth. They didn’t bite me either. Seriously. In the tall weeds, out where we had parked old farm equipment, near the haystack, I found a set of choppers. Someone lost their teeth first, and then apparently lost their false teeth too. I ask you, how does someone lose their teeth, and then just fail to find them? I showed my dad and he couldn’t remember any great uncle or anyone in our family history ever playing “hide-and-go-teeth” on the farm. It remains an unsolved mystery. And I have no idea where the teeth are today. Man, I wished there had been forensics TV shows back in the day …

Out on the farm, in my remote part of Texas, not too very far from the New Mexico border and Roswell for that matter, we farm kids were always watching the night skies hoping to see a UFO to break the monotony. Well, I never saw much more than a slow moving, high altitude satellite or two, although I did have a bus driver/coach who claimed he had once been abducted … true story … or at least my part of it.

So no UFOs, for the most part. Until one day. I was riding in the pickup truck with my dad. We were zooming down a country road, with our farm on one side of the truck and a neighbor’s field on the other side. It was the heat of summer, after the wheat had been harvested and the fields had been plowed, so there wasn’t much of anything growing. The Panhandle of Texas is pretty much barren anytime, but especially so after wheat harvest. So, anything in the field is visible from quite a distance. So, as Dad drove and I scanned the terrain for anything of interest, that’s when I spotted the UFO.

….Well no martians, no painful alien probes, etc., but technically, it was or had been a UFO. I spotted a little shiny thing about 200 yards away from the road, just over the barbed wire fence, in our neighbor’s field. Dad stopped the truck and sent me to fetch … come to think of it — very similar to how he sent the cow dog after strays … I digress. I ran out to the shiny metallic object and picked it up. I don’t think it was radioactive, because I am still alive to this day. And yes, it had been a flying object, although I have now identified it. It was the remains of a weather balloon and included a tiny box with some sort of tracking device or other instrumentation.  (Ha … it is always a weather balloon … or so they would have you believe …) And, it had a message instructing me to contact the National Weather Service and report where the “craft” landed. Well, I did my civic duty and sent them a letter. I am still waiting for a reply, by the way. However, I did win top honors that week at my school’s show and tell.

I found another metal object on yet another corner of our farm. We had an old Model A truck on the place and we kids probably climbed all over the bed and the running boards and the cushionless seats about a million times. But on one particular day I looked down and there facing upward from the decades of accumulated dust was a small face. I dug it out to reveal a five-cent treasure. It was what once was correctly called an “Indian Head nickel.” There is no telling how long it had been there. Was it worth anything? Well, we will never know. That Sunday I put it in the collection plate at church. I usually didn’t have any money – not even back then when I was five – so I was thrilled to tithe unassisted for the first time. I trust God did something worthy with the money.

Vintage Dr. Pepper bottle

Vintage Dr. Pepper bottle

Later, after I acquired considerably more wealth, I remember spending one of my first dollars. I bought a shiny white, imitation pearl-handled pocket knife. I was probably seven at the time. And in about a week’s time, I had lost the thing, in the weeds near the windmill. I looked for my lost treasure for weeks and weeks. Some 20-odd years later, I found it one day. The handle was broken and the blades were rusty, but a piece of the tiny pocket chain was still attached. Defective old pocket chain!

Speaking of broken chains, any time I ride my bicycle, I always find stuff on the road. I don’t think I have ever bought a bolt, a nut, a screw or a bungee chord. I just pick them up on my bicycle rides. Ha …. I think I have an entire set of Craftsman socket wrenches that I have found. Call it weird or just call it being a recycler to save the planet. But, it is what I do. Once in high school while riding, I found a nice, silver Crucifix, from what had been a very ornate Rosary chain. That one puzzles me too. It was on the side of the road, near the curb, in front of my house in my hometown. How does someone lose their Rosary on the street in a neighborhood? Were they saying “Hail Marys” while driving a little too fast, with the windows a little too open? Did they think I was a Black Sabbath listener and therefore christened my family’s block?

Are you getting the impression that I was (am) always into random stuff? I guess I was. Once I climbed on top of the bunk bed in my brother’s room, and barely could reach his things hidden on top of an old wardrobe cabinet. My brother had a plastic Daniel Boone action figure, still in the box. He was, in my opinion too old to play with it anyway. So, why didn’t he just hand it down? I guess it was the back-to-nature version of a GI Joe. Anyway, I wanted it and he wasn’t using it. But, he had been using the box. It seems that was the stash where he was hiding some “mind-altering weed.” That was the first time I had ever seen a “plug” of chewing tobacco. After I came down from the furniture and the tobacco induced trip, I showed my parents and they had a word with my older brother. That was the last time I dug threw his stuff, and I never much cared for chewing tobacco after that.

To be fair, I shouldn’t leave out my sister, nor her belongings. I also found her stuff on a regular basis, sometimes by accident. This makes me sad to this day. I accidentally found her ice cream birthday cake hidden in the freezer. When I showed her, upon closer inspection, it also had a Barbie and a little “Kiddle” doll embedded in the thick icing. That was the majority of her birthday gift that year, and unknowingly, I spoiled the surprise. I still remember her crying. Thanks for rubbing it in, Sis. I still don’t know how she got all that icing out of Barbie’s hair.

I guess there was sort of a doll/action figure theme for a couple of paragraphs. I digress …

There could also be a knife theme too. You see, after I grew up, moved away and then returned with my own kids to the farm, guess what? My son – the quintessential city kid – couldn’t wait to get to the farm and strap on the new hunting knife his grandfather gave to him. We had been at the farm about an hour, when we noticed the empty sheath strapped to my son’s belt. Yes, he too donated his shiny blade to the lost items at the farm. We will find it, I predict, in about 15 more years.

Fence stretcher

Fence stretcher

Before my children were born, as a newlywed, I rented a very cool old house in Amarillo. It was built in the 1920s and had excellent hardwoods, a huge porch and a close up, downtown view of Amarillo’s only skyscraper. It also had a sizable cellar and an attic that could have been renovated to add a couple of more rooms upstairs. Do you think I went crawling all over the innermost nooks and crannies of that basement and attic? Bingo. My biggest find – folk art in gigantic proportions. I wish I had nabbed the stuff, even though I didn’t own the property. In the attic there were large paintings stored all over the place. Actually, some of the paintings had also been used as wooden pieces to patch part of the interior walls of the attic.

These things were like six-by-six feet square, larger-than-life paintings of wheat in bushel baskets, lambs, calves, corn, potatoes, cotton … all kinds of farm produce and farm animals. The art was fairly well done, but was large enough of a format to be the graphic from a highway billboard. I asked around and someone told me they thought it was old signage from Amarillo’s Tri-State Fair, which featured the champion livestock and farm produce from portions of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Man … those six-foot radishes and carrots would look so “shabby chic” in my funky little bachelor pad. Missed opportunity! I wonder if anyone found the art, before that house was torn down for an apartment complex. You never know.

The other day, I found an old contact lens, pushed into the back of my bathroom cabinet … dried up and cracked, void of any contact wetting solution. That reminded me of one of the most unlikely finds. This one was the work of someone else, but I had a starring role. I was in the eighth grade, playing football, as we were all programmed to do in what we called “Longhorn Country.”

I was probably all of 100 pounds, if I had on my shoulder pads, cleats, contacts and helmet. But, I won’t lie, I would hit you. In one game, an opposing player was just about to find that out. I was just about to tackle him when he tried his hand at the “stiff arm” maneuver. Theoretically, he was supposed to put his outstretched hand on my helmet or shoulder pad and push me away as I tried to tackle him. And in theory, he would jump over me, leaving me in the dust as he rushed on for six points. Idiot! He stuck his hand through my facemask – accidentally I think – and proceeded to stick his finger right in my eye.

Although that made me mad, he didn’t avoid my tackling prowess. I rolled him for a loss and jumped to my feet, only to learn that I could no longer see but half as well as before. I wasn’t hurt, but the guy had removed – with almost a surgical precision – my contact lens. Here’s where it gets cool. Well … I went on playing the rest of the first half, sort of favoring one side of the field – the one I could see. Then at half time, several parents who had seen the whole lens thing go down, walked out on the field to the exact point of contact (pun intended). One gentleman stood a few feet away and noticed the afternoon setting sun reflecting off of a tiny piece of plastic. He found my lens. I was so impressed. Year’s later, he was my boss at the country club. Great guy. Another story, another day.

Windmill tail

Windmill tail

Surely I have found other stuff. I need to take better notes over the years. But I have one more for now. It is not kid friendly, so to speak, so take appropriate measures to censor. I was in New York City for the first time, working on a Nolan Ryan book project, employed by a small publishing firm and operating on a very tight budget. In fact, instead of putting me up in a nice hotel, the company used a reciprocal agreement between the Fort Worth Club and New York’s Downtown Athletic Club to get me a place to sleep.

Many of you know that the DAC is the home of the most sought-after prize in amateur sports – The Heisman Trophy, awarded each year to (supposedly) the best individual player in Division One college football. The trophy sits on display in the lobby. The history is awesome. The allure of the place ends there. The building is basically a 10-20 story nondescript building in lower Manhattan, most recognizable by the sweaty smell of a dank little basketball court in the bowels of the building. There are guest rooms, and I suppose out-of-town guests stay there from time to time.

Well, when I stayed at the illustrious home of the Heisman, there was no one else in the building other than me and the guy at the night desk. This worked out to my favor, because he sold me some really keen Heisman memorabilia for about one third the marked price. Later, I surmised he probably pocketed the money … I digress. Anyway, since I had the place to myself, I went ‘sploring.

I went to the top of the building and the door was unlocked. I stood on the rooftop beside one of those old building water tower tanks, looking up a magnificent skyline, that at that time included the twin towers. It was one of the most awesome moments. But, I went on about my business, digging into other people’s business. I crawled all over the darkened basketball gym looking for anything of interest. I struck out, so when I went back to my ancient athletic dormitory-like room, I still had an unquenched thirst to find something. Anything! Then it donned on me that the beds and the dresser furniture in the room were all built into the wall, and looked original, so they had been there a long, long time.

So, question: When you store too much stuff in a drawer, where does the overflow go? Yes, it falls back inside the interior of the cabinet. Why not? I decided to remove the drawers for grins, just to spelunk around and see what might have been discarded over the years. Who knows? Well, to my surprise, there were no old hidden treasures wedged under the drawers. There was however, a large, pristine, freshly wrapped package. It was bundled in brown paper, like a professional shipping job, of some sort, and it was sealed tight with packing tape.

Do you think I opened it? Duh. But it was much more than I bargained for. I confess, I looked through it. What in the world had I found? Was there some under-wraps special service that provided this “reading material” to those in the know? Was it organized crime at work? I never found out, and I was way too embarrassed to ask anyone. Always the inquisitive type, I did a thorough investigation of the hidden booty, and then I put it back. I know, I know … and yes, I am embarrassed that I looked at the magazines.

….But you know, you just never know what you will find.