The improbable dream

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web pageduanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

Basketball, girls, and cars were high priorities in my high school days. Unfortunately cars were more expensive than basketball or even girls. I had a better chance of getting a date with Miss America than of owning a red 1955 Mercedes Benz 190 SL roadster. In my mind this was the second most beautiful car ever created. In first place was a custom sports roadster showing its noble American heritage but with an exotic European and British flair.

Fortunately for me this car was parked in the driveway of our home. Unfortunately there was too much of it. It was too high, too long and too conventional. It was in fact a 1939 Mercury two door coupe. My brother Gordon bought it from our neighbor. A couple of years later he went on to newer things and sold it to me for $200.

In its native manufactured shape it was a modestly quaint old car, but living far below its potential in my mind. Mechanically it was also less than world class. Among its shortcomings was a battery that would barely hold a charge through the day and never through the night in the winter. On the other hand, the car was easy to start. In the winter I could come home, back it up into our driveway which had the tiniest bit of slope with a little dip as it met the road. Next morning hustling to get to school, I could toss my books into the car, push it down the driveway, jump in, throw it into second gear and pop the clutch just as I hit the dip. With my one chance I could usually catch a cough from one of the cylinders, nurse it into life and be off in time for school. If any of this choreography misfired I would grab my books and run for it. It was a mile uphill to the high school and I didn’t have a prayer on foot. But usually some friend or road Good Samaritan would see my predicament, pick me up and save me from the late bell.

Once I started my car in the morning the battery would turn the engine over a couple of times even during winter if I parked it in the sun. I also sometimes parked on the edge of the high school hill which gave me 150 yards of sloped road. A retarded orangutan could have started the car with that much momentum.

I have owned some Chevrolet products. They have served me well. But there is one thing in which Chevrolet couldn’t hold a candle to a Ford or Mercury in those days; the low throaty rumble produced when equipped with straight pipe Hollywood mufflers. On the Chev they would blat, but on the Ford products they had the deep throated hollow rumble of an animal breaking his chains. Even my Mercury sounded that way. But it was all sound. Those eight little pistons under the hood were not scaring anybody.

“Not enough power to pull your hat off,” as my father described Fords. I wasn’t concerned about raw power. I didn’t want to leave smoldering rubber on the road at every stop sign and traffic light like some of my friends. That was automobile abuse to me. But I did love the idea of a finely tuned engine purring under the hood waiting for the command from my right foot.

The car was bulbous and round like every car in the late thirties and forties. But inside lurked a lean, trim, muscular athlete of the road; a touch of the English Jaguar, Germany’s Mercedes, and Italy’s Maserati. But withal, it was a home grown American beauty. The old time patriotism in my soul liked that.

But, like an overweight athlete or buxom beauty queen, the car as it stood was simply too much body and not enough engine. So one day I parked the car in the back yard, took my hack saw and tin snips and started surgery. My father was amazed, amused and aghast when he got home from work. My mother wrung her hands, and wore a worried look, but was willing to go along with my dream. Later on she would even use up great numbers of needles and much of the life of her sewing machine creating red and white rolled and pleated upholstery for my vision.

In the months that followed I, in 1950’s custom car talk, “chopped, channeled, sectioned and shortened” the body. People who came to see my work considered me a strange and perhaps destructive child. If I had known it then, I might have quoted Michelangelo’s famous explanation of his work. “I took this block of stone and chiseled away everything that wasn’t Moses.”

In my mind I was chiseling away everything that wasn’t sports car. The body sat high above the fenders, as was the design of cars in those days. By cutting out six inches around the middle, I was able to set the hood and trunk down between the fenders. Having made the body so trim and sleek, the top looked sort of like the cupola on a Russian church. So I eliminated that altogether and made it a convertible. It wasn’t too convertible because it didn’t convert back to a top.

I was a jazz musician with hacksaw and tin snips. That is I was making it up as I went. When I got the top off and the body sectioned in the middle, my little car looked like a miniature stretch limo; interesting but not pretty. So behind the door I whacked out twenty-two inches vertically. Then I had to have an engineering shop shorten the drive shaft so I could get the wheels back under the body. Now the basic shape was there, but it was sitting way too high off the ground for my taste. So I “stepped the frame.” I lowered the middle part and built braces to connect it with the suspension parts over the wheels. I bought some plate steel and hammered it into shape, welded it on with a little welder I had purchased for 60 hard earned dollars.

But I wasn’t flying solely by the seat of my pants. Crowning the stacks of car magazines next to my bed was a book that had cost me a few lunch moneys. Inside was a dog eared page on which was a picture of the nearest twin to my vision I had ever seen. It was made from a 1940 Ford, but very close to my 1939 Mercury. I spent much time staring at that picture imagining what it would take to turn my car into something similar. I didn’t know then it would take more than I could imagine.

My mother seeing this potentially lethal white arc of my welder burning around my car in the backyard, said to me, “Duane do you think you should be doing that. People have to go to school to learn how to weld.”

I assured her I could weld it just fine. I had received instruction. I didn’t tell her my total education was a little pamphlet that came with my hobby welder. But with practice and by keeping it simple, I was able to weld the brackets so the frame held together.

My mother was right. There was some danger involved. I was welding too close to the car’s gas tank when my neighbor Ted Bjornson, an older and wiser gentleman came to see how I was doing. He worked in an auto body shop and was a great resource to me. He explained that even though the tank was empty, the gas had been absorbed into the metal. “An empty tank can blow higher than a full one,” he said. He told me in the shop a man was trying to solder a can that had once held gasoline. It blew both ends out of the can. He made me a believer. I removed the gas tank.

I learned many things working on my car. I learned a greater respect for people of the trades. In my mind to weld a beautiful seam, to pound out the dents in sheet metal, to engineer mechanical parts so they squeeze together in a “press fit,” these are awe-inspiring skills. Later working on our house I would gain the same reverence for people who can pour concrete flat and level, lay bricks with a ballet dancer’s grace, and throw up a wall that is square and true.

I also learned a number of lessons for life such as: big things are easier to do than small details. But it is the details that make or break the work and turn junk into art.

I love the song “The Quest,” from the musical Man of Lamancha. It’s better known as “The Impossible Dream.” Sung by the title character, an old man who takes upon his shoulders a quest to right all wrongs, lift up the downtrodden, and punish the wicked. He is considered insane by others, in the play and also in the original Spanish book Don Quixote written centuries ago, by Miguel Cervantes and, in Spain second in popularity only to the Bible.

One indication that the man is crazy is his old age. Dreams are for the young and impetuous. By that reasoning, I am certifiably loony. I had an, if not impossible, at least highly improbable dream in high school, and in a quieter form it has never left me.

The old Ford engine was too underpowered, and too high to fit under the hood, so later I replaced it with a Chevy V/8. The top didn’t fit anymore, so I cut off an old Studebaker hard top from a junk yard and stretched it to fit. I fastened it on with the locking device from an old ford convertible. Other adaptations included a hydraulic brake cylinder from a Chevy truck, tail lights from a Pontiac, steering wheel from a later ford (a mistake. I see now the original one looked better.) When I sectioned the body, the gear shift on the floor hit the dash board before it would go into second gear and reverse. I fixed this by sawing the stick off about six inches from the floor, and shifting with my foot. It was a nifty little dance, but kept my right leg busy working the brake, the accelerator, and the stub of the stick shift. I later replaced the stick with a spring loaded racing shift mechanism a friend gave me.

The whole project was going wonderfully until I hit a snag. I had to put it all back together. I discovered my destruction talent far exceeded my construction skill.

The custom car magazines kept the fire of my vision burning; especially the book with the dream car. I practically wore out that picture from staring at it. In my dreams the parts strewn around our back yard resurrected into this vision on the page. Like Ezekiel in the Bible seeing the dry bones rise up, join together and live again.

Finally I got the pieces assembled and running enough to drive about 180 miles to Vernal Utah where I had gotten a job at a service station. Along the way I was pulled over by a highway patrolman. Bless my innocent soul, I could not imagine why he stopped me. I wasn’t speeding. He opened our conversation. “What in h___ is this contraption?” Shortly into my explanation I sensed he didn’t really want to know.

Safety inspections had been invented a few years before, and my “car” was noticeably lacking a sticker, also the ability to get one. The patrolman was an understanding man who probably had a lunatic son of his own at home. When I told him how I needed the summer work for college. (Note the time passage. I had finished high school and some college and was still sawing, welding, bending, and figuring.) He told me to get out of his sight and never appear on his highway again. I kept my promise. I came home at the end of the summer at night, assuming he was off duty by then.

Life goes on at an ever quickening pace. I could still get a lick in between books, basketball, wife seeking, and other extra curricular activities of college. Later my patient wife and inquisitive toddler sons bore, even encouraged, my habit. But soon the spare moments got sucked up in the necessities of providing and presiding that come with husband and fatherhood. Also I kept squandering my car money on things like rent and food for the family.

I evaluated my shortage of time, money, and skill. I disposed of my adolescent dream and went on to mature responsibilities.

Sort of.

I put the car into a make shift garage near the house, out of sight, but not totally out of mind.

Years later I was presenting a program in Southern California. As is my daily custom I went jogging the next morning after my show. With no better option, I was running across paved parking lots and industrial building drive ways when I happened to glance to my left. An auto body shop happened to be in my line of sight. .It’s garage door happened to be open. Inside happened to be the car, THE CAR IN THE BOOK, the vision of my teenage dreams. Quick left turn, breathless dash to the car, stammered question, where? How? What?” I blurted.”

“This is a custom car from up in Pasadena,” the mechanic replied. “It was built from a Ford convertible back in the ‘40’s. Some guy had it stored for about half a century. He died. His estate was sold, and the new owner wants us to fix it up. You like it?”

I tried to explain. No way. I pictured myself behind the wheel. I came within an eyelash of breaking into a full throated rendition of Don Qixote, the man of La Mancha singing, “To dream the impossible dream, to love pure and chaste from afar…”

I thought better of it and ran off again at a revived pace humming, “This is my quest, to follow that star no matter how hopeless, no matter how far…”

What are the odds? The model of my dreams, the only one in the universe, hidden in a garage for almost half a century, shipped from northern to southern California, parked inside a body shop. I fly down from Utah, book a motel in the neighborhood, pick at random a direction to go jogging, the garage door happens to be open when I happen to glance left, and see the car that had inspired me decades ago.  Was it coincidence? One chance in a gazillion? Were the gods of dreams and custom cars toying with me? Was it a message sent to encourage me, or was it to tell me that this was as close to my dream car as I will ever get? I suppose I will never know until all mysteries are unraveled after the resurrection.

Until then I will join with the English poet Robert Browning. I can see him now customizing his carriage to go pick up his fiancé, and a fine poet in her own right Elizabeth Barrett. Robert sees that his custom work on the carriage is imperfect. He hopes she won’t notice. He sighs and utters to himself his immortal lines, “Ah but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for.”

Indeed Robert, indeed.

Back home I went to the storage/hiding place where I keep my improbable dream. I stroked its fender gently, looked with the eye of imagination at the singular sports car still hoping to stretch its wings and fly. I’m anticipating some day the vision inside my bulky 1939 Mercury will rise with all my youthful mistakes forgiven and corrected, and shine forth as the sports car of my dreams. In the meantime, I sing softly,

“And the world will be better for this,
that one man scorned and covered with scars,
still strove with his last ounce of courage,
to build the impossible car.”

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

My faithful long time friend

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web pageduanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

It was a warm and humid afternoon in the Caribbean. They have 365 of those annually. In the back yard of a very modest home on a couple of beat up chairs my wife Sharon and I were hanging out with some new friends and their neighbors. Newness wears off quickly among these sociable laid back folks. Sharon’s excellent Spanish impressed them. My massacring of their language amused them.

We also brought an old friend of mine named Martin. The folks loved him. Partly I suppose they identified with him. He was scarred and beat up, a lot like they were.

But he could still sing. His beautiful deep bass voice and ringing bright tenor sounds still came easily. In fact the older he gets the better he sings.

In his youth 50 years earlier he mesmerized other islanders half a world away in the South Pacific, the Tonga Islands.  He loves to sing, and has done so in other distant lands, and in 49 of the fifty states. (North Dakota we are still waiting.)

He can boom it out for a crowd, but he also hums a gentle lullaby to a sleepy child. He sang encouragement every Friday afternoon for several years to Elwin Pulsipher, a paralyzed army veteran in an iron lung who finally escaped his confinement and flew to heaven. I told Elwin, “Martin and I have to come to sing to you because we know you won’t walk out on us.” He gave a hint of a smile with one of the two last voluntary muscles he had left. The other was an eye brow.

My friend entertained other soldiers in Japan, Korea, and Viet Nam. Once when our plane touched down on an aircraft carrier the restraining line caught our tail hook and yanked us to a quick stop; standard operating procedure. But my friend’s safety harness came loose. He flew passed my head and crashed into the front bulkhead. He staggered but revived. He fell down hard in Puerto Rico and cracked his neck. That was an arm wrestle compared to the working over he got from some baggage handling goons on a flight to Oregon.

With the beatings he takes, you might think my friend would stop hanging out with me, but he’s still the first one ready to get picked up every time I’m headed out somewhere.

That afternoon in the Dominican Republic the folks noticed the close attachment between my friend and me. One of them asked, “Senior if this house caught fire, which would you save first, your wife, or your guitar?”

I gave him the right answer, but I stuttered for just a nanosecond before I got it out.” They fell off their boxes, benches, boards, rocks and other perches howling with laughter. Fortunately Sharon thought it was funny too. She knows I love them both.

The romantic Latinos love to feminize their guitars. They speak of her graceful neck, her curvaceous body, her delicate touch, her sensual voice.

But my guitar is an hombre, a twanging, flat pickin’ hoss. (Although I mostly finger pick it.) When the Martin Company started making this model back in 1931 it was the biggest six string anybody ever saw. It looked like a guitar on steroids: husky neck, square shoulders, flat bottom, thick body to give it a big bass voice. Martin named it the “Dreadnaught” after the biggest battle ship in the British navy. This is not the name or the description that you would give to the lady of your dreams.

As a missionary more than half a century ago, he was my ticket into just about any grass hut in the Tonga Islands, and my spiritual battery charge when I felt homesick.

I’ve customized my guitar by wearing out and replacing the frets, rubbing grooves into the fret board where my fingers go on my favorite chords. It’s charred in places from my blazing solos (That’s a little joke). Like me it is beat up and not as handsome as it used to be. But three fourths of my lifetime memories are wound around its strings.

Sometimes when we’re alone together, and I feel the world and maybe the universe are beating up on me, my guitar speaks to me. He says, “Come on, you want to get it out of your system. Go ahead, pick on me.” And I do.

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: The improbable dream

Joy from a jumping flea

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web pageduanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

I sat on my bike with my empty newspaper carrier’s bag strapped to the handlebars, and looked up the highway for the paper truck. Normally I would be watching for birds, cool cars, and pretty girls passing by; anything but the bundle of papers that launched my daily delivery route. But this day there might be more than the paper bundle, the truck might have my reward for selling subscriptions to the paper, and behold there it was; an unpretentious gray long pyramid shaped box flat on the narrow end without even a label to proclaim itself. I grabbed it from the driver’s hands and hurried back to my bike to peak inside. The content was an equally unimpressive bone white plastic hollow curved body with a neck and strings attached. I pulled it out and examined it with curiosity.

A temporarily insane woman exploded from a house nearby. “I haven’t seen one of those for decades!” she shouted. Out her gate and down the side walk she galloped. “Can I tune it for you?”

“Sure.”

“I don’t argue with crazy people,” I thought and handed it to her.

She plunked the strings, twisted the pegs, stretched the strings, cocked her head, and twisted some more. Then she burst into a sunshine smile as she flogged the strings with her thumb and launched into “Five foot two eyes of blue…”, “Tiger Rag,” and several other classics from the basement of her memory. She handed it back to me, “Not a bad tone. I’ve never seen one made of plastic before,” she said, and cruised back to her house in her imaginary 1922 Stutz Bearcat roadster, dressed in her imaginary raccoon coat, frolicking with her old college class mates and humming “Five foot two…”

“Let me know if I can help you learn to play it. You’ll love it,” she called back over her shoulder.

A ukulele will do that to you I found.

According to one tradition, the ukulele came ashore at Hawaii as a small four string guitar in the hands of a Portuguese sailor. He drew a crowd of islanders as he sat down by the dock and played. Typical of the musically gifted Polynesians, soon the island rang with little guitars made from coconut shells and carved wood. They loved (and love) to strum and sing, But the husky Hawaiians had trouble squeezing their big fingers on to the little fret board. They said their fingers had to hop around like a jumping flea. Their word for flea is “uku.” Their word for jumping is “lele”.

Americans were a parlor piano and barbershop singing people in the first part of the twentieth century. The Yanks in World War One sang to keep in step, and keep their spirits up. (The GI’s in World War Two made wise cracks including notices that “Kilroy was here.” )

Around the WWI era the college crowd discovered a ukulele was easier to carry around than a piano. (That’s what a college education can do for you.) Do wacka do wacka do music floated across American campuses.

For some reason during the depression ukuleles went out of style. Maybe people were so depressed they didn’t want to hear happy music. But after about four decades of being ignored, ukes experienced a small renaissance in some places including Payson high.

Dick Davis and I had been making our musical mark around town and in surrounding communities playing trumpet duets. But playing trumpet can be serious business and the mouthpiece uses up your whole mouth, no room for telling jokes on the side, and adlibbing your way out of mistakes. A ukulele is small, cute, and light hearted, a natural born party animal. Being small has its drawbacks however as when Dick’s girlfriend sat on his in the car, and somebody stepped on mine backstage during a school assembly.

A couple of ukes after my plastic newspaper prize, I found four strings can sound like a little symphony orchestra when you’re in a tent with no other musical options. My uke and I were wailing, “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “The Last Waltz,” and “The Lovesick Blues,” while my fellow laborers, good old boys from the south, tapped their toes, hummed along and wiped their eyes. Nobody ridiculed them, (especially Carl McClure the Golden Glove heavyweight champion of Oklahoma.) A heart felt tune to tired men in a tent far from home can turn the most sophisticated music lover into a melancholy country boy.

In the later 1940’s and 50’s my mother and millions of others all over America would never think of starting their day without the companionship of Arthur Godfrey on the radio. Frequently the high point of his low key homey talk and music show was Arthur, his baritone voice and baritone ukulele musically sauntering through “The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.”

Meanwhile at the junior high and high school assemblies my friend Dick and I were knocking them dead (or maybe they just wished they were dead) when we launched into country take offs by Homer and Jethro of current hit songs like “Kiss of Fire.”

I touch your lips that’s when the trouble starts a brewin’

I cain’t resist the brand tobacco you are chewin’”

And though I know you’re true to Lem and Zeke and Willie,

You knock me silly with your ‘lil ol’ kiss of fire.

Our rendition of Stan Freiberg’s take off of the country classic, “Dear John” letter to a soldier reflected more innocent days. Neither Dick’s crumpled army hat, nor my comely wedding veil nor Freiberg’s lyrics stirred up a backlash or a backside full of buckshot from the National Redneck Association (I assume there is one.) The lyrics ended with:

“I have always been your best girl, but tonight I’ll wed another.

I couldn’t wait, so I have married your father.

That’s all for now, love mother.”

Our ukuleles got us invited to lots of parties where we met lots of cute girls. On the home front our kitchen rang with ukulele strums and family harmony. My Dad particularly enjoyed singing the ballads he had courted Mom with.

Golden age one of the ukulele passed into history alongside the flappers and gold fish swallowers of the 1920’s. Golden age two faded with the retirement of Arthur Godfrey, perhaps abetted locally by Dick and me.

But good things never die. My cool dude grandsons, in high school just got ukuleles. Recently my wife, Sharon and I taught a fourth grade class of 35 enthusiastic ukulele wielding future balladeers including Marcus, another grandson. My charming, stylish, yoga-teaching sister Jeanie is shopping for a ukulele. Racks of ukes are appearing in the music stores. Sweet, hot and happy ukulele strings are flavoring music again on radios and  ipods. The jumping fleas are rising again.

I am certain we will see a corresponding drop in sales of migraine and ulcer medications. So here is my invitation to lower your blood pressure and lift your spirits. Get a ukulele, learn three chords, and join in strumming for a happier world.

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

The principal of the thing

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web pageduanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

“The principal wants to see you in his office.” These words used to strike terror in the hearts of students. But not in mine. I knew how to deal with these faculty and admin people. I had been the student body president in junior high school and was now starting an encore of my act as a senior at Payson High. I got elected to most everything I ever ran for. The reason was simple. Somewhere I got hold of a dog eared copy of a book by Dale Carnegie titled, “How to win friends and influence people.” It made perfect sense to my young mind. Everybody is right in his own opinion. Put yourself on their side of the table. Listen with your heart as well as your mind.

I was as self-centered as the average insecure teenager, with a mind, emotions, and spirit as awkward and gawky as was my developing body. Yet I believed these things. In my stumbling way I usually tried to practice them. Because, “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” I was half a step ahead of my age group in trying to reach out to other people.

As a result I made friends everywhere except with Tink Shepherd. He wanted to beat me up, and eventually did to knock me off my cocky perch.

The handlers of Jimmy Walker were slapping each other on the back the night he was elected Mayor of New York. Then someone asked a momentarily sobering question. “What kind of a mayor will Jimmie be?” Somebody else restored the raucous festivities with, “Who knows. But he’s h___ of a candidate.”

That would have been me. I figured the name of the game was to get elected. It was a popularity contest. Who knew (or frankly cared much) what happened after that. When my loyal constituency began to grumble that we weren’t having the dances and other activities they had counted on, I blamed the dead beats in the faculty and administration.

Knock, knock; “Come in. Sit down.”

Reed Jones was the new principal replacing Louis Bates, a gentle gentleman who had retired the previous year. Mr. Jones was cut from a different cloth; sheet steel to be exact. Among other things, Principle Jones worked as a baseball umpire. He once threw his own son out of a game for questioning one of his strike calls. Even the faculty was tiptoeing around the school since he blew in. What was I thinking? Or not?

He pulled up a hard back chair close to his desk, and motioned for me to sit in it. An hour later which flew by like a snail on crutches, Principal Jones called off his verbal attack dogs and released me. I was mince meat. He didn’t have to open the door for me. I walked out under it.

The most blistering part of the ordeal was that he was absolutely right. I knew that during the bludgeoning, and even stronger as the memory of it burned into my brain and heart.

That miserable, ugly, embarrassing, wrenching, flogging was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I vowed then I would take responsibility for my mistakes, and shortcomings. I would never blame my failures on outward circumstances and other people.

Have I kept that pledge 100% of the time? If I say yes, you will know I have added lying to my sin of passing the buck. But I have tried, and still try. In the words of the eminent philosopher Yoda, “There is no try. There is only do and not do.” I have done and not done. When I have done, I have gained ground. When I have faltered I have back slid. I believe I have inched forward more than I have lost ground. Less often I have been guilty of the greatest of sins which is to be conscious of none. I am now conscious of some. I now either catch myself before I stumble or repent when I do.

So if you don’t like what I have just written, I am disappointed but I can’t blame anybody but myself.

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Audacious audition

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web pageduanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

But don’t push your luck. Your guardian angel may be distracted, out to lunch or just tired of saving your bacon. About five years later in the same building of my moment of glory in the music clinic band I stood again with trumpet in hand.

I may have been the most bright eyed and bushy tailed freshman ever to skip across a college campus. Overawed, enthusiastic, naive; I wanted to major in everything, take every class in the catalogue, play every sport, perform on every assembly, join every extra curricular organization, date every girl, and even wear my freshman beanie to church.

The university concert band was on my list. I pulled my cornet out from under the bed, blew off the dust, even spent a little time reviving my lip which had grown flabby since I dropped band my senior year in high school.

I felt a little nervous, but fairly confident as I stepped into the audition room. Dr. Ralph Laycock, music professor and orchestra leader handed me a piece of music. I stumbled around the first few measures. He pulled that music away, and gave me a simpler one. A measure or two of cracked notes and stammering rhythm later he tried again; with an even easier piece. Through my brain fog the thought drifted, “This thing is going backward. The easier the music, the lousier I play.”

Finally Doctor Laycock said, “Could you play me a C scale?”

“No,” my horn answered.

My carefree cruise down the highway of music smashed head on into a semi truck full of sharps, flats, syncopations, key signatures, intervals, and polyphonies My brain and lips were road kill hamburger, my fingers and horn a pile of  twisted wreckage in the borrow pit. If Dr./Professor/Director Laycock had asked, “What is your name?” I would have had to sing, “Happy Birthday to you,” until I came to it.

He showed me to the door. Closed it then lost his composure. The laughter from him and his secretary slipped out under the door followed me down the hall, and echoed in my head and memory for a long time. In fact, writing this, decades later the sound still seeps out of my subconscious.

I next tried the marching band which performs on parades and at football half times. They were much friendlier. Their audition went like this, “Do you have an instrument?

“Yes.”

“Can you walk?”

“Yes.”

“You’re in.”

I thought, “Even for me the disgraced former third chair phenomenon, this bar seems set a little low.”

The talented guardian angel who had rescued me in the music clinic orchestra had apparently now sided with my mother saying, “If you don’t practice you will wish some day you had.”

The only keepsake I salvaged from the wreckage of my college band career was this. If I hadn’t tried, I would never have known whether I could make it. Now I know. Boy do I ever know.

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: 

The trumpet gives a certain sound

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web pageduanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians, For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (I Cor. 14:8) I have apparently left a lot of people unprepared for the battle. At least I have blasted a lot of uncertain sounds out the bell of my horn.

In the fifth and sixth grades they asked for a bugler to play the colors up and down in the morning and afternoon. Afternoon I could handle. My lip was a little alive by afternoon. But mostly “Taps” is a pretty simple bugle call. But “Reveille” is murder on a cold morning with the remains of your breakfast egg still hanging around your mouth.

I butchered some fairly serious flag raising and lowering ceremonies in the Boy Scouts. By the time you sit through a court of honor or a campfire, your lip is asleep.

I also scared the race horses fairly well at the Payson Onion Days festivities. Our top trumpet player in the Payson City Band was invited to sit on the stand with the race officials and call the horses to the post. It involved triple tonguing on a high G. The whole trumpet section must have been sick one day. For some reason I was assigned to the job. I spooked the horses for a race or two before they replaced me with a guy playing a kazoo if I remember right.

My friend Dick Davis (He went by Richard then) and I began playing trumpet duets in junior high school. We got invited to various banquets, church and civic activities in Payson and a bit beyond. We also played in the junior high, and senior high school bands and the summer community band. I had, they tell me, a pleasing trumpet tone. I also felt I had a bit of soul for the music. I enjoyed blowing on the trumpet, still do. The thing I did not have was technique on the keys. Technique came from practice and as my mother often and my father sometimes reminded me, I did not do a lot of practice.

“If you don’t practice, you will never improve,” my mother would intone. I felt some guilt pangs at this, because my parents had stretched the budget to buy me a better cornet and my brother Gordon a new trombone. They had even paid for private lessons for us. My teacher J.D. Christensen preached the same musical law of the harvest to me. But with him I felt no guilt. Whatever debt I owed the musical world for not practicing I paid in discomfort by facing Mr. Christensen week after week at my private lesson. He was a fine trumpet player himself. He also lead the high school and the city band. But he was not an inspiring teacher. I still question his motives. He said once; I’m sure he never remembered it even as I am sure I never forgot it– “My job is to separate the serious musicians from those who just want to fiddle around with an instrument.” He classified me as a fiddler. He was probably right.

The fates call in the cards on us periodically in our lives. The gods of practice will not be ignored forever. And thus it was. Dick and I got the chance to go to Brigham Young University to a summer music clinic. For a junior high school second chair cornet fiddler this was a stunning eye opener. In our band only Farrel Huff on trombone and Kay Mendenhall on clarinet really knew how to play their instruments. We had others like Dick who could get the notes out. Then we had a whole cacophonous, squawking, squeaking embarrassment of other tootlers who made Mr. Christensen flinch every time he brought down his baton for us to begin.

Now I found myself temporarily in a band where there were more musicians than idle hobbyists. Down where I ended up in the third chair section of the trumpet/cornet players it wasn’t all that intimidating. They were all at least as skilled as I, but not that much more. But slightly to the left of us began the people who practiced. The kindest of them felt some pity for us down in the lower ranks. The arrogant sneered down their spit valves at the sounds we were making. I couldn’t blame them. It was not just that we were an insult to the instruments we held. We also made the whole trumpet section worse for our being there. Nevertheless we had paid for the clinic and they could not throw us out.

It was scary, but it was also musically invigorating. I had never played in a band of this quality. Better yet, there were beautiful and talented young women sprinkled through the group. One of them named Cheney was as beautiful as she was accomplished. Years later I would take an honors English class at BYU from her father Thomas Cheney. He was also an authority on Mormon folk songs from whom we gathered good material for our singing group The Three D’s. He liked what I wrote and I loved him as a teacher. Our singing group and he almost participated together on an album for Columbia Records. He was the content expert and we were some of the performers. It would have been a break for us, but it never happened

Professor Cheney’s daughter in the band played beautiful French horn. Somehow she had lost part of her index finger and had a clear plastic extension on that valve. This only added to her singular beauty. She was a bit like Mary in the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary; who was exotic, quiet and haunting with a mysterious scar on one leg. There were other beautiful and bright spirits in that band. I was almost getting my courage up enough to try my engaging smile and masculine charms and see if I couldn’t meet some of these attractive creatures.

But all these dreams exploded the day we were rehearsing some piece about an English bobby as I recall. I’m sure it is something famous, but I had never heard it. There was a tricky spot for the trumpet section. We went through it several times without improvement. Finally the conductor, a noted band master from Colorado, stopped everything. He fixed the trumpet section with a steely Marine sergeant stare and said, “Line these people up against the wall and bring in the firing squad. Shoot every player who hits a wrong note. And the third chair section; stand them up, bring out the machine gun and just mow them all down.”

His words were something different, but that was his message. At least that is the message I received. He started with the first chairs. One by one he had them deliver this passage from Hades. It was filled with sharps, flats, other musical odds and ends I was barely acquainted with. The first chair trumpet whipped through every note with a casual off handed arrogance that made the conductor smile and the beautiful young women in the band swoon. The rest of the first chairs did the same with not quite the finesse but ample technique. The top of the second chairs where Dick was, handled the passage competently. That made it pretty obvious who the misfiring pistons in this musical engine were. The third chair trumpets. Any doubt was dispelled as individually we butchered the passage. Closer and closer to me they worked down. The conductor red faced, the beautiful girls giggling, the third chairs with sweat running into our shoes. The moment came. He pointed his one-oh-five howitzer cannon of a baton at me and prepared to pull the trigger. My musical life passed in panic before me. All the hours I could have practiced and didn’t. The birds of procrastination had come home to roost and probably poop on my head.

I raised the instrument of my execution to my lips, took one last breath in this mortal life and began to blow.

Deep within the bowels and tubular intestines of my cornet little notes, fast notes, sixteenths and thirty seconds, sharps, flats, double flats, accidentals, graces, trills, had been patiently waiting for me to blow them out. An angel of mercy lined them up in proper order and sent them flying through the valves and out the bell of my cornet. My fingers flew in combinations they never had nor have since. Gabriel could not have blown that horn better.

I (or whoever was playing my cornet) finished. Stunned silence tingled in the room. I was shocked. The conductor dumfounded. He mumbled something about doing tryouts again. I humbly (and fearfully) told him I was happy to stay and help wherever I was placed.

I have never forgotten that brief moment of grace. It has been part of my life philosophy since that day. I know the law of the harvest is true and irrevocable. But sometimes heavenly helpers lend us a hand even when we don’t deserve it.

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: (but don’t push your luck) Audacious audition

Party Guy

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web pageduanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

“Hey Hiatt, you want to bring your ukulele? We’re taking my boat out on the lake Saturday then hanging out at Millie’s,” said the handsome young camp boss. Or as it translated into my ears, “You want to ascend to teen age heaven for a day, while making points with the boss and meeting who knows how many beautiful girls?”

I replied, “Let me check my social appointment calendar. I was going to climb a pine tree, or maybe do some serious pocket knife whittling that night, but I’ll see if I can work you in.”

Working in Idaho’s Kaniksu national forest was an adventurous summer job; especially compared to thinning sugar beets on my uncle’s farm. But the after work social program in the forest was feeble, mostly playing a game we invented, (a combination of basketball and karate,) and plunking my ukulele. This was before I graduated up two strings to a guitar.

This was my second summer in the Kaniksu and I was assigned to another camp on Lower Priest lake. I was disappointed because it wasn’t so isolated as the year before, and not on the lake shore. Also my brother Gordon was in a different camp.

But there were compensations. If one had a car, which I hadn’t, one could drive a few miles to Priest lake, which I didn’t; maybe even meet members of the opposite sex, and hang out at “Millie’s” the local watering hole. If one had a motor boat, or a friend who did, Priest Lake could make paradise look like boot camp by comparison.

Let this be a motivation to you. Practice your instrument, and/or your voice. The only reason these college guys invited me, the high school kid, was because I could make music.

Priest Lake in the Idaho panhandle was a visitors’ bureau’s dream. Pristine blue water, smooth beaches, cuddled inside pine wrapped peaks. The only things prettier than the lake were the beautiful women who frolicked there. That was the opinion of us tent fevered young men from the mountains who had seen enough pine trees for now, but not enough women.

The boat and the college man camp boss were a babe magnet.  The ukulele and the skinny high school kid playing it were not. But I was still a valuable addition to the festivities.

Late afternoon the party moved to Millie’s tavern where everybody ordered their favorite lubricant. Mine drew comments.

“Come on kid, get a man’s drink.”

“Are you the designated driver?”

“No he’s the designated party pooper.”

“The camp boss surprised me with, “Come on Hiatt, you’re not on your mission yet.”

“Where did this Oklahoma Baptist (I assumed) hear that word?” I thought. Turned out he knew more than a bit about Mormons. He had even attended Brigham Young University for a quarter or two.

I smiled and kept strumming and singing. When they saw me standing my ground, the jokes petered out. They told me how much they admired me for holding to my standards. They realized they didn’t have to drink to have fun. They began to talk about life values, ethics, honorable behavior, healthy lifestyles, and virtuous relationships. We had a great time singing and laughing together. I was invited to parties all the rest of the summer. Partly as a result of that night, several of the party guys have since combined their successful careers with praiseworthy church and community service. The camp boss enrolled at BYU again, and the last I heard was a stake president in Tulsa.

Not.

Sorry to spoil a good story. Actually, they included me out for the rest of the night and the rest of the summer. But it was still the right thing to do.

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: The principal of the thing

Kaniksu and my brother Gordon

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web pageduanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

Kaniksu, what a beautiful, mysterious name. I’m so glad they didn’t name it the Stanley P. Finkle National Forest or something like that. I don’t know what Kaniksu means in its original language, but to me it meant adventure, growing up, doing big man stuff in the Idaho forests and bragging about it when I got home. My brother Gordon had worked there the summer before, and as usual, was taking care of his little brother.

Besides fighting Blister Rust, we also fought forest fires.

“Five at a time, five at a time!” the foreman barked. We lined up with shovels, took a deep breath and jumped into the fire line throwing dirt until we choked, then moved out for the next five and stood in line for our next turn. We slowed the fire, but couldn’t stop it.

We were already run down from another big fire. We had it under control and were mopping it up when far down the mountain a car drove by on the road bordering the Salmon River. The driver casually flipped a cigarette butt out the window. Moments later a wisp of smoke floated up from the dry grass. A stiff breeze, steep mountains, and dry tinder turned the gorge we were working into a blow torch. We were losing this battle.

“Run through the fire,” the foreman shouted. Most of us did, but one young man panicked and tried to outrun the fire up the hill. The speed of the blaze was both his undoing, and his doing: too fast for him to escape, but also too fast to ignite his clothes. It blistered the back of his ears and moved on. Stoked with grass and brush the fire raced into the steep canyon above us where the big pines were. A fire fighter’s worst nightmare; it crowned out leaping from one tree top to another. With a roar it exploded on each tree. Any fighter in the area would have probably died, either from burning or from asphyxiation. A crowning fire sucks up all the oxygen and creates its own vortex. This self propelling blast furnace roared to the top of the gorge and the end of the trees.

Whether through slow disease or roaring fire, nature when she chooses will have her way despite the puny efforts of humans.

And when we were not fighting Blister Rust, or forest fires, we fought each other; all in the spirit of fun, of course, but whose fun made a big difference.

“Anybody dumb enough to take me on?” snarled the big guy.

The smiles dropped from the faces crowded into the tent. For a moment everybody took a step back. Then out of the crowd came a voice I knew well. “I will.” He stepped up.

I thought, “I’m about to become the oldest living son in our family.” These guys from Texas and Oklahoma were tough as nails. Witnessing my brother’s imminent demise, I can’t remember if my life flashed before me, or his life did, or if they both flashed by in tandem. If so, I would have seen again the pleasant hours we spent strumming our ukuleles; the paper routes, Scout trips and sand lot baseball games, and his bringing me up to this beautiful forest. I would remember that whenever something good happened to me, he was the first one I wanted to tell. He would get as excited as I did; maybe more so.

I would remember the time mom sent us to smoke the hornets out of their nest in the attic. We climbed up on the roof, and stuck our smoking torches through a hole, the beginning of a door way we were cutting. We went after the hornets, then they went after us. Gordon ran across the roof of the house, and kept on running; ended up in a heap on the front lawn, survived.

When we moved into the upstairs bedroom we had fashioned in the attic, we had two beds. One was a wide flat pretty good piece of furniture. The other one had its own charm. Gordon and I turned it into a metal hammock the first night we got it by swan diving off the bureau. It was a rollaway, which meant you folded it up and stored it against the wall when not in use. This rollaway had another feature. You would never roll away from the middle. If you rolled to the edge of it during the night you would simply roll back into the center because the braces had been beaten into sagging submission.

Wide flatbed and narrow sagmiddle were the alternatives in our new bedroom. As first born, Gordon exercised his option of first choice of the beds. I ended up in the nice one. He spent his adolescent years in that modified iron half pipe we had created. I took the good bed, but I resolved I would never forget how I got it. I never have.

Back at the tent we vigilantes had gathered to give these two bullies a needed day of reckoning, but Gordon was the only one willing to take them on. “It was a matter of fairness,” he told me later.

Our camp bordered Upper Priest Lake twelve miles from the Canadian border with its pristine blue water that is half a degree warmer than a glacier. The big and bigger brother we were confronting had a favorite game. They would swoop into a tent, grab some unfortunate warm and comfortable body, haul him out to the wharf and dump him into the ice water of the lake.

This was pretty good fun until one night when the less fortunate banded together and swooped down on the brothers’ tent. The brothers somehow didn’t catch the humor of the situation. They squared off to fight anybody who would touch them. The younger one called for volunteers. (He wisely noticed that the Carl McClure the Oklahoma Golden Gloves heavyweight champion was not among us.) My brother was dead meat. He hadn’t been in a fight since he and I used to tussle over the basketball in the back yard.

But there he stood, outweighed and outmatched while the rest of us were sort of backing him up, but way back. The big guy took a step forward. Gordon took another one. They were nose to nose and eye to eye. You could cut the tension with a knife. Nobody breathed. Just before the fists started to fly the big one blinked, backed down, and mumbled something about letting my brother off this time.

Nobody was impressed with his gracious offer. The party spirit was thoroughly doused. Everybody went grumbling back to his tent.

I learned some important lessons that night. For one thing I saw a different side of my brother. He was usually content to step out of the spotlight so I could step in. But when the chips were down and somebody needed to stand up and be counted, there he was. I gained a new respect for him that I have never lost.

I also learned there is more than one way to tame a bully. A few nights later we had a general camp water party. Everybody was dragging everybody else down the pier and into the lake. We even doused the Golden Gloves champ Carl. Nobody was safe from the marauding bands. The baptism committees shifted back and forth as the party continued. No one was particularly aligned with anybody else. But there were two very dry bodies standing on the shore. Nobody wanted to touch them and nobody did. Finally after we had all gone laughing and whooping back to our tents we heard the two brothers out there trying to make a party by themselves. It was a feeble effort. Their swagger slipped a few notches

Gordon was a quiet hero, and I got to be his brother.

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: Party Guy

The Saga of the gooseberry

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web pageduanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*,  Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

Fasten your seat belt. We will be traveling fast here through time and distance. Flash back about 200 years.

“I don’t like this Mum,”

“It’s the popular new berry. You’re fortunate I found some at the market.”

“It’s sour.”

“Now, now don’t be disrespectful to your mother.”

“I don’t like it either Papa. It’s not sweet.”

“Sweet? What, have we become a household of Frenchmen. Everything has to be sweet and sticky. This is stiff food suitable for sturdy English like us.”

“What is it?”

“It’s called gooseberry.”

“I’m sure it’s tasty… if you’re a goose.”

“I’m hearing ‘It’s not this. It’s not that.’ I’ll tell you one thing it’s not. It’s not “nothing”, and that’s what you’ll be having for supper if you don’t like what I’ve prepared.”

Meanwhile half a world a way in the mountains of the American North West the beautiful pines whisper and moan into the wind, “Tell them to listen to the children. The children are wiser than they. Listen to the children. Listen, Listen.”

A few decades later and about two and a half thousand miles east, “Never seen anything like it this strange fascination the English have developed for a silly berry bush. Garden clubs, “biggest berry” contests, twenty five hundred varieties they’ve developed. Now the things are catching on here.”

“I wouldn’t be concerned. We’re meat and potatoes folks not the tea and crumpet group.”

But still the beautiful trees whispered uneasily to the wind, “Beware.”

“I hope the president will be pleased Mrs. Adams. I made his favorite desert, Gooseberry Fool.”

“I’m sure John will be pleased.”

“Please tell President Buchanan we’re having his favorite desert tonight, Gooseberry Tart.”

“He’ll enjoy it I’m sure.”

“Mrs. Lincoln, the president carries such a heavy load. I hope to lighten it a little with his favorite desert tonight, Gooseberry pie.”

Flash forward a few decades, “I’m somewhat perplexed, and even embarrassed that in this modern forward looking country of America the 1900’s may go down in history as the century of the gooseberry, and imported from stodgy old England of all places.”

“There, there dear, enjoy your breakfast. I’m sure we have greater concerns than old fashioned English garden produce.”

But the beautiful trees shuddered. “Death rides upon the waters and through the air.”

About fifty years later, two amateur forgers work stealthily on an official document. “How does that look?”

“Needs more Clorox I can still read the numbers.”

“All right but the paper is getting soggy and the background is bleaching white. It will be all wrinkled when it dries”

“We’ll iron it flat, and use a yellow crayon on it.”

“Right.”

A few weeks later a solitary figure works his way back and forth down a steep mountain side. His eyes are focused on the ground. His mind is often not. The scenes of his long drive to the beautiful Northwest forests, the new and different people, including the Golden Glove heavyweight champion of Oklahoma, the football player from the University of Texas, the Korean War veteran, the foreman who could out hike them all and still stop for another cigarette on the trail while they caught up; these and other scenes crowd out the business at hand..

The young man dragging the ropes tries semi frequently to remember the job training orientation. He thinks again of the examples of leaves and bushes as the camp boss explained, “Blister Rust disease kills thousands of white pine trees every year. It can float through the air for miles infecting trees as it goes.  We can’t control that.

“But the disease has a chink in its armor. In its life cycle it must go through a ribe bush. If we eliminate all ribes, we break the circle and stop the disease. But we have to get every ribe. Even one missed can infect miles of white pine.

“So we mark off the mountainside with strings. Your job is to work back and forth between the strings dragging your guide ropes and examining every square foot of the ground. You must find every ribe and eradicate it. This is the enemy. You are the soldiers to search and destroy. Any questions?”

The solitary figure dragging his guide ropes might have answered but didn’t, “Yes. How do you keep your mind from wandering?”

“You’ll develop a ribe eye,” his brother had encouraged him. But so far no ribes had sprouted in his eye. Meanwhile his mind was spending too much energy on last night’s singing his new found love for country music with the boys from the south. His attention wandered to the cloth bag of squashed sandwiches, and the canteen hanging from his belt. He thought of jokes, songs, basketball, his girl back home, and the dark imaginary scene of armed federal agents throwing back his tent flap and declaring, “We checked your forged birth certificate. You’re not really 16. Come with us.”

“Hiatt, you find any ribes yet?” The words jolted him back. The straw boss appeared out of the underbrush.

“No ribes here boss.” His voice was more confident than his mind.

“Keep looking.” The boss disappeared up the mountain to check the area that had just been searched. A few moments later the young man heard the thunder of the executioner. “HIATT!!! GET UP HERE!!!

There stood the boss in a field of ribes more commonly known as gooseberries. The beautiful trees whispered and moaned in the wind, “We tried to tell him, but he wasn’t listening.”

Don’t look for my name in the Ribe Hunters Hall of Fame.

I eventually developed a modestly effective ribe eye. They even hired me again the next summer, however without the customary salary raise for second year workers. I enjoyed the life in the woods, but it was pretty obvious this would not be a good career path to follow. I should take my wandering, perhaps creative mind where it could do me some good.

Everybody I know is busy, including me.  Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?

“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.

2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts

3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary

4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to

5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Your next installment is: Kaniksu