I’m wearing my Dad’s slippers…

…but I know I’ll never fill his shoes.

If I could be even half the man; half the person that he was, that would be more than enough for me. I’m content simply doing my little part to keep his memory and his brilliant spirit alive, striving to to the best of my abilities to emulate some of the qualities that made him so great.
I miss you, Dad!

Hair Musing

Why is it that the gray hairs seem to grow so much faster than the rest? What are they, showing off?

Oh well… as the saying goes;

They can turn whatever color they want, just so long as they don’t turn loose.

My Dad had a lovely full head of gray hair, so I’m hopeful.

1958 Impala Chevrolet

Shortly after returning back to Ohio after Dad’s funeral I had an email exchange with my best friend, Sheldon (The Mighty Polecat), back in Tennessee. I mentioned that he’d have to get me to tell him the story of the “1958 Impala Chevrolet”. Some time passed and he prodded me to tell him the story, so of course I did. After reading it, he was adamant that I should archive it with all my other writings, so… here is that email, minus salutations, complementary closings and such (months after the fact).

When my parents met, Dad drove a “1958 Impala Chevrolet”, I don’t know why, but that’s the way he’s always said it. This was a pretty cool ride for a young dude in 1965-66. He also inexplicably said “Big Red Sodee Pop” the only context in which I ever heard him use the word “sodee”… it was a secret carp catching recipe… dough balls formed from Wonder Bread and “Big Red Sodee Pop” are apparently irresistable to Carp.

Anyway, back to the car…
As this was the first year for the Impala, they are quite sought-after (and thus, expensive) now.

Dad and Roger (his then best friend; later my step-father) both had ’58 Impalas. Dad had a 283, Roger had the 348. Dad says his would run right with Roger’s until they hit top end. Dad’s was light blue, Roger’s was (I think) white.

The Impala had 6 round, bullet shaped tail-lights, 2 red ones on each side flanking the clear back up light. Dad and Roger both had 6 red tail-lights, having purloined the spares from some unfortunate Bel Air drivers (after all, nobody cool drove a Bel Air). A funny aside… for years Dad denied the whole 6 red tail-lights thing, it wasn’t until his later years that he owned up to it (with a twinkle in his eye).

Anyway, for years Dad had dreamed of owning one again, but alas, none of us could afford one (we were all looking, too!)

When I went to visit in February, Mom sent along a 1958 Chevrolet Impala model kit. We got all the correct colors, and Dad and I (mostly me, he mainly gave input on color and options and the like; and supervised) spent DAYS working on that thing, getting everything just so, doing all the really fine detail work.

He loved that model, he would sit in his recliner holding it, looking it over with a far-away look in his eyes just about every day. The model even came with 6 red tail-lights! We were so afraid we’d have to liberate some off of some unsuspecting Bel Air model.

Anyway, the last time Dad ‘played’ with it, one of the wheels had fallen off, easy enough to fix.

At the funeral home they had (one of) Dad’s rod and reels, his tackle box, Walter (Walter’s a mounted bass), and the model. Much to my surprise it survived being carted about and riding home in the trunk of a limo none the worse for wear.

Then later, either that day or the next, Leslie was moving the aforementioned fishing rod which was leaning against the mantle. The car was also sitting on the mantle. The car came crashing down onto the brick hearth, and I thought Les was going to cry. I was a bit sick over it myself, but I managed to affect Dad’s cool and assured her it would be fine, that I’d fixed it before (several times) and I could do it again.

The amazing/ironic thing is that it wasn’t a wild kid, an errant ball, or any of the things I expected to do it. It was a fishing pole!

I brought the car home, it’s fixable; I just can’t handle it emotionally right now.

I also brought back a couple of fishing reels (one’s a FINE Abu Garcia I gave him about 18 years ago) and I have rods coming (wouldn’t fit/couldn’t be trusted in baggage). I’ll just have to keep the rods away from that 1958 Impala Chevrolet!

Damnit Polecat! You made me cry!

So, there it is. As a post-script, the car is now repaired, my brother-in-law sent the rods, and I’ve made darned sure to keep them away from Dad’s car!

Goodbye, Dad

On Sunday, February the 27th while the rest of the world went about its business, I, along with no small number of other people mourned the loss of a truly great man. That man was my father, Ralph Evans. For those who didn’t have the privilege of knowing him, I will attempt, as best I can, to illustrate what made him such an amazing person, beloved by so many.

First a little background; my parents divorced when I was quite young, Dad remarried when I was four years old and remained (very happily) married until he passed away, nearly 35 years. Dad and my step-mother had two daughters and I always felt that I was blessed to have two mothers and two sisters; plus, getting to celebrate Christmas twice definitely had its advantages. Despite geographic distance and not getting to spend as much time together as either of us would have liked, my Dad had a tremendous influence on me. My father truly was, and will always be my biggest hero and role model.

He was a man whose actions and deeds spoke of a purity of character few can hope to achieve. Dad’s life was filled with medical emergencies and brushes with death, but throughout these and his final battle his faith and sense of humor were indomitable. In 1985 my father was in the hospital, near death. For days he had been delirious with fever, not recognizing anyone and hallucinating. I rushed to be with him and when he regained consciousness and awareness the first thing he said to me was “Hi Greg! How’s your leg?” Asking me about my (relatively) trivial injury while facing down death; that typified my father’s care and concern for others above himself.

One of my father’s great passions in life was fishing, for as long as I can remember his bass boat was very dear and precious to him. One night he and a couple of his fishing buddies were launching his boat when a Coleman lantern fell over and spilled, setting fire to the boat. The boat was a complete loss, but that didn’t deter my father, it just meant they had to fish from the bank. The next morning a ranger came looking for him, at first he thought it concerned the boat fire, but no, there was an urgent phone call for him. His father (my Grandfather) had passed away. When my dad retold the story of that fateful night, he could amazingly see the silver lining to the situation. If the boat hadn’t burned, he would have been out on the lake and the rangers couldn’t have found him. That typified my father’s incredibly positive outlook on life.

My father was quick with a joke, a smile, or a kind word; whatever the situation warranted.

Dad, I’m sorry I couldn’t articulate my love and admiration for you better at the funeral, but I know it doesn’t matter; everyone there was fortunate enough to have known you or to have somehow had their lives touched by you and that is truly a blessing. I’m sorry for the millions of people who didn’t know you and didn’t have the opportunity to see the incredible light and beauty of your spirit.

I’m sure the fish will be biting when I join you on that big bass boat in the sky, so save me a pole and a seat in the back of the boat. I love you Dad, I couldn’t have asked for a better father.

Travelogue Part 6, the Trip back to Indianapolis (Or, “Thank You, Officer!”),

So, it was with a heavy heart and 20 dozen tamales packed in styrofoam coolers that I left Midland, on my way to Mom’s house in Indianapolis to pick up my cat and part with some of my beloved tamales before the short jaunt from there back to Ohio. I was a bit concerned that I was leaving several hours later than I had planned and that shortly after awakening I felt as though I hadn’t had enough sleep. No worries, though; after all, sleep is for sissies!

Having renewed my vow never to return to the state of Oklahoma, my chosen return route was; Fort Worth, Dallas, Texarkana, Little Rock, West Memphis, then north along the Mississipi river on I-55, across the SE corner of Missouri, to I-57 into and across Illinois, to I-70, then through Terre Haute, and on to Indianapolis.

I was quickly approaching Fort Worth and making very good time. A group of trucks seemed a little too eager to move aside and let me pass, but I chose to ignore the alarm that this sounded in the back of my mind. A little while later, I’m about 5 miles west of Ranger, Texas (Not to be confused with “Walker, Texas Ranger”, the worst TV show ever made. Well one of them, anyway.) when I crest a small rise while passing another group of slower traffic. As soon as I come over the top of the hill, “Shit!” the median just ahead comes to life with headlights and flashing blue lights. I glance at the speedometer, which is now swinging down toward 80 (the posted limit was 65) as I signal my lane change back to the right, frantically hoping it’s not me he’s after. Alas, there is no one else, it has to be me. I’m filled with a heart-pumping, sick to my stomach rush of adrenaline, but I can’t help smiling just a bit as my mind replays the tape of Johhny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” saying:

Few people understand the psychology of dealing with a highway traffic cop. Your normal speeder will immediately panic and pull over to the side. This is wrong. It arouses contempt in the cop heart. Make the bastard chase you, he will follow.

Ignoring the good Doctor’s words, I immediately panicked and pulled to the side. Texas Highway Patrol officers don’t mince words, as soon as he stepped up to the passenger’s side window he told me who he was and why was stopping me.

Texas Highway Patrol. I pulled you over for exceeding the posted speed limit.

Of course, I’m very contrite and apologetic, explaining that I’ve had to leave my father, who’s very ill, back in Midland and that I guess I was a little distracted and got to going faster than I intended. You know, basically pleading for mercy without coming right and begging (and not really expecting it to work). He asks for my license and proof of insurance. I promptly hand over my license but can only find expired insurance cards. He suggests I continue to look while he checks my license. When he reapproaches the window he asks, “Did you find that?”
“Yes sir, it’s right here”, I reply, shakily handing the current insurance card over.
He glances at it, hands it back, then reaches back in with the dreaded pad and pen. I am positively dumbstruck as he tells me that he’s giving me a written warning, I feel as though I’m having some sort of out of body experience. I sign where he tells me, and hand it back saying, “Thank you, officer.” I’ve never uttered those words with more conviction in my life… I really meant it.
He tells me to be safe and keep my speed down, then sends me on my way.

I’m not sure if it was divine intervention, mercy on his part, or dumb luck (perhaps brought on by the figure of Señor Misterioso glowing atop my dashboard), to which I owe this good fortune, but believe you me, I am immensely grateful and thankful.

Travelogue Part 3 (or; “Hot tamales!!!”)

So, I arrived safe and sound in Midland. One of the first things I asked the family about was Bernard’s, a tortilla and tamale factory which sells (in my estimation) the world’s best tamales. No one knew if it was in the same place or even if they were still in business.

Sitting around with my Dad a few days later, he asks if I want to go for a ride. “Sure,” says I, and off we go. I’m just driving aimlessly, we swing by the house where I grew up, which was really quite sad; the neighborhood has taken a definate turn for the worse during the roughly 16 years since I last saw it. My boyhood home looks very weary and run-down and the Elm trees that once lined the streets are all gone, victims of Dutch Elm Disease, apparently.

As we wander through the downtown area, which is still surprisingly familiar, despite an abundance of ‘new’ buildings, I remark that it seems as though Bernard’s wasn’t too far from where we are. Dad agrees and asks if I want to try to find it. “Yes I do!” Now we have a mission! Dad seems unsure that he can actually find it, but then directs me right to it. Amazingly, it looks exactly the way I remember it! Stepping inside nothing has changed, it’s as though I’ve walked through a portal back in time. I can practically see myself, 10 years old, waiting nervously beside my Grandmother while they ring up our tamales.

Then came an even bigger shock, Mrs. Bernard, who was an old lady back way back when, in my youthful eyes, is still there! Of course, she’s older now, but unmistakably the same lady. The whole experience is so overwhelming, I literally am briefly reduced to a nervous 10 year old. “Un docena tamales, por favor”, the words tumble out, automatically, and even as I’m handing her my money I realize that this is not nearly enough tamales.

With my deliciously fragrant bundle in hand, I rejoin Dad in the car. I’m beaming, glowing… I’ve been dreaming of Bernard’s tamales for so long. Our mission now accomplished, we head back to the house. It’s all I can do to keep out of the tamales until we arrive, but unwrapping and eating greasy tamales while driving a stick shift would be a messy proposition.

The tamales are everything I’d hoped for. Spicy enough to make you sweat a little, just the right masa to meat ratio, and just fantastically; sinfully good. Of course now I have to have more, and finding coolers to load full of tamales and bring back becomes a top priority.

So anyway, If you like real Mexican food and you ever find yourself in Midland, Texas, stop at:

Bernard’s Tortilla Factory
511 N Tyler St.
Midland, Texas

Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

Travelogue, part 2 (or, “Thank God; it’s Texas!”)

So… as I’m finally starting to see the metaphoric light at the end of the tunnel (the rapidly approaching Texas border), I decide this is the time to check out the mysterious cassette tape I found in one of my bags as I was packing. As best as I can figure this (unlabeled) mix tape has been lurking, unseen and forgotten for 12-15 years. Popping it in I’m pleased with the sound quality and the tunes are an interesting window to my past. As I make my way to within 10 miles of Texas, a Stevie Ray Vaughan song comes on. I think to myself, “well, almost perfect timing, anyway…”, then another SRV tune blares forth, then another, and the next thing you know, I’m crossing into Texas, listening to some butt-kicking Texas blues-rock. Life is good and Oklahoma is in my rearview mirror.

I roll into Wichita Falls, Texas a short time later and stop for gas. Surveying the beverage selection in the cooler I decide I want something other than Coke. Hmmm… Dr. Pepper! I don’t know why, but that’s what I want. I pay the man and rocket back into the darkness. As I crack open my Dr. Pepper and take a sip I’m overwhelmed by a rush of memories. Childhood memories of being on roads just like this one, drinking Dr. Pepper, riding with Dad, heading out for a fishing trip. Just then, streaking across the sky, I see a shooting star leaving a shimmering, glittering trail of sparks in its wake. Welcome back to Texas, Greg. Welcome home son.

I had figured I’d be rolling into Abilene around dawn, but had neglected to take into account my westward direction, the Earth’s curvature and the inherent difference in the time of the sunrise. So, I go by Abilene and onto I-20 in the dark, heading West; the home-stretch, only a little over 2 hours to go! As you approach Sweetwater, Texas, there’s a bit of a rise that you crest, then Sweetwater is spread out before you. As I crest this hill, the sky is just starting to get some color and the twinkling lights of Sweetwater (My father’s boyhood home, his dear departed parents’ home, and a frequent fishing destination of ours in my youth) are like jewels on the horizon… a breathtaking tableau.

I roll into Midland (my birthplace and home through the 7th grade) around 9:30am EST,
just under 19 hours after departing Indianpolis, Indiana, some 1200 miles away. Not bad considering the wasted hour in “the bad place” (Oklahoma).

And that was my trip back home to see my Dad, stay tuned for the low-down on my trip back “home”, which more than likely will not include Oklahoma.