At the time, I remarked somberly (and maybe a little too dramatically) that I was afraid that flag was a symbol of this nation that was almost ripped apart, and hanging on by a thread.
I’m happy to say that my new flag is flying proudly from a unique flagpole I engineered, partially by accident.
That’s Bill and Rhonda Bolton’s house in the background on a fine Fall day. We always called it the Tinker House because Bob and Mary Tinker lived there for years. The Boltons have lived in it long enough that it’s probably time to rename the place.
How I made the flagpole
My previous flag was attached to a pole in front of the house. When the rose bushes got high, the flag would snag on the thorns. I figured I could solve that problem if I moved it out in the yard.
After scratching my head a bit, I went to the hardware store and discovered that a 10-foot length of 1-inch galvanized pipe would easily slip inside a 30-inch piece of 1-1/4-inch pipe sunk 24 inches into concrete.
I wanted to make it possible to back a trailer into the yard to get firewood, so this lets me take out the long pole and only leave the sleeve sticking out above the ground about six inches.
I drilled holes through both pipes with the intention of putting a bolt through them, but it was after dark when I finished, so I turned the flag and pole in the direction where I thought it would be best and went to bed.
Serendipity sets in
The next morning, I was surprised to see the flag in exactly opposite of the direction it was the previous night.
While I was standing there, a gust of wind rotated the whole pole. I was mesmerized. Figuring there was no way that pole was going to jump out of the sleeve, I decided to forgo the bolts and let it act as a weather vane.
Here’s what it looked like on a gusty day this week. The halo-looking thing at the top is a solar-powered LED array to light the flag at night. The flag sticks up so high that the porch dusk-to-dawn lights only hit the lower half of it.
To be honest, I’m not overly happy with the performance of the halo light, but it’s up there.
One other cool thing is that the pipes make a spooky moaning or groaning sound when they rotate more that about 25 degrees. I couldn’t figure out where the weird sound was coming from until one afternoon when I was outside loading the car and made the connection.
The 10-foot pole is rigid. The “bouncing” is caused by the play from the sleeve being larger than the pole. It’s not going anywhere.
Veterans Day is an appropriate time to show off my new flag.
I ran across a photo of neighbors Bob and Mary Tinker in an American Gothic pose. The date on the side of the print – March 1955 – means it was taken just about the same time we moved into our house at 1618 Kingsway Drive.
Mary is holding something in her hand, probably something she grew in her garden. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)
Check out the spotlight
Lots of cars of that era had spotlights. Even our 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon had one integrated into the driver-side mirror. I thought it would be great for reading street signs and addresses, but it never worked.
If you went the drive-in movie, as soon as it got dark, impatient patrons would fire up their spotlights and start playing fox and hounds on the movie screen. Shortly after that, horns would start honking to wake up the projectionist.
How I remember Mr. Tinker
I almost didn’t recognize Mr. Tinker in the top photo because he almost always had a hat jammed on his head like here.
Mrs. Tinker in 1976
The Tinkers and the Grays, who lived just down the street from them, were great neighbors. This was taken in back of the house.
One of the oldest houses
The house at 1617 Kingsway Drive, is the oldest on the block, and the only one still standing of the original ones from the days when we were outside the city limits.
The Boltons live there now
Bill and Rhonda Bolton live there now. The house still looks from the outside a lot like it did in 1955, but Bill and Rhonda have made a lot of improvements to it. No matter how long they live there, though, we’ll always refer to it as “The Tinker House.”
When Rhonda turned 50
Mother had a blast at Rhonda’s birthday party in 2014. We all took a lot of comfort in knowing they were up on the hill keeping an eye on her.
Neighbors Bill and Rhonda and I went down to Dutchtown Monday afternoon. While we were there, I opened some mostly-empty sheds that hadn’t seen light (except for a hole in the roof) for years. Most everything of value had been taken out of them a long time ago, and whatever contents that remained had floated and rearranged themselves in the various floods since 1973. Stuff that could rust had rusted; stuff that could rot or fall apart had done just that; everything had a thick or thin patina of river mud sticking to it.
As I was playing a flashlight beam around, Rhonda said, “That’s a high chair under there.”
Indeed, it was. It was the very yellow high chair that Brother Mark was sitting in back in March of 1961. That’s my grandmother, Elsie Welch on the left. Dad, engrossed in one of my comic books, is on the right. Looks like we were having some combination of brownies, milk, barbecue sandwiches (made on the grill in the background, where our microwave lives today), and iced tea.
It’s still in pretty good shape
I was surprised to see it was in better shape than I would have thought. The metal tray that Mark used to bang his cup on like he was in a B-Grade prison movie would still slide on and off. The legs have some rust on them, but I don’t know if that’s from the Mississippi River or my brother’s leaky diapers.
I was in Tulsa recovering from my niece’s wedding when my cell photo rang at 7:10 a.m.
The call was brief and to the point: “This is the Lutheran Home. Your mother died this morning at 7 o’clock. She was fine when we checked on her throughout the night, but she was dead when we went to dress her for breakfast.”
What made the call a particular surprise was that she had rallied in the last month: her appetite had come back, she was gaining weight, her physical therapy was moving along, she was the patient the staff enjoyed hanging out with because she would joke and tease them.
When my sons and grandsons came through town, she regaled them with stories I had never heard before. (Not every mother has stolen a dump truck. Or, specified that a suitor write her letters only in a specific color of ink that wasn’t available locally.) When I spoke to her at 8 p.m. Sunday night to tell her that I was going to be stuck in Tulsa for another day because of car trouble, her voice was strong.
Maybe she had been holding on until she saw her family one last time. She didn’t make it to Tulsa for the wedding, but she DID get to have a Facetime session with the bride and groom right after the ceremony.
I spent the next hour notifying family, close friends and neighbors. I managed to get through the process with only a few tissues – the room must have been dusty – and a few fishbones stuck in my throat.
It’s going to be the little things
It’s going to be the little things that hit me.
On the way back to Cape, we passed through a bunch of towns – Mountain View, Ellsinore, Poplar Bluff – whose names I could remember because Dad had pulled our house trailer with its folding white picket fence to them so we could live near his jobs. I know there are more of them, but it hit me hard that I have nobody left who can fill in the blanks.
Dad died in 1977
I had always wanted to sit down with Dad and a map of the region to have him fill in all the roads, bridges, sewer lines, airfields and dams he had built. Who would expect a man 60 to keel over and be dead while building a sandbox for your kid? That’s another hole in my life.
This afternoon, while editing this piece, the nap magnet snatched me up. While I was setting my alarm for a 22-minute nap, I saw two alarms I can delete. One of them was for 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. That was to remind me to turn on the Wheel of Fortune. Once Mother got strong enough mentally and physically that she didn’t need me to be literally holding her hand all the time, she’d say, “Why don’t you take a nap until this is over?” She didn’t have to ask me twice.
I will never watch The Wheel again so long as I live.
The Sunday Night 7:30 call
The other alarm is going to be harder to delete. For most of my adult life, no matter where I was, I called Cape at 7:30 on Sunday evenings to check in. Steinhoffs don’t talk long. Rarely did our conversations stretch more than 10 minutes. Dad was always interested in what stories I was covering and what was going on with my job. It took a long time for me to get past wanting to share those things with him. I still wish I could give him a ring for advice from time to time.
Mother’s conversations would generally be about the weather, what her friends were doing, the price of gas, what was going on with the other family members. She also was a person who didn’t say “Good bye.” When she was done talking, she was done, and you’d be listening to dial tone. It was a trait that was passed on to me. My guys would say, “You’d better say it fast, and you’d better not sound like the call is wrapping up, or the next thing you’ll hear is a click.”
Maybe I’ll leave that one around for awhile. I won’t set it, but it’ll always be there.
Several years ago, Mother told Wife Lila what she wanted to happen when she was gone. She wanted no church service, no sad music (specifically banning Amazing Grace, one of my favorites), no big hoopla, she wanted a bunch of balloons released at the graveside, and she wanted to wear her favorite dress.
We’re going to gather at Ford and Sons Funeral Home on Mount Auburn Road from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24. Since nearly all of her peers have already moved on to gossip and quibble from perches on clouds, we don’t expect a lot of people to show up. We’re having an informal service – no ministers, no funeral director, and no set program. We may just sit around sharing memories and stories.
After I posted the news on Facebook Monday, I received an unbelievable flood of comments from many of you who recalled stories I had almost forgotten. I sense that Mary Welch Steinhoff was the mother everybody wished they had. She claimed that she didn’t like perfect strangers coming up to her in stores asking, “Aren’t you Ken’s Mom?” but she really loved the attention.
Here’s the formal information from the obit I wrote:
Mary Lee Welch Steinhoff, 93, of 1618 Kingsway Drive, died Monday, June 22, at the Lutheran Home. She was born Oct. 17, 1921, in Stoddard County, the daughter of Roy and Elsie Adkins Welch.
She and L.V. Steinhoff were married Jan. 7, 1942. He died in 1977. A brother, Kenneth Welch, died in 1935.
She is survived by three sons: Kenneth L. Steinhoff (Lila), West Palm Beach, Fla.; David L. Steinhoff (Diane), Tulsa, OK.; Mark L. Steinhoff (Robin), St. Louis. She had four grandchildren: Matthew (Sarah) and Adam (Carly), Florida; Kimberly Tisdale (Casey), Austin, TX, and Amy Hawkins (Ian), Dallas, TX.
She had four great-grandsons: Malcolm, Graham, Elliot and Finn Steinhoff of Florida, and three great-granddaughters: Brynn, Taylor and Emery Tisdale of Austin, TX.
Mary Steinhoff was a housewife, but she has become well known for the tales told about her in her son’s blog.
Visitation and an informal service will be held from noon until 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, at Ford and Sons Funeral Home on Mount Auburn Road. She will be buried in New Lorimier Cemetery next to L.V. Steinhoff.
Holy cow! That’s a lot of posts
I can understand why my readers feel like they know Mother. Here’s a partial list of the posts I’ve done on her. They are arranged by date.