Anne Day 1: Clermont

Anne Rodgers in CLermont FL 06-25-2012Bike partner Anne Rodgers heard how much fun Jan Norris had on her winter road trip with me that she wanted a piece of the action. The first thing that happened was that my cruise control stopped working. That means I’m either 10 mph under the speed limit or 20 mph over it, depending on flow of traffic.

We had hoped to make it to a place on the Gulf coast for seafood, but it became clear that they’d be closed. That gave us an excuse to take the scenic route Mother and I drove in 2011.

Anne, a Texas innocent, had never been to the Florida Citrus Tower in Clermont.

No, you can’t sit on his lap

Anne Rodgers in CLermont FL 06-25-2012

While I was taking the shot of Anne and the tower, a nice man came out of the Presidents Hall of Fame. He told us the place was closed, but gave us a two-for-one ticket for our next trip. (Like Anne would sign up for another one.)

Oh, yes, he also said, “No, you can’t sit on his lap.”

She settled for second best, muttering, “Your loss, Abe.”

You should have been here yesterday

Anne Rodgers in CLermont FL 06-25-2012The nice man said if we had been there yesterday, we’d have been able to see him put Abe back together. A microburst in a storm tore Mt. Rushmore apart.

We’re newlyweds

Anne Rodgers in CLermont FL 06-25-2012We fought rain for about an hour before pulling into the Comfort Suites in Lake City, FL. I like the place. It’s clean, convenient (there’s a Waffle House across the street) and the staff is friendly.

I tried every trick I’ve earned from years on the road to get the best price. Finally I said, “Look, we’re newlyweds and we’ve had a spat. If we want this marriage to survive, we need separate rooms tonight. Will that qualify for a better rate?” We got another $10 knocked off, probably because that was one they’d never heard before.

“Do you want adjoining rooms?” the clerk asked?

“No,” I replied.” I think we’ve had all the adjoining we can handle for the day.

Stay tuned for more adventures on the way to Cape.

Don’t Stare at My Mother’s Arm

Liberty with the truth warning: there may be some parts of what you read next that might not exactly be lies, but they stretch the truth to the point of snapping. [The story was originally written to promote the Convention Bureau’s Storytelling Festival.]

What’s the matter with her arm?

Mother couldn’t figure out why my brother Mark’s friends always looked at her funny. They’d appear to be staring, then glance away quickly when she looked at them.

She found out later that Mark had told them, “Don’t stare at my mother’s arm, she’s self-conscious about it.”

“What’s the matter with your mother’s arm,” they’d ask.

It’s a long story

Here’s how he tells it in (mostly) his own words:

After Dad died and all of us boys scattered all over the country, Mother got a little lonely. She was okay financially, but she wanted to do something a little different to keep busy, something that would let her see the sights, be around other people and make herself feel useful.

She was a cook on a riverboat

She decided to work as a cook on a towboat, The Robert Kilpatrick. She worked 20 days on and got 20 days off.

She had her own small utility boat that was kept on the barge on a hoist.  When she  ran low on supplies, she would have the captain radio ahead to the nearest town and give them the “grocery list.”  As they came close to the town, they would lower her boat into the water. She would take off, load up the supplies (the store would meet her at the river with them), and then she’d floor it to catch up with the tow.

One day as the tow was being broken up and put into the lock and dam (modern day tows now “push” as many as 30 barges at a time and dams/locks were not designed to accommodate more than eight at a time, two abreast),  she decided she wouldn’t launch her own boat, she’d stay with the tow. She was getting ready to climb a steel ladder from the the barge  to the top of the lock so she could board a waiting cab to go into town for the supplies when something went terribly wrong.

Tragic accident took her arm

Suddenly the barges shifted in the lock and her arm was caught between the edge of the barge and the concrete dam wall. It pinched it clean off at the elbow.

Tragic, yes, but not enough to keep our mother down.  No  sir.  In fact, some of the guys in the machine shop – the burly  guys who ate steak for breakfast and kept the massive engines working  down below – fashioned her a couple of custom “snap on” tools that were a little more functional than the basic hook that was all insurance would cover.

One was a spatula that could easily turn extra large omelets (and used to scrape the grill to keep food from sticking to it); the other was a meat fork with three tines.  Two tines faced the the same direction so she could pick up meat from the grill, and one tine was bent 90 degrees in the other direction, so she could open and close the oven doors with it.

OSHA said somebody’s gonna get an eye poked out

OSHA thought the custom tools created a hazard to workers who might get impaled if the boat hit rough water and caused her to stumble, so she quit rather than kowtow to bureaucrats.

She became a Happy Hooker

Her next job was working for the city of Cape Girardeau as a wrecker driver.  She drove a tow truck all over town looking for scofflaws who had outstanding parking tickets so she could impound their vehicle.  Nobody ever tried to  stop her after she raised her artificial arm and clicked her custom tool fingers at them like mad magpies.

Prosthetic technology progressed to the point where she decided to give up the hook and custom attachments for an arm that was covered in soft plastic that was almost lifelike. The doctors did a great job of matching her skin tone, too.

She got so she’d play along

When Mark’s friends threw him a surprise 50th birthday party, Mother, Son Adam and I showed up. When she noticed some of the guests giving her arm a quick glance, she pulled her hand up into her sleeve so it looked like she had left her prosthesis  at home.

“You can’t take that slot machine”

Storytelling is in our genes.

My mother’s family owned several businesses in Advance at one time or another. One was a tavern that had a few slot machines to bring in some extra (if illegal) income. Her parents had to leave one afternoon and left her in charge. She was all of about 13 years old.

It must have been an election year, because the place suddenly filled with law enforcement officers who were going to confiscate the slot machines as being illegal gambling devices. Mother knew that one of the machines was full of money, so she stood up to the sheriff and said, “You can’t take that one. It’s broken. If it doesn’t work, it’s no more a gambling machine than that bar stool.”

They left it behind.

Don’t forget the Storytelling Festival

If you made it all the way down here, you must appreciate tall tales. When this story was first published, you could click on the photo below, which would take you to the Convention Bureau’s Storytelling Festival website. I had optimistically written, “It’ll help me convince the convention bureau folks that this would be a great place to advertise, and it’ll set you up for a weekend that sounds like a lot of fun.” It might have done the latter, but the former never happened.

Copyright © Ken Steinhoff. All rights reserved.