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Monday, April 29, 2013

Catching Up, First My Adventure on Antique Alley

The odd thing about blogging, at least for me, is that one skipped day turns into two, and then three, and before I know it, a week has gone by with no posts. I've been thinking of things I want to blog about; I even write them in my mind as I'm tilling the garden, pulling weeds, painting boards, or whatever. But the words never make it to the computer. Sorry about that, and thank you to the folks who have emailed and asked about it.



This was my first trip to Antique Alley. I went with a friend (and fellow blogger) and her sister. It's always interesting to see how something catches the eye of another that I never even noticed. Her sister spotted a mermaid lamp, or a mermaid minus it's lamp parts, and started dickering with the owner. The owner wouldn't go down and the sister walked. As we walked around, she thought about that lamp and asked her sister (my friend) if she would go offer a price halfway between the owner's price and the sister's offer. While she was gone, the sister and I joked that all this interest would probably make the price go up. My friend came back empty handed. The owner wouldn't come down. So we continued to other booths. Just as we were walking back to the car to go to the next stop, the sister said she wanted to make one last offer, so she went back to that booth and we went to the car. She came back with the mermaid and had gotten it for $3 less than the owner's price. lol

Antique Alley is a misnomer. It is not an alley and not just antiques. It is flea market style which means there could be an antique booth next to a booth of new items bought at a wholesale store. Booths are set up along main streets in towns and on various farms along the highways between Cleburne and Grandview, and then from Grandview to Maypearl or Grandview to Itasca. We never made it past Grandview. There were a lot of booths with shabby chic items, and a lot of hand crafted items. There were also lots of booths with stuff you would find at a garage sale. Lots and lots of those. Oh, and food booths. I think food booths always make the most money at these things, at least that's where most of the crowds gather.  On this day, someone could have made a fortune selling ear muffs and gloves.  It was COLD.

My friend and I both brought our SUVs so we could drive one until it was full and then switch to the other. But none of us bought enough to even fill one SUV. I'm sure if we had spent the whole weekend, we could have easily filled both SUVs and then some. There's just too much to see in one day. The next one is in September and I'll be better prepared.



These are my new acquisitions: A set of Corelle dishes to match some I already have, three diet/food books, two Sunbeam mixing bowls, a Tupperware spatula, and three picture frames. I was really looking for a pair of matched lamps to go in the bedroom I am redoing, but I never found the right ones, so I ordered a pair from Target when I got home.  Below are some catch and release items.





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Friday, April 19, 2013

Antique Alley, Here I Come

Have you ever bought stuff and had no where to put it, and then had to just leave it in your car? I did.



I scored these five chairs on Craig's List.  They're not exactly what I wanted, but the price was right and after I refinish them, they'll be fine.  The problem is that I didn't want to bring them in the house in this condition, and if I put them in the garage, I couldn't get the car in.  So I just left them in the car for a week. 

But I had to find a place for this stuff because today I'm going to Antique Alley. It starts in Cleburne, Texas and goes through Mansfield and Itasca. Lots of garage sales, antique shops, and flea markets. The weather is going to be mild and I'm going with a good friend so I'll have a good time even if I don't buy anything.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Another Horrific Tragedy

Last night we were preparing for the storm that was supposed to hit early this morning. The cars were in the garage and I had gone into the kitchen while Hubby was preparing the back door (that still leaks) and anchoring down loose furniture on the deck. I heard a loud rumble and the cabinet doors thumped. I thought the wind caught something and flung it against the house, but when Hubby came in, he said he didn't do it. I guessed it was a thunder even though we barely had clouds overhead, and Hubby guessed it was an earthquake. It wasn't until the 10:00 news that we found out what caused it, a massive explosion in West, Texas, almost sixty miles away.

I'm not going to give you a report on the explosion because it's been all over the news and can be read almost anywhere online. But this tragedy on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombs have left most of this area shaken. And to tell you the truth, this one has affected me more because I have been to West and through West many times. The injuries and loss of lives will are devastating in a town this small. My thoughts and prayers go to the victims of both tragedies, their families, and the many responders who are there to help.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Fast and Fabulous Banana Pudding

I am posting this recipe at the request of my daughter. It is not my own recipe, it came from the label on the Eagle Brand Condensed Milk, although the first time I tasted it, it was made with low fat condensed milk and low fat milk. I don't really see the point in that since it has two cups of heavy whipping cream.

Some people put sour cream in their version rather than the whipping cream, and some people use cool whip because it's easier. This is the version my family prefers.

Banana Pudding

14 oz can condensed milk
1 ½ cup cold milk
3 ½ oz vanilla instant pudding

2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 medium bananas, sliced and dipped in lemon juice (I seldom dip in lemon juice)
36 vanilla wafers

Combine first 3 ingredients in large measuring bowl and refrigerate for 5 minutes. Whip cream in large mixing bowl, then fold in refrigerated pudding mixture.

Layer wafers, bananas, and pudding, ending with layer of wafers.

Enjoy!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Finally! Got Those Hummers!

We've had one hummingbird around here for over a week, and it has recently been joined by another. The first one is very skittish, but our cold snap yesterday must have slowed them down a little and I got a few pictures. Excuse the quality, they were shot through the kitchen window, the bottom part with the screen.

This is the second one, a tiny guy who really has no distinguishing colors. He is so small I wonder if he is young. His feathers were really puffed out as he tried to stay warm, making him look bigger. He stayed on the feeder for several minutes at a time until the other one drove him off.   That black line is a slat from the blinds.  I was afraid if I lifted them, the birds wouldn't come back.



This is the one who came last week, but he is much harder to photograph and he wouldn't stay at the feeder if he saw me at the window. I couldn't reach above the screen and had to peek around the corner of the cabinet to photograph him. Finally, at dusk, he finally stayed long enough for a shot, even though it's almost too dark to see him.  His feathers aren't as fluffed as the smaller hummer.



Today, I tried to take pictures outside, but they wouldn't come near the feeder with me there. So back to the kitchen, and I put a step stool in front of the window so I could take a picture without the screen in the way. Again, the second guy stayed longer and was easier to shoot. See how much thinner he looks today?




The first guy only wanted to feed at the flower on the far side of the feeder. I finally covered it with a piece of cloth so he had to come around to one of the other flowers.




An update.  On a gardenweb forum, someone posted a photo of a hummer similar to the one in my first photo.  Someone said they thought it was a Ruby Throated juvenile.  I've noticed that our little guy has been changing and this is a photo taken today, April 15.  I don't know if the photo shows it, but the green coloring on his back has started coming through.  Still no ruby throat though.  He is also spending less time just sitting at the feeder, and has started looking around more when he is there.  As long as there are just two hummers here, I think I can document the changes in this one, but if more show up, I probably won't be able to tell one from another.



I am linking up with Shay's Favourite Things Friday at Quilting in My Pyjamas even though I posted this a bit early. Photobucket

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Ever Changing Blogland

I can imagine Lou Grant saying, "You know what? You've got change."
And blogland answering, "Well, yes..."
Then Lou's famous answer, "I hate change."

I don't hate all change, just the change in things I really liked, like the way blogland used to be. I've rewritten this post several times, and erased it several times because I don't want it to sound whiny or to point any fingers, but that seems the likely end. Change is inevitable, on the internet as well as everywhere else. Those who resist change get left behind. Just ask MySpace.

Let me stress that I love blogs.  I read them for entertainment, to keep up with friends, and to learn new things.  When I need to know how to do something, I always search blogs first.  I figure someone has already done it and has written a tutorial, and I'd rather find out how to do it from someone who has really done it than from a how to website or manual that only tells how it should be done.  I think that's one reason I'm troubled by the changes I've been seeing lately.

I know that a great majority of bloggers out there blog for the exposure it brings them, and many want to grow their blogs into a business, and that people who just plain ol' blog are fast becoming dinosaurs. I don't really mind being a dinosaur, as long as I'm not standing alone in a tar pit.

What I've been noticing over the last year are a lot more linky parties and promotional posts, so much so that sometimes I have to scroll down several days worth of posts to find an actual blog post. Don't get me wrong, I like linky parties, but not every day and not on every blog. I came across a linky party on a blog today where several of the links went to other linky parties. And on another recent linky party, at least a third of the links were to blog posts on how to promote your blog, and the etiquette of promoting your blog.

I think it's great that people have found a way to make money with their blogs, and I would turn on google adsense also if I could pick the ads, but I'm afraid I would get that one with the creepy, hairy guy and the title "Have you ever been arrested?" *shudder* No thank you. From skimming some of the "how to promote your blog" articles, I understand where the plethora of linky parties come from, but no where do I find how to tell when it's time to stop promoting.
I am editing this post to add part of a conversation I've had through email with Kate.  You know how it is when you reply to a comment via email and they reply back, the conversation continues between the two of you then.
But Kate brought up a point that I hadn't considered.  She said:  "I have seen a few bloggers who have been blogging for years have commented on their blog that they finally reached enough content that they either had to remove older posts or start paying a fee to keep all of their content."
After she said that, I recalled seeing a blog, which is now inactive, whose last post said that she had gotten a notice from blogger saying she had used up her free space and she had to decide whether to pay for space or let it go.  She chose to let it go.  I just looked back at her blog; she started it in 2009 and had 169 posts with about that many photos.
I've been blogging since 2007 and have over 500 posts and well over that many photos.  Yet, if there is a limit, I don't know what it is or if I'm near it.  However, if there is a limit, and I reach it, then I will have to decide what to do.  As a stay-at-home-mom (or whatever I am now that the kids are gone), I don't have the resources to fund an online hobby.  I would have to give it up, or change.  And you know how well I like change.  Food for thought.  Thanks, Kate!
The look of blogs have also evolved over the last year or so. The headings look like scrapbook titles and the content is arranged like newspaper or magazine articles. All in all, very modern and artsy. I intend to make a new header for my blog, and I should probably be spending this time working on that instead of this article.

I happened upon a blog several weeks ago that asked the question, "Do you delete blogs from your blog list if they have been silent very long" and it made me question the blogs I constantly skip over because I can tell by the title that it's a promotion or yet another linky party. Why do I keep them on my blog list? I guess I'm waiting for the increasingly rare real post from them.  I do like the blogs who have a regular blog post along with their linky party or give away.  That works for the people who have come to read a post and those who have come to join a linky party - the best of both worlds.

But that brings me to my main questions and the reason I am really writing this post. What do the rest of you think about blogs where nearly every post is a linky party, a give away, or a promotional post of some kind, especially those blogs that are wildly popular? Do you think this is the future of a new wave of bloggers, or will it be the end of blogging and the start of a new type of format?

Either way, this old dinosaur will keep cranking out family stories, cat stories, updates on our home remodel, and the various projects we create. And when we can no longer keep sight of progress, if blogging even continues, we'll sink into the mire and cease to exist.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Death and Taxes

Of the two, I think I prefer death. At least it only comes once.

If an election were held on April 16, I bet everyone would vote for a flat tax.

Those are my thoughts.  So you can guess what I'm doing today.  And now a few famous tax quotes:

Why does a slight tax increase cost you two hundred dollars and a substantial tax cut save you thirty cents?
---- Peg Bracken

I am proud to be paying taxes in the United States. The only thing is I could be just as proud for half of the money.
---- Arthur Godfrey

Today, it takes more brains and effort to make out the income-tax form than it does to make the income.
---- Alfred E. Neuman

Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
---- Ronald Reagan

Death and taxes and childbirth. There's never any convenient time for any of them.
---- Margaret Mitchell

It used to be that death and taxes alone were inevitable. Now there's shipping and handling.
---- Bert Murray

Next to being shot at and missed, nothing is quite as satisfying as an income tax refund.
---- F. J. Raymond

It is a good thing that we do not get as much government as we pay for.
---- Will Rogers

Optimist: Someone who sets aside two hours to do his income tax return.
---- Unknown

America is a land of taxation that was founded to avoid taxation.
---- Dr. Laurence J. Peter

We don't have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven't taxed enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much.
---- Ronald Reagan

I wouldn't mind paying taxes… if I knew they were going to a friendly country.
---- Dick Gregory

If Thomas Jefferson thought taxation without representation was bad, he should see how it is with representation.
---- Rush Limbaugh

The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has.
---- Will Rogers

When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income.
---- Plato

The difference between death and taxes is death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets.
---- Will Rogers

Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors... and miss.
---- Robert A. Heinlein

We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.
---- Winston Churchill

A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.
---- G. Gordon Liddy

The income tax created more criminals than any other single act of government.
---- Barry Goldwater

There's nothing wrong with the younger generation that becoming taxpayers won't cure.
---- Dan Bennett

Isn't it appropriate that the month of the tax begins with April Fool's Day and ends with cries of 'May Day!'?
---- Rob Knauerhase

It would be a hard government that should tax its people one-tenth part of their income.
---- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac

Alexander Hamilton started the U.S. Treasury with nothing and that was the closest our country has ever been to being even.
---- Will Rogers

Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages.
---- H. L. Mencken

The point to remember is that what the government gives it must first take away.
---- John s. Coleman

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Monday's Memories, There Really Was a Mayberry in Phillips, Texas

The pickup bumped and bounced along the road that was barely a layer of blacktop painted over the jagged terrain.  It chugged up the hills and breezed down the other side to the screaming delight of the three children riding in its bed. My grandfather was taking us to Dixon Creek, and as the blacktop turned to dirt road, we kicked off our shoes and held on as the pickup splashed through the creek and rolled to a stop in the grass on the other side. The three of us clambered over the tailgate before Grandpa even had a chance to unhook the chains from either side and we hit the ground running.

My cousin, Raye, was four years old and I was to keep an eye on her. That was fine with me as I would much rather play with another girl even if she was three years younger. We all headed for a shallow pool of still water where we stood on the edge looking for minnows and tadpoles before we waded in, scuffing the thin layer of algae that coated the smooth rocks until it swirled around our feet as we sloshed about. Mere wading was too tame for my older brother, Sev, and he left us in search of fast moving water and frogs further downstream.

When we bored of our little pool, we walked upstream along the bank of the creek in the direction Grandpa had gone. As we walked, startled frogs jumped into the creek and shot into the creek ahead of us. Finally, we reached Grandpa as he sat fishing with a cane pole. We watched the red and white float bobbing in the water and waited impatiently for a fish to grab the hook and pull it under. We squealed with delight when the float disappeared for a moment and groaned with despair when it reappeared, and in the moments between we jumped up and down despite Grandpa's pleas for us to be still and quiet. Then, Sev ran down the creek bed holding a bullfrog in each outstretched hand. Raye and I screamed and hid behind Grandfather with Sev right behind us. But he tripped over a rock and both frogs lept into the creek. With a sigh, Grandpa stood and pulled in his line, then picked up his thermos, and we all headed back to the pickup empty handed. And so started our week of vacation with Granny and Grandpa in Phillips, Texas.

Now if you visit Phillips today, or look at a recent aerial photo, you'll wrinkle your nose and say Ewww, they lived there? But I assure you, it wasn't like that in the '50's and '60's when I was there. Then, it was a Mayberry-like town, with tree lined streets, sidewalks, and green yards surrounding simple, well-kept houses. It had a small downtown area, a single school, a hospital, and a couple of churches. There was no unemployment, no vagrancy, and few, if any, strangers because there was no hotel.  Anyone needing a hotel had to find one at nearby Borger.  You see, it was largely a company town where most people either worked for Phillips Petroleum Company, or for a business that serviced the people who worked there.

If you want to see what it looked like in its early days, there are photos at the Phillips High School website.  Originally, the company leased land near the refinery to build homes for its workers.   The houses on each street were built quickly and all with the same design, like a line of little Monopoly houses. They were whitewashed frame homes with two bedrooms, one bath, kitchen, and one room that was both living and dining room. Between every four houses, there was a long shed-like structure built of corrugated tin with dirt floors and containing four single stall garages, each with a double door. Every house was assigned the garage nearest them, not that I ever saw a car parked in one; most people just used them for storage.

My grandparents were lucky enough to live next to one of these garages, so they could park in the gravel driveway beside their house. People in the two middle homes either had to park in the street in front of their house, or park in front of their garage and walk back to their house.

At first, Phillips Petroleum rented the homes to the workers, but later they allowed workers to buy their homes. Then, as people began adding on their homes, the Monopoly houses became Mayberry houses. Chain link fences circled the houses, softened by hedges, rose bushes, and vines. They didn't have trash pickup, instead they had incinerators placed here and there.   Where most towns have alleys, Phillips had walkways.  The walkways were grassy paths, wider than a sidewalk, which led to the incinerators where people dumped their garbage.  One incinerator was behind Granny's house.  I was fascinated by it and loved to watch people throw in their trash. They were like a big, iron dumpster, with a gas flame that burned all the time.  If there was an odor from them, I don't remember it, or maybe it was masked by the odor from the refinery.

Grandpa worked for Phillips Petroleum and Granny worked at the hospital which was located behind their house, and our annual summer vacation with them was always during a week when Grandpa worked the night shift and Granny worked the day shift. I suppose that is so we would be constantly supervised, but it really gave us unlimited freedom.

Our visit to the creek was on Saturday morning when both Granny and Grandpa were off work. After lunch, Grandpa and Raye took naps and Granny took Sev off for some one on one time. Granny had always wanted a boy, and Sev was her only grandson, so naturally he was her favorite. That was just fine with Raye and me, because it meant we could spend more time without his tricks and constant harassment.  After her nap, we were free to roam the town while Sev was stuck shopping with Granny and we didn't feel the least bit sympathetic.  Granny may have kept a closer eye on Sev too because he was a handful, and that's putting it nicely. 

I wasn't the only one fascinated by the incinerators, only Sev didn't just watch them, he wanted to experience their power.  There was a sign that said not to throw in aerosols or anything flammable and that prompted Sev to pilfer Granny's hairspray so he could throw it in and listen to it explode. I don't know which neighbor told Granny about it, but since it was Sev, he didn't get in trouble. After that though, Granny hid her flammables when we visited.

That Saturday afternoon, Raye wanted to go to the store and buy some candy, but I didn't have any money.  Grandpa was asleep and I wasn't about to wake him.  Raye said she would wake him and started to march into his room, but I grabbed her around the waist and carried her into the backyard.  No use starting the week off in trouble, that could come later, it always did.

Granny had a swing set in her backyard and even though it wasn't as big as the one we had at home, it had a glider.  So I dragged Raye over to it and plopped her in one of the seats and I took the other one facing her and started pushing.  We were having fun until the frame started lifting on each side as the swing rose on the other.  Raye liked the ka-thump of the frame's legs falling back into their hole, but I knew from painful experience that it only ka-thumped back in place a few times before the whole thing tipped over, so I slowed it down.  Then it wasn't any fun, so we decided to go to the park at the end of the street where the swing was firmly set into cement.

We had just settled into the strap seats of the swing when a group of girls approached us, and one told us that it was their swing and their park.  The lead bully of this little gang of girls gone bad was named Randi and she ordered us out of the park.  When I started to protest, they picked up rocks and sticks and began throwing them at us.  Being responsible for a four year old, I couldn't fight back without getting her hurt, so we left.  But that wasn't good enough for Randi.  Her little group of bullies followed after us shouting and throwing whatever they could pick up along the way until we began to run as fast as Raye's little legs could go.

Now before you chide me for comparing Phillips to Mayberry, let me remind you that even Opie ran into bullies from time to time.  When we got back to the house, we told Grandpa what happened.  Grandpa was a lot less philosophical than Andy Taylor and just told us to stay away from Randi.  I had learned at an early age how to avoid Sev, so avoiding Randi was no problem for me.  But Raye lived there and would have several run-ins with her in the coming years. 

As it turned out that day, we got home just in time to help Granny and Sev carry in the groceries and help with dinner.  I thought Granny was a wonderful cook, but maybe that's because she let us help and at home, mom wanted us out of her way.  After dinner, we all helped with the dishes too, another thing we didn't do at home.

I loved Saturday nights at Granny's house.  First was a bubble bath in Granny's clawfoot bathtub.  I had never seen a bathtub like it before.  Instead of a spout, it had a nozzle with an attached hose.  A kid could make a real mess playing with that hose.  But it was our first day there and I was still on my best behavior.  Not so with Sev.

We didn't have bubble baths at home, and you wouldn't think a boy would want a bubble bath either, but a nine year old boy with a full bottle of soap (it was really dishwashing liquid), and a deep bathtub with a long rubber hose, well, it's just too much temptation.  He probably knew he was in deep long before he called for help.  By the time we all crowded into the bathroom, the only thing without bubbles was the window.  The floor was coated with them, both the sink and toilet were full, and of course the tub was full.  And there stood Sev, in the middle of the bubbles holding an empty bottle in his hand.

"Joseph Ray! (Sev's full name), what have you done?!!" said my grandmother, whose tone of voice was somewhere between angry and panicked.  Aunt Jenny stepped in, grabbed a towel, and started smothering the bubbles, drained the tub and sink, and generally took control of the situation.  Grandpa herded Raye and me back to the living room while the women dealt with the mess, and Sev.

Raye and I slept in the front bedroom, the one that used to be the living room and dining room, and Sev slept on a cot in my grandparent's room.  Being the favorite definitely had its down side.   After Raye fell asleep, I lay awake, watching the curtains flutter in the breeze, and listening to the sounds of the neighborhood settling in for the night.  Snatches of conversation as neighbors walked down the sidewalk, and then the squeak as someone lifted the latch on a chain link fence.  Their louder goodbyes and then the click as the latch dropped back into place.  A dog barked in a distant yard, and the murmur of my grandparent's lowered voices in the living room as they waited for Sev to go to sleep before they climbed into their own bed.

The next morning, we were dressed in our Sunday finest and instructed to stay out of the dirt, and out of trouble while Granny got dressed and fixed up.  Raye and I sat on the swing glider and Sev climbed a pile of bricks stacked against the back of the garage and then pulled himself onto the top of the garage.  We heard the sound of the tin roof popping in and out as he jumped on the roof, fully enjoying our attention.  When Granny came out and saw him up there, she was not amused and demanded he come down.  But he couldn't climb down as he had climbed up, and Grandpa had to get a ladder and bring him down.  That afternoon, Raye and I went to Dumas with Aunt Jenny, and Sev stayed home with Granny and Grandpa.  Lucky boy, that one, to be so favored.

That night, Grandpa had to go to work and Granny packed his black, domed lunch box.  Granny said he worked graveyards, and I was afraid for him.  I didn't know there was a cemetery at the refinery, but I could imagine him outside all night, with the fog drifting over the headstones and making monsters out of shadows.  It was many years before I learned that the graveyard shift was merely the night shift.

The next morning, Grandpa came in just as Granny was leaving for work.  She left some sandwiches in the refrigerator for our lunch and instructed us to play quietly and let Grandpa sleep.  The black shades in their room were drawn and Grandpa would sleep until Granny arrived home that evening.  Across the street, the neighbor's grandson, Mark,  had arrived, and Sev spent the day with him while Raye and I were on our own.  Rather than play quietly in the house, we preferred to be outdoors where we could sing and shout, and skip and play.

We spent a lot of time in the walkways behind the houses.  Not only did they provide paths to the incinerators, they were a maze through the entire town.  It was possible to walk from Granny's house to the other side of town and never walk down a street.  The walkway was bounded on each side by the chain link fence of someone's back yard, and most people had hedges or vines over these too.  They were mowed regularly, often had flowers planted on the edge, and we thought of them as our secret passages.  Another benefit is that they were difficult for a group on bicycles, and that was Randi's mode of transportation, so we were able to avoid her and her group of flying monkeys.

Most of our days were spent in the same way.  We played all morning, ate our lunch in the backyard, and then I tried (not very hard) to get Raye to take a nap.  Sometimes we joined Sev and Mark, making food bombs or  creating some other boyish mayhem, and sometimes we just lay in the grass pointing out animals and monsters in the clouds as they passed by.   When Grandpa slipped us some money, we walked to the store for some nickel candy or an ice cream bar which we ate while sitting on the window ledge outside the store.  On the way home we ran along the sidewalk, dragging a stick along the chain link fences in front of every house, enjoying the thwack, thwack, thwack that announced our presence to every dog and child within hearing.  The dogs came out barking but keeping their distance; the children came out bashfully, and slowly worked their way to the fence where we compared our tans, our missing teeth, and the scars on our knees.  If we measured up, we were invited inside the fence to play.  If not, the boy or girl would inch away and dart back into the house and we continued on toward home.  We idled the days as we pleased and only had to be back home in time for dinner.

When we came home after a day of play, there was only one rule: don't sit on the living room furniture.  Not that we wanted to because it was covered with plastic slipcovers and our bare legs stuck to it.  The plastic was to keep the furniture clean from the clouds of carbon black that often drifted through town.  Even in the 1960's after filters were installed at the plant, Granny wouldn't take off the plastic covers.  She thought the carbon black coated everything outside, and who knows, maybe she was right.  Our feet were certainly black after a day outside barefoot.  We didn't wear shoes unless it was Sunday or we were going to town.

Looking back on those years, especially in comparison to our lives today, I am amazed that a four year old and a seven year old were allowed to roam the town all day.  But it was a different time, and a different place, a safer place where nearly everyone knew everyone else.  And while we thought we were alone in our secret passages, I'm sure we were watched.  I'm sure Randi was watched too, although in her case, reporting her behavior fell on deaf ears.
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