Heidi Part I of III

In second and third grade there was a friend of mine, to this day remains the truest and best of friends, at least in memory.

As a young boy of the early 60s, I was forever outside at every chance. Unlike kids of today. Playing Army, building forts in the woods, riding bikes, roller-skating. I had many friends living in a middle class suburb of Seattle, the homes in my neighborhood distinctly different in style. Unlike the cookie-cutter style throughout the United States today.

As like these latter homes, so were the kids I played with, albeit one friend. Her name was Heidi. She was of German heritage and a few years younger than I. We got along famously! She was always amiable to my ideas of fun. When others were not to be found for various reasons, I could count on Heidi.

Most Saturdays, after breakfast and my assigned chores that my momma insisted be done before heading outside, I would set off to find Heidi. She always beat me outside! And was waiting for me.

A lot of times, during spring and summer, we would head down the steep-sloped hill that we lived on, cross the street to a somewhat swamp basin that caught the rain from the sloping hills all around the area.

The tadpoles, frogs were much amusement; catching tadpoles to keep in jars. While I was somewhat careful as not to get my Ked’s too muddy, Heidi seemed not to care. Her focus was locating frogs, her feet and ankles covered with mud.

Somewhat, I now sadly regret times I forbore her company when the boys my age came around to ride bike. Oh, she kept up all right, but I would tell her to go away! She was interfering with my fun with the other boys. She never seemed to hold this against me, as a good friend, she always forgave and forgot.

Afternoons in the summers of Seattle are glorious. Never too hot, cloudy most times, but the days that blue skies prevailed were a perfect fit with the emerald state.

I would often eat lunch outside on the deck off the kitchen, sitting on the bench with my PB&J, chips and Kool-Aid, and share my lunch with Heidi; she was always up for PB&J. My favorite picture is of her and I, me kneeling with my arm around her for she was much shorter than I.

We had a plum tree in the backyard that when in season produced tasty snacks and Heidi and I would each have one, though her favorite were apples. My momma would core and quarter them for me and of course Heidi got half.

In the corner of our fenced backyard we had a tall mature fir tree perfect for a young boy to climb. Heidi wasn’t a good tree climber, so she would wait patiently as I would explore its heights from time to time. She was a good fence climber, though! The 6-foot privacy fence that surrounded the backyard, which my daddy built, was but a small leap and shinny over for her. She was athletic to be sure; much faster than I. Probably the German heritage.

When the thirst demanded reprieve from much activity, we headed to the deck for a glass of juice or water. Heidi seemed to get water everywhere; slurping and looking up at me with water dripping from her mouth, licking the water with her long red tongue from her hairy nose.

As you have all ready guessed, Heidi was a German Sheppard, small in stature even for a female Sheppard; our family dog. But she was mine. My companion. She slept with me on my bed, even pushing me to the outer most edge while she pushed her legs against the wall to get most comfortable. But to m that was fine. Heidi was ther with me. Heidi consoled me in the dark of night.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Getting Back to What’s Important

This is from Clark’s sister Lisa:
So after a bit of soul-searching, self-preservation and all that other shit that I’ve used for distancing myself from my brother, I got slammed into reality and am hitting the ground running. This means I have stepped into my own shoes that have been missing for many years and am challenging the future with renewed exhilaration.

Therefore, I will dive into Clark’s letters and writings to begin posting the best and the worst.

It is my hope that he will again write new stories and memoirs for me to post herein. My selfish hiatus was to reexamine my life and obviously it was for good reason! Now I’m back and you will need to prepare for some fantastically riveting works, though I may be a bit biased.

As short as this is, to those who peruse these words I dare you to keep up with my brother’s and my writings. Be assured you might get bored now and again, but if you keep up with our goings on you might just come to say, “Damn, they have quite a colorful life!”

Country Sounds Lost

Guitar,country musicI came to country music in 1977. I was 24 years old, a new resident in the state of Iowa–corn, cattle, hogs. I had been actively aware of the genre which today is broken down into different ilks:  Americana, Blue Grass, New Country, Classic.

And, I’m sorry to say, dominating the airways and pounded into our ears, is New Country cross-over pop-artists that are only interspersed with 50s to 90s era country music.

Growing up, my daddy would listen to the country station while in the car. At least while my momma was not with him. I would always secretly enjoy the sounds of the 60s and 70s artists. However, I would never admit so. Being a child of the 50s the sounds that I had to be abreast of to talk with friends were Rock & Roll. The Dave Clark Five, Paul Revere and the Raiders. The Circle, Beach Boys, Beatles, Ventures, etc. Then moving to the 70s, Iron Butterfly, CCR, Humble Pie and others.

As I reached my mid-twenties, I most perceptively gravitated to country. Rock and Roll left me unfulfilled somehow. The real clean sound of country satisfied my soul’s thirst.

Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, Sr., Tammy Wynette and the emergence of Reba McIntire and George Strait filled a void in my intrinsic need of notes put together in such a way as to stir emotions of happy and sad. Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash were most visceral in this communication.

I think back in 1962, my father bought an album of Frankie Lane whose voice sang the song for the hit series Raw Hide starring a young Clint Eastwood who played the role of Rowdy Yates. Frankie sang songs of cowboys. These songs touched me forever. I unknowingly stored them away in some recess of my mind to be recalled some twenty years later as my car had only country stations on the preset buttons.

As the years continued on, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, Tracy Lawrence, Patty Lovelace, Carlene Carter, Pam Tillis, just to name a few, continued to satisfy my ears with good sounds. I must say that my favorites are many and each with melodic sounds that I craved.

The male singers that I favored were Chris Le Deoux, a rodeo cowboy turned singer who Garth Brooks cleverly, and for so long kept hidden, stole his style in both stage and format. Pam Tillis of the women dominated my preference. While I enjoyed them all, without going  down the inexhaustible list of greats, country music died for me about 1999, or there -about.

Oh, for sure there are hold out old timers who continure to create fantastic sounds of the old guard, but they will for sure cease one day!

Sad? Yes! It seems I’m always hitting the preset button searching for old songs and artists. Patsy Cline, Hank Snow, Linda Fargo, Little Jimmie Dickens. Where are you? Most times it requires late night radio to find you.

The young artists are getting younger and their path to stardom a easy path of roses. You can’t believe in the words that they sing; they don’t convince me!

The pre-canned sound rings hollow. They dress like the pop culture of urban life, but that’s what so many hope for I guess. To water down the grass roots country sound, to be palatable so as to ‘cross-over’ on the charts. To achieve that double and triple platinum record. For country fans of so many prior decades it’s most sad to hear and see.

I have, because of this, gravitated to Blue Grass sounds more and more. Their artists strive to maintain intBluegrass, country musicegrity to it’s roots and remain strong as ever. I will forever listen for old guard country artists and continue to hit my presets, but I no longer look to new artists to satisfy country sounds, to satisfy my primal need of music.

To you new artists, look to the past to those who made it possible for all you have. You have forgotten, or you never knew, of that which I’m sure you are not. You new artists, the sounds that you create, grate obnoxiously through my radio.

Am I the only one?

I will continue to look to Blue Grass and old music. Real sounds of Country Music.

Dew From The Mountain

mountain, dewThe summer of 1965 found my family living on Andrew’s Air Force Base in enlisted housing. My daddy was a Navy medical chief. He was attached to a Naval air wing during the 18 months we lived there.

The living quarters were spacious town homes, 2-storied with a full basement. With it seemed never ending woods behind our row of homes. Andrews was great for the kids of the military men.

The base offered a scheduled shuttle bus that came into the housing area. For free you could ride to the movie theatre, the huge fishing lake, the swimming pool, recreation center, base exchange and hobby shop. The base, also offered little league with immaculate kept fields and a gym that was well equipped. It was the likes I’d never experienced in my young 12 years. To say it in a nutshell–a kid’s paradise!

To get to the base exchange you went down our street and turned left to a cul-de-sac. A long sidewalk passed between two separate town home buildings, then down 21 steps and across a 50 foot cement bridge which a creek passed under, some 10 feet below. All was surrounded by woods. Then up the steps on the opposite side and across the parking lot.

On the backside of the exchange was the package (liquor) store. It was here I came to know a summer delight I had never known before. Oh yes, summer always had other special delights. Watermelon, strawberry short cake, momma’s homemade Popsicles-- so many tasty things.

An ice cream truck also came through the housing area twice a day. Ringing it’s bell, it prompted kids on every block to come running to the sound carrying change they had pleaded from their parents. While this was my case right along with them, it was not my favorite summer tasty.

I would forgo the ice cream truck most days in lieu of walking to the package store. You might ask, “a 12 year old going to a liquor store???” Yep! The walk through the wooded area, across the shaded bridge allowed me to zero in on a beacon that housed my personal satisfying drink of choice.

liquor,gin,vodka,whiskey,wine

In the package store were spirits of all types:  wine, whiskeys, gins, vodka, but I had no interest in these. I headed straight for the pop machine. The kind you lifted up the top like a freezer, made your choice and (slid around a bottle race track of sorts) put your money in then pulled up your sugary delight.

So, my choice it was new on the market, a green bottle with the words Kickapoo Joy Juice with an accompanying picture of two hillbillies whooping it up. Today it’s know as Mountain Dew. I had always preferred Crush organe to Coke, Pepsi, or root-beer. At least until that summer when I found the smooth, sugary confection  Kickapoo Joy Juice.kickapoo joy juice,mountain dew

I would take my prize the short distance to the bridge, which every minute of the day was shaded from the hot August sun of Maryland, then sitting on the hand rail I’d sip slowly, looking at the creek winding it’s way through the woods. I would watch the suns rays as it found it’s way to the shimmering sections of water.

Each small swig was relished, but all the while trying not to make the last swig be a warm on. It had to be timed carefully so as not to be still chilled. I’m not sure if it was the combination of hot days, the cool surroundings and the creek below, but to this day it’s still my pop of choice.

The bottle label changed some years later, but to me it is still Kickapoo Joy Juice. Yes, it is perhaps a strange memory, but boy to live it then was a small precious gem during my twelfth year.

Visiting Day

The post today is written by my sister Lisa after her recent visit to see me in prison.

Whilst in Florida setting up a permanent camper site, I took my final days to drive to the panhandle. Outside of Panama City, about 20 miles east there is a small town called Wewahitchka. Here is where the prison sits, in the middle of a swamp where my brother Clark resides.

I had picked my mother up at the new airport in Panama City so that we might visit Clark together.

Knowing that my brother suffers from bi-polar disorder, still I was ill-prepared for his state during this time. Sure, he mustered a laugh or to at some remembrance or joke. But for the most part he was angry. Plain anger oozed out of every word and tone. At one point I had to place a hand over my mother’s trembling hand to nudge her to silence. Mom’s urging for Clark to try and rekindle his faith more, journal more, read more, etc. only encouraged an elevation of anger in his voice and agitation in his manner.

Sometimes you just have to go with the moment and let it be.

What must be remembered by all who know and love Clark is that he is grieving. Grieving has five main steps and each can be gone through again and again. And steps can overlap.

1-Denial-”this can’t be happening to me”, No crying. Not accepting or even acknowledging the loss, in Clark’s case his freedom that was soon to be taken after the crime.

2-Anger-”why me?”, feelings of wanting to fight back, or get even with those whom choose to not to keep in touch seeming to care not. Or just his whole situation and the loss of freedom.

3-Bargaining-bargaining often takes place before the loss, but in Clark’s case it may simply be an attempt to make deals with God to stop or change his situation.

4-Depression-overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, frustration, bitterness, self pity, mourning loss of freedom as well as the hopes, dreams and plans for the future. Feeling lack of control, feeling numb. Perhaps feeling suicidal.

5-Acceptance-there is a difference between resignation and acceptance. You have to accept the loss, not just try to bear it quietly. Realization that it is his own doing that will keep him from living in freedom. Finding the good that can come out of the pain of loss, finding comfort and healing. Our goals turn toward personal growth. Stay with fond memories of life outside of prison.

At this visit I found Clark to be angry, at his own admission, at everything and everyone. He won’t go outside to the ‘yard’ because it angers him to not have the ability to do more or go further. It’s simply reminds him of what he no longer has. He’s angry with family that refuse to visit or write.

He has a lot of depression as of this visit with his feelings of numbness and lack of control. I don’t believe him to be suicidal, but more self-preserving. His anger and numbness at this time keep him protected.

When starting this website, Clark was elated to have an outlet. With time his manic state of writing seemed ceaseless. But then, as is normal with the disorder, he cycled down. Believing his writings useless and childlike, he stopped.

He has promised to send me the rest of his novel work to be proofed and then I will forward the first two chapters and the last at the request of a professor friend of ours in Florida.

It is my hope that he will resume writing again soon, but I do understand the need for him to cycle up once again before this is possible.

Please consider writing Clark and if you ever will be in his area ask him to send you a visitor form as it will need approved before you would be allowed to see him. And check out the prison site here to learn about visiting rules. His mailing address is on the Contact page.

Lisa Coleman Griffiths

Why Write?

I once again try to write, the mere mechanics of pulling out paper, picking up the pen, has been a struggle for days on end. I have looked over my manuscript that took three years to write and I’ve surmised “What a Hack!” To have submitted to my sister such trash!

But I will, bit by bit, keep sending it page by  page. I want to convey, to give thoughts. How good my words flow in my head at times when the pen is not in my hand, or is it only perceived as being so. I am untrained to write. My mind for the most part is a super ball in a 4×4 box.

Why should I write? I ask it over and over. Is it ego? I must say yes. Is it looking for recognition? Yes! Why? I’m nothing special, no great mind. A life not lived in full, as to impart some golden nugget for others to draw from. To nourish and and lift up. Somehow I still crave.

I love the words of gifted writers of history. A well written auto biography. Oh, the gifted of words! I read where Jack London once said, “Inspiration does not come easy. It is coaxed with a club.” If this is so, with me I need a bigger club.

I found in sports, or at least was schooled, ‘practice makes perfect’, which was amended to ‘perfect, perfect practice makes perfect’. If true, the grind of sitting down at least every day to write, as I’m told I should do, will reap little in growth. To practice garbage. Garbage in, garbage out as they say.

My sister Lisa is so gifted in writing, a late bloomer as they say. With formal schooling? Yes, but an innate ability beyond me. I envy her, but am so proud of her. For she gives me encouragement. She gives me an avenue to attempt, when I have little else for self esteem, sense of worth.

I try, the one less than gifted. The hack. Spilling words upon the lines of the page not knowing where much goes except a period. And then not even knowing that for sure. So I will try again, perfect or not, maybe at times raw, but not nearly as raw as my emotions, which I desperately want to say upon the page.