Category Archives: Memoir


I began driving earlier than most farm children more out of a sense of pride than of necessity. It was a task that I observed my father perform starting each spring in the Ozark Hills of southern Missouri.plow:blog

Granted, I knew how to help my father harness a team of horses, hitch the horses to various farm implements, crawl onto a seat, take up the slack in the lines and use a variety of commands to persuade the team to follow my bidding. Gee, haw, that sort of thing.

I had not, however, been large nor strong enough to hitch a team of horses to a plow and to follow them through newly turned soil from sunup to sundown. That changed when I turned 10.

The two horses boasted years of experience, which spelled the difference between success and failure in my first driving experience. I must credit my father with helping me harness the horses and secure the doubletree to the plow equipped with a single blade of steel. Or maybe it was iron because we lived on the poor side of poverty during the Great Depression. Continue reading FIRST DRIVING EXPERIENCE TOOK ME OUT OF THE SUN


Man at computer“A man who writes for a living does not have to go anywhere in particular, and he could rarely afford to if he wanted.” — C.S. Forester.

I wonder why a guy who wrote the Horatio Hornblower series and more than 30 novels, plays and short stories would make such a statement?

Did he write for decades before making a sale? Did he write at night after working days at some other craft?

Fortunately, I was paid for more than a half-century writing news and feature stories before retiring and attempting to write a novel. Wrote one. Sold one copy. Not bad for a beginner.

Three novels later and fewer than three sales, I know something about Forester’s frustration about being able to finance a “go somewhere” experience.

Yet, I continue to learn more about writing fiction day by day as I fuss over a fourth novel. It’s a love story, best I’ve written thus far. May not hit the “best seller’s” list. May end up giving away copies to family members and friends.

Maybe my problem is hidden in Forester’s comment: I’m not “going anywhere in particular” in the stories that I write. In any event, I’m sticking close to home, writing every day.

I must, you know, because I’m known as “a man who writes.”


DEAN:blueberry 2016.JPG

For the first time in more than a half-century, I won’t be picking blueberries this year at the Grenon patch.

Bill and Anita Cook decided to close my annual destination because of “disease issues and condition of the blueberry plants.” They made the announcement on May 20, but I was out of the communication loop during a move to a retirement community and learned about the closure today.

The late Phil and Agness Grenon began planting the bushes on a small farm north of Eugene while Phil and I worked at a local daily newspaper.

Later, their daughter Anita superintended the operation, greeting folks and showing them where to pick on the one-acre site. Her husband Bill weighed the berries and sold soda pop on the side. I usually bought and drank a Pepsi after picking berries.

The orchard wasn’t sprayed. So, the berries didn’t have to be washed. When I got the berries home, I poured some on a flat pan and picked out the leaves, bugs and stems before dumping the berries in one-quart freezer bags and placing them in a freezer.

My father was the eldest member of the family to pick there. Several of my great-grandchildren are the last members of the clan to enjoy July trips to the patch located west of the airport.

So, another era has ended. Unfortunately, that appears to be a recurring experience for a guy who now shares stories of yesteryears with fellow retirees.

While I no longer can pick blueberries at the Grenon patch, I can still pop the top of a Pepsi and toast memories of the good ol’ days that started with a bowl of cornflakes topped with blueberries I picked at the Grenon patch.

My father, the music man

My father trained as a classical violinist, but the First World War and a love affair with the daughter of Kansas wheat farmers ended that career.

After mustering out of the Navy, my father worked as a cook in a rural Kansas Dadcafé. During an afternoon “break,” he and fellow workers watched a blonde walk along a street nearby.

“Betcha a quarter you couldn’t get near that girl,” a buddy blurted. “She’s home for the summer from the University of Kansas.”

“You’re on.”

My father’s fellow workers didn’t know that he could play the violin and that the blonde played piano with a group of local musicians during vacation breaks from the university.

Guess who showed up at the next rehearsal?

I never heard my father complain about hitching a team of horses and working the field rather than pursuing a career as a classical violinist.

Rather, he played violin during worship services at the church we attended. After moving from Kansas to the Ozark Hills in southern Missouri, he became a popular lead for folk musical groups because he could hear a tune and then play it in any key.

My father also played his violin every evening before going to bed, a practice he pursued as long as he lived.

As I thought about Father’s Day this year, I was reminded that my father helped teach me the value of mastering the basics and of chasing a dream, a dream that can be lived every day — and night — of your life.

That was my father, the music man.




Our garden plot is 30-inches square.

Planted a geranium there that we over-wintered for four years at our former home.

This oldtimer looks a bit lonesome, which means that we need to schedule a buying trek to the Johnson nursery north of Coburg.

Lou and I will fill our new garden with flowers because we get more veggies than we can eat as new residents of Terpening Terrace, a retirement home in north Eugene.

We’re perched in a two-bedroom apartment on the third floor were we can watch sunsets. One bedroom serves as an office, and we watch TV there.

Sold our home of 40 years during April and are adjusting to a schedule regulated largely by when to show up for meals. Yummie meals. Fortunately, I don’t have to prepare them. I do, however, miss eating grapefruit each morning. Grapefruit is off limits in senior living establishments. Doesn’t mix with some medications.

Everyone has a story to share. I have to take care, however, because I often embellish mine. It’s also a challenge to remember the first and last names of more than a hundred occupants. Last names are especially important when it comes to Betty because we have five of them in our village.

I became excited when I learned that volleyball is one of the most popular activities at Terpening. I asked where the court was located. Learned that it was in the activity room, which is smaller than a regulation volleyball court. Turns out, competitors sit in chairs and flip a beach ball back and forth across a net.

You can while away the time in the puzzle room, one where you create pretty pictures one piece at a time. Or you can play card games, including one called manipulation, which most of us have been playing in a different form during a lifetime. Better yet, join the bingo bunch. At least they serve popcorn while calling the numbers.

The two libraries here feature enough reading to keep me occupied for at least two dozen years. The odds are slim, however, that an 89-year-old will accomplish such an objective.

In any event I expect to live a well-rounded life, including regular attendance at mealtime, joining the beach ball bunch, learning to play manipulation and tending our garden plot.


I have often bragged that “I never let my schooling interfere with my education,” which is patterned after a comment by the humorist Mark Twain.Mark Twain photo

I was surprised, however, to learn during a recent family gathering that several members of the clan were unacquainted with my undergraduate collegiate history.

I told them about the time a buddy and I started to attend an English literature class, paused outside in the hallway and discussed the consequences of failing to prepare an assigned paper.

“What shall we do?” I asked.

“Let’s go bowling,” my comrade in arms suggested.

We did.

My disinterest in academic achievement may have originated during my freshman year while concentrating on learning the printing trade, an undertaking that began during junior high school. You could earn as much as 25 cents an hour hand-pegging type and running a printing press, which provided more incentive for a 16-year-old than sweating over classroom assignments. Continue reading IF DOCKED IN SAFE HARBOR, CONSIDER TWAIN’S ADVICE


Copperhead:Gail            “Throughout our lives we discover connections that always take us back to home, a place to be. …. Home is where we come from, our origin from where we take root and grow, our reference point. And connections we can make will always lead us back to home.” 

As I read Nancy Chadwick’s blog this week, I was reminded of how important my childhood roots have been in preparing me for the past eight decades.

How would I have lived differently if I had not learned important lessons as a boy growing up on a hardscrabble 40 acres in the hillbilly country of southwestern Missouri? Continue reading YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN EVEN TO SCRATCH AN ITCH