Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Behind the curve, ahead of
the curve, whatever it was,
I didn't even know if there
was a curve. To me it was
more like a time-warp. I was
flinging myself, voraciously
if not also vicariously, between
eras and locations. Time was
bent. An interim of six years
had me transformed. From
night owl in the city to just
an owl in the country. Who
knew what? Most people
get a friend or a crowd to
go through those years with.
I had no one, outside of a
new wife and a new kid.
Chump change or not, I
was on my way to the teller.
It was mid-January, 1971,
I think was the year, when I
first hit my new house  -
frozen solid, up and down,
I stayed there alone for the
first bit of time, until things
got settled and the rest of my
little family would be brought
in. I was unsure what even
worked or didn't work in that
house. But I learned right off
that, as far as heat went, I was
working on a blank page. It was
so cold it was too cold for the
cold to get cold. You get my
gist. In a week or two the
weather broke at least. It
went from 12 below at night
and maybe a steady 17 in
the day, to a much balmier
week or two of 35 degree
days, maybe even 40. I
quickly caught on; the locals
called it a 'January thaw.' They
said to enjoy it while it lasted,
because February and March
were even worse. So at least
this 'thaw' allowed me to see
things thawed out, to see what
leaked and what was sound.
To get outside some and see
what was around. I had to work
on, and quickly, a furnace
situation, yes, I knew that.
Plus, imperative and needed
quickly, was a real stove, a
new stove. Cooking only then
could be in order, and this new
arrival, wife-master of that
stove, would be needing that.
But, first, before the stove, I'd
need a kitchen floor to put it
rightly on. The one there at
that point was, basically some
old plywood, set into place
with big nails and quickly
warping and even peeling,
over the holes in the floor
it was covering up. Yes, (you
may ask), people thought I was
crazy. I went into town (Troy,
PA, about 7 miles off), and
priced and contracted for what
was needed. I had barely enough
money left for those major items,
and then I needed to beg for the
urgency and quick installation
and set-up time needed. The
stove-sale guy, looking askance
at me, raised his eyebrows a bit
and sort of hummed  -  wondering
right then, I'm sure to whom and
what he'd just been contracted to
deliver a stove. Though he did
claim to 'know' the house, and
the Parmenter guy I'd mentioned
as the house's previous owner.
The floor guys took some more
doing. It was not a 'regular' sales
point at all. I first had to convince
these guys I was serious about the
need and the deal to be made. They
kept a truck or two, and a shabby,
lewd, office, in some work-shed
area attached to an old barn. In
the middle of a place called
'Milan,' PA. But be careful, I was
told, they do NOT pronounce it out
there like the place in Italy, 'Mi-laaan.'
Not at all, and don't do it. 'Hereabouts
they're serious and they call it 'Mylan.'
And you best too, just to keep it right.'
These guys  'Scatter' Jensen, Alfred
TenBrock, and the 'boss, Ed Haye,
proceeded, without ringing my neck,
to explain to me how you can't just
'put down a floor' (you idiot). There
first needed to be an underfloor, an
inspection of joists and things beneath
all that, and what they called an
'underlayment'. One very odd and
weird word I'd certainly never seen
or heard before. Essentially what it
meant was extortion. I was to be
buying two floors, plus paying for
some creepy, foul-smelling,
black-toothed tobacco-chewing
guy to go underneath all this and
tell me if the 'joists' would hold it
all without themselves too needing
to be replaced. Oh glory be, praise
and hallelujah! I'd somehow won the
Pennsylvania lottery! The floor one
anyway, the one in which YOU pay
them to take your loot away.
I also had never considered
mud. The hard-pack of a dirt
road, the one that led to my
house, had been a solid-frozen
easy to traverse by car roadway.
Which quickly turned, in 40 degree
weather, to a mucky, thick and
sticky mud, one that ate cars. In
a few days, all that the road ended
up being was two tires tracks,
deeper and deeper down, some
12-15 inches in no time, so
deep that the rest of the car
dragged and bogged down
while the tires just spun. It
might as well have been ice,
but ice, once you get out of the
car, you can walk on. This ate
you, along with the car, up.
It would pull the shoes right
off your feet if you weren't
careful. It was a might rough
and surprising few weeks.
Often dark, which made it all
worse. I learned quickly, and
I learned good. A few times it
took a chain hook-up and a tractor
to pull me out, my car anyway.
I learned where to best park,
and how to walk the higher
ridgelines, over to the house.
Ridgelines that didn't so carry
the mud and stayed dryer.
People were generally morose
and settled, I found, about all
this. No one much talked of it
as hardship, just a part of the
climate. As in Hell, where, I'd
suppose, no one talks of the
flames and the heat because
they're all just there no matter.
Cows got stuck too. And
sometimes, I saw, just like
a car they too had to be hauled
out. Pretty much the same
process. It was 'dad-blurned
What made it all so different was
how it really WAS so different.
Who would have ever imagined
that any and all factors of urban
living would become completely
meaningless, after I'd so nicely
learned then. I had to start from
Well, I got my junk done. After
the floor and stove, which all
actually turned out OK as far as
house jobs go, I was forced to turn
to the furnace. Which, of course
proceeded to just price me right
 out of range. At which point, I
guess, some form of luck checked 
in. First off, out of a maddening 
concern about what exactly I had
gotten their daughter and new
grandkid involved in, the in-laws
began to insist on paying for the 
stove and the floor, or paying me 
back, in reality  - which is what it 
was. Gratefully accepted. And the
skeptical furnace company, and
installers, realizing I had just 
been 'credit' approved' by the 
Troy National Bank, approved 
anew for me to pay them through
installments of thirty-eight dollars
and three cents a month, for five 
years, the remaining balance on the
new furnace-system. Which was all
put in, installed and running fine 
within three days. More good fortune.
Please get cold out once again.
The oil company  -  from whom 
I bought fuel oil for this new 
furnace, in addition operated on 
account. No one really had tons 
of cash around, I guess, and a lot 
of this farmer business stuff just
ran on credit accounts, good faith,
and faithful attention to terms and
conditions. The bank had set me 
up, as I mentioned long back here, 
with an open series of 30 and 60 
day notes, as needed, to keep 
afloat. Sounds fairly hideous, 
but in fact it all worked out
well. I never broke a contract, 
and continually managed to pay 
all these people back. I managed. 
I worked.
A little testimony here is in order.
Most all of these people are dead 
now  -  parents, in-laws, bankers,
installers, representatives, and all 
that. I never really took any one of
them by the hand, head, or ankle,
for that matter, to thank them for
these good-faith maneuvers, on their
parts, to show faith and confidence 
in me. To keep me afloat, to keep
us going. I was from nowhere, 
really, and I was speaking and 
representing, I admit, things to
them that most probably made 
little sense, whatever they'd heard.
It never seemed to matter. They
processed me as any other. For
all of that, I send appreciation.
Thank the lord I didn't also need
a roof  - that would have been
a problem. And thank God, as
well, for making 'hiding out'
sometimes go so well.

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