Saturday, March 17, 2012

Round and Round We Go

When the local newspaper ran an article recently about the new “roundabout” under construction in downtown Tulsa and proclaiming it to be the first in the city, I’m going “huh?” First? No way! Isn't that just another name for a traffic circle? I've been navigating such a circle, playing dodge-a-car at Admiral and Mingo for years. With an entrance and exit from all four directions, it was anyone’s guess as to who was going to yield first. Adding to the danger is the fact that most Tulsan’s hate using turn signals. I would suspect that most probably don’t know their car has them. Lane changes were spur of the moment decisions; inside, outside, it all depended on when, or if, you wanted to leave the circle. Folks changing their mind in mid-lane were the norm. It’s certainly no place for the timid.

Later in the article, I learned that I hadn’t been using a roundabout or a traffic circle at all, but something called a rotary. Who knew? A roundabout, I find, has a 110 foot diameter while a traffic circle—adding to the confusion—is even smaller. Once again, size matters. At one time, downtown Tulsa had a great traffic circle, a thing of beauty with a huge fountain and a shallow pool, smack dab in the center of the intersection of Fifth and Main. People liked to sit around the edge of it during lunch hour and dabble their feet in the water while eating a sandwich. The fountain is no longer there of course. It was destroyed years ago by numerous drivers that smashed into it, “most of whom were drunk” the paper relates. This is Oklahoma remember. Put any solid object next to a roadway of any kind and eventually, someone will take it out.

The article brought to mind a particular incident of younger years when I was living on the east side. The Missus and I had been to a bar with our good friends Ron and Donna Jane. It may have been the same night that Donna Jane and I exchanged shirts in one of the booths. In fact, I"m sure it was. She wanted my tee with a picture of some animal on it but I thought her puffed sleeves and blue flowers looked fabulous on me. The clothing swap would probably have gone mostly unnoticed by the patrons had D.J. been wearing a bra...but no.

From the bar, it was only a couple miles to my house, but there was that traffic circle, I mean rotary, to navigate. We were in Ron’s tiny AMC Gremlin at the time. The Gremlin, you may recall, was once voted as the number one worst design to ever hit the highways. D.J. drove while Ron and I rode in the back with the hatch open and our feet dangling above the blacktop. It was more roomy and comfortable that way. Now I don’t know if Donna Jane couldn’t figure out where to exit or if she just liked the idea of going round and round as fast as the little Gremlin could go and listening to the tires squeal. I do know we made several revolutions, the Missus screaming “slow down, slow down” each time we flew by a yield sign.

Eventually, our driver chose an exit, the proper one, miraculously avoiding an intervention from flashing red lights or sirens. I’m so glad there wasn’t a fountain in the middle of the roundabout, traffic circle, rotary.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Here at the humble abode, we don’t get many visitors after ten at night. The day’s activities, what few there are, have slowed to a standstill by then. The Sand Man cometh soon. But halfway through the weather report, I noticed that my front porch light was on. It’s triggered by a motion detector so that these tired old bifocaled eyes can find the keyhole in the dark. All the cats are in the house and accounted for, so one of them didn’t set it off. What the hell? Intruders? Home invaders?

Nope. It was a dog. Another stray dog. The neighborhood has been the dumping grounds for every sorry SOB within 20 miles that doesn’t want to deal with an unwanted animal. Juno, that’s what the Missus named her dog, was found lost and scared in the nearby woods soon after we moved here. He’s still with us. The same can be said for a dozen other animals that the residents have taken it.

The dog on the front porch was the classic dumped dog, scared, cold, and wet. The howling north wind didn’t help the situation. The mutt wa brown, short-haired, young, and of questionable heritage. However, he did have a collar with a tag and was dragging a leash. Obviously it belonged to someone, or used to.

In most cases like this, the Missus goes directly into her EMSA rescue mode while I stand by in support or maybe I just go back to watching the Discovery Channel. Whatever. This night, she has chosen to watch TV in the bedroom, probably another Spenser Tracy movie, but when I call out for a little support of my own, I get no reply.

With one bad arm, I’m having a hard time holding the dog calm enough to read the information on the tag. The dog wants no part of coming in the house. I ring the doorbell. Again! Still nothing. Yeah, I could have let the dog loose and searched for the Missus, but the presence of the leash had me a little concerned. I thought it best to keep it under control until we could get to the bottom of this. The Missus knows every dog in the neighborhood on sight. I need assistance here. I yell. I try the doorbell again. Nada.

Well crap. I take the dog by the leash, and in my stocking feet, walk through the wet grass to the bedroom window and pound on the glass. Nope. Go to the back door. Locked of course. Pound again. Finally, the redhead comes through the doorway rubbing her eyes.

“I must have fallen asleep.”

“No shit? You know this dog?”

“Never seen it before.”

With my newfound , but bleary-eyed assistant, we learn the name of the vet where the tag was issued and make out the personal ID number.

Juno, on the other hand, is fully awake and loudly voicing his disapproval of this mongrel that had the audacity to invade his territory. Co-habitation for the night seems unlikely. With few options, we decide to let the dog fend for himself on the covered patio and wait until morning to call the vet’s office.

At dawn, the mutt is still there (of course), camped out and warm on an old blanket the Missus has provided. Did he get a hearty breakfast? Is Rush Limbaugh a jerk? Now, in good light, I can see where someone has tried to scratch out the ID number. Uh oh, not a good sign. The problem is, we are not residents of Sand Springs where the dog pound is. We’re in Osage County that has no animal shelter facilities. If you’re a stray in Osage County, you either get taken in by a kind soul or you die of hunger. The pressure is on and the mutt knows it. Talk about suckin’ up. We got the sad eyes goin’ on. We’re lickin. We’re rubbin’. I’m thinkin’… this is gonna get ugly.

The lady at the vet’s office responds that “Yes, we do show that number as being one of our customers and I will call them.” Whew. Things are looking up. An hour goes by. I check for dial tone. The lines are up and the phone is working. Another hour. No ring-a-ding. We call the vet again.

“I talked to the lady at the number. She said she would call you.”

“ Well, Darlin’, how about you ring her again okay?” Soon after, we get the call.

“I was asleep when the vet called,” the woman said. “I thought I might have dreamed it.”

Oh boy. But she does agree to come get the dog “as soon as I get around.”

And so she did. But she left us something to remember her by, two deep ruts in my wet lawn where she meandered off the driveway.

I hope the dog bit her.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Amy is Missing!

Another scary story, this one by my daughter Lynette. Let's hear yours.


The PTA at my daughters' elemenary school hosted a "skate night" the first Tuesday of every month at the nearest skating rink. All three of us attended faithfully for about the first four or five months of the school year. After a few laps around the rink, I still "had it," could skate backwards, do the cross-legged turns....just had to watch out for little people crashing to the ground in front me. Both girls could already skate like I never could, but I still tried to give them (ignored) pointers.

There came a few times when my job duties required me to work at home on a skate night, but with both daughters chomping at the bit wanting to go to skate night, I figured since the oldest was in fifth grade and the youngest in first grade, and there was the PTA staff there supervising and watching over the unaccompanied children, I would let them attend without me. This occurred a couple of times. I always escorted them into the front office and made sure they were through the "buzzer" door before I left, and the rule was that they would wait INSIDE, not on the front porch drive-thru area, until I came inside to pick them up. That always worked, until....

One Tuesday night, when I had to work again, my oldest daughter, Cheryl, for some reason I can't remember, didn't want to go. But my youngest, Amy, had a new friend from school, Brittany, who was going that night, and it was very important to Amy that she be there too. She was quite upset that her sister didn't want to accompany her, but she still wanted to go. I very reluctantly dropped Amy off at the skating rink by herself, assuring myself she was safely inside by going and buzzing her in, reminding her of the rule about waiting inside for me to come pick her up, and giving her a quarter to call me from the payphone if she wanted to come home earlier than the designated pick-up time.

Being nervous about Amy being there by herself, and a little bit surprised that she hadn't called me to pick her up early, I left my house to pick her up a little bit earlier than the session was going to be over. I parked in the parking lot near the front door and sent Cheryl inside to get Amy. After what I thought was too long, I was starting to get out of the car and go in myself when Cheryl met me half way and said, "She's not in there." "What do you mean she's not in there?" "She's not in there."

So in we both go. By this time, most of the kids are on the front porch drive-thru area getting in cars and riding off. There were so few kids inside the building that one look around told me she wasn't there. I go to the girls restroom....not there. I go to the boys restroom....not there. Every other place, the game area, the snack area, the rink area, was out in the open.....I look around, no Amy. I grab one of the PTA moms still inside and ask if she's seen Amy. "What was she wearing?" Well, she's wearing the same thing every other little first grader was wearing at the time, hair in a side ponytail with a scrunchy, long t-shirt and leggings.

I was trying my best to keep calm, but poor Cheryl is following me, sensing my ever-increasing panick. She follows me back to the front porch area, where I look down the street and see this stripper bar and think the worst thought of my life......My daughter is gone, some pervert has taken her, and every semblance of life is over until I find her. I had the fear that my daughter had been abducted. So many terrible thoughts were going through my head I can't even describe them. All my attempts at calmness had dissipated by that time, and Cheryl at that point says, "Mom, I'm scared." I then did one of the hardest things I've ever done, I told Cheryl to wait right there....don't move....I need to go back inside, but come get me if you see her. I didn't want Cheryl out of my sight, but I needed some eyes out front, and I knew I might fall apart at any moment while I called 911. I went back inside to the front office....which I had been to earlier also....but this time I was dialing 911 and talking to the dispatcher when Cheryl threw open the door and yelled "I see her!!!" I dropped the phone and ran outside as Amy was getting out of a car. I guess she could take one look at me and know.....because she ran to me crying as soon as she saw me. And the driver of the car just drove off. I now had the relief that my daughter had not been abducted and was safely back with me. All my relief at having her back, even if it only about 20 minutes, came out in tears. All three of us had a crying group hug. The feeling I had then comes back now in the pit of my stomach and brings tears to my eyes as I write this even after all these years. (Amy's almost 21 now)

Brittany's mom had arrived early to pick up Brittany, Amy didn't want to stay without Brittany, so Amy tried to call me from the pay phone with the quarter I gave her to tell me Brittany's mom was going to bring her home. However, I did not realize the price of a phone call had gone up to 35 cents (I'm showing my age here), and a first-grader didn't realize that's why the call didn't go through. Amy just told Brittany's mom she couldn't get a hold of me, and so Brittany's mom decided to just give her a ride home to my house. I guess we passed each other en route. That's what I've figured out at least. Brittany's mom never called me. Her car driving off is the last I saw of her and Brittany.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Scary Close Call

Continuing with my shameless self promotion of the new novel Fraidy Hole, I invited readers to submit their all time scariest moment. This one is from my son Mark. It's why so many parents are prematurely gray.

Kelly Owen and I decided to go to Kansas City once right after school let out for the summer. We were in Stillwater and read where there was a big Motocross race at Arrowhead Stadium and wanted to go see the race. On a whim, we decided to pack up and head to KC. When we got there, we were stunned to find out the race had been cancelled, for a while it turns out, since we got the information from a motocross magazine published in December.

Needless to say we were disappointed, but decided to make the most of it. Heck we were in Kansas City, there is Worlds of Fun, and lots of girls to chase. We decided on the girl chasing, and checked into the finest Motel 6 in town and went out that night on the hunt. We had fun, and we met some girls, but only woke up with a horrific hangover with no babes next to us. Defeated, we decided to head back to Tulsa on highway 169.

It had rained hard the night before and the rain for the drive home, while not a downpour, was enough to keep the road wet. We were in Mom and Dads ugly green Oldsmobile, ( so I guess there must have been a trip to Tulsa before leaving to KC), The road had two lanes with grooves that were filled with water. I was driving and had the car straddling the grooves so as not to hydroplane. I was to the left of the grooves and hugging the center line when a Diesel pulling two very large trailers appeared on the horizon. He was also hugging the middle.

I am not sure if it was because of my groggy head, or what exactly was the cause of my stupidity, but looking back, I should have just slowed WAY down and got on the right side of the road, but I waited too long too take action.

When I hit the water the car immediately went sideways, the back end coming around to my right side. I turned the wheel to the right to correct my path as our current path was heading toward the center of the road and right toward the very large truck. It was all happening very very fast. I remember my friend Kelly shouting "take your foot off the brake" which I did, and at that time we were just about to hit the second trailer that truck was pulling. We were literally inches away from death when the car grabbed and stuck me in the path of the living. It was so close that it shook both of us to the core, and we had to pull over for about fifteen or twenty minutes and regain our composure.

Thank God there was no texting back then, I just don't know if I would have had the time to get that email off and over correct at the same time !!!!!! Just kidding.

Kelly most likely saved both of our lives that day, but reminding me ( which I already knew) to get that foot off the brake when sliding. It is a natural reaction to brake in times like this. Thanks for yelling, Kelly!!!!!