Thursday, June 2


Friday, April 15


Wednesday, April 6


Tuesday, July 5



They say I died fighting for freedom.
They say I died for liberty.
They say I died trying to free 'em.
They say I died for a legacy.
They say I died flying the flag.
They say I died for a true cause,
that due diligence never lags
and that the righteous never pause.
They say I died for my country
and that it'll never forget
my sacrifice in my Humvee
and I'll always have its deep respect.

All I know is, that when I dropped
down to the ground
and died,
my mama cried
and she's never stopped.


A lifetime ago I went to first grade at Alfarata, a neighborhood grade school, two blocks from my Huntingdon home. My 95-year-old mother, Millie Roddey, remembers watching me walking off to school holding hands with Chuck Garner, my best friend.

Alfarata is long closed and the arched doorway that we ran thru for recess to the playground is bricked over. But it was a cornucopia of wonders. It brought me Linda, my first girlfriend, who was the fastest and toughest kid on the block. She could beat up anybody who bothered me and beat them in a race at the same time. That was invaluable for me as a scrawny fearful five-year-old.

But Linda outgrew me when I watched her walking into the woods holding hands with an older boy. I yelled to see if she wanted to play some b-ball, but she never turned around, having another sport in mind at the time.

Alfarata had some of today’s hot button issues for schools, that were only cold button non-issues then. It had rumored suggestive shenanigans between a male teacher and his girl student at night in the school building.

Often, when I was on the playground alone shooting hoops at twilight, I’d stare at the lit windows in the school and try to see if there was anything going on there. A shadow passing in the night would have excited me beyond belief, but I never saw anything.

Alfarata had bad teachers and worse students. One poor teacher, Mrs. B, kept breaking rulers beating on her desk trying to get her jabbering students’ attention. Once, a boy stood up, walked to a garbage can in the corner, and threw it out an open classroom window. She broke two rulers that time. And there were mental health issues back then, because it was like watching a nervous breakdown every class Mrs. B. tried to teach.

I remember rumors of a father regularly beating his daughters with a belt. He was a skinny little man and the rumors came from his daughters. Alleged child abuse reared it ugly head here, but nothing was reported.

Alfarata had bullying galore. Mad Max was the recess bully who stood me against the school’s brick wall, ordered me not to move, then threw a volley ball at me as hard as he could. It was dodge ball, without the dodging, and I got hit most of the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if Max ended up attending one of our finer schools of lower learning, making license plates for a living. He seemed headed that way.

Good times also happened at recess. I used to play a vicious game of tether ball, slapping the ball hard with the heel of my hand till it went numb and the ball on a rope whipped around the pole in victory, vanquishing my opponent, a little girl.

Life then was spread before me like a banquet of new delights daily. I just grabbed each day and shook it silly like a big bell of clanging wonders. I remember running everywhere till I fell, skinning my knees, which was the only way I’d stop running.

Today I know where the majority of my life went as the decades flash danced past me. But back then at Alfarata, everything was new and life was filled with joy, excitement, total fear, little boy lusts and endless energy. It was like racing with lightning in a thunder storm of emotions.

Published in Common Ground Magazine


In our one life we lead many lives as babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, adults, spouses, parents, in-laws and, if we’re lucky, senior citizens. And in those lives we’re ruled by different people at different stages of our ages.

When my father’s garage was the epicenter of his amusement business in Huntingdon, he was the bully boss of the family, with many mood swings. Living with him was like jumping off and on a playground merry go round as he built his business. You never knew when you were going fall and skin something bloody.

His garage was filled with three or four helpers every weekday morning, preparing to go out on the route like the spokes of a wheel, and empty the various pinball machines and jukeboxes of change along the way. Every day a different town. That garage was a hustle bustle of activity and was his livelihood for 30 years or more, till he retired.

My dad gouged out a living by sheer will power as he went to every restaurant, bar and service station on the route to get his machines placed there; then he split the nickels, dimes and quarters 60/40 with the owners.

And it all started from that humble garage at the end of our backyard. That garage was where I first heard Elvis Presley played on one of his juke boxes. I predicted that Elvis would never make it, thus ending my music prophecy career before it even began.

In the front was a long counter where Dad put things he needed for the day’s travel in the truck. In the back were various pinball machines and juke boxes, both new and needing repair. He also had some sort of gambling machine called a flasher, that at times was legal then illegal, depending on the changing laws. I remember once he frantically pulled all them out and moved them to Virginia for a while. Then he moved them back, when they became legal again.

After a morning’s meeting at the garage’s front counter, everybody scattered for the day to return later around 5 or 6 p.m. His second in command, who my dad was convinced was robbing him blind but could never catch, had a crazy sense of humor and was always fun to bounce around all day in the truck with in the summer, when I worked for my dad, getting the same $10 a week allowance I got for free during my fall, winter and spring school days.

You’d never guess today, looking at the debris and decay in that decrepit garage, that that enlarged shed made and sustained my father’s career, made his modest fortune and made it possible for him to retire to Florida in his 50’s. Without it, he wouldn’t have had a staging area for the daily war of making a living as a self-employed businessman. Come to think of it, that’s quite a garage there!

Published in Common Ground Magazine