Deer Run Trail, By David R LewisNodaway Trail, by David R LewisOn the Calico Trail, by David R LewisOn the Payback Trail, by David R LewisOn the Ogallala Trail, by David R LewisOn the Killdeer Trail, by David R LewisOn the Cutthroat Trail, by David R LewisEndless Journey Toward an Unknown Destination, by David R LewisIncidents Among the Savages, by David R LewisFear of the Father:  Call Me Crockett, by David R Lewis

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About This Site

Several years ago in Kansas City, a popular weekend radio show called Radio for Grownups featured a regular segment by co-host and Master Storyteller David Lewis entitled “That’s How It Seems To Me”, generally a story he wrote and performed from growing up in the Heartland of America (more biographical information about David can be found at our “About” page) . The show has since gone off the air, but the interest over David’s tales has continued through today.

In response to the loyal fan base and continuing interest, we have published this blog/podcast of David’s stories. You’ll find posts of his anecdotes below. We plan to add further yarns to the collection regularly – on a weekly basis – for your enjoyment. Each post contains an excerpt from the narrative (the first paragraph or so) to give you an idea of what it is about, and an audio player so you can listen to the story in its entirety.

We hope you enjoy these tales and chronicles. Feel free to comment on them if you like.

David has produced a collection of four CDs over the years containing pieces not found on this blog/podcast which we call the “David Lewis Memories CD Collection”. For more information or to purchase any or all of his CDs, please visit this web site.

While the cost of providing these tales and maintaining this web site is not enormous, the time consumed in doing so is significant. This is why we have provided a Donate button and why there are advertisements on this site. We appreciate any contributions you would care to make if you have enjoyed the stories here.

David has a blog of his own as well – check it out here – and he has an eBook review site here.

August in the Afternoon

Down and Dirty

It was hot, heavy, and humid at about three o’clock on that August afternoon.  The air was totally calm, the sky slightly hazy, and I crouched in the dust, sweat rolling in muddy trickles down the back of my neck, a mask held tightly to my face by straps over and around my head.  I was wearing thick cotton clothing, a heavy short-sleeved shirt that was belted into equally heavy pants, two pairs of socks under stiff padded leather coverings on my lower legs, and additional insulation nearly an inch thick swathed the front of my body from neck to crotch.  The heat was immense, and I was breathing through my mouth to get enough oxygen, as the large man leaning over my back said, “Ball two.”

Jackpine Jolly

Too Tall, Big Fall

His name was Roger Brooks, but we just called him Jolly.  We called him Jolly partially because of “Jolly Roger” and partially because the Jolly Green Giant was popular in those days and Jolly was a little over 6 feet 7 inches tall, and partially because everybody had nicknames in our insular, motorcycle-motivated society – my best friend for instance, Lee Walter “The Duck” Griesheimer.   Duck was five feet four.  Looking at Jolly and Duck as they stood side by side could make you dizzy.

El Rojo

Attitude In Red

His name was “El Rojo”.  He was a rooster.  I got him from Jeremiah Mavis when I lived in “Almost Arkansas”, Missouri.  Jeremiah Mavis was an Arkansas Ridge Runner.  Big, raw-boned, and redheaded, he was of hearty Ozark stock.  His biggest claim to fame were his wife’s newly-installed breasts and a four-pound, 12-ounce crappie on his trailer wall.

Jerry assumed all Northerners to be ignorant, but for some reason took a shine to me and would do almost anything – as long as it didn’t involve work – to assist in my Southern education.  Jerry operated on the fringes of the law.  He made moonshine back in the hills somewhere, spotlighted deer on a regular basis, and kept fighting chickens.  Cockfighting qualified as major entertainment in that area in those days, and Jerry had several prime contenders.  His stable of birds rivaled that of “Chicken George”, and when Sheriff Cletus F. Joe Dawkins shut Jerry’s operation down, he was left with more roosters than a man needed.

Compassion

I’m sure many if not even most of you out there lay awake nights wondering why I choose to spend the vast majority of my time sequestered away from civilization in the company only of Digger the outstanding dog, Clancy the incredible dog, Grizz the irritating cat, and Laura the coveted wife.  What could possibly have been so disconcerting, if not horrible, as to send me into voluntary exile?  You win.  I’ll tell you.

There was a time in my life when I wanted to change the world.  Really.  I didn’t want to carry placards, march in circles, and shout slogans – that’s not my style.  I didn’t aspire to go to India and work among the poor – the food’s too spicy.  The Peace Corps seemed to be a bit extreme – no television.  So, I became a cop.  My motives were pure.  They really were.  I wanted to crush bad guys to their knees and promote racial harmony in a world of difference.  After a few years of bruises and stitches, shootings and knifings, automatic weapons fire – at me, being spat upon and called names, mindless judges, soulless lawyers, and incredibly doltish juries, my lofty ideals were pretty much reduced to “Us against Them” – “Them” being the civilians of the world.  When I realized what I was becoming, I ran away and found myself in the grasp of almost Arkansas, Missouri, one of the true remaining bastions of “duh” on the planet.

The Poodle On The Parkway

When I was a young man, I attended official cop school.  Week after week, after week, after week, a select number of young valiants such as I were sequestered from the world, the victims of excessive indoctrination and instruction into the art and function of being police officers.  An amazing amount of subjects were covered, from how to deliver a baby (don’t – run away) to the methods for defending oneself against a knife attack (don’t – run away) to public relations (run away…rapidly) to drug abuse (who and where, not how and when) to search and seizure, Miranda, racial or ethnic profiling, crime scene investigation, interviewing and questioning, firearms, radio procedure, traffic stops, domestic violence, polygraph examination, subject restraint and control, high speed driving technique, criminal psychology, choosing the correct doughnut – on and on and on.  The amount of subject matter was amazing.

The White Rat

His name was Tim Koss, a Lieutenant of detectives when I was a rookie police officer.  Koss was a tall, distinguished-looking man in the mode of Cary Grant or Stewart Granger, prone to monogrammed cardigan sweaters, subtle jewelry, and expensive footwear.  There was a reserved elegance about him that women were drawn to and men trusted.  His wife balanced him nicely, also tall and slender, worthy of displaying prizes on “The Price is Right”.  When the two of them were viewed together, the casual observer might conclude that Mount Olympus was short a couple of residents.  In truth, Koss was bright, slightly depressed, with a twisted sense of humor, and a wry way of looking at the world.  For unknown reasons, he took an interest in my young, rookie self, and became somewhat of a mentor to me during my first year as a cop.

Boom!

In the midst of exquisitely brutal training to become a Navy Seal, a young man was asked why he persisted in the face of such agony.  His reply?

“Because I get to blow stuff up.”

Ah, the fascination with making things go “boom”.  Even in my advanced years, I have still been known to press my face against a car window as I pass a fireworks stand and drool on the glass.  The lure is still there, just as it was all too many decades ago when I lighted my first ladyfinger firecracker.  At age 6, I was a danger to my entire neighborhood when armed with a fist full of Black Cats.  Jed Nichols watched me push one into a rotten apple one sunny afternoon, light the fuse, and throw the spheroid upward.  So enriched by the blast and resulting soggy shrapnel was he that he attempted the feat himself, but was a little too slow.  The thing exploded as it passed the side of his head.  It took Doctor Moon nearly 20 minutes to get the impacted applesauce out of Jed’s right ear.  Then came road apples – those deposits left on trails by horses.  A road apple had to be of the correct interior consistency and enveloped by a firm crust of at least three-eighths of an inch thick.  The point of a three-foot stick would be inserted into one side of the road apple, a two-inch firecracker in the other.  Once the explosive was lit, the thrower, using the stick as an extension of his arm, would fling the missile high into the air.  The blast propelled the less than firm contents at alarming velocity in all directions, while earthbound observers scattered attempting to avoid the horsey fallout.

Mr. Wilson’s War

When I was young, every 4th of July, my grandfather would load us up and drive to the big fireworks display at the football stadium in a nearby city.  He said the airborn bombs “put him in the mind of” World War One.

When the United States entered the First World War, my granddad was 20 years old.  A bricklayer by trade, a professional boxer by design, and a semi-pro baseball player by choice, he – and many other young men – were pressed into service.  My grandpa left school when in just the 4th grade to work and assist his widowed mother.  He was not an educated man.  Oh, he knew his letters and ciphers, read the newspaper and such, but he was a man of simple needs.  So when the call came to war, he went without question.  He took his oath to protect and defend very seriously, and he did as he was told.

Once Upon a Time

Planting the Seed

“Got a minute?” he asked.

I’d seen him around the area for the past few days.  He was busy, landscaping mostly – installing water features, planting trees.  He was a hard worker, and so old I couldn’t even guess at his age.  It didn’t seem to affect him.  He labored like a young man – full of energy, vital.  He stretched his back out and walked over.

“If you’re not busy, I got a job for you,” he continued, wincing a bit as he worked out some kinks.  “It won’t take very long.  I- I just need a little help to get some things started around here and I think you’d be perfect.”

His eyes seemed to look through me.  Lying to this guy would be damn near impossible.  I squirmed a little when he looked right at me but his face was so kind it took the sting out of his gaze, and his voice was warm and rich.  It felt sort of like a blanket, you know?  I glanced around.

Yard Work

Clipping and Flipping

There are those to whom mowing grass is a gas, but I find a lawn a yawn.  Some feel that heaven is clipping a hedge, but I’d rather camp on a skyscraper’s ledge.  Many find flowers their cup of tea, but a dandelion can get the best of me.

It shouldn’t be that way.  I was raised by a man who took a well-groomed lawn very seriously.  He mowed a lot.  So did I.  I even did a stint for a time as a grounds man on the campus of the University of Illinois mowing for a living until I screwed up my knee by falling off an 8-foot wall of a raised yard near the office of non-academic personnel.

Employed in the lawn and garden department of a large store one spring, my job was to assemble lawn mowers for the unsuspecting public.  Some of them actually worked.  I know the difference between Kentucky blue, fescue, and zoysia.  I know privet when I see it. I can easily determine between northern birch and the river variety.  I am not ignorant, just ineffectual.

Fire When Ready

Bud Miller was born to lead.  With 20 years service in the military, including the Korean War, when ex-Sergeant Miller retired and came home to our small town, he just couldn’t wait to get back in charge of something – and the Fire Department caught his eye.  Our little volunteer fire department was housed in a rundown brick garage just off the small uptown business district.  One ancient pumper truck constituted the entire fleet of firefighting vehicles and, three or four times a year, the town whistle would sound, phones in the volunteer’s homes would bellow a continuous steady ring, and 8 or 10 stalwarts would get to legally drive like maniacs to the fire house and launch the wheezing fire truck to go put out a garbage fire or a blazing tool shed.  Once a week the volunteer firefighters would hold an evening meeting at the firehouse to discuss business for a few hours.  The rumor mill claimed the meeting consisted mostly of beer, cards, and the occasional “stag film”, but nobody ever got out of hand.  So it was, so it had always been – until Bud Miller declared his candidacy for the exalted office of Fire Chief.

C’mon Boys, Over the Top!

Kill the Bass Drummer

I want to start this piece by saying that I have a great deal of respect for those men and women who have served or are serving our country in the military.  My grandfather fought in France and Germany during World War I, my father on Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal in World War II.  My dear wife, while not in the military, spent four years in Afghanistan working to support the troops in hostile areas complete with bombings and rocket attacks.  I, myself, spent a full day and a half in the United States Air Force, and I certainly appreciate those who have given even more than their lives, who have had their minds disrupted, deleted, or even destroyed because of the horrors of war.

At age 14, I took employment as bass clarinetist with the Elk’s Band, a group of fine concert musicians who played in various locations around central Illinois and west central Indiana.  Our repertoire consisted of classical pieces, the occasional show tune, and patriotic numbers by John Phillip Sousa and his ilk.  One fine Sunday, all 42 of us climbed aboard the bus and headed for Danville, Illinois, to play a concert at the VA hospital.  The director rose to his feet as we neared our destination, and cautioned us about the upcoming venue.

Flood Stage

The four of us – Ron, Eddie, Roy, and yours truly – stood a few yards downstream from Dam Four and looked at the river. In normal times, we would have been on a rock outcrop about 15 feet above its sleepy green translucent flow. In normal times, we would have looked down into the water, watching it slip lazily around black and gray boulders, catching the occasional glimpse of the flash of a rainbow trout’s reflective side, the shadow dart of a pickerel chasing a minnow, the splash of a small mouth bass skittering in the shallows. In normal times, red-eared turtles would have festooned its banks, a heron might be fishing near a stump, perhaps a fox fussing near the water. In normal times, it would have been a lovely springtime pastoral setting, its very beauty causing us to speak in hushed tones. Today, we had to shout. These were not normal times. Instead of being 15 feet below where we stood, the river was 15 inches below our feet.