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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.
Snobbery seeps into every facet of human endeavor, I think, even riding horses. Keeping equines at stables where they are cared for and have their stalls mucked by people hired for that very purpose, is an expensive proposition. Nevertheless, when I was in my early twenties, I made the financial commitment necessary to place my sorrel colt at an excellent facility. The stable maintained about 50 horses, the vast majority of them stalled in an immense barn around a large indoor arena. A few, my colt among them, stayed in the small barn next to the outdoor arena. It was cheaper by about 25 percent, and it was where most of the Quarter horses, plugs, and crossbreds stayed. In the big barn were the “society horses”.
In 1975, my wife and I moved from a small cosmopolitan city to almost-Arkansas, Missouri. In some ways it was de-evolution, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. From Greek bakeries, Jewish delis, jazz concerts, and Broadway quality theatre, we came to Myrtle’s Eats, grabbing suckers, Porter Wagoner, and drive-in movies. Being a small-town type originally myself, I made the switch fairly easily. My very adaptable wife followed close behind. We slowed down and settled in an area where the closest town – a bustling metropolis of nearly 2,000 souls – was 15 miles away over roads that would have scared the average northern tourist to death.
In that part of the Ozarkian Outback, rural bridges were one-lane affairs – open if the creeks weren’t up. In some areas, streams ran directly across the road. If it rained, you stayed home. Pick-up trucks outnumbered cars three to one – before pick-ups were fashionable. Rifles and buggy whips graced rear truck windows, women did not wear short-shorts, the average unskilled wage was half the federally mandated minimum, education was optional, Red Man and moonshine the drugs of choice, and if you didn’t mind living on a dirt road and fording a creek to get home, you could rent a two bedroom rock house with a cellar on significant acreage for $75 a month – which is exactly what we did. We cooled with open windows, cut our own wood for heat, lighted with kerosene, kept chickens and pigs, sometimes missed television, and got by. Then we had a visitor.
As of this writing, it is May of 2010. There was a celebration at my house this morning. Last night was very stormy – heavy rain, excessive lightning, brutal winds – the temporary finale of several days of harsh weather that produced tornados in Oklahoma and Kansas, hail up to baseball size here and there, flashfloods all over tornado alley, and over five inches of rain at our place. As of this a.m. it’s still raining a little, but not storming, and our number two cattle dog, Clancy, will sleep a lot of this day. For some reason, she has a grudge against lightning and feels obligated to invite it to come down and fight like a man – or dog in her case. She rages at storms, bouncing around, calling Thor names, ready to do battle with the tempest, validating the old adage that it is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. The long night of struggle is over now and she is tired. This morning, the wind has laid, the rain has softened, and all is clean and new, and the birds, free now from three days of brutal pounding, are celebrating.
When I first met Billy O’Neal I was just 21 years old, a rookie cop with less than one month on the street, full of high hopes and lofty aspirations as yet untarnished by the darker realities of my job. One fine June afternoon, I rode with another officer to the city garage to pick up a repaired squad car and return it to the cop shop. The Lieutenant who dispatched me on that errand probably assumed that even a rookie such as I could carry out the task without incident. Silly he. The 10 block drive should have been simple. Neither one of us counted on Billy O’Neal.
I never saw him wearing anything except a white t-shirt, blue jeans, and the ubiquitous boy’s footwear of the time – black and white Keds tennis shoes. He was a year or so older than I, but pale and smaller, with a shock of floppy blond hair. He lived with parents that I never met down the river road a bit closer to the muddy Sangamon than my house. He didn’t go to school either – a wondrous achievement in my nine-year-old estimation, not having to deal with the boredom, peer pressure, and politics of grade three.
I first saw him as he came walking up the road past my house as I was in the yard struggling to realign the handlebars of my Huffy heavyweight, knocked out of shape by a minor crash into the ditch in front of Randy Clinton’s house as I attempted to avoid running over his mother’s yappy little dog. He – the boy, not the dog – stood in the road and watched my labor for a moment. I said, “Hi, Kid,” and he smiled and came closer. I never even knew his name, but I did realize that he was different. Kid was not like the rest of us.
Leslie Hallcraft smiled at me as he reached over the top rail of a board fence and scratched the back of an immense Charolais bull.
“This is Baby,” he beamed. “He’s just as sweet as he can be…yes, he is!”
Les was my landlord. In the outback of the Ozarks, we had rented a two-bedroom rock house from Les and his wife, complete with a barn and paddock for some pigs, a spring-fed catfish pond, and access to 600 acres of trees to cut wood for the furnace. Les was a nice man, a converted northerner who drove an International Harvester pickup truck and swatted wasps the way normal people swat mosquitoes, often sustaining two dozen stings a day in hot weather. He was introducing me to his prize bull – a bull nearly as expensive and large as an aircraft carrier, a bull he loved more than his children, a bull he’d installed in the pasture surrounding the barn and paddock where I kept pigs – a bull that was now going to be between me and where I needed to go several times a day.
[Editor’s note: This piece was not originally produced for this web site. As such, the format (music, style, etc.) differs from the other posts here.]
Roger and Sharon Sigler have lived in a rural portion of the Kansas City area for nearly three decades, and, for many of those years, their across the road neighbors have been Gwen and Bob Wright. Gwen and Bob keep dogs – Great Pyrenees to be exact. Great Pyrenees are large, white animals, similar in construction to Newfoundlands, and many of them weigh as much as an NFL punt return specialist. Their bark is a cross between a lion’s cough and a damaged steam whistle. Their jowls are pendulous, and one running in your general direction is reminiscent of an approaching avalanche. Subtlety is not a part of their make-up. The Great Pyrenees is an obvious dog, bred to control and protect livestock and property, and recognizes his calling nearly from birth. Like most dogs, a Great Pyrenees may sometimes not take himself too seriously, but he seldom has to be reminded of his duty.
In the mid through late 70s, I lived in almost Arkansas, Missouri – an area that is steeped in tradition, clannishness, and ticks. Outsiders are viewed there with a significant amount of suspicion, and not a small amount of predation. Unless you were born in almost Arkansas, of parents from almost Arkansas, you would never be completely accepted. During my time there, a local woman died at age 92. She, originally an outsider, had lived in the community for 90 years. Her epitaph began, “a beloved stranger to our shores…”
I quickly learned that if I were to journey to the local feed store and ask for assistance, I would probably be ignored. If, however, I would enquire if “one a you good ol’ boys back there could hep me fer a minute”, assistance would be forthcoming. Minds do not change easily in that part of the country. Feuds are common both among and within families. One couple who lived there had been married for almost 60 years, but had not spoken to each other since the day their son was killed in a logging accident while in the company of his father over 40 years before. The wife turned her back on the husband, and they spent those years living apart in the same house, neither willing to budge much less forgive or forget. Such was the mindset of many of the people in that beautiful country. Thank goodness there were exceptions.
In the early spring of 1975, I quit my job, and my wife and I filled a Volkswagen Thing with us, camping gear, a giant Schnauzer puppy, and took to the road with no destination in mind. A few days later we found ourselves in Brown County, Indiana, a truly lovely area with rolling hills, scenic valleys, quaint artist’s communities, and more covered bridges per square whatever than any place else on the globe. We decided to stay for a few days, and pitched our tent in a rambling campground between two wooded hills in one of those scenic valleys, 50 feet from the obligatory babbling brook.
Some time ago, my wife and I watched a rerun of a movie starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. “What Women Want” is a very enjoyable romantic comedy about a male chauvinist pig who can, all of a sudden, hear what women are thinking. It also caused Laura and me to do some thinking about the battle of the genders. So far there’s no clear winner, but women seem to be ahead on points – at least that’s what they’d like us to believe.
As it happens sometimes in my narrow life, a friend started me to think. It was when she spoke of her wedding, her husband in his rented tux and she in her linen suit with dyed-to-match heels setting off on their road of life together many years ago – and some of the rocks that litter that very road. It brought to mind weddings – two of them to be exact, both of them mine.
She was a vision. Petite, with dark brown hair in a pageboy cut, her gentle rippling laugh flitted on the wind like a butterfly, its fragile wings caressing all who heard it with tender purpose. Arching brows highlighted dark eyes that could delight or accuse in the same glance; eyes that both revealed and concealed, darted and laughed, asking for nothing and full of unspoken promise. She wore no makeup, and it would have been as laughable on her as watercolor on the Mona Lisa. Her dress was simple cotton, ordinary in every way, totally without pretension. She was a new addition to my usual haunts and, from the instant I saw her, I was captivated.
The line of her jaw turned my head. The curve of her shoulder held my gaze. The sway of her walk captured my imagination. I had to meet her. I had to be near her. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, and I was more drawn to her than I had ever been to another. Fearful of making a fool of myself, I held back. Afraid of being rejected, I waited. For two days, I watched her from afar, immersed in the fantasy of what she might be like, of how it would feel to come to know perfection. Finally, when I could stand it not a moment longer, when I had to make contact in spite of my fear, I worked up my courage and got her a gift.
He wore black horned-rimmed classes, a subtle smile, and a deeply bent sense of humor. His name was Dan Rhineholt, and he and I were cops on the same department. Dan had been a deputy sheriff in my county for over a year, but had transferred to our city department out of boredom with country roads. He was assigned to me on the three to 11 shift for a few weeks – to gauge his mettle. In retrospect, I believe command may have decided that if he could stand riding with me, he could stand riding with almost anybody.
I first noticed the twisted way he dealt with the world one Saturday night. A deeply intoxicated young man, wearing only his tidy-whities, had passed out on the lawn of a 12-story apartment building facing a major street. A small crowd had gathered on the sidewalk by the time we arrived. Rhineholt checked for a pulse, glanced upward toward the top of the building, and turned to me.
“God!” he said. “What a drop. I wonder what made him jump?”