Monday, December 11, 2017

The Christmas Letter 2017

Merry Christmas 2017 from the Prices
A friend sent me a message not too long ago and reminded me that I had not written a Christmas letter in over four years.  I thought to myself, “My how time flies when you are senile.”  I couldn’t tell you why I stopped writing them, but it could have been that the cost of paper, postage, ink, Medicare, taxes, etc. exceeded my ability to do so.  I imagine it was that, like other events in life, Christmas seemed to pass so quickly each succeeding year that I just missed it altogether. I write every day, but I use the electronic media and my thoughts are cast into cyberspace with an occasional “Like” never to be seen again.  Some of my friends, though mentally and financially able to do so, have chosen not to join the rest of us in the 21st Century.  So, I am going to dig around in the already full basket that sits in my desk above my computer screen and see how many forever stamps I have left.  If I can find my snail mail address book, and you haven’t moved and not notified me, I will send you this letter.  I will turn on my seldom used printer and go through the maintenance program to clean the print heads and use up several of the ink cartridges in the process.  The extremely smart digital printer only cost me $42.00 at Sam’s Club, but the ink is $400.00 per tiny cartridge.  No, this is it.  You will not receive a large package delivered by FedEx a week before Christmas.  We, the Price Clan, are living in Harlingen, Texas which, if you go by the nearest route to the Rio Grande River is located about 8 miles from Mexico.  Our girls started their families a little later than some, but we can’t complain about the quality of the grandkids they have produced.  Barbara and I are still able to drive and baby sit so there are no plans to put us in assisted living yet.  Amanda and her husband, Chris Daniels, have our little two year old, Caston.  Andrea and her husband, Leonel Munoz, (imagine there is a tilde above the “n”) have Aaron (our eldest 6th grader), Ava (4th grader) and our little surprise, Landry, who is one year old. We are royally entertained.  All are doing well.  Barbara and I have had our 50th High School reunions since the last letter, and we celebrated our 70th birthdays this year.  I know this may seem young to some of you reading this letter, but it isn’t.  If you think this print is too small, go and find your magnifying glass.  Barbara and I decided to go on a cruise from Barcelona, Spain to Athens, Greece to celebrate making it this far.  We just got back last Sunday.  I still don’t know what time it is and I have to look at the calendar to get the correct day of the week.  It was a great cruise and we were treated royally on the ship.  Our ship was the “Marina” of the Oceania Cruise Line and it lived up to the billing. I can’t say as much for the airlines. I haven’t flown much since 9/11 because of the ridiculous security measures now in place, and the airlines have now exceeded all reason by adding seats without increasing the size of the planes. In the redesign of the 300 passenger jets, intended for the long haul, they saved money by staying with the four restroom plan. P.S. The aisles between you and the restrooms are usually blocked by the beverage cart.  I have been sleeping in my recliner for the last week to decompress.  Our mail of late has had the usual bills, but we are seeing an increase in letters telling us we qualify for all kinds of medical devices and special government programs to make our lives easier.  I have given up on all paid employment as of last December and have chosen to live on the government dole.  Our cars are so old we had to unplug the phones because the extended warranty people were tying up the line.  I hope I’ve covered all the bases.  We do miss seeing all of you and we fondly remember our visits.  If you are inclined to come for a visit please do.  As we celebrate the Christmas season we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Remember, Jesus Christ is the reason for the season.  Please share our greetings and hug all your kids for us.  We are hoping to see you all soon. 

All our love to all of you, The Prices

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I have been away for a few days, and I thought I would continue with the rest of the story.  The stories I shared were made from memories and feelings that came well after the fact.  This is a picture of my dad taken in Mobile, Alabama probably months prior to his death.  He looked fine, but the Leukemia that ravaged his body was only slowed a bit by the "Experimental Drugs" that brought his blood count back in line.  The term "chemotherapy" was not used until much later.  It was really hard to tell that anything was wrong as our lives continued much as they had before the diagnosis.  But, the drugs themselves had side effects and in October of 1963 my dad died from a cerebral hemorrhage that was related to his treatment.  I remember it all in snippets of foggy recollections.  He was 47 years old and I was one day away from my 16th birthday.  After his death I was in a surreal world.  I never really thought about the reality of what life would be like without him.  My dad was a Christian man and he taught us with his bible and his example in his own quiet way.  I had accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my savior when I was nine years old.  I was trying to hold to my faith that we would one day be together again, but the realities of life were crashing hard around me.  I remember not really knowing how to act after I was notified that he died.  I had been to the hospital the night before to visit him and now he wasn't there anymore.  I was told more than once by well meaning friends and relatives that I was  now the man of the house.  They just didn't know how much I didn't want to be.  Well, my mother, who was a full time housewife, took the reins and quietly marched forward.  She had gone to Junior College and taken some business courses before she and dad married.  She sold our house in Mobile and went to Hattiesburg, Mississippi and bought another one.  We moved and she enrolled in secretarial courses by correspondence.  I was starting the 11th grade.  My sister was two years younger, and my brother was 10 years younger.  Mother finished and landed a job as the secretary to the Dean of the Business School at the University of Southern Mississippi.  We made it.  I always liked the story of the little boy who was proudly standing with his foot on the head of a large bear that had recently been shot.  He commented to passers by "We kilt a bear, Ma shot it."  Life moved on and here we are today.  Years later I wrote this poem in honor of my father.  Both my parents were Christians and dealt with life with a strong faith in Jesus Christ. 

              WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Over 40 years ago, he died.
I still miss him everyday.
Quiet country boy – Brought up hard.
Learned early how to make his way.

Strong from work and tan from sun.
Dark hair and winning smile.
I never saw him waiver, change,
in good times or in trial.

He loved hard work, family.
Served his country. Spoke the truth.
Taught with bible and example.
Twigs need bending in their youth.

Outdoors was his favorite place.
Hunting, fishing, sun, fresh air.
He taught me manly lessons
when there were no women there.

Grave illness struck, he fought hard,
working right up to the end.
He crossed the bar so peacefully
to meet his Lord, and friend.

The world won’t know how great he was.
He had no wealth or fame.
Because he would not compromise
the value of his name.

I’m older now than he was
when he left this mortal frame.
But hope, that like my dad I leave
the treasure of a name.

 Dennis Price 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Heart of a Man

The Heart of a Man

     The distant crowing of a rooster pierced the early morning silence.  It was soon followed by similar, shrill, grating cry as another barnyard herald joined the fugue of the feathered symphony.  Inside the front room of a weathered house, a pile of quilts in the middle of a big, old-fashioned, poster-bed began to unfold, and slowly assumed a more recognizable shape.  A few short strands of matted red hair emerged from under the lumpy patchwork.  Suddenly a freckled hand swept open the warm cotton nest exposing a sparsely clad body to the filtered chill of the room.  Thirteen year old David Reins slowly raised himself into a sitting position, and turned so his legs slid off the edge of the bed, and dangled aimlessly as his mind focused on his surroundings.  He glanced through the darkness and his eyes stopped as the luminous dial of the alarm clock came into view.  The hands were spread to read five o’clock.

     David knew his mother would object.  Just in the last year she had become extremely overprotective.  David eased his weight onto his bare feet.  His hands kept steady pressure on the rusty bed springs until he was in a position to release them slowly and silently.  Everything had been carefully placed so it could be found easily without the use of a light.  His faded jeans, and his old checkered flannel shirt were carefully draped on a short bench which stood in front of the dressing table with its three arched-topped mirrors.  His worn leather boots were directly beneath the bench.  From the top of each boot, a thick wool sock hung like a large worm about to escape a tin can.  David was almost ready.  All he had left to do was to pick up the canvas hunting coat, and the shotgun that stood by the dusty, old chifforobe next to the door.  The coat and the shotgun belonged to his father who died just the year before.  The coat was stiff and heavy.  The shell slots in each pocket were full, and the vinyl game pouch at the back of the coat still smelled of last year’s hunting successes.  David’s arms hung inside the warmth of the sleeves which were several inches too long.  He pushed them back in accordion fashion so his hand could grasp the cold, blued-steel barrel of the Winchester .12 gauge.

     David opened the door and stepped outside.  His eyes watered, his cheeks burned, and his nostrils ached as he followed the white puffs of his breath through the darkness.  A November cold front was moving across the southern countryside.  His boots crunched on the gravel in his grandfather’s driveway as he moved toward the gap in the barbed wire fence that opened into the woods.  David stopped at the gap.  The roosters had stopped crowing.  Everything was quiet.  It was the silent time near dawn when everything pauses to await the crest of the sun.  His heart began to beat faster as he gazed into the dark chasm formed by a large hickory-nut tree and some small pin-oaks whose branches arched over the narrow path that led deep into the swamp of the creek.  Things were different; he missed his father’s presence on the trail beside him.  David’s numb fingers fumbled in the pocket of his hunting coat as he pried three of the new magnum plastic shells from their slots.  He pressed two shells into the magazine, then he moved the slide beneath the barrel all the way back, and with a quick, forward jerk it slid back into position, chambering one of the shells.  Even with a loaded gun, David still had trouble getting his feet to move further down the dark pathway.

     Soon he heard the gurgling of the creek that signaled his arrival at the prime squirrel hunting area.  David moved himself into position beneath one of the decaying, hollow, hardwood trees that lined both sides of the creek.  His listened patiently for the tell-tale chatter of the gray squirrel.  The darkness faded with the rising of the sun, and David’s surroundings became clearly visible.  Suddenly the silence of the swamp was broken by a bedlam of chatter.  David’s keen brown eyes turned skyward as they caught a slight movement on a leafless limb of a nearby oak.  The fluffy tail of the fat squirrel moved slowly back and forth in a motion similar to that of a metronome, as he barked indignantly at those who had invaded his private play ground during the night.  David’s muscles tightened as he slowly raised himself and lifted the heavy shotgun to his shoulder.  His thumb caught the exposed hammer and pulled it back into the cocked position with a slight click.  He gripped the large gun as tightly as possible, and planted both feet firmly into the spongy soil.  His arm extended full length down the dark oil stained stock, and his forefinger stretched to make a slight arch around the trigger.  David moved the barrel so that the silver bead at the end was centered on the squirrel’s body.  His heart began to pound furiously, his face took on a powdered appearance, and shiny beads of sweat appeared on his brow.  His finger nervously began to pressure the trigger.  The guttural roar of the shotgun ruptured the early morning serenity of the swamp.  David struggled to retain his balance as the barrel spewed forth its contents and arched skyward.  His ears rang, his shoulder throbbed, and his nostrils were filled with the strong sulphur smell of burning gun powder.  Beneath the tree, David could see a writhing lump of gray fur.  He moved quickly toward his prize, pushing aside the underbrush as he went.  He stopped and gazed down at the suffering creature in sickening horror.  The wounded squirrel’s teeth were bared in pain, and his eyes focused momentarily on the creature that loomed over him.  His hind legs moved in quick staccato jerks, and dark red drops of blood oozed from the bristled fur that covered his body.  David’s stomach retched, and twisted.  He wanted to cry.  The squirrel twisted again and stirred the dry, spongy leaves.  David knew that the job must be finished.  He had seen his father do it dozens of times.  He knew the suffering had to be stopped, but now it seemed so brutal.  He leaned his gun up against a tree, and extended his trembling hand down, and grasped the warm underside of the squirrel.  He could feel the tiny thumping beat of the heart, and see the rise and fall of the miniature chest as it expanded against his fingers.  He knew if he was going to do it he couldn’t wait any longer.  Carefully he placed the small head on the exposed root of a nearby oak.  David’s jaw tightened.  There was no time for second thoughts as he raised his boot and slammed it forcefully down causing the oak to resound with a muffled thud.  He glanced at the squirrel once more, sighed, put the squirrel in his pouch, shouldered his gun, and headed home.