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Posts published in “Columnists – Touch of Life”

Sixty-fifth high school reunion

This writer is heading for a high school reunion on June 29th and recently had a discussion with a six-year-old boy about the event. The youngster had some different ideas about a reunion. The talk between us went something like this:

“Hi Mr. Springer,” Hank said as he arrived on his bicycle from upstreet. It had been a while since I have seen you. Have you been OK?”…”Just fine,” said the young out-going elementary student. After a few more introductory remarks, he said, “Mr. Springer I am going to King’s Island in Cincinnati in a couple of weeks We are going to stay in a motel over a long weekend for three nights and I get to swim in the pool when I’m not at King’s Island.” I stopped what I was doing in the yard and began to listen as I could tell this was big news and a few more details would be forthcoming. Yes, the details flowed.

After a couple of minutes I replied, “Hank, that same weekend you are in Cincinnati I am going on a trip also.” “Where are you going?” he asked. “I’m going to my sixty-fifth high school reunion in Wellsburg.” “Where’s Wellsburg?” came the question. “About 200 miles north of here in the northern panhandle of West Virginia. Sixteen miles north of Wheeling.”

Sixty-five years, that’s a long time ago.” “Yes, Hank it is. I’m 82 and most of those at the reunion will be about that age,” I answered. “Will you be staying in a motel?” “Yes…” “Will it have a pool to swim…?” “Probably not,” I replied.

“What will you do at your reunion”? he questioned. I countered with, “we will have dinner together and then probably spend the rest of the evening visiting back and forth about our high school days and family items since 1948.”

He thought for a few seconds then commented, “You mean you are driving two hundred miles, staying in a motel without a pool and all you are going to do is eat and talk with some more old people!” End of story.

Shame on me for having such a boring life and not experiencing the better things of life as shown in the eyes and mind of one six-year-old. But, I guess that is one way of looking at it!

As Hank rode away I asked myself, “Will he ever come back to visit again with such a boring neighbor. I hope so as I like that youngster.

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

A visit to the doctor brings good old memories

Some four or five weeks ago I had a relatively bad experience turn into some very fine memories from my childhood. I took an unfortunate tumble in the tub five weeks ago on a Sunday morning. I bloodied a couple of toes, and cut and otherwise did slight damage to my right knee.

Went to see my Doc and found there was no serious damage. He suggested I stay off my feet as much as possible and use a cane for a few days to assist the knee. “You may not really need the cane but it will help some and probably get you some undeserved sympathy,” Doc commented with a big smile. It did both.

I first thought of having to buy a cane, and then remembered I had a cane at home that once belonged to my Great-Grandpa Herman Springer. He was an Ohio farmer in the southeastern part of the state not many miles from the Ohio River. He lived there many years with my Great-Grandma Amelia. They both lived long lives and I can well remember some good times visiting them as a youngster. Grandpa died on my Mother’s birthday, Feb. 5, 1942, and Grandma died about three months later. I was then 12.

I remember visiting their farm when I was six or seven, taking walks with Grandpa and getting some good food from Grandma. When we visited Grandma always had something that was my favorite. How well I remember talking with them, watching their big smiles and frequently getting teased a little. At that point I was the only great-grandchild they had.

A couple years later they sold the farm and moved to an apartment in Wheeling, W.Va close to my great-uncle Ernie, their oldest son. Things were limited in the apartment but Grandpa and I still enjoyed one another. They had a fireplace that was always burning in colder weather. That fire was a frequent recipient of tobacco waste Grandpa always seemed to have in his mouth. He chewed “Mail Pouch” regularly.

They were great country-western fans and attended the Saturday Night Wheeling Jamboree at the Capitol Theatre frequently. There they became friends with some of the entertainers who later went on the Nashville, Tenn. “Grand Old Opera” and had some limited success in Hollywood as well.

One of those was Shugg (sp?) Fisher. He gave my Grandpa Herman one of his guitars back in the 30s. Grandpa learned to play a few tunes on it in his late 70s and 80s. he was good enough to entertain his Great-Grandson and the rest of the family but a professional player he wasn’t.

When Grandpa and Grandma passed in 1942 I became the owner of that guitar. I was just beginning to play the saxophone and tinkered a little with the guitar but never really used it. When I went to the service in 1952 my parents moved and the guitar disappeared.

Thoughts of that guitar and Grandpa playing it remain with me 70 years later. In addition to that cane mentioned above, and used for the first time since 1942 recently, I have an old tie stick-pin of his that I still cherish greatly. Those memories and more have taken a lot of sting out of my recent fall, which is also history. Grandpa Herman and Grandma Amelia remain in my memories to this day.

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

A 6-gun salute to Gunsmoke: An American Institution


In more than one column in the past I have mentioned I am a great Western movie and TV show fan. Some would say, my family in particular, I am addicted. Such as it is. Certainly I am a great fan of the John Wayne western movies and, if I am addicted, it is to the former Gunsmoke TV series that played first-run programs longer than any other TV show. More than twenty-years on TV and prior to that played for eleven years as a radio series.

My good Crosby son, David, gave me some info on Gunsmoke, via the internet, a few days ago that interested me greatly.

One of those was the original Gunsmoke TV program starring James Arness as Matt Dillon and the rest of the original cast. As many original shows and reruns I have watched I had never seen the original.

I was surprised to see that John Wayne introduced the first program in the series many years back. Turns out Wayne and Arness were good friends. Further, Arness played in a few of the Wayne westerns and Wayne was the one that recommended Arness for the role of the now famous “Matt Dillon.”

As you might have guessed, if you are familiar with Gunsmoke, Dillon was “shot” in the original and would be “shot” in many future shows. Of course, he always recovered and would get the “bad guy” at that shooting or later. That U. S. Marshall always got his man.

Matt would be injured, “Doc Adams,” would dig out the bullet, “Kitty” would nurse him back to health and “Chester,” later “Festus” would agonize at his side. That particular part of the weekly show never varied but I still enjoy watching.

Gunsmoke was also unique in that the main characters, save Chester, remained the same throughout the series. Milburn Stone was “Doc” throughout the series and carried the name of Doc Adams most of the time. Amanda Blake was “Kitty” throughout the series until the last season until she left “because she couldn’t handle watching Matt getting shot anymore. She was always on hand at the saloon she ran or was on the street during the gunfights when Matt was shot or got his man. Faithful, and not so smart, “Chester” was usually at Matt’s side. He was played by Dennis Weaver, who was the only one of the cast to leave the show in its heyday.

He was replaced by “Festus” who met Matt out on the trail and became his deputy. He was a member of a mountain family, had no education, and was the butt of many jokes by other members of the cast throughout his tour.

Such was, and continues to be, the Gunsmoke cast as the series continues as a regular show on more than one TV channel today. The cast and their lives need some more explanation and I’ll try to do that in a column perhaps next week. Got to quit now as it is time for Gunsmoke.

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home.

I am ready for Spring…


My fellow Northeast News, Star-Courier, etc. columnist, Charlie Farrar talked about “smelling spring” in his last column. Guess my sniffer isn’t that good as I’m anxious for spring to show itself but still don’t see much hope, at least over the next few days. Am writing this on March 1 and heard the weather man say at about 6 a. m. this morning that out high temperature for today would be 53 degrees and “we already had it.” I think it is about 51 or 52 right now.

Weather has been a bother to all of us in the U.S. this winter, especially in the East. Talk to my daughter or son back home almost every day and they spend more time fussing about the weather than bringing me up-to-date on family items. Hasn’t exactly been a picnic here in Texas either.

Son Dave mentioned a couple of weeks ago that in previous years we had had at least one out-door picnic at his side-yard table. Not this year as it has been too cold and raining. Raining this morning and not expected to get better until about the time this paper comes out on Thursday. Also heard the weather person say we just experienced the fifth coldest February in history for Houston. I’m ready to “smell” and experience spring.

Been getting some of my winter/spring chores done. Not long after arriving in January I got out in the yard enough to get all of the left over fall leaves and other stuff cleaned from the two lots. I always breathe a sigh of relief when that is done. However, got only part of the trimming of the bushes completed. Still have a lot of that to do and I just haven’t wanted to go out in the colder, damper weather and work in the yard.

One other big job I do for Dave while here is wash all of his windows inside and out. Have the inside accomplished and did have an opportunity late last week to get many of the outside windows done as well. Still have six across the front of the house but I guess I won’t get that done until late this week.

Also try to clean all of the rugs before heading back home. That I haven’t started. Usually do that in a couple of days. Move furniture into half the space, get it cleaned and dried and the next day or two move it back, clean the rest and call the job completed. Still have four weeks to get that accomplished as I hit the road for home on March 29.

This will be the first winter we haven’t gone to either San Antonio or Corpus Christi since I started coming down here eight or nine years ago. We decided to skip that weeklong trip this year. Did take another day-trip to Port Arthur last week. My first visit there. We had a good time and I got to see a little more of Texas.

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

Children say the darndest things


As many of you know the Springer’s reside in West Virginia and find our way to Texas via various interstates at least three months of every year, sometimes more. We love Texas (and Crosby).

We had an interesting event here over the past six months that I want to relate to you. I call it:

Out of the mouths…

State officials were adamant about raising the tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike, which is a part of I-77 from Charleston to the Southern border with Virginia. The tolls were $1.25 for each of the three tollbooths along the 100-mile route. The proposed toll would be $2.00 each for a total of $6.00 one way. A hue and cry went up from residents who use the turnpike daily. Much ado was made of this verbal battle. They lost, the state won, and the tolls are now $2.00 times three.

A local Mother was traveling to South Carolina on the turnpike recently with her young son to visit relatives. The third tollbooth sits near the top of one of the highest mountains in the area and has a beautiful view.

As they approached that tollbooth the six-year-old offered, “Mommy, West Virginia is a beautiful state isn’t it?” “Yes,” replied Mommy, pleased that her young son would take notice. As she prepared to pay her toll he commented, “And you have to pay to get out and then pay to get back in.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

The End of an Era!

Linda and I live on a 1-acre tract on the banks of the beautiful Coal River near Charleston. Before ours, and the adjoining subdivision, were developed the land was a large apple orchard, according to a map in my possession that dates back to the early 1900s.

When we bought our property about 38 years ago it had eight or ten of the apple trees remaining. They were about the only apple trees left in the development. Over the years a windstorm took out one or two of the older trees, others died and I removed a couple due to property improvements.

After 35+ years, there remained one apple tree, much younger than the others, that we have nursed along for several years. Over the past three to five years I have had to remove several dead limbs. Earlier this year I had the entire tree cut down as it was about to die. It was the last of hundreds of apple trees that once called the subdivisions acres home. It truly was the end of an era and we miss it.

Such are the people places and things that have touched my life in my home!

Back to School Blues


Yesterday morning Linda and I were having breakfast before heading off to church when she picked up some newspaper ads. After reading a few she said, “They are starting already.”

“What?” I asked. “The back-to-school ads,” she replied.

That got me thinking some negative thoughts. Boy, when I was a kid I hated to see those ads. Now, here it is not yet the end of July and the “back-to-school” ads have started. At least when I was in school they didn’t start until after the first of August.

When I was in the first grade, back in the 1930’s, summer seemed awfully long, and I was happy to get back to school and see my school chums that I hadn’t seen all summer. That lasted about three years. Then, all of a sudden, the summers seemed to get shorter and I wasn’t all that keen on starting back to school on that “first day.”

Back then the school term ended a few days before Memorial Day and the “first day” back was the Tuesday after Labor Day. Now, summer for the kids is even shorter, but they get more time off during the school year than we used to receive. I guess it all evens out.

When I was in junior high I had a paper route that I kept for about four years. It was a morning route and during the summer I would deliver my papers, come back home and sit on our front porch to read my selected parts—usually the sports pages and the comics. Nothing much else mattered.

However, one could not help seeing the big headlines on the “BACK-TO-SCHOOL” ads and they would ruin my day. Especially while I was in high school and summers off seemed so short. I can remember a couple times ripping the ads out of the paper.

All of that has passed now but I well remember my feelings for those ads in those days. Occasionally I will hear a youngster fuss about having to go back to school and it brings a smile to my face.

Now I have turned too much more adult things. Today, as soon as I finish this column, I have to go to the dentist and probably get a tooth pulled. I believe I hate going to a dentist more than I hated the back-to-school ads. Things are relative!

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

Spending time in the garden…


The weather is hot, dry and a bit on the miserable side for me. As I’ve said before, the older I become the more the heat bothers me. It is the middle of the summer (maybe not in calendar reading) and my outside lawn and garden work is getting less attention.

So far this summer, lawn and garden work has progressed reasonably well for the Springers but I must admit the Missus and I are both more inclined to work out there in the early morning and late evening hours and leaving mid-da for something more suitable with air-conditioning. Our acre and one-half lawn looks pretty good and we have done well in keeping it cut. Earlier this year it was cut at 3 1/2 inches about every seven days. A couple of times a little more often. Now, with the rain having tapered off, I have raised the lawnmower blades to 4 inches and cutting not more than ten days apart. The last time it was two weeks and it looks like I’m heading down the road for another two weeks between cutting. We need some rain.

Also, I must admit, our age is beginning to show. We have lots of grass, about two dozen trees, and lots of flower to keep us busy. We are later than usual in getting some flower work done and that can certainly be age. We both like flowers and, while that has usually been Linda’s area, we are both working on it now. Fortunately most of the tree work is done, all of the shrubbery, and there are several, have been trimmed and the flowers are coming along.

Had to do one thing this past week that I did not enjoy. Several years ago I planted a red-leaved plum tree next to the end of our house. Two things went wrong. I planted it far too close to the house and it grew much taller and wider than we expected. It was adding moisture to the house interior wall and was causing a nice azalea hedge row under it to die out. As a result I had to take a chain saw to it. It has really opened up that end of the house. The hedges have thanked me for letting them know there really is a sun.

We like trees that have some color to them and have a large magnolia, a couple of blooming crabapple trees, three Japanese cherries, a large pear tree a couple red-leafed maples, three dogwood, and a few pines and maples. The blossoming trees were beautiful again this Spring.

The squirrels are doing their usually scampering around in the yard, through the tree branches, on the roof and power lines. They aren’t messing much with the flowers this year. Linda theorizes that she has finally found a type of flower the squirrels don’t like. She has had more than her share of newly planted flowers either dug out or eaten by these squirrels over the past few years.

Regardless of the hot weather that cuts down on the enjoyment of working outdoors, I’m still happy we have a large yard and many flowers although we have cut back on one large flower bed that we never seemed to be able to keep in good shape. Have started its removal and will continue with that this week. Never a dull moment.

If you are a garden and lawn bum like we are I wish you well. If not, consider taking up the challenge. It is refreshing, gives the heart some stimulating and makes one feel tired in the evening but somewhat fulfilled.

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

Dogs vs. Wives: The debate continues

Several weeks ago I ran a little humor blurb in one of my columns that basically asked the question, “Who is your better friend, your wife or your dog?” To find out the answer was “lock your wife and your dog in the trunk of your car for an hour. Then open the trunk and see who’s happy to see you.”

I mentioned then that blurb had been sent to me by one of our Crosby friends, Irene Cook. Maggie and I see Irene and Koko frequently in the mornings as we are taking our daily walks around Newport.

Well, Irene has sent me another bit of humor that brought smiles to my face as well as the face of spouse, Linda. We thought you might like to read this as well.

Why do some men have dogs and not wives?

There might be several reasons but here are a few that came to us from Irene:

1. The later you are, the more excited your dogs are to see you.

2. Dogs don’t notice if you call them by another dog’s name.

3. Dogs like it if you leave a lot of things on the floor.

4. A dog’s parents never visit.

5. Dogs agree that you have to raise your voice to get your point across.

6. You never have to wait for a dog; they’re ready to go 24 hours a day.

7. Dogs find you amusing when you’re drunk.

8. Dogs like to go hunting and fishing.

9. A dog will not wake you up at night to ask, “If I died, would you get another dog?”

10. If a dog has babies, you can put an ad in the paper and give them away.

11. A dog will let you put a studded collar on it without calling you a pervert.

12. If a dog smells another dog on you, they don’t get mad. They just think it’s interesting.

13. Dogs like to ride in the back of a pickup truck.

And last, but not least,

14. If a dog leaves, it won’t take half of your stuff.

I laughed out loud at several of the above and hope you enjoy them as well.

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

Where’s the dog treat, asks Maggie


A few years back I mentioned my spoiled Old English Sheep Dog, Maggie, in this column. When in Texas we walk together around Sea Palms, Perdido, Challenger and then back on Sea Palms. We made that trip approximately 180 times (that seems a lot) from January 1 to April 4 of this year. We usually go twice daily. One of my sons remarked that is good for both of us.

Maggie is 7, and when she was about a year old our bank began putting doggie treats in the tube one gets when cashing checks, etc., at the drive-through. That has always worked well with her and she crunches away as we drive away. Recently our newspaper deliverer began putting a doggie treat with the newspaper. Maggie now loves getting the newspaper.

That gives us our first problem. Our mailbox and newspaper box hang from the same pole. Since I get a treat from one side why not the other? We go through this now every time I get the mail. Then there are turnpike and bridge tollbooths. To Maggie they look just like the booths at the bank so why no doggie treats?

Then the second problem! At our bank the drive-through lanes are on one side of the building and the parking lot is on the other. She has learned that if I turn into the bank and make a left she is going to get a treat. However, if I turn to the right, park, and go into the bank no treat will be forthcoming. She grouses a bit as we pull out.

This takes me back over ten years ago when we owned a large (145 lb.) Belgium Bouvier named Abbaye. She was big enough that she usually received a couple of treats and looked forward to them. One day the teller said, “We are out of doggie treats today, sorry.” I knew I was in trouble.

When the container came back and no treats came forth she got mad, barked at me, and the teller, and groused the three miles back home. I got most of the blame for that and we were not friends on the way home. She reacted the same as Maggie at tollbooths. I don’t think she ever put the parking lot bit together but then she wasn’t in the car nearly as much as I now haul Maggie around. I got the same reaction out of her at bridge and turnpike tollbooths.

Strange as it might seem, I have offered the same treats to the dogs as home and they sometimes turn them down. Go figure! Don’t talk to me about dumb dogs.

Newport Paving

I mentioned a column or so back that some streets in Newport are receiving new pavement. Those that were underway then seem to be finished and I don’t believe any others are underway. Could be wrong as I haven’t been on every street in Newport.

New pavement always feels good to drive over and that is true on South Diamondhead. Nice and smooth!

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

Reconnecting with an old friend


Ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in about five years several days ago. Once again I found Stephen Jackson, in a Crosby restaurant. Had many fine breakfast conversations with Stephen in another area restaurant the first two or three years we were spending our winters in Crosby. Then he disappeared from my view.

This guy Jackson is one easy man to know. He strikes up a conversation with those around him as easily as sipping his coffee or eating his breakfast or dinner.

The retired City of Baytown employee said things have been going o. k. for him since we last met and I think that is the truth because he still had that great smile and is never lost for words. He must know most everyone in town as he is constantly giving a big smile and “hello” to those going into and out of whatever restaurant he finds himself.

We spent only a few minutes updating ourselves and then went on our way again. I will look forward to seeing this Barrett Station resident again next year as our paths continue to cross.

Newport Paving

We arrived in Newport last January amongst the orange and white construction barrels and left with the same barrels in place. There has been, and still is, a lot of paving going on in Newport. When we arrived, new curbing was the thing and several streets were getting this kind of upgrading. South Diamondhead was full of the barrels protecting cars and drivers from ditching.

With all of the curbing activity completed the removing of old pavement and re-paving began. I had never paid much attention to the pavement removal equipment until I found myself in the midst of this activity several times. It is very efficient. Won’t be long the roads I saw being worked on — South Diamond Head, Gulf Club and Country Club Roads — will be completed and it will be smooth driving again.

Driving Home

The 1,240 mile drive back home was rather uneventful this time. Got an early start out of Crosby and ended up in Batesville, Mississippi (50 miles south of Memphis) the first night. Was wearing a short-sleeve shirt that first day and that changed as soon as I got out of the car at Batesville.

Next morning we decided to try for the final 650 miles in one day as we were between two storms. It was colder but dry when we pulled out of Batesville and that remained until we got 100 or 150 miles into Tennessee. From that point on it was rain and cold wind accompanying us. Got home safely and woke up the next morning to snow. Wasn’t happy about that and was ready to head back south.

That snowstorm brought frost and a light freeze and many of our blossoming trees have suffered. They will not be as pretty this year as they were last.

Such are the people, places and things that touch my life in my home!

Say What!!!

For the past couple of weeks I have been watching basketball, watching basketball and watching basketball. The NCAA tournament is in progress and I’m always anxious to view those games. Usually, there are several upsets in the first two rounds administered by some of the smaller, mid-major teams, but, except for Cleveland State; the favored teams have pulled out most of the victories. The upset of Wake Forest by the Cleveland team was an eyeopener for the tournament but that was one of the games I missed.

Of the major teams I was surprised by the Michigan State win over Louisville, and slightly by the Villanova victory over Pitt. Was not surprised that North Carolina beat Oklahoma but did not expect that kind of a route. Oklahoma came back to lose by only 12 points but the game was over early in the second half.

Say What!!!

Son David and I were watching a report on some of the games one evening when the reporter made a statement that I’m sure his buddies will make him live with forever. I don’t know what he was trying to say but his words were, “in every game that team has lost the other team has scored more points.” What a revelation! I would guess he could have gone on to say in every game that team has won it has scored more points than its opponents. Good example of not listening to what you are saying.

Hurricane Restoration

Several homes and buildings in the area have been repaired in the three months we have been visiting. A couple of the repair jobs are in Dave’s Newport neighborhood. Always good to see people coming back from such damaging storms.

Ike did several thousand dollars of damage to Crosby Methodist Church last September. Most of the damage was in the sanctuary and the congregation has been meeting each Sunday in the Family Life Center. We were concerned about that loss last fall and kept in close touch until coming back in January and joining the group on most Sundays.

Was pleased to hear a couple of weeks ago the congregation will be back in its sanctuary by Easter Sunday. That was the earlier prediction.

Unfortunately we will not be here to see that happy occasion as we are leaving later this week for the mountains of West Virginia. It has been another good visit—our seventh in a row. We look forward to returning home once again but next January will look forward to returning to Crosby and Texas.

Such are the people, places and things that have touch my life in my home!