Tag Archives: college stories

Why Second-hand Adventure is Good Enough for Me

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Why Second-hand Adventure is Good Enough for Me

There was a time in college when we thought we would go camping.
It took  a lot of packing and some walking and some stamping
to rid the site of red ants and to cut away the bushes,
to find a level spot for our bedrolls and our tushes.
It’s good that we were youthful, and accustomed to reversal,
for when it came to camping, this was our first rehearsal.

None of us were nature girls. This was our trial run.
We came for something different, just to have some fun.
We brought a giant bottle of cheap rosé and chips.
Some white bread and bologna. Some mustard and some dips.
Our hopes were grand and hopeful. We were fervid in our dreams.
We lugged all our equipment down faint trails and forded streams.

Lugging a giant cooler, water and some some spray
in case there were mosquitos, slowly we made our way
down to small rude patch of ground that sloped down to the creek.
 My German Shepherd Gretchen went ahead of us to seek
out squirrels and other wildlife that she had a chance to get,
scouting ahead for creatures that might have posed a threat.

The day passed without conflict. We hiked and talked and ate.
We had no trepidation about what would be our fate.
Our night was spent less pleasantly as we slowly slipped
downward hour by hour until finally we dipped
our feet into the water of the creek just down the hill.
Certainly by sunrise, we three had had our fill

of the stones and bugs and soakings that we all had  faced
as all night long my dog barked, ran back and forth and chased
imaginary creatures hidden in the dark
In the end, our camping wasn’t such a lark.
We had a hasty breakfast and as we packed up our gear,
we apologized to others camping far and near

for my dog’s disturbance for the whole long night.
from the first star’s appearance to the first morning light.

And then they told us something we hadn’t known before.
We were camping in bear territory, and they said, “What’s more,
if you had foodstuff with you, your dog did you a favor.
Bears are very partial to young ladies of your flavor!”
And so that first time camping turned out to be our last.
Our setting up went rather slow, but breaking down went fast.
We packed our car and sped right down those twisted mountain roads,
right back to the city. Right back to our abodes.
I gave the dog a juicy bone and flipped on the TV,
sure that second-hand adventure was good enough for me.

 

Prompt words today are fervid, reverse, youthful, giant and camping.

This was a real-life adventure with my good friends Jean and Joan Lenzi who were twins and my college roommates. R.I.P. Jean and Joan. We had many adventures together and this was one of the first ones.

Forked!

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1967–Off  on the SS Ryndam on a four month around-the-world study adventure. Ga Ga Dowd was the oldest student aboard. She seemed ancient, but was actually one year older than I am now.  The other two girls, whom I had just met, were to be my best friends on the journey.  They are Susan (in polka dots), who was also a U. of Wyoming student whom I had never met before and Pamn, from Berkeley. I don’t know why the wind chose to blow only my hair.  Perhaps I had invested in less hairspray?

“The Zoad In The Road”
                                                          by Dr. Seuss 

Did I ever tell you about the young Zoad?
Who came to a sign at the fork of the road?
He looked one way and the other way too –
the Zoad had to make up his mind what to do.
Well, the Zoad scratched his head, and his chin, and his pants.
And he said to himself, “I’ll be taking a chance.
If I go to Place One, that place may be hot
So how will I know if I like it or not.
On the other hand, though, I’ll feel such a fool
If I go to Place Two and find it’s too cool
In that case I may catch a chill and turn blue.
So Place One may be best and not Place Two.
Play safe,” cried the Zoad, “I’ll play safe, I’m no dunce.
I’ll simply start off to both places at once.”
And that’s how the Zoad who would not take a chance
Went no place at all with a split in his pants.

Born in a time before television and the internet and even private telephone lines, (we shared ours with two other households), periodicals took on a special importance. We subscribed to three newspapers: The Murdo Coyote (my hometown rag), The Mitchell Daily Republic  and Grit–a newsy national weekly newspaper. My dad subscribed to Saga, Real West, True West, Argosy and probably a few others; and my Mom got Saturday Evening Post, Journal, McCall’s and Redbook.

One special feature of Redbook  over the years I was growing up was that they published the poetry of Dr.Seuss. I don’t know if the poem above was ever published anywhere else, but it was one of my family’s favorites, and I think I still have it out in a plastic storage case with other old letters and paper memorabilia. It is well-worn and wrinkled and yellowed, glued to a piece of cardboard to aid in its preservation.  I think I had used it as one of the poems I chose to memorize (along with “Out to Old Aunt  Mary’s,” ” The Wreck of the Hesperus” and “The Children’s Hour”) when I was in grade school.

I don’t know how much I actually listened to the messages of poems back then, but I do know that something prompted me not to just dream of those forks in the road but to make a decision and to take a chance.  Perhaps it was this poem.  Perhaps it was the fact that my parents rarely held me back when I had a chance to travel or experience something different.  Well, no, they didn’t let me take the Seventeen trip to Europe when I was eleven, but short of that, they encouraged me to reach out and experience life away from the town of 700 where I lived.

When I was a teenager, I traveled all over the state for district meetings for my MYF.  I attended church camps in the Black Hills and Lake Poinsett and traveled by bus to a U.N. Seminar when I was a junior in high school.

When it came time to go to college, I was quick to choose an out-of-state college and in my junior year again chose to travel–this time around the world on the U.S.S. Ryndaam as a student on World Camput Afloat––a university extension of Chapman College in Orange, CA.  We traveled for four months, stopping in countries around the world, studying their cultures, taking practicum side trips and in some cases taking off on our own.  The first country I did this in was in Kenya, where my newly met friend Pamn and I rented a little Fiat and took off on our own to have a few adventures.

My sister told me afterwards that she had been the one to encourage my folks to let me go, telling them it would get the travel bug out of my system, but if you’ve been following my blog for long, you know that just didn’t happen.  Immediatley after college, I emigrated to Australia and after a few years there, I traveled overland as much as possible to Africa, where I stayed for two years. After that travel was a summer and vacation experience until I moved to California thirty-five years ago and then Mexico fifteen years ago.  At each of these junctures, there was a fork in the road of my ife and each time, I made the decision and took it. Nine times, by my own counting, and in that time, although I’ve split a few pants seams, it was more due to local cuisine than to indecision.

 

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fork/

Java 101

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Java 101

It was 1965, my freshman year at the University of Wyoming, and once again I was venturing out into the world by going home for the first time with a college friend. On our first night in her hometown, we dressed up and drove to the “Halfway House,” halfway between Worland and Thermopolis, for three inch steaks and, even though we were all just 18, because her parents had called ahead with permission, for one Sloe Gin Fizz or Tom Collins each.

The next morning, we awoke with aching heads and fuzzy tongues to the smell of coffee–Pat’s mother at the kitchen table pouring a cup for each of us, refilling her own mug, refilling the pot with water and more coffee and setting it back on the burner to perk.

For the four days we were there, the pot was never turned off between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and it was never empty except for the minute between pouring the last cup and filling it up to perk a new one.

We were a caffeine society predating the caffeine craze of the 90’s. The later craze coincided, not coincidentally, with the formation of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and stricter drunk driving laws; but in the 60’s and 70’s, we drank coffee as an antidote to hangovers, not as a replacement!

It was a shared vice for which we could imagine no drawbacks. No calories. No fat. Pretty cheap. Unlike the cigarettes we all lit up to accompany our coffee drinking and talks around the table, there was not the least whisper of any negative effects of coffee. It kept us awake during studying for finals and during long nighttime drives between towns in Dakota and Wyoming and helped us wash down our NoDoz. (more caffeine!)

It would be thirty-five years in our future before we turned from those endless cups of hot java sipped from between swirling curtains of cigarette smoke. Driven by morning coughs, short breath and nagging doctors and kids, we would give up first the cigarettes, then, encouraged by aching joints, insomnia or too many trips to the bathroom, we would give up the coffee.

But still, the biting smell of coffee brewing in a pot or urn conjures up memories of Mack’s cafe, where endless chipped white mugs of coffee marked our maturity from preteens to adults. Those first 100 cups choked down while holding our breaths had inured us–initiated us–led to our addiction to and lust for caffeine–until we loved the acrid taste. Black. No sugar. Aspartame was just a future gleam in some chemist’s eye and no one had heard of latte, mocha, jamocha or espresso. No one had ever heard the word cappuccino except in an occasional spelling bee where it was misspelled along with the rest of the obscure words. Although everyone drank coffee, no one had yet iced it, foamed it or whip creamed it. No one had thought to float chocolate curls or cinnamon in it. We just drank it, like truckers, black–from the ever-plenteous pot.

It is almost 10 a.m. and In the absence of a Daily Prompt, I am declaring my own prompt and inviting anyone who reads this to follow along and post on yesterday’s prompt page, as I am.  The subject is Coffee!!  Make of it what you will.  And please link to this page as well. https://judydykstrabrown.com/2015/07/14/java-101/

Ah, finally, at noon.  Here came the prompt, which is to write about something I did that I’d advise no one else to do.  Well, first of all I’m posting the link to this post and then I’ll see about writing a new one. So instead of not doing as I did, please do do as I did and write an additional prompt today about Coffee and send a link to my blog through comments!

John Wayne and I

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When the Union Pacific Railroad was finally completed on May 10,1869, it was a cause for great celebration. A very good source describing the somewhat hilarious ceremony may be found here, but a segment from that source follows as a background for my own story:

A railroad linking America’s east and west coasts had been a dream almost since the steam locomotive made its first appearance in the early 1830s. The need for such a link was dramatized by the discovery of gold in California in 1848 that brought thousands to the West Coast. At that time only two routes to the West were available: by wagon across the plains or by ship around South America. Traveling either of these could take four months or more to complete.

Although everyone thought a transcontinental railroad was a good idea, deep disagreement arose over its path. The Northern states favored a northern route while the Southern states pushed for a southern route. This log jam was broken in 1861 with the secession of the Southern states from the Union that allowed Congress to select a route running through Nebraska to California.

Construction of the railroad presented a daunting task requiring the laying of over 2000 miles of track that stretched through some the most forbidding landscape on the continent. Tunnels would have to be blasted out of the mountains, rivers bridged and wilderness tamed. Two railroad companies took up the challenge. The Union Pacific began laying track from Omaha to the west while the Central Pacific headed east from Sacramento.

Progress was slow initially, but the pace quickened with the end of the Civil War. Finally the two sets of railroad tracks were joined and the continent united with elaborate ceremony at Promontory, Utah on May 10, 1869. The impact was immediate and dramatic. Travel time between America’s east and west coasts was reduced from months to less than a week.

The ceremony at Promontory culminated with Governor Stanford of California (representing the Central Pacific Railroad) and Thomas Durant (president of the Union Pacific Railroad) taking turns pounding a Golden Spike into the final tie that united the railroad’s east and west sections. As the spike was struck, telegraph signals simultaneously alerted San Francisco and New York City, igniting a celebratory cacophony of tolling bells and cannon fire in each city.
“It was a very hilarious occasion; everybody had all they wanted to drink…”
http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/goldenspike.htm

It will probably come as no surprise that in 1969 it was decided to have a huge ceremony honoring the 100th anniversary of the “Wedding of the Rails” in Utah. To that end, two trains set out—one from the easternmost point of the track and the other from the westernmost point. These trains were destined to meet at the original point of their joining, but since they were filled with dignitaries, they made numerous stops along the way with celebrations at each point where they stopped.

In 1969, I was attending university in Laramie, Wyoming. It was announced that John Wayne and Glen Campbell would be on one of the trains and that they would do a whistle stop where they would both say a few words before continuing on to the ceremony. Now it just so happened that this event coincided with Sigma Chi Derby Days—an annual event that consisted of a number of challenges whereby campus groups could assemble points. What the prize was I can’t remember, but I do remember that one of the contests was to gain the signature of the most famous person, and I happened to know that John Wayne himself had been a Sigma Chi. If I could somehow gain his signature, we would have it made in the shade for that particular challenge.

And so on the prescribed day, we were off, fully laden, with five of us filling the seats of my little red Ford Galaxy. How we would get close enough to the train to gain the autograph, I did not know, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

There was, as may be expected, a huge crowd at the Laramie train station, and we waited in anticipation for the train. Finally, it came up, sounding its whistle, flags waving. Several men came out to a small stage that had been constructed just in front of the train. Finally, Glen Campbell came out, but no John Wayne. We were puzzled when the speeches started without him. What could have happened to John Wayne? Finally, I was hit with one of those instant inspirations often depicted by a light bulb going off over someone’s head in cartoon bubbles.

“I bet he got off the train to fly back to California!” No one disagreed and it was my car, so off we sped to the airport, which was several miles outside of town. We drove well over the speed limit down the two-lane nearly carless road. As we approached the airport, we could see no larger planes loading, but there was one smaller private plane. We went speeding up to the airport. “I’ll go see what’s going on with that small plane,” I told my friends, springing from the door almost as soon as the car had come to a screeching halt. I went running out onto the field—not hard to do in a small airport in those years before airport security­—and ran smack dab into a man who was walking toward the plane from the opposite direction. “Well, whoa, there, little lady. Where ya goin?” said the brick wall I’d just run into.

“I’m trying to find John Wayne. Do you know if he might be in that plane?” I asked.

“Nope, I’m pretty sure he’s not,” said the man, “because he’s standing right here!”

I looked up—way up—and sure enough. There he was with his hands still on my forearms where he had caught me just before I ran into him broadside!

Yes. It was a surreal experience. And it was even more surreal when I explained about the points and he said, “Well, would it give ya more points if instead of delivering my autograph you could deliver me?” I said it sure would, and we had reached my car and my somewhat astonished friends had piled four in the back for him to climb into the front seat with me when a harried looking man came running out from the landing field shouting, “John, John! What are you doing?”

Long story short, John Wayne did not come back to campus with us. His manager managed to persuade him it was not in his best interests given that something in California was important enough to warrant his immediate return. But, I did get his signature and no, I did not turn it in for Sigma Chi Derby Days. To this day, it resides in a square of a memory box—one of the kind popular in the sixties and seventies that is made out of an old newspaper print box—and as proof, I include a picture below.

And yes, of course John Wayne was three sheets to the wind, for in keeping with the original rail-joining ceremony, “It was a very hilarious occasion; everybody had all they wanted to drink…”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/whoa/

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For another great story about how Garry Armstrong met John Wayne, go here: http://teepee12.com/2016/01/08/the-duke-and-garry-a-pilgrims-tale-garry-armstrong/

The Prompt:  What’s the most surreal experience you’ve ever had?

My earlier post wouldn’t pingback to the Daily Prompt site, so I had to repost.  Here are comments from that earlier post:

lifelessons
grieflessons.wordpress.com
jubob2@hotmail.com
189.169.119.208

This seems to be a day for synchronicities. Did you read Mark Aldrich’s piece? Today is also my best friend’s birthday and I need to call her as well. Your mentioning your birthday reminded me of hers, so the chain goes on. Thanks for your kind words, Anton.

Mark Aldrich
thegadabouttown.wordpress.com
markaldrich68@hotmail.com
68.174.46.193

I wonder why that did not ping properly.

That is a treasure of a story.

Anton Wills-Eve
antonwillseve.com
willseve@aol.com
78.144.91.230

Judy you should have been a journalist! One of the best and most interesting posts I’ve ever read.Well done, but tell me, how did you know May 10 was my birthday? Seriously, it is. Anton. 🙂