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(original story circa 2002)

Each week Mom used to pack me up in the front seat of an old Packard and drive through the Indiana countryside to a spot not far away, where a train track cut through miles and miles of cornfields. I stood patiently counting crows that congregated on twin vanishing strips of telephone wires, narrowing towards each corn tipped horizon. After a while the tracks began to vibrate softly, loosening tiny grains of sand that danced where they touched the magic steel rails. With each passing second my little boy’s brain filled with the thrill of an as-yet unseen locomotive, soon to be overwhelmed by the slow, steady rumble of an approaching train.

Train time!” shouted Mom.

Where the tracks curved out of view, hidden by corn stalks and refracted sunlight, a wondrous engine appeared. A single headlamp — brighter than the sun — flashed momentarily; then, a piercing shriek from a  whistle that scattered crows in all directions. Just to be sure, Mom held my hand in hers, and together we felt the rush and massive displacement as the engine pounded past; a wave from the friendly engineer, another screech from the whistle just for me. The wheels growled with a steel-on-steel voice so deep and regular and resonating it made my insides ache. The pavement all around shook and shook and shook. Unimaginably huge cars thundered past — each one with a different sound — and in-between each tonal shift, stroboscopic shadows flickered rhythmically where sunlight was interrupted.

Boom, boom, boom, boom. . .

All too soon the caboose rattled past, cartoon-like, chasing the diminishing train back into the cornfields. The dancing grains of sand and sound subsided along with my pounding heartbeat.

(present day)

Tim says: this is one of my all-time favorite Simply Tims, ever.

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copyright© 2015 by Simply Tim’s Blog Spot

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“And the Moon be Still as Bright”*.

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Best Cap Pistol in the World!

Like most of us, in the weeks before Christmas I used to sneak around trying to discover hidden presents from Mom and Dad before they were wrapped. Each year they were hidden in a different place. One year I found a small stash in an attic trunk. There, neatly tucked in a doll-covered corner, was a shiny Mattel Fanner-50 — simply the coolest cap gun in the whole wide world. And beside it, a blue plastic Wham-O boomerang.

Oh, boy, ohboyohboy!

Christmas Eve crept and crawled closer ever so slowly, but eventually it arrived — the night our family tradition dictated opening presents underneath the tree. I tore open present after present, and with each crinkling of wrapping paper, with each snipping of a Christmas-colored ribbon:

NO Fanner-50 cap pistol!

Who could Mom and Dad have given it to? Had I really seen it in the attic trunk after all? I pouted for the rest of the evening. Even snicker doodles and milk didn’t help.

Christmas Morning.

I rushed downstairs to see what Santa had brought, and — by golly — there was the Fanner-50 glinting under the tree, already loaded with caps and tucked inside a quick-draw leather holster, right beside the blue Wham-O boomerang!

But how could that be? Did Santa know about the attic, too?

That was the year I killed Santa, shot him dead with a Mattel Fanner-50. And unlike that boomerang, he would never return.

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If I Just Listen.

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It was late afternoon and the sun was setting along a distant tree line; it looked like an iridescent ping pong ball on fire. Below it, dancing in squiggly lines on the surface of the lake, orange reflections intersected in a tirelessly changing pattern as same and as different as each rippling of the molten waves.

This was my favorite time of day — one to be shared with a glass of wine and light jazz drifting through the deck’s screened patio doors. As I leaned against the rail and breathed in the gauze-like serenity of twilight, the buzz of the renegade deer fly replaced the meandering lacework from an intricate Hank Jones piano solo.

Ah, HA! My pulse quickened.

As the fly drew nearer, I carefully set down the glass of Pinot Noir and turned my head slightly, zeroing in on the approaching flight path. Just as the greedy fly circled for the kill, I slipped a tennis racket from behind my back and instigated a 100 mile-per-hour practice swing along a perfectly intersecting arc. There came an infinitely pleasing “PING” as the racket made brief but solid contact with a fuzzy, foreign object.

Two separate fly-pieces spiraled all the way out to deep water.

I sipped my wine and wiped the gritty residue from the tennis racket’s webbing, replacing the racket in its neat, zippered case. As the sun dipped into the still water, somewhere in the distance a bass jumped.

Twice.

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The pin on the 150 yard par three gently fluttered in the breeze, half hidden behind an intimidating sand bunker. Beyond the hole sat a brand new Lincoln Towne Car — the prize for a hole-in-one. Closest to the hole would pay about $500. Not a bad closing hole for last week’s Captain’s Choice Best-Ball golf tournament.

I stood on the tee and gazed out over the taunting lake that protected the front of the green. I pointed the hand-drawn line on my golf ball directly at the pin and carefully placed it on the tee. I would only have one shot at the glimmering luxury car, but deep down I already knew that car was mine. As I addressed the ball I noticed the pin’s flag stiffen to the right. A hefty breeze had sprung out of nowhere. I waited for a few seconds. The wind intensified. I stooped and re-targeted my golf ball exactly eight feet to the left of the hole.

SWACK!

The ball sailed on a perfect arc. Up, up it went. Over the lake, over the bunker — WAY up. Then, as if kissed by an angel, it dropped straight toward the cup. It was a thing of beauty. Behind me, my foursome buddies gasped out loud.

THWOP!

The ball landed perfectly pin high, stopping dead, exactly eight feet to the left of the hole.

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One of my favorite 1950s childhood toys was a shiny blue record player that had a huge round arm with a stylus as thick as a pencil lead. For hours every day, I sat on the floor in a pool of sunlight listening to the 78 rpm “The Flying Circus” album over and over again. Although I can’t be sure this is the correct title (I’ve searched for hours and it is not the Monty Python version!), I recall a particular opening scene in which a pin is dropped from a high trapeze. Down, down the pin hypnotically plunges into the center of a three ring circus, where a sinister ringmaster whispers: “It’s so quiet you can hear a pin drop!”

With eyes tightly shut, listening, listening, listening, I would drift away. A rustle of movement, a gray hulk of elephant the size of a mountain, the scent of popcorn and fresh manure. Sunlight tries to pry past my eyelids, where grease-painted clowns chase themselves in figure 8’s until they catch up with their own shadows. In a swirling cloud of sawdust, the circus tent is sucked into a diminishing spotlight like a black hole until the tent vanishes completely with me inside. A little boy frog materializes and discovers an ox grazing in a field. Awestruck by the size of the ox, the little frog hops home to tell his bullfrog father what he saw.

“Was he bigger than… THIS?” asks Daddy Bullfrog, inflating his balloon-like throat sac.

“Oh, MUCH bigger, Daddy, but—be CAREFUL!”

“Bigger than T  H  I  S ?” puffs up Daddy Bullfrog, even larger.

“POP!” goes the terrifying sound of Daddy Bullfrog exploding! Then, a kid’s song while the little boy frog happily patches Daddy Bullfrog up with a Band-Aid. There was an important “be who you are” lesson about life in those lyrics:

“Who wants to look like an ox anyway?
Hippity, Dippity, Dox.”

Although The Flying Circus allure — like most childish things — eventually wore off and the little blue record player was tossed away, the scratchy sounds and crisp images still swirl upon occasion inside my merry-go-round mind. And sometimes, very late at night, as I lie awake and secretly replay scenes from my childhood — imagining those grooves spiraling towards the center hole of that far away phonograph record galaxy — the darkness becomes so deathly still I can almost hear a pin drop.

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Tim says: the above lyrics are what I recall. When I searched on the Who wants to look like an ox lyrics, I discovered several references to the bullfrog analogy, none of which, unfortunately, pertained to my forgotten childhood album.

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