Life in a box

I have seen incredibly few concerts and shows through the years.

The first was in probably the eighth or ninth grade, a group billed as Dawn played all the hits of Tony Orlando and Dawn in an empty building at the Gregg County Fairgrounds. I don’t know if they were actually related to the real group. In college, I saw Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in G. Rollie White Coliseum and, yes, they played “Mr. Bojangles.” Only the latter performance was to a crowd. There weren’t many others except for The Crickets, the surviving members of Buddy Holly’s band, which also performed before a sparse gathering.

Notable exceptions have been theatrical performances by college and community groups.

And … in the spring of 1976 at Texas A&M University … I saw Marcel Marceau exhibit his genre-defining mime performances, what he called “the art of silence.”

It was perhaps the most dominating showcase of an art form one could see. OK, I’m really not qualified to make such an evaluation, but he moved me to that degree … 47 years ago.

Yesterday, March 22, would have been Marceau’s 100th birthday. He died in September 2007 at 84 years old, after more than 60 years of performing around the globe. (Think, he never had to worry about language barriers!)

But I’ve learned his stake in history runs deeper than entertainment.

As a young Jewish man, he lived in hiding and worked with the French Resistance during much of World War II. As a member of the Jewish Resistance in France, he helped rescue Jews during the Holocaust. In 1944, his father was captured by the Germans and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was killed. Marcel Marceau and his older brother, Alain, helped rescue numerous children during the war, according to this Wikipedia article. Finally, after joining the French army and being fluent in French, English and German, he worked as a liaison officer with U.S. Gen. George Patton’s Third Army.

Yeah, like most people, his background included more than the casual observer could discern.

The raw emotions he loudly illustrated in silence were likely familiar topics for him, but he used them to create beautiful messages for the rest of us.

Happy birthday, Monsieur Marceau.

Out cold

Photo by Steve Martaindale

I’ve participated in sports from Little League through high school football and a round of intramural wrestling in college and softball into my late 50s. I crashed my bicycle a few times, tumbled down a mountain in western Texas, was threatened to have my head bashed in by a mugger, and so on.

There have been a couple of broken bones, numerous stitches, and countless bruises and pulled muscles.

But the only time I’ve been knocked unconscious, it was while playing on my knees with my baby sister.

I was in the fourth grade, so I’m guessing Brenda was 2. The house we lived in at the time was new, built by my mother’s uncle with the assistance of my father. It was the only house we ever lived in with a concrete foundation.

It was roomier than we actually needed, I guess, because I cannot recall them ever putting any real furniture in the front living room, so we often used it for play. I particularly remember bouncing all over the room while batting multiple balloons into the air.

The time I was knocked out, however, there was no wild activity going on. Brenda was sitting, as I picture it, and I was kneeling. We were rolling a ball back and forth. And I’m pretty sure I remember losing my balance while reaching for the ball and falling forward.

This is where the foundation is important. The living room had a not-too-thick carpet installed over the concrete floor … no real cushion.

The next thing I was aware of was waking up on the sofa in the den with all kinds of hubbub occurring above me. I later heard the rest of the story.

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We kids were home alone at the time, which wasn’t a big deal. My brother, Ward, and I were about 9 and 10 and were quite responsible, including taking care of Brenda. Plus, this was in the day people knew their neighbors, including the Pace family to our right and the Smiths to our left, the latter also being an adult cousin of ours, Yvonne.

Somehow, Ward found me knocked out on the living room floor. I’m not sure if Brenda alerted him in some way. He ran next door to get Yvonne. As they turned into the carport, I was walking out the door and started falling again. The story I got was she caught me just before my head met the concrete again.

My parents had only gone down the road to Mr. Norman’s 7-Eleven store, a place my dad sometimes worked when he wasn’t at the fire station. The store’s five-digit number was, for that reason, posted above the phone.

Yvonne first called the fire department. For the younger readers tuned in, we didn’t have emergency medical services anything like what you see now. The only ambulance in our city – and this wasn’t uncommon – was operated by the local funeral home. No, you wouldn’t be the first to recognize the potential for a conflict of interest.

Her next call was to the grocery store, only two blocks from the fire station. By the time my parents got to the car, the fire truck was passing by; they followed it the half mile to our home. The part of the story my dad always like to tell was that Mother was still clenching the Coca-Cola bottle from the store. However, when she hopped out of the car, she flung it and almost hit one of the firefighters. (I’ll remind you, my dad worked in that fire house, so these were all buddies of his.)

So, that was the hubbub that greeted me once I came to. Instead of playing with my baby sister on the floor, I was looking up at my parents, a couple of firefighters, my cousin and my siblings. And who knows how many neighbors were by then gathering outside to see what was going on.

“Nothing to see here, folks, just a kid playing ball with his baby sister.”


Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. Photo by Steve Martaindale

In the fall of 2011, I acquired a designation nobody really wants … until they become eligible for it and then greatly desire it: cancer survivor.

To be honest, I long hesitated claiming the label because my bladder cancer was caught early, was completely removed, and we’re able to easily monitor it in order to catch any recurrences.

My approach shifted somewhat during a cruise in the spring of 2018. Holland America Line features a fund-raising 5k walk around the promenade deck on each cruise. Monies raised are passed to five cancer organizations in five different countries.

Joining Leah and me were our cruising buddies, Deb and Steve. I was, at this time, more than six years cancer-free, but Deb had only recently won her first battle with breast cancer. The four of us found a crowd of participants waiting for the walk to begin, but those running things called for all cancer survivors to come forward.

It was incredibly moving to be cheered by everyone, made even more powerful because the number of survivors was not nearly as large as I expected.

Our little group was then asked to lead off the walk. Leah and Steve never caught up with Deb and I as we circled the deck some 10 times. We talked about many things, I’m sure, but we especially shared memories and experiences about our respective cancer ordeals.

Bottom line, I came out of that morning stroll in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean feeling permission to refer to myself as a cancer survivor.

On cancer watch

First of all, allow me to refer you to a compilation of my experiences. I wrote about what happened in some detail and it’s still available online by clicking here. My purpose was and remains to, first, spread the word that spotting urine in one’s blood is a call to check it out, not just hope it goes away. Second, I hope to make it easier for someone dealing with bladder cancer by explaining what I went through.

I don’t think any cancer survivor feels much confidence they have totally and decidedly defeated the disease. It was made clear to me even before the first surgery that there is a good chance the cancer will return. To combat that possibility, I’ve been going in regularly – annually for the past several years – for a cystoscopy, where a camera is inserted into my bladder through the urethra and the fleshy walls are examined for anything suspicious.

My original urologist retired some years ago. My new doctor added a biennial MRI (or CT scan … why can I not keep those straight?)

Last September, the scan was clear, and we began the visual inspection primed to declare me “11 years cancer-free.”

But there was something a little different. A small area of the bladder wall had a red discoloration, much akin to a rash in my interpretation. The urologist said she was confident it was nothing serious but wanted to get a biopsy to make sure. After all, that’s why we do these every year.

I was about to begin a 10-week job near Houston, so we put it off. Holidays and then our trip to Spain pushed it back some more until March 8.

Of course, while she was taking a sample for the biopsy, she went ahead and removed the suspected area.

Looking good?

The biggest difference between this and my first two surgeries was my first doctor had me wear a catheter for three full days, but now she wanted me to put up with it for a solid week. Wednesday morning, a nurse removed the catheter and I’ve been steadily improving ever since.

It’s now my doctor’s turn to take a vacation and she wasn’t there this week (no surprise, as she told me in advance), so I still have not received her official word on the outcome of the tests.


The hospital with which she is associated has an online patient portal. There, sure enough, I found a 14-word synopsis from the radiologist that began with “Minute benign …” and ended with, “Negative for dysplasia or malignancy.” Not confident enough in my interpretation, I ran it by my pharmacist son-in-law for his opinion, which came back, “That looks to me like you are clear!”

So, now, I am guardedly proclaiming myself 11 and a half years cancer-free.


On our most recent cruise a year ago, I joined the deck walk again. They called cancer survivors to an open area before things began in order to grab a photo.

I had gotten down on one knee in the front and then assisted an older man, wearing a Vietnam veteran cap, as he lowered himself down next to me.

“Mine was prostate cancer,” he said. “What about you?”

I will never again hesitate to happily don the mantle “cancer free.”

Valuable memories

Even those who think we’re making headway addressing our racism problem must admit that it’s much too slow. Photo by Steve Martaindale

Recent events brought to mind a memory that otherwise likely would not have made it into my memoirs collection.

Sometime in the mid-1990s, I had lunch with Scott Adams, creator of the hugely successful comic strip “Dilbert,” which was ripe with office satire and over-the-top parodies of workplace life. He was a rock star in the business.

Don’t be misled by the comment he and I lunched together. It was at a gathering of newspaper editors and he was a speaker. He also got a free lunch out of it and happened to sit at the table with me and several others.

That’s it. That’s my memory. Seriously, I don’t remember anything that was said. I don’t even recall if he was witty and funny in person.

Yes, the only reason that meal floats to the top of my brain today is because Scott Adams’ career has sunk to the bottom of the pit this past several days. After he made racist comments in which he encouraged white people to “just get the hell away” from black people, whom he labeled “a hate group,” he quickly found newspaper after newspaper dropping his strip, followed by the company that distributed it.

And that, my friend, brings back other memories, all of which I recall better than I do a chicken lunch 25 years ago.


1. As a boy, probably in the early 1960s, I accompanied my mother to the laundry. On the plate glass window was painted, “NO MAIDS.” That seemed strange. Wouldn’t maids have a particular need to do laundry? When I asked my mother, she explained that meant they did not want black people in the business. To be honest, she probably used the term “colored people,” which at that time and place was deemed by whites to be the best to use in public.

2. The burger joint we sometimes visited had two walk-up windows in the front of the building. Patrons parked their cars in front, placed their order at one of the windows and received it there, usually returning to their cars to eat or driving off. However, I noticed another window on the side of the building. That, my father told me, was for black customers.

3. Later that decade, schools in our area of northeast Texas were finally being integrated. My school – Pine Tree ISD in western Longview – merged black and white students the year of 1966-67. At nearby Longview ISD, however, desegregation was deeply opposed and things came to a head after a federal judge laid down the law. On the night of July 4, 1970, two men got into the school district’s maintenance yard and placed 24 nitroglycerine explosives under the buses, damaging 33 buses in all. I also remember being ridiculed on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” on national television.

4. A couple of years later, I was attending a playoff football game. Sitting in the bleachers, I heard a guy yell out, “Hey, get your (N-word omitted) off our colored boy,” to laughter from fellow fans.

You get the idea.

No recollection

One thing I do not remember – most certainly because I was never told – was learning that my hometown was the site of race riots in 1919.

The root of the riots, according to this article on, was a familiar one. Whites were upset that blacks were establishing their own businesses. As tensions rose, two white men beat a black man after alleging he made advances to their sister.

The black man, Lemuel Walters, was arrested and jailed. A white mob demanded the prisoner, who was handed over to them, shot and killed.

The story eventually reached national newspapers, which angered whites in Longview who blamed a black newspaper correspondent. Things escalated with more beatings, gunfire, burning of homes and buildings, and death. Texas Rangers were sent in, followed by martial law and soldiers.

Similarly …

In a article noting the 50th anniversary of the school bus bombing less than three years ago, Longview ISD superintendent James E. Wilcox acknowledged there was nothing in any of the schools’ curriculum teaching students about the bombing.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana

The superintendent did say he was committed to changing that, so it may be different now.

But one could be excused for being skeptical about change. Remember that judicial order in 1970? It wasn’t until 2018 – 48 years later – that the school was released as having finally fulfilled that order.


Of course, one must understand and accept there is a problem before it can be addressed.

A couple of years ago, I got a call from an old friend. She asked where we were working that summer. When I told her we were in New York, she asked, “Aren’t you scared?” Of what? “Aren’t you afraid of antifa?”

“Since ‘antifa’ stands for anti-fascism,” I replied, “then I guess you must count me among them.”

She had accepted without research the fear-peddling of too many conservatives. As I explained there was no real organization and certainly no danger, our conversation moved a bit through history.

She listened, but she could not seem to accept it.

“So, do you think we were racist?” she asked.

I understand her confusion. Those of us living a privileged life can find it extremely difficult to see the challenges others face that we don’t.

Shortly after George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, I posted an article here quoting my pastor, David Wilman, exhorting us to recognize that “America has a racism problem.”

Said he: “… this nation is suffering because of a racism problem. And it’s the kind of insidious racism that has pushed people down for generations, pushing people down so hard that they are seen as ‘less than.’ They are treated as less than. People don’t have access to health care, they don’t have access to opportunity, they don’t even have access to equal pay or any kind of equal treatment. Things need to change, and it needs to start now.”

Summary and action

The words of a cartoonist whose work had already “jumped the shark” (“Rapid demise of ‘Dilbert’ is no surprise to those watching,” by David Bauder, the Associated Press) serve up yet another reminder that racism is indeed a continuing problem in this country.

However, the response that clipped his voice of hatred is encouraging, a small light of hope.

To be sure, more and more people are becoming aware and are taking a stand, but it is painfully slow. Consider revisiting another post from 2020, the story of a white man from Australia who stood up for equal rights during the 1968 Olympics, fully realizing doing so would likely end his athletic career.

In a world of haters, be a Peter Norman.


These days, I’m more likely to participate in a walk that’s less competitive than golf. Photo by Steve Martaindale

“Do you even play golf?” I was asked the other day.

Well, what do you mean by “play”?

My first journalism job, as a sportswriter with the Longview, Texas, twice-a-day newspaper, began in September. The fellow who hired me had been with the paper some 14 years, but he left in October to take another job and we soon had a new leader.

John Inman took over at the worst time for a Texas sports editor, smack dab in the middle of football season, but things seemed to work out smoothly and, by that winter, we had time for a little fun. John thought that his two sportswriters (the other guy had only been there a few weeks ahead of me) should learn to golf, and I bought a set of used clubs from a pawn shop.

We met at 8 a.m. almost every Wednesday at Longview Country Club, where we “learned” the game.

Now, Longview Country Club, which is not and never was in the city of Longview, was a great place to begin. Back then, the 18-hole course had nary a sand trap nor a water feature to play around. In fact, it didn’t have many trees, so losing golf balls wasn’t a huge worry, even for someone at my level.

But I needed more help than that. There never was a breakthrough. While I enjoyed a pretty shot here and there, consistency was absent except when I was consistently bad. I never broke 100 in 18 holes. Once, I hit 49 on the front nine before bombing out on the back. I wasn’t any good and it frustrated me.

A year into our golf education, I moved to Texas A&M to resume more traditional schooling and chasing a little round ball became secondary.

Over the next 20 or so years, I played occasionally. It became more fun because I was no longer trying to improve my game but was simply enjoying myself. Now, it’s been about 25 years since I’ve played a round.

So, do I play golf?

If you’re asking if I’m any good at it, the answer is no.

If you’re asking if I’m currently playing regularly, another no.

If you’re asking if I’d be willing to go out and give it another try … maybe.


Spotted this message on the island of Curacao in 2015. Photo by Steve Martaindale.

Let’s talk about the people who pass through a child’s life, perhaps making a deep impression with relatively simple acts.

My first thought is of the man who introduced my brother and me to roller skating.

As I remember, he was a friend of my father’s and for some reason suggested one day that he take us to the local skating rink. I would have been no more than 6 years old and Ward a year younger. Nowadays, when a story starts like that, one thinks, “Oh, no,” but there was no drama except for me seeing how fast I could skate without splashing against the rail.

When I first started to write this, I thought of the man’s name as Ray … then Red … and finally Brownie. I’m not positive of either one, but I’m leaning heavily on Brownie at this point, recognizing well it may have been my father’s nickname for him.

I do not remember how long this experience with Brownie lasted, but I enjoyed roller skating into my high school years, thanks to a man I know nothing else about.

Big trip

My sophomore year in high school, our track and field team was awesome and headed into the state meet with a good chance to win it all. I do not recall even trying to wrangle a trip to Austin for the competition. Since our dad owned and ran a convenience store, things like that did not happen easily.

Again, I know not how it came about, but Ward and I were extended the offer of a trip to the state meet. This particular angel I knew a little better. He answered to the nickname Smitty.

We stayed one night in a motel – a LaQuinta on what was then the northern fringes of Austin. Early the next morning, I made my first of what would become many state track meet visits to the University of Texas.

Oh, yeah, our boys team clinched the state championship during the final event, the mile relay.

A village

None of this is new. We’ve all heard the proverb that originated in ancient communal societies, most notably in Africa, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Parents need a hand. At the very least, they can benefit from help.

So many adults – and even older children – contribute to the care and education of youth. Keeping an eye on them while parents run to the store. Housing them during a family emergency. Carrying them to school or to religious services. Helping cover participation fees for events. Coaching youth teams and leading organizations. Providing a sleepover to offer new experiences. Even intervening when a parent is the problem.

Let’s hear it for our villagers.

Of an age

Papa and Mama Martaindale.

Technical issues are preventing the timely posting of this piece. However, it is being written on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, a matter that contains some importance we will get to later.

I had three grandfathers, but only one Papa.

My mother’s biological father died when she was about 5 years old. I’ve always known that, as well as the story he died as the result of an abscessed tooth, but hardly anything more.

My mother acquired a stepfather when she was, I believe, in high school. She called him Leonard and they were obviously not close … something I think is not unusual considering family dynamics. I called him Pa.

Pa was a good enough grandfather, though. I have a number of good memories – picking cotton at his place in West Texas, the pocket watch he kept in the vest of his coveralls, the Christmas morning he insisted we leave our presents to look at a “robin” in the front yard only to reveal a deep wonderland of snow.

He died in June 1974. I took a day off from my summer job to drive to Oklahoma for the funeral, which led to an invitation from my uncle who lived in Idaho that concluded in me taking my first big trip to visit him at the end of the summer.

Finally, my grandfather on my dad’s side was the man I called Papa. This is about him.

I’ve always felt a particular attachment to him, partly because he, my father and I shared a middle name. The truth, though, is I only have three strong memories of him because he died when I was only 3 years old.

Memory No. 1: My brother and I were at his home and he was giving us rides on his back while he ran around the living room floor on his hands and knees. For whatever reason, it was so much fun. I also remember looking through a crack in the floor and seeing the ground underneath.

Memory No. 2: We walked from his home, my younger brother and I each holding one of his hands, to a little store down the street. As I remember, his mission was to pick up a carton of eggs. As a bonus, Ward and I each scored a candy bar.

Memory No. 3: I was standing next to his casket in the funeral home; he was dead of a cerebral hemorrhage, lying inside. Certainly, there was considerable discussion between my parents and perhaps my grandmother as to whether I should have this experience, but I’ve always been thankful for it.

I must add it is likely that another reason I felt a strong attachment to this man I knew so briefly was because his widow, the grandmother I called Mama, lived another 35 years. I spent a lot of time with her and she was always talking about the man she called Jackson – that middle name we shared.

Jan. 24, 2023

Back to this date.

A couple of months ago, I was researching something, came across Papa’s date of death and it struck me: I’m at that age now.

Specifically, on this date, I am 68 years and 107 days old, the age of Papa when he died.

Morbid? Perhaps. But I remember, years and years ago, wondering if I would live to be as old as Papa. It seemed like such a long time. It doesn’t seem quite so long now.


An alligator soaking up some sun at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas. Photo by Steve Martaindale

And then there was the time I wrestled a wild, live alligator.

It took place in Bay City, Texas. Being less than 20 miles from East Matagorda Bay, and just off the banks of the Colorado River, and with plenty of irrigation canals and storm ditches, the idea of alligators in the area certainly isn’t difficult to believe, but I never thought I’d find one in the middle of town in the bed of a pickup truck.

It was a Sunday, the only day of the week things were not happening at the daily newspaper where I worked. I entered the building and found the keys to the circulation department’s pickup hanging where they were supposed to be.

That was a good start. Without the pickup I was allowed to borrow, moving that piano from our church to our home would not happen and the two or three guys from work who were showing up to help would have done so in vain.

I did a double-take, however, as I approached the door of the truck. Tied up in the bed was an American alligator.

This presented a problem. You see, I really needed this truck.

The gator seemed tied up well enough that it probably couldn’t bite me unless it broke free. The tail was concerning, though. It wasn’t huge, but it was still an alligator. Before I worried too much about those things, I needed a plan for what to do with it.

I surmised (correctly, I later learned) that someone delivering newspapers the previous evening came across the reptile and, for what I must assume they thought was a good reason, decided it needed to be relocated. I knew local game wardens had the habit of taking trespassing alligators to a more remote spot and freeing them.

But what was I to do? Releasing the critter, even if I had the nerve to remove the ropes, was not a good choice, being that we were on a busy thoroughfare with a residential area immediately behind us. I searched the area for an answer.

I really needed this truck.

My eyes landed on a 30-gallon plastic trash can.


I cannot clearly picture in my mind just how I got the alligator into the can. This was about 40 years ago, after all. But I’m pretty sure it had something to do with scooting the can to take in the gator’s head while strategically untying the ropes that had it bound to the truck. Soon enough, the deed was done and I dragged can and gator to a shady area near the door, covered part of the top with cardboard and left a warning message on it.

To my relief, when I later returned the truck, the gator had been removed.

Leadership lesson

The University of Georgia’s Monday night beatdown of TCU for football’s Division I national championship somehow brought up the memory of what I’ve always held as one of the best lessons I’ve encountered on leadership.

I ask some of you to bear with me. This is not another sports story.

We were entering the final week of the 1995 high school football season in Texas. I had been the editor of the Denison Herald newspaper a little more than a year and our local high school team, the Denison Yellow Jackets, qualified for the state championship game against La Marque.

Back then, schools meeting in playoff games would negotiate where to play, even for the championship. Usually, they would try to choose a nice venue somewhere between the two. For the Denison-La Marque game, there was plenty of room to choose from since it was some 350 miles from Denison on the Red River to La Marque, which was all but on the Gulf of Mexico, but there wasn’t a lot to choose from in the middle of that drive. There were, however, two pearls, one on each end of the string.

The Houston Astrodome sat 39 miles from La Marque. Texas Stadium was 76 miles from Denison. Either was an exciting location for a high school game.

It came down to a coin flip. Winner chooses the venue. La Marque won.

This begins my story.


I was off work on Monday, but that afternoon I got a head’s-up phone call from my city editor about the plans being made in my absence.

Just a little more background. Denison lies next to Sherman, actually meeting each other on U.S. 75 and Texoma Parkway. They are true sister cities, all the way down to sibling rivalries. At that time, each had its own newspaper. To be sure, we were in competition with the Sherman Democrat, but it was in some ways softened by the fact we were both owned by the same company. For example, we used their printing press. Staffers were friends with each other.

So, while I was raking leaves on my day off, the two publishers – doing what publishers often do – sought to figure the most economical way to cover an important event occurring some 320 miles away. Their solution was to send my sports editor to provide stories for both papers and to rely on The Associated Press for photos. Or something like that.

Thanks to Michelle Dooner cluing me in, I was prepared when my publisher arrived Tuesday morning. After he outlined the plan, I said, “OK, now here’s what I want to do.”

The late Mark Palmer was typical of most publishers in that he did not come from the news side of the business. Generally speaking, that’s really a good thing because journalists are not usually that great at worrying about the profit line. A budget left up to newspaper editors would result in a lot of underutilized helicopters.

Back to Mark and me standing in his office; I’m offering my plan:

“I want to send Ty (Benz, our sports editor), Joe (Cole, our photographer) and Don (Munsch, a news reporter who had been doing feature stories throughout the playoffs).” I don’t remember how I framed my presentation except to point out that if La Marque won, we could expect most of the AP photos to feature them. (That proved to be the case.)

While we were discussing this, the paper’s advertising director and assistant publisher, Wes King, walked in.

“Steve tells me I’ve been underestimating the importance of this ball game,” Mark said.

“Oh, yeah,” came the reply.

And this is the lesson on leadership…

First, my publisher actually listened and considered an alternate opinion. He then told me to proceed as I wanted, that he would eat crow, cover the expenses, and work things out with the Sherman publisher (who was also his boss).

Twenty-seven years later, it still ranks as one of my more notable management experiences.

Waxing nostalgic

Ah, a new calendar, brimming with potential, awash with possibilities, stuffed full of hope and promise.

I’ve never gotten seriously caught up in New Year’s resolutions, probably due to a keen self-awareness of my weaknesses. However, I’m entering 2023 with a goal.

Its origin is in a line from my official favorite song, “He Went to Paris,” by Jimmy Buffett. This beautiful ballad says of its protagonist:

Now he lives in the islands
Fishes the pilings
And drinks his green label each day
Writing his memoirs
Losing his hearing
But he don’t care what most people say…

To be honest, however, the memoirs seed was actually planted some 35 years ago. A woman asked me to lightly edit and put into a typesetting program (for those who aren’t aware, Microsoft Word has not always been with us) the handwritten memoirs of her aging father. It was amazing, working through his stories and recollections.

Continue reading Waxing nostalgic

School days

A little trip down memory lane…

I was sitting in my classroom at one of those desks with a fixed work surface that slanted down toward the student. Perhaps you’ll recall they had a little groove cut into the desk, a short distance from the top, where you could place your pen or pencil.

When I picked up my book or paper that day, my pencil started rolling toward me. Probably because my hands were full, I did not catch it. However, as it fell toward my lap, I brought my legs together to keep it from hitting the floor.

It worked.

The pencil came down between my legs and was caught in the squeeze, eraser on my left leg, the point on my right. I might have squeaked a bit when the pencil lead dug into my thigh, but nobody said anything. I didn’t like drawing attention to myself back then.

It didn’t appear to bleed, so I waited until I got home to check it out. The only visible evidence was a dark spot, the approximate color of pencil lead, the skin giving it something of a blue tint.

Today, more than 55 years later, the spot remains on the inside of my right thigh, a few inches above my knee.

Here’s the point.

That was probably the most dangerous thing I experienced during fourth grade at Pine Tree Elementary School in Longview, Texas.

The most bothersome thing for me was never getting up the nerve to tell Wendy I liked her.

But absolutely no school shootings.

One more thing

Per, firearms are the leading cause of death for American children and teens.

Hey, batter

A youth baseball complex in Ogallala, Neb. Photo by Steve Martaindale

Ready or not, baseball season is upon us.

Major leaguers and wannabes are wrapping up spring training in Florida and Arizona prior to tossing out the first ball of the season Thursday. Colleges and high schools are well into their seasons.

And, of course, Little League and other youth league participants are practicing their throwing, catching, hitting, running and infield chatter.

Do they still do that?

When I was playing almost mumble-mumble years ago, chatter was a big part of the game. Primary chatterers were at first base, second, third and shortstop. Catchers often took part, too. Pitchers did not because they were busy at the time. Outfielders may have shouted, but it wasn’t as expected.

For anyone not familiar, the chatter was intended to distract the batter, mostly nonsensical things like, “Hey, batter, hey-batter, hey-batter … swing, batter!” There would also be plenty of pep talk for the pitcher, just as steeped in substance, “Put it in there, Alvin, put it in there.” Finally, a little goading was not uncommon, “He can’t hit, he can’t hit.”

It must have worked because players were taught to just block out all the noise whenever at bat.

And that tidbit is a great lesson in life.

Take care of your business and don’t let meaningless chatter distract you.

One more thing

A Roman walks into a bar. He holds up two fingers and says, “Five beers, please!”


This has nothing to do with the Mariner 10 probe to Mercury, but it’s one of few astronomical photos on hand. I shot this hand-held during totality of the Jan. 20-21, 2019, lunar eclipse of a Blood Moon. Photo by Steve Martaindale

On this date, March 29, in 1974, the unmanned U.S. space probe Mariner 10 became the first spacecraft to visit the planet Mercury.

I’ve always enjoyed the on-this-date features in newspapers. Don’t know why, but I seldom skip over them. In fact, I’ll often use one of the factoids for Facebook and Twitter posts. They sometimes make good conversation starters and often carry the potential to serve as reminders of good memories or warnings from bad events.

That’s what I started to do this morning and was impressed by the volume of notable events that have occurred on March 29.

My search began, as it often does, with The Associated Press’ daily column. You might want to bookmark for your use. Another great site is the History Channel at The AP has many more items listed, but gives tremendous depth. It’s from there I grabbed the Mariner 10 info, including that Mercury’s surface temperature varies from 800 degrees Fahrenheit when facing the sun to -279 degrees when facing away.

Back to March 29 through the years. I’m not going to reprint the whole article, but you can find it by clicking here.

Let’s quickly skim over the highlights.

In 1861, President Lincoln ordered a relief expedition to Fort Sumter, S.C.

In 1867, Queen Victoria signed an act creating the Dominion of Canada.

In 1943, World War II rationing of meat, fats and cheese began.

In 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union.

In 1971, Army Lt. William L. Calley Jr. was convicted of murdering 22 Vietnamese civilians in the 1968 My Lai massacre.

In 1971, a jury recommended the death penalty for Charles Manson and three female followers for the 1969 Tate-La Bianca murders.

In 1973, the last U.S. combat troops left South Vietnam.

In 1974, eight Ohio National Guardsmen were indicted on federal charges stemming from the shooting deaths of four students at Kent State University.

In 1984, the Baltimore Colts football team moved to Indianapolis.

In 2004, seven former Soviet-bloc nations (Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia and Estonia) joined NATO.

In 2017, Britain filed for divorce from the European Union.

In 2020, country singer Joe Diffie died at 61 from what a spokesman said were complications from COVID-19.

In 2021, salvage teams dislodged a ship that had blocked the Suez Canal for six days.

But there’s more.

The AP article always ends with today’s birthdays. Those catching my attention were former British Prime Minister Sir John Major, 79; basketball Hall of Famer Walt Frazier, 77; football Hall of Famer Earl Campbell, 67; actor Marina Sirtis, 67; actor Lucy Lawless, 54; and tennis Hall of Famer Jennifer Capriati, 46.

One more thing…

What do history teachers make when they want to get together?


What’s your network?

A tweet from some person in the Twitterverse crossed my screen a few weeks ago in which the writer stated he or she would happily subscribe to a television network which continuously played reruns from a set of four or five specific shows.

Many others chimed in with their own lists, which helped bring to mind a number of series I haven’t seen in years. Of course, it also got me thinking about my personalized network (and don’t you know the technology is there to do that … think of Pandora).

Quite naturally, I wondered what your list would include. Would you share your ideal network lineup? Since it’s not fair, in my opinion, to compare current series with old shows, let’s limit it to shows from the 20th century. I’m leaving it open to those that crossed centuries if the majority of its episodes were prior to 2000.

Pick as many as six shows for your network and share with us. To help fire some aging synapses, I’ve dug out lists of titles and present them in no particular order. Note I did not double-check all the program names to make sure they’re correct, so some might be misrepresented, but you’ll recognize anything you really liked. My pick for Steve’s Personal Network (SPN) will be at the end. Please add your list in a comment.

Get Smart, Sanford & Son, Love American Style, Green Acres, Hawaii Five-O, I Dream of Jeanie, Mr. Ed, Petticoat Junction, Gilligan’s Island, Bewitched, Rockford Files, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Dragnet, Sgt. Bilko, The Honeymooners, Mork, The Jeffersons, Car 54 Where Are You?…

Burns & Allen, The Addams Family, The Munsters, Highway Patrol, My Three Sons, Soupy Sales, The Outer Limits, Lost in Space, I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy, Dick Van Dyke, Cheers, Taxi, Family Affair, The Odd Couple, Love Boat, Courtship of Eddie’s Father, My Favorite Martian, F-Troop, Hogan’s Heroes, Dark Shadows, Night Court, That Girl, Facts of Life…

Bonanza, The Waltons, Combat!, Tales From the Crypt, Maverick, Laugh-In, The Muppet Show, McHale’s Navy, The Midnight Special, Roy Rogers, The Big Valley, Touched by an Angel, Perry Mason, The Fugitive, CHiPs, Emergency, Golden Girls, Perfect Strangers, Bosom Buddies, All in the Family, Harry and the Hendersons, The Beverly Hillbillies…

Police Squad, Hazel, The Monkees, Quincy M.E., Barnaby Jones, Have Gun Will Travel, The Little Rascals, M*A*S*H, Fantasy Island, Saved by the Bell, Leave it to Beaver, Hart to Hart, Matlock, Wagon Train, The Brady Bunch, Rifleman, Adam-12, The Three Stooges, The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle USMC, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Dr. Who, Seinfeld, MacGyver…

Magnum PI, 21 Jump Street, The A-Team, The Cosby Show, Little House on the Prairie, The Dukes of Hazzard, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, The Wonder Years, Married … With Children, Mission: Impossible, Murder She Wrote, Mod Squad, Twin Peaks, Gunsmoke, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Barney Miller, Good Times, What’s Happening?…

Dallas, In Living Color, Thirtysomething, Highway to Heaven, Roseanne, Hill Street Blues, Newhart, The Bob Newhart Show, Frazier, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Columbo, Barreta, The X-Files, Friends, The 6 Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, ALF, The Real McCoys, Wonder Woman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel…

Battlestar Galactica, The Greatest American Hero, The Real McCoys, Alice, Flo, Who’s the Boss?, Growing Pains, Family Ties, and … what else?

Obviously, this is not comprehensive, and someone will come up with a show I’ll be embarrassed to have overlooked.

Without further fanfare, my SPN channel will include: M*A*S*H, Taxi, The Bob Newhart Show, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Barney Miller, and Cheers.

One more thing…

Is there a more used and more helpful mnemonic than, “Righty tighty, lefty loosey”?


Scared? Honestly, I’ve not seen many — any? — successful hiccup cures due to someone trying to startle the hiccups out of the patient. Photo by Steve Martaindale

I’m not sure my pastor believed me.

OK, wait, that statement could lead to a bushel basket of speculation, the validity of which I’m not willing to place under scrutiny; let me try again.

The preacher and I were chatting on the phone last week, something we try to do regularly, especially when Leah and I are on the road, as we’ve been since late May. For the life of me, I do not recall why I brought up the topic, but I asked, “Do you know how to cure hiccups?”

He made a feeble attempt to formulate a smart-aleck answer, possibly something to do with “boo,” but I cut him off: “A spoonful of sugar.”

(Bonus points to all readers who just heard, in their mind’s ear, Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins sing, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in a most delightful way.”)

Instead of singing, David, our preacher, said something like, “Oh, really.”

You can hear the doubt just reading those words, can’t you?

“Oh, really.”

My confirmation was two-pronged.

One, I have more than 20 years of practical application of the cure. Maybe more than 30 years. During that time, I told him, the very few efforts that failed to chase away hiccups with the first dose, inevitably succeeded with a second dose. Yes, in case you missed it, almost all of my hiccup attacks are vanquished with one spoonful of sugar. Sometimes, a second spoonful is required.

Two, there was actually a study done, published in 1971, that showed the sweet cure was effective in 19 of 20 patients. Like so many wonderful things, they’re not sure why, but the prevalent thought deals with how sugar affects the vagus nerve, which connects the brain and stomach. I don’t care why or how. I just cherish the knowledge that, if hiccups begin torturing me, a spoonful of sugar … well, you know.

Misty watercolor …

Patchwork clouds. Photo by Steve Martaindale

Think back for just a second.

Back to a time before you started school.

Briefly share with us the first memory you come up with.

My paternal grandfather, the man whose middle name my father and I both carried but who I called Papa, died when I was 4 years old.

My memory is walking with him – me holding one hand and my younger brother holding the other – to a little store a short distance from his home in the Spring Hill community that is now part of Longview, Texas.

I believe our mission was to buy eggs, and maybe we did, but I remember with certainty we returned with my brother and I each eating a piece of candy.

Your turn.