Cornhusker

Cornhusker: (n) a Nebraskan

It would be much easier to claim that you’re a cow if you’re able to chew your cud and moo. Producing milk would also be a positive.

When I graduated from high school and opted not to go to college because my wife and I were pregnant with possibilities, I realized that I did funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
not want to be the kind of guy who didn’t go to college and worked at the kind of job this kind of guy is forced to take.

I liked music. I thought I had some talent.

No one ever actually sat down with me and made suggestions on how to use my ability or guided me in a direction of turning my existing efforts into some sort of cash flow.

I was told that I was not allowed to do anything but get a job and take care of my family.

I didn’t want to do that.

Now, I’m not asking you to side with me on this issue, nor am I desiring your cultural rebuke. I’m just explaining that if I were claiming to be a singer and a musician, I needed to go “music” somewhere.

So discovering in a very obscure newspaper a notice that there was a coffeehouse opening up in Kearney, Nebraska, I contacted the fellow beginning it on the phone, told him about my little group, and said that we would love to come and share at his new venue. He was thrilled (since we were from Ohio and he was all the way in Nebraska.)

It didn’t even cross my mind to look at a map. Before I knew it, the gentleman invited us to come and sing at the coffeehouse with the promise that he would “help out with gas.”

At that point in my life I had a van which creaked and squeaked just driving around town, threatening to break down at a moment’s notice. I didn’t care. Nor did my three other comrades.

We set out for Kearney, Nebraska. Matter of fact, when I began this essay today, I had to look up how far it was from Columbus, Ohio, to Kearney, Nebraska. I am so glad I didn’t have the Internet back then, because the distance one way is 968.4 miles.

We packed in some soft drinks, made some sandwiches, gathered as much money as we could borrow and pull out of couch cushions, and took off. We joked about “touring to the Cornhusker State,” never realizing that it would be many, many hours—twelve to be exact—before we would be anywhere near those who were traditionally proclaimed “huskers of corn.”

I’m happy to report that we actually made it there.

As is often the case, the opportunity was even smaller than I could have imagined. But the fourteen people who showed up said they were really impressed with our songs and happy we had made the trip. They gave us thirty dollars for our gasoline, a bushel of sweet corn and a peck of apples.

It was my first payday.

The round trip, as you can imagine, ended up being nearly two thousand miles.

But I was young, looking for an adventure, and especially trying to find a way to escape—for one week—from hearing all the town cronies telling me what a deadbeat I was.


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Concert

Concert: (n) a musical performance given in public

At a very early age I convinced myself I could sing. Growing up in a small village, there was not much competition–and since I was willing to intone and offer my voice as a possibility, folks around my community had no reason to doubt my prowess.

So when I graduated from high school, rather than heading off to college and finding out if anyone outside of Delaware County thought I funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
could sing, I put together a music group, started writing some of my own songs and planned concerts.

I immediately learned the difficulty in concert promotion.

  1. Just because you think you can sing does not mean anybody wants to hear you.
  2. And if you can convince them to come to your concert, it may require that you offer some other stimulus, like refreshments. Or prizes.
  3. If anything else comes up before the concert, or even on concert day, which is more alluring, chances are that promise to attend, even by your friends, is quickly forsaken.
  4. People’s patience in hearing you sing is based upon how well you can take them to a happier (or sad) place and make them glad they went there.
  5. Just because you can sing doesn’t mean anybody wants to buy a recording of you doing it, so they can play it in their free time.

These were tough lessons.

So ferocious was my training during this period that I often found it difficult to supply food for my family and was only able to lodge as long as I could dodge coming face-to-face with the landlord.

It was actually many years before anyone, of their own volition, walked up to me and said, “Hey! When’s your next concert?”

I froze the moment in my mind… and replay it frequently.

 

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Classroom

Classroom: (n) a room, typically in a school

I wish they would have told us the truth.

I suppose they were afraid if we knew the truth, we might get discouraged. Maybe we’d give up.

For some reason, our teachers and school administrators thought it was best to dangle the possibility of growing up to be adults someday
instead of letting us know that “who we are now” is pretty much who we would end up being.

We might have spent more time trying to do better instead of sitting in the back of the classroom hiding, hoping no one would call on us, refusing to emerge from our turtle shell to become lions and tigers, yet knowing that such a position would be impossible unless there were evolutionary stages in between.

Yes, somewhere along the line, in that classroom, we needed to transition from single-cell organisms into a more complex species.

They didn’t tell us.

Maybe they were hoping that high school, church, tests, our first sexual encounters or even college would stir us to new awakenings.

But since we carried the same personality and fears into each opportunity, we came out almost every time with identical conclusions.

So the fourteen-year-old kid who’s insecure becomes the eighty-four-year-old woman who still wonders if she’s pretty.

It is a bucket of shit.

I know that sounds gross, but it is the only description I can give for thinking that you can “leave well enough alone,” and well enough will give you anything…but being alone.

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City

City: (n) a large town.

The fear of the unknown is the beginning of bigotry. (I just came up with that. What do you think??)

This was clearly expressed to me growing up as a boy. (I started out as a lad and decided to stick with it.)

I lived in a Village of 1,500 people. This is the crowd size for a medium-famous rock band.

It’s small enough that you can eyeball everybody, size them up and make ridiculously quick decisions on who they are and who they aren’t. It’s not so much that everybody knows everybody–it’s the fact that nobody really knows anybody, but because we’re so close together, we draw conclusions anyway.

You had to drive ten miles to get to the Town. We hated them. They were our arch-rivals–because they had about 25,000 people. They beat our high school teams in every sport, and we were convinced they were all brats, strutting around their houses smirking at each other and sneering at our little Village.

Sometimes the boys from our Village would go down to the Dairy Queen and pick fights with the Town guys. We always lost. But at least we tried, right?

Now–another twelve miles from the Town was the City. Even though the Village was only twenty miles away, the City was the “Dark Side of the Moon.”

There were only certain reasons to go there.

Movies. There was only one theater in the Town, and it usually just showed Disney flicks. If you wanted to see a movie, you had to go to the City, which meant you had to listen to a fifteen-minute lecture from your mom and dad about the dangers lurking in the metropolis, which had several hundred thousand folks.

They also had restaurants instead of “Mom and Pop food.” When I went to the City, I always thought I was going to be robbed, raped or killed–maybe all three.

As a youngster, it caused me to believe that the smaller things are, the more pure they stay–that it was impossible to live in the Town and do good works, and certainly beyond imagination to dwell in the City and find favor with God.

The fear of big things caused the young people of our Village to pick up on the vices of the City without ever receiving the benefits of culture, convenience and camaraderie.

It took me years to overcome the little box that lived in my head, which was supposed to contain everything I needed–yes, a long time to go into the City, bringing what I had learned in the Town, while maintaining the heart and soul of my Village.

 

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Cha-Cha

Cha-cha: (n) a dance with Latin American rhythm

“Someone talked me into it.”

Those are the words that usually precede every horror story.

When I was in high school, some friends of mine wanted to go to a dance club because there were a lot of girls there and even though they
were not necessarily in favor of becoming “light of foot,” they were very interested in possibly lighting up some of the fine ladies.

So we decided to practice dancing–including the cha-cha.

I am large. I am pretty agile for a large person, but also self-conscious about swaying my hips and “jutting” in bizarre intervals.

My friends insisted that I looked great. They did this because they wanted to go to the club, and I had the car to get us there.

We selected to wear some fancy clothes–at least by the standards of our home town of fifteen hundred people. We arrived at the club, and I came in with the confidence of the Titanic. I mean the Titanic when it started its trip.

I began dancing and soon all those around me stopped to watch me do the cha-cha with this tiny young girl with auburn hair. I thought they were viewing because I was good, but actually they were stunned by the sight of such a portly fellow trying to do such tiny steps.

They laughed.

Is it necessary for me to say that no one likes to be laughed at? Yet running out of the room crying was not an option. Raining down fire from heaven ala “Carrie” was not available. But I got my revenge.

I just kept dancing.

After awhile, people got tired of staring, started moving themselves, and in no time at all, I was ignored.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Maybe you can dig it out. Here’s a clue:

It’ll have something to do with “keep dancing.”

 

 

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Cellar

Cellar: (n) a room below ground level in a house

I could probably write a large volume of underground stories about cellars. Many things come to my mind.

One particular fascinating and disgusting example happened the Thanksgiving of my senior year in high school.

I had a girlfriend. That in itself was momentous. We had begun our highschool affair and had progressed beyond light petting to flirting with
some heavy petting, moving quickly towards petting at will.

So I picked her up on Thanksgiving evening and brought her over to my home. We stood around for a few minutes, talking with parents, though my mind was on bringing her down to the cellar, where we could make out on a couch normally reserved for the dog. (I wasn’t terribly concerned about comfort nor fragrance–really just availability.)

We had agreed not to have sex in the same fashion that teenagers promise their parents that they won’t ride the roller coaster at Disney World.

Trying to stay loyal to our promise of no intercourse, for which we would have no recourse, we just kind of laid there on the couch, rubbing up against each other ferociously. (I realize that such movement has a street name, but it sounds so coarse and really doesn’t capture the full energy and excitement of the event.)

Suddenly, in the midst of a back–or perhaps it was a forth–she pushed me away, leaped to her feet, jumped on her hands and knees and threw up all over the cellar floor.

I was surprised.

Apparently, the gyrations had disagreed with the turkey and dressing or angered some cranberry sauce.

But I learned something about myself. First, I would never be able to keep my promise to not have sex. But secondly, I found out that I cared very deeply for this young friend, because I got down on my hands and knees and cleaned up her throw-up.

I didn’t enjoy it. It felt sacrificial. But I did it.

She was embarrassed, impressed and touched. I was relieved it was in the cellar instead of the dining room.

I don’t think anybody ever knew about the event that night, when my girlfriend threw up…because apparently she was sick of me.

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CB

CB: (n) The Citizen’s Band (CB) Radio Service

The joy of getting older is in accumulating numerous stories you can share via your daily blog.

Yet the first danger of getting older is that younger folks who have no connection with your subject matter suddenly become aware that
you’re ancient.

And of course, the second danger of getting older is obviously that you are nearer to death than you are to high school.

Bravely facing this danger, I will tell you that I was around during the time that gasoline was rationed in this country–in the mid-1970’s–and the speed limit was dropped to 55 miles per hour. At that point, the highways became the Wild West. Truck drivers who communicated with one another through CB radio began to rebel against the laws and drive whatever speed they desired by placing themselves in large convoys, so as to complicate the enforcement by the State Highway Patrol. In other words, it’s a little difficult to stop forty trucks going 75 miles per hour by waving your hand with your radar gun.

So to counteract these highwaymen, the police set up road blocks and pulled over large numbers of trucks, giving them tickets.

Our little traveling band of gypsy musicians did not have a CB radio–but we did squeeze ourselves into these convoys and travel down the highway with our own rendition of “need for speed.”

But one night we got caught in a roadblock, and were pulled over. We sat there at least an hour. Finally a patrolman walked up and told us we could go. I was shocked. I was also young and stupid, so I asked him why.

He said that even though he knew we were driving the same speed as the trucks, the radar didn’t reach us, and therefore he could not confirm that we were actually speeding.

We pulled away, delighted, surprised and somewhat convicted–as truck drivers glared at us with bullets of anger.

We spent the rest of the night driving 55 miles an hour since we didn’t have our convoy, and had no bread to purchase a CB radio.

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