Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Reunion Time

Lee Cousins Reunion 2007
Twentieth Anniversary
“Where’s the band?”
Another year has rolled by and here we are, planning to pack the van to go to Kentucky for another Lee Cuzin’s Reunion. It is Friday, June 22, and the reunion runs through Sunday noon or so. We wanted to arrive early enough to get beds near a bathroom, as the rooms and beds are on a “first come-first served” basis. No reservations are honored!
Judy’s plan was to get up early and get going. But---she and I both lay and looked at the ceiling, unable to sleep. I finally got up at around eight on Friday morning and began to gather the last of the things I needed to pack. After my shower and shave, I waited and waited and waited. Judy finally got in the van at 10 a.m. Really! Then we had to run by the vac shop to drop off some stuff. Then, she realized she had forgotten something, so we came back home. That has become a regular occurrence when we travel--that return stuff. Someone who was superstitious told me that it was bad luck to do that, but I have not found it so. I just say a prayer, asking God to protect us, and then drive sensibly.
We drove about 45 miles, then stopped at the Cracker Barrel. They fixed us some eggs, although we should have had lunch by then. The eggs tasted very good. Then we went on up through Kentucky. We saw the longest traffic tie-up I have ever seen. It might have been 15-18 miles long, cars and trucks of every description, southbound on I-75. They were stalled as a result of a fatal accident on the southbound side, 12 hours earlier. Two semi trucks hit head-on. It was a terrible tragedy. That highway is really dangerous; the traffic is heavy and moves very fast. I ran at a steady speed, about 70-73, and they passed me by like I was stopped.
The introduction to this reunion story is getting a bit “wordy;” sorry about that! Anyhow, we had to stop at Wal-Mart to get the rest of what Judy said we had to have. It took longer than it should have, but we finally got out of there about four. We still had about an hour to drive, maybe less. The traffic was heavy, and it did almost take an hour to get there from the Wal-Mart in Winchester, southwest of Flemingsburg, KY.
This last leg of the trip was much better than in the past. The road from Mt. Sterling to Flemingsburg is almost done. In another year, it will be done all the way through there. It does seem that there is always a stretch of road somewhere that is under major construction.
We arrived as cousins on the porch cheered. We were entered in the official list of attendees! Bob Lee was keeping tabs on who came. We also signed the guest register. I have said before, it seems the younger set grows and changes so fast that you hardly recognize them the next year. Dan Johnson’s Danielle grows three or four inches each year, as do some of the others. Of course, as time marches on, we lose some members of the family and gain new ones. I learned from Judy that two of the younger set are expecting babies next spring. As we talked on the porch on Sunday, I understood at least one wedding is in the making for next summer! There were a couple of new faces in the group this year that have become part of the family. Rodney brought his new wife and the children he has adopted. They are all very sweet. We were so glad to meet them, as well as Brent’s girl friend, Brandon’s girlfriend, and some of the companions of the other kids. But then, as the preacher last Sunday said, “If I start mentioning names, I might miss someone!” I will just give this excuse---I didn’t keep notes of their names, and I just can’t recall all of them from memory!
Friday night, we determined where our beds would be. I unpacked and set them up in a kitchen area in the basement of the lodge. That was great, since it was next to a bathroom. That is a must. I am so grateful we were not out of the lodge on the porch, or out in the grass in a tent. That would have been down right cold and uncomfortable! It was the first cool weekend they have had here in a while. The weather was actually very co-operative. As darkness gathered, so did everyone. We had a very good time visiting and playing a new game called “Corn Hole.” (The “bean” bags are filled with corn!)
It is a close relative to horseshoes. You take a two foot by four foot board, nail it to a frame of two by fours and put legs on it that are uneven, making the board slant at about a 15 degree angle. You place one board at one end, another at the other end of a standard space like a horseshoe court, and get two teams to compete. The rules are that the “bean-bags” must go in a gallon can-sized hole that is in the top half of the board for a full score of three points. If the bag lands on the board at all, that is one point. If the opposing player also lands a bag on the surface, you lose your point. The players each have four bags to toss. You can elect to play until one team scores either 11 or 21 points.
It was one of the more entertaining game sessions that I have been part of at the reunions. What we did was set up a tournament board, with teams. It was an elimination process to eventually crown a champion of the “Corn-Hole Board Game!” I asked several people who was the champ, but I never got a response. It had to involve Dan Johnson, because he was defeated, I think, so if you want an answer, call him up! The fellows played until around midnight Saturday night before finally declaring an end to it all! Vows were solemnly made to continue the battle next year!
Food! Yes, we must talk about that…there was plenty. I had some of the best coleslaw and mashed potatoes that I have ever tasted. They bring in Wal-Mart fried chicken. It was good and fresh, hot and tasty. I would have trouble saying what I liked the best, but the fruit salad was a close first. The ham was great, and then the desserts---oh, boy. Cheesecake to die for! Judy made a good chocolate cake, and others brought cakes and pies….calories galore!
There were plenty of drinks, but this year, I did limit myself to a total of three sodas during the whole three day's time, including the trip both ways. That is a record for me. Yes, I drank, but I mostly had water. That is because of my problem with sugar, but also I am watching the caffeine and carbonation. They all gang up on you and make you feel bad. I know water doesn’t do that!
I am not getting this in the proper order, I know, but only as the details come to my mind. It was late on Friday evening when Terry Hall’s grandson, Jason, came in and announced he had something to say or do. Next thing we knew, that six year old was singing a country song. I guess it was a Rascal Flatts' song, and although I did not know the song, he probably did not miss a word. The reason I am pretty confident about his ability is because the next song he sang was a Kerry Underwood number. I am certain he never missed a word in it. The kid is incredible.
One thing that he did that got all of us tickled was how he invented motions for each word or phrase of the songs. I laughed until I was wiping tears. Joyce Fiddler's little Jordan and her friend also sang with Jason. They sounded really good. The boy is headed for the stage!
The auction was a success, and as usual, there was fun in all of it. I personally pulled one on the auctioneer and the group. At least I think I did! I bought a surprise gift for a dollar or maybe two. It was an antique towel ring, a cast iron rooster’s head with a ring through it, to use in the kitchen. Judy said she had no use for it, and I said, “Fine, I’ll send it through again.” So, when the bid man came near me, I asked him to slip it back into the stuff and re-sell it. He did, and this time they took it out of the bag and showed what it was they were selling. They got twice for it what I had just paid. It went with something else that had just sold, a dinner bell rooster, and that person immediately liked it and bought it. Great fun. Judy bought an afghan that says, “20th Anniversary Lee Cousins Reunion 1987-2007.” It will be a precious thing to have and keep as a memento to this weekend. Thank goodness they didn’t sell Bill Lee’s underpants again!
As part of the auction, Dan Johnson brought some parts of one of the daily journals that Grandpa had written back in 1964. They divided the loose-leaf notebook into mixed packets, and gave each of the original Lee's their own packet. The idea was, you would read until your packet ran out, then needing the next page, you would be involved in calling your sister or brother to find who had the next page.
Bill Lee and I, along with Judy and his daughter, Pam, re-lived old memories of the early days of our lives. Bill and I both lived on primitive farms with no plumbing. Neither was there much money. We look at that, not as a bad beginning, but as a strengthening of our character. We know how to appreciate things now because we did not have everything handed to us as kids. He told, not boastingly, of working for 30 dollars a week to support the family when his daddy lay in the bed with a broken leg. He also told of how often the family did not have much on the table, but they did not starve. His mother would fix cornbread. They would have something, even if it was only cornbread and milk. Today, our kids would fuss and moan, but they didn’t. He said they sometimes had to take stale biscuits to school. They would eat them dipped in Karo syrup mixed with butter that Grandma had sent in a molasses can, because they couldn’t afford a “one-cent per student school lunch.” There were six of his brothers and sisters, and his parents had no cash coming in. It might as well have been six dollars a day, it would have made no difference---no money!
The kids all enjoyed the fishing. There were two or three good fishing poles that we all took turns using. There are large mouth bass in the lake, but they are not pan-size yet. The ones I saw were maybe five inches long at best, so they removed the hook from the fish, and sent them back to grow a bit more! My grandson, Clayton, caught his first fish at the reunion. He was so excited, he nearly had tears in his eyes. He wanted no part of un-hooking the fish, though. I helped several of the kids enjoy the fishing.
Another favorite of the kids is roasting marshmallows. I had a brand-new roasting fork from Wal-Mart that I let them take turns using. One of the boys ate so many he about got sick! But that is what summer time fun is all about, you know? The fire felt very good both nights and the smoke smelled pretty good until it saturated my clothes. Then I smelled like an old chimney! Judy said I needed to change my clothes!
Saturday was a full day, and so much happened. The kids swam and used the paddleboats and had a blast. Thank the Lord, no one got hurt, and there was a very good spirit of co-operation about everything. I felt that everyone had a good time.
Sunday we got up, had breakfast, and then the crowd began to thin out. The families that had the most distance to go packed up and left, but several stayed around. About 10 a.m. we had a short devotional and prayer. Bill Lee asked me to have something, but I was so unprepared that I almost refused. Then I thought of what Grandpa had preached, and what I had recently written about that. So I agreed to do what I could on short notice.
Grandpa used Gideon and his band of 300 men as an illustration of what God can do with a small amount of anything. Take what you have, begin where you are, and do the best you can. I encouraged the group to examine their lives, and take their talents and abilities and go out for God. I did the best I could with no notice and nothing to use for material. I hope it was okay. Bill had some comments and prayer, and then we ate lunch. By this time more had packed and were leaving, saying their goodbyes and heading back home.
Home for many of the group is Indiana, but some come in from Ohio, and, of course, we come from TN. Sheila and her family come from Florida, and Tiffany and her baby drove in from North Carolina, I believe. The family is scattered, to say the least.
We finally left the lodge at 2 p.m. As I listened to the radio, I found out we would be driving into some real heavy rain and hail. It was not too long before it hit us with a vengeance. I have not driven in such a heavy downpour of rain for years. I could not see more than two car lengths, and we were obligated to slow to 30 m.p.h. We drove in rain on and off for more than half of the return trip, but still made it home in about four hours.
The reunion was a very enjoyable time for us. We look forward to the time next year when we again see the “Lee Cuzins!”

Oh, yes…"Where’s the band, Dan?” We all gently razzed Dan Johnson about the Bluegrass band that he promised to provide. They were friends of his that had planned to come down and play for us on Saturday. At the last minute, they called and said there had been a death in the family and they cancelled. The question we asked Dan was ….of course, “Where’s the band?”

Lloyd D. Lance
June 26. 2007
©2007 USA all rights reservedA Backward gLance Book 11

Adventures on the new "toy"

The “K” in Bike

About 42 years ago, this body of mine was often found on my motorcycle, coaxing some more speed out of my Honda. I was introduced to motorcycling at a very early age, and I enjoyed the wind in my face as much as anyone could.
My first bike was a tiny Honda 50, a little blue motorbike. Actually the tires on the “50” were about like bicycle tires. There is a story behind that Honda! I saw it first in 1963, parked in front of the LaJunta Tribune Democrat offices. One of the boys that delivered papers had purchased the first Honda in our county. He used it a short while to deliver the newspaper and then upgraded to a new one. I am not sure which bike he got next. Then one of the Plank brothers in Cheraw bought that little Honda from the dealer and used it to see if they liked motorcycle riding. They did, and traded it in for a larger model, a 300 Dream. The Somerfield boy bought it and did the same thing---tried it a while, and then got a 160 Honda. After seeing it at the dealer, I asked my mom if she would help me get it. We did! That first bike was mine in 1965. I was a big boy at 16, and this 50 cc bike was really too small, but I rode it and enjoyed it. It was all I could afford!
Oh, I was going to tell the story of the Honda in front of the newspaper office. Well, they used to stencil HONDA on the back of the seat in those early days. I saw that name on the back of this new motor bike. Having just heard the Beach Boys' new song “Rhonda” on the radio, I assumed that the owner of this little motorcycle had stenciled his girl’s name on the back of his bike. I mentioned that to a friend. How he laughed at me! I soon found out that Honda was not a girl’s name!
Okay, so I owned a Honda 50. Well, after it had been mine for a year or more, I had really worn several things out on it. It needed some parts--expensive parts! I had used it as a tool--going into the fields to get the cows, and riding it to school. I had no garage for the bike, so it sat out in all kinds of weather, just like my daddy’s tractors. I finally sold it for almost nothing, not willing to continue to ride the tiny thing. I was now into cars. The bike was behind me!
A man in our community was a football enthusiast. He wanted me to play for our high school team, but my car was out of commission, so I had no way to get to practices. He bought a Bridgestone 175 motorcycle, and told me I could ride it as long as I would play football. I agreed to the terms, and rode that new motorcycle for the entire season. It was great, but if his “recruiting scheme” had been discovered, the team would have been penalized, because it was nothing but a bribe to get me to play. Well, that is water under the bridge!
I didn’t ride again until I lived in Phoenix, in the fall of 1967. I found a Suzuki 80 that a man was selling really cheap. It had been in a small accident and would not run. I found the parts to fix it, and soon it was on the road. I drove it to work to save money on gas. At the time, gas was an outrageous price of 29.9 cents a gallon! My '56 Chevy drank gas like it was free, but this little bike was a “sipper!” It got like 50 miles to the gallon or more. I kept that one for a couple of months, and then sold it, so I could buy a really nice Honda 305 Dream. It was black and had everything you could hang on one at the time. It was really a smooth running bike. I had it when I got married.
People used to laugh and comment about Judy and her man. We would dress up in our white helmets, identical windbreakers, and get on the Honda for a cruise. They said, “That Judy would go to the end of the world with Lloyd!” Well, she nearly has!
The next bike in my life was at the mission, in 1981. Bruce Hawthorn made a deal with a man in Cincinnati for a Honda 350-4. I was the one who went after it. I brought the bike home, driving it in the cold weather all the way back to Barberton. I almost didn’t make it; the wind and rain almost wrecked me several times. But, I got home okay, and we enjoyed the bike many evenings. I also played with a 400 Honda that the mission purchased for the staff to ride. It was good recreation for us after a hard day of working at the mission.
Since 1981, I may have ridden a couple of bikes, just briefly, nothing to amount to very much. But the other day Judy came in, telling me how she had enjoyed riding a big black Harley with a man whose mother is in her care at the retirement home. She told me how smooth it was, how fun it was to be in the open air. This is coming from someone who doesn’t want the windows down on the car. This is from a woman who spends two hours combing her hair to go out to the store. This is from a person who is allergic to pollen and dust! But she was excited. “We need to get one of them!” she said. So I began to look at motorcycle ads in the classifieds. I found several and called about them. I tried to buy a Kawasaki 500, nearly new---only had 275 miles on it. But the bank would loan only 75% of its value. I didn’t have the 1400 dollars the bank wanted me to put down. I tried another avenue of revenue! My credit union. I have been a member there for 10 years, but they also wanted me to have 1200 dollars of the purchase price. So I thought I would check out the dealership, to see if they had any used big bikes. I wanted something that would carry my 250 lbs. and Judy on a cruising ride, plus a bike I could use to ride to work. Gas is now selling for $3.00 a gallon! We have to do something about this gas stuff!
Inside the showroom was a sea of chrome and color. Bikes of every size and price range were in this huge place…making my mouth water. I wanted to ride! Scott, the salesman, was patient as I flitted from the 1100 Yamaha to the 900 Kawasaki, and back again. He explained the benefits of each make and model. I wanted smooth. I wanted power, and I wanted comfort for Judy. He pointed to the Kawasaki 900, and we loved it. The price was what I thought to be acceptable, and the appearance was great. If there is such a thing as a perfect fit, it was the 900. Of course, I knew that this was a much heavier bike than I had ever ridden before. My previous rides had never been over 750 cc. Naturally, when you get on a 900 twin, the curb weight is much higher.
Our credit was okay, and we made the deal. I told the salesman he would have to throw in new matching helmets. We picked out the ones we liked and were on our way. Of course, this happened over a two-day span. Judy drove home in the van, following me as I drove my big bike for the first time. That is right---they did not even let me take a test ride. I am not sure I would have bought it had I ridden it first.
I don’t know if I can even give you an idea of what it was like to crank up the bike and feel the 900 cc engine as it vibrated beneath me. My heart began a new rhythm--and not a beat that felt so good. I felt like a person climbing a ladder that was shaky! But, as I have been known to do, I just kicked it into first gear, and acted like I was calm and cool. Second gear, third, and then onto the top gear---the bike had power to burn! I was now doing 65 on the four lane, Judy close behind. I turned onto Broadway, and made my way to our house. I was careful to turn, and brake, and do all of the right things, but my insides were all a tremble, if you know what I mean. It was excitement on steroids, something new and different, and there was a small fear that I might do something to damage the bike or hurt myself. But I arrived home okay. Judy was all smiles as she admired the bike and how nice it was and all.
“Wanna ride?” I asked her, as I removed my helmet and got a drink. “I think I could handle it okay.” So, she got her “culotte skirt” on, we adjusted her helmet strap and prepared for a ride. I had not carried a passenger for many years---hey, I had not even ridden for many years! But, that’s the way I am…I acted as if I knew all about it. And Judy trusted me!
We headed out of town towards the mountains. I planned to go to the curve where you leave Townsend and head up to Cades Cove, then turn around and come home. We had not eaten supper yet, and it was after seven in the evening, so it was ‘gittin’ hungry time.’
It was a beautiful evening, the temperature just perfect for a ride. The trees and grass were so green and fresh. We have had some rains that have really helped nature be at its best.
You must realize, we are not used to doing this. Our backs, legs, and necks---well, why not say it---our whole body was aching from the vibration, and the different position we were in on this ride. At the end of the 25 mile trip down to Townsend, we had to stop and rest our “sit-down-place,” and allow our legs to relax a bit! Judy laughed, saying that she didn’t think that this bike rode as good as a Harley! I agreed and said, “No, and it doesn’t cost as much as a Harley either!” So, we started back to Maryville.
As we came down Washington Av., we were approaching a string of eating-places. I pointed to a Chinese restaurant, and she said, “Yes!” So, I geared down, slowed, and began to turn into the driveway of the place. I was almost not even moving when the next thing I knew we were on the ground, the Kawa 900 was pinning my leg to the pavement! I had hit sand in the driveway, and had laid it down! My first thought was Judy! Was she okay?
You have to know Judy to understand. If she is in an accident, or falls, or sometimes if she sees someone else fall, she laughs. So, here I am pulling my leg out from under the bike, and she is dancing around, laughing. She was thrown off and landed on top of me, rolled clear and didn’t get a scratch. There was no damage at all to the bike, thankfully. It crossed my mind that, here I only had the bike for less than an hour, had 50 miles on it, and I had already wrecked it! But after I had stood it back up--which was a very hard job--we looked it over and there was no damage at all. A skid plate under the footboard took the skid as it was designed to do and we were fine.
As for me and my body, I had some painful abrasions on my elbow and knee with some really painful pulled muscles. I did not feel like dancing the next day!
What I have learned, most honorable teacher, is this…driveways and side streets may have treacherous sand or gravel on them and heavy bikes don’t like that!
As I get back into riding, I am sure I will learn other things about the bike. I was thinking of a name for this essay, when this came to mind…the “k” in bike stands for Kawasaki. But my daughter may say that it could stand for “krazy,” because she thinks that is what I am for getting a bike at my age.

Lloyd D. Lance
June 8, 2007
©USA 2007 all rights reserved
“A Backwards gLance” Book 11

Saturday, June 16, 2007

New Motorcycle!!

What a grand day for riding in TN. Judy and I have just obtained a new Kawasaki Vulcan 900 and I am trying to get familiar with the big boy!