Our Buddy

The first vehicle I remember from my childhood was a white Mercedes Benz with four doors and a trunk. The interior seats were of a gray and white decorative pattern. Before my younger brother was born, my parents and I took many trips from our home in Tucson, Arizona.

We called the car Buddy. After my younger brother was born, when he was old enough, Dad started calling him Buddy, and I was confused. My brother’s given name was Andy, so why was Dad calling him Buddy? I was too young to understand that “buddy” was also a term of endearment.

Three years after my younger brother was born, after a second car was purchased, Buddy took Dad and me all the way from Tucson to Sheridan, Wyoming. The year was 1971, and I was ten years old. Dad would have gone on his own, but on the night he planned to leave, while we were eating supper, he asked if I wanted to come, and I said yes, since I was always up for an adventure.

We left that night. Because it was close to my bedtime, I camped out in Buddy’s back seat while Dad drove for a few hours. When we stopped, he unrolled a sleeping bag on the ground near the car. We were still in Arizona.

The next day, we drove through the Navajo Reservation and into Colorado, stopping at Four Corners, where Dad said we lost an hour. That night, we ended up in Durango, and I remember thinking it strange that it was still light at eight o’clock in the evening. That night, we visited several bars. Years later, this experience inspired a poem from my collection, How to Build A Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver.

The next day, we stopped at Mesa Verde, then spent the night with friends in Beulah, and the following evening, Dad left me in Denver with my maternal grandmother while he drove the rest of the way to Sheridan.

I stayed with Grammy and Granddad Hinkley in Denver for several weeks. During that time, Dad and his mother, Grandma Johnson, went to Las Vegas and back to Denver, where they picked me up. We drove to Sheridan in Grandma’s Cadillac because Buddy quit working after Dad reached Sheridan the first time.

We’d come here because Grandpa Johnson died in the fall of the previous year, and Grandma needed help with the family’s coin-operated machine business. During the weeks I spent in Sheridan, Buddy sat neglected in front of Grandma’s house. Dad was too busy running the business and keeping me entertained to worry about fixing the car. When we drove anywhere, we either used Grandma’s car or one of the company vehicles. When it was time for me to start school, Dad drove me to Denver, again in Grandma’s Cadillac, and I boarded a plane for Tucson. I wondered if I would ever see Buddy again.

In October of that year, Buddy somehow managed to get Dad home safe and sound. Two years later, we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, so Dad could run the business full time. We had two cars: Buddy and the other Mercedes Benz we called 220S Baby. We rented a U-Haul truck to carry our earthly possessions. Dad drove the U-Haul, towing Buddy, while Mother drove 220S Baby.

After we settled in Sheridan, Buddy eventually retired and was relegated to a space in our driveway behind the garage. When Andy became a teen-ager, Mother wanted him to fix up and use the old car, but Andy wasn’t interested, and Dad didn’t like the idea for some reason. She eventually gave Andy her old Fiat when she bought a new Subaru. There were other cars, a gray Buick station wagon, a number of pick-up trucks and a van that were used mostly for the coin-operated machine business, a Plymouth Reliant station wagon, a Mitsubishi, and a red Subaru station wagon that Andy inherited after Dad passed away and gave to his son as a graduation present. For a couple of years when my husband was alive and partially paralyzed by two strokes, I owned a red wheelchair-accessible van. However, our Buddy, a reliable car for years, will always be foremost in my memory.

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How about you? I’d love to hear about the first car you remember when you were growing up. What color and brand was it? What did the interior look like? Do you remember where it came from? Can you think of a specific road trip you took with your family in this car? Please share your thoughts either in the comments field or on your own blog with a pingback here.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
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Reblog: On Bars and Drinking

Blogger Alice Massa’s post from last week inspired me to write about a trip I took with my father when I was ten years old. What does that have to do with bars and drinking? Well, read on, and you’ll find out.

This re-blogged post from several years ago includes, among other things, a poem from my collection, How to build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, that details a stop we made, during that journey, in Durango, Colorado. Next week’s post will outline the whole trip. Meanwhile, click here for a recording of me reading the poem. Then click the link below to read the original blog post containing it. Enjoy!

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On Bars and Drinking

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
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Saturday Song: C.W. McCall–Convoy


Last weekend, a few poets, myself included, made the six-hour drive across Wyoming from Sheridan to Cheyenne to attend a workshop. We traveled in two vehicles, not a great big convoy but a convoy all the same. We communicated with cell phones instead of CB radios. It reminded me of this song.

A fellow blogger recently solicited suggestions for a name of a group of poets. A convoy of poets was exactly what we were last weekend, and it was a lot of fun, not just the traveling. I hope we can do it again next month when we attend the Wyoming Writers conference in Dubois. Enjoy the song, and have a great Saturday.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Classic Writer Tries to Find This Country

Abbie-1

Travels with Charley in Search of America

by John Steinbeck

Copyright 1960

 

From the author of The Grapes of Wrath and The Red Pony comes an account of his travels cross-country to see what America was like. He describes driving from his home state of New York a full circle around the country with Charley, his French poodle, in a pick-up truck outfitted with a camper he had specially designed for the trip. He talks about people he met along the way and sites he saw, discusses visiting the place in California where he grew up and how it changed over the years, and reflects on hunting, being alone, and other topics. He describes a rally in New Orleans to protest black students attending white schools and how it affected him.

I believe John Steinbeck was in his fifties when he took this trip, about the same age as me, but this isn’t something I want to do, maybe when I was younger but not now. In fact, I hate traveling, especially by plane. I only do it out of necessity when I want to visit my brother in Florida or attend a writers’ conference. However, this book is a great way to go back in time and across the country without leaving the comfort of one’s arm chair and paying an arm and leg for gas.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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November 2015 Reviews

A Place to Belong by Phyllis Campbell. Copyright 2002.

 

Jill, a high school student, loses her vision after a brain tumor is removed. Her mother and stepfather send her from her home in Washington to live with her paternal grandmother in rural Virginia with whom she’s never had contact. With the help of Susan from Come Home, My Heart, she learns Braille and other basic adaptive skills.

She also develops a bond with Ben, a little boy who was traumatized by his father’s death and a friendship that could turn into romance with his older brother. In the end, after Jill learns why her father was never in contact with his parents after marrying her mother, she helps rescue Ben when he falls in a hole. She then decides to attend the Virginia State School for the Deaf and Blind and go on with her life.

I like the stark contrast the author illustrates between opinions of those with disabilities. In the small town where Jill’s grandmother lives, most of the people accept her like they would anyone else, despite her blindness. On the other hand, Jill’s mother and stepfather think she should have a private tutor and not associate with others blind or sighted.

I also like the way Phyllis Campbell incorporates characters from a previous book. However, I noticed one problem. In Come Home, My Heart, which I’m assuming is set in the 1980’s, Wanda, Susan’s adopted daughter, was only nine years old. In A Place to Belong, she appears to be only in high school when in 2001, she would have been in her twenties. As a child, Wanda suffered from epilepsy, but I doubt that would have slowed her learning, especially since she’s able to drive Susan everywhere.

Otherwise, I think this is a great book, especially for teen-agers. I hope young people reading this will gain more of an understanding of what it’s like to lose your vision. To learn more about this and other books by Phyllis Campbell, go to http://www.phylliscampbellbooks.com/ .

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Friendships in the Dark: A Blind Woman’s Story of the People and Pets Who Light up Her World by Phyllis Campbell. Copyright 1996.

After reading Come Home, My Heart and A Place to Belong, I wanted to read this author’s memoir which talks about her life and the animals who shared it with her. She starts by describing what it was like to be five years old in 1943 on a farm in Virginia, the fear of her older brother going off to war, how her older sister, also totally blind, taught her to read Braille, and the animals on the farm with whom she developed a close bond like Sly, the old dog and Mouser, a kitten who met a tragic end.

She then goes on to talk about the years she attended the Virginia State School for the Deaf & Blind with her sister, how her first year was marred by illness, her music lessons, and learning to walk with a cane. During this time, her family moved from the farm to a house on the grounds of a nearby mental hospital where her father found a job.

She talks about her life in the 1960’s after graduating from high school, her mother’s death from cancer, her father’s stroke, her brother getting married, living with her older sister in an apartment until she, too, got married, and eventually, her own marriage to a sighted man who worked various jobs. She then describes acquiring a guide dog in the 1970’s and how she and her husband bought an old fixer-upper in the 1980’s. She describes the myriad of animals in her life including but not limited to Buttons, the pooch her family owned when they lived on the mental hospital grounds, Miss Muffett, the cat she and her sister owned in the apartment together, her guide dog Lear and a cat she called Lady Gray who came with the old house she and her husband bought in the 1980’s.

For the benefit of those not familiar with blind people, she describes Braille, the process of walking with a white cane, and what it’s like to train with a guide dog. Each chapter begins with a quotation, some of which are from the Bible, and she occasionally shares how God answered her prayers and gave her the courage and strength to do certain things.

Having read other tales of not-so-pleasant experiences at state schools for the blind, I braced myself for more stories of horrible bullies, sadistic house parents, and bad teachers, but I was pleasantly surprised. Mrs. Campbell spoke with nothing but fondness for other students, teachers, staff, and even the superintendent. She even describes dogs and cats the school acquired while she was there. In fact, she loved school so much that when she became ill during her first year, she hated staying in the infirmary and begged to be allowed to return to classes. I laughed at her many anecdotes involving animals like the time the superintendent’s dog kept following her and her mother home from the school. I was moved to tears when Lear, her faithful guide, needed to be put down after almost twenty years of service. I recommend this book to anyone curious about blindness who likes heartwarming stories involving relationships between humans and animals. To learn more about Phyllis Campbell and her books, go to http://www.phylliscampbellbooks.com/ . Other reviews of this book can be found at http://www.brettbooks.com .

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Bark by Lorrie Moore. Copyright 2014.

 

The stories in this collection have nothing to do with dogs or trees. In “Debarkation,” a divorced historian ends up in a relationship with a divorced pediatrician who seems more interested in interacting with her teen-aged son than him. In “The Juniper Tree,” a woman visits the ghost of a friend who just passed away, or does she? In “Wings,” a musician at rock bottom in her career returns to the town where her grandmother used to live, befriends an elderly neighbor with a terminal illness, inherits his house when he dies, and turns it into a sort of Ronald McDonald house. In “Thank You for Having Me,” a motorcycle gang crashes a wedding. Other stories deal with such topics as divorce and mental illness.

Although I found these stories intriguing, the author’s nasty habit of including too much back story and description caused my mind to wander, and I must admit I dozed once or twice. Lorrie Moore is an award-winning author of other books with outlandish titles such as Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? To order her books, go to http://www.amazon.com/Lorrie-Moore/e/B000APWFEY .

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Crossing the Plains with Bruno by Annick Smith. Copyright 2015.

 

In this author and filmmaker’s memoir, she describes a road trip she took with her dog Bruno about ten years ago during the month of May. She drove from her home in Montana to visit her mother in Chicago and back. Along the way, she provides histories of landmarks and shares memories they evoke of her life growing up in Chicago, her marriage to Dave Smith, their life in Seattle and California, her husband’s sudden death after they’ve settled in Montana, and her filmmaking career.

After arriving in Chicago, she talks about the time she spent in the senior high rise apartment building where her mother lived and at the family’s lake side cottage about eighty miles away. She describes visits from family and friends during that time and shares more memories such as her parents’ divorce and reconciliation and her father’s affair with a teen-aged girl.

She then describes the trip home, a bit rushed because her partner Bill Kitterege’s brother just passed away, and she was anxious to get home to meet his family before they returned to Oregon. Nevertheless, she takes time to reflect on more landmarks and share more memories like the time she came to Montana to research the film, Heartland, based on the true story of a pioneer woman in Montana during the earlier part of the 20th century. She also touches on her relationship with Bill Kitterege, her dog Bruno, and other animals.

This book brought back some fun memories for me, especially of traveling with our Irish setter Clancy when I was a teen-ager. When Annick Smith described sneaking Bruno up a back staircase at an inn where no pets were allowed, I was reminded of many times we did the same thing with Clancy. Like Bruno, Clancy loved to run alongside a creek or river, jump in and swim for a while, then get out and shake himself all over you.

I was also amused that Annick Smith read to Bruno at night from a book called Dog Music which consists of poetry about dogs. This seemed to calm Bruno, especially after he had a bad dream. The author’s appreciation of literature is reflected in the pages of this book which would make a great Christmas gift for anyone who likes to read and travel and loves dogs. To learn more about Annick Smith and her books, go to http://www.amazon.com/Annick-Smith/e/B001IXRWQ8 .

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Note: Speaking of Christmas, next month, I’ll be doing my book reviews a little differently. As you know, I normally review books I’ve read in a given month at the end of the month. However, if you’re like me, by the end of December, you’ll be sick and tired of Christmas so instead, I’ll review holiday books as I read them so you’ll have a chance to read them before you get sick and tired of the holiday season. At the end of December, I’ll review any other books without a holiday theme. You’ll see my regular Tuesday posts, and these may consist of book reviews, depending on when I finish a book. If I finish a book later in the week, I may post another review. If you’re hanging on my every word, you might want to subscribe by email so you don’t miss anything. Happy holidays, and happy reading.

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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