HEADED HOME

Somewhere in the Atlantic, an hour or two before daylight.

We’re headed for home this morning.  We’re supposed to get to the dock around 6:30 am.  I’m ready to put my deck shoes in some Mississippi dirt.

This trip started as a dream.  We wanted to celebrate 50 years of marriage. 

Three years ago, we made a plan.

Step one, fly to Barcelona Spain.  Step two, spend a week in Barcelona, being typical American tourists.  Then step three, get on board a brand spanking new cruise ship, one right out of the shipyard.    We planned sail back to America.   Think about a maiden voyage, a  big celebration, our 50th. anniversary, a new ship, crossing the Atlantic in fashion  and then wrap it all  together in one sentence.  Someone tried that with the Titanic and it didn’t work out too well.

We were hoping for a better outcome.

We put our money together, bought our tickets and made our plans.

I wanted to see a bullfight. Sue wanted to see the big Cathedral they’re still working on in Barcelona. There’s just a lot of things to do and see in Spain.

Covid killed those plans for 2020.   The cruise line kept our money.  They said “we can book you on another trip as soon as we get to sailing again.” 

We opted to take our trip in 2021.  Covid was emphatic.  “NO, no cruises in 2021.”  The cruise line still held our money.

We wanted to sail across the Atlantic.

Then, a year ago,  the Cruise ship people said  “How about Portugal to Tampa in 2022?”

Not a new ship, not a  maiden voyage.  Just a trip across the North Atlantic.

Well, we are still married, so why not?

We got our shots, we got our boosters.  We packed and repacked two or three times.. 

Finally, we flew to Portugal.  Portugal is beautiful. We spent a week there.  I could spend a month and then still not want to leave.  If you get a chance to go, pack your bags.  Go!

After the week in Portugal, we finally got on board the big ship.  The Captain set a course nearly due west.   He planned to stop in two places in the Azores.  It’s the north Atlantic and it has a reputation to keep up.  The weather was angry.  We stopped at one island then skipped the second.

As we sailed the North Atlantic,  I sat by the window, I’m looking out at the deep blue sea for hours at a time.   I’m thinking about the Pirates, the Explorers, the Man of War ships that crossed back and forth.  Mostly, I thought about the convoys of World War II , the German submarines and the brave men who are sleeping in this vast ocean we’re crossing.

Yes, Jimmy Buffet, they did switch from sail to steam. Today,  diesel engines push the big boats from one world to another. Yes, the mysteries are still there, too.

And, I thought about how something greater than anything we can imagine.  Someone put this all together, this wet, blue marble floating in the midst of the universe.  There’s something out there, bigger than all of us.  I know it.

As the sun breaks over the horizon,  we’re back in the Caribbean, headed to Tampa.  After 21 days, it will be a short flight home and I’ll be making my morning coffee out of Mississippi Water once again.

Please feel free to share.  I encourage and welcome your comments and thoughts.  Contact Mike Windham at amwindham100@gmail.com.  Please follow my blog at http://www.mikewindham.com.

COUNTRY STORES

My Dad and I became buddies when I was in Kindergarten.  He worked on the oil rigs in South Mississippi and Louisiana.  He was the “Boss.”  He took me to work with him when I asked.   And, let me tell you, I asked to go  with him a whole lot.

          We would ride out in the country to check on the rigs. They were awesome!

          Big giant collections of roaring engines making black smoke, pulling pipe out of the ground or drilling ahead.  Men in boots and hard hats, saying words I had never heard before.  They did the  heavy work and smiled at me.  Everything had a funny name for me to remember. There were drawworks, spinning chains, traveling blocks, mud pumps, drill pipe, kellys and high pressure water hoses.  Sometimes I got to play with the water house.

Inside the tool house  they kept all sorts of cool stuff.  And, every bit of it was dirty.  In no time, I would be covered with dirt, grease and grime.  It was a perfect place for a little boy wearing clean blue jeans and a snap button cowboy shirt.

          Being out there was a lot of fun.  No doubt about it.  Enough danger to stir any kid’s imagination!

          And I remember there was something else. 

          We always stopped at one of the little stores that dotted the country roads back then.

For a youngster, they were glimpses of paradise. 

Up front, there was the cash register.   Next to it were big glass jars, filled to the

top with candy and cookies.  This was before someone decided to put everything in  individual, hermetically sealed plastic wrappers.  Maybe germs didn’t live on candy and cookies in the 1950’s.

          Behind the counter, they kept BBs for the kids and real bullets for the grown ups.

          Sometimes my Dad would buy a bag of Red Man chewing tobacco.  Farther back, there was the bread rack, with cinnamon rolls, cup cakes and  light bread.   I hope you know about light bread.

On one side there would be a stack of shirts, a few pair of dungarees and straw hats. I never noticed if they sold women’s clothes. It was a general store . I’m sure they had a little bit of everything.

Today, there’s security cameras,  bright lights, flashing signs and metal buildings with concrete driveways. There’s no front porch.  There’s no bench by the front door or a post to lean against.  There’s no collection of old men with nothing much to do. 

It’s all gone.  And, I hate that.

Every time, on every trip, we would stop at one of those country stores. Dad would get a sleeve of crackers and four or five slices of salami and cheese.  He liked cheese.  I never did.  He would buy me a can of Vienna  Sausage.  Enough for a kid.  I also got a nickel bag of oatmeal cookies from the big jar next to the cash register or a cinnamon roll. He would buy a dozen cokes to go.  One for him and the rest for the men on the rig.  He’d buy me a bottle of chocolate milk.

Bosses do that, you know.

Please feel free to share.  I encourage and welcome your comments and thoughts.  Contact Mike Windham at amwindham100@gmail.com.  Please follow my blog at www. mikewindham.com.

40 WORDS PER MINUTE

You’re reading this because I took a typing class my last semester of high school.  I think there was one other boy in our class.  The room was filled with aspiring secretaries.

         I took that typing class to get out of high school.  

         Let me explain.  Back in the olden days, before computers, tablets, keyboards and MS WORD, big offices in the big cities  had a lot of clerk-typists.

         Good, fast typists could always find a job.

High school girls signed up for typing classes.  Typing was their ticket to the big city. 

         I needed a half credit to get out of high school.  Well, that’s not quite the truth, I needed a full schedule plus a half credit to graduate high school in May.  Otherwise, I would be in high school for another full year.

There was always some talk about “not applying yourself,  not studying, not preparing for tests.”

         So, I signed up for the typing class.  Half Credit. Easy.  A class full of girls.  That was a bonus.

All you had to do was learn to type 40 words a minute. The teacher said “as soon as you pass the 40 Words Per Minute Test, you don’t  have to do anything else in class.  Just sit there, keep your mouth shut and wait for graduation.

         No notes to take.  Only one test and you took it over and over until you passed it.  My kind of class.

         Day one:

         “This is a QWERTY typewriter.”  Mrs. McDaniel said.  She was our teacher.  It was her first year.  I thought the typewriter in front of me was an Underwood.  The kid next to me was facing a Remington.

“Here’s where you put your fingers.  Remember A-S-D-F and J-K-L-Semi-colon.” she said.

Simple enough.  And we started reaching for the letters above the A-S-D-F line and using our thumbs to space.  We slapped the return with our left hand.

We typed “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back.” a thousand times.  Over and over.

There were rules to learn.  Spacing, Tabs, Indentions, Centering.

I learned more than just hunting and pecking out a few words.  I found a typing skills book in the library.  I practiced the test over and over.  It took me most of the semester to pass that test. I think I finally got to 45 or 50 words per minute.

Twenty years later, I bought my first computer and learned typing all over again. 

Now, nobody cares if you can type 40 words per minute. They don’t even teach typing.  It’s keyboarding.  It’s cut and paste.  It’s delete or copy. You fix a mistake with the backspace key.

People threw their typewriters away.  Now they word process!

Oh, by the way, typing class was the only “A”  I ever made in high school

         To this day, I still put two spaces at the end of a sentence.  I don’t care what the computer people say, my mind says two spaces, so it’s two spaces!

Please feel free to share.  I encourage and welcome your comments and thoughts.  Contact Mike Windham at amwindham100@gmail.com.  Please follow my blog at www. mikewindham.com.