Thursday, December 25, 2008


I can click my ruby slippers together today and just thank God that "there's no place like home."

It has been a real joy. I missed my two oldest boys this Christmas, but at least I had my two brothers, my sister, their families, The Mrs., two of my boys, another young man that we are raising, my Momma & Daddy, The Mrs. Inlaw & brother-in-law.

The Mrs. & I (and the boys) lived away from "home" for about five years. I didn't mind it so much. We had one of those fancy telephones to stay in touch. But it was kinda hard around Christmas to be away. It's hard to be away from folks you love, but even harder to be away from folks that love you.

I'm getting old I guess. I love "home." I worked "on the road" for about four years in a restaurant maintenance business that a friend and I started. I covered routes in East Texas, North & South Louisiana, North & South Mississippi, the Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast, & Arkansas (man, could I tell you some stories about working in Arkansas!).

It was good money, and I was providing for a big clan at the time. But I just hated being away from "home." I would be gone from "home" for 3, 5, 7, sometimes 11 days, leaving The Mrs. to handle 4 boys on her light duty for sure.

I lived in more dumpsters than I care to remember, usually a $30 Motel 6, or some other "Indian Retreat." (or as we called them 'Patel Motels') Man, I missed my bed, my shower, my kids, and most of all my wife. I reached the "breaking point" finally when I was in Meridian, Mississippi.

Now, I had stayed in some bad places. I once stayed at The West Plains Motel on Porter Wagoner Blvd. in West Plains, Missouri (Porter was from a lovely little town...) I was asleep on my back, and felt an itching on my chest. I reached up with my right hand to scratch, looked down, and there was a mouse in my hand. I threw the miserable rodent across the room, and into a window which promptly shattered.

I called up to the office and told the manager "I just broke a window with a mouse." He didn't seem at all surprised. He said, "I am very sorrying for the pestings! Sirrr....I will bringing some mousetrappings." I told him we could bait the mousetrappings with my Cheetos (which I discovered had been infiltrated by friends and family of the recently deceased mouse). He agreed!

Back to the "breaking point." My partner had equipment problems and couldn't get to the two restaurants we had a contract with in Meridian, MS & Tuscaloosa, AL. I told him that I would be running my North Mississippi route and would take care of it. I had been on the road for 5 days when I pulled into Meridian, MS looking for a place to stay for the day (I slept days & worked nights when the restaurants were closed). There was "no room in the Inn." Evidently, the Meridian Naval Air Station was having a big event that weekend & everything was booked. I tried everything! I was dog tired...but I saw another motel sign and pulled in (just hoping).

I almost didn't stop because the sign said, "Rooms $15." But I was so worn out...

I parked my pickup and rig and walked to the office. On the door of the office there was a sign that read "SORRY...WE'RE OPEN!" I went inside and behind the desk was a woman that bore an amazing resemblance to "Large Marge" from Pee Wee's Big Adventure. If you don't remember Marge...

Well, Marge had a Camel hanging from her lips, was reading a "Playgirl" magazine, and coughing up blood. I asked her if she had a room for the day. She said, "Do you need it for the whole day?" I said, "Yes ma'am, but I will be leaving about 11 tonight." "Okay," she said. "Which one do you want?" I said, "You pick."

She handed me a key to room 3. I gave her $15, grabbed my bag from the truck, and headed to Room 3. There was was soaked with water from the toilet that was overflowing & still running. There were sheets on the blanket, just sheets. I walked back over to the office and asked Marge if that was the best they had. She said, "Whataya' expect for $15?"

I summoned up all my Christianity, thanked her, gave her the key back, got in my truck, found a truck stop on I-20, pulled up next to the big-rigs, slept in the cab until dark, took a $4 shower in the truck stop, did my job in Meridian, drove to Tuscaloosa, did my job there...

...pulled my pickup and rig on to I-20 just about daybreak, turned it West, set the cruise control on 90, and only stopped for gas and to tinkle. I pulled into Bossier City late the next night. I came in, took a shower, kissed my wife, and swore I'd never leave "home" again.

The next day I began to divest myself of my obligations in that business, and started working on another way to make a living. Financially, it was a struggle for a while. But I didn't care...I was "home." The Mrs. didn't even seem to care much about the finances. I think she was glad that I was "home," too. It took us a while, but we managed our way into a decent business that keeps us together.

Don't get me wrong...I'm not cursing the past, or past decisions. I sure learned a lot in those years away from home...about myself, about The Mrs. ...about a lot of things. But mostly I learned that there really is no place like home.


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