What is Jennifer Sue made of?

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What is Jennifer Sue made of!
By Jennifer Sue

My stories are at times a bit bizarre, but then so am I. From previous comments I’ve made, I’ve had a few requests for a brief snapshot of my life. After the comments about my Halloween story entry, Halloween brings out the best and the worst, I thought I’d give it a shot. Here goes!

I've always considered myself to be a bit looney. I've been trying to figure out if my birth date is the cause. I don't really think it did but it does make my personal insanity a bit more palatable. I couldn't have a more appropriate birthday.

April 1st... April fools day! I love it. It gives me an excuse. My life has been a roller coaster ride.

My paternal grandfather owned a 110 acre farm in Berks County, Pennsylvania. The farm was located in a north/south valley with a small stream. The bottom land was used for grazing their 80 Holstein dairy herd. On the sloping sides they planted wheat, oats, barley, and corn. They also raised hogs and chickens for their personal use. My grandfather was a wiry, tough as nails man. Standing 5' 4", he served in the U.S. Calvary in 1914-16, serving under General Black Jack Pershing chasing down Pancho Villa in the southwest. In photos taken standing beside his horse, only the peak of his campaign hat is higher than the horse's back.

My earliest memory of my grandfather takes place in the barn. I was about 4 and the cows were coming in to be milked. Each cow knew it's place and went there without prodding. Once in place a stanchion was locked into place keeping them from walking away. They didn't mind because a manger with grain was in front of them as well as a water trough. Once all were locked in, the milking began. Back then, to keep the cows fertile, a bull was part of the herd. It is quite true that bulls are aggressive and will charge anyone or anything that intrudes upon his herd.

This particular day, the bull, weighing in at a bit over 2000 pounds, was horny. Instead of going into his special steel reinforced pen... the real bullpen... he walked up an aisle and selected a cow. I saw him mount the cow and begin to give it to her. Now at that age, I had no idea what sex was and assumed the bull was attacking the cow.

"Pappy! Pappy," I yelled to my grandfather who was one aisle over. "The bull's hurting the cow! The bull's hurting the cow!"

My grandfather came over yelling at the bull but being otherwise occupied the bull totally ignored him. Picking up a manure shovel (4' long with a 'D' hand grip at the end of the handle and a steel scoop about 14" wide and 18" long with sides about 3" deep), he stood by the bull’s flank and began pounding away while yelling profanities. After about a dozen swats the bull got the message and dismounted, but he was none too happy!

It's not a cartoonists fantasy that when a bull snorts in anger, it snorts steam. I saw it that day! The bull stood in the aisle facing my grandfather, lowered his head, and pawed the concrete floor. Pappy never flinched. He took the manure shovel and began repeatedly slamming the bull right between the eyes with hard overhead swings. That particular area of a bovine is quite bony and the horns, which this bull had, emerge from the sides. The blows reverberated through the barn like someone hammering a huge oriental gong.

"Pappy, Pappy, you're going to hurt the bull," I yelled in my innocence.

"I'm not going to (BOOONNG!) hurt the (BOOONNNG!) son-of-a bitch (BOOONNNG)," my grandfather panted from his exertion as he faced down the behemoth. "I'm just (BOOONNNG!) trying to get (BOOONNNG!) his fucking (BOOONNNG!) attention!"

That's exactly what he did. After about 30 blows, the bull backed down and headed to his pen! The huge bull could have easily crushed my wiry grandfather, but didn't. Guts won out over brawn. The bully (pun intended) backed down when someone unafraid stood up to him. That lesson has served me well over the years. If I close my eyes I can still see the confrontation and hear the BOOONNNG echoing through the barn.

Born in 1923, my father was the 2nd of four sons raised on the farm and of English, Irish, and Scotch descent. From an early age he learned how to work hard and to improvise. Schooling meant little to him and he dropped out of school after 10th grade. In 1943 he enlisted in the army and just made the minimum height requirement for the airborne, 5' 6". After completing all his training, in April 1944, he came home on leave before shipping out to England.

Born in 1926, My mother was the 2nd youngest of 13 children. Coal Crackers from Schuylkill County (think the Molly McGuire’s) of Irish, German, and Welsh Descent. My maternal grandfather worked in the anthracite coal mines. My mom was raised by her older (2nd born) married sister from the time she was 2. Mom was tough and spirited, played semi-pro women’s baseball during the war even though she was still in school. My grandfather's farm was located about a mile outside the town where my mom lived with my aunt and uncle.

When my dad was home on leave, he wanted to take my mom out, but my aunt refused saying he was not the kind of man nice girls dated. Being stubborn and resourceful, my mom climbed out of her 2nd floor bedroom window onto the porch roof and shimmied down the porch post to go on the date anyway.

My dad was in England by the time my mom realized she was pregnant. My aunt wrote a nasty letter to my dad telling him to come home and make his mistake right. Needless to say, D-day had already occurred and there was no way my dad was coming home. Mother dropped out of her senior year of high school to give birth to my brother, W, in January 1945.

Technically, that makes me a son-of-bitch, although not THE son of a bitch. My mom was proud of her exploits and has no qualms about telling her story.

My dad was in the 17th Airborne division. He fought in the Ardennes during the battle of the bulge and made the combat drop in Germany in March 1945. He was a corporal in charge of a .50 caliber machine gun with two men under him. When he parachuted, he had the machine gun. It was as tall as he was. While I know he saw a lot of combat, he seldom spoke about it.

Like his older brother, also in the army but serving in the Pacific, both drank heavily to try to bury the unpleasant memories. My dad was a functional alcoholic until the day he died at age 84. About age 55 my uncle stopped being a functional alcoholic in 1970 at age 65 drank himself to death.

While dad was in England, mom would walk out to my grandfather's farm with her baby and visit. My grandparents loved their 1st grandchild and welcomed my mom. My aunt was not as accepting. When he came home in late 1945, my parents began dating, eventually marrying in May 1946. They fixed up and moved into an old log cabin located in a small side valley on the farm. There was a spring by the house enclosed in a spring house that supplied the water.

Mom was a stay at home mother who helped out on the farm. She could throw the 80 pound hay bales as well as the men and milked the cows. Dad got a job as a mechanic with a Ford dealer but still helped on the farm.

My older sister, B, was born in January 1947. In June 1948 B awoke from a nap and while my mom was busy in the kitchen and W still napping, she toddled outside and fell into the spring. By the time my mom realized she was missing, it was too late, she'd drowned.

My paternal uncle, the 3rd of the 4 boys, died of meningitis in 1950

I came along in the spring of 1951. Mom went into labor and went outside to signal my dad who was plowing fields near the top of the slope. She waved at dad and he waved back, then continued plowing. She walked the third of a mile to the main farm building. I was almost born in the hospital elevator.

I was pampered by mom. Wracked with guilt about my sister's death, she made sure nothing hurt me. The photos of me as a toddler show a happy cherubic child with loads of blond natural curls covering my head. My cloths while not cutesy girlish were far from masculine. What I don't know is if she ever dressed me as a girl in an attempt to have me replace my sister, but I think it's a strong possibility.

Just after my birth, my parents bought an acre of land along a new 4 lane state highway about a mile outside of a small town. The forested land was flat and about 4 feet lower than the highway. They had to have fill dumped to bring an area from the road frontage to a 100 feet back and 80 feet wide. They built a 2 bedroom ranch style home with a full basement in the filled area and moved in that fall. We were about five miles from mom's sister and my dad's parents.

My earliest vague memory is from when I was about 2  ½, crawling about in some scrub brush making ‘nests’ behind the home while my parents and brother worked clearing brush and trees from what became the yard. My next memory is from a year later. My godmother was staying at our house with her 2 children while my mom was in the hospital having another baby, my sister born in September 1954. We had a few days of heavy rain and the four of us kids were in the back yard in the vegetable garden. Water was still flowing from the saturated soil and we played in the furrows making canals. We were so muddy we got screamed at and after being hosed off, were soundly paddled.

My life changed with the birth of my sister, G. I was no longer the pampered one. My new sister filled the void of my deceased sister in my mom's heart. At 3  ½ I was suddenly expected to be all boy. While I longed to be mom's cuddly child, it was no longer allowed. This didn't stop me from trying to help mom take care of G. I remember shaking my curly hair in her face to make her giggle.

Up to this point, I had little interaction with W since he was 6 1/4 years older. Now he was to watch me while mom took care of G. W wasn't happy having to keep an eye on me and while not openly nasty, was not very accommodating. Living in the country, we had no one nearby as playmates so were stuck with each other. If I told mom what W did to me, he'd get an over the lap spanking. Then W would get me back for being a snitch. It didn't take me long not to tell dad what W did to me because after W got wailed with belt, it was my turn for not being tough enough to stand up for myself. I quickly learned how to suck up pain and not cry. Instead of being the happy, chatty child I'd been before G's birth, I became quiet and reticent, but at the same time grew tough and ready to take any challenge to prove my boyhood. I also learned the hard way to keep my mouth shut about wanting to play with dolls and wear pretty clothes. I buried those desires except for the few times I 'bravely' yielded to my sister's request to play with her.

At thirteen, W began to trap muskrats in the stream behind our property to earn money as we did not get an allowance. About that time W and I started playing a game we called 'trap the muskrat' in the basement. This will demonstrate what was normal in my life. We had a big tricycle, the front wheel was 24 inches while the rear wheels were 10 inches. The basement had a 15 inch square oak main beam lengthwise down the center. The house was 24 feet wide and 40 feet long. Two 24 inch square cinder block columns supported the beam about 12 feet from the outer walls leaving 14 feet between the columns. The oak steps into the basement came down beside one of the columns. This left the front half of the basement open while the back half was interrupted by the steps. The back half was the muskrat den and a safe area. I'd ride the trike around the basement counterclockwise hunched over the handlebars pedaling like a demon, often lifting a wheel as I made the corners around the columns.

W would be the trapper on the front half of the basement. He'd 'trap' me by whipping a rolled up towel into the front spokes. I had to be going fast enough he couldn't get the towel to lodge in the spokes. This meant that as I came around the column into the safe zone I had to regain control fast after going up on 2 wheels because if I didn't, I'd more often than not slam head first into the free standing oak stairs which came down by that column. When this happened it usually stripped me off the bike. I'd get past him 4 out of 5 times and hit the steps about 1 out of those 4 successes. If he succeeded in 'trapping' me, the towel would lock up the front wheel and the trike and I would pivot up and over the stalled main wheel slamming into the concrete floor or cinder block walls. No matter if he trapped me or I wiped myself out on the steps I'd shake off the damage and jump back on the trike for another go at getting past him. If I wasn't bleeding, black and blue, and had several lumps on my noggin we hadn’t played long enough. We played this for several years, from about my ages 7 till 9 with W 13 to 15, when the trike finally died. W enjoyed the carnage while I took a beating.

If you're wondering why my parents didn't object, it was because W and I were playing quietly without fighting. Dad even watched several times and encouraged me to go on. Even though I took a beating it taught me to be tough, shake off injuries, and persevere. To this day I can take a great deal of pain and simply shake it off, using the pain inspired adrenalin to fuel me to action and endurance.

If Dad thought we needed punishment, off came his belt and we got wailed. He'd grab us by one wrist to hold up so we had to stand on our toes while he wailed away. We were relatively well behaved but still got the belt at least once a month. We seldom disobeyed orders as we knew we'd have to do whatever we were told to do. The only option we had was to do it without getting wailed because we'd have to it after getting our asses wailed.

My first clear memory is 3 days of hell in 1955 when I was 4  ½ while my brother was 11  ½. Our cesspool top caved in. (For those of you who don't know what a cesspool is, it's a personal rural sewer. Each home not on a municipal sewer system has their own mini-sewer system. The raw sewage of the house empties into the cess pool where the solids settle out before the liquid runs into a drain field.) Dad made W crawl in the broken topped cesspool and tie rope about the pieces of concrete so my dad could pull them out with the pick-up truck. The cess pool was an in ground cube of about 8 feet. I was required to climb down a ladder, standing in ooze up to my armpits. W lowered a 5 gallon bucket on a rope to me. I had to scoop it full, then use a pail to top it off. W hauled it up and walked about 60 feet to dump it on our vegetable garden. It took us 3 days... in August... to empty. A fun 3 days for a 4 year old. To this day I have no issues with rotten smells or spilled sewage, a skill that has often helped me in life.

About 6 weeks later, a skunk fell into a window hole. A window hole, in this case 2 feet deep by 18 inches wide and 3 feet long, is built against the outside of the house to allow natural light to enter the basement. The skunk had no way to get out. My dad told my brother to get it out. After a severe wailing, W managed got the skunk out. Nothing took the smell off him. Mom tried tomato juice and lemon juice, but nothing worked. Since we shared the bedroom and bed, I can tell you he did stink! When he went to school the next day, they sent him home. It took 3 days until the stench faded enough to allow his return to school.

During the winter of 1955-6, the attic was finished to create 2 bed rooms. One was open to the stairway, the other had a door. W and I were moved up into the room with the door and were given our own twin beds. Our old bedroom on the 1st floor became our sister's bedroom.

In the spring of 1956 my parents bought the lot next to ours and after adding fill built a 2 bay garage 20 feet from the house. A coal-oil (kerosene) heater was placed inside. This monster stood 4 feet tall and was 2 feet on each side. It had a steel tank fire box and threw off enough heat to warm the uninsulated garage. He also added a 5 ton chain hoist in the 2nd bay and began to repair cars. A 4 inch thick concrete patio 16 feet wide by 24 feet deep was created between the house and garage.

I started 1st grade in 1957. W started 8th grade that year. His birthday was mid January so he'd started 1st grade at 5, turning six mid-term. Back then the cut off date for starting school was January 1, so he was the youngest in his class which created academic problems for him. Kindergarten didn't exist in our school back then. The elementary school (grades 1-6) was an imposing brick 2 story building. The south entrance was for the boys while the north entrance was for the girls. Each was a mirror image of the other. Outside concrete steps went up about eight feet to open into a stairwell. The steps were 6 feet wide. The restrooms were in the basement, to the left of the bottom of the stairs. A half flight up from the entrance was the first floor which opened onto a huge center hall 20 feet wide. Bookshelves against the walls of the hall held the school library, locked behind glass doors. A classroom was located in each corner of the building, two each with a common wall on east and west. Each room had a cloakroom where we had hooks to hang our coats with a sink in the back corner. We could enter the classroom from the back via the cloakroom or from the front the main hall. The second floor was a copy of the first. The school and playground covered a half block. Across the street from the elementary school was the high school (grades 7-12). Including the track/sports field it covered an entire block. The cafeteria was located in the basement of the high school so each day we were marched across for lunch regardless of the weather. My 1st grade class was about 2/3 1st graders and 1/3 second graders with 45 of us crowded together.

I was wary of the other kids because I had no experience interacting with strangers. It took months to make friends, but they were never close friends, more like acquaintances. Basically, I was a shy quiet loaner. I knew I was a boy, it had been physically and mentally drummed into me, but I never fit in with the other guys. I was more than tough enough not to be considered a sissy, but it was mostly bravado. I'd surreptitiously watch the girls in their skirts and dresses with a longing in my heart. Despite not making friends I loved school and quickly learned that reading was fun and opened the entire world up for exploration.

My main memory of first grade is of a recess after a snow. The 2nd grade and most of the 1st grade boys were linked hands on the hips of the person in front of them forming a 'train'. They shuffled their feet and made shh-shh sounds like a locomotive pulling the cars through the slushy snow. Quite naturally, I was not part of the train. Being jealous and more than a bit intimidated, I never the less decided to get involved. I scurried in front of them and held my arms up and out while telling them I was a stop signal. The second graders said trains don't have stop signals and I should get out of the way. I knew trains DID have stop signals so I stood my ground. They swerved around me so I ran ahead and planted myself in front of them again. This time they didn't swerve nor stop. The 2nd graders in the lead bulldozed me down. Since it was warm and the snow melting, I landed in the slush and as their train passed, the cars kicked slush all over me. Needless to say I was soaked and cold. The teacher made the class stay inside for recess the rest of the week so I was blamed. Still, the teacher did say that trains did indeed have stop signals. I reveled in being right while the 'smarter' older kids were wrong. At the time my thinking was that the entire event was not my fault but theirs because they were stupid.

Needless to say, I discovered I could get attention instead of being ignored by being smart. It didn't take me long to realize there were no stupid questions. Whenever I was unsure of what was being taught, I asked for clarification. This is a trait I continued through school and college and into the workplace.

It didn't take me long to realize my questions were helping most of the class because they didn't understand but were too intimidated by the teacher to ask. I had always enjoyed helping around the home and now discovered I enjoyed helping others too.

When the teacher would ask questions Most of my classmates never volunteered an answer. Those that did raise their hands only did so when they were sure they had the correct answer. If I thought I might know the answer I raised my hand. Sure, sometimes I was wrong, but far more often that not I was right. Being wrong never intimidated me.

Grade wise I was primarily an A student with a few Bs. By contrast W was a C student with several Ds. My parents never pushed us for good grades. Since neither had graduated they were satisfied if we passed and stayed out of trouble.

The blizzard of 1958 was the worst snow storm I've ever experienced. It had been a snowy year, but when that storm hit, it was hellish. It snowed non-stop for 2 days with heavy winds. From our house we couldn't even see the highway which was 60 feet from the house. Total white out. Then the power went out.

When the storm finally stopped, we were literally snowed into the house. The snow covered the doors and windows. I remember Dad calling us to look out the attic window. He opened the window and leaned out. Snow was drifted onto the roof. When W looked out, dad grabbed him by the belt and heaved him through the window. Then Dad threw coat and gloves out after him, telling him if he wanted to get back into the house, he'd have to get into the garage to get a shovel to clear open a door. W did what he was told. I don't remember how long it took. I do recall I had to watch G while Mom, Dad, and W shoveled.

They brought the coal-oil heater into the house and set it in the living room. Mom was able to cook on top of the fire box and it heated the entire house to the point we slept without blankets. It took 2 days before the highway was re-opened and another 2 days until we got the power back on.

The Cub Scouts put on a presentation in the school when I was in 2nd grade to recruit cubs. I liked the idea of the uniform and the scouting in general would help me be the macho guy my dad expected. The den I joined was a block away from the school and the meetings were held right after school. Scouting turned out to be a disappointment but since my parents had invested in the uniform, I knew better than to try to quit. The only good thing I got out of scouting was to meet A, a 1st grade girl whose older brother was in the den and her mom was the assistant den mother. In the few minutes before the meetings started, I would push A on the swings so high she'd scream, then I'd roll under the swing as it reached the bottom which made her scream more. I'd get scolded but it never slowed me down. Each week we'd do our thing, adding pulling her pigtails when she wore them. In our juvenile way, we were flirting. This went on 2 years until her mom resigned as assistant den mother to have another child.

It was also Christmas of 1958 that I got my first set of army men. Plastic soldiers about 2 to 2  ½ inches high (scale 1/32" or 54mm) in different poses and colors. Playing with them became an obsession. I was able to be the tough soldier like my dad and took out a lot of my aggression in the carnage of make-believe battles. About the same time, I became enthralled by war movies. It was an effort to shore up my still shaky masculinity. Instead of real friends, I had my favorite toy soldiers and I'd reenact the battle scenes from TV or books. My toy soldiers became my best friends. They never questioned my bravery or machismo and were always supportive. I still have those soldiers and I still collect toy soldiers, having somewhere between 3000 - 4000.

The school was becoming crowded as we baby-boomers were born. The elementary school added two classrooms in the basement and had another in the church on the corner of the half block the elementary school didn't occupy. The back of the church faced the schoolyard across an alley. My third grade class was held in the church basement. We thought walking to lunch at the highschool was a trek from the grade school(about 150 feet), now we had to walk 300 feet along the sidewalk to the corner, then turn right and go another 400 feet to the high school. It was a miserable trek in the best of conditions because our teacher was a strict disciplinarian. We had to walk single file, silently, and space ourselves with 2 feet between each kid. If anyone spoke or failed to stay in a correctly spaced line, we were halted and scolded. The woman was the wife of the district superintendent and only had 2 years of college. Also, she and her husband were the powers that be in the church. Being in the church was sort of fun. We managed to get a few extra days off when funerals were being held as they didn't want us disturbing the ceremony.

In the spring of the school year just after my 9th birthday, my parents bought two more building lots on the other side of the 2 bay garage. After the fill was compacted, a 2 bay service station with office and storeroom was built with three huge in ground storage tanks for gasoline. The overhead doors to the bays were 10 by 10 feet and a hydraulic lift was installed in one bay. An 8 by 12 feet waiting room with an office and storage area behind it was beside the 2 bays. The service station opened in June. Dad, Mom, W. and I worked to cover the business from 6am till midnight, 7 days a week for the first 3 years. Then with the business well established we cut back to 5 days 8 till 9 and Saturdays 8 till 1.

Even though I was only 9, I did my share of work in the business. Upon getting home from school it was change to work clothes and go to work. I had a 3 step step-ladder at the gas pumps so I could wash the car windows as I pumped gas. I also fetched tools and parts and sopped up spilled oil. W was in tenth grade, 15, and dad expected him to do all jobs. Dad expected W and later me to work as fast and error free as he did. Dad was true to his experiences. A tough, wiry man who didn't acknowledge the word 'can't'. As an ex-paratrooper he knew how to swear in English, Pennsylvania Dutch, French, and German. I believe he could go on a rant for half an hour and never repeat a word. W and dad fought constantly, heated verbal exchanges often escalating to blows at least once every two weeks.

My jealousy of my sister grew by leaps and bounds as she didn't have to work in the garage and got to wear pretty clothes. She could also wrap my dad around her pinky. I so wanted to be a girl and wear pretty clothes and be cuddled by mom and dad. But I had to be the junior grease monkey. Even though my heart was torn with the jealousy, I never hated my sister. I enjoyed playing with her when I could. We occasionally played house and other girly games. I never did figure out how my parents let me get away with that.

Four months after graduating, W joined the Pennsylvania Air National Guard and left for the 6 month basic training program in the fall of 1962 just as the Cuban Missile Crises blew up. What this meant for me was that at 11 in the 6th grade, I became the 2nd mechanic. This was as bad as it sounds. W was always small, taking after my dad's side of the family. I on the other hand took after moms side of the family. When I began 6th grade, I was wearing the hand-me-down clothes W had worn to school as a senior the year before. This meant that at age 11, I was as big as my brother was when he graduated. My age meant nothing to my dad as I’d had 2  ½ years of experience and was as big as my brother. My dad would work on a car in one bay while I worked on another in the 2nd bay. Since I saw and learned the oft repeated harsh lesson about arguing and fighting with dad, I let dad's bellows and swearing go in one ear and out the other. We never even argued as I'd simply continue working while he yelled and cursed at me. This drove him crazy as I blithely continued to work while he ranted at me for some mistake I’d made. One thing it did for me was allowed me to get out of scouting. I'd advanced to Webloes, which is the transition from cub to boy scouts, so by dropping out at that point, we'd never gotten the boy scout uniform.

The following spring, 1963, I came home from school, changed, and headed out to the garage. Dad gave me the 20 pound sledge hammer and a 25 pound steel pry bar that was 5 feet long and an inch and a half round. Then he told me contractors were coming the next day to begin excavation between the house and private garage to build an addition connecting the two buildings. I was told to break up the 16 feet by 24 feet concrete slab between the buildings that night... and watch the gas pumps to take care of customers. Not having a choice, I finished about 10. I became quite good at swinging a sledge hammer and can still do so today at 59. I learned not to worry about how to do a task, just do it.

In 1961 Pennsylvania mandated that small school districts merge to create larger districts. W was in the last class to graduate from out town/township school district in 1962. The 1962/3 school year grades 7 through 12 went to a newly built high school. In the fall of 1963 I was a 7th grader in the new high school. I was in geography class when the announcement came over the intercom that JFK had been shot. We were all stunned and didn't want to believe it. Classes were abandoned for the day and all classes headed for the auditorium where they had set up a 2 TV sets on the stage so we could watch the coverage. 750 students sat in the seats trying to make out the images on the 27 inch black and white screens. They did mike them so we could at least hear what was going on.

Puberty hit me during 7th grade. While I appeared to be a tough guy in my attitudes and actions, mentally my sexual identity was very confused. I fervently wished I could be a girl but felt compelled to put on a tough guy stance. In my daydreams I'd invent scenarios where I'd be a macho hero who saved the day but had his male organs destroyed. Without my boy bits I'd be able to live as a girl. These scenarios became my masturbatory fantasies. While my classmates leered at the girls and spoke of making out with cute ones, I'd watch them too, only I did it to be able to incorporate their outfits and hair styles into my transformation fantasies.

I was on the honor roll most marking periods and in the advanced math and science classes. I was still the odd man out, not having any close friends, but by then I didn't want close friends. I was somewhat content and even reveled in being different and maintained a positive outlook. The phys-ed teachers urged me to go out for soccer and baseball (we didn't field a football team until my senior year) as when we played in gym class my abilities were equal to the best of the jocks and better than most. I refused because I didn't like sports but told them I had to work in the garage. (I still don't care for sports, and I think football is the worst to watch. A 1 hour game that takes 3 hours to play yet if you use a stop watch to time the actual play time, from snap to whistle, there is only 13-14 minutes of play... that you spend 3 hours watching, not to mention the pre and post game analysis.)

My physical abilities upset the jocks because I was as good or better than they were but didn't give a damn. We did play a game I enjoyed for it's ferocity. Speed ball was a cross between soccer and football with a little roller derby thrown in for good measure. We started out using a soccer ball, but once we'd learned the basics, we used a football. The game started out like soccer, dribbling the ball (try to dribble a football some time... loads of fun). If the ball was kicked into the air, it could be caught and you were able to run with the ball and could pass it. Anyone could run the ball. What really made it fun for me was the carnage. Tackling was not allowed, but you as long as you were after the ball, you could run your opponent down. Just like when I played 'muskrat', I showed no fear and felt no pain. I'd run full tilt into the ball carrier, usually bowling the guy over while I stayed on my feet. I have a tremendous sense of balance and can quickly recover. My teammates would always get the ball to me when it could be carried because I never failed to score. I'd have a wild-eyed insanely grinning expression on my face as I ran. If someone tried to stop me, I'd simply run into them knocking them ass over tin cups. It didn't take long for everyone to give me a wide berth. They thought I was crazy... little did they know!

Wrestling was my favorite phys-ed activity. I'd plaster my maniacal grin on my face as I circled my opponent. With my rep from speed ball, most just let me win. The jocks tried to best me, but my adrenalin was pumped and they never did. When I was a junior, since no one wanted to wrestle me, the coach put me up against a senior who had placed 2nd in the state the year before. We wrestled to a draw. I was urged to join the wrestling team but I refused.

In the early spring of 1965, I finally learned my lesson about accepting so called gifts from my dad. He asked my sister and I if we'd like an in-ground swimming pool in the back yard, we both said yes. Then he smiled and said he'd order a kit from Sears, 20 x 40 feet, 3 to 8 feet deep. I was excited until he gave me the pick, shovel, and wheel barrow. It only took me 3 weeks with breaks to run to the gas pumps when the bell rang. The ground was a clay shale so the pick easily broke up the rock and I was able to shovel it. I'd haul it into the swampy forest behind our 1 acre garden and spread it.

Once the hole was dug, complete with footers, we laid cement block walls and laid out the plumbing, plastered the inside, spread 6 inches of sand on the sloped bottom, and installed the plastic liner. We also built a 16 feet by 24 feet pavilion to house the pool filter and a powder room. It took 3 days to fill the pool with a garden hose from our well. The pool is still in use.

It was at the end of October when I was in 9th grade that an event occurred that frightened me. It occurred in the locker room after phys-ed class. A hulking senior jock decided I was his target to be intimidated. He'd been picking on my classmates starting with the class jocks. So far everyone had backed down from him. The guy stood about 6'5" and was a muscular 240 pounds. At the time, I stood about 5'6" and was a wiry 120 pounds. Our phys-ed teacher was aware of the bullying but let it go as it served to prepare us for life in the real world... his words.

The bully made the mistake of targeting me. As was his style, he started calling me names which I blithely ignored, just as I did with my dad's rants. Everyone gathered to watch to see if I'd back down, something I was known to never have done. Frustrated and losing face, he angrily stepped in front of me and using his big hands harshly shoved me backwards. Everyone expected me to fall on my ass, but I stayed on my feet and smiled at him. This dumbfounded him and all the onlookers, especially as I stepped back to where I'd been. Standing about 6 inches apart and still smiling, I looked up right into his eyes and calmly spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. "If you know what's good for you, you won't pick a fight with a me."

Everyone was dumbfounded by my audacity, especially the bully. After about 15 seconds, he stepped back and swung his fist. I didn't flinch as the blow connected with my cheek. The force caused me to stagger a few feet but I still didn't fall. When I regained my balance, I looked at him and smiled, then walked back to where I'd been standing. Again I'd dumbfounded everyone as I stood before him still smiling, although I’m sure it was somewhat lopsided. The next blow staggered me back a few steps and caused blood to trickle from the corner of my mouth. After regaining my balance I licked the blood, ran my tongue around my lips, then smiled as I actually did savor the taste. This time when I approached him I swung back. I'm not sure how long the fight lasted because at that point I sort of went into a berserker rage. Each blow staggered me backward a few steps but he was too stunned by my refusal to yield or even fall to follow me so each time I had to go back to him. I do know the smile never left my face, even with blood flowing freely from my nose and severely split lips. I do remember the bully's initial angry demeanor steadily transformed to a look of fear as I took everything he dished out, several times he sent me to the floor but I quickly regained my feet, lapped up and savored my blood and smiled demonically as I re-entered the fray. My adrenalin fueled berserker rage kept me going as I wore him down. When I saw he was weakening, instead of going back to face him like I'd been doing, I lowered my head and charged. Catching him off guard, I slammed him back about 3 feet into the lockers with a resounding BANG. We slid to the floor where I climbed atop him. Sitting on his stomach, I began pummeling his face. (Mohammad Ali improved my masochistic technique with his 'rope a dope')

It took half a dozen guys to pull me off of him. His face was a bloody mess. My knuckles were raw and bleeding. He'd broken my nose and blackened both eyes but I'd returned the favor. I also knocked out two of his teeth. It was the last teacher sanctioned attempt at intimidation. The guys watching were horrified by my bloodlust. The maniacal smile never left my bloodied face as I beat him. He missed the rest of the week of school but I was there without missing a day. I was sore and turning colors, but there. I’d confirmed I was crazy. No one ever tried to mess with me after that, for which I was grateful.

After all was said and done, I realized I would have killed the guy if I hadn't been pulled off. I had been totally out of control and it scared me. The guy beat the hell out of me and I just kept going back for more. It was my last fight... ever. I became so afraid of losing control I became even more of a loaner after this. It opened my eyes to life's horrors. My dad was a functional alcoholic, never drank while working, but after supper was never without a beer and drank himself to sleep every night. I have never touched alcohol... I'm scared of losing control.

My transvestism/transsexualism had first manifested itself at the time the gas station was opened. It grew as I aged... and after the fight, it was an escape from the forced/expected machismo.
My transsexual fantasies ran rampant and I felt I was one sick dude. A few months later, the stress became unbearable and my self-esteem was non-existent. I still put on a tough exterior, but avoided all interactions for fear of losing control. After one particularly rough day, I tried to cut my wrists but my pocket knife was too dull. Needless to say, I was psychologically messed up. I had to appear super macho while desperately wanting to be a dainty girl. This was way back before personal computers existed, so I didn’t know there were others like me. This plus my wacked out weirdo rep at school kept me socially isolated. We took a ‘career aptitude test’ about that time. My results showed 2 results that best suited me... a career military officer... or a pastor. I was unquestioningly a head-case. I was afraid to ask a girl out because I was afraid of being turned down and didn’t know if I could handle being close to a girl.

Just after turning 16 in spring of my sophomore year, I got a job on a chicken farm and got away from my dad. Being paid a dollar an hour, not bad for a kid in 1967, 60,000 chickens and their shit were easier to handle. I got my first speeding ticket while riding to the chicken farm... doing 50 in a 35mph zone, passing a tractor-trailer on the wrong side in a no passing zone... on my single speed bicycle.

The job was cleaning out two chicken houses that the boss had just purchased. The previous owner went bankrupt and wasn't able to clean out the houses. Each house had 2 rooms 60 feet wide and 500 feet long. 15,000 loose chickens were in each pen. Egg producing chickens lay an egg a day and thus literally wear themselves out after about 12-13 months. When their production falls off, they're captured and sent off to Campbell's for chicken soup. The previous owner didn't bother to clean the chicken houses for his last 3 cycles. The chicken droppings were 12 to 16 inches deep. Fortunately, that part was dry. A center pit was 18 inches deeper and only had a 3 inch crust atop the goo.

A classmate and I had to dismantle the roosts, nests, water troughs, and mechanical feeding system in each room. We carried them outside and cleaned them. My past experience in the cesspool inured me to the smell of the pit, so I got to pull the crust off the top while my co-worker stayed outside cleaning what we removed. Once everything was remover, the owner came in with a front end loader and scooped the accumulated shit out. Being a wise business man, he sold the chicken shit... to local mushroom farms... the mushrooms loved their new soil.

There were about a half dozen large chicken farms in the area I lived and they would assist each other when it came time to clear out the scrawny old chickens. They'd do the deed after dark so the chickens wouldn't panic. If they could see, free running chickens would run away from anyone trying to catch them. This would lead to them piling up in the farthest corner, 7 or 8 deep. The ones on the bottom would suffocate. Dead chickens brought no money from Campbell's.

With the lights off, they'd select 4-6 older guys to be catchers. They'd go into the room and stay so they could grow accustomed to the dark and see and catch the chickens without creating a panic. Then there was a team of 7-8 younger guys (my age) to be carriers. In the prep room (where the eggs were cleaned, sorted, and put on trays) there were 2-3 adults who would take the chickens from the carriers and stuff them in a chicken crate about 10 inches high by 2 feet deep and 3 feet long. Another 3-4 adults would take the filled crates a out to load them on the tracker-trailer.

In a free running chicken room, there are 2 rows of about 50 wooden roosts each usually made of 2x2 lumber about 8 feet by feet, resting about 2 feet above the floor. Suspended about a foot above the floor by each roost is a 4 inch wide water trough. Also suspended were the galvanized sheet steel nests. These large multi-layered bins generally were three feet above the floor. Each nest was a 1 foot cube, stacked 5 high and 10 feet long. The last item is the feeder. Also about a foot off the floor, this rain gutter like device about 5 inches wide forms a continuos loop the length of the 60 feet wide by 500 feet long room from and back to the prep area. A flattened chain runs through the gutter dragging feed from hoppers in the prep area.

The catchers would move in and with a 1 hand snatch the chickens by one leg. Then they put the chicken by the snared leg into their other hand until they'd accumulated 6 chickens. We carriers would take the 'hand' (6 chickens) in one of our hands, then go to another picker to get another 'hand'. The one handed transfers were critical as hands of less than 6 could not be taken out. We'd have to run the obstacle course of roosts, water troughs, feeder, and nests to carry the chickens to the prep area where we handed off to the men to double check the counts before stuffing them in the crate.

The adults placed 18 chickens in each crate, pulling out any sickly chicken out of the hands. They had a cage with a few chickens in it to replace those they rejected. The rejected chickens were placed in a side room to be dealt with later.

Needless to say, since the room was dark and we were back and forth into the lighted prep area, we carriers never stayed in the dark long enough for our eyes to adjust. Inevitably we tripped over things and slammed into others. It was critical we hold onto the chickens. That's not mention holding by 1 leg each 6 squawking wing-flapping free leg churning terrorized chickens in each hand. Even wearing long sleeves our forearms were pretty well shredded after 5 hours as well as having our shins bruised and bloodied.

We earned $3 an hour for our effort, real good money back then. But by the end of the 1 night job we hated chickens. The adults allowed us to work off our hatred by eliminated the 60-70 rejected chickens. In the side room the lights were on and all 11 to 14 of us younger guys were allowed to vent our rage. We'd chase down the chickens, grab them by their feet with one hand, then grasp their necks at the base of their skulls between our index and middle fingers, then pull and twist to break their necks. Over enthusiasm caused quite a few to be beheaded. Looking back now it seems a horrid thing, but at the time, the payback felt good.

My experiences with the chickens allowed me to understand how easy it would be for soldiers to commit atrocities. I'm not condoning such acts, but I know what weariness, frustration, injuries, and blood can do to a person. The massacre at Mai Lai in Vietnam was due to the same pressures and frustration. I feel terrible for the victims and for the men that committed the nefarious deeds. They were swept up in bloodlust and needed to vent.

At the beginning of my senior year I got a job in the local bleach and dye works., working 6 hours every night after school. A, the girl I knew from grade school (her mom was my den mother in cub scouts, she was in 1st grade, I was in 2nd.) asked me to come to the art club dance (she was asking everyone she knew). At the same time the Bleach & Dye works was having a Company dinner and my co-workers (all adults) were pesting me to bring a date. I told A I'd go to the dance... with her... if she'd go to the banquet with me. Those were our first 2 dates. We continued dating.

When I turned 18 in April, I began full time at the Bleach & Dye works after high school. I continued there through my first two years of college. Get up at 6am, school from 8 to 2, then work at the plant from 3 to 11.

My macho side wanted to join the marines and I scored a full NROTC scholarship to Penn State. This was in 1969 and I wanted to go to Vietnam. (Told you I'm crazy!) A month before I was ready to begin college, I ripped up my knee and the military dropped me. I had to scramble as I couldn't afford the main campus and managed to transfer to a Penn State local campus for the year before transferring to a local state college. At the time Penn State was on a trimester (10 week) system. Three things happened while at the Penn State Schuylkill Haven Campus that are note-worthy.

First was my right knee. I had to have surgery. In March 1970 this meant a 6 inch incision along the inside of the knee to peel open the joint. I did it in during the Easter break between the winter and spring semesters. Since I was driving a 4 speed mustang at the time, I learned how to speed shift. I made my way around campus for two weeks on crutches. I only missed 5 weeks of work, having completed the rehab and been discharged.

The second was Kent State. I refused to join the class boycotts and when confronted by protestors told them I felt sorry that people had been killed and injured, but felt that if they had been stupid enough to go up against armed soldiers with bricks and stones, well, they simply got what they asked for. I was not popular and didn’t give a damn.

The third thing was speed ball during my last trimester there, 5 months after my knee surgery. Penn State phys-ed. 40 guys, all but me macho coal-crackers from Schuylkill County and even then I was half coal-cracker. We went all out, no holds barred. By the seventh week we were unable to field enough players as over 50% of the class had broken bones. Still, we played on. By the end of the semester, there were two of us without disabling injuries one other guy and me.

After this I transferred to a local state college for the spring semester. A was going to the same school so I arrived a semester after she started. Both of us lived at home while we went to college. We would travel back and forth together. She worked as the evening clerk in a small store in our small town while the Bleach & Dye works was just outside town.

In July of that 1971, between my sophomore and junior year, I had to have another operation on my right knee. This time the 6 inch incision was on the outside of the joint. After recovery, A and I decided I needed a less physically demanding job and she needed a better paying job. We both landed evening jobs in a department store. When school began, we'd get up at 6am, I'd go to her home and pick her up. We'd drive 12 miles to the state college, classes and study from 8 till 4, then drive 15 miles to the city to work 5 till 10 in a department store, then back home. A and I paid our own way through college plus bought and maintained our cars.

While working full time, we both took 18 to 21 credits a semester and went summers, earning our degrees in 3  ½ years. I could never get a teaching job as 18,000 of us graduated that year with a social studies degree for 2000 openings. I did get a job as a supervisor in a factory at 22 and we married the week she graduated. I’ve worked industry almost every since.

A saved me from myself. I was a high school senior and she was a junior when we started dating in March. In April I wanted to take her out on Sundays, she simply told me she was teaching Sunday School. The following Sunday she had an assistant. That was in 1969. The pastor was a good man and saw my inner possibilities. In deep talks, he helped me iron out my manly concerns and doubts about God. I've settled my concerns about my TV interests and know God understands my weakness.

I'm still at that church and have been teaching the 7th & 8th grade confirmands, starting my 4th year. I had 9 for confirmation in May. I teach the kids, not the curriculum. I make it real and relate to their lives. We have a 32 year program and Our pastor retired after completing the first year so I volunteered to take over. I was only going to do it 1 year while we were between pastors but it turned out to be 2  ½ years. The parents of the incoming classes, who my wife and I had taught in Sunday School over the years, wanted me to continue as the kids enjoy my classes. The new pastor agreed.

Unfortunately my wife was not at all understanding about my TV/TS interests, although we were deeply devoted in virtually all other aspects of our lives. Our daughter is 33 and we were in our 37th year of marriage. In 1990 we added onto our home (16 x 31 feet, 2  ½ stories with basement & replaced the heating system), doing the work ourselves, masonry, carpentry, roofing, plumbing. wiring, drywall, everything. We moved my widowed mother-in law and brother-in law in with us. We kept the original portion and they got the addition. My mother -in-law died in 1997, but my 49 year old going on 12 brother -in-law is still here... rent free.

Also in 1997 my wife was diagnosed with MS. She had bad days and worse days but continued working as an elementary school librarian. In 2000, Thanksgiving, she slipped on some ice and fell, fracturing 2 vertebrae. She refused to stop and although confined to a manual wheelchair, she continued to teach. She couldn't stand or walk so I lifted her out of bed and carried her to the shower. We showered together as she couldn't stand. It wasn't fun or easy, but we did it. I'd put her in her wheelchair, take her to the car, lift her into the car, take her to school, lift her back into the chair, then help her to the library. Then I went to work. After I finished my shift, I'd pick her up. She managed to finish the school year, then collapsed. She was hospitalized for 47 days as they stabilized her. MS is aggravated by stress so naturally it flared up. The upshot was that she was permanently paralyzed from the waist down and was bedridden since then. I've remodeled our home making a roll in shower, ramps for the power wheelchair (which she can only use 3-4 hours a day once a week) and have set her up with inter-coms and remote door locks as well as a laptop computer. For 9 years I was her only care-giver, feeding and bathing her and assisting in daily bodily functions. Every day I manually used a rubber gloved finger to remove the waste from her bottom. (Those days in the cess-pool have actually come in handy!) We joked that I was one of the few husbands who could be a pain in his wife’s butt under doctor’s order. We never lost our sense of humor. I did all this while working full time and being fully active on our church governing body. I'm the ex- president (6 years) and currently assistant treasurer, and treasurer for the Sunday School and Memorial Fund. (I did my TV/TS writing in my spare time.)

When asked if she ever asked “God, why me?”, she would shake her head no. “I never said ‘God, why me?’ when I met my husband. I never said ‘God, why me?’ when I gave birth to our daughter. If I didn’t say ‘God, why me?’ for the good things in my life, what right do I have to ask ‘God, why me?’ for the bad?” Our faith is that strong.

Our faith has made all I do possible. When my wife first went into the manual wheelchair, she was head of the Sunday School, so every Sunday I took her into church and out... up and down 27 steps. An older parishioner came to us after 6 weeks and thanked us. He'd wanted to do something big for the church in memory of his late wife but didn't know what to do. He put up the money for an elevator and in 6 months, our church was made fully accessible. God used our steadfast faith to influence others. Our personal tragedy became a blessing. Then 6 years ago, the Medical Equipment Company we used asked if I wanted to come on board as Service Manager. They were impressed by my attitude and initiative. I accepted and have been using my experience in dealing with disability to help others. Again, God used our tragedy for good. I worked 1 mile from home and was able to come home for lunch every day. It was a win-win situation.

My beloved wife was finally freed from her crippled body in June. She passed peacefully at home. I had taken her to the doctor on Tuesday because she was deteriorating rapidly. Other than hospitalizing her, there was nothing to do. She refused, stating she wanted to die at home and asked the doctor to write a DNR order just in case the responders didn’t see our legal DNR. On our way home she said her time was almost up and that she’d be waiting for me on the other side... but that I should take my time. On Thursday morning she was only semi-conscious and while I could get her to draw water through a straw, she was unable to swallow. I told her it was okay, kissed her goodbye, told her I’d see her at lunch, and headed of to work. When I arrived home at lunch she was in the same position I’d left her in. She had achieved her heavenly reward.

We had discussed the end and planned what to do. An autopsy was not required and she was cremated. We had a lovely memorial service nine days after her passing on Saturday. Several hundred people attended. I have her ashes in a wooden cask by my desk. It’s large enough to hold my ashes when it’s my turn. I had a bit of her ashes put into a hollow cross designed for that purpose which I wear on a chain with her rings. She’s still with me and always will be. We are true soul mates. When we renewed our wedding vows on our 25th anniversary, we did so with the understanding that our marriage would last through death. I miss her, yet I know she’s still beside me. I’ll never seek another but I’ll never be alone. My life on earth is not nearly over.

A month after my wife passed, my 84 year old mom ruptured her colon. When she was discharged, I brought her to my home rather than let her continue to life alone. Now I’m taking care of her.

*****

I'm still crazy. I've discovered my family struggles with alcoholism is mine, just compulsive eating. I can't eat one donut without having to get a dozen. I can't get a box ice-cream without eating it in one sitting. I control myself by not starting. For the last 41 years my breakfast has consisted of two cans of Coke... no food... with another two cans for lunch... with no food. In the last three years I have cut back my Coke consumption from 10-12 cans a day to 5-6 cans. My one day of splurging is my birthday. I bring donuts for everyone at work. For the last 3 years I eat 6 donuts and drink a 2-liter bottle of Coke in the first  ½ hour, polishing off 3 more 12 oz cans of Coke with a total of 21 donuts.

I went through a total of 9 surgeries over 30 years on my right knee, culminating in a full knee replacement in 2000 at age 49. The surgery was on Tuesday and I was in church Sunday. I was fully discharged and back to work in 6 weeks. 10 years on I’m still doing good. Along with the knee, I’ve blown out 5 discs. 3 in the lower back, aggravated by years of limping, and 2 in my neck. I’ve never had surgery as a physical therapy regimen keeps them in line despite regular flare-ups. I have carpel tunnel in both wrists but surgery won’t help as the herniated disks in my neck have pinched off the same nerves. I still have full use of both hands, I just can’t feel anything and have a tendency to drop things if I don’t concentrate. I work, take care of the house and yard, and am in damn good shape for my age. I have not found anything I can’t do that I used to do, although I do have to do it differently and get tired a bit quicker, and hurt more. But like my grandfather used to say, “Pain is good! As you hurt you know you’re alive!” I don’t intend to ever stop till the day I drop.

I do enjoy pain and actually thrive on it. When I was 44, I slipped at work and broke my left ankle at 2am Sunday morning. As I worked 3rd shift, and it was the last shift of the week, and I was the supervisor in charge of the clean-up, I couldn’t leave but I did fill out my accident report. When the guys finished at 5am, I hobbled around the block sized building to check the doors and turn off the lights. After locking up, I drove myself to the hospital. The parking lot for the emergency room was a flight of stairs down and across the street. I parked, walked up the steps, crossed the street, and went into emergency. When the doctors saw me after the x-rays were taken, they saw I was alone and asked how I had gotten into the hospital. I told them. They didn’t believe me as they said it was impossible to walk on the ankle as several bones were fractured. I laughed and told them I knew that because it hurt like hell when every time I stepped on it. They gave me a very strange look. They put my leg in a cast, and as I had plenty of crutch experience, I walked out on my own and made it to church that morning. I didn’t miss any time from work.

I’m still one tough son of a bitch... and a closet TV. Other than wearing nightgowns to bed, I don’t dress. A fully bearded feminine version of me is simply not attractive. I live my fantasies by reading and writing.



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