The Rubber Band Fight

It was my last night on the air at KEKA as I was being transferred back to Reno. It had been difficult and somewhat sad two-weeks of goodbyes from staff and new friends until that time.

One staff member in particular was the hardest person to say goodbye to: Elizabeth Erdman. She was fresh out of high school and was also preparing to head east for Purdue College in a few weeks. 

She had never worked in radio before, and she was simply given a couple of instructions on what button to push here and there and left to her own devices.  It certainly wasn’t fair and she was talking about quitting even before she really got started.

I immediately saw her potential and decided that if she wanted my help, I’d offer it.

She accepted my guidance and though she never got over the butterflies in the stomach feeling, Elizabeth became a good announcer. I was proud of her and the progress she had made in the couple of months we worked together. 

That final night, she came to the station jus’ to hang out with me as I finished my final shift. It was very kind of her. 

Across the hallway, in our AM-studio was a guy by the name of Frank. He had a dry sense of humor most of the time but this night he was off the wall. 

Who started it, I’m not certain – but before I knew it, Elizabeth, Frank and I were engaged in massive rubber band fight. We ran up and down the short hallway and small foyer that lead to the business offices, zinging each other with one rubber band after another. 

We laughed and carried on as we shot at each other, ducking, dodging, missing and hitting throughout the evening hours. We finally had to stop as we had used up every rubber band in the building.

At midnight, I signed-off for the last time. And as I did, it occurred to me I had jus’ had the most fun I had ever had at the station in all the months I had been there.



Night after night I look at news articles that are supposed to be written for radio-broadcasting. And night after night, I find myself editing and re-editing these stories to bring them to the point, without all the extra words.

For example, here’s a story written by the Associated Press:

       “Doctors, nurses and parents of autistic children are demanding an apology from Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle for comments she made disparaging insurance mandates for autism treatment. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network made the request Wednesday at a Las Vegas rally that drew more than 30 health professionals and families grappling with autism.              

         Nevada Democrats have been shopping a video that shows Angle blasting insurance mandates for autism coverage and maternity leave at a 2009 tea party rally. Angle uses air quotes when she says autism in the video.              

         Angle’s campaign says she believes autistic children and adults deserve the best care, but remains critical of symptoms falsely labeled as autism.              

         Angle is challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”

Here’s my version of the same story:

“The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is demanding an apology from Sharron Angle. The Republican candidate for U.S. senate says she believes autistic children and adults deserve the best care, but remains critical of symptoms falsely labeled as autism. Angle is challenging Senator Harry Reid this November.”

As you can see, I’m not paid by the word.

No Joke

At one point I supplemented my income by writing jokes for the radio trade publication, “One-on-One” as well as Big Dog Productions, the company owned by comedian Jay Leno. I made fairly good money at this.

However it all came to screeching end one early evening when I received a call that proved I was not very good at keeping the two jobs separate. I was fired by One-on-One publisher, Jat Trachman because he believed I was plagiarizing material from the “Tonight Show.”

I quickly looked over the jokes I had written and faxed to both employers and found I had sent several of the same jokes to both places; a big no-no!

So attempting to avoid a double disaster, I called Big Dog and told my manager about my mistake. He was sympathetic with me and I felt like I was okay when I hung up the phone that evening.

However the following day, I got a call from another manager, this one for the Tonight Show. He was less sympathetic as he read me the riot act, and then fired me.

I made both organizations look like they were using stolen material.

Helping Andy Macbeth

Andy Macbeth always seemed grumpy anytime I saw him and for a couple of years I saw him a lot. Mr. Macbeth, as he was known to me, had pulled from his barn in the Klamath Glen an antique fire engine.

I believe it was a 1912 Ford.

It had been stored away for years and needed major repairs to make it road-worthy. That’s exactly what Mr. Macbeth set about to do, working on it every weekend.

For over two years he worked on the old fire truck as it sat in a display room attached to the Yurok Volunteer Fire Department, jus’ down the street from home. I used to hang around the station so I could see what he was doing.
One day I got up the guts to ask if he needed help. At first he said he didn’t, but then for some reason he changed his mind.

He was under the vehicle working on the motor and he had me sit in the front seat. He told me that when he said, “Okay,” I was to step on the clutch pedal and push the button on the dash, which was connected to the started.

I sat there on pins-and-needles, waiting for the word.

Suddenly I heard him bark. I dutifully stepped on the clutch and pushed the button. And jus’ as suddenly, I heard him shouting and yelling.

I jumped down to see what was wrong.

Mr. Macbeth came out from under the truck, covered from head to shoulder in motor oil. He yelled at me, saying he had said, “Stay,” and not “Okay.”

He had the strangest look on his face and it frightened me. So I turned and ran, crossing Redwood Drive, towards an A-frame building that was home to Bob White Realty.

I heard the wrench he threw, crash into the sidewalk’s gutter, but I never looked back.

Instead I ran as fast as I could down the gravel road to the baseball diamond, then up the hill behind the visiting team dugout and into the Walcott’s backyard. I raced across the field behind the Myers’ home and Mrs. Keating’s house, crossing Redwood Drive again and home.

I went inside and stayed inside, too afraid to come out.

Structural Differences

One of my very best friends while growing up was Diana. She was a bit of a tomboy, more comfortable in jeans and a western shirt than on picture day when she had to wear a dress.

Diana and I used to do all sorts of stuff together, from riding horses to running through the woods. We even played “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours,” at one time.

Of course we were young yet and I don’t think either one of us knew what sex was all about. At least I know I had zero-idea about the so-called “birds-and-the-bees,” at the time.

It was between fourth and fifth grade, that Diana and I started to notice some “structural” differences between our bodies. In short she was growing breasts and having to wear a bra, which was something I didn’t fully understand.

It left me a bit confused and I ended up asking Mom what breasts were all about. I’m sure she explained more, but all I gathered was that they made milk and that the milk came from the nipple.

One afternoon, Diana and I were hanging out under a pine tree in the field right behind Mrs. Keating’s house when I asked if she’d show me her “boobs,” as she called them. She lifted her shirt and bra and I looked them over as if I were studying a newly discovered flower.

She gave me permission to touch them and being very gentle as not to hurt Diana, I cupped each breast. She poked fun at me for being afraid of them, for which I was.

So I took the next step and squeezed her areola between my thumb and pointer finger. Try as I may, I couldn’t get milk to come out of them.

I was puzzled, because I had been milking cows for Grandma Ivy for at least three years by them.

Then it dawned on me, maybe I was going about it all wrong. My next question brought out a “that’s sick,” followed by a sharp, “No!” from Diana.

I had asked if I could suckle her, proving I didn’t have the slightest idea what Mom was talking about.

By sixth grade though, we both had a pretty good grasp on what our body parts were for in the long run and the days of “show-and-tell,” were done. Thankfully, it didn’t prevent us from jus’ being children for a while longer.

I also learned a women’s breast doesn’t work like a cow’s teat.

Barking at the Moon

It was early morning, after my Senior Prom. I had driven my date, Jill Ziegler home and I decided to stop at Denny’s to have a cup of coffee.

While I was there I ran into Bill Combs. He was doing the same thing as me.

Bill, being Bill, invited me over to his mother’s home, telling me I was free to spend the night if I wanted. I was pretty tired and decided I’d much rather hang out with friends than drive home to an empty house since Mom and Dad had taken my brother and two sisters for an overnight trip to our Aunt and Uncle’s home in Fortuna.

Much too Mrs. Mary Combs embarrassment, Bill and I spent a few minutes that early morning literally howling at the moon. I mean we bayed as loud as we could into the darkness surrounding that cul-de-sac.

I think we were more than weird that morning, we were high on life.

Jump a Stump

One of the toughest ranch hands was also one of the best preachers I ever met. His name was Wilson and he could cuss, chew tobacco, spit, fight, drink whiskey and play cards with the best of them.

But come Sunday morning after breakfast and while the other hands were doing the chores that normally got pushed to the back while the handling the stock was held as more important, Wilson would “jump a stump,” and start talking about the Gospel. He’d say that we are designed to be in a relationship with our Creator and that our Creator needs us almost as much as we needed him.

I’ve come to understand that God puts us where he wants and needs us and he needed Wilson, an otherwise foul-mouthed, gambling, fist-fighting, tobacco stained, boozer on my Grandpa’s dairy farm, preaching the word of God to men cut from the same cloth.