I Am Just Lucky That Way!

Cole pondering the universe

(WOMR file photo)

Every since May 16, 2010, when my world was turned upside down with the events that played out at 36,000 feet, I have had many opportunities to reflect back on my 61 years.  The real kicker to this whole thing occurred on June 30, 2012, that was the end of era for me.  That day I was thrust into the role of joining my siblings as the new patriarchs of our branch of the Hammack family.  That was the day that my Mom, Ola Mae Hammack, answered the call from God to return home to be with my Dad, my older brother, and the rest of her family!

I have now had a couple of months since then to reflect, to actually ponder, and to evaluate what I have done with my life.

If I am going to be forthright, I must evaluate my heritage.  I come from a very hard-working, but extremely dirt poor, early days, 1930’s and 40’s, migrant farm working parents.  Both Mom and Dad were not afraid of hard work, in fact, that is all that they knew.

About the time that WWII broke out, Mom and Dad settled in San Pablo, CA, an east SF Bay community that housed the Kaiser shipyards.  Those shipyards built US Liberty ships that transported soldiers and sailors to fight the War.  However, that was a few years before I made my entrance into this world!

As I progressed throughout school, there was never any doubt that I would go to college.  That realization came to me at an early age.  I saw how hard, and what long hours that my Dad put in on a daily basis, that I figured out that I wanted to find a skill that would allow me to “work smart”, not necessarily hard!  That skill would require a college education, not doubt!

However, I was initially not accepted into Fresno State.  I had missed the mathematical formula by just 2 points!  I made an appointment to talk to the Dean of Admissions, to discuss my application.  A few days after the interview I was notified that Fresno State would make an exception, and therefore, allow me to enroll for the fall semester of 1969.  What a stroke of good luck!

In the beginning of my sophomore year at Fresno State, my college deferment was revoke because I lacked the required amount of units.  Remember that was 1970, the height of the Viet Nam War.  Knowing that my draft lottery number was extremely low, I looked into USAF ROTC, which was on campus.  After taking all the aptitude tests and the physical, it was determined that I was qualified to enroll in USAF Pilot Training after graduation, if would commit to the program.  So in the fall fo 1971 I signed the necessary paperwork to enroll into USAF ROTC as a pilot candidate.  Luck smiled down on me once again!

Air Force pilot training was the single most difficult thing that I have ever attempted. There was a time that I was ready to throw in the towel and admit defeat, however, I just couldn’t succumb!  I remembered all the trials and tribulations that my parents had overcome in their life, and I just refused to let myself fail.  I just dug deep for some strength to get through this program.  I guess that I just got lucky again!

My USAF career was mostly uneventful, except for the April 1975 Saigon Evacuation. That was the first time that I witnessed what 37mm artillery looked like exploding around my aircraft in the air!  I didn’t take any direct hits, I guess that I was just lucky that way!

During my nine-year tenure at Eastern Air Lines I had one close call.  We had a landing gear, the nose gear, that refused to extend and had to land the plane with the two mains down and the nose gear still firmly in the nose gear wheel well.  It was a somewhat harrowing experience for me, a fairly new B-727 copilot!  Nobody was injured.  Once again luck prevailed!

In my 21 year flying career with United, it too was mostly uneventful.  I say mostly uneventful until May 16, 2010.  If you didn’t read the link at the beginning of the article, here is the link to my career ending Sunday night flight.  You might take a few minutes to read the first hand experience of what a cockpit fire is really like from the Captain’s point of view!  I now, more than ever, really understand just how lucky that I was that night!

But I have to say that, in reflection, the real force behind my drive to succeed was my Mom and Dad.  They were always there when I needed them.  They were there to catch me when I fell, and gave my support that things would always get better.  They never judged me for my failures and shortcomings.  I could have picked a wealthier set of parents, but I could never have picked a more supportive and loving Mom and Dad.  I guess that I am just lucky that way!

Now I have two great grandchildren, Cole and Hannah, that are the light of my life.  I guess that I am just lucky that way!

I’m not saying that I’m something special!  I am just luck that way!

Watch and listen to the lyrics of Joe Walsh’s explanation.  I couldn’t have put it any more succinct than he did in this song!


Waitin’ On A Woman!


50th anniversary

(WOMR file photo)


Today is  your 100th birthday!

For the last 16 years, July 21st has had a bittersweet meaning to me.  I celebrate your birthday with pride and joy.  All the while, still feeling that hole in my heart, and the loss that I have felt since December 30, 1995.  Additionally, knowing just how much that I have missed your presence in my life for all these years, leaves me somewhat sad.

Pop, you were always a role model for me while you were walking among us.  In death that did not change, in fact, you are more of a role model to me now.  When confronted with a difficult situation, I find myself saying or thinking, “how would Dad handle this situation”?

Little did you know that your influence on your family did not end when God called you home.  Little did you know that your legacy did not stop or vanish   with death.  Quite conversely, it has grown over the last 16 years.  Your legacy has grown via the stories that I have told, both Jason and Jeremy, as well as Cole.  Your presence is still felt long after you are gone!

Just as a side note, you would be very pleased to watch your youngest great-grandson, my grandson Cole, plays the game that you loved so much……… baseball.  I will admit that I am somewhat prejudiced, but Cole has the potential to be a very good baseball player!  I know that would make you very proud!  He is, after all, a Hammack through and through!  And did I mention that I have a very pretty young granddaughter, Hannah?  Pop, she would melt your heart!!!

A Heart wrenching 30 days

Now, as you are well aware, the last 30 days have been heart wrenching for all of us.  We were very selfish, and not yet ready to let Mom answer God’s call to come home.  However, God once again won out, as he always does.  Notwithstanding the fact that Mom outlived you by 16 1/2 years, her body grew very weary and tired.  Now she is finally in Heaven with you, Donald, and the rest of the family.  Reconciling that idea still does not make the loss any easier for me, however, I have to try to understand that death is part of life.

With you and Mom now together in Heaven, the torch has been passed to your children to take up the lead, and be patriarchs of this segment of the Hammack clan.  It is an awesome responsibility that we must, and will, carry out.

One more note:

I can only think about the day that Mom entered Heaven on June 30, 2012. Knowing my Dad, he was sitting up there on a bench waiting for my Mom. I think that the very first thing that Dad said to Mom was, “what took you so long to get here. Olie”?  Well now Pop, she is there!

Dad, this is YOUR Captain speaking:

Til we meet again, I love you and miss you more than you will ever know! Thank you for being the father that you were.  I couldn’t have asked for a better role model!


I thought that this Brad Paisley video was very appropriate!

The Last Goodbye


(WOMR file photo)

This is without a doubt going to be one of the most difficult, and challenging articles to complete that I have yet written.  It has now taken me nineteen days to try to compose my thoughts, emotions, and arrange what you are bout to read.  Having said that, I feel compelled to share my loss with you.

Ola Mae Hammack

June 13 1918-June 30 2012

Those two lines appear to be self-explanatory, right?  Oh contraire, my friend!  How can a date, a dash, and another date define, adequately describe the person?  That dash between the birthdate and the date of death is a lifetime, in Mom’s case, 94 marvelous and glorious years.

Those 94 years encompassed a multitude of highs and lows.

Her life started out, in 1918, as the daughter of John Addison and Annie Myrtle Smith (nee Fletcher) in the little farm town of Sayre, Oklahoma.  Being number four out of a total of eight children, only seven lived to adulthood, having an extremely poor childhood, part of which was growing up during the depression, helped to formulate Mom’s naive conservative pentecostal point of view.

Mom’s family migrated from Western Oklahoma to South Texas while she was still in elementary school, they were chasing the agriculture work in the early 1920’s.  It was there in South Texas, at the age of 12, that my Mom was introduced to, accepted, and made religion an integral part of her life for the next 82 years!

At the age of 14 or 15 her family, once again, chased the farm work to Buckeye, Arizona.  It was shortly thereafter that Mom met another Oklahoma native, my Dad, Archie Wilson Hammack.

The courtship was very short and they were married in Buckeye, AZ on February 20, 1934.

Just eleven months after marrying, Mom and Dad welcomed into their family on January 19, 1935, with much joy, a new son named Donald.  However, just ten days before Christmas, December 15, 1935, and ten months after his birth, Donald passed away while battling pneumonia.

From 1934 through 1942 Mom and Dad worked as migrant farm workers, following the crops from the Imperial Valley, throughout the Central Valley of California, and occasionally up though Idaho, and back to the Imperial Valley of California.  All the while adding two more sons, Ted and Jim, to their family.  It was the lifestyle that was illustrated by John Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath”, in a nutshell!

During WWII, Mom and Dad settled into San Pablo, CA, an East Bay town of the SF Bay area metropolis.  During those years, the family was increased by two more mouths.  It was there that, both Zeeva and Jerry, were added to the family role.  The surviving children now totaled four at this point.

After the war ended, Mom and Dad decided to move to the Alaskan Island of Craig to try commercial fishing.  That venture only lasted about 2-3 years.  My Dad came down with Tuberculosis in 1948, and the decision to return to California.  After entering a TB sanitarium in Monrovia for treatment, it was decided that the whole family would relocate to Visalia where my maternal grandmother was residing at the time.  Later the family would move to Monrovia to be closer to Dad during his recovery.

In 1950 my Dad exited the hospital, and moved the family to Tulare, CA.  It was there the following year, 1951, that the last of the children, yours truly, Leon, arrived.

For the 61 years that my Mom and Dad was married, Mom was the backbone of the family, instilling her beliefs, guiding, and teaching her children, as mothers always do.  It was through those 61 years that she tried to be the best Mom that she possibly could be.  It was through those 61 years that she did her best to try to show her children, through example, as well as words, how to be a responsible adult.  Her efforts will forever be felt, and greatly appreciated!

However, for the last 16 1/2 years, Dad passed away on December 30, 1995, Mom has lived a more lonesome lifestyle.  Notwithstanding the fact that her five children were able to provide her a very comfortable living, growing old by one’s self makes for a lonely existence!

This past March Mom’s life started to unravel.  Her health began to decline, as well as her will to live, began to decline.  Fortunately, however, Mom’s mental and physical were soaring high for her 94th birthday, June 13th, as we gathered around her to celebrate that huge milestone!

But that was short-lived, on the morning of Tuesday, June 26th, however, Mom’s health took a huge U-turn!  She slipped into a coma, it was obvious that her time on this Earth was rapidly coming to an end!  It was at that point that our family gathered together around Mom, offering her love and support, knowing full well that she was about to answer that long distant call from God that we know we all must answer one day.

That call from God was made to Mom at 2:45 pm on June 30, 2012.!

That afternoon, was for me, “THE LAST GOODBYE”!  

For those who have not visited the web site we created for Mom, check out the following link.  Your comments and stories are encouraged!


Til we meet again, this is YOUR Captain speaking, I love you and miss you, Mom!

Shine Your Light On Me!


This is my granddaughter, Hannah, the last of my Mom’s great-grandchildren, giving Mom a farewell kiss at her 93rd birthday party last summer.

Ola Mae Hammack

June 13, 1918—-June 30, 2012

That dash in between the two dates encompasses a life that blessed us all for 94 long and wonderful years!

Shine your light on us all, Mom!

Part Of My Legacy

Fatherly advise

(Jeremy and Cole)

Having come from a long line of baseball players, my Dad played baseball in his youth, all three of my brothers played baseball, I, too, played that game.  Last month, while I was back in my hometown of Fresno, I was able to watch my grandson play the game that I loved so much.  I couldn’t help but watch with a sense of deep pride!

My grandson, Cole, is nine years old and is trying his hand at the great American past-time, baseball.  It has been two years since his last foray into this sport.  This year he decided that he wanted to play Little League baseball again, much to my glee!

As a grandfather my role in Cole’s maturation in baseball, and for that matter, in life is somewhat removed from that of his Dad.  Notwithstanding that fact, there is still an element of pride watching my grandson play a sport that was a big part of my life growing up.  Unlike Cole’s learning process, where he has only his Dad and his teammates to learn from, I had three older brothers who, as I learned growing up, were outstanding athletes.  I had to maneuver out from the shadows of my older brothers as I grew up.

Cole, on the other hand, has only to perform to the best of his capabilities, with no other comparisons.  That is exactly what he is doing.  He is very enthusiastic about playing baseball this year.

Having said all that, I was thoroughly excited to watch Cole play baseball when I was in Fresno!

Here is video that I, with the help of my computer technician, better know as my oldest son, Jason, have put together showing my grandson playing baseball.

It is with great pride that I now introduce my grandson, Cole Hammack.

Faster Than A Speeding Bulllet….!


(Captain Blowdri file photo)

Faster than a speeding bullet.…….

More powerful than a speeding locomotive…….

For those of us over 55 years old we are well aware of where those two phrases originated from……Superman.

But after my woeful Tuesday evening spent preparing for my early Wednesday morning colonoscopy, those two phrases took on a whole new meaning!

For those of you who may not have had to undergo this procedure for the over 50 gang, either because you are somewhat opposed to having an instrument “violating the sacred one way street” known as you rectum, or because you are not at the magic age of 50 yet, or flatly just because!  Whatever your particular reasoning is behind keeping your behind sacred, I will still try to give you all an insight into my fourth such experience that was a personal violation of my “backdoor policy”!

After having my doctor consult, going over my medical history, advising him of the changes since my colonoscopy three years ago, I scheduled the date with the office.  In return they gave me an information packet containing those valuable instructions and procedures.  Along with the instructions was the prescription for the 4 liter/1 gallon of the gut wrenching bowel cleaner, that foul tasting liquid that will clean out your innards cleaner than any spit and polish thing that you have ever seen, Golytley. (Surely that name is an oxymoron……more about Golytely a little later!)

Now, this was not my first rodeo.  I have had three colonoscopies in the last 10 years, so I knew just what I was in for, in the way of the preparation.  The directions state, 24 hours prior to the procedure put the packet of Golytely in this huge jug, and fill it up to the line with water and the icky lemon-lime flavoring, and refrigerate.  Filling this gigantic container, and knowing that you must consume this huge container of fluid was already turning my stomach.

On the day before my colonoscopy, at precisely 6pm, I am instructed to begin my “pre-op poop-shoot cleaning process”, by drinking half of this concoction in less than two hours.  The instructions stated that I must drink an 8 ounce glass of this putrid liquid every 15 minutes, so that the 2 liters/ one-half gallon is consumed in the two-hour time limit.

As I have previously stated, this was not my first rodeo.  I learned after the first go-around with this horribly convulsive mixture will also gag you and make you throw-up!  So if you want to be successful at getting this liquid down so that it will make you crap your brains out, you have to design a system whereby you can actually get this crap into your stomach so that it will get rid of your crap!!

From my previous colonoscopies, and several attempts of trying not to vomit while I was drinking my Golytely, I found out that if you keep a couple wintergreen life savers in your mouth at all times it would help somewhat to mask that horrible taste.  Well, I got a couple of those wintergreen lifesavers in my mouth and waited till I got good and wintergreened in my mouth.  I wanted to make sure that there was not any chance of getting any hint of the real foul taste of Golytely in my mouth.

Once both of those two wintergreen lifesavers were melted and gone, I threw two more in my mouth for extra precaution.  Now I was ready to make my first attempt at my 2 liters of Golytely for my first round of “cleaner”!  I poured my Golytely into a large cup, about 16 ounces, and added a straw to suck that gawd awful liquid down my throat.  I took a great big ol pull and swallowed it!

Within just a second or two, I started to “get the ooks”!  You know the routine, looking for your “Buick”, calling your buddies, “Ralph and Ernie”, or worshiping the porcelain bowl!  All of the sudden that Golytely went into reverse and desperately wanted to travel back up my esophagus and out of my mouth!  I clenched my mouth closed tightly and did my best not to allow “the reverse action” to commence.

Now my mind was starting to race.  How in the heck am I going to get this 2 liters down.  I had remembered that the last time that I had to drink this “poisonous concoction” it seemed to be a lot easier to do with the wintergreen lifesavers in my mouth.  Was I kidding myself, or do I have some form of dementia?  I have only taken one drink and I am quite certain that I will not be able to down the full 2 liters!  Man, I am in deep trouble because I am now committed to do this tonight!

I had to take a deep breath and start talking to myself in a very positive manner in order to try to get this fiasco over within the allotted 2 hours.  I reloaded the wintergreen lifesavers in my mouth, took my second swallow, and once again that concoction caused my gag reflexes to start to repeat itself!  I took a deep breath and took another big draw on the straw.  This time the gag reflex was far less severe.  I reloaded the lifesavers and took another drink.  After three or four drinks I had to take a break, all the while being borderline “ookie”!

And so this is how the pattern went for the first thirty minutes of this ridiculous drinking exercise, lifesavers, drink, lifesavers, drink, etc.

Caution: Stay close to the restroom!

Now I find it somewhat comical that when reading all of the material associated with this prescription, there was this one caution at the bottom of all the instructions.  Now, I find it to be fairly obvious that if you are taking something that is designed to absolutely remove every living thing out of you stomach, large intestines, as well as the small intestines, you really shouldn’t venture very far from the porcelain throne!

It read: caution stay close to the restroom.

Are you kidding me?  I am not that stupid to drink this stuff and wander off to some place that doesn’t have a clean, private toilet!

C’mon man!

As I remember from my previous “pooper preps”, once that Golytely starts to activate, and I use that term with great respect, the sphincter muscle, or I should say my sphincter is not strong enough to keep the back door closed long enough to walk very far to the can!  Therefore, once that Golytely begins to gather up strength, and begins to rock and roll and heading downhill, you had better be “in position”, because you are now along for the ride of your life!

Now keep in mind that I have not quite drank a third of my allotted 1/2 gallon of Golytley for the night.  The mixture is now adding the necessary combustion in my lower G.I. and all HELL is now breaking loose.  Nevertheless, I still have to continue drinking this mess while I am making a mess!  Did I mention that this drink still makes me want to throw up?

So now I am “in the position”, another phrase for sitting on the can, drinking the solution, and wondering how long I can keep doing this…. Well I found out that if you drink 2 liters of this magical concoction within the two-hour time limit, you will be sitting on the can for about 3:30 minutes.

I was completely worn out! I was tired of drinking and swallowing, however, I was really tired of sitting on the can!  When I stood up I could see the ring of the toilet seat carved into my non existent buttocks.  It was a very pretty red ring that was left there!

It was 9:45pm and time to go to bed.  I had to get up at 3:10 am to repeat this process all over again to finish the “flush out”!  That’s right I still had another 2 liters of the “gut flush” to drink and further clean out my already clean “pooper”, prior to my 7:45 am colonoscopy procedure.

To say that the second part of the old “backdoor cleaning process” was any easier or smoother than the first, I would be lying to you.  In fact, to save my fingers from typing the same words all over again, just reread the last 11 paragraphs.  In fact, my gag reflexes were even more sensitive and more repulsive at 3:15 am than they were at 6pm!

All total I am not sure just how many wintergreen lifesavers I consumed during those two Golytley periods.  I possibly might be a very large stockholder in that company from my consumption of lifesavers.

By the time that the early morning gag, drink, wintergreen lifesavers, repeat, was wrapped up there were a few things that I noticed.  The first thing is that I really do not ever want to see any of those wintergreen lifesavers again.  Just thinking about putting one in my mouth gives me nightmares!

Secondly, just thinking about Golytely turns my stomach.

Lastly, there has to be some softer toilet paper on the market.  Charmin is advertised as being oh so soft, yeah right!  Remember how your nose feels when you have a cold and you are always blowing it and wiping it?  You nose gets irritated, beet red, and really sensitive.
What do you think that your buttocks feels like after you have blown everything from you stomach out your rectal orifice?

Do you get my drift there?  Let’s just say that sitting down was a little bit touch and go!

Now for those of you who might still be wondering about the how the title of this article, the contents of this article, and how the picture that I selected all fit together, I will try to explain.

Once the Golytely gets to rocking and rolling in your stomach, it gathers up speed and starts racing towards your rectal orifice faster that a speeding bullet!  It is also more powerful than a speeding locomotive, and you can’t stop it once it decides to try to make the great escape!  Ok, that explains the two quotes from Superman.

The picture is an F-5, a derivative of the T-38 that I flew in pilot training.  It is a supersonic fighter that is also faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive!  However when flying the F-5 you do not need to be close to a toilet, unless, you are scaring the crap out of yourself!

Ok, I will admit that during my time flying the T-38 there were a few times that I wished that I had a toilet really close by!

Just remember a clean colon is a happy colon!


My Daytona 500 Moments


Trevor Bayne

(Trevor Bayne,WOMR file photo)

For those of us who follow racing, whether you’re a hard-core addict or a casual race fan, we know that winning the Daytona 500 is a true life changing event.  If you are not totally convinced just ask young Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 champion, just how much his life changed following his “dark-horse, come from nowhere” upset victory!

If Bayne never has any more success in his fledgling young racing career, he will always be remembered as the extremely young, 20-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears, break-through driver, and 2011 Daytona 500 winner.  He was piloting the legendary Wood Brothers #21 Ford Fusion with a throw-back, David Pearson paint scheme.

It is exactly that kind of life-changing event that I am talking about, when I mention a “Daytona 500” type of life changing moment!  This “Daytona 500 moment” is THE single most life changing event in your life, the pivotal point in your life from where things in your life changed dramatically.

A “Daytona 500 moment” might consist of you getting married, or divorced.  Either of which can and will drastically create change in you life!  Becoming a parent is also very life changing, and has two phases.  The immediate short-term version of no sleep, is life altering.  Realizing that your children, like it or not, will “be on the payroll forever”!

As you age, the addition to the family with grandchildren is unquestionably is a “Daytona 500 moment”!  Oh the pleasures of being around your grandchildren is so much better than being a parent!  You get to spoil them and not worry about all the other “parental” responsibilities!

Along the road of life there are some other, not so pleasant, experiences that will impact your life.

In addition to the pleasant life altering events that almost all of us get the chance to experience, marriage (some of us have experienced that event on more than one occasion!), parenthood, being a grand-parent, etc., we, unfortunately, also must confront the less desirable parts of life.  Quite frankly, the joyful and pleasant experiences are not the ones that truly are the defining cornerstones in one’s life.

However, it is those less desirable parts of life that usually mold our character.  Those gut-wrenching experiences that test our faith, our courage, and our moral fiber, are the experiences that define who we are as a person.

I could list all the great experiences that I was fortunate enough to be a part of for the last 61 years.  Most of those things, being an Air Force pilot, being an airline pilot, and a few other cool experiences did have a lasting effect on my life.  However, those experiences do not, and did not, define who I am as a person. Being a pilot described what I did for a living, not who I was as a person.

It is our parents, and those “formative” years, that is the basis of our moral character.  With that being said, what really defines the person is the “life journey” that we all must take, and how we cope with those “Daytona 500 moments” that come and visit us.  It is life’s tragedies, how they affect us, and how we deal and cope with them, that really mold, and define our character.

After giving much thought on this theme, I have concluded that there are four such “Daytona 500 moments” that I have experienced so far in my life.

The first life changing event happened during the month of April, back in 1975.  You all might remember a military exercise known as “The Saigon Evacuation”.  This was a massive airlift operation that President Ford ordered after one of our C-5’s crashed bringing out Vietnamese orphans.  As a very young 24-year-old USAF 2Lt., this two-week ordeal was a very hair-raising, and dangerous military operation.  (Getting shot at by Viet Cong 37mm anti-aircraft artillery was not my idea of a leisurely day in the office!)

Another “Daytona 500 moment” happened back in July of 2005.  On this particular hot Fresno afternoon, my son and daughter-in-law, Jeremy and Stephanie, had to deal with their set of twins coming into this world extremely premature, and totally unprepared for survival in this world.  It was the second time in less than ten years that I was forced to deal with an untimely death of a family member, and once again deal with my own mortality.  Even though these two little girls didn’t survive 24 hours, their presence left a very profound effect on many people’s life, particularly their grandfather.

Still another of my “Daytona 500 moments” occurred on May 16, 2010, at 36,000 feet.  I had just taken off from JFK airport in New York and was on my way back to LAX.  Suddenly my cockpit had erupted into flames!  For those of you have not read my description of that eventful evening, click on the link that will describe this life and health changing event, “An Enlightening Experience”!

When death stares you directly in the face, and you realize that your fate is in your own hands, and that quite possibly this latest turn of events may cost you your life, there is no doubt that the way that you look at life, and for that matter, the way you view life in general, will change forever!  That qualifies as a “Daytona 500 moment”!

Having written about the three previous pivotal moments in my life, this next turning point is without a question the biggest, and the singularly most important “Daytona 500 moment” in my life.  This occurred around 10:15 pm on December 30, 1995.  That was the exact moment when my whole life would change forever.  That was the time and the day that my father left this Earth.

From that point, December 30, 1995, I began to realize all the lessons that I had learned from a man who “only had a sixth grade education”! I came to realize that he was “wiser” than just a sixth grade education.  He was a very street wise farm-boy, and much wiser than, as a teenager, I ever gave him credit to be.

From that point, December 30, 1995, I would find myself, when confronted by a tough decision, saying “what would Dad do”?  From that point I began to realize that even in death my Dad was a role model for me.  It was from that point that I realized that, whether I liked it or not, I am a role model to either my two sons, or much later, to my grandchildren.

Life would never be the same for me after December 30, 1995!  That is and was my biggest “Daytona 500 moment”!

What is/are your “Daytona 500 moment/s”?


This song was written by Blake Shelton.  It reflects losing his brother as a teenager, and song by his wife, Miranda Lambert.  Listen to the lyrics of this song.  It mirrors how I feel regarding my biggest “Daytona 500 moment”.

New Year’s Resolutions?

Now that 2012 is in full swing, the college bowl games are in high gear, and those of you who had a “rough” New Year’s Eve have recovered enough to return to work, normalcy has somewhat returned in our lives.

Traditionally, as the New Year ushers in new and fresh opportunities, the New Year also brings with it the customary “New Year’s Resolutions”.  Americans seem to have this, sometimes flawed, idea that each year you must complete a self inventory.  Once that you have completed this self inventory, then it is customary to figure out how you are going to remedy all those deficiencies that were noted in that self inventory.  Therein lies the idea that since this is now the new year, I can/should make some changes in my life to make the forthcoming year a better year, ie., my “New Year’s Resolutions”.

In my almost 61 years, I have heard literally hundreds of “New Year’s Resolutions” that friends, family, and yes, even my self have made.  Those resolutions have run the gamut from losing weight, to becoming more productive, to treating my significant other with more respect, to being a better parent/grand-parent, to being more organized, to stop or reduce the amount of alcohol consumption, and how about this one for all you smokers, to quit smoking!  If you can think of a personal fault or a short-coming, then someone has decided to change that via their “New Year’s Resolution”!

Now let’s all be honest with ourselves, change in our lives really only comes when we convince ourselves, our brains, that I am ready, willing, and able to make myself change!

Conversely, if you are not ready, willing, and able to make those changes, then failure is most certainly in your future.  That is to say, if you have not firmly convinced yourself that on a specific date and time you are going to make a concerted effort to change, whatever behavior that is in question, you will not be successful at the noted change!

In fact, research has shown that 85% of all “New Year’s Resolutions” fail!  That is an overwhelming huge failure rate!  Why is this failure rate so high for the “New Year’s Resolutions”?

Could it be that the “New Year’s Resolutions” people make, are made without sincerity, without conviction, are somewhat frivolous, and thus, are doomed to fail from the very beginning?   You be the judge.

Whatever the reasoning is behind the astronomically high 85% failure rate, the obvious fact is that people are not very serious about succeeding when it comes to their “New Year’s Resolutions”!  So for all who have made their 2012 “New Year’s Resolutions” known to friends and family, my suggestion is that we all go out and buy a big old black crow at your favorite crow store!

Why buy crow you ask?

Simply put, before very long we will all fail to accomplish part or all of our “New Year’s Resolutions” made just a few days ago!  Therefore the logic follows, if you have already bought your crow, you can avoid the rush, and the extremely long lines at “the crow store”.  By avoiding the long lines to purchase your crow at “the crow store”, you can save time by simply whipping out your crow.  Once you have whipped out the old crow, you can sit down at the dinner table, tear off a big ol piece of your favorite part of that bird, and “eat a big old bunch of crow”!!  YUM!

In fact why delay?  If you are not extremely serious about fulfilling your “New Year’s Resolutions”, fire up the grill immediately so that you can eat your crow right away and be done with it!  That will put you far ahead of the other losers who will fail to accomplish their “New Year’s Resolutions” tomorrow, next week, or next month!

PS  From past experience, it has been observed that marinating your crow for at least 48 hours, in either some Pappy’s or Montreal Steak Seasoning, will help.  However, the crow will not be any better tasting, only just a little bit more palatable, and less toxic!


Christmas In Fresno: A Reflection


I have just returned from my annual Christmas trek to Fresno to be with my family for the holidays.  These days the Christmas holiday season is such a bittersweet time of the year for me.

I had great fun shopping for some toys for Cole and Hannah with my youngest son, Jeremy.  Even though the actual shopping was hectic, as I have written about. That event, “Santa” Christmas shopping for Cole and Hannah, put the Christmas spirit back into my soul!  It was re-invigorating, and I might add, it also was an opportunity to have some all important one-on-one time with Jeremy!

The most exciting part of Christmas was watching Cole and Hannah open up their respective Christmas gifts.  The sheer joy and exhilaration that came over each of their faces as they opened up all their gifts really gives this old grandfather joy! Additionally, getting gifts from Cold and Hannah that they made for me was very special!

The Christmas holiday also comes with food, lots of food.  After the grandkids opened up their gifts, Stephanie cooked a little breakfast to begin the Christmas day eating fest.  After the breakfast at Jeremy and Stephanie’s, I had to hightail it over to my sister’s house for a “brunch” with my Mom, sister, nieces and nephews.  It was also a time to deliver Mom’s Christmas gift for her to open.  The morning-time also provided some quality time visiting with, and celebrating Christmas with my mother, as well.

The early afternoon found me back on the road again to Jeremy’s house for their Christmas dinner.  Also there for dinner was Jason and his girlfriend, Jana.  As is mostly the case, Jason, in all his creativeness, made everyone a Christmas gift.  And as usual, he did not fully accomplish the task for everyone!  Surprise, surprise, it was just Jason being Jason!!  Notwithstanding that fact, I always look forward to what his creativeness produced!

I was privy to know what he was creating for Cole and Hannah.  He and Jana were trying their hand at tie-dying.  Now for those who are familiar with Jason, know that tie-dye t-shirts and Jason are one and the same.  Hmmmmm, that’s kind of like me and NASCAR/sprint car t-shirts!!!  But I digress.  The finished product, the tie-dye t-shirts, were really cool looking for their first attempt at that process!  This could turn into a financial thing for them in the future!

Now I digress once again, but I must do so to explain the gift I received from Jason.  Last year Jason wanted a painting set for Christmas.  So I agreed to purchase this for his Christmas gift with one caveat.  I requested that he paint something for me.  Well, that is what I received from him for Christmas this year.  Not bad, it only took twelve months for my request to be honored!!!

Nevertheless, I am now the very proud owner of a Jason Hammack original abstract!!

This part of the Christmas holidays, the family gatherings, the grandchildren opening their presents, the excitement in their eyes as the unwrap those gifts, is the bright spot and the joyous part that thoroughly thrills my being.  The older I get, the more that I realize that it is truly better to give than to receive.  Additionally, the feeling of giving someone something that they really need or want is really heart-warming!

Therein lies my reasoning for the “sweet” part of “the bitter-sweet” feelings that I have surrounding the Christmas holidays.

The other feeling that I have associated with this holiday, that “bitter” part of the previously mentioned bittersweet feelings, stems from an incident that occurred on December 30, 1995.  At approximately 10pm on December 30, 1995, I lost  my best friend, and my hero!  That evening my father passed away, leaving a legacy of honesty, humility, and honor.  As the youngest of five children, those are very big shoes to try to fill!  I am finding that, after 16 years and with all of my efforts, I am hard-pressed to succeed in filling those shoes!

I miss you, Pop!

Therein lies my reasons for viewing the Christmas holidays with a bittersweet tone!

May all your New Year wishes come true!

Christmas Shopping In Fresno 2011

Once again I am fortunate to be able to make the Christmas trek back to my hometown of Fresno, CA.  With most all of my Christmas shopping accomplished a few months again Yuma, I felt somewhat leery about tackling what little shopping that was left for my grandkids.

Nevertheless, there was just a small portion of my Christmas shopping that was left, intentionally I might add, to be completed when I arrived in Fresno.  As it worked out, I was able to complete the toy portion of the shopping for Cole and Hannah with my son, Jeremy.  That, in and of itself, was lots of fun,and it served and enormous purpose!  I figured that who would know better what my two grandkids wanted for Christmas than their Mom or Dad?

I had scored a huge advantage!

As we entered into the “Kids Magic Kingdom”, better known as Toys R Us, the holiday shopper came out in both Jeremy and myself!  As we grabbed the ol shopping basket, it was obvious to me that we both needed to get tough and immerse our selves into the “holiday shopper/survivor” mode for this particular chore!

There were hundreds of carts trying to navigate the crowded lanes that encircle the rows of toys all stacked in their places.  The shopping carts were all jockeying to try to get the lead so that they could land one of their prized toys.

In actuality, watching the shoppers wheeling their shopping basket around the store resembled one of my favorite things to watch, Daytona or Talladega!  It was like a pack of race cars drafting each other until they reached the destination of their sought after toys!  Then there would be a sling-shot move to get into the lead, and grab that coveted toy before the other shoppers could have their chance!  Once we got into “the race spirit”, you could feel the adrenaline rushing through your veins!

I told Jeremy that I needed to be in control of the basket.  My reasoning for assuming control of the shopping basket comes from my past experiences.  I spent 2 1/2 years living in NYC back in the early 1980’s.  That experience of navigating through the sidewalks of New York City, walking shoulder-to-shoulder in that sea of humanity known as Manhattan, the experience of challenging the taxi cabs, as well as all the other car traffic in NYC at the intersections and cross-walks, I felt would give us an advantage navigating through Toys R Us!

Additionally, I thought that my knowledge of NASCAR, the bump drafting, the two car tango, and the knowledge of pulling off a sling-shot pass in a timely fashion would allow us to survive, grab our most coveted toys, thus allowing us to conquer the madhouse and even become a premier Toys R Us shopper!

Sports fans, it was game on!

With those thoughts in place, away Jeremy and I went, shopping cart, and shopping list in hand.  Initially I tried to be somewhat polite.  However, within just a few minutes of trying to navigate within the store, it was obvious that I must don my worst acquired NYC attitude, couple that with my NASCAR two car tango, and bump drafting techniques, it was time for full blown toy shopping!

Yes folks, we took no prisoners in our tour through the store.  As we aggressively steered the buggy on our shopping circuit. Occasionally we would bounce the cart off the rows of toys, other buggies, and now and then a few feet and toes that  had gotten in our way.  Nevertheless, never loosing our momentum!  Sorry about that!

Reflecting back on that shopping experience, it brings to mind the NASCAR commercial where the four businessmen bring back their rental car, badly wrecked with the side view mirror dangling.  The driver, in great NASCAR driver/crew chief form stated that, “overall he had a great car”.  “However, the front end was pushing in the turns”!  At that point, their boss slides his car to a screeching halt only after impacting their car.  His car, too, looked like it had been racing at Bristol Speedway, really bent, beaten, and crumpled up!

That my friends is what it was like shopping this week at Toys R Us for the last minute Christmas toys for the grandkids!  Overall, we had a great shopping cart!  However, at times it would be pushing through the turns, consequently, causing me to hit toys, other shopping carts, and run over a few legs, feet, and toes!

Maybe the other shoppers need to check into getting an Aflac or a Nationwide insurance policy!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!