ADDRESS UNKNOWN


ADDRESS UNKNOWN

By Sharon Stevens

I was putting the finishing touches on my husband’s Santa coat for his performance as Cowboy Santa for The Hide Out. Earlier in the day I had read the Canyon News article about Gene Vaughn Morrison and Bill Anderson and the musical drama TEXAS. This instantly brought me back to another time and place years ago.

The Canyon High School drama department was performing “Becket” as their one-act play, and Kathy Gist and I were working on the costumes. The art teacher, Charlotte Brantley, had bought all the material and we were sewing the final pieces. I will never forget Gene standing beside me while I hand stitched the final button on his cape for his role as the Bishop.

On the spur of the moment Kathy and I decided to take the opportunity to ride the Greyhound bus to see their performance in Odessa. We got off the bus and caught a cab and gave the cab driver the address of where we needed to go at the college where the one-acts were being performed. This driver meandered through the campus and drove into this entrance and that, taking the scenic tour on our dime. We had no clue where we were going, but we thought he did. He truly knew where he was headed, but was hesitant about getting us there.

When we finally pulled up to the theatre entrance he told us the charge was twenty dollars. In 1971 this was good money, especially for me as I was living on my own, paying all my expenses while working part time at the nursing home. This money represented probably a week’s worth, no maybe a month’s worth of groceries for me. We had no choice. Kathy and I divvied up our dollars and gave it to the cabbie. Even worse than losing so much money was that we were so late we missed the performance, which meant we didn’t get to see all our hard work come to life onstage.

Kathy Gist sat beside me again at the Panhandle Professional Writers Frontiers in Writing Conference as she won Best of Show for her story. The judges stood in front of all of us gathered and excitedly told Kathy to send her story to several different magazines. They even listed the addresses of where to write for writer’s guidelines as well as where to submit her stories. Kathy went on to have this story published with Guidepost Magazine and her award was to attend the Guidepost Short Story conference in New York.

As writers we have so many opportunities to send out our stories. And with the Internet the possibilities are absolutely endless. But we can never forget to research our destination to make sure we go in the right direction. We may think we know EXACTLY where our thoughts need to go, but in all honesty we ourselves are missing the point. This is not saying we shouldn’t stray from our intended path now and again, but it is very important for us to weigh our options before embarking down what appears to be a promising road. At all times we have to be mindful of the correct address in case our bread crumbs are eaten before we can retrace our steps. We can’t expect the post office to deliver our message if we don’t have the write destination. They are not Santa whose only address is the North Pole!

I came across “The 1941 Reader’s Digest 20th Anniversary Anthology” at our Buffalo Bookstore. In it was the most wonderful story called, “ADDRESS UNKNOWN” by Kathleen Kressmann Taylor. The story involves a time before World War II and the rise of Nazi power. This powerful message revolves around both sides of the horror and tragedy of this time, and totally reverses the meaning of the address of the soul.

I will always miss Kathy. She was so kind to me over the last several years with our heritage project in Canyon, and our storytelling at The Fountain on the courthouse square. I don’t have her correct address in Heaven, but I have no doubt this message will be delivered without any problems. I was very careful as I wrote where I thought my words needed to go.

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Hersheyburger


Hersheyburger

by Sharon Stevens

A few years ago we had a student and his family stop in buying college textbooks. We learned they were from Muleshoe Texas, and we asked if they knew my husband’s aunt, Bertie Purcell and the Dari Delite, her little business, a local eatery and high school hang out in that town.

HERSHEYBURGER! He shouted and then shared the story. Bertie would take a cinnamon roll, slice it in half, and then unwrap a Hershey bar and lay it in the middle. She would put it back together, slather the whole thing with butter, wrap the concoction in foil, and put it on the grill just long enough to heat and melt the chocolate bar. Served with a Twin Coney, French fries and a Coke this was a meal fit for… fit for…the masses.

The man who shared this story at our bookstore that day was in military service to our country and taking online courses. His wife was in school to become a teacher. His daughter was in law school and one of his sons was also in college. Here was a family man spending hundreds of thousands of dollars so everyone could attend college, paying bills to support his family, buying groceries to feed them, and he could still take just a moment to share one of the most wonderful memories of his life.

Aunt Bertie died this past week, and the church was packed at her funeral. She and her family were beloved by so many. All around me I heard murmurings of, “Twin Coneys”, and “Cherry Vanilla Newton”, and “Purple Cows”. When I asked what a “Newton” was the man said he had no clue, this was something Bertie concocted, but it was his favorite.

We had tourists come into our bookstore after having been horseback riding in Palo Duro Canyon all day. They were hot and tired and looking for someplace to cool off and they had promised the wives to do a little shopping. They had come from The Hide Out next door and wanted to know what else Canyon had to offer. I noticed they had spurs on and knew where to send them. First I directed them to our courthouse square and told them about the Rock and Roll Soda Shop, or the Palace Coffee House to find some refreshment. I then told them not to miss Stevens Flowers and Down Home next door (spurs), and shared about all the other shops downtown. They instantly hit on the soda shop because they had great memories of a hang out in their town where burgers, fries, a Cocoa Cola (Coke) and an ice cream cone was all they needed to survive.

They didn’t come back by to explain if they had found what they were looking for. There is no doubt in my heart as God and John Wayne are my witness, that they would connect somewhere along the line.  THEIRS would be the memories they would take back home to share.

So many times in our writings we get so wrapped up in telling our stories we forget the reader may find something totally random to connect with. We push, and push, and push some more to get our point across till we have lost sight of the heart of our stories. We want anyone and everyone to understand our point of view. How can they not when its as plain as day. We forget they may need something light when facing something so dark, or vice versa. Or they could be facing a puzzlement, seeking a solution, needing just the right clue from their past for the answer to click.

You cannot force a reader no matter how hard you try. Celebrate what each finds in your writings. It’s okay. Your story isn’t ruined if they don’t “get it” the way you wrote it. And on another token, follow the direction it may lead you.

After all I envisioned a whole different path when I started writing about the “Hersheyburger”. It wasn’t that I would be telling the story about diabetes or cholesterol. I knew “the masses” would get that. I just thought I would be connecting it with band-aids. Who knew?

Rest in memories, Bertie Purcell.

Sharon Stevens

Hersheyburger


Hersheyburger

by Sharon Stevens

A few years ago we had a student and his family stop in buying college textbooks. We learned they were from Muleshoe Texas, and we asked if they knew my husband’s aunt, Bertie Purcell and the Dari Delite, her little business, a local eatery and high school hang out in that town.

HERSHEYBURGER! He shouted and then shared the story. Bertie would take a cinnamon roll, slice it in half, and then unwrap a Hershey bar and lay it in the middle. She would put it back together, slather the whole thing with butter, wrap the concoction in foil, and put it on the grill just long enough to heat and melt the chocolate bar. Served with a Twin Coney, French fries and a Coke this was a meal fit for… fit for…the masses.

The man who shared this story at our bookstore that day was in military service to our country and taking online courses. His wife was in school to become a teacher. His daughter was in law school and one of his sons was also in college. Here was a family man spending hundreds of thousands of dollars so everyone could attend college, paying bills to support his family, buying groceries to feed them, and he could still take just a moment to share one of the most wonderful memories of his life.

Aunt Bertie died this past week, and the church was packed at her funeral. She and her family were beloved by so many. All around me I heard murmurings of, “Twin Coneys”, and “Cherry Vanilla Newton”, and “Purple Cows”. When I asked what a “Newton” was the man said he had no clue, this was something Bertie concocted, but it was his favorite.

We had tourists come into our bookstore after having been horseback riding in Palo Duro Canyon all day. They were hot and tired and looking for someplace to cool off and they had promised the wives to do a little shopping. They had come from The Hide Out next door and wanted to know what else Canyon had to offer. I noticed they had spurs on and knew where to send them. First I directed them to our courthouse square and told them about the Rock and Roll Soda Shop, or the Palace Coffee House to find some refreshment. I then told them not to miss Stevens Flowers and Down Home next door (spurs), and shared about all the other shops downtown. They instantly hit on the soda shop because they had great memories of a hang out in their town where burgers, fries, a Cocoa Cola (Coke) and an ice cream cone was all they needed to survive.

They didn’t come back by to explain if they had found what they were looking for. There is no doubt in my heart as God and John Wayne are my witness, that they would connect somewhere along the line.  THEIRS would be the memories they would take back home to share.

So many times in our writings we get so wrapped up in telling our stories we forget the reader may find something totally random to connect with. We push, and push, and push some more to get our point across till we have lost sight of the heart of our stories. We want anyone and everyone to understand our point of view. How can they not when its as plain as day. We forget they may need something light when facing something so dark, or vice versa. Or they could be facing a puzzlement, seeking a solution, needing just the right clue from their past for the answer to click.

You cannot force a reader no matter how hard you try. Celebrate what each finds in your writings. It’s okay. Your story isn’t ruined if they don’t “get it” the way you wrote it. And on another token, follow the direction it may lead you.

After all I envisioned a whole different path when I started writing about the “Hersheyburger”. It wasn’t that I would be telling the story about diabetes or cholesterol. I knew “the masses” would get that. I just thought I would be connecting it with band-aids. Who knew?

Rest in memories, Bertie Purcell.

Sharon Stevens

TENDER


TENDER

by Sharon Stevens

I found two one dollar bills in my dryer this morning. To find these meant they had been washed in our washing machine and cleansed by the water from our own well. This water was unquestionably drawn from the Tierra Blanco Creek flowing from the Ogallala Aquifer underneath our land. The electricity for the washer and dryer may have been supplied by Excel Energy, but as God and John Wayne are my witness I know the power was provided by the sun during the day and the moon and the stars at night.

Yep, these are my dollar bills. I know this because one is I picked these out of the dryer myself, and I know my husband never has any ready cash on hand. And two, I was washing MY clothes and not his. So I claim them lock stock and tender.

What to do, what to do. This money instantly began to burn a hole in my pocket with possibilities galore. I could use them to buy my daily soft drinks or powdered sugar donuts at Marks Chevron across the street from our Buffalo Bookstore. Maybe I can save it for popcorn at the Varsity Theater down the block. Naw. What about if I use it to purchase gee gaws at the Hideout next door or maybe I could travel down to Dollar General to buy Ginger snaps for the cookie jar in our business or candy for the goodie bags. What if I pay for printing at Hayley’s Printing on the Randall County Courthouse Square or to find some treasure at Stevens Flowers or H.R. Flowers down the road. Or there is coffee at the Palace, or ice cream at the Rock and Roll Soda Shop.

Agony! Endless possibilities! Glory be!  After pondering my dilemma and contemplating the consequences of my actions and reactions I formulated a plan. I will first put one of these precious bills in our cash register, and get change to buy both the Canyon News and Amarillo Globe News. Who knows where those quarters will go.

The other dollar I will tuck among those who have found their way into my pocket. Without a glance I will pull it out to pay for something, and send it on its maiden voyage from me to some unknown destination around our big blue marble.

I may never know, can never know where this money came from, and I have no clue where they will travel in the future, or how they will be used. Perchance they may have originated at a local bank, or a banking institution millions of miles away. They could have come from a tourist or a tramp, a child or child at heart. The combinations are not only endless but timeless.

Each time I glanced at these bills before they went into circulation, no matter how hard I tried, George Washington wouldn’t and couldn’t share any clues of his travels, and I know for a fact he had no way to document his path. I couldn’t find a “Where’s George” anywhere on his person.

So his appearance in my dryer will have to remain a mystery forever and ever Amen.

As writers we string words together and send them out the door, or the internet, or facebook, or twitter. We have no clue who or whom will pick them up and settle them in their hearts or pass them on to the next destination. This is why we write. I take this back, this is why we SHOULD write. For when we focus on connecting to one certain individual or a single interest we have lost the journey and sacrificed the story. And if we spend all our time worrying who we can link to, or who it will offend we can never fully set ourselves free to write. We just cannot choose who receives the message.

Besides imagining the other is way more fun. Happy Trails!

Sharon Stevens

TENDER


TENDER

I found two one dollar bills in my dryer this morning. To find these meant they had been washed in our washing machine and cleansed by the water from our own well. This water was unquestionably drawn from the Tierra Blanco Creek flowing from the Ogallala Aquifer underneath our land. The electricity for the washer and dryer may have been supplied by Excel Energy, but as God and John Wayne are my witness I know the power was provided by the sun during the day and the moon and the stars at night.

Yep, these are my dollar bills. I know this because one is I picked these out of the dryer myself, and I know my husband never has any ready cash on hand. And two, I was washing MY clothes and not his. So I claim them lock stock and tender.

What to do, what to do. This money instantly began to burn a hole in my pocket with possibilities galore. I could use them to buy my daily soft drinks or powdered sugar donuts at Marks Chevron across the street from our Buffalo Bookstore. Maybe I can save it for popcorn at the Varsity Theater down the block. Naw. What about if I use it to purchase gee gaws at the Hideout next door or maybe I could travel down to Dollar General to buy Ginger snaps for the cookie jar in our business or candy for the goodie bags. What if I pay for printing at Hayley’s Printing on the Randall County Courthouse Square or to find some treasure at Stevens Flowers or H.R. Flowers down the road. Or there is coffee at the Palace, or ice cream at the Rock and Roll Soda Shop.

Agony! Endless possibilities! Glory be!  After pondering my dilemma and contemplating the consequences of my actions and reactions I formulated a plan. I will first put one of these precious bills in our cash register, and get change to buy both the Canyon News and Amarillo Globe News. Who knows where those quarters will go.

The other dollar I will tuck among those who have found their way into my pocket. Without a glance I will pull it out to pay for something, and send it on its maiden voyage from me to some unknown destination around our big blue marble.

I may never know, can never know where this money came from, and I have no clue where they will travel in the future, or how they will be used. Perchance they may have originated at a local bank, or a banking institution millions of miles away. They could have come from a tourist or a tramp, a child or child at heart. The combinations are not only endless but timeless.

Each time I glanced at these bills before they went into circulation, no matter how hard I tried, George Washington wouldn’t and couldn’t share any clues of his travels, and I know for a fact he had no way to document his path. I couldn’t find a “Where’s George” anywhere on his person.

So his appearance in my dryer will have to remain a mystery forever and ever Amen.

As writers we string words together and send them out the door, or the internet, or facebook, or twitter. We have no clue who or whom will pick them up and settle them in their hearts or pass them on to the next destination. This is why we write. I take this back, this is why we SHOULD write. For when we focus on connecting to one certain individual or a single interest we have lost the journey and sacrificed the story. And if we spend all our time worrying who we can link to, or who it will offend we can never fully set ourselves free to write. We just cannot choose who receives the message.

Besides imagining the other is way more fun. Happy Trails!

Sharon Stevens

ROLLER SKATES


ROLLER SKATES

by Sharon Stevens

In honor, memory and celebration of

Jerry Williams and Ruth Holladay

Who says, “you can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd”? Just because Roger Miller celebrated this fact in a song he wrote and performed doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It’s just not a good idea. One, it disturbs the buffalo and two, skates don’t skid well through patties.

Take my hat for example. I have a hat, the most wonderful chapeau you could ever imagine, made special for me to celebrate a Kentucky Derby event at my mother’s church. I had Nikki Sams at Stevens Flowers transform two cowboy hats for this. I felt like Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” when I entered their magical world on the courthouse square in Canyon. With outstretched arms I begged them to help me with an idea for my mother and me to celebrate together. Mother’s needed to be respectable while I wanted mine to represent everything patchwork. What they came up with was nothing short of miraculous. Mother’s hat was black sparkly crochet on a gold background with pearls hanging down the back. Mine was every color of the rainbow, interwoven together, connecting each hue to the next. It was covered in crochet, lace, and bright expressions of “bling.” I have never had anything with “bling” before.

We were a hit wearing our hats and had more fun. After the event my mother put hers away and I hung mine on a hook at our bookstore, and this has been a real conversation starter for anyone who comes in.

At the bookstore I wear many hats, but none more special than this one. I take it down and wear it on story-telling occasions in memory of “Patchwork.” It is my way of honoring Ruth Holladay and Jerry Williams. Both true storytellers inside and out. Jerry would wear a silk patchwork top hat while Ruth donned a patchwork vest with pockets galore. Ruth never knew what story she would tell until she got up before her audience and put her hand in her pocket. Whatever object she pulled out would determine the story she would weave.

I can’t wear my hat without being reminded of all the wonderful stories that surround all of us to be written and shared. Also, when this is perched brightly on my head it brings me courage and inspiration. Downright silly in the wrong setting, it fits perfectly for all ages with its sparkle and bling in the right one. And its not that I’m invisible underneath, but it helps to hide my sheer terror while the audience gushes over the designs and colors woven intricately together.

So I was reminded of my chapeau while running across to the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum to deliver books to the author Jodi Thomas, guest speaker for the Canyon Chamber of Commerce-Women in Business breakfast. I left my hat behind at the bookstore; it would have been out of place at a professional event such as this. I try to reserve it only for special projects at the museum, library and story time hoping to make a memory for someone.

To me this object represents a MacGuffin. When Harrison Ford promoted “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull” he mentioned that the skulls were a “MacGuffin,” a storied item worth seeking, such as the Ark of the Covenant. This was a phrase first coined by Alfred Hitchcock in 1939 and picked up by Steven Spielburg and George Lucas. Hitchcock describes the meaning as “whatever impels the villains and virtuous characters in a movie to pursue each other through the convoluted plots. The mechanical element that usually crops up in any story…the object around which the plot revolves.” Lucas further strengthened the idea. “A MacGuffin should be powerful and the audience should care about it almost as much as the dueling heroes and villains on-screen.”

My hat, the MacGuffin, signifies thousands upon millions of precious stories I can connect together at a drop of a hat. Nikki Sams created and crafted my jewels with the artistry of her grandmother, Montene Stevens who taught her to crochet. Nikki’s mother, Debbie Stevens and grandmother Shirley White shared their passion and the heritage of beauty not just in flowers. Stevens Flowers is also a family business which will be celebrating 75 years this year in the community.

Every time I come into their store I am inspired and linked to another story and memory, and not only because of my hat. When I leave I am renewed in my faith to set my thoughts down in some form or fashion to share with generations to come.

Even though those gifted in the flower shop are not milliners, I can only imagine that Stevens continues the tradition of our prairie foremothers (as opposed to forefathers) who must have fashioned bonnets with bits of ribbon and lace, fabric and scraps to renew that which adorns our heart and soul.

Yep, I didn’t wear my patchwork hat to the Chamber of Commerce breakfast. It just wouldn’t do. I know enough not to roller skate in a buffalo herd either. But you can bet your bottom dollar I will be wearing my special “lid”, my precious chapeau, at our Buffalo Bookstore during the WTAMU Homecoming parade Saturday October 8, 2011 or I’ll eat my hat. Believe me, with all that bling it won’t be very tasty.

This year’s theme is Mardi Gras, and me and my colorful cowboy hat will fit right in, a mixture of our western heritage and silly celebration. I might even have to go next door to The Hide Out and buy some beads to add more bling. Isn’t that what Mardi Gras is all about?

Don’t look for me to lead the buffalo mascot and accompanying herd in the homecoming parade though; it’s just not my place. Wait a minute, what if I can find a pair of roller skates. Hmmmm. Can you imagine what a MacGuffin that would make?

Sharon Stevens