Hey, guys, it's Mike Rowe, and this is episode number one. Ninety of the way I heard it, and it's called that's a big ash tree. That's a big ash tree. When my father said those exact words in the conversation you're about to hear. I was pretty sure he said that's a big ass tree, which made me laugh because any time somebody describes a thing as a big ass thing, I always imagine the hyphen not between Big and ASCE, but rather between ass and whatever the thing is that follows it.
So a big ass truck becomes a big ass truck or a big ass house becomes a big ass house, or a big ass boxer becomes a big ass boxer, begging the obvious questions.
What exactly is an ass truck or an ass house or an ass boxer? I don't have the answers. I just know that my dad was trying to describe the size of a large ash tree that he and I were attempting to remove from the ground one day back in the summer of 1977. And the various challenges that that particular big ash tree presented, it's just one of the many delightful linguistic confusions you'll find in yet another spontaneous catch up with my mom and dad.
And another one of the many reasons this podcast is called The Way I heard it, not the way it was. Even my own dad remembers things differently than I do, which is not at all unexpected. The old man is here to help me unpack Chapter 12 of my book, which I'll read for you forthwith. Chapter 12 tells the true story of another father and another son and another miscommunication that turned out to have some very serious consequences. Big ass consequences, you might say, or if you prefer, big ass consequences, whatever that means.
The whole thing is one big ash episode and it all starts right now. And by right now, I mean, right after I remind every business owner listening to this podcast that hiring during a pandemic can be a big ass challenge. I don't care if you're looking for a nurse in Nebraska or a lawyer in Louisiana or a mascot in Missouri, if you have a position to fill anywhere in these United States, zip recruiter can help you find qualified candidates fast and now you can try it for free.
It's hypocritical. Magro Four out of five people who post a job for free on zip recruiter Dotcom Cigarroa will find a quality candidate in 24 hours. It's just science. It worked for me and I bet it'll work for you from accountant to zoologist and everything in between tried for free and super recruiter Dotcom Magro. If you try it for free, it's hypocritical. I get credit for sending you over there for which you would have my big ass gratitude as opposed to my big ass gratitude, which no one really wants.
Either way, it's zip recruiter dotcom r o w e. They really are the smartest way to hire. And this really is the way I heard it.
Chapter twelve. Words, words, words. George understood the consequences of words better than most. So did his son, but now, staring dumbly at the blank tombstone that would mark his boy's final resting place, George was at a loss to find the right ones. What words could possibly sum up the life of the poet that millions of people all over the world were now mourning, loving son that wouldn't work.
Beloved husband and father? Hardly in the end. George went with Curtatone Diamond to true to his own spirit. George was satisfied with those words he hoped James would have approved, but truth be told. Approval was not something George had ever received from James, nor, in fairness, was it something George had ever offered his rebellious son. Indeed, father and son hadn't spoken since the fateful day.
James had told the old man he was joining a band. A band? What kind of band? A rock and roll band. I'm going to be the singer. That's ridiculous, George. That's golf. Rock and roll isn't music. Besides, you can't even sing. Now, looking down upon the granite bust of the young man with the long hair and the unearthly gaze, he contemplated the magnitude of his mistaken assessment. George thought about the thousands of protesters who had been galvanized by his son's words and music.
He also thought about some other words, words that he'd spoken in haste six years earlier. Back then, George had been patrolling a tense and dangerous coastline in a place most Americans had never even heard of, the seas were high. That evening, the fog was thick and the radar screen showed enemy ships approaching from several directions, approaching quickly. They didn't respond to any warning or communication. So George did what he had to do. Speaking the words that would change history, he said Open fire.
Those words went down to the Gunnars men who, unlike George, his son, were not inclined to ignore his orders. For nearly four hours, Georgia's Navy fired upon enemy ships that refused to leave his radar screen. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C., President Johnson got word of the sea battle. He interrupted all three of the networks with some words of his own. This new act of aggression on the high seas must be met with a positive reply.
On national television, the president asked for and received congressional approval to retaliate and the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was passed back in the Gulf, though, after the fog of war had finally lifted, George saw why the enemy ships had been unsinkable. They weren't actually there. The radar hits were not ships at all. They were anomalies brought about by bad weather and high seas or maybe a technical glitch. Whatever the cause, George had been firing into a ghost fleet.
George reported the error to his commanders in Hawaii. They called McNamara immediately, but the secretary of defense, for whatever reason, didn't relay the message to the president.
The airstrikes went off as scheduled. And just like that, we were at war with Vietnam. Oh, yes, George understood the consequences of words spoken in anger, they had divided his family, spoken in error, they had divided his country. People still argue about whether his words were an honest mistake or part of a government conspiracy to push Congress into declaring a premature and completely avoidable war. Perhaps the answer to that is best addressed by the words of his son, who once wrote, There are things known and things unknown.
And in between are the doors. Fitting words from a rebellious boy who remained true to his own spirit, the son who could sing after all, and proved it by providing a soundtrack to the war his father had started. A dead poet named Jim Morrison. It was a Saturday morning, I was 14, and there was my father standing at the foot of my bed, sharpening a double sided axe. It's time he said, let's go. My father has a tendency to start conversations in the middle of sentences.
He's also suspicious of anything modern like nouns. Time for what? I knew the question was futile before I'd asked it, so as I rolled out of bed and pulled on my jeans and my work boots, I tried another one.
Is it cold out? Invigorating. He said your mother made oatmeal. Eat fast. Our Massey Ferguson tractor idled outside as we loaded up our wooden cart, ropes and pulleys, jacks and wedges, two chain saws and various other weapons of war, Mom added a lunchbox filled with ham sandwiches and green apples to our arsenal, along with a large thermos of coffee. It was snowing already. Try not to kill yourself. She said, dinner's at six. I can't count the number of times that my dad and I drove the old tractor down that stone road, we'd go through the lower pasture and deep into the woods to do battle with the pine, the maple, the oak and his favorite, the mighty locust.
The hardwood puts up a tough fight, but it burns the best, he would say. The fact that we heated most of the old farmhouse with nothing but a wood stove was a source of great pride for my father and endless inspiration for witticisms like Chop your own wood. It'll warm you twice. The man took great pleasure in finding just the right tree, what he loved even more was chopping that tree down, although there was nothing nearby but the ground for the tree to fall on.
He liked to pretend that there was he imagined himself as the contestant on some sort of lumberjack game show, challenged perhaps to drop the tree between a Mercedes and a school bus full of children with nothing but inches to spare. On each side, with pulleys and ropes and lots of delicate chainsaw work, he would coax the tree to the ground, determined to see it land precisely in the spot where he wanted it.
Once that was done, we'd stripped the limbs and the branches and cut them down to stove length pieces, and then we turn our attention to the trunk, working backward from the top of the tree to the bottom. As the cuts became progressively thicker, the chainsaw whined louder and higher. Sharpen that blade, son. A dollar once, twice as dangerous. I still remember how my arm shook even after the song had been turned off and stowed away, hauling all that wood back to the house was a full day's work, but splitting the larger chunks into smaller pieces that would fit into our insatiable woodstove.
That was a chore without end every day after school meant an hour up in the woodpile with dad. I can still hear his voice as I got ready to swing the axe, aim for the chopping block sun, not the wood. If you aim for the wood, you'll hit nothing. A smart man named Einstein once said people love chopping wood in this activity, one immediately sees results. Being Einstein, he was right, chopping wood does yield immediate results.
It's immensely gratifying just watching the progress unfold. But up there in the woodpile, the gratification was always delayed, delayed because my father wasn't just teaching me how to swing that old double sided axe. He was teaching me that work and play were two sides of the same coin. He was showing me that hard things, challenging things could also be fun. In fact, the challenge was where the fun was. Today, I wonder, did the Morison's have a woodpile behind their house, someplace where George could show Jim that there were dangers involved when it came to cutting against the grain, a place to illustrate the consequences of driving wedges too deeply into the stubbornest stumps?
What I know from personal experience is that fathers and sons can find the right words. They can find them in the woods when they go there together to get the fuel they need to keep their family warm. Hey, are you recording on your phone? You never know when you guys are going to be interesting, which is Vasteras fine line that in my world that's been interesting and disaster.
Well, sometimes a really disastrous episodes are the most entertaining ones.
Yes. What show are we talking about?
Are you referring to dirty jobs? Oh, your show.
Our show. Yes. We have a new mattress, you know. Yes. I only I do that. Well, I follow your wife's Facebook page and yes, it sounded like you found something you like. But what arrived was more in keeping with the yoga mat. But then the memory foam. Right. Expanded and now you're happy.
Yeah. I had a nice night. A lot of people who get those say it takes a week or so to adjust. But I think we adjusted at least I did very nicely. Very quickly. I had a good night. A quick study.
When's the last time you bought a mattress? That 19, 20 years ago?
Yeah, it was a beauty rest. Yeah.
Yeah. And it really looked like knew the lady at the store who sold us this mattress said now they will not touch it if it has any stains on it.
Well, our mattress, we had the forensic people come in and check it out. It was pristine. It looked like a brand new mattress, which made it really hard to get rid of.
Well, you know, at your age, that's a pretty that's a pretty big claim. 19 years and not a single stain on the mattress. Dad. Good for you.
You, mom. Well, I do. I'm very careful with my coffee.
So you got a foam mattress and last night was your first official night sleep on it?
That's correct. It was when you're pleased. But yes, but it it was a different memory foam. Well, when you lie on it, it it kind of leaves an indentation the shape of your body. So rolling over is a real chore because it's like the mattress reaches up and grabs you and doesn't want you to move. So you have to overcome inertia, the order to turn over. So it's a little getting used.
I never had a problem turning over. My problem was getting the bed in the first place in bed.
Oh, why do I move like I sleep on my right side. I sleep on my left side. Oh yeah. I think it's OK.
And well, it wasn't a complaint. No, I think you would say your he moves enough in bed but not, not a lot. Just move some just enough, just enough movement just right. Yeah.
That's not weird at all. You know the whole mattress thing. I mean. Nineteen years those things get another twenty percent heavier like every seven or eight years they say oh that's good stuff.
I remember that that episode of Dirty Jobs, it was thoroughly disgusting. I can't remember you had rubber gloves on and you were dressed like in a hazmat outfit and picking up those floppy old mattresses that were ancient and just rife with all kinds of bacteria.
Had to have a new windshield put in yesterday. Mike, you are really great change subject.
Yeah, I say so. All right. So we're not going to talk about the dead skin that makes mattresses weigh exponentially more twenty years later than they do when you buy them. We're going to move on to windshield's. That's fine. Why do you get a new windshield dead?
Because I had a crack in it. They say if the crack can be covered by a dollar bill, then it can be repaired.
Well, I tried a five dollar bill thinking it might be a little bigger here and and that wouldn't cover it. It took two five dollar bills to cover the correct there.
If it's ten dollars, then that's that's a ten dollar crack right there.
Therefore, the whole windshield had to be replaced. Currency in this country is all the same size and that's not the case all around the world. You go to Australia, you know, some some of those bills are huge. They're huge thing.
We watch a lot of British television. And those I mean, those pound notes are enormous.
Yeah, well, you know, other people's money is a lot more fun. I mean, ours is all green and white and rectangular and of the exact same dimension. But you get over in some of these European countries, the colors are really vibrant. Down in South America, the same thing got pink. Bills in orange bills now. Maybe it's more difficult to counterfeit. I bet it is. Yeah, well, we got special ink, you know, and special paper.
Yeah, I think.
Anyway, fiber in it. Thank you. Yes, there is fiber in the paper.
Yes, there is.
I'm talking to the one and only John and Peggy Rowe, my parents who have graciously agreed to join me to discuss the chapter that you all just listen to Mom and dad. Did you just listen to the same chapter?
Yes, we did, yes.
And are you prepared to have an unscripted conversation about what you heard? Yes.
Well, yes. But, you know, your father, he has endless curiosity, so he was motivated to read further about it. Jim Morrison.
Mm hmm. Would you learn that about the Morison's? Yeah. Yeah.
Well, one thing I learned is that Jim or James Morrison of The Doors died at age 27 from either a massive overdose of heroin or from a heart attack that may have been caused by the heroin. But he was 27 when he died. There was never any reconciliation between parents and so on. And there was one occasion where his mother and his sister came to see a show that Jim was in.
And after the show was over, the mother and sister walked up to Jim and Jim refused to talk to her in one of the songs that he wrote. He talked about the Elvis angle that his father was dead and that he was sleeping with his mother. So my impression of James Morrison was a collage or too short of a full deck.
Well, he was troubled, for sure. But didn't you find it interesting? I mean, as a history teacher, a social studies teacher, I mean, I didn't I knew a lot about James and nothing about him. You know nothing about it. But I knew nothing about George. Did you know anything about him?
No, I didn't know that he was the rear admiral who ordered the firing on ghost ships. I didn't know that. And the way you credit him with having started the Vietnam War, I think the son, Jim Morrison, was right in his attitude toward his father. And the Vietnam War, to me, was a war that should never have been. But it wasn't just his father. You had McNamara, who was hugely responsible. And later on he wrote in his book, I think it was The Fog of War.
There's a terrific book, but it's an even better documentary. It was directed by a guy named Errol Morris. And yeah, The Fog of War tells that whole story. That's what had it in the back of my mind. That's why I knew that George was a key figure in this. But I didn't I didn't realize how key, but I really didn't care about much of that. I just I mean, it's interesting, but I like the relationship.
I mean, I don't like it, but I was interested in how bad the relationship between the father and the son was and, you know, how it was never reconciled in the idea. The old man standing there next to his son's grave trying to figure out how to sum up his life and realizing really for the first time that so many millions of people around the world loved his boy, even though he basically wrote the soundtrack for the war that his father helped start.
I thought it was all kind of interesting and had something to do with you. And I cut.
And would you don't get in that boy.
What's the matter? What do you mean don't get into it? Well, there were some great days. I don't know. I don't know what I'm allowed to say.
Anything you want. You're 88 years old. You're my dad. What am I going to do that did you? Yes.
To begin with, we never owned a double edged axe.
Willy had one next door and he used to hang it in Pop's shop and it wasn't ours. But I thought it was better in the story, the idea of you standing in. The foot of my bed holding an axe. It sounds better if it's double edged. Now, look, you did do that. It might not have been a double edged axe, but you absolutely came into my bedroom in the basement on more than one occasion and you would kick the bed to wake me up and then we would go out to work.
That happened more than once.
You can dream, but you've got a great imagination.
Mom, back me up on this. I'm sure it happened has very selective memory. Yes, I know he does.
Look, we all do. That's why it's called the way I heard it. But the way I remember it, on more than one occasion you would wake me up. Sometimes it was in the summer. I remember spending hours digging out roots. Right. You would cut down. There was that tree back behind the house.
I just remember just all day after day trying to pull that stuff out of the ground, weeks to get that stuff out.
That was an elm tree.
Yeah. And and you looked at this thing. I was with such a weird mixture of of delight and resentment, you know, like this was a challenge and you were going to do it yourself. And I was going to assist in some small way. But I remember it was so hot, the stump was just completely intractable. And I had read somewhere about a device called a stump grinder that would simply eliminate the entire thing. In about ten minutes, we could have gotten a stump grinder and spent ten minutes just whittling this thing down to ground level or just below it.
And that would have been that. But instead, we spent a week with Hicks. I don't know how is how it was finally done. My good friend Charlie Griffin brought a come along and with that come along, we finally pulled that thing out of the ground.
Explain exactly what that is. That, you know, it's a tool with Foley. Yeah. It's like a pulley and it has a cable and the cable you wrap around whatever it is you want to remove and you have the other in fashion to in this case are KRI and then you work it back and forth like.
So this is an audio podcast ad, by the way. So when you say like so I mean the gestures are interesting here on Zoom, but the folks listening are probably a bit baffled. Well, anyway, it's a set of pulleys. Yeah. They come along with a set of pulleys.
Well, would you like to hear the way I remember it?
I would, mom, desperately. This was a project that interested the whole neighborhood. It went on for weeks to months. And in the summer, the neighbors would come over Willy and Rose and I guess. Russ and Fran, I mean, they would all gather round, they would bring their lawn chairs and they would gather round this stump and they would watch the progress, his dad was putting water into the hole and shopping and trying to break up those roots.
It was never ending entertainment. They would bring their beer and they would sit there by the hour and talk and laugh and watch and watch Dad work on this. Yes, he could have gotten this done grinder, but he would have deprived the neighbors of such wonderful entertainment and camaraderie.
I'm sorry I didn't write about that. You know, I mean, I wrote about the business of going back in the woods and coming back with fuel for the wood stove. That that to me was, you know, a big recurring epic thing you did at a couple of times.
I did, yeah. Not very often. Your brother Scott was. Yes. Out there more often than you really would. Yeah.
Oh, I don't know about that. I don't know about that. I mean, you know, I, I was older so I was gone and you probably. Yeah. I mean he lived at home longer than I did and he was up there. Yeah. You're probably right.
But the, the, the better story is the stump, the this giant stump behind our house close to the house. And I think part of the reason you wanted it out, because the roots were still growing. Right.
And they were getting into the foundation that were. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. The tree you're talking about is was much farther. It was closer, actually. It was on Pop's property.
Oh, that one. But there was another way. You're right. There was that other tree off of the corner of the patio.
Yes, that's right. It was it was on the corner, the patio. Dad, that's the first time I remember you coming down, kicking my bed, standing there with the ax, telling me to get up. And I got out of the bed. And in the story we go back to the woods to cut down a tree. But in real life, what happened is we went around back and you gave me that axe and I just started working on the Roots and you started doing whatever it is you were doing and it just never stopped.
It was the Sisyphean stump.
I still don't know what true you're talking about. You would rather we had planted that tree early on. That was a big that was a big ash tree. It was an ash and beautiful tree. And I and I had a professional I had a professional come in and cut that tree down. Did you say it was a big ass tree? It was a very big and it was my mistake was I planted big ash tree. Oh, sorry, I, I planted it too close to the house.
If there's a point to be made here regarding your husband, mom, it's it's the fact that we could have gotten a stump grinder. We could have done it for a modest sum. We could have saved ourselves probably a month of work.
I never, ever heard you say, Dad, why don't we get a stump grinder? Never in some way, shape or form.
That's the only thing I've ever said to you over the last fifty eight years. Why don't we do there's look, I can't even begin. I could write a whole separate book, Dad, on the occasions where there was an easy button and your way and you never hit the easy button ever.
It's it's all still going on right now.
Mom, what's what's the most recent example of your husband refusing to do it the easy way?
Oh, my golly. Pull up a chair, pull up a couch with you.
You always want to do things your way.
And, oh, she it's her way that prevails.
You know, something of the Bailey what was his name.
Oh, that PBS show. Yeah. Rumpole, Rumpole. Rumpole of the Bailey.
He always referred to his wife as she she who must be obeyed. Exactly. There she sits. Yeah.
But if you know that you will ultimately obey her and if you know that she will ultimately get her way, why put up the fight. Why not just agree and get on with your life and save everybody. Why not get the stomach grinder?
OK, Mike, here's an example. I talked to Chuck the other day and we planned this Zoome and I reminded him that your father has some hearing issues and he said, what you need is a splitter.
You go on to Amazon and.
You order yourself a splitter, and he said, but you need it in two days, maybe start by Best Buy. That might be a better thing and then you can get it right away. So yesterday, while Dad was outside with the windshield guy putting on the new windshield, I said, oh, I'm going to run across the street to the grocery store when in fact, I drove back to Best Buy and I picked up a sweater.
Because if I had said to your dad, OK, we need a splitter, oh, we'd have been calling store after store after store to get prices.
You'd still be shopping for us and we'd still be shopping. How much was it, by the way? It was 999.
It would have been cheaper. 999 out. Nine hundred ninety nine dollars.
It would have been cheaper on Amazon. I think they're like five.
But then you have to pay shipping. Shipping, right. Best Buy tries to compete with Amazon. They really do. Everybody's trying to compete with Amazon.
So anyway, so I got home and I'm anxious to show off my product, took it out of the box, out of the bag, opened the box and it was empty. It was an empty box.
Well, how's that for a good shop?
The work bringing home an empty bottle at the store said, oh, yeah, we have splitters here. Right over here. Let me get you one. I said, is this the only one? He said, yes, this is it. So he picked up the box, handed it to me. I said thank you. I took it over to check out the girl, took it from me, rang it up. Gabe, he put it in a bag, gave me the bag with the empty box and the receipt.
And I drove home and and then I had to go all the way back.
Rush hour traffic just didn't it didn't it feel like an empty box to go? But you know what? The one that had a splitter in it felt like an empty box. And I said to the girl, I'm not falling for this again. Open that box. Tell me what's in there. She said, it is awfully like she opened it and there was the splitter. I mean, it's just a tiny thing.
He told he told mother that that happens. People come in and they take things out of the little boxes, put them in their pocket, put the box back on the shelf. So in other words, it was stolen.
So somebody stole the splitter from the box. You bought an empty splitter box, brought it home, had to take it back. Right. So the moral of the story is nothing's easy anymore.
No, but they were very nice about the moral of the story is open the box before you leave the store.
There you go. Have a look in the box. Check your goods before you sign on the dotted line metaphorically. I'll tell you what's interesting. Talking about this splitter on dirty jobs years ago. I don't know if you remember that, but I went to a a lumber yard. It's actually it was an operation next to a lumber yard where they used the scraps to make shakes and shingles. Right. For roofs.
And they had a splitter, a log splitter. And I thought again of the woodpile when I saw this thing in action, you know, it was like a miniature guillotine with a heavy blade. And you could put any stump, any log of any size in this thing. It was hydraulic and you hit a button and man, it would cut it in half and then half again and half again. And I just thought the amount of time we could have saved up in that woodpile with a splitter and the amount of time we could have saved in the front yard with a stump grinder would have dramatically changed our lives, I'm sure, for the better.
But it would have changed things. What would we have done with that extra time?
Hmm. I don't know. I mean, this was a great time. You said it was a great time to have words. We could exchange words together while we're chopping wood, while we're hauling wood, while we're carrying it to the house so thoroughly that we lost.
We wouldn't have had any quality time together.
Yes. That you know what? When you're right, you're right. And analysts, I think we do agree.
I think that was the larger point I was attempting to leave the reader with in the chapter, not necessarily the detail regarding a double sided axe versus a single sided acts, but, oh, we could come up with some other contradictions as well.
But what else you have? What else did you hear in my story that didn't comport precisely with your recollection?
Oh, I got itchy back here. I can't reach you. I'm in San Francisco.
Apparently, that's it. Well, whatever you do know is back there, Mom, it seems to be working.
That is like a cat with his legs up in the air.
And, you know, it's funny, sometimes we'll hug and while we're hugging. Well, rub each other's backs.
And I said, we're like two old horses in the pasture scratching each other's back.
Well, thanks for that, Mom.
I prefer to imagine you on your new memory foam mattress stuck in your requisite indentations, trying to give each other a back rub while you're talking about a busted windshield.
That really was amazing, Mike, before they got here with the mattress. I had gone down and opened the doors. I mean, picturing this big mattress, you know, I moved furniture out of the way.
I moved a chair. I got everything all ready. And the guy comes walking in with this round thing under his arm. And I'm thinking, oh, they must be bringing us a couple of pillows, too. So he put it on the inner spring and started unrolling it. And honestly, it was about two inches thick at the very most.
Yeah. And he just flopped it on the bed and I thought, wow, what a mistake this was.
I said, this is not what we ordered. He he said they were Hispanic.
The young men who delivered this desk. No, that's good.
This get big if you sleep on it tonight. And I thought, wow, it's got a long way to go. So every hour or so we go walking in the bedroom and measure it.
Is it a mattress yet? Not yet. It looked like a plowed field.
At one point it was it had all these big grooves in it where it had been rolled and it was very interesting. And they also included two pillows, which I did take a picture of, and they were like an inch thick when they came.
And I thought, yeah, they're going to be really useful pillows.
Well, today they're like nine inches.
There you go. Get yourself a nine inch pillow.
I go a little bit of memory foam mattress is another interesting story associated with the mattress.
Do tell the guy pulls up out front. He calls. Let us know he's here. Your mother said, oh, he's here. He's here. We go down and she rushes downstairs to open the doors so the man can come in. Meanwhile, I'm upstairs and he's called again and I've let them know she's down there. She comes in because she says, I can go downstairs, go down, let them in.
So I go downstairs and I'm waiting and the truck is parked out front and I don't see any movement and I'm waiting. Both doors are open, cold, very cold.
And I keep looking, where are they? Why aren't they coming in? So finally, I said, I'm going to close this outside door, cut down on the call when they show up, then I'll open the door for a while. The next thing I know here comes a guy walking by me carrying a mattress. Oh, our old man, we all inside. And I said, I've been waiting for you to come in. When did you come in?
I come in. You want to go? I said, OK, so I come upstairs. There's the microphone to bid me what apparently happened when excitable mom here. Get downstairs, get downstairs. I went down the steps and apparently they were coming up on the elevator at the same time I was going down the steps.
So you you blame Mom for telling you to get down there? Exactly right.
And when she had already left the doors open for them, I don't know why I need to be down there. Well, look, I mean, every day is an adventure. Some days it's a mattress, some days it's a splitter. Well, maybe you can write about it. Maybe I will. Maybe the picture's a little crooked over there, honey.
Squirrel, squirrel down over here. Yeah. Look, you know, when I look back at all of this, I mean, this computer did not get you your first computer, did not get you your first telephone with push buttons, did not get an antenna that allowed us to watch TV without somebody standing there holding a piece of tinfoil. Wasn't I the one who insisted you get cable so you could actually watch shows like Rumpled? The Bailey and I go one day with the microwave.
Oh, you can always watch Rumpole of the Bailey without cable. Really? Oh yeah. Yeah, you always had PB's without cable.
Look, all I know is if it wasn't for me and your wife constantly pushing you to get a mattress or a splitter or whatever it was, where would you be right now?
You would be making phone calls on a rotary phone. Well, what a computer was.
I said in my book, if it wasn't for me, your father would be sitting on a stump cooking squirrel over an open fire. And that's true. Cooking squirrel. Yes.
Well, I exaggerated just a week, maybe just a tad. Oh, you know what?
I think the real sadness of that story is the failed relationship between son and parents, apparently not just father.
Yeah. You know, there's really no cause for that. I don't care what your differences are. I have friends. I mean, I know people well. I know at least five cases of estrangement of parents and children. And I just think it's the saddest thing in the world. I don't get it. I don't I mean, I'm sure there are reasons that people have and they think that they're valid reasons. But I think in the end, it's just a great sadness.
Well, it's the frog in the boiling water. You know, people tend to think it's it's this some something terrible happens and nobody can get over it. But it's it's usually a slight thing. And then days turn into weeks and weeks and months and suddenly you haven't talked for a couple of years and then nobody even remembers what the problems were.
And then nobody has the words to fix it. But I think that you're the smartest guy I know.
Oh, get out of here with that. No, look, I'm not saying you're not deeply flawed. You are.
But you are.
You know, you're you're you're what a compliment that is smarter and deeply flawed.
Well, it's two sides of the same coin. Your your specificity, your attention to detail sometimes get in the way of the larger truth.
But your basic understanding, you're my patients, they might get in the way of the larger lie that I'm trying to compliment you if you just hush up for a moment.
Listen, what what you said earlier is absolutely true. And it and it is of your many great gifts. It's one of the greatest ones. But the the refusal to take a shortcut put us in constant situations where there was time to talk hours, days, you know, spend the time with your kid trying to get a stump out of the ground and it suddenly stops being about the stump and starts being about the two of you swinging axes and doing whatever you can.
And then sometimes the neighbors come over and they sit down and they watch. And Mom, you're right. All of that seems so random and inconsequential when it happens.
But when you look back at it, you know, it's it has an element of everything, including performance. We were literate, Dad.
You and I were actually performing for the neighbors in some weird performance art, get the stump out of the ground thing.
And it it didn't occur to me until right now that that was actually important.
Well, we lived in the country. The neighbors were desperate for diversionary entertainment.
You want to talk about trees? All right.
Sure. Mattresses, windshields and trees.
We got to land the plane here soon, though, that one of the best trees we ever had was given to us by Russ Ziggler, our neighbor.
It was a peach tree. Oh, yeah.
And that peach tree was the most bearing tree. I mean, it was full of fruit.
Your granddad came over and had to prop up the branches.
I remember they were hanging.
The fruit was so heavy, Philip would make a couple of dollars, taken peaches of it from Sawmill Road. And certainly, yeah, he went up there at rush hour.
He lived with like a bushel basket, come back with an empty basket in his pockets were full of change.
I think they're the best peaches I've ever eaten. You know what?
You're right. And I forgot that it was Russ who gave us that. But I remember being. Prized that we had a bumper crop one year and we thought, wow, what a year this was, but year after year after year, they just we had hundreds and hundreds of peaches off of that tree.
Mom, I remember you preserving them mason jars and all that stuff.
And I'd freeze peaches and I'd slice them and preserve them.
The odd thing is I've read where you have to have two trees so that they can cross pollinate, but we didn't. But there was only that one tree and that tree ward.
So I don't know of any other peach trees in the neighborhood, but it was really quite an asset. I mean, it wasn't much to look at, but it really did bear.
And then there was a there was a pear tree back in the field.
And I remember that, too. Yeah. And every year we wait for this year. Yeah. We'd wait for those pears to get ripe. And then just when they were almost getting ripe, some animal would come along and take every one of those pears.
The tree was very stripped, that tree, every pear they knew just before we were about to pick them.
I think it was.
I think so. Well, they were that a busy night. Mike, how long is this going to last? I want to know if I should drink all this tea or not.
Look, I'm sure the listeners are wondering, too, what few we have remaining, but not much longer. You know what? I want to just, you know, let's close with this.
I, I remember I mean, since we're talking about the woods behind the house and the trees around the house and the house itself, you know, it's all gone now and all going, well, we're still there, Dad.
The woods are still there. But the last time I went back, it all just seems so smaller, so much smaller than the way I remember it. The field seems smaller, the road seems smaller, the woods seem smaller.
The house, of course, was gone.
But, you know, I think that's the way it is when we look back like you go back to high school, the the halls seem smaller.
But do you remember we had we planted all those cedar trees?
Well, there's a story behind every tree, and we had a lot of trees.
And that big tree was a big ass tree, no doubt about it. Ash, ash. Right. Great trees.
And Mike remembered the the pine tree. Was it pine trees or spruce right on the corner of the house by by the Fawcett Pine. Oh sure.
It was pine and it was fine.
We planted that like five feet out from the house and it got enormous. It was way up high.
Yeah. Eventually we eventually had to take that down. But that was a fun.
I took that down in pieces. I'd climb up and cut cut a section out.
I remember that too, to cut it down to a manageable height.
Do you think you do you think you've cut down more trees or planted more trees in your life? Planted more, I think, are planted more because so much of the wood we got from back in the wood who's fallen timber, if it had all fallen.
So, Mike, thanks to our fireplace and our wood stove, you and dad did have quite some you have quite some memories of working together outside.
We do. And thanks to your your brother Rob, who made that wood stove for us, a really talented welder.
Yeah. Iron worker. Remember, we it was called a Wagner the Wagner Woodstock Award. Warner Warner. And you know what? I was close. Double-Sided acts could have been singled out to say for sure.
But yeah, that thing, that thing sat there where our fireplace had been. And and at first I was like, this is a bummer. I missed the fireplace, you know, but with the wood stove in front of it, well, things got a lot more efficient. Not not really as pretty. I mean, it was a big giant black thing sitting right there in the middle of your room, but kept us warm.
It did. And there's no heat quite like that of a wood stove. It's a dry heat. And believe me, you don't have to sit there very long before you're snoozing. Remember how the dogs used to fight over their position? Yeah, each wanted to be right in front of the wood stove and tilted.
Yeah. And Ginger would lie there. And she was the smaller dog and she would feel really good about it. And she would walk over and just stand there and look at her and she didn't have to do anything.
And eventually Ginger couldn't stand it. She'd get up and walk away.
And neither do you think we could get away with naming a dog Chhim today?
I don't know what would be the objection. Well, I mean, remember when you brought that dog home, Dad, we couldn't decide if it was a he or she. Right. So we called it, you know, or her or him. So we called him. And I'm just not sure, you know, the political environment being what it is today. You can you can name a dog, transgender dog.
I don't know. I don't know if we could have gotten away with that either, though.
What a great dog she was. She was she was a good dog. Jim. Yeah.
And Ginger, the first night we had Ginger, he scared the pants off of Michael.
Remember, Dog nearly gave me a stroke. Yeah. Yeah. My youngest brother brought home this stray and left it on the front porch, sleeping in a small like a little rug set up. I came home late. It's probably 2:00 in the morning. I was trying to quietly get the key in the door and that dog made us I mean, it's a small dog, but wow, the sound that they made sounded just like a lion or something.
And I did. I jumped about a foot in the air. I don't know what it was, but it was coming at me.
I dove. Oh, God. All right, look, I got to go. This has been really great, though. Thank you for making some time on what I'm sure is a very hectic Saturday. How is the movie coming?
Do you remember Missy? Oh, yes, I remember Missy.
Yeah, it's interesting because there was a dog in the neighborhood also named Missy, but poor Missy. You know how she met her demise? Yes, I do.
Do you really want to end this with the story of how Missy got run over? No, you just ended it that way, though.
Well, I mean, you asked the paper boy.
Oh, yeah. The damn paper boy ran over our dog. Yeah, that's how messy. That's how it ended for me.
So that was a sad thing. It yeah, it was. But we got back at him. What do we do to him. We stop, get the paper. Yeah.
And we haven't read to this day. Oh no.
All right, look. All right, let's wrap it up, son.
I'm trying to. I'm trying to. I'll try not to interrupt. You started. All right.
I think you're the best parents ever. I miss you. I do. Stupid, stupid plague thing is coming to an end. I can't wait to see you. I'm going to be back east in a couple of weeks. I'm going to try and get up there on my birthday if it works out. Yeah.
Oh, that's right. You have a birthday we had. Yeah, it happens every year. Mom, you're going to be. Oh OK. So let's move on to say anything because if we just continue the conversation we could call them sweet Jesus. Yes.
OK, all right. Thank you. I love you. Final thoughts, Dad. In five seconds or less, I love you, son. There you go, Mom. Love you, too, Mike. I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks.
All right. Well, look, I maybe it'll work out. Maybe it won't. These are uncertain times.
But, you know, between now and then, you can always call. Fair enough. You do have our number. Yes.
Yes, I do. Yeah. Seared into my retina. All right, guys, my gut. OK, well, you can. That's enough in this room. OK, but I want to tell you something.
OK. All right. This concludes the podcast. Officially, if you want my book, you can download it wherever people download books and listen to it. There's a paperback coming out later where you can just join us next week for another one of whatever this was.
Thank you by everybody.