The Leaning Cow

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STORIES FROM THE PEANUT BUTTER CAFE & ROADHOUSE

Here’s a story about Hayden Honda we found in the little drawer in the Hoosier cabinet.

Hayden 40th

It would get very cold riding a motorcycle on the high plains in the winter – and the winters are long. Kurt Hayden of Hayden Honda could tell you about the motorcycle part.  And his grandfather, Clyde, could have brought you up to speed on the temperature.  He tried homesteading up in North Dakota’s Divide County during the teen years of the last century.

But the thing about Divide County is this: step across the county line to the north and you will be in Canada; step across the line to the west and you are in Montana’s Big Sky country. A lot of people found out that hard work wasn’t enough to handle Divide County.

So Clyde came back to Indiana, settled in Kendallville where his son Russell was born, and gave hard work a chance here.  Probably having had some experience in blacksmith work, he started Hayden Welding in 1921. There was another welder in town but Kurt says, “Clyde morphed into more types of welding sooner.”

Even though Hayden Honda is marking 40 years of selling motorcycles in 2005, the family business is in its 85th year of keeping things running in Kendallville.

Kurt has heard stories of Clyde doing welding work inside the big buildings at a cement factory near Ashley.  It was Russell’s job to keep the tanks full of gas.  After growing up and serving in WWII, Russell Hayden took over his dad’s business in 1948, changing the name to Hayden Welding & Son.

Then in the early 60’s, Russell brought home a motorbike. It was a Bridgestone and Kurt says it looks very much like the old bike that is in the showroom.  He also says, “It was sophisticated and fun to ride and Dad wanted to sell them.”

Remarking that in those days traveling salesmen went to many businesses, Kurt notes,  “They knew what was going on around the country.”  In a day before the Internet, they were a sort of a proto-informational highway.

One of these fellows, Dick Stater – a salesman for McCulloch, was a good friend of Russell’s and, as Kurt tells it, when his dad started talking about selling motorbikes, Dick advised him to go with Honda.

So that is how it started and in 1965, Russell sold his first Honda; Karl Sprandel bought it . . . and still has it. Forty years later, the Hayden family business is still selling Hondas and has been as high as the third largest dealership in Indiana. And, 40 years later, it would seem Dick Stater knew what he was talking about.

The employees at Hayden Honda include members of the extended Hayden family, and, in fact, many of them who are not related have worked there long enough to qualify as family. In 1980, there was a bit of a change: one man – a key employee – left and another man decided to permanently come on board.

In short, Russell retired and Kurt started running the business.  It was not an automatic switch. Kurt says, “You ask yourself if you want to stay here, or do you want to go out and do everything you can?” On a trip to visit his uncle, a doctor stationed in Germany, he says he figured it out.

He thought, “I’m going to college to be a mechanical engineer? Why am I doing that? – To come back and do what I have always done and am good at and enjoy and take over the business.” So he decided to come into the business right away. In the transition year, his dad built him a house.

Kurt didn’t think of it as being his business, however. He says, “For a long time I was just running Dad’s business. Finally, a couple of years ago, I realized that I’ve been doing this longer than he did. I do know what I’m doing.”

Because the Hayden business has been an evolving part of Kendallville for so many years, Kurt says, “I don’t think most people realize we are as big as we are. I think what we are is a big dealer run like a small dealer.”

Kurt says, “We are experienced with dealing with customers and selling Honda products – with meeting the wants of those buying bikes and the needs of those buying lawnmowers.

“I’ve never run the business to make money, but to take care of the customer. I think Dad did the same thing.” He adds, “The thing that makes a good business is taking care of people.  Anybody can beat your price but you have to give the customer not only what he wants, but exceed his expectations.”

An anniversary marks what has passed, but Kurt is also looking to the future and says, “My next step is I’d like a new building and to be Honda powerhouse dealer.”  The building has been on his mind for a couple of years and he admits, “I keep thinking all the decisions that have to be made.  I don’t know if I can do that.”

But he knows he can and says, “I tend to realize I’m an optimist  – oh sometimes I’ll whine”  . . . but he agrees Hayden Honda is very much a part of him.  He says, “I am thankful for that. I enjoy it. Sometimes I ask myself why do I keep doing this? Because I enjoy it . . . though it drives me crazy some days.”

He gives his wife a lot of credit and comments, “(She) has just been fantastic; she is the behind the scenes Number Two. Nobody probably gives her the respect she deserves  – she looks out for the employees.  I couldn’t do it without her.”

Looking way down the road, he says, “I don’t have a problem with the future. Sometimes I wonder what am I going to do with this?  Sometimes I’m asked what I think about kids not taking over the business.

“But none of them are mechanical . . . they don’t even ride bikes; they ride ATV’s  – but it’s not in their blood like it was mine.  I’m okay with that because they do so well at what else they do.

“I suppose some day I will just sell it and retire – but I would have to work here . . . and at sometime, I need to be put out to Advisor’s Pasture.”

********************

Waiting for Dawn

World War II pilot/POW

Oh, this reference was based on a newspaper article we found in an old trunk:

Diane Sawyer of CBS News once said that because of all the people who’d told her stories about where they were on Pearl Harbor Day;  she sometimes felt that she too could remember that day — even though she hadn’t even been born by December 7, 1941.
Lately, my thoughts have been turning to German POW camps in the spring of 1945.  I’ve read a lot about the war and seen film footage, but it was only this year that I talked face to face with a man who had been held captive after being shot down on a strafing run in his P-51.
This year, for the first time, I realize I have a feeling for, rather than just a knowledge of, the shock of captivity and the relief of being freed.
A few months ago, West Chester resident Bill Randolph sat not more than three feet from me and spoke of his experience 48 years ago in Germany.
Right up until the moment he bailed out, being a POW was something his mind would not let him consider.
I’d either survive or I’d be killed.  I never once thought I’d be shot down over enemy territory.
The army took pictures of all the airmen to distribute to the French Underground so they could recognize us.  And when they took that picture, I wouldn’t let myself think about it.”
But it did happen;  and Bill Randolph survived that which he had feared most.  He says he thought he was in shock;  he thinks he kept himself in that state “so if something were to happen, it wouldn’t be so bad.”
Maybe so, then maybe young Lt. Randolph was just discovering a side of himself he did not know existed.
He was interrogated for five days in Frankfurt by a Luftwaffe officer — one who had a book of information on him as well as copies of what was on the squadron bulletin board back in England.
When was over, he was shipped to a camp.  “This was a living hell,”  Lt. Randolph states so matter-of-factly that there is no room for doubt.
The prisoners were sent to camp in boxcars.  On the way, Americans fliers, unaware of the cargo, strafed the train.  The memory of those minutes is clear in the Lt. Randolph’s mind.
There were three waves of them, and by the time the third wave came along I was down on the floor trying to dig into the fibers and saying prayers.  Because of this experience, I felt like I had gotten closer to God…it was a spiritual thing.
It was there in that boxcar that I felt like that.  I was allowed to go to the edge of disaster and brought back to live my life.  I think because of that I’m more tolerant…that I know something I didn’t know before.
As the Allies drew nearer, the prisoners were moved farther from the front lines.  It was a “terrible” 8 day march.  The new camp was near Munich, about 20 miles from Dauchau.
You spent most of the time not thinking about anything.  When you did think it was about food; no romance, all you thought about was food.  I wanted a big chocolate sundae.
Then Patton came.
As far as I’m concerned , Patton won the war.  He came in the camp and he was about 8 feet from me.  We didn’t make eye contact, but I could see his eyes.  He was saying, “Men, I’m proud of you.”  And he was saying anything he could to make us feel good and he had kind eyes.  He was gentle: he was a good man.  I was very impressed with him;  he could lead me anywhere.
After talking with Bill Randolph, I think I can almost remember it.  Somehow he passed on to me a piece of experience..Now when I think of General Patton, I no longer see George C. Scott in front of a flag;  I think of a man with kind eyes telling hungry, worn out soldiers that he was proud of them.
The past was in the air that day we talked; and I breathed it in.

****************

Some time ago, we found a newspaper lining the bottom of a little-used drawer and, bored with sorting the stuff in the drawer, Liddy and I sat down and read it. Seems someone wrote about a theft at a library in Mason, Ohio.

This is supposed to be a sad story … but I’m just not going to let that happen.  Yes, money was stolen from the Mason Library;  and yes, that money was in pennies, dimes, nickels and a few bills.  It was money from children, money they had dug out of their pockets to put in the big jar that had set since November on the low bookcase that separates the children’s section from the main corridor.
They were donating money to the “Angel Fund” which was established by the Cincinnati Zoo to promote the preservation of cheetahs.  They were inspired to do so by two “friends” — Angel and her trainer Cathryn Hosea Hilker.
Cathryn Hilker came to the library to meet children and to autograph her book, A Cheetah Named Angel.  It was a nice party, with little tots and senior citizens in tune with each other.  The  book is still there, with “Thanks for caring about cheetahs” inscribed on the fly leaf.  The big old glass jar that was the other part of the display is not.  It was stolen along with the money inside about three weeks ago.
Librarian Sarah Brown called The Community Press, related what had happened and, after letting out that deep breath of frustration that we all have experienced, said, “People ought to be told: Hey, this is going on in your community.”
She’s right ;  people should be aware of it.  It was about $60, but that’s not the point;  the point is children gave that money because they thought they were doing a nice thing.
And what is ultimately important is that motive behind the donations.  A thief could and did take the money … but he can never rob them of what they felt when they put it in that jar.  And the sadness they may feel by its loss only validates the sincerity of their gift.
It is  frustrating and disappointing … and just about maddening enough to make a librarian spit.  Yes, spit.
But what can you do about it?  Not much.  So I sat down in the children’s nook to think about it — and wondered how one cries “Stop, thief!” on an inside page of a newspaper, some weeks after the crime.
Right away I noticed nice soft chairs, parts of a modular seating unit actually, and the big windows in the southwestern wall that look out over a small shrub garden. A small table and chairs welcome little folks.
There’s a cute little bookcase, designed to look like building blocks, that holds some of the colorfully illustrated books in the library’s collection.  And hanging on a metal tree-like thing are packets, containing both a book and an audio cassette.  They are just waiting, like ripe fruit to be plucked off and savored.
From his perch on top of a shelf, Christopher Robin’s Pooh Bear looks down on the young readers.  A very large and friendly-looking frog lives there, but, much to my dismay, Ms. Brown says he doesn’t have a name.  I think that she could be talked into having a drawing or contest to find a name for him.
It was peaceful and restful there and I found myself not thinking of the money stolen but of all the nice times waiting for youngsters.  I decided to give it “the Jody test.”  I looked in the card catalogue and found Lassie, Come Home, and then – in the R’s, after plowing through numerous references to rabbits and raccoons – came upon what I sought:  Raggedy Ann and Andy.
I sat down and read, hearing my father’s voice and my own, both as a child and adult, as the words passed by my eyes.  There in the sunny area, nestled in a soft chair,  I remembered being read to and then reading to someone else:  One day Daddy took Raggedy Ann down to his office….where he could see her cheery smile all day, …for smiles and happiness are truly catching.
That the money was taken was bad; but the thief left so much behind.  Why he left enough to make one feel cheerful and happy … and enough to make a librarian smile.  Yes, smile.

***************

CROQUET AND MEMORIAL DAY

I have no idea what the weather will be like this Memorial Day week-end, but I don’t think it will rain for the entire time.
And given that assumption, I am planning spending some time playing croquet.  We used to play it quite a bit when I was young.  That, however, would have been on the level ground of northern Indiana.  It is more of a challenge here.
First of all, it took a bit of time to come around to the idea that we could play it in our backyard.  Although I think I have a very nice backyard, what with all the trees that border it;  it is not one that is especially given to croquet playing.
Even if you forget about the steep ravine that ends in a creek, there is still the matter of the topography of the yard to consider.  It is like a trough.  It slopes a little bit down from the house, levels out for about a foot, and then starts a definite climb to the woods.
There are English rules and American rules to croquet;  in my backyard we use innovative rules to deal with situations that under more conventional guidelines, might lead to mallets being thrown — or broken over one’s knee, if not the opponent’s head.
Faced with having to put the two side wickets on the return half of the course on a steep upgrade, we decided first that we could turn them 90 degrees so we would only have to wallop the ball upwards to go through.
The slope, however is like a well-designed golf green:  it has idiosyncrasies and is quite difficult to “read.”  So, after a short time, we decided to say that you could either go through the wicket on the way up, or on the way back, as your ball invariably came rolling down.
This helped some, but the wicket still got the moniker “Dead Man’s Wicket” and it was not at all uncommon for someone to make it halfway around the relatively small course on one turn and then spend 20 or so turns trying to make it through Dead Man’s Wicket.
Eventually, we developed the strategy of purposely hitting the ball into the woods and then referring to the rule that allows a ball which has gone out-of-bounds to be placed a mallet’s length from where if left the course.  To keep it in that position, it was often necessary to hammer it into its own little hole in the yard.
A good player could manage to have the ball cross the boundary at a spot just uphill from the wicket.  Playing at twilight also helped … “Did it go through?”  “Oh, yeah, it went through.”
At first, I only associated Memorial Day and the start of croquet season with each other because of the time of the year.  Then, one night while awaiting another try a Dead Man’s Wicket, it occurred to me that this might be one of the things we would remember fondly as we sat in our rocking chairs.  There we were in our backyard, enjoying one small thing as a family.
And it struck me that we had done a very American thing;  we had adapted.  We didn’t break the rules; we changed them so the game, and with it the family fun, could go on.
It’s that way with the parade and the remembrance of those who served their country.  I’ve stood on West Chester Road as bands and scouts and politicians marched through the rain.  I’ve watched as Pat Hoelscher and Co. sat in a room at the cemetery and, using as much ingenuity as materials, fashioned wreathes to honor the war dead.  I’ve watched people carry water under a broiling sun for the flowers they’ve placed on graves.
Sometimes the sun shines, the day is only pleasantly warm, and everything is there when you need it.  It is nice when it is so.  But it almost seems more special when we have to adapt and make do;  it seems very much in keeping spirit of the country.

THE MOVING VIETNAM WALL

On and on they go, not just the names, but the stories of people who have come to find a special name on a special wall in Washington D.C. Conceived in one veteran’s mind after seeing a movie – The Deer Hunter – and birthed in the controversy over its design – a black hole in the ground – the Vietnam Memorial has become one of the sacred spots in the nation’s, and its individual citizen’s, mind and heart. It is the most visited memorial in Washington D. C.

No disrespect is intended by the phrase, “black hole in the ground;” ironically, just as the Vietnam War was the focus of intense controversy, the architectural competition to determine what the monument would look like aroused strong feelings.

The winning design was that of Maya Ying Lin, a Yale architectural student at the time. She is has been cited as saying she intended it to be ”a quiet place, meant for personal reflection and reckoning.”

It became that, in the end, but the acrimony surrounding the design choice was so intense, that James Watt, Secretary of the Interior at the time, refused to issue a building permit for the memorial.

This wall in Washington D.C. started as a grass roots movement, initiated by  Jan C. Scruggs, the man who was reminded of the turmoil of the war by a movie – The Deerhunter. He was joined in his idea by Robert Doubek  and John Wheeler. He held at a press conference to kick off fund raising on May 28, 1979. It made the New York Times: “Vietnam Veterans to Seek $1 Million for a Monument.”

The next month, June, some poignant letters had come in with small donations, but “Roger Mudd reports wryly on the CBS Evening News that only $144.50 has been collected.”

They garnered the support of Sen. Charles Mathias jr. of Maryland and then Sen. John Warner of Virginia – who at the time was married to Elizabeth Taylor –  came on board. In July, 1981, one year after the announcement of the $144.50 collected, President Jimmy Carter signed legislation to provide a site for the memorial.

It was finally  dedicated on November 13, 1982 and one opponent to its design, Milt Copulos, later admittedc that although “the wall of the memorial could have been a wall between us, it instead “became a bridge.”

Maya Ying Lin’s design was built in black granite deliberately chosen because of its reflective quality. All cutting and fabrication was done in Barre, Vermont – the Granite State. Lin’s concept is “that while a visitor looks upon the wall, their reflection can be seen simultaneously with the engraved names, thereby bringing the past and present together.”

Now the right-angled black wall of gleaming granite stretching 493.5 feet and  etched with names – 58,249  of them – has been embraced by the country to the point that a half-size replica travels around the U.S., painstakingly erected and disassembled for each move by local groups, most often consisting of members of veteran’s organizations.

The idea for this wall that would travel around the country came from three veterans in California: John Devitt, Garry Haver and Norris Shears. It was another grassroots evolution and the three started out by pooling personal funds totaling a bit over $2,500.

Devitt, a helicopter crew chief in the First Cavalry Division (Airmobile) called the project the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Mobile). But in 1985 a visitor drew on the two meanings of “moving” and dubbed it “The Moving Wall.”

The Moving Wall consists of 74 aluminum panels, treated with a highly-reflective gloss black polyurethane. And the names? The names are silk-screened on using the negatives of the original stencils made for the actual wall in Washington.

Completed on October 11, 1984, the Moving Wall was first erected on October 15, 1984 in Tyler, Texas and soon the request for visits necessitated the production of a second wall in 1987 and a third in 1989. The original wall has now been retired in 2001.

Information provided by the wall’s website says, “By 2006, there had been more than 1,000 hometown visits of The Moving Wall. The count of people who visited The Moving Wall at each display ranges from 5,000 to more than 50,000; the total estimate of visitors is in the tens of millions.”

The Wall in the Capitol and The Moving Wall were both paid for by donations from the public.

And the grassroots beginnings of both Walls is repeated with each visit to each town: money is raised and volunteers contribute work. This year for Chautauqua Days in Rome City, the Sylvan Lake Association is donating the money and Rome City American Legion Post 381 is putting it up.

Hours of work will have to be put in and the people who manage The Moving Wall know that it will take muscle and  preparation. They advice, in  terms that seem to reach beyond instruction to inspiration for a sacred task:
“After building the platform, have a few of your strongest people attempt to pull the platform from the ground. Let them pull hard, just as when a strong wind will put tremendous force on the platform.”

And they look out for the workers like soldiers watch our for each other:
“Driving the wooden stakes into the ground can be extremely hard work. Try to get a few young people to swing a 16 lb. sledge hammer. If the weather is hot, be sure to have plenty of cool water for the workers.”

And then there is the other side of volunteering. Jim Schueckler wrote of what the did when The Moving Wall came to  . . ..“My job as a volunteer “visitor guide” was to help people find names on the Moving Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial. More importantly, I gave visitors a chance to talk. While searching the directory or leading a visitor to the name they sought, I would quietly ask “Was he a friend or a relative?” Over the six days, I began conversations that way with several hundred people. Only a handful gave me a short answer; almost everyone wanted to talk. Each had their own story to tell. For some, the words poured out as if the floodgates of a dam that had been closed for thirty years had just burst open. For others, the words came out slowly and deliberately between long pauses. Sometimes, they choked on the words and they cried. I also cried as I listened, asked more questions, and silently prayed that my words would help to heal, not to hurt.”

Local names could have been used in this story –  members of the American Legion, Sylvan Lake Association members, Chautauqaua Days planners, but the emphasis here is on the names on the monument. Those names, in their turn, blend together – no one more important than another.

Jan Scruggs, who began the journal for a Vietnam Veterans Memorial identified them further on Veteran’s Day, 1979, “I recently came across some lines from a poem by Archibald MacLeish, “The Young Dead Soldiers,” which may give that sacrifice some meaning: “They say: We were young. We have died. Remember us. ”
Jan C. Scruggs
November 11, 1979

My husband’s first cousin was killed in Vietnam; his name is on The Wall.
www.themovingwall.org/

THANKSGIVING AT THE WICKHAMS

Over in Malcolm Falls, Cletus Wickham walked into the Back Room Café on the east side of the courthouse square and made his way to his usual table.

This is what he’d done every weekday for about 30 years, not counting holidays, vacations and that month-long spell in ’82 when he was making his peace with his stomach after having won the hot-dog eating contest at the county fair. (114 – a record, which still stands, which is more than Clete was doing at the end of the competition.)

Clete nodded a greeting to Judge Thorn as he slid into his seat across the booth from Beau Wickham who was Clete’s cousin of sorts – their great-grandfathers having been brothers.

Beau,” Clete said by way of greeting the man who had shared these lunches for 28 of the last 30 years.

“Clete,” answered Beau, raising his eyes over the menu he was studying.

Clete didn’t pick up his menu.  He just sat there for a moment and then said, “Beau, don’t you think it’s odd that this menu has never changed and we always look at it?”

Beau’s face had been shocked into a blank expression and he just stared as his cousin leaned over the table and started talking about what had slipped into his mind that morning taken root.”

“In fact, Beau,” Clete began, “I’ve been wondering if maybe most of us Wickhams aren’t  . . ..  just plain odd, period.”

Jeanne-Louise Hawmans was standing at the table now, ready to write down their order.  Pencil poised above the notepad, she joined Beau in staring open-mouthed at Cletus.  Jeanne-Louise was about 78 and a war bride, having married Bob Hawmans after he had helped liberate France.

She had retired a few years back but helped out whenever Suzi Wickham Beckett called in sick, suffering from one of the headaches she had developed after her 1995 English Channel Swim.

“Mon Dieu!” It escaped in a whisper between Jeanne-Louise’s lips, but it was loud enough to catch the attention of the other diners and cause them to fall silent just as Cletus tried to get Beau to grasp his point.

“It just seems like sometimes – maybe a lot of times – people think we do things . . . differently than they would.”

He floundered then, not finding better words, failing to penetrate beyond the dazed look in Beau’s eye.

The café tottered in reality at that moment in Malcolm Falls’ meshing of time and space with The Twilight Zone.

Cletus could almost see something. Beau stopped breathing.  The others started to wonder if a Wickham was actually going to realize what the whole town knew – that the family was intelligent, charming, vibrant and to a member a bit loony.

But before the idea could coalesce, it started to fade.  Cletus rubbed his forehead and knew he should be reading the menu before he ordered his usual tuna salad with catsup.

Beau took a breath. Jeanne-Louise put her pencil to the paper and a scent of bougainvillea pulsed in the air for a moment as everyone went back to chewing, chatting and being in sync.

That was a Wednesday.  They didn’t come in the next day. No one did.  It was Thanksgiving.

About 36 Wickhams were gathered at Dr. Howard K. Wickham’s for dinner.

Phi Beta Kappa, sum cum laude graduate of Yale Medical School, chief of neurology of a big hospital in Chicago, Howard spent the work week in a apartment and returned every week-end and holiday to his home in Malcolm Falls.

The house stood on a bluff overlooking the falls and had been built on the site of the original Wickham homestead.  It was the one place Howard loved best in all the world.

He was adding another log to the fire and talking to Cletus about the smells coming from the kitchen when Clark Lewis Wickham leaned against the mantle and asked, “So could there be a Mad Turkey Disease?”

Howard straightened up and stood where old Pioneer Wickham had stopped to breathe his pony and decided to settle.  He pondered, his eyes staring up and to the left in that characteristic way he had.  Then he looked at Clark and slowly answered, “I don’t really know.”

An hour later after Grace had been said, everyone dug into plates filled with potatoes and yams and beans and stuffing and green bean casserole and pumpkin loaf and Aunt Opal’s Jell-0 and fruit salads and cranberry sauce and  . . . tuna.

Just as Beau raised his fork he gazed at Cletus and sensed there was something, something he was missing.

Then he gave a tiny involuntary shrug and thought, “Odd, I smell bougainvillea.”  He took a big bite of tuna.

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