Monday, January 8, 2018

Rod's Reflections for the Entire Year of 2017

I only thought the year 2016 was slow.  Far be it any one particular reason or a collection of many, my heart has not been in sharing things occurring in my immediate moments as reflected in many past postings.  They are there, mind you, but it seems a burden to write them and then post them on facebook.  Here I sit at home nursing a cold just five days short of my 7th decades 8th year birthday realizing there may be a handful of things I could gleen and share on my blog.  For those of you who read Alaskan Gold, you know I never finished it.  Thing is, I have visited that "mother lode" three more times since then and not a word of history was recorded.  Oh, me, the treasures we take with us to the grave if we fail to leave a written record for someone distant to take into their heart, your treasures.  So here goes.  Let me see how far back in facebook I can go and see what I can find to

February 2017

Amazing the friends you gather throughout a lifetime. As I walked out to take my grand daughter to high school this morning, my mockingbird greeted me with his beautiful voice. Yes, my heart is down so he was right on time to lift me up. I am going to miss you Jerry! What an impact you made on my life the few short years I had the privilege of knowing you! There are too many. Just too many as the days continue to sift like sand through the hour glass of time. But it is our turn now.
                                           In Memory of Jerry Emile Breithaupt
                                             April 2, 1943  --- February 7, 2017
Posted February 8, 2017

I am a public servant for the city of Pineville. Like the fire department and police department I wear a uniform. I interact with the public daily in my work, taking pride in speaking to, acknowledging everyone I come into close proximity with. Nothing like Merry Christmas, happy new, Veterans Day, whatever. But folks? Forgive me, but walking past a male figure and telling him happy Valentine's Day just seems very difficult for me to do! So, to all of my gender specific friends out there? You know! Have a happy one.

February 14, 2017

I was raised to be a southern gentleman. My father taught me how to shake hands before I was 10 years old. To open doors for women, ladies or "older people," to include the car door of my daddy's car when I had a date with someone's daughter. Simply stated, to conveniently be of assistance to anyone that I happened by that may by chance need help with almost anything. A simple practice of courtesy? Yes. That's it. Well, today for instance, the dawning of the last remaining... chapters of my life defined the first few paragraphs. I was making the City of Pineville's bank deposit at on of the larger banks across the river in Alexandria. As I moved to exit the building, a well dressed younger woman stepped in front of me and opened the door for me. I laughed and told her, "it is my job to open the door for you!" She smiled and followed me out the door as we made our ways to our respective cars when it dawned on me?!? Still within speaking distance, I spoke to her one more time. "You know something, you just made me realize I am truly an aging senior citizen now! Thank you again for the door. After all it is official, I received my first social security check yesterday!" She just laughed and I went back to my office to check my blood pressure and blood sugar level.

February 17, 2017

March 2017

Paige, Your mother wanted me to text you and let you know she has a dead cell phone. It will not recharge or function. If you need her call your aunt Paula or Jansen. If they can't answer your questions then call Kennard. Our house phone is an option but I wouldn't bet on it as We never answer it. You could call my phone but I have caller ID so if I see it is you, I probably won't answer it. I am hoping you can make it a couple of days until her new phone arrives. You can find her at Super 1 over on the bypass tomorrow after half of your kids go to school. Do not just show up at our house as I have Ebola Cocca Pneaixier which is highly contagious and can kill kids, age 10 and under very quickly. Love, Dad!

May 2017

Not only is she beautiful but she is getting stronger every day. This is my baby sister, Nona.

June 2017

Looks like the tides have turned darkness! Now I'm the one giving out instruction and pointing directions!

I was visiting with the Ferguson Family during June of this year.  Every summer month gives resident Alaskans time to prepare for the coming winter.  Stewart rented a splitter and we spent a good part of the day splitting logs and stacking the cord wood.  Where he did most of the lugging and heavy lifting, he enjoyed a few photos of him directing his old man in what I was to do with these logs!!

Posted in June of 2017

Beautiful morning to start your day in. Nice brisk walk with Sarah, my daughter in law amongst the hills and valleys of her neighborhood. Yes, I thought about a med-flight a couple of times but managed the last hill without any kind of cardiac infarction.

Posted June 8, 2017

I am leaving DFW for New Orleans sitting in a window seat next to a very pretty, just graduated high school senior from California. She of course is sitting next to me and the isle seat is empty. I told her I get sick real easy and always throw up in the isle when I'm sitting in that seat. She asked if I wanted to move there and I said no. I tell her that looking out the window sometimes keeps me from getting sick. She has not moved!  I just can't help myself sometimes.

Posted June 14

August 2017

Interesting short story.  I visit my primary care physician on July 13th. You are losing weight he says! I walk 12 to 15 miles a week I tell him. Keep up the good work he says. Anything else? My legs have Edema. Fluid he says, take this lasicks and I'll set you up with a cardiologist! July 31 I see my old cardiologist for the first time since 2010. He said, ya got some time for some test? I said, I reckon so! The games began. EKG or EEG? Get em mixed up. Then they body slam me on a table and put this sonogram on my chest, complete with baby lotion. Neat I said, is that a alive in there? Yup, she said! Dang, I said, wiggles a lot in there, glad I can't feel it or it would aggravate me to death! Again she said yup. Then they stick this needle in my hand and flush it with saline and inject some nuclear medicine through it. Gonna hurt , I asked? Nope, he said, be still for 10 minutes with your hands above your head while this thing takes pictures of your heart. I stated to him, this means I'm radioactive? He said yup, just A little. After this we jump on a tread mill he said it will only take 6 minutes. I said, I walk 12 to 15 miles a week. He smiled and keep increasing the speed and grade until my heart rate reached 131 BEATS PER SECOND!! More nuclear meds in the hand port and back for another 10 minutes of heart pictures with my hands above my head. Do you know your tongue can actually reach your belly button? *sigh* after all of this, I am told they are going to fit me with a holster! I asked, how did yaw know I carried concealed ? I then told them I had a good holster but I appreciated the offer! Another nurse said, this holster is for a 24hour heart monitor. Ya gotta bring it back tomorrow after 11Am. Oh!! Couple of observations here. Diodes. Know what they hook them to? All 7,000 of them? Real sticky things they stick on your chest! After they wax off the hair I cultivated for 66 years with a dull razor. The 24 hour heart monitor thingy? Only 7 diodes but those sticky patches? No wax on wax off! Push 4 of them into the uncultivated hair. I thought, God?! He said, don't have to worry about pulling them off for 24 hours, so I went back to work. Know how fast 24 hours passes? In the rest room of city hall I tear these E6000 glued on patches from my chest complete with skin the hair once grew in! I placed the monitor, and what looked like my scalp into a baggie and presented it to them on time. Tuesday they call me! Congrats. You passed the treadmill. Two hours later they call from the same office and say congrats, we found nothing with the nuclear medicine stuff! I smile. Told them I walk 12 to 15 miles a week! And then Thursday comes. Rod, they said? Yes, I replied. The monitor you wore for 24 hours showed some inconsistencies and the Doctor wants to do a heart cath to see what's going on! We will check scheduling and call you back tomorrow and tell ya when. I said, you have the wrong number. She laughed and hung up. Friday came, so did Saturday and Sunday. Monday and Tuesday came and no calls. I know I was fine. Prolly was more a case of wrong patient than wrong number. So Wednesday, august 9 at 1245 pm in the middle of my PBJ crackers, my blue tooth announces an incoming phone call. I said, hello, and she said, hello darlin! So at 5 am or just 5 short snores from now, I will climb out of bed, put on clean pannies and rush over to the surgery center on Bolton avenue and see a friend who is have a knee replaced. Then I fast forward to Cabrini Hospital day surgery where I will have my heart cath performed as to ascertain what is obviously a mistake by a faulty 24 hour monitor that expressed incomprehensible data when I turned on the microwave to heat my peach oatmeal! Did I tell you I walk 12 to 15 miles a week? Hmmm. Hope these cardiologist don't have a weekly stint quota!!

Posted August 10, 2017

On August 10 I reported to Cabrini Hospital for my heart cath.  I knew when I went in there would be nothing discovered by the procedure.  I was that confident.  Upon completion, however, they informed me I needed three possibly four, bypass graphs or open heart surgery.  I was incensed.  I was in the best shape I had been for years.  I knew what angina pain was.  I had angioplasty done to my left interior descending or the widow maker in 1993.  Here I am with no pain when I walk 6 miles in 105 degree heat index?   I re-hydrate and keep going.  No way I needed this stuff.   I wanted to go home.  The surgeon comes in and tells me.  If you want to go home, I will not stop you.  In fact, I will not even be upset with you.  If you are lucky, however, you will feel some angina, faintness or weakness and you will come back and let me take care of your problem.  If you are less lucky, you are going to have a heart attack and damage will be done to the heart muscle I cannot repair.  In worst case scenarios, your heart will stop and you will be dead when you hit the ground.  It happens to many times.  In your case, this can be avoided.

I guess you can imagine what was going through my mind.  I could not believe I was at this intersection in my life.  I still had too much to live for.  Didn't I?  Linda was crying, and I am flushed with anger and deeply concerned at the same time. I thought about my Dad in 1966 having a stainless steel valve placed in his heart that gave him another 30 years of life.  My mother who had bypass surgery that gave her years of life and my oldest sister why had undergone two open heart surgeries in her 72 years of life.  Did not my baby sister just a few weeks before this have two stints placed in her heart?  For some reason, I took a back seat to my desire of going home and relented.   From here on, is a recoup of messages collected mainly by Linda of the next few days.

Getting ready for surgery by noon today.  Rod is a bit apprehensive, so please pray for peace in his heart.

Posted 11 August before surgery by Linda

Four bypasses done and his chest is being closed now!  Thank you Jesus for a successful surgery!

Posted 11 August after my surgery by Linda.

Day 2 post op finally dawns and Linda post on facebook, "Hallelujah, The tubes came out and he is feeling better all ready."  What she didn't tell you was this cute Red Head Nurse Practioner came in with a rather healthy looking guy and she said, "Mr. Ferguson, we are taking the tubes out this morning.  It may be a little uncomfortable but you will be glad to get rid of them."  Tubes. Drain tubes.  One under my lungs and the other under my heart placed there in surgery to make sure excess blood would properly drain from my chest cavity!  Here we go.  She grabs one and starts this slow pull.  Words I cannot print in my blog came to my mind!  I thought for sure my heart was on the end of the last one she pulled from the deep recesses of my soul!  Oh yes.  Hallelujah!  I do not want to go through that again without being under anesthesia!!

All of this was done a scant hour or two after the first walk since surgery.  Oh my.  Have I mentioned they want me to have a bowel movement?  Dear Lord.  Help them to understand that if I have a catheter, a bowel movement is the last thing on my mind?

Posted August 13

Man with a purpose! All the tubes and catheter are out, shaved, and spit bath done! Feeling refreshed finally...  Bowel movement!  Then you can go home!  Every meal they are forcing

I actually felt pretty good when this picture was taken.  I lived in four hour intervals which was when they fed me food and gave me oxycodone that helped me exist comfortably during these four hours segments.  Of course this was augmented with dilaudin which was administered intravenously.  During my feed and drug sessions they introduced milk-of-magnesia into my diet.  You need to have a bowel movement they said.  You can go home when you have a bowel movement, they said.  I ate, took and dealt with what ever they gave me but noticed when meal time drew near, I asked for my oxycodone because it was making me nauseated...  Imagine that.

This picture was taken by Linda on August 14. 

My first chance to respond to my friends that had kept up with me the last few days. I would like to share with all of you my sincere appreciation for your concerns and your continued prayers. What an interesting trip thus far. And thank you God, for allowing me to continue! Oh, did I tell you that I walk 12 to 15 miles a week?  In the wee morning hours of day 3 post op, they introduced some kind of nuclear laxative.  It was in a small glass container and the RN told me to do what I could with it because, as he said, it taste awful.  I drank half the contents with him watching at breakfast. He told me when I have a bowel movement they would let me go home.  Oh cheers!  Lunch came and I was feeling ill from the oxycodone when I finished the rest of the nuclear laxative.  The clock was ticking and something deep inside sent my mind a message saying, soon! 

He was true to his word.  Within 2 hours of this surprise, the picture here was taken.  A short 50 some odd hours of having my chest opened and four grafts placed on my aging heart to give me move time on this earth, I am being sent home...
Waiting for the wheelchair so we can head home!!

So here I am, getting ready to go home!

Posted September 15, 2017

He's had a tough day today. Lots of pain and mood swings! He's hanging in there cause we know better days are coming!! We both appreciate all your prayers and comments to us. Thank you all for your friendship!!!  Linda has been very good at keeping our friends updated on facebook.  I was in pain and mood swings was Linda's was of saying I was not a good patient.  The Oxycodene was making me sick.  I could not rest well and nothing she put in front of me seemed to work including the outdated soup.  I actually felt better when I was in the hospital and just could not understand what was going on and when would I ever start feeling better?  The idea of taking the Oxycodene for pain made me shiver and actually went as long as I could before I would take one.  I was again at an intersection I did not want to entertain.  Hurt or not hurt, eat or not eat.  Regardless, I could not sleep and every minute turned into an hour. As the 10pm hour of the 16th approached, the worse fear I had gripped me as my mouth began to salivate.  I grabbed my red heart pillow and headed for the closest restroom.  I carefully placed this pillow between my stitched chest and the rim of a toilet seat and started to throw up.   I don't ever remember any pain that was worse. I simply could not control myself.  I do not remember when the 16th of August turned to the 17th, but I do know it finally came.

Posted August 16, 2017
When Day 6 of post op came, it made a promise to me it would take its time to pass.  When I realized that I was not going to die, I told Linda I had to go to the emergency room for help. 2 am Thursday August 17. Do you know we can make the 20 minute drive from our house in 12 minutes? To Cabrini ER? Rodney has been nauseated most of the day. Started throwing up about 10 pm. and finally agreed he needed to go to the ER at 2am. Ekg and nausea shot has been done. Having a-fib again. 3am and waiting to see what's next!  I can't remember exactly what happened when we got to the emergency room other than me pleading for help to stop the dry heaving and pressure on my chest.  I seriously wondered if the power of these convulsions would break the grafts placed on my heart that was in and out of A-Fib.  Somewhere along a post 3am nightmare, something was given me for nausea and an Dilauden was again introduced to my system along with saline to help eliminate the pain that had consumed my body.  I thank God I finally drifted off to sleep.  My new pain medicine?  Hydrocodone. 

We're back home with a change in his pain meds and additional nausea meds. After running several test they came to this conclusion! Only after I told them more than once that it's the pain medicine. Don't have a medical degree but I know pretty much the symptoms. Doctors just don't listen!! 

After this experience I truthfully tell you that the hour I left that emergency around 10am on Thursday, the 17th of August, my healing actually started.  I want to tell you that the healing progress from that moment could be measured in hour increments , but for sure every day and for that I am thankful.

Posted August 17, 2017 


Posted August 18 by my wife, Linda.

Awakened this morning day 17 post-op. At my request, Linda prepared a light breakfast of oatmeal and roast beef. Yes, I am a finicky eater! I raised the window in my bedroom and have laid back into the comforts of my pillows, listening to the steady pelting of rain from Tropical Storm Harvey. How could I dare complain about my misfortunes as I get stronger every day, while there are so many that have lost everything as a result of this storm that is now comforting me?? Where the peace of falling rain comforts me, I am reminded that in my present state of contentment, I find a sense of guilt knowing that my "now" should not even be mentioned in the same cogitated thought process that so many are suffering in physically, emotionally and spiritually!! I just cannot logically embrace their state of mind as yet another day plays out her conscious moments in each of us as she moves to put every experience we find our self engaged, in our soon to be distant past.

Posted August 28, 2017

September 2017

Ate a few spare ribs with my friends Steve and Sheryl Bell up in Downsville in Union Parish. Linda killed a million love bugs going up and tried to kill me when we got back to Pineville! Idiots do run stop lights! Just glad Linda's reflexes were fast enough to keep us from being hit!

Friendships that last a lifetime are well worth cultivating.  The most productive gardens are worth the time you have remaining.  And yes, those are pork ribs. Labor day spent with a long time friend and his family in Downsville, LA is priceless. 

Posted September 4, 2017

At four weeks post op, I had already built my strength up to walking close to 4 miles again.  I felt wonderful.  I boarded a plane in New Orleans, LA and spent the next 2 weeks in Fairbanks, AK with my son and his beautiful family.

October 2017

As I made the deposit for the city of Pineville I could not help but notice this moth. A green moth. A tiny green moth. Only other green moth I have ever seen was a Luna moth 50 times larger than this one. I don’t know why but I was amazed by the color, size and the unexpected presence of this tiny creature. Yes, that is my thumb.

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For some reason this moth intrigued me.  Caused me pause to look closer and ask why God stopped me from my routine to sorta, gawk?  And I still ask myself, just why, I felt it important enough to share with people on my wall?  I only had 1 share and 7 likes. 

Posted October 4, 2017

I gave her the pressure washer and told her I wanted KBear to go away!!  This is my oldest granddaughter, Mckinzi.  I had printed Kbear into my dirty driveway with my pressure washer and asked her to make it go away.  If you want to know what this child has been in my life, find the time to read that short story I posted in January of 2014.  It is called Dawning Truth.

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I called this child Kinzi Bear for years after she was born and call her Kbear today.  Until I pass from this earth, she will always be my Kbear.  What a blessing.  She lives with us most of the time and is in her senior year. 

Posted October 15, 2017

Garret finally got to the meat and he is happy! Gabby it holding over the best she can muster! I need two cats and a couple of pit bulls to clean the floor after they eat! Still can’t watch them sometimes but my new heart tune up makes it a lot more tolerable!

Upon reflection three months later, I must admit I should be grateful they can litter my floor with what God has blessed me with.

Posted October 17, 2017

December 2017

Earth’s closest satellite presents herself a scant 24 hours after her super moon debut on December 4... Rising at 65° on the horizon, her radiance painted the clouds in a milky white while accenting the dark branches of my bare Natchez White Crepe Myrtles. The soft prayers of insects surrounding the near distant reaches of my home is the background music of further distant urban noises of traffic, barking dogs and the soft vacuum sounds of crowded airliners passing over me altitudes 5 to 7 miles. I think of someone looking down from that altitude with their face placed against a window as they see the mass of central Louisiana lights and wonder what city they pass over. Pretty much the same way I stared at the lights of a solitary house sitting in some remote Montana spread, wondering if some unknown person was turning their head upward as to locate the flashing strobes of my passing airliner as we disturbed his peaceful existence. I breath deeply now as I prepare to go inside while listening as the soft breeze makes the pine needles sing as it passes through. Did I mention it is beautiful out here tonight?
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Posted December 4 from my home.

Linda Sent me an email a couple of weeks ago of an email I sent to my sisters and other select friends, December 24, 2008.   I was actually a Sunday School Teacher at Donahue Family Church at the time and I was totally unaware of this until Linda forwarded to me.  Though I would include it 9 years later in my December 2017 blog entry. 

TO:  My Sisters and their Family, Sunday School Class Members and their family, selected friends and their family
FROM:  Well, you figure that out.
Ah yes...  I do exist on the eve of my 57th Christmas realizing that memories of the first Christmas and possible second one along with the third or fourth is probably erased forever...  However I do recall bits and pieces of those early Christmas days in a two bedroom house at 308 Georgia Street in Monroe, LA.  Santa came every year and the smell of tangerines/oranges to this very day takes me back to that snapshot in time.  Always cowboy guns or something big and lots of boxes of those easy to peal tangerines, oranges and other fruit there under that tree.  Actually got my first bike there as well as experiencing my first  White Christmas!  That stuff is so fun and awful!  I remember dressing for half a day just to spend 10 minutes in that stuff?   Goodness... Snow in the south. Sounds good but can really do without it.
Then our family moved to 413 Beasley Street and that big house into I guess a real blue collar neighborhood.  Now those were great times!  I even looked forward to getting clothes as a Christmas present.  It was there that nieces and nephews entered the picture and oh my goodness those wonderful Christmas Dinners at Momma's house.  Alwa;ys Mommas house now...  Daddy just lived there.  This is where we grew up by the way..  Well three of us did, one was grown before we left Georgia street if I remember correctly, but any way, it got to the point that big ole place was just too small for all of us.  Amazing how those sweet nieces and nephews grow into big people!  *gack*  Always wondered why they didn't go somewhere else.  But oh those Christmas days.  We sit around in the living room while someone plays Santa and gives out all the gifts!  How did Dad always afford gifts for everyone?  Even when our family continued to grow!!  And grow we did.  Right out into our own homes with our own families.  
Mom and Dad passed away and 413 Beasley Street became the property of someone else.  308 Georgia Street, Somerset, Faith Drive, Azalea Court East and whatever that street Nona and Paul lives on became the gathering places of those that use to gather at Mommas house.  The sound of little naked feet slapping on wood and tile and the excited voices of our children faded over the years in these new gathering places they too called mammas house even though daddy just lived there!  New voices and the shuffle of padded feet in fancy pajamas and carpet introduced themselves to us every year!  Goodness, are we blessed or what as those that called us momma and daddy were now being called mom and dad?  Hey, i've adjusted well to my new name.  To those that choose to use it anyway.
And as we grew the cornerstones of 308 Georgia Street became the foundations in different places but always with the same memories.  New life, new memories, generations becoming newer generations build on these new foundations called mommas house until those cornerstones began their own foundation? Are we really in the Winter of our life?  And as we gathered and gather still we have been so blessed to have shared with those we so loved.  Those that have gone on before us.  Those that we love  that are far away or doing things differently than we did when we were them.  Our spouses becoming our best friends?  Mine sure has...
The laughter.  The memories.  Family.  We do all of this every year without the fan fare of Angelic choirs on that first Christmas morning in Bethlehem complete with the stench of manure and urine that existed that 2000 years ago in that barn half a world away.   Since then He has been at every Christmas gathering we have celebrated and stood alone against the wall smiling at us as the smell of dressing filled the house.  Always has he been there for us in our times of sadness and sorrow.  Oh my, how I wish I had taught that to my kids more and more as they grow older.  I no longer influence their life or decisions.  But I'm still in momma's house.  I just live there now. . 
I love you all. 
Happy Birthday, Jesus
Rod Ferguson

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Alaskan Gold

         How would any person, when asked, define Alaskan Gold?  The answers of course are much too numerous to even list, so why even entertain an empirical number when the answers approach infinity?  Let me share with you in a few short paragraphs what has transpired in the life of my son since 9/11/01.  As most of you know, he enlisted into the Air Force Special Operations right out of High School in 2000.  Naturally he was very good at what he did and he found himself prepared when his training was called upon.  He married and this typical military family continued to grow despite the demands made upon this particular warrior dad.  As of this writing, my son has continued to prefect the art of his trade and continually answered our country's call against this Global War on Terrorism.  What I am sharing with you is how the prayers of a faithful, Godly wife along with countless friends and family are heard by an omnipotant God.  Any random reader of my collection of short stories, stumbling across this particular blog entry will probably not fully grasp this 15 year span of time.  I still hope you will enjoy reading the treasures I discovered in city of the midnight sun from June 8 through June 15 of this year.

          I flew to Fairbanks, Alaska to spend a week with my son, Stewart, his wife Sarah and their three beautiful daughter's, Elizabeth, Katherine and Audrey.  I had not seen Elizabeth since she was 1 year of age and she is a September birthday shy of 12 years of age.  Katherine just turned 8 years of age when I first met her this past December with her Dad and ate donuts in Pineville.  What 
a beautiful child, as I sat a scant 20 or 30 minutes 
exchanging pleasantries with her dad while taking in her every move as she devoured an ├ęclair.  Oh how my son's words began to ring true as he once reminded me what I have missed.  Sometime after his family moved to Alaska, he extended an invitation for me to visit them at their home.  Of course I played it off but after this brief meeting with this sweet child, I asked if the invitation was still on the table.  I arrived in Fairbanks in the early morning hours of 9 June where Stewart picked me up.  When we arrived at his early morning home in the daylight filled hour of 0230, I was shown to my room downstairs.  It was actually Elizabeth's room which was right across the hall from Katherine's room of which they were to share during my visit.  Do you really think they were asleep knowing Poppy Rodney was coming??  They sorta "vaporized" in the room and after a quick hug,  Daddy threatened their life if they did not get back into their bedroom and go to sleep!!

           I was awake by 0700, making my way upstairs where I joined Sarah already stirring in the early morning kitchen of their spacious 
home.  She had already been informed by Katherine that she needed to get a lot of coffee because Poppy Rodney drinks a lot of coffee, remembering that was what I drank at the donut shop in Pineville back last December when we met.  While sitting at the table engaging her in conversation as she prepared breakfast, this lovely little creature appeared around the corner of the high rise counter and froze momentarily, just starring at me. She had a lamb looking hand puppet or something with the ear stuck in her mouth as she continued to stand there "taking me in," still clad in her tee shirt and panties.  I broke the ice and said, "So you must be Audrey?"  She then removed the lambs ear from her mouth and announced,
"she was this many" and held up four fingers.  Sarah told her to tell Poppy Rodney how old she was and she announced in perfect grammer, "I am 4 years old."  I fell in love.  

          Sarah sat what she called a happy face breakfast in front of me consisting of a sliced bagel coated in strawberry cream cheese and two over easy eggs stating, "Stewart gets mad when I give him a happy face plate!"  I got tickled and laughed at her statement as I began to realize I was in a mine shaft filled with the purest gold that only a few men discover once in a lifetime.  Over the next few minutes, Elizabeth and Katherine joined us and engaged me in conversation while Sarah continued to busy herself in the kitchen. My gosh, how

beautiful Elizabeth was.  So tall and skinny with the sweetest smile and eyes that searched your heart when she engaged you with conversation.  I guess Katherine claimed me as her Poppy since she knew me best.  Stewart eventually joined us around the table.  It was along about this time that I realized where I was and what I had missed for so many years.  This son I most admired, his caring wife and those girls.  He asked me to pray!  As I wrapped my hands around smaller ones, I remember saying "Thank you, God for your Grace and Blessings.  Bless this food to nourish our bodies so we may serve you."   "God," and I paused and almost choked up until I spoke the only words that were on my heart, "Thank You, Father for family, Amen!"  I felt the door open in the heart of the other man at that table.

          A week or so before I left for Alaska, Sarah surprised me with a phone call and I heard this little voice tell me, "I hope you like to hike, cause we going hiking!"  I was enthralled of course but also tickled to death as I engaged this yet to be defined, estrogen ocean of Ferguson grand girls as each one chatted with me.  They had some serious plans for Poppy Rodney and  thinking back, I think Sarah wanted to give me a heads up for what was to come.   Stewart had already warned me they would "be wild" when I first arrived but would eventually settle down.  Yet unknown to all of them, I am thinking of how soon and how quickly I 
could engage in some serious "rib biting" and "sugar snatching" without crossing any boundaries until they were comfortable with Stewart's grandpa.   Oh yes, Stewart told me that one Sunday morning a couple of weeks before I was to arrive,  Audrey came and crawled up into bed with him and Sarah where she generally submitted herself to daddy's kisses, back tickling and tummy routine.  He told me this particular morning she was having nothing of the sorts. Stewart asked her, "Audrey, what is wrong, baby?"  He said she just sighed and said, "I thought your grandpa would be here by now!"

      The first day began with a trip to the North Pole.  North Pole, Alaska of course 
and a visit to the Santa Claus House.  It had been 43 years since I had been there, and I posted a picture on facebook with me sitting on Santa's lap and said, "he actually remembered me."  Can you imagine my surprise, when someone actually asked me if he did in fact remember me?  I am sure he will remember me on my next visit in 43 years, because if you look close, I am sitting on his lap, and pushed firmly against his sizable stomach was the full imprint of my safely holstered Springfield 1911 TRP .45 cal pistol.  Santa said not a word or acted offended in the least bit by this discovery that I am certain he was aware of. Being the gentleman Santa has always been, I will not be a bit surprised if I discover a box of Personal Defense .45 cal ammo under my Christmas tree, personally signed:  From Santa, this coming Christmas.

          As the trip to Santa's house and other convenient points of interest came to an end that first day,  we settled back into the Ferguson home on Hillary Drive overlooking Fairbanks, I was given an explanation of the Lamb looking hand puppet I saw Audrey with that morning. Stewart told me she never took a pacifier but for some unknown reason, she took to this cotton hand puppet.  They said it was a poodle!  He said she simply cannot go to sleep or sleep without it. She comforts herself by entertaining one of the ears of this coveted poodle by placing it in her mouth!  I just looked at him funny when he told me they had a hundred or so of those things, explaining when one ear gets soaking wet, she replaces the wet ear with the dry ear and never misses a beat.  I couldn't help myself as I died laughing and asked Sarah about it for
clarification.  I was told they only had twenty or so which made much more sense.  She also ensured me they were washed often

          Audrey was told to get ready for bed, so as she was making her last rounds I had the chance to take a picture of her favored poodle. If you look closely, one of the ears is already wet!  I laugh so hard everytime I see this picture. Yet despite the joy of seeing this, I was also able to experience the tenderness of a loving mom as sleep overtook this precious child.  How beautiful that only the arms of a mother can comfort a child as the ending of day demands rest from even the most tender among us.  So that you might know, this particular picture was taken around the 1030 pm hour and the sun is still not below the horizon.  We were just a week or so from the Summer Solstice in Fairbanks, Alaska where the sun never sets at this time of the year.

            Most followers of my blog and short stories, especially life long friends know I served with the U.S. Army in Anchorage, Alaska in '72 and '73.  I remember on clear crisp days, "The High One" or in other native translations, "The Great One," know as Mt. Denali or to those of us in the Lower 48, Mt. McKinley, could be seen from Anchorage several hundred miles to the north.  I dreamed of this beautiful mountain many times after leaving Alaska as my life resumed in my native Louisiana.  One can not imagine how pleased I was when I was told we were going to visit Denali National Park!  What a remarkable day.  I was so hoping to see "my
Audry's Attack Eagle
 mountain" up close and personal for the first time.  After entering the park, we settled in for a picnic lunch (put together by Sarah) before our 5 mile hike.  As we sat down at a picnic table and passed out the snacks, a Sea Gull, yes, it is actually called a Mew Gull almost landed on Stewart's head seriously inquiring, "what's for lunch, dude?" I laughed as he brushed the pestering bird away and continued snacking while failing to anticipate the bird's next move.  How I wish I had my video ready on my IPhone 6. My sweet Audry was this bird's next victim!  Mom and Dad were there to protect her from harms way, although this aggressive approach along with the beating of wings literally scared her to death with its bold move on her sammich!   My stomach still cramps as I laugh myself almost sick as she shared with all of us her version of "being attacked by an Eagle."  We eventually made our way around a well constructed, easily navigable five mile hiking trail taking in the beauty of a minute part of this expansive National Park.  I was more than disappointed to know that I was not 
Sarah was the Photographer
going to be able to see Mt. Denali from where we were and to even be able to, it would be another 200 mile trip!  

          We encounter a rather large Bull Elk in the upside of the shallow river that we were walking beside and at elevation, with binoculars, Stewart and I could count as many as 14 Dall Sheep with young.  They were far beyond the range of any predator.   We eventually completed the hike with plenty of daylight left (get it?) and returned to a more civilized part of the national park.  You know, where you pay fifty bucks for a one dollar souvenir?  It was here we ordered a pizza made with Elk tails, Caribou doo, Grizzly gristle and other unidentified morsels that if you did not look at closely, was very tasteful!  Stewart and I drank a glass of home brewed urine, I mean beer while the girls entertained themselves coloring on a piece of paper while our order was being made!  We visited many shops in this particular village that included a cannabis shop.  We discovered Wolf furs upwards of $5,000 and all sorts of homemade knives, carvings, wooden dishes and other some what "Alaskan" items that were available for purchase just to prove you had been there. 

          Our return from Denali Nation Park to Fairbanks was around 200 miles, and
was even more breath taking than the ride up.  Only those who have ever visited this National Park can understand the beauty that exists.  I was able to capture a snow covered peak in the Alaskan Range with my IPhone Camera.  It was not Mt. Denali, but still beautiful.  Despite the comfort of the front passenger seat, the disturbing unrest of Ferguson Children cooped up far too long in the back of a car began to make me smile as  the "testing" of parental constraints were certainly probed to see just how far they could go with Poppy Rodney being present.  Consistency, may I add was firmly displayed, as mom didn't budge an inch in properly addressing any thought of taking advantage of this particular visiting relative!  I had to bite my tongue to keep from adding to the occasional problems I would hear from the back of Sarah's SUV.  I sure didn't wanna be put out on the side of this expansive highway as I certainly had no where to go if that happened!

          Did I mention the fact that these precious little girls were amazed with my bald head?  Audry took to me like a duck takes to water.  Not only did she like to get sugar, she actually invited me to bite her ribs.  She also likes to lick where she kisses you.  Sarah warned me, this child did not have a filter and kindly requested I not be offended by anything that might come out of her mouth.  That request tickled me.  It was positive, concrete proof Ferguson DNA was in this child's blood!  Being the first to rub my head, she announced to her
older siblings, "ooooh, it feels slicky," so the intrigue was on.  I even offered them the opportunity of drawing on my head with markers if they wanted to.  This really got the attention of Elizabeth and Katherine,  so their hands found the way to the top of my head to explore this newly offered canvas never before exploited.  Well, somewhere between their discovery of my bald head and my invitation for them to draw on it, Sarah must have cornered each of them and warned of the hazards they might encounter if they even asked me if they could actually draw on my bald head with markers.  I'm sure I will never know but a  good wash cloth and a good bar of soap would delete most of the damage.  What I could not get off, I could easily cover with my hat.  Besides, I really didn't care what anyone might think as no one knew me in Fairbanks. Besides, if anyone wanted to take issue with my grandchildren's art, I was prepared to defend their honor.  For whatever reason, a magic marker never made it to the top of my head, but the minds of these persistent children never rests while discovering other ways to take advantage of and abuse my submissive self for their pleasures.  If you have grand kids and are reading this, you know what attention i'm talking about.   That same attention a new puppy gets is very close to the way they behave with old people.  Careful not to hurt us for fear of what mom or dad might do to them?  I am not sure who toted the first wild daisy up on the deck to stick behind my ear, but it wasn't long before several adorned my seated surroundings. One ear then both ears, I refused to allow Audry to place a flower in my nose, so she settled for me holding a few in my mouth.  I figured if she could gnaw down on a poodles ear, I could handle a few wild daisies.   I am surprised super glue or something didn't appear in order for these yellow flowers to stick to my bald head. 

My visit progressed too rapidly during my short stay and the planned activities for Poppy Rodney were always interesting.  What was even more impressive to me, was the fact I was there almost two days before I dawned on me I was the only one wearing shoes in the house.  I also realized that breakfast, lunch and supper were not just a formal throw together for visitors or guests.  Sarah prepared every meal, placed it on the table, where everyone ate together.  Dishes were not left on the table, but taken to the sink where they were appropriately rinsed out and placed in the dish washer. What I found amazing is I never saw a dish in the dish washer removed.  Someone did it?  I can't recall any "assigned" responsibilities for the older girls.  I am sure there were, I just never noticed them do anything in the kitchen.  The kitchen was Sarah's Woman Cave and it was permissible to pass through with an unspoken rule hanging in the air, don't tarry too long.  I remember distinctly when they were first married, Sarah could not boil water.  I am being a little facetious when I say that she needed a recipe book to put a bowl of cereal together!  My word, the transition I observed in that 13 year span of time. My daughter-in-law has certainly come a long way baby in the culinary arts. Every thing she makes is from scratch and there is nothing she sets in front of you that is not absolutely wonderful.  One of the first things I smelled when I walked into their home was the fresh smell of something being baked.  I found out it was a Rhubarb Pie.  Want some?  Stewart got a big ole scoop of that stuff while it was still warm and I politely declined.  Rhubarb?  Wasn't quiet sure if I wanted to go there with that one or not, simply because I had never heard of that kind of pie down in my part of the South.  I finally came to realize her expanded cooking talents after sampling a small piece of that Rhubarb pie stuff.  Well, let me confess here.  Only because I was trying to be socially correct, respectful of the fact I was a guest in their home and not wanting to trespass in Sarah's woman cave is the only reason I didn't eat the rest of that pie by myself!!! 

Italian Wedding Soup which is spinach floating in a soup mixture with a thousand pasta balls the size of #2 buckshot was introduced for supper one night. Remember my socially correct manner I worked so hard on?  I was very happy  to see Stewart get up for a second helping. I smiled and said "why not, this is good."
What they didn't see, was that Katherine didn't eat all of her supper, but Sarah sure thought she did.  She asked me what my favorite desert was and after eliminating everything made with sugar, I settled with Cheese Cake.  I was then grilled with topping questions and settled on caramel topping.  Before bed time, guess what Poppy Rodney feasted on?  Made from scratch I might add. She also mentioned what had to be an "Alaskan desert" when she asked me if I had ever eaten any Moose Balls when I lived up there 43 years ago.  I just looked at her hoping we were still talking about desserts and said, "Nope, I
don't reckon I have."  Thinking back so many years, I finally told her that the only thing I remember was some reindeer sausage.  She then shared with me the way Moose Balls were made and carefully prepared before they were filled with cream cheese.  As I struggled to keep my focus on the dessert aspect of Moose Balls, I remember commenting that it would seem to be a deliberate and time consuming task to make them of which she agreed that it was.  She told me she had a friend down the hill that made them at home and sold them for profit.  Sarah did not make any herself, but her friend showed up a couple of days later with a bunch of them for us.  Yes!  They were delicious and you could not eat just one.  With that being said, I'm sure it was a head thing with me, because I could not eat two, so my total consumption was three.  Could have easily been five but I had to stand in line or bully three girls had I wanted more.

As I continued to ease into the Ferguson/Alaskan home, things that concerned me about being a stranger to these kids faded quickly.  I felt like I had always lived and been a part of their world while still thousands of miles apart.  I was able to be part of the life Stewart and Sarah made for themselves.  I also noticed how consistent, patient and determined Sarah was in keeping her home, loving her girls and support she gave her husband.  One evening Sarah was in her Woman Cave while Stewart and I were watching TV.  He got up to do something and looked at me and made a general statement.  "I'm hot."  Without hesitation, Sarah
said, "Yes your are!"  He said not a word.  Just looked at me, shook his head and rolled his eyes.  I just smiled.  Those girls love their daddy, too.  As the older girls are somewhat stand offish, little Audry doesn't hesitate to spread her affection. I was able to capture one picture that touched my heart and helped me realize my son was exactly the man I prayed he would be.    Typical girls, they push each other's buttons and aggravate each other like all siblings do. Elizabeth is clearly the eldest of the three, Katherine has established her own identity in her world and Audry is either welcomed when those two are together or she is rejected and sent away in tears.  Let me just add that she recovers quickly.  Sarah is amazingly tuned into most conversations between the girls and quick to correct any stinging or hurtful words they might say to each other. In their own little part of Alaska, the three of them spend hours with each other in and out of the woods where they have forts, bear traps and swings spotted in separate parts of their three acres.  Sarah told me that Elizabeth is very protective of Katherine at school and will be the same way with Audry.  

As I have said before, Sarah runs a good house hold and Stewart exists in the background as the enforcer of Mom's world.  No one wants that part of him, but those girls seem to worship the ground he walks on.  I never heard one voice raised in anger among any of them.  Those girls are always tattling on each other, now, and firm corrections are made often by Mom and sometimes Dad.  Sarah had the occasion for some unknown reason to me, to spank Elizabeth and Katherine for something they had done.  They came down the stairs and Elizabeth announced to me, "That didn't hurt at all," and Katherine agreed.  Well, Sarah caught wind of that statement and was quick to revisit that meeting.   There was not another word said after that second trip to mom's woodshed except from Katherine. "I don't like it when momma uses that wood spoon."   I noticed Audry
was hanging pretty close to me after this reenforcement period and I didn't quite understand until Elizabeth regained her composure and came down stairs.  I could tell something was wrong so I made a wild guess and told her that as much as I loved them, Poppy Rodney was always on mom and dad's side and I tattled, too.  Elizabeth smiled and hugged my neck and went into the yard to play.  I felt what seemed to be this heavy sigh of relief emanate from the little one sitting behind me.  It dawned on me how Sarah "caught wind" of Elizabeth and Katherine's bold statement, it didn't hurt.  The guilty little mouse realized she was just spared from a possible execution from her older sisters.  I turned around looking over my shoulder and couldn't help from taking this picture as she sat there with that "you just saved me, Poppy smile on her face!"  

          Stewart had sent me pictures of a massive Grizzly bear and a Black bear that he had killed last summer at his bear stand.  This place was up the Dalton Highway (The Ice Road) from Fairbanks and was assigned to him by the Alaska State Troopers Wildlife Enforcement Department. Although he had not hunted the spot in a couple of weeks, meaning he had not kept it baited for bear, he decided he would like to introduce his father to the excitement of the bear hunt!  I was all in.  

          We set off for the hunting grounds somewhere in the Last Frontier around 7:30 pm as we intersected the Dalton Highway.  We were headed north on this normally busy roadway when one of 10 vehicles we saw the entire trip passed us. As the driver started to turn back into the drivers lane, a mother moose decided to cross the road not seven car lengths in front of us.  The passing vehicle braked hard and swerved to avoid a major collision with the moose as she slipped in the roadway just in time to keep the car from hitting her!  Stewart was able to brake enough for her to regain her legs and continue to cross the road unharmed.  We stopped at the spot the incident occurred and on my side of the vehicle, down in a wet land environment, was baby moose while momma waited patiently down in the wet land on Stewart's side of the vehicle.  I took a few pics of momma and baby and we pulled up a hundred feet or so and stopped.  within a minutes time, momma was back on the road encouraging baby moose to join her and off they went.  I should mention that had that car struck momma, we would probably have become entangled in this massive engagement of vehicle and moose flesh. Vehicle and moose collisions are almost always fatal to the animal and often times fatal to the driver or occupants of the vehicle.  After the excitement, we continued north into Russia's own to our destination.  I was so fortunate to capture another momma moose and her twin calves on my cell phone just a few more miles north.  I use that picture today as my profile picture on facebook.

          We finally reached the location of his assigned bear hunting site around 0945 pm.  He parked the truck on the Alaskan Pipeline at Block Point N at mile marker 365.2 from the North Slope,  Stewart unloaded the four wheeler, loaded it up with supplies and encouraged me to climb on.  A mile or so down the pipe line he stopped and we packed up and headed into the woods.  we loaded ourselves with as many marshmellows, honey, syrup, sticky sweet stuff as you can imagine along with a 60 pound bag of dog food complet with chairs and a ground blind, Just before we enter the woods, Stewart stops at the trail entrance and pulls his 357 magnum from the holster pausing cautiously before he continued to his assigned spot.  I had enough sense to know why he did that and breathed a sigh of relief as I consciously felt my own 45 cal 1911 with personal defense rounds snug in the holster on my side. It was here he shared with me that humans are number 5 on the food chain.  The Polar Bear, Grizzly Bear, Black Bear and Wolf packs are the top 4.  In other words, Dad, he continued, if they decide they want to eat you, wait until they are up close and shoot them through the eyes or mouth. I certainly found that bit of information extremely encouraging.  About 50 yards
down the trail, he paused and pointed at bear scat on the well used path we were walking on.  It was here I discovered the truth about the bear question.  Yes. Bears do, do do in the woods!  Steadily down hill another couple of hundred yards we came to a spot where a 55 gallon barrel with a window hole cut into the side was cabled to a tree.  Stewart filled it up with the dog food, along with a lot of other "sweet stuff" bears rather enjoy!  He then set up a small propane burner a few feet from the cabled barrel and filled it with marsh mellows, old honey and whatever else and set the concoction on the burning flame.  While doing this we were both fighting for our lives from swarms of Alaskan mosquito's determined to void us of our live giving blood.  They were simply trying to tote us off before the big mosquitos got there.  So, during the hustle of checking the trail cam, setting up the candy store and smoke scent for bears, preparing the ground blind we were to sit in waiting for these unsuspecting bears, Stewart casually suggest I keep my eyes open.  Something about a charging bear not taking kindly to us being there sorta put the mosquito's in a distant place in the back of my head despite their pesky persistence.  

          After about :45 minutes of packing stuff in, times two trips to the four wheeler a scant 300 yards uphill from where we were, we finally established a hunting posture comfortably inside the ground blind.  Once you set up a mosquito thermo cell repellent inside of the blind, you can take off protective clothing as the mosquito's will certainly leave you alone.  Comfortable and waiting for a social
visit from some unknown bear, Stewart continues my bear education.  They know we are here, Dad.  They smell that stuff a mile away and they smell us too.  My concern is they have used the trail (remember the scat?) and could come in from behind us.  That would not be good because the bear would have the advantage of surprise on us.  He told me the black bear he killed last year was coming up a tree after him and he shot her between his feet looking down on her.  That Grizzly we killed here a week or two later was 1200 hundred pounds.  Three of us were sitting in tree stands when he came and and looked at us one time and went back to the barrel of goodies.  Grizzly's cant climb, but they are powerful enough to just knock the tree we were in over.   Took us 6 hours to get that giant bear from here up to the pipeline.  All of this information was processing through my head when I asked him where his hunting rifle was.  I knew it was in the truck and just figured he had packed it down from the four wheeler.  He casually replied he left it in the truck.  If a black bear came in we could take it with his pistol.  Grizzly might be more of a challenge though. I remained calm and collected.  There was absolutely no panic on my part but my 45 found its way out of my holster because it felt more comfortable on my lap.  He had told me before I ever flew up that I need to be in shape because if a big Grizz did come into the perimeter we may have to vacate rapidly.  Looking at him and that silly smile when he said that made him realize he had a better chance of getting fresh chicken crap from between his toes quicker than he could get rid of me. 

         Midnight came and turned into 2 am as it never got dark in the land of the midnight sun.  We eventually decided to "break camp" and seek other adventures of the great north.  We did not have to pack out the dog food and other bundles of goodies that found itself into the  barrel as bait.  With that in mind, I figured we could collect what was remaining and make one trip back to the four wheeler.  That second trek up the scat laden trail took its toll on this 65 year old so I did not want to do it a fourth time.  Stewart loaded me up and he bore the burden of what remained and up the trail we started.  I will not mention that I could not breath.  Nor will I tell anyone I could not feel my legs or body functioning.  There was no pain as I simply could not breath.  Had Mr. Grizzly, Black Bear, Wolf or Ground Squirrel wanted to take me, I would simply have disappeared from this world.  No possible way am I ever going to admit that I was totally unable to even call Stewart's name to slow down and wait for me.  I was beyond exhaustion as all I could do was suck in air to help me sustain what little life remained.  I had every
intention of jokingly telling Stewart that I would never do to my daddy what he was doing to his but the words or any word would not come out of my mouth!  I just thought I was in a little bit of shape, NOT, but what I did find out was I had a pretty dang good heart!  So as we returned from the bear pit, stored equipment into his truck, loaded the four wheeler, we killed as many mosquito's as we could just for the hell of it before getting into the truck.  As we sat there a few short moments in the early morning light, he looks at me with that smile that I remembered as a child and asked, "Dad, have you ever seen the Yukon River? Makes the Mississippi look like a mud puddle."  I took this picture as we started the truck and turned north yet once again.  I guess because the sun never went down, my bio-clock had not told me I was running on 24 hrs no sleep.

I guess some day I will finish this story...   Procrastination or old age?  Probably a whole bunch of both...