A Chipped Tooth of Honor

Gene is teaching me how to play checkers. He lets me be red and I learn about jumping and kinging. I think about Grady’s checkerboard and think that next time I might just ask him for a game. We could sit outside at his checker table and watch the rich people go in and come out the Ghoston Hotel.

“Cono, there’s a new kid in town. He’s got two pairs’a boxing gloves.”

“Who is he?”

“We call him Oklahoma ‘cause that’s where he’s moved from.”

“Can I box with him?”

“He’s a little bigger’n you are.”

“Don’t matter.  Everybody’s bigger than me, ‘cept you.”  Being small doesn’t seem to bother Gene one iota.  He knows how to stand real tall in his shoes.

Gene gets us together at the open lot. Of course, I put on Oklahoma’s old pair, the ones with the black cracked leather and torn laces. It doesn’t matter.  They feel good on my hands, strong and powerful, like I could reach down and pick up the whole town.

“Ready to box?” he asks.

“Ready,” I say.  I try to remember the punches Aunt Nolie has taught me, the ones my Dad used to clobber the Tombstone.

Oklahoma and me start out in the center of the lot, without any ring this time, but with boxing gloves on our third grade hands. He comes at me full force. I swing my arms like windmills trying to get a hold of something. He circles around me, trying to get my attention.  He’s already done it. He’d gotten my attention alright, right on my mouth. A piece of my tooth is missing. The fight lasts a whole minute. He beat the tar outta me.

“Ya okay, Cono?” asks Oklahoma.

“Sure,” I say even though I got dog tired after one minute. “Jes’t lost a piece’a my tooth’s all,” I bend down to try to find it.

Gene looks in my mouth to see my broken tooth and says, “Cono, ye ain’t gonna find that  tiny piece of tooth, not in this dirt’n weeds.  Why’re’ ye lookin’ fer it anyhow?”

“Ya gonna try to glue it back on or somethin’?” laughs Oklahoma.  I just shrug my shoulders and stop looking. I don’t want to tell them that I wanted to save it for my box of specials.

When Oklahoma has his back turned, I tear off a piece of the worn lace from my borrowed glove and stick it in my pocket. That’ll have to do.

I’m not a good boxer yet, that’s for sure. But at least now I can say that I’ve worn real boxing gloves, felt the goodness in them and have a broken tooth to prove it.  Getting a beating in checkers in one thing, but getting a real beating is different.

I get home and show Mother my tooth.

“Don’t worry none ‘bout it, Cono.  When ye grow, yer tooth’ll grow right along with ye and that little chip won’t even show.”

That’s what I’m afraid of.

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper, by C. Dennis-Willingham

The “real” Cono (in the two pictures below) grew up to be a boxer in the Army. And later, he became the man I would lovingly call, “Daddy.”

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by C. Dennis-Willingham

via Broken

The Rooster Produces

A little note from this all-over-the-map Rooster writer:

Yes, my blog post themes hip hops from poetry to politics, from novel excerpts to photography.

For this post, my former profession has returned. I have once again dipped my toes into that magical pond of childhood.

The following is one of many finger plays/songs in my repertoire.

When you share this with a young one, don’t forget the gestures and enthusiasm!

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Now, the chances are pretty good you might see more future blogs for parents and teachers – or anyone who loves interacting with young children.

Note 2: author of this poem is unknown

via Bubble

It’s Your Song

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Are you comfortable with the company you keep?

the skin that you wear?

the decisions you make –

the great ones, the good ones

the bad ones and,

even the terrible ones?

Do you accept the wrinkles,

the imperfections,

the bones of your being?

I hope so.

This is your life.

Your song.

And only you can sing it.

 

image credit

via Song

Discouraging but Deserving

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I like looking at my teach, Mrs. Alexander, at her nice smile and her fancy dress. I keep picturing my mother getting to wear a dress like that someday.

Right before it’s time to go home, Mrs. Alexander starts to teach us a new song called “Home on the Range”.

Oh give me a home, where the antelope roam and the deer and the antelope play. Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day. How often at night, where the heavens are bright with the light of the glittering stars, have I stood there amazed and asked as I gazed if their glory exceeds that of ours. Home, home on the range….

I like those words. They make me feel almost as good as when I’m riding on ol’ Polo, free and easy like deer and antelope playing together without any bickering.

I like it that she tells us what the words mean, words like “discouraging.” She says that “discouraging” means that you don’t like something much, like something makes you feel uncomfortable, something that spoils your spirit.

So now I can say, that “Home on the Range” is my new favorite song. I can also say that recess today, sure was discouraging. But damn, sticking that pocketknife in Tommy Burn’s bully thigh sure felt good. He’s deserved it for a coon’s age.

Maybe there are a few clouds today after all.

 

Excerpt of No Hill for a Stepper by C. Dennis-Willingham

 

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via Song

Set to Square

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My Frigidaire’s in disrepair

the water’s leaking everywhere

My husband, well, he’s unaware

He’s napping in his underwear.

I tell myself, “do not despair.”

There must be food I can prepare

something fresh, a peach or pear?

Poor Fridge, it’s had it’s wear and tear

this in common, this we share

But I will act most debonair

when I wake up my sleeping bear

still with stance that’s set to square

and tell him he must fetch our fare

(“yes, now go and do your share”)

then waving just one hand in flair

I’ll sit upon my outdoor chair,

paint my nails with greater care

then catch a snooze mid-air.

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– C. Dennis-Willingham ©

 

painting by Kay Crain

(I love this piece of art)

via Frigid

If More of Us Would Follow in His Footsteps

Over 25 years ago, I had the great pleasure of meeting this true celebrity. He was the real deal – the same person I saw on PBS stood before me, thanked me for my service to young children, had his assistant take our picture (when he noticed my disappointment that I hadn’t brought my camera), and reminded my mother of the importance of being a grandmother.

A few weeks later, as promised, I received the photos in the mail.

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Me, Mr. Rogers and my mom at an early childhood conference in Anaheim, CA

To this man, no person was “foreign.” They were someone that he had not yet had the pleasure to meet.

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I just bought the new “forever” postage stamp.

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Also watch for upcoming films about him and his limitless love for humanity.

Thank you, Mr. Rogers. You are still an inspiration.

via Foreign