8. Life-Saving Rescue

8.   Life-Saving Rescue

I did a lot of “pretend” games when I was seven or eight and playing alone on Grandpa’s farm. One day I was playing “Commando” climbing in the big maple tree across the driveway from the kitchen door of the house.

My Commando popgun rifle was strapped over my shoulder as I climbed down from the tree. I had to slide through a forked branch and then drop to the ground. When I slid by the branch, my hand slipped and the popgun caught in the fork, with the shoulder strap around my neck. I was trapped! I would be strangled if I let go of the branch! My mind raced as I tried to pull myself up enough to free my neck from the strap tight around my throat.

By God’s provision, Daddy was passing through the kitchen.  He looked out the screen door, and saw my plight.  He slammed through the door, leaped off the porch, and ran to wrap his arms around my legs and lift me up so I could get the gun strap off. Daddy lowered me to the ground, and said calmly, “No more tree climbing today.”

Daddy saved my life!

 (The tree in the picture is the tree where this experience occurred.)

7. Move to the Farm

7.  Move to the Farm

When I was seven, “Gag Ga” (Grandma) Howe passed away, and we moved up to the farm north of Ionia Michigan so it would not have to be sold.

It was 1942. Pearl Harbor was attacked the previous December, and the United States was at war. To a boy of seven, a move from “Big City Detroit” to my grandparent’s farm in the country in central Michigan, was like moving almost to heaven.

“One hundred sixty acres,” Mom said. The house, barn and buildings were on forty acres west of Michigan Highway 66 that ran north and south dividing the property. East of the highway was 120 acres of fields divided by a lane that stretched to distant trees.

For Daddy, moving back near Ionia was moving back to his “roots”. His parents, John and Gazella Hicks, lived on a farm south of Ionia, another quarter section of 160 acres on a dirt road past Tuttle cemetery. There was a stand of maple trees at the back.

Unlike our place which was no longer a working farm, Grampa John was still a subsistence farmer with cows and horses, geese and chickens roaming the yard, and huge hogs in a mud hole close to the house.

Our house was a big old, two-story farmhouse my grandfather Zala built at the turn of the twentieth century, finishing about 1903. Mom said that Grandpa had somehow used work horses to combine three houses to make the house. There were six bedrooms and a basement. Grampa and Grampa Hicks’ house was one bedroom upstairs, and a “great room”, parlor and bedroom downstairs. This is where Daddy grew up in his childhood.

Behind our house was a large shop building with a garage attached to one side. A tiny brick chicken coop housing a few chickens sat in the shade of a tall mulberry tree behind the garage. Daddy later built a big chicken coop connecting the back of the garage to the brick coop.

My other grandparents’ house was set way back from the road. There were several small sheds for storage and where the chickens retreated at night.  A small barn housed the cattle and horses. I do not know why I never went to Grandpa John’s barn.

Daddy drove 4 miles to Ionia for his job at AC Spark Plug. Gasoline was rationed, but spark plugs were a critical wartime product, so Daddy had lots of gas coupons.

We did do some farm crops; wheat, oats, and hay put in the barn. But, the crops did not make much money. Daddy bought a tractor with a plow and a mowing attachment to cut hay. I was proud that Daddy let me drive the tractor, and actually plow the field west of the barn for a crop one year.

Christmas In Hawaii

Christmas in Hawaii

by Robert Z. Hicks

It’s Christmas in Hawaii and there isn’t any snow.
Christmas lights in palm trees are swaying to and fro.
The sun is bright and warm, and shining all day.
Can Santa really come, with no snow for his sleigh?

It’s Christmas in the islands, and all over town,
Keikis packing slippers and their best sleeping gown.
They’re goin’ sleep at grandma’s hale, and see the family.
They’ll hang mistletoe and holly, and trim a Christmas tree.

They’ll be making cookies, malasadas and more,
To share with the neighbors who live next door.
There’ll be barbecue chicken and Christmas kaukau,
And haupia pudding and ono laulau.

The keikis all snuggle up cozy in their beds,
While visions of Li Hing mui dance in their heads,
When up on the rooftop they hear “pitter patter”.
Hoof beats of reindeer? Naw, just rain, it’s no matter.

Down by the beach someone yelling, “Yoo-hoo!
Santa comin’, in one outrigger canoe,
Pulled by dolphins jumping out of the blue.”
With presents for the keikis, and tutu too.

“Gather ‘round all kanes and wahines too,
There’s lots of presents for all of you.”
Quick as a wink Santa gave gifts to all,
To Maile a muumuu, and to Kimo a ball.

Then Santa with a shaka sign to you and to me,
Jumped in da canoe and set out to sea.
He called “Mele Kalikimaka”, as he sailed out of sight,
“Aloha nui loa, and to all a good night.”

Bob Hicks
Christmas 2007

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

Hawaiian Vocabulary

Keikis                    children
Hale                       house or home
Malasadas            deep-fried doughnut – may be filled with pork, coconut, etc.
Kaukau                  food
Haupia                   coconut pudding
LauLau                   pork or fish wrapped in taro or luau leaf
Li Hing mui            candy made from salty plums.
Tutu                        grandma or grandparents
Kanes                     boys
Wahines                 girls or young women
Muumuu                 a loose, brightly colored dress
Shaka sign             sign of friendly intent or  “Hang Loose”
Mele Kalikimaka     Merry Christmas
Aloha nui loa          much love

The Mouse Who Saved Christmas

THE MOUSE WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS

By Robert Z. Hicks

T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, except for a mouse.
He crept to the kitchen and stopped by a chair,
To nibble at breadcrumbs that had tumbled down there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of candy canes danced in their heads.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Saint Nicholas would soon be there.

When up on the housetop there rose such a clatter,
The mouse jumped in alarm and thought, “What’s the matter?”
Down through the chimney came a round little man,
With a bright red suit and a Florida tan.

Over his shoulder was a bag full of toys,
Dolls for the girls, and games for the boys.
Out in the kitchen, still tarrying there,
The mouse heard a scuffle and sounds of despair.

He ran down the hall to a terrible scene,
Santa tangled in cobwebs from last Halloween!
Caught like a fly, he turned and he twisted,
The more to be tangled, the more he resisted.

The mouse was dismayed by an awful thought,
“What will happen to Christmas if Santa stays caught?”
No thought for his safety, he knew what to do,
He leaped to the cobwebs and began to chew.

His teeth flashed in the light from the Christmas tree,
And in no time at all, he had chewed Santa free.
“Oh thank you kind sir,” said Santa to the mouse.
“You’ve saved me, and Christmas, so for you and your spouse,

I’ve two pounds of cheese and chocolates to share,
And a castle to live in under the stair.”
Santa dished out the presents in the blink of an eye,
Then whisked up the chimney with a wink for goodbye.

Stars twinkled above as he jumped to his sleigh,
“Up Dancer, up Prancer, let’s be on our way.
Merry Christmas,” Santa called, as he zoomed out of sight.
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Special Offer

Doing any “Cyber Monday” shopping for Christmas?  We’re offering “Danny the Dragon” in a special with my other two books.

Take a look at the fantastic interactive web page the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) set up for “Danny the Dragon” for Christmas shopping.

Click this link: https://www.scbwi.org/scbwibookstop-display/?id=541823 (This link ends Dec 6)

Sign the guest book and click on the various “blocks” to discover some interesting facts about “Mr. Bob”.  Enjoy

SPECIAL  — instead of clicking on ” Buy the Book”,  give us a call for our Cyber special:  727-842-8314

Buy “Danny the Dragon” and “Mouse in the Manger”, and get “Tommie Turtle’s Secret”” FREE.  Thats all three books for $25, and FREE shipping in the US.

This special offer ends Dec 6th!  Gives us plenty of time to ship it to you before Christmas.

6. My First Memories of Daddy

6.  My First Memories of Daddy

Leland Victor Hicks married Ferne L. Howe on June  2, l921 in Ionia, Michigan.

Leland was 27 years old, Ferne was 25.  Next to Ferne in the picture is Nellie Payne, Ferne’s best friend.  There is no mention of who the man on the right is in the picture.

Mom and Daddy moved to Detroit in 1926; perhaps in order to get a job.  Their daughter Jan was born in Detroit, August 20, 1927.  I, Robert Zala Hicks, was also born in Detroit, July 25, 1935.  I was named Robert, because they liked the name Bob which Daddy used.  Zala was Grandpa Howe’s first name. 

My memories of Daddy started when I was five years old.  Mom told me he took a correspondence course in Accounting and worked at Fisher Body.  They wanted him to keep two sets of books, one for the IRS and one for them with the real numbers, so he quit, and got a job keeping books at a local Buick dealer, Louis Rose Buick Inc.  Daddy told us that the Detroit gangsters came to his dealership to buy their Buicks.

Daddy and some friends formed a German band; Daddy with his big bass horn, Scotty played trumpet, Steve on the trombone, and Otto playing clarinet.  They wore red and white striped shirts and black Derbies.  It was fascinating to watch Steve put a big glass mug of beer on his trombone slide while they played a fast polka…and never spill a drop.  They played almost every weekend at picnics, parties and anniversaries.

When WW11 started, they changed the name to a Polish Band, and played more polkas.  Daddy volunteered for the army, but was rejected because he was too old.

I remember air raid drills.  We closed all the window curtains, and turned out all the lights as part of a “blackout”.  When I peeked out, I could hear sirens wailing, and see searchlights waving through the sky, occasionally highlighting small dirigibles that were supposed to “catch” airplanes. 

Daddy bought me a Mickey Mouse wristwatch which a big kid at school broke, so I was glad when my folks said we were leaving Detroit.

5. Memories of Daddy – Souvenirs

5.  Memories of Daddy – Souvenirs

 Daddy brought an amazing number of souvenirs from Germany, along with the vase from France I mentioned last time. I wanted to share with you the interesting stories behind some of them.

The “churchwarden” or in German, the ”Lesepfeife” or “reading pipe,” was a tobacco pipe with a long stem. Obviously, the longer distance the smoke had to travel made for a cooler smoke, and kept the smoker or reader away from the smoke and heat from the combustion.

 The metal in the middle with the stripes at the top may have had something to do with Daddy’s rank of Corporal, and his grade of “Musician”.

The medal on the leather strap was the Michigan National Guard. The medal with the bars attached had a name of a battle on each bar, such as “Meuse – Argonne” the major decisive battle I mentioned in Blog # 3. 

The Purple Heart is recognized by most people, and was awarded because Daddy was wounded by the arial bomb. 

When I found these German marks showing 100,000, I thought maybe we were rich. Wow!

Checking, I found out they were of no value, because wartime currency was out of date.

4. Memories of Daddy – Home from the War

 4.  Memories of Daddy — Home from the War

WW1 ended in November of 1918, and Daddy was shipped home the following February.  He mentioned “liking” the Germans, so must have been in Germany after the Armistice was signed.  

Daddy was discharged from the army May 23, 1919, at Camp Custer, near Battle Creek Michigan.

Pictures of Daddy’s unit and the army band were on the wall of the large bedroom downstairs.  When and where the pictures were taken is not known.

Daddy came home with an amazing number of souvenirs, so I’m guessing he had many in his tuba case. 

In our possession is a small very colorful Millefiori vase.  Millefiori means “Thousands of Flowers.”  The vase contained a small rolled up paper with the words, “Melli Feri France” written on it.  The paper and the vase are now 100 years old!  An amazing keepsake that Daddy brought home for Mom.

Whenever we had salmon, Daddy refused to eat it.  Mom told us that Daddy’s platoon was caught behind enemy lines, and found an abandoned German boxcar on an isolated side track. It was loaded with cans of salmon.  While they waited a week for American troops to break through, all they ate was salmon.  Daddy declared he would never eat salmon again.

When they returned home, Daddy and his buddies formed a “Last Man’s Club,” and agreed to meet once a year as long as they lasted. They met at the luxurious Pantlind Hotel (now the Amway Grand Plaza) in Grand Rapids, Michigan; brought in a keg of beer, and played poker until the beer was gone.  One of them came from Arizona.  Daddy always came home with $30 to $50 that he won at poker.  Daddy was the last man, surviving after the friend in Arizona could no longer make the trip, and there was no one left to play poker.

3. Memories of Daddy – Off to War: WW1

 3.   Memories of Daddy –  Off to War:  WW1

Leland/Bob/Daddy enlisted in the Army National Guard in Ionia, Michigan, February 7, 1916.  More than 9,000,000 men turned out to register for the draft and join the military, and often were met with bands and cheering crowds.  Going to war was “glamorous.”  Mom told me that if a young man did not volunteer, he might get yellow paint splashed on his front door and porch.

The picture at right is Daddy with Ferne Howe before he left for the Mexican border.  They were married in 1921, two years after his return from the war.  It must have been hard on Mom for him to be gone for three years, and she not knowing if he would return.

England and France had been at war with Germany since 1914 without America being involved.  Anticipating America’s entry in the war the National Guard was sent to the Mexican border on the pretense of catching Pancho Villa, a notorious Mexican bandit.

Daddy said it was to get them ready for combat.  Villa killed more than 30 Americans in a pair of attacks in 1916.  That drew the deployment of a US military expedition into Mexico, but Villa eluded capture during the 11-month manhunt.

Daddy’s only story from that time was when they put a giant Bull Snake in a guy’s sleeping bag because the guy was afraid of snakes.

Daddy was shipped to Brest, France, and was assigned to the 126th Infantry, Headquarters Co. as a medic, and playing tuba in the band.  

He first was in combat at Alsace France, and was in the final and biggest battle of the war at Meuse-Argonne. (Meuse is a river, Argonne a forest)   At Argonne, the allied forces attacked through rough, hilly, heavily forested terrain with 260,000 men on a 30 mile line.  They were opposed by 40 German divisions, estimated to be a total of 600,00 men.  In six weeks, the American forces lost 26,277 men killed, and 95,786 wounded

Daddy was discharged from the army May 23, 1919, at Camp Custer, near Battle Creek Michigan.

Even after age 90, Daddy could rattle off the names of places in Germany where they went.  He told the story of a German biplane flying over with the man in the back throwing grenades down.  Shrapnel hit Daddy’s leg; he would show us the big scar.  He was awarded the Purple Heart.

 

2. Memories of Daddy – the Early Days

 2.   Memories of Daddy – The Early Days

Mom told me Daddy was an all-around athlete in high school, and was captain of the football, basketball, and track teams.  He broke the school record for pole vault at a track meet.  Opposing football teams and fans learned “Leland” and “Ernest,” and began heckling them. Daddy and Ernest took the nicknames of Bob and Steve to confuse them. The names caught on, and they kept using them.

In the basketball team picture, Daddy is center left in the grey shirt. In the football team picture, he is lower left.  I am guessing that he was wearing a different shirt than the others because he was the captain.

 

After high school Daddy and Steve played baseball for the Ionia team, with Steve as pitcher, and Daddy as catcher.  Because Mom was so laudatory of Daddy’s playing baseball, I thought he played for the Detroit Tigers. 

Daddy and I played “catch” in the driveway.  I had an old glove so thin that it hurt my hand when I caught the ball, so Daddy let my use his old catcher’s mitt, which was probably two inches thick, and as big around as Mom’s apple pie.  But, to catch the ball, it had to hit the center hole in the middle of the glove.  Most of the time, the ball hit the glove outside the hole, and bounced away, so I had to go get it.

Leland’s (Bob) first job was Janitor at the Ionia State Savings Bank, where Steve was a bookkeeper. Then Steve went to school, and Bob moved up to bookkeeper.

1914-15, Daddy’s father John worked for the International Harvester Company, repairing farm equipment. The records show that John Hicks, acquired a farm south of Ionia in 1900, with 160 acres, and had 3 children, 6 horses, 20 cattle, and a Ford.  Nothing was ever said about Daddy and Steve having a sibling, so she/he must have died young.

Because Daddy had been so involved with sports in high school, I wanted to please him by playing sports.  I went out for everything.  In baseball, I didn’t know I needed glasses, so I couldn’t see the ball coming in time to hit it.  In football, I was too small, and I didn’t like getting hurt.  I was on the third team in basketball, but my arms didn’t seem strong enough to get the ball to the basket.  At last, I played all season on the tennis team, but we never won, so I didn’t get a letter.

My career in sports was embarrassing, but Daddy seemed proud that I did well in music, working my way to First Chair trumpet in the marching band.  After I was paralyzed, the band director put me in a tuba on a stand, so I could play in the concert band.  Daddy bought a stand, so I could practice at home with his big tuba.