Lipstick on the Pig

Years ago when I was small my family spent about seven years living in a house trailer. This was a single wide probably about seven hundred square feet. My father had this placed on top of a concrete block foundation with a mechanical room, bedroom, living room and laundry in the basement, this nearly doubled the living space. This was my parents and five of us kids. We lived next to my grandparents with a shared driveway and yard.
Three bedrooms, one bathroom, a small kitchen and dining room were on the first floor. Dad had also built a small addition on the back of the trailer that was maybe 144 square feet. Altogether that probably gave us 1300 square feet or so of actual living space.
The pig was of course that trailer, and the lipstick to my mind was the basement and the addition on the back.

Pretty sure Dad saw this cabin in his minds eye. But he ended up with something else.

This is the house that I grew up in as it looks today. That door on the left with no stairs was where my Dad jumped from it down into the open hole where the new septic system was located and then bounced off the top of said tank. The roof is new, when we lived there it was a flat trailer roof with tires on it to hold the tin down. The large window over on the right in the basement was something recovered from an old barn and recycled before recycling was cool.
I remember a lot of good times from that place as we lived there twice with a couple of years gap when we moved away and then back. Christmas Eves over at my grandparents house on the other side of that driveway. Eating so much pumpkin pie I threw up later that night.


We lived next to my Grandparents when I was growing up, it made for some good times between my Father and Grand Father.

One time a family of birds made a nest in the eaves of the addition my dad built. The addition contained my parents bedroom and the sound of the baby birds would wake my mother every morning. She insisted my father remove the birds, so he found a good use for them.
Dad caught those babies and put them in a paper lunch bag, took them over to my grandparents house in the evening when grandpa had fallen asleep in his favorite chair and placed the bag on the floor near grandpa. Then dad snuck back outside and watched through the window as the birds began to make noises and escape from the bag. My grand father woke up to the noise and sat there trying to figure out what on earth was going on while dad stood outside the window laughing.
Every year grandpa would plant a garden and my father would plant one to try and compete with his. Each would brag about what they were growing and egg the other on. One year dad had a row of potatoes in, one plant did so much better than the others it was two or three times the size of everything else. It turns out my grand father would wait until dark and sneak over to put fertilizer on that one plant, then come over and mention to my dad how well that one plant was doing and wonder out loud why it was so much bigger than the others. He did this all summer finally telling dad what was going on, they both had a good laugh over that.
There was a truck that grandpa had down by the road and was trying to sell. He also had an old mannequin. He took that mannequin and left the legs hanging out of the hood, boy the cars slowed up and some even stopped to look at that. Not sure how long it took to sell that truck but it did raise some interest in it.

Darkest Days

My Mother considers these days a failure, I think they are a triumph for her and my Father. I might have killed myself after a year like this for them they both survived and were still together when it was over.
We lived in an old farmhouse in the town of Root. It was cold and drafty. We had no phone because it was disconnected. My Father was between jobs. We eventually were asked to leave because the rent wasn’t paid for months. Things happen, yes they do. My parents church stepped in and cleaned up the rent payments at that house.
It wasn’t all bad, I remember a lot of kids in this house including the five of us and friends coming over. We made root beer and a few of the jars exploded from the pressure, what a mess all over the ceiling and walls. It was the 1980’s and I listened to John Cougar Mellencamp singing Jack & Diane.
One night after dark we saw a State Police cruiser going up and down the road shining a spotlight on the houses looking for house numbers. He was looking for our house, Dad was out working or looking for work or something. It turned out the hospital sent the trooper because we had no phone. My sister had been in for some tests related to why she wasn’t feeling well and her epilepsy medication didn’t seem to be working. The trooper didn’t say what was going on but the hospital wanted my sister in Cooperstown immediately. My mom was home with us four kids, no car, and no phone.  I think she went to the neighbors and borrowed the phone reached my father and somehow made arrangements with a family friend to get a ride.
My sister was diagnosed with Leukemia, and along with my parents she went off to Syracuse for treatment. Mom and Dad stayed in the Ronald McDonald House there while she spent some time in the hospital. Eventually my parents had care transferred to Albany Medical Center and Dr Aronson.
There were more stays at the Ronald McDonald house in NYC and Albany, while she underwent more treatments. Things didn’t go well and the doctors were talking about doing a bone marrow transplant.
We all went in and had blood tests done to find the closest match for a donor. My youngest brother Andrew fainted from the sight of blood and my middle brother Chris turned out to be the closest match.
For a while everything spiraled out of control we moved twice more, once to Richmondville and then back to the house trailer on Mineral Springs Rd. There was a half step in between with a move over to 145 next to the Catafalmo’s, but when they found out about the rent not being paid at the last place they wouldn’t rent to us.
My Grandfather died in the spring and my Uncle on his way up from Florida to collect a few things from my Grandfather was killed in a traffic accident in August. September 10th 1984 my sister died from the Leukemia.

Doug “Maintenance Man” Smith

It’s a little known fact that “Maintenance Man” was my fathers nick name. Some people claim he got this for the regular twenty thousand mile oil change but I know the truth.

In about 1979 – 1980 we lived in a house that had a bathroom added on where it had once been a porch. Every winter the pipes would freeze out there because they went out of the basement and into the area that was the porch. This was enclosed from the outside by some plywood, concrete blocks and not a whole lot more. My father would wake up in the middle of the night during January to the sound of an ice plug in the water line hitting the corner in those pipes. He would then run to the basement and get the torch out to heat that area of copper pipe and melt the plug down before things got worse and a pipe burst.
Sometimes to keep the plug from forming he would just go in that bathroom and run the water every hour or so. Unfortunately this was before global warming so we had to deal with temperatures below zero on a regular basis. Some people think they would have just put some heat tape on that pipe or maybe even insulated the area but since we only lived there for about two years it was more cost effective to keep the torch on hand or just run the water every now and then.
As a side note, my mother told me the payments on that house were about $40 a month. I am writing this at about three AM since I just made the rounds of the house to run water through all the pipes. It’s a family tradition.


I’m starting to plan for vacation this year and when I do this, I begin to think of vacations from my past.
There was the trip to Florida/Kentucky/Pennsylvania when I was a kid, that set the bar for everything else. My oldest sister stayed at college a bit long so she could avoid the vacation. Mom, Dad and the four kids all piled into the car for the trip down. The car was a 1970’s Ford LTD wagon with a slipping transmission, broken AC, and an exhaust leak into the back. I think Dad said the exhaust leak helped to keep us kids a little calmer.
We packed everything in and headed out. We made it down to Gettysburg and then some money was borrowed from Beneficial Finance, so we could get back home. Did Dad forget to pack the vacation funds? Before we left Mom and Dad argued about going to Florida or Kentucky. Dad was for Kentucky and Mom Florida, as it turned out Pennsylvania was the final destination.
We spent a very good week around Gettysburg, visiting the battlefield and in general having a good time. We stayed in a motel with a kitchenette and two rooms, all six of us.

The motel had TV with Buck Rogers, the old black and white version not the newer colour series that came out later on.

We drove to Hershey and didn’t visit the amusement park because that was to much, when we got to the gate and found out the cost. We visited a wax museum near Gettysburg and toured the visitors center museum there. For years afterwards I had a copy of the Gettysburg address and Confederate money that I bought while we were there.
We had sandwiches in the car with the windows rolled up because it was raining, the temperatures were in the high eighty’s. Wonder bread, bologna, and warm mustard. The humidity so high you fingers went through the Wonder bread and the bologna was warm. We stopped on the way back to upstate NY and visited a water park near Durham in the Catskill’s.

That was the only vacation that I recall from my childhood.

The week in review

This week on my way into work I was stopped behind a school bus waiting for the kids to get on. At one house there must have been four or five kids but this one boy just sat on the steps. He was maybe eight years old or so. His sister came back off the bus and tried to get him to go on the bus, but he wouldn’t budge.
After a few minutes the mother came out and she talked to the boy as well, but still he was not going on the bus. No how no way.
Finally the mother takes him under the arms and picks him up. He is kicking and hollering the entire time. As she gets him to the bus door and trues to push him in he makes his escape.
Running down the yard behind the house and out of sight, we didn’t see him again. The mother finally gave up and waved the bus off.
We didn’t see him out front waiting for the bus for the rest of the week.