Am I Really Old?

January 28, 2018 — 1 Comment

I am 74 years old and there are days when I think or feel that maybe I’m old. I have out lived my dad and my Grandfather and am closing in on my Great Grandfather. I have a terminal illness that may kill me sooner than later. Because my cancer is dormant I live in 90 day buckets between PT scans. Don’t know what the protocol is if it wakes up but I will follow Doctors orders when that time comes.

Every morning after a bit of game playing I drink coffee and read the Indy Star. Don’t know if you have noticed but on page 2 there is a very short but meaningful prayer. So after reading the front page and various items on page 2 &3 I read the short prayer and then say my 2nd prayer of the day then on to the obits. By training and profession I was at one time a licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer. Out of habit Funeral Directors read the obits for the same reasons I do every day. First to see if there is anyone I know including myself listed and to see where the business went. So this morning I wondered how I stacked up against those who were in the obits. An aside; few people die anymore, they pass away, end their journey, entered heaven, went to be with the Lord, passed quietly, and a few you have no Idea, they just have an obit. There were 46 obits in the paper this morning and an interesting 5 had no age listed, vanity till the last and 3 died. When I looked at the demographics there were 18 people who died that were younger than me and 23 who were older, the oldest being 97years old.

When I was a lot younger, and even in1976 when I went to embalming school, if someone lived to age 97 they were an exception to the rule. There were very few couples who made it to 50 years of marriage but there were a few and there were huge open houses and parties to celebrate. My grandparents made it to 50+ years and my great grandparent made it to 75 years but my folk were 2 months shy of 50 years when my dad died 27 years ago.

Whenever I breathe my last, I died! I will not have been predeceased by anyone. They just died before I did so they preceded me in death; seems like political correction has even gotten into the business of dying.

Back to the beginning, I am 74 and based on the obits this morning I am almost at the mid-point of normal life. If I live 4+ more years I will have out lived 3 generations of Isley’s.  Am I old, it depends on who you ask. If you ask my 95 year old mother she will probably say, if she can hear you, no but if you ask the grand kids they will say yes. I wonder what old will be when the grand kids get to be 74.

So, am I old or past my prime? You will have to ask someone else because I really don’t know the answer. I don’t know how you are supposed to feel when your 74. If you know the answer let me know.

Thanks for listening,

Richard Isley

The crotchety old man

Giving Thanks

January 19, 2018 — 1 Comment


I am 74 and this last year I have dealt with a lot of medical conditions the major one is lung cancer. My cancer was very late in being diagnosed (stage four) and when treatment was started I was almost dead, I think, though the Doctors never said that. The treatment plan was laid out with no guarantees at all; 21 days of radiation treatment and 6 chemo treatments of 3 days every 3 ½ weeks. That sounds simple enough, right. I may have over simplified my condition. I had small cell carcinoma of the lung in several places; in my brain, lung, breast bone, 5th lumbar vertebra, and a few spots in my ribs.

I had no pain until November 2016 when my lower back began to hurt and progressively got worse and when I was admitted to St. Frances Hospital I could hardly stand the pain even while taking Hydrocodone every 6 hours. Another painful area was the breast bone which began to hurt on Christmas day and was so painful that I went to the ER at Johnson Memorial Hospital where after 2 X rays I was told “we don’t know what it is. Use this pain patch and take these antibiotics and go see your Doctor.” I finally got in to see a Dr. Robert Daly and after a quick look at a PT scan taken in December 2016 he said you have cancer and we need to take a biopsy to determine what kind. The results were Small cell carcinoma of the lung and the Dr. said you need to go to St. Francis immediately and see Dr. Ikhlaque. I was immediately admitted and my treatment began.

Over the last year I have lost 60 # but have regained 25 #. Almost lost the use of my left leg but now get around without assistance. I was almost brain dead because of prescription drug overdose but now am back to normal, whatever that is.

I do have an advantage over most folks because unless I get run over by a Mack truck or hit by a train, I know what I am going to die from, small cell carcinoma of the lung. You see, the cancer never goes into remission. It has in my case becomes dormant and so I live in 3 months buckets of time between C.T. scans, now that’s not bad considering my condition of almost a year ago last January.  I now have 3 buckets under my belt and that’s close to a year.

I write this, not for sympathy, but for thanksgiving. Thanks to my God and his son Jesus and the many folks who prayed for my recovery and to Dr. Ikhlaque and the staff of St. Frances Hospital. Most importantly thanks to my wonderful wife and my kids who went thru the difficult time with me. So now I say that this is indeed a year of thanksgiving. Hopefully I will be able to write more on my blog because that is fun.

Thanks for listening,

Richard Isley

The Crotchety Old Man

Life on the Pond

January 9, 2018 — 1 Comment

We have lived here on the pond for 4 years and even though this last year has been, for me, a struggle for I have not been out to enjoy it.  All I can do is look out the window and every now then catch a fish jumping and, until he passed, watch my friend Bill Monroe pull in some big ones.

Then there are the birds. Occasionally we see the Great Blue Herron but with all the rain we have had this summer the pond was very murky which does not allow the heron to see his prey. So I guess the herons fished mainly in the creek. We also have had Bald eagles visit the area but now I’m the only bald bird around. We have fed birds for many years. Before we moved to the reservation we went thru at least 100# of bird seed a month plus almost all the beef suite that Krogers would have out for sale. We had 4 different kinds woodpeckers and at least 25 to 30 different kinds of song birds at our feeders every day. Then we moved.

The first year we kind of let the birds go until fall and winter and we had a few takers. There is nothing that brightens your day more than watching Gold Finches feed on the thistle sock. The second and third year we began to get lots of visitors to the feeders and really enjoyed them. And then! The fall of 2016 I began to decline, with no energy and I let the feeders go empty. The birds went elsewhere to find food. Because of my medical problems there was no bird feeding until about a month ago when I began to be out a bit and Linda and I bought some new feeders and lots of seed and guess what? Few if any birds have shown up to partake. Our biggest customers are a couple of squirrels and the ducks and geese that clean up after the squirrels.

Being the fix all things kind of person I sent the wife to Tractor Supply to buy a couple of squirrel retarders to keep them away from the bird feeders and she came home with the hardware and some ear corn for the poor squirrels who were going to starve if they couldn’t get to the feeders. We have found out that the squirrels don’t eat the whole kernel of corn, just the heart. However we have one feeder just for sunflower seeds for mainly Cardinals and I have to go work on that feeder because it is too close to the ground (words from one of my favorite Willie songs) and the biggest squirrel can jump to the feeder tray avoiding the squirrel guard.

Now to the real problem, we still have very few birds and I think I have figured out the problem. We have a very large blue spruce tree at the end of our patio and it has always been a shelter for bunches of birds year round. Now we have a new resident in the tree. A Sharp Shinned Hawk whose sole diet consists of birds. This happen a couple of times when we lived in the country. The hawk would stay close and the birds would leave and finally the hawk would get hungry and leave for better pickings and the birds would return. I’m hoping this hawk gets hungry soon and I can figure out how to keep the squirrel off the bird feeder. I really do miss watching the birds feed and I hope they return soon.

I have already and will continue to miss my great fisherman friend Bill but maybe by spring I can start fishing again and maybe I too can catch a big one.

Thanks for listening,

Richard Isley

The crotchety old man

The Race

December 8, 2017 — Leave a comment

It must have been 1960 or maybe 1961 but I was in High school at Whiteland. At that time the only sports available were baseball and basketball. But, in 1961 they started a track team with Mr. Hyday as the coach. Never was sure if Mr. Hyday had any experience at coaching track but I went out for the team. Made the team as there weren’t too many to choose from and practice began.  Track team practice at that time consisted of running and more running and run we did.

We only had 2 or 3 meets that 1st year and they were only against freshman teams at other schools that had track programs.  Don’t think we won any meets but we had fun running. I ran the high hurdles, 440 and to my cringe the mile.  Didn’t know about the mile until the night before the meet and I thought I’d die before the mile was completed. Not sure but I pretty much believe I was last in that race.

I will admit that I was probably pretty cocky at that time in my life like so many teen are, even today. In my mind I am sure I thought I was indeed the fasted runner on earth. We lived on a small farm and I had plenty of chores to do every day, before and after school. Feed the chickens (500)and gather the eggs, Feed the sheep(100) and make sure the cattle(10) and the ponies (3)and horse had food and water.

Now for the big race! It was a Sunday I’m sure and we had been visiting family and we had stayed probably too long because It was late when we got home and my dad for the first time I could remember offered to help do the chores. Wow, what an opportunity.  I could see at that moment the great feeling I was going to have watching my dad do the chores because we were going to have a race.

I will now layout the race course for you. From the back door to the barnyard fence was about 30 feet and from the fence to the barn was about 150 feet. The fence was a three rail decorative fence that we had put chicken wire on the inside to keep the lambs from getting out. So simple and easy, I am the hurdler and I’ll be over that fence like a shot from a rifle and on my way to the barn before my dad even gets started.

The bet. So, being the smarty that I was I said, “Why don’t we race to the barn and the looser does all the chores.” And dad said,” OK go” and he was off. He was over the fence before I could get off my butt and start running.  He was like a gazelle going over that fence and I about broke my neck going over the fence while watching him beat me to the barn. Needless to say I lost because when I got to the barn dad was setting there on a hay bale lighting a cigarette, smiling. And he said, “I guess you’ll be doing all the chores tonight.” I agreed to my loss and started feeding the show sheep in the barn.

As I was going about my business dad proceeded to tell me about his track experiences at Flatrock High School. Seems he set the Shelby count high jump record the stood for over 15 years and the high hurdle record that he thought might still stand at that time. He also told me that one needs to check out the competition before making wagers that could be painful.  He was a good sport though and after finishing his smoke he did help finish the chores.

This was just one of the many things I learned from my dad. Now 60 years later I will do something and ask myself, how did you know how to do that and the answer is always; I guess dad showed me.

Thanks for listening,

Richard Isley

The Crotchety Old Man

I know that I am not by myself in my dislike, no detest, of automated answering services. When I have a problem I want to talk to a real person. I don’t want to listen to options 1 thru 9 of possible problems that are not even close to what I need and leave me hanging for an answer of what to do next. They have mostly learned to disconnect the “0” option to get to a real person so you are left with no recourse except to be totally pissed! I really miss the old heavy desk phones that you could angrily throw into the cradle without fear of breaking. Although once, when I was still working I threw the phone so hard that when the receiver bounce out of the cradle the little buttons came out with it. I think that was the maddest I ever got at my boss! But, it did make me feel better! These new phones just don’t have enough weight or character.

I am having a problem getting to the Indianapolis Star’s web page. There is no option given by the sweet lady on the recording that addresses my problem. If I go to the subscription service option the lady on that recording has a voice that sounds like finger nails on a blackboard, still no option to address online problems. I’ve tried email but no reply yet.

Wall-Greens when you call to get a refill on a prescription the auto system is so redundant that I sometime think it would be better to drive to the store to place the request. The lady asks for the prescription number then “checks” to see if it can be refilled then asks if you want it refilled. Why do they think I call in the first place? I have most of the prompt numbers memorized and try to outsmart the system by giving the answers before they ask the questions. Makes me feel really superior to their computer! Oh! And when they call to tell you that your prescription is ready the recording tells you twice that it is ready and then says this message will be repeated and then tells you two more times.

You call a credit card company and ask for you balance and the voice says, let me check on that for you and you hear,” Dum dum dum dee dum” and then the voice returns and says “I found it”. Do they really think I believe that?

I think the worst automated service belongs to Johnson Memorial Hospital and the doctors who practice there. I try not to be prejudiced but it really gets under my skin when the voice on the recording to remind me of my appointment is so oriental that they cannot pronounce my name correctly. It’s ISLEY not IEY! I know it’s not a common name but please, try.

To the folks who design the automated systems, do you really think we don’t know it’s a recording. Do you think for a moment that we are so unintelligent that we believe we are talking to a real person? I don’t think so. I think if those in charge who buy these systems would listen to them they would be embarrassed. Don’t you?

Thanks for listening.

Richard Isley

The Crotchety Old Man

The Rail

October 24, 2017 — Leave a comment

I suppose it was just before the beginning of the Great War (WWI) when two brothers growing up in a very small town in a very rural county of a mostly agricultural state pulled off an amazing heist. Perfectly legal they had permission. I’m sure the instigators of the idea for the heist forever scratched their heads in wonder. If, I have raised your curiosity, I will begin the story. A true story, probably greatly embellished, but none the less true in its intent.

Don’t know exactly when, so I’m going to say summer of maybe 1916 two brothers, the youngest boys of a very large family were growing up in Norristown, Indiana on the extreme southwestern corner of Shelby County. Not a whole lot to do but work. Their dad and older brothers farmed a lot of ground, about 1000 acres.  It took lots of horses and mules to do the work so the basic farm chores were left to the younger boys and the unmarried girls still at home. There were cows to milk, hogs to feed and eggs to gather and in the summer, a huge garden to tend.

It is difficult to imagine the long days and back breaking work involved in farming in 1916. Up before the sun, breakfast and preparing the horses for the mornings work. Feed the horses, brush the horses, harness the horses, check the shoes and repair if needed all by lantern lite.  The boys helped and after the men left for the fields they cleaned up after the horses and took on the rest of the morning chores.

It was probably a Thursday or Friday that the boys went to town on an errand for their dad.  Something I think at the hardware store. As they came into the town of Hope, about 6 miles south of their home they noticed a railroad crew setting around eating lunch. They stopped to talk and asked lots of questions like young boys do.  Whatca doing. Why are you replacing the rails? Is it hard work? Question after question.

As the boys continued talking and being harassed by the older railroad workers one of the boys had an idea. A railroad rail would be perfect for poling corn stalks! Now, I assume you don’t know what “poling stalks” is. To paraphrase “Jeopardy” How do you make corn stalks manageable to plow next spring? The answer is; pole them.

I really think poling stalks was a way to teach young boys how to handle work horses and it seemed that young boys could handle cold , really cold , mornings better than old men.  You had a pole, or a log that you hitched a horse to each end and drug the pole across a corn field with the corn rows. The idea was to break off the stock at ground level and cause it to lay flat to the ground with all the stocks laying in the same direction. To be successful, this job had to be done while the stalks were frozen so that they snapped off, clean and all laying in the same direction.  So, early in the morning before the sun could warm up the stalks and not too fast because if the pole bounced there would be standing stalks and a father’s ire, cold slow boring work to say the least.

Amid all the banter one of the boys, I’ll guess Frank, asked,” how could we get one of these old rail.  I think we could make good use of it at the farm. The workers laughed and told the boys “help yourself.”

If you can load it you can have it. Much laughter ensued as the older men were having great fun with the rube farm boys! Wow they thought and they tried to lift a rail to load it in the wagon. Do you have any idea how much a rail road rail weighs? (About 528#for a 12 foot rail.) It normally takes 4 men with rail lifting tools to carry a rail. Needless to say they could not lift the rail and the men sat howling.  Embarrassed, the boy left to finish their errand.

On the way home, which seemed to them a really long trip due to the frustration, embarrassment, and humiliation, they talked about the rail and how it would make poling stalks so much easier. Somewhere along the way they had the idea! Don’t know which one started the conversation but by the time they entered the barn lot the plan had been finalized.

Saturday, the railroad crew didn’t work. So the escapade began. They loaded all the tools and things they needed to accomplish the heist.  Not a heist but just retrieving a gift. Remember the railroad guys had told them, “If you can load it you can have it” The trip to Hope was full of talk and rehashing the plan. They knew exactly how to bring the rail home.

When they got to the rail yard they rolled a rail away from the pile until it was far enough to start the removal plan. The team and wagon was driven over the rail until the double tree was just past the end of it. Using pry bars and blocks they worked first one end then the other. Raising the rail slowly and with a great expense of boyish energy they kept at it until the rail was up against the axles. Now the easy part. Chain the rail to the axles and go home. Mission accomplished!

I’m not sure if the rail ever worked as planned. I guess I just forgot to ask the question. But, I know the story is true because once when I retold the story at the Isley reunion one of Frank Isley’s grandsons said, “So that’s where that rail behind the barn came from.”

Thanks for listening,

Richard Isley

The Crotchety Old Man