The Gravel Box.

November 8, 2018 — Leave a comment

In the early part of the 20th century roads were not much more that dirt paths, especially in the rural areas. Some counties in Indiana, to help farmers earn money to pay their taxes and a means to put gravel on the roads, created a system of township road commissioners who were appointed to oversee the hauling and spreading and grading of the roads. My Great Grandfather, Lewis Isley, was the road commissioner in Washington Township, Shelby County.  Hauling gravel was usually done in the winter and was cold hard work not just for the farmers but for the horses as well. Wagons were fitted with “gravel boxes” that held ¼ yard of gravel and they had slats on the bottom so that when they arrived at the designated place the slats were turned and the gravel ran out as they drove down the road.  The gravel was hauled from various sand/gravel bars in nearby creeks or rivers. The teams were driven into the streams and the farmers would shovel the gravel to fill the box. Not sure what a ¼ yard of grave weighs but I’m sure it is heavy and the horses or mules had to pull the load up the bank which only the best could do without serious yelling and whipping. Many bets were made and it became a really a boisterous occasion.

My great Grandfather was a very honest man and of those hauling gravel his 7 sons and son-in-law’s were participants. Therefore it was critical to him that his “boys” abided by the rules. Gravel boxes were measured so that everyone hauled a full and proper load.

So now the story belongs to another, Great uncle Plato.  To those directly related to him I apologize because I don’t think he was a bad man just different. I do remember him when I was probably seven and he was a very old then. But I do remember stories my dad told about his uncle Plato and how he lived. Different, very primitive, and almost beyond belief even in the late 1940’s. No screen doors, chickens in the kitchen and on the table. At family reunions we always got there early and dad would set at the food table so he could watch who brought what because he would not eat food brought by certain relatives. I soon learned to follow dad thru the line when food was served. I have digressed, but there were many really good people from Uncle Plato’s family and to them I mean no offense.

Uncle Plato built a new gravel box and it was quite a bit short of the ¼ yard. He painted it and then added a 1 or 2 inch unpainted board on top to make people think that the box had been measured and the unpainted boards added to bring it up to the specifications. However, even with the addition it was still short of the ¼ yard.  He thought that no one would question the volume because surly everyone would know that someone had made him put the box into proper configuration, even his dad. Boy was he wrong! The 1st time he hauled gravel for his dad Great Granddad measured the box and made him add more boards so that he hauled the proper amount he was being paid for.

This story was told to me by my Grandfather, Webb Isley and was not so much about his brother Plato but about his father and how honest he was and how he expected everyone to be honest including his own children.

Thanks for listening

Richard Isley

The Crotchety Old Man

Edited and approved by Linda


Billy Goat

October 5, 2018 — Leave a comment

To tell this story I need to introduce a couple of important players.  First, my mother Tillie Isley who was a wonderful mother and house keeper. In addition she ,along with my great grandmother Ruby , were great gardeners who took great pride in their flowers. Second, my uncle Marvin Isley, a great prankster ,salesman and later on a pretty good preacher.  If Uncle Marvin came to vist you knew he had been there because the lawn chairs would be stacked in front of the doors and other things out of place. Now to the story.

My mom and dad built a house in 1956 on ten acres just outside of Greenwood. Nothing fancy just a three bedroom one bath ranch. The house was built with a flower box in front of the living room windows that ran the length of the room. That fall we worked hard at lining the drive with lime stone rocks hauled from the Norristown Stone Quarry. These beds were filled with chrysanthemum and spring flower bulbs. The flower box at the front window was built into the house not added on. The flower box was filled with dirt and planted with some perennials flowers and many spring flower bulbs.

While the women worked on the flowers dad and I worked at fencing a barn lot and garden area. We also built a 24×36 ft. pole barn. This endeavor took most of the winter to complete and we had it mostly done when the grass started to turn green.

I think it was a Sat. after lunch when we had a visitor. Uncle Marvin and the boys, Terry and Mike. They were standing at the back door holding a cardboard box that was moving. Uncle Marvin was laughing and we invited them in. For a moment my mother was speechless. And then out popped the goat. A Baby goat.  A very cute baby goat. And Uncle Marvin said” every boy needs a baby goat’. He said they had just left a goat for my Uncle Randy who is 10 months younger than I. Again he was laughing about how every boy needs a goat.

About this time my dad came home from work and everyone is laughing about the goat except mom. How are we going to feed it and what are we going to feed it? With that Uncle Marvin produced a coke bottle with a nipple attached and a box of Carnation powered milk. Just feed him twice a day. That began my time as a goat herder. Feed the goat in the morning before school and then feed the goat after school and most days feed the goat before bed time. We kept Billy in a pen in the barn and I let him out in the evenings to nibble a bit on the fresh grass. Billy was growing rapidly and we were told by mom that the goat was getting out of the barn and eating the grass in the back yard. We needed a better fence to keep him in the barn yard.

So, the following weekend dad and I nailed chicken wire fence on the inside of the decorator fence to keep the growing little fellow contained in the barnyard. It wasn’t too long before Billy figured out how to get to the greener grass on the other side of the fence. So every evening I would have to find how and where he got out and fix it. Not an easy job.

Billy was getting almost big enough to wean off milk when we decided to get one more box of powdered milk and that would be the last. So mom drove to Greenwood and ran into Jennings Grocery store and got a box of carnation powered milk. Back to the house we went; time to feed Billy. I was getting the warm water ready to mix the milk when I took the box out of the sack and guess what? Carnation Chocolate Milk! Mom, we got to go back to the store y                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             ou got the wrong milk. We have to go back to the store.I am not going back to the store she said. The goat will either finish his nursing on chocolate milk or starve. And so Billy quickly learned that chocolate milk was good and he loved it.

Time passed and it wasn’t long before it was getting almost impossible to keep Billy in the barn yard. And so it was that when I got home this particular evening I knew mom was very angry. Mad might have been a better word. I went about the rest of my chores and was in the house when dad got home. Carl that goat has to go! He was in the flower bed eating the tulips off and everything else he could find. I want him gone today!

After supper dad made a couple of phone calls then he and I went to the barn and built a crate to put in the car to haul Billy off! The next morning when I went to feed Billy he was gone. To this day I have no idea of where dad took him but I’m sure he made someone a fine pet if not a tasty barbeque.

Sometime later my mother told the real story about Billy. She confessed to taking a nap most afternoons in the living room. On the infamous day before Billie’s departure she was startled awake by Billy looking at her through the front windows eating a tulip. Dad asked if she peed her pants and she emphatically said no. He laughed and said I’ll bet you did!

To this day I have no idea where dad took Billy. We never talked about the damn goat. So I just think about some kids playing with Billy and having lots of goat fun!

Thanks for listening

Richard Isley

The Crotchety Old Man

Edited and approved by Linda

The Buick Roadmaster

September 26, 2018 — Leave a comment

During the 1950’s Detroit built some really great looking cars. They also built some “tanks”. The 1955 Buick Roadmaster straight 8 was a car that was both. The Buick was unique because it had holes in the hood. The best reason for the holes I could figure was to tell the Buick from the Pontiac and Oldsmobile. Safety experts would probable argue with me but I really believe that if a 55 Buick ran into a modern car there would be little left of the newer model. The huge chrome plated solid steel bumpers would be like a Capital One battering ram. The new plastic cars would not stand a chance.

Now the “55” Buick only got about 10 mpg but no one really cared or even checked the mileage. Gas was $.25/gal. You could go a long ways on a dollars’ worth because with the roads of the day there weren’t many places to go just to be going. Travel was or could be a real pain.

We have a 2009 Saturn Vue, a soon to be forgotten model/brand name that got the ax during the last great financial crisis/recession/depression (depending on your financial position at the time) but we really love our Vue. We intend to keep it as long as it looks good and performs well.

However, several times over the last few months I have set at a stop light waiting for the green, and I will admit that I have a heavy foot and am quick off the line, the light turns green and I’m off but I have to slam on the brakes (Saturn’s have good brakes) and wait on 2 or 3 cars to run their light on red. Am I pissed? You better believe it!

And then, and then, and then wouldn’t it be neat to have a “55” Buick?? Just wait on the green light and go! Just leave a pile of junk in middle of the intersection. Go on down the road to Mickey D’s and have a coffee, (they have the best coffee in the world) while someone cleans up the pile of junk. Then line up at the light and do it again. You know sooner or later all the idiots that think that there is really time for 1 or 2 more cars thru the red light, will be gone and we would be able to retire the “55” Buick again.

Wouldn’t that really be fun?

Thanks for listening

Richard Isley

The Crotchety Old Man

Edited and approved by Linda

Her Name was Fred

September 16, 2018 — Leave a comment

Fred was a cat. She was about 17 when we had to say goodbye. She was a good cat, a great hunter, and a royal pain in the ass. Here is her story.

It was 1984 when Linda Hunt, single mom with 2 teenagers started building a house. With the help of her brother-in-law and his cronies and her dad they finally finished the house in1986. It was about this time that I came down the road and Linda’s and my romance began. Shortly after this, daughter Lisa came home from school and said, “Mom, you remember you said I could have a cat after you got the house built” “Well here it is, this is Fred.” She went on to say that Fred was definitely a boy and when he is older we can have him fixed.

Kittens are cute and Fred made himself at home and rapidly became one of the family. Shortly after the arrival of Fred brother Chris came home with his “promised” snake. But that’s another story for another time. Fred made himself at home and everyone love Fred except for this one quirk. Fred would jump up on your lap and of course you would start petting him. He world purr and you would think he is going to sleep. When all of sudden he would jump up and bite you and leave. He never broke the skin and continued the quirk until he died.

Fred’s biggest downfall was, like most cats, he liked to hide. So, a couple of times he got locked in one of the kids bedrooms. And when he wanted out he wanted out. There was no one in the house to open the door so Fred tried his best to get out. He scratched at the door and clawed at the carpet to no avail. When the door was finally opened tempers flared! Fred was banished from the house!

About 3 months later I was at the house romancing when I noticed that Fred looked funny. Upon close examination I figured out 2 things; 1) Fred is a girl and 2) Fred is pregnant. Needless to say the whole house was in a tizzy. Lisa assured Linda that she would find homes for the kittens. And Linda relented that Fred could have the kittens in the house with everyone promising to never lock Fred in a closed room. Fred soon delivered 4 kittens and they were soon playing all over the house.

Before Lisa could find homes for all the kittens I guessed it was time to have Fred “fixed” a hysterectomy if you will. We took Fred to Dr. Tom Reed at Bargersville for the surgery and he reported that Fred had 5 embryos and was recovering well. Come get her in the morning. Fred recovered and was soon put outside forever. And for the next 16 years she tried to get in the house every time a door was opened.

Fred stayed on the front porch mostly and we had a dog crate for her to sleep in. She ate and drank on the porch and almost every day left a souvenir of her hunting prowess. There were mouse heads, mouse gall bladders, half eaten chipmunk and even a very small weasel. Fred ruled the neighborhood for several years.

We got new neighbors and with them came several kittens. As the kittens became full grown cats they started eating Fred’s food.  Fred would let them have it but sometimes a cat fight would ensue. The feeding the neighbors cats soon became a nuisance and I stared a campaign of re-homing the neighbor’s cats. It only took about a week and the neighborhood cat population was under control. Fred was back in control. However one day I noticed Fred had huge lump on the side of her face.

I took Fred to Dr. Reed and he said it was an infection probably from a cat fight. I left Fed there and Dr. Reed lanced the infection and kept her overnight. I picked her up the next day and he said to keep her inside for 2 weeks and gave me antibiotics to give her every day. Have you ever given a cat a pill? You can’t hide in their food or treats. You have to “simply” poke it down their throat hopefully not losing any fingers.

When I got Fred home I put her in a large dog crate in the garage with some water to drink when she woke up from her stupor. Evening came and Fred was still zonked out but I did put a dish of cottage cheese in with her so when she came to and was hungry she could eat a little. Lights out, bed time.

Next morning after a cup of coffee and time to let the dogs out I went to the garage and opened the door and turned on the light and looked down and Fred is still out of it. But, there is something in the crate with her. I step down into to garage and went to her crate and there were 2 dead mice. The mice must have come after the cottage cheese and Fred came out of her stupor just enough to kill them and then go back to sleep.

Wow, no one is ever going to believe this. What to do? Contrary to my best judgement I went and woke up Linda with get up you have to come see this. So an unhappy wife followed me thru the house to the garage and I open the door and said, look! Look at what she replied. Look at Fred’s crate.

Needless to say she was speechless for a bit. I didn’t think to take a picture but I do have a witness. Fred recovered from her surgery and lived a couple more years until she could no longer defend herself. So we decided it was time to say goodbye. Fred was aa great cat as far as cat are concerned. Believe it or not I still miss old Fred.

Thanks for listening,

Richard Isley

The Crotchety Old Man


Edited and approved by Linda

From my windows on the world and the pond I have watched Mother Nature do sad things and wondrous things. The geese that at times seem to take over the reservation have always seemed to propagate at will. Even with the groundskeepers trying to eliminate hatchable eggs.  Last year there were many, more than I could count. Probably30 to 40 goslings make it to adult hood but this year, due to the grounds keepers finding nest and spraying the eggs with oil, the goose population has only been increased by maybe a dozen.

Ducks on the other hand had a really bad year in 2017. There were ducklings everywhere. It was so sad to watch the hens bring their ducklings out when they hatched and take them to the pond. A nest of 10 to 12 ducklings by the next morning would be down to maybe 2 or 3. Turtles’ gotta eat too! It was terribly sad to watch the little ducks disappear. Every morning there would be fewer ducklings and still mother duck took them to the water. With all the hatchlings that I saw maybe 40 or 50 there were probably no more than a dozen that survived to adult hood.

This year Mother Nature changed her ways and it has been great fun to watch the baby ducks grow. I think I only saw one mother take her babies to the water. The rest of the hens would take the babies to the edge of the pond and that was it. The mothers would stand guard like a trooper. She would never let the ducklings get more that 6 inches from the water’s edge. I know we lost several ducklings but the survival rate was astounding!

We have fed birds for years and have enjoyed watching them feed. The 1st couple of years we lived here we put out bird seed and nothing happened. But, beginning on the 3rd year the birds started to find the feeders and eventually passed the word because we now have lots of birds. They have even begun to nest in our bushes and trees. Must have at least a dozen nests in the shrubbery in front of the house.

Now, have I mentioned how messy birds are? Well, they are really messy. I set at the desk here and watch them eat and it seem like for very seed they eat they scatter 2 or 3 seeds on the ground. When we fed the birds in the country every spring I would have to shovel the spoiled seed under the feeders. Here at the reservation the ducks and ducklings keep the ground under the feeders almost as clean as a pin. Every day at least 20 almost mature ducklings come to the house and clean up after the birds. There are very few sprouts from the bird seeds. The ducks do a great job cleaning up.

It seems that Mother Nature balances things out over time; Never too many but always enough to maintain a wonderful balance of nature.

Thanks for listening,

Richard Isley

The Crotchety Old Man      Edited and approved by Linda

This story was told to a lot of people by the person himself, Dallas Isley. It is a true story because his wife Mary always laughingly agreed with Dallas that it really happened. Dallas and my dad were 1st cousins and after my dad’s mother died when he was 14 they spent a lot of time together at their Granddads house where Lewis and Ruby Isley practically raised both boys. My dad thought so much about his step-grandmother that she lived with us the last 8 years of her life and I might add filled my mind with lots of old stories.

Now to the story, Dallas was a farmer and he and his wife Mary raised 3 daughters. The youngest was a few years older than me but I always remember her because of her name, Izetta.  Anyway they were farmers, just getting by most of the time but always willing to help anyone in need. Really good people who worked hard and raised their girls and because girls have to look nice the wardrobe for Dallas and Mary suffered to say the least.

It was summer and hay season, Dallas went to work to mow hay. It was a bright and hot day, ideal for making hay. He hooked the mower to the tractor and because he hadn’t repaired it, the PTO (power take off) guard was left off. If you don’t know, a PTO shaft is used to transfer power from the tractor to whatever implement you are using that day. All PTO shaft guards have safety warnings about the danger of using without the guard. Many farmers have been killed or severely injured by getting too close to an unguarded PTO shaft: they are unforgiving.

Make hay while the sun shines is the moto of the day and Dallas went to the field with an unguarded PTO shaft.  Why, because he was always careful and would never get close to a running PTO shaft because he always turned the shaft off before he got off the tractor. But, for some reason he didn’t this day. He was about half way thru the field when the clover got caught and balled up on the cycle bar which does not allow for smooth mowing. He stopped and failing to shut off the PTO got off the tractor and reaching over the turning shaft tried to dislodge the ball of hay when the PTO shaft grabbed his overalls. Now I’ve already said that Dallas’ wardrobe was not what you might envision. They were thread bare to say the least and in an instant they were gone, wrapped around the PTO shaft beating him about the legs and whatever. For you see it was a very hot day and all he had on were the overalls and there he was in the middle of the field buck naked. He said that after about an hour trying to unwind the overhauls from the shaft he gave up and drove the tractor to the house naked where Mary came to his rescue and brought him another thread bare pair of overalls before the girls could see him setting on the tractor naked. I think he said that he repaired the PTO guard that afternoon and before dark finished mowing the hay field.

Lesson learned, always read the warning labels no matter what tool you are using; you don’t want to end up standing naked in the field.

Thanks for listening,

Richard Isley

The Crotchety Old Man

Edited and approved by Linda