by Howard Blinder


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excerpt from 'Little Paul'
I have to be careful climbing this time. I have been up on the pump tower lots of times before but never with a heavy rope tied around my waist. The rope is gently tugging at my middle as I continue to climb. I don't wipe the sweat from my face because my hands will get slippery. The water pump tower has a pipe railing about chest-high that runs all the way around following the little walkway on the top. I wrap the rope around the pipe rail and start working out the slack. This is really hard to do because the rope is heavy, especially now that it is almost off the ground. There is a small hill about two thirds of the way to the barn. The rope is still on the ground there. I am trying to pull it up until I am sure that all of it is off of the hill. That will be my landing spot.
The rope is tied tight, with a good knot that I learned at 4-H. I look at the long, gray, curving rope stretching the one hundred or more yards from me to the barn. I am really pleased with my work. The view from here is beautiful. Looking over the barn, I can see my house, then the big front pasture and then the main road. It all looks so small from up here.
Climbing once more up the pump tower, the snatch block pulley that I found tied to a beam in the barn is now hanging from my belt, which is wrapped around my neck, just like a big necklace. I am very excited as I reach the platform. It only takes a second to remove the belt and snatch block from my neck. I carefully unbuckle my belt and thread it back through my pant loops. Now I open the snatch block and then clamp it over the rope and snap it closed again.
It's time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781456764999
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 11/02/2011
Pages: 332
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.69(d)

Read an Excerpt


By Howard Blinder


Copyright © 2011 Howard Blinder
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4567-6499-9

Chapter One

No Strings Attached

No strings attached. That is what my dad said. I still can't quite believe this is true as I finish buffing a third coat of paste wax on my beautiful new fourteen-foot ski boat.

I turned sixteen this year. I am just an average student and enjoy some of the high school sports. Last year I went out for football as a halfback. I was really too small and got to sit on the bench a lot. About half way into the season I broke my nose during scrimmage. This gave me a real good reason to quit football without looking bad, and I actually had a good time the rest of the year watching the game from the stands. Track is where I excelled, especially the sprints. There is something about running without someone chasing you that has always appealed to me.

School sports don't come close to my favorite sporting activity—water skiing. My parents own a boat shop in Marina Del Rey, California. They sell small eight-foot dinghies that are used as tenders for larger boats. They also sell—my favorite—a fourteen-foot runabout type ski boat. As a kid growing up, having a boat available was never a problem. Almost all of our family vacations included some kind of water activity. My friends were always welcome on the weekend outings and most of them were introduced to water skiing, as I was, around the age of twelve or thirteen.

When I was fourteen, I started working in the boat shop. I don't remember if it was voluntary or mandatory but it happened. Nowadays, I am a two-year veteran; even have my own set of keys. My working schedule is a couple of hours every day after school and at least one weekend day each week. I enjoy installing hardware on the boats and talking to customers. It's easy to talk about something you love to do. Sometimes I get to go out on the demonstration rides with my dad and potential customers. On nice days Dad will let me ski. That is really a good way to show off how the boat performs. With all modesty, I am a good skier; I only weigh 110 pounds so I get up easy and I can probably make any small ski-boat look better than it really is.

Yesterday my dad gave me my own boat.

"You're giving it to me? Why?" I asked.

"Because you like skiing, and I know you'll take good care of it."

His explanation seemed plausible, but did not exactly answer the "why" question. My dad wasn't cheap; he paid me for working in the boat shop, but excluding birthdays and Christmas, I wasn't usually blessed with unexpected presents; especially gifts of this magnitude. So cautiously I pressed.

"You're giving me this brand-new boat, no strings attached. How many years will I have to work for free?"

"Son, I can't believe how hard you're making this for me. Why can't you understand that the boat is yours? All I'm asking you to do is take care of it. Keep it clean and shiny. You don't have to pay me anything, or work it off. We'll keep it here at the shop for show. The only thing that I might ask you to do is take an occasional customer out for a demo ride."

Now we have it, the two small words, "demo ride." My dad is a good businessman, and also an excellent salesman. Even though he enjoys boating himself and would love to go out on a demonstration ride, he knows that his time is better spent working in the shop as a salesman. He can usually sell two or three boats on an average weekend. So if he takes off for a three-hour demonstration ride it might cost him two sales. The other thing is that I don't have a driver's license, yet. As far as my dad is concerned, I will keep the boat polished up like a new dime and the only way that I will get to use it is when I give demonstrations to customers. They will pull the boat with their own vehicle and I will go along and show them how to use it. Then I will clean it up again when we get home. It will probably require more weekend work than I usually do; if you can call that work. Even knowing all of this, having my own boat is way too good of a deal for me to pass up. I stopped arguing and thanked my dad for the boat, promising to keep it looking beautiful.

Today is Sunday and I've been at the shop since seven a.m. My best friend, David, should be here in a couple of minutes to see if I was telling him the truth. Maybe I will have time for just one more coat of wax.

"So, Dave, what do you think? I'm sure this clamp-on hitch won't hurt the bumper on your mom's car. They're made to go on cars. Let's do it!"

"Are you positive this is all right with your dad?" Dave asked for about the tenth time.

"Yeah, I'm sure. It's my boat and I can do anything I want with it. He told me so, just as long as I keep it clean."

"Tighten those bolts some more. I think the bumper will probably straighten back out after we take it off."

After getting the trailer hitch secured we went to work on the lights. I was wishing that we had done the lights first because I kept hitting my head and back on the long bolts that stuck down from the rented trailer hitch. My knuckles were cut some from when the wrench slipped, but most of the blood on my T-shirt was from my forehead. I had a pair of water skis that I made in wood shop last semester and a brand-new towrope with double handles. We were going skiing.

Dave got behind the wheel and cautiously pulled out into traffic. He did seem a bit nervous but once we got going he settled down. The boat pulled like a dream. I couldn't help looking back as it followed us, still not quite believing that it was actually mine. About one hour later we arrived at the water. It was a beautiful sunny day, with just a slight breeze. David and I were both so excited that it could have been raining and we wouldn't have noticed. There was only one car way down on the end of the ramp so we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

"OK, Dave, back her in."

For the past couple of minutes we had been sitting in the car facing the water, almost daydreaming. Now Dave pulled forward and started a turn, which took us across the road where other cars and trailers all seemed to be parking. Then we began to back up but the boat and trailer didn't want to go the way that Dave intended. The car was backing in the right direction toward the water, but the boat was heading back down the road we came in on. This did not seem like a good plan to me.

"Dave, the boat is going the wrong way."

"You don't think I can see that!"

David continued backing until the noise started. We stopped, really quick, and I jumped out. The boat and car were at right angles to each other. I found out later that this is called a jackknife. It's a good thing that we were going slowly, because nothing bad happened, except for bending the bumper a little and scraping some paint off of the boat-trailer tongue. There was also a small dent about the size of my fist in the car fender that I think must have been there before. So I got back in the car and didn't see any reason to mention the little dent to Dave.

"We're OK, pull ahead and try her again."

Dave pulled ahead, now blocking the road with the boat, and just our luck, two cars pulled up close to us, one coming from each direction. The other drivers didn't honk or anything, they just sat there looking at us while Dave started backing up again. The trailer went the right way this time and the cars drove away. Pretty soon the trailer began turning away from the water all by itself. I glanced over at Dave, but didn't say anything because he was way turned around in the seat looking through the back window so hard that his face was getting red, and I wasn't exactly sure how he was managing to keep his feet on the pedals.

Now our car and trailer were both heading crossways on the ramp. We went for a while that way, not getting any closer to the water, but we were getting pretty close to the car at the far end of the ramp. Dave stopped our car and looked over at me. Usually I would have said something but somehow this time I didn't. About that time the guy who was at the end of the ramp drove away. At first I thought he was pulling forward to give us more room, but then I realized that his boat was loaded up and he was probably heading home. Dave turned the wheel and started backing up again. The boat began heading up the ramp. We stopped. He turned the wheel the other way as far as it would go; I can hear a squealing noise from the car that didn't sound good. We start backing up again. The boat keeps going uphill for a second or two, then like it got the idea, starts turning toward the water. Dave smiles at me and we keep backing up. Pretty soon the trailer is in the water and the tongue hasn't hit the car again. Dave turned off the car engine and we both got out to push the boat into the water. To my amazement, the boat's outboard motor is almost submerged and ocean water is running over the back end of the boat.

We both run to the back of the boat to see what's wrong, getting our pants, shirts and shoes wet, as we haven't changed yet. I had forgotten to take the tie down straps off of the back end of the boat. Once we see that, Dave runs back to the car, jumps in and pulls forward. I'm still back with my boat watching the gas tank float around like a beach ball in a small wading pool. When the boat is out of the water far enough I holler at Dave and he stops really fast.

We were starting to get a system going. I wish I had thought to get out of the car earlier. We got the straps unhooked, then Dave goes to put the straps into the trunk so that we won't lose them. He put a big gouge in the paint when the trunk lid hit on the trailer winch handle. I pulled the drain plug and watched as water began running out, then walked around to the front of the boat. Dave was rubbing the trunk with his T-shirt when I walked up, but the new scratch didn't seem to be going away.

While the water drained out we took off our wet clothes and started getting ready to ski. We both had our bathing suits on under our clothes and I couldn't think of a reason that we didn't take off our pants and shoes sooner but we didn't. The car seat should dry out OK because it's a nice warm day.

Water was just barely dripping out of the hole now so I replaced the drain plug and walked to the side of the boat. We were just eight or ten feet away from the water's edge, now stripped down to our trunks and barefooted. I smiled over at my best friend and he looked back at me from his position at the wheel. We both knew that everything was going to be OK. This was starting to feel like a real water-skiing trip.

Backing in the second time was real easy. Now we were getting the hang of it! I stayed back alongside of the boat up to my knees in the water, watching as both trailer and boat entered the water. When the time was right I hollered at Dave to stop. The boat was just bobbing around a little and all that I had to do was wade over to the front and unhook the winch snap. I climbed on to the trailer and walked the boat backwards, holding on to the bow eye. Once she cleared the trailer I stepped into the water and found myself actually swimming because the water was kind of deep this far down on the ramp. I didn't mind getting wet because the water was pretty warm, but if I had simply jumped onto the deck of the boat I could have easily postponed this early-morning swim.

Dave parked the car and trailer across the street with the other people and I messed with the engine. Luckily it started on the first pull and we were off on our first solo skiing trip without any mishap. Once we motored away from shore everything got pretty easy. Dave and I both knew how to drive the boat and even though this was our first trailer-launching experience we were actually very comfortable on the water.

After a short harbor cruise it was time to get down to the serious business of water skiing. We motored to a nice sandy beach so that we could practice our favorite shore-starts and shore-landings. Dave and I took turns being driver or skier all afternoon. Finally it started to get dark and we headed back for the ramp. We were both so happy to have our own boat that we didn't even realize that we were tired. Of course we were pretty hungry because we forgot to bring food or anything to drink on this first outing.

I sat on the bow with my feet dangling in the water as Dave headed for the parking area to get the car and trailer. Neither of us had given a thought to backing up the trailer in the dark and then loading the boat onto the trailer until the time came to do it.

After all, how hard could it be?

Country Music

Early afternoon sun heated my already warm bare shoulders as ten or fifteen more cars entered the freeway on my right. Traffic volume was beginning to build, which was not at all unusual for this time of day. I was really happy to be driving this time. All of my past visits during the last four years were made by airplane. Somehow arriving by plane at LAX always made the trip seem like exactly what it was, a visit. The simple act of guiding a car through traffic made me feel like I was coming home to stay. Unconsciously I added pressure to the worn gas pedal, easily cruising at 75 mph, holding my two-car-length spot in the left lane of this semi-busy Los Angeles freeway.

My old convertible was a wreck, with worn tires, a faded white paint job dented and rusted out in spots, but it had served me pretty well for the past two years as a back-and-forth ride from the ship to town. This beat-up old '55 Chevy had lived its whole life in Hawaii. The fact that it did continue running for this the entire seven hour drive through the center of California kind of surprised me. It had handled the drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles without too much trouble, just one tank of gas and four quarts of oil. The dashboard temperature light stayed red and the oil light blinked on and off for the whole trip, but the car never did actually boil over and the radio worked. Who could complain? When you are in the service and stationed aboard ship, it is not a good idea to leave high-dollar cars sitting in the base parking lot for months at a time. So I kept this old beater. I had intended to sell this car, or just give it away when I got discharged, but the US Coast Guard offered to ship my old Chevy from Honolulu to San Francisco as a part of my household goods. Go figure. I thought, what the heck, it would save me the expense of a plane ticket, and once back in Los Angeles I would need a car to get around anyway. I can't wait to see the folks, just one more exit.

The Chevy eased to a stop, two tires slightly up on the curb, and the engine resting over years of old oil stains left in the street from numerous cars of my high school years. This was a familiar parking spot centered in front of my parent's house, my childhood home. The walls were beige now with a cream colored trim, different than the light green and white accent that I remembered from my last visit two years ago. I smiled at the short, stiff yellow grass that adorned the front yard. No amount of water could coax Southern California Devil-grass to stay green in the summertime. The old neighborhood always looked the same; nice wide streets and well cared for homes, with a few kids playing in some of the yards. The kids would grow up and move away to be replaced by new families with new kids, but the neighborhood never really changed much over the years. This was home.

Mom and Dad greeted me with a flood of conversation, hardly interrupted by the continuous flow of sandwiches, fruit, chips, cookies, and drinks that seemed to magically appear at arm's reach on the small round coffee table as we all talked. My younger brother and sister were still living at home, though at this moment they were both attending classes in college. Mom led me to the bedroom that I had shared with my brother. It was now his room, and I would be a guest this time, but I could see that he had done his best to make me feel welcome. I found a couple of drawers cleared in the dresser, and there was even some familiar looking clothes hanging in the closet. The shower felt wonderful as the hard steady spray washed seven hours of driving and seemingly the past four years away from my body. As I pulled the T-shirt over my head, the bathroom mirror looked back at me as it had done a hundred times before, just like I had never left. I wonder what Dave is up to?


Excerpted from snapshot by Howard Blinder Copyright © 2011 by Howard Blinder. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


No Strings Attached....................9
Country Music....................33
Little Paul....................43
My First 1,000 Decoys....................61
The Hunting Cow....................73
The Honeymoon Is Over....................79
A Family Business....................89
Fresh Frozen....................95
The Synchronizer....................117
Jack Harrison, Wheatland, California....................118
January in North Idaho....................121
Dave remembers his apprentice years....................123
High School....................124
Bill Harrison and I duck hunting....................124
Chief Barlow, Wheatland, California....................128
Fishing with Bill....................131
The Long Drive....................132
Jack and Bob....................135
Decoy Roundup....................139
Bob and Stuart....................142
No Gathering....................147
Duck Hunt With Don Baker....................152
Pheasant Hunt Private Property....................153
A Morning With Don....................157
The Ranchero....................161
Cheese Room....................167
Wood Run....................177
The Green Chicken....................185
Dad's First Hunt....................195
Tractor For Sale....................199
Plumbing, Cows, & Baby Chicks....................221
A Time For Planting....................227
The Great Goat Hunt....................237
Old Green....................247
Dead Rabbit....................265
Hauling Old Junk Around Town....................293
If I Had a Camera....................307

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