Frost and Fork

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

~ Robert Frost

Since we named our blog from a line in this, one of the most famous poems ever published, I thought I’d comment on the misuse of it. I was reading some modern commentaries about Frost (how do you think I made it through college as an English Major?) and realized what I’d forgotten about it.

Unlike the graduation cards that recite parts of this poem, the road less traveled by is not less worn, evidenced in because it was grassy and wanted wear; though as for that, the passing there had worn them really about the same.

The telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence actually is the author’s forecast of telling an untrue version of the walk in the woods. He is saying that in the retelling he will dress it up a bit, poetic license, if you will, gives him the right to say that he chose the one less traveled by. In fact, they were equally untrodden…. hmm.

For two grandmas who left the Midwest in 2008 in an RV, we’ve maybe chosen the path less traveled but it wasn’t because Frost or because M. Scott Peck made a fortune with a turn of the phrase, however inaccurate… but for other reasons.

What’s reasons, you ask? I don’t know. Let’s ask Debbie tonight when she takes night duty again. (When she gets up. She sleeps during the days while I guard the gate.)

Lost in Translation

Last night I wrote about getting physically lost. Tonight I thought I’d add a note about being conversationally lost. Folks talk funny here. Working in the oil business, there are so many terms that are unfamiliar to me:”tool pusher”for example. Besides new terminology, there are tons of Texas colloquialisms, and then there’s that sweet, undecipherable southern drawl.

The internet is full of accent reduction courses and techniques. Google get rid of your accent and you’ll get 251,000 results in .06 seconds. Google get rid of your wrinkles and you’ll get 1,300,000 results in 13 seconds. Google get rid of your personality and you’ll get 4,810,000 hits in .05 seconds. I think you lose a little of a person when the accent and wrinkles dissolve. I don’t want the guys to change the way they talk. I just want to break the code.

Working as a gate guard, I’m beginning to see the hazards of not knowing Texan speak.  On a busy day, we may have 50 or 60 trucks checking in. When I first started, I would ask a guy to repeat himself (his-self) 2 or 3 times until I felt too self-conscious for holding up traffic and I’d wave him on in. I’d smile and nod in that special way you do when you have no idea what the person just said and then I’d take my best guess. I wonder if GGS will ever look at my logs and be surprised to see how often I waved in a “toe pusher ” or a “flower worker’?

I love accents. I think it’s a shame Hugh Laurie had to lose his British accent for House. He said on Letterman that the hardest word for him to pronounce (Americanized) is murder. Good thing he’s not on Criminal Minds where the word murder surely must be on every page of the script.

Accents are compelling. The most popular guy in my freshman class in college was David from Australia. He was about 5′ 7″ and very average looking, but  the girls on campus went crazy whenever he asked them to pass the salt in the dining commons. And then there’s the Geiko Gecko. Would anyone be interested in a little green lizard from Ohio?

I’m determined to do my part to help maintain the rich tradition of the language of Texas. I may even add syllables to my words. I don’t think there are any one syllable words in Texas. Cat is more like ka-yut and Heidi swears that floor has at least 3 syllables (see yesterday’s post).

I’m taking this on as a serious course of study. If you, too, would like to learn to speak like a Texan you can go to How to speak with a Texan Accent. Here’s just an example of a great tip from that site: “To talk with a Texan accent, your long “i” sounds need to sound closer to a short “a” sound. Texans don’t get in “fights.” They get in “fahts.” They don’t “buy” something at the store. They “bah” it. They don’t do something “nine times.” They do it “nahn tahms.”

I’m trying to learn to Texas speak. Here are some things I’ve picked up from listening to the guys:

1. Texans leave out the g in the suffix ‘ing’

2. “ah’mo” means “I am going to”

3. to get somewhere you go “over in through there”

4. “blinky” means sour/spoiled

5. a “frog strangler” is a whole lot of rain.

It’s a slow process but now I know what the guys  mean when they say:

“Ah’mo fixin’ to go over in through there bee foe the frog strangler to bah me some milk seein’ mine’s gone blinky.”



1963 by Debbie

“Our thoughts are unseen hands shaping the people we meet. Whatever we truly think them to be, that’s what they’ll become for us.” ~R. Cowper

I’m currently reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I started reading it in Oregon and was pleasantly surprised to find that the little library in Three Rivers carried it. The book was recommended by another woman who worked for the same boss in Utah that I worked for in OR. The conversation about the book came up during a particularly difficult time at the Resort. Her quip was: “You’ll love it, the underdog wins.”

Our mutual ‘boss’ is undeniably a social and religious elitist. I can say that without reservations, not only because I know it to be true, but because I believe he would consider it a compliment. Because of the recommendation and from the title alone, I began reading with a mindset of being one of the mistreated/under-appreciated ‘help’ and was looking forward to the promise of winning in the end.

The setting is Mississippi, 1962-63. The story revolves around a group of young upper-class women, most graduates from ‘Ole Miss.’ and their “help”. The focus is primarily on the experiences of the black women who had no options but to work as maids, from their early teens on.

Stockett, the author, was raised in Jackson Mississippi. Her family had a black maid. She writes much of the book from the fictional perspective of a young white woman attempting to represent the life of the black women around her.

Stockett says: “I don’t presume to think that I know what it really felt like to be a black woman in Mississippi, especially in the 1960’s. I don’t think it is something any white woman on the other end of a black woman’s paycheck could ever truly understand. But trying to understand is vital to our humanity.”

The time period was chosen, certainly, for it’s volatility. It was the time of the shooting of Medgar Evans, of Martin Luther King marches, a time period when the Jim Crowe laws were unquestioned in most of the south, certainly in Mississippi.

1963 was the year I began first grade in the tiny town of Middlebury, Indiana. On November 22nd of that year, C.S Lewis died before I ever got to write him a thank you letter for the innumerable ways his writings would eventually change my thinking and my heart. I remember that because he died on the day we were all sent home from because the President had been shot.

I recently read this quote by J.B. Phillips:
“Most people, naturally, have a somewhat restricted view of life, and they rely to a far larger extent than they realize on the vicarious experience of life to be found in books, films, and plays. Few of us, for example, have known at all intimately a detective, a dress-designer, a circus-proprietor, a pugilist, or a Harley Street specialist. Yet a skillful writer can make us feel that we have entered the very hearts and lives of these, and many other, people. Almost without question we add what we have read or seen to the sum total of what we call our “experience.” The process is also most entirely automatic, and probably most of us would be greatly shocked if it could suddenly be revealed to us how small a proportion of our accumulated “knowledge of the world” is due to first-hand observation and experience.”

In 1963, I had never heard of C.S. Lewis, I had virtually no knowledge of our 35th president and I’d never seen a black person. Since then I’ve read books and watched films and plays. But certainly, I’ll never begin to understand what it meant to be “the help” in the 60’s in the south. And how incredibly audacious of me to, for even an instant, put myself, if only in fleeting thoughts, in the same category. This book, these issues may lead to several other applications. For today, I’m narrowing it down to my need for an equal portion of humility and gratitude.

“If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other source of prejudice before noon.” ~George Aiken

Spell That Please, I’m a Yankee

January 5, 2011

If all is going well in Pleasanton today, this will be my last rambling post for a while. Heidi has gone to fetch my new phone and the air card. If that grants us internet access, she will resume the main work on the blog and I’ll go back to occasionally quipping. That’s good because, unlike Jerry Seinfeld, I don’t think I can write about nothing much longer.

Heidi’s doing a super job keeping up with the daily chores of checking the oil in the generator, changing the lights in the 6 spotlights we turn on at night etc..

It’s 75 degrees this afternoon as I wait for the Kevin, the RV repair man coming to replace the bungee cord with a real door latch. Kevin is from George West, which I thought was the name of his business but is actually the name of second town NE of the Federal Prison. Maybe it’s just me, but a town baring an individual’s first and the last name seems a little egocentric. Of course, it could be heroic. Maybe he died in battle and they named a town in his honor. Without the internet, I can only speculate.

Oil trucks and Salt Water trucks (I still don’t get that one) and Bottom Vacuuming trucks (don’t ask) have come and gone. Willie, the government’s official well tester has left with his samples. Willie, by the way looks uncannily like  much like a younger Danny Glover. Even though I knew he likely hears it all the time, I couldn’t seem to stop myself from pointing out the resemblance. “Yes ma‘am, people do tell me that, but it’s OK since Danny Glover happens to be one of my favorite actors.”

Then there was Trey who was here to check on the ‘trandfuls’. We have to enter the stated purpose for each person we let in the gate. Herein lies the problem: we have 2 types of accents here, decidedly Hispanic and decidedly Southern. I’m apparently equally poor at deciphering both. Add to that my complete ignorance of things oil-welly, and I’m left having people spelling everything but their license plate. Thankfully I can still read, even though my hearing is suspect.

While I’d have been content to just smile and nod and let Trey in to so his work, I was afraid that at some point someone may look over the paper work and find ‘changing the trandfuls’ to be a questionable well activity. So, as I often have to do, I asked Trey to spell it for me. His expression indicated he was wondering just what kind of qualifications a person has to have to be a gate guard? Any schooling at all (I think the answer to that is no, by the way)?

He smiled and slowly spelled “T R E N D” and stopped. Yes, I was embarrassed but I still had to ask (Vanna, can I buy a vowel?)…“and how do you spell fuls?”
“F I L E S”. Yep. I printed this all out on the line and smiled as if I always ask people to spell common 5 letter words for me. Ever the southern gentleman, he drove through the gate with a “thank you, ma’am” and a more than a little bit of amusement on his face.

Robbie the Gauger, who comes at least once every day, must have been born in northern Texas because I can always understand him. At least I think I can. Today he was telling me about his wife’s dog that has “long shaggy ears so it isn’t a poodle, but little she talks”. When I asked what the dog says, he told me she says all kinds of things. Maybe I don’t understand him as well as I’ve been thinking I do? He did tell that George West is a town named after a man named George West who had a lot of money.