prune picker

This is the blog of a prune picker. (Native born Californian) Retired oilfield. I am an old man. (91) I blog a lot about my body and getting old. As I approach death life gets more interesting. More interesting is not good. I still drive. I attend sports, music, and civic events. I am writing my memoirs. I attend swim class three times a week. Some of my blogs might be interesting. A lot of my blogs are silly and trivial. None are very long.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Life's Work.

My life’s work has been doing what I could to make my wife, Jackie, happy. Before going in the Army and meeting Jackie my life’s work was going to dances and finding something to eat. After our marriage and the birth of our children it was earning enough money to keep a family of six going.

After I retired from Mobil Oil in 1985 I devoted myself to trying to make Jackie happy. We came and went much as Jackie wanted and planned. Most of our activities I enjoyed too. Especially our travels around the United States and Canada. I like trips.

Jackie enjoyed playing slot machines and bingo. For a dozen years we spent 1 to 4 weeks in the winter in Las Vegas. For 5 or 6 years straight we had Thanksgiving Day Dinner at the buffet at Samstown on the Boulder Strip. Friends from our RV Park in Chimacum, Washington would join us. One year we had a dozen people around the table.

We lived full time in a 35 foot fifth wheel. We spent the summer months in a coop RV Park on the Olympic Peninsula. In the winter we would make trips.

We made two trips to Florida. We were Disneyworld fans. We rode out to Key West on our first trip. Jackie loved the 9 pm lighted parade at Disneyworld.  The last trip we bought tickets for five days. Jackie and I went to five lighted parades. Once was enough for me but not for Jackie.

We made two trips to Maine and even went over to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. On our second trip we worked as volunteers at the Acadia National Park for 3 ½ months. Jackie worked in the Reception Center and I worked in the Sign Shop.

We drove almost across Canada. We got as far North as Jasper. We drove south down the top of the Rocky Mountains over the Athabasca Ice Fields.  Melt water from these ice fields flow into four oceans.

We went to the four corners of the United States in Maine, Florida, California and Washington. We must have driven across the United States 3 ½ times.  

We lived, at least in the summers, at a coop park on the Olympic Peninsula. Jackie and I worked on the establishment and construction of the park. The park is about 8 miles south of Port Townsend in Chimacum. We loved that part of the world. Very scenic. Lots of Indian Casinos with slot machines and bingo. These held Jackie over until our yearly trip to Las Vegas.

Jackie could and did play slot machines all day; I mean 10 of 12 hours at a time. She would do this day after day.  I would go to the nearest library or read books in our trailer. We would meet for meals, usually in the buffet. We often played bingo together. Often we parked our trailer in an RV Park right next to or across a parking lot from a casino.

On our last trip to Vegas I had to rush Jackie home due to a heart problem. She had fibrillation. She soon started having severe medical problems. Her kidneys failed and she had to go on dialysis. Her lungs did not work right and she was on oxygen. Her bones started breaking. She fell and broke a hip. We moved our trailer to Ruston so my daughter could help take care of her. The picture below was taken just before we left the Olympic Peninsula

Unfortunately Jackie passed away six months after we moved to Louisiana. Five weeks before she passed away we went to Samstown in Shreveport. Jackie made a $1000 royal flush on a slot machine. That made her happy. 

The day before her last trip to the hospital, for dialysis and admittance my son in law and I built a ramp for Jackie’s wheel chair. When she saw the ramp she said "Oh My!". She was impressed with the ramp and the ride down to the ground.  She died in the hospital and I never did get to push her up the ramp. It was a one way ramp.

Jackie passed away six years ago. I have not been in a casino in those six years. When Jackie passed away I was startled. I thought that she would live as long as I was there to care for her. I felt completely useless. My life’s work was ended.

I fight depression and loneliness with activity and trips.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I run things around here!

John and Kerry and their daughters  families are on a weeks vacation at the beach. Ten people and three families having fun. I miss them.

I am feeding Koi, squirrels, birds, cats and one dog. I am keeping the cat box smelling good.

I really enjoy the two new Adams's kittens. I spend some quality time with them every day.



I am working hard.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Grape picking in the Great Depression.


This is an event that occurred in my life. I am telling it to illustrate how tight money was in the depression. I think that it happened around 1934. My Dad and I and my brother Warren were picking grapes. I was about nine. I remember that all the other pickers were Mexican families. I remember being fascinated by the lunch that they had. It was strange looking stuff, like burritos and tacos. This was long before Taco Bell.

We were to be paid so much for so many grapes. I kept track of what I picked. I was young and not a good grape picker. By the end of the day I had earned about 70 cents. I have never forgotten that my Dad took the money and kept it. 70 cents was a lot of money in those days. I was sorely disappointed  and angry with my Dad for keeping it. I know that it was common practice for parents to keep the earnings of their children. Abraham Lincoln's father hired Abe out and kept the money until Abe was 21.  

My thoughts now about the incident is wonderment and sorrow about how poor my Dad was at that time. My Dad worked hard all his life and had supported a family with nine children. At one time he had a team of horses and contracted work in the orange groves in the Pomona Valley. We were well off at one time. I can remember living in a large two story house. But tractors took over orchard work and the depression came. Dad worked for the WPA and really had a hard time.

Dad fell on very hard times after the start of the depression. I can remember a house with no food. The family was just my Dad, Warren and I. I can remember coming home to that house and all of our furniture was piled in the front yard. The rent had not been paid.

Money was tght!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

An escort for Zoie.

Jewette Farley called yesterday to invite me to the Country Club for lunch. H e said that he needed an escort for his granddaughter Zoie. I know from past encounters that Zoie is a swell girl and said yes right away.

Zoie is as nice as she looks!

You can tell that I had a pretty tough day.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Fresno Scraper revisited.

Several days ago I posted about the memory of watching my Dad excavate  a church basement with a team of horses and a Fresno Scraper. Probably around 1930. I thought that I was discussing an item that was long out of use and would be new to my blog readers. It would be exotic and strange to most readers.

I soon went to lunch at the Senior Center and mentioned the Fresno Scraper. Robert Rinehart was sitting next to me. He said " I have one in my yard. I used it behind a tractor to level my property. We call it a Slip." I was wrong again! The Fresno Scraper is not out of use or exotic around Ruston.

I visited Robert and took pictures of his Fresno Scraper or Slip.

Incidentally Robert and I were in the Battle for Peleliu in the Pacific. We were there at the same time in 1944. I was wounded once. Robert was wounded twice. Once was enough for me. Robert was in the Marines with the "Old Breed". I was a combat engineer in the Army.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Bert Monson Family. Went from eleven persons to one in 14 years.

I was known as Bert Monson from birth to when I went into the Army. A foster parent, his Uncle Charles Morton Monson raised Dad on a farm in Sterling, Kansas. My Dad’s name is Charles Abner Monson. Dad and his adoptive Dad were called “Little Charles” and “Big Charles”. My Dad did not like that at all. He did not name any of his sons Charles until me. My five sisters thought that I should be named Charles. They promised my Dad that if he named me Charles Elbert that they would always call me Bert. He agreed and they kept their promise. When I was drafted into the Army the First Sargent called the roll. When he called Charles Monson I thought that I had better answer. I have been Chuck ever since. However I have nieces and nephews that call me Uncle Bert to this day. And I have been Chuck to the rest of the world for 70 years.

When I was born in a house in an orange orchard in Pomona, California I was the ninth child and the eleventh Monson in the house. My folks had five girls and then four boys. 

I can remember a large crowd at the table for supper. My Dad sat to my right and said wise things like “the closer to the bone, the sweeter the meat”. During the season Mom would fix our favorite supper. Mom would make a slurry of strawberries, cream, and a little sugar. She made a lot of strawberry slurry in a large blue enameled bowel with white spots in the blue enamel. She baked a lot of shortbread. It was not cake like or sweet but was like a fluffy biscuit. We had all we wanted, at least I did. It was so good. We were a happy family. We all liked our strawberry short cake supper.

My oldest sister Nita was born in 1907 in Elk City, Oklahoma.
My sister Thelma was born in 1909 in Long Beach, California.
My sister Jean was born in 1912 in Redlands, California.
My twin sisters Dallas and Donna were born in 1913 in Redlands, California. Twins were not expected. Donna had to be rescued at the last minute. The cord was wrapped around her neck. She was turning black.

At this time my folks had five girls under seven. I think that Mom was busy. 

My oldest brother Keith was born in 1916 in Redlands, California.
My brother George was born in 1918 in Riverside, California.
My brother Warren was born in 1921 in Chino, California.

My folks then took four years off. I was born in 1925 in Pomona, California.

There we were. One big happy family of 11. However, they soon started leaving. In the next nine years everyone had moved out and the Bert Monson Family was a family of one. Me. Several of the last years of the nine my family was my Dad and I and Warren part time.

In 1926 my sister Nita was married, followed by Thelma in 1928.

 My Mother died in 1931 when I was five. I have always felt very bad about the loss of my Mom. I am not over the feeling of loss today. The other day I saw my son in law kiss his Mother. He is 64. He is so fortunate to have had his Mother all those years. Two parent families are the best.

My next three sisters Jean, Donna. and Dallas were soon married and gone. Four of my sisters replaced their first husband. I always thought that the fifth sister should have done the same.

My brother Keith was married in 1939. George moved to Taft to live with my sister Thelma.

That left Dad, my brother Warren at home. Soon Warren left.

In 1940 my Dad had a stroke that left him paralyzed on one side of his body until his death in 1957. What a sad and terrible 17 years.

All of my siblings have passed away. I miss them. Even with my four children, nine grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren I miss my folks and siblings very much. I reminisce about my years with them often

Dad and Mom.

Their nine children. The daughters in 1914. The four sons around WWII time. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Supper in Lake Arthur. Cajun Country.

When I worked in the The Woodlands, Texas for Superior Oil I would occasionally drive to Lake Arthur and ride a small boat out to oil rigs in the middle of Lake Arthur. It was interesting. I was used to oil fields in California with mountains or plains around. The Lake Arthur field was all water with well heads here and there. The man who drove the boat was a Cajun. I am sure that you have heard that Cajuns are something else. Well it is true.

The lake front pavilion looked like this.

The old pavilion was blown away. The present pavilion looks that this.

On our trip to Jennings to visit John's Mother we had supper in Lake Arthur with John's sister Jeannie and her husband and daughter. John and I had oyster poor boys.

It was interesting to see Lake Arthur again after 30 or 40 years. For John it was since he was in high school. Lake Arthur is about ten miles south of Jennings.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

John kisses his Mother for possibly the last time.

That is a picture of a good Mother and a good Son. They have had a great life together. God bless them.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My dear friend. Harriet Adams.

Harriet is the mother of my son in law John Adams. She is 94 and in hospice. But doesn't she look grand?

John and I drove to Jennings to visit her. She says numbers and talks about Angels. She is an Angel! We love her.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dead Armadillo Season.

Starting three or four weeks ago the roads in our area (the piney woods of north Louisiana) have been noticeably covered with dead armadillos. All ran over by vehicles. How come? I am sure that they have been in the woods all the time. Is it mating season?

Good season for vultures. This guy met his end a block from the Senior Center.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Nice family birthday party.

Today my Louisiana family treated me to a nice birthday party. After a meal of smoked brisket, sausage, chicken, and ribs. I was served homemade apple pie. Yum!

So, this is what it feels like to be 88. Apple pie is still good!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

34th Annual Natchitoches Folk Festival

What a fun thing. I was there early. Before it started really. I ran out of gas and went home early, Missed the State Fiddle contest which finished at five pm. I hope to go again next year.

$8 for 14 hours.

Tool making.

Walking sticks.

Cow horns.

Bull whips.

Much dancing everywhere.

Food venders.

I thought that this was a cute Cajun couple.

The Blake Brothers. I have seen them many time at the bluegrass music in Arcadia. They are very good.

This lady was a tremendous Cajun fiddler and singer. The man sitting next to me let me know that she was the grand daughter of Hadley Castille. I googled the name. He was a great Cajun fiddler. Her name is Sarah Jayde Williams.

Cattle Working Dog Demonstration.

Early this morning (my 88th birthday) I was by a cattle pen. It was a pretty morning. There was pretty grass, pretty new yearling cows, cattle working dogs, and a young cattleman telling me about cattle working dogs.

They brought a swimming pool for cooling the dogs.

The cattleman spoke commands. He uses a whistle when he is at a distance. He told me that a good working dog is worth 3 to 5 cowboys. A top dog can be worth $5000. Out of a litter only one or two puppies will develop into a top cattle working dog.

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