Tag Archives: Riders in the Sky

Issue 185 – What We Did This Year

Issue 185 December 5, 2019 The Paregien Journal, An Occasional Newsletter

A couple of weeks ago, Peggy and I stepped in front of a studio photographer and had the following photos taken. We hope you enjoy them.

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Peggy and I were married in May of 1962. Her father, the late W.W. (“Woody”) Allen, performed the ceremony. I’m sure many of Peggy’s friends thought she had lost her ever-loving mind and the match would not last. Well, we are in our 57th year of marriage and we’re still going strong.

As we draw near to the New Year of 2020, it is a good time to look back at what happened this year. We did a lot of traveling (hey, what else is new?), much more than we anticipate for next year. We are, in fact, slowing down as we edge closer to our 80th birthdays.

Our lovely granddaughter, Christal Magness (aka “George” by her grandpa) of Snook, Texas came to Florida and spent some fun days with us in Paradise . . . . . Then came two Yankees from Kingsport, Tenn., my cousin/brother Jerry Paregien and his wife Muriel. We took them on a long day trip to Bok Towers Garden at Lake Wales, FL. We had a great time together, as usual .

Next, Peggy’s “eldest” sister and her husband, Charlotte & Bill Richardson of Indianapolis, came back to spend the winter in Sarasota. We also got to visit with Charlotte’s daughter, Joy G. Lombardi of Burton, Ohio.

In March, Peggy made a solo flight to Salem, Oregon to visit her “older” sister, Paula Allen King. She also got to see some of Paula’s children – Connie K. Williams, Woody King, Karsen King and Jeff King and their extended families.

In April of 2019, we got to see (again) Rhonda Vincent and her bluegrass band perform in Sarasota . . . . . In May, we and our Florida neighbors – Bob & Jean L’Hullier – drove down to Fort Myers and took a fun short-track train ride which featured comedy skits and a wonderful dinner . . . . .

On May 18th, we attended the 95th birthday celebration of neighbor Mike Damico. Believe it or not, Mike and his wife Donna kinda set the pace for regularly exercise her in our 55+ community . . . . In late May, our son Stan Paregien, Jr. and his wife Becky (from near St. Louis) spent a few fabulous days with us . . . . . Also in May, our HOA started a Sunday afternoon session of “Sit-down Volleyball” with a beach ball. That event has become very popular, and Peggy plays regularly. I, on the other hand, literally get dizzy even trying to watch the zig-zagging of the ball (due, I guess, to my inner ear problems). Oh, by the way, this was the year that I forked over my children’s inheritance and bought hearing aids. Yep, I did.

Late in May, our “adopted son” Jean M. Ndayisaba and his wife Christelle flew in from Norman, Okla. (home of the “Oklahoma Sooners” I might add). Jean and Christelle are natives of Rwanda, Africa. We “adopted” Jean and another college student when they were single and working on their degrees in Electrical Engineering. Those young men hold a special place in our hearts, and now also the lovely Christelle. They helped us celebrate our 57th anniversary with a dinner cruise from the marina in Sarasota.

In June, Peggy and I flew to St. Louis to attend a memorial service for our friend and brother in Christ, Hein Nguyen. His widow, Debbie, is a sister to our son’s wife, Becky. “Hen” was one of the last refugees to get out of his native Vietnam when it fell to the Communists. He arrived in the U.S. penniless and unable to speak English, but he went on to become a successful home-builder and remodeler. We got to visit with Becky’s brother, Mike McLain and wife Tomoko, who flew in from Japan. Mike and Tomoko (a native of Japan) operate a private school there and also own a coffee shop. He sings opera in the Japanese theatre. We also got to visit with our grandson, Daniel Paregien, and his wife Leah.

Early in June, 2019, we were able to check two states off of our bucket list of ones we still had not visited. We flew to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and ambled west across the southern part of the state (one night in Madison) and on to Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Yah, ve deed. Beautiful country. Yes, we went to the “Mall of America” (currently the largest in the U.S.) and after a whole hour there, we left. Just didn’t interest us . . . . Then we drove to the town of Wisconsin Dells and spent about six days with David and Nadene Allen of Stratford, OK., at their timeshare at a resort. David is a half-brother to Peggy’s father, making him a half-uncle or some such. Anyway, we had a ball with them. Always do.

In early July, we linked up with our son, Stan Jr., and his wife Becky at one of our favorite cities – Savannah. Full of Southern charm . . . . . After a few days, we moved on to Ashville, North Carolina. We and about 15,000 of our closest friends toured the Biltmore Estate on the day we were there . . . . . The next day, we did a side trip to The Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C. That was really inspiring.

And we wandered back and found a gem in Shelby, N.C. We really just pulled off there to get a bite to eat. We found a really good Mexican restaurant. And we discovered that was the hometown of famed banjo picker Earl Scruggs (think “Beverly Hillbillies” theme song). They even have a first-class Earl Scruggs Museum. And we discovered that it was also the home (and resting place) of Don Gibson, the legendary country music recording artist and songwriter and guitarist. That have a beautiful Don Gibson Theatre there, and that day on the billboard was a promo of an upcoming concert by some of our favorite guys – The Riders in the Sky (fine Western harmonies).

A couple of days later we shuffled off to Sevierville, Tennessee that is. The tri-cities of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are crammed full of motels and hotels and restaurants and live concert halls and T-shirt shops and . . . , well, you get the idea. We liked Gatlinburg best.Then we boogied up the road to Kingsport, Tenn., where we spent about three days with my cousin, Jerry Paregien and his wife Muriel. Their beautiful house is perched “on a mountain top in Tennessee” (sounds like “Rocky Top”, right?). From their living room and/or deck, they look across a broad valley and all the way to the Clinch Mountains of Virginia (Do you remember bluegrass star Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys?). They treated us just like family. Heck no, they treated us better than that – like royalty. Muriel and Peggy are like two peas from the same pod, so we always have a jolly good time with them.

On Sept. 1, 2019, we attended the Cowboy Church in Brenham, TX.,  while staying at our daughter’s house nearby. Their soon-to-be-adopted son, Ajay, got sick and we all wound up at two different  hospital with him. He was there two or three days. . . . . We toured the George H. Bush Library in College Station . . . . . Peggy and I drove up to Lubbock, Texas, where I performed my cowboy poetry and stories. That was my 27th year (not consecutively) to be a part of the National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration . . . We also got to have lunch with Dr. David Langford and his mom, Nell. She is the widow of Texas Tech English professor and church leader Dr. Tom Langford. I first met Tom and Nell Langford in Sand Springs, Oklahoma at church in about 1960 or so. Yikes, that was 60 years ago! David is both the preacher for and an elder of the Quaker Avenue Church of Christ there in Lubbock.

From Lubbock, we drove to the home of dear friends James & Glenda Cotton near Marshall, Okla. One night they hosted a “Connections” group from our former home congregation, so we got to visit with more of our close friends. Peggy had not been feeling well, so when we got down the road to a crossroads, I asked her which way she wanted to go – south for a quicker route back home or north to Branson, Mo., and then amble back. She chose Branson. So we stayed at an apartment overlooking an arm of Table Rock Lake. we saw several good country music shows. “The Petersens” put on an especially good afternoon show.

A couple of days later, we chugged along the deer trails and cow paths to Mountain Home, Arkansas.  Holy, moly! Those winding, narrow two-lane roads were torturous. Heard some good bluegrass music there on the courthouse lawn. . . . . . We spent the night at Hot Springs, Arkansas, but we were too tired to see anything there. We kept driving those narrow roads almost all the way to West Monroe, Louisiana.  Visited the Duck Commander and their cafe.

Well, before we got rested up from that long, long drive, we flew to Bean Town – aka Boston, Mass. We spent nearly a week there with fellow Road Warriors and friends Michael and Penny Letichevsky. They have lived there for many years, in Waltham, actually; but they winter almost next door to us in Florida. When we spent a month in Costa Rica a couple of years ago, they flew down and spent the last week with us. Fun, fun, fun.

These few days were no different. They escorted us to such places as the Robert Paine Estate, the Tortugas Farm (Northborough) to pick apples, and the legendary Walden’s Pond (Concord) to meditate . . . or not.  They also took us to the Wachusett Mountain State Reservation (Princeton), to the home and studio of famed illustrator and artist Norman Rockwell (Stonebridge), to a farmers market, to downtown Boston and to the campus of Harvard University and all the history there. And they helped me check another item off my state list, when we made a day trip through the tip of New Hampshire and up to the Cape Neddick Light House at York, Maine. On the way home, we stopped at the edge of Gloucester where Peggy and Penny each dined on lobster. Thanks, y’all.

In Nov., we helped Judy Betts and friends and family celebrate her 80th birthday at a bash on Longboat Key. She and Don were among the first of many who helped us adjust after our move from Oklahoma to Florida. Mighty good folks.

The above is a repeat of the one of Don and Judy Betts, just above this one. The difference is that I waved my magic wand over my computer and created this rendition. It is amazing to me. Reminds me of Norman Rockwell’s work.

We’ll have one more trip to Texas this year. Tell you more about this exciting event, later, after the fact.

Best wishes,

Stan & Peggy Paregien  

Issue 184 – Rocky Mt. Oysters, Vegetarians and More

Issue 184 – November 20, 2019 — An Occasional Newsletter, Edited by Stan Paregien

Hello to each of you. Thanks for stopping by the ol’ homestead for a little visit. In this issue you will find two of the very best poems of famed cowboy poet Baxter Black.

Now, without naming names, I dedicate this issue to a special couple we know up in Bass-ton. Oh, excuse me, I mean . . . Boston. And it is also dedicated to a known lover of Rocky Mountain Oysters who lives in Slidell, Louisiana. These folks know who they are, while the rest of you will not have a clue. That’s okay. Put your “laughter hat” on, sit back and enjoy the poetry.

MOTIVATION TO TAKE ACTION

I made at least three failed attempts to learn to play the guitar. My first time when I was a sophomore in Fillmore (Ventura County), Calif. I took four or five lessons from an old gentleman but it didn’t seem to stick with me. To make matters worse, my well-intentioned parents had bought me a “Stella” guitar at Sears & Roebuck for well under $50. The problem was that the strings set way high above the frets, making it difficult and even painful to form the chords.

In addition, I had another problem. I couldn’t keep the thing tuned. My teacher would tune the guitar “by ear” when I went to his house to take a lesson. But at home, all I had was a 45 rpm recording of the sound of the five strings of a guitar. Try as I might, I could not listen to the recording of the lower “E” string, for example, and then get my string to sound like that. So I was trying to practice on a guitar that sounded like a concert by comics Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel. It was only many years later that I discovered I really do have a “tin ear.”

Well, fast forward to my late 20s. I tried to learn to play the guitar on my own. I read about folks who just bought a “How to Play the Guitar” book and a few days later were playing like Glen Campbell, Chet Atkins and Les Paul all rolled together. Not me.

Then, sometime in my later 30s, I tired it, again. Same methods. Same results. You’ve heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” That, friends, is a bald-faced lie. If you’re practicing something the wrong way, it just ain’t gonna suddenly go . . . Shazam!! . . . and be perfect. A more truthful statement is, “Practice makes permanent.” Sometimes good, sometimes not-so-good.

I’ve said all of that to lead up to my next attempt to play the guitar when I was about 68 or so. And here, below, is something I read that motivated me to give it another try. Please take the take to read all of the article. And share it with anyone you know who may be struggling to play an instrument, or to learn how to do carpentry, or is having trouble with some new technology.

When I saw that photo of that armless young man playing the guitar with his feet, I said this to myself: “Self, if that guy can play the guitar with his feet, surely I can learn to play at least a few simple songs.”

It is really not a good sign when you start talking to yourself, and especially if you carry on an extended conversation with yourself. This time it was okay.

I bought a better guitar than I had ever had before. And the thing that helped me so much is when I bought one of those little gadgets called “an electronic tuner.” Wow. What a deal! No guesswork. Hook it to your guitar and it guides you effortlessly through the process of tuning your guitar accurately. It was a miracle.

Still, I wasn’t making much progress on my own. Really, I just wanted to learn how to play five or six old-time cowboy songs that I could add to the programs I did in which I recited my own cowboy poetry and stories. But I finally realized, I needed just a little more help.

So I found out about a guy up in nearby Guthrie, Oklahoma who taught both guitar and fiddle. His name was Jim Garling. He conducted his lessons at the Byron Berline Double-stop Fiddle Shop, and he had an opening. So I picked out a few songs (with chords) I wanted to learn.

The first song that I presented to him was written by one of Gene Autry’s funny sidekicks, the one and only Smiley Burnette. He could not only play half-a-dozen instruments but he had a great gift for songwriting. The one I wanted to learn was, “Riding Down the Canyon.”

Jim Garling took one look at that song and said, “I’ve never heard of that song.”

Well, I thought maybe I’d made a bad mistake. But, we got through that little hitch in my plans. We started off with some of the other songs. I was only able to take maybe six or seven lessons under Jim Garling, but I had learned a few basic chords and quite a bit more about strumming. So I was on my way.

Only later did I find out how sophisticated the music really was for the original “Riding Down the Canyon.” I had to “dumb-it-down” a couple of times, but I finally got to where I could perform it in a “fair-to-middlin'” fashion. And I moved on to collect the lyrics and chords for at least 200 other songs.

Now I confess I never had another lesson. We had a lot of jams at our house in Oklahoma. When we moved to Florida in 2013, we started having jams at our house. We had so many people we moved it to our community’s clubhouse and ran it there on a monthly basis for two years. Still, I have never moved the needle very far beyond a very basic ability in guitar playing. And now that my memory is in decline, I am leaning toward selling our instruments.

However, the point is this: I would never have made that final successful attempt to play the guitar without the motivation of an armless man playing one with his feet. So I hope this little story motivates you to buckle down and go ahead and learn some new skill.

Oh, as the late Paul Harvey often said, “And now, . . . here is the rest of the story.” About my friend Jim Garling, he got very interested in cowboy and Western music. He started playing cowboy music in restaurants and on special occasions. Today, he is the music director for a Cowboy Church up in Stillwater, Oklahoma. And here comes the final part of the story: . . . Jim has four or five CDs of cowboy music to his credit. And one of the songs he recorded was Smiley Burnette’s old song, “Riding Down the Canyon.”

Life sure ’nuff has some strange twists and turns, doesn’t it?

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Here is my latest poem, “Ode to Unrhymed Poetry and to Those Who Write Such.” Feel free to send a copy to any friend you know who writes poetry. I hope, even if they write free verse poetry, they will get a kick out of it.

Okay, my friends. That is enough foolishness for one issue. See ya next time.

End.