Monday, December 31, 2012

Ten Changes in 2013

Ten Changes in 2013

I’m not big on “resolutions” because it seems like rules are just made to be broken.  Therefore, I’m going to make some “Changes in 2013.”  Some things either I am going to do differently, or some things I hope to influence to go in a new direction.  These are in no particular order.

1.       A New Weight-Loss Trend—I started going down in the two weeks leading up to Christmas, but that all stopped when my girls got home from college.  However, after the holidays end, I’m back on the losing trend.

2.       Renewed-Bible Study Focus—Like almost anyone else, I get off track.  It’s time to get back into the studies for my personal spiritual development, and so I can have some creative things to write about.

3.       A Tighter Fiscal Belt—My belt was already tight, but with congress jacking around with taxes and increased healthcare costs (What happened to the great savings from Obama-care?), things are going to be even closer to the line in 2013.

4.       A Greater Physical Activity Level—I just got my left Achilles Tendon repaired proactively and pre-rupture.  This should make me able to be much more physically active in 2013.  I still have some active accomplishments on my bucket list.  (Can you say “14er”, anyone?)

5.       Better Organization—Don’t let my boss see my office!!!!  Seriously, I do need to sort, file, and straighten both my work materials and my personal papers.  I plan to devote some serious time to getting this done in 2013.

6.       Become More Thoughtful—Sometimes, I get so caught up in my own head that I miss opportunities to do meaningful things for other people…especially my wife.  I need to intentionally think about what would be helpful and pleasing to those around me.

7.       Utilize Humble Leadership—I am in a leadership position as an elder at my church, but to do that effectively, I have to be both ACTIVE and HUMBLE.  I need to influence good movement to accomplish good things, but do it in a way that lifts others up and brings glory to God.

8.       Create “Unplugged” Events—Cell phones, Laptops, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc.  So much of my life is “on-line” or “in-touch” that I find that I don’t relax well anymore.  I need to schedule periods of disconnectedness in order to give my mind a break from all the mess of today’s world.  I need the freedom to think without interruption.

9.       Finish My Novel—I started it a couple of years ago.  The story is nearly complete, but I’ve lost the steam and need to drive it to the finish.

10.   Further Define the Long-Term—Where do I want to be in five years?  I have told people that I want to re-create myself by age 56.  That is five years away.  I need to more fully develop that concept.

That’s probably too many thinks to effectively change all at once, but hopefully I can make some difference, and hopefully the list that I create at this time next year will look a bit different.  What is on your list this year?

Happy New Year!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Abandoned into the Paradox of Oblivion

I’ve basically been off work since December 19th.  This has not nearly afforded me as much creative time as I had anticipated, but it has been a nice break from my usual routine.  I had hoped to do more writing…maybe a poem and another Muncie Boyhood story…and, maybe create a new Henry the Preacher cartoon.  Somehow, though, between the jumble of my daughters being around, the rumble of the TV as one of them watched endless episodes of “Friends,” and the tumble of holiday life, I just couldn’t find much to say.

I did manage to write a new “Abandon, Indiana” short story.  I titled it “A Fire in Abandon.”
It was a Christmas story, and I enjoyed the creative juices that it stirred.  However, shortly after I typed that little fictional short into the annals of my creative history, I discovered something that caused me no small amount of concern and discouragement.  I found out that my creation of the small town of Abandon, Indiana was not nearly as unique as I had thought.  Seems another writer had the same inspiration…a few years before me.

The author, Amy Hensley wrote a novel titled “Abandon, Indiana” and self-published it about a decade ago.
Abandon, Indiana by Amy Hensley

I found it while doing a little Google search to see if my stories would pop up with key phrases.  Talk about being hit by a ton of bricks!  I had all these plans to keep creating new “Abandon” stories.  Plus, I have a much longer work that I started a couple of years ago that has never been completed that is centered around this fictional little village.  I was shocked at first.  Then, I was disappointed, followed by an interlude where I was simply determined to change directions, but I ended up just disappointed again.

I have no doubt that our stories are very different.  I read the little blurb that describes the novel, and it is nothing like anything I had imagined, but the title of her work is too close.  It would make it appear that I had copied her, and that is definitely not something I would do or ever want to do.  So, I’m going to need to change the name of my little town.  The problem is that I had worked the name of the town into the titles of the stories, so what to do about that?

And, there’s the fact that I just don’t want to change the name of my little town.  I don’t wanna!  (Imagine that last little bit with a childish whine.)

But, I suppose I really need to.

I think I could keep the title of my recent Halloween story “Out of the Depths of Abandon.” 
I think it would still fit okay.  However, the Christmas story will probably need to change.  The story title wouldn’t make sense if I changed the name of the town without changing the title.

So, I’m considering alternative names for my strange little town in southern Indiana that is nestled up against the Hoosier National Forest.  It needs to sound real, but with an air of mystery.  After all, this is a place where the layers of existence are thin and odd things sometimes occur.  Paradox?  I thought about that one, but I’ve been given the advice that it sounds too cliché.  I’ve had a few suggestions from some folks on my Facebook page, and they have been helpful in my thinking.  Right now, I’m considering Oblivion, Indiana.  What do you think?

I’m not in a hurry, though.  If I have to make a change, I don’t want to rush it and have to do it all over again.  And, I don’t think I’m causing Amy Hensley any trouble with my relatively unknown short stories.  If anything, my writing about this will bring her a little attention with the twenty or thirty of you who will read this post.  So, I’m going to think about this a little longer.

Eventually, though, you will see a new name for my little town, and a new title for at least one of my stories.

In the meantime, I must admit that I am discouraged.  One of the greatest strengths and one of the greatest weaknesses of those who pursue creativity is that they are often more controlled by emotions than they would like to admit.  Those emotions drive the creative process.  Sometimes, though, those same emotions can grind it to a halt.  I think I’m somewhere in between.  I’m discouraged enough to want to just do nothing, but aware enough to try to push through it.

Thus, this post.

I will be back at it soon.  Those creative juices are still sitting in the recesses of my mind.  Something will get them stirring again soon.  No doubt.  My writing will not be Abandoned into the Paradox of Oblivion.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Fire at Christmas

A Fire at Christmas
A Tale from Cutters Notch
By Michael R. DeCamp

December 23

Davy was smart for his age.  So smart in fact, that he had gotten way ahead of his first grade class at the Cutters Notch Elementary school located down the road, just east of town on Highway 257.  He could read on a third grade level already, and write nearly as well.  Those skills gave him an idea as he lay in his bed listening to his parents argue downstairs.

The lights were off in his bedroom; all of them except for the closet light which he left on with the door cracked just to give himself a little bit of light.  The wind was blowing outside and sleet was pelting his second floor window.  The limbs of the huge hickory and elm trees brushed the windows and rain gutters, screeching as they slid one way and then fell back again.  The wind pushed against the wooden slat-board siding causing the house to creak and pop, giving it a creepy aura in the cold night.  He could hear every sound it made, even above his parents’ screaming, but he wasn’t afraid.  He was just sad.

His house was on the main street in the town.  At one time, the little village of Cutters Notch was a boom town with funds from the limestone mines filling people’s pockets, but now those days were in the past, the mines were nearly gone, and much of the money had been depleted.  At night, the house was shrouded in darkness provided by the trees that blocked all of the bright lights from convenience store down on the corner.  Only moonlight seeped through his window, and on a night like this with the sleet, which would soon to be followed by snow, even the moon was kept at bay.  There were similar old houses on each side of Davy’s house, but there weren’t any other kids.  Those houses were occupied by old people who probably spent their days tending gardens in the summer or huddled up in front of their TVs in the winter.  His folks had moved in to their rented home about a month earlier, so he hadn’t even gotten a chance to meet them yet.

He had no friends nearby.  He had no siblings.  At night, when his mom and dad fought, he was all alone with his thoughts.

Lying there listening to the mean words, that like smoke wafted up the stairs and under his bedroom door, Davy made a decision.  He threw back his Batman bedcovers, and then sat up on the side of his bed.  Finding his Spiderman slippers with the help of the wedge of light shooting through his cracked closet door, he put them on and stood up.  The slippers didn’t quite match his Christmas pajamas, but that couldn’t be helped; he couldn’t expect his mom to get him Christmas PJs and Santa slippers too.  With the warm house shoes on his feet, he walked across the hardwood floor, turned on the small lamp on his little desk, and took out a pencil and paper.

He didn’t need to worry about getting in trouble for being up late.  When his folks argued, they rarely even noticed that he was around.  The previous night, when they started up the nightly battle, he had slipped out on the landing and watched them.  They never noticed that he was there as they hurled their insults and accusations.  They were so angry and hateful; their faces red and scary.  They used words that he wasn’t allowed to use, and he was sure they fought because of him.  He had seen their happy faces in the pictures on the fireplace mantel, pictures of just the two of them before he had come along.  He had never personally seen that happiness in their eyes, so he figured that he must have caused them to hate each other.  It must be his fault.  He watched them for a while, crying at the fact that he had caused them so much pain, and then he slipped back down the hall.

Last night, he had retreated to his secret place.  At the back end of the hall, away from the front stairs was a closet.  Behind the old coats and extra clothes that his mom had stored in the closet, there was a small little set of steps that led up to the attic.  Dad was too preoccupied with work to even know about it, and his mom was too creeped out to go up there.  So without his mom even aware, he had made the attic his special retreat.  It was the one place he could go to escape the battle below, and he sometimes went up there when he couldn’t take the pain of it all anymore.

Tonight, though, was different.  Tonight, he had an idea, a plan.  Perhaps, he could ask for some help.  Maybe, in this special season, there was a special person that could make a difference and help his mom and dad love each other again; maybe this person could make them love him too.  Christmas was just over a day away, and maybe Santa could work some magic to help.

Sitting down at his desk, Davy called upon everything his teacher had taught him and he wrote the best, most heartfelt plea that his seven-year old mind could conjure.  He had started writing it several times, but messed up and tore out each of the mistaken pages.  He had to get it just perfect, so he wadded them up and tossed them in the Superman trash can in the corner.  After about an hour, with his parents still fussing below him, he was satisfied that he’d gotten it right and tore out the good page.  Folding it in half, he wrote “Santa” on the outside and placed it on the corner of his dresser.  He looked at his own sad reflection in the mirror which was mounted on top of the heavy, oak clothing chest where he placed the white piece of paper, and then he went back to bed.  Hopeful that he had struck upon the right idea, he rolled over, curled up in a ball, and put his extra pillow over his head to muffle the hurtful noise.

Soon, he was asleep.  With his back to his dresser, and his mind drifting off into an anxious dream where he was running with uncooperative feet from something he was afraid of but couldn’t quite see, he didn’t notice the odd little hand that emerged from his mirror.  At first, it was just like finger tips poking through plastic wrap, but then an entire hand and arm popped into his room through the glass at the same spot where his face had reflected just a few minutes earlier.  The hand reached in, picked up Davy’s letter to Santa, and then slipped back through the surface, taking the letter with it.

December 24

Hours later, Davy’s mother shook him awake, rustled him into the bathroom, and then rushed him through breakfast.  He had barely finished his Captain Crunch, when she hustled him to the car.  His dad was at work, but his mom had plans for them to visit family in Muncie.  He was so busy with all the driving, eating, presents, and laughter that he forgot all about his special letter.  He played with cousins, sat on his grandpa’s lap, and ate his grandma’s yummy food.  It was such a full day that he fell sound asleep on the three hour drive home.

It was dark outside when he felt the engine shut down.  He opened his eyes and found himself in his own driveway, and his dad’s Impala was right beside his mom’s Taurus.  Snow was starting to fall in huge flakes as they hurried up the sidewalk to the back door.  The boy was so full of joy from a great day and excited to see his dad that he ran off ahead and banged through the back door.  He found him sitting at the kitchen table, eating a sandwich and sipping a Coke.

“Dad!” he said with joy.  “We had the best time!”

“Where’s your mother?” the man asked gruffly.

“She’s comin’,” the boy answered.  “Dad!  It’s almost Christmas and it’s snowing too!”

Davy’s dad ignored his son’s excitement, and stared over his head to watch his wife come through the door.

“I’ve worked all day while you’ve been playing, only to come home to a dark house with no dinner!” he said.  “So, here I am sitting alone, and you’ve given no thought to me at all.  Thanks a lot.”

“I just took Davy to my folks to celebrate Christmas!” she replied.  “I told you last night we were going!”

“And I told you that we couldn’t afford the gas.”

“That’s crap and you know it!”

And, they were off to the races with another fight.  Soon, they were oblivious of their own son on Christmas Eve as they fussed, fought, argued, and cussed.  Hateful, thoughtless words filled the house, echoing off the cavernous walls.  Their shouts and anger filled every crack and crevice.  Davy’s excitement over his day with his grandparents, the snow, and Christmas quickly evaporated and was replaced by a heaviness, a depression that pulled on his spirit like an anchor tugs on the bow of a ship.

The boy escaped the kitchen, through the dining room, and stopped in the living room in front of the Christmas tree.  The tree lights were twinkling off and on against the various shiny bulbs and ornaments, and he thought the tree looked wonderful.  There were electric candles in the windows and along the fireplace mantle that illuminated the stockings.  His mother had even strung electric lights around the window frames and the one mirror that hung on the north wall.  The entire room was aglow creating the impression that the old walls themselves were giving off light.  Wires snaked down the walls and wiggled together into a series of extension cords that were themselves connected into the three ancient wall sockets scattered at various points above the baseboards.  It was his mother’s Christmas room.  The rest of the house was his father’s, but this room belonged to his mom.

“You and the boy go play all day, and I get nothing!” his father boomed in the kitchen.

“Are you crazy?” his mother responded.  “It’s Christmas for God’s sake!  It’s a special time for him!”

“Him!  Him, him, him!  Is it all about him?  What about me?  Do you save anything for me?”

Davy trudged up the steps toward the second floor, waves of anger passing over his head.  He decided that he couldn’t stand to listen to it tonight, so he passed his room and entered the hallway closet.  Sliding past the old coats, he could smell his mother’s perfume and his father’s cologne lingering on the worn fabric.  He liked that smell.  It smelled like happiness.

Stepping over a couple of cardboard boxes, he mounted the first step.  There was a light in the back, so he clicked it on, revealing the darkly stained, small wooden steps leading steeply toward the ceiling.  At the top, he opened the door and entered his sanctuary.

It was a little chilly up in the attic because there weren’t any heat ducts providing any furnace air, but he didn’t mind if he could get away from the noise of hatred below.  Between the two doors and the old coats, his secret place was fully insulated from those words that felt so hurtful.  Scattered around were relics of another age.  Boxes of pictures detailing some unknown family’s history.  Old trunks full of clothes that seemed like the costumes they sometimes used in his school plays.  He had explored it all.  Over near the back wall, just to the right of a four-pane window that didn’t open, was a large, stand-alone mirror.  It was so big that Davy could see his whole body, head to toe.  It was nearly as big as their front door.  He liked to stand in front of it and make funny faces.

In this space, he could pretend.  He could pretend that he was someone else, somewhere else.  He could be Spiderman slinging webs around the from rafter to rafter.  He could be Superman flexing his muscles of steel.  But on this night, he just sat down on the floor with his back to the huge mirror and fiddled with some tiny Hot Wheels cars that he had found in an old shoebox tucked into a corner.  He pretended that the lone light strung from the highest point above his head was the sun and the shadows it cast around him were the forests that surrounded this little town in which he was imprisoned.  He pulled out two cars, one for his mom and one for his dad, and began smashing them together; making the sounds of screeching wheels and the booms of crashes.

Downstairs, Davy’s mom and dad carried on in the kitchen.  He claimed that she “always” did this or that.  She claimed that he “never” did that or this.  Was she seeing someone else?  Was he married to his job?  Accusations disguised as questions flung with animosity and aimed at the heart were fired back and forth.  Neither took notice of the time.  Neither considered where their boy had wandered off to keep himself occupied.  They were so consumed with their mutual fits of rage that nothing else in the world penetrated their little vocal boxing ring that doubled as the kitchen.

December 25

They were still so preoccupied with their fussing at midnight that the electrical fire that erupted from the overloaded circuits in the living room had fully engulfed the front end of the house and had begun to crawl up the stairs before they noticed the smoke.  Davy’s mother noticed it first and screamed for him.  His father sprinted through the dining room but was blocked by the flames and smoke and was forced to retreat.  He turned and grabbed his wife who was screaming for her son!

“DAVY!” she bellowed.  “DAVEEEEEY!  Oh, God!  DAVEEEY!”

Somewhere in the house, a smoke alarm began to screech.

Grabbing the cordless phone, he dragged her out of the house and called 911.  Once outside, he left his distraught wife on the front walk staring at the flames that were blooming in all of the front windows, and then ran around to the rear where he stored his extension ladder.  Leaning it on the side of the house, he scrambled up to Davy’s window.  In the distance, he heard sirens sound.  Being a small town, he knew they would be here very quickly, at least the guys on duty would be.  The rest of the volunteers would show up from their various homes as quickly as they could.  He couldn’t wait! 

When he reached the window, he tried to muscle it up, but it wouldn’t budge.  Blowing snow assaulted his face and ice numbed his fingers.  Using his hands to shield the sides of his face, he tried to look inside, but couldn’t see anything.  With no other option, he used his elbow to break the window.  Inside, the new source of fresh air caused the fire to leap forward fully onto the second floor.

The thick, black smoke rushed through Davy’s bedroom door and billowed past the boy’s father making it impossible for him to see anything.  Reaching inside the broken window, the man unlocked the glassless frame and pushed it up.

“Davy!  Davy!  Can you hear me?”

There was no answer.

“Davy?!  Where are you?!”

The distraught father tried to duck under the acrid smoke and then crawled into his only son’s room.  Staying low, he went to the bed.  Empty.  He checked underneath.  Nothing.  He did a belly-crawl to the closet.  Again, empty.  By now, he was choking and was forced to retreat.  He didn’t know where his boy was, and he was powerless to help!  Without any clear idea of where else to look, and with poisonous fumes eating at his consciousness, he struggled back through the window and onto the ladder.  He slid down the aluminum extension ladder, and ran back around to his wife.

She looked at him with hopeful eyes.  He looked back with despair.  For the first time in months, they embraced one another as firemen raced past them dragging hoses and various other pieces of equipment.

Davy had fallen asleep on an old quilt in front of the great mirror.  He had found it in a box labeled “grandmother” and it made him feel good to pretend that it was from his own grandma, so he made himself a little bed and eventually drifted off.  The fire had been going for quite a while before the smoke began to penetrate his attic retreat.  Eventually, it began to seep under the door and up through cracks and crevices that otherwise no one would ever notice.  Hugging the floor like a snake looking for a mouse, it drifted back until it found the boy’s nose.

Roused by the unpleasant smell, Davy sat up and was immediately alarmed.  He was old enough to remember the stories of house fires on the news, and he’d already been through several fire drills at school.  Jumping to his feet, he ran to the door leading through the closet back to the main part of the house, but when he opened it, smoke had filled the small area inside.  It immediately plumed into the attic, making it hard for him to see and catching in his throat.  Scrambling over the boxes and past the coats, he gripped the doorknob to the second floor.  It was hot to the touch and burned his hand.

He knew he was trapped.

He retreated back to the attic.  Closing the door, he used the quilt to stuff into the space at the bottom to try to block out some of the smoke, and then he just slowly stumbled backward until he felt the smooth glass of the mirror against his butt.  There he stood, alone and afraid, watching the smoke slowly fill the room; hoping with all his heart that his mom and dad were safe because he knew that he would never see them again.

Outside, driven together by the terror of potential loss, Brian and April stood holding one another like never before.  A veil had been lifted from their eyes and they could recognize one another again.  More so, they could see themselves with clarity, a clarity that only guilt can restore. 

More equipment arrived every few minutes, and a large tanker truck with shiny chrome panels like large mirrors came to a stop just behind them.  They watched as men in heavy tarp-like jackets broke their windows and sprayed streams of water inside.  Other men knocked open their front door and did the same.  The local chief approached and asked if everyone was out.

“Our son is missing!” Brian yelled above the noise of the truck’s big engine.  “We don’t know where he is in the house!  I checked his room by crawling up my ladder, but I couldn’t find him!”

“Please save our son!” screamed April.  “Please!  You’ve got to find him!  Oh, God!”  She repeated, “Oh, God.”  And then, she slumped against Brian’s chest.

Turning away, the fireman lifted his radio and spoke with urgency.  Around the house, men moved with what seemed to be more diligence than before; careful, but with measured speed.  Two men hurried past them with a large fire ladder.  Flames were breaking out of the upstairs windows. 

The husband and wife who just a few minutes before were intent on outdoing one another’s hurtful words were now huddled together; each saying a private prayer.  Each was promising God that they would change if only he would save their little boy, their little boy that meant the world to them.  After all, he was their bright light, their joy amid the chaos of life!

In the attic room, Davy was coughing uncontrollably.  The light above his head had gone out, and the smoke was so thick that he could feel it enveloping him.  The only thing he could see was the jumping yellow of the flames as they worked their way through the cracks around the door.

 He sat down on the quilt, the quilt that he imagined to be his own grandmother’s; trying to get low enough so he could still breathe.  He knew the end was near for him, so he asked God to do what Santa didn’t get to do, he asked God to find a way to make his folks happy again.

That prayer made him feel safe despite the smoke and the flames.  It almost seemed to him that God was giving him a hug, and that he was drifting off.  He was safe and drifting off in someone’s strong arms; away from the smoke and through a tunnel to a nice place.  There was a face there.  A nice face, warm and soft.  Friendly eyes. 

Then, all was dark.

Standing in front of the tanker, Brian and April watched as the firemen seemed to fight a losing battle with their house.  The fire was shooting through all of the second floor windows and was curling up over the roof line.  The flames illuminated the surrounding trees causing shadows to dance in the underbrush.  Flashing lights, alternating red and white, added to the spectacle, and sirens sounded as other fire departments sent crews to assist.

With each passing moment, the parents’ hopes sank deeper and deeper.  They watched the men moving into and out of the house; wishing Davy into each man’s arms to no avail.  The grim look on the firefighters’ faces spoke volumes, and they felt the loss of their son with each passing moment; the loss and the guilt of knowing it was their own fault.

From behind them, near the mirror-like chrome panels of the red tanker boomed a voice:

“Here is your son!”

Brian and April turned together to see a large, older man with bright, friendly eyes and a short white beard holding their son in his arms!  Without hesitation, they took their son from the man, but gave him up to the paramedics who put an oxygen mask on his face and hustled him off to their truck.  Assuming the old man to be a neighbor who had come to their boy’s rescue, they said “Thank you!” and turned together to follow the medics.

“I suppose your presents have all been lost in the fire,” said the old man.

“Yeah, yeah,” answered April.  “But, we don’t care about that now.” 

“We’ve got our boy back,” said Brian.  “That’s all that matters.”

Undaunted, the man followed and said, “But, you can still give him what he wanted, you know.”

At that, both Brian and April stopped.  Frustration and a touch of anger welled up in them at his interest in something so unimportant, and they turned on the man.  “What are you talking about?” asked April with an edge in her voice.

“In fact,” the fuzzy-chinned man said with a sly smile, “you two are the only ones who can truly give him what he really wants.”  Extending his hand, the man gave them a folded slip of paper.

April took the piece of paper, and with Brian looking over her shoulder, she read it in the bright lights of the fire trucks.  On the outside, there was one word:  Santa.  On the inside it read:

Dear Santa,

I don’t want any toys this year.  I have tried real hard to be good, but I must be bad because my mom and dad are so mad all the time.  I am sorry.  I love them very much.  Could you bring them something to make them happy again?



When they looked up from the letter, the old man was gone.  Behind them, Davy stirred, and then pulled off the mask long enough to say:  “It was him!  It was him, wasn’t it?!”  Then, he fell back again, and the medics put the mask back on his face.

Brian and April looked at one another in astonishment.  Unable to find the words, they hugged one another.  They had never felt such joy in their entire lives, yet it was enveloped in a new determination to bring genuine happiness into their home.  And somewhere in the distance they heard the slow, rhythmic tinkle of jingle bells.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Muncie Boyhood-My Father's Journal

Last week, while I was digging through some of my dad's old papers looking for a picture for my last Boyhood blog, I stumbled upon a spiral bound notebook.  I must have seen it before, but just never paid any attention to it.  This time, I stopped in my search and said aloud: "I wonder what that is."  It had a light blue cover and had an old paperclip closing off a section.  I pulled it out, sat down, and unclipped the pages.

Flipping open the cover, I saw the heading:  "December 1961."  Geesh, I thought.  That was the month I was born.  Then, I saw the first entry date:  "Dec. 24."  Wow!  Six days before my birth!  For the next hour, I abandoned my search in order to read my dad's intimate thoughts from December 24th, 1961 to July 25th, 1963.  Although the consistency of his entries wanes after the first few months of my life, the intensity of his life is only amplified until it culminates in the last four words he entered.

I am providing the full journal below.  I have added a few comments that are in brackets and the font is changed to blue.  I have striven to maintain the original spelling and grammar...except where auto-correct has foiled my efforts..., so don't be surprised at the obvious errors.  I have left them there on purpose.

I hope you are as intrigued as I was.....and, without further delay....

The Journal of Ralph R. DeCamp:

December 1961

Dec. 24 – Snowing will be a white Christmas.  Marge & Sharon bought most of the gifts.  I had no money after the family expenses.  Freddie & Violet have no work so must be helped.  To-nite Christmas eve we open our gifts.  All happy but Marge a little hurt because I could get her so little.

Dec. 25.  Christmas day.  Cold-white & beautiful on the Lord’s birthday.  Our baby (me) due soon.  Marge & I spend the day alone.  She fixed a big dinner but the children are all away.  Alice & Mariline drop in as we finish our late dinner  Alice eats a little.

Dec. 26 – First day of work on second shift.  (Chevrolet)  Called home at 7:00 PM.  Margie having pains.  Dutch picks me up at the shop.

Dec 27 – 3:00 A.M.  Take Margie to hospitable.  Mickey drives us out.  It has started to snow  Sharon working hard as usual at baby sitting.  Have been urging Bob to get a job.  Won’t work to-day.

Dec. 28 – No baby.  Margie having false labor pains.  Its snowing & colder.  Won’t go to work to-day

Dec. 29 – Still no baby.  I’m tired but must go to- work.  It’s snowing hard this after-noon.  Lenard picks me up at hospitable.  Have a car accident on way to work.  Slide into a little compact car.  No damage to Lenards car

Dec. 30 – It’s Saturday morning.  Cold but very beautiful this morning with the sun shining on the new snow.  Just as it is suppose to be when baby is born  Margie pains getting worse & closer to-gether.  Baby born at 11:02 A.M.  A boy 6lbs 7ozs  Mother & boy ok.  I go to work.

Dec. 31.  Out to see Margie & Baby at hospitable.  Bob has fall at hospitable  Must be checked before we leave  We drop Sharon off at her friends home an arrive at home about 10:30pm  Must name baby.  Bob & I spend a quiet New Years eve watching T.V.  Gave Freddie & Violet money to get along


Jan. 1 – Margie & baby ok.  We name the baby Michael Raymond.  It’s brother Miles’ birth day  The weather turning colder to-nite with wind.

Jan. 2  Cold & windy  Send Bob to look for work.  No luck he says.  Margie & Michael ok.

Jan. 3,  Mickey drives me out to bring home Margie & baby.  She buy gifts for the baby.

Jan. 4  All’s well at our home.  Sharon still working long hours baby sitting for people.  Bob & Freddie have no work.

Jan. 5  God is kind.  All is well

Jan 6.  Twenty-five dollars to Freddies.  He can’t find work

Jan 7. – Cold & sunny.  Bob was to look for work this week but it may be to-cold.

Jan 8  Monday very cold.  Bob doesn’t go out to look for work.  Red Foster pays ten dollars on old debt

Jan 9.  Very cold  12 below zero

Jan 10.  Still very cold.  Below zero but sunny  Margie sick

Jan 11  Margie no better.  It’s a little warmer to-day

Jan 12  Margie better.  She has gone to shop.  Bought a coat dress purse shoes etc.  I had a time at South way Shopping-Center.  Bags burst on me.  Resacked them & brought cab home.  Bob gets job at Meadows shopping center  will go to work next week.  Foster pays another ten on debt.

Jan 13  Saturday went to Yorktown with Jack.  Listened to ball game.  Came home to find I had forgotten Freddie & Violet.  They were here & had to move.  Gave them the usual twenty-five dollars & got the move post poned

Jan 14  Sunday – Bob gets a mean injury playing basketball.

Jan 15  Bob much better.  Goes to work  I still working nites.

Jan 16  Have a nasty cold

Jan 17  Cold no better. Family ok

Jan 18  Cold to-day.  Gave Freddie his twenty-five dollars for rent & groceries

Jan 19  Bought most of our weeks grocerys to-day at South-way shopping Center  Paid bill at Sears.  Red Foster pays another Ten dollars on debt.

Jan 20  Paid bill at Sears & finished shopping for grocerys.

Jan 21  Sabath – Restful day – God is good to this house

Jan. 22  All well with family

Jan 23  A cold but sunny day  Loads of sun shine this winter

Jan 24 – Margie about wore out

Jan. 25  Cold but sunny.  God is good to us.  Bob says Freddie has job with furnace man.  Bob working as is Sharon  Bought some groceries to day.

Jan 26 – Started raining early.  Ground frozen.  Water running off fast.  Rivers full of ice will flood.  Lenard brings me home with grocerys.  Had a very hard nights work.

Jan 27  Saturday.  Bob blows most of his first check for Watch & lighter.  Gave me four dollars for board.  Sharon has sun tan stuff all over face, hands, and arms.  She looks terrible

Jan 28.  The Lord’s day.  God has been good to us.  Helped Freddie & Sharon with there income tax forms.

Jan 29 – Robbie & Helen take Margie & Michael to doctor for check up  They’re ok.  Baby is 20 ½ inches long.  Weighs 8lbs 7oz.  Bob stays all nite at John’s.

Jan. 30.  Baby eats his first solid food.  Received check for doctor.

Jan. 31  Cold wind to-day.  Freddie isn’t Working this week so far.  Bob goes to work.  Bought some of our grocerys.

Feb. 1  Bob didn’t come home last nite  Fixed bath drains today; also fixed tire for Boyle’s.  Had about 3 inches of snow last nite.  It’s cold.  Freddie gets another 25 dollars.

Feb 2. – Ground-hog see shadow.  Pay some bills & get grocerys.  Foster pays another ten on debt.

Feb 3.  Attended union meeting.  The Matchetts have there new baby.  A girl.

Feb 4.  Over to see the new baby at Mickeys.  She’s very pretty.  The day is warm & there’s plenty of sunshine.  Tempeture in the 60s.

Feb 5.  Bob off to work this morning  Sharon home.  Has quit job.  They’re 57 dollars behind on her wages  Shes afraid they will never pay.  Baby fussing this morning.

Feb. 6  Very cold and windy near zero

Feb. 7  Sharon receives ten dollars of her back wages.  Warmer to-day.

Feb. 8.  Baby sick with it’s first cold.  Makes me uneasy.  Mickey baby sick; Sharon goes over to help.  Bob not working to-day; Don’t know about Freddie.

Feb. 9  Snowing to-day; about two inches  Not so cold.  Bob gets fired.  Freddie comes in with clothes.  He & Frau have another quarrel.  Willard Foster pays all of principal on old loan with another Ten dollar payment.

Feb. 10.  Clear skies to-day.  Must find means of getting more grocerys

Feb. 11  The Lord day.

Feb. 12  Hard days work.

Feb. 13  Slept late cold feels better.  The weather warmer near 34◦

Feb. 14  A valentine from Earle & Lois for the baby.  Michaels first.  A check for ten dollars inside.  Marge buys baby bed. I have a bad cold.  Eyes watering & nose running.  Bob working tomorrow for John.

Feb. 15  Still warm.  My cold no better.  Bob off to work.

Feb. 16  Cold to-day.  Paid some bills and bought some grocerys.  Foster pays another ten dollars on debt leaving a balance of only fifteen dollars.

Feb. 17  The orbiter flight of John Glenn again postponed.  Freddie still working.  Bob working for John.  Not happy.

Feb. 18  the Lord’s Day.  He is good to this home.

Feb. 19,  Blue Monday.  Cold, windy with rain changing to snow.  Tomorrow the space flight of John Glenn is again scheduled.  May God be with him.

Feb. 20  the space flight of John Glenn is off.  All is well.  Right now in 3 orbit.  Michael has learn to play a little.  His is growing fine.  The sun is out.  Its cold but nice out.

Feb 21.  The flight of John Glenn a great sucess.  Had over two inches of snow last nite & this morning.  Michael receives a card from the Shenk’s with a five dollar bill.

Feb. 22  Mickey pays us a visit with her baby Laura Ann.  Bob didn’t get to work for John

Feb. 23  Freddie job about to end.  He received notice to move.  Landlady can’t stand their fights.  Bob not working to-day.  Complaining of sore shoulder.  Weather cold.  Looks like another  storm brewing.

Feb. 23, Cont.  Foster pays debt in full.  There’s a bad snow storm going on.  Some of the fellow go home from work at supper time.

Feb 24.  Bearcats win the Sectional.  Violet spends the night here.  Freddie out messing around.

Feb. 25  Violet goes home to mother.  Freddie doesn’t seem to care.  Went with Jack over to Clints & then back to his place.  All there children are well & so much fun.  The Lord’s day a pleasant one.  Warm & the snow leaving fast.

Feb. 26  the baby goes to the doctor’s to-day for check up.  Snow nearly gone.  Freddie goes on rampage again.  Completely wrecked Sharon’s room upsetting all the furniture & slashing most of Sharons clothing.  Margie call police but he leaves.

Baby ok.  Now weighs 11lbs 3z.

Feb. 27  Margie cleans up mess in Sharon’s room.  I’m so discouraged.  May God help us.  Its cold.

Feb. 28.  Very cold.  Walk home from work.  (2 miles)  Lenard sick.  Stopped grocery on way home from work.  Bought what I could carry.

March 1.  Very cold.  Mickey pays us a visit.  There baby sure is a beauty.  Michael good today.  Mickey takes Sharon over to Leo Darts home to try to get some of her money.  He refused to give her any of it; also got real nasty with her.

March 2.  Still very cold.  Paid the bills today.  The baby very cross.  Freddie picks up his last check.

March 3  Freddie stops in a minute.  That’s all I know.  Ramsey called wants to buy Margie old car.  Still very cold.

March 4.  Freddie & Violet move back in home.  He blowed all his money on an old car; had no place to sleep nor money for food.  It’s cold & snowing

March 5  Freddie & Violet sleep on floor.  It’s still cold & snowing.  The little one (Michael) is ok.  Wants to play some now.

March 6  Had another snow storm last nite.  About 4 or 5 inches with some drifts.  Sharon wants to marry.  The man, Bill Sours.  Will try to get the Judges ok to-day.  Helen keeping the baby while they go to town.

March 6. Con.  Sharon to marry to-morrow.  Wants me at wedding.  Will have to miss work & we need the the money desperatly.  Freddie & Violet will have to live in until he gets a steady job.

March 7  Ash Wednesday.  Sharon and Bill were married to-day at 6:00 P.M. in the South Side Baptist Church.  Reverend David Davison perform the cermony.

March 8.  Rainney & chilly.  Bill leaves for Camp Dix New Jersey to-morrow

March 9.  Bill gone back to camp.  Sharon home.

March 10.  Listened to the basket ball game  Muncie lost to Anderson.

March 11  Cloudy & warm.  Slept late.  Tooth ake for several days now.  Production raised at Chevrolet  Now running 640 per day; up 50

March 12  Cloudy & rain.  First day of new production schedule; 650 per day

March 13.  Marge takes baby over to Mickey’s  Violet worried about Freddie  Bob working for John.  Cold with snow mixed with rain.

March 14  Cold & cloudy.  Marge very nervis.

March15  Freddie a big worry.  Baby not well.

March 16.  Bought some grocerys.

March 17  More grocerys to buy.  Sharon wants to go see her husband.

March 18  The Lord’s day.  All well.

March 19  Still quite cold

March 20.  Took Bob to doctor yesterday for a banged up nose.  Its not broken but must be taped up.

March 21  Michael better.  Freddie fixing up his Mothers old car.

March 22  Sharon returns from South Carolina & visit with Bill.

March 23  Freddie not working.  Things are bad here at home.

March 24  First day of sun shine in over a week.

March 25, The Lord’s Day.  Cloudy but not so cold.  Have not had one warm day this year

March 26  Some sun to-day.  Robbie & Helen take Margie & Baby to doctor.  Michael gets some shots.  He now weighs 13 lb. & 5 oz.; 23 ½ inches in height

March 27.  Michael sleeping.  The day sunny & warmer.

March 28 – Nice day

March 29  Received light bill $21.27.  A back breaker.  The sun is shining.  It’s warm & windy.  Margie washing to-day.

March 30 – Cool & cloudy.  Paid the bills & bought grocerys.

April 7,  Cold & windy.  Bought more grocerys.

April 8  the Lord day.  Rain  Michael has his first cold.  Freddie & Violet still a big worry.  Bob’s cold no better

April 9,  Rain.  Sharon in Indianapolis for over a week.  Staying with her sister-in-law.

April 10  Warm & sunny.  Michael cross with cold.

April 19.  Round of colds has hit the family.  Michael better.  Bobby at Brazil.  Sharon at her sister-in-laws.  Freddie no job as yet. It’s hard to meet the bills.  It’s a bright day.

April 30 – Have our first spring rain with thunder & lightning.  It came as a climax of a week of warm day & nights.

May 6.  Another rain.  It’s been a dry spring.  Cool after the rain

May 8.  Another rain last night  Freddie working in Filling station.

May 28,  The long dry spell is ended.  Have had 3 nice rains in as many day.  The peonies are blooming but won’t last long  Freddie & Violet have there own place now.  Bob stay with John.  Sharon home yesterday & to-day.  Michael recovering from bad cold.  As of last Saturday he now turns over by him self.  Weight 16 lb 6 oz  May 11.  Twenty 25 inches in height

June 18  Hot to-day after several very pleasant days.  Perhaps it will rain.  Michael doing well.  Weight 17 lb 15 oz as of the 11th of this month; 25 inches long.  Bob gone most of the time  Freddie & Violet still having their troubles.  Some one stole their rent money.  Freddie fired because of spark plugs missing at station while he was on duty.  Sharon starts restruant work to-day.

Dec. 14  Robert in the Army; left the Dec. 12.  Sharon has an apartment.  Still have to keep Freddie & Violet.  They can’t find work.  Michael cut his first tooth September 12.  Had 3 more less than a month later.  Gets all over the house crawling & walking around things  Says a few words.

The last few days in November were really unusual; lasted until the 4th of Dec.  Real Indian summer  quiet sunny days with temperatures in or near 70◦s.  This week is very cold.  Below zero with some snow here & heavy snow north near lakes.

Dec 27.  Cold & clear to-day.  Zero weather to-day & a prommise of the same for to-morrow.  Nice Xmas.  Michael loves the Christmas tree.  He won’t touch.  Much be the wonder of it.  Robert goes back to Camp Knox New Years.  Must be there the second.


Jan. 12  Margie took Michael to the doctor Thursday.  He weighs 21 lb 13 oz.  Is 29 ½ inches in height.  Freddie still without work.  Have a letter from Bob at Fort Knox.  He’s doing ok.  Sharon has an apartment.  The weather has been warm & the snow gone.  It’s turning much colder to-day.  Margie over the Flu; now leaving for the shopping center.

Jan. 13  Very cold this Sunday.  All ok  Checking accounts & find myself in a bad way.  Must write a letter to Bob.

Feb. 10  Quiet Sabbath.  Michael some better.  Winter hanging in there.  It snowing a little to-day.  Have a army group picture from Bob.

Feb. 17.  A quiet Sabbath.  Freddie in deep trouble.  Sharon has a car.  Wrote another letter to Bob.  Filed my gross taxes.

March 3  Michael started walking the 26 of February.  Helen and Robbie taught him with a cigarrette lighter he wanted.  Had a heavy snow last Friday about like last year.  Worked over time again.  Make the third week.  Bear-Cats win the Sectional.  Freddie still in jail.  Bob doing his for Uncle Sam.  I’m very discouraged.

March 11 – Cold and rainy.  Freddie’s lawyer to try for lower bond.  All are well except for cases of nerves  Sharon here for a little while Sunday.  Bob called.  Needed money which I couldn’t spare.  Work six days the past two weeks  May God be with us & love us!  “Bear-Cats” win at New Castle Regional.

March 17.  Cloudy & warm.  All are well this quiet Sabbath day.  Have hope for Freddie now.  May God be with us.  The “Bear-Cats” win Semi-finals at Indianapolis.  Have worked the last three Saturdays “by the grace of God.”  No letter from Bobby this week.

March 24,  A very lovely Sabbath with sunny skies.  No word from Robert this past week.  Freddie home on bond.  Sharon some better after a nervis collapse.  Michael ok.  “Bear Cats” win state Crown  65 to 61  Worked six days but finnacial standing very precarious.  Had so many extra expenses

April 1st  Very warm & nice this morning after raining all day yesterday.  Lord has been good.

July 25  The weather hot.  Having some rain after long dry spell.  Things are very discouraging.  Freddie in trouble again an in jail.  Was jailed July 13 for forgery.  This time he was played for a sucker.

Robert in Alaska for a couple of months Seems to be doing better. 

The basement & garage full of Freddie & Sharons junk.  Very depressing to look upon. 

Margie some better from a bad ulcer. 

Michael doing fine.  Was 32” in height and weighed 23 lbs at 18 months

Am losing all hope