(Contact Info: larry at larryblakeley.com)
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A listing and access link to all:
song lyrics and mp3 audio files http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/ (all of which are a part of this Web site) can be accessed simply by selecting the "htm" file for the song you want;
quotations http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/quotations.htm; and
essays written by Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/articles_larry_blakeley.htm,
all of which are used to tell the story in this Web site, can be accessed by going to each respective link set out above.
My son, Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/larryblakeley_photos_jpeg.htm manages this Web site.
Major Roy James Blakeley (December 10, 1928 - July 22, 1965) - USAF (KIA)
When I was young my dad would say
Come on son let's go out and play
No matter how hard I try
No matter how many tears I cry
No matter how many years go by
I still can't say goodbye
- "I Still Can't Say Goodbye," Performer: Chet Atkins
MP3 audio file/lyrics http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/still_cant_say_goodbye.htm
For a larger image click on the photograph.
On Friday, the 17th day of September, 2004 I gave two, one-hour presentations to a convention of members of the National Association of Royalty Owners (NARO http://www.naro-us.org) in Denver, Colorado. The topic concerned how I use Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet and its Access database programs to manage oil and gas revenue and joint interest billing invoices for clients of mine. This trip originated the previous day from my home at Dallas, Texas, departing the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and arriving at the Denver International Airport.
My presentations were done under the same terms as the information provided in both of my Web sites, “gratis” ( http://www.larryblakeley.com and http://www.royblakeley.name ).
I traveled there with a clear idea of what I wanted to say to this particular audience. And, the objective of this mission of message delivery was one that composed of encouragement from me to them.
Why mostly words of encouragement to this group of folks? There were several items of information that I had available to me that indicated how I should proceed with them that day. For one thing, prior to arriving there I had already been informed by the national headquarters that they were continuously receiving calls from many of their members expressing that they had no idea where to start. For another, I asked them who used Excel and Access. A few used Excel, none used Access that I recall - not that it would have changed things. So, just by the response to these two questions, I knew what they needed - and all a large part of that message consisted of words of encouragement for them to go ahead and “jump” - the virtual water of the digital world was “fine.” So, it was these folks I reached out to.
Then, I proceeded to go over and highlight a few examples of what they could do for themselves with these two products that they had most likely already purchased and paid for, but just did not know what they were for and could do.
Oh, sure there were probably a few scattered out in the audience that had already made the leap and were ready for more complex problem solving discussion. But, not today. This presentation was not going to be centered around them, but was reserved for those poor folks needing a little push into the world of “trial and error.” A presentation from me of deeper and more complex use of these products would have to be deferred to another day.
I’m sure there were a number of these folks that had taken a few computer classes only to be left more confused as to “why?” Why they still just could not seem to make this “little fella” work for them. I mean they knew it could, but how in the world is it done? Where in the world do I start? What programs are available to me to do what my business needs require? And, more importantly, how do you learn them?
Anyone with these thoughts comprised mainly by a lack of self-confidence for sure doesn’t need me confusing them any further by reciting any more facts, figures, terminology such as bits, bytes, mega-hertz, kilo-hertz, and so on, and so forth. It was clear to me what they needed. Someone just needed to re-assure them that some of had already jumped and it does not hurt.
So, I also spoke of why their past failures have largely originated from within themselves. An unbridled horse will take you in the wrong direction every time. And, if that ornery thing has a bit of wildness in him, he will scare the dickens out of you, so that you don’t ever want to get back on him, again.
Fear is self-confidence’s direct antonym (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonym) and therefore, the archenemy - leaving us all feeling inadequate and helpless to get control of this unruly beast.
No sir. My message to them was “I’ve been on that unruly horse before - fallen off - got back on - and, so on and so forth, until both that “little fella” and I come to an understanding of just who is the boss, here.
My friend, sometimes life’s lessons learned just have to be learned the old fashioned way - the tried and true method of trial and error. For many of us - including myself, we didn’t have time for any “stinking badges” http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/quotations/badges_quote_traven_book.htm to take control of this “little frisky fella” - didn’t have the time to. We needed it to get to work for us and do it right quick - no time to waste, here. So, we keep dusting ourselves off each time he got the best of us, got right back on that “little fella,” and rode him, again. And, over time we regained control, reined it in, and made him act right from henceforth.
And, when both, you and that “little fella” get the rules straight of who’s the boss and in control, then you can proceed to the next level of learning how to make him really work for you.
So, these messages were conveyed to this group of folks, - some of whom were possibly old enough to be my father or mother.
But, now that’s not really why I decided to write this story. That’s just the reason I was, where I was, when this story begins.
Something quite significant occurred to me within moments of returning to the Denver International Airport for the flight back to Dallas. This event was totally unexpected for me. It was one of those moments that I have recognized a few other moments along my life’s journey, so I couldn’t “tell you what it was, but I know it when I see it.”
I left the Marriott’s Denver City Center hotel in a blue Super Shuttle extra long-bed van, positioned myself in a seat position next to the window, feeling a little tired, rested my head against the glass, closed my eyes, and tried to just rest there for awhile.
Somewhere along the way winding through the streets of downtown Denver, a voice suddenly spoke out to me, “that’ll be $18.”
I opened my eyes, saw we were completely stopped in front of another downtown hotel, and then raised my head up to see who was asking for my $18.
And, it was the driver.
A little confused by this for two reasons - one was that I had just hopped the van in arriving and paid up when at the hotel; and the other was that we were stopped, at what ended up to be, the last hotel stop for passengers before proceeding to the interstate leading to the airport - way out from downtown.
So, I simply said to him, “This is not my destination. I’m going to the airport.”
He said, “sure, I know that, but it’s $18 to go there.”
Well, always one to question a change in plans, I responded back with, “Well that’s how it was done when I arrived. And besides, I’m not at the airport.”
He turned around to take a look at me and I looked at him.
Over a 25-year period as a manager of oil and gas properties, I had been on all ends of a trade - a buyer, seller, and partner on projects from simple straight-forward lease contracts to joint venture participation agreements between other oil companies partnering to drill wells together and I knew when somebody had the upper hand.
So, on this trade I had better give this man $18 - now, or I was fixing to find myself on the pavement of downtown Denver, Colorado in front of this last hotel-stop waiting for another driver to take me out to the airport to catch a ride on one of those airplanes back to my family in Dallas, Texas.
So, I did what the rest of you would have done. I reached down into my pocket, pulled out a $20 bill, and handed it to this man.
Why did he want his money before leaving the downtown area? Well, I looked around and it was just me and him in this big ole van intended for a crowd of folks. So, I figured right quick that this man wanted to make sure that he got at least $18 in his hands from this unprofitable sole passenger that was keeping him from going home- me - before proceeding any further on this unprofitable (I later asked and found out from him that this was his last trip of the day before going to his home) journey way out in the distance somewhere to the airport.
So, this trade was finalized to the satisfaction of us both and the wheels of that van started turning again.
What did this man look like? He was as black as the nighttime is dark.
And, if you don’t know this already - I’m as white as the daytime is light.
So, we were unquestionably from two completely different cultures from the get-go.
I really can’t recall the last time I found myself in a situation where it was just me and a black man.
Ever since those days, when I may possibly have had one thumb of my hand in my mouth and the other hand, wrapped firmly around a good fistful of the spare material left of my granddad's old, Dickies khaki work trousers - careful not to push him over - I had observed the black man from a position of safe harbor. This grandfather of mine was John Lewis Ashton, husband of Edna (Gideon) Ashton, both of whom were the loving parents of my mother, Johnnye (Ashton) Blakeley and her sisters, Valerie and Doris.
He was one of the two men in my young years of development from a child to a boy that I watched and learned from, sometimes just by silently looking on and listening to what was happening. The other was my father, Roy James Blakeley, deceased, USAF, Major, KIA, July 22, 1965, Chu Lai airfield, Republic of South Vietnam. To know more about either of them, me, and those I love please go to http://www.royblakeley.name
This granddad of mine - John Lewis Ashton - I had adored and looked up to with unquestioned love and respect for as long as I can remember.
And, he gave me unconditional love no matter my previous transgressions against him, albeit minor.
Such as the time I was being ornery with my sister (Karen) by taking her shoes from her. Well, she showed me. She ran inside of the house crying profusely while trying to explain what misdeed I had inflicted upon her. Well, here he came, out the door, up to me under that chinaberry tree in the backyard, looked around - no shoes anywhere to be found, turned to my sister and said, “Larry does not have your shoes.” Well, I suppose I must have made a tactical error here for she immediately cried out to him through those tears of hers, “He’s sitting on them!” Well, some of you know were I’m going from here: here, it came, again - that sinking feeling in the bottom of your stomach that feels just like you ate something bad, and need to just throw it up, or something. So, sure enough, he reached down, took a good firm grip of me, and lifted up this “little fella.” And, there they were for everyone to see - her shoes - caught, again.
Being an advocate of adult life-long learning, information and knowledge management, and such - I wish I could tell you that I learned from this and never repeated such misdeeds that required some more teaching this way. But, every now and then I would “backslide” and need to be reminded, again of what the Bible says the fire of hell will be like.
So, here I am, as close as I could get next to this man that still loved me in spite of all my prior transgressions. The same man that I had run from one early evening for another transgression - running across that soft, plowed dirt where the seeds had been planted already, looking back over my shoulder, in fear of what I saw - him, running right behind me, both of us traveling across those rows of soft dirt, all the while me pleading for a commitment from him that he would not spank me, if I stopped for him.
This was the bridge of manhood that was made for me by these two men in my life that led me to the world of real manhood on the other side of that wide ravine separating the men from the boys. For those men welcoming me over were men with goodness of character. The same men as these two that lead the way for me as a boy. And, now I “carry on” by knowing how to build this same bridge for my son to cross someday, as well. The chain remains unbroken.
My granddad was a hard working man while walking on this earth, with a past that would put most men six feet in the ground, all of which had become tempered with aging over the years, into what I recognized as a sweet soul of gentleness and fair dealing - both with me and those that were down and out, despondent, and in need of a little extra money; by doing some work for him, so they could feed themselves and their family.
There is no doubt in my mind that many stories confirming his life was difficult that are today locked up in the minds of my mother and her sisters - just, sitting there, slowly disappearing from remembrances of that aging takes away from all us. What it was like to shelter themselves in a dirt floored home in the ground of this earth just to shelter themselves from her elements. Or, possibly what it was like for Christmas to come around with no money left, after feeding themselves, to afford Christmas presents for the girls. But, always having something money just doesn’t buy - love from the heart of another, protection when young, and parents that stuck together through all the hard times.
And, for me, just like them before - this man was my safe harbor from any harm ever coming to me, as long as he was alive.
Why did his conversations with the black man interest me so? I wanted to see how he carried on a conversation with the black man. Would the conversation seem different to me between the black man than when I listened to him talk to another white man? Or, would we get back in his pickup and he later give me the impression that we were superior to the black man? No, none of these things ever happened.
So my answers to these questions that I was curious about came from watching and listening to my granddad. And, I was proud of my granddad for these lessons of humility that I carried in my heart and soul nearly 40 years later.
I never asked him what he thought of the black man - didn’t need to. He had many times answered these questions of mine, just by actions - there for me to see with my own two eyes, while standing intently close to his side from this vantage point of safe harbor - free to observe life’s lessons without fear.
And, ever since those early years of my youth, I have been unafraid of the man with the dark skin for that reason alone.
Since my granddad’s source of income in those days came predominately from raising hogs and a hog doesn’t require soil with any value for fattening and selling to the the market, there was many an occasion that took us through the black part of town (Rotan, Fisher County, Texas). Sometimes, it might be to search for a hog, or two that had somehow made his way past the electric wire fencing, roaming freely among small wood frame housing of adjacent black neighborhood.
And, I can recall on more than one occasion, watching my granddad step out of his old Ford truck with those ankle-high Red Wing work boots, down into the mud of earth, sinking down into that muck well over the top of those boots of his, grab the chain from the truck, wrap one end of that chain around the rear bumper of the pickup and the other around the bumper of the black man, and then proceed to rev up that old tired engine like I had never seen him do, but on these occasions. I’m here to tell you, man - from my vantage point, peering through the dirty back window of the cab of that old truck, as my grandad would give it all that “little fella” had - there would be mud slung out from behind those spinning tires of his, reaching the front grill of that black man’s car, proceeding up over the front hood, then onto the windshield, and right over the top, to the point where you would have thought - "that poor black man must be thinking there was a landslide a-coming." But, he always got them out of that same mud-hole that he stepped into and that the black man was also consumed by himself, on his way to, or from his home.
And, yet, even still I never heard one word come forth from his mouth that ever gave me any indication that the black man was any different than the white man - not one time. He would pull the black man out, get back out into the mud, undo the chains, throw them back in the truck, and get back in, and off we went down that muddy road of life, together - "the bridge builder” http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/poetry/bridge_builder.htm
and me thinking to myself, in silence, while riding next to my granddad, “I want to be just like him when I grow up to be a man”. http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/poetry/road_not_taken.htm
But, other questions still remained unanswered.
Such as, what is life like when you are a black man?
Is it any different than me? And, if so, in what ways?
And, why did he disappear from my life?
I mean he was there when both of us were attending primary and secondary school.
And, he was even there some in my college years at The University of Texas, at Austin, Texas (UT’s student count was somewhere in the neighborhood of 33,000 - 35,000 students during this time period of the middle of the decade of the 1970's).
But, somehow he virtually disappeared from the scene of my life's journey.
On occasion over the last 25 years I have entered the home of the black man - there to get his signature or "X" on the bottom of an oil and gas lease. So, whenever I entered their homes I always had a plan of learning that was based on the principle of learning as much as I could, in the least amount of time. And, upon being asked into their home, that method of learning began with scanning the walls. I took note of what photographs were pinned to, or hung on the walls. This told me more about this home than any other cue that I could think of. And, after testing from numerous such visits I was confident that this would always remain my first focus.
So, what did I see on many of those walls? I saw what I believed to be Jesus, and what I knew to be John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. And, I felt at home.
And, when I close my eyes, and try to imagine even just a small vision of the experience of the darkness, awful fear, misery, and unbearable existence of those poor people in the dark, smelly bulging bellies of those ships of profiteering that originated on the shores of Africa - but, as hard as I tried, I was never able to hear the weeping women and children, nor smell the stench of fresh blood, human excrement - and, that "smell," that unquestionable smell of death. Reality never appeared for me for I was never able to feel in my soul, touch with my hands, see with my eyes, or hear with my ears these awful experiences of another human being.
Have we truly integrated these people into our society? Many will say, "yes" - in America .".. that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," I presume from birth. And, these rights cannot be taken away from you by government or anyone else here in America.
Even a non-expert such as me can question the validity of these principles upon which our nation of democracy was based upon. I mean anyone that compares the time-lines can readily agree that these "truths" were not intended for the black man. In fact, it would not surprise me in the least that the word "slavery" may have been missing from the dialect in those days. Why? Because property rights was a legitimate right in America at the time - and this certainly covered more than dirt. So, it seems a reasonable deduction to connect the black man to the white man through the basis of our laws applicable to property.
Perhaps, the arrangement was later viewed upon as slavery by us, but I believe some would agree that this connection to the white man was based on the theory of property ownership that the constitution was very clear about.
Without property rights America may have never emerged in less than 100 years to become a success of the greatest experiment of democracy in the history of mankind. Surely, the news distributed to people outside of the borders of America must have hailed the opportunities in America for property ownership that was virtually unlimited by nothing but the desire, drive, and motivation of the individual, and nothing else would hold you back. But, this was not the black man’s right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Has there ever been such a massive transplantation of humans, across such a distance, under such adverse conditions, any other time in the history of mankind?
Is the playing field of American opportunities fair and balanced for all? Are the rules of the game really the same for the black? the poor white? the poor Hispanic? And, now - ever so insidiously, the middle-class white American?
Or, are proclamations of fair and balanced opportunities just illusions today? Well, I believe that the answers are as varied as the different circumstances Americans find themselves confronted with today; and, are much more complicated than even 20, or 30 years ago. Many of these answers have become both "yes," and "no." The answers to many of these questions are increasing in complexity, right alongside the same timeline as our society itself - where answers of “yes” and “no” aren’t conclusive anymore.
What happened to the black man in my life? Where did he go? http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/italycityhall.jpg Suddenly, after graduating from college, he was gone. Was it because the smaller independent oil and gas companies at that time - which, for most, did require a college education, preferably, a petroleum land management degree (which, I did not graduate with). Was he just in other industries?
Oh, sure I saw him every now and then. And, I always knew where he lived. And, could see his neighborhood from the vantage point atop those elevated expressways just east of the downtown are of Dallas, Texas.
So, I knew that the black man still existed, but he was nowhere around anymore.
So, these questions of mine remained unanswered.
What do they need to do and how can they have any chance whatsoever of entering some sort of "level-playing field” today in America? And, are the obstacles that need to be removed for this process solely their problem to solve, our problem to solve, or a problem to solve by both of us? Shouldn’t we both proceed with solving this problem once and for all?
I have been told many times by my fellow white man that “it's their own fault, there is a level-playing field in America for all; everyone has the same opportunities here, they just don't want to do anything about it; and they are just too lazy to do anything about it; they don't want to work; they don't want to put in the effort that is required to better themselves like the rest of us have done." But, is that really the truth?
So, in the "belly of that Super Shuttle van,” I lifted up my head, opened my eyes, looked around, and "lo and behold" there we were - together - alone - an opportunity to get a few answers to some of those questions that still had remained unanswered for me. And, wheels of that Super Shuttle van started turning again, and he just laughed, and said to me, “that’s funny.”
And, I snapped back, “what’s funny?”
He said, “that you thought I wanted to take $18 from you without taking you any further.”
And, not to be topped I said, “you weren’t going to take $18 from me because it was in my pocket and I wasn’t going to give it to you for such a short trip.”
So, he just laughed out loud, again. And, I decided this black man was no dummy to be able to catch on so quickly to my use of dry humor. And, furthermore, I did not need to know why he was laughing at what I had said to him. For I knew why.
So, off we went, in the “belly of the ship," together.
We talked all the way from downtown Denver to the airport. And, in that period of time my questions were direct, my intent laid bare to him - no misunderstanding from him of some of the questions left unanswered for so many years.
Our conversation with each other was based on honesty and truth. Two cultures reaching out to each other in an attempt to understand what was happening to each of us and - why?
Why is the black man only seen from a distance, anymore? Are the lyrics to the black song "My Block" MP3 audio file/lyrics at http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/my_block.htm really true? And, why would a black man kill another black man on his own block?
What does it feel like for the black man to be out of work - while most of their women are fully employed? http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/experts/katherine_boo/katherine_boo20030201.htm
Is the black man just too lazy to do anything about getting a job and bettering himself?
And, what in the world is going to happen to the black man in the "globalization" http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/monthly_articles/leonard_nakamura20040915.htm of commerce and the massive outsourcing of jobs by American companies to other countries in their pursuit of self-interest - profits? http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/experts/katherine_boo/katherine_boo20040705.htm
There's only so many taxi drivers needed over here - there's only so many burgers to flip - and, even those jobs here in Texas are fought over by the poor white, the black man, and the Hispanic.
Does it feel the same as a white man stripped of his manhood and self-worth as the provider of his family? Can the unemployed black man face his family while burdened with the loss of his manhood?
And, he had questions that remained unanswered, as well. Why, is the white man afraid to give the black man a chance to make a living, yet has no problem hiring their black women?
What's wrong with our public schools at the middle and secondary school level?
Why are all groups of children losing interest in the sciences and math? http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/monthly_articles/spencer_abraham20040708.htm
And, even if we are successful in rejuvenating their natural curiosity of the sciences and math, will they be able to use these skills and knowledge to make a living in the future? http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/monthly_articles/$800_engineer.htm
Why do certain groups of youth continue to underperform? http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/monthly_articles/CarnegieAdolescentLiteracyReport.pdf
Why are our country's universities and colleges the best in the world, yet our schools to prepare these groups for the higher level of standards required at the collegiate level still failing these people?
And, is the United States' priority the production of missiles and aircraft carriers at the expense of education? And, furthermore, by using the poor to make mercenaries out of them a crime to humanity? http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/natural_born_killers200406.htm
And, after doing this job for America are they just thrown back on our streets to survive the after-effects alone? http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/price_of_valor20040712.htm
And, are proclamations of protecting America only a smoke screen in order to protect assets of a select few? http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/experts/mariacristina_de_nardi/de_nardi_cagetti_summary200309.htm
All of our questions were of a higher level of complexity than the usual talk of weather, what was in the news at the time, what football teams were going to the super bowl, etc. and so forth and so on.
No, we were interested in answers to some questions of life's contradictions that neither one of us knew the answers to.
But, we talked about them, anyway.
They were questions predicated with "why, how, and what.”
Questions that must be asked by anyone that is interested in discovering truth.
Why are there so many contradictions in the real world in America today? And, how come it’s been 141 years now since President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/peter_schramm20040318.htm, issued on January 1, 1863, and the black man still remains “in the belly of the ship” that transported him over here?” http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/poetry/let_america_be_again.htm
And, what can we each do to help the process of equalization speed up?
Can just one black man and one white man pull others “out of the mud” today? http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/interviews/robert_quinn_interview2001.htm Can we influence the direction our country proceeds in the future? http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/monthly_articles/david_bollier_abstract2003.htm
The questions were easy, most of the answers remain elusive, complex, and unanswered for both of us.
So, for these brief minutes my soul and his soul connected and we made the best use of this short time to relay a message to each other - we are not different about some issues that are important to both of us.
We both want to provide for our families. We both want to retain our sense of manhood. And, we both are willing to put in a hard day's work in order to accomplish this.
And, anger in both the white man and the black man comes from many things that we don’t really understand. And, sometimes that anger becomes perverted and is vented through killing another human, regardless of what block they live on.
Sometimes evil surroundings influence good people http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/interviews/philip_zimbardo_interview20040504.htm and pervert them for reasons unknown. But, there is also an evil spirit in some men http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/enemy_within.htm that has nothing to do with their situation in life, but rather stems from some unknown origination. And, the ultimate venting of this evil, is also by killing another human. This spirit is a deformation of the human spirit that can never be rehabilitated and transformed to a condition of goodness.
Becoming consumed with cries of "victimization" http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/interviews/shelby_steele_interview1996.htm is as powerful as fear in keeping the human spirit from rising up and reaching its full potential.
And, lastly - education is the most important asset that a person can attain, regardless of the color of skin. http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/monthly_articles/rod_paige20040722.htm
So, what was a long drive to the airport passed much too quickly, and was suddenly over. He pulled up to my destination, he climbed out of the "belly of the ship.” And, I climb out of the "belly of that Super Shuttle van." We firmly shook hands, bid each other farewell, and both disappeared from each other, again.
He went to his home.
I went back to my home and took with me re-confirmation of the value to my existence of life-long learning from my fellow man.
Final Note from the Author:
I no longer own the thoughts in my mind after putting them in to written format, any more than I own the air we both breath.
So, enjoy, learn what you can from this article, and feel free to distribute it into the virtual wind blowing in the digital world as you wish.
- "The Belly of the Ship," Larry Blakeley - Author and Publisher, September 20, 2004.