Sunday, December 07, 2008

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Me, But Were Afraid To Ask

I am working on my thoughts about the 25th Annual Republican Advance. Tomorrow perhaps.

A little housekeeping first.

I've been lax. Very lax. But only where this page is concerned. Otherwise I've been quite busy lately.

Those of you who do not speak with me often by phone do not know that I have recently begun teaching at a small private school here in Henry County. Imagine that. Me, actually teaching young heads full of mush.

In my somewhat colorful life I've thoroughly enjoyed three quite different careers. I began my working life, after the typical youthful endeavors at Dairy Queen and a couple of retail jobs, as a long-distance trucker. The open road, a Jack Kerouac type of lifestyle, and small towns and large cities all over America was a highly educational experience for me. And a devastating influence on a young marriage. I came home one weekend to discover that my sole possessions were a rocking chair and a telephone. (Centel owned the phones at that time, so I suppose all I really owned was that rocking chair.) She even took my clothes.

Soon enough I met the one who was to become my second wife, a beautiful petite lady with an incredible trained singing voice with whom I fell deeply in love. Karen was from Nelson County, Piney River to be precise, and a graduate of James Madison University where she majored in voice and was the recently divorced choral director at a local high school when she moved into the apartment across the hall from me in Collinsville. I remember thinking on that first day, while I helped some guy move her piano from a truck to her new living space, that she looked great in a pair of tight jeans. Yes, I remember them well. Some sort of short-pile velvet or velour that was in fashion in 1980, not plain old denim. And a deep purple. Not the ordinary blue. There was nothing ordinary about her.

A year or so later we were married and moved to Florida. Bradenton is, (or was then), a small town south of Tampa on the west coast of Florida, just north of Sarasota. We called it home. I soon began my second career as a pool contractor. I designed and built swimming pools for the rich, famous, and regular-old citizens of southwest Florida. (Side note: among my customers was Greg Allman, Dik Browne, John D. McDonald, and Lucille Ball. Two of those you may have to Google. If you do you might notice that I may have soaked up some influence from one or two of them during our frequent beer or whiskey-fueled pool-side chats. No, I never had a "pool-side chat" with Ms. Ball. She was famous, but not very friendly.)

It was in Florida, during the Reagan campaign, that I first became politically active. I had always been a political thinker, but there I began actually working on political campaigns and working on civic projects.

I had a very lucrative contract with the City of Bradenton to install all of their playground equipment at parks and such which gave me access to the entire City Council, the Mayor, and at times, Governor Bob Graham. Mr. Graham was one of a very short list of Democratic politicians I have truly liked and enjoyed the company of. I became active in the local Republican Party, and was even asked to run for elected office. A request I constantly declined.

I have a tendency to screw up my life when it’s going particularly well, and my time in Bradenton and my second marriage presented just such an opportunity.

A not remarkably pretty, but very sexy, customer invited me to violate my marriage vows. I accepted the invitation. Repeatedly. She loved the music of Jimmy Buffett. I loved sex. I got caught. End of marriage. I hardly ever listen to Jimmy Buffett anymore. I broke Karen’s heart. I still kick myself. I miss Karen.

Life goes on.

Things eventually began to shake out, I found myself entering my third career. I became a field engineer for a tiny little division of Eaton Corp, Eaton-Kenway. Based in Salt Lake City, Kenway was the manufacturer of industrial automated material handling systems. A fancy way of saying industrial robots. My experience designing and building my own electrical controls for my customer's highly automated custom pools was the doorway that I was able to use to gain access to this new career.

As a "field engineer" at Kenway I was one of a group of guys who took the ideas and designs of the "real engineers" in that big glass building in Salt Lake City and made them work in the real world. Electrical one day, mechanical the next, there were always bugs that had to be worked out once the ideas were actually implemented. I loved the challenge, and I was always able to eventually make the big yellow machines do whatever task they were designed to do.

I spent the next fifteen years as an itinerant bachelor engineer, specializing in electrical engineering, first at Kenway, then in the coalfields of southwestern Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and southern West Virginia.

In 2001 I met the third Mrs. Alton B. Foley. The former Shelia R. Tester was another recent divorcee. Do I notice a pattern here? She had recently moved back to Hurley, VA from Daytona after a rather difficult second marriage.

Shelia and I were married in early 2001, and I became an immediate father to a couple of great step-children, Dana, an 8 year old girl and Jake, a 12 year old boy. (Way back at the beginning of this story my own daughter was born, now 33 year-old Tonya.)

This was an entirely new experience for me. Never before had I showered each morning with a redhead, a brunette, and two blondes. Along with an 8 year-old step daughter come Barbies and Barbie buddies everywhere, even in the tub.

I never had a chance to screw this one up. One day in 2005, during our ritual after work coffee-cigarette-and-more-coffee on the carport, Shelia informed me that she no longer wanted to be married. At least not to me.

Life goes on.

I moved to Richlands,VA, switched over to mechanical engineering, still in the coal industry, and tried to enjoy life. I couldn’t.

Later that year I moved back to Henry County and found employment as an electrical engineer, (ahh, familiarity), and plant engineer in Stuart, VA.

That job ended about a year ago. Here in economically depressed Henry County, with my skill set and lack of an honest degree, I may as well be a deep sea diver for all the employment opportunities that are present.

I was recently asked to teach in this small private school. I fit the position and it fits me. I’m as happy as I’ve ever been, and this job is a real blast. Welcome career number four.

I am now living at the former home of Virginia's governor from 1954 to 1958, Thomas B. Stanley. Now owned by an attorney in New Jersey, I am the caretaker of the estate. I am writing this from a room on the second floor that was probably some sort of sitting room when Gov. Stanley lived here, it's now my office. Future articles here will describe the estate and provide pictures.

I’m still a bachelor, though. I do miss being married. And no, this is not a veiled plea for a wife in any manner, shape, or form. Mrs. Foley number four, if she exists, will present herself in due time.

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