He Taught Us a Thing or Two, Pt. 3

Part 3 : About Romance

Frank was a practical romantic. He had this idea that people should make sure their spouses know they are loved. He thought in order to do that one has to discover what is important to the person and do that for them.

Because I agreed with him and since I knew culinary variety was one thing important to him, I prepared meals accordingly. Being the Daniel Boone type of guy, he loved wild game. He taught me how to cook it correctly. With wild turkey, he always wanted me to “fry the breast and stew the rest.” Venison would be packaged to be fried, stewed, or ground.  Frank enjoyed stuff peppers, especially with ground venison.

Stuffed peppers

Leftovers brought a frown to his face, unless I could change it up a bit. I can be creative. Cold fried venison would  turn into smother-fried venison over rice. He also loved spicy food and added hot sauce to almost any dish. (I think his throat was seared because he could drink hot sauce right out of the bottle.) When I made chili, his was cooked in a separate pot because he was the only one who could eat it. Yes, food was important to him and so I romanced him that way.

Frank knew that words are important to me, so instead of just sending roses or a bouquet of other beautiful flowers, he found a poem on the Internet that spoke his heart, snapped a photo of it and sent it to the florist to transcribe onto the card that went with the flowers. ( Our florist is wonderful.) He did this several times a year.

Single red rose

The flowers were great, but the poem… Always beautiful because I knew he really meant what it said. I kept the little cards with the poems in my purse so that if I was having a rough day I could take one out, read it, and know that no matter what, I was loved. That kind of put things in perspective.

I’ve heard stories of young men Frank worked around receiving these lessons on romance and actually using it in their own marriage, with great results. One might comment about forgetting her birthday or their anniversary, and Frank would teach him that that was close to being a cardinal sin. He even taught him to find out what her favorite flower was and send her a bouquet of those. With a poem, of course.

The poem Frank sent with the roses on our anniversary is one of my favorites:

Today we celebrate
The joining of our hearts.
We were meant for each other
Right from the start.
We were destined to be together
And never to part.
You are my friend, my lover,
And the keeper of my heart.

The song “Waitin’ on a Woman” by Brad Paisley and Andy Griffith was special to us. (It is more true about us than I’d like to admit.) When we saw the video on TV, he told me that one day he’d find that white bench. I thought he was just being his usual romantic self, so I kissed his face and told him if that did happen he could know one thing for sure, I’d be along sometime. He wouldn’t wait in vain.

I am so looking forward to spending eternity with you, Frank.
You are my friend, my lover, and the keeper of my heart.

 

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He Taught Us a Thing or Two, Pt.2

Part 2 : Adventure

Adventure: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity. (Another definition: daring and exciting activity calling for enterprise and enthusiasm.)

Frank lived for adventure and every day was just that if you were with him. If you went riding in the woods with him, you’d better take food and water because you never knew how long you would be gone or what unusual or exciting activity you would experience.

Sometimes it was bland stuff like photographing some animal or insect in the wild, or getting stuck in a bog he tried to navigate with his four- wheel-drive truck.

Butterfly 5

Other times it was down right nail-biting.

One time we went for a ride in the woods on a weekend afternoon. He was home on R&R from his job in Saudi Arabia and wanted to see some Florida greenery. We had our oldest daughter with us. She was four years old at the time, and I was expecting our son.

In the woods

As usual, during our ride we talked about animal habitats and behavior patterns. I learned a lot. He liked catching the animals with his bare hands and looking them over before he let them go. If a sow pig crossed the road with her babies, he’d stop, catch one, scratch its little belly, and let us pet it before sending it back to its mama.

On this particular trip, though I was not aware of it until after the fact, he was looking for a particular animal. A friend of his had been having trouble with thieves stealing tools out of the back of his truck. He asked Frank for advice on an anti-theft device. Frank had the perfect solution and it slithered into the middle of the road that day right in front of our truck.

Frank stopped, got out, and walked circles around the 5 foot diamondback rattler. He broke a piece from a large dead limb nearby and used it to help him catch her. ( I am not sure how he knew it was a female, but he said, “she.”)

Photo credit: usg.edu
Photo credit: usg.edu

Once he caught her, one hand gripped just behind her head and the other supporting her large body, he told me to bring him the empty feed sack from the back of the truck. As I said before, I was expecting and our young daughter was in the seat with me. So I slid off the truck seat, shut the truck door behind me securely to keep her inside, got the feed sack, and threw it toward him. I didn’t want to be within twenty feet of that thing.

Frank looked at me oddly, as if to say “Why’d you do that?” He then held the snake toward me and said, “If I let her go now, she will bite me. Pick up the sack, hold it open, and I will put her in it. When I pull my hands out, close the sack.” He never broke a sweat, and spoke with confidence. His whole demeanor said,”I’m in control here.”

I did as instructed, and he took the bagged snake from me. Then I began to breathe again. I got back in the truck and my whole body turned to jelly. When he got in the truck, I told him the next time he did that, she could just bite him. He’d better never put me in that position again!

He laughed and  said I wasn’t adventurous enough.

I believe being married to him proved I was adventurous enough.

I knew that he knew a whole lot more than I did about animal behavior and … I learned to trust him. He got bit a few times by different types of animals, but nothing dangerous or poisonous. He gave respect when it was due.

He took the snake to his friend, who used it as a theft deterrent. I never heard if the thief lived.

I’m concerned life may be dull now.

How do I live, really live …

without you, Frank?

 

He Taught Us a Thing or Two

I am a teacher by profession. My Frank was a teacher by nature. Anyone who cared to learn, and hung around for a bit, would get lessons about hunting, fishing, adventure, romance, and life.

Let me talk a little about hunting and fishing first.

Frank taught folks how to select the proper gun for the hunting they were doing. Obviously, one would never harvest a mess of squirrels and a white-tail buck with the same caliber rifle. It could be done, but it is better done with the appropriate rifle to maximize the harvest while minimizing animal suffering.

(Yes, a mess is what a group of dead squirrels is called. If you ever had to clean them, you’d understand the term.)

He taught folks how to shoot a gun, or rig a rod and reel,  sharpen a knife,  dress the kill or clean the catch, cut it up, and even cook it. He figured they knew how to do the eating. Though for children, he did teach them how to pick the meat from the bones. Especially certain kinds of bony fish.

He also taught folks how to catch fish. The method depended on what type of fish they were after. Around here it was usually mullet, redfish, or flounder.

For mullet, his favorite method was a cast net. He’d sometimes take the boat, but more often he’d just wade down the creeks at Shired Island, off the sandy point. He could throw a cast net while standing in waist-deep water and it would open perfectly. He put his catch in a mesh bag tied to his waist and they would flow along in his wake. He usually caught enough to give away twenty or so and still have enough for our supper.

Open Castnet

If he wanted to catch a redfish, a rod and reel was his tool of choice. He enjoyed the boat for this kind of fishing. The largest he ever caught was forty inches, nose to tail. He had to release him because the limit is twenty-seven inches. He pretty much tried to abide by the rules. (Don’t laugh. I said he tried.) As he got older and wiser, he tried harder.

Forty inch redfish

Floundering : the act of wading in a creek, spotting a flounder after you bumped into him with your feet, and harvesting said flounder. When Frank went after flounder, it was with a light and a gig at night. Before our children were born, I went with him sometimes. He taught me how to shuffle my feet properly.

He had the pole with the light on the end of it down in the water.  It was pitch black otherwise. No moon. He said it was easier to see the flounder lying on the creek bed on a moonless night.

When he spotted one, he gigged it and put it on the stringer. Just like with mullet, the fish would trail along behind him. Yep, right where I was, holding onto the washtub floating in a truck-tire inner tube carrying the floundering necessities. Every now and then one of those slimy things would touch my bare leg ( I had on knee-length shorts). I’d yelp and try to get up under Frank. He didn’t like that too much. It hindered his floundering.

Another couple went with him one time and she had the same slimy experience, except she reacted differently. The noise she made and the way she climbed up his back, he said later, kind of reminded him of a spider monkey. Her husband was not as tall as Frank. He stood and watched his wife with amazement.

When Frank got home and told me about it, I told him she was just trying to get out of the water. I could empathize. He  appreciated me more after that.

After our children got old enough, Frank took each one of them floundering. They were smart enough to wear blue jeans and Frank’s floundering was a lot more fun for him and them.

So many memories… So many stories to tell.

Enough for now.

I love you and miss you, Frank. You taught me so much.

A Tribute to Frank Pridgeon

Frank and Alpine truck

Frank Pridgeon
April 1950 – Nov 2014

My husband, a modern-day Daniel Boone, was an adventurous spirit. He had been a skilled woodsman since childhood (He roamed the woods around their home and hunted small game successfully with a .22 rifle when he was nine.) We have a newspaper clipping his mom saved showing the time when, as a young boy, he killed a bobcat with a stick. He loved wide open spaces and the adventure that awaited around each curve in the path.

He was an expert at cast-net fishing. He knew how to call up a turkey, and wait on a buck. When he hunted or fished, he brought home supper.

He would eat anything. The more unusual the dish, the better he liked it. His favorite TV show was “Bizarre Foods” with Andrew Zimmern.

He was a pipefitter with worldwide credentials. His work had taken him from one environmental extreme to another. In the late seventies, he spent a little over a year in the 120 degree heat of the Saudi Arabian desert, and recently worked where the wind chill factor drops to -84 (not exaggerating) on the North Slope of Alaska. (They had to stay inside if the wind chill factor fell below -50.) Where most folks would shrivel, he thrived.

He had followed his dream, his passion. Every day was an adventure. He amazed me with the sacrifices he was willing to make and the risk he was willing to take for our family. And I have always appreciated it. When I would tell him how amazing he was, and how I was so impressed with his courage to go forward no matter the risk, ( -84 degrees, really!?! ) he would look at me with that little smile and say, “If you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough.”

Why do I tell you all of these things? Because he wouldn’t. He didn’t think his skills were amazing. He just felt ordinary. And sometimes he felt less than ordinary. A teacher told him at one point in his life that he was not smart because he struggled to read.

The truth is, he was smart. He struggled to read because he went to four different schools in first grade. Not good for a solid foundation in reading. His family had to move around to find work. He had to figure the reading thing out himself in spite of teachers who would rather label him than bridge the gaps. He was determined to prove them wrong. And he did. He worked hard, bridged the gaps himself, and graduated in spite of the label.

He not only graduated, but worked and used his skills and talents to further his education and build the credentials he had to be able to go where he went, do what he did, and earn what he earned. What a life!

And he lived this way until November 7, 2014, the day God opened Heaven’s door and welcomed him home.

Frank at Seward

And I also tell you these things because someone may have labeled you incorrectly once (or every day for an entire school year). Learn from this great man : Don’t let a label hold you back. God has gifted you. Go with your passion. Pray and find the destiny He had in mind for you the day you were conceived.

Be someone’s hero.

Jer. 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you…