Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Don Survant and I were close friends as school boys. I hate to say “best” friends, because I was also close with Darrel Guimond and Mike Dickey. I could easily describe each of those as “best,” except each of them would point out my lack of grammatical accuracy—you can’t have more than one “best.” That was the kind of friends they were. [1]

They have all gone on to their reward, now, but a couple of years before he died, Don introduced me to “ear worms.” I’d had then for a long time; I just didn’t know what to call them before he explained them.

They are those songs that get stuck in your ears, not with iPod buds, but just on their own, out of your brain, like “There Will Be a Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight,” the story of what Mrs. O’Leary’s cow said when she kicked over the lantern.

Don and I bonded even more back when we were boys than I had realized, because just about the time he told me he had “Hot Time” as his ear worm, I had exactly the same song. And we lived a thousand miles apart and had not seen each other in person for 55 years.

Interestingly, the great Chicago fire of 1871 got out of hand quickly in part because the firefighters were tired from a big blaze the day before, and because they were first sent to the wrong section of town.

Our daughter, Katie Kennedy, is a highly acclaimed history professor as well as a highly acclaimed YA author. [2] When she lived in Mason City, Iowa, she taught a college history class in the fire station, so the fire fighters could work on their degrees while they were on the job. She said that when the alarm rang, she was alone in the class room within five seconds, but that an hour or two later the guys [they just happened to be all guys in that class] would be back in their seats, ready to learn some more history.

Mason City is one of those places that has street names followed by NSW and WSE and such. It’s hard to find your way around. One night when the guys came back they apologized for taking too much time, because they had gone to NE instead of SW on 21st Place Avenue Drive Street. [A slight exaggeration, but it really was hard to figure out.] The captain overheard and was quite upset. Apparently that is the first thing their fire fighters were supposed to learn. Fortunately, it was a minor fire that had been put out by the time they got there, so no damage done, but that did not calm the captain down much.

Anyway, now that song about the cow and the lantern are worming in my ear again, which is okay, because it makes me think about Don and remember the hot times we used to have tooling around in his father’s 1937 Dodge in the old town at night. Well, maybe not “hot,” but definitely fun. That’s when a song is at its best—an earworm that reminds us of something good.


1] I was “best man” for both Darrel and Don, and would have been for Mike, except that his girlfriend found someone else while he was in the army, and he went off to AZ to lick his wounds, and there he met someone else, too. I was surprised that marriage lasted--fifty years before Mike died--since I was not the best man.

2] Katie Kennedy is the rising star in YA lit. She is published by Bloomsbury, which also publishes lesser authors, like JK Rowling. Her latest book is, What Goes Up. It’s published in hardback, paperback, audio, and electronic, from B&N, Amazon, etc.

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