The Eagle Has Landed. But Where?

Henry Clyde Billingsley was a young WWI soldier who awoke one day with an unplanned, unwanted but spectacular new eagle tattoo. Decades later, your editor recalled the incident to Brother Paul who, consistent with his contentious nature and faulty memory, insisted the tattoo had somehow been squeezed onto Grandpa's left forearm.

It was, of course, spread-eagled in all its glory on Grandpa's chest, wingtips stretching from nipple to nipple. There ensued a heated, still smouldering family discussion, that ended in a call to Blonde Cousin Kathy, who listened tactfully to both cousins before uttering five utterly Kathy-like words: "Grandpa Bill had a
tattoo? Short of exhumation of old Grandpa, the matter may appear long dead and buried. But the mission of this blog will be to rectify this and other faulty family memories ...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas letter, 2009

Dear friends and family, During the early years of the First Great Depression, little Diggie and her big sister Freoda lived in a railcar idled, like their Dad, by lack of work. It was parked on a sidetrack (now you know where that name comes from) among other occupied railcars in a bizarre, desperate little suburb of sorts, a refuge for Missouri Pacific RR employees trying to survive the most terrifying time of their lives.
Many, many years later, Diggie's great-grandson Richie Prater Begemann came to the Loveland Prater Yurt for a visit, during which time the Currently Littlest Prater Of His Generation proceeded to nonchalantly toss away not one but three pacifiers, all quickly replaced with no beating and very little fanfare by doting Mother Amy. Well, some of you may recall Diggie's recollections of similar circumstances in the 1930s, when her own resourceful father whittled a little binkie out of dried-up, trackside cow poop. It may not have tasted very good, she told us fondly, but it sure made her appreciate the taste of her own thumb.

Which brings us to late 2009, a time of our own to inspire future generations with memories of Hard Times in Christmas Past. Bill is frequently, unjustly accused of making up this type of historical stuff, of fudging the facts, of never letting truth impede a good punchline. Pressed to defend himself, even Bill will occasionally concede that, as you get older, the details of life tend to slough off. Like the skin of an aging rattlesnake, he points out -- leaving recollections of past events uncluttered by needless detail but still retaining that clear, deadly Bite of Essential Truth.

As you may have guessed by now, this is Linda who is once again, however reluctantly, taking over Family Christmas Letter Writing Chores. Bill has been spending all spare moments doing his housework, while cursed with near-terminal writer's block ever since 1) George W quit pretending to be a cowboy and moved into a high rise condo, 2) the grand jury refused to indict Cheney for shooting lawyers out of season, and 3) Sarah Palin resigned as governor to concentrate on being a loving wife and mother-in-law.

Bill says members of the new Administration may be doing a fine job cleaning up the aftermath of the Great Bush Depression and creating great new jobs for people who speak Chinese, but they're about as funny as Calvin Coolidge. I guess you've heard that things eventually settled down after Uncle Mike spiked Bill's punch with Viagra, while celebrating the August marriage of Little Bill and Narith Flach. As it turned out, the incident didn't surprise Bill nearly as much as the cute relative who had coaxed him into joining her in a slow dance.

Bill has been uncharacteristically silent on the subject, except to mutter that the Viagra commercials tell you to call your doctor if your condition lasts more than four hours. But they don't warn you about what the doctor will do to correct the situation.

I could go on, but Bill is insisting I also report on other major events of 2009, including the arrival of our latest grandkitty, little Dexter, named after a TV assassin who specializes in killing deserving people. Lori, in what is becoming a timeworn pattern, rescued yet another orphan, this time before the little guy was even weaned. (the last orphan Prater Child, Peanut, was rescued from a weed whacker.) Anyway, while nursing Dexter to the age where he could be rudely neutered, Doctor Lori cleverly and ruthlessly bombarded Maggie and Dennis' cell phones with daily cute kitty updates, like the one at right. As soon as he was eating solid food, puzzled by and nursing a mysteriously sore groin, Dexter was escorted by Lori on an eastbound flight to Denver, to his new home with the Richards, making him unofficially The Most Expensive Free Cat in Prater Family History. The Richards family has now swollen to two dumb but good-hearted dogs, three cats and a basement microbrewery that would amaze Adolph Coors. Lori and Kris, meanwhile, are making do with three - no, I think it's four now - California grandcats.

In other news, I THINK Bill is getting me one of those "Flip" compact camcorders for Christmas. You'll know for sure if more naked videos of me start showing up on That's about it for 2009. Mike didn't really sneak Bill Viagra, but everything else stated here is pretty much Unvarnished Truth. Given all the misery lingering in these Final Years of the Great Bush Depression, we're doing pretty darned well here in Loveland. Bill just concluded a six-month stint as a zebra mussel inspector at Boyd Lake State Park, fun and useful but devastating to his fishing time. And Linda is completing FAA training to handle big dollar contracts for things like Obama statues and cockpit surveillance equipment. Like you, we still wonder what those two handsome guys were doing en route from Denver to Minneapolis. Bill has a theory on that, by the way, which he'd gladly share if you want to reach us at or 303-682-0890. Love and best holiday wishes, Linda and Bill

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