Me-and-DadIntroductory Comments:




Hello and welcome my friends.  This is Chris and this is the third in my series of personal podcasts that I am doing, to air out my brain and deal with my father’s cancer and gear up to run for the Liver Foundation at the Boston Marathon this year.

Note:  Even though this is on the RunRunLive Podcast feed, this is NOT the RunRunLive podcast.  You have fair warning to skip now because I’m not talking about running.  Standard RunRunLive episodes will be labeled as such.

As part of this project, whatever this project is, I’m collecting donations for the American Liver Foundation for my running of the Boston Marathon this year.  I wanted to layer on some purpose for the event and make it more personal.

The donation links are in the show notes and at http://go.liverfoundation.org/goto/cyktrussell

My story is that I already had a number for this year’s race.  I Didn’t need to fundraise, but with my Dad’s health declining I thought it would be a decent thing to do to dedicate this to him and my family.

I’m the youngest of 4.  I have two older sisters and an older brother.  We didn’t always get along with each other as siblings do but we are close and working through my Dad’s cancer has given us the opportunity to spend more time together.  It’s been fun to talk through shared family experiences and memories.

As the youngest I don’t have the depth of memories as my brother and sisters, but they are there and as we spend time together they are unearthed like the quite turnings of some dusty album.  There’s nothing bad there.  There is some funny stuff.  Mostly it is bits and pieces and vignettes that we can compare notes on.

I remember my Dad coming home from work one day with a full size electric organ for the living room.  My sisters were both taking piano lessons and I guess he thought this would give them some additional enablement.

At some point we acquired a full size piano as well at some point.  My Mom taught my girls how to play songs on it when they went for visits.

My Dad designed a built a giant two story car garage out of pre-stressed concrete beams and I can remember helping shingle the roof with cedar shakes.  Snapping the chalk lines, as a kid, and knocking the shingle nails true, row by row, all day long.

He and my brother would work on cars together in that garage.  They had every tool and machine needed to do anything.  I remember one time in the 80’s I dropped my car off at the house.  It needed a universal joint in the front end. I was going to help them replace it (which for me meant handing them tools).  I went for an errand and by the time I came back they had it done already.

My Dad and I would go for walks in the woods in New England.  I don’t remember the walks so much as the trees. I still can identify every tree in New England by its leaves and bark.  If pressed I could make a serviceable whistle from a young willow sapling with a jackknife – which was one of our spring rituals.

The red oak, the white pine, the ash – used for axe handles and hockey sticks – the poplar, the white and grey birch, the pignuts and shagbark hickories – whose bounty we would collect in the fall for fireside cracking and snacking – the hawthorn and elderberry.  My connection to the natural world that I treasure so dearly was born in those New England summers.

My Dad loved to chop wood to feed the wood stove all winter long.  He taught me how to swing an axe.  His favorite axe was a light, thin-bladed axe for limbing the felled trees, and he would grind the cheeks of splitting axes to create the perfect tool.

He taught me how to swing a maul to split the green hard wood and how to stack the split logs so that they would dry.  He showed me that you could split any log with a sledge hammer and wedges.

The wedges in my garage came from his collection.  I use them every year as I relive the pure visceral joy of bringing the heavy maul down on the yielding log in the sultry autumn afternoons.  There is nothing I enjoy more than becoming lost in a large woodpile with my axe, maul, hammer and wedges.

And that’s the lesson here.  There is peace and honor in a job well done.  It doesn’t matter that you can pay someone $100 bucks to mow your lawn or drop a cord of presplit wood in your driveway.  That takes the honor out of it.  The pride and honor of reducing a pile of logs to a neatly stacked and tarped pile of BTU’s for the coming winter is a feeling of intellectual freedom that I am thankful for.

Today I’m going to share with you a chat I had with a friend of mine and fellow Goon Squad runner Michael Robertson about running for charity.

After that I’m going to read a story my brother wrote recently about something funny from our childhood.  I never realized how good a writer my brother was until he began to comment on the Caringbridge site my sister set up for my Dad’s friends to check in.  He was always the best story teller in our family.  He could spin the tallest tales with a straight face and get away with almost anything.


Featured Interview:

Michael Robertson

shots of whiskey for the plow drivers

Written Feb 13, 2014 3:46pm by Dave Russell

Being that it is a cold and snowy day today, I thought I would relate a story of how our Father (Russ) attacked problems head on with simple and imaginative solutions.

Shots of whiskey for the plow drivers

The Russells were the original Skyfields Drive hilltop residents of Groton. When we moved in, no other residents shared the top of the hill and during heavy snow we were pretty much on our own. This was the mid sixties; a time long before the advent of DSS when kids were considered free labor for the menial physical tasks. For example “Adults run the chainsaw and split logs. Kids carry wood and drag brush”.

To shorten the response time of the town plow crews, Dad came up with the brilliant but elegantly simple plan to bribe the plow drivers with hot coffee or shots of whiskey to encourage them to come by our neighborhood first. It was this type of imaginative thinking and direct approach that made him a legend and our “go to guy”.

We would usually see the plows start up the hill from 119 through the windows off the deck and have about 5 minutes to prepare.

Since Mary Lou was the oldest but couldn’t go out alone, she and I usually got the nod. We had to wear dark clothing to contrast with the snow and flag down the plows without getting plowed into a snow bank ourselves. Over time, we learned that it was best to stand across the street and approach from the driver’s side door as the plow traveled slowly up the hill. Each driver usually downed one on the way up and stopped for a second on his way back down.

As expected, the shots of whiskey were far more popular than the hot coffee. In fact, if we tried to offer only coffee, the drivers would ask if the whiskey was already “in there”. It did not take the DPW long to learn that there was free whiskey available up on Skyfields Drive and there was not a quicker or better plowed road in town.

Often, we had to service a whole line of snow removal vehicles waiting for their whiskey and make multiple trips back to the house for re-fills. Mom would count the trucks by looking down towards 119 and have our resupply ready. I think this serving experience prepared both of us for work later on at Johnson's

We were also expected to keep track of repeat clients and inform them that “Our parents say you’re shut off” when they reached their 3-shot limit..

One morning years later, my friend Jason and I decided to surprise the paper delivery man with a free shot of whiskey around 5:00AM. When he saw us coming, he drove away in terror. By that time, life in Groton had changed forever.

Dave R

Summary Article:

Thanks for listening if you have been.  I know this is entirely self serving but too often we seal off the past and look to the future.  As we get older we begin to unwrap those packages.

Last time I checked I’m at about $1700 of my $2000 goal.  The Boston Marathon looks like it is going to be crazy this year.  Thank you for all my friends who have helped.

Go to:


Thank you for joining me on my journey with purpose.


Music by Bridge Underwater - “sad song”

Direct download: unicorns13.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:16pm EDT





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