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Farewell Leo

By Mary E. Adair

Biography: Leo C. (Tha's Me!) Helmer

In spite of all the warnings from forebears, my mother and father decided to produce an offspring. It seems as though I came about as an afterthought, since the stubborn Irish and German background were an inducement for my parents to push ahead with the deed anyway.

So here I am, and now at this late stage in life some of my fans, friends, and acquaintances, (and even some of my enemies, I'm sure they are looking for my flaws, and it's a shame they can't find any) have persuaded me to write this story of my life.

Where do I begin, other than to say that I have inherited all the stubborness of those before me. How stubborn? Well, since I never wanted to do this in the first place, I did it because someone told me I couldn't.

In spite of my mischievious, fun loving childhood, I did grow up, but then to this day everyone asks 'Leo, when are you going to grow up?' This being a profound question, I have no answer. And since I believe that I am the oldest, wisest mortal placed here, to date that is, I accept the fact without question that I, indeed, am grown up. So let's proceed to the basics, like what happened between the years of birth and the present status of wise ass?

It wasn't too long after beginning life that as a young boy in kindergarten I was advanced to the first grade in a very short time. This of course had an interpretation (mine of course) of being a very smart little boy. Later I learned the true reason: my teachers were damn tired of me being assertive. So their reasoning was that if I was placed into an advanced environment, that the progression would slow the aggression.

It seems my mother had a bearing on my aggressiveness, since (although I am named Leo Curry Helmer) she insisted that my name was Francis Xavier Helmer. And, that is how I was enrolled in school, so had to whomp up on the other kindergartners who usually called me Francis The Sissy.

After years of vanity and self-assurance that I indeed was the greatest, I did manage to graduate from high school (to everyone's dismay.) And, was told now that I was a 'grown up' I had to act like a 'grown up' (translation, 'Get a Job'.)

Well, that was easy for most young boys at the time since a war was going on. However, for me, it was not so easy as I was very near-sighted and no army of any country on earth wanted the association of a rifle with a kid that couldn't see what he was supposed to shoot.

Of course this led to a draft classification of 4F. A big put-down to a smart-ass that knew how intelligent and assertive he really was. That didn't stop me from getting rid of the 4F put-down. I, sure that I could get into some service by hook or crook, memorized all the eye charts in town and made the rounds of the recruiting offices. However, getting there required glasses on and then reading the Eye charts without. This was an insurmountable problem since when I walked into the various offices I was seen to wear thick, heavy glasses. And, (being the smart-ass that I was) I could read the charts from top to bottom. However, when questioned as to the reason for the 'specks' I had no reasonable answer and a new eye chart was pulled down for me to try to read. After a few attempts at this, I finally took out for New Orleans on a riverboat as an engine room hand. While there I passed the Coast Guard exams for various engine room endorsements. All that was required was to pass a written test and register with a Union to get into the Merchant Marine, and there I stayed.

And, on one of my leaves I did manage to get married, just because everybody else was doing it. But, not being housebroken I remained a Merchant Mariner until the end of the Korean Conflict.

That end was a new beginning. As one job terminated a new one was necessitated. The question 'What the hell am I going to do now?' was answered very simply. Russ Prescott, a seaman buddy, and I hit the beach with a nice payoff after about a year at sea. And, where would you think a sailor goes to spend his money? Well, of course, the nearest bar on the beach. As would happen, if you hit a bar, you are bound to find a situation not always found on any other street corner. It so happened that a 'down on his luck' truck driver was cryin' in his beer.

Surely, this here good ol' boy would never let another human suffer in silence without intervention. To make a long story short, we bought his rig. Now we had a job, so we thought.

To be sure, we did own a truck and trailer, and other things that are common to such a piece of equipment. However, we did not own a license to move the rig. Getting a license we thought was easy, and it is if you are going to drive a car to work on Monday morning. But we were going to transport property for other people so the ordinary license was pretty useless. As we soon learned we needed to get acquainted with the ICC, the DOT, a few PUC's, and even in those days before big government, a bunch of other agencies we never even heard of. We did run into a nice guy who ran a warehouse in town that the rig was leased to. He, feeling sorry for a couple of dumb sailors who just hit the beach, told us how to get off on the right foot and about a company program to train drivers and show them how to pack household goods.

My self-assuredness first wondered why the hell anybody had to show me anything, but to this day I guess I thank the guy because without all that six weeks of training we would have been broke after the first trip.

We did take our rig and use it as our transportation home from San Pedro, CA to St. Louis, where I picked up my wife and told her we were moving on to Michigan with Russ. After all, she was glad to see me again after about a year, so she didn't argue too much. Anyway, Russ and his family had a nice house and some other property in Dowagiac, MI where we settled in.

After the schooling we were on our way with a load of new kitchens from Youngstown, OH and from there it just went on. We made some money and even bought a couple of more rigs and had a driver working for us. All attributed to my active mind and all-knowing astuteness. We even put our wives and girlfriends and other assorted hangers on to work driving flag cars or trucks when we had oversized loads.

Wouldn't you know it, things go great for awhile and then something always comes along to complicate the circumstances. My daughter was born and now I had to learn a lot of lessons. My wife decided she would stay home to take care of the new arrival, and I had to work a little harder to compensate for the loss of income. And, not long after, my friend Russ passed on to the big wide interstate in the sky. To avoid all the legal eagles, we just took a rig and returned to Missouri.

For awhile I managed to make a living moving tool and construction trailers to work sites and hauling heavy construction equipment. But, I was wearing out rigs as fast as I was paying for them so finally gave up.

About the same time I began to have a lot of trouble with my eyes and really didn't want to drive over the road as I did have a good safety record. In about 1964, I had to have a cataract operation, but that was not a simple one as I did have other eye problems, and lost the sight of the right eye. Of course, being Leo C., that was only a slight set-back, and I decided that I knew so damn much about driving that I started a driving school. And, since I was known by my competitors as the only blind driving instructor in the world, business really took off.

After a number of years of that, and progressive eye problems, I got out of that endeavor and became a loafer. But, then since loafing is not lucrative, I did such things as bartending, bartering, and bar-hopping. And, since even that is not a time consuming task, I became a volunteer for several agencies. After all, I did know everything so was in demand by many organizations. One thing that I like to do is cook, and in spite of myself am a good outdoor entertainer and barbecue connoisseur. And, while loafing found a new lackey who relished such relaxation.

John and I used to go to chili cookoffs for various charitable organizations and help in fundraising. We even, in spite of ourselves, got a prize or two once in a while, so it was suggested that I write the recipes for the various things that we cooked. "So who reads a cookbook?' I wondered. Thereby was the first inklings of my inborn wit and humor. If Aunt Em or Granny was going to read a recipe, she surely wasn't going to let the likes of me show her up. But, she might read some recipe that attracted her attention and might even be good; and she might even tell the rest of the family that it was how she done it 50 years ago. I enjoyed writing these recipes, and getting a laugh out of everyone who read them, and then when they found out they worked, my writing career was launched. Some of the recipes were even published in the local papers by a good friend and fellow preacher, Elaine Viets. Oh, yes, I am a preacher too, got the calling for a 5 buck donation to a Arkansas traveling preacher, who blessed me with my certificate to preach, baptise, bury and pass the platter. He even suggested that if I were to make a twenty five buck donation he could proclaim me a bishop, however I wasn't quite ready for the sudden advanced calling, and passed on that.

Elaine and I became friends when she began to write stories about the carryings-on and strange customs of a certain south-side cultural group. Of course, on occasion I fed her bits of info which she quoted. A few years later when I decided to wed my second wife, Elaine performed the ceremony at a local bar and got the entire event broadcast on a local TV station. That was a fun event, and brought attention to me as the nut of the networks.

My new wife liked my writings and always asked me to explain various bits of the Good Book to her, since I had that legitimate certificate to preach. Thereby were the first Biblical interpretations, by me, Leo C. And, surely they had to be spoofs of the infallible ramblings. And, who else but me, Leo C., would undertake to undermine the uncovered secrets of the universe and purport to promote an understanding of such a work. Well, who else, but me? Leo C.

Now, at this time of my life, it should be understandable, that as far as I am concerned, life is beautiful. My feeling is that it should not be taken as some serious event, but rather a "progression of peculiar procedures making progress toward a point in time when populations will pervade the perceivable universe" (my quote.)

Leo C. tha's me!!!  

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