Posted in fathers and daughters, Growing up, Memories, movies, picture show

Movie Memory: Cat Ballou by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Cat BallouSince my grandmother owned the movie theaters in my hometown,  I saw almost every movie that came to Eunice, Louisiana from 1960 to 1975.  Movies were surrogate parents that gave my young head magical stories full of adventure, comedy, and music.

Cat Ballou remains one of my fondest movie memories.  Jane Fonda’s big-eyed bright blue innocence mixed with Lee Marvin’s slapstick drunkenness to create a revenge story full of heart and humor. I had a 9-year-old-girl crush on Michael Callan when he surprised and made advances on the naive school teacher, Catherine Ballou.  Then the teacher teamed up with outlaws, both inexperienced and over-the hill, to find the villain who murdered her dad. And tying the whole comic western together were Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye as the banjo-playing Greek chorus. (I still love the rhythmic sounds of “Wolf City, Wyoming…Wolf City, Wyoming.”)

I saw Cat Ballou 4 times in one week, and as I chomped on a full-sized Tootsie Roll, I thought Lee Marvin’s “Happy Birthday to You” mistake at Cat’s father’s funeral was the funniest thing in cinema in 1965.

Later my eyes got misty when Nat King Cole’s velvet voice crooned “They Can’t Make Her Cry” as Cat and her gang of guys slowly rode their horses toward their train robbery revenge plan.

At the end came the (Spoiler Alert) rousing rescue scene when Cat stands on the gallows in her virginal white dress and gives the sheriff “Let’s get on with it” as her final words. Next her merry band jumps into action with Kid Shelleen  simultaneously threatening to fall off his saddle and shoot an escape path for the group.

That year Cat Ballou was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and Lee Marvin beat out Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, Rod Steiger, and Oskar Werner for the Best Actor award! At 9, I was clueless about the status of the Oscars; however, I was aware that a movie could take me back to 1894 when a dedicated daughter could become a train robber and gun down the owner of Wolf City Development who ordered her father’s death.  And a drunken, has-been gunfighter could sober up, clean up, and dress up in time to shoot his evil brother. Finally, the daughter, her young beau, and the other outlaws would still ride into the sunset to the jangly tune of “The Legend of Cat Ballou.”

Happy Oscars Day!! 

What are your favorite childhood movie memories? 

Posted in Children, Fathers, fathers and daughters, Friendship, Growing up, Memories, Outdoors

Bangberry Ride by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Bangberry* Ride (*Banbury Cross)

Bangberry ride1
Dad/ Papa with Grandson Ryan on the Bangberry Tree

There was an oak tree with a long, low limb. A 6’4” dad would put a girl on his shoulders and let her scramble into the crook of the tree’s limb where she could hold on to small branches and settle into the oak’s saddle. The tall dad would then grab the limb’s end and pull it down, down to the ground. Anticipation made the girl’s grip tighten. The dad would go down and up, down and up to the tune of an old nursery rhyme:

“Here we go down to Banbury Cross

To see a fine lady ride on a white horse.

With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes

She will have music where ever she goes.”

Then the dad added an “Ole!” as he released the limb to make the girl spring up high as the tree was free to boing, boing, boing back into place.

Evan in tree
Evan in Bangberry Tree, 2005

Head and hair surrounded by branches and leaves, the girl felt equal to the free-flying birds.That 4-second thrill was a perfect balance of joy and fear.  She looked down on her siblings from her queenly perch  as they did the “Me next!” dance and she gave the mere mortals a slight smile before she accepted the dad’s huge hand that helped her dismount her tree throne.

Besides the wooden roller coaster at the beach, the “Bangberry Ride” was the girl’s favorite ride. With a rhyming song, a heavenly seat, a touch of danger, a parent’s attention, her sisters’ envy, and her stomach’s tickle, the ride was a moment of childhood perfection.

trees in Eunice
Oak trees around my childhood home
Posted in Fathers, fathers and daughters, Introspection, Parents

My Daddy’s Eyes

 

Beauty is a light in the heart.
“Good morning!” the desk clerk said cheerily.

 It was 6:00 a.m. as I padded into the Hampton Inn lobby sitting area.  Everything was softly lit and I was the only patron wandering the hallway….just the ambiance I needed to sit quietly and wake up.  I had my books and writing pad as I headed straight to the coffee: two pumps of hazelnut creamer, half robust, and half decaf.  I sat down and got situated with my coffee and book when I felt a presence or some kind of energy nearby. Suddenly chilled,  I took a long breath in, savoring the blend of hazelnut and coffee aroma.  Finally, taking a sip, my eyes glanced over the top of my coffee cup and I saw him.  Across the room, directly opposite me, was an older gentleman.  He seemed relaxed as he sat with perfect posture,  looking straight at me.

 He had my Daddy’s eyes.

It felt so strange and yet comforting.  He was dressed in worn khaki pants, a plaid shirt, and a tattered baseball cap.  He smiled at me and I smiled back, but his eyes went right through me.

For a split second, I wanted to cry “Daddy!” and go to him for a hug and a whiff of his Old Spice aftershave.  I wanted to take up where we left off and say, “How are you?”  “Where have you been?”  But, I knew the answers.  So I diverted my eyes back to my book.

I didn’t want to stare.  I just wanted one more peek into my Daddy’s eyes, and when I finally dared to look up….he was gone.  There was a voice inside me that begged to follow him,  yet I sat completely still, totally rattled and at the same time….humbled.

As if on cue, the lobby breakfast area began to come alive with sleepy guests wanting a waffle and hot coffee.  I glanced around, wondering if anyone saw what had just happened…did they too, see the gentleman in the baseball cap and plaid shirt?

I’m not at all sure what to think or how to feel about my encounter this morning.  I feel a strange peace and warmth as I remember it.  Was my Daddy wanting to see me too, just one more time?  

I don’t believe I need to figure it out.  I will just accept it as an embrace from above and carry with me the familiar smile and crinkled eyes as my secret reminder.  Maybe it really is true that the eyes are the window to the soul.

Posted in Caring for others, Children, Dancing, fathers and daughters, Gratitude

Dancing with Daddy by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Dancing with Daddydancing with daddy1

That cliched image of a small girl’s feet atop her daddy’s dress shoes as he dances with her captures my relationship with my dad.

I am the oldest of 3 daughters of a demanding father. He has that “you don’t ask ‘why’ when he tells you to jump; you say ‘how high?’” attitude toward parenting. My sisters and older brother and I grew up with a protective mom who gave us warnings like, “You better be quiet; Daddy’s napping” or “You don’t want me to tell your daddy about this!”

However, his stern demeanor was often overpowered by his protective love and boundless generosity, especially for me, a kid who was different.

I have cerebral palsy, and my left side is smaller and weaker. I walk with a limp and have very limited use of my crooked left arm. Still, Daddy always told me I could do whatever my brother and sisters did. So I took swimming lessons, rode our Shetland pony, played kickball, softball, and a bit of basketball. And since we were a tennis-obsessed family, Dad even taught me an under-handed (but still legal) serve so I could play in tournaments.

His insistence for me to not let my disability constrain me gave me a cock-eyed view of reality. I believed I could do anything and thus I tried everything my siblings did. Not until high school did real life pull off that Dad-created self-assurance when a strict nun yanked me out of typing class because she realized I was typing with only my right hand. So like an episode of Malcolm in the Middle when the mom Lois watches a video of herself and sadly realizes she can’t dance gracefully like she thought she could, I began to see I was bumbling my way through most physical endeavors.

dear daddy

 

With the awkwardness and self-doubt of adolescence, I became more hesitant and shy although I did continue to play on the school’s tennis team and to excel in French which I took instead of typing. So however skewed my self-image had been, Daddy still instilled enough confidence in me so that I believed him when he said, “Go ahead and dive into the deep end of that pool”; “Get on that pony and ride bare-back”; “Climb that tree and grab the rope swing”; “Keep your knees bent and hold tight to that water-ski rope”; “Serve to her backhand and you’ll win that tennis match.”

So thank you, Daddy, for guiding me down life’s bumpy gravel roads and through the dark halls of loss and pain. Your unwavering belief in me and your support when I clung to your belt loop as you glided me across Grandma’s big living room floor have been enough for me to believe in what I can do more than what I can’t.

Love,

Ginger

Posted in Caring for others, Children, Dancing, fathers and daughters, Gratitude

Dancing with Daddy by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Dancing with Daddydancing with daddy1

That cliched image of a small girl’s feet atop her daddy’s dress shoes as he dances with her captures my relationship with my dad.
I am the oldest of 3 daughters of a demanding father. He has that “you don’t ask ‘why’ when he tells you to jump; you say ‘how high?’” attitude toward parenting. My sisters and older brother and I grew up with a protective mom who gave us warnings like, “You better be quiet; Daddy’s napping” or “You don’t want me to tell your daddy about this!”
However, his stern demeanor was often overpowered by his protective love and boundless generosity, especially for me, a kid who was different.
I have cerebral palsy, and my left side is smaller and weaker. I walk with a limp and have very limited use of my crooked left arm. Still, Daddy always told me I could do whatever my brother and sisters did. So I took swimming lessons, rode our Shetland pony, played kickball, softball, and a bit of basketball. And since we were a tennis-obsessed family, Dad even taught me an under-handed (but still legal) serve so I could play in tournaments.

His insistence for me to not let my disability constrain me gave me a cock-eyed view of reality. I believed I could do anything and thus I tried everything my siblings did. Not until high school did real life pull off that Dad-created self-assurance when a strict nun yanked me out of typing class because she realized I was typing with only my right hand. So like an episode of Malcolm in the Middle when the mom Lois watches a video of herself and sadly realizes she can’t dance gracefully like she thought she could, I began to see I was bumbling my way through most physical endeavors.

dear daddy
My dad, Reginald Keller, and me, 1961

 

With the awkwardness and self-doubt of adolescence, I became more hesitant and shy although I did continue to play on the school’s tennis team and to excel in French which I took instead of typing. So however skewed my self-image had been, Daddy still instilled enough confidence in me so that I believed him when he said, “Go ahead and dive into the deep end of that pool”; “Get on that pony and ride bare-back”; “Climb that tree and grab the rope swing”; “Keep your knees bent and hold tight to that water-ski rope”; “Serve to her backhand and you’ll win that tennis match.”
So thank you, Daddy, for guiding me down life’s bumpy gravel roads and through the dark halls of loss and pain. Your unwavering belief in me and your support when I clung to your belt loop as you glided me across Grandma’s big living room floor have been enough for me to believe in what I can do more than what I can’t.

Love,
Ginger