When the Alarm Clock Rings
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 by Frank Shortt
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Alarm clocks have controlled our lives since their invention by Levi Hutchins in 1787. His life would not have been worth a plugged nickel had folks realized, at the time, what he had unleashed!

Groggily, I searched for the small knob trying to silence the infernal buzzing! This meant my precious sleep had been disturbed and another day of drudgery had begun. Sunlight had not even streamed into my bedroom in the loft. Four-thirty a.m.! Rise up! Embark! Pulling my socks on in the dark, shoving my feet into cold brogans of rough leather, I felt my way downstairs, thinking, “No more snoozing today!” I felt like a dying calf in a hailstorm!

Heading for the Warm Morning Heater first, I attempted to revive the smoldering embers with a bit of black-pine shavings. Thank God, they came alive as I blew my cold breath upon them, then, on to the kitchen, to light the cooking stove for my mother. Some dry chestnut splinters and an old brown paper bag served as great kindling, up sprang the welcomed flames! After adding a few larger sticks of chestnut, I returned to the Warm Morning to add some small lumps of coal to the now blazing fire.

Back to the kitchen I went, pulling mom’s bread pans out of the bottom drawer of the cook stove, I greased them abundantly with lard and put the coffee pot to boil. Soon mom would appear and sweet aromas would emanate from the kitchen of sizzling bacon and fresh baked biscuits. I, in turn, wandered outside to bring more chestnut for the woodbox. Mom would remind me needlessly, “The water buckets are getting mighty low!” I still hear that voice occasionally!

As soon as day dawned, my next chore was to go out in the cold, frosty morning to milk the little Jersey cow. I did not have enough sense to tie her dung-caked tail to her leg which became a policeman’s baton with accompanying barnyard odors. By the time I reached home I needed a complete bath before going to school, but, no time yet, more wood must be chopped and split for mom’s cooking at noon and evening! I hated that alarm clock with all my being. It was like the ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’s’ albatross!

I finally graduated high school, free and clear, with only one thought in mind. I just had to relieve myself of that alarm clock, so I decided to join up with Uncle Sam. I joined the Air Force and left home as soon as I could. I didn’t even say goodbye to my folks. From my induction in Roanoke, the plane, assigned to take all of the inductees to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, wound a circuitous route throughout the South. We landed in Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, and finally in Texas. A chugging military bus picked us up at the airport in San Antonio and on to Lackland! We were like sheep with no shepherd!

The first day of basic training was taken up with finding our place in the barracks, marching to base supply for our uniforms, and then more marching. By Taps, I was completely spent. “Now, I thought, I’ll get some well-earned shut-eye!” I finally dozed off after reconfiguring every event of the past day. Boy, was I surprised when at four-thirty a.m. reveille sounded! There were groans all the way down the long barrack. What had we gotten ourselves into? I for one thought, “The alarm clock is not so bad after all with that thunderous bugle blasting in my ear!” Not only did the bugle shake us out of our sacks, but an additional blast sounded from the drill sergeant, “Get outta that …….. rack!” Mom’s voice began to sound totally angelic! As soon as we pulled on our wool socks, shoved our feet into our cold brogans, ran to the latrine for a quick shower and brushed our teeth, off we marched to stand in front of the chow hall until our Flight was called to breakfast. Did I ever dream of home on the nights thereafter? You bet I did, and with tears to go with my dreams! I heard lots of sobbing from other much more manly dudes than myself.

I have decided that life could not go on without the alarm clock. There are alarm wristwatches, telephones, I-pads, and electronic devices of all types to separate us from our restful repose! There is no way to stop that awful shock as long as there will be working men and women. I just cannot help but wonder, when facing the final morning, after all the noise I have encountered from awakening devices, will I be able to hear the trumpet sound