Conversations with Kids: The Artist at Work

Topeka Daily Capital
January 17, 1960

The thing about talking to children is that you almost always learn something interesting. If you’re new at it, you may get a shock now and then, but the old timers are virtually shock-proof. They haven’t necessarily heard everything, but they’ve heard enough to expect anything.

I am an old timer, myself. I’ve done a lot of talking to children, often out of necessity. Around our house, I often find I’m on speaking terms only with some of the children. The younger ones, at that.

You can get into these conversations in any number of ways. For example, just walk in from work some evening and say to one of your sons, Hi, pal, what’s new?
“Aw, nothing, except Mr. Tompkins wasn’t home.”
Now, as you can see, the conversation is rolling. You say, he wasn’t home, huh?
“No, and we couldn’t get his ladder.”
You’re right. He said ladder. Ladder?
“Yeah. Will you borrow it in the morning and get my lunch box off the roof? I didn’t throw it up there.”
You knew he’d get that in. Who did?
“Kurt got mad because I threw his lunchbox and it went down the sewer….”

So you’ve learned something. Two lunchboxes at about 3 bucks apiece. 6 bucks shot.

Let’s say now that you’ve just lost six bucks yourself shooting 88 when you figured on about 81 and you go home looking for trouble. You storm in and collar two or three of them and yell, “who got that garden hose out in this kind of weather?”

Well, the first time I did that the children’s mother snapped, “I did, to wash off that mud you got on the walk that I asked you to wash off a week ago and quit yelling at the children and if you can’t play golf give up the game, and furthermore….”

Well, the second time I yelled about the garden hose, which was a long time later, one of them said: “We got it out to play filling station.”
“Yeah,” said another. “We filled up mom’s car.”
Oh, no. You didn’t really.
“Yes we did, daddy.”

Line up for broken arms.

It is through conversation that children learn discipline, and learn that parents are firm but fair. It was just the other day I told one of the girls she absolutely couldn’t go outside without her coat on.
“Why not?” she sobbed. “Amy is out there and doesn’t even have any pants on.” Two blocks away, too, it turned out.

You can walk in the house on occasion and upon close inspection find one there who isn’t yours. So you ask yours who their new friend is.
“His name is Johnny.”
Where does he live?
“We don’t know. He’s been here all afternoon.”

In those cases, we just turn on the front lights and wait for their search party to show up. And let me tell you, it’s better to wait for the search party than be in the search party. I’ve done both.

I like the real casual conversation where the child does the talking and you just grunt and nod as you read. I was doing this the other day when one of the girls said, “… and I frewed a rock and hit Tommy in the eye.”
Isn’t that cute the way she says frewed instead of th- WHAT?

It is through these conversations that I have learned of toys in the toilet, snakes on the patio, milk in the furnace vents and so on. And I learned something else the other night.

I chased all of them to another room period later I heard one say, “Daddy’s a dummy.”
“Yeah,” said another one.
“Yeah,” said another one.
“No, he isn’t,” said the oldest, and I was swelling with pride when he added: “he’s a dumbbell. That’s the way you’re supposed to say it.”

That boy is a born leader.

Mother’s Day, Naming Rites and the Origin of Kurt

Topeka Daily Capital
May 10, 1959

Today is Mother’s Day, and the only thing to do is take a firm stand in favor of it. After all …

Mothers are nice and necessary, and not in that order, but they aren’t perfect. Granted, they probably try to be, particularly where their children are concerned, but it is in that area that they often are at their worst. Some mothers do to some children a thing that shouldn’t be done to a mangy dog.

I refer specifically to naming children, for which mothers are mostly responsible. Once in a while, I am told, the father has his way about naming the baby, but it is a rare occasion when the matter is handled with this efficiency and harmony.

Most mothers snarl and say, “if you want to name a baby dash have one!” Then they named their newborn without even considering Uncle Moneybags, who might have been properly impressed and looked upon the namesake as a possible heir.

Personally, I’m a 0 for 4 in naming my own, although I had a little say a little to say about #2. Continue reading

Big Muddy Golf, Gambling, Blockheads

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 22, 1993

NATCHEZ, Miss. – The problem with traveling is that there are too many tourists in the places tourists like to go. This city, for example, is a popular tourist spot, but it should not be confused with New Orleans, which is a tourist trap.

New Orleans relies on gluttony, a capital sin of which we are all guilty to some degree. Natchez, on the other hand, is a long-running contest over which will last the longest – the antebellum homes that abound here, or the hordes of old folks who flock in here to see them.

The homes always win. In fact, most of them look better today than when they were built, and they all have weathered far better than the visitors.

So, you may ask, what is an old weather-beaten Okie, who wouldn’t know an antebellum home from a new Holiday Inn, doing in Natchez? Simple. I am playing daddy to two heartless offspring who sometimes seem to think I’m Daddy Warbucks. Continue reading

Lessons in Family and Basketball

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 17, 1993

For weeks, our two sons, Steve in Maryland and Kurt in California, have taken turns calling me to make sure I know the game plan. I have it down pat. I am to pick them up at the New Orleans airport today. It is Saint Patrick’s Day, but that has no bearing, since the Snider family is about as Irish as Paddy’s bratwurst.

It was decided weeks ago it was time for another reunion, and the two of them, without consulting me, chose New Orleans as the meeting place. They explained it was “convenient” for all three of us.

That’s easy for them to say. They fly a few hours nonstop to get there and back, while I drive a few days to get there and back. That’s their idea of a square deal, and it gets even worse. In the four days we’ll be together, I will provide the transportation and who knows what else.

The plan calls for us to explore New Orleans, visit Natchez, Miss., the Civil War battlefield at Vicksburg, play a little golf along the way, and seek out food and spirits sufficient to maintain our stamina and morale. My stomach churns at the thought. Continue reading

‘Singing Outlaw’ Evens the Score

Topeka Capital-Journal
Nov. 10, 1997

The state of Kansas is wondering what to do next year with a cash surplus that….

FLASH – I interrupt this column to announce the birth of our 9th grandchild, a boy, born to Rory and son Kurt in Los Angeles. It was 8:05 a.m. Friday when the phone rang as I was typing the first sentence of this column. It was Kurt, saying the baby arrived two weeks early, and everyone is healthy and happy.

Outstanding reporter that I am, I still forgot to ask how much the baby weighed, or if the name has been chosen. I was in too big a hurry to call the newborn’s Grandma, who is at a family gathering in Holcomb. I’m sure the birth details will be on the national and international Associated Press wire, and on the evening new network news.

Now back to the column. Continue reading

How Many California Sniders Does it Take…

Topeka Capital-Journal
Oct. 20, 2000

DEL MAR, Calif. — It is a Snider family trait to be alarmed and even fearful of anything that creeps, crawls or runs inside the house, and hides under the furniture, so when our son Kurt spotted a mouse in his home here, he took it very seriously. He armed Barbara and me, ordered his wife Rory and their son Cole, 2, out of the combat zone, and declared war.

He gave Barbara a tennis racquet and me a straw broom, and told us to stand back and hammer the mouse when he flushed it out into the open. She looked at him closely to see if he was serious, and he was, and I knew he was. He’s a chip off the old block. Continue reading