Retired life brings adventure(s) – Empty Nest by Curt Swarm


Wondering what to do with yourself after retirement? Talk to Larry McKim of Ottumwa. He’s 72 years young, recently bought a bar for the first time in his life, although he doesn’t drink, and, oh, yes, he’s had cancer three times (actually four), triple bypass surgery, and 36 broken bones.
Larry also likes to hang glide and parasail. Two years ago, at age 70, he and a grandson went out to Colorado and jumped off a 12,500 ft mountain. He came down a little too hard and broke his arm in a couple of places. Larry’s wife, Rose, asked him why he had to jump off that mountain. Larry told her he just wanted to do it.
Larry’s bar is the East End Hideout on Orchard St. The East End’s hours are loosely 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily, except Sunday. If no one’s there, he goes home. He has approximately 15 – 20 steady customers that make up his base. They come in to have a beer, or coffee, shoot the breeze, and pass the time. Larry’s granddaughter, Sheyenne, helps out. They have pool tournaments and card games and solve the problems of the day. A group of ladies stopped by recently while making the rounds. They exclaimed that the East End had the roomiest, cleanest restroom that they had been in that day. Larry appreciated the compliment. He didn’t buy the place to get rich. It pays the bills.
Larry took possession of the East End Hideout in August. He had been a steady customer of the East End when it was on Main Street. Then it moved to Orchard. When it came up for sale, he asked Rose if he could buy it. She thought he was nuts, but gave in. After all, Larry had spent 30 years at John Deere, and put in over 6,700 hours of volunteer work, for which he received an award from the governor. He needed something to do. It might keep him from jumping off mountains.
Rose and Larry have four children, and have had 21 foster kids. They love children. Larry has coached baseball and basketball, as well as played on church leagues. At 5’8” he was the center on the McKim’s Trotters basketball team. They were fast but not tall.
In a baseball tournament once, Larry was up to bat. There was a runner on third base. Larry told him, “On the third swing, you’d better come run’n, ’cause I’m gonna lay’r down.” Larry laid down the perfect bunt, and the runner came charging in to win the game. They finished fifth in the state.
Larry quit drinking 29 years ago, not so much that he was a problem drinker, he just quit so that Rose and he could enjoy each other more when they went out. He also quit smoking and drinking coffee. Coffee was the hardest.
The broken bones came over the years, most of them from a car wreck when he was 18. He broke eight bones in his back, six ribs, and his hip. The four cancers were lung, colon, thyroid, and currently, lymph node. He’s called, “The Bionic Grandpa.” Obviously, Larry hasn’t let it slow him down.
Did I mention that Larry is also somewhat of an intellectual? Yes. He wrote a book once called, “The Rabbit is Still Alive.” He won’t admit it, but it may be somewhat autobiographical. Larry tried to find a publisher but failed. Now he can’t find the book.
Longevity isn’t anything unusual in Ottumwa. Larry and Rose belong to the Senior Citizens group. Four of its bowlers are over 90.
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at or find him on Facebook. Curt’s stories are also read at 106.3 FM in Farmington.

1 thought on “Retired life brings adventure(s) – Empty Nest by Curt Swarm

  1. Curt knows how to tell a story. His report on ‘youngster’ Larry McKim of Ottumwa’s new lease on life is great stuff and gives the reader a unique insight into a human being who knows how to live. Always look forward to Curt’s next written journey!

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