Just rambling thoughts about anything that happens to be on my mind and that usually isn't much!
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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Trimming the Family Tree

This past weekend, we not only got to celebrate Christmas with the warden’s folks, but also their 65th wedding anniversary. Now that is an accomplishment that very few achieve. The whole family got to attend with the exception of one married grandson and his family and one great grandson. All others were in attendance! It was a grand occasion by anyone’s standards.

First we met at the Inadale community center for dinner (lunch for any “city people” who may be reading this) where the two were given the honor they deserved. There was turkey or ham and all the trimmings with pies and cakes and several different puddings for desserts.

There, they sat, surrounded by their precious loved ones ranging in age from 13 months to those of us who are now classified as “senior citizens”. And I couldn’t help but remember the song “Please pass the biscuits”. Everyone was talking, eating and laughing so much that you couldn’t get anyone to pass the food! Luckily the honored couple sat in the center so they could at least reach the food!

Then we went to the Salem Lutheran Church for candlelight services where the clan made up more than half the gathering. There was singing, carols, laughter, chatter and lots of well wishing along with plenty of congratulations. And the crowned couple beamed with pride.

From there we journeyed back to the farm to surround the family table filled with leftovers and finger foods before Santa arrived. When the doors to the “parlor” were opened the grandkids and great grandkids found stockings hanging inside that were filled with goodies and toys. More laughter, more chatter and more “remember when’s”. Then back to our separate quarters to spend a short night.

Sunday morning started with all coming together at the church for Sunday worship. After services the family gathered in the fellowship hall for a relaxing family gathering that lasted the full afternoon.

That’s when I first noticed, this family tree was really getting some different ornaments! Let me try to explain, none of the bunch are “bad” people. But this is sort of a redneck family. A lot of hats and boots. Agriculturally related, farmers and those of us involved in closely related industries. “Red-state” so to speak. But there are a couple of ornaments on the outer branches that kind of stand out. The sad part is, no one in the family knows how to talk to them!

One has a Mohawk hairdo, pierced upper and lower lips, tattoos and tunnels in his ears! Now, in case you are wondering, tunnels are large piercings within the ear lobe so big you can put in a one-inch pipe! I am not joking, when I was a kid I used to read National Geographic magazine. There were always pictures from deepest darkest Africa with people who did the same things. Now the kid seems bright and intelligent, but with all that metal in him, I sure don’t want to stand beside him during a lightening storm! Come to find out, he’s a “Network Engineer” for a national IT company!

Another one had never touched a calf, knew nothing about farming, was on his first trip to Texas and thought a cotton gin was some sort of a brewery. He too is an intelligent sort and works for a major international company. His work requires him to travel internationally and speak two languages. Kind of makes the ole homespun feed salesman look pretty dull!

So, I guess all in all, having a few shinny ornaments on the tree amidst the “home made” ones adds to the glamour of the family tree!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Nothing But Time

Well this morning while waiting for people to wake up, I decided to scan the headlines and see what was happening out in the world. There were the normal headlines about bombings, murders, droughts, blizzards, future financial predictions and an occasional human-interest type story. But then a headline caught my eye:

Extra second to get 2006 off to a leap start

I had to go read this! (As you know from a previous blog, I have a vested interest in “Time”)

It started out by saying:
SCIENTISTS are delaying the start of 2006 by the first "leap second" in seven years, a timing tweak meant to make up for changes in the Earth's rotation. A leap second will be added to keep uniform timekeeping within 0.9 seconds of the Earth's rotational time, which can speed up or slow down because of many factors, including ocean tides.

(I knew I had been feeling a little sluggish lately, but I had just thought it was because I had forgotten my Metamucil!) Actually I think these guys have a little TOO MUCH time on their hands if they are setting around studying the earth’s rotation.

This reminded me of a church friend who is always changing his watch so he has the “official time”. He listens to news only to hear the “Ding” on ABC News broadcast that comes at the top of the hour, resets his watch if needed and then waits for some unsuspecting individual to ask him “the time”. I was once that unsuspecting individual!

I walked up to him and a couple others and asked, “what time is it?”

One friend answered, “9:50” another said “10 till 10” but Doyle was almost aghast at their answers! He quickly (and proudly) informed me that it was “9:52”. When I looked at him, he reassured me that it was correct, “I set it by the ABC News ding just this morning!” (The other guys just kind of rolled their eyes.)

He continued, “You didn’t ask ‘ABOUT what time’, you asked ‘what time’ and I wanted you to know.”

I’d really like to send this article from Google News to him, but I am so afraid it would really get him worried about adjusting for that second everyday until the world gets “reset”. (Not to mention that he would be devastated to realize that there is something more reliable to set time than the ABC News ding!)

The article continued:
The adjustment will be carried out by adding an extra second to atomic clocks worldwide at the stroke of midnight Co-ordinated Universal Time, the widely adopted international standard, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology revealed. At midnight (11am Australian Eastern Daylight Time), atomic clocks will read 23:59:60 before rolling over to all zeros.

I really wish these guys could help me rest my wristwatch! It’s still running on military time since I tried to reset it when we switched from Daylight Saving Time!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Today, as I listened to talk radio during my rounds they were asking people to call in and talk about their most memorable Christmas as a kid. Well now there was all sorts of stories for sure. People who had grown up during the depression years or during world war two of course related a different style of story to those who had grown up in more prosperous or non-rationed times. So I got to thinking, what Christmas was my most memorable and I came up with two that stand out in my foggy memory.

My second most memorable Christmas was when I was in the third or fourth grade. I loved to squirrel hunt. I always took Dad’s single shot 22 rifle (of which I had been trained to respect its use) and would traipse through the back woods on the farm for hours. Just as the big game hunters stalked the lions in deepest darkest Africa, I stalked the illusive squirrel.

Well that Christmas I got a Remington, bolt action, 7 shot 22 rifle for my major Christmas present! I was overwhelmed! Proof that I had “come of age”! I had reached “man-hood”! I must have shot a box of shells that day at tin cans and other trashcan targets, but alas, squirrel season was over.

Then fate took a turn. The next morning I awoke to the sound of our coon dogs treed in the proximity of the barn. I clamored from bed, grabbed my brand new rifle and set out to find what varmint had invaded the premises. One step out the back door and I knew already! Skunk and the dogs had done a good job of riling him up.

Upon finding the varmint, I took careful aim and ridded the farm of the smelly egg stealer. My first trophy with my new rifle! Now it was “brag time”! I carefully unloaded my rifle, grabbed the skunk by the tail and ran straight to the house to show mom and dad. The house was still dark when I ran into the bedroom with the skunk held high. They were not near as proud of my trophy as I was just because it took two weeks to get the smell out of their bedroom!

Now my MOST memorable Christmas was when I was a freshman in high school. Dad was the lead man for Permian Oil Company and had about 4 drivers under him at the time. He and mom had planned a company Christmas party for the other drivers and their wives on Christmas Eve. Mom had worried herself silly cooking all sorts of treats and had out her fancy dishes for the occasion.

Dad had to check “one more thing” out at the pump station before the day’s work was to be complete. Mom sent me with him to sort of “make sure” one thing didn’t become two or three and that he would be home on time!

On our way home, there was a car parked beside the road with the hood up. Dad has never passed up a person in trouble, so he stopped to see if he could help. (I looked at my watch and thought to myself we still had a little time). As it turned out, he was a service man with his wife and two very young kids who were trying to make it home for Christmas before he shipped out to Viet Nam.

Dad worked there for a while as I worried about getting him home before Mom got into a tissy! With the sun setting, Dad gets out a tow chain and hooks to the car. I am thinking “Hey Dad, we got a party tonight!!” But none the less, Dad drags the car back to our house just as the guest are arriving. Mom is standing in the door as we push the car (with the help of the other drivers) into the lighted carport.

I’m thinking to myself that Dad is fixing to get in trouble when Mom comes to the car, but I am wrong. Taking one look inside the car, Mom starts making the tired woman feel like a long lost relative and ask her to come in and visit. “We got plenty to eat!” All the men stood around and helped Dad as the women busied around ohh-ing and coo-ing with the young kids.

They finally got the car running about the same time for the party break-up. Most of the food was gone, everyone had a smile on their faces and the service man still had barely enough time to get “home for Christmas”. They looked at mom and dad and asked what they “owed”. Dad just said, “drive careful”.

I don’t remember what I got for Christmas as a present that year, but I do remember what I got as a sense of pride for just being a “Douglas”.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Warden's Christmas Present

Well, it’s that time of the year again. Trying to find just the right gift for the Warden. You got to be careful though when selecting that special gift. For instance, when we were still out on the farm, I bought her a new scoop shovel. I knew how hard it was to muck out the hog barn with that old one and figured she’d be mighty happy with a new scoop. But I detected a little sarcasm in her voice when she said “you bought this just for me? How wonderful!” And I have learned that buying her a matching ensemble of denim work shirts and coveralls from Tractor Supply brings about the same retort.

One year I even had a lady from Sears help me match colors on a nice dress and blouse. And do you know what? The Warden got all bent out of shape just because of the size! (It was an XXX I thought that meant ADULT).

And I have even tried getting her some jewelry. Jewelry never has to be sized, right? And colors don’t have to match! So I got her a nice set of earrings called “Dream Catchers” and a matching necklace from a store down along the road in Oklahoma specializing in Native American Jewelry. (She tried to return them but the store had gone out of business.) And you know what, she has never wore them! She claims the 4-inch bobs would pull her ear lobes off if they got to swinging in the wind.

Now people, I’m hear to tell ya, that I have tried most everything to find just the right present for that woman and nothing seems to please her! A new Snapper garden tractor, a new set of tires for her car, a kitchen blender, cheese grater and mixer combination all in one and once I even gave her, her very own, monogrammed fishing pole. Nothing makes that woman happy!

So this year instead of just hinting around, I plain out ask her what she wanted for Christmas. She said she wanted something special, just from her, something that no other woman had or needed. Now it took a little thinkin’ and doin’ to come up with something that fit that description but yesterday I got it all finished. Thanks to modern digital technology and a Wal-Mart “you take em’ you print em’” kiosk when no one was around! And I even got one of those nice simulated wood frames for it.

I can’t wait to see the look on her face Christmas morning when she opens that framed 8X10 picture of me in the nude.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Early to Bed

Ben Franklin once said, “Early to bed, early to rise makes one healthy, wealthy and wise.” So I have tried it.

When it comes to “health”, I’ve been blessed. Other than a bout or two with a cold or maybe that stomach virus stuff, I’ve never been sick. But I think that relates more to the providence of the good Lord than going to bed early. My heart goes out to those who are struggling with cancer or any other debilitating disease. I pray that I never face the loss of my health.

Now I did have a bout with diverticulitis once but that’s not a disease, it’s eating wrong. And I learned one thing from it; you don’t go to the doctor with it. He’ll send you down to get some test done by a proctologist. I learned you NEVER turn your back on a proctologist!

When it comes to “wealth”, I’ve been blessed there also. There have been times I didn’t have enough money to pay attention, but I was still a wealthy man. You see, “rich” or “poor” is more a state of mind than that of a bank balance or net worth. I’ve always had enough to pay my bills and if you’ve ever seen me, you know I am well fed.

I believe in capitalism, I just don’t believe in greed and I have learned that greed is not confined to the rich. Greed is a cancer that eats at the common sense until finally nothing else matters.

The book of Proverbs says, “the man who loves money, never has enough.” This applies to both the rich and the poor. There is nothing wrong with the accumulation of property or money, unless it becomes an obsession and stands in the way of relationships of family or friends.

When it comes to “wise”, I am sure that many would doubt my blessings in that area. However, I know enough to come in out of the rain. I know that if you play with fire you might get burned. I know that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably ain’t. And I know that if something looks and smells like crap you shouldn’t taste it just to be sure.

I have learned that wisdom doesn’t necessarily come from a higher education but the wise never stop educating themselves. I’ve learned that taking a stand can be a lonely place to be but that straddling a fence is a mighty uncomfortable place to sit. I’ve learned that the more you open your mouth, the greater the chance of putting your foot in it. And I have learned that the best way to stop gossip is to not repeat it.

So, I guess, all in all I would have to agree with ole Ben and go wake up the warden just to see if she agrees with the “early to rise” part.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Redneck Christmas Soiree

Christmas time is the season that most people put their differences aside and work on having a good time. (Why that can’t be the "norm" has always been a mystery to me but that will have to be another blog someday.) And over the years I have attended company Christmas parties at a variety of places: Country Clubs, Fancy Hotel Lounges in Topeka, KS City and Wichita and even one in a Resort.

There were fancy decorations for the Holidays with flashing lights of every color, sparkling tensile and perfectly decorated 12-foot spruces. Those were places you had to put on that pair of slacks you hadn’t wore since last year, the sports coat that almost matched, the tie left over from the 70’s, suck it up and act "cultured". Some one from "the main office" or some one from "division" would make some sort of speech for an hour or so. We ate supper (which would be some sort of meat with a fancy name) and went home.

I always hated those Christmas parties!

But this year was a little different. Now I work for a rather small company, which has about 15 employees in it from start to finish … top dog down. But due to the nature of our business, we are hardly ever together enough to know each other real well. The demographics of employees are tremendously varied: education ranges from three with Masters degrees to high school dropouts. Backgrounds range from the Chautauqua and Osage hills to the KS City suburbs. So put us all in the same room and include the wives or hubbies it is a hilarious mixture of fun and frolic.

Last night’s soiree was held at "The Mule Barn Bar and Supper Club" and Fred was buying. The Coors, Budweiser and Michelob beer signs provided the colored lights but only one flashed. (Actually I think it has a short in it because the flashing would get rather erratic at times …. sort of like them strobe lights). There wasn’t any sparkling tensile, but the cobwebs did blow and shimmer in the dim lights each time the heater kicked on. And the spruce? Well, it was about 12 inches tall and had one three inch Christmas ball on it (which made it list to the side). Someone had tried to help it out though by hanging an empty beer can on the other side.

And when it came to supper, I knew what I was eating! It was a ribeye!

Everyone sat and talked, compared notes about kids or grandkids and swapped stories. No one was worried about sales, deliveries or production …. And we didn’t get an hour-long speech about it. But we did have a lot of "remember when" stories. And of course many of them were rather "stretched" …. But that’s ok since it justs made the laughter louder. Afterall, that's what Christmas is about, not about company profits.

Anyway, I guess it all comes down to, I’ll take a redneck soiree any day of the week over them hobnob celebrations.