Just rambling thoughts about anything that happens to be on my mind and that usually isn't much!
This blog best viewed with IE4 or greater and tongue in cheek

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Technically Challenged

I try to get by the Stockman's Cafe at least one morning a week for coffee and to catch up on local news.  (OK, local news at a cowboy cafe is called gossip at a hair salon .... but "local news" sounds better in a blog!) 
The names in this story have been changed to protect the innocent!
The other morning as I arrived Bud was showing off his new razor thin flip top camera cell phone.  Now watching those 50+ year old cowboys pass that phone around brought back memories of being a youngster and some kid bringing a new toy to school.  Every one had to take a look and push some of the buttons.  (Of course in this situation no one really knew what the buttons did!)  Now Bud was trying to tell what all this new phone would do (which in reality he didn't know either) .... but as the Good Book says, the blind shall lead the blind! 
It went something like this.
"All you have to do is open it like this and it's turned on and ready to talk," Bud said with nods of approval all around the table.  "It's got speed dial, a camera, speaker phone and they said it even has voice commands. I keep it on speaker because I can hear it better."
"What does that voice commands mean?" Butch asked.
"Well I can just say the name and it dials," Bud proudly answered.  "For instance I could say Sheryl and it ....." all of us then heard the multi-toned dialing sounds begin.  There was a awed silence around the room as a stunned Bud looked at the phone.  We all then heard the ring of a phone as Bud quickly closes the flap.  "Dang!" Bud exclaims, "I didn't know it was that easy!"
"So the only way you can dial that thing is to say their name?" Butch asked in clarification.
"Oh no," Bud explained, "you can manually just put in the number or you can have them on speed dial."
"What's speed dial?" Butch asked.  He always was the inquisitive type.
"Well Sheryl's speed dial number is 5, so you just hold down the 5" Bud said as he continued his demonstration.  Instantly we heard the multi-toned dialing and the ringing of a phone.  Bud closed the flap quickly, "Wow that thing is fast!"
"Well how does that camera work?"  Butch continued his questioning.
Bud then proudly opened the phone again and took a picture of Butch, turned the phone to him and showed him the screen with his picture one it.  "Then if I want to send that picture to someone I just say 'send to Sheryl' and poof off it goes!"
"Well I'll be a monkey's uncle!" Butch said in amazement.
With the features all presented, Bud reluctantly folded the flap and put it in his pocket, taking care to button the flap.  Just then the Lone Ranger theme song started playing.  Bud, being the center of attention again, extracted his phone.
"Hello?" proudly holding the phone out so he could demonstrate the speaker phone.
"Why did you send me Butch's picture?" asked a very sleepy sounding Sheryl.
"Well I was just showing the boy's here how the phone worked" Bud explained.
"You woke me up showing the boys your phone?" a much angrier Sheryl asked.  "Well let me tell them what I am going to do with your phone.   I'm gonna come down there and ...... "  She then went on to explain to all in the room a very detailed anatomical description of where she was going to put that new cell phone.  Then everyone in the cafe heard the loud click as she hung up.
The whole cafe was quiet for a minute looking at Bud.  "She's a little touchy early of a morning since she took that night shift at the hospital" he explained still holding the phone out as if displaying it.   A very worried look on his face.
Butch was the first to break the silence and offer advice for his worried friend, "On your way home tonight, you best stop by and get some flowers for Sheryl."  Immediately we heard the multi-toned dialing sounds and the ringing of a phone. 
Bud quickly closed the flap as everyone in the cafe decided that it was time to get to work.  I haven't been back since that fateful morning, but I suspect Bud is walking a little more bowlegged.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Shopping on line, Warden style

I was listening to some business news the other day at how many billions of dollars are spent at Christmas time.  An astronomical amount to say the least.  He told stories of people standing in line for hours the day after Thanksgiving waiting on the store to open.  He talked about crowded malls and retail stores and the mad rush to find the right present.  It really got me in the Christmas spirit!
Then discussion turned to "on line shopping".  It was reported that 50-60% of all Americans will purchase at least one item this Christmas season from an "on line store".   And there aren't many major retailers who don't have an "on line store" anymore.  To me this does make a lot of sense, sure beats the heck out of standing in the express lane at Wal-Mart!
Authors note: It has often been said that a person will spend 30% of his life in bed.  I think an additional 25% of his life is spent standing in a check out line at Wal-Mart!
But let me describe "shopping on line" with the Warden.  It goes something like this;  I'm on my way to town to purchase something when the cell phone rings.
"I forgot we had to have those clothing gifts for the angel tree person tomorrow at church." the Warden says, "Will you pick them up while you are in town?"
"Dear," I always use sweet words if I am going to attempt to turn her down, "you know I'm not good at matching colors and stuff.  And besides I don't know where all the things are!"
"Just call me when you get in Wal-Mart" comes her denial to my attempted evasion.  Click!
As I walk in the door, instead of saying Merry Christmas to the Wal-Mart greeter, I'm dialing my phone.
"I'm here!" I say as she answers.
"Ok, turn right and go to the men and boy's department," she instructs.  (She knows a Wal-Mart layout better than any of the Wal-Mart store designers.)  "Now look for a shirt, large, neutral in color."
"What color is neutral?" I inquire.  (My motive here is to nip this style of shopping in the bud while it is still in it's infancy.)
"Pick out two and then use your camera phone to send me a picture," she commands.  Click!  (I think she figured out my plan.)
So I do as I am told and then call her back. 
"Take the one on the right.  And then go to the slacks."  The aforementioned scenario is repeated and the proper color is picked.  The Warden then directs me around the store to the various other items she wants purchased.
Finally, I'm headed for the checkout line with all the desired items.  "Ok, then we're done?  I can head home now?"
"No!" she says, " I need you to stop by the grocery store and pick up a few items.  Call me when you get there!"    Click!
I'm not sure anymore that I am all for this "on line shopping" I think to myself as I inch forward in the checkout line.  I think all it did was to replace the list!

Friday, December 1, 2006

Cold Weather and the Warden

Last week here in KS we set record high temperatures, sit on the front porch and griped because it was so hot.  This week we set record low temperatures and hunted for our long handles.  But I guess that .....on the average we've had perfect temperatures!
None-the-less, nothing ever breaks down until it is needed.  Yesterday the Warden called on my cell and said something was wrong with the heater and she could barely heat the house past 60 degrees.  Well now there wasn't much I could do from where I was at, so she called a heating and cooling guy out to fix it.  He said there was some sort of switch burned out and he needed to get parts so it might be a day or two.  So the Warden packed her bags and headed over to the daughters house to get warm.
Now this just kind of shows how "modern conveniences" affects us.  Back home on the farm, the Warden was one tough lady!  I've seen her bed sows in a blizzard!  Carry bales of straw to the sow pens when the snow was near waist deep just to keep them warm at night.
Thaw out frozen automatic waters for the hogs to drink!   She might take hours in the freezing wind working with hot water, torches or electric heaters just to get water flowing again for the pigs.
She would carry feed through snow drifts for the sows!  She could carry two 25 lb buckets of feed at a time and sometimes had to make 5 or 6 trips just to get everything fed, but she didn't give up!  She just hunkered down and went after it till the job was done!
She could castrate a farrowing of pigs in a matter of minutes.  Cold weather or hot, she just got the job done.  (Side note here:  She was so good at castrating, I dang sure wouldn't go to sleep before she did if we ever had a fight!!)
She would cut and split wood for the wood stove when the temperatures were falling below zero!  She could split a rick of wood in less than an hour, unless it was hedge.  Let alone bringing in frozen clothes off the clothesline!
But when we moved to town and she found out about "central heat" and "clothes-driers", well it's just made her plenty soft in her "mature years".  I reckon I should move her back to the country to help toughen her up again.  What do you think? Leave me a comment below if you agree so I can show her.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Giving thanks and count'n bless'ns

This year the Warden hosted for the Thanksgiving feast and 18 family members were in attendance.  Momma and Daddy Warden came from Texas to attend, accompanied by the Warden's younger brother and sister.  Also at the last minute on Wednesday we got a call from Peoria, IL and baby Ruth (the youngest daughter, not the candy bar) said they were also going to get to attend. This of course was a welcomed surprise.
The Warden of course fretted and stewed all week wondering if she had everything she was going to need to feed everyone.  She made daily trips to the store to pick up vegetables, fruits, cans of various foods, different seasonings and other items of recipes she just found and had to try.  And she also called me daily to stop at some Country Mart or Dillions to pick up some other "forgotten ingredient".  (Which did put me in the fight of my life for a couple boxes of cornbread dressing mix on Wednesday.  If I hadn't outweighed that 80 year old woman, I might not have gotten those boxes wrenched out of her hand!)
But on Thursday around 9:30 everything started coming together as people arrived.  Smells from the kitchen drew in samplers and tasters.  Becky, Rachel and Ruth (with husbands, kids and dogs) arrived bearing more mashed potatoes, hams, cakes and casseroles.  Those of us that were of the male gender sat on the newly finished front porch enjoying the beautiful weather and pretended to oversee the wild Indians playing in the yard.  Finally dinner was announced and we crowded into the kitchen to surround the bar filled with various delicacies and fill our plates to overflowing.
Now here at the Warden/KSCowboy household there is a special tradition at Thanksgiving.  Since it is "Thanks Giving" we all have to tell what we are thankful for.  This is really a unique time.  It makes everyone reflect on their own blessings but also, as you listen to others share theirs, realize some blessing that you might have taken for granted.
As we go around the room each person (of voting age) tells of blessings such as health, job changes, neighbors they have, children in good health, the country in which we live, opportunities that have happened to us, etc.  It is a fun, inspirational and an enlightening time that draws this family a bit closer.  I too add my blessings to the list.
Yet even as open as we are with feelings and emotions, there is always something that a person holds within the deep recesses of the heart.  Whether fear of being deemed as "petty" or fear of "embarrassment" or something more trivial, we do not totally bare our soul.  As I am giving my "blessing speech", looking at all the food before us, meeting the eyes of all my kids, healthy grandkids, in-laws and out-laws there is a blessing I don't mention.  However in my heart I am SO THANKFUL we now have a house with three bathrooms!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Internet

When I first began hearing about the internet I had trouble even understanding the concept of a network of computers tied together around the world.  Not only that but what possible functions could it play in daily life.
Now I do my banking on line.  I pay most of my bills through the internet.  I check the weather.  I read the news I want and skip the rest.  I can shop at Wal-Mart without standing in the Express lane for three hours.  Literally millions of companies large and small have web sites.  I can go research articles about health and nutrition.  I can check out "how to's" on most any subject known to man.  I can buy plane tickets, plan vacations and set up reservations.  I can check sports scores or stock prices.  Research history or learn about astronomy.  The list of things I can do is as endless as the internet itself.
As more and more companies begin to rely on the internet for commerce they are constantly researching ways to "keep you connected".  I can carry my laptop and in many cities use it to connect to a WI-FI network and do the very same things while traveling as if I was sitting at home behind my desk.
The growth of the internet out-surpassed the TV.  Television grew rapidly in the 40's and 50's.  Hardly any homes in the industrial world was vacant of a TV by the early 60's.  People marveled that the world was becoming smaller.  We got to see the news within hours when dignitaries met for summit talks or a catastrophic event happened somewhere.
Now all over the world people with personal computers are getting connected and the world gets smaller.  Some ordinary individual sitting on a computers can relay information in a matter of seconds about events like the tsunami, earthquakes, war in Iraq or other catastrophic events.
People get to know people from other countries through chat rooms, instant messengers or pen pal sites and friendships grow from these.  No longer do we rely on what the dignitaries to tell us or the news men.  Today we can find others and learn ourselves.
Then the thought hits me.  Besides the millions of companies out there, there are literally billions of people like myself sitting and staring at these little lighted screens.  Now you would think with all those billions of people out there hooked to the internet that I would have at least ONE email to read this morning!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

With age comes wisdom?

As I approach yet another birthday, I remember when I was back in college and I called my grandmother on her birthday just to wish her a happy birthday.  Now grandma was pretty quick-witted and always could fit in a one-liner.   She told me that when she was a kid she only had birthdays every 4 or 5 years but that now she was having two or three a year.  I laughed and still do when I think of her saying that.  HOWEVER now I chuckle simply because I know exactly what she meant!  Last month I had my 50th birthday and the month before that was my 45th! 
I have always enjoyed reading history and learning what it was like "way back then".  I thought it was so cool when we got cable and I had a history channel to watch.  But now when I watch the history channel, it's more like a stroll down memory lane .... I have experienced a lot of it!
A couple years ago, I was substitute teaching a history class made up of seniors.  I don't remember exactly what point I was trying to make, but I was trying to tie the point with a US conflict.  Knowing they wouldn't remember the Viet-Nam war I used the statement "you remember how it was during the Gulf War, Desert Storm" and finished making my point.  One young man in the back of the room raised his hand and said, "sir, our Dad's fought in the Gulf War.  We were only 3 or 4 years old."  Goodness!  All of a sudden a rush came over me of just how OLD I was getting!
My paternal grand-dad died at the age of 94.  He had been born before the 20th century even started.  I marvel at the changes he seen.  He started with horses and yet see automobile travel became common place.  He could remember Oklahoma becoming a state.  Can you for a minute imagine that?  From his farm to Oklahoma would take 20 to 30 minutes today, yet as a teenager it would have been a "days ride" for my grand-dad to get there.
Think about it.  Airplanes before there were "airports".  Telephones with cranks and you needed a lot of money just to call someone in the next state.  Radio and TV becoming common.  He worried about his kids and polio.  What did he think when he seen an X-ray for the first time.  Electricity and "indoor plumbing".  Men on the moon.  The attack on Pearl Harbor and the atom bomb.  The list goes on and on.
I do wonder (assuming I make it till I am 94) what my descendants will marvel most at about my historical existence.  Heart or liver transplants? Cell phones?  Internal combustion engine? Cancer treatments?  The internet?  Satellite communications?  Space travel?
The ONE thing I do worry about in this changing world is the family unit.  Will that be remembered 40 years from now?
Well, there is one thing great about growing older........it beats the alternative!

Friday, November 17, 2006

1969 / 2006 comparison

Good evening my friends. What you are about to read would be truly funny, if it were not so true. (Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent!)

Scenario: Jack pulls into school parking lot with rifle in gun rack.

1969 – Vice Principal comes over, takes a look at Jack’s rifle, goes to his car and gets his to show Jack.

2006 – School goes into lockdown, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.


Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.

1969 – Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up best friends. Nobody goes to jail, nobody arrested, nobody expelled.

2006 – Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Johnny and Mark. Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it.


Scenario: Jeffrey wonÂ’t be still in class, disrupts other students.

1969 – Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by Principal. Sits still in class.

2006 – Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.


Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his fatherÂ’s car and his Dad gives him a whipping.

1969 – Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.

2006 – Billy’s Dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang. Billy’s sister is told by state psychologist that she remembers being abused herself and their Dad goes to prison. Billy’s mom has affair with psychologist.


Scenario: Mark gets a headache and takes some headache medicine to school.

1969 – Mark shares headache medicine with Principal out on the smoking dock.

2006 – Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.


Scenario: Mary turns up pregnant.

1969 – 5 High School Boys leave town and enlist in the army. Mary does her senior year at a special school for expectant mothers.

2006 – Middle School Counselor calls Planned Parenthood, who notifies the ACLU. Mary is driven to the next state over and gets an abortion without her parent’s consent or knowledge. Mary given condoms and told to be more careful next time.


Scenario: Pedro fails high school English.

1969: Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college.

2006: PedroÂ’s cause is taken up by state democratic party. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against state school system and PedroÂ’s English teacher. English banned from core curriculum. Pedro given diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he canÂ’t speak English.


Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from the 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, blows up a red ant bed.

1969 – Ants die.

2006 – BATF, Homeland Security, FBI called. Johnny charged with domestic terrorism, FBI investigates parents, siblings removed from home, computers confiscated, Johnny’s Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.


Scenario: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary, hugs him to comfort him.

1969 - In a short time Johnny feels better and goes on playing.

2006 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison.

IsnÂ’t it time for us to gain control again of our kids, our schools and our lives? Stand-up and letÂ’s have freedom again. LetÂ’s get rid of political correctness. Put in jail those who abuse our system. Withstand those who would try to do away with our culture.
*Author note; I can't take credit for the writing of this blog. It was copied from an email I recieved.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Remote

I think there is law somewhere that states that woman should not usurp her authority over the TV remote … or maybe that is in the Book of Proverbs. But anyway, if it ain’t it should be! Let me try to explain some basic facts.

First of all, women are built different than men. (OK I know it is a shock for those who, like the Warden, burned their bras back in the late 60’s but there are some differences.) For example, women’s fingers are pointed. Although I do not believe in evolution, I do think that a woman’s finger has evolved into more of a “point” after years of directing where furniture needs to be moved to, where a picture should be hung or where to plant the chrysanthemums!

Conversely, men’s fingers are more rounded. Probably this is due to hitting them with a hammer while hanging pictures or from digging in the dirt planting chrysanthemums. But none-the-less, this rounded digit is a much better design for pushing buttons, i.e. the remote.

 Authors note: The Warden who is reading over my shoulder as I write this, just mentioned that feature of rounded fingertips also is best suited for poking all her buttons the wrong way! But I guess that is another blog sometime.

Secondly, women do not understand the concept of “channel surfing”.

Major companies who spend millions of dollars on advertising realize that in mere seconds an image is burned into your mind about many their products, logos and services. These are flashed very quickly to influence your next buying decision.

However in certain instances, they leave the image on screen for several seconds maybe even the entire commercial. This is done for you to study the features of the product on a much more defined scale. Usually this is on the more expensive items that require a greater buying decision.

The same thing holds true for channel surfing. We have 60 channels to surf through (24 women’s channels, 5 sports channels, 10 movie channels, 4 major networks, 6 news channels, 6 music channels, 4 science channels and the weather channel). To surf these channels it should take less than five minutes, unless of course you run across a car chase scene, a golfer taking his swing, a shoot-out, a fight scene, a quarterback poised for a pass, a crack of a bat or a light tree blinking the start of a drag race. Any of these would of course slow down the surfing time.

Under no circumstances should it require more than a couple of seconds to move on if there is a song being sung on a movie channel! Or pray tell if you run across a scene of a lady pouring some batter into a cake pan why stop and watch her BAKE the silly thing! And watching some guy shingle his house? What good is that? You can fix the shingles on your own house if that is your interest.

Men join with me and let’s get a law passed. Write your congressman!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Seeing Clearly Now

This just hasn’t been my summer: hitting the hog in June; shingles in July; gallbladder surgery in August; and now this! You the reader are getting the final few words of my existence.

Last night I was feeling a little "punky" and fell asleep in my chair. The Warden woke me sometime later and said I needed to go to bed. (Does it ever make sense to wake someone up to go to bed?)

This morning I got up and started feeling around in the dark trying to find my glasses since the Warden is a little "touchy" if I turn on the lights at 3:30 AM! Well I finally found them and strolled into the kitchen to start the coffee.

Dang I couldn’t focus. I rubbed my eyes and even put in drops to get the "fuzz" out of them. When I opened the refrigerator the whole thing seemed to move and sway. I got rather queasy and thought I was about to upchuck. I even sit down on the floor till things stopped swaying quite so bad.

I hate having that dang flu. It comes on so suddenly! I haven’t had the stuff in years. It was all I could do to get the coffee made before I fell over!

Then I came to the computer to get my email. I was so dizzy I could barely make the mouse work.No way could I even focus the computer screen well enough to read the few emails I had. Finally I gave up and went into the living room and my easy chair to die. I sat there with my eyes closed and tried to take my mind off my swirling stomach.

I know this is to be my last day on planet earth. There is no way I am going to survive.It has taken three attempts to get back to my computer to record my final moments. But I have finally persevered. Here I sit, my head leaned back and trying in vain to focus on one spot on the ceiling, I must get my "Last Will and Testament" written before it's to late. Slowly adding one or two words to this, my final blog.

I can now hear the Warden stirring in her room. I sure hope that maybe she will have compassion on her dying husband.

Well she just stuck her head in the door of the computer room and said, "Why are you wearing my glasses? Here are yours!"

Well, turns out I am not sick after all.
Dang! Now I got to go to work!
click here

Saturday, October 21, 2006


I have decided that true Americans eat donuts.

I am writing this blog this morning from a motel in Dallas. Even on trips I cannot sleep late and the Warden "requested" that I find SOMETHING to do rather than turn on the lights or TV at 4AM. So I decided to go find a donut shop and get a cup of coffee. (One thing good about 4 AM in Dallas, there are fewer cars on the road!!) But anyway, as I drove by a strip mall a couple miles from the motel I noticed a donut shop with only one car parked outside.

Once inside I noticed that the glass cabinet was full of various glazed, maple covered, cake, plain or powdered pastries. It was hard to make a selection, but I persevered and selected a maple covered long john. I then poured a medium cup of hot coffee, bought a Dallas Morning News and went to a chair in the corner to enjoy my selections.

This being an election year, the paper was naturally full of articles concerning politically charged events throughout the city, state and nation. In many of those articles were "titles" attached to people’s names. Titles such as "Democratic leader", "Conservative spokesman", "African-American leader", "Hispanic representative" could be found in each article describing or categorizing an individual.

I continued to pretend I was reading the paper as a Caucasian man in a police uniform entered the store. A man of African decent sitting across from me spoke to him concerning some Vietnam War veteran’s benefits. As they discussed the topic, it became apparent that they were friends and very possibly shared some past experiences in the military.

The Caucasian man then walked to the counter and placed his order with the Asian man behind the counter. The Caucasian man ordered a dozen glazed donuts as the Asian owner chided him over his weight with a grin. The Caucasian policeman jokingly said that the Asian owner was going to get more parking tickets if he said any more about his weight.

The Caucasian policeman took his order and turned to leave, almost running into a Hispanic woman who had entered the store on her way to her job. Apologizing for his blunder the Caucasian policeman then asked the Hispanic nurse how she liked her new job at the Medical Center.

The Hispanic nurse then approached the Asian owner and placed her order for some jelly filled Danishes. As the Asian owner filled her order she asked how the new baby was doing. The Asian owner beamed with pride as he related the latest "new baby" story to her.

As you can see from the previous few paragraphs, titles such as these do not help the story. All were concerned of the others wellbeing. There was no need of "titles". What I seen was a mix of ethnicity all coming together as friends, neighbors and Americans without the need of a "Black Leader" or "Asian Spokesman" or "Hispanic Representative" or "Conservative Demagogue" or "Liberal Prolocutor".

Let’s just be Americans!

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Seriously Speaking

Seldom do I write anything of a serious nature. However I am compelled to write this as we approach an election cycle. First I must define a few definitions.

Democracy: government by the people; especially : rule of the majority
democracy. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law. Retrieved October 08, 2006, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/democracy

Republic: a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them
republic. (n.d.). WordNet® 2.0. Retrieved October 08, 2006, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/republic

Think for a few minutes how our form of government protects all people. Each state has 2 Senators, each equal in power, yet population of different states varies greatly. This prevents "mob rule", which would be the downside of a PURE democracy.

Also with each state varying in population, there is a need for a representative based on the needs of a populace. Thus we elect representatives based on the populace of each state. This prevents a "few" people from controlling the "mass", which would be the downside of a PURE republic based totally on regions or states.

Thus we send representatives to Washington DC based on population and on regions to act as our voices in making laws, creating taxes and controlling our governing principles on a national level.

Our nation was founded on the theory that all people should be represented within the government. We are a republic with a democratically elected congress. The wisdom of such a form of government must have had some divine guidance. Otherwise a few of the larger cities could have "ruled" the USA. Or conversely a region with a small population could have dictated the populace of the whole.

Also consider our economic system which is generally described as capitalistic. Take a moment and read the definition of the three major economic systems/theories.

Capitalism: an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, esp. as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.
capitalism. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.0.1). Retrieved October 08, 2006, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/capitalism

Socialism: Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.
socialism. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved October 08, 2006, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/socialism

Communism: a theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state.
communism. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.0.1). Retrieved October 08, 2006, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/communism

I am capitalistic in nature. I do not believe that the "community" or government should own the marketplace or control the output of goods and services. This allows best for the general distribution of wealth. One merely has to look around at other nations to see this system is best. If one looks at Venezuela (Hugo Chavez) or North Korea (Kim Jong IL), it is easy to see that even though both countries claim to be "democratic", the leaders live in wealth while the masses suffer extreme poverty.

The American dream is allowed because of these two great facts: capitalism and our form of governing. Be sure and vote this coming election. Be sure and vote for the person who will best uphold these two basic American principles.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Cell Phones

Everybody has a cell phone these days! Everywhere you go you can "stay connected". Over lunch yesterday in a popular café in town, I’ll bet there was at least 10 cell phones that went off for different people. Driving down the road you see 50 percent of the drivers on their cell phones while they are driving.

Friday I pulled up to a customer’s house to discuss his winter feed needs. So happened that he was shipping cattle and several of his neighbors were there helping him. They were all still horse back but shaded up waiting on the trucks. I naturally took the opportunity to apply my trade to such a gathering of cattlemen. Then the theme song of "The Lone Ranger" started playing. Every cowboy there started checking his cell to see whose was going off.

I happen to carry two: one supplied by my company so Fred can find me if needed and one personal so the Warden can call me to bring something home.

Now since they show who is calling, I kind of figured out, that if Fred calls, I won’t answer right off or maybe I’ll even call him back at a later time. That way he thinks I’m busy selling feed. (Comes in real handy along about naptime in the afternoon.)

Today the Warden wanted me to go shopping with her. She had to go get groceries at Dillions and to Wal-Mart for the rest of the daily necessities. I offered to do Wal-Mart while she did groceries to save some time. That phone came in handy as I went down my list. I could call the Warden for "verification" purposes as to size or brand or just what the heck she had written down on the list when I couldn’t read her writing. I figure most other shoppers were doing the same thing because about half the people you seen were talking on their cells as they walked down the aisles.

But they can be a source of embarrassment too! Last week as I was filling the car with gas the "mother nature need" happened upon me. So I went to the throne room there in the convenience store, took my stall and settled into the "Thinker" stance. All of a sudden the guy in the next stall ask, "Where are you headed?"

Well now folks, I am the type of guy that can talk to teen or elderly, man or woman or a stranger on the street. Doesn’t bother me in the least to carry a conversation on with anyone. But this was rather an unexpected arrangement.

"Well I am headed to Cherryvale and then to Yates Center" I answered.

There was a brief moment of silence then he inquired, "what are you going to do there?"

Well I am thinking this guy is a little nosey or perhaps he is a spy sent out by Fred, but I answer, "I am going to see some prospects about booking their winter feed."

"When are you going to be back down this way?" he continued his probing of my business.

"It’ll be at least 4 or 5 hours to make the trip," I explained. "Just sort of depends on how many I find at home and how talkative they are."

"Can you be back here by 5?" he relentlessly asks.

"That would be kind of pushing it to be back by then." Now I know this guy has been sent out by Fred to get me moving faster.

Then he said, "I’ll have to call you back. There’s an idiot in the next stall that keeps answering my questions!" And I heard the familiar click of a pocket cell phone closing.

Folks, let me assure you, you will never receive a call from me if I am in the throne room!

Monday, September 4, 2006

The Good Ole Days

With the Warden off being grandma to Micah, I decided to attend the Atlanta Labor Day celebration. It’s always good for a parade, some homegrown fun and meeting some old friends. I sure wasn’t disappointed. At least for a while. Just like my grandsons, I watched the whole parade, hollered at friends when they drove by and held my fingers in my ears when they blew the sirens on the fire trucks.

Afterwards, I sort of strolled along seeing who all was around (besides I knew there was no way for me to keep up with the grandsons). Then, since I am now of the "minimum age", I strolled over to the "old timers" bench (which was in the shade) and decided to people watch.

Then along came Bill and sits down beside me. Now Bill has always been somewhat of drip of cold water but is all right most of the time. We, of course start rehashing "old times" when our own kids were running all over the place and comparing notes over the last couple years since we last seen each other. Soon the conversation begins to turn to statements starting with "member when?"

"Member when ole Skelly went with us coon hunting over on the creek?" he asked with a grin. Then added, "he dang sure could skinny up a tree!"

"Yeah, that night sure was a lot of fun" I added "and we got several coon as I remember."

"Yeah, that ole Buck dog of his was a pretty dang good hound. Never tapped a tree unless the coon was there" he continued.

"Where is ole Skelly now?" I questioned.

"Oh he died some 5 or so years ago" he explained. "Just keeled right over one day."

Well, now I was kind of shocked to hear that news since ole Skelly was just a couple years older than me! But then we both stopped talking for a minute or two, to kind of memorialize our demised friend.

"Member Jim? Same thing happened to him!" he added when the proper time of memorializing was over.

"Jim?" I asked emphatically. "I just seen him a couple years ago here at Atlanta! Looked healthy as a horse!"

"Well he was till he went to the doctor." He explained, "Doctor gave him a shot for something and he had a reaction. Didn’t make the night!"

I am shocked! Again we go silent for a few more minutes of memorialism.

"You heard about Bob didn’t ya? Member him?" he asked.

By now I am getting a little afraid to ask, but I do with a qualifier, "You mean Bob that used to work on the ranch up north of Leon?"

"Yeah, he had a car wreck about 4 month ago."

We again memorialize our friend. But this time when the proper time has past, I decide it’s time to leave.

"Bill, it’s sure been good talking to you." I lie as I walk away. I had all I wanted of this walking obituary! I wanted out of there before this guy killed off all my friends.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Coffee Makers

I sure wish I had one of them old tin percolators. You know the kind with the small glass bulb on top so you could watch the color of the water change as the coffee brewed. Put some coffee in the little strainer. Fill the urn with water. Sit it on a burner and in a few minutes you had coffee. Or maybe a Pyrex percolator made of all glass so you could watch the whole brewing process. Anything SIMPLE!

Sunday morning our coffee maker sort of blew up. Well not literally, it just sprung a leak and ran all over the cabinet. I examined it to fix it and found it to be "re-place-able" rather than "fix-able". So it went to the trash bin and I went to Wal-Mart to find a replacement.

Our old one was real simple. Just put in coffee and water, hit the big red button on the front and poof, you had coffee in a few minutes! The only "bell and whistle" it had was a two hour safety shut off incase you forgot to push the big red button. (Which the Warden and I almost always forgot to do.) Well apparently that style was too efficient because they quite making them.

Wal-Mart did have at least 15 different styles with all sorts of bells and whistles. Expresso makers. Cappuccino makers. Instant "cup of coffee" makers. Coffee makers that were also alarm clocks. This one is "programmable". (You know I enjoy flashing lights and buttons). All sorts of safety stuff on it.

Well that night I set the clock perfectly that is built into the face of this elixir maker. I got to poke all the buttons as I programmed the thing to come on at exactly 3 AM so that when I got up the coffee would be ready to pour and I could enjoy my morning cup at first rise. No waiting!

In the night the electricity must have blinked during the boomer and reset everything. When I got up, the little clock was blinking showing that the time was off by several hours and there was no coffee made.

Well I started trying to reset the brewing time, but the "safety features" wouldn’t let me over ride. So I opened the manual to find out how. It was written in several languages and all of them made no sense!

"Hold down the ON button while touching the minute button three times to enter your password allowing you to reprogram your coffee maker"

Well that’s fine and dandy, but I never set a password in the thing to begin with! (I don’t think.) To make a long story short, I finally figured out that at 3PM each day (and 5PM on Sundays) the coffee maker will come on and make the perfect cup of coffee!

Best I can figure, I’m either going to have to go to Wal-Mart and get another coffee maker or change jobs so I work a night sift to have a fresh cup of coffee!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Warden

Over the past couple of years, many have written to ask about the "Warden". Does she read the blogs? Does she mind being called such a name? Does she know that I refer to her in such a manner? People have even written saying that apparently I am an insensitive person. I have even been threatened a couple of times.

This shocks me. Thus I am compelled to write this blog concerning the Warden.

First of all, let me explain to those of you who do not know her. She is a librarian and understands how important stories, books and the written language are in shaping and educating those around us. How they help in the exchange of ideas and facts. The written word is needed to spread humor and fascination or explain devotion or even anger. So thus she encourages me to write.

However, communication is a two way street. I write with my limited vocabulary with a certain thought in mind. I use the words I know to explain that feeling or event. You (the reader) reads using the understanding of your culture, background and events that have shaped your thinking.

For instance, if I was to write the statement, "Your beauty would make time stand still." Most would accept that as a compliment. Some however would interpret that as a putdown by understanding it in this manner. "Your face would stop a clock".

Many of you have interpreted the word "Warden" incorrectly. Most have seen the word as a chief guard of a prison or an enforcer of punishment. You do not see the word as an official charged with special supervisory duties.

Also I am a very slow typer and speller. (I wouldn’t dare write anything in long hand without a spell checker!) So I started using acronyms as often as I can to speed up my story telling. An acronym of course is an abbreviated way of writing a lot of words with a few keystrokes.

Warden in my case is more of an acronym.

Wonderfully Attractive Resourcefully Diligent Efficient Nurturer

So from this point forward, I hope each of you will see my references to "the Warden" in a much different manner.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Mining for Gall Stones part 2

Waking up after surgery is always a good sign, but memories of that particular stage is foggy to say the least. The scariest part was hearing someone say, "Angel, he’s beginning to wake up." (But in retrospect, I guess it’s better than hearing Beelzebub or something similar.)

"Sir, do you need anything?" a voice from the fog asked.

"Yes, I want some water." I replied.

""Nothing for a while yet. You might throw up and cause complications" was her answer.

"Why? What difference does it make if I die of thirst or from throwing up?"

"You’ll live" she assured me.

In my foggy remembrances, there was a nurse sitting there with another clipboard and I assumed she was going to ask them same questions again. But then I noticed she was checking the dials and writing things down.

"What’s my chances?" I asked.

"About 99.9% unless you give us a hard time" she replied.

My next memories are of being rolled back to the room. Kind of reminded me of those TV shows of them pushing a gurney down the hall and the camera gets the patient’s perspective of the lights flashing overhead as they pass under. I moaned "water" a few times so those standing along the hall would know I was in dire need of something to drink. (I was hoping one of them would overpower the orderlies and offer me a drink of water!)

Finally I come to the room and the nurse hands me a buzzer and says reassuringly "if you need anything, just press the buzzer and I’ll be right here."

Just as she heads out the door, I press the buzzer. "What do you want?" she asks from the door.

"Can I have something to eat?’ I plead.

"Nothing till after 7PM" she says and immediately disappears. I press the button again.

"Now what do you want" she asks as she rounds the door.

"Can I have some water or ice?"

"No!" she says with hands on hips. Then with a pointed finger she includes, "If you press that button again before 7PM and ask for anything to eat or drink, they are going to have to take you back to surgery to remove that buzzer!"

Well that convinced me so I lay the button down and look at the clock 5:45PM. I think to myself that they have to be trying out some sort of torture method

Finally at 7PM (not one minute sooner) Florence Nightingale shows up with a big glass of water and a tray of liquids for supper. Now folks, normally I like to chew my food, but that tray looked awfully good after 22 hours of NOTHING.

The surgery doctor comes by and I over hear him tell the nurse "his diet can be as tolerated". I immediately ask the Warden to go get me a bacon cheeseburger and fries.

The nurse overhears my request and says "Sir, without your gall bladder, you will not be able to tolerate much fat in your diet".

So folks, here I sit this morning finishing this story, thankful I lived through the surgery and FINALLY figuring out what that torture method is they had planned. A life without tasty food! I’ll be skin and bones in a month!

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Mining for Gall Stones part 1

Well for those of you interested in the rest of the story, let me begin by stating the original directions of the doctor. He said on Monday morning, no food or water by mouth after midnight because I would be set up for 7AM check in, 9AM procedure on Tuesday. (Well folks to begin with I SURE didn’t plan on taking food or water in any other manner!) He then says if nothing is wrong, fluids by dinner and you’ll be home easily for supper.

Then the hospital calls in the afternoon and says things have changed, be there at 9AM for an 11AM procedure. I am beginning to see a pattern here designed to starve me. But I comply and show up at the proper time hungry, thirsty and ready to get the procedure done so I can EAT.

9:00AM The little aide brings me the famous back-less gown for me to put on. (As I strip to my underwear, she explains how shy she is!!!!) The pre-op nurse comes next to ask all the questions that I have answered in the afore mentioned meetings and to tell me about the procedure and what to expect.

4 little incisions two just above my belt line and two just below my ribcage. She explains how they will fill the cavity with gas so they can work. I explained if she would just bring me a plate of beans and cornbread, I’d make my own gas and save them the trouble. (She apparently wasn’t the humorous type cause she didn’t grin.)

Next she puts in the inevitable IV in the back of the hand (someday I suspect they will just have the admission receptionist start those dang IV’s so you can wear them longer!). The vampire nurse shows up drooling for her blood samples. And the aide now offers me a remote to the TV to pass the next hour and a half.

10:30AM The little aide stops by to inform us they are running a little late. I have already channel surfed the TV completely. (The only interesting channel is the "in house health" channel which has explained many interesting facts, such as blood pressures, cholesterol levels, defecation and urine volumes!)

11:45AM The little aide says only one more before me and we will be TAKING him down sometime soon. (By now I am getting bedsores and my mouth is so dry I can’t even form spit. I am beginning to plan on how to unhook my IV and just drink straight from the bag,)

2:15PM The little aide shows up with a nurse and orderly in surgical greens and a new gurney. As I climb onto the new gurney, the nurse in greens says, "Sir you will have to remove your underwear."

"Why?" I ask in astonishment, "You are only going to work above the belt line!"

"We have to prep you for surgery, sir."

"Well just make DANG sure that you are very careful with razors and scalpels then!" I caution. (She apparently wasn’t the humorous type either.)

The green nurse then pulls out her clipboard and begins the questions, AGAIN. By now I have them memorized and just answer: no, no, no, yes, no, 11-26-51, oral surgery only, 1999, no, no, yes and no.

"What’s that?" she ask.

"The answers to the questions!" I shoot back.

"But I haven’t asked them yet" is her reply. (It seems they just like to ask the questions.) She then reads my wristband and asks if I am Dennis.

"Well yes!" I say answer emphatically.

"We just have to make sure, sir" she responds. "Just a safety precaution. There is a lot of identify theft these days you know!"

"You mean you have problems with people stealing arm bands and sneaking in for surgery?" I ask quizzically.

"You know what I mean!" and we begin our journey to the operation room to meet the anesthesiologist. This guy begins explaining in depth the procedure and medications he is going to use to put me under. And then explains in depth the process of waking me back up. All the while he is explaining, he is beginning to inject some sort of fluid into my IV. A nurse on the other side explains that he really just bores people to sleep and it must have worked because that is the last I remember.

More to come later, but right now I’m tired and you are probably thinking I could take the place of that anesthesiologist.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Gall Stone Experience, Stage Two

Well we went through stage two today of proving I have gallstones. I reckon the “bent over retching in pain” and the x-rays that even a redneck like me could see wasn’t enough proof. Now today’s procedure wasn’t bad, I admit that. But I had to go to the same “lab” that I went to several years back for diverticulitis and it is forever burned into my memory.

When they were checking for diverticulitis, this little nurse told me to take off my wranglers. Now folks, I am somewhat of a shy individual, so the start of that procedure was somewhat of an embarrassment. BUT THEN she took out this probe hooked to a garden hose and put it where the sun don’t shine! That ordeal still sends shivers up my spine!

Well, today they led me down the hall to the same room. I was doing OK until that SAME nurse with the garden hose showed up. I would have been out of there in a flash but they had the door blocked. She assured me there were no needles in this procedure or probes to be inserted into any of my orifices so I relaxed somewhat. (But I kept a leery eye on that nurse just incase.)

She asked me a few of the same questions that the ER nurse ask (I was only about 30 feet away from the ER! You would think they would keep records or something!) But anyway, she asked me to take off my shirt and then squirted some of this jelly stuff all over my belly then went to rubbing this hand held sensor across it.

Now this machine had all sorts of flashing lights and buttons. I would have given my eyeteeth to have gotten to play with the thing. I even asked if she could let me have a few of them pictures so that I could attach one with this blog for proof but she said no.

She showed me my heart (which for those of you who do not believe I have one, IT’S THERE!), the gall bladder and finally the stones. (Looked like pencil erasers to me.) And then she went “hmmm” in a serious tone as if she had found something. Now folks, a doctor or nurse should never do things like that to us hypochondriacs.

“What’s wrong?” I asked

“I can’t find it,” she said as she continued her search.

“Find what? You just showed me the stones!”

“Yes," she continued, "but they told me that as big a sissy as you are, there would probably be a uterus!”

There’s a wisenheimer in every crowd. Oh well, surgery tomorrow at 11 AM.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

ER, IV's, EKG's and X-rays

This just hasn’t been my summer! In June on the way home from vacation in Texas, we hit a wild hog and did quite a bit of damage to our car. In July I end up with a case of the shingles and go to the doctor for the first time in over 10 years. Then last evening, leaned back in my easy chair, I started having bad back and chest pains. After setting around for two hours and trying to find something that would relieve the pain, I gave up and ask the Warden to take me to the emergency room.

Well now folks, I’m here to tell you that the ER’s you see on TV is not the way the ER is in our town. Now they were nice, don’t get me wrong, but I was kind of expecting a furious flurry of activity to determine just how close I was to dying. Instead I was put into a room and left for dead. I just figured once they seen me they had written me off as a lost cause.

Finally one little nurse came in and asked who my doctor was and other simple questions. (My assumption was she needed to know who to have sign the death certificate.) I told her I was in a lot of pain and even moaned a few times to validate the claim. She had me lay back on the gurney and gave a few pokes at my upper abdomen, which almost sent me to the roof. And then came that question that all doctors and nurses go to college to learn, “Did that hurt?”

“What was your first clue,” I asked, “the fact that my eyes rolled back or the blood curdling scream?”

“Would you like for me to get you something for the pain?” she asked in a rather smug tone of voice.

“No” I answered with the same smug tone. “I like laying here in a fetal position gasping for each breath.”

She disappears from the room for what seems like hours then returns with a small cup full of creamy lime green liquid. She hands it to me and demands, “Drink this!”

“What is it?” I ask.

“A green lizard” is her reply.

“Puréed?” I ask in astonishment. I am beginning to wonder when the witch doctor in his full regalia is going to show up and drive the evil spirits away.

“Sir, if we are to help you, you must do what the doctor orders”.

Well as I turn the cup up and drink the slimy stuff, my mouth and throat go instantly numb and swallowing becomes difficult. Now I KNOW I am being put out of my misery by some sort of paralyzing poison. I try reading this nurse’s nametag so that I can come back to haunt this woman.

“Does that relieve the pain?”

“No!” I sputter.

She disappears again as I lay there writhing in pain. After another hour or so she shows up with a blood pressure machine, one of those little bags full of clear liquid, some test tubes and a whole bunch of needles. She then wraps my arm with the BP cup and turns it on. It nearly squeezes my arm off but finally the numbers appear.

212 over 106

“Well” she says, “it does appear you are in some pain.”

“How many more test have you got to run before you’re convinced?” I ask.

She then takes my hand. Finally I think, she is feeling remorse for this suffering soul on the gurney. She then grabs a 6-inch long needle and aims for a vein on the back of my hand.

“Hold still” she demands as she works the needle in, “we need to put this bag of fluids in you.”

“Can’t I just drink it?” I plea.

“We need blood samples too” she responds as she draws the first vial of what must have been a hundred.

When I am fully drained of blood, she rolls up a machine with all sorts of electrical wires and couplings to it. She then starts peeling little sticky things (kind of reminded me of duct tape) all over my body and chest. (Now folks, the ONLY place I am not covered with hair is the top of my head.) She turns on the machine and prints off a couple feet of paper with a graph on it.

“Looks normal” she says as she gives the first duct tape tab a jerk. She removes the remaining 50 tabs in the same manner and I now have little bald patches all over my body and chest. I sort of look like I have scabies or something.

They then roll me down to the x-ray room where they do a series of film in various positions. Then back to the torture room. In a few minutes the doctor on call shows up toting one of the x-ray pictures which he holds to the light and points. “You have a lot of big stones in your gall bladder. I’ll bet you are in a lot of pain” as the nurse begins injecting some liquid into the IV slot.

I begin to feel a warmth take over as the morphine creases through my veins. Why didn’t they do that 3 hours ago, I think to myself as I drift off?

The “rest of the story” will come in a few days. (If I survive the surgery!)

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Gateway to the West

St. Louis has prided itself on being the “Gateway to the West”! Even built a big arch commemorating how, over the years, people came to St. Louis headed to the vastness of the west. It was one of the earliest settlements in the west and many trails started here headed to the gold fields of California, the promises of Oregon, the open ranges of Texas.

Even today, if you are headed west on the Mississippi Bridge at St. Louis, you can choose I-55 south along the western shore of the Mississippi River. You can take I-44 all the way to Oklahoma and Texas. Another choice is I-70 to the plains of Kansas or the mountains of Colorado. There is even I-64, which takes you deep into central Missouri. And of course these major routes also break off into other major US highways such as 60, 54, 50 and many others.

But let me tell you, if you are on one of those major routes headed east to Illinois, you got one shot to get across the river! And if you miss that one shot, DOWNTOWN St. Louis, filled with signs, saying: no left turn, no right turn, one way. (Even a few that read, “if you can read this you are going the wrong way!”)

Arno, I am sorry to be talking about your home town, but I believe you St. Louie-ites need to build a statue of a giant pop bottle right in the middle, under the Arch. And right below the inscription “Gateway to the West” it should read, “Bottleneck to the East”! My first time driving through St. Louis many years ago, I even made the claim that I would never drive there again unless forced to at the point of a gun. July 1, 2006 I reiterated that claim. (As well as a few others that I can not put here since this is a family read site.)

The Warden and I anxiously headed to Peoria early Saturday morning to see Baby Ruth. (Our youngest daughter not the candy bar.) We were even going to arrive early in the afternoon until we hit “the bottleneck”. I have to admit, I should have gotten the hint to turn around at the first “construction ahead” sign that I noticed, but I forged on eastward.

Then came the blinking lights of a warning sign that slowly crawls a message across the 4X5-foot screen “E-B I-5-5 r-a-m-p c-l-o-s-e-d a-t ….” (Another suggestion to the St. Louie-ites, speed up those warning signs!)

“What did that sign say?” I asked the Warden.

“EB I-55 ramp closed at” she repeated, “We went by before the rest of it came across.” Then added, “What does EB mean?”

At that point, I had to move to my left into the major traffic of northbound traffic to avoid a long line of cars in my lane. (We were still at least 5 miles from the ramp to the bridge and still on I-44.)

At 65 mph, it doesn’t take long before the I-55 merger and to go the remaining 2 miles to the bridge ramp. And the whole distance is lined with cars, two lanes deep after the merge. As I pass the ramp and dodge the cars trying desperately to fit between the fast moving traffic, I see the dreaded sign “Ramp Closed”.

At that point, I am thankful I am not sitting in line 5 miles back, slowly approaching a “ramp closed” sign. However my thankfulness is short-lived. I look at the sign approaching us at 65 mph: I-70 West, Kansas City 297 miles. (I cannot express the thoughts that crossed my mind at that time due to the family oriented material normally found on this site.)

But, being the quick thinker I am, I take the very first off ramp planning on crossing I-70 and back down to the eastbound side and thus crossing the river. It was an excellent plan until the detour sign at the ramp, which proceeded the road closed sign because of the St. Louis 4th of July parade. The only choice left was a straight shot to the river front drive and the Casino, which is almost directly UNDER the bridge.

From my vantagepoint, I can even see the cars crossing the crowded bridge. At this point, swimming the river is beginning to look like a viable option. The Warden suggests we stop and ask directions. Now everyone knows that a “real man” will never ask directions. However the rudimentary instincts of survival are beginning to kick in and I comply with her request.

Out of the hundreds of thousands that live in St. Louis, the three I ask directions from do not have a clue how to get to the bridge. Finally I spot a car with Illinois tags and fall in behind it. He leads me to the best-kept secret in St. Louis, the M. L. King Bridge; a four lane bridge across the mighty Mississippi with no apparent entrance from downtown.

So after only an hour and a half of being hopelessly lost in downtown St. Louis, we drive across the relatively vacant bridge into Illinois. I look at the Warden in triumph and smile. She says, “can we find a bathroom now?”

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Traveling with the Warden

It’s always nice to go on a vacation, get away from the routines of a “normal” day and visit family. I wish that they would hurry up and invent one of those transporter things like they have on Star Trek, you know where they can beam you from place to place. But even if we had one of those, I am sure the Warden would forget something and we get “beamer-lag” from return trips to get something the Warden forgot.

The drive to Texas is about 10 hours (based on the average number of return trips to get hairbrushes, nightgowns, shoes or any other left behind object and stops along the way). Our normal Texas trip goes something like this: As we approach the car, I ask, “Can you think of anything we forgot?” Her sleepy reply is always “I don’t think so.”

Mile marker 3: Warden “Wait, I forgot my hair dryer!” Over the years and many return trips, we have carved out of the bar ditch an easy turn around spot here so the return trip is made and we are quickly back on the road again.

Mile marker 35: I mention that I need a cup of coffee to help keep my eyes open. The Warden sleepily mumbles she would like one also. I ask, “Do you need to use the restroom while we are here?” The Warden says no. I make the stop, retrieve the cups of coffee and we are back on the road.

Mile marker 37: “I need to go to the restroom.”

“What!” I ask with a little too much emphasis. “I just asked you two miles back!”

“Well I have had some coffee!” she insists.

“You’ve had two sips!” is my emphatic retort. She says nothing, but the look I receive says volumes.

(This scenario is repeated at mile markers 96, 143, 260, 320 and 412 with the only changes being the liquid that was purchased.)

Along about noon, we decide it’s time to look for a place to eat dinner. Passing through one of the burgs (which are few and far between) along the route we spot the “Red Rooster Restaurant” and decide we shall eat there. There are a few cars around it, so our assumption is that this is at least frequented by the natives and must have reasonably good vittles. However, I do notice as we approach the door, that 5 of the 6 cars have out of state license tags on them. The second clue to leave should have been the Christmas tree still standing in the corner. But we go ahead and select our table away from the door and the blast furnace heat of the outside.

Apparently the Warden is getting the same vibes I am because she leans over and states, “Well at least it is clean.” Just as she says that, the waitress (who can’t be over 14) brings us menus and ice water, then awaits our order. Now folks, I am a redneck and proud of it. I do not look down my nose at any man (or woman) because of their creed, color or clothing. But this little girl makes me look and sound like I am spit polished and cultured!

Well we did go ahead and eat dinner (or at least part of it) there. And so far have not succumbed to ptomaine, hepatitis or typhoid. However, if you are traveling along highway 277 from Wichita Falls to Abilene and spot the Red Rooster Restaurant, my advice is to keep traveling!

Stay tuned, there is always the return trip!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Let me tell you about my Dad

I have often spoken of Cowboys being my heroes as I was growing up and how they (whether fictional or real) had influenced my life. But I want to tell you about the man who had the greatest single influence on my life. Let me tell you a little bit about my Dad.

My dad taught me personal responsibility. If you took a job, do the work. Don’t do it in a haphazard way, do your best. If you made a mistake, own up to it. Don’t lay it off on someone else. If you owed a debt, pay it. Don’t expect someone else to cover for you.

Another thing my Dad taught me, was not to worry, either fix it or forget it. I’ve never seen the man “worry”. Oh yeah, I’ve seen him “fret and stew” over a few things and how he was going to handle it. Then I’ve seen him shoulder the problem and fix it or he’d let nature run its course and forget about it.

He taught me the importance of money. It wasn’t important about the amount you had in the bank. But it was important what you did with the amount you had there. As a family, some would have called us poor but we didn’t KNOW it. All of our “needs” were far more than met.

Dad was the smartest man I ever knew. No, he wasn’t a Rhodes Scholar nor did he have a degree from Harvard, he had that “common ole horse sense”. Now I have to admit here, there was a time in my teenage years that I wouldn’t have said that. But when I left home and got off on my own, I found out how right he had been.

Dad taught me about a handshake. Truly one of the greatest lessons I have learned in life. A handshake will tell you the measure of a man. If you can’t shake a man’s hand with respect, then don’t shake his hand.

Dad taught me about pride. Not the pride of the “high and mighty” but to take pride in who you are and what you believe in. You’re reputation is your greatest asset.

Now keep in mind that every time I said “Dad taught”, he didn’t set down with pencil and paper or a book to teach me a lesson. He taught me by being a living example in all these area’s and more. Thanks Dad for being the living lesson and example.

My Dad is the greatest of all my “heroes”. Happy Father’s day Dad.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cowboys Are Still Heroes

Yesterday I had the opportunity to go observe a “calf dragging” in Oklahoma. That’s what they call cattle processing locally there even though it does sound a little rough in today’s society. And in the dusty conditions yesterday, even the pictures appear that the cattle are being jostled around excessively, when in reality, they were being handled as easy as possible during the actual processing.

I took along my camera to capture some of the events. I was hoping to capture some such as a cowboy throwing “the perfect loop”, some cowboy getting run over by a runaway calf or some other funny happening. I also had hopes of getting a few that would provoke some thought. So when going through the pictures last night I found one that really stood out to me.

A few months back, I wrote a blog called Cowboys and Heroes where I told of how I had always looked up to cowboys. I mentioned down in the story of some “real” cowboys and cattleman that had affected my life as a young adult. And the older I get, the more value I place on that time of learning, the wisdom they shared and the laughs caused by their stories.

This picture, showing the backs of two cowboys, shows to me the contrast of “those with experience” and “those wishing to gain experience”. I know J. B. Bowman pretty well and have tremendous admiration for the man. The youngster (whose name I do not know) can be seen in the background in several pictures doing his assigned job.

J. B. has spent most of his 72 years in the ranching areas of southern KS and northern OK and still puts in a day’s work that most half his age couldn’t. He has done every associated job from fixing fence to selling the fattened cattle. He has made money and he has lost money. And yesterday he told me his reflexes just weren’t quite quick enough to “tail down” a calf. Then said with a grin, “I’ll leave that to the younger ones, even though I still can.”

And I also had some admiration for this youngster. Here was a youngster who wasn’t sitting in the house on a Saturday morning, watching cartoons or playing video games. He was up at daybreak anticipating a day filled with “working cattle”.

It really bothers me to hear people talking about this “new generation” in an all-encompassing way, saying they are lazy and incompetent. Some are, but my belief is that, by in large, they will find some of the answers to the problems we are facing today.

This picture portrays to me the dreams of youth combined with the experience of maturity; the respect for the elder by the youth, the acquiesce for the youth by the elder.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Day I Became Dad

There are always a few tremendous experiences that stand out in a guy’s memory. I truly think the one experience that is above all in my foggy memory was on this day 32 years ago when I received the title of “Dad”.

I did have some prep time in that it was several months from the first indication of pregnancy until birth. There were times of holding my hand on the Warden’s stomach and feeling the baby move; my 110 lb. wife looking as though she had swallowed a basketball; strutting around like a rooster because the Warden was pregnant (as if it took some sort of specialized skill to get her that way); picking out just the right name for a son (Calvin Carl after our own fathers) and turning the extra bedroom into a nursery. And even after all the prep time and planning, the Warden’s water broke in the middle of the night and all logic was replaced with panic.

We got to town early in the morning, just after sunrise and went straight to the hospital and checked her in. We then went to the “labor room” and begin the wait. Finally after all day of sitting in the most uncomfortable chair the hospital had to offer me, they took the Warden into the delivery room. Now in 1974, we were still kind of in the stone ages as far as birthing babies. The husband was allowed in the labor room but not in the delivery room, so I was shown the second most uncomfortable chair the hospital had to offer which was in the waiting room.

Finally a nurse showed up late in the evening and said if I would come to the window of the nursery, she would show me the baby. As she rolled this little bassinet full of blankets up to the window, I noticed the blank pink name card on it. I tapped on the window and pointed to the other bassinet with the blue card, but she shook her head and indicated that this one was mine. I figured there was no use arguing with her, we’d just get it straightened out in the next day or two.

The next day I went in to be with the Warden and she asked what we were going to name the baby since it was a girl. Now I was in a little bit of a shock that they could have so easily convinced her that she had a girl. We had always planned on a boy. Just then the door opened and a nurse entered pushing that blanket filled bassinet with that blank pink name card on it.

In one swoop, before I could even begin to ask questions concerning what they had done with my son, she laid this mass of blankets into my arms.

“What do you think of that Dad?” she asked as she pulled back the blankets to reveal this mass of black hair, squinting eyes, pink skin, long little fingers and stubby toes.

She was perfect! We named her Rebecca Diane (her mother’s middle name). And we called her Becky because of the tomboy Becky Thatcher in the Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

About that initial feeling of being called “Dad” for the first time, it will never be repeated or replaced. So you see, even though Becky was born on May 28 it was the next day that I became “Dad”.

And now you know the rest of the story.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

On this date, 1972

Saturday, May 20, 1972 was the day the Warden and I started out. My older brother, Gary was Best Man and the Maid of Honor was the Warden’s best friend Nene. It was in a little town called New Deal, just 13 miles north of Lubbock, TX where the Warden and I were both senior college students at TTU.

Now I reckon that was a good place for a newly wedded couple to start out in. You stood out like a sore thumb because New Deal was the typical farming community made up of middle aged and older couples. Most of them knew your business better than you did; most were ready with their advice for a long happy marriage and if you had a “spat” every one knew it.

Sonja, our next door neighbor knew things were a little tough financially around the “new household” and was always asking for the Warden to help to pick the garden, butcher chickens or can corn. And it seemed there was always something that “won’t fit in the freezer, so you take it home” or “I fixed a little too much can you use this?” I was always glad when she baked too many pies!

Corky, who farmed up north of town, told me that to keep a woman from running off you had to “keep her barefoot in the winter and pregnant in the summer”. And it had worked pretty well for him, last count I knew of, he had 6 kids and Rollabee was on the nest again. However, the Warden is still hanging around even though she has 34 pair of shoes in the closet and a hysterectomy!

Suzy, who was the postmistress, told the Warden one day, “Now you make that man share the work around the house. No man is worth keeping who won’t do dishes once in a while!” The Warden has heeded Suzy’s advice for the last 34 years.

I remember one Sunday afternoon, when the Warden and I had a fight. Now it wasn’t just a couple words type, it had been pretty well all afternoon. When we went to services that night I am sure we still showed the bristles. Everyone was eyeing one another out of the corners of their eyes with those “knowing” looks and giving each other little nod or a “questioning” look with a shrug of the shoulders.

When it came time to start the song service, Ron (the song leader) got up, gave a nod to Bill (the preacher) and we sang all the verses of “Angry Words”, “Love Lifted Me” and “Wonderful Story of Love”. Bill then said he was going to change his sermon from what the bulletin said. He had decided to preach on 1st Corinthians, 13 commonly known as “The Love Chapter”. We then ended services with all the verses of “Bless Be the Tie That Binds”.

Yeah, the people of New Deal kind of watched over us.

Well since then there has been a lot of laughter, heartaches, worries, promises, tears, sweat and even a few threats but I reckon we’ll make another year. And if I were to give any couple-to-be a “word of advice” it would have to be to marry your best friend. (Assuming of course the friend is of the opposite gender!)

Saturday, May 6, 2006

New glasses won't help

Well I got to tell you what happened at the Stockman café yesterday morning. I walked in, grabbed a cup of coffee and took an available seat with the rest of the real cowboys. The main topic of discussion was how much rainfall there had been over the last day or so.

The general consensus was that there had been between one and sixty-five to one and eighty-five hundredths of an inch. There was even great discussion and verifications of emptying previous amounts, time observed and even the procedure involved in reading the gauge before they settled on one and seventy-five hundredths of an inch with much discussion and fanfare! (I really think the United Nations negotiators should take some lessons from a cowboy coffee shop on how to come to an agreement!)

The room then quieted since an agreement had been reached.

About that time Neil (who is somewhat younger than the rest of us) walked in and sits down. After a moment of silence, he nodded toward the bulletin board on the far wall and said, “Looks like they are going to sell the old feedlot again.”

Everybody at the main table looked at the bulletin board mumbled an agreement. Neil then mentioned some of the things on the sale list.

Well now I am setting there looking at the bulletin board and can BARELY see the sales flyer, let alone read any of it at this distance. I slyly look at those setting at the table and notice they too are either squinting or adjusting their glasses for a better view of the flyer.

To kind of hide the fact that I am apparently going blind, I make the statement that I thought Laue owned that.

Neil nods in agreement and states, “yep, that’s what the sale bill said.” I notice Doug readjusting his glasses trying to find the right tri-focal to look through as he scans the sale bill on the far wall. Skip and Dale are both squinting at it.

At this distance, I can only read the top line on the sale bill. Below that, I can see nothing but little dots.

Neil continues on describing things on the sale bill, time to start, how the parcels will be sold, different articles to be sold that day, etc etc

I take off my glasses and begin cleaning them. (I notice Doug is doing the same thing.) I also know that if I hold my glasses at a slight angle it has a magnifying effect. So as I clean them I turn toward the sale bill and try to find the correct angle but that doesn’t seem help either at this distance.

Now Skip and Dale neither need glasses except for reading but I notice each rubbing their eyes. Skip says, “my eyes are kind of watering this morning.” Dale agrees that there must be something in the air because his are too.

None of us want to admit that our aging eyes have prevented us from reading the sale bill.

I decide to test Neil and ask who is holding the auction. Neil answers right off.

Well, proof is in the pudding, so I finally admit that I need a new pair of glasses since there is no way I can read that sale bill. Doug, Dale and Skip all mutter an agreement sighting somewhat different reasons.

Neil has a look of amazement on his face and says, “Heck, no way could I read that one. I read the one in the paper last night!”

There is a collective sigh of relief from the table as I pay for my coffee. I can head out now without feeling I am totally over the hill.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Filling the Dishwasher

“Will you fill the dishwasher?” the Warden asks after supper.

“Sure” I answer. I mean, what other answer could there be? It is kind of like asking, “are politicians going to raise taxes?” Sure. “Does the sun come up in the east?” Sure. Same type of question!

Editor’s note: the Warden never watched “Leave it to Beaver” as a kid growing up or she would have understood a husband’s role. Do you remember that show? I mean Mr. Cleaver always read the paper while Mrs. Cleaver fixed supper and did the dishes. He never had to do the dishes!

But alas, times have changed.

However, I don’t mind filling the dishwasher except for the “peripherals” that go along with filling it. It goes something like this.

The Warden directs “Don’t forget to rinse them good.”

“Dear, I always rinse them.” I answer in my defense.

“And be sure to do the forks real good or they won’t be clean.” She further directs.

“Yes dear.” I answer and usually use some extravagant show of rinsing silverware at this point with some added muttering that I cannot print in public.

The Warden is usually busying herself around the kitchen putting leftovers into those plastic containers known as Tupperware. I swear that Tupperware is a man’s nightmare and should be banned for use in the United States as a hazard to mental health. However she keeps an eye on the happenings at the dishwasher.

The Warden further directs “You need to move those glasses on the top shelf to the side.”

“Why?” I ask rhetorically, not really wanting an explanation.

“Just trust me.” She continues, “they will be cleaner that way.”

“Well if that’s the case …” I start to counter but loose interest in continuing the argument. I begin rearranging the top shelf as directed.

The Warden puts the last Tupperized leftover into the refrigerator as I push the top shelf in on the dishwasher. She immediately turns and pulls the top shelf back out, rearranges the cups, bowls, saucers and glasses. She pushes it in, pulls out the bottom shelf and rearranges the dishes found there.

I stand watching the Warden perform this task in bewilderment. The task now finished to her satisfaction; she closes the door on the dishwasher and walks toward the living room door.

“How about if I just start rinsing the dishes and let you load the dishwasher?” I ask as she walks through the door.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Hunting Season

With my territory expanded because of the job changes, my lunches are now in unfamiliar cafés. Selections are made now, not based on known culinary practices, but rather on the mix of vehicles parked outside. I look for the local café with the most pickups that are equipped with cattle feeders and bale spears. I figure that if the food isn’t any good at least I can pick up a few names of local producers.

When walking into one of these places, I am often reminded of the old western movies of a gunslinger walking through the bat-wing door of the town saloon. All eyes turn to see who the stranger is. So I play the part as best I can.

Just inside the door I will stop, a stolid look on my face, survey each table and meet the eye contact of any who look my way. And the longer you stand there, the more that will turn and look. This little technique is used to establish the aura of “confidence” or “self-assurance”.

As you survey the room, you look for the table that is surrounded by the most hats, chaps and muddy boots. (It’s even better if they have a pair of wire pliers hanging off their belt.) If possible, you sit at that table or at least in close proximity so you can eaves-drop on the names and conversations. This technique has worked well for me to quickly establish relationships in a new area.

Yesterday, while in a new area of the Flinthills, I found one of them little outback cafes surrounded by 20 or more pickups fully equipped. I thought I had found the mother lode! When I walked in, the room was packed with people wearing the correct garb. And there was one chair left in the middle of the pack.

With all the John Wayne confidence I could muster, I played the part and strolled to that open chair. Conversations resumed and I cocked my ear to “infiltrate” the area locals.

Conversations seemed pretty normal at first, cattle prices, calving difficulties, pickup problems and other brags or disclaimers. Then the guy that was sitting a little to my right speaks out in a voice that demanded listening to, “Hey Jim, when does season open?”

Jim answered, “I think it opens next week, April 1st.”

I’m sitting there wondering what kind of season would open at this time of year, when a guy across the table speaks out. “Have you seen that one Frank got last year? He had it stuffed and sitting in his living room now. It’s over 6 feet tall!”

“Yeah, I seen it when he was skinning it” another chimed in. “And it must have weighed over 250 lbs.!”

Well my curiosity is about the overcome me. I am thinking of deer, elk, bear or maybe cougar. Finally, I can no longer hold back and ask, “What season are you talking about?”

The guy sitting across the table from me, looks right at me, and answers, “Feed salesman season? Have you ever seen one?”

Monday, March 20, 2006

Spring has Sprung?

Just after 12 noon today the sun will cross the equator and spring officially begins! (Vernal equinox) I’m dang sure glad because I am sitting here shivering with two pair of socks, a long sleeved shirt and the Wardens house coat on! And the forecast is for snow all the way through Thursday morning. High north winds and freezing temperatures. Sure sounds like spring to me!

The old timers always said, “If March comes in as a lamb, it’ll go out as a lion.” Well we set a record high temperature on March 1st. I walked around sweating all day, felt like summers full bore! Had to shed the long handles about mid morning! But it’s dang sure looking like the end of the month is going to set them the other way.

Always seemed strange to me that the Farmers Almanac could predict the weather a year in advance with amazing accuracy and the local weatherman had trouble hitting it just 24 hours in advance! (Sorry Arno. I know you just retired from NOAA and are tired of weatherman jokes. But there is a comment section at the bottom of this blog if you wish to defend your profession.)

Elsie Dwyer, (who was born in 1900 and long since left our midst), would have called this the “Equatorial storm”. She always kept up me up to date with the moon and “signs” as she called them. And a good bit of her predictions and forecast were right on the money. She would read the Farmers Almanac for the long range stuff and then make the more timely forecast based on her bodily aches and pains.

She told me how her dad had once used a local Indian medicine man to predict how hard the winter weather would be. The story went something like this: It had been a good spring and they had filled the barns with alfalfa hay, as had all the neighbors. As summer hay crops came along, they stacked the hay outside and were going to have extra to sell.

However, her dad decided to check with the medicine man to see how hard the winter was going to be before he would decide to sell anything. The medicine man told them it was going to be a tough winter. Her dad got kind of worried so he put up more hay and returned to the medicine man for a little more advice. Medicine man said it’s going to be a REAL tough winter. Her dad now worried and continued haying.

This informational forecasting and haying activity continued several times with the adjectives describing the harshness of winter increasing resulting in larger and larger hay piles. Finally her dad ask the medicine man just how he knew it was going to be such a harsh winter. The medicine man replied, “because the white man is putting up a lot of hay!”

Well, the short story is this. The way my ole body is aching and shivering this morning, I think I’ll dig my long handles out of the closet and put them back on for a couple weeks. I don’t even think I’ll ask the medicine man.


Saturday, March 18, 2006

Rain on the Roof

I was sitting here this morning drinking my coffee when I begin to hear the metallic ring of raindrops hitting one of the roof vent covers. It is a pleasurable sound for sure since we are in such desperate need of rain. But it also gets me to “remembering”.

When I was a kid, the farmhouse hadn’t been finished, meaning that the boy’s room didn’t have any sheet rock on the walls or ceiling. So you could look past the rafters, through the attic, straight up to the underside of the roof. It was great when it rained cause you could hear it loud and clear! There is just something about that “pitter-pat” on the roof that can loll you into the most satisfying sleep.

I would just snuggle down into that feather bed and listen. Maybe there would be an occasional crack from lightening or the roll of thunder. But the sounds would bring about pleasant dreams. Evan as a kid I realized that those gentle rains were a source of revitalizing one’s “inner-self”.

When a little older and living on the ranch in Kansas, on a rainy summer day I would sit out on the front porch. Just sit there listening to the rain fall through the leaves of the big elm tree that stood just off the edge of the porch. Now that could lift the burdens off a guy’s shoulder and give him time to reflect on his blessings.

Did you ever notice how rain muffles outside sounds such as a distant train, highway noise or airplanes flying over? Even the birds quite singing to listen I think. It seems in the same way to muffle the problems and worries that sink into our lives and take over our thoughts.

I have seen where they sell tapes of different sounds to help “soothe” or perhaps induce sleep. “Ocean Sounds” “Bird Calls” “Mystic River” etc. But I tell you, rain on a roof or rain on the leaves of trees will do it best! Something about rain just cleanses the soul.

I remember too, milking cows out in the barn during a rain. The rain hitting on that tin roof would just nearly sing to you. Each cow would come into the barn, dripping wet, so you would take a burlap feed sack and wipe off all you could. Then grab your milking stool, sit down at her flank with a bucket between your knees and start squeezing. That song produced by rain hitting that tin roof even relaxed the old cow so she milked easier.

BUT, that “song” was sort of like the mythical song the Sirens would use to lure the sailors to their demise on the rocks along the shore. Eventually she would take a relaxed “swat of the tail” and wrap that coarse haired, wet, mud-filled (and other things) tail switch right up beside your head and bring you back to reality!

Oh well, at least this morning, I am going to sit here, listen to that little metallic ring of the roof vent and enjoy my coffee.