Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Aerospace Museum at Hill Field


Just out side Hill Air Force Base near Roy, Utah is Hill's Aerospace Museum.  During a lull in the Family Reunion, while many were attending the ground breaking ceremonies for the new Brigham City Temple.  John, Jeff and I visited the Museum.  Earlier in the morning Jeff's imagination was piqued as a couple of F-16's flew over the reunion park on their way to the west desert for practice maneuvers. 

The Museum is free of charge and has a wonderful collection of vintage planes.  Here's Jeff in his flight suit ready for take off.

This sweet, beautifully preserved B-17 Bomber was my favorite.  I've read stories about flying these in WWII and seeing one really captured my imagination.  How I admire the heroes who flew them and the gunners who defended them.
Here's Captain Jeff in the cockpit.  Ready for a dog fight!
Jeff's Aunt Aly repairs Avionics on the F-15, pictured here and also the F-16.
Jeff was excited to see what Aly's Test Stations look like.
Here Jeff flies an F-16 flight simulator.  We had a fantastic time observing the marvelous advances in flight from the Wright Brothers to todays amazing jet fighters.  What a great opportunity and all for free!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Little Heroes


Last evening we gathered in Layton, Utah for a wonderful Family Reunion, I found little Megs and her big brother Jeff standing at the fence to a neighboring pasture.  Joining them, I discovered that they were chumming llamas.  They were tossing carrots over the fence and wondering what llamas say.  I told them they spit, so we were making our best spitting sounds, "pouittt, spouitttt. spouitt" to no effect.  We couldn't toss the carrots far enough to capture their attention.  They were surprised and little bit skeptical when I told them that llamas are cousins to camels.  I'd like for them to have had a better look.

It was about then that Megan drew my attention to a calf she took to be stuck between a fence and a shed.  It took me quite some time to even make it out a hundred yards across the pasture.  Sure enough, a little black calf seemed sandwiched between corral poles and the shed wall.  Jeff suggested we go tell the farmer so the calf could be rescued.  Sounded like a good idea to me.

We informed their parents and headed over there.  Out on Gentile Road there was some question as to which house in the row, connected to the farm.  I chose, using some deductive reasoning, the third house.  The kids were a bit concerned and then relieved when a sign beneath the house number read, "The Farm."

I asked them what they were going to tell the farmer?  "We're not going to tell him anything, you are!" was their desperate reply.  We knocked on the door and heard a neighborly, "Come in!" shouted back to us.

"Grandpa!  We can't just go in!"

"Sure we can, didn't you hear the invitation?"

Over riding protests we went in.  We found a couple of old fellows chatting in the drawing room.  The elder of the two asked our business and I explained the situation.  He had a difficult time making out what I was trying to tell him.  Megan and Jeff pitched in their two bits and finally we made him understand that his calf was in trouble.  The farmer didn't look well and we found out later he was suffering from cancer.  His companion informed us that he would help the farmer rescue the calf.  They seemed a bit skeptical as they thanked us and saw us to the door.  I'd secretly hoped they'd invite us out back to assist in the rescue.

Megan ran all the way back to the park so she'd be sure to be back to the fence in time to witness the goings on.  The rest of us went to the fence too, in plenty of time.  Those two old fellows weren't in much of a rush and were just making it to the barnyard gate.  The fiddled with the wire tying the gate shut for a couple of minutes.  When the finally did get to the calf, it was plain that they were in agreement with us.  The calf was in trouble.  The tried in vain to get him free so the kid's Dad, John, who'd joined us and I went back over to offer our assistance.  In the end we weren't needed, the took a saw to the pole trapping the calf and had it out about the time we arrived.  The calf hobbled over to the trough and drank and drank and drank.

This time the farmer seemed much more appreciative.  He gratefully told us that he doubted the calf would have lived until morning had he not been released from his trap.  I could tell he was about give out, but he wanted to chat, perhaps to make up for nearly blowing us off before.

As he lived on Gentile Road I asked if he knew my Uncle Don who lives another couple of miles West.  "Sure do!" he replied.  "We used to be in the same Ward, years and years ago.  Then the Ward was divided and then the Stake.  Now we don't even live in the same Stake!"  He remembered Uncle Don well enough to remember that he was from Star Valley.

John who thinks I must know everybody.  Had his suspicions confirmed and razzed me a bit about it on the way back to the Reunion.  There, we made a big deal out of Megan and Jeff saving the calf from certain death.  Nice to be in the company of heroes.  Big or small.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Patron Aint

I've sort of been on a Saint bent latterly.  So today I thought I'd introduce you to an Aint.  That's right this guy aint no Saint.  He's the legendary Doc Holliday.

Doc was a Dentist.  Though he claimed to have only practiced Dentistry for five years.  He lived in Georgia principally, until he contracted tuberculosis.  To ease the symptoms and prolong his life he moved west.  In Texas he met Wyatt Earp.  Later in Dodge City, Kansas he came to Earp's aid against some gunslingers and Earp acknowledged that Doc had saved his life.  They became fast friends.

Constantly moving, avoiding the westward crawl of civilization and respectability the Earps and Doc Holliday wound up in Tombstone, Arizona where they fought in the famous gunfight at the OK Corral.  Some time after the gun fight, Morgan Earp was murdered.  Doc jointed the Earps on a vendetta ride seeking revenge on those responsible.

They were law men, gamblers, and now out laws.  They went to Colorado and finally Doc settled in Glenwood Springs, hoping for healing from the curative waters of the warm springs there.  He died there November 8, 1887.  He was 36.  They buried him in a cemetery on a hill overlooking the city.

On August 5, 2002, I climbed that hill.  It is a steep trail and I wondered how elderly mourners made it up there, let alone the hearse.  Aside from its poor accessibility, it is the second most breath taking cemetery setting I've ever seen.  They don't know exactly where John Henry Holliday is buried but a marker has been placed with a wrought iron fence around his possible plot.

This photo is from a Geocache I established in Doc's honor.  I created the Cache to help others locate this tidbit of old west history.  When I first went there I was taken by the fact that folks had left tokens at his monument.  A shot glass of whiskey and an ace of spades lay there on that day.  It amused me.  It was as if Doc had become the patron saint of sinners, gamblers, drunks and outlaws.  Pilgrims from far and wide come here, pay homage and leave a remembrance.

I set it up as a Virtual Cache.  Typical caches have a hidden container with a log and some trinkets.  Virtual Caches just lead to a place such as this and finders must email the owner with some detail to verify that they had actually been there.  My request for this one is that cachers report what mementos they find left at the monument.  In the eight years since then there have been 374 logged visits cataloging the persistent tributes of supplicants and revelers from who knows where.  They've posted 178 photos recording this amazing, heart warming, mysterious, anonymous practice.

In their anal retentive way Geocaching.com no longer allows Virtual Caches.  Interesting since so many logs thank me for placing and maintaining the Virtual Caches I have.  I'm grateful I did because I, with the help of all my caching friends, have chronicled the on going devotion we seem to hold for our heroes from the Wild Wild West.  You can visit Patron Aint and read the logs and view the pictures.  You'll notice that some time in 2004 a new monument was placed at the site.  I liked the old one better.  Seemed more authentic.

You know I don't go in for drinking, gambling and so many of Doc's vices, still there is something about this man who died 123 years ago that appeals to me.  None of us are perfect, but most of us are forgotten.  Hold on, I'm not advocating a crime spree either, so don't go out and try to be the next D. B. Cooper.  What I am advocating is that we remember.  If these guys can faithfully climb that strenuous hill to Linwood Cemetery in all kinds of weather, what can we do?  Can we drop a note to a lonely grandmother?  Can we make a visit to a shut in.  Can we record our memories of ones we've loved and lost?  Wyatt Earp did:
"There was something very peculiar about Doc. He was gentlemanly, a good dentist, a friendly man and yet, outside of us boys, I don't think he had a friend in the Territory. Tales were told that he had murdered men in different parts of the country; that he had robbed and committed all manner of crimes, and yet, when persons were asked how they knew it, they could only admit it was hearsay, and that nothing of the kind could really be traced to Doc's account. He was a slender, sickly fellow, but whenever a stage was robbed or a row started, and help was needed, Doc was one of the first to saddle his horse and report for duty." 
He also said
 "Doc was a dentist not a lawman or an assassin, whom necessity had made a gambler; a gentleman whom disease had made a frontier vagabond; a philosopher whom life had made a caustic wit; a long lean ash-blond fellow nearly dead with consumption, and at the same time the most skillful gambler and the nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a six-gun that I ever knew."   "I found him a loyal friend and good company."
If Wyatt Earp could so kindly remember Doc Holliday, what might we do?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What's In Your Wallet?

I was fumbling in my overstuffed wallet this morning and decided it was high time I cleaned it out.  I used to clean it quite regularly when I carried it in my hip pocket.  Of necessity I had to keep it thin.  Back then I had fairly chronic back pain and a constantly sore hip joint.  At a family reunion we went for a hike and a cousin who is a physical therapist noticed a limp in my gait.  He suggested I start taking two steps at a time, when climbing stairs, for the sake of my hip and to quit sitting on my wallet as a remedy for my back.  Miracle of miracles, I was cured!  I am so grateful he wasn't I quacktopractor or I might not have taken his suggestion seriously.  Of course a quacktopractor would have overlooked the cause and required ongoing appointments to adjust my spine and the thickness of my wallet.

I can adjust the thickness of my wallet just fine on my own.  Thank you very much.

This was going to be a treat so I grabbed tall glass of milk and a bag of cookies to sustain me through this trip down memory lane.   I really like my wallet.  I've carried it for years.  I bought it from Day-Timer.  Originally, it came with a spiral bound calendar/planner that fit snuggly between the folds. It has a nice loop that perfectly fits my favorite Zebra Gel pen.  There's a pouch for credit cards and a four or five others of various sizes.  You'd think I could keep things well organized, but haven't seen what's in most of the pouches for several years.  I don't carry the calendar any more.  What little I have to keep track of I put on Google Calendar who sends me email reminders.  I like that.  I used to put things on my calendar and then forget to look at it.

Here's what I've been carting around:

  • A fishing license receipt from 1999.  I suppose I kept it as a back up in case I lost the license.  I wonder how many times I went fishing that year?  The receipt says I bought it in late June, right after Free Fishing Day.  My Dad was sick and I spent a lot of time in Wyoming for the balance of the summer.  He died in late September.  I wonder if I ever used it.  In those days fishing licenses expired on December 31st.  I probably didn't get my money's worth.  These days the license is good for a year from whenever it was purchased.  Much better deal!
  • A Lowe's receipt for a bundle of shims from October 2008.  There's no way I'd consider returning shims to the store.   I wonder why I put it in my wallet?  There's a phone number on the back.  Maybe that's why I kept the receipt.  I looked up the number up in the reverse directory, wondering who I was supposed to call.  It wasn't listed.  I wonder if I ever called it.  Did I miss out on something, or forget an important assignment?
  • My Temple Recommend.  I'm pleased to report that it is current and good for another 22 months.  Looking at the signatures I remember the evening and following morning that I met with the Brethren to have it renewed.  They don't keep the same schedules they used to and being gone to the Detention Center for so long, I'm pretty out of touch with regular church routines these days.
  • A 1998 penny.  There's no explaining that one.  I've never kept coins in my wallet and that certainly wasn't a rare collectible or anything.
  • A stack of family photos from a visit to a photographer from around Christmas 2001, maybe a little after the first of the year.  Our grandson Jeff looks to be around 4 to 6 months old and is as cute as a button.  There's one of him alone,  one of Sweetie and I, one of the four girls, one of Jeff's parents and one of the whole clan.  There's another from a year or two earlier of the entire family. My we all look young!  Megan thinks I need an update in the wallet photo department because at age 6, she ought to be in grandpa's wallet too.  So do I.
  • Three quad-fold reminder cards of the larger For The Strength of Youth.  I suppose I thought I was going to have them to hand out to at risk young people at some point.  I don't think I ever had occasion to do that, or a least forgot I had them when they were needed
  • A tri-fold reminder card of the Young Women Values.  Like the others, it is worn, faded and tearing at the hinges.  And since they fairly recently added Virtue, it is out of date.  It sounds rather funny to think that Virtue wasn't always a Young Women Value.  Of course it was, just a bit more implied than it is today.
  • A 2007 Vernal Temple schedule.  Which makes me sad.  Until recently, it still would be accurate as to the day to day operation.  Only the closing dates would be different.  Now though, the Temple is closed on Mondays and the 6:00 AM sessions no longer exist.  That was my favorite time to visit the Temple.  I am sympathetic to the concerns they had for sweet older workers who had to drive all the way from Tabiona, Duchesne and Altamont needing to be dressed and ready for a 5:30 prayer meeting.  Folks were getting up at 2:00 AM to make it on time.
  • A Teamster's Health Insurance Card.  What a blessing, to have the same benefits we had before retirement for the balance of our lives!  And to think I never joined the Union.  You might think me ungrateful.  I looked into it once and when I read the oath of allegiance and then considered the Teamsters' track record I thought I might as well join the Gadianton Robbers.
  • Two books of First Class Forever Postage Stamps.  I think these have been in there for two rate changes.  Thanks to email, and online bill payments I don't use stamps all that often.  I think I have about ten more books in my desk too.  At the rate I'm using them I may never suffer a postal rate change again!  Don't tell Kristi.
  • Two twenty dollar bills.  One from 2006 and one from 2008.  No they haven't been there that long; that's when they were printed.  I wonder if they have cocaine residue on them?  Filthy lucre!  I once read that it's a real confidence booster to keep a $100.00 bill in your wallet.  I tried it, but then I realized how frequently my wife and daughters asked for the exact amount that happened to be in my wallet at the time.  Fearing that they did this by Zen rather than more conventional methods of inventory, I didn't even dare hide it in an obscure pouch in the back.  It didn't boost my confidence at all.
  • A debit card.  It's from Mt. America Credit Union who has lately had the customer service culture of a Bank.  What a disappointment.
  • A credit card.
  • My driver's license.  Holy Cow!  It doesn't expire until 2013!  It says I'm a donor, which I take to refer to my organs rather than taxes.  I guess I give taxes more freely than organs, which I'll only give up over my dead body.  No, that isn't right either.  My body can't be dead, only my brain.  Hey, they probably can start harvesting any time now.  It lies about my weight.  Hopefully, that will be more correct in 2013 so I don't have to lie again.
  • A Smith's Rewards Card, so they can charge me more, then make me think they're so generous by giving some of my money back.
  • A GNC discount card.  It expires in 5 months and I haven't even been back since the initial visit in which I paid for it.
  • A Cafe Rio Diner's Card.  Two more meals and I get one free.  I have been back there.
  • An American Red Cross First Aid Certification Card.
  • An American Red Cross CPR Certification Card.  Hope I never need to use what I've learned.
  • A Staples Rewards Card.  This one is free.
  • A National Park Service Annual Pass.  I buy one almost every year.  I've never wasted the money.  On this pass I've been to Arches twice, Canyonlands three times, Zions, Dinosaur, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef!  It expires in a week.
  • A Library Card.  Mostly I piggy back on Sweeties, though since she hooked up with Book Mooch, we don't borrow from the library all that often.
  • A Blockbuster Membership Card.  Don't use it much either since DVR and Netflix.
  • An Ace Rewards Card.  This one gets used a lot.  Plus they often send a discount card with I gum* to the Rewards Card so I don't forget to use it.  It come's gummed* to the flier.  (*Gummy glue that resembles a booger and is equally hard to flip off your finger.)  Better prices, service and products than Lowe's.
  • My DOT Medical Examiner's Certificate.  This is expired as is my need to carry it.
  • An Address Book.  This one is very portable.  The size of a credit card it is accordion folded between two magnetic covers.  Really handy but way out of date.  When I put it in my wallet Kristi lived in Hall's Crossing, John and Jen in Glenwood Springs, Lee Ann and Gary in Anderson, Eric and Annie in Goose Creek, and Alyson in England.  We're about the only ones still in the same place.
  • A Movie Gallery Card.  They're out of business.  Netflix?  Red Box?  Boom gone bust?  All of the above.
  • USAA Auto Insurance Card.
  • A Uniform Donor Card.  Is this redundant?  I think I'll keep it anyway.  I've tossed so much stuff that the card pouch is no longer snug and I'm likely to lose something if I don't have at least some filler.
  • Steve Cowan's Business Card.  He's no longer with Gulf Stream and I'm no longer with Sundance.  My back is aching just thinking about all the energy I've wasted toting this around.
  • Pastor Kirk's Business Card.  We each walked alone into the 711 Cafe one lunch time and wound up sitting together.  We had a great visit and enjoyed getting acquainted.  He's Pastor of the Kingsbury Community United Church of Christ.  He pointed out that his was a church of sinners as opposed to Saints.  I pointed out that he needed a less Catholic definition of the term Saint.  
  • The Business Card of J. Gordon O'Brien of O'Brien's Music Store.  O'Brien's is the oldest store on the oldest street in the oldest city in North America, or so they claim.  When we were in St. John's, Newfoundland we stopped in there.  I was hoping to find a concertina or small accordion.  Gordon talked me out of it fearing it would be out of tune before I got it home.  The reeds are set in wax and the summer heat in the car could melt it.  So instead, I bought a Bodhran which I've yet to learn to play as the tipper is pretty tricky to operate.  Having spent the money I owed Sweetie, so she got a terrific tea set in Cape Breton that has so totally justified the dust on the Bodhran that neither of us feel bad.
  • A Voter Registration Card from 2006.  It lists me as unaffiliated, a situation I still celebrate as I bolted from the Republican Party for abandoning me.  The intervening four years have only affirmed my decision.  Plus, I have a great answer when the call asking for money.
Well, if you're an archaeologist, scrounging through the strata of today's dig, you might have a better understanding of this old fossil.  As, for me, it was quite a trip down memory lane.  I'm a bit sad to have a much thinner wallet.  Not because I'm poorer but because it is no longer thick enough to stay put in the nice little slot in the dash of the Yukon, where I've parked it for the past 100,000 miles.

Another Story from Growing Up in Himni, Utah

Down behind the house, across a hay field, past a large pond and into some Cottonwood trees (on somebody else’s property) we found a a tremendous Tarzan swing.  Todd and I had been down that way before trying to sneak up on ducks (skill we never developed) when we stumbled onto the swing and finding no one around to stop us, decided to give’r a try.  Holy Cow!  It was good!  We spent the whole afternoon arching into that deep green shady chamber of glory.  Vines covered the ground and a thick canopy of leaves concealed the heavens.  I’ve seen a lot of  rope swings in my life, but never one to beat that one.  I’ll bet it had a 30 foot rope and a good 50 foot arc.  It’s quite a trick to find the perfect tree, the perfect branch and of course the perfect hollow space to swing through.  The rope was 2 inch hemp with a great knot tied at the end.  Leaning against the tree was a pole with a hook affixed to the end for retrieving the rope when it dangled.  The bank stood nearly as high as the branch the rope was tied to.  The gulch beneath fell a way quickly leaving all the room in the world to swing into space.  And swing we did!  Extravagantly!
It was the Summer before I went to work.  We had plenty of time for horseback riding, hiking, building forts and various other potential mayhem.  We had our freedom most afternoons and never ran out of great things to do.  Then Uncle Dan accepted a TDY assignment for the Air Force, in Denver and Aunt Olive decided to go with him.  She called Mom, her big sister, and asked if she could take the kids for a couple of weeks.  Todd and I gathered what was happening and with pleading looks on our desperate faces mouthed the word NO!!!!
Mom, didn’t seem to notice and happily said, “Yes.”
“Aw Mom!”  we lamented as she hung up the phone.  ”We can’t be baby-sitting Durrant all summer?”
“Not all summer, just five weeks.”
“Five weeks!”
It was worse than we thought.  My stomach turned green just thinking about it.  Durrant had to be the most pesky, obnoxious little kid on the planet and not only were we going to be charged with keeping tack of him, it would have to be done outside – all day long.  Three weeks of the summer had already flown by and now another five weeks had been yanked from under us.  Why couldn’t we be Aunt Wanda’s kids, she’d have said no.  Probably already had.  Todd and I had thought we were free of Durrant after the Geronimo incident.  We were sure his parents would prevent him from ever seeing us again, especially after it took Dad and  Uncle Dan 45 minutes of howl accompanied peril to rescue him from the top of Grandpa’s biggest apple tree.
We both sank into a deep dark gloom.  We retreated to the cool basement to await our doom and to hide as many treasures as we could find hiding places for.
They arrived the next morning at nine.  Durrant has two sisters who are just about the sweetest kids you’d ever want to meet.  The same age as our sisters, we’d hardly see hide nor hair of them.  The girls would be allowed to play inside.  Barely, out of their car, Durrant kicked Todd in the chins so hard he yelped, then headed for me.  I swatted him like a mosquito and as suddenly, Mom cuffed me up the back of the head.  Then she gave Durrant a big squeeze and peenched his wosy wosy cheeks; like he was some kind of adorable little angel or something.  Amazed.  Shocked.  Worried.  We just stood there.  There was no way we were gonna get out of this unscathed.  We were either going to be lined up and shot for killing Durrant or we were going to die trying to save him.  The former being our preference as it was  quick, humane and worth it.
“Why don’t you boys saddle up the horses and give these sweet kids a ride,” Mom told us.  No I didn’t get the punctuation wrong.  It most certainly was worded as a question, but there definitely wasn’t a question mark at the end.  I saddled up Chico, while Todd rubbed his shin.
Chico’s a great horse.  Remind me to tell you how we got him some time.  Anyway, with an adult in the saddle, Chico is a spirited eager mount.  But with the children he’s a doting old nanny.  We took him into the pasture and put Carrie on board.  Chico took her for a nice stroll around the perimeter and brought her back, joyful; where we helped her down and Emily up.  Chico strolled around the same course, carefully, casually and then dutifully returned.  Durrant was next and Chico walked him over to the clothesline and scraped him off on the wires and then faithfully returned to give Carrie a second turn.  While Todd and I helped a howling Durrant down from the line Chico sweetly took Carrie  around the field on his usual course.  Once again he was nice to Emily as well.  But Durrant’s turn was as brief as the last having once again been gently, but definitely, left hanging out to dry.
In Durrant’s mind it couldn’t possibly have been Chico’s fault.  Todd and I had trained him.  I think Mom thought the same thing.  Todd and I were just delighted.  Exonerated by a horse!  Of course a horse is a horse, unless of course….  Chico really was special and now there was no denying it.  We were not surprised that Chico took the initiative, that was his nature, but we’re were amazed that he took the liberty.  Perhaps, Dad, the horse whisperer in the family, had compassionately given him permission.
The next day, the pressure that was Durrant became too great and just after lunch we ditched him.  We’d made it across the canal when we heard the dinner bell ring.  We were on a long leash, but there was no quarter for disregarding the dinner bell, even if it wasn’t dinner time.  We dragged our butts back home.  After a Scotch Blessing from a lass whose ancestors are entirely Swiss, we headed back out with Durrant in tow.  We’d resolved to return to the Tarzan Swing.
At first our little nemesis wanted nothing to do with the swing.  He just sat on the grass and moped while we flew back and forth across the gulch.  Eventually though, he began to see how much fun we were having.  We told him it was too dangerous, but he’d seen us come to no harm and dared to venture.  Durrant’s health and safety were no concern of ours.  We sat him on the knot, instructed him to hold on and gave him a mighty shove into space.  He went out in terror and came back in ecstasy!  Durrant isn’t one to share.  We gave him a few more rides and then, literally had to peel him from the rope.  Promises to take turns didn’t appease his howling protests, so we quit and took him home.
The next morning it was, ”Can we go to the swing?”
“No.”
“Can we go to the swing?”
“No!”
“Can we go to the swing?”
“NO!”
“I’ll take turns.”
“No.”
“I’ll take turns, I’m promise.”
No!
“Cross my heart and hope to die.”
“Us too, but the answer is no!”
“Aunt Mable…?”
We.  Went.  To.  The.  Swing.  And, wonder of wonders Durrant took turns.
Todd gets bored more quickly than most people.  After awhile, just plain swinging wasn’t keeping his interest.  Next came upside down swinging, spinning swinging, climbing on a stump for higher swinging and eventually sky diving.  At least that’s what he called it.  On the opposite side of the gulch was a mat of vines about 12 feet deep.  Todd calculated that landing laid out flat on those vines one would bounce like on a bed, something he was expert at.  Now the surface of the vines wasn’t horizontal, more like 45 degrees.  Todd would have to swing out, kick his feet above his head, let go of the rope and somehow land at that angle in order maximize the striking surface and minimize the concussion.  A matter of pounds per square inch; if you get my drift.  He took a deep breath and flew.  And with the grace and finesse of a circus performer dismounting from a trapeze to the net below, Todd landed on that mat of vines.  He rolled off the vines and scrambled to my side in mere seconds eager for another try!  It was a beautiful thing to behold and I, after Todd accomplished the feat three times without difficulty, finally dared to try.
I am no where near the athlete Todd is.  Nor am I in anyway a dare devil.  Still, I can recognize a good thing when I see it and after a few nervous moments and one false start I too, pulled skydiving off without a hitch.  It was every bit as fun as it looked.  Even more fun than swinging out and dropping into a pond, I later found out.  We sky dived to our hearts content, still taking turns with Durrant.  He hadn’t seemed the least bit interested in sky diving, just sitting on the knot.  When we were ready to go home we gave our little cousin one last swing during which he apparently mustered the courage to emulate his elders and much to our surprise, let go of the rope.  His timing was impeccable and he sailed majestically off toward the vines where he stuck the landing.  Literally.  Instead of his back, he landed on his feet and in an instant vanished from sight.  There was dread silence for a few moments and then this eerie awful howl that went on for the better part of the next two hours, for that is how long it took us to extract him.  We had to return to the house three times for more equipment, so dense were the vines and so deep was Durrant.
That afternoon Mom went to town.  She came back with materials for a butterfly net and  a box, some pins and some formaldehyde.  The next morning she set Durrant to catching bugs and we hardly saw him for the balance of his stay.  Aunt Wanda has nothing on our Mom.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Saints


While reading this morning from Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult, I came upon these words:
"There was a time when I prayed to saints.  What I liked about them were their humble beginnings:  they were human, once, and so you knew that they just got it in a way Jesus never would.  They understood what it meant to have your hopes dashed or your promises broken or your feelings hurt."
My first reaction was shock, but then thinking it over, the statement brought answers to questions long held.  On my mission to the Philippines I often wondered at a land steeped in Catholicism.  One of my earliest experiences was a visit to the Quiapo Church in down town Manila.  There were life sized statues of every saint imaginable.  All of the Jeepneys had a statuette of St. Christopher, the patron saint of athletes, mariners, ferrymen and travelers, glued to the dash.  Idolatry aside, I couldn't understand why folks would pray to a saint or Mary rather than Heavenly Father.  I couldn't get my mind around choosing some other Mediator besides Jesus Christ.

The book I was reading yesterday, Bachelor Brothers' Bedside Companion by Bill Richardson, devoted a good deal of time ridiculing the invocation of blessings from the Saints.  Richardson made some lighthearted fun of various, sometimes, obscure saints whose patronage was both interesting and amusing:  Saint Gertrude of Nivelles is patron of cats and is invoked against mice.  St. Agatha is the patron of bell makers and wet nurses and is invoked against volcanoes.  St. Agabus is patron of fortunetellers, which seems a bit oxymoronic to me.  More familiar to most of us is St. Nicholas who is the patron saint of children (obviously), sailors, unmarried girls, merchants, perfumers, opothecaries and pawnbrokers.  St. Nick seems to have a conflict of interest on a couple of counts.  Richardson's character Caedmon was making a few bucks making bread dough saints, which he sold with an accompanying prayer.  Medal pedaling is a long held Catholic tradition.  Quite lucrative I'm sure.  Before I share Caedmon's prayer to St. Nicholas with you, you need to understand that Nicholas seemed to like the number three.  He is purported to have saved three girls from prostitution by giving each a bag of gold.  This spawned the practice of hanging three gold balls outside a pawn shop so the broker might invoke his patron's favor.  He also restored life to three boys slaughtered by a butcher, saved three sailors off the Turkish coast and rescued three men who were condemned to die.  If Nicholas is your patron you might consider hanging out with a couple of friends.  Anyway, here's Caedmon's prayer:
Yuletide comes, the bills mount up, the stores sell off their stock, 
Let us pray St. Nicholas will keep us out of hock.  
As he plucked the butchered boys from out the salty brine, 
May he always help us tow the sacred credit line; 
Otherwise we'll be compelled to leave the tinselled halls 
And swap our Christmas loot for cash beneath three hanging balls.
Please forgive my levity.  I commenced this essay in all seriousness.  As I said, I've found it difficult to understand the Catholic obsession with saintly intermediaries.  That is until now.  Picoult's observation cleared the entire thing up for me.  Clearly Catholics do not understand what we are taught in Alma 7:10-12

And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.  
Contrary to the supposition in Picoult's book, Jesus does get it.  He gets it better and more entirely than anyone else.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:  (Isaiah 5:3-4)
Apparently, Catholics are taught that Jesus was above sorrow and pain and because of His otherly nature cannot understand the vicissitudes of mortality.  My experience is just the opposite.  Jesus, more than anyone else can relate to our sorrow, pain and grief.  He experienced my own suffering on an intimate and personal level, known to no other besides myself.  And so it is for every single individual who has or will ever abide on this planet.  He is the only one qualified to mediate between us and the Father.  It breaks my heart to know that millions out there are not aware of the breadth and depth of His compassion.  Compassion available to us  for the very reason that He most certainly does GET IT.



Going With The Current



I go for a walk or a bike ride every morning.  What ever suits my fancy.  Today, I preferred to walk.  Quite often I encounter a friend and we walk together.  I get better exercise on those days.  I don't walk with anyone who doesn't out walk me, speed-wise.  Many of these people are older than I, and still they push my endurance to keep up with them.  We can scarcely have a conversation I'm puffing so hard.  I've thought a lot about this phenomena.  One friend even told me I was going to have to pick up the pace or she flat out wouldn't deign to join me.  I suggested she might slow down to accommodate an old man, but she refused saying, "That would defeat the purpose."  That settled it for me.  I let her go on without me; for indeed it would defeat the purpose.  Mine.

Of course I hope for some aerobic and muscle development when I walk, but that is not the entirety of my purpose as it seems to be for the others.  There is some health benefit to strolling as well and speed walking.  I stroll for the benefit of my heart as well as my heart.  It strengthen's my core as well as my core.  It is as much a spiritual exercise as it is a physical one.  I may never be able to run a marathon.  Unless you think enduring to the end is a race.  I don't like races.  Who am I trying to beat?  What am I trying to prove?

Today on my walk I went by the ball parks on my way to stroll along the Kid's Canal.  There, I found an abandoned softball.  It was plastic, including plastic vacu-formed laces in stead of real ones.  It appeared to be regulation size, but much too light.  I picked it up and amused myself tossing it from hand to hand as I walked up the highway.  Part way up the road I was joined by a turkey who walked along with me for a stretch.  I gobbled, but he didn't.  I nodded, "You're welcome!"  To a passer-by who seemed amused to see two turkeys strolling up the road together.  At least our necks match.

At the canal, I tossed the ball into the stream and watched it float with the current.  My heart rate dropped as I waited for it to meander through the slow spots.  So did my blood pressure.  The ball took a loop or two through an eddy but persisted on its journey after a short delay.  A fly hitched a ride for several hundred feet.  I imagined I knew what the fly was thinking and that he was having a splendid time!  He rode the ball right to the edge of a waterfall and flew away at the last moment.  I envied him.  In my imagination I was he and the falls were Iguazu.  I wonder if anyone ever rafted over the edge carrying a hang-glider.  Wouldn't that be a rush.

I know, I sound like an adrenalin junkie.  I'm not.  Remember, I'm a stroller, not a walker, jogger or runner.  Watching a ball float down a canal is plenty of excitement for me.

At the bottom of the falls, a pile of trash had accumulated.  I worried that the ball would get hung up.  Not to worry.  He rolled with the punches and found his way through.  He'd transformed in my mind from an it to a he.  And I began to think about my life.  I too am floating along in the stream of life.  Occasionally, I've drifted into an eddy and stopped making progress.  Now and then I've got myself tangled up in the brush along the bank.  There have been scary moments as I've plunged into the depths of uncertainty.  I've even set my heart on something upstream and fought the current only to exhaust myself in fruitless effort.

I thought about retrieving the ball as I departed the canal, but felt like I was interfering with its destiny.  Maybe he will float down a ditch and wind up in someone's garden.  And maybe someone tired of weeding will have a little fun playing catch.  Or maybe he will get buried in the mud and be discovered in some archaeological dig 12,000 years from now.  Remind me to watch for him in the great movie in the sky at the end of the world.  I really would like to know, after all, what really does become of my little well rounded friend.

The stream of life is bound for a Celestial destination, it is a plan of salvation after all.  Every time I bail out on the bank, tread water in an eddy (a metaphor shared by a 12 Stepping friend) or fight the current, I become exhausted and frustrated.  But when I accept the will of the Lord and go with the flow of His intention for me, I seem to relax and enjoy the ride.

I friend of mine, just re-entered the flow and this morning reported on Facebook:  Good day.  Good content day.

Maybe, she's discovered Jesus' sweet invitation:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  (Matthew 11:28-30)
Perhaps there is a place for earnest, high intensity walking.  But there seems to be an anxious desperation in it and I prefer the relaxed, peaceful, fulfilling flow of a stroll.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Review - Bachelor Brothers' Bedside Companion by Bill Richardson



Bachelor Brothers' Bedside Companion is third in a series.  Bill Richardson might have quit at two.  I found it dull and cerebral and largely lacking in the pleasure of the first and to some extent the second.  These books are written on a premise that is sheer genius.  They focus on twin brothers who operate a B&B in British Columbia.  This eclectic collection of stories, poetry and  falderal are variously written as though, by host, guest, or neighbor.  Some are gathered from the wind, while others, from a plethora of books cluttering the shelves of the Inn.

While the format enabled Richardson free rein as to the content collected between the covers (an enviable opportunity to publish everything he ever wrote); the books successively lost my interest as his stuff became ever more distant from my imagination.  There is one exception.  Hector:  In Came the Lady with the Alligator Purse may well be Richardson's finest piece, or rather masterpiece.  This is Bill Richardson (not to be confused with the Governor of New Mexico) at his very best!  I'll keep the book if for no other reason; well, that and to possess the whole set.

Hector and Virgil are great, enjoyable characters, as are Mrs. Rochester the parrot, Altona, the girl friend, Caedmon the hired hand and several others.  And there's the rub.  This volume largely abandoned the characters for other obscure and dusty detritus.  You'll love the first book, like the second and if you're like me, tolerate the third, with the afore mentioned exception which, standing alone, may just be worth the price of the volume. 

This one gets two stars.

Did You Know They've Removed The Word Gullible From The Dictionary?

My Conservative friend, Craig, frequently forwards emails to me that are meant to rally people to the Conservative cause.  An alarming number of them are bald faced lies!  Take the one I got today for example.  It's headline read:  VERY QUIETLY OBAMA'S CITIZENSHIP REACHES THE SUPREME COURT.

This email made claims that seemed to prove that President Barak Obama was not a natural born citizen of the United States and therefore, does not qualify to be President of the United States.  It claims to have proof and claims a suit to that effect has reached the Supreme Court.  My research shows that these allegations and supposed events are pure fabrication meant to inflame and divide.

I don't receive forwards from any Liberal friends, so I cannot judge if this dishonest practice is taking place among them as well, but if I were a betting man, I'd put money on it's likelihood.

This dishonest, divisive, egregious practice has soured my stomach.  Who can actually suppose that lies will actually advance their position.  One such email included a threatening in quote from the Koran in an effort to stir anti-Islamic sentiment.  I looked it up in my own copy of the Koran and found it to be complete fiction, no such verse existed.  I think whoever invented that lie is indeed an infidel.  Who could blame a Muslim for despising him and his dishonesty.  Who could blame me for despising him too!  He is an enemy to all of us.  By his action, and my discovery of its prevarication, he placed me on the side of the Muslim and in opposition to him.  The dishonest, Conservative does the same thing.  To maintain my personal integrity, I must stand with the Liberals and oppose him.

Would that he were just a lone fool with tin foil on his head, living by himself in an attic somewhere.  But, alas I fear he is not.  He is legion and inspired by the devil.  He's spreading lies, hate and discontent in every issue.  Recently, The Deseret News had a whole feature designed to get to the bottom of all the allegations regarding the Illegal Immigration issues.  It was utterly sickening to discover that most of the negatively slanted accusations against illegal immigrants were grossly distorted and meant to mislead and enrage us.

With the internet, he has become almost impossible to find, stop, or punish for his deceit.  But he is only half of the problem.  P. T. Barnum once said, "There's a sucker born every minute."  I'm beginning to think the ring master grossly underestimated that figure.  The wide spread gullibility of the American population scares me to death!  More and more, we'll believe anything.  And we're being taken for ride by conspiring con-men who are hell bent on destroying us.  He's in every camp, on both sides of every issue and if we sucker for his lies, we'll all go down in flames.

Propaganda used to be a dirty word attributed to the Soviet Communists.  Make no mistake, propaganda is alive and well in America today.  It's time we woke up, cultivated a bit of skepticism and directed it not at the Conservatives, or Liberals, or Muslims, or Illegal Aliens, or Democrats or Republicans but at the liars.  It's time for zero tolerance for dishonesty.  The calculated lie is the foremost cause of the polarization of America today and it must be stopped.  So come on Americans, all of you, even you Craig; united we stand, divided we fall.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I Love A Parade! Really?

I actually think I do love a parade.  I watch and enjoy just about every one that happens around here.  But if you ask my regular companions you'll quickly learn that I often ask, "Why do we do this?"  I mean we fight crowds, bake in the sun, wait and wait; all to be deafened by sirens and jet engines.  We watch a bunch of half baked floats and every politician from here to Heber.  The vendors who drag their coaster wagons behind four-wheelers don't ever vend anything that appeals to me.  I always bring money just in case, but the last time I bought anything was 1994.  I quite often get angry when people don't stand for the flag or show respect for the Veterans. And then I worry about the American Legion.  They're all getting way old and no body my age, AKA Vietnam Vets, seems to be picking up the baton. Who will present flags from a grateful nation to these guy's widows?

I was in a parade once.  Sweetie and I were headed for Blanding and found ourselves driving down Main Street in Moab.  We hadn't gone far when we discovered the street lined with spectators, even some crowded bleachers.  Then we began to notice a number of hot rods in the traffic.  At a stop light we found ourselves next to a particularly obnoxious rod with a giant air scoop on the hood and flames painted on it side.  He was lettin' her rumble.  There was a baby asleep in his back seat.  How'd he do that?  We couldn't even run the dishwasher without waking ours up.  Sweetie rolled down the window, risking permanent ear damage and asked the fellow what was going on.

"You're in a parade lady." was his answer.

We found out later that there'd been a big car show in town and at it's conclusion everyone would drag main in their show cars for one last hoorah!  It had become such a tradition that the whole town showed up for the spectacle.

Sweetie began to enjoy the parade from this perspective and got out the video camera to record the crowd as we passed by.  Back home when we were viewing the video the scene passed a fellow standing on the back row of a grand stand holding a sign which read, "Show us your boobs."  Sweetie gasped and asked why I hadn't warned her about it.

"Well, why would I?  I didn't want you to show him your boobs?"  Fortunately, I was out of swat range for that one.

We both remarked that being in the parade was every bit as fascinating as watching one.  There's the whole town on display, sitting in lawn chairs, marinating in their own sweat and reacting in various ways to the spectacle parading by.

So it was today, as I pulled the Ward float in the Pioneer Day Parade.  They'd asked for a volunteer driver during Priesthood Meeting on Sunday and I had gladly raised my hand.  Had I known how pathetic our float was, I'd have realized why the Bishop, a truck driver, had opted to delegate this one to someone else.  Our float's theme, of provident living, featured a huge pink piggy bank.  It so scarcely resembled a pig though, that it's creators had put a sign on it's side indicating what it was supposed to be.  At it's best it couldn't have been too impressive, but shortly after its creation it suffered a cloud burst in the church parking lot that did something to the crepe paper that resembling a Mary Kay Cosmetics factory after a hurricane.

My son-in-law, whose daughter rode on the float, refused to accompany me.  He has a reputation to uphold I guess.  Hey, aside from the pig and scribbled poster paper signs along the edge, with nothing else to doll it up, the float was adorned with gorgeous children and a beautiful newly-wed couple and it turned out to be a masterpiece in a barn wood frame.  It definitely looked like it was built on a shoe string.  Even the trailer was homemade and rusty.  We should have posted a sign to read the old adage of thrift:   Use it up. Wear it out.  Make it do.  Or do without.  In that light we nailed it.

This year marks 100 years of Scouting in America.  The Scouts turned out en mass to march in their uniforms.  My grandson, a Cub Scout rode his bike.  He circled our rig the whole length of the parade.  What a kick to see him showing of his newly developed tricks.

Once again I loved watching the crowd as we made our leisurely way down Main Street.  Still, I missed the Drill Team on unicycles, the Model T carrying the Grand Marshall and the herds of little red faced dancers following Miss Barbara's Dance Class' promo float.  I missed standing for the Stars and Stripes and I missed applauding those resolute old Veterans who defeated Germany and Japan.  I missed the candy tossers and the squirt gun squirters.  Though, there was a new feature this year.  Someone had wheeled a huge trash can full of water to their viewing location and, with their own squirt guns, fought back.

On the way, it dawned on me why I love this business so much.  Our main street is also US Highway 40.  It is busy with lots of truck and tourist travel this time of year.  I relish the fact that five or six times a year we claim Main Street as our own.  Traffic is diverted somewhere else for a moment and we get our little piece of Heaven to ourselves.  And then we take a little time to celebrate who we are.  To show appreciation for the cops, firemen, National Guard, Vets, Representatives and distinguished citizens.  We take a little time to celebrate our children, their talents and beauty.  We pause in the middle of life's rat race and declare.  "This is us, such as we are!  And it tickles us to death to flaunt it in broad day light!

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Kind, Thoughtful and Able God


I've heard some remarkable stories this week that have made me pause to be grateful.

Herbert Klopfer and his parents escaped East Germany when he was fourteen.  Later as a young man he was called on a proselyting Mission to Switzerland.  Out of the blue he was called for a season to labor at the Swiss Temple, not as a proselyting Elder but to do administrative work.  During that short stint his three remaining Grandparents were granted permission to leave East Germany for a visit to the Temple.  Herbert was able to spend some precious time with them.  It was the only time he ever saw them again in mortality.

I spoke with a young man this week who I will not name.  During a time of struggle, rejection and loneliness, he changed schools and struck up a acquaintance with someone who freely gave him the new and blessed gift of friendship.  Some time later they discovered that they were full brothers; one having been given up for adoption when their shared parents were young and unwed.

During High Priest's Group Meeting on Sunday we were talking about the duties of a Teacher.  To quote from the 20th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants:
53  The teacher's duty is to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them;  54  And see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking;  55  And see that the church meet together often, and also see that the members do their duty.  56  And he is to take the lead of meetings in the absense of the elder or priest.
There was some angst expressed about such heavy responsibility being placed upon 14 and 15 year old boys.  I expressed opposing concern that we lacked significant faith if we failed to entrust such, Heaven decreed responsibilities upon them.  My comment spawned some agreement and some dismay.  One fellow declared that even High Priests don't shine in those prescribed areas, how could we expect boys to do so.

The time was late and I didn't want to further annoy some obviously agitated brethren, so I let the matter drop.  I will, however, respond here.

In my opinion, we tend to shoulder too much of the burden and to take too much of the credit in matters as here described.  I will give first a negative example, followed by a positive one.

Example A:  I have a couple of friends who have been cohabitating for some time.  They have a faithful Home Teacher whose visits they dread.  He's a nice enough man, but he feels it his duty to censure them each time he visits their home.  He clearly takes the admonition of Section 20 very seriously.  During their most recent visit this couple mentioned that they are moving to separate apartments while they decide if they should get married or not.  They took a pretty uncomfortable lecture on marriage and morals replete with unwelcome advice about how they should proceed with their lives.  This couple grows less and less amenable to the church and it's representative with every encounter.

Example B:  I once taught a wonderful widow lady who refused to come to church.  She hadn't been for over 50 years.  I like the home teacher in example A, did my best to persuade her to repent and come partake of the blessings church activity affords.  Always she resisted.  Always she showed signs of the discomfort my friends from the other example expressed.  I had a 14 year old companion and one month I decided it was his turn to teach the lesson.  He accepted and showed up prepared to teach our little less-active sister.  My young companion began his lesson by telling us that he hadn't known what to do for the lesson and that his mother had found a poem for him to share.  I don't remember the poem, or that it had any special meaning.  I most certainly did not have anything to do with whether the sister ought to be attending church or not.  I do remember though, that the young man was moved by the message of the poetry.  When he finished, his eyes misted up and looking directly at the little lady and said, "I sure love my mother."

The next Sunday Sister Wilson showed up to church.  She spoke with the Bishop.  Eventually, she received a Temple Recommend and spent the balance of her life active in the church and serving in the Temple.  Later, she told a mutual friend that she never needed to be told what to do, in her heart she already knew that.  "What I needed," she said, "was to feel the Spirit of the Lord and when that young man helped me feel it, I knew in an instant that I must have more."

Now, you can't tell me that my junior companion didn't fulfill, completely, the duties of a Teacher.  Whereas, I most assuredly had not.  The primary duty of any Priesthood holder is to bring the Spirit of the Lord into the meetings as associations he's involved in.  And here are two examples of High Priests failing to do that and one of a Teacher succeeding.

What does this have to do with the earlier two stories?  Everything.  God is good and kind and deliberately involved in our lives.  He is able to do His own work.  We take too much upon ourselves when we undertake to do God's work for Him.  Our assignment is to help those we serve to make their own connection with God, not to presume to be that connection.  Hence, "if ye receive not the Spirit, ye shall not teach!"  (D&C 42:14).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Precious Rain

I love the rain.  I love it in the Northwest where it falls so gently and so frequently that everything is green and verdant.  I love it in the Philippines where it drenches in an instant but is so warm and friendly.  I love it in the Midwest, where it is so dangerous and rowdy.  But, most of all I love it here in the desert where it is so rare.

Yesterday's rain was so long coming.  It fell in torrents that sounded like applause and then returned a couple of hours later for an encore.  All over town the audience rejoiced.  The reviews were rave.

"Wasn't that a wonderful rain!"

"Look how fresh and clean everything looks!"

"That rain sure cooled things off nicely."

"My lawn and garden sure needed that!"

"Wasn't that thunder thrilling!"

Gutters and hearts overflowed.  Smiles all around.  Even farmers with their hay down couldn't help but stand under the porch and watch with pleasure.  Desert rain puts a grin in chagrin.  The Indians used to say that this was good weather and so it is.  A reminder that God still loves us.  All of us.  And from the windows of His heaven blessings still flow, in abundance.

The timing was perfect.  The coolness shut off air conditioners and opened closed doors and windows as we reached from our confinement into the freshness.  Then at gloaming, the freshened world wafted upon us like the breath of Heaven.  Celestial aroma to bless our sleep and fertilize our dreams.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stepping Off Cliffs



I've got friend coming out of addiction.  I was up way into the night helping with it.  He clearly wants my help.  But he also struggles with fear and often resists that help.  It is a terrifying thing to consider giving up the things that have, however falsely, comforted you for all these years.

I think he believes there will be other, more healthy, ways to deal with the pain and that eventually, Christ will actually heal the wound.  But it's still a little intimidating.

I remember the first time I rappelled off a cliff.  I saw others do it successfully.  I'd been trained in the technique.  I was on belay and promised that if anything went wrong my belayer would catch me.  I was armored with helmet, gloves and adequate clothing.  I knew that all I had to do is pull my braking arm, the one holding the slack side of the rope, across my chest and my slide down the rope would stop.  This is because the friction on the rope would increase to a point at which it would no longer slide through the apparatus that attached me to the rope. It all made sense and I'd seen it work.  What I lacked was experience.  I had no idea how hard it would be to pull my arm across my chest.

I think my friend is experiencing something similar.  He's seen others go into recovery and it looks real good.  He's learned the methods of doing so and is a rigged for success.  I promise him that God has him on belay and will catch him if he faints or gets hung up.  Still he doesn't know how it feels and how hard it will be so actually backing off the cliff is quite a challenge.  He's gone to the edge before and chickened out.  I encourage him all I can.  I try to get him to make a commitment to just do it this time, but he chokes.  He thinks I'm bullying him when he's not ready.

It's hard to be patient.  On this side of addiction its hard to imagine what he's going through, even though I once stood right where he is.  The memory of that fear is fading and I stop a second and smile, gratefully, at the realization.  It's hard to see him missing out on all the fun.  Its hard to see him suffering so; wanting it so bad, but afraid to take it.

This morning I pray he'll just do it.  If not, maybe next time.  I know he wants it.  I can see it in his eyes.  One day he'll want it bad enough to trust the means and methods and step over the edge.  As in rappelling, it's all down hill from there.  That is in easiness.  The first step back's the hardest, because it's all about choice.  Once he decides he's going to do it, no matter what, I'll breathe a heavy sigh of relief.  And once he has faith enough and steps over the edge and then senses what is transpiring in his new exhilarating life, so will he.

Note:  Technology and methods have greatly changed since the rappelling method I described.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Kid's Canal

Less than a mile from our home, practically right in town, is an irrigation canal that flows along a moderately busy street.  It is affectionately known as The Kid's Canal.  I suppose it's the oldest canal in the valley.  It is lined with trees, with grassy banks here and there.  Some years ago the City developed a nice paved walkway along much of it.  There are three bridges to funnel walking traffic back to the street side where private homes occupy the bank.  There is no side walk along the street side.  Hardly room for one as the bank plunges steeply into the stream from the curb.  So, its nice to have the walkway, for safety's sake.

My grandkids, Jeff, 8 and Megan 6, live right through my back gate and are getting old enough for some high adventure.  They both are accomplished swimmers and, with a membership, spend a lot of time at the Recreation Center.  It is a nice indoor facility with state of the art pools, exercise equipment and even a rock climbing wall.  This summer though, we've been spending our time at the Kid's canal.

One day they asked where I went swimming when I was a boy.  "In the canal," I told them.  That captured their imaginations, so we grabbed a couple of inner tubes and headed down there.  The stream averages two and half feet deep and is about 12 feet wide.  They loved sailing down the stream, sometimes capsizing and screaming as they surfaced from the cold, exhilarating water.  Well, kind of screaming, in that breathless sort of way you do, when the shock of cold hasn't quite relinquished it's grip on you.  Funny how it's not quite so bad the next time around and pretty quick you're in there for good, letting the cool refreshing liquid cancel the effects of a long hot summer day.

Last week while floating the canal we stumbled upon one of their five year old cousins fishing there with his grandpa.  Jaren had caught a nice one and was so proud to show it to us.  He was also fascinated with the prospect of sailing down the canal so Megan offered him a ride in exchange for a good look at his fish.  We two grandfathers exchanged contented glances, for it doesn't get any better than this.

Last year Megan's kindergarten class was visited by a representative of the Fish and Game department.  He brought some trout eggs and set them up in a tank in their room.  They watched the eggs hatch, become tiny fish and grow to about an inch in length.  They loved learning about Rainbow Trout.  At the end of the year they walked the quarter mile from the school to the canal and released them into the stream.  This captured their imaginations too.  Part of the charm of the Kids Canal is that it has long been reserved for the fishing pleasure of children.  They can fish there without a license, with a limit of one fish each per trip.  Jeff and Megan's Dad bought them a couple of nice, small, manageable poles and for a few of weeks now we've gone to the canal to just to fish.  The first time we got skunked.  My favorite lure in for fishing Jones Hole didn't get a single bite.
Then one day while swimming there we noticed a young fellow using a different lure.  He was quite successful.    So the next time we used that and Jeff caught two!  Megs, the competitive one, hasn't rested since.  So last night we went down after supper to fish.  She thought, though, that we should take a tube just in case the fish weren't biting.  I guess she wanted to make sure there was some consolation fun built into the excursion.

This time it was Megan's turn and she caught her first Rainbow Trout.  I'd like to capture her excitement and enthusiasm in a bottle.  It'd make me a fortune!  We floated and fished and floated some more.  When Jeff caught his fish last week he was content to Catch and Release; having no interest in eating such a thing and raising hopes of catching them again when they're bigger.  Not so with his sister.  She was intent on casting, tempting, hooking, landing, keeping, examining, adoring, surprising, showing off, photographing, cleaning, dissecting, filleting, seasoning, frying, eating and sharing hers!  Which she did with gusto!  She wanted the complete experience and relished every step of the process.  I couldn't help admiring her.  For her, her first fish must have the quintessential celebration, nothing less would do.  Do I enjoy life at that level?  Not normally.  But today I did.  Thanks to a six year old child whose sense of wonder and joy knows no bounds!

As I sit here remembering a sweet evening I can't express enough, my gratitude for a simple little canal so convenient and close, and for a community that loves its children and grandpas enough to make it safe and shady and stock it with fish and memories, summer after precious summer.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Review - Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton

Booklogged introduced me to G. K. Chesterton while she was reading a Dean Koontz novel.  Dean has become a fan of Chesterton and many of his novels contain some pretty cool G. K. quotes.  Sweetie told me that he was C. S. Lewis' spiritual father and that he was a funny, frumpy philosopher.  Sounded good to me.

So, I thought I'd be smart and sophisticated and read his book, Orthodoxy.  Way over my head.  There were some fun stories, great quotes and good ideas and then the introduction by Philip Yancey ended and the book began.

I think I'd have to have a Master's Degree in philosophy to even begin to understand where Chesterton was going with half of this stuff.  Mostly I don't have a frame of reference for his examples, so I'd have to have a degree in late 19th Century England as well.  When I occasionally thought I actually understood what he was getting at I came down on his side only about half the time.  That's better than H. G. Wells and T. S. Elliot who I hardly ever agree with.  But not like C. S. Lewis, who I can actually understand and would give about 80% ratification.  What's up with all the initials?  Anyway, half way, I'm pulling the Book Darts and book mark and taking my brain some where else, thanks.

I suggest that if you want to understand G. K. Chesterton, read Philip Yancey.  He seems to understand him far better than Chesterton understands himself.  Chesterton wrote some novels as well.  I'll probably take a look at one of them and give him another chance.  I've always felt that novelists were better observers of the human condition than scholars are so maybe that'll work.

I will end on a positive note by including a cute little Chesterton poem.

Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands,
And the great world around me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?

If Chesterton is anything he is grateful.

This book gets two stars.
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