Saturday, January 24, 2015

I HAD To Share This!

The guru emailed me this; he probably KNEW that I couldn't keep it to myself.


Harvesting Good, Even From Bad (a link)


Be That One Person (a link)

MUSING BY THE CREEKSIDE: Be That One Person - Using Your Integrity

Oh Me Of Little Faith

Things are tight this winter. As with any business that’s tied to construction, the trucking business (for dump trucks, at least) goes down in the winter. I’ve heard the dispatcher on the phone trying to drum up business to keep us driving, so I know he’s doing his level best. Still, rain, snow and cold winds put the kibosh on a lot of work.

Our pay period runs Friday through Thursday, so they can pay us on Friday and be current. This past Friday, I sat in the break room for an hour before he found me a run. Even then, I was only driving for five and a quarter hours before the job ended and I was sent home. At least we get paid for the wait.

It was supposed to snow Sunday night, but didn’t. Still, most jobs were closed, out of concern that it was only running a few hours late and that it would snow through the day. They kept us there for four hours before sending all of us home but the handful already on the road. They told us to call back about four, to see when to come in the following morning. When we did, they just told us to call the same time the next day. In other words, most of us had no work at all on Tuesday. I DID get good work Wednesday and Thursday, so I ended up with a 30 hour week. That’s not good, but it sure beats the zero dollars that I had coming in during a three month period of my 15 months with no work!

One of my coworkers was talking about how an independent insurance agent in town had saved him a bunch of money. I’d gotten quotes from another company, but they wanted $11 more a month than I’m currently paying. When I called his agent, she gave me a price for $45 less than I’m currently paying Nationwide, AND THE COVERAGE IS THREE TIMES BETTER! I think it’s with Liberty Mutual; the guy said they paid quickly when he had a claim, so that’s the main thing. We’ll probably get signed up with them this week. Combined with the $20 I’m saving on cable now, that will leave another $65 to apply to our needs. I still don’t have collision or homeowners, but what can I do? They’re simply beyond my budget.

I also changed my federal withholding from zero deductions to two. I’d planned on my refund paying my property taxes, but since Obama plans on stealing some of it, I won’t leave it there for him to steal next year. I’m well aware of the old saying that allowing them to hold your money for a year cheats you of interest and pays them, but with today’s interest, that argument is no longer valid. HOWEVER, I need to SAVE the difference so it’s there when I need it, and the devil has a way of throwing emergencies in a poor person’s path.

There’s snow on the ground today, and rain is supposedly coming tomorrow, so I’m wondering if I’ll have any work Monday. It’s easy to fret and worry about it, and sometimes my wife and I both get concerned. Still, I firmly believe that the Lord brought me to this job, and I know he didn’t do so just to let me lose everything I have. The Lord WILL provide! Sometimes, I have to remind myself of that. © 2013

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Night Steam - Off To Finland (a link)


Indiana Revival Report: Day 12 (a link)

The White Man: Indiana Revival Report: Day 12

Why Many Foreign Citizens Do Not Understand US "Gun Culture" (a link)

"Rational Preparedness" : The Blog: Revisiting Why Many Foreign Citizens Do Not Understand US Gun Culture

You Never KNOW What You'll See! (pic)

I went by this yesterday on a couple of my deliveries. It wasn't there a few years ago, the last time that I was through the area. A lot of of folks would consider its location, near Middlebourne, West Virginia, as being the middle of nowhere. However, there it sat, in all of its shiny retro glory. Now I hust HAVE to drive for an hour-and-a-half just to check out their cheeseburgers!


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Song I Like (video)

I'd have liked to see fewer scenes of one town and more of the rest of the state, but it IS the town he came from.

Crooks Of A Feather...



Email About Chris Kyle's Funeral (A Texas Goodbye)

This came in an email:

The movie American Sniper is out in theaters now.  This is a small bit about the ending. It is very important read.  Flags were never lowered at the Capital for this noble warrior, a real hero.  
This is why America will remain strong.  We take care of our own as well as others who may not deserve taking care of. I just wanted to share with you all that out of a horrible tragedy we were blessed by so many people.
Chris Kyle was Derek's teammate through 10 years of training and battle.  They both suffer/suffered from PTSD to some extent and took great care of each other because of it. 
2006 in Ramadi was horrible for young men that never had any more aggressive physical contact with another human than on a Texas football field. 
They lost many friends.  Chris became the armed services number #1 sniper of all time.  Not something he was happy about, other than the fact that in so doing, he saved a lot of American lives. 
Three years ago, his wife Taya asked him to leave the SEAL teams as he had a huge bounty on his head by Al Qaeda. He did and wrote the book "The American Sniper."  100% of the proceeds from the book went to two of the SEAL families who had lost their sons in Iraq .
That was the kind of guy Chris was.  He formed a company in Dallas to train military, police and I think firemen as far as protecting themselves in difficult situations.  He also formed a foundation to work with military people suffering from PTSD.  Chris was a giver not a taker.
He, along with a friend and neighbor, Chad Littlefield, were murdered trying to help a young man that had served six months in Iraq and claimed to have PTSD. 
Now I need to tell you about all of the blessings.
Southwest Airlines flew in any SEAL and their family from any airport they flew into of charge.
The employees donated buddy passes and one lady worked for four days without much of a break to see that it happened.
Volunteers were at both airports in Dallas to drive them to the hotel.
The Marriott Hotel reduced their rates to $45 a night and cleared the hotel for only SEALs and family.
The Midlothian, TX Police Department paid the $45 a night for each room.  I would guess there were about 200 people staying at the hotel, 100 of them were SEALs.  Two large buses were chartered (an unknown donor paid the bill) to transport people to the different events and they also had a few rental cars (donated).  The police and secret service were on duty 24 hours during the stay at our hotel.
At the Kyle house, the Texas DPS parked a large motor home in front to block the view from reporters. It remained there the entire five days for the SEALs to congregate in and all to use the restroom so as not to have to go in the house.  Taya, their two small children and both sets of parents were staying in the home.
Only a hand full of SEALs went into the home as they had different duties and meetings were held sometimes on a hourly basis.  It was a huge coordination of many different events and security.  Derek was assigned to be a Pall Bearer, to escort Chris' body when it was transferred from the Midlothian Funeral Home to the Arlington Funeral Home, and to be with Taya.  A tough job.
Taya seldom came out of her bedroom.  The house was full with people from the church and other family members that would come each day to help.  I spent one morning in a bedroom with Chris’ mom and the next morning with Chad Littlefield's parents (the other man murdered with Chris).  A tough job.
George W Bush and his wife Laura met and talked to everyone on the Seal Team one on one.  They went behind closed doors with Taya for quite a while. They had prayer with us all.  You can tell when people were sincere and caring
Nolan Ryan sent his cooking team, a huge grill and lots of steaks, chicken and hamburgers.  They set up in the front yard and fed people all day long including the 200 SEALs and their families.  The next day a local BBQ restaurant set up a buffet in front of the house and fed all once again.  Food was plentiful and all were taken care of.  The family's church kept those inside the house well fed.
Jerry Jones, the man everyone loves to hate, was a rock star.  He made sure that we all were taken care of.  His wife and he were just making sure everyone was taken care of….Class... He donated the use of Cowboy Stadium for the services as it was determined that so many wanted to attend. 
The charter buses transported us to the stadium on Monday at 10:30 am.  Every car, bus, motorcycle was searched with bomb dogs and police.  I am not sure if kooks were making threats trying to make a name for themselves or if so many SEALs in one place was a security risk, I don't know. We  willingly obliged.  No purses went into the stadium!
We were taken to The Legends room high up and a large buffet was available.  That was for about 300 people.  We were growing.
A Medal of Honor recipient was there, lots of secret service and police and Sarah Palin and her husband.  She looked nice, this was a very formal military service. 
The service started at 1:00 pm and when we were escorted onto the field I was shocked.  We heard that about 10,000 people had come to attend also.  They were seated in the stadium seats behind us. It was a beautiful and emotional service.
The Bagpipe and drum corps were wonderful and the Texas A&M men's choir stood through the entire service and sang right at the end.  We were all in tears.
The next day was the 200-mile procession from Midlothian, TX to Austin for burial.  It was a cold, drizzly, windy day, but the people were out.  We had dozens of police motorcycles riders, freedom riders, five chartered buses and lots of cars.  You had to have a pass to be in the procession and still it was huge.  Two helicopters circled the procession with snipers sitting out the side door for protection. It was the longest funeral procession ever in the state of Texas.  People were everywhere. The entire route was shut down ahead of us, the people were lined up on the side of the road the entire way.  Firemen were down on one knee, police officers were holding their hats over their hearts, children waving flags, veterans saluting as we went by.  Every bridge had fire trucks with large flags displayed from their tall ladders, people all along the entire 200 miles were standing in the cold weather.  It was so heartwarming. Taya rode in the hearse with Chris' body so Derek rode the route with us.  I was so grateful to have that time with him.
The service was at Texas National Cemetery. Very few are buried there and you have to apply to get in. It is like people from the Civil War, Medal of Honor winners, a few from the Alamo and all the historical people of Texas.  It was a nice service and the Freedom Riders surrounded the outside of the entire cemetery to keep the crazy church people from Kansas that protest at military funerals away from us. 
Each SEAL put his Trident (metal SEAL badge) on the top of Chris' casket, one at a time.  A lot hit it in with one blow.  Derek was the only one to take four taps to put his in and it was almost like he was caressing it as he did it.  Another tearful moment.
After the service Governor Rick Perry and his wife, Anita, invited us to the governor's mansion.  She stood at the door,  greeted each of us individually, and gave each of the SEALs a coin of Texas.  She was a sincere, compassionate, and gracious hostess.
We were able to tour the ground floor and then went into the garden for beverages and BBQ.  So many of the Seal team guys said that after they get out they are moving to Texas.  They remarked that they had never felt so much love and hospitality.  The charter buses then took the guys to the airport to catch their returning  flights.  Derek just now called and after a 20 hours flight he is back in his spot, in a dangerous land on the other side of the world, protecting America.
We just wanted to share with you, the events of a quite emotional, but blessed week.
To this day, no one in the White House has ever acknowledged Chris Kyle.
However, the President can call some sport person and congratulate him on announcing to the world that he is gay?  What the hell is happening to our
society, our honor and our pride??

Remembering The Sears Catalogs (a link)

Coffee with the Hermit: Remembering The Sears Catalogs...!

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Scent Of Memories

I took the dog out about 9:30 this evening and caught a whiff of coal smoke. I never smell it during the day, so I don't know if the user just banks his evening fire with coal, or if he's trying to keep from being noticed, lest some jerk belly-ache about the smell. Regardless, he won't get any complaints from me. I've mentioned before on this blog that both sets of my grandparents had a coal grate, rather than a fireplace. Still, they burned wood with the coal.

My paternal grandparents, just over the hill, had a shed right by the back door, part of which served as a coal shed. My maternal grandparents, a mile up the road, just had a pile of coal in the backyard covered by sheets of tin, a tarp, or whatever else was handy. Needless to say, whenever I smell coal burning, I think of visiting them. Of course a LOT of folks burned coal back then, but the rest weren't my grandparents! © 2015

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Random Mental Ramblings

Yesterday, the younger boss asked me if I’d mind picking up his son at the car dealership before I clocked out and I told him that I wouldn’t mind at all. (I didn’t tell him that I’d already clocked out.) So, he gave me the keys to the company van and told me where to look for him. Without my seatbelt extender, I felt a bit asphyxiated, but my heart didn’t stop beating or anything. I was there in about ten minutes and he climbed in before I could ask him to trade places with me.

I told him that I’d been wanting to talk to him alone, so his interest perked up. I mentioned that the company had little or no web page and that, in this day and age, that seemed unwise. I told him that with the busting up of the phone companies, phone books had become almost useless, since they no longer give complete listings for everyone under the sun. As a result, the computer is usually my go-to source for phone numbers these days, and the phone book is relegated to my vehicle, for when my computer isn’t available, but I need to make a call. He said that they didn’t see the importance of it yet, but that he was working on them. I told him that I figured it would help their business with younger folks and keep our jobs more secure in the rough times that I believe lie ahead. I hope his efforts pan out.

As should be expected, after replacing the low-beam headlight on the driver’s side of my pickup a couple weeks ago, the one on the passenger side went out a couple days ago. Not sure how to get the assembly out, I replaced the bulb with the assembly in place, which wasn’t easy. In fact, I broke a little chunk of plastic getting the old one out and now the bulb gradually works out of place. Since new light assemblies start at around $125 on Amazon, I may try to fix it with body putty first. (I wonder if chewing gum would work? lol) I started to replace the other one today, but by the time I came inside and watched a couple videos to show me how to get off the small panel below it, it was getting dark enough that I decided to wait until another day.

Due to another short paycheck, paying car insurance, getting one of our phone cards and forking out $15 for a new headlight, the grocery budget was pretty slim this week. I guess it’s a good thing that we put a little food back when the paychecks were better. That’s what is hard for me to understand about people with no interest in prepping. “Emergencies” are sometimes just in your own family, not the community at large.

For some reason, that reminds me of a saying about frugality that my beloved great aunt used to tell me which, in turn, came from one of HER great aunts, “The time to be saving is when you have plenty.” That advice is pretty logical when you think about it, but most folks don’t ration their assets until tough times arrive.

When I climbed in my truck Friday, it was obvious that someone else had been driving it. Actually, I couldn’t even get into the cab until I moved the steering wheel as far forward as it would go. After driving it a little while, I realized that the heater was working better than normal. It wasn’t working RIGHT, mind you, but it WAS doing better. Apparently, the mechanic was feeling sorry for me. He’s very under-appreciated by most of the folks there, but I always try to show my appreciation for anything he does, and he seems to watch out for me as best he can in return. The equipment is well used, though, so he can’t work miracles, but he does pretty good with what he has. May God bless his little pea-pickin’ heart! © 2015

The TRUTH About 2014 Being The Hottest Year Ever (a link)


How Will the Swiss Francs Change Impact You? (a link)

"Rational Preparedness" : The Blog: How Will the Swiss Francs Change Impact You ?

Friday, January 16, 2015

It Ain't Much To Look At, But.......(pic)

Click image to enlarge.

I was hauling limestone to a Department of Highways garage yesterday. It was located on a loop of highway that was fairly heavily traveled on one half of the loop, but not nearly so heavy on the other. Not surprisingly, I chose to return to the stone yard each round on the "road less traveled." It was still in a fairly built-up section of town, yet in an area where the terrain dioesn't allow for complete developement, without MUCH filling in of a now protected backwater areas of the local river. I can remember when that low area was a mowed pasture with a few fenced in garden plots. The last big dam they built on the river, 50 or so years ago, is what turned it into a mudflat/backwater area.

It was a big deal when some migrating snow geese stopped there for a few hours forty years ago. These days, local mallards and Canada geese are there almost daily, as are fish most of the year. I was surprised, though, as I drove by yesterday, to see the arched line of pieces of age-darkened wood spanning the outlet. It's only 50 yards from the road, 200 feet from some houses, 150 yards from a four-lane and a three-quaretersof a mile from the court house, but it's an honest-to-goodness beaver dam.

Although it raises the water only about ten inches, it turns that seasonal backwater into a year 'round backwater. There's a lot of brush now flooded, making it easy for the beaver(s?) to chomp down on plenty of fresh bark. I can't see any beaver house, but then again, a lot of the flooded area is out of sight to anyone without a canoe, or the patience to hike the shore. Chances are, the little engineer lives in a bank den like most of the muskrats in this part of the state. I hope no modern-day "mountain man" decides to trap him; it's nice to have an urban beaver dam to remind us that nature is all around us. © 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

This Wasn’t Supposed To Happen!

We were supposed to have clear weather through the weekend, but I woke up this morning to about a half-inch of snow and flakes still falling. I went to work, did my pretrip and then sat around for two hours before they sent us home. Our customers apparently saw the snow and panicked. Although it’s been “snowing” all day, we still have little more than the half-inch with which we started the daylight hours.

Here it is, the time of year when bills are the highest, and I’m going to have the third low paycheck in a row. I overheard a coworker lamenting the same problem, but I think he still has kids at home, so he’s probably hurting worse than us. Unlike most of the rest of them, though, I can’t draw any low-earnings (partial unemployment) due to having no work for most of the past year-and-a-half, and the fact that even a day-and-a-half’s work will put me over the cut-off to draw even the minimum.

The local TV station has a little girl from “Sunny Cal” doing the weather these days. She’s hoping for a lot of snow, because she’s rarely seen it in her short life. Perhaps, if she knew the financial hardship, the power outages and the danger on the roadways that snow can causes, she’d be less anxious to see it. Then again, the way most folks are anymore, it might not matter.

I’m ready for spring. Of course, there WERE a few dirt jobs that we were forced off of by RAIN last fall. Oh well, I guess it’s best to take each evil (and each blessing) as it comes. © 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Call Me Fickle

My wife and I were at the Chinese Emporium today, spending my partial paycheck (for the partial week that I worked, due to bad weather). While my wife got the usual items, I picked up a bag of those little “cutie” brand tangerines to take in my lunch next week. Then, I started looking to see where they were from. It turns out that they hail from Morocco. No thanks, I have no intentions of doing business with a muslim country, not after all the terrorism the “religion” supports. I put them back.

Then, I went to get my usual bottles of water to put in my lunch. Two spaces over was a stack of the same brand with four bonus bottles. I suspect they were selling for the same price, but, as is all too often the case in the Chinese Emporium, they weren’t marked. My dad always said that if something wasn’t marked, they apparently didn’t want to sell it. I tend to agree with him. I had no intention of getting to the register, thinking that I was getting a deal, only to discover that it was the new size package with a higher price. SO, I took the regular size package that had a price posted above it.

When we got to the register and combined our carts, a package of blueberries that my wife had chosen wouldn’t scan, despite the barcode being in perfect condition. The clerk started to call for a price, but I told her not to bother, telling her that I didn’t want to have to wait on a reply, and that we would just do without them. Surprisingly, both the clerk and my wife were agreeable on the matter.

So, we left minus three items that we’d planned to get, one due to my personal prejudice against murderous scumbags, and two due to poor merchandising on the part of the store. Oh well, we’re going to another store tomorrow, maybe we can find what we want there. © 2015

Mountain MenvsHappy People (a link)

The Deliberate Agrarian: Mountain MenvsHappy People

Now they'll want the Marines to lowering the standards (a link)

_It Don't Make Sense_: Lowering Standards Got Us Into Trouble In The First Place

Col. Sanders Was A Tough Ol' Bird! (a link)

Coffee with the Hermit: Col. Sanders Was A Tough Ol' Bird...!

Friday, January 9, 2015

01-09-2015 – Riding Shotgun – Snow On The Mountain (w/pics)

Well, it wasn’t a mountain, actually, just a tall hill. At work, we’ve spent the last couple of days hauling dirt away from a hill, which the owner wants to make shorter. We then take it to another hill, about ten miles away, that an oil company wants to make taller. They’re putting in a small compressor station and don’t want to chisel the hill out, apparently, so they’re bringing in dirt to make a level spot for the facility.

About ten of our trucks are doing the hauling, and about a half-dozen from other companies. It’s about an hour-and-a-half round trip, including loading and unloading, waiting to get loaded and sitting at the bottom of the mile-long haul road to take our turn (usually 3-5 at a time) to climb the hill to get to the site. The road is narrow enough that passing is difficult, so they try not to have anyone coming down as anyone is going up. CB’s and a couple of “flag ladies” allow them to stay organized.

Yesterday, it was about zero and there was 4-6 inches of snow on the ground when they started. I had to go get my yearly DOT physical to keep my CDL, so I didn’t actually go on the job until 11 o’clock. The mechanic already had my truck started when I got there, so I didn’t have THAT to contend with. Despite having to pee in a cup (Remember LAST time?), it didn’t turn out too bad this time, since it didn’t include a drug test and I could use my multi-tool as a handle for the cup. My blood pressure just barely passed, I’m STILL not diabetic (how, I don’t know), but there WAS a little blood in my urine. The nurse laughed when she told me that and said that was PROOF that I was a truck driver, because nearly ALL truck drivers have blood in their urine. Apparently, it’s caused by the beating that our backsides take when we hit all those !@%#$*)(%#! potholes.

Today, it was just warm enough that I didn’t need to use starting fluid on my truck, plus I got started when the rest of the crew did. As the day went on, the temperature actually went down. We had a little sun, a LOT of clouds, and some snow flurries. The wind on the hilltop was horrendous, so when the snow fell, it traveled a nearly horizontal path. The heater in my truck worked when the spirit moved it, usually turned on and off by pot-holes or bumps on the highway. By wearing my jacket all day and putting the windows up and down, I was able to keep the cab reasonably comfortable, despite a heater fan that was either going full blast or was off completely.

The road got a little icy after a certain point, in spite of being surfaced with limestone, so they brought in some cinders and scattered on the haul road. We didn’t so much need them going up the steep spots, but coming down. One guy was a little nervous as he sat at the bottom of one slope waiting to come up as I was going down. I told him not to worry, that if I started skidding, That I wouldn’t hit him, I’d just take my foot off the brake and go shooting past him. That’s exactly what I WOULD have done, but it doesn’t sound very reassuring when you say it out loud!

After my last load was dumped and I headed for the shop, I realized that the spatter from the four-lane section of the haul, combined with the low angle of the sun, had given me a dangerously dirty windshield. Since the washer, unlike the heater, doesn’t work at all, I stopped along the road and threw some snow on the windshield, then quickly climbed in and turned the wipers on, as the snow melted. I don’t know if I figured that out on my own, or if I picked the trick up from someone else, but I’ve been doing it for years when the washer on a vehicle doesn’t work right in snowy weather. Luckily, I remembered not to put my wet hands on the metal bars to climb in, but pulled my hands inside my jacket sleeves first and used them like mittens. It might have been both embarrassing AND uncomfortable to have been frozen to the side of my truck! © 2015

Click an image to enlarge it.

This is the hill that they want to make shorter.

This is where they're trying to make a hill taller (or at least flatter on top).

One view from the "mountain."

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Florida Keeps Looking Better

When I was young, active and had good circulation, cold weather didn’t bother me much. I remember one breezy 10 degree day when I found a sheltered spot in the pine woods and began sawing and splitting a dead pine into firewood. My jacket came off before I even started. After a couple minutes, so did my toboggan. As the sweat trickled down my face and ears, it froze in my beard and mustache. Soon, my flannel shirt came off. Not much later, so did my T-shirt. There I was in 10 degree weather, splitting firewood without a shirt, with sweat frozen in my facial hair, but perfectly comfortable. Once I stopped splitting and loading, though, it was surprising how quickly I put that clothing back on!

These days, I still don’t get as cold as most folks. Carrying twice the weight required for a human body can do that to you. Still, I’m not as warm-blooded as I used to be, and my fingers and toes get cold a lot faster than they once did.

We had snow and cold yesterday, and the bosses sent most of us home after two hours of no orders. We never even started our trucks. They had us go in a half-hour later today, and I started my truck, mostly hoping that any residual heat might make it easier to start tomorrow. It was 16 degrees at the shop this morning and, since it has no block heater, I don’t believe my truck would have started if I hadn’t given it a hefty dose of starting fluid before I started cranking the engine. Most of us were once again sent home after a couple hours. Tonight, it’s supposed to get down to five degrees, but I have to take my CDL physical first thing, so it may be a little warmer than that by the time I get to the shop.

Normally, the guys ask me if I don’t have a jacket. I always tell them that I have one in the truck, in case it turns cold. The last couple mornings, they didn’t have to ask, because I was wearing it. Needless to say, I got a little teasing about it.

It may be the cold that has made my truck quit entering four-wheel drive mode. Ya gotta love computerized stuff, NOT! Even when I turn the switch back to the two-wheel position the little light keeps saying that it’s in 4WD, even though it isn’t. Since that light is on, my anti-skid brakes don’t work, which is no big deal to me, since I already know how to drive, but the idea is aggravating. Unfortunately, with short pay, I can’t really afford to have the problem fixed right now. So, I can no longer count on 4WD to get me to town and back, meaning that I may have to resort to running chains (which I have, thankfully).

Also, it’s been windy the last couple days; wind-chill may be at -15 degrees in the morning. That makes my drafty hilltop house a bit hard to keep warm. Despite all the beautiful photos of the place (I’ve never been there), I’ve never had the slightest desire to live there. It may have something to do with summer heat, high crime rate compared to here, hurricanes, mosquitoes, palmetto bugs and dinky deer. Anymore, though, I’m thinking that the life of a snowbird might be the way to go. I could always go fishing! © 2015

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Winter Driving

When I was a kid, we had a flatbed truck for use at the farm and sawmill, but our family vehicle was a station wagon. During the summer, it took us on picnics, weekends in the mountains, visits to distant relatives, up the road to Granddad’s house and “to town.” Going to town was an important consideration, for even back then, there were some foods that we didn’t grow or raise on the farm, plus, when both my sister and I were old enough to be in school, Mom got a job in town.

We hauled groceries, umpteen kids, cattle feed, barbed wire and lumber in our old wagons, along with many other things. If you ran out of room inside, there was always the luggage rack on top! As anyone who’s had both knows, the only thing as handy as a station wagon is a pickup truck, and the truck is limited in comfortable seating. Four-wheel drives hadn’t become all that popular yet, because of the comparative expense. If you weren’t a farmer, you might not need a pickup and, empty, wagons had better traction anyway, so a LOT of country folks had station wagons back then.

It was in a station wagon that I learned to drive, including bad-weather driving. On slick winter roads, accelerate slowly, brake gingerly, turn slowly, get a run for going up a hill, but creep down the other side, plus, DON’T tailgate. With the old sawdust tread, those wagons did surprisingly well, even on ice. The more weight that you piled in the back, the better they went; chains would make them almost unstoppable, IF you didn’t bottom out (high-center). We often kept 200-300 pounds of cattle feed in the back, just for traction. The car always smelled great during the winter! Sadly, many of today’s “station wagons” are front wheel drive, putting the weight in a LOADED vehicle over the NON-DRIVING tires, making those vehicles almost useless, unless empty.

Going to work today, I left early to allow for slower traveling. As I crept down the first hill, some idiot came flying over the brink of the hill, headed for my rear bumper. I was close enough to the bottom that I could speed up a bit and still make it around the left turn at the foot of the grade. He realized that he couldn’t push me, I guess, so he backed off a little. Driving carefully along the winding valley road, I clicked on the four-wheel drive and got a bit of a run for the grade up out of the valley. Unfortunately, just around the bend, and half-way up the hill, sat a small car in the middle of the road.
I had no choice but to stop. The guy got out of his car and apologized, telling me that he was sure that his front-wheel drive would make it through the five inches of powdery snow on the hill. I asked if he had winter treads, and he said that he didn’t. He also said that he’d try to get to one side to let me around, so, I started backing down the slick hill, NOT one of my favorite things to do. The idiots right behind me (another tail-gaiter had appeared) had no choice but to back down also. Thinking that it was too slick to be on the road, I decided to turn around in a driveway and return home. However, two more cars had pulled cross-wise of the two normally open driveways, leaving me no place to turn. It appeared that the only option was up and out.

Seeing that the first guy had managed to get a good ways down the hill, and to the outside of the bend, I gave it my truck as much gas as I thought prudent. I’m not sure the four-wheel had caught, for I fish-tailed all the way up, but I kept moving. Glancing in my rear-view mirror, I saw four more vehicles tail-gaiting up the hill right behind me. The five us looked like some giant glow-worm wiggling through the white darkness. In the old days, each would have waited to be sure the one in front made it, or at least followed at a safe distance, but that was then.

When I reached the four-lane, it was obvious that it hadn’t been graded or salted. One lane was worn down in the very center, packed like ice. I tried going toward town at a safe 30 MPH, but everyone was piled up behind me, so I eased to the right, barely keeping my driver’s side tires in the worn area, while my passenger side tires were actually in the fresh snow on the paved berm. In rapid succession, the cars behind me passed and soon appeared to be going not far below the 65 MPH legal there. I was thrilled to be rid of them.

I drove the rest of the way to work without incident. I was only a couple minutes late, but it didn’t matter, as they’d told the guys not to start their trucks anyway. I told my bosses about the crazies on the road and we chatted a few minutes. Soon, the young dispatcher (the younger boss’s son) came in, only a few minutes late. Asked what the roads were like in his area, he commented that they weren’t all that bad, if everyone would just quit poking along! I smiled and left to join my coworkers in the waiting area. © 2015

Triple Whammy

Back in the summer of 2010, after nearly a year-and-a-half of sitting on my backside for seven+ hours a day, I developed edema in my left ankle. Actually, a large part of the previous two years had found me seated, too, as I worked toward getting a couple associate degrees on the government’s nickel. I’m sure the condition had nothing to do with the fact that, for many years, there’s been enough extra weight on me to make a whole other person. As time has moved on, my right ankle developed a little edema, too, and my left leg sometimes ached a bit from the condition.

A few nights ago, I was outside in below-freezing weather, dressed only in my skivvies and L.L. Bean camp mocs, carrying in some jugs of water from the truck. I had no flashlight, and didn’t turn on the porch light, for obvious reasons. The darkness had nothing to do with the fact that I simply didn’t pick my foot up high enough to clear the edge of the porch, and went down, four one-gallon jugs in hand. I landed fairly hard on my left knee and left hand, but didn’t break open any of the jugs.

From the way it felt at the time, I figured that it would be the hand that would bruise and swell. Not so. The knee has been hurting for over a week now, though it never really swelled much. What DID swell was my leg BELOW the knee. As often happens, the swelling has gradually sagged into my shank and ankle, taking the pain and soreness along as it goes. The knee actually feels better now, but the leg hurts like crazy.

Trying to relieve some of that pain, I tried some Salonpas that my wife was going to pitch, because it had burned too much for her tastes when she put some on her arthritic left hand. Since the pain was over a large area, I used a good bit. Within a half-hour, I realized its use was a bad idea. Thinking a milder dose might still be okay, I dry-wiped the area with a paper towel and applied some hand lotion. When the burning continued unabated, I washed off the area with mild soap and dried it. By that time, it was about the color of a regular mild burn, though it doesn’t FEEL so mild. And so it has remained since.

A couple days ago, I put some antibiotic cream on it, in case the burn had allowed infection to start, but that was probably unneeded. The area directly below my knee has returned to normal, but my shin, ankle and now, my foot, are swollen and painful. I suppose it will eventually work its way to my big toe and out the nail! Until then, it still hurts and my foot is swollen enough that I can’t wear a sock and still get my wear-for-everything camp mocs. I have the liners that I wear inside them cut off at about five inches. That’s not so good in six inches of snow, but my jeans ride heavy on them, so I have little trouble so far. I really should look for a pair of winter boots. Or maybe some gators! (Fat chance of finding such a thing in this area.) © 2015

Saturday, January 3, 2015

“Thankless” Holidays

When I was a kid, we sometimes gathered around the table for breakfast or dinner, depending on whether Mom was there to fix it. If not, Dad and I would fix out own, but still usually sit down and eat together before going back to our farm or sawmill work. At supper, though, we nearly always gathered around the table. Saying grace, however, was usually reserved for Sundays or holidays, when we were especially thankful for not just the food, but also for the family members who often joined us, as well.

My wife grew up in a home where saying grace at the table was looked upon in the same light as the Pharisee praying on the street corner. Of course, my father-in-law also never got baptized because he felt he wasn’t “worthy.” I suspect that he believed that no-one else was worthy enough, either, but I don’t know that. He believed that way, despite reading his Bible daily. I won’t say anything to my wife about it, but I have to wonder about the salvation of someone who waits until he’s worthy enough to obey the Lord’s command to be baptized. (NO, I DON’T believe it’s a requirement for salvation, but why would anyone deliberately disobey such an obvious command?)

The last couple times that we had a holiday meal at our house, looking at our tiny kitchen and our strung-out seating arrangements, my wife just called out “Okay—form a line,” meaning for everyone to file through the kitchen buffet-style. Grace was apparently forgotten.

The last couple holidays, my wife and I went to “the kids’.” I was wondering if my stepson would ask the blessing, but with THEIR tiny kitchen and limited seating, it was a repeat of the last two family meals at our own home. I was disappointed. It’s not that I mean that you can’t be thankful without saying grace; it’s just that any reminder to be thankful to God is a good thing, especially when there are children present (and there were a few, none of whom are saved). Had I been in my own house, I would have spoken up this time, but I wouldn’t do that in someone else’s home.

When we got home, I mentioned to my wife that I would have like to have seen grace said, especially considering all the kids there. Apparently taking it as an insult to her son, she angrily reminded me that her father didn’t believe in such things, and she didn’t think it was necessary. I replied that while it wasn’t necessary, it would still have been nice. She told me that we weren’t Jesus, so we couldn’t bless the food anyway. I could have reminded her that we DON’T bless the food, but rather, ask the Lord to do so. However, I learned long ago not to push ANY issue with her, unless it’s a matter of life and death. It was just one more example of how, ultimately, tradition usually wins over common sense.

My wife finds it straining to cook for a crowd anymore, so there may not be any more holiday meals in our home. We would have eaten Chinese this year had we not gotten the invite to the kids’ house. Naturally, saying grace in a restaurant is merely flaunting your religion in my wife’s eyes (remember who raised her). I guess that means thankless holidays from now on, and while some folks would consider it just a case of me hanging onto my own tradition, I like to think that there’s a little more to it than that. In fact, I know there is. © 2014

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Choosing Sanity

“Experts” may disagree with me, and so may you, but I believe that most “insane” people are that way by choice. Notice that I did NOT say all insane people, just most. There are some folks who suffer such horrific trauma that continued sanity may honestly not be an option. However, you can find other people who suffered almost identical trauma that managed to deal with it. Even counselors don’t tell a person what to do to return from the inner world, they help them to think and choose their way back.

I believe that I was at the point one time many years ago where I could have stayed in this world, or withdrew to the world within. I believe that it was the Lord who made me aware that I had a choice. Of course, once I realized that I had a choice, I no longer had that choice, if that makes any sense to you. If you’ve ever been to that abyss, you may feel bad for those who made the jump, but you, like me, may also be less accepting of insanity as an excuse for doing wrong, particularly violent crime. Personally, I think there should be fewer insanity defenses and more findings of justifiable homicide and such.

Do you know who I think is crazy? I believe that any judicial system that will get the guilty parties counseling to make them “sane,” so they can be punished for what they did when they were supposedly insane, is the perfect example of true insanity! © 2015

The Last Couple Days

I hauled my load of dirt up to the landfill at Amanda, Ohio, Tuesday. The boss should be proud, I had the cruise set on the speed limit all the way. Of course that’s easier to do safely in Ohio than West Virginia; the flatter land makes for straighter roads. Even then, I had a 45 minute delay, due to requiring a minor truck repair at the landfill. When you live nearly on the plains and don’t have a hollow to dump your trash into, you apparently just start a mountain. The view was nice from up there, though. I was amused when the Tower Of Babel came to mind. I guess it would be more of a tower of rubble, though.

It was nice to be in farm country; we have very few serious farmers in my neck of the woods anymore. That’s probably because the parcels of land are too small and the terrain too rough to allow the bigger equipment and bigger operations needed to fulfill the desired lifestyles of people today. There was frost on the corn and soybean stubble, but the sun soon chased it away. There were grain elevators and silos, the likes of which haven’t been seen in my area for years. Amanda was a nice little town. Like many small towns, it appears to have been more active in the past, but it was still a mixture of new with the old and the occupied with the empty. They had some very nice old houses, many still maintained quite well, and their new-looking high school was very impressive. I got back to the shop early enough to haul a couple loads of materials to the neighboring county.

Yesterday morning, I went to the doctor for my first check-up in three years. He separated one combined blood pressure medicine and upped the water-pill part, partly to help with the swelling of my feet and ankles.

My blood pressure was higher than it should have been, but I’m not surprised. I had trouble finding his office because he moved back to this side of the river, and the cheap multi-million dollar company (which bought our two local hospitals and then closed one down) that he works for hadn’t put up new signage and still showed him across the river. The computer showed him across the street from the one that closed down, but the sign indicated otherwise. When I drove across the main street and onto the old hospital grounds, the office where he USED to be was completely gone. So, I thought that maybe they meant that it was across from the hospital that remained open and went there. After parking, I walked completely around the building before I found the entrance, went inside (already aware that I was at the wrong place) and asked about his location. They sent me back to where I was in the first place. Sure enough, when I went inside and asked, he DID have an office there. Amazingly, I was only six minutes late. Despite being his first patient of the day, he still kept me waiting a half-hour.

Poor Doc, the drug companies, hospital, university and the AMA have him completely brain-washed into believing all their propaganda. I don’t buy much of it, but they could still be proud, since he upped one of my meds (as I said earlier), plus prescribed some dope for my prostate problem, which I’d been thinking was just a urinary version of target panic.

After my perfunctory inspection by Doc and a blood draw, I went to work. Things were slow, so the dispatcher offered me the day off and I accepted, knowing that my wife and my dog would both be happy to see me. Unfortunately, I had to wait on my paycheck. I hadn’t waited five minutes before the dispatcher came bursting through the door to ask if I’d still be willing to work, so I told him “yes.” I then spent the rest of the day hauling dirt from a new motel to the yard of the shop, where they’re filling some low ground to make it less flood prone. It put five more hours on next week’s paycheck, so that’s a “good thing,” as Martha Stewart used to say.

I now have a short paycheck that I couldn’t get cashed yesterday, and a long weekend ahead. (Not everything about the holidays is all hunky-dory, but we’ll get through it.) I hope you all have a really great new year ahead of you. Mine certainly looks brighter than the last one, since I’m working. Of one thing, you can be sure, no matter how much I grump, I thank the Lord daily for the good things in my life, for there are many. © 2015

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas Now Complete

 I mentioned the other day that we saw four of our five grandkids on Christmas Eve. We felt like something was missing, though, not being able to see our oldest granddaughter. We had her for six years before any of the others came along, even though we rarely got to see her. She was in town, though and, Sunday, my stepson took us out to dinner, along with his lovely and charming wife, our lovely and charming granddaughter and her boyfriend. We thoroughly enjoyed it. (And just for the record, my wife is good-looking, too, especially considering that she's old enough to be married to me.)

 Our granddaughter is studying nursing, while working as a nurse's assistant at a big hospital near the university. She has considered going on to be a doctor, but hasn't decided yet, since it's a lot of money and time. Her boyfriend, whom she knew of here, but really met up there, seems very nice and normal. He even deer hunts and has her eating venison (hey, he's GOT to be okay). He's got his Bachelors in business, and was offered a full scholarship to get his Masters, so is going for it. Both seem like well-balanced kids, neither silly or stuffy. I hope they do well, but I wouldn't care if they both worked in a factory, as long as they treat each other well and are happy.

The little get-together seemed to erase that "something missing" feeling that my wife and I had been having, and we had to agree that our Christmas was, indeeed, a good one. © 2014

Friday, December 26, 2014

Benefitting From The Illogical

I mentioned here in the past, the day that I spent duck hunting along the Ohio River many years ago. It was snowing, the wind was blowing and it was well below freezing. We got no ducks for the table, but I got some food for thought.

Several times that day, coal trains rumbled downstream, between us and the hill, taking coal to points south. Often at the same time, towboats churned upstream pushing coal barges, full almost to overflowing, with coal for points north. It seemed so illogical, when there must surely have been some way for the places to the south to have burned southern coal, while the places to the north burned northern coal. Such lack of forethought surely ended up costing the companies in the short run, and the consumers in the long. The only benefit that I could see was that the railroads and their workers, and the towboat companies and their workers were provided work by the seeming foolishness. Thinking a little deeper, I knew that timing, dependable delivery, bid price and good or bad will between the parties involved probably caused the situation, but it still seemed horribly wasteful.

During the last couple weeks, I and a few other drivers have made multiple trips from the Mid-Ohio Valley to southern West Virginia to pick up broken concrete from a demolition job. Then we hauled it to a landfill in eastern Kentucky, turned around and came home to the valley. You’d think that they’d get a company somewhere along the route to do the hauling, as it would surely be cheaper. I guess our bosses just have an exceptionally good relationship with the demolition folks and they use us anytime they have work in the region.

Monday, we’re going from here to central West Virginia to pick up DIRT. Then we’re going to haul it to central Ohio, unload it and come home. Same scenario, it would be cheaper for them to use someone local. But hey; who am I to complain? It might be a week of short hours without this oddball job. I’ll take the bigger paycheck, thank you. © 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Christmas

I got off work at lunch-time Wednesday, after half of us waited all morning to see if we’d get a delivery. My wife had a few things that she wanted to pick up at the store, so I hauled her there and waited in the truck with my computer. That evening, we had our Christmas visit with “the kids,” my stepson and daughter-in-law. She’d fixed a very nice supper and my stepson and my wife did some baby-sitting for a couple babies, so their mother’s could be freed up to visit more easily. We managed to see four of our five grandkids there. They opened their gifts from us while we were there. None of them are blood relatives to me, so it’s easy to love them all equally.

We had a really good time seeing them all, but left sort of early to get back to the dog and the house. We hate to leave the house for very long at a time, since a young fellow tried to rattle his way in our front door the other day, WHILE my wife was talking to him through that door. The anger in her voice finally registered with him and he left. He couldn’t see how close to death he was, as the solid wood door didn’t let him see the loaded, cocked 12 gauge in my wife’s hands. I got home about three minutes later. I WISH that I’d gotten there before he left, then again, maybe it was best that I didn’t, if you get my drift.

Today, we slept in a little. My wife remarked that our frugality wasn’t much fun and that we should at least get each other something small to open next year. I don’t mind getting no gifts, but I wondered how she’d really react to our mutual idea. I guess I now know. Live and learn. Later, we drove around and found that the Chinese restaurants were open, but only one national chain restaurant serving American food was open. They had only a buffet today, which proved to be VERY limited and of low quality. If we eat out again next year, it’ll be Chinese.

We were hoping to get a call from our stepson, telling us that our other granddaughter was at their house and for us to come over. However, she works at a hospital, plus is in the process of moving, so she apparently didn’t show up. Maybe we’ll see her yet, before the weekend is over.  We don’t see our own families on the holidays anymore. My sister sort of ruined it on my side, and her sister-in-law on my wife’s, so, we’re leaning to entertain ourselves more. I don’t care for it being that way, but it’s gotten simpler than the alternative. It’s a shame that “adults” have to be so jealous that they ruin the dynamics of a family.

I DO miss sitting down, saying grace, and everyone eating at the same time and in the same room, but that doesn’t seem to be the way of it anymore. We had a good enough time at the kids, though, to make up for any shortcomings. Besides, family isn’t about blood, it’s about who loves you, and Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus, so we can deal with the rest.

Overall, I’d say that we had a pleasant Christmas. I hope you did, too. © 2014