Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Father's Thumbprint

Sweaty hands griped the steering wheel. “Son this isn’t hard, just remember you are the brake keep the chain tight, and do not hit the back of my car!” A 10 foot logging chain attached my 1963 Falcon to the back of my father’s car. Minutes later we were screaming down I-5 at sixty miles an hour. When turning on to I-5 he had accelerated, I surmised quickly my ineptness in keeping the chain tight was being compensated with break neck cornering. Quickly I wiped my sweaty hand on my pant leg in an attempt to keep my grip. Worry increased as we began actually passing other cars. My father had been a farmer and sons were expected to do exactly what they were told. Fear was not a factor so you did the job or task that he expected.
The countless looks, instructions, interchanges, moments of discipline, expectations that stretched the son, working alongside the man; left a father’s distinct thumbprint on this son that has not wash away. It may have faded a little in adult life but the watermark can still be seen.
He knew innately his boys were more capable then they felt. Tasks were given out early and to this day both of my older brothers are much more capable men than I am. Many tasks were placed upon them early while I was free to grow into them; even so I was not exempt. You were given the task that fit the need not what one was trained or capable of. I have a very early memory, five or six years old, of being on my knees behind the steering wheel of a pickup going across a field while dad and my two older brothers picked up the rocks out of the field – him yelling at me to steer straight. I could steer but I was too small to pick up the large rocks. The job fit the need.
My father’s attire was usually work clothes. His smell was cologne only on Sundays and Monday through Saturday he had the smell of a man who worked. His wide thick fingered hands were calloused, firm, muscular and strong. He taught be doing and expecting his sons to do the task he set before them. He could fix anything and when he did a son stood at the ready to hand him the tools like a nurse would a surgeon. Learning all the names of tools came early – I am pretty sure I knew the difference between a box end and open end wrench before I could read.
Simple tasks by the dozens became life skills. How to sharpen an ax, run a straight line when mowing grass, keeping that smooth even sound of the hand saw cutting a hemlock board, the stoke of a file or a hack saw cutting deep while not dulling the tool, dripping a little oil on the drill bit as it cut through steel, soldering a joint on a copper water pipe, jacking up a car so it doesn’t fall on you, the list goes on and on along with memories and impressions.
The tractor moves unevenly down the field, the son standing, and hanging on to his father’s shirt. And then there is the fall, the catch, the son upside down being held firmly by his foot. The new angle mesmerizes the boy as he sees dirt being split apart by large sharp silver disks. Years later the son stands next to his father in front of a judge who grills the father on what discipline was given to the son. A side of my father came clear in his evasive answers as no other man had the right to tell him when or how to discipline his wayward son. And, I can attest the less educated man with hairy arms extending out of a denim shirt with rolled up sleeves needed no help from the suit behind the desk.
Two older brothers and a sister were the subjects that trained my father’s parenting skills. Many mistakes and techniques were either added or eliminated from the fathering menu by the time I came along. Memories of discipline, punishment and teaching are embedded into my memory banks. The father my brothers and sister trained become for me a more flexible and tolerant father. As I grew into my teens the fence around my comings and goings kept expanding and at times I wondered if there even was a fence at all.
The father set into this son impressions of what manhood looked like. These deep etchings formed ideas of a certain look and type of work - real man did. Even though my intellect could explain the insignificance of such superficial ideas, I still to this day feel more like a man when I am working with my hands and wearing jeans and a work shirt. Thirty-five plus years later still have not eradicated that a suit and tie, and sitting behind the desk ends the work day as an incomplete picture.
It would take pages and pages to trace each etching of the thumbprint left on this son by his father. Thanks for reading my thumb nail glimpse into my father’s thumbprint on one of his sons.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bantis and Canaries

Family stories age and ferment until we are no longer sure what part is truth and what has become an urban legend. My grandmother had some banti chickens. One day my grandma opened a jar of her canned cherries but the seal had gone bad. Doing the logical thing she dumped the cherries out on the ground and the bantis ran over and ate the cherries right up. About an hour later she noticed that all her bantis were laying dead in the back yard. She surmised that the cherries had killed them. Being the good practical farm women she was she quickly plucked them while they were still warm. She laid them all out by her back door intending to finish the butchering after she got dinner started. A couple of hours later she came out to finish her butchering and found all her bantis alive and running around with no feathers. I guess the cherries were just fermented and the little bantis had just passed out from being drunk. – There you go. Now that’s a chicken story.
My cousin tells another story. My Grandma had a canary that wouldn’t sing. The legend goes Grandma would get really frustrated at this canary, and say to the canary. “If you don’t sing I am going to pull your head off” One day my cousin came to visit Grandma. “Where’s your canary Grandma?” “He’s gone, pulled his head off.” I always wondered why she scared me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Blissful Mountain Love

My anniversary is coming up next month and I am starting to think about what I could do? Your ideas would be welcome – it would be a kind gesture if only for my wife’s sake. Trying to think of something new, where she will actually go with me is the problem. I am not saying she doesn’t like going with me but let’ just say after 35 years she is very guarded. I guess it would be fair to say some of my plans have not work out all that well for her. But in my own defense this will be our 36 anniversary and that is ample time for even one as brilliant as me to do it wrong at least once.
My first mishap happened early in our marriage. Actually it was month number two – August. I wanted to share my passion for her on an overnighter in the beautiful Cascade Mountains. Could it get any more romantic? There we were at the end of a logging road, 500 hundred yards back into the trees snuggled down in my two man tent. The weather was clear and the moon was full.
Now, don’t start with me I have heard it all for 35 years. Do you really think you are going to tell me anything new? I know, some do not think the end of a logging road is all that romantic. Is it my fault everyone else is wrong? And, besides you weren’t there.
Here is the basic crux of the issue. She complained I went to fast on our hike, the no bathroom thing seemed to really bother her, and to top it off the tent was too small. How could that be? I am 6 ft tall and she is 5 foot nothing. It was big enough for me so how could it possibly not be big enough for her? Totally illogical. Is it my fault she didn’t know that in the morning there would be condensation as thick as a plate of cold spaghetti on the inside of the tent? And, that one only needed to sit up sideways to avoid a wet cold facial shower? All she had to do was ask – she acted like I planned it on purpose. Seriously, just wipe it off and move on.
On our hike, she didn’t think it fair I could step up and over fallen logs where she seemed to think it was necessary to crawl over on her belly. I told her if she did that she would get dirty and that it was to slow. Then of course there was the bathroom issue. It wasn’t a problem for me so why was it such a big deal?
So, as you can see I need some help with my high maintenance type wife. All suggestions will be considered. She is really a beautiful lady and deserves a nice anniversary. I have a larger tent now if that helps.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


My very old dog, Goldie – half blind, half deaf – no I think ¾ deaf. Has a routine where she slowly walks a trail around the house, down the hill, across the street, up behind my neighbor’s house, back across the street, smells this, smells that, then proceeds up the hill, through the trees and back to my back yard. He is very exact in her meanderings as he has worn quite a deep trail. Every now and then I will place the lawn mower or the wheelbarrow across her ingrained path just to mess with him.
A fly tonight has been flying inches past my nose several times. Do you think my head is kind of like that wheelbarrow? It is beginning to irritate me. Every time I go to take swat at it, it’s five feet away. Fast little bugger or really slow – me.
You might have noticed I have a gender issue with my dog. I am not sure what to call the roaming meanderer. He used to be a she because he-she had puppies and then we had her fixed – no more puppies – that kind of fix. But, last week I saw her lift her leg like a male dog. Now I am so confused. When I call her I mostly just yell, ”here you”, or sometimes I might say, “hey you get over here”. I mean in today’s society with everything being so gender neutral I just don’t want to offend old grandpa or grandma dog whatever she is. But then I tapped my helmet and I said to myself, why am I worrying if I offender her/him she can’t hear anyway. D’OH!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Self Dentistry

Even for Homer things work out near perfect some days. This is one of those great days when being a man and having the right tool for the job has all the advantages. Today I broke a tooth – just a little splinter. My tongue is raw and I just couldn’t stand it anymore. Remember my tool post?
A week or so ago I picked up a set of needle files. They were cheap, cheap, cheap - on sale $1.99. They probably couldn’t actually file any metal but for the sharp edge of a tooth they worked just fine on. I am so happy at this moment I can hardly stand it. I am not sure I even need to go to the dentist. My self dentistry work was masterful and took less than 2 minutes; I even impressed myself.
A bunch of years back I had no dental insurance, my income was a lot less than was needed for dental work. And, on the list of priorities, getting a tooth fixed was right below most everything else. A crown had come off and I glued it back on a few times with Crazy Glue. This worked for a few days and then off it would come. Finally the tooth was abscessed. I had done most everything I could using my own dental skills. It now seemed logical that the next step was to pull the tooth. I worked up my courage, got my best needle nose pliers and began a very feeble effort. Needless to say the effort lacked the courage, pain tolerance, and will power needed to get the job done. For the next few days as I drove to work and at times during the day I would push on the tooth. I noticed the tooth now had some movement. The weekend came and I figured it was now loose enough. The thing about pulling your own tooth in today’s society, wives do not get it. I knew she would not support such an activity. Therefore secrecy was required. With the bathroom door locked, quietly I began my self dentistry. I was just getting into it and her intuition must have kicked in. Knock, knock, knock, “what are you doing in there?” D’OH! Pulling the t-shirt out of my mouth – a tooth has to be dry to get a good grip – I gave her, “just taking care of business, do you mind?” Well I am not sure if it was the distraction or if my courage was insufficient, regardless the effort lacked the fortitude necessary. Another week of cleaning, pushing, and gargling with Hydrogen Peroxide went by.
Determination lined my face as I came in from work that night. I greeted no one. I was a man on a mission - straight to my bathroom. Taking my Swiss Army knife I opened the small pliers, wiped the tooth dry, I grabbed that tooth. A quick twist to the left and one to the right and out it came, abscess and all. I felt as good that day as I do today.
There is something very satisfying in fixing something yourself and not giving those thieving dentists any of your dollars.
Homer will sleep with a smile on his face tonight.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Paint the Fence

Being able to push my laptop far enough away so that I can see the screen clearly has been a bonus. I gotta tell you, I am a little cranky right at this minute. I just noticed that even at my farthest reach the text is still a little fuzzy. Grrrrrrrrrr. Where are those $#^@ reading glasses.
Years ago I had a great friend, Ed, who died of Parkinson’s disease. He used to say, “Getting old isn’t for sissies.” Well my complaining about the fuzzy screen I know doesn’t compare to Ed and what he struggled with and that wasn’t my intent. But it reminded me of Ed and I thought I would tell you what he said. Gee that was a lot of work – we wouldn’t want to be misunderstood would we.
What is it about us humans who try so hard to please everyone? Sure we talk tough –“You can’t please everyone so don’t try.” That sounds good but reality – I know you are just like me and want to please everyone all the time.
The extent we go to please.... My first thought was women and their makeup. Thank you for wanting to please! Surely, you have heard the term, “If the fence needs painting, paint it.” Now men are for the most part just plain ugly and every time I see a pretty man it kind of creeps me out. First off it really bothers me that I might think of a man as pretty – that is just wrong.
Now back to the fence. Years ago I had a young woman working for me. She had a production job and looking good was not a priority, at least to her. I never saw make up on that girl for a long time. And, honestly I felt sorry for her because I thought she was so homely. When she would walk through the door in the morning the paint on the wall would crack in horror. Sometime later I hired a press operator who began paying attention to her. How that happen still keeps me up at night.
Shock – the next morning her hair wasn’t doing those contortions but hung straight. Could she have combed it? Later in the week – is that eye liner? And her face looks so smooth, what happened to those huge back heads on her nose? Hmmm….magic. Look! Lipstick, not bright red but a soft easy pink. I began to see inklings of beauty.
Then a week later at the end of the day she came out of the bathroom dressed in a black tight skirt, high heels and full makeup. I think the press man was taking her out somewhere. I had to do a double take. Was that her? I think it is, but this girl is pretty. That day I learned the value of makeup and the saying if the fence needs painting, paint it.
Well, that’ all I got – No that’s not true. Yes it is. Who are you talking to? D’OH!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fishing Pictures

Dry Falls

South East

Get that Hat!
Where is the net?
My Hand

Desert Flower


No this is not me - anything that small is just embarassing!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cooking or Meal Preparation

Lately I have been cooking more for myself – Oh excuse me did I say cooking? I mean't meal preparation. I was corrected a while back when I was describing a certain dish that I was “cooking” to a lady at church. As I was going though the ingredients and all the steps, I mentioned that I added a can of enchilada sauce. And that is where it happened, “Excuse me” she interrupted “that is not cooking, that is meal preparation. Anything that comes out of a can is meal preparation”. Huh…and all this time I thought those great dishes my wife was serving me, was good old fashion great cooking. And, it was nothing more than meal preparation? – that kind of ruined my day. People have come from far and wide to partake in my wife’s meal preparation. Well I’ll tell you right now, I know what’s good for me and I am not spreading that rumor.
A favorite meal preparation dish I have used in the past you might want to add to your meal planning repertoire. I think you will like it. Just in case you’re suspicious, I cooked this up one night for two Japanese exchange students that were living with us. I told them it was regular American cooking. They loved it. Of course anything I did in the kitchen was a marvel to them. This dish, even I would not classify as cooking; it might not even be classified as meal preparation. Although we all ate it and it was satisfying.
Ready? Got your paper and pencil ready? Are you excited? This could change your life.
Take a bunch of flour tortillas roll them up with cheese in the middle – let you imagination go wild, use some goat cheese if you got it.
Placed them in a baking dish – What kind? I don’t care. Whatever you have.
Dump a can or two of chili on top of the tortillas. You’re done.
Oh yeah… you can eat cold or if you prefer hot - heat at 350 degrees for a while. If you really want to make your guests think they are receiving fine dining, add a bunch of black olives on top.
Just a side note and this might ruin it for you. But stay tough minded and it will be fine. When you open a can of chili do ever feel like you are eating dog food? I am not sure if it is the smell or the can size or what but it isn’t a great thought. I know as a kid I ate dog food for a snack quite often. Of course it was always dry dog food, you know the crunchy kind. I don’t really remember its taste much but it was always handy.
After you try this dish let me know how your family liked it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Love of God

Wonderful thought…
Amazing writing…

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Frederick M. Lehman, 1917

Taken from an old Hymn, verse 3 - For the Love of God


Friday, May 8, 2009

Men are Better Drivers!

Who are better drivers men or women? Ask any man and he will give you clarity on the subject. You might want to ask me who is the better driver me or my wife? Well I am glad you asked, “It is me of course.”
My wife might disagree with my conclusions as she will often bring up my 17 accidents. She has been known to gloat when she reminds me of how I had two accidents in one night. Now before you jump to conclusions and take her side. All of those 17 accidents (actually 18 one she doesn't know about) have perfectly good explanations. Most have nothing to do with my driving ability but just, hmmm…how should I say it – slight mishaps. Here are a few of my insignificant mishaps. The light turned green I let my foot off the gas and took one last close up look at the pimple right on the tip of my nose. The guy in front of me decided to stop. What was he thinking? My forehead broke the mirror from the windshield and left a bloody indent about an inch above my right eyebrow. You see that was not my fault – what was that crazy stopping for?
Another time my three kids and I were going to their Grandmas in the snow. We were talking about how far it was. My odometer needed only 2/10 more on it to start at an even mile. Simple, spin the tires really fast and 2/10 of a mile could happen in maybe less than 100 yards by my calculations. Well, I never had a physics class and my calculations didn’t take into account the speed my car would be going when the turn 200 yards away was reached. We went in the ditch. The cop gave me a ticket for driving to fast under conditions – idiot. See that is totally not my fault. It was the guidance counselors fault for never making me take a physics class.
Then of course there was the time I was driving down the road minding my own business while holding and drinking a cup of coffee. An older gentleman pulled out from a side street and hit me in my rear quarter panel. Now I think this shows my superior driving skills. Get hit, spin in a complete circle, hit no other cars or pedestrians and to top it off not one drop of coffee was spilled – Yip, case closed.
I could go on and on reciting one accident after another but this is a blog and 18 accidents could take a bit of space, so we will call it good
for a night. But I am curious what has your experiences been?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Weight Loss – Fishing Diet

The best part of fishing for a week and camping is a guaranteed 5 - 7 lb weight loss. It could be just water loss I guess so maybe I shouldn’t get to excited. There are two things about camping and fishing I hate, and both have to do with the basic functions of life. This is where my daughter would say – “filter dad.” Of course I am going to ignore her advice just to see what the consequences will be.
Don’t you just hate it when you are finally in your sleeping bag, warm, everything is zipped up tight and then there it is, you are awake it is 3:00 in the morning and you need to pee. I hate that! Getting out of that bag, finding shoes, unzipping the tent without tripping, dodging the roaming raccoons, and then taking care of the business. Now here is where everything can go sideways literally. Peeing in the dark can be bad. That small little twig, who knew there was a twig right there that could cause such deflection and change a moment of relieving to a shocking per-morning shower all over ones legs. A quick diverting of the stream – D’OH! Another twig. I am not saying this has ever happened to me but it could have. We don’t really need to talk about this anymore; the saturation of the subject is pretty much all wet and needs to probably just be changed like a diaper.
To avoid such a moment, dehydration is the answer. Before I figured out dehydration and cell phone alarm clock settings, I would use the old Indian alarm clock used by thousands very successfully for hundreds if not thousands of years. It’s simple and fool proof - drink a lot of water right before bed and then the urge to pee will wake you up right on time to be on the lake just as the sky is beginning to turn that light morning gray. The still morning air sets a tranquil mood along with a reverence for the beauty being revealed with each soft slow dip of the oars as the boat is pushed through the unbroken water. The little ones in the bow and stern huddle with arms pulled tight around bent legs trying to keep the early morning cold away and they miss the swirls breaking the sheen of several fish feeding on an early morning hatch. The fish will be aggressive and a limit is a sure deal.
Okay truth? That never works. A bladder really does not know when 5 am is, it only knows that it is full and needs attention. For me that is always about 3 am. Back in my sleeping bag with an empty bladder – the sun hitting my tent is now the new alarm clock and of course I missed the morning bite, along with breakfast, along with those magical predawn moments. D’OH!
Okay that was sweet but now I am older and my kids might bless me with a few moments on the lake now and then, but between you and me they really aren’t cute at all anymore. Second, I now fish from a float tube or a pontoon boat and finding a place to get off the lake in a float tube with waders and large swimming fins has serious ramifications – possible drowning – the solution, dehydrate yourself. Do I hear anyone saying bladder infection?
We will have to talk latter this is getting way to long. Sorry for not really having a point.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Directed Motivation

I am being so very bad right now…I have one critical project and one important project I should be doing.



Critical = can’t go to work Monday unless I get it done (I guess I could ride my bicycle).

Important = wife will start asking questions like, “don’t you think you should be working on the deck?” or “that deck isn’t going to build its self” or “do I need to call a handyman to finish the deck” or “the handy man will be here in the morning and I need a check for $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$..” now that’s the one I have to avoid. Seriously all the other questions are really just, “I better start thinking about finishing the deck” prompts. Now some might say I am like water, I take the route of least resistance. I won’t argue that point today but I am not conceding either. I would rather think about it as directed motivation.

Feeling very directed gotta go…

Saturday, May 2, 2009

28 Story Misspeak

Have you ever said a remark to your spouse that in your mind was an issue about the size of a small lego and the reaction received was a 28 story building? I hate it when that happens. Now let me say right now very clearly – that has never happened in my marriage. We have always understand each other perfectly. But I have heard others have this problem. Whew…for a moment I felt like that 28 story building was being tipped over on me.
But, can we talk? It does seem we men are misunderstood more that we deserve. Granted there are times when we are insensitive bruts but mostly we are loving teddy bears who mean no harm. Me and my wife are moving in on 36 years of marriage, and now and then I still totally blow it. But is it a requirement that all women keep tabs of all those misspeaks? Again, this is not me I am talking about and more importantly I am not talking about my bride of these long…I mean short 35 years.
A few years ago watching my son’s baseball game one of the other fathers sat down next to me and asked an interesting question. “Are all men pigs?”
“Well of course they are, why do you ask?”
“My wife when she gets here will be asking you the same question. I told her all men are pigs but she doesn’t believe me. If you could just tell her what you just told me that would be awesome.”
I have no idea what there deal was but his wife did ask me and I did not betray the brotherhood.
This phenomenon does not just seem to be man to woman but also seems to be woman to woman. Again, I am not talking about my wife or referring to her in anyway. But it seems one woman can say to another woman, “Oh, I see you wore your blue skirt today”. Now doesn’t that seem fairly harmless? If I heard that I would think, the lady wore her blue skirt today. But this one comment from one woman to another woman can make them enemies for life. Very confusing – I just don’t get it but I do accept it.
No lesson here at all –nothing – zero. Not even an observation here. I meant nothing bad by anything written above toward any woman in the whole world anywhere. That includes the 1st lady, no not Mrs. Obama, my 1st lady, my wife. Of course it would include Mrs. Obama or Hillary or Mother Theresa – opps she’s dead. I think that 28 story building just fell on me. D’OH!