Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Summit

You can handle a lot more than you think you can. Recently a triathalon contestant said to me, “My body will say this is all I can take but it is not true, it can take much more. I must will myself to push through because I learned the messages are lies.”
Each day we get up and take another chip at our mountain. The deep mire of the fight causes us to doubt and fret. The fight scares us, it hurts us, and we are tempted to faint, run away, or quit. We do not see what is being accomplished and changed within ourselves, the struggle is pruning off the dead wood. Years pass and then the wonder of looking back will display the array of changes within. What was a mountain to us once now is nothing more than a few hills that trained us for the summit.
Are you struggling at something that seems way too hard? Don’t listen to the lies. You can handle more than you think!

Monday, July 27, 2009


Years ago while goose hunting, my friend Roy and I came upon a farm that had a field filled with geese gleaning the leftovers. Roy being the much more assertive sales type drove right straight up to the farmer’s house to see about permission. Greeting us was a three legged dog barking like crazy and a three legged pig just lying in the sun. The oddity of it all was indeed unusual.
The farmer’s wife soon came out to see what the ruckus was about. After a quick greeting, and while Roy was making our request, the three legged dog stopped his barking and came over for a smelling. His laughing face was full of wet licks as I held out my hand for him to smell. Country folks are usually so nice I didn’t know country dogs matched their owner’s hospitality.
Now rule number one in sales is once the sale is closed – stop selling. I groaned as Roy continued on. “I see your dog is missing a leg; how did that happen?”
“Oh, Sheila is our hero. Several years back we had a house fire. It came during the night when Sam and I were asleep. Sheila is an outside dog and in an effort to wake us up she jumped through the kitchen window. That jump cut up her leg real bad but she made it up the stairs barking, whining, and woke us up – saved our lives she did. My husband Sam stitched her up but her front leg got infected. Normally we would just put a dog like that down. But Sheila saved our lives and we just couldn’t do it – We felt we owed her. The vet took the leg and Sheila has been three legged ever since.”
“Wow that is an amazing dog. I am glad you saved her.”
Now, my curiosity was peaked after such a story, “So what great feat of valor did your pig do? I see he only has three legs also?”
“Oh…” a long pause, “Sam and I are alone and we don’t really eat much so we just figured it would be better to not butcher Ed all at once.”
I looked at Roy and gave him the nod that we should skaddle and we did. The hunting was great. A year later in late October we stop by to check on Sheila and Ed. Sheila was there but I guessed since butchering time had passed Ed sat in the freezer. The hunting was still great and Sheila still had her great wet kisses. We never talked to Sam or his wife about Ed again, so we just aren’t really sure about Ed. Roy figured they had to butcher Ed up completely the next year since a two legged pig just wasn’t practical. Usually I argue with Roy but I couldn’t argue with that.
When I told this tale to my wife she said I was pulling her leg, hmmm….Homer are telling lies again?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

First Kiss

Growing up is filled with firsts. First time to ride a bike, first bloody nose, first bee sting, first swim, first time to get beat up, first girl friend, and then there is that first kiss – Wowzer!
My sister was 5 years older than me. One day I heard her talking to one of her girl friends, they were both laughing really hard. A boy had kissed my sister on a date and it was so obvious to my sister that he had never kissed a girl before. They were laughing so hard that tears were coming down their checks.
That scared me to death. I had never kissed a girl before. Was I going to be laughed at like that the first time I kissed a girl? For years the sound of that laughing haunted me.
A year or two later I managed to find a girl friend. I would think all day about kissing her and when the time came I broke out in a cold sweat and would have no part of it. I dated that girl for a year and a half and never kissed her once. She tried so hard to put us into situations where it was the right time, the right place, where we were totally alone. But, she never got my kiss. I think she finally just gave up and dumped me.
Her father was a big mucky muck in the Seattle Police Department. One day he started being so nice to me. Years later talking to his wife I found out my girl friend had complained to her mother how I had never kissed her Well wife told Police mucky muck, father, and I became mucky mucks new best friend.
Occasionally my friends would ask me if I kissed my girlfriend yet. When I told them no, they would ridicule and laugh at me. Having them laugh at me was way better than having a girl laugh at me especially for that reason.
Just so you know, eventually I did kiss a girl and maybe she had a good laugh I don’t know. I hope you got one.
I told my son the same story in hopes it would have a similar result…he’s never told me how that tactic worked. D’OH!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

An Angel with Wrinkles…

Mrs. Tornquist (not her real name) held the heavy maple yard stick in her right hand pointing at the spelling words on the black board. The little boy and the little girl were her subjects and she was determined that they would learn their spelling words. The rest of the class was up two stories higher in the library searching the long shelves for that one special book they could take home for the week.
Tap, tap, tap, the long yard stick hit the black board a little harder with each tap. “Spell the word! - Spell the word!” each directive louder than the previous. She now had her full attention focused on the little boy. The harder she tapped and the louder her voice the less Grayquill was able to comply. Mrs. Tornquist’s frustration was effecting the placement of her tapping and there were at least three words the yard stick had come close to. Which one was he supposed to spell? He guessed About was the intended word, “A” he hesitated was it a d or a b? They both were so much alike. Which side of the line was the circle? He guessed “d - - o - - ….” Mrs. Tronquist turned in her frustration, with the yard stick high, she brought it down hard. The yard stick caught Grayquill in the throat and knocked him out of his chair onto the floor.
The little girl screamed and began crying. Grayquill gasped for air and curled up his legs close to his chest. He felt like his neck was caved in. He laid there hysterically sobbing for several minutes. Grayquill’s neck eventually recovered but his spirit was damaged more than his neck. Second grade ended having two more teachers that year. There was Mrs. Bush whose arm mesmerized Grayquill when the bottom flopped side to side as she wrote on the black board. He stared in awe of the swaying blubberish mass. He wanted to touch it see how far his finger would disappear into the soft pale tissue. But, of course he never did, even though only a second grader, he knew not to call attention to ones fat.
Grayquill has no memory of third, fourth or fifth grade. School work had not gotten any easier and he didn’t read very well. But then sixth grade came and Mrs. Iverson was his teacher. She was old. Her face had deep wrinkles that Grayquill thought were very interesting. She wore bright flowered dresses; her hair was bluish silver and a pair of her many colorful bright horn rimmed glasses always hung from the silver chain across her chest. She always smiled and Grayquill thought she must be an angel with wrinkles. Mrs. Iverson liked Grayquill and he knew it – that made all the difference. Mrs. Iverson was one of the significant people in Grayquill’s young life. Looking back she spoke hope into Grayquill. She always believed the best and he remembers her telling him he could do better – not in a shaming way but in a certainty way. One day she told him that a book in the bible was written just for him. The book had 31 chapters one chapter for each day of the month. She said it was written for teenagers which Grayquill was going to be just next year. And, he should read one chapter each day, and if a whole chapter was to much then he should try to read 10 verses. If he would do that she promised him it would help him with his reading. She said the book would also help him be wiser and help him make good choices in life. Grayquill believed her – why wouldn’t he? She had earned the right to speak like that to him. So, he did just that for the next 6 years and Mrs. Iverson was right it helped him. The book was Proverbs.
Everyone should have an Angel with Wrinkles at least once, don’t you think?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pride Goeth Before a Fall...

Does pride really go before a fall? Many years ago my wife left town with her mother and the remaining minor siblings were parceled out to their adult sisters or in P’s case his brother in law. Now P was a 14 year old and full of himself. In fact I would say more hopeful for himself than prideful. Unlike his brother in law Grayquill who has struggled to be humble most of his adult life.
Now Grayquill at times thinks he has made much progress in his quest for humility. He would even say of himself that at times he gets extremely proud in how humble he has become. They say some of the most prideful people are those who will talk about themselves in the third person. Now I am pretty sure Grayquill would never admit to doing such a thing.
Grayquill upon having young P as a houseguest and listening to the boy’s big talk realized P was developing quite a fetish for gambling. If Grayquill had been a little wiser he may have thought the young boy was exaggerating his stories of easy money to impress his older brother in law. I mean teenagers don’t really exaggerate their stories do they?
So, as the stories rolled out of the adolescent and his winnings. The more mature humble Grayquill decided he would teach the boy the errors of his gambling ways. Now, P for all his big talk of massive winnings surprisingly only had a measly $1.25 in his pocket. Whereas Grayquill had a large change jar which P had seen and commented on more than once. Grayquill decided a good lesson would be to strip the boy of his little bankroll in a game of skill in pitching pennies, so that he could cure the boy of his gambling ways. The game began right there on the kitchen floor. Now being humble doesn’t always travel with wisdom. But, regardless Grayquill started out just as he intended winning little by little until poor P was down to his last nickel.
Have you ever been reeled in like an old fish? The ante had been upped to a nickel and one more good pitch was all Grayquill needed to bankrupt the proud whelp. Sadly, Grayquill lost and he lost again and again. P would let Grayquill run at the end of that hook just far enough to keep him pitching and hopeful he could recover his money and his pride. Before the evening ended and Grayquill came to his senses P’s pockets were bulging and Grayquill’s change jar near empty. P laughed and laughed and Grayquill decided it would just be better to go straight to bed and leave the arrogant hoodlum alone to count his winnings.
Now not all was lost, years have passed since that fateful night Grayquill has not attempted to straighten out any more wayward gamblers and P’s mother never once again left P alone with the brother in law. She has although on more than one occasion given a tongue lashing to Grayquill which he would say carried a pain he tries to not have repeated. Grayquill has learned it is best to not get trapped in a room alone with said mother in law unless there is a clear way of escape. D’OH

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rat attack…

Have I ever mentioned I hate rats? In fact when I think about rats and cats together, I would have to say I love cats in comparison to a rat. And, it is a proven fact I do not love cats.
“There it was again, what was that? Did you see it? I think it was a squirrel eating Cyrano’s dog food.” My curiosity getting the best of me I climbed up onto the kitchen counter and peeked down at my dog’s bowl. There is was a huge wharf rat, probably a good 4 or 5 lbs, filling his stomach.
Quietly, I tilled open the window. Eased off the counter and in just a heart beat or two I was back. My 22 cal. pistol in my hand loaded for bear – I mean rat. My selected load was two rounds of bird shot in a magnum casing. Easing back up onto the counter I peered out, nothing. The horrid creature had disappeared, it was gone. Patiently, I waited gun in hand. My bride of two years sat curiously watching me.
“You aren’t planning on shooting that are you? Have you forgotten we live in the city and that is like go to jail illegal?” Putting my finger to my lips, “Shhhh...” I attempted to hush her. I knew the legality of discharging a firearm in the city limits – do you think I cared about the law at moment like this? There was a rat eating my dog’s dog food in the back yard! Stealth, quiet and patience were required. A few minutes passed waiting. Here it came, the devil himself sneaking along on four quick legs his long creepy tail dragging and swaying behind him as he stayed in the shadows next to the foundation of my house. I waited…. closer…waited….closer…waited….took careful aim, the adrenalin was really beginning to pump. BANG!!

Dang…I only wounded it. He was heading back the way it had come, dragging its hind legs. Out the front door I went in a full sprint, barefooted. I headed around the house, grabbed my shovel as I rounded the corner and there we met. A meeting, called to order by my shovel. The adrenalin now fully engaged was affecting my aim. I swung that shove down hard totally missing the rat. He stood on its back legs hissing a horrible demonic scream at me. Again the shovel came down adjusting my aim and giving it a glancing blow. Now the fight was on. The screeching grew louder the shovel was a blur of up and down hacks as the rat move left then right. One of out of every five attempts met its target. But the rat was moving in on me. Terror gripped me as my poor unprotected bare feet were becoming vulnerable. I backed away hacking desperately. Left then right, in desperation one of my heaves stopped the attack. Again and again I hit at the rat being sure his demise was permanent.
Finally, it was over. My legs were shaking badly making it hard to walk. Leaving the rat where he lay. Weakly I hobbled back to the front door where my wife stood with an alarmed look on her face. I felt a little dizzy my whole body was shaking as the adrenalin began to subside. After several minutes to collect myself and to give a very hyper rendition of the blow by blow encounter. Shoes were now well laced and I went to bury the creepy creature. Still, not sure it was dead I poked at it with my shovel. It was indeed dead. I picked him up with my shovel. My original estimate of size was accurate. His head hung off one side and its back legs hung off the other the tail dragged the ground to where I placed him deep in the soft dirt in the far corner of the garden.
I had hunted and shot, deer, bear and mountain goat but none of them had given me such a fright as that rat. Did I happen to mention I hate rats?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Does two make a tradition?

Floating the Yakima River, fly fishing, losing an oar, sun glasses into the brink, and no fish – a new experience! Of those five I’ll let you guess what the new experience was. No! Not all five – how rude.
Exactly a year ago I was riding my bicycle into Portland finishing the Seattle to Portland bike ride – also a first for me. Hmmm…does two firsts make a tradition? No, I think three make a tradition. I need some ideas for next year. I have been accused of not having any traditions.
It is so embarrassing to not have any fish pictures...would you believe the river was just to fast for fish pictures?
Checking it Out
Taking Off

Down the River We Go

Deer Along the Way

A year ago - Finished YES! 204 miles

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Believing…Volleyball Lessons

Discouragement and fear often run together; but when risk comes along and whops them with a good blast of courage and determination, look out! Who knows what can happen.
“So how did your volleyball tryouts go?”
“Not so good I got cut, the coach said, she didn’t want to cut me but my skills just weren’t there. But, she is going to give me another chance.”
“I told her if she didn’t want to cut me that she should let me try for another day and that I was sure I could do better.”
Inside I groaned. My daughter was the master sales person but why does she always have to fight, I thought? You are fighting the inevitable. Why does she do things like this – prolonging the pain? If she couldn’t make it through the first day of cuts how did she ever think she could make it past the next day? I have had to be part of doing cuts. Those cut the first day are simple – the coaches see it and all the players see it –yes it is a day of disappointments but the second day is when the real pain comes; cutting players that really are good enough to be on the team and they know it as you cut them. I hurt for my daughter knowing what tomorrow held, the disappointment, the tears, the self doubt.
The next day I came home from work prepared to hear the worst and listen to how unfair it all was. I was already hurting because my daughter was not measuring up. I knew what that pain was like; I have had it so many times in my own life. “So how did tryouts go?”
“Dad, my coach wants you to call her, here is her phone number. She told me at practice that I couldn’t be on the team but I could come to the practices and try to get better. She told me if she could find an extra uniform I would actually get to sit on the bench at the games with the other girls but I won’t get to play.”
“Really…? Is that okay with you? You know the other girls might tease you.”
“I told my coach I would love the chance but she wants you to call her. It has to be okay with you too; is it dad? Please! I know I can get better.”
The phone call was made and my daughter’s rendition was accurate. Hanging up I felt a little pride over my daughters drive to not give up. The coach told me she had never done this before and that my daughter’s skills were very short of what was needed but that my daughter had worked harder than any of the other girls, so she wanted to give her a chance.
The practices began, soon the games were under way. Game after game my wife and I faithfully went to watch our daughter sit on the bench – way too much fun. Snorrrrrre.
Late in the season, her team was way ahead. All at once my wife jabbed me waking me from my slumber. There she was down and ready, knees bent, arms out forward, and a silly grin on her face, awaiting the serve. I have no idea if she even touched the ball that night. But, she was given playing time. Here and there for the remainder of the season she was given a little court time now and then.
That year she was given the award for most improved. The next year once again she was given the award for most improved. Her last year of high school, again tryouts were nerve racking, seniors were only allowed to play varsity. Up to this point she had been on the junior varsity team. She made it through the first day of cuts. Could she make it through the second day?
On the drive home from work the anxiety began to build in me. Maybe I should stop and buy her flowers, I thought. No, maybe she will make the team, that is negative thinking, but what if she doesn’t the flowers would be nice and maybe ease a little of the disappointment. Anxiously, I drove up my driveway almost dreading to go into the house. There she was at the kitchen table diligently doing her home work. Hmmm…the house was at peace. “So, how did tryouts go?”
A great big smile answered my question. But once again there she was sitting on the bench watching the better girls play but at least she was getting regular playing time. About half way through the season she was given a starting position and she never let go of it through the rest of the season. That year she once again was given the award for most improved but she was also given the Coaches award for her leadership and hard work. I am sure I was the proudest parent in the room. She is something special that girl. Her ability to outwork her competition has continued, she continues to go against the odds. I am very proud of her.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Yesterday, was one of those days when responsibility comes to roost, wagging its nasty head and mocking.
There she hid in her nest under a pile of criss-crossed Douglas fir, Hemlock and Cedar trees that recently we had taken down. Skinny and afraid, she would not come near us. The food we put out was gobbled down as soon as we walked a good 50 paces away. My son wanted to keep her. I remember thinking, we are feeding her and she is living in her little den under the logs, hasn’t she already moved in? Within a week she would let my son, then 9 or 10, pet her. But, I was not allowed that privilege and it was a month or two before she came up to me. One day she allowed a short scratch behind the ears but then I raise my hand to scratch me nose and she bolted away. Someone had beaten this dog, and beaten her bad. Gentleness and slow moves were required.
She became great friends with my son and where he was she would also be either watching or entering into his imaginary adventures. She traipsed along the local creek while he fished his favorite holes and often scampered into the shallows chasing a water skipper or some other moving target. On his paper route she followed him running along as he rode his bike from house to house. Customers would not only tip my son but several had doggie treats for Goldie when it came time to collect. When he went on his 5-15 mile runs she plodded along with him finding a gait that ate up the miles.
The afraid side of her kept her constantly on high alert and filled with anxiety. For fourteen years she never completely relaxed around a grown male. A common reaction of me calling her to come was she would turn and go hide in the Salal. Once I had her on leash and went to walk her into the garage. She would have none of that and put up a fight which I let her win. For her to eat her food it was placed in the open where she could see if anyone or anything approached while she ate. She would not come into the house unless a storm was blowing and limbs were falling or thunder and lightning were terrorizing her world.
Many moons have passed since that spring day when she came to find her new home. Her shyness has haunted her and she has always preferred being outside sleeping in the Salal ignoring her dog house.
The past year has been hard on Goldie, her eye sight mostly gone, her hearing greatly diminished. Days would go by and her food would go untouched. Other issues that need not be mentioned – in short old age caught up to the old girl and yesterday a trip to the vet resulted in her now being planted under a tree on a hill where she preferred resting her weary bones in hopes of picking up a few filtered sun rays from the morning sun.
She was a good dog and we will miss her.