Monday, December 30, 2013

I've taken down most of the posts on this blog that appear in my book "Hooligan from the Hills: Growing Up Ornery in Iowa's Loess Hills" now available at

Thank you and be safe.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Educated in a Small Town

In 1986 I begin my last semester of high school. Dad said high school would be the best days of my life. Not quite but darn close.

Kodak quits making instant cameras and instant film after losing a patent case to Polaroid which is why no one shakes it like a Kodak picture.

The Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions are voted NCAA Division 1A National Champions in college football. The Chicago Bears win Super Bowl XX by beating down the New England Patriots 46-10.

The first personal computer virus called "@Brain," starts to spread one infected floppy disk at a time.

Voyager 2 probes Uranus [snicker].

I still cry thinking about this: the Space Shuttle Challenger breaks apart just 73 seconds after launch. The crew of 7 astronauts which includes schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe dies in the accident.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducts its first class: Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley.

Pixar Animation Studios, a Lucasfilm offspring, opens. Its animated short of a desklamp, "Luxo Jr," becomes is its first film; the lamp is now part of the Pixar logo.

One of the coolest factory built airplanes ever built, the Beechcraft Starship, makes its maiden flight. It has poor sales (and allegedly poor flying characteristics) with only 53 being built.

The United States Senate decides to allow its debates to be televised. Woot! Woot! Long live the CSPANs.

Louisville gets the 72-69 win over Duke for the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. The Cyclones have a good season and finish 22 and 11 with an appearance in the Big Dance's Sweet 16.

Sammy Hagar takes over as lead singer for Van Halen. I still maintain this sucks.

Geraldo Rivera opens Al Capone's secret vault on live television and startles American viewers by discovering a bottle of aged moonshine.

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine (formerly part of the USSR) has an incident (fire, malfunction, meltdown if you will) which eventually kills over 4000 people. Traces of radioactive material (fallout) unique to the Chernobyl reactor have been found in nearly every country in the northern hemisphere

A guy calling himself "Captain Midnight" does the unspeakably unimaginable and interrupts the HBO satellite feed with a test pattern and the message "GOODEVENING HBO,
$12.95/MONTH ?

At least 5,000,000 people form a human chain from New York City to Long Beach, California, as part of "Hands Across America" to raise money to fight hunger and homelessness. It was supposed to be an unbroken chain of people spanning the country but someone forgot to tell much of the middle part of the U.S. that.

The movie "Platoon" wins a bunch of Oscars and introduces me to Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings," the Navy gets a recruitment boost with "Top Gun," millions yearn to visit Australia after seeing "Crocodile Dundee," rural kids believe if only for a couple hours that they can compete because of "Hoosiers," Captain Kirk proves the Vulcan High Council is wrong about time travel in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," a ragtag band of misfits on a journey seems almost cool in "Stand by Me," we learn that Mickey Roarke looks normal and Kim Bassinger is totally hot in the S&M classic "9 1/2 Weeks," and my favorite movie of all-time, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," makes everyone hum "Danke Schoen."

Ted Knight, a.k.a. Ted Baxter on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" and Judge Elihu Smails from "Caddyshack" and the narrator of "Super Friends" passes away due to cancer surgery.

Patrick Sherrill kills 14 of his co-workers at a United States Post Office in Edmond, Oklahoma before committing suicide. This is the first instance of someone going "postal."

I graduate from West Harrison Community High School. My classmates are some of the greatest friends I will ever have.

The Fox network begins broadcasting as the fourth network. Finally, some decent television, like "The Late Show with Joan Rivers." The rest of the year in television is pretty lame. Apparently I've learned all that I'm capable of learning because Schoolhouse Rock! ends this year.

The Rutan designed/built Voyager airplane piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager flies non-stop around the world in just 9 days. I still have the photographs I took of the plane and its pilots at Osh Kosh that summer before they made the record breaking trip.

The New York Mets defeat the Boston Red Sox 4 games to 3 to win the World Series but all anyone remembers is Game 6 when Bill Buckner lets an easy grounder roll between his legs.

A little story called the Iran–Contra affair breaks that makes Colonel Oliver North a patsy, his secretary a sex symbol, and slightly tarnishes the Reagan legacy.

I begin my first semester at Iowa State University. My first two weeks are spent in temporary housing (a storage room in the basement of one of the Towers, Wallace Hall). I eventually move into a room in Friley Hall in Bennett House. My Cyclones finish the football season with no bowl appearance but an ok record of 6-5.

The top pop hits of the year are a collection of songs that make me change radio stations and include Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus," Madona's "Papa Don't Preach," and Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls." The few new songs that don't repulse me are "Real Wild Child (Wild One)" by Iggy Pop, "Small Town" by John Cougar Mellencamp, Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors", and "Walk This Way" by Run DMC/Aerosmith. It's also a great year for the music video format mostly because of Peter Gabriel's "Big Time" and "Sledgehammer," Genesis' "Land of Confusion," and A-Ha's "Take on Me."

This post's title is a line from John Cougar Mellencamp's song "Small Town" which peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Be safe

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Knee Deep in the Hoop-la

I begin the second semester of my junior year in high school in 1985.

The same day President Reagan is sworn in for his second term as President the San Francisco 49ers defeat the Miami Dolphins 38 to 16 to win Super Bowl XIX. The Oklahoma Sooners are voted college football champions.

Various recording artists create the group named USA For Africa record the song "We Are the World" to raise money for African famine relief. The group is comprised of
Dan Aykroyd (Canadian, and one of the two non-US performers), Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Kim Carnes, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Sheila E., Bob Geldof (The only performer who was also a member of Band Aid and one of the two non-US performers), Hall & Oates (Daryl Hall and John Oates), James Ingram, Jackie Jackson, LaToya Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Michael Jackson, Randy Jackson, Tito Jackson, Al Jarreau, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis and the News (Sean Hopper, Bill Gibson, Johnny Colla, Mario Cipollina, and Chris Hayes), Kenny Loggins, Bette Midler, Willie Nelson, Jeffrey Osborne, David Paich (from Toto), Steve Perry, The Pointer Sisters (Anita, Ruth, and Joan Pointer), Steve Porcaro (from Toto), Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder

I am on annual staff and snapping dozens of photos with the school's Canon AE-1 cameras, developing many of them myself in the school's darkroom. Minolta releases world's first autofocus single-lens reflex camera but it is way too expensive for me.

Mikhail Gorbachev becomes General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party and of the leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
More important though is the day after my 17th birthday WrestleMania debuts at Madison Square Garden.

Villanova beats Georgetown 66 to 64 to win NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. My Cyclones were in the newly expanded 64 team dance, losing a first round game to Ohio State but finishing the season with a 21-13 record.

The world is riveted by a series of astonishing events that occur in just a few short weeks: David Lee Roth leaves Van Halen, the United Kingdom celebrates its first national Glow-worm Day, and Coca-Cola changes its secret formula and debuts New Coke. (a drink I liked at the time but it was changed back in less than 3 months.)

I have to get my kicks somewhere else when the feds officially decommission U.S. Route 66.

Live Aid concerts are held in London and Philadelphia to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. Over $283.6 million was raised. I listened to much of it on my Walkman's radio while hoeing beans with my Uncle Duane. A Led Zeppelin reunion was the highlight for me.

Commodore releases the successor to the Commodore 64, the Amiga personal computer.

The Los Angeles Lakers win the NBA finals 4 games to 2 over the Boston Celtics.

The wreck of R.M.S. Titanic is located.

The first Farm Aid concert organized by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young, is held in Champaign, Illinois to draw attention to family farm foreclosures. Dad has already given up farming and takes Mom, Chellee, and Tony to Arizona to start his new career in aviation.

Great Scot! It's another awesome year for film with several movies released that I still watch over and over now: "Back to the Future," "Silverado," "Teen Wolf," "Weird Science," "Better Off Dead," "Brazil," "Fletch," "Pee-wee's Big Adventure," "The Jewel of the Nile," and "The Goonies."

The Kansas City Royals defeat the St. Louis Cardinals 4 games to 3 to win the World Series.

The greatest comic strip ever to be published, "Calvin and Hobbes," first appears in 35 newspapers.

Microsoft Corporation releases Windows, Windows 1.0. An equally frustrating computer program called "Tetris" is released.

Ford unveils the Taurus. Yawn.

The grownups of Sesame Street finally meet Big Bird's "make believe" friend Aloysius Snuffleupagus. America is tickled to meet Elmo. On network tv some dude named MacGyver makes his debut.

Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, and Tina Turner had a big year with multiple hits but the big story in music was the USA for Africa song "We Are the World."

Iowa State comes up short on bowl eligibility [again] and finish with a 5-6 record.

I start my senior year of high school. I am driving the Beast full time now.

This post's title is the name of an album and a line from the song "We Built This City" performed by the pop group Starship. The song hit number 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1985.

Be safe.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Don't Leave Me Hangin' On Like a Yo-yo

My second semester as a sophomore begins with the stinkin' Raiders win Super Bowl XVIII by beating the Redskins 38 to 9. BYU is the college football "champions."

With Orwellian fanfare the Apple Macintosh is unveiled. The Apple Lisa becomes a memory but clicking a mouse lives on. Everyone asks "Where's the Beef!?"

Michael Jackson scorches his head while filming a Pepsi commercial. Hee Heee heeeee [ouch]

The weeks before and after my birthday pass uncharacteristically uneventfully.

I get my drivers license in May and for the first time in 6-ish years I drive the roads completely legal. I get my first speeding ticket four months later while visiting my friend, John Reisz, in Harlan.

Georgetown featuring Patrick Ewing takes the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship by beating Akeem Olajuwon and the rest of the Houston team 84 to 75. My Clones finish 16-13 which includes a NIT first round loss to Marquette.

A year of firsts in space exploration: Challenger becomes the first space shuttle to land at the Kennedy Space Center, Bruce McCandless II and Robert L. Stewart become the first astronauts to perform an untethered space walk, Cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya exits Salyut 7and becomes the first woman to do a spacewalk, the Space Shuttle Discovery launches for the first time, and the movie "The Right Stuff" wins several Oscars.

The gorgeous Vanessa Williams has to relinquish her Miss America crown for being overly photogenic. I am still infatuated with her regardless of what photos are published.

The Sarajevo Winter Olympics are held. The U.S. finished 3rd in the medal count behind the East Germans and the Soviet Union.

The Las Angeles Summer Olympics are held. The Rooskies boycott the games in response to the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Games. Without the commies playing the U.S. easily wins the medal count.

Crack cocaine makes its debut in L.A.

The Brits agree to give Hong Kong back to China (but not until 1997).

"Night Court," "Transformers," "The Cosby Show," "Miami Vice," and "Who's the Boss?" all premiere. "Jeopardy!" featuring new host Alex Trebek starts its new run in syndication. The first MTV Video Music Awards are held (this used to be the best awards show on the TV). The Cars' "You Might Think" wins Video Of The Year. Madonna's performance of "Like a [something she most definitely wasn't]" got most of the attention.

The Provisional Irish Republican Army fails in an attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Thatcher.

The Detroit Tigers beat the San Diego Padres four games to one to win the World Series.

Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, is assassinated by two of her own security guards.

A group of British musicians get together and record "Do They Know It's Christmas?" to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief. The group goes by the name Band Aid:
Adam Clayton (U2), Phil Collins (Genesis), Bob Geldof (The Boomtown Rats, subsequently USA for Africa), Steve Norman (Spandau Ballet), Chris Williams (Iron Static Overdrive), Chris Cross (Ultravox), John Taylor (Duran Duran), Paul Young, Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet), Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17), Simon Le Bon (Duran Duran), Simon Crowe (The Boomtown Rats), Marilyn, Keren Woodward (Bananarama), Martin Kemp (Spandau Ballet), Jody Watley (Shalamar), Bono (U2), Paul Weller (The Style Council, and previously The Jam), James "J.T." Taylor (Kool & The Gang), George Michael (Wham!), Midge Ure (Ultravox), Martyn Ware (Heaven 17), John Keeble (Spandau Ballet), Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet), Roger Taylor (Duran Duran), Sara Dallin (Bananarama), Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama), Sting (The Police), Pete Briquette (The Boomtown Rats), Francis Rossi (Status Quo), Robert 'Kool' Bell (Kool & the Gang), Dennis Thomas (Kool & the Gang), Andy Taylor (Duran Duran), Jon Moss (Culture Club), Rick Parfitt (Status Quo), Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran), Johnny Fingers (The Boomtown Rats), David Bowie (contributed via a recording that was dubbed onto the single), Boy George (Culture Club), Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes to Hollywood), Sonny Garner (The Lamplighters), Paul McCartney (who contributed via a recording that was dubbed onto the single), Stuart Adamson (Big Country), Bruce Watson (Big Country), Tony Butler (Big Country), Mark Brzezicki (Big Country), Jools Holland (Squeeze)

Tipper Gore thinks pop music is filled with filth and creates the Parents Music Resource Center as a knee-jerk reaction.

My Cyclones don't qualify for a bowl game again and finish their football season a disappointing 2-7-2.

Union Carbide ruins the Christmas in Bhopal, India when its pesticide plant leaks methyl isocyanate gas which eventually killed between 2269 and 23000 depending on whose estimate you see.

Bernhard Goetz defends himself on a New York subway by shooting four youths who attempted to mug him.

An otherwise banner year of films including Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, Footloose, and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, is marred by the casting of Kate Capshaw in Indiana Jones and the (lame) Temple of Doom.

The top single in pop music is Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You." Number Two is Elmo and Patsy's "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer."

Big Brother never materialized into the menace that was projected so 1984 was an ok year for me.

This post's title is a line from the number one song "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" performed by the chick magnets also known as Wham!.

Be safe

No Serenade, No Fire Brigade, Just Pyromania

I begin the second semester of my freshman year in 1983.

The Washington Redskins win Super Bowl XVII by beating the Miami Dolphins 27-17

The Miami Hurricanes win their first national championship by showing Dr. Tom and his Nebraska team that going for 2 in a 31-30 Orange Bowl game may not be the best decision.

Numbers nerds rejoice as the greatest spreadsheet program that will ever be developed, Lotus 1-2-3, is released for IBM-PC compatible computers.

I get my School Permit which means I can drive myself to and from school and school events only. A black Ford Courier pick-up becomes my mode of transportation. I didn’t follow the “myself” part too strictly. Or, the “school events only” part either.

The final episode of M*A*S*H is aired and sets a record for the most watched episode ever. To fill the void left by this landmark series, "The A-Team" debuts.

IBM releases it’s latest and greatest personal computer, the IBM PC XT: 128kB RAM, 360kB double-sided 5.25" floppy disk drive, 10MB hard drive, eight 8-bit ISA expansion slots, and an Intel 8088 microprocessor running at 4.77 MHz (with a socket for an 8087 math coprocessor). Oooooh yeeeaaaahhh.

North Carolina State beats Houston 54-52 to win the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament. My Cyclones finished 13-15 with no post season appearance.

Nancy Reagan tells Arnold what she's talkin' 'bout when she encourages him to "Just say 'no'" on the television series "Different Strokes." Those kids shoulda listened to her.

A week before my birthday President Reagan outlines his Strategic Defense Initiative: a proposal to develop missile intercepting capability to shield the U.S. from ballistic missile attacks. The plan becomes known as "Star Wars".

Pioneer 10 passed Neptune and becomes the first man-made object to leave our planetary solar system. Sally Ride rides the Space Shuttle Challenger through the glass ceiling and becomes the first American woman in space.

The beautiful Vanessa Williams is crowned Miss America, in Atlantic City, New Jersey (more on this next year).

The rock group Kiss appears sans makeup on MTV. Even though I only saw photos of this I still thought at the time it was a bad decision.

The 17th General Conference on Weights and Measures defined the “metre” as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second. No new definition of the inch, foot, or yard was agreed upon.

President Ronald Reagan signs a bill designating the third Monday of every January Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Interior Secretary James Watt opts for Wayne Newton instead of the Beach Boys to perform at the Fourth of July festivities in Washington, D.C. because “rock bands” attract "the wrong element."

The Baltimore Orioles win the World Series 4 games to 1 over the Philadelphia Phillies.

A new animated infomercial called "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" premiers in syndication. Animation is set back decades but toy sales explode.

The hit of the NBC “Motown 25 Special” is by Michael Jackson, who unveils the moonwalk dance move in a performance of the top pop song of 1983, “Billie Jean.”

Those of us without access to cable television or an easily foiled satellite dish had to rely on “Friday Night Videos” which premiered on NBC to fulfill our music video needs.

Quiet Riot's very lame “Metal Health” album becomes the first heavy metal album to hit #1 in the United States solidifying the Hair Band as main stream/commercial. Later in the year, Michael's 14-minute music video for “Thriller” premiers on MTV. Uncle Bruce provides some of the voiceover.

Soviet officials mistake the NATO exercise “Able Archer 83” for an actual nuclear first strike, creating a nuclear scare. This is a timely promo for the made-for-television movie “The Day After,” which depicts the days immediately after the start of a nuclear war. (filmed in my current hometown of Lawrence, Kansas).

McDonald's introduces the McNugget. Parts is parts.

My Iowa State football team finishes their season 4-7 with no bowl appearance. Again.

Chrysler starts production of the Dodge Caravan which is dubbed a “minivan.” This in turn leads to the “Soccer Mom” which will eventually evolve into the “MILF.”

Several movies are released which I still watch even today: “Return of the Jedi,” “National Lampoon's Vacation,” “Trading Places,” “WarGames,” and “Risky Business.” Some of the girls in school also thought a little film called “Flashdance” was good, too.

All in all 1983 was just another year for me.

This post’s title is a line from the Top 20 hit "Rock of Ages" recorded by Def Leppard

Be safe.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Oh, you don't know me but you make me so happy

1982 starts on a Friday. I begin my second semester of 8th grade at the Modale campus of West Harrison Community Schools.

The San Francisco 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bungles 26 to 21 in Super Bowl XVI. The Clemson Tigers beat the Cornhumpers in the Orange Bowl and are crowned (voted) champs of the '81 season.

Ozzy Osbourne dined on a bat head at the Barn in Des Moines. Blues Brother John Belushi died from a drug overdose thus beginning the curse of the fat SNL guy. Hall & Oates, Men at Work, Toni Basil, and Lionel Richie all have number 1 hits. It is not a good year for music.

Michael Jordon's Tarheels beats Patrick Ewing's Hoyas 63 to 62 to win the 1982 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. My Clones had a 10 and 17 season and were not part of the Madness. Oh, and the Lakers were NBA champs in the pro version of basketball.

I have my 14th birthday. Three days later Argentina invades the Falkland Islands starting the Falklands "War." A few weeks later I get my learner's permit to drive (legally). Coincidence? I think not.

Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken, Jr. plays game number 1 of what would end as record-breaking 2632 consecutive baseball games.

Laura Hougen and I deliver speeches at our 8th Grade Promotion ceremony. Mom told me to remove the line "memories we will never forget" because it's redundant. Laura starts her speech with the riddle "How do you catch a unique rabbit? Unique up on it." Both are memories I have never forgotten.

Chicks and babes across the United States despair as the pane of glass over their heads is reinforced when the proposed Constitutional Amendment to guarantee "equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex" fails to get ratification.

"Poltergeist" reinforced my loathing of clowns. "E.T." made me try Reece's Pieces (don't know that I've bought them since). Mr. T becomes the best adversary ever in a Sly Stallone movie. And, best of all, Ricardo Montalbán proves there is such a thing as a good Star Trek movie and a sequel better than an original. To this day I have never seen "Porky's" from start to finish though I understand it is very popular with teen-aged boys.

Lawrence Richard "Lawnchair Larry" Walters realized a childhood dream when he tied a bunch of balloons to his lawn-chair and floated across California at 15,000 feet above the ground. He disrupted flights into LAX and caused a power outage in Los Angeles before being arrested. He committed suicide eleven years later.

Johnny Gosch is abducted while delivering newspapers in West Des Moines, Iowa. He is never found. His case helps spur the creation of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

The Cardinals need seven games to take the World Series from the Brewers. That summer I played Cub A ball for Mondamin and Junior Varsity ball for the high school. In a JV game against East Monona I hit a towering flyball that hit the right field fence - the closest I would ever come to a dinger in any league.

"Family Ties," "Newhart," and "Cheers" premier on the boobtube. Unfortunately, so do "T.J. Hooker" and "Knight Rider." Alex P. Keaton is still one of my heroes. So is Cliff Clavin.

Cal Bears player Kevin Moen stiff-arms two Stanford flautists and a trombone player before scoring a game winning touchdown. The penalty for having too many band members on the field is declined. UC-Berkely 25, Stanford 20. In Coach Donnie Duncan's last season at ISU my Cyclones stumble to a 4-6-1 record. Surely new coach, Jim Criner, will do better.

In the Fall I start my freshman year of high school. The Class of '83 did not haze us nearly as badly as we were led to believe they would.

Our classmate, Kenneth Duane "Tobi" Neill passes away on a cold, gray day in November. I was in the lunch room/locker room when the announcement came over the school public address speakers just minutes after someone told me it was just a rumor and that he was fine.

1982 really wasn't that great of a year.

This post's title is a lyric from Tommy Tutone's "867-5309(Jenny)" which hit number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1982.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Flying away on a wing and a prayer - Who could it be? Believe it or not it's just me

1981 ushers in a new decade and my second semester of 7th Grade - long live the 80's.

Ronald Reagan takes over from single termer Jimmy Carter. Just minutes after he takes the Oath of Office, Iran releases the 52 Americans it has held hostage for 444 days.

Time travel is one step closer to reality as the first DeLorean rolls of the production line. However, my dream car at this time is a Chevy Luv pick-up truck.

The stinkin' Raiders beats the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 to win Super Bowl XV.

President Reagan, police officer Thomas Delahanty, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy, Press Secretary James Brady are victims of a failed assassination attempt the day I celebrate my 13th birthday. The Academy Awards broadcast is postponed to the following day.

Indiana beats North Carolina 63 to 50 to win the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship. Indiana Jones is introduced to the world. My Cyclones conclude their first basketball season under Johnny Orr with a 9-18 record.

Space Shuttle Columbia blasts off for the first space shuttle mission. A few months later it flies a second mission. I just know I will be able to vacation on the moon soon.

Pope John Paul II is the victim of a failed assassination attack in St. Peter's Square. Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt, is assassinated in Cairo while attending a parade.

A musical tragedy in the name of Stars on 45 tops charts with its self titled medley single causing wedding DJs to rejoice. Rick Springfield he sucks at both music and acting but the girls seem to think he's dreamy. Dolly Parton, John Lennon, and Hall & Oates all have number one songs on the Billboard Hot 100 proving that kids' tastes are unpredictable and are often poor.

Five men in Los Angeles are subjects of a CDC report about a very rare type of pneumonia that occurs in people with weak immune systems. They are the first identified cases of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

There is a 49 day work stoppage in Major League Baseball. This strike actually helped my subpar Royals make the post (shortened) season. The Dodgers when a hollow World Series by beating the Skankees four games to two.

A suspended walkway at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City collapses killing 114 people and injuring a couple hundred more. My Uncle Bob and Aunt Mildred were staying there that weekend but were not in the building when collapse occurred. This disaster is discussed in many of my engineering courses and seminars and serves as a lesson on the importance of design, constructibility, shop drawing review, and field modifications.

At 00:01 a.m. on August 1, the Buggles song "Video Killed the Radio Star" becomes the first music video played on the new cable television network MTV. Good luck seeing a video on that channel now. Diana marrying Prince Charles (British royalty) and Laura marrying Luke (characters on the soap opera "General Hospital") break television ratings records. "The Hill Street Blues" and "The Greatest American Hero" premier. My "Be safe" is inspired by "Let's be careful out there."

Air-traffic controllers go on strike despite having taken an oath when they were hired that they would not. Flights were cut by 50% due to the reduced staff of the control system. President Reagan fires most of them two days later.

I enter the 8th grade and my last year of school at the Modale campus. I see the movie "Chariots of Fire" with my girlfriend and her family. To this day I still can't tell those runners apart but I don't lose any sleep over it. "Stripes" is a much better movie but I don't get to see it for another two years.

The Cyclone football team ends it 1981 season with a 5-5-1 record and no bowl game. The tie with Oklahoma slips them down to the Sun Bowl.

1981 was an average year for me.

This post's title is a line from the "Theme from The Greatest American Hero (Believe It or Not)" performed by Joey Scarbury which reached number two on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1981.

Be safe.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Our life together is so precious together

1980 starts with the Pittsburgh Steelers winning Super Bowl XIV by beating the Los Angeles Rams 31–19. They are the first NFL franchise to win 4 Super Bowls. A miracle occurs on ice when the United States Olympic Hockey Team defeats the Soviet Union in the semifinals of the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. President Jimmy Carter celebrates these achievements by announcing the United States will boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

I'm in my last semester of sixth grade at the Modale campus. There is a struggle to decide how we would handle junior high next year because the building has accessibility issues. It is decided to move the junior high classrooms down to the first floor the following school year.

U.S. President Jimmy Carter devastates rural farm life by starting a grain embargo against the USSR. But, K cars become plentiful when the Peanuthead signs legislation approving $1.5 billion in loan guarantees to bail out the Chrysler Corporation.

The Cyclone mens basketball team finish the 79-80 season with an 11-16 record. NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship Tournament concludes with Louisville winning 59-54 over UCLA.

The Commander-in-chief orders the go-ahead for Operation Eagle Claw, a commando mission in Iran which ends in tragedy.

"Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back" is released. It is freaking awesome. "Airplane!" hits the theaters. It is freaking hysterical. "The Blues Brothers" take to the big screen. It is freaking genius. Pac Man debuts. It is freaking high tech. CNN launches. It is freaking boring (but would later be out-bored by CSPAN).

President Carter reinstitutes the requirement for 18- to 25-year-old males to register for the draft. Based on his military history I become nervous.

John Bonham, drummer extraordinaire of Led Zeppelin dies of alcohol poisoning. Led Zeppelin disbands.

The Philadelphia Phillies beat the Kansas City Royals 4–2 to win the world series. I think I played little league ball in Pisgah that summer. Bryce Jester's dad taught a few tips on pitching that made me not bean as many batters.

Ronald Reagan wins the presidential election. Better times are in the near future.

J.R.'s assailant is revealed be Kristin and this time it isn't a dream.

The Cyclone football team finishes 6-5 (one of the five losses later forfeited by the cheating Kansas Jayhawks).

I started junior high that fall. My first class was the same room in which I had spent my fourth grade year. We didn't know it at the time but junior high on the first floor of the Modale elementary building made us better people.

John Lennon is murdered, ironically by a former LSD user. I think at the time that this seals it; the Beatles reunion that Connie and I always wished for would not happen. 30 years later I've decided that Yoko may be a no-talent nutcase but it was always the arrogant prick Sir Paul who is the problem.

To me 1980 was a tumultuous year.

This post's title is the opening lyric from "(Just Like) Starting Over" by John Lennon which was #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1980.

Be safe

Friday, April 09, 2010

Gun it coming off of the line

1979 starts with the Pittsburgh Steelers defeating the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII, 35–31.

It's the last half of my fifth grade year. Once a week I have saxophone lessons with Mr. Scharff whom I frustrate greatly with my better than average ability to sight read music but my lower than average effort to ever practice. I usually walk to Grandma D's house after practice by heading northeast from school, through the park, over the railroad tracks (smashing pennies on occasion), past Danya's aunt's house, through the Beebe's back yard (always saying 'hi' to Mr. and Mrs. Beebe), and on to Grandma's house. I opened her garage door by standing on my sax case and hitting the hidden button at the top of the garage door frame.

Long standing tradition is turned upside down when New Orleans cancels Mardi Gras due to a police strike. And, Iran falls to religious extremists.

The Space Shuttle Columbia arrives in Florida. A cheap 8-track to cassette converter eats several of my Columbia House tapes. The Philips company later unveils a thing called a "compact disc."

The day before my eleventh birthday there is an "incident" at a nuclear power plant on Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania - a bit of unfortunate timing since the preposterous film The China Syndrome debuted a week earlier (not to be confused with The Pepsi Syndrome which tracked much closer to actual events at TMI).

Michigan State beats Indiana State 75-64 in the NCAA Division I Mens Basketball Championship. The 'Clones are back below .500 and finish with an 11-16 record.

The family and I move to the hills outside Mondamin. We are now walking distance from Grandpa and Grandma Maule. Though 10 miles further from the elementary school in Modale, the bus ride still takes the same amount of time (about an hour).

Great Britain elects a real leader, Margaret Thatcher. President Jimmy Carter is nearly taken down by a rabid swamp bunny.

Disco comes to a dubious end when 90,000 music lovers show up at a baseball game at Comiskey Park to bring their unwanted disco records to be "blown up" (though I'm not a fan of the genre I personally don't believe in the wanton destruction of artistic works). The White Sox end up forfeiting the game to the Tigers. Disco and techno pop still dominate the charts. Later in the year the Pirates (led by Wilver Stargell) beat the Orioles four games to three to win the World Series.

I'm playing Cub B baseball now with guys from both Modale and Mondamin. I think this is the year that I take the Beast (the 74 Chevy Blazer) and drive half the team from Modale to Woodbine and back for a baseball game. No one asks how we got to the game.

The Dukes of Hazzard, Real People, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century are all new shows on the tv. Yawn. Australian Rules Football enthusiasts are elated when the Entertainment Sports Programming Network takes to the cablewaves. Da da daa, da da daaa.

Eleven people are trampled to death at The Who concert in Cincinnati. Hostages are taken at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. McDonalds starts offering a new meal combo aimed at children called the Happy Meal. I have attended several concerts that had general admission seating but I can't recall ever having a Happy Meal.

I start sixth grade in the Modale campus. Most of the girls in the class no longer have cooties.

It's a space movie year with Alien, Moonraker, Star Trek: The Motion Picture coming out. We stood in line at the Indian Hills theater in Omaha to see ST:TMP. I was underwhelmed by the story.

The 70's are closed out with the Iowa State football team having a dreadful year under coach Donnie Duncan ending the year with a 3-8 record.

1979 was at best a fair year.

This post's title is from the song "My Sharona" by the Knack which reached number one in 1979 on Billboard's Hot 100.

Be safe

Monday, March 15, 2010

I found the simple life ain't so simple

1978 seems to be a year of serial nut-jobs. Son of Sam, Unibomber, Vampire of Sacramento, Ted Bundy, "Rev." Jim Jones, and "Killer Clown" Gacy all soil the headlines at one time or another.

The year started with the Dallas Cowboys playing (beating) the Denver Broncos in the Louisiana Superdome. It's the first time the Superbowl is played in a domed stadium.

Too many trips to the high altitude of Yellowstone Park hauling 6 snowmobiles and assorted tools and luggage did in the 350cid engine in the family Blazer. It is now running with 454cid big block and gets less than 10 mpg even on good days. Luckily the gas tank holds over 36 gallons.

I left single digits and turned 10 without any major disaster striking the world but instead by having minor surgery later that spring. I built a Lego Moon Lander (Kit # 565) during recuperation.

Kentucky wins the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament by beating Duke 94-88. My Cyclones finished the year 14-13; over .500 for the first time in four years.

That summer Dad put me at the wheel of my Uncle Duane's blue Ford pickup and had me pull a trailer of irrigation pipe (40' long/ 8" diameter aluminum) while they unloaded the pipe link by link. Chellee sat in the box of the truck and tossed out pipe clamps near each pipe. Later that same summer they taught me how to drive a Farmall M tractor for the same purpose. It wouldn't be much longer before my driving skills would take me out of the farm fields and onto the back-roads of Harrison County.

I played short stop in Pee Wee baseball and was really liking the game even though we didn't seem to win very often. The Skankees beat the Dodgers four games to two to win the World Series.

Part of my summer was spent taking saxophone lessons from Chris Cosgrove. The guy was a musical genius. The music book from which he chose to teach was a colossal bore.

Although Mork & Mindy would showcase the A.D.D. talents of previously little known Robin Williams, to me and my pre-adolescent peers the most important debut of the television season was about radio: WKRP in Cincinnati. “All right, Cincinnati, it's time for this town to get down! You've got Johnny - Doctor Johnny Fever, and I am burnin' up in here - Whoah! We all in critical condition, babies, but you can tell me where it hurts, cuz I got the healing prescription here from the big KRP musical medicine cabinet. Now I am talking about your 50,000 watts intensive care unit, babies! So just sit right back now, relax! Open your ears real wide and say, 'Give it to me straight, Doctor, I can take it!' Oh, I almost forgot, fellow babies... BOOGER!!!"

Coincidentally, radio is nearly unlistenable. Disco still taints the airways with occasional lapses of music from "Grease" and the smooth sounds of Barry Manilow (Fanilow anyone?). Thank the wax cylinder for Van Halen's debut.

My Fifth Grade year at the Modale campus started with two new instructors. Mr. VanPelt was the new classroom teacher and, thanks to the colored pencil styling of Mac, Paul F., and me, a comic book superhero. Mr. Scharff became the new elementary/junior high band instructor for both Modale and Pisgah campuses and would quickly change me from an alto saxophone to the baritone sax (which was about as tall as me at that time). I wish I had a bari sax now.

The Cyclone football team finishes its season with a Hall of Fame Bowl loss bringing its record to 8-4.

1978 was an ok year for me.

This post's title is from Van Halen's song "Runnin' with the Devil" which peaked at #84 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Be safe.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

1977 started with big disappointments. The hated Raiders won Super Bowl XI 32-14 over the Vikings. Later that month Jimmy Carter was sworn in (not at yet) as our country's president.

I start my second semester of third grade. Mrs. Carrier has us doing multiplication races at the chalkboard. "Doing the fives" meant writing "5x1=5, 5x2=10, 5x3=15" all the way to "5x12=60." These races were a nerd's dream competition. We learned all our multiples up to twelve - I don't know why.

Marquette beats North Carolina 67-59 in the NCAA Division I Mens Basketball tournament. My Clones finish another disappointing season with an 8-19 record.

Three days before my ninth birthday two Boeing 747's crash into each other at a foggy airport in Tenerife, Canary Islands. 583 people are killed. This accident is one of the reasons I do what I do.

That summer I finally get to play Pee Wee baseball. Dad took me to the sporting goods store in Blair, Nebraska to buy my first glove which was not easy since despite writing with my right hand most of the time, I am really a south paw. The light tan dirt infield of the Modale ball field was like concrete. Since we were little kids the outfielders played on the outer edge of the hardpacked infield, too. Richard Powell was our coach even though his own son wasn't on the team. I don't think I ever heard him yell. Vern Gute was the assistant coach. I once nearly took his noggin off with a line drive that surprised us both. Striking out looking or letting a grounder through your legs were transgressions that paled in comparison to the worst thing you could do: backwash into the team water jug (something I don't believe anyone did but we all accused each other of). In other baseball news Reggie Jackson earns the nickname "Mr. October" as the Skankees beat the Dodgers four games to two in the World Series.

In the fall I started the fourth grade. Mrs. Strain is taking touchy-feely classes which she uses on us to make us feel better about ourselves and not so critical of others. We repay her for the flower child education by setting the classroom clock ahead 15 minutes.

"Saturday Night Fever" is a monster hit both on the screen and on the radio fueling the misguided disco revolution despite Kiss being the most popular band in the nation. Further saddening the music world is the alleged death of Elvis and the plane crash that killed half of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The pretty little red headed girl in my life moved away to New Mexico. We had talked for several years about the chances the Beatles would reform. I stopped caring about the Fab Four after she left. The baby-sitter who replaced her had brown hair and cute freckles.

"CHiPs," "Wonder Woman," "Charlie's Angels," "Starsky & Hutch," "Three's Company" - all fine shows for the small screen. But, the real entertainment that year was the life changing film "Star Wars." It was the greatest thing I had ever seen and remains to this day one my favorite movies along with another George Lucas film, "American Graffiti." This was the first film I ever wanted to see in the theater a second time. And, a third time. And, a fourth. Don Juan was an even bigger fan than I. Later in life I would buy this movie on VHS tape. And again as the remaster version on VHS. Then on Laser Disc to get full surround sound. And on DVD for better picture quality. Then another copy on DVD to get back to the original film without CGI "corrections" (Solo shoots first). I am waiting for it to be released on Bluray. Someday I hope to have it on holocube...

1977 was a great year for me.

This post's title is from the opening of Star Wars, the highest grossing film in 1977.

Be safe.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Any way the wind blows

The Bicentennial celebration begins in earnest with the Steelers beating "America's Team" 21-17 in Superbowl X. Unfortunately it is also a presidential campaign year. The Pitt Panthers are elected #1 in college football.

My teacher traded in her Miss Levine moniker for Mrs. Walker. Politics isn't part of Mrs. Walker's lesson plan. I am frustrated because the kids in the 8th grade get to follow the presidential race, complete with campaigning. Some make signs that say "You'll be bored if you vote for Ford" and "You'll be smarter if you vote for Carter." It would be a couple of years before we find out how wrong they were.

It's a banner year in the world of computing. Seymour Cray builds his first supercomputer, the Cray-1, operating at an unheard of 138 million operations per second. Two days after my 8th birthday some dweebs named Jobs and Wozniak start a company named for a fruit. IBM releases its first laser printer. A white shirt is ruined by a toner spill the following week.

New York Nets defeat Denver Nuggets 4 games to 2 to take the American Basketball Association championship. The ABA is then absorbed by the National Basketball Association taking professional basketball one step closer to professional rassling status. My Cyclones also approach similar absurdity with a school history worst mens basketball record of 3-24.

Disco is polluting popular music. A new low is reached when a southern disc jockey records a joke of a song called "Disco Duck" and it becomes a hit. Also very popular is trucker music with C.W. McCall's "Convoy" hitting #1 for a week. Of course, we remember him better as the narrator of the Old Home Bread commercials. Everybody I know has a citizen's band radio installed in their vehicle and has adopted some ridiculous "handle." I am Little Blue, good buddy.

The first space shuttle is renamed Enterprise due to a lot of us vocal, nerdy kids demanding it. It is rolled out for the first time and makes a few test glides but never makes it into space. I am entranced. I am certain that I will be in space by the magical year of 2001.

Rick Monday, an outfielder for the Cubs, saves a U.S. flag from being burned by two a-holes at a baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Neither the Cubs nor the Dodgers make it to the world series (won by the Reds in a sweep over the Skankees).

Prime time television is still dominated by police and detective dramas and music variety shows. The best movie of the year was about a not too bright boxer whose most memorable line is "Adrian." When people (including my favorite hygienist) ask why I don't like dentists I always respond "is it safe?" - it's my way too subtle tribute to "Marathon Man."

In the fall I started third grade at the Modale campus. Our teacher was Mrs. Carrier who was frequently preoccupied by her husband's illness. She still strengthened my love of math by teaching us multiplication and division and also read to our class most of the Boxcar Children series of books.

1976 was a pretty benign year for me.

This post's title is a lyric from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" which reached #9 on the Billboard charts in 1976.

Be safe.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Come in here, Dear boy, have a cigar, you're gonna go far

Terrorism, political corruption, kidnapping, and the worst blizzard ever recorded started my 1975. The Steel Curtain of the Pittsburgh Steelers throttled the the Minnesota Vikings Purple People Eaters giving the Steelers the 16-6 win in Super Bowl IX. I wasn't paying attention; we had four feet tall snow drifts all around the house and Mom had tacked blankets over doorways in our house to help keep the rooms warm. Mom and Dad were concerned the propane tank fed our furnace would empty before the roads were clear enough to get a refill.

Just days before my 7th birthday The Who premiered their musical film "Tommy" in London - I wouldn't see it for another 15 years. UCLA won the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament by beating Kentucky 92-85 in a newly expanded 32 team field. My Clones were 10-16 and did not participate in the Madness. Some nerd (a term I recently learned from the Fonz) named Bill Gates founded a company called Microsoft.

Jimmy Hoffa was reported missing and seemed to take up a lot of news time though I didn't really understand why. Coincidentally, Giants stadium is under construction at the time.

I still struggle to remember why but my last semester of 1st Grade was not a happy one and all incations point to a personality conflict I had with our teacher, Mrs. Ulmer.

Muhammad Ali defeated Joe Frazier in the Thrilla in Manila but since I'm no boxing fan this didn't register with me. "Space: 1999" was an awesome new tv show that (in the Omaha market) ran inexplicably on Saturday afternoons instead of primetime. Chuckles the Clown died on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" which made me laugh almost as hard as the siamese elephant ad-lib on "The Carol Burnett Show" (yes, I am that warped). More importantly, my favorite show during Summer mornings and sick days "The Price is Right" changed from being 30 minutes long to its current hour long format.

I started 2nd Grade and took an instant liking to the newly hired teacher, Miss Levine. So much so that I demanded (and got) an invitation to her wedding. I did not get to attend due to prior committments (my Mom cut a deal with Miss Levine that if she gave me an invitation we would NOT show up and ruin her family-only ceremony). I still have the invitation.

The Reds defeat the Red Sox four games to three to win the World Series, a series Charlie Hustle probably didn't have more than a rooting interest in. The Kentucky Colonels defeated Indiana Pacers to claim the ABA championship. My mind was on tennis that year, though. My Uncle Jim got a home version of Pong, the greatest, most entertaining video game ever invented.

The Sweet's "Fox on the Run" was a number one hit, as was the all too catchy "That's the Way (I Like It)" by KC & the Sunshine Band but the real moment in music was the Bee Gees making an unfortunate career change and starting to make music in the fledgling "disco" style.

The American Freedom Train stopped in Omaha and I got to tour 10 train cars filled with "precious treasures of Americana." Although there were items such as George Washington's copy of the Constitution, the original Louisiana Purchase, and a rock from the moon, what I remember seeing was Dorothy's dress and THE ruby slippers.

Despite the turmoil throughout the world, 1975 was an OK year for me.

The title of this post is the opening lyrics from Pink Floyd's song "Have a Cigar" which was on the album "Wish You Were Here" released in 1975.

Be safe.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The History Book on the Shelf Is Always Repeating Itself

1974 started with a whimper. The OPEC countries were still being stingy with their oil and gasoline prices were ridiculously expensive. I remember riding with Grandpa Maule in his aircraft carrier sized Lincoln Continental (white with a brown vinyl roof) around Council Bluffs and Omaha trying to find a gas station with gas for less than $0.50 a gallon. I don't remember seeing lines at any gas station like I saw happening on television at other places in the country.

Larry Csonka carried the Dolphins to another win at Superbowl VIII, a game I'm sure I didn't see because Dad didn't start watching football until the late '80s. I started the second semester (third quarter) of Kindergarten and was thinking I kinda liked the school thing. I didn't like singing even though Miss Allen (later to be Mrs. Zahner) played a mean piano.

The Wolfpack of North Carolina State won the first official Division 1 Basketball Championship just five days before my sixth birthday. The first women's varsity basketball team took the court at my Iowa State University and finished the season with an 8-8 record. My interests at that time were more of a kickball variety.

Stephen King was published for the first time with his novel titled "Carrie," one of the few King books I haven't read - I was engrossed in "A Duck is a Duck" at the time. The New York Nets took the ABA Post Season Championship.

I bought my first Lego kit (Set #420, "Police Car") at the Sears Toy Department at the Crossroads Shopping Mall in Omaha - this store had the best selection of toys at that time. It was this year that the price of a pack of gum was entered into a cash register at an Ohio store using the Universal Product Code - the first scan of the UPC barcode.

Martial arts was all the rage what with "Kung Fu" on the TV on Saturday nights and "Kung Fu Fighting" topping the pop charts.

In the fall I started 1st grade. I could finally use the "Kindergarten baby, stick your head in gravy" taunt that I endured for a year. I did not like my teacher much (Mrs. Ulmer) but I cannot for the life of me remember why. The Oakland Athletics ("A's") won another World Series and just a few weeks later Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle.

Mom and Dad traded in their red '70 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme for a new '74 Chevy Blazer. It has a 350 c.i.d. engine, full-time four wheel drive, and a removable fiberglass top. Most people mistakenly call it a Bronco. Mom is livid because it was navy blue on white instead of sky blue on white. The Beast is born.

About the same time as one of the coldest winters in Midwest history began a partial skeleton was unearthed in Ethiopia that dates back about four and half million years. Further discussion of "Lucy" is discouraged in this State (Kansas).

1974 was an OK year for me.

This post's title is from the ABBA song "Waterloo" which reached #6 on the Billboard Top 40 Pop Chart in 1974.

Be safe

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Your everlasting summer, you can see it fadin' fast

In 1973 President Nixon was inaugurated for his second term. The Miami Dolphins won Superbowl VII to complete a 17-0 season. The day before my fifth birthday the last U.S. soldier left Viet Nam. I went to Kindergarten Roundup that spring (I'm guessing a little here - I don't remember it but I'm sure I went and that's when it happens).

The whole summer was blah blah blah about Watergate - this I knew because the white plastic radio with the glowing orange dial that sat on the counter next to the kitchen sink at Grandma Deitering's house was always left on 1110 AM, KFAB, so I knew the latest news. And, the greatest music ever made such as Sammy Davis, Jr.'s "Candy Man" because the station quit buying new music just shortly after the switch from wax cylinders to vinyl platters. Pop music stations were playing "Crocodile Rock" and "The Ballroom Blitz." The Indiana Pacers won the American Basketball Association Championship.

I started Kindergarten in August. My best friend John O. moved before school started. Cathy G. and Angie O. had long hair. Trayce had a broken arm in a cast. There was another boy in the class with my name. Recess at 9, noon, and 2. Nap time in the afternoon between lunch and recess. And, Big Blocks ruled during playtime. The best afterschool television was not an After School Special but rather reruns of "Giligan's Island," "Hogan's Heroes," or "Bewitched." The Oakland Athletics were on their way to a World Series title.

"The Brady Bunch" started its final season on prime time. The Iowa State Cyclones went 4-7 in football. The Class of 1986 performed at their first school Christmas Concerts. There was enough snow that winter to ride snowmobiles.

1973 was a decent year for me.

This post's title is from the Steely Dan song "Reelin' in the Years" which reached #11 on the Billboard Pop Chart in 1973.

Be safe.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Rest of the Story

I started working for the Harrison County Secondary Road Department in the summer of 1986. Since I made it a point to stress on my job application that I was going to be studying engineering at ISU I figured I was a shoe-in for a position on the survey crew. Naturally, I was assigned to the vegetation control team, a.k.a. the brush crew. Eventually, I graduated to the seal coat crew driving the flat roller over pea gravel freshly placed over hot oil. At $5 per hour, there is no better way to spend a 100 degree day in the middle of July than in an open air cab of roller going 2 miles per hour.

Among the many skills I learned over two summers working for the County, including chain saw repair, driving a three-speed, and spraying toxic herbicides, I learned the importance of taking lunch at precisely the same time every day.

The seal coat crew usually had about a half-dozen or so people on it, not including Art (the foreman). One man driving the oil truck (Clinkenbeard), one driving the chip spreader (Bear), several guys driving dump trucks (Jim Pelton, Shorty, and someone borrowed from the south crew), and, of course, Mac driving the broom a mile in front the crew and me rolling everything into place a half mile behind.

Regardless of where we were in the process, be it stopped to refuel the equipment, waiting for the Wynne tanker truck to bring more oil, or right in the middle of laying down a layer of pea gravel, everything came to a stop at noon. The dumptruck drivers even somehow managed to all arrive at the jobsite just in time for the noon lunch break - a good thing because the dumptrucks were the only rigs on the crew with air conditioning.

Why such precision just for lunch? The answer is obvious: a radio show.

"Hello, America, I'm Paul Harvey. Stand by for news!"

Everyone on the crew listened to him religiously. Nothing, and I mean nothing, would interfere with the daily dose of Paul. The guys would eat their lunch in silence, trucks idling with the air conditioning blasting while the radios blared family friendly news interwoven seamlessly with advertisements. It was the most peaceful 15 minutes of the workday. Only after the trademark "Good Day" did normal crew bickering and banter return.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Harvey.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The References

For those who wonder from where my post titles are derived, here are the references since my Century Mark post:

All right, let's do the same thing, but with gophers – Said by Carl the Greenskeeper (played by Bill Murray) in the movie “Caddyshack” when it was clarified he was to kill all the gophers on the golf course, not all the golfers.

I will fear no evil for thou art with me – From Psalm 23:4.

Imagine all the people living life in peace – Line from the song “Imagine” sung by the late John Lennon.

But these stories don't mean anything when you've got no one to tell them to – Line from the song “The Story” sung by Brandi Carlile

We-e-e-elll la-de-freakin'- da! We've got ourselves a writer here! Hey, Dad, I can't see real that Bill Shakespeare over there? – Said by motivational speaker, Matt Foley (played by the late Chris Farley), in a 1993 skit on the television show “Saturday Night Live”

Here we are. You have exactly 8 hours and 54 minutes to think about why you're here. You may not talk, you will not move from seats. Any questions? – Said by Principal Richard Vernon (played by the late Paul Gleason) in the movie “The Breakfast Club”

I set out on a narrow way many years ago – Line from the song “Bless the Broken Road” by the band Rascal Flatts.

To help other people at all times – Line from the Boy Scout Oath.

That's HEDLEY – Said by Hedley Lamarr (played by the Late Harvey Korman ) in the movie “Blazing Saddles”

May 22, 2008 – A sad day.

Everybody knows that smokin' ain't allowed in school – Line from the song “Smokin ’ in the Boys Room” originally by the band Brownsville Station and later covered by 80’s hair metal band Mötley Crüe.

Might As Well Go for a Soda – Line from the song “Go for a Soda” sung by Kim Mitchell.

Daisy, Daisy, Give me your answer do, I'm half crazy, all for the love of you – Line from the song “Daisy Bell” written by Harry Dacre in 1892. An IBM 7094 became the first computer to sing, singing this song in 1961. More famously known for being the last words spoken by the HAL 9000 computer in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”

No! It is I who fooled you! For I am dead...and merely acting alive! – Said by Master Thespian (played by Jon Lovitz ) in a 1985 skit on the television show “Saturday Night Live”

Ahhh - those Jazz guys are just makin' that stuff up! – Said by Homer Jay Simpson (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) on the television show “The Simpsons”

My road it may be lonely just because it's not paved. It's good for drifting, drifting away – Line from the song “Drifting” by the band Pearl Jam.

I'm stranded all night, stranded all right – Line from the song “Stranded in Iowa” by the Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

She thinks my tractor's sexy – Line from the song “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” sung by Kenny Chesney.

There is a friend who walks with me – Line from the song “Jesus, Hold My Hand” by Albert E. Brumley.

Oh Maybelline, why can't you be true? – Line from the song “Maybellene” sung by Chcuk Berry.

I kinda changed my direction, I guess I went and broke the family tradition – Line from the song “Family Tradition” sung by Hank Williams, Jr.

Earl W. "Snick" Kinart – Long time resident of Modale, Iowa.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander, And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees. – Line from the hymn “How Great Thou Art” by Carl G. Boberg and Stuart K. Hine.

How Can You Have Any Pudding If You Don't Eat Your Meat? – Line from the song “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” by the band Pink Floyd.

Roam if you want to, Roam around the world – Line from the song “Roam” by the band The B-52’s.

Me? Get juiced with The Cool Patrol? – Line from the television show “Square Pegs” theme song of the same name by the band The Waitresses.

To Go Boldly Where No Man Has Gone Before – Said by Captain James Tiberius Kirk (played by William Shatner ) in the opening credits of the television show “Star Trek” (grammatically corrected).

Peanut butter and jelly, taste so good in my belly – Line from the children’s song “Peanut Butter and Jelly”

May 22 again – A sad day.

Why don't you and the giant "laser" get a frickin' room? – Said by Dr. Evil (played by Mike Myers) in the movie “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”

It was like lightning, everybody was frightening – Line from the song “Ballroom Blitz” by the band The Sweet.

Y'know, any halfway decent girl can rob me blind, because I'm too torqued up to say no. – Said by The Geek/Farmer Ted (played by Anthony Michael Hall) in the movie “Sixteen Candles”

Uh, oh. Sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays – Said by the Female Temp (played by Jennifer Jane Emerson) in the movie “Office Space”

The mornin' sun is shinin' like a red rubber ball – Line from the song “Red Rubber Ball” by Simon and Garfunkel.

And plant our dreams where the peaceful river cools, where the green grass grows – Line from the song “Where the Green Grass Grows” sung by Tim McGraw.

Hail to the busdriver ? – Line from and title of a children’s song. Author unknown.

Jump up Jump up and get down – Line from the song “Jump Around” by the band House of Pain.

It's Slinky It's fun for a girl or a boy – Line from the jingle sung during television commercials for the Slinky toy.

Welcome Iowa Staters – A greeting to my fellow Iowa Staters

Shall we play a game? – Variation of what the computer (Joshua/WOPR) said in the movie “War Games”

It's a high school, high school confidential – Line from the controversial 80’s song “High School Confidential” by the band Rough Trade.

And me all starry-eyed – Line from the song “Only Time Will Tell” by the
band Asia.

Rubber ducky, you're so fine, And I'm lucky that you're mine – Line from the song “Rubber Ducky” written by Jeff Moss and performed by Ernie (voiced by Jim Henson) on the Public Television show “Sesame Street”

Snowblind – Line and title of a song by the band Styx.

Be safe – My wish to everyone.

Country boys and girls gettin down on the farm – Line from the song “Down on the Farm” sung by Tim McGraw.

If you're gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right – Line from the song “The Gambler” sung by Kenny Rogers.

Seventy-six trombones led the big parade – Line from the song “Seventy-six Trombones” written by Meredith Wilson.

I Really Want to Know: Who Are You? Who? Who? – Line from the song “Who Are You?” by the band The Who.

Time Well Wasted – Line and title of a song by Brad Paisley.

Can I borrow your towel for a sec? My car just hit a water buffalo – Said by Irwin 'Fletch' Fletcher (played by Chevy Chase) in the movie “Fletch”

9 - 1 - 1 – Nation-wide telephone number for emergencies.

It has a nice beat and you can dance to it – The cliché offered by teens as music critique on the television show “The American Bandstand”

Of travel I've had my share, man – Line from the song “I’ve Been Everywhere” most famously sung by Johnny Cash.

Anything travels that far oughta have a damn stewardess, don’t you think? – Said by Crash Davis (played by Kevin Costner) about a homerun hit in the movie “Bull Durham”

Revenge of the Nerds – Title of an 80’s movie.

Compete - Empower - Unite – The slogan for the Special Olympics.

Now That's a Fire – Said by Eddie Murphy in his “Delirious” comedy act.

Hail Hail, The Celts are here, What the hell do we care now? – Line from the soccer song “Hail, Hail the Celts are Here ”. Author unknown.

It's a Fine, Fine Day for a Reunion – Line from the song “A Fine, Fine
Day” sung by Tony Carey.

Graduation 2006 – Description of the West Harrison High School graduation in 2006.

May 22 – A sad day.

Commencement, Sunday, May 18, 1986 – My memory of my high school graduation.

I Was Born in a Small Town – Line from the song “Small Town” sung by John Mellencamp

STOP Me if You've Heard This One – Cliché often preceding a bad joke.

Our Next Speaker is Angie – Something I should have said.

Country Roads, Take Me Home – Line from the song “Country Roads” sung by John Denver.

Thanks for the memory, Of things I can't forget – Line from the song “Thanks for the Memories” sung by Bob Hope.

Take off to the Great White North, It's a Beauty Way to Go – Line from the song “Take Off” sung by Rush’s Geddy Lee and Bob and Doug Mackenzie (played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas).

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery – Isn’t it, though? Some people have compared my stories to those told by Garrison Keillor but I’m sure he doesn’t intentionally mimic me (and vice versa).

This Space Intentionally Left Blank – Often found in reports to confirm that a page is indeed blank and not that something was forgotten. When my uncle, Bill Blair, passed away it was a loss of a great artist and an even greater person.

All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up – Said by Norma Desmond (played by the late Gloria Swanson) in the movie “Sunset Boulevard”

Thanks for reading and Be Safe.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I will fear no evil for thou art with me

It was 26 years ago today we lost our classmate, Tobi. Tomorrow will mark eight years since Dena was taken from us. It's a busy time of year so please be careful, maybe remember an old friend, and take a second or two to appreciate those around you.

Be safe.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Oh Maybelline, why can't you be true?

My student government career began as Junior Class President in 1984. It was a position I actually wanted because the Junior class was responsible for raising the money that would be used for paying for the Junior-Senior Prom and whatever was leftover would go towards graduation. I think we did pretty darn well in the fundraising department though after our last scholarship check our class account is now less than one Jackson from being zero (hint hint Class of '86).

My Senior year allowed me the chance to be Student Council President, the highlight of which was being on the school lunch menu committee. Oh, and speaking at graduation, but I've already written about that disaster.

All this experience was grooming for my service as a Government of Student Body Senator at Iowa State University (elected twice). I have very fond memories of taking part in a government that few knew existed representing people who didn't care about things that meant little to the pursuit of higher education.

I would have never been a GSB Senator if not for Alan G. He had held the same position as Senator for the residence hall in which he (and later, I) lived and convinced me to run for his seat when he "retired." It was supposed to be a "fun" diversion from my pursuit of a degree. It had its moments. Mr. Smith's assertion that Robert's Rules of Order is NOT a bag of tricks was dispelled quickly. Move to table the notion.

Part of being in the campus GSB was also being a part of my residence hall executive council. Oh, if only it were as cool as it sounds. Actually, there were several events, almost none of which were governmentalish, that were cool. The cookouts we did for the residents during Spring move-in, the Terrace Room parties in South Friley Hall, and DEBASH, all of which were social events and all of which were probably the most useful things student government did for the masses. Goodness knows the office hours each week were an unnoticed waste.

To fulfill an administrative requirement the executive council had to sponsor and/or present an educational program each semester. Most were quite forgettable, I assert this because I have forgotten them all.

Except for one. My final semester as a member of the council, we sponsored an all-day slate of mini-sessions. I don't recall the theme that tied all the sessions together, I only remember the one session in which I actively participated. "Understanding the Opposite Sex." Like that could be explained in just an hour.

It was a very well attended session. It was a panel discussion with the panel comprised of three men and three women. Any three of each gender in the session could be on the panel. In fact, the only way to participate - speak, if you will - is if you were seated at the front of the room. It was run like a huge tag-team match: a person would say her or his piece and then would tag-off with someone (of the same gender) in the audience and then the new panelist would be free to opine to the group. Surprisingly, a lot men and women had a great deal to say about the opposite sex.

Also, though not as surprisingly, I spent a great deal of time at the front of the room representin' the X-Y. Over the years I have learned a thing or two about tweaking, button pushing, and generally annoying the heck out of others so, for me, this was like shootin' fish in a bucket. During the discussion on "respect" I dropped a few "chicks" and "babes" which, I must admit, garnered quite an impassioned response. A reference or three to cooking and ironing shirts further stoked emotions. Salmon in a shotglass.

The part of the discussion I recall most vividly had to do with the disparity in preparation time each gender needed before leaving for a night out. The general consensus was the fairer sex required considerably more time than the gents. I had to tag my way back onto the panel for this. One of the distinguished ladies from Helser Hall posited that women possibly took a wee bit more time for personal preparation because (at that time in the late 1980's) only women wore make-up, something that men (again, at that time in the late 1980's) did not do and could not understand. Besides, women only wear make-up for the benefit of men anyway, so we should just shut the heck up about taking so long to get ready.

Oh, really? Well, I guess...


I remember thinking "wow, did I really say that out loud?" A quick glance around the room, half of which was cheering and the women looking as pissed as Jane Fonda at a VFW convention confirmed that I had indeed verbalized my thought. One of my (former) female friends from Rowe House threw a fellow woman out of one of the panel chairs so she could offer a very voluminous rebuttal. I think it was a rebuttal, I don't know, I wasn't really listening.

OK, I admit it. The line wasn't mine. It went over big, made me a hero of sorts with chauvenist pigs in the room. But, it wasn't mine.

The same man who told me the joke that had "Two obese Pattys, Special Ross, Lester Cheese pickin' his bunions all on a Sesame Street bus" as a punch line also once said "If the barn needs painting, paint it." I thought that was so freakin' funny I filed it away in my noggin for a day when I could bust it out. Bust it out. Ha! I'm unstoppable.

He had driven me and the rest of the 1984 Southwest Iowa Honor Marching Band to Dallas, Texas to march in the Cotton Bowl parade. He also made it possible for me to get my first job with the Harrison County Secondary Road Department. He was the first Democrat for which I ever voted. On a sub-zero day in December of 1990 he and I emptied a diesel engine fuel filter into a sink in Hutton House in South Friley Hall. That same day we learned my four cylinder Isuzu pick-up didn't have the umph to jump start a V-8 diesel, even with ungelled fuel filters. I will always think of him as being one of the best county supervisors ever to serve Harrison County.

"If the barn needs painting, paint it."

I am going to miss Duane Grooms.

Be safe.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Earl W. "Snick" Kinart

From the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil:

Earl W. "Snick" Kinart, age 105, of Modale, Iowa, passed away on Friday, September 28, 2007, at the Community Memorial Hospital, in Missouri Valley, Iowa.

Snick was born, in Harrison County, Iowa, to William and Cora (Wilmontt) Kinart, on October 13, 1901. He was married to Glaideth Miller on June 19, 1930, at the Methodist Church, in Logan, Iowa. To this union two sons were born.

Survivors include his sons, Jerry Kinart and wife Lucille, of Hales Corners, Wis., and Duane Kinart and wife Nadine, of Battleground, Wash.

Visitation, with the family, will be held from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m., Thursday, with a Masonic Service at 7 p.m., at the Hennessey-Aman Funeral Home, in Missouri Valley. Funeral services, Friday, 10:30 a.m., United Methodist Church, Modale. Burial at Little Sioux Cemetery, in Little Sioux, Iowa.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the Modale Methodist Church.

Monday, September 10, 2007

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander, And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.

I think we were in Kindergarten when went on our first school field trip. Of course it wasn't earlier but it may have been First Grade - I'm getting old and my memory is getting a little fuzzy on things that we did thirty-four years ago - but I'm thinking it was Kindergarten. For the sake of this voyage in the way-back machine, it was the Spring of 1974.

Kids in Kindergarten at the West Harrison Elementary/Junior High School campus at Modale went to the Henry Doorley Zoo at Omaha for their field trip. Beats the tar out of me what our future classmates at the Pisgah campus did for a field trip, my attention was already pretty focused on my little slice of the planet.

Because we were a group of twenty-one five year-olds we couldn't be trusted to explore such a big space with only Miss Allen and a couple of volunteer parents providing chaperon power. So, the Fourth Grade class also came along too. I imagine someone thought this would be a good idea for a couple reasons. Economy of scale: one trip, one bus, two classes. Added supervision: the buddy system would be employed and each Kindergartner would be paired with a Fourth Grader for the day. Like the Bowl Championship Series and Socialism, this was better in theory than in practice.

Random drawing, alphabetically, tea leaves, I don't remember how the hell we were partnered up, just that for that one day I was supposed to be "buddies" with a Fourth Grader named Jay Durnil. The joy and excited anticipation of going to the zoo for my first time was instantly replaced by dread. Although he was four years older than I, I was already very aware of my "buddy." "Bully" was the first word that came to mind. I was certain that the entire day would be filled with taunts, insults, and slugs to the arm.

A bit of luck fell my way just prior to the day we visited the zoo. Jay broke his leg (tibia fracture, I think) and ended up with a cast on the lower half of his right leg. By the time we actually boarded the bus to head down I-29 to Omaha to go to the zoo, he had healed enough that he could put weight on the leg and hobble sufficiently to get around. Mobile, but not too quick. My spirits lifted; there was a good chance I could out maneuver him and escape the brunt of his wrath.

It turned out I worried for nothing (a habit I've been told I still have today). Jay was just as excited to visit the zoo as I was, so much so that he totally forgot his ornery ways and acted more like a friend than a foe, often pointing to the animals to make sure I saw everything he was seeing.

I have two distinct memories from that day. One was the disappointment we all had when we entered the building that was the home of Casey the Gorilla. This was 1974 and the notion of providing zoo animals large areas similar to their natural habitat to roam was just coming into vogue but the renovation of the gorilla and orangutan buildings was still a decade away and 30 years before the Hubbard Gorilla Valley would be constructed. What we saw that day was a thick pane of glass that separated us from Casey. Glass that Casey had, in a fit of gorilla rage (probably from hearing that renovations were delayed), had scratched so badly that we couldn't see anything other than claw marks. No gorilla for us that day.

My second memory from that day was watching Jay Durnil, the bully with a broken leg, smiling and laughing, and often leading the two classes down the concrete paths, hobbling as fast as his plaster covered leg would allow, to be the first kid to see the animals in the next exhibit. I'm not going to say that I left that day with a new best bud - this was the real world and not an after school special - but I did see Jay a little differently. That day we had fun.

He moved away after that school year ended, to the town of Elkhorn just outside of Omaha. It was about a year later that he was abducted and murdered, found on the bank of the Missouri River, a case that is still unsolved. My young mind didn't understand it then and my old brain doesn't understand it now.

I understand there has been a lot of additions to the zoo since I was in Kindergarten: an aquarium, an aviary, a veldt for the big cats, an expanded area for the gorillas. People look at me strangely when I tell them I haven't been to the zoo in decades even though I lived just a thirty-eight miles from it. I probably will visit it again some day; it is the one of the best in the world, after all. I'm just not ready yet.

Be safe.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

May 22 again

It doesn't seem like a year has passed already but time does seem to go by faster now. Thinking about that last night and this morning, I went through why it seems wrong to me.

I recently changed pick-ups and though it really matters to no one else but me, in my mind by not getting a Ford or Chevy the debate with Tobi about which is better stays unsettled. I would love to have gone pheasant hunting with Preston one more time. I should have told Eiron that he was a good dancer and that I didn't have the courage to get on that stage like he did. I should have driven Matt home from high school more often. I wish I had the chance to admit to Lori that I had a crush on her when I was a freshman. Lonny should have had the chance to just be a regular farmer. What I wouldn't give to take a family picture for Dena or two-step once around a dance floor with her. Danny should have had the chance to attend our reunions, even if it was just as a friend of the class.

I'll be coming back home Thursday night and will stay for a couple of days to visit some our friends I just mentioned. You can reach me at grandma's house.

Be safe.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Be safe

It's been six years now; so much time has passed but the memory of that weekend still remains fresh; it still seems as though it was only a few days ago.

I'm not a big fan of the holidays. Thanksgiving signifies the start of a six week stretch of time that is too busy, too commercial, and too stressful. I think Lincoln's astute observation on deception and the public has an ancestral corollary that is best exemplified during the holiday season: You can get along with all of your family some of the time, you can get along with some of your family all of the time, but you can’t get along with all of your family all of the time. More often than not my experience during those “special days” the last six weeks each year has been just getting along with some of the family some of the time (I really do need to try harder). This year started differently. It began with a calm, enjoyable Thanksgiving at the home of my in-laws; everyone getting along with everyone else.

The holiday tradition my wife and I endure is based on a marital compromise made early in our relationship. My parents live near Dallas, Texas (Oklahoma now); her parents live in Ames, Iowa.  Her two sisters live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; my sister lives in Dewey, Oklahoma, my brother lives in Austin, Texas. Her grandmother lives in a small town in eastern Iowa; my grandmother lives in a small town in western Iowa. Since our family map looks like a double-ought buckshot blast aimed at a map of the Mid-West, we decided during our first year together that we would not be driving all over middle America each holiday just to make an abbreviated cameo at each family’s respective celebration. We adopted the “alternating plan:” Thanksgiving gets spent with one side of our family, Christmas with the other, and the following year the converse. We have had this plan in place for fifteen years now and it still has not received complete acceptance from either side of our family. I believe that mutual dissatisfaction is the indicator of a fair plan.

Thanksgiving this year was with my wife’s family in Ames, Iowa. I love the town of Ames. If the planets were to align properly and job opportunities for both my wife and I became available simultaneously, we would move there in a heartbeat. My wife grew up there and both she and I got our Bachelor of Science degrees from Iowa State University which is located near the heart of Ames(some of us believe it is the heart of Ames). She and I met in Ames, dated in Ames, and eventually got married in Ames. Though I only lived there for a little more than five years, Ames almost like a second home to me. Our careers took my wife and I to Kansas City but we have made Lawrence, Kansas, our place of residence - because we have found it to be a reasonable facsimile of Ames.

We made the four and one-half hour drive from Lawrence to Ames on Wednesday night. There were some snow flurries which kept some of the less confident drivers home and a few of the less skilled drivers in the ditches. This cleared the path for the likes of me, which I greatly appreciated. The night before we left I made a compilation compact disc of obscure and irreverent Christmas songs (“Blue Christmas” sung by Porky Pig, “Jingle Bells” done in done barks, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” and the other such fare). The last thirty minutes of the disc contained the entire audio track of our favorite Christmas cartoon “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” We listened and laughed all the way to our traditional midway pitstop, the Qwik Trip in Bethany, Missouri (it has grown a lot over the last fifteen years). We listened to most of it again (still funny) before finally rolling into the driveway of my in-laws’ home at 10:34 p.m.

One of my sisters-in-law, Diane, and her fiancé, Lee, was already there. ; I was beat from the drive and after verifying that A) I was fine (mostly true), B) the cat still had a pleasant personality (still fat), and c) my job remains a vacuous endeavor (still sucks), I retired for the evening. My better half stayed up into the wee hours of the morning talking family matters. Christmas for this half of our family was to be celebrated the next day and it was my intention to be well rested for Santa.

I believe football was created to promote family harmony during the holidays. The Cowboys and Lions put a stranglehold on the male (and, to a certain extent, female) attention span every Thanksgiving. For that, I am thankful. My father-in-law, Gene, is a both a retired attorney and retired college instructor; my brother-in-law, John, has a Ph.D. in mathematics and is an honest-to-gosh rocket scientist; my future brother-in-law, Lee, is in marketing and sales; my nephew, Jay, only ten (too old to convince to run in circles until puking sick, too young to tell/hear crude jokes); my mother-in-law, Rosemary, is a retired college advisor; my sister-in-law, Karen, is a former CPA and full time parent; Diane is a computer network developer; my wife’s grandmother, Oma, is in her eighties and grew up in the communal Amana colonies, and my niece, Sarah, is only eight and suffers from the same limitations as her brother, Jay. We have a little in common, but, we all like to watch football (well, Oma and Sarah don’t, but we expect Sarah to come around when she gets older) and the traditional two Thanksgiving NFL games divert our attention from any meaningful conversation for nearly eight hours, the only interruption being the turkey dinner.

The mood this year was different. It may have been because of the recent retirement of both Gene and Rosemary which relieved some stress in their lives. It could be because Jay and Sarah are getting older and are in that transition from rambunctious children to surly teenagers. Perhaps it was that this was the first year that Diane’s ex-husband was not in attendance (and, therefore, not grating on everyone’s nerves). Or, maybe I’m just mellowing. Things seemed different; more calm, more relaxed, not at all unpleasant.

That evening with the turkey being eaten and the football games being finished, we exchanged gifts. The kids and I got several toys (I’ve been told I am difficult to shop for).  I was too busy playing to see what everyone else got. After all the presents had been opened and I had thrown my last scrap of wrapping paper at Diane, discussion of the biannual day-after-Thanksgiving shopping mission opened. I tried to tune this out – I don’t like large, unruly crowds. The main objective of this shopping foray was to be the many computer related items at prices too good to be true at Office Depot. I tried in vain to point out that this, being a college town, moreover, a technically oriented college college town, there was bound to be a mob of pocket protector clad techno-nerds charging the store. They probably were camping outside the store: an information age, Woodstock-esque gathering with stories of hard drive failures and website hacks traded while large quantities of Jolt Cola were consumed. The family dismissed my concerns as the rant of a paranoid agoraphobic. Perhaps they were correct. However, while they shopped, I intended to sleep.

It was then I discovered that Diane, Lee, Karen, John, Oma, and the kids were all going to return to Cedar Rapids Friday afternoon; this was two days sooner than I had expected. Ordinarily I may not have minded this. I had intended to visit campus, read a book or two, and, time permitting, even go pheasant hunting with a friend. But, it had been so enjoyable up to this point I was going to forego some of my plans to spend more time with the family and now felt a bit disappointed that it was going to end so soon. Of course, I was still going to sleep through what would assuredly be an unmitigated melee at the stores – rabid dogs could not chase me into a store the day after Thanksgiving. I did capitulate without resistance to meeting everyone for lunch at Hickory Park, the best bar-b-que restaurant in the Mid-West.

I awoke late Friday morning to the raised voices of disgruntled shoppers returning vanquished from Office Depot and other stores unnamed. I hinted around the “I told you so” phrase but refrained from saying it outright. I thought someone mumbled that I had been correct in my prediction but I may have just imagined it. I enjoyed the moment just the same.

Lunch was outstanding, as usual (I highly recommend Hickory Park – it’s on South Duff in Ames). Good-byes were traded and, what was to me all too soon, the Cedar Rapids portion of our family departed for home. It was now just my wife, her parents, and I. The quiet which I usually wish for had arrived and I found myself bored. Go figure.

A friend (and co-worker) also has in-laws near Ames and he, too, was up from Kansas City for Thanksgiving. Weeks earlier we had made tentative plans to go pheasant hunting the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Now that everyone had gone home, I gave him a call to see if he was still interested. He was in a small house with many in-laws, big and small, and was eager to get out for a morning. He would provide transportation, location, and a dog, three of the five most important elements of a successful morning of pheasant hunting. The forth and fifth are, of course, birds and prowess with a shotgun, neither of which can be guaranteed. All I had to do was show up.

With all the lack of activity in the house, I decided to go to bed early Friday night. I had a pretty mean case of indigestion – maybe from the bar-b-que lunch, maybe from the Pizza Pit pepperoni pizza for supper, maybe from the seven or eight Diet Mountain Dews I’d had in less than twelve hours. The cause was irrelevant; the effect was a very restless sleep with bizarre dreams. I have forgotten all but the last one. I was back in high school with several of my class mates. Paul F. was in the dream, even though he had moved while we were in junior high. There was Teresa B. and John F. and Troy B. and, well, there were a lot of them in my dream. And, they were all spies, just as I was. We didn’t know who was on whose “side.” We all were carrying pistols. Lots of shots were being exchanged, most of them fire at me – I guess they didn’t like how I planned the ten year reunion we had. I tried to defend myself but in Nightmare on Elm Street type irony, I could not get my pistol to fire. There is nothing like being chased and shot at by a murderous gang of spying classmates through a high school building (a building that subconsciously I knew had been demolished five years ago) to get your heart rate accelerated. I finally managed to get the trigger on my gun to operate just as my alarm clock started to chirp. I awoke to discover that I had slept on my arm funny and had cut off circulation to my hand. Of course I had trouble pulling the trigger in my dream – it took four minutes of wake time before I could even feel my fingers. The dream was unsettling enough that it is still pretty clear in my memory. It probably always will be.

I managed to shower, wake up, and pull on my blaze orange hunting ensemble, more or less in that order. I left the house shortly after 7:05 a.m. which should have given me plenty of time to find my friend’s mother-in-law’s house. Our day was to begin at 8:00. At precisely 8:07 I pulled into the driveway. I was late, which I detest. My friend was up and ready. The dog and his owner (my friend’s brother-in-law) however, had not arrived. Since his brother-in-law was actually providing the dog, the truck we would be riding in, and the property on which we would be hunting, I decided he could be as late as he wanted.

The day was cold, overcast, and windy. Not unbearable, not quite miserable, just not ideal. The weather turned out to be irrelevant. I loaded three shells of 7½ shot into my 12 gauge Mossburg shotgun at sometime around 8:30. Three hours and several miles (by foot) later I ejected those same three shells back out of my gun and put them back into their box. We saw nothing all morning. Some would consider this a failed day of hunting. I disagree with that assessment. For me it was a moral success – I had not missed a shot all day.

We returned to the house and I thanked my fellow hunters for allowing me to walk with them on this cold, windy day. We agreed that next time we would try walking through some fields that actually contained pheasants.

I got into my truck and started to drive back to my in-laws’ house. My cell phone had a voice mail message on it from my wife asking me to call her – apparently shopping on this day had not gone well, either. I called. She said she was just wondering when I would be back and she would talk to me then. For this I burned a couple of minutes of cell phone air time.

So, I continued driving towards the house. I talked myself into taking a detour through the Iowa State campus to reassure myself that no other campus landmarks had been demolished since my last visit. I stopped and took some photos of my old dormitory and the windows out of which some hooligans had once launched oranges using a catapult made of surgical tubing and a crude denim pouch. I recalled the oranges traveled about 300 feet over the street and splashed down in Lake Laverne. Bananas don’t fly as far. After I had nostalgia’d enough, I finished the drive back to the house.

I pulled into the driveway and crawled out of my truck; I was a dirty, sweaty, oxymoron of camouflage and blaze orange. I thought I would take a shower and a nap and then maybe take another nap. A mostly empty house does have its advantages. My wife had heard me drive up and came out of the house to meet me in the driveway. She gave me a hug and started to cry.

That Saturday morning I learned how much technology has shrunk our world. I have purposely kept our home phone number unlisted in a futile attempt to thwart those vile and repugnant violators of personal privacy, telemarketers. In spite of this impediment, it only took less than an hour that morning for three different people to find and call my in-laws’ house - call before 7:45 a.m. – looking for me.

The network of my family and the closest of high school friends found me that day, a testament to how close people from a small community are and remain even when they move away. My grandmother, my mother, and a close friend from high school stayed on the telephone lines that day until they reached my in-laws because they wanted to be sure that I was notified by people who cared that another good friend and member of the West Harrison Class of 1986, Dena (Globe) Keckler, had died in a car accident just a few hours earlier.

Thanksgiving is still a sad time for me but still I give thanks for the wonderful family and friends who have blessed my life.

Have a safe holiday season.