Friday, December 31, 2004


My father in law is living with us. He went to the doctor today and we were told he is delicate. I admit I am not the sharpest tack in the box. I will also admit I am not the most political correct person in the world. But, what does delicate mean? The doctor said it meant he could go at any time.

Years and years ago a doctor said my Grandma was “fragile”. She lived eight more years. So I am wondering what is the difference between delicate and fragile?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


It’s the last week of 2004. If anyone had told me in January what the year had in store, I would not have believed them. There have been a lot of changes; some plan, most were not. It occurs to me that the things I remember most are the “little” things. Here are some of the highlights of my year:

  • Having my son and daughter call just to see how I am doing and watching them grow up, each in the own unique way.
  • Having my wife enjoy her new school and teaching position.
  • Enjoying an afternoon baseball game with my ex-boss who is retired.
  • Eating popsicles on the porch with the neighbor kid.
  • Having coffee with friend.
  • Receiving a Dutch Oven as a gift, this opened up the world of cooking with cast iron.
  • Planting a new tree in the front yard.
  • Having a watermelon seed-spitting contest in the cul-de-sac.
  • Listening to a cowboy poet and watching a movie in the park.
  • Having two great men work with me, making my job a lot easier and more enjoyable.
  • A few weekend getaways with my wife.
  • Having friends over for dinner.
  • Visiting the wineries in Palisade, having a great wine and cheese lunch, and a whole lot of laughter.
  • Having many people with my daughter during her surgery when she was several states away.
  • Trying new restaurants with my wife.
  • Having friends from Lincoln come visit on a couple different occasions.
  • Buying gifts for family and friends just because I want to.
  • Having a friend wait for an hour while I was stuck in traffic and then still offer to buy breakfast.
  • Receiving a nice bottle of wine.
  • Learning to take a nap without feeling guilty.
  • Completing Ride the Rockies, a week long, 500 plus mile, bike ride.
  • Helping with the harvest in Nebraska.
  • Going to a book signing for a man who is now in his 80’s. He rode his bike around the USA and just completed a book about his trip.
  • Taking a road trip to Cabela’s with a friend.

Maybe these aren’t such “little” things after all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

First Haircuts

It’s Saturday. Setting in the barbershop, I noticed a young man with a child in the third barber chair. The little guy could not have been over three, probably younger, getting his haircut. It was evident it was a father and son. “This is his first haircut,” said the dad with a wide smile. It made me think back to my son’s first haircut. That seems like a long time ago. It was a long time ago. Nate and I still get haircuts together when possible– it’s an opportunity for me to see him. But the opportunities aren’t as often as they use to be.

The little fella getting his first haircut is behaving quite well. But it is clear he was wondering what is going on. Setting in the chair next to him, is my father in law. He moved in with us a couple of days ago. The only reason I was there was so he could get a haircut, this is our first haircut together. My father in law is staring at the floor. Like the little guy, he is probably wondering what is going on. Just a few moments ago, he told me not to get old.

I wish that were an option.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Holiday Rage

Ah, the Holidays! Nothing helps get you in the mood for the holidays quite like a dusting of fresh snow on the ground. Then seeing the grill of a green car shoved up the muffler of a red truck with flashing lights all-around. It really sets the tone for the holidays. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Of course, two ladies doing hand-to-hand combat over the last sale item at a local department store can get you in the spirit as well. Neither one stopping to think they probably have boxes of them.

It is also quite festive to have the person in front of you shriek at the cashier that she has just spent the past two hours shopping for the ‘perfect’ gift and she doesn't care what the bank says about her credit limit.

Variations of these same experiences will be played out in communities throughout the nation. Proving that even road rage has a seasonal side and has transformed into Holiday Rage. All these incidents detract from the joy that the holiday season should bring. With that in mind, here are some holiday survival tips.

· Spend as much time as possible with people you like. You'll be around the others the rest of the year.

· You do not have to over spend. The national debt will increase without your help.

· There is no such thing as the perfect gift. Be thankful for what you get and equally thankful for what you are able to give.

Be mindful of the real reason for the Season. It is indeed a season of joy.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Remarkable People

It was another ‘Holiday Gathering’. After awhile they are pretty much the same, tasteless meatballs, dried out chucks of cheese, and groups of people trying to impress one another. Visiting with one group, the topic of conversation became the most remarkable people we had met. It was an enlightening conversation. I did not realize how freely celebrities gave out their cell phone numbers or how CEO’s of fortune 500 companies took advice at coffee shops. Choking down another meatball, I started thinking about Harold.

I met Harold in the late 1970’s in a mountain subdivision west of Denver. At that time Harold was in his mid-sixties, had just retired, and was in the process of beating a thirty-foot tree with a section of rubber garden hose. He would lift the garden hose, whack the tree, take a step, lift the hose, whack the tree, take another step and repeat the process. I had seen some unusual things but this one was at the top of the list. Finally, curiosity got the best of me. Introducing myself, I noticed Harold had sweat pouring down his face making it quite clear he had beaten the tree for quite a while.

Harold was a no nonsense kind of guy and got right to the point, “I’m keeping those bark beetles from spreading.” He explained to me that he had read everything he could get his hands on about bark beetle and had given it a great deal of thought. He said that by beating the trees with the rubber hose it kept the beetle from breeding. Sensing nothing I could say would change his mind I left.

A short time down the road, I realized Harold might be right. If someone were hitting me with a rubber hose while . . . well, never mind.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Truth in Advertising

Laying in bed this morning, I clicked on the television to watch the news. Actually, it was a feeble attempt to stay under the warm blankets a few more minutes before dealing with the cold weather and the day.

The first thing I heard was a law office saying if I had taken a certain medication, I was to contact them immediately to receive full and complete compensation. The medicine could result in heart attacks, strokes, and even death.

Even death?

If I were dead, listening to commercials about lawyers, there would be no doubt – I was not in heaven.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Elementary Wisdom

Nobody needs to be reminded that 2004 was an election year. We were bombarded with political announcements on all sides, enough advertisements to last a lifetime. Local politicians were doing more than running ads; they were also within our school. I was fortunate enough to do several tree plantings at elementary schools this Fall. Why fortunate? Because I discovered there is something refreshing about the honesty of elementary students.

At one school program, the Mayor was describing to a group of second graders how he and city council worked together. After a while, the Mayor must have noticed the attention span of second graders was not that great and decided to ask some questions. “What does the Mayor and City Council do?” he asked. One little guy, about half way back shot his arm up, waved it all around, and had a facial expression that said he was in great pain and would be until he was called on. Unfortunately, the Mayor called on him. “My dad says you people don’t do anything,” answered the little boy.

At another school, we had planted a few trees and were enjoying lunch before the Mayor and Principal spoke. Setting on the grass eating a box lunch with a group of students one of the boys nudged me and said, “Hey, Ralph, see that guy in the tie? He’s the Mayor. The only time he shows up is when we have good lunches.”

At another tree planting, we had set through about thirty minutes of speeches from the Mayor and a couple of City Council people, before the tree planting got underway. I was helping a group of young girls dig the hole for their tree. We were talking about all the people who had showed up and one of the girls said, “Our teacher says we will see a lot of politicians this year and they all want something.”

It is good to listen to the wisdom of kids.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Making of a Legend

Setting on the seat of the John Deere 4360 tractor with the corn trailer in tow I had to be smiling from ear to ear. Coming from Denver to Tekamah, a Nebraska farming community, for the corn harvest was, at least to me, a fun way to spend a week’s vacation. Keep in mind, there is a difference between ‘play’ farming for a week and making it a way of life. As a farmer, I most certainly would starve.

Setting on the tractor, I was thinking of Cliff, who has been a farmer most, if not all his life. I was appreciative of the fact that he agreed to let me ‘help’ with the harvest. While I ran the tractor, Cliff was running the semi-truck and auger feeding the corn into the bins. Clark, Cliff’s brother, was running the combine.

It sounded easy enough and, for the most part, it was. All I had to do was drive the tractor with the corn trailer next to the combine and Clark would fill it. When the corn trailer was full, I was to dump it in the semi-truck. Nobody said anything but I knew I was slowing things down. Several times Clark had to wait at the combine for the corn trailer to get back and Cliff kept a keen eye on the semi-truck when I approached. Both of them were easy going and patient with the ‘city guy’.

After unloading a trailer full of corn, I decided the semi-truck was to close for me to back up. Pulling ahead, I saw an opening just past the barn with plenty of room to turn around. Heading back to the combine, I spotted Cliff in the mirror. Cliff walked up behind the corn trailer, stopped, bent down, and then just turned around and slowly headed back to the auger. “Is everything okay?” I yelled. “Yeah, it’s fine. Say, where did you turn around?” he asked holding a strand of wire in his hand. I told him. Cliff nodded and said I had just driven through an electrical fence.

With a little embellishment, the story made the rounds. Cliff gave me the nickname, Hotwire. Clark said in Tekamah that might make me a legend. A city guy, a tractor, and an electrical fence

I can live with the nickname, but I am not sure about that legend thing.