Just call him Larry

Living by the 5W’s of analysis; who, what, when, where, why and sometimes how. This is a tale of “Who” was that and “How” did you know? If not for clarity this instance, they were good for a laugh.

Last summer I was driving around the community exploring new areas with snow birding relatives. Snow birds are people who travel south for warmth during the winter seasons. We entered an area where there are some remote residences on the edge of a scenic national forest. As we made our way enjoying the sights and visiting, we observed a man and woman couple doing yard work near their fence which bordered the public roadway. The Conversationalist who was our driver on this day pulled up alongside the couple and stopped, he rolled down his driver’s side window and engaged the man in conversation which he initiated.

“Hi Larry”, he said, “What are you doing today?’
Larry looked up and responded, “Oh Just cleaning up some lawn items. What are you doing? ”
“We are just doing some exploring. Do you live up here?”
“Why yes we have been here for over ten years now, are you thinking of buying up here?”
“No, we’re just looking around the beautiful area and spending some time this afternoon and I saw you here.”
“Yes, it’s a nice area we love it. Well, enjoy your day.”
“Ok, will do, see you later.”

As our driver rolled up his window I asked,
“Who is that?”
To this he responded, “I have no idea.”
Confused now I said, “But you started the conversation?”
“I thought it was Larry but it wasn’t so I just went with it. I guess his name is Larry too.”
To this all in the car burst out laughing. It was so hard not to yell, “Hey Larry, have a nice day.” as we drove past the couple again on our exit. Since then it has been a running joke and a favorite story to tell.

Now fast forward about one year and our snow birding relatives ventured south again. We decided to once again go for a drive and stopped at a favorite local diner for lunch. It is a busy place and we needed to wait for about fifteen minutes until a table opened up. As we waited standing outside, I was hugging my wife from behind enjoying her closeness and the sunshine on my back, when two women exited the cafe.

My actions drew their attention to us and they smiled saying; “We have left a table for you. They’ll be out to get you soon.”
Seeing that one held a book in her hands, the Conversationalist said;
“Well thank you. Did you finish your book?”
To this the woman replied; why yes, I have just finished. It was quite a project but I have just finished writing it. Thank you for asking.
“No problem”, and a smile appeared on his face.
“Do you mind if I share a small part of it? A prayer really.”
“No, not at all. Go ahead.”
To this the woman recited from memory about two minutes of narrative from her writing which ended with her giving each of us her blessing.

I determined that apparently the woman has a close relationship with God and wrote a book about it. I thought it very nice that she felt her closeness with God and was willing to share with us a blessing from her heart. But a question was forming in my mind. Soon we bade her farewell and she was on her way.

After she had left, seeking understanding, I asked; “How did you know she was writing a book?”
“I had no idea.”
With knitted brow I just looked at him for an explanation.
He had noticed the book in her hand. When he asked, “Did you finish your book?”, he had meant did you finish reading the book in her hand.

Again, we all burst out in laughter but we were grateful for the blessing given.
Someone wondered out loud, “Who was that woman?”
The Conversationalist responded; “She must be Larry’s Sister.”

Clip art compliments of Google.com

Will you be…

Leadership and courage presents itself in the most unusual ways and normally in the most stressful of times. Such was the case when a young man, before my very eyes, stepped out of the common crowd among his peers and placed himself directly in the lime light center stage as it were. I am proud to have been witness to it.

The day was a recent one in a local Intermediate School that I was functioning as a guest teacher or substitute for the day. I had chosen the class because of it description and age group. The class, Drama and Theatre, the age group, sixth and seventh grade. I have always loved drama and theatre because the people involved are normally very outgoing, intelligent, and eccentric. Yes, the exact type people I enjoy being with.

On this particular day as part of the teachers lesson plan was an activity called “Improv”. For those not familiar with drama and theatre, an Improv Activity involves students on stage acting out parts they are making up as they go. There is an identified control person who manages the activity to maintain order. Once the acting begins the control person periodically will yell, “ freeze”. At which time the actors all freeze in place and another actor takes their exact place on stage and then the acting continues with a “resume” command from the control. The actors themselves determine the plot and they do this without script. They just make it up as they go and it can be very funny because each actor’s thoughts, mood, and talent come out in the most unexpected ways.

On this particular day I had begun the activity with the acting queue of, “fishing”. The acting began and the action lagged for a while. The students not comfortable with fishing quickly turned to violence on stage. Yelling, mock assault, chasing one another, conflict of every kind occurred time and time again.

It seems that the challenges of maturity in these grades, the emergence of unfamiliar hormone’s both testosterone and estrogen, the difficulties of honestly interacting with each other, and the fact that our students are constantly bombarded with violence is represented with their comfort levels. They are comfortable with violence and can easily act it out. After several stop and restarts which I intended to steer toward a story line and away from senseless violence, but they, the actors, would continue to gravitate back toward it. That is until the unexpected happened.

The act on stage involved two young ladies and they were acting as if in a Knights Court. A King Arthur type setting where a good Knight was to be rewarded for gallantry in battle by the Queen. The good Knight was kneeling on one knee before the Queen who stood before the good Knight, sword drawn and about to bestow some Knighthood honor when the control yelled, “Freeze.”

At this the next actor in line was a young man who ambled on stage and assumed the kneeling position before his Queen. Now, with the change in gender came a change in the interaction and direction of the script if there had been one. The controller yelled, “Resume.” At which the Queen just stood there looking at this young man kneeling before her. I was expecting a return to violence with a scream by the Queen; “off with his head” or such. But what followed surprised all including me.

The young man placed his hands together like he was holding a small box in both hands while kneeling on one knee before his female counter part. He looked up to his Queen with pleading eyes and said in a clear voice before all to see and hear. “Will you be my Valentine?”
At this there was a dead silence in the class room as the audience of peers evaluated what they had just seen. A shocked expression appeared on the Queens’ face. Her continued attempt to be the cool and collected teen she had just been was challenged in those five words. After a brief moment the class erupted in laughter and cheering for our brave Knight and his gallant effort to secure his Valentine. I found myself laughing cheering and giving applause to the young Knight.

“Freeze”, the controller yelled again as the Queen took a tentative step backward. Was this acting? Was it real? What should she do now right before her peers? These thoughts raced across the Queen’s face in expression. Her facial details had betrayed her thoughts. Although no sound of voice escaped her, watching the shy smile spread across her face the answer was given; “Yes, Sir Knight!”

Well done my young friend, you have the courage of a thousand…

Drive Away

This morning I saw a local advertisement that asked simply; “Do you want to know the secret of a great drive?”

Now the game of golf has always been difficult for me. That darn ball never went where I was intending. This way, or that, or sometimes not at all. I tried, I really did, but in the end, despite advice and instructions, I always left the course more frustrated and angry than when I arrived.

I know I’m not alone in the frustration when I see or hear of golfers throwing into lakes, or slamming into the ground, clubs that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Recreation? I think not, at least for me, and my hat is certainly off to those who persevere.

Still this morning, when I read the advertisement enquiring about the great drive, I must admit I was confused by the photo of the golfer teeing off. I guess my perspective was a bit different than the advertisement intended.

You see I know the secret to a great drive and need no further instruction. Want to know too? Well ok, here goes.

I sit a straddle of her, move the kick stand up, fire the engine, kick her down once, twist throttle, and roll ponies away from that damn course.

“Ah,” now that is my idea of Recreation.

Coral Canyon and Pine Valley Mountain

The Expedition of Mollies Nipple

Located on the south eastern edge of the Hurricane Valley is a Butte which has a shape and size that stands out on that beautiful sky line. Mollies Nipple is one of those landscape features that the eye is simply going to notice. As such was my case some three years ago when I first started to frequent the south western corner of this amazing geographical area located in State of Utah, USA.

Of course my interest in the area was and continues to be toward a person more than the geography here but for me once I discovered that hiking Mollies Nipple is not only possible but is frequently done it has been on my, “to do list.”

So on Saturday last as the good Lord granted me yet another day to get it right and I woke with that special person who had brought me to this area in the first place along with my trusty furry side kick Kevin, the question was once again poised; “What should we do today?” At this question the answer popped into my head and I blurted out. “Let’s make a run on Mollies Nipple!” So with that the days adventure was set into motion.

Now any hike requires a degree of planning and preparation. Over the last couple years I had spent some time researching and scouting the area. Locals had told me previously of an access road that made the hike to the summit an easy one. I had spent time searching for this road but was unable to locate it and soon put the thoughts of the easy access out of my mind. I did find the hiking trail to the summit and had driven to the trail head a couple times where I looked up longingly at the summit to the Butte tracing the route visually.

Mollies Nipple trail begins on the valley floor at the edge of a new subdivision where an access gate is located. From there it quickly passes through a wash and then immediately begins a steep upward climb. Statistics indicate the trail is 1.7 miles out and back and has a “difficult” rating with an elevation gain of 1,353 feet above the valley floor. Doing some math I discovered that the hike was a bit of a scramble up covering on average 80 vertical feet every tenth of a mile. I could see that this average was mostly contained in the lower third that is steep and the terrain being that of loose gravel and rock. The trail spider webs into several routes all leading upward. They all converge on a spine that continues upward to the Butte’s summit.

As we planned our day my beautiful little companion had a number of other items on her list and was contemplating a timeline for this hike. I quickly recognized the seemingly short time allowed to complete this, “to do” listed item for me. I think I remember her saying something like; “Well we could knock that out in this many minutes and then we could…” Now my little companion is nearly always willing to try my adventures even when she doesn’t have a clear idea what I’m asking of her. On this occasion I simply stated; “Oh, let’s just play it by ear and see how long it takes us.”

With the plan set we packed hydration and snacks into my pack, donned our hiking shoes, climbed into the power Dodge and off we went onto an adventure filled day. As I drove to the trail head located at the foothill, the summit of Mollies Nipple loomed over us and Kathy asked a couple of questions as she began to grasp my adventure plan. The two I remember were; “We are going up there?” And, “How do you know where to start?” I replied; “Well I have driven out here before, I thought that you were with me?” With a pause I continued to state facts about the trail I had discovered. After talking briefly about the lower thirds challenge and its eventual transition to a easier slope I ended with; “maybe we should get you a better pair of hiking boots so you have better traction and ankle support?” To this there was a distant but thoughtful reply while she continued to look up and up. “No, I’ll be fine.”

With that we hopped out of the power Dodge and seeing two other cars parked near the trailhead I mentioned; “Well, it looks like we are going to have company up there.” I figured a misery loves company statement might be the encouragement she needed. Little did I know how accurate this statement would later prove to be.

So with a spring in our step, fresh legs under us, the thrill of engaging a challenge clearly felt and with Kevin running back and forth excited to be out with us and not on leash, we began our ascent. As we continued up and up, I began to think of some great mountaineers in human history. The likes of George Mallory, Andrew ”Sandy” Irvine, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Tenzing Norgay were on my oxygen deprived mind. Of course this was no Mount Everest but to a middle age, out of shape couple, gaining feet in elevation with every step, oxygen deprivation is the same.

Years ago, when responding to questions about why someone would want to climb Everest? Mallory and then later Hillary replied; “because it’s there!” This statement continued to ring in my mind and I began to look forward to my own statement about Mollie. You have to celebrate your little victories; they are the marrow of life.

Up, up, and up we went; resting every few paces. Over, through and around scrambling opportunities until at last we reached the spine above the lower third. I smiled when by little companion began to send text messages on our rest breaks canceling her additional plans made for that day putting them off until another time. Yes, playing it by ear for this outing was becoming a necessity.

However, once on the spine the steepness of grade reduced and scrambling gave way to upright walking on a gentle slope with a well-defined trail. Our eyes fixed on the crown jewel itself the summit of the Butte which jutted perkily into the blue sky above. Yes, yes, this Butte had been appropriately named. As legend tells the Butte was named by a Mormon Pioneer named John Kitchen in commemoration of his lovely wife Mollie. Since there are reportedly at least 6 different geological features in the State with reference to Mollie, I think she must have been some little gal who never strayed far from her husband’s thoughts.

Continuing on with heaving breath at every step I was reminded of my healing airway. Having recently recovered from a severe nasal and chest infection. Oh I tell you now, there is nothing like exertion and clean air to clear air passages and remove congestion from the alveoli of the lungs. Yes, it was a blow and go experience for me and I was so thankful that I had remembered to bring along my handkerchief.

As we pressed on and I continued to think of Hillary and Norgay and the elation they must have felt as they accomplished the enviable success in being the first to summit Everest and survived to tell the tale. I was feeling my own sort of elation and excitement at summiting Mollie when I saw movement there on the summit. I stopped mid-stride and looked closely at that amazing shape ahead. Yes, there was movement for certain. I saw standing on the summit, a person with another scrambling up behind. I said out loud; “Well look there, we are to have company today after all.” Kathy also stopped and looked at our destination. We watched for a time as the figures began their descent and were closing the distance clearly on the same trail; we would soon meet.

As the couple approached I saw they too had a furry companion and its looks was very similar to Kevin. Soon we were talking together and comparing notes on our experience of the lower third as our furry friends played together no less energetic from the start. At this time we felt we had less than ten minutes to our eventual summit success. While conversing with this wonderful couple, I continued to keep my eye on the goal by occasionally glancing up to the summit. To my amazement I saw additional movement there. I said; “look there is someone else up there too.” Thinking immediately about the third car at the trail head I determined they must be from that last car.

It was at this time that reality came crushing down upon me. The couple said, yeah there are a lot of people up there. Confused I must have looked because they continued; “Yeah, there is a road on the other side and a parking lot there. You can just drive up from the other side.” I must have let out a gasp of air like that of a fully inflated balloon being pricked with a sharp pin. With a sympathetic tone of voice the couple said; “yeah, it was a bit disappointing to us too.” Disappointing? I thought to myself. No, “crushing” was a better description of what I felt. Imagine the blow to Hillary and Norgay had someone landed in a helicopter at their Everest summit camp and hopped out eating a McDonalds Big Mac. “Road” I thought, where in the hell is the road? I had driven all over out there while scouting and couldn’t find it at all.

I soon recovered and after a few more words and joking with this fine couple we pressed on to the summit. Upon our arrival I saw out in the distance just what had been described. A dirt road with multiple vehicles parked in a turn around and a number of people walking to and from the vehicles. After visiting with some of the folks at the top I determined where I might have missed the road on previous scouting trips. The folks there were young people from a local community out on what seemed to be an awesome group date. I enjoyed helping them with several group photographs to document their day group date and then we went our separate ways.

The tremendous trio of Kathy, Kevin and I made our way to the highest point of the summit where we sat, snuggled, and drank hardy amounts of fluids while snacking on granola bars, cheese and crackers. While overlooking a spectacular view of the Hurricane Valley, we cracked off-color jokes and made creative statements about dining at our current location. We laughed at ourselves and at my scouting error. We looked back toward our own approach and eventual descent and felt a tremendous sense of victory. We had in fact summited Mollies Nipple and we had done so the right way; the hard way.

In fact I’m intending to produce tee shirts for the three of us to boast of the accomplishment. I envision a silk screen image of the Butte and conversation starting statements for the tee shirts. Maybe something like; “We did Mollies Nipple the hard way” for example. That should do it, oh the conversations and bragging opportunities we’ll have.

At having seen the area from an elevated spot, we returned to the area the next day and located the elusive road I had missed previously while scouting. I had in fact been right on the very road I was looking for but because of vegetation and angle I had missed the road continuing on past the place I had turned around.

Upon locating it we drove out to the turn around on our OHV and gazed up at the summit which was only a couple hundred yards away. I’ll tell you the experience was just not the same as the day previous, there could be no comparison made.

Although the hike is a butt kicker in every sense, I’m thankful that I had missed the road while scouting and we had experienced Mollies Nipple as we did; the hard way. It seems that the more the struggle the greater the reward. I am proud to have been a member of the tremendous trio expedition that scrambled up Mollies Nipple and we did it the hard way. What is more? We’ll have the tee shirts to prove it.

Fix it

There is an intrinsic reward in, “fixing it”. This is a simple Tale of a grill gone wrong but in the end all is made right. Broken things can be fixed and made right.

In our world of disposable everything the art of repair and the reward felt has been lost. As I watch our society continue to grapple with decline reflected in our collective sense of entitlement, demand of instant gratification, and “used won’t do” attitudes. I’m confident we can overcome financial frustration, foreign goods over dependence, supply chain delay, and a host of problems that go with it. How you might ask? Well in part by the simplest of techniques; don’t replace it, fix it!!!

I was raised by a man of immense talent. My father could do and/or fix anything. He came from that post Depression Greatest Generation Era where people made due and waste was unthinkable. In raising his family he passed on some of himself to his own. I’m proud to be one of those.

So as the Tale goes, my new little Bride told me recently that she had been gifted a new electric griddle some time earlier and after a single use she had accidentally thrown away the plug and temperature dial. Since then the griddle had sit unused.

Occasionally we have grandkids, friends, or relatives visit where a griddle would be of benefit. Now, here is where a choice was made. Reflecting my father I determined to put the griddle back into service and “Fix It.”

My first stop? You guessed it, wholesale parts on the internet. My frustration? I found I could buy new nearly every type of griddle known to mankind and have it shipped to the USA from nations of all points on Mother Earth. But to find a replacement control for an existing unit I owned; nearly impossible. Still, I pressed on continuing to evaluate my options and honestly total replacement was winning out in the available options listing. I just hadn’t pulled the trigger yet.

Then one day, I remembered a local thrift store. This is the type establishment that functions on public donation and specializes in training people for a needed workforce right here in our community. I thought to myself; “hadn’t I seen a whole section of donated used electric appliances there?” Surely if that be the case, they would have an extra control module available. I determined to check and stopped on my next trip past that store. What I found there was box after box of donated control modules for every type device built for the last fifty years. A short search rewarded me with a module I was confident would work based on appearance of the connection ends on the griddle itself. The price was a whopping three bucks!!! “Sold”, I thought to myself as I walked to the cashier.

Upon arriving home, I was actually excited and could hardly wait to see if I could fix the nonfunctional griddle with my three dollar purchase. It was a little like Christmas or the excitement of a new adventure. Ok, I admit it, I’m a bit quirky, but I could smell success and that had my attention.

I pulled the griddle out of deep storage and inserted the newly acquired control module which fit like a hand to glove. I plugged in the combination, turned the module to an “on” position and waited.

The result? The light came on immediately and held steady indicating power to the unit. For the next few moments I waited with a hand over cooking surface. Was it getting warm or was it my imagination? A minute later I knew for sure. Satisfaction was felt as the heat rose to the point where I needed to move my hand away, not long after that the control module clicked off when the desire temperature was achieved. Fixed and working like new!!!

With a great sense of accomplishment I said to my smiling little Bride. “What will it be Ma’am, Pancakes or Bacon and Eggs?”

“If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy!” Red Green

The Skunk and Sharp Shooter Smith

This is an epic tale of man vs. skunk. One pistol toting, the other with a bladder full of stink, it was the making of the ultimate faceoff.

We were visiting relatives recently and enjoying each other’s company when one of the dogs began to bark at the back door which is a full plate glass door. Ole’ Sharp Shooter spoke to his dog and said; “What’s the matter; is the Robin stealing your food again?” He then turned back to our conversation and explained that there was a Robin who would drive his dog nuts by swooping in and stealing his dog’s food then it would fly away before the dog could catch it. The dog continue to bark despite Ole’ Sharp’s telling him to hush several times. He was walking back and forth barking at the door and returning to stare at Ole’ Sharp with increasing concern building which was clearly visible in his eyes. Finally, Ole’ Sharp got up out of his easy chair and walked over to the glass door while saying; “Ok, you want to go get him, here you go.” However, as he reached for the door he stopped short and took a step back away from the door with a slight panic visible on his face.

I had recently read a news report which had informed of a couple young Mountain Lions that were seen wondering through town in broad daylight not a block from our relative’s home. I thought for just a moment that the Lions might be in the back yard. However, I soon discovered a far worse scenario would be the truth. Ole’ Sharp turned to me and said in a low voice almost a whisper. “There is a Skunk out there!!!” The dog barked one final time as if to say: “See, I told you it wasn’t the Robin!”

I got up and walked over by Ole’ Sharp and looked out. Sure enough there he was the most frightening wild animal on the face of Mother Earth. He was a beautiful skunk, pitch black hair with two wide white stripes running down his back to a bushy tail which held the power of his presence or should I say essence. He was standing there eating his lunch from the dog’s bowl of food. The little bugger was well aware of his prowess among men. It was mid-afternoon and he was blatantly eating his lunch. He defiantly looked up at us several times as if to say; “Yeah, I’m eating your dog’s food and what you gonna do about it?” I think I even saw a sinister little grin come upon his face. As I watched him I imagined he continued to say; “You know I’m a little skunk but I will spray the hell out of you if you even think about opening that door” He seemed to be taunting us like a little Skunk Dirty Harry; “Go ahead Punk, Make My Day!!!”

We clearly needed a plan to deal with this over confident little menace who had confidently strolled up onto the back porch only a foot or two from the door and began to help himself to a lunch which was not intended for him. Ole’ Sharp said out loud but mostly to himself; “What do we do?” For a short time I wished it were the Lion as I had first thought. In such case we could have just employed and old rancher technique to deal with protected predators. Commonly referred to as a; “shoot, shovel, and shut up.”

However, with this arrogant little problem standing not a foot away from the door that plan simply wouldn’t work because if not done exactly right the technique could go horribly wrong and become a shoot, oh damn, cover your eyes and plug your nose for the next two weeks. In addition Ole’ Sharp pointed out another obvious flaw with shooting our little menace where he stood. The bullet would hit the concrete porch and ricochet in any direction. This was not a good idea given the closeness of neighbors and the fact we were right in the middle of town. We determined a Plan B was needed.

I said; ”Ok, if we shoot him you have got to hit him in the head so as to kill him before he can spray!”

Now as a point of clairification here. You notice how I defaulted to, “if we shoot him, you have got to…” as the language of the plan? Oh yes, this is not my first rodeo on making impromptu plans such as this one. When making plans of this nature, one must always leave a route for escape if the plan fails. This way if the unthinkable were to happen, for years to come I could tell tales about the time Ole’ Sharp shot the skunk in his back yard and it ran around the house spraying everything in sight without having to admit my involvement in the planning process. But as the planning would go I continued with Ole’ Sharp listening intently.

“We have to get him away from the house but we don’t want him to run toward the neighbors or to get too spooked so that he would spray.” I said, “Here’s what we will do, you get your gun and watch him from here. I’ll go out side and around back of the house from the direction of the neighbors. I’ll make noise so that he will leave the porch in the direction we want which is away from the house and more importantly away from me. Once he is away from the porch and you have a clear shot, go ahead and take him down. But remember, you have to hit him in the head so he doesn’t spray.”

To my astonishment, Ole’ Sharp liked the plan and went to get his gun. While he was away I had time to look out the glass door at the little devil and think to myself; Oh dear, this had better go well. Ole’ Sharp retuned soon after with his gun in hand. I was surprised to hear the confidence in his voice. He could make the shot, he said. He knew this because he had recently shot a playing card in a motorcycle poker run, he had hit it dead center with his first shot. Not wanting to destroy needed confidence, I walked away without responding but I was there on that poker run and didn’t remember the card shot in exactly the same detail but I didn’t want to destroy the mojo he had going.

I walked around the house as planned and entered the back yard. I was talking out loud to myself which isn’t uncommon. But this time I was saying things like; “What in the heck are you doing out here when the skunk might be smarter than you thought and he’ll be waiting for you.” I wondered if Kathy would be opposed to sleeping with a skunk sprayed new husband? Still, I pressed forward.

I approached the back porch while banging on a can for noise and I saw our little nemesis with his tail raised and in fire position. He exited the porch and ran into a small shed just as we had planned for him to do. At this Ole’ Sharp opened the door we had been looking out of. The dog ran out of the house making a direct path for the shed. Both Ole’ Sharp and I yelled at the dog with a small degree of urgency. The dog sensed the tone of voice and stopped short of the shed. He actually came to me which has never happened before and I grabbed his collar holding tight. I think the dog knew what was about to happen and thought being with me at a distance was a great idea. I told Ole’ Sharp that I had the dog held tight and he was good to go.

Ole’ Sharp with his six shooter in hand, crept up on the shed door. From my position he looked a little like a man tiptoeing across an unmapped land mine field. At last he stopped, slowly raised the weapon, and took careful aim, “Crack” the weapon recoiled. Ole’ Sharp turned and took a couple quick steps back toward the house. The dog I was holding completely freaked out and began to spin and pull away. It was as if the dog was trying to say; “Oh my hell he has just shot that skunk in the guts, let me get the heck out of here.” For a few seconds I nearly panicked myself at the sight of the quick stepping sharp shooter retreating away from the shed at a far faster pace than he had used to approach and the dog spinning pulling and barking at me to run for our lives or at least for our sense of smell anyway. Through the confusion of the moment I watched as Ole’ Sharp stopped and turned back, he raised the weapon a second time, took careful aim and “Crack”.

Again the dog began to spin and pull obviously aware that a second shot was not a good sign given the necessity for a clean headshot the first time. But as it were Ole’ Sharp was good to his word, “He could make the shot” and the dogs panic was unwarranted. A clean headshot not once but twice just for good measure. I approached him as he confidently blew the gunpowder smoke out of the barrel and looked confidently into the shed at the not so confident menace. Mingling with the gun smoke there was the slight odor of skunk spray but nearly nothing. I concluded that the plan had worked perfectly and that the fine shooting of Ole’ Sharp had dusted the overconfident little luncheon guest before he could get off a single shot of his own. Perfect execution of the plan and complete success. Victory was found!!!

Since then it has occurred to me that there is only one problem with the plan and the degree success we found that day. I have found that now in addition to the perfect poker run card shoot we’ve heard so much about, we are also enduring tall tales of the great skunk head shot also. How far can these tales go? I can only imagine. Some might include tales of running headshots of the rabid skunk attacking children at play and at having done so while blind folded just to make it more sporting. Oh dear, the sky is the limit to the stories we’ll hear.

Oh well, great stories come from great risk. He took the shot and hit it dead center twice, bragging rights secure in the win. I guess that is why they call him Ole’ Sharp Shooter Smith.

At the counter

I know many who are reluctant to dine out at a restaurant alone. If you are one of them, this tale is for you.

Now, coming from a public safety background, a widower for a time, and now retired I have and do dine alone often and have found the following to be the best strategy. Sit at the counter!

This morning I felt like breakfast out. I determined to go to a locals spot famous for home style breakfast. Now, when I say locals spot, I’m speaking of that “Cheers” type business where; “Everybody knows your name”. Someday when you would like a treat to put a smile on your face; Google and listen to the words of the theme song for that amazing show.

By sitting at the counter you are no longer alone but among a new set of potential friends, the Staff and others who know the value of the counter. Going back to the Cheers setting; you notice Norm, Frazier, and Cliff never sat at an isolated corner table but always at the counter. In doing so they were an involved and integral part of the social interaction. The same is true in real life.

This morning at a little after 7 am I walked in and was greeted at the door. My first request, can I sit at the counter? A knowing host said; “sure, pick your spot”. I chose my spot among others; one a Native American man with long hair braided down his back, one a clear Republican with his “Let’s Go Brandon” hat proudly worn, another older man with a timid voice that one had to concentrate on to hear, and me with a plaid shirt and Harley Davidson hat among several others. All so different but yet the same, you know products of a melting pot, the Great American experiment. The conversation? Well, everything from the weather to the Supreme Court and cases being considered this session.

I saw co-workers arrive at work and give one another hello hugs that had real meaning. I witnessed, laughed at, and participated in bantering with each other. All good natured and fun. I heard time and again how much each staff member enjoyed and looked forward to coming to work regardless of their duty; from cook, to service, to washing dishes, because like me as I enjoyed my sausage and eggs, they enjoyed being with their peers. I have served in management positions of human resources at front line supervision in the past and would have done almost anything then to create a work environment like the one I witnessed this morning.

I watched in amazement at the quickening of pace as additional customers filed in. I watched a fine tuned system kick in and those same friends now a part of a very effective service team rose to the demands of the day. The smiles didn’t fade and the polite teamwork didn’t change.

Others finished their meal or drink and left. I heard salutations like; “Have a good day Bear!” To which my Native American associate said in return; “You too!” I finished my breakfast, wished my new friends of this morning a pleasant day and walked out knowing I would have one too.

We all travel this life alone but the degree is completely up to us. Be surrounded by loved ones, have a great day, and I will see you at The Counter some day soon!!!

Calm and be still

Calm attracts friends of all kinds

In these days of information overload, propaganda, panic and fear there are lesson from our wild friends for which we can learn.

Last summer I was able to visit several national parks in these United States by motorcycle and enjoy the peace and comfort afforded from amazing scenery, the sound and sight of waters, and comfort that dense forests can offer. These are especially true when experienced on two wheels with open air. However, one of the best experiences I had involved a couple of our feathered friends who taught of trust.

The morning of a motorcycle’s adventure involves a seaming set ritual of early rise and cleaning of motorcycle in anticipation for the day’s journey and the experiences to be had. One particular day, those experiences started first thing and continued through the day.

I was shining chrome and polishing windshield as the sun rose gently in the eastern sky. While doing this and feeling the warmth penetrate to my soul, I realized, I was not alone. A small feathered friend had risen early as well and was busy scrounging the parking lot for breakfast. As I continued the cleaning task my new friend came closer and closer until he was no more than a few feet away. I watched in fascination as he judged my presence and his related safety. Being in close proximity to the lure of Harley Davidson I could see the temptation mounting in his behavior. Finally unable to resist longer, he hopped up on a friend’s bike that was parked nearby. I imagined I could see the joy in his eyes and hear the excitement in his chirp as he fanaticized a feather fluttering ride and the wind on his beak. You know suddenly I could relate to this little guy and I think we understood each other if only for a moment.

As the ritual goes the cleaning comes to an end, the bikes are loaded, kick stands come up and motor roars to life, clutch is pulled, and gears are kicked in. However, on this same day another feathered friend and I would meet.

After riding for a time the group stopped for a short nature hike and a wander for a time to enjoy the area we visited. As is the case the group scatters at first and follows their own interest. Sometimes alone and some in groups but in the end the bikes attract a return and all gather there when it’s time to move on. While this gathering was taking place a friend who was eating crackers discovered an amazing thing. If he placed a cracker in his hand and held it there very still, the local population of feathered friends would land and eat right from his hand. This was an incredible example of trust but it did required two things patience and calm.

After watching this occur with fascination at their trust, my friends and I, we decided to press and see how trusting these feathered friends could be if patience and calmness were applied. A friend placed a cracker on the bill of my hat and instructed me to hold still and wait. He then stepped back and watched and told me what was happening as I anxiously waited. Sure enough after several testing passes one of our new friends landed on my head and ate his lunch from the bill of my hat. It was amazing to feel him there and know of his trust extended for only a meal.

Now I know what you’re thinking, did he leave a present on the hat too? No, he did not because you see I wore a Harley Davidson hat and even wild birds of our vast American forests have respect for that brand.

Since I have thought much about the trust the little fellows had given and the reward I felt at being trusted because I was still and calm with no intent to do harm. Now that is an experience that I believe we all could learn from. Intend no harm, remain calm and still, I trust that we all can certainly benefit from that.

The watermelon run

I was invited to ride in a watermelon run. What’s a watermelon run you ask? Well, it’s a two day motorcycle ride with friends to a small off the path town that holds an annual festival to celebrate the year’s successful harvest. What do you do there might be your next. Well, I could tell you adventure but that wouldn’t be enough. It isn’t always what you do on adventure but more what you see. So throw your leg over, climb on with me and we’ll ride the adventure where you will see.

Old friends and new meet and greet with friendly handshakes or pats on the shoulder. There is a common interest of two wheels and adventure we seek. The route is revealed and a ride order established. Now hold to me tightly because kick stands are up and off we do throttle to adventures new calling.

I feel a chill in the air as we climb ever so higher. A struggle is evident; Autumn is coming as Summer holds on. But at higher elevation like that of a mountain pass give clue to the wise that seasons are changing.

The road it does wind, it curves, and it bends. The motor shows power when the throttle is twisted. Momentum it’s said is a definite friend when the bike lays to inside, eyes look through the curve, and the bike follows the appropriate path. Now accelerate the exit and anticipate the next.

The pace is a good one that isn’t too fast. Allows time to look at the things that we pass. Utah is amazing the diversity seen. From mountain passes of 9000 feet or higher, to the low desert valley with red rock, dry washes, and more.

Dark clouds that are traveling by with gaps in between allows radiant sunshine remain. The light show it gives is an amazing sight. Like a giant flood or spot light, it’s highlighting of huge mountains in distance, a wanderlust dream. Light travels quickly the fastest we know, but the eye is amazing and can certainly see the life giving energy streaming down from above.

Rainbows are made from refracted sunlight. It’s colorful arch points toward a distant mountain range, the peaks creating in minds eye a picture frame sight. Gold there may be at the end of that bow but our path on this day is to a watermelon show.

The desert is vast in between these small towns and the road can be a long one, even today. But back in the day when car stops were needed, a station was built where the Price crosses under. Woodside it’s called and its heyday well past. The skeleton building all boarded up tight is all that remains of a once bustling highway oasis. Now day’s off-griders inhabit this place in trailer and camper selling jerky at roadside stands. Stop we should and sample their fare, but watermelon is calling from further ahead.

A parade route is ready when we arrive; the streets are all lined with spectators waiting to see. We ride straight through town along the parades eventual route, waiving and smiling at the anticipating crowd. Thinking to self; “good thing we practiced our parade winning waive.” This proved to be true later that day at a station some 100 miles away. A man walked to me and said sure as a fact; “You were in the parade; I remember your dog.” Ok, so maybe it wasn’t my waive but rather my furry side kick that memories made. Choose your friends wisely and remember they will.

I see kids are prepared to gather up candy as fire trucks, Politicians, Princesses, business floats pass. Kids all take a lesson from one little feller who mastered a duck waddle to move him along. Gathering piece after piece he was able to do tucking into his shirt like a kangaroo’s pouch. Then scurry to his parent where his main horde was growing with each dumping of his ad hoc kangaroo pouch. If you’re caught in a pinch for Halloween night this young man could hook you up right.

Now to the park we walked straight after, with thoughts of an old song that went something like this:

I wasn’t in a hurry, so I slowed down, took a two lane road to a one horse town. There was a party goin’ on when I got there, I heard a welcome speech from a home town mayor. He said we’ve got a hundred gallons of sweet red wine, made from the biggest watermelon on the vine. Help yourself to some but obey the law if you drink don’t drive, do the watermelon crawl…Tracy Bird

As I made my way, looking for the watermelon queen to show us how, I saw vendors a plenty and friends to be made including a mother and daughters in proper dress for this watermelon fest. The vendor neck massage received was amazing to be had. But of all that I saw, the best was of three booths by grower families that had truckloads of melon. Samples were cut fresh by Machetes and waiting for the taking. I soon discovered there is no polite way to eat a juicy watermelon. Although not by the queen, I soon learned how. You just let it run down your chin and lean forward a bit like your gonna spit and try not let it drip on your shoes.

After hours of eattin’ it was time to go so we fired up the bikes and rode outta town. With a full melon just for home in my pack, I took a moment a quick look back; it was apparent to me, the watermelon crowd partied on. The lyric’s return as I rolled throttle and rode away.

“We got a hundred gallons of…”

Check it out…

Have you ever experienced the self-checkout at your local Wal-Mart store? You know the ever increasing method of self-scanning your items and paying without having to speak to a single person? A sure sign of technology assisted labor cost reduction and of course significant cost savings for me the customer. Right?

Today was my day of errands running and I have to admit I was making impressive progress; one task to the next and on to the next. Making such good time in fact that I found myself with one hour and forty five minutes before the next appointment. I previously had planned to go shopping after my last appointment and I had prepared myself and large shopping list. With the day’s good fortune and efficiency I thought: “Cool, I’ll hit the local Wal-Mart and then I can head back home after my final appointment for the day. It’s all good!”

Once inside the store, I have to say my good fortune continued as I was a picture of efficiency moving from aisle to aisle grabbing the items on my list. I even took time to compare prices and purchase the best buy. Now this is an impressive statement given that I am a guy and a single guy at that who until recently has never needed to shop for myself. This efficiency continued throughout the shopping experience right up until I had that one small incident with the kid in fresh produce. I turned the corner and was walking along with intent of selecting the perfect avocado and tomato at just the right price from the long bin of items. I was at about half way down the aisle when a young person in his late teens or early twenties pulled his stocking cart across the aisle blocking any passing opportunity I might have had. You know I thought to myself, had he done this in his car he would likely have gotten shot in the latest of road rage incidents reported as breaking news over and over again by the ever efficient news networks we have become accustomed. Does anyone remember Walter Cronkite and his signature statement, “And that’s how it is?’ Oh the good ole day’s when honesty was in style and propaganda was minimized for the sake of truth to be told. Oh wait, that is another story entirely. Sorry about that, I digress, back the story at hand.

So I was thinking ok he’ll move and let me pass. Instead he picked up and began stocking pineapple on the bin. He was facing me with full view of his face which had a strange look best described as a creepy smile. My first thought was I wonder if he is suffering from schizophrenia and the voices are telling jokes? Then remembering modern day I looked for ear phones in his ear. He must have had some amazing earbuds because I couldn’t even see them. Finally I said; “Dude, you gonna move so I can pass or what?” He actually physically jumped a little at the direct verbal stimulus I had given apparently he hadn’t even noticed me before. He recognized his error and said, “Oh, sorry” and moved the stocking cart giving me a passing route. Politely I said, “thanks man.” No reply given so apparently he was back with the voices. No worries, I continued making up the time on every selected item.

Finally I glanced at my phone time and found thirty minutes before my next appointment. Among the items I had selected there were a large number of fresh fruit and vegetables items. So I headed to the clerks up front. I have to admit being fairly new at shopping, I have been intimidated for months by the self check-out station when I have fresh fruit and vegetables. No scan code bars on those bad boys and how in the world do you look them up?

I confidently strolled to the front of the store and scanned for the ever familiar numbered light which would indicate a speedy and efficient clerk was scanning and happily discussing the beauty of the day with other joyful and pleasantly satisfied customers. Do you remember back in the day when this was the case and people actually possessed the skill to verbally interact with one another and enjoy the exchange? I actually half expected and opportunity to engage in conversation and maybe make a new friend in the process.

I saw two lights illuminated on the far end of the store. I began walking to those clerks and while on my way I passed bank after bank of self-check stations but I have to admit I allowed myself to be intimated. I have fruit and vegetables and no idea how to check them out. I walked on toward the two friendly clerks who were surely waiting at the illuminated stations. However, as I got closer I noticed the lines. The sight reminded me of long lines I had seen on television as a kid of Russian people in Communist Russia waiting in the streets to buy toilet paper. Still I was intimidated and got in line and waited after all I had thirty minutes before the next appointment. Fifteen minutes later I hadn’t moved an inch. In fact I stepped forward in line to make sure the clerk was still breathing as she hadn’t moved a muscle in over five minutes as best I could tell. I was in serious debate with myself at this point, do I just leave the cart with all of my carefully selected items and walk out so that I could make the appointment? Do I buck up and give the self-check out a try? Finally another gentleman walked up, recognizing me as a friendly person who would engage in conversation he said, “Holy cow is this line even moving?” I replied, “not very darn fast.” He said, “I don’t know how but I’m going to try the self-check out”. Building my courage with his own I following him to the near endless bank of self-check stations. Now this good man had less than five selected items but his courage inspired me.

I walked up to the readily available faceless and cold scanner. I selected the first few items which had bar codes; one after another the tone sounded and my confidence built. Finally I grabbed the packet of grapes and scanned them. “BONK”… “unrecognized item, set it a side and/or ask the customer service specialist for help” the computer instructed. I did so and scanned all of the other items in my cart with bar codes. So many were there that I began to stack the bagged items on the floor because I still had a number of items in the cart including fresh fruit and vegetables. I felt stress and pressure begin to build. Finally the customer service representative walked past. I said: “excuse me, can you help me I don’t know how to do these fruits and vegetables?” Clearly irritated she said, “you don’t know how? Just hit this button and the type in the number, if that doesn’t work put it on the scale and hit this button and select the item from the menu.” She then began to walk away. At which time I became a bit more persuasive; I have a bit of a reputation for doing this occasionally. I said, “don’t go anywhere, watch me do this!” The first item was bananas and “BONK” the first attempt didn’t seem to have worked, I tried again “BONK”. With a heavy sigh she stepped closer and began to watch and correct my many mistakes correcting me as I went. I retried the bananas again, it worked. Brussel sprouts next; boom, green pepper next; boom, after a few more items; boom, boom, boom I began to go faster confidence and a smile building on my face. Finally, thinking “I’ve got this”, I released the customer service specialist from my control to go help other learning customers.

I gathered my sacked items from the floor, paid the lower than normal price I was certain that I had gotten because of the cost saving technology and headed for the door. I passed the customer service specialist as she helped others, I stopped, walked over to her touching her on the arm I said; “thank you for the assist it was quite an education.” Finally, she smiled and said you’re welcome have a nice day. “You too,” I said to my new friend. I’ve never ceased to be amazed at what a kind word and a thank you can do.

Upon arriving home following the next appointment I had the very real feeling that I had taken items for which I did not pay. So inquiring minds must know I am told. I actually checked the items off the receipt as I put them away at my home. One after the other I found on the receipt and put it away. Finally when all items were stowed each having been located on the receipt. I examined the receipt in amazement at the efficiency of this self check-out. Could it actually be that accurate?

While doing this I noticed one item listed twice on the receipt and only one check mark. One glaring error on the entire receipt. Any guesses? If you said “banana” you are so right. BONK, so much for cost savings.

So check it out, the way I see it is, Sam Walton owes me some bananas and on my next trip I’m going to find my new friend the customer service specialist and say, “Hey do you remember me and those stupid bananas?” I have a ten spot that says she does just because I told her “thank you”… Never underestimate the power of a kind word.