Friday, February 28, 2014

Joining The Enemy, An Ill Wind And Tests

Every morning at school, the same group of selfish fellows manages to get into the trucks first, and sometimes are even taking a second turn before some other folks have their first. I’m often among the second group, though not because of any bashfulness. (I was a shop steward for ten years, after all, and once put the company president on the spot in front of the whole plant.) However, having grown more patient in my old age, I try not to stir things up anymore. Still, there are about six people who nearly always end up last. Even if the instructors try to go by a list of sorts, every day, the “list” starts over with the same pushy people at the top. As a result, they often get nearly double the driving practice in a week that the six other folks do. With a mix of young and old and male and female, you can be sure that there will always be some folks pushier than others. I spoke to the boss-man and asked if he’d consider going by a set list, starting each day where they left off the day before. His feeling was that anyone who wanted to drive badly enough would find a way to get their fair share of turns behind the wheel. I now know him well enough not to expect any change of attitude, so I figured that called for a different attitude on my own part.

Yesterday, while the pushy folks were still doing their pre-trip, I climbed in a truck and staked my claim. Then, when one of the other folks from the “second string” came by, I invited him in. I did the same thing at lunch by coming back a little earlier than them and climbing in before anyone else had a chance. My cohort arranged to join me. I hate to act like the pushy folks but, sometimes, you have to follow the old maxim “If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em!”

The day before yesterday, it was 21 degrees at dawn; and so it stayed for a while. Now, 21 degrees can seem comfortable on a calm sunny day, but that morning was neither calm nor sunny. The wind howled across the frozen dirt lot at “school” as if it was the Great Plains, instead of a valley in West Virginia. Interestingly enough, the trucks had created dust on the frozen lot—frozen dust, in fact. When the wind deposited that frozen dust on the still-warm vehicles that we students had just parked there, the dust melted, dried and stuck like glue. With gusts up to 30 miles an hour, there were times that there were near brown-outs on the lot. A couple times, as I sat in my truck and waited my second turn, all I could see was a huge cloud of dust with a Kenworth breaking through the wall of brown. It was particularly interesting when a short snow squall dropped beautiful white snowflakes into the swirling sea of brown. At 11, the sun came out and, within an hour, the dust had thawed and settled onto the frozen ground to stay. In the center of the lot during those brown hours had stood the instructor, directing traffic and giving advice to the drivers through the freezing brown storms, often disappearing from sight for several seconds at a time. He was dressed for the cold, but not for the miniature dust storms that surrounded him. He deserved combat pay for that morning!

This morning, I hurried my pre-trip and grabbed a truck again. Three other fellows joined me in the cab, none from the pushy bunch. After I finished my routine, I left and went to the DMV to take the test for tanker. It was exactly two hours from the time I arrived until the time that I walked out the door. During that time, I had to stand in two different lines, sit and wait three times and visit six different windows. The test had 20 questions and took me less than ten minutes. If I get my CDL, a tanker endorsement would let me haul water either for a regular water delivery company, or for the oil drillers we have in the area. I’d much rather do the former.

Not only was my knowledge of driving a tanker tested this morning, but also my patience. The greatest test was simply all that waiting. A lesser test was listening to some high school kid behind me go on and on to his nearly silent companion about how rough and tough a character he (the speaker) was. Later, when the kid was called to a window to get his driver’s license, I noticed that his companion was his father, and the kid was scrawny and didn’t appear that co-ordinated. Also, he wasn’t exactly handsome, had his underwear hanging out a hole in the back of his jeans and had the round shape of a snuff can worn into the pocket of the other “cheek.” I realized then that it was himself that he was trying to impress. I wondered, though, if the father didn’t encourage his behavior, in a way, by ignoring it. Who knows, maybe that’s what caused the kid to need validation in the first place. Guess we all have a few tests in life. © 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

You’ll Have Those Days!

We had another skiff of snow this morning—maybe ¾ of an inch. I got an early start and went the four-lane, just to be safer. I didn’t see anyone in the ditch like I did yesterday; there were three cars out of the road yesterday. ALL looked to be the result of folks being too heavy on the gas pedal. Things were going fine today until I reached the last overpass before my turn off. Soon after crossing it, it began to feel like I was driving on the railroad, but running on the ties, not the rails. There was no pull on the steering, so I knew it was a rear tire that was going flat. The knobby edges of the tread were getting quickly more noticeable. I tried to make it to the top of the hill, but it got too rough, and I was afraid I’d ruin a rim, even though I was driving very slowly by that time. Even then, I drove just far enough on the berm to get past the guardrail, so I could get further off the road. Of course it had to be the one on the side of the traffic, but at least I was able to get that side nearly six feet off the road. When I stepped out, I noticed that the tire was even worse than I expected, but the rim was still okay.

In the six years plus that I’ve had this truck, this was the first flat. Luckily, I’d looked over my owner’s manual the other day and remembered where the jack was located and the jacking points. The package that held the lug wrench and jack rod came out easily enough, but it took several tries of prying with the lug wrench before I was able to free the jack. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the jack and wrench provided (I never am), but it looked like they were probably up to the task. Then, I went to raise the tonneau, only to discover that the lock was iced-up. Keeping a lighter burning on a windy day, while you heat a key is an activity not fully appreciated until it’s been done. I put a small tarp down behind the truck for me to lay or sit on as I worked. The wind was such that I had to lay a cant hook on it to keep it from blowing away. It was 23 degrees; I have no idea what the wind-chill factor was, but it was substantial by the feel of it. After putting the little handy-dandy three-piece jack handle together, I used it to position the jack under the rear axle at the designated flat spot. Then I put the square hole in the lug wrench over the end of the rod, as was intended, and used the lug wrench as a crank handle to raise the jack (talk about “frugal”). As soon as I could see that the axle was actually beginning to rise, I stopped jacking and attempted to loosen the first lug nut.

Notice that I said “attempted” to loosen the first lug nut. Now, I realize that I don’t have the strength that I did when I was rolling logs by hand every day, but I ain’t no wimp yet! However, that lug nut would not be moved! Neither would the other four. Finally, I used my brain by using my blubber. Not being able to tackle the problem with main strength and awkwardness, I started bouncing my dainty 400 pounds up and down on the lug wrench. Even THEN, it was hard to get them loose. It was also a little bit of a concern to be putting my whole weight on a half-inch thick rod of tempered steel with traffic buzzing by within four to six feet of my person. My concern was that it would break, causing me to fall towards the traffic. Thankfully, the Lord really DOES look after fools and little children, and wayward child that I am, he took mercy on me and the wrench held. It DOES have a decided warp in the handle now, though.

Unfortunately, The problem THEN became one of getting the rim off the end of the axle. Apparently, the aluminum rim had seized on the steel hub. I pulled, I kicked, I whacked it with the cant hook, then the pole of a single-bitted axe. I was eying the eight pound sledge with glazed eyes when I came to my senses and decided to call in the cavalry. Nearly two hours after my frigid roadside aggravation started, a couple guys from my tire shop zipped up behind me, got out their tools, and had me on my merry way in less than 10 minutes. I had them take the rim with them to put on a new tire on it when they got back to the shop. (I have four brand new ones stored there.) I told them that I’d be by later to retrieve it and have the other rear tire switched as well. After getting my turn in at school, I asked the boss-man if he cared if I cut out early to get my tires and he agreed.

I had the new ones put on the front, and the front ones moved to the back. They all have to come off by tax day anyway, since you can’t run studs in West Virginia after that date. They had the spare put in its usual position under the truck before I knew it. I’d been carrying it under the tonneau since it would be hard getting it out, should you have a flat where the berm is severely crowned. Oh well, I DID get another handful of wheel weights out of the cracks in their concrete again. More muzzleloader balls!

Incidentally, as I lay on the tarp raising the jack, I literally prayed that some speeding idiot wouldn’t plow into me and my truck. As I waited in the truck for the cavalry, I counted (on paper) 100 vehicles passing in 15 minutes. Of those, exactly 50 moved to the far lane and 50 didn’t bother. It surprised me how many of the trucks didn’t bother, even though it was obvious that my truck was being held up only by the jack on that side. I guess that old “knights of the road” reputation is fast disappearing.

Also, one person DID stop to offer help—a lady. (And a good-looking one at that.) Guess she felt sorry for the old geezer. I thanked her and told her that I had it covered. Silly me! LOL! © 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Snowy School Day


I woke up 15 minutes before my 4:30 AM alarm. Sitting on the edge of my bed, I said my morning prayer, then I struggled to my feet. Picking up my pistol and my water glass, I headed downstairs to start my day. I turned on my laptop to let it warm while I took a quick trip to the loo, then came back and checked the temperature online. We have an outside thermometer, but my wife insists on putting it on the screened in porch, where we can’t see it except during daylight hours, when the drapes are open. It said 29 degrees with a wind-chill effect of seven degrees, making it feel like 19. Looking out the window on the stair landing, the light from the street light that I have 200 feet away along the road showed a skiff of snow on the ground, but little coming down.

After a slightly more lengthy visit to the loo, and a shower and shave, I ate some cereal while checking Facebook and my blog. When finished, I brushed my teeth, packed my lunch, sat the trash out on the porch. I noticed that there was then an inch of snow, and that heavy snow was falling at about a 30 degree angle. Not good. I then finished dressing, put the leash on the dog, and spoke to my wife, asleep in front of the TV, to let her know that I was about to leave. Outside, the pooch made some yellow snow, fertilized the side yard, then gave a big shake to rid her coat of snow and appeared ready to run for the house. After taking her to the truck and checking her for cleanliness, I let her do so. There, I handed her off to my wife, picked up my lunch, pistol, clipboard from inside the door, and the three bags of trash from the porch, and headed to the truck. At the end of the driveway, I pulled two garbage cans from the back of the truck, put the bags in them and was on my way to class.

As usual, our road was untouched by the state. So was the next road, and even the east-west four-lane that I came to next. It wasn’t until I turned onto the north-south four-lane that I saw any evidence of salt or sand, and that was flowing from the back of a truck a hundred yards ahead of me. On the way north, I saw three vehicles in the ditch, all with the drivers still on the scene. I’m sure all were the result of driving like July in February. I arrived at “school” without incident at 7AM to find the lot as snowy as expected. After signing in, I came back to my truck. If the snow stops soon, we’ll be able to do our routines, if not, then I have my doubts. It’s eight o’clock as I type this, and the snow DOES seem to be easing up a bit, so we’ll see.

LATER: It’s 10 AM now. The snow has nearly stopped. While I’ve been studying my pre-trip list, the boss-man has had a couple of the instructors tossing sand from piles around the lot, onto the normal paths used by the trucks as they make their rounds. In the meanwhile, he’s been riding an ancient Ford tractor around pulling a landscape box attempting, with limited success, to scar and loosen the frozen soil beneath the snow, so the truck tires could get traction. Often, the old farm tractor itself would be spinning its tires. Still, between the two endeavors, they’ve managed to get two trucks moving around the lot and maneuvering, though there’s still some occasional spinning going on.

I bring this computer along so I can go online at lunch-time at the nearby tourist information and rest area nearby. I’ve never used it on the lot before and probably won’t again, since I don’t want to draw their ire, Besides, I can’t go online here anyway. As I wait my turn, I usually study the pre-trip list or the testing manual to make good use of my time. If I get the time, I’ll post this from the rest area at lunch time.


MUCH LATER: TWO of their four trucks broke down this afternoon and I ended the day with only one-third of my full turn. It's strange, but I don't know whether to be aggravated with them for running junk, or feel sorry for their bad "luck!" © 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

My Prayer

I don’t study the scriptures enough, and I certainly don’t witness enough anymore. I no longer tithe and I can spare very little to help others. One thing that a too-busy impoverished guy can still do, though, is pray. You can always steal a few moments on arising, or taking to bed for the night, to talk to the Lord. You can also pray while you’re working or driving, if time is limited. I like to think that my prayer life is fairly active, since I usually pray several times a day, but I know that I still spend too much time talking and not enough time listening.

I don’t really believe in form prayers, yet due to my perspective and concerns, my morning and evening prayers have begun to form a certain pattern. I have decided to post a version of it here, not to appear righteous (because I am a tragically flawed creature), but to possibly give others some ideas, not just about prayer, but about our priorities in life. At times, I feel so rushed that this rather long prayer gets condensed into only a single paragraph, but other times, it gets greatly extended. Take it for what it’s worth to you.

“Heavenly Father, I first want to thank you for all the wonderful blessings in my life. For many years, I took them for granted, not realizing that each one was an undeserved gift from you. Long before I ever accepted Jesus as my savior, you were blessing me far more than I knew, even for a long while after my salvation. Looking back, I see the gentle mercies and loving kindnesses that David always spoke of. Thank you for all those blessings, Father, and please grant that I never again take them for granted. Also, I pray that you will never withhold your blessings from me, even when I fail you, as I so often do. Thank you most of all, Father, for my salvation, paid for with the very life-blood of Jesus. Please let that precious blood continue to wash away my sins that I might be pure and spotless in your sight.*1 And, please grant that I never lose my right mind to where I forget the horrible price that He paid for my salvation.

“I pray also, Father, that you will lead me in your paths of righteousness for your name’s sake, not my own. And, that you will keep me, and those I love and care about, in your watch-care, safe from all harm.

“Please continue to meet my needs as you have been, Father, and as many of my wants and wishes as you deem wise, so that I don’t become discouraged.*2 Please do likewise for all those on my heart and mind, and anyone who ever has been, even if I forget them at the moment, for you remember them and their needs and wants, even when I don’t.*3

“I pray that you will give every person of leadership or authority in this nation, elected or otherwise, a hyper-sensitive conscience, that they might be encouraged to do what is right for their fellow man in your eyes. I pray that you will protect this once-great nation from enemies within and without, and that you will send a great revival on this country, that we might once more be “one nation under God.” I also pray that you will extend these same blessings to Israel.

In all things great and small, I pray that your holy will be done here on Earth as it is in Heaven.*4 These things I ask in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.”

*1 – Sometimes, a list of my known sins is included here, especially if I discover one that I was unaware of.

*2 – If I have something on my mind of particular importance, it may be mentioned individually.

*3 – Often, I have some people with new or particular troubles that get mentioned here, and ALWAYS my grandchildren.

*4 – If there are particularly troubling events going on in the world, they may get mentioned at this point.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Just Some Saturday Blather

I just now slipped in the mall long enough to use the restroom. I realized that it’s probably been at least a year since I’d been in the mall for any reason. I wouldn’t have been inside today, except nature called while I was using the wifi outside one of the stores here, while my wife shopped at the Chinese Emporium next door. I don’t go in there very often, either.

We managed to have driving school all week this week, thanks to better weather. I had a really good round of lot maneuvers on Thursday and was feeling pretty good about it, until I had two less than stellar rounds on Friday. Oh well, I’m still getting a little better as time goes on. The young guys in my group are clamoring to get on the road, and have made it a couple times. I’m content to get as much practice on the lot as I can, since once we get 10 hours on the road, they’ll probably try to shove us out the door.

We got some rain on snow the other night and the creek got up to full bank, but the rain stopped before the creek got out of bank. A day or two later, we got some heavier and longer rain after a couple warmer days and nights. Luckily, the snow had already melted some and, even though the water was ready to overflow the banks again, there was a light frost that night which stopped the surface flow long enough to prevent flooding.

I dropped a couple fuel cans off at a neighbor’s the other day on my way to class late, and had to wait for about 30 turkeys to clear off the driveway of his hilltop home. My tardiness to class was due to visiting the local DMV office to take the test for tanker endorsement on my yet-to-be CDL license. I figured that would allow me to drive for a water company or haul water to local oil drillers. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that you have to send your money to the DMV office at the state capitol and wait 7-10 days for a form to come in the mail. That form then allows you to take the test locally. So, due to some bureaucrat protecting his turf, what could have been done in an hour will now take two weeks. Disgusting!

As I was leaving the mall, a group of about a dozen people approached from the outside that appeared t be a family of children, parents and grandparents. A young woman with one baby in her arms and another in tow approached the door I was exiting, so I held it for her. She said thank you and I told her that she was welcome. Her apparent father following behind her, though, was busy talking to someone entering the other door and never said a thing to me. May God forgive me, but I timed my release on the door so it would thump him in the butt. Sometimes the spirit isn’t even willing, though the flesh is still weak.

Later, we were taking the truck through the automatic carwash and watched two drivers try to crowd their way ahead of others. In both cases, they were young women. However, they were trying to crowd in front of older ladies and the older ladies were having none of it. Since they didn’t get their way, both of the younger ones left, rather than get in line.

We noticed that the lady ahead of us paid twice for her carwash. The elderly woman in front of her got confused and backed up a foot or two when she went to leave. When she pulled forward again, the electric eye figured that she was the next car and started the wash cycle again. The elderly lady, probably still confused, sat there and got a free second wash. The lady behind her understood what had happened and paid a second time without bothering to pull forward to test it and maybe lose her place in line by pulling out. She must have been low on cash, because she used her credit card the second time. I guess we all have days like that! © 2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Wasted Days And Restless Nights

It was seven degrees when I pulled into the “school lot” yesterday at 7AM, and an inch-and-a-half of snow covered the place. The smoke and water vapor rising from the exhausts of the four diesels parked side-by-side reminded me of the smoke rising from the teepees of an Indian winter camp, or a small old-fashioned military encampment (don’t ask me why). It was soon evident that lot maneuvers would be impossible without a change, so the boss-man ordered some sand and a machine to spread it. It didn’t show up until 1PM, but things went quickly, and there were soon people on the lot doing their maneuvers. However, due to the late start, a younger fellow and I didn’t get a turn.

Since I sit in my truck and watch others do their maneuvers for clues on how to do them better, I have learned a few things. Turn is not by seniority by beginning class date (it should be), neither is it by order of arrival for that day, nor by the order in which students sign in for the day (two other fair methods). It is partly by who the instructors THINK is next (not always correct), and by how quick people are to thrust themselves to the front of the crowd. Some are not above stealing a turn already promised to another. I heard one fellow yesterday tell another, “Just grab an empty truck; that’s what I do.” I also noticed that one guy manages to get two turns every day, even when some folks get none. Let’s just say that organization isn’t the school’s strong point. Nor does it have a system for dealing with the backlog of students for truck usage caused by bad weather or breakdowns. Did I mention that all their trucks are junk?

I didn’t sleep well the second part of the night (strange dreams again), so got up before the alarm this morning. Today, it was 37 degrees when I pulled onto the lot, and it was more brown than white, after some rain last night and the warmer temperature overnight. I noticed that the creek in our valley was running muddy this morning. The young guy and I got our turns before lunch, but we still weren’t first, as I feel we should have been. Later, I mentioned to the boss-man that a certain truck won’t stay in gear when the air-pressure drops below 90PSI, the seat won’t adjust properly and the driver’s door latch refuses to work. He was quick to tell me that the latch had to be ordered (meaning it WASN’T, I suspect), and that the seat had been repaired last week. He also brought up the fact that I came within a hair’s breadth of creaming one of his signs, when I didn’t allow enough room for the trailer to track. Figuring that he was ready to rear back and fight, I didn’t tell him my feelings on the other matters.

Yesterday, he canned one of his instructors and sent a student home as “unteachable,” after several weeks of instructions. The instructor had two other jobs he could go to, but I felt sorry for the student, as he is nearing retirement age, like myself. It sort of makes me wonder how long I’ll be around, if things don’t click soon. I reckon that’s one way to whittle down the backlog of students. Oh well, I shall endeavor to persevere! © 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dreams And Reality

I awoke from a strange dream this morning. I was starting a new job doing (groan) telemarketing. Apparently, it was an even more “fly-by-night” company than the one that I USED to work for. The reason that I say that is they were set up in an old barn and there wasn’t even a pretense of individual cubicles for the callers. Computers were set up as close the next one as possible and one row was even set up outdoors, when they ran out of room inside. They had no chair for me, so they had me sit on an old tractor and put the keyboard and monitor on the rear of the hood. The boss-man was complaining about how low production was and was demoting one supervisor and filling his position with a teenage kid because of it. The really weird thing was that it was the barn and the tractor that I grew up with!

I like to think that I’m handling my current unemployment with calmness and faith but, subconsciously, I must not be doing so well to have crazy dreams like that. On awakening, I thought my situation over a bit. I never dreamed that I’d be looking for work at age 58, living on savings from selling the tractor that replaced the one in the dream, and wondering if I’d have a job when I completed my latest schooling.

Of course, my situation would be better if Congress hadn’t let the unemployment extensions run out. I’m continuing to look for work, even though I’m in school, but it’s mainly to have references in the unlikely event that any renewed extension would be retroactive to the ending of previous benefits. The democrats, while willing to send billions to A-rabs intent on shooting us in the back, are in no hurry to help their own countrymen. The republicans are even more unsympathetic. Apparently, they think that the only people out of work are democrats. As I’ve said before in this column, I used to be a fifth generation republican myself, until they became carbon copies of the democrats. I renounced all political affiliation when they decided that McCain was the best man they had.

I used to be somewhat active in politics. I used to go to meetings and write my congressmen and so on. Anymore, it’s obvious that both of West Virginia’s senators have sold their souls to the devil. Looking at their voting records, it looks like our representatives have only half sold out. What that REALLY means is that they are already bought and paid for; they just haven’t admitted it to themselves yet. For a couple minutes this morning, I actually considered writing our two republican representatives to remind them that not all unemployed people were democrats and that they should go forward with an unemployment extension. Then I remembered that, like the democrats, they were only PRETENDING to care about the folks back home. Silly me. WHAT was I thinking?

I understand what Marx meant when he said that religion (meaning Christianity) was the opiate of the people. In some ways, I even have to agree with him; it is, after all, solely our religious beliefs that keep Americans from storming Washington and murdering the whole bunch in their political beds. That’s what Marx wanted the citizens of every nation to do. So, though the politicians are trying to destroy our religion, in truth, it’s the only thing keeping them alive. I dread to think of the world that my grandkids will inherit, if it stands long enough. I also realize that the time is long past when we can do anything about it. The cards have been dealt and the hand must be played.

What calmness I do manage to have is due to my faith in the Lord. I know he hears me when I petition him for help and guidance. I know that he will answer my prayers, even if not always in the way that I prefer. I remember, too, that the aggravations of this life are only temporary, and that I will someday move to a better place. Until then, I’ll trust in the Lord to look out for my interests, NOT the politicians. I can only hope that my grandkids find the same “opiate” that I have—the Lord Jesus Christ. © 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sage Advice

The "guru" sent this to me this morning:

In a convent in Ireland, the 98-year-old Mother Superior lay dying. The nuns gathered around her bed trying to make her last journey comfortable. They tried giving her warm milk to drink but she refused it.

One of the nuns took the glass back to the kitchen. Then, remembering a bottle of Irish Whiskey that had been received as a gift the previous Christmas, she opened it and poured a generous amount into the warm milk.

Back at Mother Superior's bed, they held the glass to her lips. The frail nun drank a little, then a little more and before they knew it, she had finished the whole glass down to the last drop.

As her eyes brightened, the nuns thought it would be a good opportunity to have one last talk with their spiritual leader. "Mother," the nuns asked earnestly, "Please give us some of your wisdom before you leave us."
She raised herself up in bed on one elbow, looked at them and said:


Friday, February 14, 2014

School, Snow, “Wedded Bliss” And An Accurate Weather Forecast

Truck driving school hasn’t gone well for ANY of us this week. Most days began late, due to getting balky diesels warmed up, plus getting enough sand thrown on the icy lot to give them traction. One of their trucks is down; I’m not sure why. Another one is down temporarily, until they can get a new belt on the engine, I forget which one. They have three groups of students trying to take turns with one remaining “lot truck” (another was on the road). The other day, they finally got tired of all the spinning and put a better set of drive tires on it. That seemed to help a little. I actually feel bad for the school, too, as the weather has made it impossible to maintain a proper schedule.

One day was called off due to bad lot conditions. Sometimes all it takes is a couple of inches of snow to throw a monkey wrench in things. Due to all things combined, I’d only had two full turns of doing lot maneuvers in four days. After doing my “pre-trip” inspection today, they took mercy on me and jumped me a couple spots up on the list, so I could get my maneuvers done early. That was after explaining to “the boss” that I’d planned to take my wife out for our anniversary tonight, but that with a big snow supposedly on its way, I wanted to cut out early and make it lunch. Surprisingly, he agreed, so I left.

We had a nice lunch at one of our favorite restaurants (one that plays peaceful music) and laughed when we realized that the whole place was filled with old geezers and geezerettes like us. Afterwards, we stopped at a custom chocolate shop, where I got her a small bag of chocolate-covered orange rinds—something that’s becoming somewhat of an anniversary tradition for us. I then took her to one of her favorite craft stores. Later, we ran a couple errands before we headed home. For the hopelessly mismatched folks that we are, we feel that 31 years without a homicide is a miracle of sorts. Now that we’re stocked up on a few things, I guess we’ll see where a weekend of forced togetherness finds us. Wish us luck!

As you know, weathermen are famous for missing predictions by hours or even days. Sometimes, they’re even completely wrong. Today, I was amazed when they predicted snow at 4PM and it came at 3:55. Now that’s CLOSE! © 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lincoln's Birthday

When I was a kid, we still celebrated Lincoln's Birthday on February 12, and Washington's on the 22nd, especially in the schools. At some point, the government employees convinced Congress to combine them into President's Day, which honors neither, but gives those government employees a three-day weekend. The rest of us have to work those days anyway so, now, those two great men go basically unmentioned. Below is a link on Lincoln, for those who are interested.

I've read that "Blue-Tail Fly" was Lincon's favorite song. Below is a link to a guy on YouTube performing that song.

I always wondered who Jimmy was and just what the "cracking corn" was all about. Today I read that it was a way to refer to "cracking open" a jug of corn liquor. Makes a whole lot of of sense that Jimmy would celebrate when his "mastah" met his fate. Ain't history interesting?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Another Week, Another Snow Storm (or two)

I lost some time at driving school this week due to bad weather. The lot is on a very slight slope, so the least bit of ice puts a real crimp in moving the rigs around. Sometimes, a guy is kept busy just throwing sand under the tires. I guess you could call that real-life experience. Other time has been lost due to the fact that we have about three classes stepping on one another’s toes waiting their turn to drive. They tried to do things in a more “organized” manner Friday, and I ended up not getting a turn at all! I assume that I’ll go first tomorrow. They’ve wisely postponed the start of the next class by a couple weeks in order to work the backlog of students out the door. Of course, that makes it bad for them, too, since they’re missing out on income for those two weeks.

I spent Friday parked by the area where they practice doing the “alley dock” maneuver. I’d done it pretty well two days earlier, then I got a different truck the next day and couldn’t get it at all. I think there was something just a little too different about the truck to use the same references as to when to make my turns. I don’t know if it was the mirrors, the wheel-base, or the setting of the fifth wheel, or even the radius of the steering. All I know is that I did EXACTLY the same things that worked the day before and nothing came out the same. I think the problem is that the instructors give us reference points to try to get us in the ballpark, but ultimately, it has to be done by eye and by “feel.”

It’s been snowing here all day, but we probably have less than two inches of new snow, so far. Still, that was enough that my wife didn’t want to go to town to get out of the house today, since the state hasn’t yet put any salt on our road. We really haven’t had much accumulation this year; but it keeps coming a little at a time and keeping the roads slick. As a result, the highways department and the cities are running low on salt, and what extra they have ordered is stuck on barges frozen to docks along the Ohio River. At this point, they only salt the hills on our road and merely grade the more level areas. Since there’s not much depth, though, the grading doesn’t do much good.

Class is supposed to start at 7AM tomorrow, but experience tells me that they won’t be able to get the yard in shape until about nine. I may just show up then. They don’t seem to mind. © 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A-Fishing We Would Go

When we took my youngest granddaughter out for her birthday recently, I learned that my grandson had “lost” his last fishing pole. His mother acted like she thought there might be a little more to the story, and she’s probably right, he IS 13 after all. I told him that I remembered being 13; I just didn’t remember it very well, anymore. I think he’s basically a good kid; he’s just like most 13 year-olds. He’s searching for who he is in the greater scheme of things, and learning to think of himself as an independent person, rather than just some other person’s child. It can be a confusing journey for some, but I think he’ll turn out okay.

I remembered that I had a fishing pole in the basement that was my dad’s, and that got me to remembering. My dad worked from before sun-up ‘til after dark many a day on the farm and at his sawmill. It was a good life, but it wasn’t an easy one. Time to spend with his family during daylight hours was hard to come by. Still, when I was five or six, I remember him picking up a couple fishing poles at the local hardware store—a five foot kid’s rod for me and a better grade six-footer for himself. I don’t remember if the bait-casting reels came with them, or separately. He also bought some line, hooks, sinkers and plastic bobbers.

It was probably a Sunday afternoon, when he took me and my mother to the creek in the valley below our home. Just before going, he showed me how to find bait by turning over dried cow-pies in the pasture field. Nearly every one had at least one plump worm or night-crawler beneath it. At the creek, he showed me how to thread a worm on my hook so the fish wouldn’t rip it off with the first bite. Then, he showed me how to cast my line out in the water and to watch the bobber for a bite.

The fish weren’t very active that day, and it was a quite a while before either of us got a bite. Dad was the first to catch a fish—a tiny sunfish. He carefully removed the hook and threw it back. He caught a couple more and a small bluegill before I ever got my first bite. Dad told me to lift the pole and swing it up on the shore like he did, so I did. It was a little bass about six inches long. I was impressed, but Dad told me it was little and needed to grow more, just like the ones he’d been throwing back. He must have seen the disappointment in my eyes, for he said that I could keep it if I really wanted, and Mom would fry it up for me. Saying words that conflicted with some of my feelings, I replied that if it needed to grow more, that I’d throw it back, like he did with his. (I was apparently obsessed with food, even as a scrawny little kid!) Even the little fish soon quit biting, and we caught no more, so Dad suggested that we call it a day.

He only took me fishing a handful of times after that, then I had to con my great aunt, or my aunt who sometimes visited from D.C., into going along, since I wasn’t yet allowed to go by myself. I’ll always remember the day that my prim and proper aunt (my dad’s sister) sat in the grass along the creek with me, as our legs dangled over the bank. She was “dressed up” to my country eyes and smelled of the “eau de toilette” that so many older ladies used to wear. Yet, when the helicopter flew over checking the big gas main that crossed the valley, she waved along with me to the man beside the pilot and he waved back. I remember her laughing.

Time moved on and I began fishing by myself, or with friends. I had a lot of fun and interesting times along the old creek. From its flowing waters, my family and I had many a meal of fish over the years, but like my dad, I threw a lot of them back, too. For a while, I wondered why he’d always swung the fish to shore like some joyful kid, instead of just reeling them in. As we talked more over the years, though, I learned that he’d never had a boughten rod and reel before. He grew up during the depression using a tree limb, a string or strong thread, a cork for a bobber and, if he had no store-bought hooks, a bent safety pin served the purpose. With no barb on a safety-pin hook, you kept pressure on the line and swung the fish ashore before they could get away. Subconsciously, I’m sure he was still that little boy with his tree-limb pole.

The smaller rod that I first used is gone—given either to my stepson or one of my grandkids. I came across my dad’s pole in the basement the other day when I was sorting through some things. It was the one that I actually used the most over the years, but it’s sat unused in my basement for 30 years now—what I jokingly (but accurately) call “a victim of marriage.” It’s over 50 years old now. It holds a lot of pleasant memories for me, but I’ll have those memories with or without the pole. I think I’ll give it to my grandson. Hopefully, he won’t break it switching a snake or throw it in the river in disgust after losing “the big one.” If he does, it will be his loss more than mine, I suppose.

Maybe I’ll fish again someday, or maybe I won’t. If I do, though, it will either be with trotlines or a limb and a string. One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that simplicity is a good thing. © 2014

Thursday, February 6, 2014

…,But My Soul May Have Suffered!


The first part of that sentence is: “It did my heart good,”…(you’ll understand in a minute). From the years I’ve spent on the highways and byways of this once-fine land, I’ve got a fairly good opinion of truck drivers in general. Unfortunately, there’s a few bad apples in every barrel. I’ve noticed dump truck drivers tend to be the most rude as a group, with coal haulers being the worst of the lot. Understand that there are some very NICE dump truck drivers out there, too, but they’re less plentiful than nice semi drivers for instance.

That being said, I was barely “out of the gate” coming home from driving school today when a coal-hauler came barreling up behind me and began riding my tail. Watching my mirror, I noticed he was immediately joined by a second one, which then tail-gaited the first. Personally, I thought that 45mph on a crooked country road with occasional pot-holes and icy patches was fast enough. They apparently felt otherwise, so at the top of the first hill, I pulled over and let them around. They quickly  disappeared in a cloud of salt dust.

A couple miles further up the road, I pulled up behind those same trucks, which were stopped behind a school bus. Now, the Lord tells us not to take pleasure in others people’s problems, but I couldn’t help but grin. Now you understand what I meant by the first sentence; don’t you? ;-) © 2014


Monday, February 3, 2014


I’m right-handed; about 90% of people are. I’ve heard it said that lefties tend to be a bit more artistic, but otherwise, their skills are about the same as the rest of us. I used to read that, on average, ambidextrous folks are not so much equally coordinated with both hands as they are equally UN-coordinated with both hands. The failure for the body to decide which hand is favored probably lessens the practice the normally chosen hand would get, lessening its eventual skill.

A lot of people don’t realize that if you’re right-handed, you’re usually also right-footed. When you scuff something with your foot, you’ll usually find yourself standing on your left foot and scuffing with your right foot. This is so true that most people have a slightly larger left foot from standing on it more. Needless to say, you’ll also tend to kick more naturally with your right foot. Four-footed animals tend to lead with the same foot all the time, unless they’re making a turn, I suspect people tend to start walking with the same foot, too, but I’ve never tried to watch for the habit.

We “righties” tend to be right-eyed also. It’s called “having a dominant right eye.” The way to test yourself is to extend your arm and point at something and then close your left eye. If you’re still on target, you’re right-eyed. If not, try it again and then close your right eye. If you’re still on target, you’re left-eyed. Being right-handed, but left-eyed can cause a need for extra practice in actions requiring good eye-hand coordination, such as sports and some types of manual labor. Also, when I was a kid, I had a friend who couldn’t shoot his rifle very well, and bent over the stock strangely when he sighted. I suggested that he close his left eye and his groups tightened right up impressively. He was ecstatic. It turned out that, though he shot right-handed, he was left-eyed.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed something else; most righties sleep mostly on their left side. I don’t know if our bodies naturally have that tendency, or if it’s a subconscious attempt to keep our most coordinated hand more available to use in the night. That might be for such things as taking a drink or clicking the remote. I tend to think it’s more primal, as in grabbing a spear to repel the saber-tooth tiger lurking around the cave entrance.

Sleeping mostly on one side may come with an ill-affect, though, too. I can base it only on the experience of myself and my wife, but her cancer was on her left side, and thus her Lymphedema is also. After too many years of sitting at my work, I developed edema in my left leg. I suspect it’s due to blood and lymphatic fluids tending to pool in the lowest part of the body, BOTH feet through the day, but only the left at night. I suspect there’s much to learn about this subject, but I doubt if there’s any money to be made at it, so I don’t look for effort to research the matter.

Just something that crossed my mind while snowed in at the cabin another day! © 2014

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Older I Get...

...the more I prefer the color brown to the color white, and the sound of rain to the silence of snow. Incidentally, I just heard my first owl of the year. I don't know if the extreme cold would delay mating season any or not.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

My Week In Review

We managed to have almost a full week of class this week at the trucker’s school. We did let out early on Tuesday due to too much ice on the lot. (Some was the most beautiful shade of metallic blue, when seen from just the right angle. Of course, it was a mixture of diesel fuel, anti-freeze, brake fluid and motor oil that probably gave it that lovely sheen.) Our time was spent practicing straight-line backing and doing three different types of parking or docking maneuvers. I left a little early Friday due to there not being time to get a second round of maneuvers in before quitting time. I had plans anyway, so I could use the extra time. We should start getting out on the road next week, but that will remain to be seen. The bad weather has sort of jammed up the schedule of various classes that are normally two weeks apart. I don’t blame the school, they can’t control the weather.

My youngest granddaughter’s birthday was on the 25th, but the weather was too bad to get with her then, so we had to cancel. The same thing happened last year and she was heart-broken. She’d seen her older sister get dinner at Olive Garden, complete with the cake and having the waiters and waitresses sing “Happy Birthday,” so she was hoping for the same. This year, we were determined to make it happen, no matter HOW belated it was. She’s seven, so she adored all the attention and had a very good time. She even got a couple belated gifts from us and a card. Our waitress was older and not the fastest, but she was sweet and very patient, so maybe it was for the best. She got a good tip. Our daughter-in-law’s son was along and acted like a normal 13-year-old, so of course his mother was embarrassed. I told her not to worry about it; her husband was no picnic at that age either! He’s turned out fairly well, though, so I suspect her boy will do the same.

I’m not getting much blogging done during the week. I have to go to bed at 9 to get up at 4:30 and be there at 7, and that doesn’t leave much time after getting the wife and dog out of the house for a while, so they won’t die of cabin fever. It would be better if I could get back to sleep after my time up during the “wee” hours of the morning, when I and the dog have to drain our tanks. Sometimes I lay there for an-hour-and-a-half before I drift back off. Even then, I usually beat the alarm by a few minutes to half-an-hour. When we got back from taking my granddaughter out last night, I was too tired to even go on the computer, so I lay down on the floor, in front of the TV, and promptly started snoring away. I did get online a couple hours later and catch up with Facebook, reading other folk’s blogs and responding to comments on mine. I also posted a few links on both.

I guess this will be the same drill when I finally get a job. I think I’m getting too old to work for a living; maybe I’ll win the lottery! I keep forgetting to buy a ticket, though, so that probably won’t happen. Oh well, I’ve always earned my way by the sweat of my brow like the Lord intended; I’m blessed to have the opportunity, many DON”T.

This may be my only personal post this weekend. I need to start my taxes and keep working at cataloging old family photos, and there’s not enough time for THAT either. My wife and dog BOTH feel neglected. When I lay down on the floor last night, the dog came over and lay against my belly and dozed off, too. I told my wife that there was room for three, but she declined. Imagine that! © 2014