Saturday, January 31, 2015

Legalized Marijuana – My Thoughts

Pot is in the news a lot these days. Some want to make it legal for medication, and others want it made legal for anything and everything. Being one who believes in moderation in all things (including moderation), I’m somewhere in the middle on this issue. NO, I do NOT mean wishy-washy; what I believe, I believe firmly. I’m just not to either extreme.

To be fair, yes, I tried it a few times when I was young. I never bought it and I never sold it, but I did accept a few tokes when offered it a half-dozen times or so. Though I wasn’t a Christian at the time, I WAS raised in a Christian home, so maybe my thinking was influenced more than I realized by that upbringing. After a few times, I declined further offers, but not because I thought it was horribly immoral (anymore than frequent consumption of alcohol is).

My thinking was, first off, that I could have a beer or glass of wine and not get drunk, but I couldn’t take a toke without deliberately intending to catch a buzz. Secondly, the stuff tasted worse than smoldering autumn leaves, so there was certainly no pleasure in the process. Thirdly, my wife at the time was applying for a teaching job and, had I got caught catching a buzz with one of my buddies, it might have made her job search more difficult. Common sense told me to leave the stuff alone. I eventually dropped those two “friends” also. Now, many years later, I would like to see pot made ALMOST legal, and for more than one reason.

First, remember that the only thing accomplished by prohibition was to ruin certain segments of agriculture and business and make the criminals rich (such as Al Capone and the Kennedy’s). It’s obvious that’s what current laws do to today’s criminal class (drug cartels and street punks). It’s also said that the corruption is so pervasive that many of our top politicians and military brass is involved in the drug trade. That involvement goes back as far as the early 60’s from what I can tell, and I’m sure it hasn’t lessened any over the years.

Secondly, the only reason that it was made illegal in the first place was NOT due to overwhelming evidence of its negative effects (though that DID come later), but because the timber and plastics industries wanted to knock inexpensive hemp fiber out of the running for manufacturing. Unfortunately, the hemp farmers didn’t have the deep pockets of the timber and plastics (oil) industries.

My third reason for questioning the illegality of marijuana is that most of the negative findings about it have been based on smoking it. Even breathing the smoke from your weekend campfire should be avoided, as should ANY smoke, but that leaves the “science” on marijuana a little lop-sided. Like most studies, by most ANY group, the majority of such studies started out with the result they wanted and then figured out the easiest way to get there. Their conclusions may still be valid, but their bias and methods should be questioned. Injection and consumption haven’t really been studied much, except by those wishing to promote it.

Fourth, there is now overwhelming evidence that marijuana has at least some medicinal value, and perhaps a LOT of medicinal value. Of course, the LAST thing the drug companies want is for people to treat or cure a condition or disease with something as cheap and easy as “herbal” brownies. They will strive to keep it illegal until they can patent a process to extract the medicinal properties and sell their pot products without competition from the backyard gardener.

Fifth, we are taking kids who get locked up for pot possession, housing them with hardcore drug addicts and violent criminals, and then wondering why they don’t straighten out when they’re released. We are, in essence, TRAINING them to hate and to try to beat, an unfair and often corrupt police, court and prison systems. Why are we surprised at the results?

Now understand that the following is only my opinion, so yes, you should also keep in mind the old vulgarism about opinions and a certain body part: Medical marijuana should be made legal, so that only a doctor’s prescription is needed. Alternatives to smoking it should be encouraged, of course. Indeed, ALL herbal medicine should be legalized, since Big Pharma tries so hard to make it ILLEGAL. Possession, use and growing marijuana should only be misdemeanors, with no escalating penalties for subsequent charges. Under NO circumstances should it ever be deemed a felony. Growers should simply be subject to business and tax laws that any other business is subject to, and should be allowed to sell only to medicinal companies OR directly to those with prescriptions.

Marijuana used for fiber is entirely different than that grown for the drug trade and farmers should be allowed to grow it without interference, as long as it is sold solely to manufacturing companies or commodity dealers.

SO, there is my opinion; take it for what it’s worth to you. © 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Brilliant Idea Shot Down By Management

There are days that the wheels of my truck rarely stop, and I spend most of the day without needing to climb out of the cab for business reasons. Often, the customers come right to my truck door to sign the invoice. At one of the main yards where we load, there’s no need to even get out at the scale, as they have a “drive-thru” window. The mine has such a window, too, and due to federal regulations, it’s actually ILLEGAL to get out of your truck!

As a result, sometimes the only way my legs get stretched and my backside relieved from bearing its load is going to the restroom. I mentioned to the older brother (who interviewed me for this job) that I was on water pills and needed to drain my tank more often than the average guy. I think it’s become obvious that I wasn’t joking. Unfortunately, there have been times that my sum-total of pit stops have caused me to miss a deadline, like when the mine closes, and I can’t get another load for that day.

That happened today, when I missed the slot by only FIVE MINUTES, and I felt sort of bad, because I know the dispatcher would have had me stop, as I drove by on my way back from a delivery, and load up something they could use at the shop.

As I sped toward town in my Mack, the answer to the problem hit me like a ton of bricks! I was sure the boss brothers would go for it, as it should translate into better use of my time and more profits for them. I was really anxious to get to the shop and relay my thoughts on the subject. So, after doing my post-trip inspection and fuel up, I approached them with my idea.

You see, I’ve got a bit of Scottish blood on my father’s side, so I could rightfully wear a kilt if I chose. If I did so, and went “commando,” I could install a catheter, put the end of the tube through a small hole in the floor and drive and drain! Despite trying to sound very upbeat and convincing in my presentation, neither brother wanted anything to do with the idea. Maybe it was the thought of having to drill a hole in the floor of the truck. Still, I just don’t understand why they didn’t consider my great idea more seriously. © 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Untold Stories - Unanswered Questions (pics)

Old iron always interests me. My wife thinks I'm nuts and fears that I want to start collecting it (I don't). When I see old machinery, I wish I could see it new and in operation. I wonder about it's age, and sometimes, its purpose. I took this photo along a country road in Ritchie County, West Virginia today. Four things in these photos catch my interest. Mainly, it would be nice the know the stories of the military light truck and the old military ambulance during their service with the government. THEN, it would be interesting to know what the civilian owner used them for.

Between the two military pieces of iron sits the skeleton of a small bulldozer. I can't help but wonder what all that machine did in its time that wore it out so that it ended up where it now sits.

Even the little machine at the left intrigues me. It appears to be four-wheel drive and has flotaion-type tractor-tread tires. Was it made for gardening, competition pulling or mud-bogging? It looks to have a lot of forward weight, like the big tractors you see on the plains, making me think that was for pulling SOMETHING; but WHAT?

NO it's not any of my business! No, I won't truly be any wiser if I know! BUT I'D STILL LIKE TO KNOW! I guess I'm a bit odd that way. © 2015

Click photos to enlarge.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Bits And Pieces

I had another short pay last week. Most of us got sent home after two hours today, also, and may again tomorrow, so it’ll be yet another low pay this week. It’s really no-one’s fault, since we can’t control the weather. A couple guys got a salt run. They had to go clear to the tip of the Northern Panhandle and pick up a load of road salt. Then they had to deliver it to a landscaper in Vienna that does snow plowing in the winter. Considering that it will be an all-day run for one load of salt per truck, that’s going to be some expensive salt. I supposed that they’d use trucks with aluminum beds, so the salt wouldn’t rust the steel beds, but both trucks were steel beds. It turns out that the steel beds dump the salt cleaner, with no hang-ups in the bed. It looks like they’d need to wash them really good afterward, but in freezing weather, they can’t!

I was talking to one of the guys at a well site last week, and he said that he’s seen as many as seven wells drilled side-by-side at one site. They go down straight for a ways, then angle off to wherever they’re going. It seems to me that would be stealing the oil and gas from other landowners. Then again if it’s all in one big pool, that’s probably what’s going on anyway. What probably happens, then, is that the landowners with full ownership of the OG&M rights get the wells, while properties in heirship don’t get bothered with.

I saw a neat trick on Facebook today. A guy took one of the “Wrist-Rocket” style slingshots, put a “Whisker Biscuit” arrow rest on it and used it to shoot arrows. It might not do for deer, but it should do for small game. Of course, I don’t know if it would be legal or not, but in a survival situation; who’d care?

I sent a story into a magazine the other day. I suspect it will be used, but they have a waiting list two years long, and I won’t be paid until they use it, IF they use it. Oh well, I can’t think of any other magazine that would use that kind of article. I have another one that I might send them, too. Both articles have been sitting on my computer for a couple years already, so I better get them out there before I croak or something.

It’s been a long day here at home. Even with my charming company, my wife feels likewise, partly because she wouldn’t let me take her anywhere to get out of the house. She was scared of the roads, though I told her that they were fine. She fixed an excellent supper of pork chops, potatoes and sautéed cabbage. I even liked the cabbage, and usually I’m not big with that vegetable. It didn’t have the bitter flavor that some cabbage does, though.

Well, Carroll Roberson’s show is about to come on, so I better go watch it with the wife and the Mighty Dachshund (she likes mellow music, too). Then it’s to bed so I can get up in time to put out the trash and still be at work at 7 (30 minutes later than normal, due to the weather). © 2015

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Oh Me Of Little Faith

Things are tight this winter. As with any business that’s tied to construction, the trucking business (for dump trucks, at least) goes down in the winter. I’ve heard the dispatcher on the phone trying to drum up business to keep us driving, so I know he’s doing his level best. Still, rain, snow and cold winds put the kibosh on a lot of work.

Our pay period runs Friday through Thursday, so they can pay us on Friday and be current. This past Friday, I sat in the break room for an hour before he found me a run. Even then, I was only driving for five and a quarter hours before the job ended and I was sent home. At least we get paid for the wait.

It was supposed to snow Sunday night, but didn’t. Still, most jobs were closed, out of concern that it was only running a few hours late and that it would snow through the day. They kept us there for four hours before sending all of us home but the handful already on the road. They told us to call back about four, to see when to come in the following morning. When we did, they just told us to call the same time the next day. In other words, most of us had no work at all on Tuesday. I DID get good work Wednesday and Thursday, so I ended up with a 30 hour week. That’s not good, but it sure beats the zero dollars that I had coming in during a three month period of my 15 months with no work!

One of my coworkers was talking about how an independent insurance agent in town had saved him a bunch of money. I’d gotten quotes from another company, but they wanted $11 more a month than I’m currently paying. When I called his agent, she gave me a price for $45 less than I’m currently paying Nationwide, AND THE COVERAGE IS THREE TIMES BETTER! I think it’s with Liberty Mutual; the guy said they paid quickly when he had a claim, so that’s the main thing. We’ll probably get signed up with them this week. Combined with the $20 I’m saving on cable now, that will leave another $65 to apply to our needs. I still don’t have collision or homeowners, but what can I do? They’re simply beyond my budget.

I also changed my federal withholding from zero deductions to two. I’d planned on my refund paying my property taxes, but since Obama plans on stealing some of it, I won’t leave it there for him to steal next year. I’m well aware of the old saying that allowing them to hold your money for a year cheats you of interest and pays them, but with today’s interest, that argument is no longer valid. HOWEVER, I need to SAVE the difference so it’s there when I need it, and the devil has a way of throwing emergencies in a poor person’s path.

There’s snow on the ground today, and rain is supposedly coming tomorrow, so I’m wondering if I’ll have any work Monday. It’s easy to fret and worry about it, and sometimes my wife and I both get concerned. Still, I firmly believe that the Lord brought me to this job, and I know he didn’t do so just to let me lose everything I have. The Lord WILL provide! Sometimes, I have to remind myself of that. © 2013

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Scent Of Memories

I took the dog out about 9:30 this evening and caught a whiff of coal smoke. I never smell it during the day, so I don't know if the user just banks his evening fire with coal, or if he's trying to keep from being noticed, lest some jerk belly-ache about the smell. Regardless, he won't get any complaints from me. I've mentioned before on this blog that both sets of my grandparents had a coal grate, rather than a fireplace. Still, they burned wood with the coal.

My paternal grandparents, just over the hill, had a shed right by the back door, part of which served as a coal shed. My maternal grandparents, a mile up the road, just had a pile of coal in the backyard covered by sheets of tin, a tarp, or whatever else was handy. Needless to say, whenever I smell coal burning, I think of visiting them. Of course a LOT of folks burned coal back then, but the rest weren't my grandparents! © 2015

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Random Mental Ramblings

Yesterday, the younger boss asked me if I’d mind picking up his son at the car dealership before I clocked out and I told him that I wouldn’t mind at all. (I didn’t tell him that I’d already clocked out.) So, he gave me the keys to the company van and told me where to look for him. Without my seatbelt extender, I felt a bit asphyxiated, but my heart didn’t stop beating or anything. I was there in about ten minutes and he climbed in before I could ask him to trade places with me.

I told him that I’d been wanting to talk to him alone, so his interest perked up. I mentioned that the company had little or no web page and that, in this day and age, that seemed unwise. I told him that with the busting up of the phone companies, phone books had become almost useless, since they no longer give complete listings for everyone under the sun. As a result, the computer is usually my go-to source for phone numbers these days, and the phone book is relegated to my vehicle, for when my computer isn’t available, but I need to make a call. He said that they didn’t see the importance of it yet, but that he was working on them. I told him that I figured it would help their business with younger folks and keep our jobs more secure in the rough times that I believe lie ahead. I hope his efforts pan out.

As should be expected, after replacing the low-beam headlight on the driver’s side of my pickup a couple weeks ago, the one on the passenger side went out a couple days ago. Not sure how to get the assembly out, I replaced the bulb with the assembly in place, which wasn’t easy. In fact, I broke a little chunk of plastic getting the old one out and now the bulb gradually works out of place. Since new light assemblies start at around $125 on Amazon, I may try to fix it with body putty first. (I wonder if chewing gum would work? lol) I started to replace the other one today, but by the time I came inside and watched a couple videos to show me how to get off the small panel below it, it was getting dark enough that I decided to wait until another day.

Due to another short paycheck, paying car insurance, getting one of our phone cards and forking out $15 for a new headlight, the grocery budget was pretty slim this week. I guess it’s a good thing that we put a little food back when the paychecks were better. That’s what is hard for me to understand about people with no interest in prepping. “Emergencies” are sometimes just in your own family, not the community at large.

For some reason, that reminds me of a saying about frugality that my beloved great aunt used to tell me which, in turn, came from one of HER great aunts, “The time to be saving is when you have plenty.” That advice is pretty logical when you think about it, but most folks don’t ration their assets until tough times arrive.

When I climbed in my truck Friday, it was obvious that someone else had been driving it. Actually, I couldn’t even get into the cab until I moved the steering wheel as far forward as it would go. After driving it a little while, I realized that the heater was working better than normal. It wasn’t working RIGHT, mind you, but it WAS doing better. Apparently, the mechanic was feeling sorry for me. He’s very under-appreciated by most of the folks there, but I always try to show my appreciation for anything he does, and he seems to watch out for me as best he can in return. The equipment is well used, though, so he can’t work miracles, but he does pretty good with what he has. May God bless his little pea-pickin’ heart! © 2015

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

This Wasn’t Supposed To Happen!

We were supposed to have clear weather through the weekend, but I woke up this morning to about a half-inch of snow and flakes still falling. I went to work, did my pretrip and then sat around for two hours before they sent us home. Our customers apparently saw the snow and panicked. Although it’s been “snowing” all day, we still have little more than the half-inch with which we started the daylight hours.

Here it is, the time of year when bills are the highest, and I’m going to have the third low paycheck in a row. I overheard a coworker lamenting the same problem, but I think he still has kids at home, so he’s probably hurting worse than us. Unlike most of the rest of them, though, I can’t draw any low-earnings (partial unemployment) due to having no work for most of the past year-and-a-half, and the fact that even a day-and-a-half’s work will put me over the cut-off to draw even the minimum.

The local TV station has a little girl from “Sunny Cal” doing the weather these days. She’s hoping for a lot of snow, because she’s rarely seen it in her short life. Perhaps, if she knew the financial hardship, the power outages and the danger on the roadways that snow can causes, she’d be less anxious to see it. Then again, the way most folks are anymore, it might not matter.

I’m ready for spring. Of course, there WERE a few dirt jobs that we were forced off of by RAIN last fall. Oh well, I guess it’s best to take each evil (and each blessing) as it comes. © 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Call Me Fickle

My wife and I were at the Chinese Emporium today, spending my partial paycheck (for the partial week that I worked, due to bad weather). While my wife got the usual items, I picked up a bag of those little “cutie” brand tangerines to take in my lunch next week. Then, I started looking to see where they were from. It turns out that they hail from Morocco. No thanks, I have no intentions of doing business with a muslim country, not after all the terrorism the “religion” supports. I put them back.

Then, I went to get my usual bottles of water to put in my lunch. Two spaces over was a stack of the same brand with four bonus bottles. I suspect they were selling for the same price, but, as is all too often the case in the Chinese Emporium, they weren’t marked. My dad always said that if something wasn’t marked, they apparently didn’t want to sell it. I tend to agree with him. I had no intention of getting to the register, thinking that I was getting a deal, only to discover that it was the new size package with a higher price. SO, I took the regular size package that had a price posted above it.

When we got to the register and combined our carts, a package of blueberries that my wife had chosen wouldn’t scan, despite the barcode being in perfect condition. The clerk started to call for a price, but I told her not to bother, telling her that I didn’t want to have to wait on a reply, and that we would just do without them. Surprisingly, both the clerk and my wife were agreeable on the matter.

So, we left minus three items that we’d planned to get, one due to my personal prejudice against murderous scumbags, and two due to poor merchandising on the part of the store. Oh well, we’re going to another store tomorrow, maybe we can find what we want there. © 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

01-09-2015 – Riding Shotgun – Snow On The Mountain (w/pics)

Well, it wasn’t a mountain, actually, just a tall hill. At work, we’ve spent the last couple of days hauling dirt away from a hill, which the owner wants to make shorter. We then take it to another hill, about ten miles away, that an oil company wants to make taller. They’re putting in a small compressor station and don’t want to chisel the hill out, apparently, so they’re bringing in dirt to make a level spot for the facility.

About ten of our trucks are doing the hauling, and about a half-dozen from other companies. It’s about an hour-and-a-half round trip, including loading and unloading, waiting to get loaded and sitting at the bottom of the mile-long haul road to take our turn (usually 3-5 at a time) to climb the hill to get to the site. The road is narrow enough that passing is difficult, so they try not to have anyone coming down as anyone is going up. CB’s and a couple of “flag ladies” allow them to stay organized.

Yesterday, it was about zero and there was 4-6 inches of snow on the ground when they started. I had to go get my yearly DOT physical to keep my CDL, so I didn’t actually go on the job until 11 o’clock. The mechanic already had my truck started when I got there, so I didn’t have THAT to contend with. Despite having to pee in a cup (Remember LAST time?), it didn’t turn out too bad this time, since it didn’t include a drug test and I could use my multi-tool as a handle for the cup. My blood pressure just barely passed, I’m STILL not diabetic (how, I don’t know), but there WAS a little blood in my urine. The nurse laughed when she told me that and said that was PROOF that I was a truck driver, because nearly ALL truck drivers have blood in their urine. Apparently, it’s caused by the beating that our backsides take when we hit all those !@%#$*)(%#! potholes.

Today, it was just warm enough that I didn’t need to use starting fluid on my truck, plus I got started when the rest of the crew did. As the day went on, the temperature actually went down. We had a little sun, a LOT of clouds, and some snow flurries. The wind on the hilltop was horrendous, so when the snow fell, it traveled a nearly horizontal path. The heater in my truck worked when the spirit moved it, usually turned on and off by pot-holes or bumps on the highway. By wearing my jacket all day and putting the windows up and down, I was able to keep the cab reasonably comfortable, despite a heater fan that was either going full blast or was off completely.

The road got a little icy after a certain point, in spite of being surfaced with limestone, so they brought in some cinders and scattered on the haul road. We didn’t so much need them going up the steep spots, but coming down. One guy was a little nervous as he sat at the bottom of one slope waiting to come up as I was going down. I told him not to worry, that if I started skidding, That I wouldn’t hit him, I’d just take my foot off the brake and go shooting past him. That’s exactly what I WOULD have done, but it doesn’t sound very reassuring when you say it out loud!

After my last load was dumped and I headed for the shop, I realized that the spatter from the four-lane section of the haul, combined with the low angle of the sun, had given me a dangerously dirty windshield. Since the washer, unlike the heater, doesn’t work at all, I stopped along the road and threw some snow on the windshield, then quickly climbed in and turned the wipers on, as the snow melted. I don’t know if I figured that out on my own, or if I picked the trick up from someone else, but I’ve been doing it for years when the washer on a vehicle doesn’t work right in snowy weather. Luckily, I remembered not to put my wet hands on the metal bars to climb in, but pulled my hands inside my jacket sleeves first and used them like mittens. It might have been both embarrassing AND uncomfortable to have been frozen to the side of my truck! © 2015

Click an image to enlarge it.

This is the hill that they want to make shorter.

This is where they're trying to make a hill taller (or at least flatter on top).

One view from the "mountain."

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Florida Keeps Looking Better

When I was young, active and had good circulation, cold weather didn’t bother me much. I remember one breezy 10 degree day when I found a sheltered spot in the pine woods and began sawing and splitting a dead pine into firewood. My jacket came off before I even started. After a couple minutes, so did my toboggan. As the sweat trickled down my face and ears, it froze in my beard and mustache. Soon, my flannel shirt came off. Not much later, so did my T-shirt. There I was in 10 degree weather, splitting firewood without a shirt, with sweat frozen in my facial hair, but perfectly comfortable. Once I stopped splitting and loading, though, it was surprising how quickly I put that clothing back on!

These days, I still don’t get as cold as most folks. Carrying twice the weight required for a human body can do that to you. Still, I’m not as warm-blooded as I used to be, and my fingers and toes get cold a lot faster than they once did.

We had snow and cold yesterday, and the bosses sent most of us home after two hours of no orders. We never even started our trucks. They had us go in a half-hour later today, and I started my truck, mostly hoping that any residual heat might make it easier to start tomorrow. It was 16 degrees at the shop this morning and, since it has no block heater, I don’t believe my truck would have started if I hadn’t given it a hefty dose of starting fluid before I started cranking the engine. Most of us were once again sent home after a couple hours. Tonight, it’s supposed to get down to five degrees, but I have to take my CDL physical first thing, so it may be a little warmer than that by the time I get to the shop.

Normally, the guys ask me if I don’t have a jacket. I always tell them that I have one in the truck, in case it turns cold. The last couple mornings, they didn’t have to ask, because I was wearing it. Needless to say, I got a little teasing about it.

It may be the cold that has made my truck quit entering four-wheel drive mode. Ya gotta love computerized stuff, NOT! Even when I turn the switch back to the two-wheel position the little light keeps saying that it’s in 4WD, even though it isn’t. Since that light is on, my anti-skid brakes don’t work, which is no big deal to me, since I already know how to drive, but the idea is aggravating. Unfortunately, with short pay, I can’t really afford to have the problem fixed right now. So, I can no longer count on 4WD to get me to town and back, meaning that I may have to resort to running chains (which I have, thankfully).

Also, it’s been windy the last couple days; wind-chill may be at -15 degrees in the morning. That makes my drafty hilltop house a bit hard to keep warm. Despite all the beautiful photos of the place (I’ve never been there), I’ve never had the slightest desire to live there. It may have something to do with summer heat, high crime rate compared to here, hurricanes, mosquitoes, palmetto bugs and dinky deer. Anymore, though, I’m thinking that the life of a snowbird might be the way to go. I could always go fishing! © 2015

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Winter Driving

When I was a kid, we had a flatbed truck for use at the farm and sawmill, but our family vehicle was a station wagon. During the summer, it took us on picnics, weekends in the mountains, visits to distant relatives, up the road to Granddad’s house and “to town.” Going to town was an important consideration, for even back then, there were some foods that we didn’t grow or raise on the farm, plus, when both my sister and I were old enough to be in school, Mom got a job in town.

We hauled groceries, umpteen kids, cattle feed, barbed wire and lumber in our old wagons, along with many other things. If you ran out of room inside, there was always the luggage rack on top! As anyone who’s had both knows, the only thing as handy as a station wagon is a pickup truck, and the truck is limited in comfortable seating. Four-wheel drives hadn’t become all that popular yet, because of the comparative expense. If you weren’t a farmer, you might not need a pickup and, empty, wagons had better traction anyway, so a LOT of country folks had station wagons back then.

It was in a station wagon that I learned to drive, including bad-weather driving. On slick winter roads, accelerate slowly, brake gingerly, turn slowly, get a run for going up a hill, but creep down the other side, plus, DON’T tailgate. With the old sawdust tread, those wagons did surprisingly well, even on ice. The more weight that you piled in the back, the better they went; chains would make them almost unstoppable, IF you didn’t bottom out (high-center). We often kept 200-300 pounds of cattle feed in the back, just for traction. The car always smelled great during the winter! Sadly, many of today’s “station wagons” are front wheel drive, putting the weight in a LOADED vehicle over the NON-DRIVING tires, making those vehicles almost useless, unless empty.

Going to work today, I left early to allow for slower traveling. As I crept down the first hill, some idiot came flying over the brink of the hill, headed for my rear bumper. I was close enough to the bottom that I could speed up a bit and still make it around the left turn at the foot of the grade. He realized that he couldn’t push me, I guess, so he backed off a little. Driving carefully along the winding valley road, I clicked on the four-wheel drive and got a bit of a run for the grade up out of the valley. Unfortunately, just around the bend, and half-way up the hill, sat a small car in the middle of the road.
I had no choice but to stop. The guy got out of his car and apologized, telling me that he was sure that his front-wheel drive would make it through the five inches of powdery snow on the hill. I asked if he had winter treads, and he said that he didn’t. He also said that he’d try to get to one side to let me around, so, I started backing down the slick hill, NOT one of my favorite things to do. The idiots right behind me (another tail-gaiter had appeared) had no choice but to back down also. Thinking that it was too slick to be on the road, I decided to turn around in a driveway and return home. However, two more cars had pulled cross-wise of the two normally open driveways, leaving me no place to turn. It appeared that the only option was up and out.

Seeing that the first guy had managed to get a good ways down the hill, and to the outside of the bend, I gave it my truck as much gas as I thought prudent. I’m not sure the four-wheel had caught, for I fish-tailed all the way up, but I kept moving. Glancing in my rear-view mirror, I saw four more vehicles tail-gaiting up the hill right behind me. The five us looked like some giant glow-worm wiggling through the white darkness. In the old days, each would have waited to be sure the one in front made it, or at least followed at a safe distance, but that was then.

When I reached the four-lane, it was obvious that it hadn’t been graded or salted. One lane was worn down in the very center, packed like ice. I tried going toward town at a safe 30 MPH, but everyone was piled up behind me, so I eased to the right, barely keeping my driver’s side tires in the worn area, while my passenger side tires were actually in the fresh snow on the paved berm. In rapid succession, the cars behind me passed and soon appeared to be going not far below the 65 MPH legal there. I was thrilled to be rid of them.

I drove the rest of the way to work without incident. I was only a couple minutes late, but it didn’t matter, as they’d told the guys not to start their trucks anyway. I told my bosses about the crazies on the road and we chatted a few minutes. Soon, the young dispatcher (the younger boss’s son) came in, only a few minutes late. Asked what the roads were like in his area, he commented that they weren’t all that bad, if everyone would just quit poking along! I smiled and left to join my coworkers in the waiting area. © 2015

Triple Whammy

Back in the summer of 2010, after nearly a year-and-a-half of sitting on my backside for seven+ hours a day, I developed edema in my left ankle. Actually, a large part of the previous two years had found me seated, too, as I worked toward getting a couple associate degrees on the government’s nickel. I’m sure the condition had nothing to do with the fact that, for many years, there’s been enough extra weight on me to make a whole other person. As time has moved on, my right ankle developed a little edema, too, and my left leg sometimes ached a bit from the condition.

A few nights ago, I was outside in below-freezing weather, dressed only in my skivvies and L.L. Bean camp mocs, carrying in some jugs of water from the truck. I had no flashlight, and didn’t turn on the porch light, for obvious reasons. The darkness had nothing to do with the fact that I simply didn’t pick my foot up high enough to clear the edge of the porch, and went down, four one-gallon jugs in hand. I landed fairly hard on my left knee and left hand, but didn’t break open any of the jugs.

From the way it felt at the time, I figured that it would be the hand that would bruise and swell. Not so. The knee has been hurting for over a week now, though it never really swelled much. What DID swell was my leg BELOW the knee. As often happens, the swelling has gradually sagged into my shank and ankle, taking the pain and soreness along as it goes. The knee actually feels better now, but the leg hurts like crazy.

Trying to relieve some of that pain, I tried some Salonpas that my wife was going to pitch, because it had burned too much for her tastes when she put some on her arthritic left hand. Since the pain was over a large area, I used a good bit. Within a half-hour, I realized its use was a bad idea. Thinking a milder dose might still be okay, I dry-wiped the area with a paper towel and applied some hand lotion. When the burning continued unabated, I washed off the area with mild soap and dried it. By that time, it was about the color of a regular mild burn, though it doesn’t FEEL so mild. And so it has remained since.

A couple days ago, I put some antibiotic cream on it, in case the burn had allowed infection to start, but that was probably unneeded. The area directly below my knee has returned to normal, but my shin, ankle and now, my foot, are swollen and painful. I suppose it will eventually work its way to my big toe and out the nail! Until then, it still hurts and my foot is swollen enough that I can’t wear a sock and still get my wear-for-everything camp mocs. I have the liners that I wear inside them cut off at about five inches. That’s not so good in six inches of snow, but my jeans ride heavy on them, so I have little trouble so far. I really should look for a pair of winter boots. Or maybe some gators! (Fat chance of finding such a thing in this area.) © 2015

Saturday, January 3, 2015

“Thankless” Holidays

When I was a kid, we sometimes gathered around the table for breakfast or dinner, depending on whether Mom was there to fix it. If not, Dad and I would fix out own, but still usually sit down and eat together before going back to our farm or sawmill work. At supper, though, we nearly always gathered around the table. Saying grace, however, was usually reserved for Sundays or holidays, when we were especially thankful for not just the food, but also for the family members who often joined us, as well.

My wife grew up in a home where saying grace at the table was looked upon in the same light as the Pharisee praying on the street corner. Of course, my father-in-law also never got baptized because he felt he wasn’t “worthy.” I suspect that he believed that no-one else was worthy enough, either, but I don’t know that. He believed that way, despite reading his Bible daily. I won’t say anything to my wife about it, but I have to wonder about the salvation of someone who waits until he’s worthy enough to obey the Lord’s command to be baptized. (NO, I DON’T believe it’s a requirement for salvation, but why would anyone deliberately disobey such an obvious command?)

The last couple times that we had a holiday meal at our house, looking at our tiny kitchen and our strung-out seating arrangements, my wife just called out “Okay—form a line,” meaning for everyone to file through the kitchen buffet-style. Grace was apparently forgotten.

The last couple holidays, my wife and I went to “the kids’.” I was wondering if my stepson would ask the blessing, but with THEIR tiny kitchen and limited seating, it was a repeat of the last two family meals at our own home. I was disappointed. It’s not that I mean that you can’t be thankful without saying grace; it’s just that any reminder to be thankful to God is a good thing, especially when there are children present (and there were a few, none of whom are saved). Had I been in my own house, I would have spoken up this time, but I wouldn’t do that in someone else’s home.

When we got home, I mentioned to my wife that I would have like to have seen grace said, especially considering all the kids there. Apparently taking it as an insult to her son, she angrily reminded me that her father didn’t believe in such things, and she didn’t think it was necessary. I replied that while it wasn’t necessary, it would still have been nice. She told me that we weren’t Jesus, so we couldn’t bless the food anyway. I could have reminded her that we DON’T bless the food, but rather, ask the Lord to do so. However, I learned long ago not to push ANY issue with her, unless it’s a matter of life and death. It was just one more example of how, ultimately, tradition usually wins over common sense.

My wife finds it straining to cook for a crowd anymore, so there may not be any more holiday meals in our home. We would have eaten Chinese this year had we not gotten the invite to the kids’ house. Naturally, saying grace in a restaurant is merely flaunting your religion in my wife’s eyes (remember who raised her). I guess that means thankless holidays from now on, and while some folks would consider it just a case of me hanging onto my own tradition, I like to think that there’s a little more to it than that. In fact, I know there is. © 2014

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Choosing Sanity

“Experts” may disagree with me, and so may you, but I believe that most “insane” people are that way by choice. Notice that I did NOT say all insane people, just most. There are some folks who suffer such horrific trauma that continued sanity may honestly not be an option. However, you can find other people who suffered almost identical trauma that managed to deal with it. Even counselors don’t tell a person what to do to return from the inner world, they help them to think and choose their way back.

I believe that I was at the point one time many years ago where I could have stayed in this world, or withdrew to the world within. I believe that it was the Lord who made me aware that I had a choice. Of course, once I realized that I had a choice, I no longer had that choice, if that makes any sense to you. If you’ve ever been to that abyss, you may feel bad for those who made the jump, but you, like me, may also be less accepting of insanity as an excuse for doing wrong, particularly violent crime. Personally, I think there should be fewer insanity defenses and more findings of justifiable homicide and such.

Do you know who I think is crazy? I believe that any judicial system that will get the guilty parties counseling to make them “sane,” so they can be punished for what they did when they were supposedly insane, is the perfect example of true insanity! © 2015

The Last Couple Days

I hauled my load of dirt up to the landfill at Amanda, Ohio, Tuesday. The boss should be proud, I had the cruise set on the speed limit all the way. Of course that’s easier to do safely in Ohio than West Virginia; the flatter land makes for straighter roads. Even then, I had a 45 minute delay, due to requiring a minor truck repair at the landfill. When you live nearly on the plains and don’t have a hollow to dump your trash into, you apparently just start a mountain. The view was nice from up there, though. I was amused when the Tower Of Babel came to mind. I guess it would be more of a tower of rubble, though.

It was nice to be in farm country; we have very few serious farmers in my neck of the woods anymore. That’s probably because the parcels of land are too small and the terrain too rough to allow the bigger equipment and bigger operations needed to fulfill the desired lifestyles of people today. There was frost on the corn and soybean stubble, but the sun soon chased it away. There were grain elevators and silos, the likes of which haven’t been seen in my area for years. Amanda was a nice little town. Like many small towns, it appears to have been more active in the past, but it was still a mixture of new with the old and the occupied with the empty. They had some very nice old houses, many still maintained quite well, and their new-looking high school was very impressive. I got back to the shop early enough to haul a couple loads of materials to the neighboring county.

Yesterday morning, I went to the doctor for my first check-up in three years. He separated one combined blood pressure medicine and upped the water-pill part, partly to help with the swelling of my feet and ankles.

My blood pressure was higher than it should have been, but I’m not surprised. I had trouble finding his office because he moved back to this side of the river, and the cheap multi-million dollar company (which bought our two local hospitals and then closed one down) that he works for hadn’t put up new signage and still showed him across the river. The computer showed him across the street from the one that closed down, but the sign indicated otherwise. When I drove across the main street and onto the old hospital grounds, the office where he USED to be was completely gone. So, I thought that maybe they meant that it was across from the hospital that remained open and went there. After parking, I walked completely around the building before I found the entrance, went inside (already aware that I was at the wrong place) and asked about his location. They sent me back to where I was in the first place. Sure enough, when I went inside and asked, he DID have an office there. Amazingly, I was only six minutes late. Despite being his first patient of the day, he still kept me waiting a half-hour.

Poor Doc, the drug companies, hospital, university and the AMA have him completely brain-washed into believing all their propaganda. I don’t buy much of it, but they could still be proud, since he upped one of my meds (as I said earlier), plus prescribed some dope for my prostate problem, which I’d been thinking was just a urinary version of target panic.

After my perfunctory inspection by Doc and a blood draw, I went to work. Things were slow, so the dispatcher offered me the day off and I accepted, knowing that my wife and my dog would both be happy to see me. Unfortunately, I had to wait on my paycheck. I hadn’t waited five minutes before the dispatcher came bursting through the door to ask if I’d still be willing to work, so I told him “yes.” I then spent the rest of the day hauling dirt from a new motel to the yard of the shop, where they’re filling some low ground to make it less flood prone. It put five more hours on next week’s paycheck, so that’s a “good thing,” as Martha Stewart used to say.

I now have a short paycheck that I couldn’t get cashed yesterday, and a long weekend ahead. (Not everything about the holidays is all hunky-dory, but we’ll get through it.) I hope you all have a really great new year ahead of you. Mine certainly looks brighter than the last one, since I’m working. Of one thing, you can be sure, no matter how much I grump, I thank the Lord daily for the good things in my life, for there are many. © 2015