Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Economic Recessions

My advisers told me that if the congress fails to implement an economic recovery plan that they thought the stock market could fall by as much as 1/3 or more of its current value. That means the Dow could fall to somewhere in the 7,000's. They thought other areas of the economy would be dramatically affected as uncertainty and lack of credit spread. They thought it would last maybe 5 years or so and all this would happen very quickly.

I was interested in how many recessions we've had in the United States and how long they lasted. I found a list at good old Wikipedia.

I count 17 entries including panics, recessions, and depressions. I'm going to rewrite the list from Wiki and note that the article states that those times before 1900 are estimates:

  1. 1797 - 3 years - Panic
  2. 1807 - 7 years - Depression
  3. 1819 - 5 years - Panic
  4. 1837 - 6 years - Panic
  5. 1857 - 3 years - Panic
  6. 1873 - 6 years - Panic
  7. 1873 - 23 years <<+++++ Long Depression (yikes!)
  8. 1893 - 3 years - Panic
  9. 1907 - 1 year - Panic
  10. 1918 - 3 years - Recession
  11. 1929 - 10 years <<+++++ Great Depression
  12. 1953 - 1 year - Recession
  13. 1957 - 1 year - Recession
  14. 1973 - 2 years - Oil Crisis
  15. 1980 - 2 years - Recession
  16. 1990 - 1 year - Recession
  17. 2001 - 2 years - Recession
So of these 17 I have lived through 6. I feel like I know a lot about the Great Depression because it was so central to my parents' lives and I heard them talk so much about it. I always hoped I would never see anything as severe as the Great Depression.

Here in Oklahoma in the 1980's we experienced a much more severe crisis than the rest of the country when Penn Square Bank failed and then the oil boom burst followed by our own real estate bubble exploding. It was a very hard time here. But my dad said it was nothing like the Great Depression.

During all these downturns I was in business myself or my father was in business or we both were in business together. It really hurts when you have to cut expenses and lay off people who have become your friends because you simply have no work for them to do. I did that myself many times and it was so hard on me. I felt responsible for their families nearly as much or more as my own. Often we would cut our own pay to try to keep from laying off people. After my last time I told myself that I just never wanted to again shoulder that responsibility.

Dad many times told me about the Great Depression days when he went to work for a local company as a posting machine clerk. Something that affected him greatly was seeing every morning more than 100 men gather at the gate and the foreman would choose 4 or 5 for that day and all those others would be turned away. Dad himself worked 3 or 4 jobs every day just to survive. He typed menus and washed dishes and whatever else he could find. He didn't find it particularly unusual because everyone else was doing the same thing. He recalled in vivid detail the soup kitchens of that time.

The unemployment rate during the Great Depression nationally was nearly 25% but my dad said it was really higher than that. The highest unemployment I've seen in my life so far was just under 10% in the 1980's according to official records. But I think it was really higher.

I think we have an opportunity to lessen the impact of this downturn. I so hope our leaders rise to the occasion. If they do it means going against popular opinion. For a good many it probably means jeopardizing political careers and ambitions.

Leadership is sadly lacking.

One of the Presidential candidates tried to lead and the other did absolutely nothing. I admit I was shocked by Mr. Obama's cavalier attitude and lack of appreciation of the seriousness of this crisis. Worse is what it portends for future crises as he appears to be the most likely choice for President.

Mr. McCain at least tried. It is reported he was able to sway some Republicans but the Democrats were unyielding. That in itself bodes badly for any kind of reach-across-the-aisle bipartisanship occurring in the next administration. At this point it does seem likely that Democrats will be in control of the Whitehouse and the Congress. That almost certainly means there will be a further retraction in the free economy and an expansion of the government.

The congressional leaders were nearly all abysmal failures as leaders. The Democrats were unable to pass the measure on their own but showed no ability at all to attract Republicans to the cause. Speaker Pelosi seemed to go out of her way to alienate and divide. The Republican leaders could not deliver their own members.

The Bush administration in my view probably performed the best of any of these groups. In particular I thought Henry Paulson reacted quickly and decisively with a plan that I think would have worked pretty well and with a minimum exposure to risk for the people's resources. And it nearly was passed. But nearly doesn't count much.

It was sad that the effort was defeated for many reasons. One certainly was the startling failure of leadership during a significant crisis. Even worse was the loss of millions of dollars in the stock market that ultimately will not be regained. For very young people it matters not as much because they have more time for recovery. But for many of us it means a great deal because we are at an age that simply does not allow time for recovery. That's especially true if the recovery takes a while and that seems very likely at this point.

It really does not surprise me that so many ordinary people are against the plan that was proposed. There is abysmal, widespread ignorance about our system.

Credit was important in the Great Depression days. But now it is even more so. Hardly anyone buys a car or a house or a building or college education or appliances or much of anything else for cash. If credit is not available so many things just become reduced or eliminated. Credit will become harder and harder to secure if something remains undone.

One of the problems is that assets like homes and buildings have a market value that is not necessarily the same as their cost or even their replacement. We are all accustomed to market prices going up and our homes and buildings being worth more than what we paid. But those things can go the other way, too. And that's what has happened now.

Partly at least this is exacerbated now because of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation that was passed in 2002 largely in response to the Enron and other corporate failures. It required that companies value assets at market. Unexpected consequences.

Some mortgages, admittedly very few, will not be repaid according to the terms agreed. But knowing which ones is very difficult for various reasons. One is that they've been packaged into securities. So the market for them has just dried up. But not because they have no value but because the value is hard to determine.

That does not mean they are worthless but only that they cannot be immediately sold. And if you are a bank or any other company for that matter then you have to report these mortgages at market value and that generally means you have less worth than before. And that means you can lend less money than before.

If you are a bank or other lender then you still need to lend because that's your business. But you can raise the criteria used to select those to whom money will be lent. That weeds out people who are exactly the ones who need credit the most. It is likely that even credit card limits will be reduced.

Maybe the company down the street can't get a loan to build a new building. Or they can't hire more employees and buy more equipment. Or someone can't go to college now or someone else can't buy a car and then lose a badly needed job. Or a new sewer plant has to be postponed by a city because bonds can't be sold. And on and on. All that ripples right on through the economy. Add a little panic and you have a full fledged crisis.

Here in Oklahoma we went through some of this in the 1980's. Suddenly homes and buildings lost 1/3 or more of their value. It happened to me in fact in the late 1980's. There were some people who bought some of those inexpensive properties and waited patiently. The same thing happened in the Great Depression. Those folks eventually made a lot of money.

Yesterday millions of people were really hurt. I am so amazed at the cavalier attitude that people seem to have about this. I've heard some people say it will all come back. Maybe but it will take a while. And there were people yesterday that will not see anything return.

It will be very interesting to see what happens over the next few days.

Monday, September 29, 2008


This is me decked out in all my ranch finery. Except you can't see my New Balance hiking shoes. That thing in my hand is fly spray. I thought a spray might be easier. Judy thought we should get the wipe on kind. She was right.

Besides everything else we had to have our horse's hooves trimmed.

Who do you call? The farrier if you don't do it yourself. And believe me I don't.

So we called a farrier and he came and it is a good thing he knew what he was doing because I surely did not. I am getting considerably better at putting on a halter though. Would not go so far as to say I have mastered the art but definitely better than when I began.

We have one halter that is really limp. I'm still not smart enough to put it on. I need a horse that I can just hand the halter to and say "buckle up" and then walk off.

Judy said her dad would be so embarrassed at our combined ignorance and inability. I have to take most of the credit for it because I am well below zero on this scale. Judy can barely reach the buckle of the halter for her Jet unless he lowers his head. That is an accommodation that one cannot count on.

Our farrier arrived on Saturday afternoon. He is a really nice fellow. His normal job is welding and around here it is a really busy time. But he tries to keep his farrier trade up when he can. His tools were quite simple really. I never had seen anyone trim horse's hooves before. It is a little like trimming your fingernails. Very little that is.

Getting the horse to cooperate is not so easy if the horse is not so inclined. One of ours was not inclined either. Trimming hooves is backbreaking work. First you have to get the horse to lift his hoof so you can get hold of it and while turned around you keep it kind of between your legs. It is hard to describe but probably harder to do. Then you have these big clipper like things that you use to cut off and shape the hoof. After that you get the horse to put his foot up on this little tripod like stand and use a really big file on the hoof. If it sounds easy I haven't properly described it.

It reminded me somehow of trimming dad's nails during my caregiving days.

If the horse decides he or she doesn't want this done then it gets a whole lot harder. One of our horses was pretty easy and the other three were not. The last one was especially difficult. Her name is "Dial A Bully." Horses have funny names.

Eventually "we" (used in the most liberal sense) succeeded. Actually my job was to hold the head of the horse by the lead rope which is attached to the halter which is attached to the head. Now the horse is about 10,000 times stronger than I am. That's an approximation. I may be off a few zeroes one way or another. Just suffice it to say that horses are exceedingly powerful animals.

In holding the horses head apparently the first rule is that you are supposed to let the horse know that you are in charge. I was about as in charge as I was during the caregiving days. I was even more ignorant.

But that did not, of course, deter me from walking into the unknown.

Judy actually is pretty much in charge but there is only one of her.

The farrier had more halters than we did and after he watched me halter one of our horses he proceeded to halter the other three in about 1/2 the time I had used. I think he took some pity on us.

He had to show me how to tie and untie the lead rope to the fence. Amazing how much stuff in the world that there is to be ignorant about.

After the farrier left we came home for a short rest. I'm telling you my body is sore as all get out. It is interesting how doing different things makes you sore in different places.

Then we had to go down to doctor again. Finally we are done with the antibiotics but still have to give this albuterol and some other stuff called "bute" which is some kind of pain reliever and anti-inflammatory drug. We have these syringes that you use to put the stuff inside on the back of the horse's tongue. Judy is very good at this. She says it is like giving stuff to babies. I don't recall ever doing anything like this to a baby. I am not very good at it in case anyone was wondering.

Jet's cough and respiratory issues are much better. He is still hobbling around though. The vet said we should give him only grass hay for a few days so we have some of that now, too.

Later that same evening our neighbor had to come over to round up some of his calves that had somehow escaped across the creek. Our horses are a little afraid of calves. Our neighbor looks like a cowboy. He has a cowboy hat and is tall and slim and wears boots. I don't know if he chews or not but the farrier did. That is one habit that does not seem appealing to me at all. Must be something I fail to appreciate about it. Our neighbors "regular" job is a trucking company. You have to have a very good job to be able to afford to have a farm and ranch. That has not changed in a while.

The article about the fire station land was in the paper on Saturday. It was not too far off from what I said. But they did mention the value of the land. That is very embarrassing.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Unintended Consequences - Safe Haven Law

Nebraska lawmakers consider revising 'safe haven' laws

I thought this was a sad but interesting article and a very good example of unintended consequences.

The idea behind the law was to give people who were about to abandon newborns an alternative to throwing them into a dumpster or some such.

But the law was written for children as old as 19 even though no one ever expected it to be applied to teenagers (supposedly according to the article). Turns out that was wrong and there have been teenagers abandoned under the law.

Here's an excerpt from another article in the Chicago Tribune:

Over the last two weeks, moms or dads have dropped off seven teens at hospitals in the Cornhusker state, indicating they didn’t want to care for them any more.

“They were tired of their parenting role,” according to Todd Landry of Nebraska’s Department of Human and Human Services, quoted in USA Today.

Under a newly implemented law, Nebraska is the only state in the nation to allow parents to leave children of any age at hospitals and request they be taken care of, USA Today notes. So-called “safe haven laws” in other states were designed to protect babies and infants from parental abandonment.

The most eye-popping case in Nebraska occurred Wednesday, when a 34-year-old father deposited nine children ages 1 to 17 at Creighton University Medical Center -- and then walked away.

The mother died a year and a half ago after a cerebral hemorrhage. The father, Gary Staton, told KETV-TV, a local station, "I was with her for 17 years, and then she was gone. What was I going to do? We raised them together. I didn't think I could do it alone. I fell apart. I couldn't take care of them."

The Omaha World-Herald reported that the man had a “history of unemployment, eviction notices and unpaid bills – and a psychologist’s determination that he lacked common sense.”

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Knew Your Folks

That's what the man said who came to remove the gas meter.

He was a little upset at first. He asked me if this was one of those "eminent domain" deals. I assured him it wasn't and told him my dad died a year ago and we were in the process of selling some of the land. He asked about the house and I told him it was going to be torn down. He said he always liked that house and it was a shame it would be removed.

He was younger than I am by a good many years I'd guess. But we were in the same generation I think. Still, I doubt he ever knew a time when the house was not there. It is the only house still in one half mile in all directions from the corner. That's pretty remarkable really. It's not the only building of course.

Quite a number of people have commented to me about the house and the farm and how much they will miss it. One person told me it had always represented a kind of stability and permanence to him. I thought that interesting because it also represented that to me although likely for different reasons.

The man from the gas company did know a lot about my dad. He said that Dad had talked his leg off a time or two. He remembered a lot of details about those conversations and what he shared I know were true. That made me feel really good.

It did not make me feel as good when he set the meter in his truck and drove away. I will turn off the water to the house this next week. The septic system is gone now. I don't know why I haven't turned the water off yet. Somehow I don't really want to do it. Then that will only leave the electric service. Very soon there will be no need of it either.

Yesterday we were with the horse when the vet arrived. After his examination he said he had noticed my cap and what was embroidered on it. He said "Is that your farm over there?" He meant Dad's farm of course. My son had some caps made with the name on it. They were astonishingly popular. I suppose we should make some more maybe. Anyway I answered that it was.

He then told about when he was a new vet and how he "pulled many a calf" over there. That would have been during the early 1990's. That kind of gave me goose bumps to meet someone that was so involved in my parents' lives then when I was not and far away from them. We had a good conversation about my dad and delivering calves and so on.

Later I told my son about meeting the vet and I'll tell my brother, too. It just seems like something that should be shared.

The lady from the paper called and asked me about the fire station property. She was very interested in how much it was worth and I told her I didn't really know and she said the city manager had told her a number and I said that was probably about right then.

I wondered if everything had to be reduced to dollars and cents.

Otherwise we had a good conversation I think but you never know on these kinds of things with reporters until you read them later in the paper. I asked her to spell our name correctly and she said she would. That would be nice.

We have more medicine to give the sick horse. His (the horse that is) name is Jet. His breathing is better but he has a sore foot or leg. I think he probably hurt himself overnight. He doesn't like being away from his buds. He's getting a pedicure today. We have him on a strict diet, too. He needs to lose about 150 pounds or so. Maybe someone needs to lock me up in a corral.

The vet talked about what it was like in his job when he first started. It is hard figuring out what is wrong with animals. Big animals are even harder because they are so big. It's hard to take a horse into the ER even if there were any. There are fewer and fewer big animal vets around, too. He said sometimes he just can't go where he is requested because it is too far.

I had to sign some papers and met my son at a Sonic about 1/2 way in between. He said I smelled like a horse. I have to go wash those clothes and get ready for the next round today.

We're working hard to close on the Chick-Fil-A. Maybe even this next week. If we do that will put us at 2 years and 10 months for this one transaction. It will be one year and a few weeks since dad's death.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rancher Flinty

Not really.

But it does remind me of my childhood when I would get up early with Dad and we would together go out and do the chores with the cattle.

I do find it interesting that the more time I spend the horses the more comfortable we all become with each other. I remember that with the cattle, too.

My son and I were talking about it yesterday. He remembered the year that he lived with my mom and dad. During that time there was a new born calf that had to be raised by hand. He said he recalled asking my dad if he thought it would live and dad said he didn't. My son said they kept the calf in the well house. I kind of recall that but not the details of it. Anyway that's a strong memory for my son. And the calf lived.

My daughter found dad's old cup and I took it over to the office trailer. I don't know how old that cup is. It used to have his name on it with one of those label things but that's long gone. We thought we'd save it and put it in the new office we will build some day.

A lady from The Oklahoman called me yesterday about the land we're donating to the City of Moore for a fire station. I couldn't talk then so she's calling back this morning. Beats me what I will say except to try to get her to spell our name correctly.

I'm off to take care of the horses.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sick Horse, Sick Economy, Sick Internet

I could go on, too, with my list.

Internet is not back yet. We are waiting on more help from AT&T. At least they are helping.

Economy is getting sicker. I am irritated that there is so much ignorance about it and more irritated that congress is so slow. I am pretty impressed with Henry Paulson. It does remind me a lot of the early 80's here during the oil, real estate, and banking busts. Except that here is better this time. If credit is not made available soon though things will become dire.

We have a sick horse.

The prescription is antibiotics and albuterol twice a day. Horses are big so a dose for this one is 10 big antibiotic pills. We crush them up and mix them with sweet feed. The albuterol is kind of a thick liquidy stuff in a syringe. I am amazed at how my tiny wife is able to get the syringe into the horse's mouth and squeeze it all at the same time. Maybe the horse is similarly amazed.

Sweet feed is a mixture of grains and molasses. The horses really like sweet feed. Actually it kind of looks good to me sometimes. We have one horse that I think might like her oats better than sweet feed. We (actually my better half - so "we" only in the grammatical sense) bought some rolled oats for the horses the other day. They look pretty good but were a little chewy for me. They aren't as dusty as the usual oats we feed to the horses. Also had to get some cleaner hay.

When I was a kid I used to always taste the cattle cubes and other things we bought for them to eat. I figured if the cattle could eat it then it had to be more or less safe for humans.

Yesterday morning I was doing the honors of administering the antibiotic mixture. All the other horses wanted some attention as well as some sweet feed, so they all came over. They are such inquisitive creatures. Then they (the other 3 that is) were trying to get their heads into the bucket. The one named "Bucky" tried to get my left hand off the bucket by biting my hand. He didn't bite as hard as he could have but it still hurt. Not that he held back on my account mind you.

We had one horse while I was growing up but as far as I recall she (Babe was her name) was never sick. So I am having to learn quite a bit about my patient. Horse whisperer I am not.

And we "found" some kittens of the cat variety. They were hidden out down by the old silo. Probably some city human dumped them there. I was against messing with them but the females of my herd overruled me. Which is pretty much SOP. I understand the sentiment but it is too painful for me to become attached anymore when the inevitable occurs. They've (the kittens - not the girls) been missing the last two nights.

I saw a coyote yesterday morning on the west fence of the horse corral. The monkey faced owl is still in the barn. I haven't seen the big owls again but I am pretty sure they are there. I did see some more deer the other morning though down by the creek.

There's more sickness I could describe but think I'll quit.

On the interesting article front I read a fascinating article yesterday about this "mysterious dark flow" in the universe. Seems as though there is some far away matter that is speeding (and I do mean fast) along much more rapidly than it should. So the only explanation is that there is something (and a very, very large something) beyond the observable universe that is responsible. Just try to get your mind around that idea.

In my morning Bible study I have now finished Matthew and Mark and beginning Dr. Luke.

I have only had time to glance at blogs but I am trying to keep up with everyone.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Just Found The Internet

Of course I had to lose it first.

We've agreed to sell the property just north of the house to Chick-Fil-A but only after we put in basic utilities. That included a rather deep and large trench to contain the storm sewer line. Its path was right across both the telephone and cable lines.

We called the cable company and told them we were likely going to cut the cable. The customer service representative said that they couldn't really do anything until the cable was actually cut. It did not take terribly long to cut both lines. So we reported to both utilities.

AT&T came right out and ran a temporary line for us. The only problem was they came after we'd all left and with our confusing geography connected it to the house instead of the office. We let them know the next day and they corrected it immediately. This was amazing to me and reminded me of the old AT&T of my childhood and youth. The attitude was "let's fix this problem" and make our customer happy. And they did, too.

Cox, our cable provider, was the opposite though. The repairman came out and looked at the cable and simply told us we were out of luck and they could not restore service. He further told us to contact their business office and ask that it be disconnected to avoid additional charges. So I called and told the story. The lady I talked to seemed to think I was making this all up. She said she would have to fax me a disconnect order for me to sign and fax back. Problem with that was that I was talking on my cell phone and our Internet was down. She was unsympathetic.

But she faxed the paper anyway and our incoming fax is over the Internet. I managed to connect to a hot spot at Starbucks and download the document to my laptop. Then I was able to print it out. By that time AT&T had gotten our phone line back and I faxed the signed document back to Cox. Haven't heard from them since.

AT&T is going to get us DSL and we're supposed to have it working today. Again we received amazing service from AT&T.

Monday night I was at a city council meeting about our Target deal. Due to all the financial chaos right now all new development deals are hanging by a thread. So far ours seems to be proceeding though. But our developer was needing city help and I think it will happen although it is certainly not assured.

The meeting was a work session but all meetings are public unless certain private information is to be discussed. My brother and I attended. We sat and listened mostly. It was very interesting watching how the council members interacted and worked with each other. I was impressed. Also obvious was just how difficult the job really is and how seriously these men and women take their responsibilities.

Anyway that's why I've been off for a couple of days.

Honestly I've kind of enjoyed the break, too.

But I certainly did appreciate the significance of the Internet to our business and and our personal lives today. Amazing.

Yesterday my 5 year old grandson sent me a present by way of his daddy. It was a stick of chewing gum. He told his daddy that he had a surprise for his pop (that's me). So today I had a tin of Paul Newman's organic cinnamon mints that I decided I'd give to him. I wrote a little note thanking him for his gift to me and wrapped it around the tin. Then I gave it to his daddy to take home and give to him. I thought it was very cute.

Thanks to everyone who has emailed me and left comments. I appreciate you all. I haven't caught up yet but hope to soon.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I've been thinking for a while about what I would post today because it has been one year since my dad died.

I have experienced some mild anxiety in anticipation, or should I say dread, of this day. I suppose it was both anticipation and dread actually. But now that the day has arrived the anxiety has departed.

How am I after the passing of these 365 days? The word that comes to mind most readily is unfinished. Or maybe incomplete. Or maybe better still is in between.

Dad's death set in motion an entire fleet of new life transactions and hardly any of those vessels have yet made port. The sea has been both tranquil and rough. I am on board them all as passenger, captain, and crew. Sometimes I awake to find myself on some new one I hadn't even realized set sail.

And just as all these things are unfinished, I find myself similarly in transition.

I look back towards where I started and I can easily see that I have come a very long ways. But when I turn to face the front I see some closer land more clearly but there is more in the distance that remains shrouded by both distance and future. And I have little idea of the name of my destination and even less of what it is like.

My new house is one of the closer things. It is taking shape before my eyes. Yet I wonder what it will be like to awaken there each morning. And then I think that only one year ago I was awakening in another room in another house.

I have learned a lot about being a full time husband and companion. I've benefited from a patient and loving and understanding partner. My role in my work life remains more unknown and that may be as much from an age transition as from being caregiver. And I am adjusting to relating to a larger group of people than my previously smaller circle.

In some ways I am like the child who repeatedly asks "are we there yet?" Yet I also know that the trip itself is just as important or more so than the destination.

It is easy to let the uncertainties and the accompanying fear crowd out those things that have been done. One thing for sure though is that I would just as soon not relive the events of this same day one year ago. And I am so grateful that I was able to finish my caregiving. I remember often wondering, especially near the end, if I would or even could make it.

When I really look at the things for which I am grateful I see entire mountain ranges. I like that imagery because often in my experience the land around the mountain is more like desert. So you kind of have to get past the desert to get to the mountain. I relate to that.

It is faith isn't it that overwhelms the uncertainties of life? I have thought about this a great deal over the last year. Caregiving caused me to focus on the very near because there were so many uncertainties just there. Now my horizon is broader but there are no fewer uncertainties. And yet it is faith that makes me face them with peace and calmness.

It is hope still that keeps me going each day. That seems trivial doesn't it? But it isn't. It is deceptively simple and all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. It is maddeningly difficult. That's what I did as a caregiver. I still do it now. I am finding new routines and making new habits. But the hope is constant.

But surely it is love that makes it all worthwhile. Even when there seems to be so much hate in the air, that serves only to emphasize the extraordinary nature of love. Not necessarily just hate but also opposition and challenge and tiredness to the limits of endurance and the uncertainties and the behavior issues and all those things of caregiving are also present in ordinary life. It is just that they appear in different forms.

You know it is love that I think of when my mind's memory turns to my dad and mom. It is not the difficulties of the caregiving years. Oh I remember the difficulties. It is just that those times seem so insignificant by comparison. They are so easily pushed aside by the good memories and those are so numerous and diverse.

And which is greater of those memories? The answer is so clear at least for the last ten years. It is the porch where we all three so often sat. Sometimes we sat there and visited my brother's family or my son's or my daughter's. Sometimes we ate lunch or supper out there. And before that where so many family gatherings were celebrated. And even before that when the porch was only a dream in mom's and dad's minds.

So on Friday I made some time to sit on the porch. It is a pleasant place for me although it is a mess right now. I sat in my favorite chair. It is a very old metal lawn chair that someone painted white long ago. I do not know its source. It is part of a pair. I will take them with me to my new home when I can. I like them because they spring and I can sit and rock.

Something I enjoyed so much about the porch over the last few years was that I could see all sorts of people coming and going. It was like a window onto the world. And often I felt that I was not part of that world anymore and it was passing me by. So sitting there on the porch gave me a way to watch the real world. When I first arrived I could only see a portion of the road. Later I could see part of the Wal-Mart parking lot. Later still we watched a tire shop being built and later sitll it was joined by a car wash and even later a grocery store. Then I could see the people coming and going to those places. Sometimes I would pick up the binoculars and pretend I was Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window. Except I never did see even a hint of a crime.

Many years before that the porch overlooked a meadow with a pond and before the pond there was a huge Cottonwood tree in the middle of the meadow. One year we had 10 calves out there on that meadow and that was one of the best years I remember. The chores weren't too hard but still just enough to fit in before breakfast and school. Now the trees are all gone and the creek that was there has been reduced to a channel and the land is becoming a site for a Chick-Fil-A.

Soon the land there will be transformed and no one but me will remember the meadow or the pond or the cattle. The porch itself will disappear within this next year.

On Saturday I went to exercise at the new house and also put in a couple of loads of laundry. I am getting pretty good using the new washer and dryer. I like them a lot and I do like the idea that the washer uses so much less water and that the dryer uses much less power.

Then I went to the store to buy some flowers for Dad's and Mom's grave. Amazingly (to me) there was a "cemetery special" at the little flower place inside the grocery store. It was $12.99. It was silk flowers and it had this little green cone deal that made it versatile for either inserting in the bronze holder on the memorial or putting in the ground. I asked the lady if it would work and she said she thought it would but to bring it back if not and she would make me a different one.

On the way to the cemetery I pulled over for a really large funeral procession going the other way. I thought to myself that it was odd that I was driving east to the cemetery and here this procession was heading in the opposite direction. About then a police car with lights and sirens went speeding past the procession. In my mirror I watched as the cruiser took up a position blocking the entire 4 lane road and one by one the cars of the funeral procession began turning around. Apparently the first driver had made a wrong turn and should have been going to my same cemetery. I really felt sorry for everyone. There must have been 200 cars in that procession.

I decided that it was not the best time to go to the cemetery so I made my way over to the farm and Starbucks first. There I decided to use the drive through and when I got to the window the lady saw the flowers and asked me who they were for. I told her I was taking them to the cemetery. She said that was nice and asked if it was something I did regularly. I told her that Sunday would be one year since my dad died. She seemed not to know what else to say and so we both just said goodbye and have a nice day.

Then I went over and sat on the porch again for a while. I noticed that my daughter had uncovered some of my old high school annuals that she was getting ready to pack. I picked them up and began to read what some people thought about me at that time in my life. I think that will be an interesting blog subject.

After I finished my coffee I drove over to the cemetery. I walked over to Dad's grave and put my new flowers into the holder. Perfect fit, just snug enough to resist the wind. Good idea of someone in that store.

I looked around though and the graves near me all had a lot more impressive arrangements on them. I wondered to myself if I should go buy something bigger and more elaborate. But I decided that would not be in keeping with my parents' frugality.

I sat there on the ground and watched some insects land on the silk flowers. I guess they look pretty real if they attract insects. I chose the arrangement that had a big sunflower in the middle. It isn't very fall like but I think Mom would like the big sunflower. Her favorite flowers were irises but I didn't see any of those. I do not recall Dad favoring any particular flower.

It was nice sitting there in the warmth of the Sun. I remembered all the times that Dad and I came out to visit Mom after she died. We came twice a day for a long time. We would take our clippers and trim the grass around Mom's memorial and all our other family markers. Then we'd walk around and look at other markers and read the names and the dates. We found quite a few we knew.

I noticed there were a lot of people out there in the cemetery doing more or less what I was doing. And what was I doing I thought to myself? And I didn't have much of an answer. But I was just sitting there and it seemed natural as anything.

I noticed the grass had now grown over the soil to nearly hide any signs of the trauma that had happened to it last year. A few scars remain but soon they, too, will be gone.

The warmth of the sun reminded me of last year when I went to Starbucks and sat in the sun on the patio. It was hotter that day but I needed to feel and the heat helped me. Judy drove over to sit with me on the patio. I hadn't expected her but she knew I needed her so she came anyway. I felt so alone last year.

So I sat there on the ground and thought all these things and remembered. I am not lonely this year. That's another thing for which I am so grateful.

Then I drove home.

We had to have some plumbing work done down at the horse trough on Friday and the plumber had to turn the water off at the well. When he got it back on everything was fine except we had no water at our kitchen sink. I knew the problem and how to fix it except I had no tools. So I was going to pick up some of my tools from Dad's house. But the drawer where they were kept had a little sticker on the outside that read "empty." I couldn't get in the garage. So I went by the new house and "borrowed" what I could find laying here and there which wasn't much.

Amazingly though I found enough so I was able to get the water flowing again without creating a greater disaster.

Now we're going down to see the horses and feed them and check their water trough. I'm sure they will be there to help us as they are exceedingly curious creatures. And they love their oats.

Tomorrow I plan on going to church. I am not sure what else I will do.

I won't be on again until Monday. I am having the Internet equivalent of a moment of silence I guess.

Thanks to all my friends for your prayers and best wishes. I love you all.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

In Memory of Russ

In Memory of Russ

and in honor of Nancy and Bob

who Done Good!


Friday, September 19, 2008

Hard Times

For millions of people this week has already seen its share of devastating events.

There have been so many events it is hard to remember them.  But it was just this past Monday that Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection.  It is the largest bankruptcy ever.  The company reported $613 Billion in debt and $639 Billion in total assets.  This dwarfs the previous record set by WorldCom in 2002 which had only $104 Billion in debt.  

When I read the first article about Lehman I thought to myself "wait, there seems to be more assets than liabilities by some $26 Billion."  But I gather there may be a lot more bond debt and that a good hunk of the assets is worthless sub-prime mortgage stuff.

Then Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch.

Then AIG, an insurance company with more than $1 trillion in assets, was bailed out by the feds.  Bail out is actually an interesting term here.  The arrangement allows the company to continue but wiped out nearly all of the equity.   There were a lot of folks who owned AIG stock just as there were a lot of people who owned Lehman stock.  

As it turned out I was meeting with someone on Wednesday.  He told us about a relative that had retired from AIG and whose retirement account was 100% invested in AIG stock.  That same story with variances in amounts has occurred now thousands and perhaps millions of times.  There was no bail out for those individuals.   The bail out does save some jobs of current employees.  But mostly it helps save the customers.  

These events were troubling for the stock market and it dropped a bunch.  That drop of course further hurt countless numbers of investors both big and small.

It reminded me of the times I've personally experienced economic hard times.  There have been at least four times.  The hardest for me eventually resulted in personal bankruptcy.  Let no one kid you about bankruptcy being trivial and easy because mine was not. 

My parents both lived through the Great Depression.  It usually is considered to have lasted 10 years.  That duration alone sets it apart for sure.

The headlines kind of gloss over the personal tragedies that are occurring just beneath them.   Somehow the headlines make it seem as though it is just about numbers and shares and percentages.  It is easy to forget that there are real, flesh-and-blood people who are losing what it has taken many a lifetime of hard work to gain.

It will turn out that this current situtation has been caused by a lot of illegal activity.  For some reason that fact will be diminished and there will be a cry for more rules.  Those will be enacted.  But sometime in the future my children and my grandchildren will all experience their own hard times.  Because a lot of people are really good at stretching or downright breaking the rules.

None of the economic hard times match the other kinds that deal with death and divorce and pain and hurt and war and famine and drought and pestilence and disease.

But I was thinking about what I've learned about hard times.

One important thing is that they do not last forever.  And maybe next is that one can and does survive.  Then I've learned that there can still be joy.  Maybe that is because it comes from way inside and that's where we are forced to turn when there is no other place.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Disney's High School Musical Ice Tour

We headed for the Oklahoma State Fair on Sunday afternoon.

Of course it has been raining so parking was a bit of a problem but only a bit.   It always rains at fair time.

It was actually a little cool in the wind on Sunday early but the sun warmed things up a lot by the time we got out on the Midway.  

It is much as I remember it from my youth except it is bigger.  In fact everything is bigger including the people.  Sometimes I think I may be of a different species because everyone seems so much taller and bigger. 

I remember the first time I walked down the Midway at the fair.  I must have been like Pinocchio just come to life and looking at the world as a real boy for the first time.  There were all these people, mostly men but some women, hollering at me to come to their tent and try to win something or to try my skill or to see something weird and amazing.  I was too naive then to know to not look directly at them.  I remember how they would try to shame me into coming over and spending money.

But I had very little money and I was pretty scared of losing any of it.  I remember when we were in grade school in the early years that there was a fair day and the school actually took us to the fair in buses.  Later that was changed and we just received free tickets and got off a day so we could get ourselves to the fair.  I don't know if anything like that happens now.  

Anyway I remember kids coming to school with stuff they had gotten from the fair.  One thing I remember clearly are the Chameleon lizards that several kids would have.  I always wanted to get one of those but I never did see where they were sold out there and besides my parents would never have allowed it.  Then someone would always have a set of Chinese handcuffs which were more like finger cuffs really.  But I remember thinking they were so cool.

The thing that I recall the most clearly about the fair though was the kind of cylindrical shaped  building where these guys would ride the motorcycles on the walls.  I think they called it the Wall of Death maybe.  I just thought that was the most amazing thing.  I am pretty sure I understood centrifugal force by then but still it was amazing.

Some people I know just love food from the fair.  They have their favorite things like Dan's Indian Tacos or funnel cakes or Deep Fried Oreos.  The line to the Deep Fried Oreos (or Snickers or Twinkies) was amazingly long when we were there. 

I think the most disgusting thing is those big turkey drumsticks.  I think they look horrible.  I saw this one kid eating one and he had bits of meat and stuff sticking in his teeth and it just seemed particularly nauseating.

We walked into the car show building.  Cars are so expensive and hybrid varieties were the big thing.  There was a Corvette on display for $83,000 plus.  

Then we walked through one of the horse barns and looked at the Clydesdale's in their stalls.  Those things are huge.  Judy wanted to know if she could have one.  Ha!

Finally it was time to go to the arena and find our seats for the High School Musical show.  I had purchased our tickets earlier over the Internet so all we had to do was walk in the building and find the right place.  There were a few hundred other people doing the same thing and there were another few hundred people trying to sell us stuff along the way.

Finally we found our seats.  We did notice that we were about the only people there without kids.  I guess that isn't all that surprising.

The program was really good. We like High School Musical. It was a lot of fun and I'm so glad we got to do it. 

All the younger kids seemed to know the songs and understand what was coming next.  Once the skater playing Kelsi was going around asking each section what the title of the next song should be.  And this one little girl a few rows below us knew it and was saying it and the skater stepped over the rink and asked the little girl her name.  That made such a huge impression on everyone there and especially the kids.

I bought Judy a hat which came with the cotton candy. I ate the candy. She got the hat.  They put a little wet wipe packet in the bottom of the bag of the cotton candy for you now. I thought that was handy. That was $12.  I suppose it was mostly for the hat. Then I was thirsty so I bought a lemonade which was $4. But I kept the plastic container. The program was $20 and we bought one of those. In all fairness the program did play a song when you opened it.

Tickets to the fair itself were $8 each. The tickets to the program started out at $28.50 for the rink side seats I bought. But then they added $13.50 convenience charge along with some tax and stuff. Anyway we were up there approaching $125 for the two of us by the time we left.

What really amazed me though were the families sitting around us.  There were parents and grandparents and children.  I bet the people around us had maybe 22 seats all together.  And their kids had hats and drinks and whirly things that lit up when spun.  And lots of popcorn, too.  I can't even guess the total cost but surely in the thousands.

Anyway we had a great time at the fair and I am so glad we got to go.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In Memory of Helen Delucas

In Memory of Helen Delucas.

And in recognition 
of her friend and mine, 

whose dedication and service
inspires me still.

Blessings and prayers Lori.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Innocence Lost

There are so many ways we lose innocence as we move from child to adult.

Innocence.  We, that is those of us who are not, know what it means.  It means having no knowledge of evil.  Even those who do not believe in evil recognize innocence.

I had several reminders last week of innocence and the fact that we lose it.  I didn't like the reminders.

The first incident had to do with a grandson's homework assignment.  His class read this little story about a group of children and a new kid's arrival.  The new kid was viewed differently and negatively at first but as he became better known then that changed.  We've all observed situations where someone new arrives and the group only seems to see the differences and the negatives and then later the similarities are noticed and eventually there is acceptance.

There were questions asked of the students abut the story.  One question was to describe someone  you had changed your mind about when you knew them better.  My grandson just answered that he hadn't done that yet.  My son said he tried to explain the question better but his son seemed to understand it but stuck to his answer that he had not done that yet.

I chuckled over it at first.  But the idea of it stuck with me.  I guess it is still with me or I would not be blogging about it.  Gradually I began to think about it in terms of innocence lost.

He's such a wonderfully sweet and smart nine year old, this grandson of mine.  I wondered had he never really changed his mind about someone yet?  Did he not understand the story or the question?  But he's really smart so I ruled out the understanding option.  He understood.  He's also sweet and he's the kind of kid that would take up for someone if everyone else was making fun of them.  So maybe it just has not happened yet to him.

That's when I thought about how innocent it was to simply meet someone new and just accept them as is.  That's the way it should be but rarely is.  Usually someone else introduces us and either beforehand or coincidentally "poisons the well" with some information about the new person.  Or we let our own various biases about looks or gender or clothing or height or weight or color or whatever poison our own impression.  We begin to develop those biases really early.

Later my son told me about an incident involving my granddaughter at school.  She'll turn eleven this year.  Some boys made fun of her because she did not know what a particular, common hand gesture meant.  You all know the hand gesture I mean.  We all have probably seen it used many times.  A few of us, and I include myself, may have even used it ourselves on occasion.

Do you know that I remember when this happened in my own young life now so long ago?

I was rather innocent as a child for a long while myself.  For one thing we were quite a ways outside both the town and the city then.  And we rarely went anywhere and when we did it was for short, dedicated trips.  There was no TV until I was past 5 years of age and the early TV shows were pretty tame at least by comparison.  We did have radio and books and newspapers.  But somehow I was just not very worldly about a lot of stuff.

At any rate I remember when I saw the hand gesture used for the first time.  I don't remember the exact details of when and where but just the fact of the event.  Then someone told me what it meant but I had never heard the "f word" and had no idea what that meant.  I remember being so ashamed that I was so ignorant.

Really I was not ignorant though.  I knew quite a bit about sex because we had animals.  I had witnessed birth events as well as what causes them.  That was just natural to me and I had never heard the "f word" associated with the act of procreation.

Even if I had been ignorant though there would have been no cause for shame.  Shame is an entirely different subject in itself isn't it?

That memory made me remember many similar events.  One was the first time I heard the "n" word.  Another was the first time I heard the "q" word.   Or the first cuss words I heard.  Or the first time I saw a nude girl in a magazine.  Or the first time I took a drink of whiskey.

Actually the first time I saw a nude girl I remember quite clearly.  I was very young - maybe 5 or so.  My mom and I were returning home on Robinson Street in south Oklahoma City and out the window I saw this small girl running along the sidewalk and she was naked.  And I saw enough to recognize there was a rather significant difference between her and me.

I think I had never thought about it before then.  So that was another loss of innocence I suppose for me.

The teacher made the boys apologize to my granddaughter.  My son and I talked it over.  It isn't such a big deal I suppose and it happens every day to millions of other children.  And dare I say that most are younger than my granddaughter.  I am grateful she hasn't known the meaning until now.

I wish I did not know so much of evil myself.  There are images I wish I had never seen and sounds I had never heard and thoughts I had never thought and words I had never said and more words I had never read and actions I had never performed.

We do not do a very good job of protecting our children's innocence now.  I mean we as in the entire culture.  Obviously some of us do a better job than others.

It seems that being innocent is not considered a good thing at all in our society.  I've heard people say that children should be exposed to the coarser parts of the culture as soon as possible because that's the way the real world is.

The same week I heard one of the presidential candidates say he supported sex education in kindergarten.  At first I thought I had misunderstood but I hadn't.  I suppose it depends maybe on your own experiences and what you value and what you don't.

Another thing about innocence is that no matter how much we've lost we can always lose more.  I have lost count of the times I have heard hardened police investigators say that some crime or another is the worst they've seen in their long career.  Or I've heard similar stories from friends who served in combat that the past horrors they experienced were eclipsed by the next.

Occasionally I receive reports from friends who tell me about violence between religious factions and how great the atrocities are that are committed against people of different views.

It occurs to me as I write this that so much of losing innocence is about the recognition of difference.  I had not thought about that before.

I also remember when I first learned that I was easily capable of doing things against my own conscience, too.  That's another loss of innocence.

But maybe that story should be saved for another day.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Stats: Politics and Hurricanes Trump Spiders and Snakes


On September 4, 2008 I posted Republican Convention 08 - Tuesday and Sitemeter recorded the astonishing number of 337 visitors. On September 2, 2008 it reported I had 291 visitors and I posted Hurricanes Gustav and Katrina.

Previously my posts dealing with snakes and spiders garnered the most visitors but by half or less than these recent entries.

My conclusion is that a lot of visitors were apparently interested in my thoughts about the Republican convention and hurricanes. Except I think they didn't realize it was me. Because I think if they had know it was me they wouldn't have bothered.

Just in case there is any doubt let me be perfectly clear that I know less than squat in roughly equal measure about both hurricanes and politics.

We live in a strange, strange world.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Movies: The Women

We planned to see a movie last Friday.  And we planned to see it at the new, spectacular Warren Theater in our town of Moore, Oklahoma.    But beyond that we hadn't planned much.

So it was just before 4 pm when we arrived at the Warren after we finished our other errands.

There are 16 screens so there were 16 movies and there were a couple starting near our time.  That's pretty much how we choose which movie to watch.  I suppose some might say that's choosing by coincidence.  I prefer to think of it as being spontaneous.

I guess I should add that Mrs. Flinty makes the final selection.  That was probably obvious though.  And her choice was The Women. It was scheduled to start about 10 minutes after our arrival. The choices it beat out were: Death Race and The Family That Preys.

I would like to sometime watch the The Dark Knight and Judy wants to watch Mamma Mia but the times were wrong; or, our arrival, one or the other.  Righteous Kill was playing in one of the two main theaters that have balconies but was sold out. 

Our arrival and selection still gave us time to buy the tickets, buy 2 Diet Pepsi's and one small popcorn (which was huge), and make our way to theater number 2.

The tickets were $7.00 each and the concessions cost $11.50 (no tax) for a total of $25.50.  I actually thought that was a pretty good deal for the value received.

The theater is wonderful in itself and well worth a trip.  It is in the style of the old, grand theaters I remember from my childhood.  But it is entirely modern, too, with all the latest and greatest technology.  It is fully carpeted throughout and immaculate.

I was surprised at how many people were in our specific theater.  The upper rows were pretty full and at first I thought we might have to sit  in those close-to-the-screen rows.  I am told that even the close rows are pretty good in this theater but I'd rather be farther back.  I'd really rather be in the balcony where two seats are arranged like a love seat and the middle arms can be lifted.  That would be fun sometime and we'll do it eventually.

It was dark already when we entered and the previews were already playing.  But the stairs were well illuminated while still not being distracting.  We followed the lighted path to the very back row and found 2 seats towards the wall.  Then we spotted two seats just down below us behind a short wall over the entrance tunnel.  We moved down there so no one could get in front of us and we could put our feet up against the wall. 

A few other people straggled in but no one came to our area.

I glanced around the theater and in the faint light was able to make out individuals eventually.  I am pretty sure I was the only man in the entire theater.  I think there were 200 people at least there and maybe more.  The complex is deceptively large.

This is a remake of a 1939 movie of the same name.   And the 1939 movie is from a 1936 play.  And, no, I don't remember the 1939 movie.

This is the story of Mary Haines (Meg Ryan) discovering her wealthy, prominent husband is having an affair with Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes) , who is a "spritzer girl" at Saks Fifth Avenue,  and what subsequently happens to Mary and her best friends: Sylvie (Annette Benning), Edie (Debra Messing), Alex (Jada Pinkett-Smith).  Candice Bergen plays Mary's mother and Cloris Leachman plays the maid, Maggie.  Carrie Fisher and Bette Midler and a bunch of other stars are in it, too.  All women.  No men at all.

The mother, Candice Bergen, has a face lift during the movie.  She says to her daughter (Meg) something like "have you noticed there are no more 60 something women."  She meant they all had already had face lifts and so on and didn't look 60 something.  Well I am 60 and Candice is 2 years older.  I think I look younger actually.  That's just an aside.

On Yahoo the critics gave the movie a C- and regular people gave it a B-. 

Actually I thought it was quite entertaining and some scenes were very funny.  The last scene in particular where Debra Messing is having a baby and all the other friends are gathered around in the hospital is absolutely hysterical.  All of us in our theater laughed so hard during that sequence.  There were many other places where there was spontaneous group laughter.  So I would give it a B and Roger Ebert agrees with me not that I would drop a name.

The 1939 movie, from what I've read, presented a different story in my view.  It was more about the shallowness of the lives of rich women and their friends.   Both movies were very careful to avoid any visible males including images of male animals in posters and paintings and so on.  One exception in the 1939 movie was a poster of a bull in a fashion scene.  I wasn't paying enough attention to notice if that happened in my movie.  But there were no males in my movie and we even commented on it.  I suppose I should have left the audience when I noticed I was the only male there.

Our movie has a very interesting history.  Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts became interested in producing and co-starring in a modern version in 1994.  Only thing was they wanted to play the same character.  Eventually Roberts lost interest but no studios wanted to take a chance on a "women only" movie.  But then Sex and the City became a big hit and some studio executive decided to go ahead with ours.

Now I think that is absolutely fascinating in light of our current cultural and political climate.  Here we have this political race that is highlighting the insidious sexism that is so pervasive in our society and this movie arrives on the scene and its late arriving by 14 years because no one thought an all women movie would sell.  Why do I think it is fascinating?  Because I think the movie is about sexism.

My very first impression when the movie began was that the actors were portraying the various women characters stereotypically.  In fact, to me, it was nearly like a SNL parody of different women.  You know exaggerating certain true characteristics of certain people to reveal the person but yet there is no real person like that.  But then I realized (or I think I did) that it was more than that.  Really the actors were making a statement that they were playing characters who were also playing characters.  In other words I think it is kind of a serious story inside a joke that's inside another joke.  

One joke is about the sexism of our culture and in particular how women are viewed in general.  I think the actors do this in spectacular fashion (kind of my own little joke using that word).  The other joke is about how women play the parts that are assigned them by our sexist culture.  

Then I think the real story of the movie is how all of the characters move from play acting to really living.  And that happens in the context of their relationships with one another.

As the movie progresses the actors play their characters more realistically and less stereotypically.  There's even a sub-plot where Sylvie quits her fashion magazine because the magazine publisher wants to run these trivial and stereotypical stories and she wants to run stuff about real people by real authors.  And she does at the end.

I would give it higher than a B except that I think it is actually a little too complex to really communicate the message.  And I may be really, really wrong, too.

But even if I am wrong it is an entirely enjoyable way to spend the better part of a couple of hours and there are some really good chuckles during that time.  And maybe even some other men will see it.

My popcorn was great and I had a good place to put both  it and my drink.  My seat rocked and reclined.  The  view was outstanding.  The presentation and the sound was flawless and wonderful.  

The theater bathrooms are great although there was a line at the women's.  But then again there is usually a line at the women's restrooms just about everywhere.  Another interesting commentary on our culture and the place of women perhaps?

Anyway I had a good time and I would recommend the movie and an open mind.

By the way my favorite character was Alex played by Jada Pinkett-Smith.  Her character is openly gay which is a drastic departure from the first film and from the original play.  I think the way this character is presented is another story inside the main story.  So I think it is wonderfully fitting in this particular story.

There are no critics who agree with me.  But I've never let something that trivial deter me from holding my own opinions.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Developmnet Update - New Fire Station

These are renderings of the City of Moore's new Fire Station 1. 

A few years before my dad's death but well after my mother's I received a phone call from the Assistant City Manager requesting a meeting.

He and the Fire Chief came together for the meeting and we three as well as my dad sat in the living room of dad's home.

The men from the City explained that the City needed to build a new fire station and they were interested in locating it somewhere on our property if possible.  At the time they believed they needed about 2 acres or so and the project would include a fire station as well as an administration area and an emergency services area.

Emergency services is very important in Moore ever since the huge tornado we experienced on May 3, 1999.  I very well recall that date because that was just a few months after I came to live with mom and dad and mom had only been home from the hospital a few  months.  Still she was not able to walk very much and so I was fixing meals for us and we were eating upstairs in her bedroom.

But the May 3rd tornado was so large and was coming directly towards us that Dad and I, together, managed to get mom down the stairs to the basement.  I had mom on this office chair so I could roll her around.  Fortunately for us the tornado turned slightly away from us but it still caused terrible damage and awful loss of life.  Not far from us is where the fastest wind speed on Earth was recorded.

That day the City of Moore and the people who work in the government and the citizens and especially the emergency services people were tested beyond measure.  So emergency services is very important to everyone who lives here.

After they left dad and I talked it over and he decided it would be a good thing for us to give the land required by the City for the fire station.

We told the City and the citizens subsequently voted by a large majority to pay for the new fire station with a sales tax increase.  So now the time has come for the facility to be built and staffed.

My family and I are very happy that we've been able to honor our parents' wishes and, also, to honor our parents in this way.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Development Update

This image shows the boring machine that is being used to bury a new sanitary sewer beneath the road in front of the house.

It is amazing to me that this can be done.  The contractor is actually boring and placing a fairly large (to me anyway) line nearly 200' and it is pretty deep.  I think it is about 10' or 12' deep on the house end and ends up nearly 20' deep on the other.

They delivered the machine on a really big truck.  This image is a bit deceiving although you can see men standing next to the machine for scale.  

But those "rods" that are visible on the side of the machine weigh more than 200 pounds each.

This is all possible by virtue of GPS technology for both planar positioning as well as depth.  Getting beneath the road seems difficult to me but the worse part is tunneling beneath a bunch of other utilities on the other side of the road.

I am not mechanically inclined so I am in awe of people being able to actually do this.  The fellow that runs the machine told us that they have one machine that can place pipe over one mile in length and very deep.

This project is for the new Chick-Fil-A that will be built just north of the house.  This will be our first sale of land since my dad's death.  My brother and I managed to keep our promise to our parents.  The sale doesn't actually occur until we have all the utilities to the site.  

One bad thing is that the septic tank system is going to be destroyed in this endeavor.  Which means that the house becomes more unlivable and brings closer the day when the structure itself will be removed.  

Did I mention that it is very expensive being in the development business?  If there's any doubt let me put those doubts to rest.

This is a sign just erected by the City of Moore, Oklahoma where we live.

It was my dad's and mom's desire to support the community with a gift of land after their deaths.  So my family is donating about 3 acres to the City of Moore for a new fire station.

The City is going to erect a plaque in the fire station recognizing the gift of the land by our parents.

We thought it was a fitting memorial for our parents and it honored their long time support of the community where they lived.  I have renderings of the fire station building and will post them in a later post.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Nine Eleven - 7 Years

Seven years have passed.

Last year I wrote about what that day was like for me and mom and dad.  The memory of the day is no less vivid for me now than it was a year ago or even the day itself.   

I think the memory that will outlast all others will be the one of walking outside and experiencing the silence and the absolute emptiness of the skies.

In 2001 on September 11th I did not know that my mother would be dead in just a few weeks.  And last year in 2007 on September 11th I did not know that my dad would be dead in just a few days.  And this year on September 11th I have no idea what may happen in the next few days or even in the next few minutes as I am writing this.

I have been fascinated lately by the idea of how the unplanned and unexpected can so suddenly intrude upon our lives.

We plan and plot and scheme.  I like to make little lists on my Treo calendar of things I need to do and then check them off as they are completed.  I think it gives me some kind of sense of control when I check off my little tasks.  If I can't check them off I like to move them to some future date.  Either way though it gives me this sense of controlling my own destiny.

It is a false notion of course.  I know it is false even though I sometimes act like I don't.  I haven't always known it.  There was definitely a time when I really did think I was the master of my own fate.  I was insufferably arrogant then and knew very little of life.  Certainly I should have known better having lived on the farm.  

That's one thing I am thinking aobut this year.  

Another thing is that we've not been attacked again.  I think it was nearly unanimous back in 2001 that we would be attacked again.  I remember someone saying that it was not a matter of if but a matter of when.  And it seemed likely to me as well.  So I am surely surprised and grateful that we've been spared another attack.

Yet another thought is that it seems to me our collective memory of the event is dimmer this year.  Maybe I am wrong.  I hope the memorial services will help keep alive the memory of the event itself as well as remembering those individuals who perished for the cause of terror.

I read the following on a page of the National Memorial web that I thought was worth repeating:
The tragedy of terrorism is that it targets real people - mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
This is something we should not forget about terrorism and terrorists. I see no justification for terrorism and I do not see how one compromises with such people.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Artifacts: Ration Books

My daughter is cleaning out my parents' home for us. In the process she is finding some interesting things, at least to me.

One such example is a World War II Ration Book. I do not recall ever seeing this before.

There were four series of ration books issued. Book Four it appears was issued in 1943.

The book originally contained red, green, and blue stamps in addition to some spares and tokens. The one I have now contains only green and blue stamps.

The stamps themselves have a letter and a number and an image.

I read a little about the rationing system and how it was used.

Just because you had a ration book didn't mean you could get the goods either. Sometimes people waited in line for a long time only to be disappointed when it was their turn.

My grandparents raised much of their own food. I know they were pretty self-reliant.

Still there were things that simply could not be had except through the ration system.

We found a ration that had been used to buy an oil heater. There is no description of the heater so I am guessing. But my grandparents had a fairly large chicken house and they raised chicks and sold them among other things. So I suspect the heater may have been for that.

We also found some bank statements and canceled checks from the 1930's and a couple of invoices.

Another thing that fascinated me was a hand sketching of a golf course that my dad had drawn on the back of a sheet of analysis pad paper. It was clearly something he was thinking or dreaming about on his farm. I remember him talking about the possibility of a golf course but I had never before seen this sketch.

It is kind of thrilling in a way to actually have something that represents a dream or idea that he had.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sarah's Friends

I watched an interview of Sarah Palin's closest (according to interview) friends  on Monday morning on ABC's GMA. 

GMA means Good Morning America just in case there are others out there who didn't know. I didn't but I don't watch much over-air TV. I am relegated to that fate now when I exercise because of the absence of cable and satellite. I had forgotten how much I enjoy having cable or satellite.  But that's a different post.

The image is a screen capture of the ABC News web page. It's hard to read at this size but there's a headline that reads "With Friends Like These: Palin Buds Unsure" and it links to another page with the headline Palin Divides Women Voters, Even Her Closest Friends.

Then below that is the subhead 'In an Exclusive "GMA" Interview, Friends of Sarah Palin Say They Disagree on Some Issues.' The first two headlines make it sound like they disagree on everything and then the subhead softens it a bit.

There's a video of the interview on the web page. They make you watch an advertisement first but it isn't too long. Just make sure you don't click next page while the video is playing or you have to watch an ad again when you try to back up.

The group calls themselves the "Elite Six" but the name seems more harmless fun poking than serious arrogance. I assume Palin would be number five and there's no explanation where or who number six is or why she's missing.

I found it interesting because the headlines and the buildup on GMA made me think that Sarah's closest friends were really going to be disrespecting (can't bring myself to use dissing) their "friend." But the actual interview seemed pretty innocuous to me.

Two of the friends were pro-abortion and mentioned that. One of those also disagreed with Palin's position on Polar Bears. There was one definite vote for Palin and one "I'm not telling" and two "I've not made up my mind."

I was interested in the issue of relationship versus political doctrine. I've posted about this issue before in a blog entry titled "Relationship or doctrine?"

So that interest and the lack of anything at all to watch while exercising except for the Spanish language stations which seem to come in rather clearly made me decide to watch the segment.

One of my friends ran for political office not too long ago. Before he announced I thought I'd support another candidate. But after my friend chose to ran I supported him. He didn't win the primary if you're wondering.

But back to Sarah's friends though.

The interview didn't seem to me to reveal the same discord among Palin's friends as I had expected from the headlines. In fact the friends seemed pretty positive about her and actually said some pretty good stuff. One person commented about how honest and trustworthy Palin is.

At any rate I thought I had a doctrine versus relationship example but no so much.

Monday, September 8, 2008

My Dog History

I suppose more properly my history with dogs maybe.

We (my birth family that is) always had dogs around.  One, the first one, was a gift.  All the others were castaways that city folk dropped off at our corner along with their trash when we were still in the country.

Once we found enough information from the trash to give it to the sheriff's office.  I don't know if anything was done or not.  The maximum penalty back then was some kind of relatively small fine so I guess it wouldn't have been a big deal to them.  I remember the person was a successful and educated person who had a nice home at a city address.  I wanted the Sheriff to make him come pick up the trash.  As it was we ended up doing it.

We did that a lot.  There's something about people that live in cities I think that makes them disrespectful of people who live in the country.  

The other day some woman came by and wanted to use my mother-in-law's barn as a backdrop for photographs.  Well, it was rather inconvenient and permission was not granted.  The woman was just aghast and exclaimed how much she loved that barn and so on.  Would you stop in town and ask someone if you could take pictures of their backyard?  I wouldn't. 

But back to dogs.

The first one I remember from my childhood was a collie named Sandy. She ran across the road not long after we moved to the farm and was killed by a car. The car was being driven by the neighbor boy who is about 12 or 13 years older than I am. It was devastating to him. I think I was too young to have understood what happened. 

The next one I recall was Buster, a black and white spaniel. Dad always said he thought Buster was maybe a springer spaniel but he was more Cocker from pictures.  Probably he wasn't full spaniel though.  I don't know what kind of dog he was exactly but I do know that he was my really good buddy.  He accompanied me everywhere including many adventures to the creek and way out into the pasture and on many crawls under the house and in the hay in the barn.

All of our other dogs were girls. Dad named them all Lady. I always thought that was kind of funny.  But it kind of fit in with dad's family because his parents called their children: Son, Brother, Sister, and Baby.  The kids called their parents mom and dad.

The first "Lady" I recall was thrown out by someone at our corner. She was a tiny little puppy and was covered with fleas and sores and just in awful shape. When dad and my grandparents found her, I was with my mom at church. I was so excited when we arrived home to find a new puppy. Maybe I was 4 or 5.

Dad and Grandma and Pop were working on Lady when I got home and Mom made me change clothes before I could help. Dad was always so good with animals as was his mother. I can't really remember how my Pop was with animals but I suspect he must have been good with them, too.  They were bathing her and putting on flea powder when I finally got to join in.

That Lady grew into a fine specimen of a collie dog and, along with Buster, was my nearly constant companion until they forced me into school.

Even then I can remember sitting in class and looking out the open, screen-less windows and daydreaming about being with Lady and Buster. A few times this got me into trouble, too, and I had to sit in the cloak room. Which wasn't such a bad thing because it was quiet and peaceful in there and a young boy like me could be at home with his thoughts, a better fate than sitting at a desk and learning about Dick and Jane and Spot.  And Spot was pitiful compared to Buster and Lady.

My mother backed over Lady about a dozen or so years later and we had to euthanize the beloved pet. Everyone, especially my mother, was so terribly sad and grief stricken.

We had several other Lady dogs then and all came the same way.  The last one was a little Australian Shepherd looking dog.  She was one of the smartest dogs I've ever known.  Dad loved that little dog and she loved dad.  One day she left and dad was so sad.  Strangely enough we found her a few miles away and coaxed her in the car and took her home.  Dad was so happy.  But a few weeks later she left again and we never found her.  We all thought she had something wrong with her and left to die.

The last dog that dad had was my little Maltese, Tuffy.  Really his name was Sir Tuffy IV.  He was my Ex's dog but she couldn't keep him when she left and I couldn't take care of him either.  So dad and mom volunteered.  Tuffy was about 13 years old when he went to live with dad and he lived with them for 5 years until his death.  At the end dad carried him everywhere and had to help him do everything.   He died the year I came to live with my parents and dad buried him out under the cottonwood tree by the old garage.

One time while Dad was sick my brother brought over his little dog, Nettie.  Dad had always loved Nettie and looked forward to our visits there.  And Nettie loved Dad, too.  But this time was in the last year or two of dad's life and the Alzheimer's had progressed.   My brother put the little dog up on Dad's couch and instead of Dad being happy he was a little scared I think.  He wrapped a blanket around the dog's neck and was trying to force it away from him.  We had to intervene to keep him from hurting Nettie.  I remember having tears in my eyes then.

Besides Tuffy I had a poodle named Mimi and a Keeshond name Cocoa and a Dachshund named Sam.  I think there were a couple of other short timers but I no longer recall.

I have no dog now but my mother-in-law has three.  They, along with the four horses, and one cat give me plenty enough animal friends for now.