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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dave McIntosh

Born on 6-19-56
Passed  11-22-13

The last few years I have been doing a bit more than my share of bitching about getting old.  But last weekend after I completed the chores and was feeling ever older, I had a few cold beers in The Saddle Bar(n) and I started feeling a little frisky and particularly witty…, so I thought I better go into the house, log on to Facebook and have a little fun.  Yeah…, I thought I had a couple of good one-liners to post up and hope for a few “likes”.  Then I saw that an old friend, Dave McIntosh, who was four years younger than me…, wasn’t going to get any older.  The only words I could muster to another dear friend and his partner of 20 plus years were, “Oh my gosh Ellen…, oh my gosh…”.  And it still isn’t easy coming up with any words.
We called him “Snake” when he was a high school freshman playing basketball.  A little on the skinny side, mostly knees and elbows, but lightning quick, and sneaky too.  In the later years after high school, he put on a little weight and was a big, raw boned, lanky, fireball throwing fast pitch softball pitcher.  Unfortunately for our Fraser Hippie ball team…, he played for the Timber Inn from Pierce.  I’m sure it is a result of my old age and the Alzheimer’s that I can’t recall for you all the hits I used to get off him!!! Yeah…, Dave would get a laugh out of that one, for reasons I swear..., I can’t recall.  But he was easy to get a laugh out of.  In fact he was always laughing…, well…, almost always.  .  I do remember that one game when he was just learning to pitch…, and having a little bit of a control problem.  Of course our team was getting on him about it and he started getting a little frustrated, and like sharks smelling blood…, we laid it on.  You could see that he was getting mad…., and my cousin Jimmy started calling him “Mad Mac”.  Dave pretty much lost it there on the mound and said, “I’ll see you after the game Spencey!”…, and that wasn’t all he said.  When he gets up near those pearly gates on that field of dreams he is on his way to…, he’s gonna have some explaining to do about his language that day.  But after the game, he laughed it off…, and we were all real relieved.  Yeah…, he was always trying to make a joke out of everything.  He was always the life of the party…, though he wasn’t trying to be…, he was just trying to make sure that everyone was enjoying themselves as much as he was.  None did…, but it wasn’t for his lack of effort to make it so.
I never had the pleasure of working on the same logging crew with Dave…, but I have no doubt that all the glowing reports of his abilities, efforts and ethics that I heard from others in the business were true.  I can attest to the fact that he could be Johnnie on the spot and keep his cool in a pressure situation though.  I mentioned his role when I wrecked the crummy in the Robert Earl Keen story and video…, and Jimmy’s wife Debbie let me know that was only half the story.  Dave had to drive Jimmy and I on home that night.  I cropped out the missing finger on John Thompson’s left hand in the photo above…, Dave and another friend just happened to be on their way to Orofino when they happened upon the accident that resulted in the loss of that finger.  He got us to the hospital and a scene there that we needn’t describe here.  We got to have a good laugh about that one when I got to see him and John this summer out on the North Fork.

Dave wasn’t a singer or musician like the fellow in this Eagles song…, but he was certainly an entertainer who touched a lot of hearts.  So, this one’s for you Dave…, and for you too Ellenor.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

One More Mountain To Climb..., One More River To Run

While putting together the “Tribute to Julie” video I went through a lot of old pictures from back in my “running days”..., and was reminded of my feeble attempt to write some song lyrics one night at our hunting camp at Weitas Meadows.  If I had met Julie around that period of my life I would probably have been writing it for her.  The truth of the matter is..., I was wishing I had a girlfriend to write it for.  If I had known her then my life would probably have been a lot different.  Anyway..., here are the lyrics and some old pictures.

One More Mountain To Climb..., One More River To Run 
Raindrops are fallin' on this old canvas tent
Are you still wonderin' just where it was I went?
Huntin' season’s almost over, tomorrow there’ll be snow
I’m sittin’ here sippin' whiskey, wonderin' where to go?
Maybe I’ll head south, just followin’ the sun
Hope you’ll forgive me someday, for what it was I done.

There’s just one more mountain to climb, one more river to run
I’ll be back to get you babe, when I find that shinin' sun.
But I can’t be happy with you, until I’m satisfied with me
I’ll be back to get you someday, just you wait and see.

Guess I should have stayed that mornin’, just to say goodbye
But knew I couldn’t leave, if I had to watch you cry.
Remember almost drownin' in the rapids, below that rocky point?
We laughed about it later, as we passed around a joint
But that night as I held you, by the dyin' campfire light
I could feel you holdin' on just a little bit too tight.

There’s just one more mountain to climb, one more river to run
I’ll be back to get you babe, when I find that shinin' sun.
But I can’t be happy with you, until I’m satisfied with me
I’ll be back to get you someday, just you wait and see.

The horses are gettin' restless, guess it’s time to hit the trail
Next hunter headed out, I’ll have him drop this letter in the mail.
Can’t say that I would blame you, if you hate me now
But if you can hold on a little longer, I swear I’ll make it up somehow.
And I was lyin' just a little, in that line about goodbye
The truth is babe, I didn’t want you to see the teardrops in my eye.

There’s just one more mountain to climb, one more river to run
I’ll be back to get you babe, when I find that shinin' sun.
But I can’t be happy with you, until I’m satisfied with me
I’ll be back to get you someday, hope you’re still waitin' there for me.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Tribute to Julie

This is one of my favorite Tom Russell songs.  I don't know why it wasn't included on his "Anthology" double CD set.  It is off his "Box of Visions" album..., and from the first time I heard Heart of Hearts it had special meaning to me.  I had been single all my life, always on the run, until Julie and I got together in 1987 when I was 35 years old.  I've written about Julie and our life together in a couple of pieces here on the blog..., 40 Year Class Reunion and My Wife..., Julie..., and you can get a taste of what my life was like before we got together in Robert Earl Keen.

The photographs of dubious quality are a result of trying to take pictures of old photos with a digital camera.  The first half of the pictures range from Missoula, MT, to Orofino and Weippe, ID, Glacier National Park, on a sailboat on Priest Lake in Idaho and rafting on the North Fork of the Clearwater River.  I hope that they demonstrate that I had, "... always been the running kind," as Tom says in the song.  It wasn't that I stopped all that running when Julie and I hooked up..., but I had the best running partner I ever had.  The pictures of Julie were taken around Forks, WA and our nearby ranch on the Quillayute Prairie and on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska where we spent a few seasons in a logging camp at Labouchere Bay.

I hope you enjoy viewing and listening to this as much as I have enjoyed putting it together.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Robert Earl Keen

I’ve written about a couple of my favorite singer-songwriters here on The Quillayute Cowboy blog; “Tom Russell” and “Growing Old with Jackson Browne” and mentioned a few select others like Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Buffett.  I also mentioned that I don’t buy much new music these days because my hearing has deteriorated so much that it is hard for me to understand the lyrics…, and that’s where it’s at for me, mostly.  So, when this guy named Robert Earl Keen kept popping up on my Pandora station that I have keyed to Tom Russell…, and I began to catch a few well-turned phrases and liked the sound and rhythm…, I started to pay more attention.  Keen has a distinctive sounding voice…, a southern drawl with a nasal twang that is easily identified when you are browsing other web sites and hear one of his tunes.  One night I caught the lines:

        “I lived in Corpus with my brother
        We were always on the run
        We were bad for one another
        But we were good at having fun.
We got stoned along the seawall
We got drunk and rolled the car
We knew all the girls at every dance hall
Had a tab at every bar.”

Well…, my brother Larry was a couple of years younger than me and he tried to steer me along a little saner path that the one I was highly engaged in.  But we managed to drag him along on some pretty wild times in spite of his efforts.  Oh…, that “we” you ask?  That would be my brother in the song…, actually my cousin, James.  Jim, Jimmy, Jimmy California, or Spencey…, as his wife Debbie always addressed him.  Jimmy was the original wild and crazy guy…, and I was never one who liked to be outshined when the moon came up and the sun went down.  Well…, except that night during The Clearwater County Fair and Orofino Lumberjack Days celebration.  Me and Jimmy had been on at least a two day run…, maybe more.  We were hoofing it down the main drag in town about dusk, just a few blocks from the heart of town, bumper to bumper traffic in both directions…, when I hear a horrible squealing of rubber tires on pavement.  I only had to turn my head sideways, expecting to see a scary accident.  What I saw put a chill down my spine and I was wishing I had a deep dark fox hole to hide in.  A tall blond amazon named Debbie had screeched her car to a stop…, and stopped all the traffic in her lane…, and was standing outside the car screaming, “Spencey, you no good, dirty rotten, low down, degenerate.  Those are MY blue jeans you have on.  GET THEM OFF NOW !!!”  I thought for a moment that she was going to strip them off him herself…, in front of a string of cars and onlookers that was mounting by the second.  But Deb is ever so thoughtful and considerate..., and drop dead gorgeous, even to this very day.  That night, she had brought him a pair of his own jeans and she even let him get in the back seat of the car to change out…, “helped” him in might be a bit more apt description…, while the mob that had gathered were beginning to get antsy.

So…, when Robert Earl Keen sings “Corpus Christi Bay”…, it may not literally be the story of “brother” Jimmy and I…, but there are enough illusions to some of the crazy times we shared that I can’t help but think of him every time I hear it.  Most people thought that we were brothers anyway…, and I seldom set them straight.  I think my real brother, Larry was as likely to let people believe that Jimmy was his brother and I was the black sheep cousin...., at least at times.  Especially that one night.

The three of us were working for Carney Pole Company at the time.  I don’t recall just why Jim and I both had one of the Carney rigs.  Jim always drove the yellow Suburban that looked like a giant yellow breadbox on wheels, and we always had it down in Orofino where we lived.  Larry lived in Weippe and always drove the red Chevy three-quarter ton pickup…, but for some reason I was driving it that night and Larry wasn’t with us.  Dave McIntosh was with us…, and since we never had another night quite like this one…, maybe we should blame him for all that fun.  It was summertime and we had been hitting the bars in Pierce a pretty good lick and we decided to head for Weippe.  About halfway between the two towns is Timberline High School.  We made a rest stop there.  THS had a huge gravel parking lot…, and if you have ever bounced a beer can around a gravel parking lot with a Smith and Wesson Model 41 semi-automatic .22 caliber pistol…, you know how hard it is to resist the temptation.  You can’t.  You only have to come close to the can and spray gravel on it to make it look like you hit it.  It is quite a kick and makes you think you are a reincarnation of Wild Bill Hickok.  We weren’t hurting anything or being malicious in the least.  And we would have picked up the beer cans…, I always made sure of that…, after my Mom read me a lot more than the riot act when we left a mess of them after a pick basketball game over at the Weippe Grade School years before.  Some of the boys thought I was very thoughtful and conscientious for insisting that we never left a beer can mess anywhere.  Especially around a school. 

But I didn’t really feel like explaining all that to the State Trooper that swooped by, headed toward Pierce.

I wasn’t really sure he had seen us…, but that bright yellow breadbox on wheels…, looks a lot better on the move.  So we wheeled on out of the parking lot…, and I headed for…, Pierce.  Jimmy and the  breadbox right behind me.  Hunter S. Thompson once said that, “Few people understand the psychology of dealing with a highway traffic cop.  A normal speeder will panic and immediately pull over to the side.  This is wrong.  It arouses contempt in the cop heart.  Make the bastard chase you."    There was no doubt in my mind that if that trooper turned around to check us out and saw we were gone, he would figure we were up to no good, and know that we had headed for Weippe.  I was gambling on him not knowing what to make of us following him instead of trying to make a getaway.  The gamble paid off.  It wasn’t far down the road that we meet him coming back toward us.  He had continued on down the road, beyond the S-curves around the school and found a safe place to turn around, and was headed back to check us out.  Not a doubt in my mind that he was hoping that we had made a break for it and he could initiate a high speed chase to Weippe.  He didn’t know what to make of meeting us.  He must have scratched his head a little as he motored back through the S-curves and thinking, "Maybe they weren’t doing anything wrong," and he must have pulled into the THS parking lot to have a look.  I’ll bet he was thinking, “When I find out who those guys are…, I’m going to call their Mothers !”

I know I wanted none of that (a cop actually did that to me once…, the horror, oh the horror)…, so, once the cop was out of my review mirror…, it was pedal to the metal.  There were a couple of nearly one mile straight stretches with just one corner to the top of the Pierce Divide.  I knew if we could top the Divide before the cop caught us we had a chance…, because the rest of the five miles on into Pierce is twisty road that you can’t see far on…, and he would think that he would be catching us just around the next bend.  But we wouldn’t be there.  Just over the top of the Divide was a little picnic area called Fohl’s Park, tucked in under road.  I dove in there with a big yellow breadbox right on my butt…, just in a nick of time…, to see the trooper go bombing by.  He didn’t have his lights flashing yet…, but I am sure he was thinking that he was going to catch us around the next corner.

So off we go again…, flat out back toward Weippe.  It was hard to watch the road and keep a lookout in the review mirror at the same time…, and there as a big bright yellow breadbox with a grinning wild man at the wheel right in that mirror anyhow.  We didn’t stop to pick up the beer cans at THS…, I still feel guilty about that.  But we did slow it down a lot when we hit the gravel of Upper Fords Creek Road turn off just a mile or two past the old school.  I am not sure how I managed to control the raging adrenaline enough to keep from leaving skid marks in the gravel or making enough dust that could alert the trooper if he happened to catch on to our little ploy sooner that I thought…, not too soon I hoped…, as we creeped along the gravel road until we were well out of sight of the highway…, then gassed it for Orofino and home.

I was still pretty keyed up for five or six miles…, and it was starting to get dark.  I felt better and more relaxed all the time.  That extended adrenaline rush was long gone, like a Roman candle burning down.    Yeah…, more and more relaxed…, until that damn bouncing and jostling started.  And there wasn’t any more gravel road in the windshield.  Big Dave McIntosh beside me thought it was a real hoot.  When I got out and looked back up at the road…, I could see and hear that the wild man at the wheel of the big yellow breadbox on wheels thought it was pretty damn funny too.  He wanted to know what the hell I thought I was doing.  I was wishing I had an answer for that question. The red Chevy seemed to be a little high centered on some boulders and wouldn’t move…, but there didn’t appear to be any damage done.  We tried to winch it out with the breadbox…, but it was way too heavy for that.  Especially with all my brother Larry’s tools in it.  He had his portable welder, oxygen and acetylene tanks, and who knows how many thousands of dollar’s worth of Snap-On brand tools.  You couldn’t really see the pickup from the road unless you were really looking for it…, Dave tied some red flagging ribbon around a bush on the side of the road so we could find it again…, and Jimmy drove us on to Orofino…, and the bar…, in the breadbox.

Well…, brother Larry wasn’t too impressed with me leaving his tools like that.  The Carney management wasn’t all that impressed when they found out that there was a little damage to the underside of the truck…, like a hole in the automatic transmission…, among other things.  A few days later the big boss came out to the job at lunch time.  He looked at me, fished a little notebook out of his pocket as he is saying, “I’m going to have to fill out a report for the insurance company.”  Putting pen to notebook like he was ready to take a few notes he said, “What happened?”

I looked at him and said, “Ah…, a car load of drunken Indians ran us off the road.”

He looked at me, folded up his little notebook and put it back in his pocket.  So I said, “Well it was just about sundown with the sun glare on the windshield, I could hardly see anyway.  Then we did meet a car barreling along and I couldn’t see anything in the dust…, so I started trying to slow down and ease her over to the center of the road…, and went too far.”

I knew he wasn’t going to fire me.  But I wasn’t sure that my brother Larry wasn’t going to fire me.

Oh…, by the way.  I have three Robert Earl Keen CD’s now.  He tells some wonderful stories in a song.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Mountain Mayhem" by Gary Bond

It must be some 26 years since I left the Clearwater County area of Idaho and when I have managed to get back there for short visits, it is a struggle to see all the family…, let alone catch up with all the old friends.  Facebook has been quite a tool for connecting with some of those long lost friends.  There has been some pleasant surprises along the way…, and such was the case a couple of weeks ago, when I discovered that an old friend was a published author.

It was the first summer I had hired on for Potlatch Corporation when I was put on a crew with Gary Bond.  I don’t recall the name of our bucker or the old rigging slinger, but I remember Gary.  He was the timber faller and I was running a rubber tired skidder.  I wasn’t much more than a kid at the time, probably 22 years old and just out of the Army long enough to get some long hair growing.  Gary was nearly ten years my senior and I could tell by the way he looked at me that he had his doubts whether this young hippie was going to be able to cut it.  That was the summer of 1974…, and since he accepted my friend request in 2013…, I must have passed the test. 

We never got to work on the same logging crew together again, but I heard tell of some of his adventures; a trip to South or Central American on a search for buried treasures, his late night decision to steal the glory of a rather pompous fellow timber cutter who had discover a record size tree on his strip, and we had quite an adventure together about ten years after that.  It involved an early morning trip to scout some timber owned by a farmer that Gary knew.  The night before, we got one of those foot and a half of wet, soggy, spring snows.  We couldn’t see much from the pickup on the road…, but the look and thought of trugging through a half  a mile of farmers field through deep snow to get to the edge of the timber gave us both a chill.  So we killed the chill with a couple of hot buttered rums at a little roadhouse on the Clearwater River…, at about ten o’clock in the morning…, then proceeded to “work” our way back through Orofino, Greer, Weippe and Pierce in much the same manner.  I’d like to tell you all about it…, but it’s been a long time and the memory is a little hazy…, so I will tell you about his book instead.

“Mountain Mayhem” is Gary’s first book and takes place in the mountains and meadows and along the creeks and rivers of north-central Idaho and east-central Montana.  The country that I grew up in and lived in for the first 35 years of my life.  The same country that Lewis and Clark nearly starved to death in, trying to cross the Bitterroot Mountains over Lolo Pass.  The Nez Perce Indians rescued Lewis and Clark when they staggered out of those mountains in 1805 onto the Weippe Prairie.  The Nez Perce used the Lolo Pass to cross the Bitterroot Mountains to hunt buffalo for many years before and nearly every year after Lewis and Clark passed through.  Until 1877…, when they crossed that pass for the last time…, in an effort to elude the pursuing US Cavalry.

Gary masterfully weaves the story of the Nez Perce plight into his first novel about Amos Blair, his dog Heck and his Nez Perce friend John Two Bears.  Amos “...was an imposing man, not for his  size as he was just a little above average in that department.  It was a combination of things that set him aside from other men, his confident bearing his lean hard body, his piercing gaze and the intangibles that declare him to be a man to be reckoned with and commanded respect.”    Yeah..., a description that I would gladly use to describe Gary himself.  Amos has lived the life of mountain man trapper, buffalo hunter, prospector…, but he realizes that those days aren’t so far from over.  How Amos deals with the changes taking place in the wild country he has known is a fast paced story that takes place in the space of about a year.  The descriptions of the county Amos traveled through brought back many fond memories..., especially Fort Fizzle in Montana, where the Nez Perce tribe with some 200 warriors, 750 women and children and 2000 horses craftily out foxed a contingent of volunteer militia set up to intercept their flight.  My Dad and I had stopped to read the historic marker when we were working in the area in 1972.  Gary tells the story in a straight forward style, no fancy literary devices or plot devises…, just great story telling…, by a great guy.  

Many thanks Gary..., for taking me on another thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining adventure.  It has been FAR too long !!!

Right on partner…, write on.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

My Mom - Wanda Spence

                                      Wanda Kautz..., senior class picture

The email address was just identified as “Debbie”…, and the subject line was blank. So I was a little leery of opening it, even though there was no attachment.  After some bad experiences I had learned to screen my emails through my service providers email program before I let them through to my computers email program, so I opened it.  It was from “Debbie Wisell” and she said her father was “Blan. Lawler” and we were related through my mother somehow.  She asked me to call her.  I thought it was a bit unusual for a phishing email…, and there was something about the Lawler name that had what few remaining, live brain cells I have, running a few laps in my head.  I didn’t have to ponder the problem long.  A day or so later there was a message on the phone machine that explained things a little better…, and I called Debbie back.

My mother was born Wanda L. Kautz on January 29, 1932 in Boise, Idaho.  When Mom was not yet two and one half years old, her mother Effie L. Lawler Kautz, passed away at the age of 20.  Since Mom really never got to know her own mother, there wasn’t much talk about her or any of her family.  Debbie was the first contact I had with anyone in my maternal grandmother’s family.  Debbie said that Effie and her father had been twin children, so he would have been Mom’s uncle and Debbie and Mom would have been cousins.  Debbie was excited to talk to me and wanted to know if I had any pictures or stories I could share with her.  This is my attempt…, and thanks for asking Debbie.
                                    Effie Lawler Kautz - Lester Kautz
                                                        Wanda Kautz 

I don’t know a lot about Mom’s early years in Boise after her mother died.  She spent a lot of time with her “Aunt Ollie”, from the Kautz side of the family, and who was more like a mother than an aunt.  I am not sure how much a presence her father, Les Kautz, was during that time?  Les and his brothers Al and A.J. were always into some sort of business venture or other and it took them all over the northwest.  I believe they were partners in a lumber mill in Weippe, Idaho for a time, had a gold mining claim in Sandy, Oregon, and Les and Al were owners of the Elk Horn Bar in Weippe.  Anyway, Mom came to Weippe on the bus about the time she entered high school and lived in a room above the barroom where she could hear all the songs on the juke box.  One of the stories she told was that she knew the words to the songs better than her friends, but her feelings were hurt when one of them commented that she “couldn’t sing a lick!”  I know the feeling.  I love the lyrics, but I don’t have a clue how to make music out of them. Mom always joked around that the only reason Dad married her was because he thought he would inherit the Elk Horn!
                                                            The Elk Horn Bar
Mom may not have been bestowed the gift of musical ability, but she had the gift of intellect.  She was valedictorian of her 1950 graduating class, though I never heard her tell anyone that.  She didn’t tell me, I discovered it by seeing it in her high school annual.  She was also voted Most Likely to Succeed, Best Sport, and Most Willing to Help.  For some strange reason I didn’t inherit those traits from her…, and a high powered criminal defense attorney let me know it one time.  My lawyer was one of those guys who had been around so long and seen and heard every pitch from every bullshit artist there was, he could size people up in two minutes or less.  And be spot on about it.  I learned a lot from him about making honest, fact based assessments of people and not relying on emotional bias.  That has served me well throughout my life, and that day he made me feel like a fool for not realizing just how smart my Mom was.  I don’t remember exactly what I said, but he stopped me cold and let me know that if I didn’t realize how intelligent, capable, talented and resourceful my mother was, I didn’t have much of a clue about anything at all.  Well…, he was right about me then…, and probably now, if I was willing to admit it.  I will admit that I never played pinochle with anyone over the years who was any better at keeping track of every card in the deck during a hand than Mom…, or anyone who knew how to get more out of a poor hand than her.  I will refrain from mentioning her competitive spirit, as that might necessitate other admissions on my part regarding the won/lost history.
                                                1950 Weippe High School Annual
I may not have inherited her intelligence..., but there is no doubt that I got my love of sports from my Mom.  She was involved in baseball and basketball all through high school.  Her and some of her friends got caught smoking cigarettes in the restroom one time.  Their punishment was to write a many thousand word theme before they would be allowed to participate in a ballgame…, and there was one the next day.  Mom said she was up all night writing that theme because she wanted to play in that game so bad.  Later in life, there were no men in the community willing to coach a little league baseball team when my brother Larry turned old enough to play…, Mom stepped up and coached the team.  My senior year we got a new football coach and he had two a day practices.  I envisioned a battle of epic proportions with my Dad over the few weeks of working for him that I would miss because of that.  There isn’t much doubt in my mind that the one and only thing that stood between him and I and prevented that battle…, was my Mom.  He never said a word about it to me…, and he never saw me play football.  My Mom did though.
I am pretty sure that Mom attended a semester of college in Lewiston, ID at North Idaho College of Education (now Lewis-Clark State College) on a scholarship courtesy of her valedictory status in high school.  And I believe that she gave up that scholarship to another gal who could not afford to go without the scholarship.  Mom intended to marry Dad anyway, and she did that on July 7, 1951 in San Luis Obispo,  CA.  Dad had been drafted into the Army and was stationed nearby at the time.  I entered the scene at Camp Cooke,  CA on April 19, 1952.  After Dad got out of the service, we moved back to Weippe and my brother Larry made his appearance and completed our family on February 7, 1954.
                                             Scott R. Spence          Larry Spence
                                             Wanda Spence     Alexander R. Spence
Weippe was a small town of just 705 people when we were growing up and it lacked many of the amenities of more populated towns…, like a swimming pool.  The nearest one was 25 miles away in Orofino, so Mom and a few other mothers in Weippe organized summer “swimming lessons” of the kids in the area.  Once again, Mom had to step up and drive one of the school buses that got us to Orofino and back for a month or so every summer for many years.  The sight of a woman driving a school bus may be common today…, but in the early 60’s it was anything but common.  A few years later she hired on as a real, full-time school bus driver, and it was still many years later before you began to regularly see women in that line of work.  When the Jaype Plywood Plant began hiring women in the late 60’s, Mom was in the first group hired.  She didn’t work there a full 30 years, though my Dad thought she should.  Mom could read the figurative writing on the wall that the company was getting ready to close the plant down before she would reach that 30 year mark…, and she took an “early” retirement, with 20 some years tallied, when it was offered.  As always…, she made the right call.
It seems to me that whatever she did, it was in support of one of us.  Never for herself.  Whether it was coaching a baseball team so my brother could play, or driving a school bus down the Greer Grade (that spooked well-seasoned truck drivers) with 50 screaming kids at her back, so they could enjoy some safe summer swimming as well as learn a skill that could save a life along the many waterways that we frequently fished.  She was right there beside my Dad in helping found and support the Weippe Rodeo Association for many years.  She participated in the Parent-Teacher Association and 4-H when we were active, helped get the Weippe Wranglers Saddle Club organized, and helped out with the Hilltop Motorcycle Club.  Working full-time curtailed some of those activities…, and by that time we were getting to the age where a mother’s presence was more of an embarrassment than an advantage anyway.
                                     TL - Mom at work              TR - Dad, Mom & Me
                            BL -Keith, A.J., Mom & Dad      BR - Surprise Birthday Party
My brother Larry provided her with some grandkids during the 80’s and I know they brought a lot of joy to her life, but I never had any kids and moved to Forks, WA in 1987.  I didn’t get to see a lot of Mom after that.  Even the visits for Christmas or other holidays became ever less frequent as her health was deteriorating through the 90’s.  She had a couple of heart surgeries, and after the last one she unequivocally said that she would not go through that again.  In the 00’s a lot of folks believed that she was joking when she would talk about wishing there was a “click-out pill” that she could take and end it all.  She couldn’t even play cards any longer because the Alzheimer’s was taking such a toll and she was on so much medication that she just never felt good.  She was determined that she was not going to die in a hospital or a nursing home and made my Dad promise her that.  Close to the end I made it to Weippe for a few days and when the time came to tell her I had to get back home to Forks, she said, “I think I’ll just stay here.”  I must have given her a funny look, because she asked, “Where are we?”  I told her we were at The Ranch in Weippe.  She laughed and said, “Shoot…, I thought we were in Hawaii.”  I like to think that the Alzheimer’s made her forget what I told her…, and she stayed in Hawaii.

Friday, February 1, 2013

That Championship Season

My old friend Mike Green sent me some old Weippe high school pictures that he found along with a newspaper clipping from one of our football games.  They brought back some old memories..., yeah..., I do mean OLD.  I’m sure he won’t mind if I share my email response to him with all of you.

Thanks for the pictures Mike..., and the newspaper clipping.  Julie called me at the job to tell me about them.  I was somewhat surprised.  She won’t even open a Christmas card that has both our names on it.  Not so with your letter.  Ripped open no less.  Maybe she thought you had sent some new juggling toys or something.  She still has the balls you sent several years back, hidden away from me so I can’t practice.  She says she is going to show you a thing or two next time she sees you.  Yeah.., she remarked on your penmanship…, and yet again, asked me why such a good looking guy like you isn’t married..., but she didn’t ask me about the touchdown mentioned in the clipping.  I guess she was just being considerate of my modesty and reluctance to talk about my athletic feats of accomplishment and my natural tendency to shy away from self-promotion in that regard.  I was honest with Julie.  I told her that I didn't remember THAT touchdown.  She may have thought that it was because I scored so many that a mere 5 yard scamper so paled in comparison to the many more memorable long distance scores.  But the rest of the story..., as Paul Harvey used to say..., is that I don't remember ever scoring a TD.  I threw for a few at Timberline my senior year..., but don't recall any, in any fashion, at Weippe.

I do remember getting an out loud laugh from you in the huddle when I called my first play in a real game in high school football.  It was late in the game and we were well ahead in the score so the coach gave some of the bench warmers like me a chance to play.  I am glad he left the starters like you in to block though.  As I was heading onto the field to replace one of my best friends, Rod Ball, he said to me, “What are you going to call?”  I said I was going to call a hand off to the fullback up the middle.  He retorted, “Bullshit…, run it yourself!” 

I wasn’t sure if it was a directive or a request…, but you don’t insult a friend by not following either one.  So when I got to the huddle, I called, “Single Wing, Formation Left, 11-Sweep on first ‘Go’…, and I’m not a very good runner, so you guys are going to have to block good.”  I don’t know if your laugh took the tension off our team…, or lulled the opponents into thinking that the scrawny kid with the clean uniform that just entered the game was nothing but a joke?  But a big hole opened up around the left end and suddenly I was in the open field…, with my chin strap swinging wildly by just one snap.  I had forgotten to snap it in place.  I didn’t have much need, or practice, doing that during the games.  I remember thinking, “Oh man…, I’m going to get a penalty for this.”

Well…, I didn’t get a penalty for it.  Maybe the officials were just being kind to me.  Coach Wessels was being kind to me too…, by letting me play…, and then by putting my name in the paper and giving me a very generous estimate of the yardage gained on that carry.  For a few over 40 years now, that newspaper clipping has been the only Weippe football clipping with my name in my scrap book.  I have the State Champs clipping…, but just one with my name associated with it.  That is…, until you sent me one that says I scored a touchdown…, and I can’t remember it.  How many years did I say it’s been?

Well..., I may have forgotten it.  But I assure you..., Julie never will.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas 2012

I wasn’t going to wait around for Santa Claus again this year.  After all…, I’ve been waiting damn near 10 long years since we put a roof on The Saddle Bar(n) and there is still no Big Screen TV with Home Theater Surround Sound out there.  And my poetic license has expired on the statement in my “Tom Russell” piece about acquiring a new CD player.  I had the best of intentions when I wrote it, but I still didn’t really have one.  After the many years of disappointment regarding the Big Screen TV, I just didn’t think I could count on Santa to deliver even a simple CD player this year.  Maybe I should cut ole Santa a little slack since I seem to be a bit remiss myself.  But damn it…, that’s his job…, and this writing stuff is only my sometimes pastime.
So…, a little over a month or so back I took Julie shopping over in the city of Port Angeles at a trendy new mall with the Goodwill sign atop it.  I hadn’t gone in there looking for a CD player…, but there it was.  A Pioneer PD-M530, with a six disc changer!  She was a cosmetic beauty…, but with a price tag of $9.95.  It didn’t take me more than a few minutes to calculate that with a Washington state sales tax of over 8%, that I would be paying…, well…, I knew I wasn’t getting out of the store without completely burning a $10 bill.
I hurried off to find Julie and confirm the deal…, before some other observant and savvy stereo component aficionado happened upon the scene and snapped it up before I could.  I was breathing a little hard when I found her…, and she noticed.  She got kind of wide eyed and concerned looking, “Are you all right?  What’s wrong?  What happened?”  I was still trying to catch my breath, couldn’t speak yet, and I put my hand up to my chest.  “Are you having a heart attack?  Should I call an ambulance?  Are you going to be all right?” she asked.
No, no…, I wasn’t THAT excited about the CD Player.  But I didn’t want Julie to know that the excitement was out of concern for her.  You see, when I couldn’t find her after a trip or two around the store I became concerned for her safety.  I thought that something terrible may have happened to her, or that she might be lost and I may have become a little panicky and began to run from isle to isle looking for her.  I was on the verge of screaming for her on about the fifth full speed trip around the store, when I finally spotted her…, much to my relief.  And I think there were some other patrons in the store who were relieved as well.
Anyway…, after I managed to catch my breath, I explained to her that I knew the CD player was on the expensive side but that it was a quality product and looked good.  “Does it work?” she asked.  I gave her my most incredulous look and in my best condescending voice, I said that I was pretty damn sure that it worked just fine, since I could not imagine anyone who would pawn off some worthless piece of stereo equipment on a Goodwill store instead of paying to dispose of it at the city dump.  Her jaw kind of dropped, she stared me in the eye, and shook her head back and forth…, in total agreement with me that no one would even consider such a thing.  She said, “Well, they do have a 30 day money back guarantee on those things.  You can always bring it back.  Go ahead and go get it.”  I told her that I wasn’t in a big hurry…, that I would just hang out with her until she was done shopping and we would go get it together.
A couple of weeks later I was out in The Saddle Bar(n)…, warming my feet by the fire, drying out…, and rehydrating with ice cold Hamm’s in front of the stove after a long, wet day cleaning up horse manure and doing a few other chores.  I was a little put out that that KISM-FM wasn’t coming in real clear on the stereo that day…, when I realized that I had a new used Pioneer PD-M530 Six Disc CD Player behind the seat of the Toyota!  It was almost like Christmas all over again…, especially when I found that it was loaded with six Christmas music CD’s.  I set her up, wired her to the Heathkit 1515 Receiver, and plugged her in.  It was a sweet sound…, hearing the motor whir and a CD get slipped into place…, again…, and again…, and again.  That beautiful machine cycled through all six discs without playing a one.  I kept pushing buttons and changing setting trying to figure out what I was doing wrong.  It was obvious to me that the machine was working fine…, but I couldn’t figure out the controls…, no matter how many times I tried the same things…, over and over.  My new machine would just shuffle those discs around without making any music. 
I immediately started calculating how much money I would have left after getting my 10 bucks back from the Goodwill in Port Angeles.   About a 150 mile round trip, and gas at over $4 a gallon…, the little Toyota would have to get like…, how many miles to the gallon to come out on this deal?  Well…, I had already had a few…, quite a few…, ice cold Hamm’s by that time.  I don’t give up on a mechanical problem real easily.  As long as it isn’t to physically taxing anyway.  But I had had too many beers to make the numbers work out…, so I thought maybe I should just let the old Pioneer acclimatize for a few days out in The Saddle Bar(n) and see if that helped it’s performance.
I’m not sure why…, but that didn’t fix the problem.  Nor did a week…, or two, of acclimatization.  So I got on the Internet and did a Google search for “How to Repair a Pioneer SX-636 Six Disc CD Player That Just Cycles Through the Six Discs But Won’t Play Any of Them”.  I was hoping to find a link to a YouTube video showing just where to smack the little jewel to put it back in working order.  No luck with that.  But there was a site where someone had written in describing that problem and some guy responded that he had seen some of those models in which the “lens” had fallen out and he had some luck gluing them back in with electronic glue.  He said not to use Super Glue, as that would ruin the lens.  Well…, the extent of my electronic repair experience has always been a well-placed…, or if not well placed…, forcefully delivered…, smack or kick.  Sometimes a matchbook worked in the case of the old 8-track tape players.  But I had some serious money invested and a now expired “warranty”, so I wasn’t about to give up on it.
I removed five of the three screws holding the cover on the unit…, and decided I should get some additional lighting to compliment the dimly lit barroom atmosphere before proceeding on.  Once I had a little better view of the inner workings of the unit, I plugged it in and watched each one of those CD’s shuffle in and out of place and noticed that there was a little red light visible on the underside of another gizmo type component when she was in play mode.  Being able to see a little better, I only had to remove four of the four tiny little screws holding the gizmo in place.  I lifted the gizmo up and turned it over, looking for a lens.  I thought I should plug her back in and try to find that little red light…, when I realized that I hadn’t unplugged it before I started probing around with the screw driver or my fingers.  I congratulated myself for my efficiency in not wasting time and energy by unplugging, then having to plug the machine back in.  I also thought maybe I should have a beer and a cigarette to steady my shaky hands.  After the break I looked around a bit and saw what looked to be a glass chip…, about the size of a BB, or a high quality $ 10 diamond…, lying in the bottom of the player.  I wasn’t sure what it was…, so I managed to pick it up, take it in the house and look at it under a magnifying glass.  Sure enough, it showed signs of sophisticated human contact at some point in time.  It appeared that one side had a slight beveled out shape, so I assumed that side would point to the disk. 
I knew I would need Julie’s help to apply the glue.  I hollered at her to come give me a hand.  I hollered again…, and again.  I finally found her in the closet.  I was going to ask her what she was doing in there when she said,  “I’m too busy to help you now.  I always get hurt when I have to help you.”  I finally convinced her that I wouldn’t be using any power tools, or heavy equipment, or shovels or rakes or hammers or knives or pliers or screwdrivers or anything else that could hurt her.  I also assured her that she wouldn’t have to go outside and get wet or cold or dirty or sweaty or muddy or greasy and she wouldn’t even have to go out to the Bar.  I did mention that later, when I returned to The Saddle Bar(n), if she saw a bright flash and the electricity went out…, she might want to check on me.  She started to speak, but I cut her off and explained that all I needed was for her to put some glue on a little piece of glass.  She asked what piece of glass and I showed her the piece under the magnifying glass.  When I asked her where the electronic glue was, she gave me a strange look and said she would go get it.
I didn’t know we had any electronic glue.  That was really a bluff, and I intended to send her to Forks to get some when she couldn’t produce it.  She assured me that’s what it was she returned with a tiny container that I could seem to get a good look at.  I wouldn’t have used anything else.  I held the sliver of glass and the magnifying glass while she used a toothpick to dab a couple of drops of glue on the two little spots that my fingers didn’t cover up.  Then I dashed out to The Saddle Bar(n) and tried to installed the lens without smearing what little bit of glue we had on the edges anywhere else. 
Well…, that’s about the end of this story.  My poetic license has been renewed and I am no longer lying when you read that I am listening to Tom Russell CD’s in The Saddle Bar(n).  And if Santa finally makes it out to The Ranch this Christmas with the Big Screen TV with Home Theater…, I will once again be waiting up for him…, and we can listen to Tom Russell or Bruce Springsteen while we are setting up the system and sipping Hot Cocoa with a quite liberal splash of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum added.  And if Santa doesn’t like Tom or Bruce…, I have six bonus CD’s of Christmas music we can slip in the new CD player.

Merry Christmas Everyone Everywhere !!!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Camper Barn

It felt good to slap on the leaky rain gear and get out in the first monsoon of the season to clean up the horse manure that had been accumulating in the pastures while I worked frantically to complete The Camper Barn before those monsoons arrived.  Hey..., it's election season..., and lying is not just accepted..., it is expected.  But I am telling you the truth..., and nothing but the truth.  Vote for me.

In the spirit of this election season, I should tell you that I built that all myself..., like Mitt Romney..., but I am not that kind of candidate.  When I consulted with an old timber cutter partner of mine, Rick Gale, about the wisdom of using up some of the timbers left over from a house building dream..., that turned out to be a Front Porch, Gar-Port, and Little Red Horse and Hay Barn..., he insisted on helping out.  Well..., it might have been after I explained to him how I was going to use the 12 foot long 6x8 beams for the low side of the bents, and 14 foot long 6x8's for the high side, with a 16 foot long 6x8 rafter topping the posts off (with knee braces of course), and how I would build them on the ground and lift the bents into place with my little backhoe/cat, position them into place on the concrete piers, get them anchored and braced, and build on.  Rick gave me a look like I was Romney telling him how he is going to cut taxes for his rich friends and corporate sponsors and it won't cost the middle class and the poor a single penny.  He eyed my little backhoe unit with it's short reach, and I quickly told him how I was going to chain a 12 foot 6x8 to the bucket of the backhoe so I would have a longer reach.  He said, "You give me a call when you are ready to do that."  Now Rick isn't quite the same man he was back in the day when we cut timber together.  Another cutter he was working with had a tree get away from him a few years back..., but that tree got Rick.  The fact that he would never fully recover from the physical injuries he suffered wasn't bad enough..., he developed a rare form of cancer that required a full stem cell transplant on top of it.  He may not physically be the same man..., but he has heart.  And not wanting to break that..., I didn't make him beg to get in on the glory.

My other helper was a partner from my current job out at the prison.  Dave Mohn is about 6' 6'' tall and about 240..., of solid muscle.  He swims laps at the local pool every morning before he heads to the job, spends about 20 minutes in the prison gym before work, and works out there during his half hour lunch break.  He did 20 years in the Army..., much of that time as a Green Beret and later in Delta Force.  Yeah..., I have no trouble backing him up out on the job.  In fact..., if there is ever a tense situation..., I am right there, squarely behind him.  When I told him about the plan, he at first gave me what is known in the business as "the thousand yard stare".  But he quickly snapped out of it and said something like, "I want in."  I don't remember the exact phrasing..., but I figured that it would only be fair if I allowed him to back me up for a change.

When the day finally arrived..., after may weeks of digging holes for the concrete piers..., and mixing concrete in a wheelbarrow to pour into them, and many trips to Home Depot, and many hours of cutting and carrying beams from one end of The Ranch to the other, and many hours of nailing and gluing bents together, I was ready.  The first thing Rick and Dave wanted to know when they showed up was, "Why didn't you move the camper out of the way?"  I explained that when my Dad passed away, I was left with a Toyota Tundra pickup and a fifth wheel horse trailer..., so we purchased a fifth wheel camper for Jamie.  That was before I had taken possession of the pickup.  The former owner of the fifth wheel had delivered it to the site and we had set it up.  When I got the pickup..., it turns out that it has an entirely different type of fifth wheel connection.  I injected that the Old Dad is probably laughing at me from wherever he ended up.  But I added that the last laugh is on him because now I have Jamie right were I want her.  When she gets to thinking that she has too many chores on The Ranch and threatens to move out, pay for her own trailer spot, electricity, water & sewer, dog food, hay and no longer has to borrow food from our refrigerator..., I can say, "You can move out when you find someone to pull your trailer out of here..., because I can't do it."  Yeah..., I got the last laugh after all.  Rick and Dave looked at each other..., shook their heads and said that we better get to work.

Well..., Rick and Dave didn't slow down the operation as much as I suspected.  Though they did insist that I reposition the backhoe when the first bent wasn't quite close enough to the proper location from the position I had chosen.  To humor them..., I moved the backhoe..., so they wouldn't have to wrestle four or five hundred pounds of bent three or four feet by hand.  I tried to get Julie to take some pictures of us with the bent dangling from a rope at the end of the beam chained to the backhoe bucket.  She said she didn't even want to watch..., let alone take pictures.  So you will just have to use your own imagination.  I wanted to jump down off the backhoe and grab the camera while Rick and Dave were there under the bent..., but they would have none of it.  Camera shy I guess.  And then as we were getting other bents into place Rick and Dave didn't think that my plan of 2x4 braces were up to the task at hand..., so they insisted that we put them together with bigger lumber and include some of the OSB for what Rick referred to as "lateral" strength.  So..., in spite of the handicap that their help instilled in the project..., we did manage to get all the bents up and in place without any major mishaps.

We were getting a little rain shower by the time we got that last bent up and braced.  I thought that rain wet aluminum ladders and high climbing might make for some real hilarious photo opportunities..., but a cold beer in The Saddle Barn around the propane stove sounded even better.  I invited the boys inside.  I tried to pay them for their help..., but they refused.  No, they said..., someday we may need a favor from you.  That day may never come..., but if it does?  Oh my..., I thought I left those kinds of friends back in Idaho.

Anyway..., Rick had quit drinking after the stem cell transplant and Dave limits himself to one beer..., so I invited them back.  Any time partners..., ANY TIME.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Old Hippies

My dad called me, “The Old Hippie” from about 1973 when I got out of the Army at age 21 and grew my hair long…, until the day he died in 2009…, when I was too old to grow much hair at all.  I like that moniker and it still reminds me to this day of my “summer of love”…, when I quit my job and thought I could make my way in the hippie world and live on peace and love and share it with all my brothers and sisters in the movement.  It was the summer of ’74…, and that’s about how long that life lasted…, one, all too short summer.  It wasn’t that I gave up the ideology of peace and love and sharing.  It just dawned on me in just a few months’ time…, that times with dope and no money weren’t all that great…, no matter what the famous black light poster said.  But as long as you have both, things can look pretty rosy through a pair of granny glasses…, even if you have to keep a job to do it.  So, I guess I was really just a wannabe hippie with a job for many years after that.
There were many magical things happening that summer and I tended to focus on those things…, as opposed to anything happening in the realm of politics.  Hell, a president could have resigned or been hounded out of office for being a crook that he swore he wasn’t and I wouldn’t have noticed.  It wasn’t just getting drafted or being a hippie that left a sour taste in my mouth for politics.  I just never thought it really mattered who was president.  I always thought that politics was a dirty, slimy business and only the scummiest of the creeping crud would engage in it.  One political party was as bad as the other…, one got us into a war and the other kept us there when given the chance to change direction.  Just because my summer of love didn’t last…, doesn’t mean that my feelings about politics didn’t last.  We could later have had a president who knew that we needed to do something about burning fossil fuels before it became a crisis situation…, and who tried to get the American public to buy into alternative energy sources like solar and wind.  He could have installed solar panels on the White House in the late 70’s…, I wouldn’t have noticed. 

Yeah…, I barely paid attention when a supporting movie actor to a chimpanzee replaced a truly great humanitarian as president and ripped the solar panels off the White House, spent billions on dreams of Star War Weapons of mass destruction…, that never got off the drawing board…, but made a lot of his close friends filthy rich.  He could have left the country nearly three times further in debt than when he started.  I wouldn’t have noticed…, but I bet there are people who still love and revere him.  Especially those folks he made rich…, but also a lot of people who were busy shoving the chump change that tickled down to them into their pockets…, and thinking they were getting rich too.  By the time the over the hill, wannabe actor…, who maxed out the country credit card, flipped the bird to Congress and let Ollie North take the fall for Iran-Contra, rode off into the sunset and left somebody else to deal with the problems he created…, the presidency of the US was just a bad joke…, a joke that was no longer funny.  OK…, I did at least get a giggle out of Billy Boy and the Blue Dress.  But I honestly didn’t think it mattered who won between Al Gore and the Wee Bush in 2000.  Oh man…, I hate to admit it when I’m wrong.  I was WRONG. 

Four years after the Wee Bush took office…, I cast my first ballot in a presidential election.  I knew it wouldn’t affect anything one way or the other.  I live in Washington State and there was no doubt about the outcome here before a ballot was boxed.  But I just had to vote against the Wee Bush and what he had done…, and was doing…, to the country.  I had to call in sick to the job the next day after he was re-elected.  And I don’t abuse sick leave.  It made me physically sick to think that this nation was full of enough people so ignorant or twisted or just plain bat shit crazy…, that they could vote for the Wee Bush…, again !!!!  Four years after that, there was no need for me to vote.  The Wee Bush had nodded off at the wheel and allowed 9-11 to happen on his watch, he doubled the national debt, lost about 8 million jobs, was presiding over two unneeded, unpopular and unlawful wars (and outright lied to get us into one of them), was torturing and waterboarding people the world over, establishing and staffing the Department of Homeland security to grope Americans at airports and spy on them in their homes, signing the Patriot Act, denying climate change, vowing to privatize Social Security…, and had engineered a financial meltdown that was mirroring the financial crash that ushered in The Great Depression.  Then he gave his Bankster Buddies about 750 Billion dollars to do with as they pleased as he sauntered on back to Texas to retire and write his memoirs.  There was no way that a Republican stood a snowball’s chance in a south Texas summer of capturing the White House that year.  Many pundits were clamoring that the Republicans would not recover from the stench and stigma that the Wee Bush reign had left on the party for 20 years…, and the rest of the pundits said that they would never recover.

I guess maybe I should have been paying attention and changed my ways many years before?  Maybe I could have made a difference somehow?  The reality is…, it won’t matter if I do or don’t cast a ballot here in Washington this year.  But I think that this could be as important an election as we have had since the Wee Bush was awarded the spot by the Supreme Court.  I criticize Obama and his many failings…, but he has held a crumbling nation together when I was predicting complete collapse.  And that’s about all he’s accomplished.  But I believe that a Romney win would assure the final collapse of not just the financial system…, but the empire as well.  He will follow the path of Rummy Ronnie and the Wee Bush.  He will plunge the country even deeper into debt, enriching the already rich fat cat elite, while demanding that the poor suffer even more, and exhorting the middle class that if it wasn’t for the poor holding them back, that they too would be filthy rich.  And we will be at war…, not just the everlasting wars on terror, and drugs, and women, and the poor, and the old, Social Security and Medicare…, but a real shoot ‘em up military industrial complex compounding, gas rationing, martial law declaring, terrorist detention rendition torture debacle.  Was Obama so bad that we would vote to give the Republicans a chance to finish that whack job that the Wee Bush came within a whisker and a grin of completing on his own…, less than four years ago?  Are our minds that addled…, or are our memories that short?

I was wrestling with those questions recently after reading a newspaper headline saying it was a virtual tie in the polls of the presidential race between Obama and Romney.  Puzzling over the why and how of it all…,  I was visited electronically by three old hippie ghosts from the good old days.  Well…, not really ghosts…, but old hippies..., the first two anyway.  After those visits I would like to say that my questions were answered.  But that wouldn’t be true..., I think I am even more confused and concerned now.

The first visit was via email…, it said, “I am still just a hippie at heart (am wearing patchouli as we speak), but certainly pay my own way.  This is a lost art these days.  But if we keep on just making everything free for anyone who can’t or won’t earn it, we’ll be going even deeper down the toilet.  Enough is enough for the handouts.  Geez.”  Yeah…, she was one of those hippies who “had her shit together” as we used to term it.  A lot of the hippie gals would get pregnant so they could draw welfare.  Not her.  She always had a job and a place to live and was willing to share whatever she had with others.  Sometime in the late 70’s she moved to Seattle with a boyfriend…, and a few years later hooked up with her current husband.  Then she raised a couple of beautiful daughters.  She didn’t say who she is voting for…, but she works at Boeing…, you guess.  I replied that I had long respected her…, even back in the good old days when she always held a job when a lot of the rest of us were trying to be fulltime hippies.  I linked to a David Michael Green piece that I quoted from on my blog…, and closed with this, “These really are far tougher times than when we were young Old Hippies.  Just look at Orofino or Weippe or Forks, or any small town in America.  Even big cities…, with boarded up, empty store fronts.  The kids these days just don’t have the same opportunities for jobs that we had back then.  And unfortunately I don’t think it is going to be getting any better for them.  There are so many folks who really need the help these days…, and the percentage of the folks who are just scamming for it is really such a small percentage that it really amounts to nothing.  But…, that isn’t what The Regressives want you to think.  They are trying…, and doing a damn good job of it…, to pit us against them…, while they make off with all the money.”

We had at least three presidents, starting with Reagan, bragging about cutting welfare and even a Democrat, Clinton, cut welfare.  According to CNN Money, “In the 16 years since President Clinton and Congress overhauled  the nation’s welfare system, the number of people receiving cash assistance has fallen two-thirds.  And public spending on the program has dropped by more than half.”    The Wee Bush did his part in keeping kids hungry too.  Sam Pizzigati says that, “The number of children living in deep poverty — kids in families making under half the official poverty threshold — rose 70 percent from 1995 to 2005, and 30 percent more by 2010.”  Where did that monetary savings from keeping kids poor and hungry go?  It damn sure didn’t get handed back to the working class.  Since 1980 the average worker’s salary decreased 4.8%..., and the top 1% of earners incomes increased 100%..., the top 0.01% saw a tripling of their income.  In the 1970’s a CEO’s salary was about 40 times the average wage slave’s.  In 2010 it was 350 times the average wage slave’s salary.  There is absolutely no doubt that there has been a wealth shift in the last 30 years…, and it hasn’t been the poor that have taken any gains from the working class.  It has been the plundering rich that have paid the pompous politicians to pass legislation that pisses on the poor, squeezes and shakes every possible dime out of the working class, and substantially cuts the fat cat taxes…, again…, and again…, and again.  According to Robert Reich, the tax rate for high earners was never under 70% between the 1940’s and 1980.  It actually hit 91% in the 1950’s.  The top rate is 35% today.  And people like Romney only paid about a 13% tax rate this year because most of their income was from capital gains…, which was taxed much higher in prior years.   And the fat cats have been pocketing the money instead of investing it in business expansion and new jobs like the Republicans told us would happen with the tax cuts.  What money they do spend either goes into the pockets of greedy politicians, lobbyists or to buy mainstream media so they can plaster propaganda everywhere to convince the working class that they can’t get ahead because the poor and unemployed are really just too damn lazy to get their ass off the leather couch and out from in front of the 72” High Definition Home Entertainment system…, that is, unless that welfare queen needs to hop in the brand new 4 Wheel Drive SUV to go to the store for Caviar and Chivas on the food stamp card.  Which they say, is all paid for by the sweat off the working class brow.    Not only that…, they sell the poor and unemployed the storyline that any working class hero that still has a job is nothing but a kiss ass union paid patsy and state or government drone that is under worked and overpaid with head to toe medical coverage and a pension promise that will move him immediately into the 1% ranks when he retires at 55 years old.  Yeah…, the fat cats with the politicians in their pockets are investing a lot of our money to keep the working class and the poor at each other’s throats.  Those (mostly) myths of the welfare queen and the government employee worked for Reagan back 30 years ago…, and they worked for Scott Walker in Wisconsin this year.  As long as we believe that BS and stay so angry at each other that we can’t think straight…, we won’t stop for a minute and realize that the last 30 years has been nothing but a massive transfer of wealth from the working class and the poor to the plutocrats and the politicians.  To paraphrase James Howard Kunstler, “If the masses ever figure out just what’s been happening to them…, there’s liable to be a lot of plutocrats and politicians swinging side by side from lampposts.”   Now those are some ghosts I would be more than happy to hear from.

About a week later the second “ghost” arrived via Facebook and almost a repeat of the visit from the first ghost.  “I have had my fill of Poor Folk…, I have been poor most of my life.  I have always worked and worked hard.  I love giving…, but the giving gets old when you see the crime you are supporting.  If they had jobs and responsibility they would have a lot less time to rob.”  Her story is kind of the reverse of the first one.  She was married at 16 and had her kids at a young age.  Before they were grown, her marriage soured, and she split up with her husband.  She wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice…, so she didn’t just latch on to the first meal ticket that came along.  She checked groceries at the local IGA, never took a dime of welfare, and she managed to take care of her kids.  She learned what it is like to have to put yourself at the tail end of the pecking order behind three other hungry mouths to feed.  She is in California now and she and her spouse have a business.  She complained that her current business will be hit with a dozen new taxes as a result of Obamacare…, so she is voting Republican.   Anyway…, after our little message exchange she commented on my Facebook post, “Go Mitt”.  I guess you can’t argue with that.  She hears Mittens say that he will “cut taxes”, “create jobs”, and “cut entitlements”.  He doesn’t explain how he is going to pay for all that…, but I guess it doesn’t matter as long as you believe him when he says that some poor bastard below your pay scale will pay for it.   The Republicans have been saying the right things for 20 of the last 30 years…, but somehow it just hasn’t transferred into a successful business plan…, for the working class (or small business class) anyway.  The 1% have made out just fine.  They tell us that cutting taxes will create jobs and grow GDP and help the economy.  Well…, what have we got to show for cutting taxes (mostly on the rich) for 30 years?  An unimaginable debt.  The Republican  prescription?  Cut taxes.  For 30 years we have been cutting the safety net for the poor to pay for the tax cuts for the rich.  What has it got us?  An unimaginable debt.  The Republican prescription?  Shred the safety net.  The money mongers got a bit of a scare after eight years of the Wee Bush.  He took over the office with a budget surplus inherited from the Democrats…, and in eight sickening years turned it into a 1.4 trillion dollar deficit.  Biggest tax cut ever…, can’t figure out why the economy didn’t boom?  Yeah…, we need another Republican administration so they can finish the job that the Wee Bush started.  I would quote the atrocities once again…, but I am dangerously close to projectile vomiting as it is.  

The third ghost arrived via email…, two of them forwarded to me…, and they upset me a little.  The subject line of the first one started off with an apology, “Sorry if this offends, but it needs to be said”.  That should have been the only tip off I needed to see and realize that I shouldn’t waste my time.  But I am an old hippie and a little slow.  My second tip off was, my email program had flagged it as possible spam or junk mail…, and it was.  A litany of negative attack statements against Obama.  So little substance in any of the statements (that I read) that you needed a magnifying glass to find a grain of truth in it.  Put out by who knows who…, Romney, the Republicans, some Super Pac, or Tea Party or Limbaugh or Beck outfit.  At least whoever wrote it was smart enough not to take credit for it…, it didn’t even have a Vote for Romney tag line.  Even Mitt the Twitt would want to be able to plausibly deny that he was in any way associated with it.  The ghost who forwarded it hadn’t really embraced the hippie scene like some of us.  But she had grown up in a small working class community and I always thought we shared the values usually associated with that environment.  She always had a level head on her shoulders and she graduated number three in our senior class.  She is fully capable of forming and articulating her own opinions on any matters…, political or otherwise.  And I would gladly have responded politely if she had, whether I agreed with her or not.  But I was a little insulted that she forwarded that below the belt level slew of pure propaganda to me.  I didn’t even have to read the whole thing…, and said so in my response.  I detest negative campaign ads and think they sink lower every year.  About the only ones I see are the ones that make the PBS “News Hour” as a news story for their bad taste.  I don’t watch much other TV.  Especially around presidential election time.  The second email that ghost number three sent was so low rent that there was just an illusion to a video clip of Obama supposedly making an ass of himself and appearing completely unpresidential.   “Bet you won’t see this on TV,” the email said.  You won’t see it on the email I got either…, it didn’t work…, if it was ever even real.  It was supposed to be Obama stomping out and kicking a door after Republicans refused to consider rolling back the Bush tax cuts for $250,000 plus earners and preserving the cuts for lower income levels.  Evidently the ghost is doing quite well for herself…, and doesn’t want to share any with old hippies. 

Let them eat brownies.   

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