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Saturday, August 29, 2015

The First Time

I thought it would be more painful.  It wasn’t completely painless, to be sure…, but after 63 years of absolute abstinence, there was bound to be a little discomfort, at the least.  Luckily, it didn’t last long.  It was over almost before I knew it.  I was left with some feelings of guilt…, maybe remorse.  Time will tell about that…, I guess. 

I left my name, mailing address, phone number and email address.  No physical address.  I learned that lesson many years ago.  When all I used to give out was a post office box for an address and had an unlisted phone number…, not even the IRS could track me down.  And they were trying…, family and ex-employers told me so.  Two weeks after I got a phone listed in my name for a house I was sharing with the rest of the logging crew working on an out of town job…, an IRS agent left a note on the door for me.  But I digress…, in this case I want some acknowledgement of my contribution.  Then again…, I don’t want it to turn into a constant and relentless demanding…, or begging…, for more.

Yeah…, it’s already started.  It wasn’t a demand or a beg really…, more of a thank you note via email, with a not so subtle hint that it would be ever so helpful if I could give again.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been so generous the first time…, probably should have taken it a little slower and easier.  But after all these years, I felt that if I was going to do it…, I was going to do it right and go all the way.  Or at least as far as I felt I could, without feeling some real pain.  So I clicked that $100 button…, and it was over and done with.  No turning back now.  And I am not feeling too bad about it at this time…, I guess.

Yeah…, I donated to Bernie Sanders campaign.  The first time ever, that I have contributed as much as a single penny to a politician.  I might just do it again before it’s all over…, though most of the pundits in the media say he doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in this global warming climate of acing out Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.  I don’t know…, those same pundits were saying the same things about Obama and Hillary six years ago.  Think about that for a moment…, after you consider what’s been in the news about black men out on the streets of America lately.  That a black man was able to woo voters away from Hillary says a lot about her.  I think voters were looking for an anything but Hillary nearly eight years ago…, and they may be again.  Sure, all the big time Wall Street money is bet on her…, and believe me…, that money will be pouring out like water over Niagara Falls for her if Bernie starts to gain some traction.  Well…, I don’t know just how afraid the oligarchs and plutocrats are of him right now…, but if his common sense approach to the issues starts to resonate with the voters of this country and sparks a bit of a fire…, we could see some real panic in the boardrooms…, not to mention the Clinton bedroom.  “NOOOO…, not AGAIN !!!”  And that will be before we get out of the primaries.

I only voted in one presidential election…, ever.  And never in a primary.  They say now-a-days that it makes no difference if you vote Democrat or Republican…, they are one in the same.  I thought that for years before folks started saying it.  Then the Wee Bush got elected…, twice.  Yeah…, I voted against him the only time I ever voted for (make that against) a president.  And I was physically sick when he got re-elected.  That experience doesn’t give me a whole lot of faith in the voters of this country.  That they couldn’t see then, the train wreck that was riding the rails of a Wee Bush re-election still flabbergasts me.  Well…, a hell of a lot of them woke up after that train wreck.  As the late Joe Bageant described that awakening, “Either they have suddenly developed a streak of conscience, or they simply don’t want to be associated with the trail of crime, blood and feces Bush and his cronies have obviously tracked across the carpet of American history.  My bet is on the latter.”  Yeah…, a pumpkin-headed pogo stick could have trounced any Republican candidate after the stench and stigma left on the Grand Old Party by the Wee Bush.  The stench was so complete and long lasting that a pumpkin-headed pogo stick could probably do it again in 2016…, and probably will…, if we don’t find some way to wake up some rank and file, common sense voters to get out and vote for Bernie Sanders in the primaries.  They say that big money buys elections these days…, but this is a chance to show the oligarchs and plutocrats that their money is not always well spent.  I don’t know how many more presidential elections I will have the chance to participate in at my age…, but at least this one could be a chance to vote FOR someone…, as opposed to voting for the least worst option.  And I am not at all sure if there is a least worst option between Hillary and another Bush.? 

Sanders is running on the Democratic ticket as a strategic move…, but he has served 20 some years in Congress as an Independent and describes himself as a “democratic socialist”.   That won’t scare the educated and thoughtful folks who understand what socialism really is…, but for the knuckle dragging, Neanderthal, FOX news, Rush Limbaugh junkies and Republicans?  Well…, I just wish that Stephan Colbert and Jon Stewart were going to be around to have me rolling on the floor, pissing my pants laughing, as they make fun of the talking heads screaming bloody murder, the sky is falling and the barbarians are at the gate…, as Sanders gains in the polls.  The Scandinavian countries have survived and thrived quite nicely with a socialist form of government.  And after bearing witness to the free market, private enterprise example of the too big to fail and too big to jail Wall Street banks and banksteers…, I would welcome the nationalization of those entities…, not to mention the nationalization of the health care industry were private insurance companies run a cost plus, monopoly business model.

Here’s the “platform” statement from Bernie’s “thank you” email:

Income and wealth inequality: In the United States today we have the most unequal wealth and income distribution of any major country on earth -- worse than at any time since the 1920s. This is an economy that must be changed in fundamental ways. 

 Jobs and income: In my view, we need a massive federal jobs program which puts millions of our people back to work. We must end our disastrous trade policies. We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. And we have to fight for pay equity for women. 

Campaign finance reform: As a result of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, American democracy is being undermined by the ability of the Koch brothers and other billionaire families. These wealthy contributors can literally buy politicians and elections by spending hundreds of millions of dollars in support of the candidates of their choice. We need to overturn Citizens United and move toward public funding of elections so that all candidates can run for office without being beholden to the wealthy and powerful. 

Climate change: Climate change is real, caused by human activity and already devastating our nation and planet. The United States must lead the world in combating climate change and transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and sustainability. 

College affordability: Every person in this country who has the desire and ability should be able to get all the education they need regardless of the income of their family. This is not a radical idea. In Germany, Scandinavia and many other countries, higher education is either free or very inexpensive. We must do the same. 

Health care: Shamefully, the United States remains the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people. The United States must move toward a Medicare-for-all single-payer system. Health care is a right, not a privilege. 

Poverty: The United States has more people living in poverty than at almost any time in the modern history of our country. I believe that in a democratic, civilized society none of our people should be hungry or living in desperation. We need to expand Social Security, not cut it. We need to increase funding for nutrition programs, not cut them. 

Tax reform: We need real tax reform which makes the rich and profitable corporations begin to pay their fair share of taxes. We need a tax system which is fair and progressive. Children should not go hungry in this country while profitable corporations and the wealthy avoid their tax responsibilities by stashing their money in the Cayman Islands. 

And these are just some of the issues that we will be dealing with. 

Yeah…, common sense, down to earth, plain and simple, to the point, easy to understand…, and impossible to argue against.  I am not saying that it will be easy for Bernie to get any of those things implemented if the gets elected…, the man is honest enough to tell you that himself.  I will say that I am as certain as I have been about anything in this long life…, that none of those things will be implemented by Hillary Clinton or Jebby.  

Here’s the link to the Bill Moye’s interview on the PBS TV program:

And a quote from the program:

BERNIE SANDERS: Yes. The only point, there is a difference between social issues and the economic issues. And I will not deny for one moment that taking on the ruling class of this country and the billionaire class, it’s tough stuff. It is tough stuff. So I don’t have any magical solutions. But what I do know is that if we do not create an economy that works for ordinary people, if we do not end the fact that 95 percent of all new income now goes to the top one percent. We’ve got to end it, and the only way I know to do that is to rally ordinary people around the progressive agenda. So our job is to create a 50 state, grassroots movement around a progressive agenda.

I also posted that link to the Moyer’s show on my Facebook page with the comment that if Bernie ran…, “I will get involved”. 

He did…, and I am…, for the first time.   And I am feeling better about it all the time…, and that ain’t no guess.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

I Think I'll Skip Piketty's Book

Note:  I submitted this one to The Agonist a few weeks ago.  Got a few comments on it there.

Thee Book to read these days is Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty First Century”…, or so I have heard.  But my bookcases are all overflowing and I mostly buy books on the Kindle now…, and am just finishing up Michael Hudson’s (highly recommended) “The Bubble and Beyond”…, so I don’t feel the need or desire to tackle Piketty’s “Capital…”.    At 700 pages, it seems like a lot of space to tell me what David Michael Green told me on his blog a few years ago…, and that I shared with all The Agonistas around at the time.
Let me make it simple, in case anyone wants to share this essay with their idiotic, Republican (pardon the redundancy) cousin Buford: The story of American politics over the last generation is the story of the transfer of wealth from the people to the plutocrats. If you think there is anything else essential going on here, you don’t get it.

I got it right off.  I guess it takes academics like Paul Krugman a few more pages…, say about 700 more…, before they get the point.  PK seemed genuinely amazed, on the Bill Moyers show last week, to find out that there are some people getting filthy rich…,  while some others are wishing they had the bottom of a barrel to scrape.  He admitted that he should have “realized it” himself.  I wanted to ask him if he realized that upwards of 90% of the additional Keynesian Stimulus money that he keeps wanting to throw at this Great Recession would go right into the pockets of those same plutocrats that have been sucking it up before it hits the masses for the last 40 years?  I’m not sure he really “gets it”.

Harold Meyerson says in his article from The American Prospect, “The Forty-Year Slump”:
Hardly anyone paid attention to a story that seemed no more than a statistical oddity:  That year [1974], for the first time since the end of World War II, Americans’ wages declined.
Since 1947, Americans at all points on the economic spectrum had become a little better off with each passing year. The economy’s rising tide, as President John F. Kennedy had famously said, was lifting all boats. Productivity had risen by 97 percent in the preceding quarter-century, and median wages had risen by 95 percent. As economist John Kenneth Galbraith noted in The Affluent Society, this newly middle-class nation had become more egalitarian. The poorest fifth had seen their incomes increase by 42 percent since the end of the war, while the wealthiest fifth had seen their incomes rise by just 8 percent. Economists have dubbed the period the “Great Compression".  
During that time, median family income more than doubled.
What no one grasped at the time was that this wasn’t a one-year anomaly, that 1974 would mark a fundamental breakpoint in American economic history. In the years since, the tide has continued to rise, but a growing number of boats have been chained to the bottom. Productivity has increased by 80 percent, but median compensation (that’s wages plus benefits) has risen by just 11 percent during that time. The middle-income jobs of the nation’s postwar boom years have disproportionately vanished. Low-wage jobs have disproportionately burgeoned. Employment has become less secure. Benefits have been cut. The dictionary definition of “layoff” has changed, from denoting a temporary severance from one’s job to denoting a permanent severance.
As their incomes flat-lined, Americans struggled to maintain their standard of living. In most families, both adults entered the workforce. They worked longer hours. When paychecks stopped increasing, they tried to keep up by incurring an enormous amount of debt. The combination of skyrocketing debt and stagnating income proved predictably calamitous (though few predicted it). Since the crash of 2008, that debt has been called in. 
All the factors that had slowly been eroding Americans’ economic lives over the preceding three decades—globalization, deunionization, financialization, Wal-Martization, robotization, the whole megillah of nefarious –izations—have now descended en masse on the American people. Since 2000, even as the economy has grown by 18 percent, the median income of households headed by people under 65 has declined by 12.4 percent. Since 2001, employment in low-wage occupations has increased by 8.7 percent while employment in middle-wage occupations has decreased by 7.3 percent. Since 2003, the median wage has not grown at all. 

Over at CounterPunch, Robert Urie chimed in with, “Say Goodbye to Social Security”:
With corporations and the rich who own them receiving a larger proportion of what labor produces and paying less in taxes, there is now little left to pay for necessary social programs such as schools, health care and pensions. But this shortfall is no accident. It is the intended result of four decades of policies specifically designed to enrich the ruling class at the expense of labor, the middle class and the poor.
The economy is only a catastrophe for working people, the middle class and the poor. The ruling class is doing better than it has since the 1930s. Under the guidance of Republican and Democratic administrations, labor’s take in wages and salaries has fallen from 53% of GDP in 1970 to 44% in 2012 (link). The effective tax rate on corporations is currently half of what it was in 1970 (source: BEA). Likewise, tax rates on the wealthy have been dramatically reduced. And these policies have produced exactly the outcomes they were designed to produce.
For forty years the rich and connected, the ruling class, have used their representatives in government to take exactly what they wanted. Tax cuts, executive payouts and stock dividends were paid instead of promised pension contributions. Social institutions such as schools have been turned into cash cows for connected capitalists who have no intention of educating our children. Environmental standards have been gutted in return for promised jobs that never materialized. And while the ruling class has taken what it wanted without apology, the chattering class—liberals and progressives, has acted as if it’s at a debate club meeting. 

Robert Reich has been hitting this theme hard as well…, and even has a new film out on the topic called “Inequality For All”:
…the rich have been getting a larger and larger portion of total income. From 9 percent in 1980, the top 1 percent’s take increased to 23.5 percent by 2007. CEOs who in the 1970s took home 40 times the compensation of average workers now rake in 350 times.” (“Confessions of a Class Warrior,” August 22, 2010).
Yet even as their share of the nation’s total income has withered, the tax burden on average workers has grown. They’re shelling out a far bigger chunk of incomes in payroll taxes, sales taxes and property taxes than 30 years ago. It’s just the opposite for the superrich. Over the last three decades, the richest 1 percent’s share of national income has doubled (from 10 percent in 1981 to well over 20 percent now). The share going to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent has tripled. And they’re doing better than ever. The median pay for top executives at 200 major companies was $9.6 million last year, topping pre-recession highs. Total compensation on Wall Street hit a record $135 billion. The heads of the top 25 hedge funds made almost $1 billion each. Yet, remarkably, tax rates on the very rich have plummeted. From the 1940s until 1980, the top income-tax rate on the highest earners in America was at least 70 percent. In the 1950s, it was 91 percent. Now it’s 35 percent. Even if you include deductions and credits, the rich are paying a far lower share of their incomes in taxes than at any time since World War II” (“Wealthy Americans not paying fair share of taxes,” April 17, 2011). 

Yeah…, everybody has an opinion regarding what the hell happened.  There were numerous factors that combined to get us here.  Maybe Piketty hits them all in his long winded attempt to explain it all…, globalization, financialization, foreign competition, NAFTA, out sourcing of jobs, technology, robotics, credit, debt, liar’s loans, NINJA loans, adjustable interest loans, no interest loans, not enough loans, unearned income, economic rent, carried interest, tax breaks, loopholes, offshore bank accounts, bonuses, stock buybacks, regulation, de-regulation, CO2, methane, ocean acidification, ozone, global warming, climate change, peak oil, military-industrial complex, unions, non-unions, pensions, Social Security, Medicare, welfare, food stamps, Republicans, Democrats, Federal Reserve, Glass-Steagall,  nannycrats, plutocrats, and oligarchs.  From what I can gather, Piketty seems to be saying that it is just a natural outcome of the capitalist system…, that the rich are going to get richer and everyone else is going to get poorer when the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth.  Paul Krugman seems to think that Piketty has discovered the magic bullet.

I haven’t read the book…, but the reviews that I have read don’t seem to mention that the plutocrats and oligarchs have made a conscious and concerted effort over the last forty years to buy the judges and politicians who make and break the laws that allow the economic elite to pay a lower tax rate on their multi-millions…, if they pay taxes at all after taking advantage of all the tax breaks and loopholes…, than the tax rate us ordinary people pay on our low tens of thousands…, if we are lucky enough to still have a job that is.  And it wasn’t just tax laws that were rewritten…, it was a whole host of financial laws and policies that were rewritten or repealed that created a wealth shift the likes of which the world has never seen…, well…, at least since the roaring ‘20’s.  Everybody knows what happened in 1929.  It wasn’t some accident or law of economics that has created the current inequality and rising oligarchy…, it was a well-designed and executed plan that was laid out by a Lewis F. Powell Jr. in a 1971 memo…, not long before he was appointed Supreme Court justice.  If you haven’t checked out the film, “Heist: Who Stole the American  Dream”…, you need to.  It was on Link TV recently. From Wiki:
Heist: Who Stole the American Dream? is a 2011 documentary film which argues that government deregulation led to the Great Recession. It was directed and produced by Donald Goldmacher and journalist Frances Causey and narrated by Thom Hartmann. The documentary is partially based on Jeff Faux's 2006 book The Global Class War.[1] The film traces the roots of the Great Recession to Virginia lawyer Lewis F. Powell, Jr., whose 1971 memo to the United States Chamber of Commerce urged corporate America to become more aggressive in molding politics and law.
Filmmakers Goldmacher and Causey started work on Heist in 2006 after they had been investigating the exploitation of undocumented workers near the Arizona border.[3] Heist explores the premise that Roosevelt's New Deal is being dismantled piecewise. It documents the aggressive push for free trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement as well as the deregulation of financial products as evidenced by the repeal of the Glass–Steagall Act and the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000.[2] Heist lays the blame for the crisis on the cozy relationship between politicians and corporations, citing the Reagan administration as well as the actions of Presidents Clinton and Obama.[4] The documentary ends with suggestions for how people might organize, including tactics employed by Occupy Wall Street. 

Morris Berman reviewed it over at CounterPunch:
Beyond generating dialogue, Heist provides an alternative narrative to what’s been going on in this country since 1981. “Reaganomics,” or what we now call “neoliberalism,” is the philosophy that economic growth is the answer to all our problems, because as the rich make more money, some of that will supposedly “trickle down” to the rest of us. This has been the dominant narrative in this country for the last thirty years, and what Heist clearly demonstrates is that it’s nothing more than pure kaka. What actually happened under this narrative was that wealth got transferred upward; that the rich got richer and the poor got poorer; that virtually nothing “trickled down”; that unions were busted, public services gutted, American manufacturing crippled, the media collapsed into six major corporations and turned into corporate propaganda mouthpieces, and so on. In other words, Reagonomics gave us the America we have today, in which 1 out of every 5 of us is without work and without prospect of same for at least a decade, and in which 2 out of every 3 of us lives from paycheck to paycheck, hoping that some major accident won’t occur in our lives and put us underwater for good.
Heist is thus an exercise in counter-brainwashing: Reagan and his ilk, the Powell Memorandum and the so-called think tanks (read: propaganda machines) of the political Right (American Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, etc.) all sold us a bill of goods, stole the American Dream out from under us, and we need to recognize that we’ve been economically and intellectually fleeced. Unless we can debunk the dominant narrative, and realize what really went down since 1981, we will not be able to take back the American Dream—which Causey and Goldmacher define as everyone getting a fair share of the economic pie.

Yeah…, if Piketty thinks that diagnosing the intricacies  of economic theory and coming up with a simple solution of “taxing away” the wealth of the plutocrats and oligarchs that have spent the last 40 years securing the legal and political means of acquiring and keeping that wealth…, well…, he’s just dreaming.  And I am not sure Krugman has woken up since I called him, "Kick the Can Krugman” here at The Agonist five or six years ago.  We need nothing short of wholesale Senate and House cleaning and meaningful campaign finance reform to just begin to undo the damage already done. Who knows what it will take to repair the coming damage.

A few comments from Joe Bageant ought to fit in well here:
Yes, it looks big time from the cheap seats. But the truth is that when we are looking at the political elite, we are looking at the dancing monkey, not the organ grinder who calls the tune. Washington's political class is about as upwardly removed from ordinary citizens as the ruling class is from the political class. For instance, they do not work for a living in the normal sense of a job, but rather obtain their income from abstractions such as investment and law, neither of which ever gave anybody a hernia or carpal tunnel. By comparison, the ruling class does not work at all.
Yessiree, it was gonna be a "systemic collapse," by god, and if you needed proof, just look at the way both George Bush and Barack Obama agreed that some American corporations were too big to let sink, therefore it was time for the public to start bailing out the boat. Meanwhile, the royal economists were unanimous in that this "rescue" was going to require another 10 trillion bucks somewhere down the pike -- a very short pike. So it must all be damned serious and we gotta do this thing.  Right folks?
In an unusual display of common sense, the American public said "Bullshit," by margins of three or four to one, depending upon region. That did not bother political and economic elites much. What the fuck do the proles know anyway?

No…, there is no magic bullet economic theory…, not even 700 pages of it…, that will cure our ills.  But I will say…, I am glad that Piketty’s book is bringing attention to the problem and am glad that Krugman is helping spread the word…, however misguided their solutions are.  I hope Krugman is finally…, at least starting…, to “get it”.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Complete List of All Stories

Just over to the right here..., I have added a link to a "Complete List of Stories".  This page is mostly for me.  Searching for stories when I don't remember when I wrote them is somewhat tedious..., at the least..., on the home page.  So now I can search for titles here and know just what year and month to click on to find them.  And now you do too, if you have a favorite old story you would like to read again..., at least I hope there some you would like to read again :)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Birthday Eve Ruminations

The Clearwater River looking down
on the Greer Bridge

Well…, I was going to say that I have now put my sixty-second winter safely behind me.  But after the winters that most of the folks east of me suffered through in the winter of ’13-’14…, I won’t be making any rash weather predictions.  Monumental snow and cold in the mid-west and northeast…, drought in California and Texas, hurricanes and floods, disappearing glaciers and the arctic ice pack.  There are still a good many politicians that are climate change deniers…, but nobody with a lick of sense or smidgen of self-respect will try to deny that what we have been doing…, and are continuing to do…, to this poor old planet is causing anything but great damage.  And there are some well-respected and credentialed folks like James Hanson and Guy R. McPherson who say that what he have already done has pushed us past the tipping point of being able to do anything about stopping runaway climate change in the not so distant future. 

So I will try to drown that sobering thought with a few more ice cold Hamm’s as I wait for midnight to officially put my sixty-second year behind me…, and listen to a great song from Tom Russell that brings back a lot of old memories.

American Rivers
“Ain’t no more cane on the Brazos,
It’s all been ground down to molasses “

I always wondered what the little opening refrain of the song was all about…, so I Googled it up when I started writing this.  Wiki says that it is an old traditional song that was sung by prisoners on the Texas chain gangs.  I would have a hard time defining irony for you…, but I recognize it when it slaps me in the face.

Saw a red iron sunset, from a rust iron bridge
In the Indian country, of the Mockingbird Kid.
Saw the moon in box car, being carried as freight
Through sixty-two winters, through forty-eight states
In an old Chinese graveyard, I slept in the weeds
When a song and a story, was all a kid needs.
Yeah, the rhymes and the rattles, of those runaway trains
And the songs of the cowboys, and the sound of the rain.

Yeah…, I’ve seen some spectacular sunsets.  From Alaska to Mexico to Virginia…, and from many points inside that devil’s triangle.  They don’t get any better than the ones viewed from the bluffs overlooking Lower Ford’s Creek and the Clearwater Valley in Idaho though.  I’ve crossed at lot of bridges over the years…, and hope that I haven’t burned any behind me.  I tried Googling up The Mockingbird Kid, with no success…, I guess he wasn’t as notable a character as Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe that roamed the country…, both west to Oregon-Washington and east to Montana…, of the area of Idaho that I grew up in.  I never rode on a train…, but if I ever do…, I hope it is in a box car on a full moon lit night.  Oh…, I might settle for a Tom Russell Songwriters Train ride…, I guess.  So…,  as I put this sixty-two years behind me and start working on sixty-three,  I know that there are still a lot of those forty-eight states that I haven’t seen…, but I don’t know if I would rather see some new ones…, or see some old haunts again.  I’ve never slept in an old Chinese graveyard…, but I have rolled an old sleeping bag out in some pretty strange places…, and have scared myself walking around in the dark near the old Chinese Hanging Tree historical site outside of Pierce.  Yeah…, it’s all about the songs and the stories, the rhyme and the rattle…, and the sound of the rain.  Sometimes in The Saddle Bar(n) I will get up and turn the stereo down low to hear the sound of the rain on the tin roof…, and sometimes I don’t have to turn the stereo down to hear it here on the Olympic Peninsula.

And it’s Momma I miss you, I woke up and screamed
These American rivers, they roll deep through my dreams.
Colorado, Allegheny, Shenandoah, Susquehaynee
And the Wabash, and the Hudson and the brave Rio Grande
I was a kid there, asleep in the sand, near your waters.

No…, I don’t dream of my Mom…, but I do miss her.  Before my Aunt Ethel passed on, she assured me that Mom had made a peaceful entry to the other side…, because she didn’t dream about Mom either.  Me and the Old Man, on the other hand…, must still have some rivers yet to cross before he finds his peace.  Or is it mine?  We always find something to argue about in my dreams.  I have seen and crossed many of the rivers in the song…, and still have a vow to uphold that I will go back and explore more of the mighty Colorado and its awe inspiring Grand Canyon.  They tell me that you can rent a mule and ride the trail down to the bottom of the canyon and back…, that’s a ride I would like to take some day…, if they will let me use one of my George Lawrence saddles.  And down at the river I will spool out that old bedroll and sleep in the sand near its waters.

We named them for Indians, our guilt to forsake
The Delaware the Blackfoot, the Flathead the Snake.
Now they flow past casinos, and old hamburger stands
They are waving farewell to the kid on the land.
With their jig-sawed old arteries, all clogged and defiled
No open heart miracle, is gonna turn ‘em back wild.
Past towns gone to bankers, past fields gone to seed
All cut up and carved out, so divided by greed.
And old grandfather catfish, with his whiskers so long
And his life in a struggle, cause the oxygen’s gone.

Yeah…, there is a whole lot of guilt to forsake.  The story of what we did to the Indians during the westward expansion of the American Empire is a tragedy of epic proportions. I always thought that the river of my youth…, the Clearwater River…, should have been named for the Nez Perce.  They were the tribe that Lewis & Clark met when they stumbled out of the Bitterroot Mountains onto the Weippe Prairie in the late fall of 1804, cold, shivering, and nearly starved to death.  Those Indians fed and sheltered the strange white men and helped The Corp of Discovery build canoes to float down the Clearwater to the Snake and the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean.  The Nez Perce took care of the herd of horses the explorers left with them through the winter…, and returned every one the next year when The Corp made it back from the coast.  There are no Indian tribes that are spoken more highly of in the journals of Lewis and Clark than the Nez Perce.  There is the town of Nez Perce nearby…, but they deserve a river named after them.  And yes…, there are a couple of casinos belonging to the tribe along the Clearwater now.

The story of what we are doing to our planet and its environment..., that is now evident to anyone willing to open their eyes and is a proven scientific fact to anyone but the diehard deniers…, is likely to make the aforementioned tragedy look like a romantic comedy in comparison to what Hanson and McPherson are predicting.  They aren’t talking about a race or an ethnic group being nearly exterminated…, they are talking about human species survival.  There may be room for debate about the survival of our species…, but there should be no debate about the fact that we should be acting in an aggressive manner to curtail the burning of fossil fuels to the point where it is physically painful.  It was around eighty years ago that it must have looked like the end of the world to the folks anywhere near the Dust Bowl.  It was brought about by poor farming practices…, and it took a massive effort to overcome and correct the damage done…, but it was accomplished.  Back forty years ago or so we got serious about clean air and clean water…, after the Cuyahoga River caught on fire and acid rain was creating havoc in the industrial mid-west.  Back then the Big Business Men, Banksteers, and the politicians in their pockets, yapped and howled like a pack of coyotes that the added expense of clean air and water regulation would bankrupt industry and be the downfall of the nation’s economic prowess.  Just like they are doing today.  You damn right it hurt.  But it didn’t kill us.  What will kill us…, is doing nothing.  Yeah…, a lot of people lost a lot of dirty jobs.  The Chinese are choking on them now over in Beijing.  Yeah…, it’s not just an American problem any longer.  This old Mother Earth can’t take much more.  Some say she can’t take what we’ve already given her.  As Guy R. McPherson says, “Nature Bats Last.”  Well…, old Mother Nature has shown me that she’s a clutch hitter when we back her up.  She laid off the dust storms when we started treating her right…, and she quit pelting us with acid rain when we showed her a little kindness.  Who can say for sure that if we scratch out a couple of hits and get a couple of runners in scoring position…, ole Mother Nature won’t clear the bases with a mighty swing of the bat.  Even if it is just a futile gesture…, I think we owe it to her to at least try…, out of respect and in gratitude for what she’s already given us.  Things like the Crooked Fork and White Sands Creeks that flow out of the mountains along the Idaho-Montana border to form the Lochsa…, that is later joined by the Selway to form the Clearwater…, that is itself jointed by its own South and North Forks...., until the mighty river empties into the great Snake before it leaves Idaho.

Those Idaho rivers still flow through my dreams.

And it’s Momma I miss you, I woke up and screamed
These American rivers, they’ve poisoned my dreams.
Colorado, Allegheny, Shenandoah, Susquehaynee
And the Wabash, and the Hudson and the brave Rio Grande
I was a kid there, I was asleep in the sand, near your waters.

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.
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