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Columns

AMEND CORNER: History mostly ain't true

First of all, I want to point out that I swiped this headline from a book by a former Wyoming governor, Jack Gage.

You have to be old to remember when Mr. Gage was the governor, an office he assumed sort of by accident. It all happened because Wyoming voters in 1958 were sort of peeved at a governor with a name rather familiar to Park County people, Milward Simpson.

I was only 14 at the time, so I don't remember exactly why people were mad at Mr. Simpson, although I'm pretty sure it didn't have anything to do with bovine metaphors regarding Social Security. It must have been something, though, because the people went to the polls that fall and elected a Democrat, Joe Hickey. Mr. Gage, also a Democrat, was elected Secretary of State.

Mr. Hickey was, like most Wyomingites, always upset at the federal government, despite his being a Democrat. As I remember, his particular beef with the feds was over what color the stripe down the middle of the highway should be.

A couple of years later, Wyoming elected a Republican senator, but he died a few weeks later and never took office. Mr. Hickey then decided to go to Washington to carry on the fight, so he resigned, thereby making Mr. Gage the acting governor. Mr. Gage promptly appointed Mr. Hickey to fill the senator's empty seat. Whether Mr. Gage did that because he wanted to reward Mr. Hickey or get even with him isn't clear.

But back to the book.

Outside of being a governor, Mr. Gage was something of a humorist, and he was quite interested in Wyoming history. That led him to write a book about some of the early explorers and mountain men who preceded the rest of us immigrants to the state. The title of the book was, “Wyoming Afoot and by Horseback, or, History Mostly Ain't True.”

Now the history mostly ain't true thing was a reference to the legends surrounding those early explorers. Some of them were actually true; others had a kernel of truth that was stretched, and some were pure fantasy.

Well, that untruthfulness of history isn't confined to legendary mountain men. We Americans have a lot of romantic notions about our history that aren't quite accurate. Chief among them is that our founding fathers were a collection of demi-gods who wrote a perfect Constitution, and all our troubles are because we are disobeying God by not following their directions to the letter.

Well, how much God had to do with the writing of the Constitution is debatable. George Washington, et. al. were, no doubt, influenced by Christianity, but they were also familiar with the ideas of prominent polytheists such as Plato, who, along with the Romans, gave us the concept of a republic. The Greeks also gave us the idea of democracy, and many, if not most, of the people who worked on the Constitution, including Washington, were influenced by Freemasonry, as well, and they were also influenced by the philosophies of The Enlightenment, a movement that emphasized reason and often questioned religion.

Moreover, these guys almost immediately began arguing about what the Constitution really meant. There was a big controversy over the creation of a national bank, for example, and the philosophical clashes between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams over the role of government are well known. James Madison, who prior to the Constitutional Convention envisioned a nation in which the states would become administrative districts, flip-flopped in later years and became a vehement states' rights supporter.

Sometimes these guys knowingly bent the Constitution. The most notable example is Jefferson, who agreed to purchase the Louisiana Territory, even though he himself thought it was an unconstitutional action. Apparently he considered asking for an amendment before submitting his proposal to Congress, but, in the interests of completing the sale before Napoleon changed his mind, decided to let the Congress decide whether he could do it or not. Congress, of course, agreed, and the precedent was set for buying Alaska and a chunk of Mexico in later years.

Today it is popular to say we should revert back to government as the founding fathers designed it, but which vision should we follow, that of the Federalists — Adams and Washington — or the Republicans — Jefferson and Madison?

In short, the notion that we can turn back the clock and reverse 200 years of history is misguided. The founding fathers, after all, could never have foreseen most of our current problems. Frankly, if they were as smart as we think they were, they certainly would have adjusted their view of government in the light of jet travel, electronic media and multi-national corporations.

Our government certainly needs to be reformed, but the solution is not found in glib slogans about the golden past through a fundamentalist interpretation of the Constitution and a rosy vision of our history.

That rosy history, after all, mostly ain't true.

MY LOUSY WORLD: What's your car's name?

What's in a name?” Shakespeare asked. “Pretty much everything, Willie,” I'd have retorted.

Walking through the parking lot on the way to the dumpsters, I mindlessly glanced at parked cars. I noticed a non-descript little number — and I'm sure it gets good gas mileage — called “Arias.”

Arias? Is that pronounced You-rye-us, Arr-e-us,” or “Urethra?” What does it mean? I typed “Arias” into my computer Thesaurus and got several hits. Among them: “Ariboflavinosis: a condition caused by a dietary deficiency of Vitamin B. Symptoms include mouth lesions,” and “Aristas; the bristly part of the antennae of some flies.”

Is that what the auto manufacturer meant to convey … fly antennae? That's better than mouth lesions, but doesn't conjure images of speed and power. Maybe it was a designer's misprint and he meant to call this little shell-of-a-vehicle “Areola.” At least that means something!

I wonder if the Arias is related to the Prius? I looked Prius up and the closest I could come was “Privet: An evergreen shrub.” That's what you want to arrive in to impress your prom date, huh? A shrub?

If they are related, at the Prius/Arius family reunion there's probably only fried chicken, potato salad and ice-water. After eating sensibly, followed by Milk of Magnesia, they sit around talking about past heroes, like the Vega and the Pinto.

At least Pinto signifies a pretty horse, or at the very least, a popular bean. Even if the Pinto seldom topped 50 MPH and exploded upon the slightest rear-end impact, it wasn't ashamed of its name. Vega is “… the brightest star in the constellation Lyra.” Of course, Vega has just sat there for millions of years, but a bright star is better than nothing – which near as I can tell is what the Arias is.

I'm not sure if GMC even makes cars anymore, but I recall the “Javelin.” Now that raised eyebrows when a young fella told a coquettish, dim gal, “That's right; I drive a JAVelin.” Everyone knows what a javelin does. It flies through the air at breakneck speed and occasionally impales and kills a track meet spectator. I suspect an Arias wouldn't even break the skin.

There are many cool, powerful cars that not only sound dynamic, but have a dictionary definition. THUNDERbird. Now that sounds strong and fast.

It was bad-boy enough that the Beach Boys warned, “… and you'll have fun, fun, fun ‘til your daddy takes the T-bird awaaay.” When any car is respected enough to be shortened to initials, you know it's a cool ride.

My '67 “GTO” didn't have to mean anything in particular; it had three letters and up to the imagination what they means. “Get The ##!! Out of-my-way” maybe. And if Jan and Dean were impressed enough to sing, “Little GTO; you're really looking fine …” it must mean something. “BarraCUda” by Heart meant something to many of us!

I also remember pathetic cars, like the “Rambler,” which never pulled a cop away from a Dunkin' Doughnuts. But at least Rambler signified some semblance of movement. It didn't race through the universe like the “Comet,” but it did ramble around and eventually got you where you had to go.

Not every cool car needs to sound fast either; there's something to be said for sleek and elegant. The Lincoln Continental for instance … classy, yet not bold or obnoxious. Commander Cody sang, “My daddy said ‘Son, you're gonna drive me to drinkin…if you don't stop driving that hot rod Lincoln!'” I suspect the young temptress who had her T-Bird taken away promptly hopped in with the Lincoln rebel. (The strict Daddy was to blame for whatever might have happened later in the back seat of that Lincoln).

I drove a '66 MUStang — a galloping, runaway horse — when I was 20. In the day, I owned a couple Dodge Darts (small but dart-like quick) and Valiants, (meaning “steadfast and courageous”). I currently drive a '91 Camaro, which like me is showing its age. But would I trade it in for a brand new Prius? Not bloody likely!

I don't know who makes the Arias, but it begs the question, “Should Obama have just left the auto industry die a dignified death?” Driving a white Arias does not scream, “I'm alive, damn it!”

As stated in my last column that LYLOLH (left you laughing out loud hopefully), advanced electronic communication is a double-edged sword that leaves me bleeding more often than not.

I e-mailed that column to my friend, Frank Rozek, and if I might quote his reply without his permission, “All this time, I thought LOL meant lots of love and now I find out it's laugh out loud! I wonder how many people think I'm a complete idiot for ending an unfunny message that way? I actually wrote to my cousin Wendy after her Dad had a heart attack, and ended with ‘LOL.' No wonder I haven't heard from her since.”

Because I always like to accentuate the positive in My Lousy World, my renewed friendship with my old best friend Rozek is my lone feel-good Facebook chapter. We were weightlifting partners for over a decade ‘til the late 90s when his new girlfriend Jessie got Frank a job for the railroad.

Since he moved to Powell and worked on the railroad all the live-long day, we rarely got together anymore. Then I heard he'd been laid off, STS (split the sheets) with Jessie and had moved back home to Chicago, depressed. A few months ago, 10 years later, my e-mail said, “Frank Rozek wrote something on your Facebook wall.”

Without the enormous wingspan of FB wrapping us in a big hug, I'd most likely never have heard from Frank again, much less known he eventually married Jessie, drives a Harley, and that his complexion finally cleared up. We've been e-mailing, FBing, and giggling like schoolgirls on the phone ever since.

Now that I've exhausted the positivism, I'll warn that being pushed into Facebook land by well-meaning friends is like being dropped off in a strange neighborhood with amnesia. You not only can't find your way back home, but each door you open leads you to another door that leads you even further from home.

I'll think I'm on my “home page,” but suddenly am somewhere else that only looks vaguely like home. Whose “wall” is this, and who are all these people yapping at me? If I respond to one I recognize, will the privacy I expected be betrayed and tacked on some wall for the world to see?

Yes, it certainly will, I found out the hard way.

I was amazed at how many former classmates now live on poultry farms and invite old friends to help find eggs. I actually replied to one, “Hey, that's neat you live on a big farm now. Is that somewhere near our old school, or is your farm out of state?”

Weeks later, I learned the “farm” is one of many interactive FB games I'll be invited to play. Well, I don't like games when I'm trying to talk, and if people are going to lie about raising chickens, what else will I look foolish believing?

Some informed me they “like” something and asked me to like it too. When I tried to explore it once and clicked on “The View,” days later I read in my own bio, “Doug loves The View.” Hey, I never said that. Sure, I've seen it, but it's absurd to suggest to all these chicken farmers that I'm some kind of Metrosexual View groupie.

One's bio, or “home profile,” is basically everyone's personal Playboy Centerfold page, except few divulge their measurements or anything about running naked in the rain.

The idea is to reveal your interests to those you've accepted as your “FB Friends,” and every day someone seeks your friendship.

Hey, it's hard enough to find ample nap time in the real world, so who needs all these new, invisible friends? You don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, so you “accept” most of the groveling solicitations, but that friend then throws up 10 more potential friends for you to never actually meet, but to read private messages you intended only for one trusted person.

By accepting each request, do I appear needy, trying desperately to seem popular? It's not like Valentine's Day back in grade school where only the cool kids' fabric hearts pinned on the wall are filled with cards. As I see it, anyone can have hundreds of meaningless friendships on FB, as the screening process is basically, “Friend? OK, sure.”

At the bottom of the screen, there's always listed a few friends who are “online to chat,” whatever that means. Hell, the world's too darn chatty as it is. Do strangers now really need to know if I'm “Working hard or hardly working...LOL?”

If you're still safe at home, don't ever travel to this place! It's confusing, invasive, and scary. And each time you try to help someone find their eggs, you step on a land mine!

AMEND CORNER: Grandma's costume party

There has been an inordinate amount of concern about Halloween around our residence this year.

It's not that I'm all that revved up about Oct. 31, understand. I'm not much for spending a lot of time observing special days, unless they involve a day off from work or special foods to be consumed, and Halloween involves neither, unless you count little Hershey bars and tiny bags of Skittles as special foods. Then there's that whole costume thing, which I can easily forgo. However, this attitude has not been passed on to my two children, who, it appears, are pretty big on Halloween and dressing their kids in costumes.

Now, since our grandchildren live an average of 1,500 miles from Powell, you might think this costuming thing wouldn't affect us back here in darkest Wyoming, far from the beaches of Florida or the Minnesota prairie. But that's not the way their grandma (who doubles as my wife) sees things. She takes her grandma duties pretty seriously, leading her last year to volunteer to make costumes. Naturally, this started a tradition, so she is now in the midst of making this year's costumes suitable for 3-year-old girls and year-old boys.

Now it happens that Karen is a 4-H veteran whose mom taught sewing, and she is a pretty good seamstress. In the past, she has produced dress shirts and some exceptionally wild ties for me that look as good as the ones at J.C. Penney. Once she even made a sport coat that would have looked store-bought except for the outrageous color and pattern of the material I insisted on — it was the '70s, so you can probably imagine how wild it was. It now belongs to the Greybull High School drama department, although it's so loud that it may have caused other costumes to fade, and may even have melted the hangar it was hanging on, either of which may have led to its being buried somewhere, despite the good workmanship.

Given her background and skill, then, you might expect that turning out four costumes would be a snap for my wife. Well, it isn't.

For starters, we have a couple of granddaughters with quite different interests. In Minnesota, we have a princess; in Florida, we have a budding ornithologist. The first wants to be Belle, of “Beauty and the Beast” fame; the other wants to be an owl.

Now the Belle wanna-be was also a princess last year, so Grandma already had the pattern and princess-making dress experience, but an owl?

Her last year's costume pattern, a tiger, just couldn't be converted to an owl, even though both species are predators. Fortunately, Google came to the rescue, and Grandma discovered not one, but two patterns for the production of an owl costume.

That leaves the two little brothers, who don't know Halloween from Hanukkah and probably don't give a hoot about whether they are dressed as owls or knights.

Big sisters being big sisters, though, the two girls have definite ideas for their brothers. The big owl, it seems, is to be accompanied by little owl, and what's a princess without a knight in shining armor. So now a third pattern is required to make faux armor, and both it and the owl patterns have to be sized down considerably. This sizing problem is complicated by distance, since neither kid is available for direct measurement, and a costume in progress can't be compared to an actual body to check size as you go.

Consequently, as you might imagine, there has been a lot of cutting, sewing, ripping and re-sewing going on around home, not to mention emails requesting more measurements.

Happily, the process is almost complete. As I write this, the big owl costume is in Florida to see if it fits. It apparently does and has been pronounced wonderful by the granddaughter and her mom. From all accounts, little brother is envious and can't wait for his to arrive. Belle is nearly done, and the forging of the shining armor is well underway. Both should be on their way to Minnesota this week.

That leaves the little owl, and that will take a little time, due to the need for all those feathers, but Grandma is confident it will be done on time, so confident, in fact, that she has taken a day off to ready the house for some visitors expected Tuesday night.

The experience, though, has Grandma declaring that next year, she will just send money and direct our progeny to find the nearest big box store for costuming.

I don't believe it, though. I'm betting she'll take on the task again next Halloween, come what may.

She will, after all, still be a grandma.

SPORTS GUY: Sports harvest

The Sports Guy has been busily running around this fall and hasn't had the time to sit down and type much these past couple of weeks, so here's some quick hits and short bits to help kick off the month of October:

•I admit it —I didn't watch a single shot of professional golf's Ryder Cup on the television this past week. That said, I think the match-play format from the semi-signature event could easily be exported to other sports.

•Case in point, I propose the top seven schools from Mountain West Conference be paired up against their counterparts in the Big East Conference in college football competition. The first conference to win four games gets the BCS bowl berth at season's end.

• There's not a doubt in my mind the MWC becomes a “Big Six” member under the above proposal. A 5-2 result or better for the MWC is far more likely the way things look this year.

• Speaking of the MWC and college football, I wonder if BYU is regretting its decision to become an independent school for football purposes right about now. The Cougars are currently 1-4 this season and riding a four-game skid. That can't be good in the marketability department.

• On football fields closer to home, how about the season being put together by the Powell Panthers? After the interception-mad start to the year, the men in black handed Star Valley a defeat for the first time in nine years last weekend. This Friday, they'll be down in Worland looking to lock up a spot in Wyoming's 3A playoffs. Here's hoping you'll jump in a car and take that road trip with them, faithful reader.

•Admittedly, tennis isn't my beat here at the Tribune office, but here's a tip of the ol' ballcap for Powell's BreaAnn Hollenbeck for her recent state tournament run. Reaching the semifinals in No. 2 doubles and going three sets against the eventual state champion as a sophomore is no small feat.

•Speaking of feats — or in this case, feet — things are looking mighty nice for both Panther cross country teams, who have spent pretty much the last month finishing either first or second at meets. There aren't any front-of-the-pack trailblazers on either squad, just good solid team running. Before leaving town for Friday's football game, swing by the Powell Golf Club to catch a peek at the Panthers running their home meet.

• The feet of the Northwest College men's soccer team aren't looking too bad either. After dropping their inaugural match, head coach Rob Hill's team has stormed back to win six of its last eight, pending the results of the game against Western Nebraska, which will kick off about two hours after I type these words. The Trappers could face their toughest regular-season test to date however this Saturday when the team takes on fellow first-year soccer upstart Otero. The two newest faces on the Region IX men's soccer block are jousting for a seat at the head of the class and finally cross paths Saturday in Powell.

• And since it's a college soccer game, you can pretty much pencil in sunny skies and 70 degrees for 1 p.m. this Saturday when the game kicks off. Northwest College fans have been absolutely blessed with postcard weather this debut soccer season.

• PHS AD Timothy Wormald might want to pick up the phone and ask NWC AD Andy Ward what his secret is sometime between now and when the Panthers' spring seasons arrive.

• Anyone under the impression that soccer isn't a contact sport obviously did not see the shot Trapper goalie Becca Sangster absorbed last week. That forearm shiver would've looked right at home in an NBA lane or a professional wrestling arena.

• There's only one month until the winter sports seasons start at Northwest College, but take advantage of the near summer-like weather while it lasts, faithful reader. Get outside and enjoy life —and one or two of our fall sports squads in action.

AN OPEN BOOK: Little girls and daddies

For the past number of months, we've been dealing with a funny situation at the Bonner house.

It all began with a lovely orange bonnet-type hat Bliss found in a consignment store and begged me to buy. Not for me — but for her dad to golf in!
Needless to say, he was thrilled with the find, as he was with the foam butterfly visor Bliss found in a thrift store with Marybeth a short time later.

Being the good daddy that he is, for a month or more Brad went along with Blissy's demand that he wear one hat or the other out golfing (at least until he got in the car and out of the little one's line of vision.) Said hats have since disappeared, and I have a feeling I know who's to blame.

It seems that it's not uncommon for young children to pay no attention to traditional gender stereotypes. Since the hats went missing, Bliss has also begun to make lovely (very large, very bright) necklaces for her daddy, though not for me. She doesn't understand that Brad really doesn't enjoy wearing her barrettes — and that nail polish simply isn't a guy thing.

But, not surprisingly, little girls seem to be able to get their dads to do pretty much whatever they want. As such, I've been given the assignment of reminding my dear husband to remove the purple barrettes from his hair and the polish from his nails before we leave the house.

And, apparently, I'm better at the assignment than my sister was at hers. When her daughter Sloane, now 5, was Blissy's age, she also thought her dad was her own personal dress-up daddy. One day, Sloane painted her dad's fingernails a flattering shade of pink. Keep in mind that Tom, a horseshoer and cowboy, has broken nearly all of his fingers, resulting in phalanges that refuse to straighten. Let's just say his hands are far from his best feature.

Tom, after his manicure, apparently got side-tracked and at some point during the day, found himself buying horseshoes at Linton's.

You can imagine the look on the clerk's face when he or she reached to take Tom's money from his gnarled hand and glimpsed the pretty pink nails.

Unfortunately, Tom remembered the manicure at about the same time. He wasted no time getting to his vehicle, where he promptly called his little girl.

“Sloane,” he said, “it takes an awful tough man to buy horseshoes with pink fingernails.”

Tough guy, maybe, but it's just what good daddies do.

I'm sick of losing things and tired of learning things; one's as bad as the other.

I lost two phones in the last month, (not lost so much as dropped into receptacles of liquids), lost my computer for weeks when it refused to play with me any longer, lost all my money (which wasn't a mother lode by any stretch) when a credit card collection company, the prowling thieves in the night, tapped into my account and heisted every penny.

That's some of what I lost. What I learned – besides that bad things do not happen in threes, but at least nines – is how to text, Facebook, and semi-learned a new phone that was erroneously described by Alltel as “an upgrade.” Hey, if this creepy, arrogant little phone is an upgrade, every other phone flunked out after first semester!

And what have all these technological miracles saved us from? Cells have saved us from ever having to talk from our homes rather than while swerving to miss a tree.

Texting saves us from ever having to verbalize a thought rather than tapping it onto tiny keys with bulbous fingertips.
Facebook has blessed us with new friends – many of which, without the accompanying photo, we'd have no idea what they even look like.

Only FB allows us to share with these strangers “what's on our mind” for the day. You know, things like, “Having a bad day. My cat coughed up a hairball on the carpet.” And whimsical replies like, “Oh no! Cats are crazy, aren't they? LOL!”

I was probably the last to realize “LOL” means “Laugh out Loud,” universally signifying, “That was a joke … a really, really funny one.”

And like every trend, it's annoyingly overused, added to phrases with no semblance of humor. Are we to believe this bored sender who just wrote, “…it's freezing outside! Lol” is at that very second almost falling off her chair laughing?

Did we really need cell phones, text blather, Facebook chatter, or computers?

Well, yeah, we DO need computers. I entertain no warm nostalgia for my old Smith-Corona, with which in the 90s I was able to finish a 600-word column sometimes in less than five days. With a computer instead of archaic longhand and typing, maybe Bill Shakespeare and Ed Poe might have made names for themselves.

But even though I can never go back, I did not need texting in my life. If I had something to say, I just said it. Besides the added monthly charges and countless highway fatalities texting incurs, it's making articulate writing obsolete. Sending texts is jeopardizing every proper writing principle I've ever learned.

My new upgraded, yet vastly inferior phone won't allow me to text-ramble as my old phone did. No, this little thief (each separate text is a new charge, ya know) stops me in mid-sentence with no warning. Just an annoying, after-the-fact beep telling me I've exceeded my generous 160 digit limit. When you drag things out like I do, a simple reply often turns into “parts 1, 2, and 3.”

To combat all the extra charges for multiple sends, one learns accepted abbreviations and invents new ones. After years of this kind of literary cheating, it can become a permanent state. If I ever do send a book off to publishers, the first line — the one that has to ensnare the reader — might read, “'U could B my friend 4 life,' said the man to a gal. ‘But now I must kill U; LOL.'”

And don't get me started on Facebook, which is something that sounded absurd when I first heard about it from a former Trib columnist with a really big head, Sean Thompson. Sean (and although I never met him, I'm taking him at his word that his head's quite large), wrote how his equally large-meloned college brother Cory was having a FB relationship with “Sports Equipment Girl,” who he'd never spoken to.

I don't know how that turned out, but now, years later, I not only know what Facebook is, but was pushed into that weird world kicking and screaming. It's no way to live, but now I can't find my way back out.

Hey, didn't I tell you not to get me started on Facebook? I'll expound in more detail next week, hopefully in a way that will make you chuckle silently to yourself, if not outright LOL.

Our daughter, Bliss, at 3 1/2, recently started preschool.

The first day of school happened despite the small one's best efforts to derail the plan.

“Mom, what is school?” she asked me one night not long before class began. “Do they teach you things you don't know?”

Thinking this was a positive question, my eyes lit up, and I responded, “Yes! That's exactly what it is. Aren't you excited to start school?”

“Well, Mom, I already know all my stuff,” the smug child reported, “and some kids don't have to go to school.”

Oh, she is clever, but I told her there was still plenty of stuff for her to learn — and that she certainly wasn't “one of those kids.”

And so, on a crisp fall morning right after Labor Day, Miss Bliss got dressed in a flowery pink sweater, leggings and her new, very grown-up silver boots, and off we went. Not surprisingly, Yellow the Blanket came along, stuffed into a purse where Bliss knew he was to remain while she was at school.

The little girl tried her hardest to be brave, but by the time we pulled into the parking lot at school, her lower lip was quivering wildly and her brown eyes welled up with tears.

“Mom, I'm going to miss you,” she cried then — as she has every morning since. It's been rough on both of us — even though her teacher assures me the crying stops the moment I'm out of sight. Little does she know that my tears don't start until I'm out of sight!

While it's only two days a week for a few hours in the morning, the new routine has taken some getting used to.

First, Bliss (and her parents) have had the luxury of having the wonderful “Granny Nanny” Marybeth in our lives, meaning no daycare drama — and, of course, undivided attention every day. That whole sharing thing? It's a little bit tough, but since Bliss is actually (thankfully) a really nice kid, she's getting the hang of it.

And, I'm embarrassed to admit, we've already been late on a couple occasions. It seems Mom and daughter lose track of time too easily some mornings. I'm blaming it all on the need for French toast every morning, though. It certainly can't have anything to do with my time-management skills, can it?

All in all, it's been a good thing. Bliss is learning social skills — sharing, raising her hand, following a routine — and her brain is soaking up all sorts of new information.

As for Yellow, I'm not sure what he's getting out of it, though Bliss did reassure Marybeth that “she pulls his little head out of the bag so he can see” while they're at school. I'm sure he's grateful.

I've received considerable positive feedback about my last column, “God and politics.” A large number of people have told me they agree with what I said.

Such compliments are appreciated, but I'm also happy to receive negative feedback, such as the letter we published last week, “Traditional values are decency and hard work,” criticizing my position. Such criticism is good, keeping me on my toes and providing an excuse to write another column.

Most of the points made in the letter were valid, but debatable, and they deserve serious comment and discussion.

But the writer inserted an irrational element when he suggested I had been drinking “Obama Kool-Aid.” The implication, of course, is that, because of my liberal leaning, I'm somewhere in left field, probably because I'm intoxicated, or otherwise not quite all there mentally.

I actually found the comment rather humorous, since, when I was a teacher 40 years or so ago, some of my students thought I was hopelessly conservative, despite my vote for George McGovern. And they may have had a point about my conservatism, since I owned a sizable collection of Nixon buttons, which, I am embarrassed to say, I had worn to school in 1960. I was only 16 then and didn't know any better.

Suffice it to say, then, that my political inclinations were evolving well before President Obama was born — an event which did take place in Hawaii, by the way — and anyway, I'm not by nature a hero-worshipper. Even great men, George Washington, for example, are flawed human beings, and that is definitely true of our president. I tend toward seeing both of them as real people rather than the mythical heroes or demonic fiends some make them out to be.

So, when I started to write this column last week, I planned to include a wisecrack about over-indulgence in tea spiked by Sarah Palin, who, it seems to me, has the same effect on some conservative voters that President Obama has on some liberals. But, having listened to a discussion about civility over the weekend, I decided to take a different path.

The fact is, I am not the radical the writer thinks I am. I agree that the government has been fiscally irresponsible, wasteful and bigger than it should be. Neither am I opposed to the work ethic, having been a job-holder ever since I took over a paper route back in 1955, and I am still working, even though I could be retired at my age.

It's important to point out, though, that I am able to work, in part, because of fortunate circumstances. I have found a job that fits my talents and physical abilities, and I remain healthy enough to perform in it. In addition, I have found a boss who doesn't mind employing a guy bordering on geezerhood. Not all people my age are that lucky.

The realization that I am blessed by good fortune is the basis for my liberal view on government aid to people less fortunate than I am. That realization grew out of more than 50 years of working and observing the world, not the result of something I drank or some hero I worshipped.

America's social problems, including unemployment, have complex causes because our society is complex, and an unemployed person can't be simply written off as lazy or lacking a work ethic. A variety of social, economic, political and personal factors are involved. I will take the writer's word for it that he isn't a racist, but it is naive to deny that race or ethnicity plays a role in finding a job. So do gender, sexual orientation, age and even religion.

Even personal assets, such as education and training, may sometimes have a negative effect on employment. I personally know people who have had difficulty because they couldn't find the jobs they were prepared for, but were rejected for lower level jobs because they were “over-qualified.”

But in our political life, complex issues are usually boiled down to simplified slogans, most of them designed to play on people's emotions rather than serious discussion about the causes and solutions of problems.

Demonstrations such as the Beck/Palin event I criticized in my last column are designed around such simplified slogans. The plea for “traditional American values” is as empty and meaningless as the “power to the people” slogans chanted by left-wing anti-war demonstrators a generation ago in the absence of serious discussion of what those concepts mean and how they apply to the events at hand.

Such discussion is not available in the ranting heard from radio commentators or seen in signs waved in anger on the steps of the U.S. Capitol by whatever group is angry this year. Neither can such debate take place when we begin the discussion accusing our opponents of being un-American, crazy or intoxicated with Kool-Aid or spiked tea just because they see the situation from a different perspective than we do.

With that in mind, I invite anyone who takes exception to my positions to respond. I may not like your opinion, and I will try to point out the flaws your thinking, but I won't cast any aspersions on whatever is in your tea cup.

MY LOUSY WORLD: Little Sis and me

Two weeks ago, when my little sister came from Pennslyvania to visit, I had joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart; down in my heart … tooooo stay.

Well, not really to stay, since Joy and husband John only stayed five days. It wasn't “Joy to the World…” just Joy to Park County.

Oh, how I love song lyrics; unfortunately I can't think of any for her husband John. Few ditties were written with references to a name that's a euphemism for “toilet.”

But as long as Joy has John, John, John, John down in her heart, I'm happy. He's a chatty, jovial chap, but after roughly 3,500 hot miles together in a small car (they're currently tailgating brother Jess and his wife, Marti, on the way to New Mexico), Joy's probably thinking, “Will ya please shut up and quit being so dang jovial?

There wasn't enough time during her rare visit, but I'd always hoped to introduce her to some Cody women I've known over the years. Joy would en-joy meeting Hope Sheets, Love Murray, Faith Holler, and Grace Weaver, who worked with my older sister Wanda when she spent a summer here 25 years ago.

Any time you can get Love, Hope, Faith, Grace and Joy gathered together, it's a blessed union. No chance of a cat-fight there!

Sadly, I'm rapidly losing Blough women these past few years. Two sisters and Mom left me, leaving only two special “Bloughs gals” in my life: little sister Joy and little dog Trina. Per my dog/human calculations, Trina's a little older; Joy is 52 and Trina is about 9, making her 63. But as we know, today's 63 in dog years is yesterday's 49 in dog years.

Like myself, Joy confounds the aging process — she doesn't look too far removed from her class of '75 homecoming queen photos. My high school girlfriend Diane was runner-up, and since she sent me a Dear John (“Dear Toilet”) letter while I was in Cody that summer, it serves her right being only a lowly attendant to my sister.

Joy looks healthy as a horse; I just wish I could say the same for my other Blough gal. Until two weeks ago, my sweet little Trina dog was the runningest, jumpingest, hole-diggingest little Spaniel that ever lived life to its fullest. But on the horrible afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 11, a perfect storm of fluke, sickening events converged to rock my world.

I lack space to relate how each led directly to the next, but it ended with a carpenter on a job I drove to after changing my Saturday plans, backing over precious little Trina in full view of her doting, lovesick, constant 8-year companion, Trinity.

Her smashed foot would heal eventually, but the tail — cleanly broken at the base where all the nerves control functions — has left her totally incontinent. We're loving her up as best we can at home, but when I try tell her the messes she leaves aren't her fault and everything's OK, her sad eyes say it's not OK. Trinity and I will probably have to say our goodbyes later today.

It will be back to how it was eight years ago with just me and old stud Trinity in the truck now. And with blood, female family, it's only Joy now. As long as John doesn't back over her in some motel parking lot during their trip, Joy and I need to stick together. More phone calls and less negative childhood memories that I'm pretty sure never happened. She still claims that walking up our dirt road to the school bus, I made her lick dirt.

That just doesn't sound like me. I vividly remember always sticking up for her when sister Wanda would tease her. I secretly, but vigilantly watched over Joy when she reached seventh grade. She tearfully told me a bully girl named Sandy Richards picked on her and said her thigh-length hair was “witch hair.” It was I — skinny, peaceful, pimpled sophomore “UnderDoug” — who approached her two older, really tough brothers and made them an offer they chose not to refuse. They called off their little sister, who never bothered Joy again.

So I clearly was more of a hero than a tyrant who would suggest anyone lick dirt off a road. This column is a tribute to Joy and her husband named after a commode, so the next time I get home, I darn well better see this column framed and hanging on their living room wall. If not, as God is my witness, I'll force Joy to drink from the toilet!

Page 60 of 65

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