Wednesday, August 15, 2018

THIS IS THE WAY TO LIVE

                                               

Sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t but through it all the goofiness that results makes for good conversation.

I had a conversation the other day with a dear old friend and let me preface this by saying it wasn’t my friend Pat. I don’t want, or need any problems there. Anyways this lady and I talked about the usual things like kids, family and dogs. Now this dear old lady lives a rather secluded life style so there is not much sense in talking current events because even though her television is on most of the time, it’s froze on the “Hallmark Channel.” I asked her if she had heard about the Duck Boat tragedy down in Branson and she said “no. Tell me about it.” After I had explained what happened she said, “Oh my goodness. How sad.” My husband had a duck boat but luckily it only held two people.

So I switched to some other current events that she knew nothing about and finally, being factitious and not knowing where to go with the conversation, on a whim I asked her if she had heard about Pearl Harbor. “Oh my goodness” she exclaimed, “Did they do that again?” “No,” I said. “Just kidding.”  “I thought we took their guns away after the war,” she said. “We did,” I replied. “But they all joined the N.R. A. so we had to give them back.” “Who’s the N.R.A.” she asked. “Nobody you would know I said.” “What’s on Hallmark tonight,” I asked? You gotta love her.

So the before mentioned Pat, my constant companion and I, are having an afternoon conversation the other day when we get off on the subject of Narcolepsy. Now she’s a nurse so she knows a lot of stuff that I don’t know about medical problems so it’s hard to B.S. her, but she says she thinks I may have the sleeping disease because from time to time I tend to close my eyes, either to meditate or check my eyelids for cracks. She thinks this is weird, so hence, the Narcolepsy diagnoses. I have to be careful now with how I explain this, or no more baked goodies for me but I have this friend who is a retired doctor, so one day I asked him about it and he said. “Do you do this around other people too, or just around her, because if it’s just around her, its not narcolepsy.” And now I’m in trouble. But what can I do, I got a column to get out. I could go steal her newspaper next week but she has too many friends in the area who would talk with her so that’s probably not a good idea and I would rather have her upset with me then the F.B.I. If you see me wearing an ankle bracelet you will know what happened. By the way, to all of my church friends, who may or may not have witnessed me nodding off in church, it could be narcolepsy—maybe-- so a little sympathy please.

And now the humble pie. My companion-- as much as I joke about her-- has given me a new lease on life. There are so many trips and ventures I would have never undertaken without her being with me. Life was once good and then it became a struggle but now it is good again so I tip my hat my friend, to what you have done for me and become to me.  But having said that its been a long time since I had a rhubarb pie. Sorry Pat the devil made me say that last sentence.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

COLLEGE DEBT

                                                            COLLEGE DEBT

A lot has been said about the debt that graduates today have accumulated in college. Some of them are now graduating, six figures in debt and that’s not a good way to go out into the working world. When I think about it, I have often wondered if there shouldn’t be a course taught in high school, for graduating seniors, explaining what borrowing money can do to you and how it can be a run away freight train with accumulating debt and this can happen very quickly.

I think we have all been on a vacation and used a credit card to conveniently pay for things, then received the bill when we got back home and were astonished at how much money we had spent and now we had to pay for it. It can get away from you in a hurry and it can be that way, borrowing money for college too.

I have two granddaughters who both graduated from college a few years ago. Both of them are great girls who I am proud of. One of them worked hard, both at school and after school, trying to keep her debt to a minimum. She came out of school with only a small amount of debt. Her and her husband now have a home of their own and a baby and are doing quite well. The other girl, a victim of circumstances borrowed way too much money and now she too is married but any hope of buying a house and having a family, is hindered by student loans she has to pay back. Her monthly loan payments are equal to the mortgage payments they could be paying on a home. I know it is a contentious issue with her.

There was a time when parents started saving accounts for their kid’s education but that seems to be less of a habit, now that government loans are available, so the money goes elsewhere. To add to that there was a time when colleges didn’t charge the prices they now charge for a four-year degree. There was a time when fiscal responsibility was taught at home and so was foresight. Kids fought hard for scholarships and any way they could to pay for their education, because there was no easy money available. I remember my son-in-law pursuing his engineering degree in the daytime at the U and driving a courier van at night to pay his bills. Landscapers, resorts and golf courses could depend on college kids to work for them in the summer and there were more applicants then there were jobs. Now it’s just the opposite and business are struggling to find workers.

So now the cry goes out for loan forgiveness and free college education for everyone. It’s become a campaign issue and all of it in a country that is wallowing in debt of its own accord, with poor spending and borrowing habits. A county that has, for far to long, thought it could spend its way out of poverty but that’s a story for another day. Education is essential to the well being of this country. But so is responsibility. A few years back I had the good fortune to go to Key West Florida for a couple of days. Rooms were over four hundred dollars a night for lodging and not high-end lodging at that. The town was filled with students-- spring breakers-- who seemed to have lots of money and I know this-- they didn’t all have rich parents.            

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

NOISE

                                                           

It’s 10 p.m. in the busy twin cities suburb where I used to live. I picked this time because although it’s not really the still of the night, it is a time when life for many of us is winding down and we’re ready to call it a day. There really is no still of the night here in the big city. I am lying in bed with the window open. You learn to ignore the ambient noise of living in close quarters like this with so many people but just for the next few minutes I’ll try to identify for you all that I can hear. Not everything I hear has to do with man’s activities’ but that’s true wherever you are.
            
I can hear a television set in my neighbor’s house. From my bedroom window to theirs, it is less then 35 feet. I also hear his sprinkler spitting water on his front yard and people talking in the driveway. A dog is barking somewhere up the block and there are sirens from the fire station a half a mile away. A train is traveling across the river a mile away and it’s actually in another city. The sound of cars and trucks on the busy highway three blocks away is ongoing and never stops. Cars go by the front of my house, 40 feet away, on average once every minute. Somewhere fire works are exploding or at least I hope its fireworks. I hear tires squealing and an engine racing down the street. I hear my refrigerator running and two clocks ticking, I hear a crow cawing and ducks quacking on the pond out back. I hear the wind rustling in the treetops and the sound of a distant air conditioner laboring. I hear the cat licking itself as it sits on the end of the bed and my wife’s shallow breathing as she sleeps beside me. I hear the distant sound of an airliner passing high overhead, descending toward the airport twenty five miles away and somewhere, someone, is running a lawn mower even though its dark. Go figure. Otherwise it’s quiet

Tonight I’m in my cabin on a small lake in Northern Minnesota. Once again it’s ten p.m. and once again I’m lying in bed with the window open. My Partner has passed so it’s only my breathing. The clock is still ticking and an appliance is running. I also hear a boat motor out on the lake as someone is trolling for fish. I do hear birds chirping and waves breaking quietly on the shoreline, while all the while a soft breeze blows through the pine trees like a whisper. Otherwise it’s restfully quiet.

A few years back I took a trip to the boundary waters in Northern Minnesota. We were camped on an island, just four of us. That night I walked away from the campsite and my companions and found a perch on a rock next to the lake maybe a city block away. It was a quiet evening in the wilderness and I was admiring how bright the stars were. Then as now, I listened for the sounds of the forest. I could hear only my own breathing, otherwise it was eerily quiet.

Think about the last time you heard nothing. Was it restful or was it eerie? Maybe its what you get used to and what you can tune out. I sat in a park, on a bench, in Wadena Minnesota one day, next to the railroad tracks talking with a man. Every twenty minutes a train came through and the ground literarily shook beneath your feet. The noise was ear splitting. A few feet away an old lady sat on another park bench sleeping, oblivious to the trains. “One more day in Mikes meandering mind.”


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

THE YOUNG BOY AND THE SEA

                                     
Some sixty years ago, on a hot July day, I took my old steel Pflueger rod and reel, put on my old cutoffs and tennis shoes and went fishing in the Crow Wing River north of Staples. It was about a five-mile bike ride north of town; on a day when the sun was baking everything in sight. I got out there early and the plan was to walk down the river and fish until I got to the Golf Course Bridge and then walk back on a trail along the river to get my bike and ride home.  It was maybe a trip of two miles or so.

I fished this way often because it was cool walking in the river and I had access to many deep holes and drop offs where the fish hung out. For the most part the river was waist deep and nothing but sand. As a parent today, think of your fifteen year old kid, five miles from home and all alone in the middle of a river. Not a house in sight and no way to call for assistance. No way to know if the weather was going to go bad or not-- or if someone was going to give me any trouble. I admit, that although that happening was unlikely, we didn’t give it much thought in those days. I had nothing worthwhile to steal except my bike that I had hid in the woods.

Maybe about half way along my trip down the river, I had caught a few skinny pike and some rock bass on the old silver spoon I had brought along. I had a stringer tied around my waist and my plan was to keep a couple of fish and put the rest back. My mom was always appreciative of the fish, as we were a poor family. I think I saw the pike before he saw me, lying in about three feet of water. The river was running clear and slow. The only time that river got muddy was after a big rain. The fish finally spooked and ran for the far bank of the river where the water was deeper.

My cast was perfect, right in front of him and he took the spoon and ran for the deep hole. With my antiquated fishing gear I couldn’t hold him back and I found myself half swimming, half running down the river and being pulled into the deep hole, with the fish until I was forced to swim and give up my fishing gear. I probably weighed 90 pounds at this time in my life. I swam around the deepest part of the hole, which was full of dead trees and then came up on a sandbar and there was the fish still pulling my rod and reel along in about a foot of water. I ran and jumped on top of the fish and wrestled it up in the sand and held it until it quieted down. I was able to get it on a stringer and several times the fish would run and knock me off my feet, on my trip to the bridge but I made it to the bridge, tied the fish to a tree in the water and went and retrieved my bike. Then I went back and retrieved my fish.

My bike was an old Schwinn with the double bars on it and I tied the fish between the bars and about half of him hung over the front fender. When I got home I took the fish uptown to the butcher shop and they weighed it in at nineteen pounds. I know I’m a fiction author but this isn’t fiction. I have read Papa Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea” and I’m not Santiago and the Crow Wing River is a long way from the Gulf Stream but for one summer afternoon I too fought a big fish, in my own back yard and won. This is my story, I haven’t been drinking and I’m sticking to it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

NEXT TIME AROUND

                                              
I have often thought if I could come back to this earth after I die, as some other creature, what would it be? Maybe a bear? No, there not very social creatures and everyone tries to avoid them or shoot them. I also don’t want to spend my whole winter living in a dirty hole under a tree. How about a wolf? No although they are the smartest of the animals and have great family ties there are growing concerns of people coexisting with them and if people get their way, there just going to kill them all, so someone can hang their hides on a wall someday and talk about their big kill for the rest of their lives, like Frank Buck on steroids.

Maybe a raccoon, they’re cute and love to play and roam around. But wait, they never learned, unlike the chicken, how to cross the road with out getting run over and that seems like a gross way to die with a tire track across your butt and your tongue hanging out. Porcupines are just too ugly and skunks stink. Deer, well they have the same problems the raccoons have with the cars and come November they’re public enemy number one and its all out war. Squirrels are out as I hate acrobatics and as far as being a domestic animal, I don’t want to be someone’s pet and get hauled to the vet for a bunch of shots and get my glands expressed and told I’m fat. I also want to be the judge of whether I can reproduce or not, so no sniping off anything.

So maybe animals are out and I need to expand my horizons. Maybe take a look at the birds of the air or the fish of the sea. But I have to say something right now about being a fish. Seriously you want someone to be dangling food or imitation food in front of your face and trying to entice you to bite into it, so they can yank you aboard their boat and show you off, until your ready for your last breath. Then they throw you back where you came from or eat you? Not so much. You know fish aren’t really the sharpest knife in the drawer and I know that’s a very insensitive analogy. But basically a fishes’ life sucks and what about in the winter in this country when you have three feet of ice over your head for five months, wow talk about claustrophobia. So I guess that leaves me to the birds.

Now birds exist from the tiniest hummingbirds to the big eagles and I do see some benefits in being a bird. I like the eagles but I don’t have the temperament to just go around killing ducklings, baby rabbits and an occasional poodle. They’re just nasty birds to tell the truth. Ducks and geese—well if you like packing up and going south every winter and not on Delta by the way. That’s just way too much wing flopping, for me. I’m not sure either if you ever saw the breeding process of ducks and geese but those males are not much on foreplay and no flowers or candy girls. Once the eggs are in the nest and they have done their nasty deed, they’re no place to be found. We got a few people like that around here now and believe me it’s a trouble spot. I would enjoy the liberty of flying around and finding the hood of some shiny new Cadillac to leave my mark on. That would be hilarious. Also I like to sing, so that’s down my alley but yeah I’m thinking maybe a humming bird. Living on sugar all day would be fantastic and darting around the world like Speedy Gonzales-- well that speaks volumes to me. Yep. I want to be a humming bird in my next life.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

EDUCATION

                                                         

If we could solve poverty we could solve a lot of our problems in society. Most of the problems we associate with race really have to do with poverty. Educated people usually find a way to sustain themselves and make a living. Uneducated people are more prone to find illegal ways to make a living. But we need to go farther back and say why do people shun education, to spend the rest of their lives living hand to mouth? If we take that step back, we come to the basic family structure and that is the crux of the problem.

I want those of you who are educated and seemingly making a good living, to think about how your family and your peers encouraged you and mentored you as you grew up and went though the education process. Left to your own means, you would not be where you are today. So I ask the question. How do we somehow intervene in this process of having family’s be more responsible for the well being of their off spring, and especially as it pertains to education. Poverty begets poverty and for many of those families with illiterate children, it’s becoming a way of life. What government interaction we do see, seems to be focused on taking over the chore of raising these kids for these people. Something that just exasperates the problem.

My grandfather told me, “When you raise your son, you raise your son’s son. If you fail in that process you will fail generations to come.” We need to, as families, encourage others, brothers, sisters, even neighbors to do their jobs as parents and educate their kids. No government intrusion will ever work. Just common sense caring for each other and a way back to the basic way of living life. Education first.

Last week in St Paul, there was a story in the news, of St Paul teachers hitting the streets to recruit more students for their school district. A district, which is millions of dollars in debt with declining enrollments. I applaud these kind of efforts by educators and especially if their target is kids that are no longer going to school. My parents were poor people who knew the value of an education and would not have ever allowed any of their children to quit school. The biggest reason for declining enrollment in public schools is two fold. Parents who allow their children to quit school, by not caring if they go to school or not, is the big one. The second reason is competition from private schools. That being said the competition problem in schools is not contributing to the illiteracy problem, only to the public school problem of declining enrollment. Parents who pay to send their kids to private schools are very well involved in their children’s education.

Look. I’m just an old writer with a lot of opinions based on living seventy some years of life. But along with those opinions are some dreams and aspirations for the world to come. I know those will have to come from the youth of today. My class had their chance and we didn’t get the job done or I wouldn’t be writing like this, would I? To the parents. Tell your kids you love them and please, please keep them in school. This country needs new blood and new leaders if we are going to make this country great again. Yes, I said again, because were not as great as we once were.









Thursday, July 5, 2018

MY STORY

                                                       
I have now lived, where I presently reside, for over thirty years. In 1988 when we bought the place, there was just a garage and an old trailer house on the lot. For many years it was just a summer playground for all of us at the lake. A place for the kids and grandkids to play at and it made our family’s get togtether’s so much more meaningful. I had always wanted a place at a lake up north and I wasn’t sure if my wife was just trying to appease me, as she often did, or if she really enjoyed it too.

Then in 1996 we decided to build a new home on the lot and we planed on moving there after retirement. The rest is history. We decided to do most of it ourselves to save money, so for the next five years, every weekend, every vacation was spent working on the project. As for me, I had dabbled in construction over the years so much of it was nothing new-- but for her, who was determined to do her part-- it was a steep learning curve. I have always said if most people had my late wife’s work ethic, unemployment in this country would not exist. She did all of the sanding, painting and sheet rock taping and she learned as she went. She was always on the other end of the tape measure for me and she was my biggest critic and loudest supporter at the same time. Even when we didn’t agree, she never deserted me, she just became more resolute. She wanted it right or not at all.

Seven years ago she followed the angels out the door one Saturday afternoon and left me alone in this beautiful home, filled with the memories we had made but then by myself and broken hearted. Some days even now so many years later, as I walk around the yard and pause at the flowerbeds she planted. I realize that this place is a stage she made for both of us but it’s now largely an empty one, for the main actor has left the theater. Last year I entertained the idea of selling the place and moving into something more my size. It’s a big house and a lot of upkeep. But as much as that makes sense, as I look out my office window today and over the backyard, I guess I finally realized that’s not what she would want me to do.

I now have Pat and I’ve told you about her and what her companionship means to me.  She’s experienced the same memories and taken that same trip as I have. She has lived in her house longer then I have in mine and she intends to stay put and now she’s urging me to stay put too. So basically I have two women talking to me and giving me advice. One I can’t talk back to and one I better not talk back to.

My kids tell me “Dad do what you want to do. We’ll support you.” Secretly I think they would rather see my money tied up in the house where I can’t spend it, then in my pocket. Tomorrow is Fathers Day and I’m going to Pat’s for dinner. No one is coming to see me but it’s not that they don’t care. One daughter is in Arizona. One is hidden away on a farm in Wisconsin and my son in Big Lake-- where he works about every day of the week but if I called him and told him I needed him, he would be here posthaste. My grandkids are largely grownup and have busy lives and babies and other sides of the family and the beat goes on. So what do I do about it?  Well I write about it and I bet I’m writing today for a lot of old people.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

TO THE GRADUATES


Each year in this country, the doors of high schools open wide and the graduating class runs, walks, skips or saunters out to start practicing what they have learned over the last twelve years in school. It’s a process that has been repeated time and again all over this nation and I call it the great coming out. For many it’s just the culmination of the first twelve years of an education that will continue on for a few more years as they put on the finishing touches, toward a career they will embark on that will define them, for the rest of their lives. So it’s not the end but a beginning.

If you know what you want to do with the rest of your life at this tender age, then you are very lucky indeed because life is a smorgasbord and you have tasted very little of it. But hopefully your guardians and teachers have consoled you on this and you at least have a basic idea of what your choice is going to be all about. You have made an informed decision and now the process begins. A good many of you will change your minds many times in the next few years and that’s okay. To love what you do for your career, is a luxury not afforded to a lot of people. Look around.

I listened to two young people the other day telling me they both hope to be doctors when they grow up. They are in their younger teenage years and probably have little idea about the lives doctors live, the work they do and the commitment it takes to become one but right now there is nothing wrong to have that lofty goal. There is also nothing wrong with changing your mind as time goes on but at someplace in the next few years, at least for the graduates, push comes to shove and you must commit. Today’s world can have a way of hurrying you along in this process. Just remember whatever you do in life, you’re the one who has to be pleased.

Things will get in the way as you age so it’s important to get on the right path as soon as you can. Friendships become lovers and lovers become spouses and spouses beget children and responsibilities you never knew existed will come into play. But that’s the cycle of life. Your parents or guardians, who sheltered you and guided you for so many years, will become less and less a factor in your lives because they want you to grow your own wings now. Many of them will cut the cord with you and many of you will cut that cord yourself as you strive to become your own independent person and chart your own way for the rest of your life. Hopefully you know what you really want to be and have made some good choices.

I have three grandchildren who all have four-year degrees who don’t work in the fields they studied in. Was their education a waste? Not really because those unrelated degrees probably had a lot to do with the jobs they now have. I would caution you about one thing though and that’s try to not borrow a lot of money for school if you can help it. It’s easy to borrow and hard to pay back and that job your going to get right out of college. May not pay as much as you think for a while. I know I haven’t talked about those of you that have other plans such as the trades or the service. Whatever you do give it your all and someday you will reap the benefits of a good life, doing the things you always wanted to do.----Good luck and God bless.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

WERE ALL IMPORTANT

                                                

I want to tell you about my father-in–law, a World War II vet, who came home from the beaches of Okinawa with several purple hearts. He didn’t come home, beating his chest and saying look at me. He came home and took up his place, right back in society where he left off before the war. A proud but humble man for his part of that hard fought victory. He had to have seen some terrible things and lived through some terrible times, after all he was wounded many times but in the years I knew him he never talked about that. He had a family to raise and a business to run and that was the crux of his efforts. I had many other relatives that came home from that war under similar circumstances and they pretty much acted the same way. The war was over and although they never forgot that they had once been a soldier, they quit being a soldier. They gratefully took the accolades that were offered them on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, as well they should have, but never sought them out and the only uniform they wore was the uniform of the day. They wanted to put the war behind them.

I was always told that all of us were as good as the next person but never one bit better. That some of us may have done some noteworthy things in our lives but that in itself didn’t make you any better then anyone else. You need to live your life in the present and not in the past.  What you did ten years ago does not give you a pass to quit living your life honorably. Humbleness, trumps narcissism every day of the week.

When I was in the Fire Service I had a woman tell me one day that she didn’t have much respect for police and fire people because they thought they were somehow special. I was momentarily taken back by that remark and later after thinking it over; I thought someone who was in public service and shooting off his or her mouth must have put her off. Most people that are in those jobs have to work hard at being regular people too, because the brass you are wearing, often times says you are something special, when those who do it, in their hearts, know they are not.

I went ice fishing once with three other men. A priest, a cop and a printer and all of them friends of mine. In the course of our conversation that day in the fish house I mentioned we should be well prepared for any emergency with a firefighter a cop and a priest in attendance. There was a moment of silence when I suddenly realized that I had put three of us out there in the limelight but forgot about my friend Jerry who was the printer and a very good man. For me it was embarrassing and I had no way to really rectify it without making things worse then they all ready were. It was Jerry who broke the ice, when he said. “Someone will need to tell the world about you hero’s.”  I learned a valuable lesson that day at someone else’s expense when it came to self-importance. My father-in-law was a war hero but he didn’t want to be. He just wanted to be my father-in-law, my wife’s dad, and our kid’s grandpa. He considered it an honor to have served his country and he wanted to just leave it at that. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

HAPPY FATHERS DAY

                                              

I wanted to write a letter this Fathers Day for all of the dads out there. Especially to the ones who have been there, for their spouse’s and children every step of the way. I want to say thank you to those dads who came home tired from work but still drug themselves out into the backyard to teach a little girl how to hit a softball off a tee and catch it in a glove. To those dads who took their toddler son and put him in his wagon and walked him around the neighborhood-- mostly just to show him off. To the dads who sat at the kitchen table and helped a confused child make sense of their schoolwork. To the dads who laid down with their child at bed time and read to them until they went to sleep. But mostly to the dads who were just proud to be a dad and loved their kids and spouse.

I had a neighbor who lost his wife to cancer and raised two little girls by himself He was a relatively young man at the time and several years later I once asked him if he ever thought about dating again. He didn’t answer me right away but finally he said this. “My wife left me a lot of things in the brief time I had her but the thing she left me that was the most precious is these children. Maybe someday when the girls are older I can think about that, but for now, I owe it to her and the girls to not complicate their lives anymore then they have already been.” He was a good dad, and I was almost ashamed I had asked the question.

When I graduated from high school my father told me it was time to get a job or go on to school but in any case it was time to move out. I was the oldest of eight kids and they needed my bed and my spot at the table. My grandfather lived in the same town and I tearfully told grandpa that dad had bluntly told me to leave. My grandfather said, “He wouldn’t have told you that if he didn’t have faith that you would find your way in the world. He did his part and now it’s your turn. He believes in you Mike. He told me so” I remember sitting on the end of his hospital bed 40 years later, holding his hand and crying as he was dying. It was then, that I realized that the cord, I thought we had cut all of those years ago, had never really been cut. He had just given me some slack. I still needed him and even though he wasn’t physically there for me much during those forty years, he was always there in sprit and he had given me the biggest gift of all. He believed in me-- and that had made me a better man. He never achieved a lot materially in his life of hard work but yet the example he gave me and left with me was not just the man he became. It also was the man he always meant to be and by definition that is what a real father is all about. Yes, at some point he had quit telling me how to live-- but he never quit showing me how to live.

As dads we all need to be that good example to our kids that they will take with them after you are gone. Just having that on your mind each day, doesn’t just give your children someone to emulate. In effect it makes you a better person for everyone, not just your kids. To my dad and to all the dads who have gone to their just reward or are with us, I have always realized that anyone can become a father but it takes a lot of love and work to be your dad.


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

THE ROYAL WEDDING

                                               

I’m an early riser as has always been my habit. Some days earlier then I want to be and on Saturday May 19th,it was one of those mornings and there I was, wide awake at five a.m. Bored and restless I tuned on the television-- and yes-- I have one in the bedroom. But this morning instead of the usual bad news and self-serving news commentary, it was the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markel on the tube. I hadn’t intended to watch it, but this morning I seemed to be drawn to it. Maybe that’s what it takes to get my attention sometimes. A new morning with a fresh mind, uncluttered with the usual parade of problems we all have.

I have never been much on royalty during my life. I guess I felt we were all born as equals in Gods eyes and that no one is more excellent then anyone else. Born into poverty myself, my father always told me to hold my head high. That I was as good as the next man-- but not one bit better, But then I also had a thought that asked-- “Who said the Royal Family thought they were better then anyone else.” That on one hand they were fortunate to be born into royalty and on the other they were given the unenviable task of living their entire lives in the public eye. That like it or not, the eyes of the world were upon them, every moment of their lives.

For the most part the Royal family has always tried to show their best side. To be an example to the rest of us of how to treat others. To be a living lesson on how to live an honorable life, with love and respect towards others. Yes, they have faltered sometimes but after all we can’t take the human factor out of it can we? A faltering made even more unforgiving sometimes by the relentless scrutiny of a media that forgot a long time ago that the royalty were such things as human beings.

I couldn’t help but think while watching all of those people in England, dressed in their best finery and witnessing this wedding, that somewhere this morning in Syria or Yemen or a thousand other places there were other human beings dressed in rags, on the verge of dying from starvation and sickness who weren’t even aware of this grand celebration, because each day is just another day for them, to just fight for survival. It seems nonsensical that the hate that seems to permeate this world can’t be overcome by all the good that comes with simply loving one other.

Maybe that’s what our sick country needs to get our minds off of the corruption and political greediness of the way we do business here. We need somebody here amongst us, in the flesh to lead us and be that guiding light. Someone who doesn’t care about more wars, money and power or some corrupt political Ideology. Oh, there are people like that here in our mix, don’t get me wrong. I think either they are too scared to get into that political fray, for fear they might have to become like them, or they feel as I sometimes do. That the pendulum has swung so far off the centers to ever get it back where it belongs, and now it’s next to imposable and they, like the rest of us, are now in a survival mode. After World War II the rest of the world once looked up to this nation and its people. Believe me, we squandered all of that good will a long time ago and today were not a good example for anybody.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

MY ROAD

                                                            

Each day I walk the road from my house, to the highway with my dog Molly so we get some exercise. It’s the same road I used to walk with another dog Gus, for fourteen years. It’s a road that has proven to have many benefits, beyond getting my heart rate up. It’s for me, a time to enjoy Mother Nature and the serenity that is there. Over the years I have seen, deer, bears, skunks, porcupines and you name it. Over the years I have sorted out so many thoughts and memories. I walked and cried when my wife died. I walked alone for the first time when Gus died and Molly and I have had so many interesting conversations, although she’s not much of a talker. But what has really been the most important thing to me are the conversations I have had with friends and neighbors that stopped to chat with me. People that I would never had seen, if I hadn’t been on that road.

I once met a woman in the winter that was collecting dead sticks and wood for her stove. I never realized that in this day and age someone would have to do that, just to heat her home. I sent her to my house and an old woodpile that was in my shed that would never be used. She was doing me a favor by taking it. I have met so many people on the road looking for directions, even though the road is only two miles long and a dead end. I once met a man who asked me how to get to Nisswa. I asked him why he was looking for Nisswa on this road and he told me, “I’m not. I’m just looking for someone who knows how to get to Nisswa.”

When I first moved up here the road was new and smooth as a baby’s behind. But old age and wear and tear has done the same thing to it, as old age has done to my surface. Left it full of cracks and bumps. My aunt use to call all those wrinkles she had in her old age laugh lines. My dad told her nothing was that funny. They didn’t get along very well. The road has such a crown on it that when you walk, your one foot is several inches lower then the other. So when you walk back you have to stay on the same side of the road so you even your body back out again. Once in my younger drinking days in Staples, the town where I grew up, I walked home from the local watering hole slightly inebriated. I couldn’t figure out why I was limping badly until I found out I was walking with one foot in the gutter. Molly’s got it all figured out she just stays in the ditch and away from traffic.

That’s what life is all about; a walk down a long proverbial road. For many years we walk holding on to our guardians hand. We didn’t get to choose the road and at first that was okay but as we age we yearn to find our own way. Its not that the road we were brought up on was necessarily a bad road; instead being naturally inquisitive we realize that unless we chart our own course in life, we can’t take credit for the path we walked. It will always be some ones else’s choice that we just participated in and like old Frank sang so many times, we want it to be, “My Way.” But all roads have one thing in common. They have an end. A place where you can go no farther. There was a time in life when we could just turn around and start over but that ship has sailed. There is some solace though to be had in all of this. Most of us will never realize where the end of the road really is.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

A CONFESSION OF SORTS

                                                         

Just in case I might want to run for president someday, I am going to come clean right now on all of the bad things I have done in my life, so all of you know about them and I in turn, have no dirty secrets. So, pay attention people as you read this, because this will knock your socks off. One day, when I was about four years old and very mad at my mother, I went outside. On the sidewalk that ran in front of our house, for a whole block I stomped on every crack in that sidewalk. Now, my mother’s back still seemed to be fine after that, but she was not one to complain about such things. But Mrs. Klein, next door, turned out to be as hunchbacked as the guy who terrorized Notre Dame, so I might have had a hand in that. Mrs. Klein, I apologize, even though I know you can’t hear me because you’re dead, but I’m sorry that backfired. It was not my intention, but I am no clairvoyant.

I have, numerous times in my life, cut off those labels that say, “Do not remove under penalty of law,” on my pillows and mattresses. I am not proud of this, but I am weak sometimes, and that thing sticking out of my pillow got to be too much, and I just snapped. I have had to live with this on my conscience for a long time, and I must admit, it feels good to come clean on this one

I used to go to a barbershop that had Playboy magazines on the reading table. Now I want you to understand, I did not look at the pictures, I only read the stories, but sometimes it was very hard to not see a picture for a very brief time while turning the pages. My wife started cutting my hair shortly after that, because she said I got too frisky when I came home from the barbershop, and getting a haircut every week was getting way too expensive. Then, for some crazy reason, five years ago she suggested I go back to the barbershop. Women, I’ll never understand them.

I once pirated a movie that I wanted to keep. I have lived in fear of the F.B.I. coming after me for years now, and every time I see that warning on the videos I rent, I have to leave the room. I still have the movie, but it is well hidden in the woods. I have not been there for years because I know I am being followed wherever I go. I am thinking seriously about going into the witness protection program, but it makes it hard to run for office when you don’t exist.

In 1955, at age 14, I stole a pack of cigarettes from the Red Owl grocery in Staples. My buddy, Arnie, and I smoked them all in a junk car, and we both threw up. I did not inhale. I have checked, and the statute of limitations has passed on this petty crime and the Red Owl went out of business, so I consider this case closed.

So there you have it all—the secrets from my sordid past—my soul laid bare for all to see. Mea culpa, mea culpa. I have not yet announced my candidacy, but I am forming an exploratory committee—as soon as I can find someone to be on it. I know it’s late in the race, but what can I say. It’s for our country.---Mike.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

HERBERGERS

                                                         
A while back we were informed that Herbergers Department Store was closing in Brainerd. They’re just another victim in a fast changing world, when it comes to retail shopping. I can complain about it and I can write about it-- but there seems to be no stopping it. All over this nation big box stores are shutting their doors and often times taking down whole shopping Malls down with them.

I lived in a twin city suburb years ago next to a mall called Brookdale. It had stores like Dayton’s and Donaldson’s. J.C. Penny’s and Sears. It wasn’t just a shopping center it was a social center with all of its little specialties shops. I remember browsing for books at Barns and Nobles and getting my shoes repaired at a cobblers shop, all in the comfort of an indoor mall. There were always civic events going on in the mall and great restaurants to eat in. But they all existed, dependent on each other to bring in the people.  A few years back it was bulldozed and now in its place, sits a lonely Walmart with one huge parking lot.

Maybe it’s just the change I can’t accept. I’m old and it’s a whole new way of life for me. I’m not reluctant to change. I have an I-phone and a computer. But I still like to shop and try clothes on. Talk to a knowledgeable hardware man about repairs. I think the greatest thing we are losing; besides the jobs the store’s provided, is the interaction we had between friends and neighbors. Instead we choose to stay cloistered in our homes having a delivery service bring us our groceries and clicking away at some online site to buy everything. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Change is inevitable in this fast paced world. I remember as a boy watching the steam engines coming into Staples where I grew up. These steel behemoths belching steam and smoke, pulled over a hundred loaded boxcars and had been around for over a hundred years and they had a lot to do with the expansion of this country from east to west. I used to go over to the roundhouse where they garaged and serviced these giant machines of burden and stand in awe of them. Then one day in the late fifties I noticed many of them gone, parked on a siding idled and quiet. I asked my dad who was a railroader what was going on? He told me, “take a good look at them son, their days are numbered.” So was the railroad in Staples.

Staples, through innovation survived but it was never the same for me. Brainerd will survive too without Herbergers but the empty J. C Penny store a mile away is testament as to how hard it will be for someone to fill that space. Hopefully the mall will survive. Maybe Ascensus could use another location or maybe they can park discarded Volkswagens in the parking lot? I’m being facieses but sometimes that’s all you have left. Pat and I drive back from Arizona in the springtime on somewhat of a back road to avoid the freeways. We drive through a lot of small towns in Oklahoma and North Texas. The roadsides are bordered with hundreds of shuttered storefronts. What used to be small thriving downtowns is now a graveyard for mom and pop businesses. The town now gets by with a Circle K and a Walmart.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

FACEBOOK

                                                          

Last week, in the heights of a raging blizzard, my daughter-in-law let their six-year-old Labrador “Missy” out to take care of business. Something that took place everyday without incident. For whatever reason the dog bolted and took off running. A few hours later it was evident that she wasn’t coming back. The weather may have played a factor or maybe it was some critter but no one knows what was in that dogs mind at that time. The entire family spent the rest of that day looking for her. They live in a rural area with lots of open spaces. Nightfall came and no “Missy.” Just a broken hearted family

My granddaughter in the meantime had posted the dogs picture and a plea for help on a lost dog app and Facebook. Late the next day they received a phone call from a person many miles away who said she might have seen the dog. My son and his wife went over there and after a short search they found their scared and exhausted dog.

Last week Facebook and its leaders were taken to task by congressional leaders for the way they were running their business. Yes, there are some things that needed changing and the company has said it will take care of them. In the meantime our ‘real news’ starved media did its best to crucify Facebook. They were unrelenting in their negative coverage. No one, from the news industry ever said, “that I heard, if you don’t want something shared, don’t put it on Facebook.” It was just all Facebook’s fault.

The up side of Facebook is this. Without that app my family’s dog would be dead. With one click of a mouse you can share your pictures your thoughts, your fears and sadness with your entire social circle. But you have to realize that whatever you put on there may be up for public consumption. There are ways to speak privately on Facebook with someone, but you need to know how to use those and then do just that. If you have a filthy mouth and your mad at the world in general there are also ways to bump you off the page and we need to do that too.

My family is somewhat scattered around the country and yes we do talk on the phone but Facebook provides the means of sharing your messages and pictures with a lot of people at once. If you are a private person then most people who do Facebook would understand that you are private and yes, it’s not for everyone. Those who use Facebook and know that’s your wishes should respect that. Be careful when you try to talk for others.

With everything, there are those who abuse the privileges that come with this kind of media. Your political views, your inflammatory remarks are better served being kept to yourself. My mother used to say, “Sometimes what is left unsaid, is best said.” Facebook will survive and be better for what is has gone through lately but we the users need to help by using some discretion on what we say and do. In the meantime thanks to social media my son’s family has their dog back.

Friday, May 4, 2018

LIFE IS HARD

                                                           
As I get older, my life gets more complicated. Maybe its because in this world of I-phones and computers and car gadgets that I need to possess to survive, I am over whelmed with all of the technology and no longer have a twelve year old granddaughter readily available to fix things for me. My son-in-law who is a tech genius can fix most of what I mess up but not without scolding me for messing it up. I sometimes feel when I ask him for help, like a two year old who just pooped his pants. Today I did an up grade on my phone and I lost all of my contacts. Not to worry I had them in my computer and someplace called “I cloud,” which might as well be up in the clouds, for all I know how to access it. So I typed them all back in manually which was somewhat productive because there were people in there I don’t know anymore, or never knew and people who have been dead for three years. I called one number to see who it was and I got some life insurance salesman who assured me I had gotten the right number. He wouldn’t let me go until I told him I had leprosy and was in the witness protection program.

So with that in mind I have instituted some changes that will make it easier for me to stay on top of things. I have three children, eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren and remembering all of their birthdays and anniversaries is hard for me. So starting this year I have purchased fourteen belated birthday cards, which I intend to send out at the end of the year with a sincere letter of apology. They will get 1 check for their birthday and Christmas and they can decide on how to divvy it up. It is my belief that the child, whose birthday was in June, will be very happy to be able to celebrate the day twice. He probably got too much on his birthday anyway. I may just throw a happy New Year in the card too. Weddings I will do at the appropriate time. I’m not a total loser.

I sometimes misplace my keys. Someone I love, used to say, “they are always in the last place you used them, so look there.” As good as her intentions were with that statement and however oxymoronic it might sound, if I remembered the last place I left them, they wouldn’t be lost would they? Most often they are in the back door where I left them. Now if your coming over here tonight to check and see if my keys are in the door, and steal my junk, please put them back where you found them and don’t molest me. Bring a treat for Molly or she won’t leave you alone and don’t take her with you, no matter how much she begs.

My very inquisitive and loving friend Pat—and by the way I have to be very careful here, because I live in the same house with her in Arizona for four months in the winter and she does the cooking, is the queen of the question askers. Perry Mason, move on over. For some weird reason she rarely believes anything I say anyway when I answer her. I think asking me things is just a formality to me make me feel good, before she goes and Goggles it and proves me wrong. As a side note I was wrong once when I said I was wrong but I found out later I was right so it didn’t count. I plan on buying her one of those Google boxes someday where she can talk straight to Alexus and by pass the middleman-- mainly me-- Ask away honey.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

HOME AGAIN

                                                                              

I just wanted to say how good it is to be back in Crosslake. As nice as the warmth of the desert was for the duration of the winter, I never stopped thinking about my homeland. I wish my health were such that I didn’t have to run away when winter raises its frozen head. I think back to the times when my dog and I used to walk across the icy lake, trudging through deep snow to get our exercise. When it felt good to see your breath and have a little frost in your mustache. Those quiet days we spent in the fish house, waiting patiently for a Northern Pike to come in and hit that decoy. My little stove crackling and my dog lying on the floor watching with me, and how his tail would start thumping on the floor, when often he spotted the fish before I did. We would take walks in the woods after a fresh snowfall and it was a scene right out of Currier and Ives. It was so clean and so fresh and so quiet you hated to walk on it because your tracks would spoil it. I have lot of adjectives in my vocabulary, but right now none-- which would describe what I am trying to say.

Its not just the land that you leave behind when you depart, it’s the people, the town and the family and yes a whole way of life that you have lived all of your life. I am sure I speak for Pat too who was happy to be back in her home. Even Molly, who crawled in the back of the car dejected when our long journey back began, seemed to explode back to life when we turned that last corner.

I walked around the back yard this morning looking for signs of life and there was the rhubarb poking through. Some flowers, close to the house, poking out of the mulch, not even waiting to be uncovered. The lake is all gray and I know that ice out isn’t far away. Soon Andrea will be back next-door and we’ll sit on the back porch and talk away the afternoons. Two kindred neighbors with so much in common and so many memories of years gone by with the people we loved that won’t be back but are not forgotten. Even if it’s an adage “absence does make the heart grow fonder.”

There will be a long litany of firsts, just like there is every spring. The first loons to come back and the first fawns to walk in the yard. Apple blossoms and spring flowers everywhere. Before long it will be concerts in the park and campfires with the grandkids and great grandkids. Sometimes our conversations just live in the moment and sometimes we are seduced by memories. Pontoon rides around the lakes with Marv. Dinners on Horseshoe Lake, with Pat and the Graham family. Meat raffles, weddings, family reunions and coffee with the sunshine boys. Walks down the road with Molly; people stopping to say hi and welcome back. Talks with my church family that I missed so much. Yes, it’s life the way it was meant to be lived.

Then alas a time will come when the north wind will get cold again and the leaves will fall and it will be time to do that winter hiatus all over again. Arizona will be calling once more, but to put it into perspective, for me to say I will miss it as much as I miss Crosslake would be creating a false persona indeed.  But for now we’ll keep all that on the back burner where it belongs-- because summer is coming back to the lakes and this is exactly where I know I was meant to be.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

THE AUCTIONEER

                                              

There is a song called the “Auctioneer,” and it was made popular by the country singer Leroy Van Dyke. He still performs it today, even though he is almost ninety years old. The song was often emulated but never sung better by others because you see-- Van Dyke was an auctioneer and to do that song justice, you had to be.

I went to my first auction when I was a young boy and I was amazed that anybody could talk like that. As I grew older and even after I was married, if there was an auction sign along the road, I stopped. The only reason I don’t go to auctions anymore is because at my age I have too much junk already and its time to get rid of some. When it is my time to move from my home in Crosslake I fully intend to have an auction and I’m going to enjoy every minutes of it.

My dearly beloved and now departed wife loved to go to auctions too. She was like a kid in a candy store and I had to be careful what I wished for out loud around the house because if that item came up in an auction it would likely find its way home. We never stood together at the auctions because she wanted no interference from me when it came to bidding. At one auction I was bidding on an item, when the auctioneer stopped the bidding and asked me if she came to the auction with me? I said, “she did.” He said,” Well, I saw you come in together and I want you to go home together and unless you don’t know it--- your bidding against each other.

We always wanted a pontoon boat and so one day at an auction on one of the area lakes, they had a nice clean one. We looked it over and she said; “What do you think its worth?” Oh maybe five thousand” I said. Never thinking for one minute she was going to bid on it. They sold that pontoon while I was in the biffy and you guessed who bought it? My wife. I asked her how much she paid for it and she said “six thousand.” I replied, “It wasn’t worth more then five.” It was to me”, she said. We had a quiet ride home, and then she went in the house and got into her private stash and gave me a thousand dollars. “Now were even,” she said. We spent more wonderful evenings and family outings on that pontoon together then I could ever list. She knew it was something that would bring us all together.

I had a dear friend who was an auctioneer and every once in a while he would give me a little bit of that auctioneers chant, just to tickle my spirits. He was member of the auctioneer’s hall of fame and he was one of the nicest men I ever was privileged to call my friend. There are days when I’m feeling out of sorts and ornery and I need only think of that wonderful man and all of his kindness, patience and friendship and I settle down in hurry. My biggest regret is he passed away before I had that last auction, I always wanted to have. It won’t be the same without you Gordy, but we’ll still have a good time my friend.

“Hey well, all right sir open the gate up and let em out and a welcome boys. Here we come, a lotta number nine and what you give for em? I’ve got a twenty-five dollar bid make it thirty dollar. Who’ll give me thirty------“ 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

DRUGS



I have written about this subject before, and I won’t stop writing about it until either it, or I, go away. A few months back I heard of another fatality from drugs in our community. I guess it doesn’t surprise me, as it is becoming almost commonplace. As a parent and grandfather, the fear of this subject leads my list. As far as I know, my family has not been involved in this terrible epidemic of drug-related incidents, yet my heart aches for those who have. I can’t think of anything more heart-wrenching. For the victims here are not only the users, but also everyone who loved him or her. For those left behind, the agony, the guilt, the anger, and the profound sadness will never go away. For them life may go on, but it will never be the same.

To those of you who are involved with drugs, or thinking about it, let me say this. The next time you leave the house for any reason, I want you to go and hug your mom. I want you to look deep into her eyes. The same eyes that filled with tears the first time she saw you after carrying you for nine long months. It was at that moment when she realized, for the first time, the job she had ahead of her, to mold you into someone she would be proud of. That she had been given a gift of life, but at the same time a great responsibility. I’m betting she has enough photos to paper the house. Your first tooth, your first step, the first time you said, “Mommy.” She hid behind a tree and cried that first day you got on the school bus because, for the first time in your life, she wouldn’t be there if you got hurt or sick. But it was the only way she knew how to let you grow up. I want you to look at her again because once the drugs take over your life; you will never see her in that same light again. She will become your adversary, not your guardian.

So, let’s say you did do drugs and now you’re addicted. That was the first step to where you are today, and you know what? Those who have seen you come so far - your mom, dad, grandparents, all your friends and family - are still there for you, and now they want you to make them proud. If you’re already an addict, nothing you could do, for the rest of your life, would make them prouder than to see you kick this thing. There is no shame in falling down, only in not getting back up. There is so much help for you with this and it’s only a phone call away. Those people you thought were your friends who got you to this point today? They used you, and if you want to get started on the path back to a normal life then the first thing you need to do is cut ties with them right now. Tell them to get lost or get clean.

This country has spent over a trillion dollars on the war on drugs, and they’re no closer today to getting rid of them than they were before they started. There are many reasons for this, and none of them good ones. Poverty, greed, and a government who wants to make everybody happy so they can have their votes by legalizing some of it. Our jails are bursting at the seams with drug-related prisoners. Rape, incest, robberies, murder; they are all by-products of drug use and we all pay the bill for it. But, all of that aside, the heartbreak of losing a child to drugs can never be healed. I realize that at some point writing this is a lesson in futility, because if you are on drugs you’re not reading anything, but I had to try.  Maybe, if it’s not to late, Mom will show it to you.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

MY PHONE

                                                          

I recently purchased a new phone. After my wife passed away I felt it was important to have a phone on me at all times. Not just for safety reasons but for reference reasons because I had relied on her so much to remember things we both needed. Addresses and phone numbers. Birthday and anniversaries or appointments, you name it she was my go to gal.  So when I bought the new phone my old one was crammed with all of this information but the phone was dead. Through the magic of I-Cloud I was able to retrieve all of that and now I had a new phone with all of my old information that I had accumulated over the years downloaded into it.

That brings me to this. What if we could take young people that are going out into the world right now and give them all of the things we have learned that worked for us and, didn’t work for us, and say, “Here let me save you a lot of the trouble of having to learn this the hard way.” But wait, aren’t we doing that now with school and books. Yes, to some extent we are and it’s called history but they still have to accept it and learn it and that doesn’t always happen and I’m not sure how much schools even teach history anymore.  No, what I’m talking about is a mass transfer of information in the flick of a switch. Just like my new phone was programmed, you wouldn’t have to start over; you would all ready have the basics. You could expand on it or ignore it but you never really had to learn it.

Now the young people are saying, “Get out of here. We’ll learn it the same way you did.” To that I say. “Some of the mistakes I made in life were downright painful. Ordinary mistakes we all make and you want to make them for yourselves? If there were a way to make a drug addict experience the pain, suffering and shame of withdrawal before they ever started, most wouldn’t make that choice. If there were a way to make a driver experience what he would be going through when he drove drunk and killed someone, he would call a cab. I could give you a hundred examples.”

We are the sum total of our life’s experiences. The problem with that is a lot of us are over the hill before we really are, who we were meant to be. I have always said, “I want to be fourteen and know what I know now.” You see life is one big learning experience but it’s hard to read the book and learn anything from it when the story isn’t finished. That, for so many years, you relied on your likes and prejudice’s to guide you, and now you’re relying on actual experience.



What if we could delete all the bad preconceived opinions we once had and what we would download in these young minds would be only based on facts. That just like the information I downloaded on my new phone from ‘I cloud,’ it was only after I had gotten rid of the bad stuff.

Friday, March 23, 2018

THE BOYS OF SUMMER ARE BACK

                                    
Sometime in the next few weeks, an umpire will stroll to home plate, reach in his back pocket, dust off home plate and yell “Play Ball.” Yes, the ‘Boys of summer’ are back. Also sometime this summer, I will point the nose of my car east and head to Cooperstown. It has been on my bucket list way to long. I probably will want to be alone as a wander through those hallowed halls touching the plaques of those who have immortalized the game. Remembering special moments, when many of them were suited up and playing America’s past time. I am sure it will be emotional for me. There is something special about baseball and its not just it’s storied history I talk about. No, it’s the fact that its one of the few sports that your physical size doesn’t hold you back. It’s a sport for everyone that truly wants to play.

While in Cooperstown I want to stand in front of Harman’s plaque and remember once more this easy going slugger, who hit balls that had upper deck labeled on them the moment the ball and bat collided. How he always laid his bat down gently and jogged around the bases, almost as if the roar of the crowd embarrassed him. I want to stand in front of Kirby’s plaque and hear Jack Buck say, “And well see you tomorrow night,” as Kirby celebrated with the crowd during the 6th game of the World Series with Atlanta. I want to remember the day Rod Carew toyed with the 400 mark and I was there. Then there are all of the other immortals. Babe, Ted, Stan, Joe, Willy, some of the heroes I grew up. Pitchers like Bob Feller and Herb Score with blazing fastballs and they could get them over the plate. Pitchers like Sandy Koufax that had hitters shaking their heads as they walked back to the dugout after watching a curve ball that came from somewhere outside of third base. Managers like Casey Stengel, John McGraw and Leo Durocher who studied the game, simply to outwit the other managers.

It was a time when ball clubs had farm teams, to cultivate their own athlete’s talent and players came up and played their entire careers for one club, one group of fans. It was a time when the ‘Knot Hole Gang’ got you into the old met for a few dollars and hot dogs cost a buck. You could wear your tee shirt with pride for twenty years, because that player wasn’t going anywhere. Then big money got in the way and it all changed. Unions and agents and owners in conflict all of the time and in the end, the fans were the big losers.

Grantland Rice, the great sports writer wrote and I quote. “For when the great scorer comes to call against your name, He’ll ask not if you won or lost but how you played the game.” I guess that’s the part I choose to remember and not what’s happened to the game. I’ll still be there in the stands, win or lose and cheer for my team and then go home and wistfully and quietly remember how it used to be. I leave you with this.“Oh somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright. The band is playing somewhere and somewhere hearts are light. And somewhere men are laughing and somewhere children shout. But there is no joy in Mudville---mighty Casey has stuck out