Obama at the wheel

Once the bus is over the cliff who cares who's driving?

Once the bus is over the cliff who cares who's driving?

Everywhere I turn lately someone is asking me to sign a petition or urging me to contact my elected representatives regarding some issue or other. Most of them are excellent causes and worthy issues. Some, I believe, are critical and I readily take action.

I believe our current income tax system is the biggest roadblock and heaviest anchor to our economic recovery. I believe paying taxes to support my government is a duty, but paying taxes on my earnings turns that duty into a penalty. It is fundamentally wrong to penalize people for striving to succeed. I believe a national sales tax, such as the FairTax plan, is the best solution, and so I gladly write my representatives concerning tax reform.

I believe energy independence is vital to our security as a people and our sovereignty as a nation. There are people in the world who want to conquer us, enslave us and kill us, and every time we put gas in our cars we are sending them money to support their efforts. And so, I contact my Congress-people regarding energy issues.

I believe that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and so I shout helplessly into the wind as I watch our government grow ever larger and take liberties and use powers that are not theirs to take or use.

And so it goes, signing petitions, writing letters, making and taking calls. On the upside I have witnessed more civic minded action and sincere discussion in the last ten months than I did in the previous thirty years. Or perhaps, it’s just that I am more in tune with societal happenings than I was before. On the downside I see people wringing their hands with worry and wonderment at the actions of our government leaders. We’re frantically signing and writing and calling and trying to make our voices heard, but it seems no one on the hill is listening.

It feels like we’re all on a bus and Obama is at the wheel. We’re headed straight for a cliff and all the people are shouting, “Stop! Turn! Slow down!” But, he can’t hear because he has his I-Pod cranked up and his vision is set on the blue sky beyond the cliff. And the Democrats of Congress and the media are all standing between Obama and the people and shouting just as loudly, “Sit down and shutup! He knows where he’s going.” And we shout and we shout until there’s nothing left to do but scream as we hurtle into the abyss.

Never too old to play

Priceless angel
Priceless angel

Kids are great aren’t they? All that boundless energy and unbridled enthusiasm for life, the fearlessness with which they approach everything they do, the careless joy of simple play, and their endless curiosity for everything around them always puts me in a special mood. That’s why I try never to miss an opportunity to screw with their little heads.

I was out dawdling in the yard a while ago, and several of the neighborhood kids were playing nearby. The sound of their laughter and their occasional high pitched squeals took turns making me smile and setting my teeth on edge. I suspect it has something to do with turning fifty that other people’s children aren’t quite as endearing as they once were. But, I’m quite experienced in the art of prepubescent ignoration and so I was going about my piddling without too much discomfort.

Unfortunately, in my determination to let them have their fun I didn’t notice that they had noticed me. “Hello,” I heard in a tinkling little voice. I looked up and there were three of them. They had me surrounded on one side.

“Hello,” I said, “and how are you ladies doing today?”

“Fine,” they said in chorus.

“It sounds like you’re having a lot of fun over there,” I said, and they all laughed as if I’d said the cleverest thing.

“How old are you?” asked the medium sized blond one.

“Well,” I said, “that depends on what you mean by old.” This gained me a quizzical stare but no further discussion of my age.

“We like your house.” said the taller dark haired one.

“Thank you very much,” I said. “We like it too.”

“Where did you get the money to buy such a big house?” asked the little one, her blond curls framing an angelic face.

“Well,” I drawled as I squatted down to their level. I looked around suspiciously and then whispered, “We used to have a little girl about your age, and we sold her. I sure hope your Mom and Dad don’t want a bigger house.”

They were still screaming when I stepped inside for a glass of iced tea. See, you’re never too old to play with the kids.

Dog don’t know

Dogs just need to be loved
Dogs just need to be loved

I stopped in to see a friend the other day. Our paths of late had taken us in different directions and it was time to do a little catching up. We were sitting out on his front porch enjoying a cool drink and watching the sun inch closer to the trees. We had gotten off on one of our usual circuitous discussions and were entering the second lap when his neighbor pulled into the driveway next door. Actually, he didn’t so much pull in as he came in for a landing. We heard him coming a block or two away, and it looked as if he wasn’t going to get slowed down in time to make his driveway. He did though, and came to a screeching stop just short of the garage door.

As his truck door flew open and his boot hit the ground, his dog came running around the corner of the house to greet him. He was a regular sized dog and looked to be a mix of shepherd, retriever and probably some other breeds as well. He ran up to within a few feet of the man, and then stopped and cowered as if he could sense the man’s sour mood. He didn’t run away but he didn’t come any closer either. He turned partly away from the man, his tail wagging and his head down.

The man slammed the door of his truck, growled something that we could not hear, and kicked at the dog with his big heavy boot. The dog scampered away and the boot never came close, but you could tell it wasn’t the first time he had dodged that boot. Funny thing was, the dog didn’t run away. He stayed out of reach of the man and his boot, but he never ran away and his tail never stopped wagging. He followed the man until he was inside the house and after a minute or so he crawled under the man’s truck and layed down.

I looked over at my friend who was slowly shaking his head. “They been going through a rough patch lately,” he said. “He lost his job and she’s had some health problems. He’s picking up work where he can. He’s basically a good guy but here lately he comes home like that more often than not. From what I can tell he cools down once he’s inside with the wife and kids, but that poor old dog has caught the brunt of it a few times. I don’t think he’s ever actually kicked the dog. He yells at it and kicks at it, but the dog always comes back for more. Actually, I know for a  fact that he loves that dog, but I guess he needs to blow off some steam and that dog is always the first one he sees when he comes home. Anyway, his problems have got nothing to do with the dog.”

“Yeah, I guess,” I said, “but the dog don’t know the difference.”

Sweet Memory Day

It’s Memorial Day. Bet you thought I forgot. Funny thing about Memorial Day: to me it’s what they must have been thinking of when they coined the phrase, “bitter sweet.” When I consider the loss and sacrifice of those who served to defend and protect our Country and our values, I feel bitter that we as human beings can not find a way to settle our differences without shedding blood. But then, when I consider the purpose for which they fought, the cause they served, and the freedoms they protected I am nearly overwhelmed with a sense of affection, respect and appreciation.

When I think of my friends, family members, and loved ones who are gone now I am saddened that I didn’t get to spend more time with them, but I am thankful to have known them at all.

And then I think of those who are still here, those who have made a difference in my life, who have encouraged me, supported me, taught me, helped me, loved me. And, I am reminded that they too will be gone someday. Have I told them often enough how much they mean to me? Do they even know of the difference they’ve made? When they’re gone will there be enough sweet memories to overcome the bitterness of loss?

I’ll not wish you a happy Memorial Day, but I do wish you a sweet one.

Always,

Tim Couch

Dreams don’t die

Greetings,

Okay, I apologize for this one up front. I know what you’re going to say, “Ah Crap! More bozo philosophy.” What can I tell ya, it’s hot outside. You sit around contemplating your navel too long and these are the things that come to mind. So, today’s topic is “Unrealized Dreams.”

As a kid what did you want to be when you grew up? You don’t need to answer that. It’s none of my business. But, what were the things you pictured yourself doing that somehow you never got to do? More importantly, what are the things you dreamt of as a child that have stayed with you into adulthood? That place that, even today, when you relax the reins on your mind and let it wander where it wants it always seems to wind up there? These are the dreams that need attention.

Maybe we can’t do them the way we once could have. Let’s face it, in youth we’re limited by time and necessity, and in age we’re limited by ability and mobility. But, that doesn’t mean the dream dies. It just needs a little tweaking. Adjust it to better fit your current circumstances. Instead of a childhood dream, make it a grownup dream.

Or, if the dream is something that is simply not possible for you to do maybe you can experience a taste of fulfillment by helping someone else to realize it. After all, a taste of a brownie is way better than a dream of a brownie.

Okay fine, I’ll hush now. Have a good day.

Contemplatively,

Tim Couch

The Blackberry Bush

Yellow-Jackets love blackberries too
Yellow-Jackets love blackberries too

Greetings,

Well, summer has officially begun here at the CowChows. First blood has been drawn. I’ve got a wild blackberry bush out in the yard that I’ve been mowing around for several years. It’s not much but it provides a handful of berries every year so I figured it was worth keeping around. Basically, we just co-exist. I mow around it and it only tries to pull me off the mower when I get too close. The rest of the time we pretty much ignore each other. That is, up until yesterday.

Yesterday, I decided this blackberry bush needed to be “controlled.” It’s getting too big to mow around and it’s putting out tentacles that threaten to snare small dogs and children. I had a length of hog-wire fence out back that was crying out to be put to good use. I figured it would make the perfect blackberry cage. So, I cut and curled and crimped until I had a nice round cage that was big enough to enclose the bush but small enough to reach in and pick the berries. Now, all I had to do was get it around the bush.

I took some bungee cords to gather the canes into a tight bundle so that I could slip the cage over them. I gingerly reached in amongst the canes and began snaking the bungee cords around them. This might have worked but for two things, thorns and yellow-jackets. I was prepared to absorb a few thorn pricks but I hadn’t considered the possibility of stirring up a nest of pissed off yellow-jackets. They’re very sneaky when the want to be. They didn’t make a sound until I was fully entangled with the blackberry bush.

By the time I knew what I was into the bush was all over me like a ten legged octopus, and the yellow-jackets were everywhere. I was thrashing and flailing, and I’m not sure but I might have screamed a little. Did I mention that we live on the side of a hill? When I finally broke free of the bramble-monster, momentum took over and I went tumbling down the hill like Jack with no Jill.

Anyway, to make a long story short I’m expecting a bumper crop of blackberries this year, or else.

So, next time life leaves you stinging and bloody and bruised all I can say is, “Welcome to the CowChows.”

Cordially yours,

Tim Couch

My Spanish Language Lesson

So, I was sitting in the cafe´ enjoying a cup of old fashioned coffee and a piece of homemade apple pie. We still do that here in the heartland. The young couple sitting in the booth behind me was carrying on an animated conversation, in Spanish. They seemed to be having a great time; they certainly had a lot to say; and, it all sounded as if it were probably very interesting. Not for the first time, I found myself wishing I knew Spanish or conversely that they knew English. It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted to eavesdrop but they were two feet away and I couldn’t understand a word. For all I knew they were planning anything from a double date with friends to kidnapping the Taco Bell Chihuahua.

Patty, the waitress, came over to ask if they wanted anything else before delivering their check, and suddenly the young man in the booth was speaking clear and quite understandable English.

Huh, I thought, maybe they were speaking Spanish because the girl doesn’t speak English. But then, I heard her say something to Patty in plain and clear English. They conversed momentarily and after Patty left the two slipped easily back into Spanish.

I couldn’t help being impressed. These two were very young, and as our town is not at the height of cosmopolitan style it was impressive that they should be fluent in two languages at this age. My curiosity got the better of me and I turned and struck up a conversation.

They were polite and respectful, even to the point of calling me sir which seldom happens these days. They became obviously uneasy when I asked where they were from so I didn’t push it. We chatted for a bit, and I complimented them on their English and asked where they had learned to speak the langauge so well. The young man, Joe was his name, shrugged and told me they had learned here, in the school.

It turns out that our public school offers English language classes to those students for whom English is not their native tongue. I also learned that our community offers, free of charge, a similar class for non-English speaking adults. Rosa, the young lady, told me her mother attends the class at the local library. I thought this very interesting; I wished them a nice day and went back to my pie and coffee.

As I was leaving the cafe´ I was thinking about these classes and wondering why I hadn’t heard about them before. I was headed for my truck when the question popped into my head like a single kernel of popcorn.

I cut across the square and climbed the steps to the library. As I approached the counter the pimply faced kid imitating a librarian looked up from his computer screen.

“Hi,” I said, “I’d like to sign up for the next Spanish class.”

“Excuse me,” he said, looking more than a little confused.

“Yeah, I just heard ya’ll have free language classes over here and I’d like to learn Spanish. So, sign me up.”

“We don’t.. have a Spanish class,” he said.

“Huh. Well, that’s okay. What other languages do you have? As long as it’s free I might as well learn one. I’ll just take whatever you got.”

“We don’t… I don’t know… Umm…”

“Well, what language classes do you have?”

“The only language class we have is the English one,” he managed to stammer while looking around for somewhere else he had to be.

“Huh,” I said on my way out the door.

On the drive back to work I pondered this for a while and finally just had to chuckle at the irony of it. People come to this Country unable to speak the language and in order for them to better assimilate into society our tax dollars are used to provide classes for them. The net result is that they become bilingual while we remain mono-ignorant. Is this a great Country or what?

Here’s my idea. Let’s use our tax dollars to provide classes to Americans so that we may learn the languages of the immigrants. Because we will be better able to communicate and explain the ways of American society they will more easily assimilate through direct and daily interaction. And, if they do not wish to assimilate we will be better able to understand that when they’re sitting behind us in a booth talking in a language they think we don’t understand.

What Moms Do

Happy Mother's Day
Happy Mother's Day

Greetings,

I’d like to introduce you to my Mother. Her name is Wilma Jean but everyone calls her Jeanne, except for four very fortunate people who get to call her Mom. In a lot of ways, I imagine, she is very much like other Moms. She makes all her children feel equally loved, even though I know I’m her favorite. She taught us everything we needed to know to be good citizens: don’t hit, don’t spit, don’t bite, don’t pull hair, don’t be disrespectful, don’t do anything you wouldn’t want done to you. She taught us a lot of ‘don’ts.’ Not because she wanted to but because it was necessary in order for us to survive and thrive. That’s what Moms do.

She taught us a lot of other things as well. Some she taught directly and some we learned by watching her. From her we learned what was right, what was good, what was true. We learned loyalty and patience and sympathy. We felt unconditional love, unquestioning devotion and unflagging support. She picked us up when we fell; she propped us up when we stumbled; and she tethered us to the ground when we tried to fly too high. In her we witnessed dignity and strength and beauty. She taught us the power of faith and the possibility of hope. She gave, and continues to give, of herself without reservation or condition or expectation. That’s what Moms do.

I wondered what could I give to her that would express my gratitude for all that she’s done? What gift could tell her how thankful I am to be her son? Does such a gift exist? Is there a jewel so pure and so bright as to be worthy of her? How would one gift-wrap a rainbow? How do you say thank you for a lifetime of love, support, education, understanding, and encouragement?

And then I looked at her picture on the shelf in my office and I heard her say, “No need. That’s what Moms do.”

Happy Mother’s Day.

Cordially yours,

Tim Couch

No More News

The idea for StraightUpAmerican.com began during the run-up to the last Presidential election. Tired of having to decipher the news from every angle we thought it was time for a news source that simply presented information without agenda. The idea was to provide unvarnished and un-inclined news reports that were verified as actual and factual. After months of chasing leads, verifying facts, and vetting sources we have come to the conclusion that it can not be done.

Everyone has an agenda. Every source, even those who want to be fair, incline their version of the events to suit their idea of what happened, what was meant, and what was inferred. There simply is no trustworthy news source any longer. Fox News says they’re “Fair and Balanced” but they’re not. They obviously lean to the right, but they have to if there is to be any sense of balance because MSN, CBS, ABC, NY Times, etc, etc, are all leaning so heavily to the left.

With the assistance of the Internet many Americans have taken to getting their American news by reading foreign news sources online. They tell us the reporting is more impartial and honest than any domestic source they can find. And, we can not disagree. Finding the truth in the American news system is like grasping smoke. You can work hard at it all day long but in the end all you get is sweaty and stinky.

So, StraightUpAmerican.com will continue as your source for political and societal commentary, life lessons and personal musings. But, we will no longer be chasing the rabbit of truth in the news. It is far too quick and elusive and invariably leads down a rabbit hole.

Sincerely,

Tim Couch