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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
Today, I find myself reminiscing about times gone by. Perhaps it’s the warm Spring weather or the sudden bloom of the season that I am reminded of my youth. When I was a kid, and by kid I mean somewhere in my twenties, I rode various motorized toys. I rode dirt bikes when I could get my hands on them; for a while three-wheelers were all the rage and so I naturally had to have a couple of those; and for a short time I had a Honda Odyssey. If you’re not familiar with the Odyssey it was like a one person dune buggy but with all-terrain tires. I was partial to Honda so all of my toys were, of course, red and all of them went very fast and made lots of noise.
Back then, we frequently had family ‘get-togethers’ at Grandma’s house. She lived in a small farming town in southwest Oklahoma. I would often load up my current toy and haul it out to Grandmas for these ‘get-togethers.’ We had a large extended family with lots of cousins and uncles and aunts and nephews and nieces. We’d take turns all afternoon racing up and down the street and around the block. One time Grandma even took the Odyssey out for a spin and rolled it over. This wasn’t that unusual for my Grandma, though. I remember thinking what fun it was and how cool it was to have these toys that everyone could enjoy.
Now twenty-some years later, I have neighbors who have four-wheelers and go-carts and they race them up and down the road all day long. They’ve worn an off-road trail around their yard that brings them within fifty feet of our house. And, every time I hear the roar of one of them starting up I want to reach for my shotgun. I don’t want to shoot the rider but I find myself speculating as to the exact kill-shot of a four-wheeler.
Strange how our perspectives change with time. What was once big fun is now all noise. I wonder which of Grandma’s neighbors was gritting their teeth and waiting for the day to be over. I wonder if I was ever viewed along the sites of a twenty-gauge barrel. I do not wonder, but am sure, that I am lucky to be alive.
So this Summer when you’re out playing with your toys, tuning up your boat or motorcycle, or washing your car with the stereo cranked up all the way, be considerate of old people. We don’t have as much patience as you might think and some of us don’t have a lot to lose.
Until next time, silence is golden and Light is right.
Happy Easter! Or, as B.G. says, “Happy Eather Bunny!”
Well, I imagine by now you’ve had your fill of Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies and you’ve probably heard all about the resurrection of Jesus, so I thought I’d just tell you how I nearly killed the Easter Bunny yesterday.
See, I have this thing about mowing the grass. I’m pretty sure it stems from my childhood. I have two brothers, an older and a younger, and when we were growing up the grass got mowed as a result of something. The brother who did the mowing had either lost a competition to the other two, or was being punished for something he had done. A third possible reason was simple torture, but in actuality my parents are saints and tortured us far less than we deserved. So basically, he who mowed the grass was either a loser or a criminal. As a result of this mindset I tend to put off mowing as long as possible.
Yesterday I finally dragged the mower out of mothballs and set out to mow. I had been at it a while and whittled it down to a small area in the front yard. The grass was tall and thick and I was going very slowly when all of a sudden the ground erupted in bunnies. A doe rabbit had chosen the spot to build her nest and had so well camouflaged it that I never saw it. If the babies hadn’t panicked and sprang from the nest I would’ve mowed right over them and the mulching mower would’ve sucked them right up into the blade. If breaking a mirror gets you seven years of bad luck I wonder what mowing baby bunnies on Easter Eve would amount to.
In the end I chased them down, tucked them back into the nest, and mowed around it. I went out today to check on them and the nest was empty and they were nowhere to be found. Their mother came in the night and carried them all away to safety. That’s the scenario I have chosen and I’d prefer not to hear any alternative ones, thank you very much.
So, what’s the moral of this story? Don’t take the Easter Bunny for granted? Don’t put things off too long? Mower’s not always better? I have no idea. I’m just glad I didn’t have to scrape baby bunnies out from under my mower.
Until next time, look on the Lighter side of life.
There has been a lot of noise made recently about sending tea bags to Washington to express our growing concerns about unfair and exorbitant taxes. While I think this is a great idea in theory it is not very practical. For one thing the tea bags will likely not get past the security measures at the Post Office, and for another you would be paying yet another tax in the form of postage to get it there.
Here is the next best thing to inundating our elected officials with an office full of tea bags. Inundate their inboxes with thousands of images of tea bags. Be sure and include a message regarding your concerns about our tax system. Be respectful, as you would to your neighbor, but not submissive. They need to understand how you feel.
You can find contact links to your elected officials, both Federal and State, by going to the Congress.org web site. Just type in your zip code and you’re off.
For your convenience here is my favorite tea bag image. Feel free to use it or find your own favorite. You can find lots of tea bag images here.
Supporting your government is a duty; taxation is a burden; excessive taxation is tyranny. Let Freedom Ring.
Barbara Gayle and I did a little traveling this past week. I received an e-mail informing me that President Obama is following my updates on Twitter and we decided to celebrate with a mini road trip.
As we began our journey home we came across a roadside sign advertising an estate sale. We had gotten an early start and so decided to stop and check it out. What I found there nearly broke my heart. In one corner of a back room was the near entire Masonic history of the couple who had once shared this home. There were his Blue Lodge Monitors and manuals; his York Rite pins, ritual manuals, and his Knight Templar uniform complete with feathered chapeau; there were his Scottish Rite caps and booklets and cufflinks; his Shrine fez’s and pins and buckles and collar tips, and the uniform for his Foot Patrol unit; there was her Eastern Star jewelry and ball gowns and sashes; and some stuff I recognized as Masonic but couldn’t identify.
I began sifting through these remnants of people’s lives and I came across a pair of white gloves in the coat pocket of the Templar uniform. I should say they were once white gloves. This symbol of purity and emblem of innocence was stained through with the sweat of dedicated service. The fingertips were worn threadbare by the efforts of persistent action. The palms were stained with the accumulated years of loyalty. These gloves bore testimony to a Brother who honored his obligations, cherished his fraternity, and served his fellow man. And here they were, wadded in the pocket of an old dusty coat in a back room at an estate sale.
At first, I thought it a terrible shame that the life of a man who had served so well could be reduced to a pile of stuff in a corner, but then I realized that these things were not his life. They were not his legacy. They were just his things. What matters is not the things we leave behind. It’s the lives we touch and the impressions we make that will last and make a difference.
At Barbara Gayle’s insistence we loaded up all that we had cash to pay for. I don’t know what I’ll do with all the other stuff but as for the gloves, I’m going to clean them as best I can, repair them if possible, and wear them in honor of the Brother I never knew.
Until next time, may your gloves bear witness to work well done.