Sunday, October 31, 2010

Election Daze

It was 1950 and I was working in radio. In fact, I had the hallowed responsibility of News Director - Copy Writer - Disc Jockey -and a few other less significant tasks. But for the moment, let's address the night I was doing a remote election broadcast away from the studios and was based in the newsroom of a major weekly newspaper.

So far so good. No problems. On occasion the folks in the studio would switch from location to location. One moment it would be from the south part of the county. The next it would be from the County Seat. Another time it would be somewhere up north.
And I would get my turn to provide interviews and tabulations from the most important R.........n newspaper in our whole area of the state. (Understand, the newspaper owner and his editor son were leading political figures at the time and thus earned a major media focus.

The polls closed and the round-robin reporting went off without a hitch. From north, south, east and west the numbers came in. The newsroom was filled with smiling faces
and cheers. Obviously the results were good in terms of the folks in the newsroom.

Finally, as the evening broadcast began to wind down, the broadcast was switched to me for the final summary and closing interviews. Interviews completed I began to do a county-wide wrap-up of statistics. I checked my watch for this was to be a ten-minute segment. However, it began to get tiresome but the time on my watch was within limits. I kept on summarizing fearing that I would run out of material. But the time was still within limits.

Then came the phone call from the studio. The transmitter had been closed down half an hour before the call. The station was closing its doors. My segment, supposedly
to have been ten minutes in length had become an over 45 minute marathon.

My watch had stopped.

Now you know why most churches had two clocks running when I did my ministry sermons. Somebody must have been in the newsroom the night I did the longest election summary in the history of that county. By the way, I don't remember ever being asked to do another election program. Oh, well...nobody is perfect!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm Confused

Indeed, yes, I AM confused. I thought caterpillars were a way to forecast how bad a winter is going to be. Now I'm beginning to wonder.

Turns out the caterpillars that are suppposed to reveal a forecast are brown and you foresee the winter ahead by the size of the dark rings. It was that way in Missouri 30 years ago.I'd drive across the countryside north of Mexico in October and there were zillions of brown critters to be seen around and on the highways. As a matter of fact Iprobably slaughtered a significantnumber crossing the main roads going north out of Mexico. Which causes me to wonder, Why does a brown caterpillar cross the road in October? Perhaps to see if the forecast is better on the other side?

What prompted this dilemma was a hike in Harrison State Park couple of weeks ago. I saw a WHITE caterpillar crossing a trail and wondered if the size of its black stripe down its back had any bearing on the winter forecast. I thought the internet might answer my question or at least clarify my question.I saw pictures of white caterpillars just like the one above but could not find reference to weather forecasting. Only about brown caterpillars. So, my questiom remains unanswered.

I guess I better go out and get my copy of the Farmers Almanac. Or just take the weather as it comes. Which has not been nice in Indy today. Oh, well, such is life - you take the bad with the good and remember - it's been a long and pretty autumn in Indiana and every day is a day closer to Spring.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Meanwhile, The Rest of the Story

Back in September - the 24th of September to be more specific, I wrote about a challenge we had with a squirrel taking up residence in a large bird feeder at our house. It consumed large quantities of birdseed - especially sunflower seeds that were direct from the field of a dear friend of ours. I said that there was a continuation of the story that I would pass on later. So, here is the rest of the story.

Our bird feeders at another location attracted squirrels as well. They had a challenging time getting at the bird feed as well because of the design of the feeder. About the only way they could get the feed was to hang by their back feet and even then they weren't always successful. Occasionally their grasp would slip
and they would end up doing a backflip before they hit the ground. But that never seemed to discourage them - given a few minutes recovery time, they'd climb the tree,run out on the limb from which the feeder hung, and get back to the meal in the feeder. Sometimes they were successful - sometimes they'd fall and go through the exercise again. And again. We really didn't need television for entertainment - there was more action in the front yard and more laughs as well.

But it didn't end with the squirrels - we'd have deer visit with the same quest in mind. The picture above shows that and it happened right outside our front picture window. We'd watch them congregate on the far side of a corn field across the road.
They'd slowly make their way closer and closer to the three houses at our end of the street. Then they would have an appetizer in the apple orchard next door to our place. They then would cross a driveway and work on our bird feeders. Talk about spectator sport - we had it - and the deer seemed to have little if any fear.

I can't say that we have that sort of thing close by here,after all, now we are living in the city. But we may have deer yet - deer that have lost their way. We keep watching - stranger things have happened - maybe it will be a bear at the complex dumpster. You just never know. And, as I said, we'll be watching.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You Remind Me of Someone I Knew

When you look in a mirror, who do you see? Probably what you expect to see and sometimes what you would prefer NOT to see. And there are the times you see something you'd rather not see. Me, for instance. The mirror today shows me as I am - warts and all when I sometimes wish I looked like I did thirty or forty years ago. Then I figure the mirror picture is not too bad for my age - and that's okay.

But sometimes it's interesting to see ourselves through other peoples eyes. The picture this time was done by a midway cartoonist on Chicago's Navy Pier. I'm not sure what he really saw but when all was said and done, I had to laugh - but at myself. There's a lot of things reflected in that picture, not the least being the look of suspicion on Joyce's face and a look of 'oops' on mine. At first I couldn't figure out what the cartoonist was seeing in us - that is, until I caught the bit of lipstick on my forehead. That wasn't there when I went into the Navy Pier; moreover Joyce and I are not exhibitionists. Not much smooching in public, that is.

We tried that just once at our fiftieth anniversary bash and it didn't work - she said "Let's do a dip" and kiss, our legs didn't want to bend, and I just about dropped her in the process. But that's another story.

How are we seen by others? Are we seen as we really are, or do we wear a mask covering our inner being? How about the times when there is a husband/wife disagreement just before going to a party or other function where we don't want to let about problems back at the ranch? You see a lot of put-on with Hollywood personalities who are there because they have to be - but who have battles royal backstate. Maybe that happens more that we like to think.

I think back to when I was in high school. My nickname was 'Rana' which is Spanish
for (green)'Frog(ggie)' Why did they call me that? Because I had goggle-like glasses at the time? Because my voice was changing and sometimes croaked? I'll never know what my school friends really saw me as -- and maybe I should be just as glad.

So then, the picture makes me laugh because the artist may have seen me as more of a Lothario, and Joyce as a good gal who had some justified suspicians. Who will ever know? And how do we see our neighbor - as if through an artists eyes?

In the meantime, the lipstick stays and I'll never tell where it came from.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cool It, Buddy!

What does one do if they don't have air conditioning - or central heating for that matter?

What does one do if they don't have electricity or plumbing in a house?

I guess you do the best you can. That's what we did in our family - and others close by did as well back in the thirties. No radio. No television (not many people even thought of that back then). Heat with a coal-craving pot-belly stove or two. And food cooked on a big wood-burning black cast iron stove. No running water - There was a hand-operated water pump outside under the porch winter or summer. Toilets? You gotta be kidding - there was a pot under the bed - or you can make a run for the outhouse at the perimeter of the yard.

Want a bath or a shower? Either a big tin tub in the kitchen/family/dining room
with hot water coming off the wood stove in kettles. Or, if the weather was smiling on us, we could go swimming in the back yard. Better yet, we could take showers at the waterfall a little bit down the road. I loved - and still love - that waterfall. Sadly, it doesn't seem as big or high it was when I was in grade school but it remains today looking just as it did 75 or more years ago. Moreover, it was not just for us - we just took our turn with the others who lived the same and came to the same falls as did for the same reasons we did.

There came a day that REA ran electricity up the hill to our house. We built a new kitchen with new appliances. We threw away the chamber pots and burned down the outhouse. And took our showers in the bathroom of the house.

The memory lingers - I've never been in a shower since to compare with the water pressure of the waterfall - nor has there ever been a shower with such cold water. I loved it and it is one of God's special beautiful places even today.

I can't help thinking that there are those who live that way today. Humbles one to think how much we take for granted - there are still the 'haves' and 'have-nots' in the world today. They'll probably be around forever. For instance, the slums of the city or the real backwoods in our own country. Sometimes we need to think of how blessed we are and thank God for our blessings. Agree?

Monday, October 4, 2010

We're Not in Kansas Any More

Well, actually, we're not in Michigan anymore. But if memory serves correctly, Indiana has it's pretty moments in the fall as well. It's just that it's not quite time for the colors here; well, there's a little here and there but not like it was in Oscoda. Yet.

I rememember how, in Florida, I used to look forward to the two or three weeks after Christmas when we had some fall colors there. The colors came out on Highway 50 between Orlando and Titusville for a little while and then as soon as they were there they were gone. Not like 'up north' where they linger a while. Autumn and winter lasted only a month or so between summer and summer.

When I was little - maybe even into high school years - the northeast flaunted fall colors as early as the end of September. The air was crisp - the sunshine had a fall look to it - and we would go into the woods to gather hickory nuts for wintertime cooking. Not pecans or exotic ones like cashews for us - but there were butternuts and hazel nuts as well and we didn't know any difference. Nuts are nuts, we used to say and they all seemed to be good in pumpkin bread. Unless you found a nut with a worm in it.

So it just seemed right to use some fall color pictures this week. Esp'ecially when we will be facing the black and whites all to soon. But, you know, there is a beauty to winter. I've got some pictures of snow on trees that are classics. And spring has a beauty of its own when the first tiny flowers creep up through the dead leaves in a forest.

I love summer but when you think about it, summer can get pretty drab when you have a summer like we've had this year when the rains didn't come and grass died out. So, I hope this blog has lightened up the scene for the moment. Autumn is a special time and I love its beauty. Treasure it now since it won't last forever.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A lot of plywood

Back in the last century - 1946 to be precise - back before the days of Interstate highways - I had a real treat: a cross-country trip from New York State to California with friends. It was a chance to visit with grandparents in Long Beach, and one of the things they took me to see was a huge seaplane that was tied up at Terminal Island. Reportedly, it was the biggest plane ever built and was the brainchild of Howard Hughes. Officially it was called the Hercules, had six huge engines and flew only once - but not in my sight. Over the years it has gained another name - the Spruce Goose - and it still exists although it never flew again after Howard Hughes proved that it could and would get off the ground. Or water if you look at it realistically.

Last year, on our trip out West, we got to see this humongous aircraft up close. Not only close up, we got inside it and yes, it is huge.

It spent a lot of years on display in a special domed building in Long Beach. Fact is, the famed ocean liner Queen Mary (the first) ended up being tied up adjacent to the liner. Over the years the plane fell on hard times and eventually it ended up being bought by Oregon's Evergreen Air Museum, between Portland and Lincoln City on the Pacific coast. If I thought it looked big in 1946 I had no idea just how big it actually was. Most amazing of all, the plane was built out of plywood. With aluminum being in short supply during World War Two, Howard Hughes believed that plywood offered a positive alternative. Even more amazing was the fact that the structure has endured for almost 60 years with several moves and is in remarkably good condition.

Howard Hughes was a remarkable man. Eccentric to say the least, but a genius in other ways. I never had the faintest idea in 1946 that in ten years I would be teaching electronics systems - the ultimate weapon system of the day - that were produced by Hughes Aircraft Company. Over the years I've been blessed in seeing a lot of unique things - not the least being a Spruce Goose that most people never thought would get off the water. But it did!