Saturday, December 31, 2011

Musical Elevators

By Rob Watson

The following is from my collection of older stories.

The other day I was at a business show. That night our rep takes us out for a large Mexican dinner and lots of Mexican drinks. Afterwards, one of the other drunks wants to take us to a rotating bar on the top of a hotel to buy more drinks. This bar was on the 24th floor. I had not been there before. I do not go up with everyone else, I am delayed in the little boys room.

I come to the elevators. There are three in a semicircle facing me, They are the glass enclosed type that are in some hotels with atriums. I mash the button for "up" and the light comes on. After a minute or so the bell dings and the light goes out. None of the doors open. After a minute or so I mash the "up" button again. The light comes on and I wait. The bell goes "ding". The light goes out but none of the doors open. A third time I press the button, light comes on, the bell dings, light goes out, no door opens. This time I hear a sound behind me. It is two more elevators. (The regular box type with no view). The noise I heard was the door closing.

I press the button again, "ding" and the other door behind me opens. I walk in and start to press the button, but it only goes to the 21st floor. I get off. "Fine" I say to myself. "They're gone, I'll get one of the three I'm faceing." So, I press the "up" button again, the bell dings and one of the elevators behind me opens. I walk in, press the button for the 21st floor and step off again. I press the "up" button and the other elevator behind me opens. I walk in, press the button for the 21st floor and step off again.

For the eighth time I press the "up" button. The door in front of me opens immediately. It apparently sat there the whole time I was playing with the elevators behind me.

I was wondering, do you suppose a sober man would have done all that?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Inflection Point

 By Rob Watson
(Wikipedia had a great segment describing inflection points)

You may claim that math was not one of your best subjects, but I'm hoping you will remember one small fact. On a curve, on a graph, the slope of a tangent to the curve may change from negative to positive (or positive to negative). That point is called an inflection point. In application to life, it is where things change. A major change. At my 40th high school class reunion I heard comments that I had changed from a quiet helper to a standup, take charge type. This is the story of the day that happened; my inflection point. It was the Fourth of July.

As often happens, a change in one part of your life leads to other changes. One decision leads to others of the same nature. And so it was with this day. The decision, insignificant as it might seem, was to kiss a woman.

I have always been a passive-aggressive type. Wanting things to change, knowing or guessing how to make them change, but not taking the action. My failure with women was always that of "courtin' too slow". I knew when to ask a girl out, but didn't. I knew when to take a girls hand, but didn't. I recognized the correct time to kiss a girl and never (or almost never) was bold enough to take my chance. Always a case of too little, too late.

This July Fourth began at midnight, at a coworker's country cabin, with a group of a dozen or so coworkers, playing bridge. It was two years passed my divorce and I was a year into courting new prospects. No firm attachments had formed, as previously described. About 2 AM, after 6 hours of good food, good drink, (I was sober) and good competitive card games, I took my leave from the group... I had a date at 8 AM for a picnic, and a concert to perform at 8 PM.

For reasons, never clear to me, the hostess, attractive and single, saw me to the door. Then, engaged in pleasant conversation, walked me to my car. As I said "Thanks" and "good night" again, she looked as if she needed kissing. So, entirely out of character, I took her into my arms and kissed her. Not a peck. Not a passionate kiss... Leads a thinking man like myself to wonder if a kiss needs to be calibrated. Something needed doing and I did it. In the moments following that kiss I knew something was changing, but had no idea how big a change it would be. I would know before another midnight had passed.

At 8 AM, I arrived for my date. She had a very nice house, product of a divorce, and a small son, product of her marriage. We prepared the picnic foods together and ate it about noon in her large back yard. One of the products of my "courtin too slow" was not planning ahead. So, it was about 2 PM that I asked her to go with me to the concert by Town Lake. Embarrassed, she declined, saying she had already accepted a date for that event. She needed to get ready for that so I gracefully bowed out. Bidding good day and thanks, I collected my second kiss of the day.

With boldness running rampant, I called a lady and asked her to supper and the concert, explaining I would be singing with the City Civic Chorus. She accepted. Who would have thunk it? Three women, three dates. three kisses, all in one day.

I have always been the patriotic sort, so the concert of patriotic songs was perfect for my day. There was the City Civic Orchestra and the State National Guard, Field Artillery Unit. There were two banks of loud speakers. Each speaker was about 4 feet across and 4 feet high, with 12 speakers in each bank. They drew so much power you could almost see the city lights dim on a triple forte note. We of the City Civic Chorus were the center of it all. The finale was the 1812 overture in english. I was on the back row with the other basses. There was a plywood panel behind me and touching my back. There was so much sound from all sources that it was a challenge to hear the men on either side of me. Everyone was making as much noise as humanly possible just to keep up. I have never sung so loud before or sense.

The cannon, Actually howitzers from the State National Guard, were some 3-400 feet behind us, pointing directly at us. When one of them was set off the muzzle blast would hit the plywood and slap me on the back.

Perhaps you had to be there... In the center of thousands of people, in the middle of a very fine chorus, accompanied by an excellent orchestra, supported by four 105mm howitzers... When the guns started to go off, in perfect accompaniment to the music, I was uplifted to the limit of my ability to cope and still perform my part. Few moments, in one’s life, are so fine in all of its elements as this one was.

As midnight rolled around, recalling three kisses and one spectacular musical event, I could not help but feel like Cornelius Hackle at the end of his day. (see Hello Dolly) I had succeded at boldly doing what I had never considered doing before.

The decision to “go for it” had replaced “wait and see” and that, as they say, made all the difference.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Memories of Christmas Past

By Rob Watson

The following is an essay that I wrote many years ago. Wife found a pile of hand written papers that was a collection of my writings from the past. She then made a project of searching out all that I had written, neatly typing them, and presented them to me as a book. "The Nearly Complete Works of Rob Watson". A birthday present, as I recall. It will have less impact as I edit out names and locations, but I will do my best to have it make sense. You should know that I believe in the Christmas Spirit/St. Nick/Santa Claus or whatever you would call it, as a real, if gossamer being. Following is my argument for the existence of same. I promise not to change more than a word or two in any sentence to preserve the style of the original. Parenthetical expressions are text added to the original.

My Christmas Story

Today I was thinking about Christmas; about what makes Christmas Christmas. I was thinking about Christmas blues: you know, we all have them. And, I was remembering a Christmas whose remembering chases the blues away and summons the Christmas Spirit.

It was back in the Sixties. Before Viet Nam  and Watergate, before reality shook the foundations of youthful idealism, before bills and notes and the daily grind began to wear away the edges of The American Dream. It was the Summer of my youth, though I did not know it then.

Best Friend and I announced to all our friends that a Christmas party would occur at our trailer (mobile home where we lived together) the day before the Christmas vacation started at college. One by one, our professors announced tests would be given that day after the party was to occur. One by one, our friends announced they would not be coming to the party... all except one, but of course who was counting.

Best Friend and I had our Calculus test at 8am that last Tuesday of classes, and like good students, we were diligently applying ourselves to the books when... BAM! BAM! BAM! issued from the wall of the trailer and a loud voice called from outside, "Whar's the party?!"

Rich Friend had been given a three bottle liquor case, stocked with vodka, rum, and Jim Beam. He had come to show off his gift and to share it with his friends. (We properly disposed of all three) We laughed and told stories long into the night, getting into the spirit of just about everything except Calculus. I can assure you, I do not remember anything about that test. Afterwards we exchanged holiday greetings and headed off to enjoy the holidays.

College is in the north central part of State. Home was seventy miles west northwest. I decided to take the long way home... about 370 miles south southeast to Big City. Maybe I could visit friends along the way. Small City found me visiting my cousin and his family. He showed me their Business Location. I know you would not be interested, but I was. We had lunch and I headed south. The girl in Smaller City was not home when I called. I decided to sleep in the car and try again in the morning. No Luck.

Next stop was Even Smaller City. The girl there had been a pen pal for two years. and was expecting me. We spent the day shopping, making homemade ornaments, and cooking... really sampling, all sorts of good things from her mother's kitchen. Tradition forces the women of South State to load up the table when company comes. This mother was  South State... Real South State... and in the Christmas Spirit... You know what I mean?!

Next morning found me headed northeast toward Big City. My brother and his family lived there. Sister lived north of Big City. I would go to Brother's first. Sis-in-Law was getting ready for a Christmas party at her daughter's kindergarten. She was going to be Santa Claus. I am (sometimes) no dummy and I was fully aware of what she had in mind, but I played hard to get anyway. "Sis-in-Law, isn't that Santa suit a little large for you? Aren't you going to sound funny trying to Ho, Ho, Ho? What? Me? I'm kind of skinny. Well, if you think it will be OK." My car even cooperated in the deception. It was Santa Claus Red.

Sis-in-Law gave me a sack full of presents and a map to the kindergarten. She went ahead. I waited until the appointed hour and followed... all decked out as a jolly fat man in a funny red suit. I don't remember ever being very excited about Santa Claus, though I believed in him and wondered how he did his magic. I was sort of blase' about him. It was his toys that turned me on. That day changed the way I felt about old Santa.

I took the long way around the school yard. Sis-in-Law was inside priming the kids for my arrival. I waved and Ho, Ho, Ho'ed a bit. I asked the children if they were all being good... can you guess what the answer was? I told them I had some gifts for them, that others would come on Christmas. These kids looked at me as if I were the wonder of all wonders. Their eyes were wide with wonder and excitement. They obviously thought Santa was something special. (Each present had a name on it) As I gave out the presents, the sack looked emptier and emptier. The emptier the sack got the more worried the un-gifted children looked, until the sack looked completely empty and one child had not received a present. (the last child, by pure luck of the draw, was my niece. She was on the verge of tears.) Magically, another one appeared. I pulled her up on my lap and gave her a hug. Niece Graduated from the university last summer. (as far as I know) she does not know that Santa was me. Would you spoil a little kid's illusion.

As I waved "Good Bye" a lady from the next classroom nabbed me. "Santa, would you visit our class, Please?" (I mean, what would Santa say? "Buzz off lady"?) "Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas. Have you all been good little boys and girls?" This lady gave me a lesson in tact, strategy, and thinking on my feet. The kids lined up to talk to me and I began to wonder how Santa, who, of course knows everyone, would call these kids by name. When the first boy came to shake hands, the lady said "Santa, you remember Johnny..." "Yes Johnny, how are you this year..."

I left there on cloud nine, floating off in a very warm and pleasant Never Never Land when a lady from a school across the street came and asked if I would visit their school. "Ho, Ho, Ho... "

One of the things I enjoyed best of all was playing with my niece and nephews. That afternoon we had a ball. Next morning I drove to my sister's home. Sis and Bro-in-Law needed to go to town for shopping. I got to baby sit  the kids.  Niece, Nephew, and I played all afternoon and half the night. When Sis goes shopping she goes shopping. Fortunately, she is the type a husband can trust with his checkbook. They didn't get back until well after I put the kids to bed.

Next morning found me on the road again, headed for Smaller City and the girl there. Then I would be homeward bound. An encounter on the road provided the contrast that puts really special things into their proper perspective.

As I pulled out of a small town, I saw an older man hitch hiking. He was bundled up against the cold and had a TV Guide in his hand. I stopped and offered him a ride. He was just going a little way, he said. He was the caretaker of a church camp. He had gone to town to get the TV Guide so he could watch all the holiday football games. He lived alone and everyone at the camp was gone for the holidays.
"Can't you visit some of your relatives?"
"Nah, ain't none of them worth the trouble."
"What about friends?"
"I ain't got no car and the bus is too expensive."

My last sight of the man was of his back as he walked down the driveway toward the forest that lined the road. Over the drive was a sign that announced the name of the camp. The man's head was bowed and his shoulders slumped. He walked with a spiritless shuffle. The wind rustled the paged of the TV Guide in his hand. With answers floating all about me, I began to wonder about the Christmas Spirit.

Today, I can give you the answer. Christmas is the welcoming of God's Son into our lives. It is friends and family, laughter and the retelling of old tales. It is shopping and buying and wrapping presents. It is hurrying and rushing to get things done; too busy to remember those things that trouble us. Christmas is the magic and wonder and the sparking giggle of a small child. But the Christmas Spirit is necessary for all these things. The Christmas Spirit is the giving of one's self... even to those who do not appreciate it.

Hobnobbing with the Hoity Toity

By Rob Watson

Some of you have lived your whole lives in a small community. You know most everyone and are related to a fair number of them. For myself, I have lived in 12 communities, some of them twice, and different houses while in most. A while back, I counted up the buildings I have lived in. The count comes to about 28. As if that were not enough, I have bought a house in a 13th community and plan to live there part time, for a while.

This is to say, I am familiar with being the new kid (person, outsider, etc) in town. The first reaction of the locals is curiosity. Early in our most recent  settlement, one man stopped his car in the middle of the street to start a conversation. Other folks allowed us to hire their teen age sons to unload the two large U-Hauls and several trailer loads of household goods and business goods. Curiously, the pastor of my church introduced me to the congregation. That had never happened before, and he never did it again, that I know of.

The first actual friend I made here, came after church one Sunday. I was here alone. Wife was still back in Old Town, tending to last minute affairs there. New Town is quite small, perhaps 1500 people and shrinking. It had only one restaurant open on Sunday. It opened early to accommodate the people from my church. When I got there it was full. Every table was occupied and most were completely filled. (Unknown to me, there was a back room)

The restaurant served dinner buffet style on Sundays. As I stood beside the entrance looking around the room, it was clear that everyone had just arrived, from my church, and might be there for a half hour or so before making a place for me. At one of the less favorable tables, immediately beside the cash register, sat an elderly gentleman and an elderly lady. They faced me and were no more than four feet away from where I stood. They had just seated themselves with their food when the gentleman looked up at me. The table seated four, and I boldly asked if I could join them. (Shyness having been purged from my system some years in the past... I may have even written about the day somewhere in this collection of posts.)

The gentleman and the lady both smiled and invited me to join them. We exchanged self introductions. They were husband and wife. Over time, I learned that my new friend was a successful farmer and cattleman. He had been an active community leader, city council, water district, etc. In traveling with him later, we would stop for coffee or lunch. At these pauses it was usual for someone to (usually two or more) to stop at our table and chat. This even occurred 50 or more miles from New Town.

Wife wanted to be active in the community and joined several community service groups. She is great with names and is quite personable. She became well known to the community leaders, business leaders, and those of significant social standing in the community. I would introduce myself as "Mr. New Lady in Town"

The next reaction of the locals is suspicion. New ideas and suggestions, especially if they were counter to the old way of doing things, were usually rejected out-of-hand. I got crossways with a number of people by opposing the closing of the church school. I also irritated the gossips by maintaining a friendship with the pastor of my church. He was under pressure (as a newcomer, and foreigner) for instituting new ideas at the church. (This eventually affected his health and he left to go back to his home country)

Wife is a worker. She is willing to do the work to implement her ideas. She gained acceptance for that very trait. I tend to be less personable, especially to those who have a limited interest in me and my ideas. Together, like all new people, even after five years, we have achieved limited acceptance in this community.

Not long ago, someone undertook to explain this to us. It seems that all, or nearly all, of our friends are the upper crust here in New Town. This struck us both as humorous, as we considered our friends as ordinary, down to earth, genuine good people. Then we began to count them on our fingers: Mayor, former mayor, City Manager, Supervisor of city workers, city council persons, county selectmen, fire chief, top business leaders,  most of the successful farmers... Yep, we is guilty.

Things may not be any better in Next Town. Our first two acquaintances: the mayor and her best friend. (Maybe, we just have exceptionally good taste in people.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Merry Bee: First Trials

By Rob Watson

Friend and I moved into a 40'X8' (on the outside) mobile home for our third year of college. An adventure all in itself. Somehow I managed to get Bee there to work on her. A neighbor was an experienced mechanic who was interested in my project.

By this time I had mounted the 1931 Model A Coupe body, part of the original purchase, onto the frame. It had a plywood floor, period. No seats, no doors, no windows, no fenders, no nothing. We began by adding the operational hardware: clutch, breaks, electrical wiring, (a spare length of wire served as accelerator/throttle.) lights, etc. No seats yet.

After these additions, Bee as fired up and offered promise of working properly. Thoughtful consideration indicated this all needed to be tested to be sure there were no bugs. A group council (Me, Friend, and Mechanic) decided a couple of nearby cement blocks would suffice as seats. They were so installed. We mounted our trusty steed (as it proved itself to be) and were off to the boonies. As there was no license and no way to pass a safety inspection, it would be necessary to stay off the main roads and out of sight of the local law enforcement persons.

As you may recall, High Power lines run through cleared tracts. We came upon one of these and decided it would make a fine testing ground. You should know it tested way more than we originally intended.

At the bottom of the first hill was a small stream of water. It was just runoff from recent rains. I paused a few yards from the water, decided to hit it running, so as not to get stuck in any mud. I announced my decision with something like"Hang on boys, I'm gonna hit this a runnin'". It is not clear where all the water came from. The impression it left was of a tidal wave ten feet high. It curled up and over us, leaving everything covered with clumps of mud and cold water.

Each of us was in our school clothes, which were now wet and muddy. No need to turn back now, so we forged onward. A creek or two down the way, Friend and Mechanic learned the wisdom of not standing behind a fenderless wheel that is stuck in the mud. Bee got stuck because I tried to move slowly through the small stream. Bee got stuck. My companions each got behind Bee on either side of the body. When I depressed the gas (Actually pulled on the string attached to the throttle) The back wheels spun and thoroughly covered each with a vast layer of mud. I thought it was fairly humorous, but the humor seemed to have eluded them at the time.

Each of the several streams of water we crossed presented it's own set of problems. After these struggles we were relieved to see a real road a hundred yards or so ahead. It might as well have been a hundred miles. Between us and it was a genuine stream. There was a four feet vertical bank on each side. The water was 10 feet or so wide and appeared to be about three feet deep. We turned Bee around and revisited all our former problems a second time.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I'm A Wheat Farmer

By Rob Watson

The legend of Hard Red Winter Wheat, goes like this: When Menonite farmers from Russia were preparing for their move to the United States, they sent their children into the grain bins to pick out the best grains for seeds. When they arrived here in State, they planted these seeds. History records that these seeds gave bountiful harvest. Now, much of the general purpose flour used in the US comes from these seeds.

As you may know, I did not plant pumpkins this year... too hot, too dry. Keeping the weeds down was also a big problem. Finally I got Friend to disk and till the patch to kill the weeds. It looked so nice, all tilled and preped I decided I should plant something. A friend of Friend was planting some wheat that was low quality(low quality as seen by the flour and grain people, therefore not worth much, dollar wise) because it had been harvested after a rain. Friend of Friend assured me it would work well for seed.

Friend came back with his tractor and reworked the ground. I scattered the seed, he tilled it under. I planted about four times the recommended amount of seed because I figured the birds would get the seed exposed on top on the ground and dig up some below. That didn't happen. My stand is very thick.

In this area rainfall has been about half of normal for more than a year. Fortunately my little plot has a well. I watered my 1/4 acre like mad for about a week. Every one of those seed sprouted and came up. Because the real farm ground was very dry, my plot was up and deep green while every one of the real farms were dry and bare. Many of my acquaintances and friends are real wheat farmers. It became a sort of running joke among them that I had the best looking wheat in the county. (Fortunately for them and for you who like to eat, several significant rains have blessed the area. Now their crops are up. But mine still looks better.)

Now that the crop is up, the next task is to find a way to harvest it next June. Friend has a hobby of restoring old farm equipment. One of his projects, a while back, was a 5 foot wide combine. After passing through another owner it is in a not-too-far-away museum. Friend thinks we may be able to borrow it. Transportation may be a problem.

As a joke I have been asking my real farmer friends if they would be willing to come over and harvest my crop. My patch is 60 feet wide and 160 feet long. Real combines have 30 and 40 foot wide heads. Because of trees, there is not enough room to turn one of these beast around... and they all know it.

The other night, at a men's club meeting at church, the topic of harvesting my wheat came up. One member said there was a 14 foot combine coming up for auction... I should buy it ($10,000 to buy, another $40,000 to get it running) and go into custom harvesting wheat. (cutting wheat for the farmers who couldn't afford the quarter million dollars for their own combines) Everybody there got a big laugh out of that. ( they all know I can't even drive one of those things... although I could probably fix one given the parts) I have been unpaid "help" with harvesting various crops but my skills do not extend beyond driving two axle trucks from place to place.

Friend is unconcerned with the problem of harvesting my crop. He is convinced all we have to do is stop one of the combines that regularly drive past my plot and request they harvest it for us. For myself, I see me on my knees with some hedge shears trying to cut a 1/4 acre plot of wheat.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Good Customer

By Rob Watson

When I had my Gun store, I had one firm rule on which firearms to stock. If I like it, it is in. Not like, not in. I am most enamored by accuracy. I frequently was heard to say "If you hit an animal in the right spot it usually doesn't matter what you shoot it with. If you don't hit it in the right spot, it still doesn't matter what you hit it with." This brought me to have the nicest firearms the store could afford... but not many. I also kept the finest optics the store could afford... enter a complete stranger.

One slow day a tall dark stranger (actually, medium height, medium build) walked into the store. I greeted him with a friendly "hello" and invited him in to look around. After a few minutes he came to me and asked a question I have never heard before. "If you could have any rifle in this store, which would you have?" I immediately showed him a very pretty Browning with the latest technology. He wanted to know why... "it is beautiful, the technology makes it extremely accurate, the caliber is great for all but the really big animals, and it is made by the most reputable firearm manufacturer in the world."

"OK" he says, "If you could have any scope in this store, which would you have?" I picked out a nice, range finding scope with excellent optics designed for the velocities of the rifle he purported to want. I described the qualities that he should find useful.

Then he asks for the best ammunition I had... five boxes. Expensive stuff. He bought it all, rifle, scope, and ammunition.

I told him he could figure it all out on his own, but he would save time and ammunition if he took me to the range the next day and let me show him what to do. He agreed. I felt like a kid in a candy store.

Next day, after about an hour making adjustments, etc. The customer was ready to shoot for group. (see how accurate the setup was) Three shots made a hole 7mm wide and 10mm long. (That is one bullet width by 1 1/2 bullet widths long.) from 100 yards. ( roughly the size of a dime cut in half.)

Three weeks later this customer came in to express his happiness with his purchase. He had gone Pronghorn hunting and taken one at a range of 750 yards. He had also taken a 900 yd shot but missed. (it probably was the wind there in Wyoming.)

Perhaps you are wondering what brought this story back to mind... When I closed that store, nearly 20 years ago, I refused to sell guns for less than I paid for them. Especially the nice ones. I boxed them up and took them home. Over the years sense, I have sold off nearly all of them. Recently, some of the decisions on what to sell have been nearly heart rending. The other day, while digging in a pile of leftovers from the store, looking for something, I found the twin of the above rifle. I have a smile on my face!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

To Russia With Love

By Rob Watson

The host of this web site (Google) keeps some statistics about the people who visit this web page. I am an American, as most of you know. The majority of visits to my postings are from The United States. However, people from several other countries read these wanderings of mine. Second in number, after the Americans, are Russian. If Google knows who you are, they don't pass it along to me, so I only know how many visits are made from each country and what your operating system is. (Those of you who use Microsoft windows might consider another OS... avoid the vulnerability and instability)

History is one of my hobbies. The best time to read about history is while it is happening... Avoids the later corrections made by the victors. (Yes, my Russian visitors, it happens here too) Because of this, I read the news from several sources daily.

In any case, I think about you Russian visitors every time a rare news report comes up about events in your country. The recent elections are in the news here. These reports say some of you are not happy with the current political and economic conditions there. Other news implies there is widespread voter fraud. One story even covered a Russian family who is planning to leave there and move to our neighbor, Canada. (Considering the climate in Canada, and the climate in Russia, that may be a good place to go as it frequently gets cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. {you should Google That}) Today's news is about a protest gathering in Moscow.

I have a book of Russian jokes (At least that is what the author claims.) So I will pass along one that seems to be appropriate to the times there:

Provda announces a new government program in public education. Classes will be provided in three foreign languages. English and French, for those who are leaving, and Chinese for those who are staying...

I can tell your eyes are watering from here.  I love telling jokes. I am sorry this one is not better.

I have an opinion about your troubles, in fact about many peoples troubles all over the world: I think the conditions in this United States: Freedom, security, prosperity, and a positive future for our children, are brought about by honest people, seeking the best for all our people. These honest people are forced to sacrifice their riches and personal gains, that may be available to them through dishonest means, and live as an example for the rest of us. Secondly, all of us, honest or not, secure and maintain these conditions by insisting, by all honorable means possible, that those in authority in every field, execute their duties honestly and for the common good. Removing the dishonest and untrustworthy, being the key.

Regardless of how you see God, You should consider the truth of a passage from the Christian Bible, that goes something like this: "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." Luke,16:10

The Merry Bee: The Road Race

By Rob Watson

After an extended assembly period, the wreck of the Model A body, and the installation of the Model T bucket, Bee got her license. I loved driving that hot rod. It seemed to like running just above idle and the speed was 55 mile per hour. I cruised the back road and highways just to experience the freedom of the open road and the glories of mother nature.

Interstates, at the time, had a speed limit of 70 mph. Cruising along at 55 did not please everyone. I could not have cared less. Having cars and trucks roar past was common. When a small sports car roared past at a very high rate of speed the sound drew my attention. I watched him scream off into the distance.

As I continued along my way I came upon a small sports car driving along even slower than I was. Now that was unusual but I passed him and continued along my way. After a few minutes a small sports car roared past at a very high rate of speed. The sound drew my attention a second time. It sort of looked familiar... like the guy who had zipped past a while ago.

Still, relaxed and enjoying my drive, I continued on. I came upon a small sports car driving along even slower than I was. This time I was sure the little car was the one that had zoomed passed me twice. I passed him again and continued on my way as before except I kept an eye on him in the mirror this time.

I shall digress to a former time. Friend had a genuine Olds 442. It was fast and drew a lot of attention on the highway. From time to time someone would want to road race. As the competitor would gain speed, friend would exactly pace the guy until the other car had reached its maximum speed. He would fly along like this for a time just to be sure the other car had nothing left. Then Friend would jam down on the accelerator and zoom effortless away. Now, back to the story.

The small sports car dropped back about half a mile then began to pick up speed. I eased down on my accelerator. (Yes, I had replaced the string by this time.) The speed increased... 70... 80... 90... and the sports car pulled even with me. Together we flew along with increasing speed until my speedometer read 107 mph. My Tachometer read 4500 rpm.

The chevy guys who put the engine together said it should have a top rpm of 5500 or so. I knew my carburetors (Three duces, for those who know what they are) were not fully open. You know what I am thinking now... Hit it! And, I did.

RRROOOAAARRR!!!! went the engine. The front of Bee lifted several inches (or seemed to) and in a tiny fraction of time the sports car had disappeared to the rear somewhere. The unleashed power had thoroughly frightened me. I let off the gas and the sports car zoomed past. He was apparently satisfied, as I did not come upon him again.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Making It

by Rob Watson

Some years back a co-worker became my boss for a short time. He was intelligent and knowledgeable, but we didn't get along that well. We worked together long enough that I witnessed his entry to his mid-life crisis. He divorced his wife of several years, quit his job, and wandered off to start his own business. Fortunately, he was good enough at what he did, at our company, that he left behind some good connections.

After two years or so, I saw him walking down the hall at work. "Say, Les, You back working here again?" His reply was a simple "Yes."

I came back with "What's the matter, couldn't you make it out there in the real world?" He gave no response immediately. Just looked as if I had slapped him in the face. (Which, of course, is exactly what I had done, verbally.) My comment had frozen him in his place. After several seconds he responded "Yes, I guess that's correct." then he went on his way.

A couple of hours later I was in the company lunchroom eating. Les came out of the food line and started to walk my way, until he saw me. He stopped, but before he looked away I waved him over and invited him to sit with me. He came and sat down opposite me.

"Come on now and tell me what happened."

" I tried to do too many things. I never got good enough at any of them to be noticed or build a reputation."

After a couple of years one of the guardian angels moved to a fast growing company. This man took Les and another highly skilled software type over to it. They developed a less expensive way of servicing broken computer systems and an innovative database. Last I heard they were all doing very well. Next time you ask for an auto part, and the clerk looks it up on his computer, think of Les. He was 1/3 of the team that made it happen. ( well, make that 1/2 the team. The guardian angel was the idea man but he couldn't keep his "input file" and "output file" strait. He was constantly copying the old file over the new file and erasing a weeks worth of my work.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


By Rob Watson

If you have not read my blog on Dusty, you should go back and read it. Dusty was my first cat and his story leads into this one. Some of Sandy's story is there as well.

After Wife and I decided Dusty needed a companion, she took up the search... for all of a half hour. She had gone to the vet for some reason and came into the our gun store with an expression that can only be described as hopeful expectation. She informed me she had found a really cute kitten at the vet and wanted my permission to get it. Even if her face had not shown she had fallen in love with this kitten, I would have approved.

Sandy was one of three kittens who's mother had been run over by a car. The vet had taken the kittens in at an early age and given one to each of his employees to nurse. It seems that mother cats have to lick their kittens to get them to urinate. The nurses simulated this by washing the kittens with a damp rag. I think this is the reason Sandy always had a strong attraction to water and the sound of running water. He had a life long passion for playing in water and he liked baths.

We often claimed Sandy was part dog. He loved to play fetch and would bring the ball, the soft cotton ball like, cat toys, back to me. I would throw it down the hall again and he would go fetch it and bring it back to me. When he was tired of this game, he would fetch the ball but would stop about four feet away, drop the ball, and lay down.

 If no one was around, he would bat the ball and chase it. He liked to bat it toward our table which had the center support and legs arching down from that. He would, presumably, pretend the table was an obstruction and bat the ball about under the legs. If he accidentally batted the ball away from the table legs, he would immediately bat it back under them.

His other ball game was to place the ball four or five feet away from the couch and bat it toward the couch. He would then race to catch it before it went under the couch. Sandy could frequently be found lying on his side trying to fetch his ball from under the couch. He seemed to never forget where he had lost one of his toys. If I got a cane (a gift for my 50th birthday) and went toward the couch, he would be under foot immediately, trying to help me fish out his property. We bought these balls by the small bag full. There were usually three to six under the couch or other furniture.

One day I had retrieved three balls from under the couch. I threw one down the hall and Sandy fetched it and brought it to me. We did this until he was tired. He dropped the ball out of my reach and lay down. I still had the two balls and decided to see what he would do. "Here, Sandy, fetch the ball." and I waved it in the air where he could see it. I threw the ball. He jumped up and ran after it. He caught it and came trotting back toward me with it in his mouth. About a foot from the first ball, Sandy looked down and saw the first ball. He stopped and got a puzzled look on his face, as if to say, "Where did that come from?" He stood there puzzling over the situation for several seconds, walked up, dropped the second beside the first, and lay down again.

"Here, Sandy, fetch the ball." and I waved it in the air where he could see it. I threw the ball. He jumped up and ran after it. He caught it and came trotting back toward me with it in his mouth. About a foot from the two balls, Sandy looked down and saw the two balls. Again, he got a puzzled look on his face. The "thinking" time was shorter this round. He dropped the third beside the first two and lay down again. End of game. I am sure, had I take a video of this session I would have won the grand prize on America's Funniest Videos.

Sandy was a talker. Wife liked to engage him in conversation. He would answer with soft mews. If Wife were to ask "Sandy, do you want a treat?" he would answer "Yes." If Wife asked "Sandy, have you had your treats yet?" He would answer "No." (even if it was a bold face lie).

In each of the houses we had while Sandy was with us, we would place a knick knack cabinet near the kitchen door. It formed a small corner with the wall. This became Sandy's favorite place to sit (upright) when he was not napping somewhere. He was out of the way and in the center of any activity. If you look at his portrait above, You will see his corner in our home at the time. His other favorite spot was on top of the back of the couch, in the sun. ( or on the bed, or beside the fireplace, or inside any box we happened to leave on the floor).

Wife and I would retire to the bed about 9pm each night. We would read books to relax and unwind before going to sleep. The boys would join us on the bed. After a bit, Sandy and Dusty would start to groom themselves and each other. This always lead to a fight ( kitty karate ) then they would jump down and commence a wild chase around the house.

One day Sandy began walking around with a serious limp. We took him to the vet, who gave him a cortisone shot, saying he had probably pulled a muscle or strained a tendon. We should have looked more carefully and saved our money. The house had an Earth Stove, a freestanding wood burning stove for heating the house. The cat had apparently jumped up on that stove while we had a fire going. The bottoms of his feet were burned. Sometimes Sandy appeared to be a slow learner. He never did that again.

Few things irritated Sandy more than a closed door. If I was in a room (think bathroom) with a closed door he would sit beside that door and mew until I (finished) opened it. Once inside (think office/computer room) he would lay down for a minute or so then go to the door and mew until I let him out. Goes in, goes out, repeat.

When Sandy felt he was not getting the attention he needed he would follow one of us around everywhere, mewing every third step, until he was picked up and patted. More often than not, we had to find a chair and sit and pat the cat until he was tired of it, then jumped down to work the other items on his agenda. It was not unusual for this to draw Dusty's attention and you had two cats to pat.

Sandy always had extra long whiskers, even as a kitten. During his first winter, when we took him somewhere, I would put him inside my coat to keep him warm. At the vet, we were commenting on how long his whisker were. When I opened my coat, all his whiskers on one side were shortened to about a half an inch. When I had zipped up my coat I must have broken off all those whiskers.

A bird flew down the chimney of the earth stove. It could not get out and made a racket trying. Both cats took an interest. I could not figure out how to help the bird. I knew if I opened the stove door the bird would just fly around the house forever. I thought, in the end I would try to chase it outside. When I opened the stove the bird made a flying dash for the bedroom. His flight path, three feet off the floor took him close to where Sandy was standing. With a step and a flying leap Sandy snagged that bird right out of the air, in his mouth. It had to be pure instinct. Sandy had never seen a bird up close and none of our other games involved his catching things in the air. I took the unharmed bird from him and released it outside.

While remodeling one house, part of the ceiling was removed, leaving the insulation bats exposed. All of the wall coverings in the living room had been removed leaving only the studs and insulation exposed. As I worked in the living room I heard some scratching on the ceiling insulation then a "plop, plop" sound. I was working on a ladder and was about to climb down to investigate when all was revealed.

To picture this, you should recall those motorcycle shows where motorcycles go round and round inside a cylindrical room with vertical walls... got the picture? Enter two squirrels chased by Sandy. The squirrels ran around the walls about three feet from the floor with Sandy close behind. The combination made three complete circuits of the living room and exited into the kitchen.

I was first paralyzed by astonishment, then fully disabled by laughter... maybe you had to be there. Anyway, the squirrels split up in the kitchen. One found a spot on top of the china cabinet. The other sought refuge in the laundry room. By the time I regained control of myself, the situation had become static. Sandy had his eye on the china cabinet, even though the squirrel there was not visible. I went to the laundry room and opened the door and screen door. The squirrel there was obviously the smarter because he exited as soon as the way was clear. The varmint on the china cabinet had to be forcibly dislodged, then with encouragement provided by my faithful pet, took his exit as well. Dusty closely supervised the entire operation.

If you have not discerned Sandy's character by now, the following should help. Wife and I went on an extended trip. We thought it best to leave the cats at the vet's. we requested they place the boys in the same cage as they were close companions. We thought Sandy would raise a ruckus otherwise. All is revealed when we returned.

Sandy was not happy with the accommodations. Apparently, he hollered continuously with the various attempts at resolution until he and Dusty were given exclusive use of one of the examining rooms.  While there he/they redistributed the entire contents of the container of cotton balls.

Sandy Helping "Old Dad" research the mountain property.

This makes a happy ending, so I will leave it here.

What Is Your Price

By Rob Watson

When I see reports of criminals stealing moderate amounts of money, $10,000; $50,000; etc. I can only shake my head. How dumb can they be? Sums like that could make only the most conservative of crooks happy for a week or two. If one is to have a "price" it should be high enough to cover nearly all their needs for a significant period of time. Years, at the least.

My wandering mind explored this situation and I came up with my "price". I had guidance from a Catholic priest. The Most Reverend Father Burnhart, told our religion class, "If you are going to steal, steal a million dollars. The penalty for stealing a nickle and the penalty for stealing a million is the same: burning in Hell forever." At the time, The Millionaire was a program on TV. I decided then I would like to have a million dollars. For these times we live in now, it would take six million or so to have the same purchasing power as one million back in the '50's. So, my price is six million dollars (USD).

There are a few problems with that sum. (in case you are considering a large sum as well) The first is transportation. The smallest volume (That would be in hundred dollar bills) is most likely be a fair fraction of a cubic yard(meter). The treasury  in Washington DC had a million in tens on display. It is about a half a cubic yard. It would weigh 120 pounds (roughly 58kg). Drug dealers, I am told, weigh their money instead of counting it. I could carry my loot, 60 pounds in a back pack and two 30 pound suit cases. I could get at least half a mile with it before passing out from exhaustion.

I have to smile at TV and movies where millions of dollars are delivered in a brief case. I once saw a TV program about an actual robbery. Some thieves got into a Brinks money storage building. They had four large sacks (each sack seemed to be quite large). Each sack was filled with cash. As the crooks escaped each one dragged a sack with him. Three of the four sacks were found abandoned within a short distance of the storage facility. I seem to remember they were caught rather quickly anyway.

The next problem would be credibility. Would you trust anyone who was carrying his fortune in two suitcases and a backpack? Besides, people who know me, know, by lifestyle and possessions, that any amount above a few thousand would have to be ill gotten, or from the lottery... and the lottery doesn't pay off in sacks full of money.

So far this has been a theoretical exercise. Lets get real. I have two marketable skills. I am a proven, effective, public speaker. I have extensive knowledge of the interworkings of computers and a fair amount of software knowledge and skill. The problem with earning six million from speaking is, it would take one very, very foolish person or six million slightly foolish persons for me to talk them out of my "price".

But the computer thing, that has possibilities... I could learn enough about the target hardware and operating system in a few months to break into most systems. That is, except Microsoft based PC's. The simplest of computer types could learn enough in a day to break into them.

Getting real has brought up another thought. What sort of person, or group, would pay me six million dollars (USD) up front, free and clear, to do anything. In my own estimation (which is the only one to count here) They would have to be complete fools or mentally defective to consider it for more than a few seconds. I have worked for simpletons and some, I considered, mentally defective. (Fortunately, most of my bosses have been neither.) Then I must ask myself if I would work for someone silly enough to pay me $6,000,000 (USD). No, I don't think so.

In the end, I think my virtue will be intact, at my "price".

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Eye Surgery

By Rob Watson

I first got glasses about the age of 13. Until a few years ago, my vision was correctable to 20/10. When I went for my new glasses then, I could not see well at all. The optometrist eventually told me I had cataracts. One day I became aware that I could no longer see the dashboard on my truck as I drove in the daytime. How fast was I going? How much gas was left? You know, tiny details like that.

My friend here had already had his eyes fixed and recommended his doctor. I went for an examination. The conclusion was that my eyes were not bad enough to be fixed. When I asked if it was really important to be able to see my speedometer... nobody answered.

Friend and I do a lot of things together. He is always trying to point things out for me to see. The things are usually small and a long way away. I almost never see them. For his April fool joke on me, he got all excited and began pointing to a non-existent deer... "right there!!!" "right there!!!" "Can't you see it? It has a huge rack!!!" He got a great laugh out of it. Me, not so much.

Friend has two cousins that come up every November to pheasant hunt on Friend's farm. They always invite me. For reasons, possibly associated with my limited ability to see, I have trouble distinguishing the difference between hens (Which should not be shot) and roosters. This actually doesn't matter because I seldom hit anything any way. They are kind enough to donate one of their harvest to me. Wife really likes the tail feathers for decorations.

When I became eligible for MediCare I went back for a second evaluation. This time they said I probably needed the surgery. I expressed an interest in having my wandering eye fixed as well. They told me they had a visiting surgeon that did that. In fact, they could schedule the two on the same eye at the same day.

Cousins have both had cataract surgery. As mine was already scheduled when Pheasant season rolled around, I asked them a lot of questions. Friend, and Cousins, insisted the procedure was painless and quick with very little problems. They all insisted I would be very happy. They collectively said I would be most amazed by the return of color to my vision. Nothing to be afraid of, nothing to be concerned about, no worries. The doctor even advertized that he had done over 30,000 eyes.

As the surgery for the right eye rolled around I was relaxed and unconcerned. The vision in the right eye had been reduced to indistinct shapes and dull colors. I was ready for it to be fixed. Wife, on the other hand, could have used a mild tranquilizer. Wife is a great planner and scheduler. I was glad to have her around, even if she was a little nervous.

When the big day comes, we get up at 3AM to get to the surgery on time. It is cold and dark outside. The surgery clinic is warm and full of friendly efficient people. The blanket they cover me with has been warmed in a warmer. Each person has a task. Each task is performed in a friendly and efficient manner. Then the next person comes to do the next task. It seems to be no more than 10 minutes from the time I enter the building until I am lying on my back, IV in place, chatting with the anesthesiologist. Fade to black.

When I wake up a patch covers my right eye. It hurts to move the eye so I focus on keeping the eyes straight and moving my head. After a short interval the pain killers wear off and a big dull pain develops in the sinuses above and below the eye. I take a big green pain killer and think to myself, I been lied to. This is not easy and painless. I am nauseous and feel like I have been poked in the eye with a sharp stick. After the patch is removed, material oozing from the eye dries and glues the eyelids together and feels like someone sprinkled sand in there. "All natural."says the doctor.

Those who have been around me will recall that I keep the right eye closed much of the time. I have developed that into a rather strong habit, that I knew I had to break. In preparation for the surgery I have been practicing holding it open. After surgery, keeping it closed solved some problems... all except the sand in the eye feeling.

Holding the eye open had its own problems. I tried to walk around with the left eye closed and the right open... Diminished sense of the vertical. I tried holding both eyes open while showering the morning after. I got sick enough to deposit supper and breakfast in the toilet. A few hours later I deposited lunch in a pile of leaves. Turns out, keeping both eyes open and making rapid changes in points of focus was the cause of that problem. This was caused by the drugs given me to keep the eye from moving during the corrective surgery for the wandering eye, The right eye muscles were partially paralyzed. It took two days to wear off.

The third day after surgery, Wife and I began a two day journey to our fishing cabin in another state. Each of us drove a vehicle towing a trailer. I worked at keeping the right eye open though moving it caused discomfort. On the second day along the way, we spent most of the day driving through an area with spectacular fall colors. I have to say I was impressed with being able to see them. I was more impressed by being able to see my dashboard with the gas gauge and the speedometer.

After a week, almost all the discomfort had gone away. The left eye was next and was then a week away. I began to wonder if the left eye was going to be as unpleasant as the right had been.

On Surgery day for the left eye, I was somewhat less relaxed. In the minute or two we sat in the waiting room before the prep, an older couple hustled out the door. The lady called over her shoulder "He is feeling nervous about being put to sleep... we will be back another time." I thought to myself, they probably didn't have friends who had gone before.

For me it was the same friendly efficient folks... This time no fade to black. I watch the doctor fix my eye from the inside. Mostly all I was able to see was a big blurry light. When my new lens popped into place, I could see the doctor finishing up my procedure.

Apparently ALL the problems and discomfort were associated with the wandering eye correction. Within minutes of the surgery I was able to see foggy images from my left eye. By mid afternoon I was able to see clearly from it. No problems, no pain, no nausia, no sand-in-the-eye.

I have significant astigmatism so I will always have to wear glasses. I brought along my computer glasses because my corrected vision was better in the right eye. By mid afternoon I was wearing these glasses. Next day, at my followup checkup, the nurse/technician tested my vision with these glasses. It was 20/20. Trees had branches. Branches had twigs. Twigs had buds. It is really great to see again. Friend is going to have to think up a different April Fools joke for next year.

The only real catch to the whole process is the eye drops. Three drops three times a day for seven days. two drops three times a day for about 20 more days. Wife has been an extra ordinary aid in keeping up with this.

UPDATE:I wrote about some problems with my eye surgery. Now that it is over, nearly all the discomfort was caused by the lazy eye correction. However, the eye drops, for no reason that I could discover, would sometimes burn like liquid fire. My doctor said that would happen.

Except for the changes I am now able to see in the mirror, I am exceedingly pleased.

I have been near sighted from about 6th grade, and with serious astigmatism. Because I will always have to wear glasses anyway, I chose the nearsighted replacement lenses.
This is counter to all the advice from friends who had the cataract procedure. Of course they were all far sighted to start with, and now do not wear glasses at all, except to read. The only other advice I got was from a person who got one of each. One near and one far. her advice was DON'T DO THAT. (Emphasis, hers.)

I actually had five choices. One of which corrected for astigmatism. After my divorce, I got contacts with astigmatism correction. They never worked… I couldn't recognize a friend at more than 30 feet or so. The next pair of contacts I got without the correction… I could read license plates at 60-90 feet. These people here showed me the irregularities in the surface in my corneas that caused the condition. I didn't see how anything could correct that. Corrections to bad choices would cost me $6,000 to $10,000. For all these reasons I decided to go with what was familiar-Glasses. Besides, a lot of the things I do on a daily basis, guns, motorcycles, home repairs, helping friends with fixing their cars, requires eye protection. Over the years tempered lenses have saved my eyes more than once.

Case in point: One day while riding my smaller motorcycle, a huge grasshopper made a direct hit on the lens of my left (master) eye... old One Eye Rob, lucky again.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mr. Nice Guy

By Rob Watson

I may have mentioned in earlier posts that, in my youth, I was fairly unsuccessful in the pursuit of  young women. The one I caught then had to be tossed back later. From these experiences, I have gained useful knowledge that should be passed on.

During my earliest years, my parents took the family to the movies every Saturday night. If you watch movies made before 1960 or so, you will see the hero played by a handsome, well mannered, "NICE", Gary Cooper type guy. ( with the possible exception of Clark Gable) They always removed their hats in the presence of the feminine gender. They always addressed them as 'Madam' or 'Ma'am'. they were always polite, courteous, and diffident. From these, I took away the conviction that I should be a "NICE" guy. I learned from their behaviors in the movies, and later, after entering my unsuccessful years, from a four inch thick book on manners. I became, and for the most part, remain a "NICE" guy.

This Mr. Nice Guy persona first paid off at my high school class's 40th reunion. I was sought out by a woman, who in her youth, and still 50 years later, is, very nearly, the prettiest girl in our class. "Robert", she began, "I have always considered you to be one of the nicest guys I know."  She went on to contrast my niceness, politeness, courteousness, and diffidence with the rude behaviors of my male peers of the former time. If she ever reads this, she may be surprised to know that, that was the first time in those 40 preceding years I took "NICE" as a compliment.

I have been called "NICE" even "REALLY NICE" many times in my unsuccessful years. (I never considered it a compliment) This, because after 1960, self confident, Clark Gable type assholes became the most desirable type for young women to fawn over. "Robert, you are a (NICE, REALLY NICE) guy but... " translated into "Buuzzz off, turkey!"

You frequently hear lonely women complain "All the good ones are taken." I would hear this and take it literally. You could almost see me as Hermione in the Harry Potters movies, with my hand raised high waving vigorously... "Here I am. notice me!!". It took me a considerable time to learn "All the good ones are taken." really means "All the self confident Clarke Gable type assholes are taken and only "NICE" guys are left"

Some of these women eventually learn that, from time to time, a "NICE" guy can be transformed into a genuine "good one" with the generous application of unselfish love. Fortunately, the same can be said for the self confident, Clark Gable type assholes... sometimes.

This post is never to be construed as a treatise on understanding women. For a man to try to understand women is, simply, a fools errand.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Attempted Robbery??

By Rob Watson

An incident in Wife's store today brought back memories of the most exciting day at my gun store. Here we have a doorbell beside the store's door down stairs. Customers have learned that they can ring the bell and one of us will open up for them. Today just after Wife locked up, the bell rang and she went to open up again. An hour later she returned with a disturbed expression on her face. She had had two men come in  and behave rather strangely. " If I ever call you on your cell phone but do not say anything, Come down stairs immediately... there may be trouble." Now, on to my story.

If you go to some gun stores today you will find the clerks armed, usually with a sidearm of one sort or another. I had considered that, but began advertizing on a mostly ladies radio station. This drew a noticeable number of regular lady customers. I decided the 'armed clerk' might be counter productive. However I did hide a large revolver under the cash register.

When I had my gun store, Blackie, a customer, would come and hang out, keeping me company. Sometimes he, being knowledgable about guns, would help other customers. We talked a lot and got to be good friends. Blackie knew about the large revolver.

One afternoon, late, four young men, probably in their twenties, entered the store. Three went to the far corners of the store. One approached Blackie and me. This young man says "Why aren't you guys wearing guns?" Before I could spout off my lame comment, Blackie says "Just cause you can't see them, don't mean they are not there."

From time to time, I am a little slow on the uptake. I realized Blackie was bluffing for some reason. Neither of us had a weapon. We were both some 30 feet from the large revolver under the cash register. Then my eyes were opened to the similarity in dress of the four men... loose fitting nylon jackets, all with the same color pattern, black nylon cargo pants, and white athletic shoes... all widely dispursed around the store.

It is entirely possible these young men were innocently entertaining themselves by looking around gun stores. That is not what I believed at that moment. With pounding heart I casually walked over to the large revolver under the cash register. I began to plan the best way to defend myself from four targets with six bullets.

I decided the talker was the leader and should be taken down first. Then I would look for the one who posed the greatest threat after the action started. Blackie was seated next to the empty shotguns. The shells were stacked immediately below the 'self defense' weapons. He later related his plan was to burst a box of shells on the floor, grab the self defense gun and defend himself.

I began my own brag. (I had learned to be proficent with rifles and decided to learn to shoot pistols. The local gun club had monthly competition where you run from place to place shooting at steel targets. you are scored on time, all targets must be hit. Each course required about 50 shots. Most competitors had high capacity semiauto pistols. Because revolvers are more reliable, I chose to use one of them. I would have to reload twice as often as the semiautos. I decided my stratagy to be competitive was not to miss... no misses, no extra reloading times.) "Say, Blackie, Did I tell you I have gone five months in the pistol competition at the gun range without missing a target... That is about 250 shots on targets without a single miss." (yes it is true.)

After a few minutes, as if on silent signal, the four left the store. Blackie and I decided they were casing us and would be back to rob us. The shotgun was immediately loaded and returned to it place on the rack. It would ever remain so. When it was time to close, still fearful of a robbery, I locked the  doors and carried the shotgun out the back with me to my car.

We never saw four young men in gang clothing again. I will always be convinced that Blackie's bluff,
 "Just 'cause you don't see them... " saved us from an unpleasant experience.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nathan Bedford Forrest: Advice to Environmentalists

Being Green

Nathan Bedford Forrest rose from the rank of private to that of general in The Civil War. He is best known for his quote, "You win battles by being firstest with the mostest." He was a slave trader before the war and the founder of the Ku Klux Klan after it. A successful leader... could he have advice for environmentalists?

I was reading from Shelby Foote's excellent three volume set on the American Civil War. Specifically, I read about the end of the war. After Lee surrendered to Grant, there was much discussion, North and South, on "What next?" Would the South continue to fight? Would the other Southern armies continue the fight? The best leader of the remaining armies that of General Forrest. Many speculated That this group could affectively continue fighting for years. Perhaps they would operate from Mexico.

During the war, Forrest, with only three regiments would drive into Union held southern territory. He recruited southern troops and equipped them at the expense of the Union army. His main target was the union supply lines. He would approach a small Union fort. Under the protection of a white flag he would ask for the surrender of the fort. None did. His chief cannonier, with a captured rifled Union cannon, would then blow the gates off the fort. Forrest would then ask for surrender again, and got it. He kept what he could use, destroyed the rest and released, unharmed, the union soldiers. He always returned with 1,500 to 3.000 new fully equipped soldiers for the southern cause.

Forrest inspired fierce loyalty in his men. Once when attacked from opposite directions by two Union armies. He defeated them both. His men even captured a Union gunboat.

It is fair to say Nathan Bedford Forrest is not well regarded, off the field of battle, by many. Mostly for good reason. However none can dispute his leadership skills. A story told by his aid happened after the Lee surrender. As Forrest and the aid were riding, they came to a fork in the road. Forrest paused and the aid asked "Which way General?" Forrest replied "If One road led to hell and the other to Mexico, I would be indifferent which to take.." Later. Forrest wrote a letter to his troops as the other Confederate armies were surrendering. ( page 1000 or so of the third volume )

Today it is Preservationists, Bunny Huggers, Tree Huggers, Save The Whales, and on, and on, in a war against the rest of us. It seems if Man would just die out and let everything go back to nature, things would be great. It reminds me of the scene from the movie "Independence Day" when the president talks to the alien: "What would you have us do?" to which the alien replies: "Die... Die"

When these activists protest things, what sort of example do they give? Mostly they fly in big airplanes and drive fancy cars. The leader if the pack, Al Gore, lives in a house that uses more utilities in a month than most American families use in a year. At the international climate conference in Finland, so many Greenies showed up in private planes the Finns had to send them as much as 150 miles away to land and park. There were so many renting luxury limos, the local limo service had to borrow from other countries. Great example, guys, great example!

If the cause of environmentalism is failing, perhaps it is for lack of effective leadership.  Forrest, who during the war suffered 4 combat wounds in hand to hand combat and had 29 horses shot from under him, ( he also suffered a near fatal wound from a jilted lover's husband) in his letter to his troops, disbanding his army, concludes, in part: "... I have never, on the field of battle, sent you where I was unwilling to go, nor would I now advise you to a course which I felt myself unwilling to  pursue. You have been good soldiers. You can be good citizens. Obey the laws, preserve your honor..."

Sunday, October 16, 2011


By Rob Watson

James Thurber wrote a piece about the life and death of his cat. It was thoughtful, sensitive, and moving. I have been looking for it since my cat, Dusty, began his decline and death. I have not found it. If you happen to know which of Thurber's many books contain that piece, you could leave a comment at the end of this one. I would consider it a great favor.

Thurber always considered himself a dog person. Until I became acquainted with our neighbor's cat Jasmine, I was a dog person myself. I, like many people, considered cats cool and standoffish. Although, when around many other people's cats, cats that were described as afraid of strangers, I had no trouble making friends with them. Those people would seem amazed, saying "Oh, He never lets strangers pet him." They could conclude I must be a good person if their cat would allow me to approach them. I shall leave that decision to the cats.

Wife and I would sit on our small porch and have a glass of wine in the evening. Jasmine would come to visit. She would bring us live bugs and snakes as presents. We eventually let her in the house, where she made herself at home, napping on our bed, or, I have a picture, in my partly open underwear drawer. Jasmine always seemed to have an air of dainty sophistication. If offered a glass of wine, she would sit beside it, sniff, as any good wine connoisseur, dip her paw, and lick it. I always had the impression that she would have swirled the wine around in the glass, had she been able.

 After a time, the neighbors locked Jasmine inside so that she would not 'bother' us. I think they were jealous of the affection between Jasmine and us.

Wife and I became lonely in the evenings, with the loss of our furry friend. Wife had owned several cats. My family had owned one briefly when I was very small. I remember his demise came after he jumped onto the supper table and helped himself to the salmon there. After some discussion we decided to get a cat of our own. Wife said the males were more active and entertaining.

At the pet store in the mall, the local vet had left several kittens to be adopted. For the miserly sum of twenty dollars, we could have our choice. All but one of the kittens were inactive. The active one took an interest in me and I picked him up. I laid him on my arm and walked about the store, idly petting him. After a bit, Wife says, "Look, he has fallen asleep on your arm." It was so. Because of a small gray smudge on his chin, we decided, at wife's suggestion, to call him Dusty. From that moment, Dusty was my cat.

Dusty was dark gray and white. He had an expressive face. Wife says he and I look exactly alike when we are angry. Our faces puff up. (after one unpleasant marriage, I learned speaking when I am angry, has no useful effect. My face does puff up from holding anger in.) He also gave the impression of being extra intelligent and somewhat clairvoyant.

I owned a gun store at the time and was usually awakened by an alarm clock at 6am. From an early age Dusty developed a very loud yowl and soon relieved the clock of its duties. He took it upon himself to wake everyone at 6 am. (or 5:30, just to be sure we were up on time) He stuck to that duty faithfully for 19 years... giving it up only at the end. While I miss my Dusty, I do not miss being awakened every day at 6 am.

Dusty exhibited other time telling skills. When we let him outside, he always came home at our regular bedtime of 9pm. Not 8:55; not 9:05; 9:00 sharp Daylight savings time. We gave him a treat when he came in. In later years, when he no longer wandered the streets, he still expected his treat at 9pm, 8pm standard time. While treat time was fixed with the universe, he seemed to catch on to government time  a day or so after the change, for the purposes of his alarm duties.

We got Dusty in the fall, in Colorado. We kept the mobile home cooler to save on utilities. At night I would take Dusty protected by my left arm, under the covers. He developed the habit of sleeping under the covers in cool weather. After the bed was made in the morning, it would develop a cat sized lump. Cats, as you may know, are not inclined to come when called, unless it pleases them. Once, when we took the cats (We acquired Sandy a couple of years after Dusty) camping in the mountains. Dusty seemed to have disappeared from the camper. After a half hour of frantically running around in the woods calling for him, I returned to the camper to find him casually sitting on the bed. He had apparently gone to nap under the unmade covers. Our frantic running around and yelling eventually moved him into showing himself.

Wife and I like to travel, We would leave Dusty with enough food and water for a week and go away for 3-5 days. Dusty seemed irritated at being left alone. Once, we were gone longer than usual. On returning we found Dusty had invented his own entertainment in our absence. He had jumped onto the top of the washer and dryer and reduced 48 rolls of Charmine toilet paper, stored on the shelf above, to quarter sized pieces. It filled the 20 foot long hall from living room to bedroom, waist deep, with torn up Charmine. Dusty seemed pleased with his work. We decided Dusty would be happier with a companion. The vet had an orange and white kitten he had been raising, because the mother had been killed. We called him Sandy.

Sandy and Dusty became great friends. They both grew to become large, handsome cats. They always looked out for one another. While Sandy was still a small kitten, he was exploring the hide-a-bed sofa and got folded up in it when it was put away. Dusty sat on the sofa and yowled until Wife came to check on him. There, she heard Sandy's weak little mew from inside the sofa and let him out. From then on, if we needed to find one of the cats, we would simply ask the other "Where is Dusty?" or "Where is Sandy?" and each would lead us to the other... unless we were going to the vet. They apparently knew when we were about to take them to the vet and neither would betray the other.

In our second house in Wyoming, Dusty went missing for an extended time. As we got more concerned we asked Sandy "Where is Dusty?",  "Go find Dusty." Sandy walked over to the stairs walked up to the fourth step and sat down. No amount of coaxing would get him to move further. His face had a "What the hell do you want from me, look?" Eventually we noticed Sandy was sitting above the door to the under the stairs storage area. When we opened that door, Dusty came strolling out. He had been trapped there when we were cleaning the area earlier.

A short time after we got Dusty, we took him with us to visit Sister. On the way back home we decided to stop at the mall. It was quite cold outside but I did not want to take the kitten into the mall. I took a heavy jacket with a fake fur lining and wrapped him in it. He started to crawl out. I put him back, saying "Dusty Boy, this is an IQ test. If you crawl out again you will get very cold." When we came back an hour later he was still buried deep in the jacket.

While Dusty was still a kitten, we would take him to the store with us. In cold weather he rode inside my jacket. We let him out to roam at will inside the store. He would climb in. out, and under the display cabinets exploring the store. (At the end of the day he was plenty dusty.) He would lay on the counter tops and absorb the attention of my customers.  For a time.

One night the Schwann man was making his monthly delivery of ice cream. I had put Dusty on my shoulder. When the man had delivered his bill, and was waiting for Wife to write his check, he reached for Dusty. Apparently his quick hand motion frightened the kitten and Dusty fell or jumped to the floor. From that time on he strictly avoided any man with a billed hat, for several years that included me. Because most of my customers wore billed hats, Dusty spent his days in hiding in the store. It became harder and harder to find him at the end of the day.

Fearing the cat would eventually find a place from which he could not be extracted, we decided to leave Dusty at the mobile home, during the day. He seemed to enjoy his new found freedom. He became a regular outside cat with inside privileges. He energetically defended his home ground from all comers. Unfortunately Dusty was courageous but not a good fighter. He frequently came home with scratches on his face and ears. One of his main antagonists was Jasmine, who had somehow won her freedom. Later, Jasmine's owners bought an expensive cat for breeding purposes. Then they took their perfectly healthy cat and put her down . It was a sad day at our house. Dusty was less concerned.

I am told cats are suppose to go nuts over catnip. Dusty liked his crushed into powder, so he could eat it. You will see video of cats rolling in catnip. Dusty never did. He just ate it. Toys were no more attractive if I put catnip in them. He did love toys with bells. One of his first was made to look like a mouse. It had a bell attached. Dusty would toss it in the air, bat it around with his paws, and chase it as it flew across the room. In the end it was only a small scrap of gray felt with a bell attached.

Dusty seemed to know when he was in trouble. He was quite creative in finding and using hidey holes. Any out of the way, cat-sized space would become a place to hide and nap. When he was in trouble I would search him out. He would run to another. When I was closing in for good he began running to our bed and sitting on the corner on my side. I decided if there was a real emergency this would be a good habit. I would chase him from place to place, but if he got to the corner of the bed I would sit near him and talk to him but never touch him. He eventually caught on. The challenge was to catch him before he got to the bed or ambush him after he jumped down. Wife noticed he always ran to the corner of the bed. She would chase him there and grab him. He stopped using that as his safe spot.

One day I was sitting at the kitchen table. Dusty was sitting at my feet. A friend was also there. Dusty looked up at me and gave a big yawn. I looked at him and gave a big yawn. He looked at me and closed both eyes for a second then opened them again. I copied him. He sat there for several seconds looking at me. I could tell he was thinking. Suddenly, he livens up, lifts his head and perks his ears, then flicks them... the right ear to the right and the left ear to the left. He looks at me as if to say."OK, copy that smarty." He got a satisfied smile on his face and laid back down, knowing he had won that contest.

When I was seated, Dusty frequently climbed into my lap. He made himself comfortable and stayed until he thought of something else he had rather do. He would also get into Wife's lap, especially when she would use the computer. If I came into the room, he would hastily jump down, as if he were caught being unfaithful.

When Dusty was not napping, his favorite spot was at a window watching the world go by. He and Sandy would sit for hours watching birds, bugs, and people. During his last few months, Dusty was unable to climb into a window. In his last days, I fixed his spot in the window and set him in it. He would manage to climb down when he wanted to nap.

Wife and I were not very consistent in grooming our cats. After Sandy's death, I began the habit of brushing Dusty each morning after my shower, or morning constitutional. If he napped and missed his brushing, he would go to his spot and whine until I came and did his brushing. He then tried to get two brushings  a day by going to his brushing spot and whining. If he had already been brushed, I would pick him up, put him on the bed, and give him a brief pat on the head. During the brushing times, wife would sometimes say, if she died, she wanted to come back as my cat.

Dusty's decline began with the death of his friend and companion of 13 years.( I shall tell of Sandy's life and death in a later blog) He began to eat less and lose weight. After a year or so he had gone from a normal, slightly overweight 16 pounds down to a more normal 12 pound. The next year or so he was down to 9 pounds. He continued to lose weight.

Wife and I had started taking him to the vet when we went traveling. This really made him mad. For a week after I brought him home, he would wake us three or four times during the night, with his loud yowls. We took a cruise in May and were gone for three weeks. After this trip, when I picked Dusty up from the vet I could see he had stopped grooming himself. He was under 8 pounds. The vet suggested we feed him canned food. (See 78% moisture blog).

As the Summer wore on Dusty went from thin to bony to skeletal. He lost interest in treats, catnip, and brushings. I had always hoped he would die peacefully in his sleep. But, he was tough and determined to keep on living. On a Monday I found him lying by his water bowl. He could no longer walk. He would not eat. I knew his time had come. On Thursday the local vet has half day office hours a couple of doors down from our home. We decided that would be the time. This vet was a stranger and I wanted Dusty, who was always afraid of his vet, not to know what was happening.

On Thursday afternoon, wife walked to the vet and invited her to come to our house. The vet brought her assistant. The vet was calm, I was crying; Wife was crying; the vets assistant was crying. I held Dusty while she injected a clear liguid into his foreleg. Within a few seconds she announced "He is gone"  and his head, which he had bravely held high, slipped to the side.

Dusty's spirit is here. Sometimes he sits in the window and watches the world go buy. Sometimes he sits in my lap while I watch TV or play on this computer. He sits beside me, at his usual spot, when I am reading in bed. I have not felt Sandy's spirit here before these sad times, but he is here now as well. Sandy and Dusty, companions again. Our handsome boys...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tasers Don't Work

By Rob Watson

Several years back I talked myself into buying into a partnership in a gun store. The agreement was we would work together for six months. If we got along, I would buy half the business. Good plan. Didn't work. However a lot of good stories came out of the experience...

It was a small store in an out of the way location. It was fairly unusual to have more than one browser in at a time, (Browser, that is what businesses use to call folks looking for stuff.)with lots of time in between. On this particular day there were half a dozen browsers, myself, and Partner. Enter a tall, handsome, young man with an attractive young woman on his arm.

The couple was striking enough in appearance to draw most eyes to themselves. It was a warm day and both were in shorts. After browsing for a bit the young man asked to see one of our stun gun devices. Partner handed him the less expensive, smaller model. The man took the device, touched his bare leg and pulled the trigger. He seemed not to react to the 50,000 volt charge he had just put through himself.

He handed the device back to Partner saying: "That wasn't much." Now ALL eyes were on the man. Partner was actually insulted that the man had disparaged his self defense device. (For the unfamiliar, when you press the trigger on one of the things, they issue a loud popping sound and produce an impressive blue spark discharge about two inches long between the prongs.) Partner took back the less expensive model and handed over the newer, larger, expensive stun gun, saying: "Here, try this."

Every person in the store was now aware of what was about to happen. This foolish young man was going to take a large self defense stun gun and deliberately shock himself. And, he did.

Handing the device back to Partner, he replied: "Oh, that's better."

Everyone, the young man excepted, was struck completely speechless. For myself, I COULD NOT BELIEVE what I had seen. My amazement and surprise at that moment has been surpassed by no more than three other events in my life. (The Kennedy assassination, the 9/11 attacks, and the death of my very best friend.) I was shocked into near immobility. The young man and his date walked casually from the store.

Partner, with his mouth wide open and the stun gun poised in the position he had received it, having still not spoken, pressed the trigger on the stun gun, no doubt to see if it was actually working. The device produced the loud popping sound and the impressive blue spark, two inches long. There was some discussion about one of us trying the same stunt, but there were no takers.

Intellectual curiosity has always been a passion of mine. In the following case we should just call it curiosity. I could not stand it. I had to know what that shock felt like. I have been holding sparkplug wires for cars and lawn mowers when they discharged. These were truly unpleasant events... just unpleasant, not harmful. After three days, I "screwed my courage to the sticking place" (Shakespear, I think) and shocked myself with the smaller stun gun. (I shall tell you how it felt... shortly.)

It was a revelation. My eyes opened and I felt an epiphany. The first thought to my mind was: "How in the hell can anyone defend themselves with this silly device." I took the larger device and shocked myself again. The kid had it right "Oh, That's better." I called the lady who had sold us the expensive stun gun and told her the story of the young man and his girl. I did not tell her my own story, yet. Her reply was: "I can't help it if some kid wants to show off for his girlfriend!" to which I replied, "Hey, I shocked myself with that damned thing and I want to know how someone can use it to defend themselves!!"

"I teach a self defense class to women." She began. "I tell them to wrap their arms around the assailants arms and their legs around his legs..." Think about this... You're getting this picture, right? "... then I tell them to hold the device on their spine for three to five seconds."  I asked for my money back. She sent it.

No refund on the smaller one. That was OK. I used it to sell several guns and lots of pepper spray. (I later learned that most pepper spray will not stop a determined attack from a human, especially one who has experienced it previously. Varmints such as dogs, but not all bears, will be stopped by pepper spray.) When a customer would come to me and ask for a stun gun for self defense, I took them to my cheap one. I demonstrated the loud popping sound and the bright blue spark, then stuck it to my knee and pulled the trigger again.

I asked the customer if he/she saw me fall down and pass out like you see in the stun gun films. "Well, no." was always the response. Then we went to the gun counter...

If I had thought one of those things would impress the girls, I would have bought one in the 8th grade, when girls first became interesting to me. What does it feel like? Put a bandaid on a hairy part of your body and yank it off in one quick jerk. Leaves a little red mark. Yesser, I would have traded two or three such shocks for a movie date with a young lady of my own choosing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Merry Bee: Swapping Ends

Several things affect the stability of an automobile. Gravity and friction being chief among them. The Bee had a very low center of gravity; it was also well forward. The engine, a reworked Chevy 283 and transmission constituted 2/3 of the total weight of the vehicle. The front tires, supporting most of this weight, had good tread. In seeking style over function I had chosen nine inch wide drag slicks (no tread at all) for the rear tires. Simply put: front lots of weight lots of tread lots of friction. Rear light weight no tread not much friction.

The goal of this adventure was to sneak the Bee over to college and work on her there. The guy in the trailer down from us was an experienced mechanic that had decided to go back to college. He had helped previously, and was a participant in a couple of our Merry adventures.

I got on the road late in the afternoon so as to arrive after dark. Rain was threatening but in my vast inexperience I was unconcerned. About thirty miles along the back roads, I noticed a man and his car stopped along the side of the road. His hood was up and he was peering inside. My tool box was part of the cargo so I stopped to offer help. He declined my offer. It began to sprinkle, just enough to wet the road surface.

A few yards from the disabled driver was a crossroad with the stop sign on my side. I stopped. Then, inspired by a really foolish thought, I decided to do a "quick" start. With a great roar from the engine Bee and I went blasting down the road. The shift into third gear caused the slick rear tires on the wet road to do what slick tires always do on wet roads. They broke loose and began to spin. The front tires, with extra weight and good tread held. The rear began to swish from side to side like a hula dancer.

Brilliant strategist that I was, I removed my foot from the accelerator. then jammed on the brakes. The front wheels continued to exhibit some contact with the wet road surface. The rear wheels, considerably less. Bee swapped ends and directed herself, in a sweeping spiral off the road and up across the face of steep road cut through a hill.

I clung to the steering wheel with the break and clutch both fully depressed. I kept repeating to myself: "When is she going to roll? When is she going to roll? When is she going to roll?" And, my eyes were closed until Bee rattled and bumped to a stop, still upright.

Opening my eyes, Bee was pointed directly down slope toward the road. The motor had died so I took my foot off the break and rolled down hill and onto the road. I rolled across the road and straightened out on the shoulder. I got out and, on my knees, said a fervent prayer of thanks for being safe, unharmed, and alive.

Careful inspection revealed the bolts holding the body to the frame had all broken loose and the body had displaced forward about four inches. Everything else seemed to be attached and working. It seemed that way, but all was not well. The engine started without a problem so I continued on my way, the adventure not half done, lessons about slick tires and wet roads not half learned.

Twenty or so miles along the way, the here-to-fore unobserved problem arose. As Bee came down a slight hill and into a curve, headed toward a bridge, the accelerator stuck at an advanced setting. The engine roared again. The rear wheels broke loose and began to spin. The rear end did its hula dancer thing and I jammed on the brake and clutch. Bee swapped ends and slid, tail lights first, some 180 feet (by actual measurement) off the road and into a ditch.

Then the scary part came. The ditch was about 12 feet deep and had 4 feet of water in it. Bee hit bottom on her back end and continued directly over to land on her top. As before I was clinging to the steering wheel. When I heard and felt the water I immediately sucked in a huge breath. Before all motion had stopped I was planning my escape. Bee's top had never been covered, leaving a four foot square hole. In her final motion, Bee rolled onto her side, offering me a great escape  route.

After my escape, I climbed up to the road and repeated the prayer of thanks, again on my knees. I was not cold and began to consider my options. It was still 20 miles or so to school. I could walk, and come back tomorrow with help to get Bee out of the ditch. I could try to hitchhike but nobody would want a wet muddy stranger in their car... but maybe the back of a pickup.

It was now dark and all one saw of an oncoming vehicle were its headlights. I waved down the first set of lights to come along... the only set of lights as it turned out. I explained my situation to the man and his wife. They promised to send help. Some help.

The next set of lights belonged to a Louisiana Highway Patrol Policeman. He was followed by a couple of sheriff deputies, all with enough lights to blind half the parish (county). After determining that there was no property damage and no personal injuries, these officers measured my skid marks and made notes for their accident reports.

After a while, a tow truck showed up. The black driver proceeded to let out his tow cable and climbed into the ditch to hook onto Bee. Bee was now on her side, half submerged, and pointed in the correct direction. Just as the driver found a place to connect his cable, two pistol shots rang out and the officers shouted "SNAKE!!". Jesus walked a fair distance on water, and with Jesus as my witness, this driver arose out of the water and walked ten feet across the water to the shore. As a student of science, I know what I saw is impossible. I saw it none the less.

There was no snake. However the lawmen had a huge laugh. (TV shows always suspend an officer and investigate every time he draws and fires his weapon... don't think it happened this time) No amount of coaxing or shining of light on the water could get the driver near the water. I eventually took the tow cable and hooked it up myself. I was given a ticket for driving too fast for road conditions. I rode back with the tow truck.

Here I learned another great lesson. Never go to traffic court to argue your innocence. I did not know you could just go pay the fine and all would be forgotten. The fine would have been $25 back when $25 was 1/4 my monthly allowance. I watched several cases where young people, not unlike myself, argued their case before the judge. It became clear that the defendant's testamony was completely ignored when in conflict with an officer of the law.

When my case was called, I walked to the front of the court and stood, seemingly, all alone against the powers of the whole court. I had never planned to argue innocence. At this late date my mind cannot recall any plan at all. The charge was read and the judge asked if I was guilty. My brilliant reply: "I don't know." After another exchange, the judge decided I was guilty. He banged his gavel and said: "I fine you $25 plus court costs." The deputy, who to this point had not said a word, jumped up and shouted: "But Judge, he was driving one of those hotrods!" The judge paused for the briefest of moments before banging his gavel again and said "I'm going to teach you kids not to drive those things around here! Fine $50 plus court costs! 62% of my monthly budget down the drain. Did I call home and tell them what happened... Well truthfully, I have done many silly and foolish things... But I never did tell my parents.

Bee's engine was full of water. Timely advice and quick action prevented any significant damage. When the ditch had dried out I went back to the spot and retrieved my tools and other stuff, The next time I had a few extra dollars, I bought some rear tires with good tread. The drag slicks went into the barn. They were eventually stolen. I have often wondered what that fool learned about slick  tires and wet roads.