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.