Monday, February 17, 2020

Gentle on My Mind

Saturday night I went to bed feeling blah, maybe nervousness about my first solo time on the Audio/Visual desk at church Sunday morning. We had a visiting speaker and my system teacher was away in Plano as a guest speaker herself.

After a lot of emailing, I was assured that the PowerPoint file for the service was already installed on the laptop computer. All? I had to do was copy the slides from the speaker’s PowerPoint presentation into the one on the laptop. 

Would have been a snap except I haven’t run a Windows machine in several years. Since the file types were wrong, I couldn’t do a trial run at home first on my Mac.

After studying the problem for half the night, I went to bed after a long, hot shower.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up shivering a little. A chill from a little cold virus, I guess. I pulled the covers up around my neck to try to stop the shaking.

Soon I felt a presence in the dark room. She walked over to the bed and laid across me and hugged me, not saying a word. I recognized the smell of her hair and neck, and when she then said something, (I don’t remember what) I recognized the voice immediately. It was Carolyn, my wife, just as she was in her Thirties, long before she got Alzheimer’s and died. 

Of course, I hugged her too, and it felt so warm and comforting to have her back.

And then she wasn’t there anymore. Was it just a dream? Was it all a delusion brought on by a small fever? It seemed so real!

For the first time in a couple of years, I didn’t feel sadness or get teary eyed thinking about her. I only felt joy at remembering the wonderful life we shared for so many years.

For the rest of the morning I felt good, and the A/V desk flew just fine, with a couple of small bumps before landing safely. Every solo flight should go as that one did.

There is comfort in knowing that she is still with me, even if I can’t always touch her anytime I want. But I now know she is there, ever gentle on my mind. 

Life is a little lighter today.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Democratic Base

I think I just watched the final nail in the coffin of the Democratic Party base. The date was Monday, February 3, 2020. Yeah, the Iowa caucuses.

For many years, the base of the Democratic Party was working class people - farmers, mechanics, welders, carpenters, longshoremen, roofers, plumbers, electricians, and all the rest of the people who actually created things that increased the wealth of the country.

Starting about thirty years ago, with President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party has abandoned those people. They have either colluded with Republicans to bust unions, or stood idly by as the labor movement has been decimated. Helping people in poverty is no longer popular, or even discussed much among the Democratic Party leaders. War on Poverty? No, now it’s war on poor people. Raising the minimum wage to subsistence levels is actively resisted by the mainstream  party leaders.

I keep asking myself, “Why?” The answer came to me on Iowa Caucus night. The party represents a different class of people now.

This is the blind, ignorant, incompetent, arrogant middle management class that is now the base of the Democratic Party. 

They view working class people with disdain and contempt. They only mingle with them briefly during campaigns, then scurry back to their safe, walled mansions well away from the neighborhoods of the lower class. They fear them and loath them, and have worked assiduously to put as many of them behind bars as possible. Under Democratic (and Republican) administrations the prison population has exploded, until America has become the most imprisoned country in the world per capita. (With the possible exception of North Korea - we don’t have numbers on them.)

Just ask them. They are the smartest people around, and they can’t understand why everybody doesn’t realize this and let them run the country. They are the ones with degrees from the most prestigious universities. They have IQs up in the stratosphere. 

These are the people who ignored the concerns of the engineers and produced an airliner that automatically dives into the ground in spite of the best efforts of the pilots to stop it.

These are the people who bought a computer program for millions of dollars to make it easy for uninsured people to buy health insurance when they passed the Affordable Care Act. (Which did nothing to make it affordable. Just made it mandatory to buy it.)

Of course, it didn’t work. It was a complete disaster nationwide. It took months before the program could be debugged and become operable.

And then there’s Iowa. Nothing demonstrates the plight of the Democratic Party as well as watching Steve Kornacki waiting for the results of the caucus. And waiting, And waiting. Rerunning what the results were four years ago. 

With lots of air time to fill, and no news to fill it, some person on the news desk mentioned that here would be a great opportunity for one of the candidates to give a speech. Every TV station would broadcast it live, because there was nothing else to report.

Amy Klobuchar must have been watching. Within ten minutes she was at her campaign headquarters podium thanking her team and the great people of Iowa for helping her campaign succeed. She wasn’t too specific about what she succeeded at, but hey, it’s news coverage!

What happened? Well, the Democratic Party displayed their incompetence once again. In prime time TV in front of the whole country. I wonder if they are still scratching their heads and trying to understand why Republicans keep winning.

They decided to make the caucus reporting more detailed by not only reporting the delegate totals for the candidates, they decided to report the numbers for the first and second caucus alignments, too. In the interests of transparency, I’m sure.

In the past, results were reported by Precinct Captains by telephone to Democratic Party headquarters, where the numbers were tabulated and distributed to the press. That took a lot of telephones and operators to keep the lines open for fast reporting. Now there were going to be many more numbers to crunch.

So The Party decided to make an App for smart phones to transmit the numbers online. I don’t know if it was just for iPhones, or for Androids, too. It didn’t matter. They did not test the app before the caucuses. They did not give classes to the Precinct Captains on how to use the app. They also drastically cut the numbers of telephone operators, because now they have this app! 

It still did not matter. Just as with the Affordable Care Act software, it didn’t work. Leave it to the modern Democratic Party to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Now it is two days after the caucuses, and I’m still not sure who was first, who was second, etc. I just saw some numbers showing Buttigieg leading but only 66% of the results have been reported. That bothers me, because Pete’s money donors include union busters and bankers, according to the rumors I hear. That puts him square in the middle of the road with the rest of the ignorant, incompetent, arrogant base of the Democratic Party.

I long for the days when we had Democratic Presidents who were competent, even skilled, at something beside talking people out of their money. I remember a school teacher from Texas once upon a time, I wish he hadn’t gotten us into Vietnam. He wished it, too. I remember a President who could drive a nail straight, and put in a wall stud square. He’s still doing it, in his nineties. 

I have hope, but it’s fading. Bernie has fought for working people all his life, but he is getting old and we don’t know how much life he has left. Elizabeth is right in the middle of the university crowd, but she has a good record of fighting (and winning) for the consumer against the bankers. 

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez gives me hope there is a chance that change will happen in the future. If the blind, ignorant, incompetent, arrogant Democratic Party base doesn’t drive her and others like her away. 

Would somebody please wake up and look at the instruments? I swear this plane is diving straight at the ground!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

What a Great Day!

Sometimes as I get older, I think of the notable events that happened in my life time. The tides seem to swing back and forth, and hopelessness and despair (so far) always seems to resolve to hope and new beginnings again, eventually.

I wasn’t there, but I read of Winston Churchill’s speech in Columbia, Missouri, where he told of the terrible “Iron Curtain” descending over Eastern Europe. I have little doubt he would be aghast to know that his beloved America, the country of his mother’s birth, is now in the Iron Curtain business.

In history, walls are mostly built by corrupt, authoritarian dictatorships to keep people from crossing the border easily. North Korea and Cuba come to mind.

I remember when East Germany built their wall around East Berlin. How for decades people struggled and died trying to get to the other side of that wall. Free countries didn’t build walls. They welcomed their neighbors with open arms.

I remember when that wall came down in East Berlin. Thousands of young people spent all night hammering and hacking at that wall. When they got it torn down there was laughter and hugs and dancing in the streets. A hell of a lot of beer and schnapps went down the hatch that day.

I am sure that someday, when the world comes to its senses again, there will be such a celebration on our southern border. I bet there will be a run on oxy-acetylene rigs for two thousand miles. The price of steel will drop so far that people will give it away. Some enterprising people will cut up little pieces to sell as souvenirs. 

There will be a fiesta as has never been seen before, with tequila, cerveza and tacos forever. The dancing in the streets will go on for days. What a wonderful time that will be!

Someday, somehow, people will lose the hate that has possessed their souls in this present age, and will rediscover the teachings of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, and the rest of the ancient prophets, who all said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “The kingdom of God is inside you.” “You must have Love in your heart.” “God is Love.” “Feed hungry people.” “Shelter the homeless.” “Do to others as you as you want them to do to you.”  

That will be heaven on earth!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Magic Animal Farm

The Magic Animal Farm

The year was 1974, and Carolyn heard about a new food co-op opening in Naturita, Colorado, just five miles down the hill from our home in Nucla. We went to see what was there, and that’s when we first found our friends from the Magic Animal Farm.

We joined the co-op, which was a pretty good deal. With the dues we all paid in, they would order food in bulk at discount wholesale prices, and then we could buy a smaller portion at very low prices. They had lots of whole grains, beans of all kinds, pasta, and nuts, dried fruit and dehydrated vegetables. All were easy to store without refrigeration, and we had access to food not found in local stores.

The co-op was operated by several young people, led by a man of about thirty years, who said his name was Pyote Coyote when I asked. On further query, his wife’s name was Red Cedar Woman, and they all lived on an isolated ranch in an almost inaccessible valley about thirty miles north of town. The valley was actually a box canyon called Roc Creek canyon. The ranch was a hippie commune called The Magic Animal Farm.

They were attempting to live without having to go to work at a job everyday, but raise their own food on the farm, and live on this world in a sustainable way. I think they started the food co-op as a concession to the need to pay taxes on the property. Otherwise, they tried not to have to use money if possible.

In the corrupt and cynical world of today, it’s hard to imagine such innocence, but during the sixties and seventies it was not an uncommon idea. I soon became good friends with Pyote, and we spent many hours in long philosophical discussions on politics, ethics, economics, and auto mechanics. He, as well as I, had experience in fixing cars.

Carolyn and our daughter Darlene and I moved to Colorado when I found a job in a coal fired generation plant there as a Mechanic/Machinist. As it was a union plant, the pay and benefits were excellent, but even more importantly, the work was varied and challenging. Being close to no large city, we had to make a lot of our own tools and parts, and I got to design and construct things, and use my college engineering skills, even though I didn’t graduate with a degree.

It was not many days later that on a warm summer day we all drove up to see the farm in our little red Toyota Corolla station wagon. By carefully steering through the rocks and charging up the steeper hills, we got the car all the way into the ranch. The entrance road was a narrow unpaved, ungraded track about five miles off the highway.  Sheer red sandstone cliffs bordered the road at the mouth of the canyon, and the creek and the road just barely fit in the canyon. There was no other route into the ranch, as the red cliffs surrounded the canyon.

Before we got to the ranch, we passed a trail leading off up a steep hill to the north. That track led to the Rajah mine, which was reputed to be the source of the ore from which Madam Curie discovered Radium. That area of Colorado and Utah is still dotted with many uranium mines which operated until the seventies, when cheaper imported uranium from Africa forced most local mines to close.

When we arrived at the ranch house, we were warmly greeted by the whole tribe, especially as I brought a case of beer with me. They offered to share some “weed” but I told them I didn’t smoke. I figure I breath enough bad stuff just working in a coal burning power plant. 

We got a tour of the house and garden, and walked over to the creek to admire the beauty of this place. They said the creek was fed from springs at the upper end on the valley and ran year around. I suggested they might use it to generate electricity, and offered to do a feasibility study on how much power we could get from that creek.

There was no electric power to the ranch at all, and solar panels, if available, would have been prohibitively expensive back in those days. They heated the house in winter with a wood stove, and did all the cooking with wood, too. They boiled water from the creek for drinking, since there was a worry about “beaver fever” contamination in the creek water.

Lighting at night was with kerosene lanterns, which had to be cleaned and trimmed every day just as the pioneers did a hundred years before.

We stayed until the evening, and we all sat around a big bonfire on logs, talking and laughing and enjoying ourselves immensely. We thought it was a wonderful escape from the demands of civilization. The motto was “Back to the Earth!”

In the winter of ’74/’75 we attempted to drive into the ranch after a snow storm had laid down several inches of snow. By chaining up we were able to get in alright, and of course they were happy to see the case of beer I brought as a gift. 

We stayed until nearly sundown, and I thought we ought to get back before it got dark. But the car wouldn’t start. It cranked OK, but no gasoline came from the tank, even though it was half full. We both agreed some water must have gotten in the fuel line and froze as I slid through the snow.

Since we had no other option, we were glad when they invited us to stay the night. Pyote had built rough but rugged wooden racks on two walls and there was plenty of extra space for all four of us. We not only brought our daughter, we had our baby son Wesley with us, too.

I don’t know what the original room was, but in one large bedroom there were four of us, plus Pyote and Red Cedar Woman with their young daughter (I have forgotten her name) and another hippie who went by the name Two Eagles.

Pyote Coyote and Red Cedar Woman shared one bunk, and Carolyn and I shared another. The lamps had been snuffed out and the inky blackness of night far from any city or town enveloped us. 

It was not long until we heard rhythmic moans of pleasure coming from the bunk with Pyote and his wife. Carolyn and I, not to be outdone, soon decided to join the chorus and the room was full of pleasant sounds. As in the olden days, when most families lived in one room cabins, the kids were left to wonder what all the noise was about. If they were old enough to know, it didn’t hurt them to hear the happy sounds, I guess.

In the morning the car still would not start, so we decided to hike out to the highway with the kids and hitchhike home. The temperature was 4ยบ F. and the gas line was not going to thaw that day. Even so, we saw Two Eagles sitting naked in the snow in lotus position with hands on his knees in meditation. There’s some real religion for you!

The snow was icy and slick and we picked our way carefully, looking for solid footing. I was carrying Wesley on my shoulders, holding his little hands in mine. We all were dressed warmly, with heavy coats or parkas. Wesley’s coat had a furry hood that kept his ears warm.

The morning was clear and cold, with tiny sparkles of ice crystals floating in the air, and the dry snow squeaking under our shoes. We managed to hike the five miles out, and were about 50 feet from the highway pavement when I lost my footing and went down, sitting hard on the ground and Wesley’s little chin hit the top of my head. I cussed and Wesley cried, but there wasn’t much else we could do at the moment. 

We walked south along side the highway toward Naturita not more than a quarter mile when we heard the sound of a diesel truck coming up behind us. It was a tanker truck with a load of chemicals headed for the uranium mill at Uravan. He knew we must be broke down some where nearby, and he stopped and let us all crowd in the cab with him. We got some scary, gut churning views of the river below the Ledge road above the Hanging Flume as the truck navigated the twisting curves just a few inches from the edge. He got to his destination in Uravan, and we found a phone and called our neighbor in Nucla to come pick us up.

For the next week I rode in with another worker at the plant. Most of my coworkers thought I was crazy when I told them the story of how my car got stranded at the Magic Animal Farm. Or maybe they thought I had been smoking something, although I hadn’t. Probably right the first time. Just crazy.

When the weekend arrived, Jim Johnson, a shift supervisor, offered to drive me back in to get the car. He had a Chevy pickup, just two wheel drive, but he was up for the adventure. Carolyn didn’t want to sit in the house alone so she came along as well. We got into the ranch easily, as Jim’s pickup had a lot of ground clearance and he could just charge straight at the hills.

As expected, the car still wouldn’t start, so we hooked the car to the pickup with a ten foot nylon choker we borrowed from the power plant, and he towed me home. That was not as easy as it sounds. Carolyn rode with him in his heated pickup cab, and I rode in the car, steering it behind the pickup tailgate. 

The road has lots of curves and hills, so I kept busy steering and braking as necessary to keep the car behind the pickup. One time I saw his brake lights flash and stabbed my brake pedal just as he got off the brakes and started zigzagging all over the road. It was all I could do to stay centered between his taillights. Then I saw the cows flashing past on both sides. I knew then that he had no choice but to get off the brakes and dodge cows on both sides of the road. We never touched one of them. We had a good laugh when we arrived back home, as he described glancing in the mirror and seeing me ducked down and cranking that steering wheel back and forth like mad!

Later that following week I heated the gas tank and fuel line with a hair dryer and added some alcohol to the gas tank to get rid of the water in the tank and got the little Toyota running again. Within the month we went to Grand Junction to the Toyota dealer there and bought a new Toyota Landcruiser. We figure if that little Corolla was that tough, just think where we could go with a vehicle made for off roading.

The next summer my mother came to visit us from California, and I remembered the stories she told about growing up on a farm a couple of miles southwest of Merced, California, on Gove Road, before the REA (Rural Electrification Administration), and living pretty much as the hippies did on the Magic Animal Farm. So we all climbed into the new Landcruiser and took Mom up to visit. 

She was fascinated to relive her childhood, I think, and appreciate the modern conveniences we have now. She still remembered heating water on the side of the wood stove, and trimming the wicks, polishing the glass and filling the reservoirs in the lanterns for nightfall.

She admired a large green shrub near the house, and said aloud that she wished she had one in her yard like that. We had to gently tell her that she probably wouldn’t want a plant like that one in her yard. Even though it was pretty, in California it would be highly illegal. In Colorado, not so much, if you weren’t selling it. Having less than one ounce was just a misdemeanor with a small fine. 

Sometimes the local sheriff would drop in the Natural Foods Co-op, open the cabinet and weight the bag in his hand to see if there was a large amount of pot there. Since the small bag was just for Pyote and not being sold, he just closed the door, wished them a good day, and left.

Pyote liked to boast of the psychedelics he had consumed in his lifetime. He said he had over three hundred LSD trips, and numerous other trips with mushrooms, peyote cacti, and other such chemical mind enhancers. He swore that it didn’t hurt your mind, but opened it and expanded your thinking and changed your conception of the world around you in a good way. 

I never wanted to take the risk. I kind of liked my brain the way it came. I have always thought the proper way to expand your thinking was to read a lot of books. I still think that.

Early that spring Red Cedar Woman became pregnant. She was happy and proud, and enjoyed showering in the nude under a tank of warm water in a tree outside the house. When the weather allowed, clothing was optional at the Magic Animal Farm.

Later in the fall, in the afternoon, one of the hippies showed up at the Norwood Clinic fifty miles south of the Magic Animal Farm. He told Dr. John Peters that a girl was having trouble delivering a baby and needed help immediately. The doctor closed the clinic, got in his old black pickup truck, and following directions from the hippie, drove back into the canyon to the ranch house. 

It was completely dark when they arrived at the house, and they had all the kerosene lanterns lit in the kitchen, where Red Cedar Woman was laying on the large table on a blanket. Dr. Peters made sure there was plenty of boiled water available, and in a few hours had delivered a healthy little baby girl. When all were settled and comfortable, Pyote nervously asked the doctor what they owed him.

“I hear you don’t believe in money!” said Dr. Peters.

“We are trying to do without it!” said Pyote.

“Well, that’s good!” Dr. Peters said. “What do you have to trade?”

Pyote said, “We just harvested some new potatoes today. Would that do?”

“Sure, I’d like about ten pounds, if you have them.”

The potatoes were soon bagged and loaded into the pickup. As the sun came up, Dr. Peters drove back home to Norwood, satisfied with a night's job well done.

We lost track of the Magic Animal Farm after we moved to Nevada to take a job in another power plant, but we heard it had broken up over finances, either taxes or alimony from Pyote’s first wife. Never knew for sure. 

When I next saw Pyote again, on a visit back to Colorado, he was the mayor of the town of Naturita and working as a mechanic in the town of Nucla. Red Cedar Woman had left him and took the kids, and I don’t have any idea where the Magic Animals are today.

It still makes me sad to think about it. Sort of a little paradise lost—lost to the ages.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Credo of Don Rogers 2019

Credo for Don Rogers 2019

It is impossible to understand where I am today, without reviewing my long and convoluted religious growth and evolution. I will try to be brief.

I was born in 1943 to strong Seventh-day Adventist parents, who were diligent in teaching us the beliefs and restrictions of our religion. We did not eat “unclean meats”, drink alcohol, coffee or tea. Most importantly, we went to church on Saturday, the Seventh Day, because God never changed the day of worship, those evil Catholics did. 

For most of my schooling, I went to Adventist parochial schools, where we received a good education in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and also a lot of Biblical study. I think we learned a new memory verse every day.  

  I remained a devout Seventh-day Adventist through college, where I began to doubt the overall lifestyle. There didn’t seem to be much joy or love in being Adventist. There were a lot of rules to follow, and a lot of fear of not being good enough.

While I was still in that church, I briefly studied an offshoot called  the Shepherd’s Rod, led by Victor Houteff. There was an old man with a long beard who showed up at church services now and then just to argue and shout at the pastor during the sermon. The main message seemed to be that the Adventist church had backslid from the truth, and was now Babylon, and it was time for true believers to “come out of her.”

I was not attracted to that group, which was just as well. After Victor Houteff died, the group was taken over by a man who called himself David Koresh, and renamed the group the Branch Davidians. The end of that group is well known.

My maternal grandmother was a Jehovah’s Witness, and we discussed religion a few times. She was impressed with my knowledge of the Bible from years of learning memory verses in school, but she never really pushed me to change churches. I went to her meetings a couple of times, and didn’t see anything I liked. As I was still Adventist, I was shocked to find out they drank real wine at the communion ceremony, and not just grape juice, as Adventists did.

My father left our family when I was eleven, leaving my mother to continue our raising. Much later, after I had left the Adventists, I found he had converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—better known as Mormons. 

I was immediately drawn to the emphasis on the family and the children and youth. The church actually had basketball hoops in the main meeting room, and lots of programs to keep the kids happy, including sponsoring the local Boy Scout troop. 

I also found their doctrine on humans being gods in training on earth for a destiny as rulers after death very attractive. There was none of the fear of not being good enough. Of course not, that was why you are here on earth—to learn all your life. It was a stark change from being poor helpless sinners who God now and then got mad at and either drowned or burned up and eventually was going to burn them all up in Hell.

I couldn’t buy the whole package, though and all the fantastical stories I found in the Book Of Mormon. But I kept the belief that I have worth and that I am in the family of God.

I briefly studied the Worldwide Church of God under Herbert W. Armstrong, who share the Mormon belief in the destiny of man as part of God’s family. But the rest of that religion was too much like the Adventist church I had left, with lots of rules to follow, and the constant fear of not measuring up.

I was still searching for the truth when I was drafted into the U.S. Army and was shipped to Okinawa, which was part of Japan. I had met two other soldiers on the troop ship who also had religious training, one as a Methodist seminarian, and another as a Baptist, I think. We spent many pleasant hours on the deck discussing religion. We all had thoughts of converting the heathens in Asia.

Not long after we arrived one of the others told me he had met with a Buddhist priest and we were invited to tour a local temple. After an exotic tour through the various rooms, we were invited to sit down while they served us hot green tea. After some general talk of how we liked the country, and some about our jobs in the Army, they invited us to tell about our beliefs and they would be happy to discuss anything we wanted. They made it plain that they were eager to learn and were always willing to learn more. For the first time in my life I was discussing religion with people who didn’t think they had “The Truth” and listened as well as preached.

The first surprising finding was that they didn’t believe in miracles. They believed in science above all else, and we found we were the superstitious heathens. They sure wouldn’t believe that Jesus or anyone else walked on water many centuries ago. Surely we wouldn’t believe someone who claimed that today. Why would we believe it from a text two thousand years old? If your own mother told you she walked on water, would you believe her? 

After several weeks of learning to use our reason and observation to determine what was truth, we all came to love the Buddhist way of thinking. There was no judgement, only help and advice on dealing with the pain and sorrows in this life. 

My two friends both converted to Buddhism before they left the island. I continued to study with other Buddhist groups and eventually found a priest who spoke to me in his writings and became my major influence, named Thich Nhat Hahn. 

I have recently found a church home here in the Red River Unitarian/Universalist church. There are no requirements for doctrinal beliefs at all, it is all about values, such as love, peace, and tolerance toward others.  

If humans manage to survive on this world, it will be because of these values.

Friday, July 12, 2019


July 12, 2019

It’s been a long, lonely year of my life. Carolyn has been gone for just a year today. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced the loss of a spouse just how empty you feel sometimes. 

No matter what I’m doing, the little thoughts keep cropping up—“Isn’t there something you’re forgetting?” “Is this what you are supposed to be doing?” “I better check in on her and make sure she’s OK?”

My mind may never quite get used to being alone again. I remember, before we fell in love, not liking at all being single. Having no one to share one’s life with is the definition of lonely.  I still don’t like being single.

When Carolyn left, she took a little bit of the light with her. There is a small patch of darkness that follows me around. Sometimes it is very dark, like looking into an abyss. But most of the time it is just a little shadow that yanks my mind back from complete enjoyment of whatever it is I’m doing.

I’m intentionally keeping busy with different projects, as a distraction from the sorrow that sometimes overtakes me. I am still restoring my 1977 GMC RV motorhome. I have a camper rally next week in Athens, Texas, where owners of other RVs like mine can swap stories and tips on how we keep them running after 42 years. 

I have polished and painted on my 1949 Allis-Chalmers tractor and put it in an antique tractor show last month. That was fun, and a lot of people liked my electric drive conversion, but I didn’t win any prizes. 

The most intensive activity, and the most successful at keeping my mind focussed on the here and now is riding my bicycle long distances. To a Buddhist, meditation is a practice of controlling your mind and keeping it from wandering to bad places. Some advocate chanting mantras repeatedly, some focus on your breath, to the exclusion of all other thoughts. I find bicycle meditation works just fine. I can get in a zone mentally where my mind is totally locked in to the rhythm of the pedals and the hum of the tires on the pavement. 

Since I have gotten in shape, I no longer feel any pain in my legs as I used to, and my respiratory capacity is markedly increased. When I am climbing long hills now, my meditation shifts to my breathing, with my inhales and exhales using every bit of my lungs. My mind stays right where I like it to be.

Not long after Carolyn left my life, I tried to fill the void with another woman, thinking that would make things better. It did not work out well at all. I was sure I could love her just like I loved Carolyn, but it wasn’t fair to her or me. I wanted Carolyn back, and no other person could have filled in that gap. 

She tried hard, but i’m afraid I just ended up hurting her again, as her life was already filled with abuse and rejection by her parents and former husbands. She was a lovely nurses aide who took care of Carolyn before she passed on, and who had mentioned that she wished she could find a man to love her as I did my wife. 

I was sure I did love her, but my trying and her trying still didn’t work out. She has gone back to school to upgrade her certifications, and if I did nothing else for her, I hope I convinced her that she is a good person, and smart besides.

Now I have joined a Unitarian/Universalist church just across the river in Texas. I have made many friends there, and have become one of the fledgling choir. We sing for the first time this Sunday during the service. They have also found out I play keyboard a little, and I’m sure I’ll be helping out there someday, too. 

They don’t mind at all that I am Buddhist in my beliefs, and there is one other Buddhist member there, too. This denomination goes back over four hundred years or so, and many of the founding fathers of this country were Unitarians or Universalists. Five of our presidents have been members, also. They don’t hold to any doctrinal tests, but find fellowship in common values of love, peace, and tolerance. My kind of people, for sure.

I am in the middle of buying a house near Durant, out by Lake Texoma. I am working out the loan arrangements now, so I should get to closing on the house within a month. My nephew Joe, who has let me share his house for three years, is moving north to Talihina, to work on the Choctaw Casinos computer network as a systems administrator. Should be interesting to see what happens to this old house we’ve been living in.

So to sum it up, life goes on. It will never be the same again. Each day is a new window into the life to come. I am waking up each morning now with anticipation and wonder. I don’t know how much time I have left, but the moments of joy are more and more a major part of my life. 

I have reached the point where I can work on assembling the chapters I have written for the last five years or so without breaking down in tears every few minutes. With a little more writing to tie some of the chapters together, and some editing for clarity, I will have a manuscript finished. 

This will probably be the Epilogue.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Tractors and Music

It’s been busy these last few days. Thursday was the start of the Bryan County Antique Tractor Club show out at the Choctaw Event Center. There was to be a parade at eight that evening, and I didn’t want to miss that. I was in a couple of parades in Winnemucca, both in a Candy Apple Red 1966 Cadillac Coupe De Ville Convertible with United Way sponsorship, and on my restored 1949 Allis-Chalmers Model G tractor with the local antique tractor club there.

I sold the Cadillac before I came to Oklahoma, but I was able to bring the tractor here, with the help of my brother John. 

My problem with getting the tractor to the parade was the lack of a trailer, which got stolen the day after I arrived here and unloaded the tractor. I could drive the tractor there (it’s only five miles) but then I would be stranded there for the whole three days of the show. 

I figured out a way to get my tractor and my car there at the same time. I put the bicycle rack on the back of the car, loaded the bicycle up and drove to the display area. I parked the car, unloaded the bike and rode back to the house. I left the bike there and drove the tractor out to the display area at the Events Center.

I got to be the first tractor in the inaugural parade for the antique tractor club. Since I converted it to electric drive four years ago, it makes almost no noise. All the tractors that followed made up for it. Several “Popping Johnies” made a lot of beautiful noises behind me. It was a short parade. Many tractor owners were still working at their jobs and couldn’t get there until Saturday.

There were three belt buckles for awards for best restoration, oldest tractor and a “People’s Choice” award. I was hoping for that one, and I talked to a lot of people who looked the tractor over and were interested in the electric conversion. I invited folks to seat their children on the tractor seat and take pictures, too. 

I spent most of three days out in the sun, getting lightly roasted and tired. Darlene told me my nose was getting red, so I put sunscreen there, too. Carolyn used to tell me that at the Reno Air Races every year. I don’t know why I remember to cover my arms but forget my nose.

The awards were passed out on Saturday at four o”clock, and I didn’t quite make it for an award, although they said the vote was close. I kidded them about getting a sound system for my tractor. Every time they started those John Deeres people would come over to see and admire those old noisy tractors. I could start around the area on my quiet electric tractor and nobody noticed, most of the time. 

Just before the awards were announced, I noticed some dark clouds to the north, coming at us really slowly. The weather radar showed a band of heavy rain and thunderstorms moving south, but still a few miles away. When I’m sitting on my tractor my head feels nervously like it might make a good lightning rod, so I immediately got on the tractor and motored for home. It only goes about 6 miles an hour, so it took the better part of an hour to get to the house. I put it in the garage, took the bicycle out, and closed the garage door.

The squall line from the approaching storm hit just as I got pedaling south, making a thirty or forty knot tailwind that blew me back to the show area in a hurry. It was high gear all the way. I put the bike on the car carrier, and then went back to watch them load about ten old Caterpillar tractors onto trucks for the ride home. 

It’s always exciting to watch those old clumsy tracked vehicles try to stay on the center of the trailer as they go up the ramps in back. It is not without danger, as now and then the tractor slips or skids to one side and sometimes tips over on the ground. YouTube has lots of videos of such things happening.

As I tried to start the Mazda, the engine would not crank. I felt around to make sure the key fob was in my pocket. It wasn’t. So I got back out of the car and started searching the area, knowing I must have dropped it somewhere. One of the tractor owners came over to ask it I was looking for something, and I told him my problem. He said his daughter had found a Mazda key fob and had given it to the policemen to put in lost and found.

I went inside the building and got there just in time to see them put it on a table for filing away. I told them those keys were mine and I had just lost them. They took my name, and asked if I had gotten fully charged. They remembered me asking if I could plug my tractor into the RV plugs on the side of the rodeo building. Yeah, one night on the charger and it was full of electricity.

I went to the car and drove home. The thunder clouds had slid by us on the west side and we never saw a drop of rain or heard any thunder at all.

I was bone tired and my eyeballs felt cracked and it sure felt good to shower up and crash into bed. No, that’s not how it happened. That wasn’t the truth. I was so tired I went straight to bed and showered up the next morning. I’ll wash the sheets later.

Today at church the music director had the whole program, and it was a joy. This is the Unitarian Universalist church, and they don’t do sober and glum very much. Some of the music was with jazz percussion, and when it was time for the offering gifts, he played some bossa nova. In this church they don’t pass the plate—the people get up and walk to the offering plate at the back of the room, where the donations are taken. Some folks were dancing as they made their way to the back.

During the program he mentioned the power of music, and how just hearing Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” made tears flow down both his cheeks. I share that emotional response. The opposite is also true. “Oh Happy Day” by the Edwin Hawkins Singers will lift my spirits instantly.

I was given a list of three songs I should practice for a special program in a couple of weeks, which will be live streamed to a conference meeting of the church. This will be for singing in a choral group, not on keyboards yet, although I will be asked to fill in there in the future. I just need to find a good bass line for the songs. The songbooks are written for the piano, with arpeggios and such, without four part harmony. I’ll have to get that figured out myself.

I practiced one of the songs on an electronic Casio keyboard at home, and then I thought I would look up “Adagio for Strings” on YouTube and listen to it. Yes, it still made me cry, It’s a gray day today, so since I’m here, in this mood, let’s try “Meditation” from Thais by Massenet. Yep, more tears fell. Felt good. Maybe I should do some more.

It’s not just classical music—let’s try “I’m not Lisa” by Jesse Colter. Oh man, the tear ducts are wide open now. For the final number I found the original recording of “The Dance” by Garth Brooks. We played that as the last song at Carolyn’s funeral. Yeah, I’m sobbing now. Needed that. 

I think I’ll drive out and talk to her tonight.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll play, “Oh Happy Day.”