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Friday, December 25, 2009

Shortcut to Nowhere

Shortcut to Nowhere

My Dad was one of those who knew better than anyone else. Even when facts confronted him, he found a way around them. He was probably the source of that ubiquitous joke about men drivers never asking directions.

I never saw him look at a map or stop at a gas station to ask for help. All Dad knew was where he was starting and where he was going. He’d point the grill of the car in the direction of our destination and take off.

In our frequent trips from Fort Worth to the Panhandle, we had to go through Wichita Falls. On each of the first dozen trips, he tried a different route to circumvent downtown.

Now, I’ll admit we saw sights we would never had seen otherwise. Once I think we might have seen the Grand Canyon, but that’s pretty far fetched. Still-- Anyway we never saved any time with his shortcuts. He would never listen to suggestions, exclaiming instead, “I know what in the (expletives here-big time expletives) I’m doing.” And with that retort, the argument was settled.

Of course, he’d really get mad when he took a shortcut and then got back on the highway only to discover cars that he had passed ten miles back were ahead of him. My brother and I always muffled our snickers.

The reason I’m waxing nostalgic here is that if you look around this world of ours, there are a lot of folks out there who, I believe, are trying to take us where they think we should go, and without any better reasons that my Dad had in believing he knew the best shortcut.

Look how politicians tried to make us believe global warming was man-made- and now, look at how they’re crawfishing ever since personal e-mails have revealed scientists conspired to manipulate data to support what they surmised instead of the truth.

Certainly, you can’t argue with icebergs and glaciers melting. That is happening; there is global warming; but man is not the main cause. We might not be helping, but this earth will do what it wants.

No one denies ice once covered most of North America, then began retreating. All that is merely happening is that the ice is still retreating (duh), and if there were no humans on this planet, the ice would still be retreating.

There is talk about too much carbon dioxide, yet the proponents cannot tell us how much is too
much. All they can tell us is that it is higher than it has ever been. In other words, they don’t know what will happen, just like Dad didn’t know the way around Wichita Falls.

And the same is going on with this health care mess. Proponents jammed it through without knowing exactly what the effects will be. Their argument was ‘get it done, then figure it out.’ We need some reform. I won’t argue that, but let’s go about it sensibly.

All Dad should have done was look at a map and figure out a shortcut, not blunder ahead as he did so often, wasting time, gas, and patience.

The government needs to slow down, figure out exactly where we’re going, determine what it will cost, and then act, not the way the Senate pulled it off the other day.

I keep hearing politicians talk about how historical this health bill will be. Well, Jockos, jam that bill all the way through to the president’s desk, and I’ve got a feeling history will not treat you as saviors, but instead vilify the 111th Congress as the most dimwitted (pardon the redundancy), uncaring, and selfish congress in the history of our country.

A woman by the name of Joan Gorner observed that governments historically used crises to increase their power. In this last year we’ve had an Economic crisis, Health-care crisis, H1N1 crisis, and Global climate crisis.

This administration has told us unless we let the government step in and tell us what to do, we will drown, die, lose our homes, our savings, our hair, and happy hour at the local bar.

The lady makes sense.

Obviously, she knows this congress better than most, don’t you think?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

That Time of Year

That Time of Year

I always look forward to Christmas, not for gifts or such but because it is so much fun to watch kids enjoy the gaiety of the time. Besides, people in general seem to be a little nicer, a little less impatient, and a lot more friendly.

Too bad we can’t have that attitude year around.

Decorating outside was my way of wishing passers-by a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

But I’ve noticed the last few years, I haven’t put up as many outdoor decorations as I once did. Age has a way of tightening the reins on a body.

I’m not crazy about ladders any longer—don’t trust myself up on them, and this year especially, the weather was not conducive to working outside. Did you notice how cold it was the first couple weeks of December?

That’s something else I can’t handle as I once did, the cold. In fact, I’ve started wearing a hat out in the weather. For over seventy years, I’ve gone bareheaded, but now I’ll pop on a hat to keep my head warm—just like my father and grandfathers. Who would have thought? Not me fifty years ago.

My wife, bless her, kept after me to tell her what I wanted for Christmas, but I have all I need. The Lord has been good to me and mine. I’m content to enjoy the holidays with family and friends.

As a kid, I never spent Christmas at home. We were always at my grandparents either up in the Panhandle or out of the Great Plains around Lubbock.

We were like everyone else, we had little, but since everyone had little, we never figured ourselves hard put. I can swear to this, however, no youngster ever had nicer Christmases than I did with all my cousins and family.

It was usually three or four days of utter chaos.

Twenty or thirty folks in a dinky four-room house sporting only a two-holer out back lent itself to confusion.

At any given time, women were gossiping, some were cooking, some tending babies while the men played poker or forty-two, talked business, hunted, and always made it a point to keep their throats lubricated with bonded bourbon.

The Christmas I remember most vividly as a child was the first time we stayed home for Christmas. I was in the second grade in Albuquerque. Dad was in the Navy and he couldn’t get leave. That was about 1942.

It was cold, but as I remember, we had no snow although that part of the country has more than its share. At first light, I crept into the living room and there under a tree, spotted a toy cannon about six inches long.

A wire rack on top held several wooden bullets that would drop into a small chamber. A hand crank on the side of the cannon propelled the bullet. I had a whale of a time firing at Christmas ornaments.

I slept with that little cannon.

With our own children, we’ve always stayed home and hoped the magic and joy of Christmas would fill their spirits as it did ours.

We’ve talked about an artificial tree. Every year, it gets harder and harder to run down a fresh one, haul it back, set it up straight, and decorate it.

But this year when I stepped back and looked at the tree, I told myself there was no way I could buy an artificial that was a Christmasy looking as the one at our front window this season.
I’ll keep putting decorations up outside, but I’ve got to come with some that don’t involve ladders. And I’ll just have to cross my fingers that it isn’t as cold for as long next year.

Now, it's time to break out the egg nog.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

All Gargle and No Guts

All Gargle and No Guts

I had planned to watch the president’s speech on Afghanistan last week, but we went out to eat at Pine Tree Lodge where I not only enjoyed a tasty meal of grilled catfish but rolled pool balls on the table with my three- and five-year-old grandsons.

Truth is, I had a better time with them than I would have listening to the speech.
I watched bits and pieces of it later on various networks. One thing you’ve got to give the president, he is one dandy speaker.

You ever notice how he always poses after making a statement? Presidential type poses. He has mastered the technique of tilting his chin and staring into space as if he is seeing into the future. Another pose is turning his head sharply and glaring over the heads of the audience.

I wonder how long he had to practice all the poses so they would become part of his demeanor, or does the teleprompter suggest the gestures.

Can you imagine such a prompt on the teleprompter? The screen might look like this.

“Time is critical. We must act now!”

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not trying to be critical of his delivery. That delivery is what got him elected in the first place. It is smooth and slick and engaging. Of course con men are smooth and slick and engaging. All I’m saying is that no one is born with such a well-developed gift in place. They have to work to develop it, and obviously, he has.

There have been many gifted orators, perhaps the most notable being Martin Luther King, Jr. There was Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, and yes, Adolf Hitler as well as many, many more.
The gift of oratory is like the Sirens’ Song, leading an audience to whatever goal the speaker has in mind, imbuing the listeners with rosy visions the future has for them. Unfortunately, his oratory will have the same effect as the Sirens’, a shipwreck.

King’s oratory had goals, specific goals.

Obama’s speech did not. Not really. Of course, I’m probably wrong, but here is what I came up with after winnowing the chaff from the seed. He’ll send in more troops, but will start pulling them out in eighteen months. And now, true to form, he’s even waffling on that. At least Bush took a stand.

Now you tell me, what sort of message did he send?

Republicans put one spin on it, Democrats another. We Independents just sit here and scratch our heads, recognizing another example of his lack of substance. Other countries just laughed.

It was the same sort of speech you would use to mediate problems between warring Chicago neighborhoods whose leaders have trouble spelling ‘duh’.

Hate him or not, you can’t say Bush waffled on the fight against terrorism—and I’m sorry, but the word ‘extremists’ is not specific enough to describe those fanatics our young men and women are battling; that we are battling. We’re battling terrorists, not just extremists!

This president made over five hundred promises during his campaign. He’s kept fifty-eight, broken seven, compromised on fifteen, had eighteen stalled, working on one sixty-eight, and has not addressed two hundred fifty-seven.

And he’s twenty-five percent of the way through his term.

I hope your promise isn’t in that two fifty-seven.

In all fairness, he’s done a few good things such as rebuilding schools in New Orleans because of Katrina.

But even that makes you wonder. Why didn’t he do the same for the rest of the coast devastated by Katrina? If you’ll remember, New Orleans was on the west side of the eye. The bad stuff hit thirty miles east, in Mississippi. The problems in New Orleans arose because of the levees, which were the responsibility of local, state, and federal agencies.

But he did help the Big Easy and ignored the rest of the coast. Again, I ask why, but then, foolish me, I didn’t consider the demographics.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dec 7

Kent Conwell
213 E 1st St
Port Neches, TX 77651,,
The Day to Remember

Quick! What was it you didn’t see on November 22?
Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see it, nor did several others whom I questioned.
Give up?
I saw nothing commemorating the anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy forty-six years ago.
Oh, there were a couple conspiracy programs on the History channel, and that night, one of the networks mentioned it in a ten second comment.
Yep, I figured it was just me—you know, longer in the tooth, weaker in the brain, but when I asked my old high school chat group, the members of which are spread across the country, none of them had seen anything in their local news about it either.
Our country cannot afford to forget its history, for invariably, it is from those events that we derive true understanding, purpose, and determination. Sadly to say, however, you are probably just as aware as I of our country’s penchant to ignore history.
How many remember December 7? Believe it or not, there are many out there who have no idea what the date signifies.
And that’s a shame.
Those who lived through it will never forget where they were when they heard the stunning news—same with the Kennedy assignation.
In our little Panhandle town, we had s single picture show, the Rogue. The Sunday afternoon show began at one o’clock, and it ran twice.
That’s where I was, at the show with Mom and Dad, watching ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Now I know the film came out in 1939, but most movies our little town got were a couple years old if not older.
About halfway through the movie, the house lights went on and the owner faced us from the stage. He announced the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Now, at my age, that meant nothing to me. What bothered me was that he shut the movie down. I couldn’t see what was going to happen to Dorothy or Toto—or the others.
The seriousness of the announcement was beyond my comprehension, but by that evening, I knew something was terribly wrong for our family had gathered around the radio at my aunt’s. I remember a lot of talking and cursing.
The nearest Army and Navy recruiting office was in Shamrock, some sixteen miles to the south. The next one was in Pampa, forty miles to the west.
Next morning, from what Dad said, lines of young men circled the block in Pampa and Shamrock, waiting for the offices to open.
America mobilized. We mobilized in a way that I doubt we’ll ever again witness. At that time, America was a tough, hard-headed country coming out of a depression that tested men’s spirits to the breaking point. But they didn’t break, they persevered.
Primarily still rural, the hard work and fierce determination essential to success tilling the land lent itself to the same kind of warriors, tough, resilient, unyielding, and trusting in God.
That’s what won it for us, a combination that saw eighty percent of the men fighting, and eighty percent of the women manning the factories and the farms.
In the late thirties, one of my uncles served in the Philippines where he contracted a disease that ultimately ended his life. Other uncles and cousins on both sides fought around the world, none of them much over twenty years of age or so. Of course, Dad was in the war. He was an old man in his thirties.
That war cost our country 416,800 military and 1,700 civilian lives. Another 700,000 plus were wounded. Those men and women kept us free, free to live as we choose as long as we don’t hurt others.
The least we can do is try to remember that date. That isn’t too much to ask, is it?