Zoe’s Backyard Treasure

Zoe was bored. She stretched, stuck her head through the doggy door and looked out into the backyard.

“Hey Zumie, “ she said. “Ya want to go bark at the fence?”

Zumie looked at her with sleepy eyes. “Is someone walking by?”

“No, I just thought it might be fun.”

“It’s more fun if someone’s walking by, I think we should wait.”

Zoe nudged Dudley with her nose. “Do you want to go outside and play?”

“Maybe after I take a nap, Zoe. Now, I’m just too tired.”

Zoe looked at Emma, the oldest dachshund. She usually didn’t like to play. Besides, she was asleep. She patted Daisy on the paw, “Hey Daisy, want to go outside and play?”

“Sure Zoe, what do you want to do?”

“Let’s go dig a hole.”

“Sounds like fun. Where should we dig it?” Daisy asked.

“Let’s dig it behind the Garden Shed. That way the big man and lady won’t see it.”

Daisy smiled, “Perfect.”

Daisy and Zoe ran to the Garden Shed and sniffed around until they found a spot that smelled just right. They started scratching at the dirt and soon had a very nice hole. “Boy Daisy,” said Zoe. “This is sure a neat hole. We should pretend we’re pirates digging for treasure.”

“That’s a great idea,” Daisy replied. “That makes it more exciting.”

The two dogs dug until Daisy called out, “Hey Zoe, I found a bone.”

“Me too, Daisy. A nice big one. It’s just like finding a real pirate treasure.”

Zoe and Daisy carried their bones out into the warm grass and gnawed and chewed until Dudley and Zumie walked up.

“Those sure look like nice bones,” said Dudley.

“Yeah,” agreed Zumie. “They look delicious.”

“They are,” Zoe replied. “We were playing pirates, and we found a treasure.”

Zumie looked at Dudley. “The next time Zoe asks me to play, I’m going to say yes,”

“Me too,” agreed Dudley. “Now, where’s that hole, Zoe? Maybe if I dig deeper I can find more treasure.”

“Do you mind if I join you, Dudley?”

“That would be great, Zumie. It will be a lot easier digging if there are two of us.”

Zoe was proud of herself for finding such a nice bone. As she chewed, she noticed Emma walk out the doggy door and lay down in the warm grass. It’s too bad Emma is so old. She thought. Emma can’t dig holes anymore, she’ll never be able to find a neat treasure like I did. Then Zoe had an idea. She picked up her bone and carried it over to Emma.

“Here Emma,” she said. “I know you can’t dig holes anymore, so I thought I’d share my bone with you.” Emma just looked at her. Oh, that’s right, Emma can’t hear. Zoe pushed the bone closer and said in a loud bark. “It’s for you.”

“Thank you little dog,” replied Emma. “It looks delicious.”

Zoe nodded and walked back to Daisy.

“Why did you give Emma your bone?”

“I thought she needed it more than I did,” Zoe replied. “Besides, I can always go dig up another.”

“Why don’t we share my bone?” suggested Daisy. “I’m sure it’s big enough for both of us.”

“Really?” exclaimed Zoe.

“Yes,” Daisy replied. “Some treasures are better if you share them.”

The End

Science, Your Health and the Virgin Mary

When I was a small boy my uncle visited the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, in Lourdes France. A girl named, Bernadette Soubirous, began seeing visions of a young lady there on February 11, 1858. The lady eventually identified herself with the words: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” The Virgin Mary.

On February 25, Bernadette said the apparition asked her to dig in the ground and drink from the spring she found there. This made her disheveled and some of her supporters were dismayed, but this act revealed the stream that soon became a focal point for pilgrimages. Although it was muddy at first, the stream became increasingly clean. As word spread, this water was given to medical patients of all kinds, and many reports of miraculous cures followed.

My uncle brought bottles of this water home for his family members. We kept ours in the refrigerator. I don’t remember ever drinking the water, although I’m pretty sure mom might have given us little spoonfuls if we were really sick. I bring this up because I went to a Stem Cell Center presentation yesterday evening. It was the first time I’d been out of the house in days because of the flu.

The very first thing the presenter talked about were ‘expectations.’ How important our positive outlook, and beliefs were to our physical, mental and economic lives. This is true, but hardly something I expected to encounter in a supposed medical information presentation. I could see the presenter reading the crowd. Tailoring his presentation to the people gathered. Feeding on their distrust of “Big Pharma” the FDA and a medical system that wants to keep you sick. There are millions who believe this. People against vaccinations who believe in chiropractic adjustments for colds and flu.

It is a belief system. Like a religion. You can find facts that will absolutely prove you are right. While another can find facts to prove you are absolutely wrong. You believe what you choose. Why is unproven Stem Cell Therapy more valid than drinking Holy Water from Lourdes? The water is safer, scientifically proven to work with 60 documented miracles, countless testimonials of success and much less expensive. You can buy a bottle blessed in Lourdes on Amazon for $8.99 with free shipping.

The Stem Cell Center presenter even mentioned God. Saying, and I paraphrase, ‘God made our bodies to heal themselves.’ Of course this is true. Any child who’s ever had a booboo can attest to its validity. But I guarantee I have more faith in God than the Stem Cell Center. $8.99 for a bottle of water with a 161 year track record of safe, scientifically proven effectiveness vs. thousands of dollars for unproven Stem cells. Which would you choose?

Why Do We Need More Stereotypical Males?

Very few things get me as upset as some ignorant man posting on Facebook that we need more ignorant men. The post starts out saying, The masculine America male is a dying breed. We have been told for far to long that violence isn’t the answer. It goes on to say that males now, have to wear skinny jeans and shave their chests. What about smoking cigarettes without a filter, drinking your coffee black and writing your name in the snow with your piss? Aren’t those important too?

What about violence being the answer? I’ll get to the important points of shaving our chests and the skinny jeans later. But back to violence. Sure, sometimes you need to stand up for yourself. Usually, it’s to some other stereotypical male who wants to act tough, or look big in the eyes of his friends. Alcohol is generally involved. But it takes two to fight so I would just shake my head and walk away.

Of course I’m above average in height and weight and it didn’t happen often. Maybe I looked like too much trouble. I know a man bigger than I am, stronger too. He never got into fights either. He said it looked like it might happen once, but he grabbed the guy in the crook of his arm and said: “Really?” the guy changed his mind. Oh, this man was trained as a baker and is a very loving husband and father.

I think the idea of being a man comes from where you live. If you live someplace rural, a man might need to buck bales, chop wood, fix an engine, carry a knife, butcher a hog and shoot a gun. However, there are plenty of women who can do these same things. So, I don’t think these skills necessarily make you a man, they just make you competent for your environment.

The point I’m trying to make is that being a stereotypical male doesn’t make you a man. Here are some things that do. They pertain to women as well. Raise your children. Be a good example, and discipline them when they need it. Be the kind of person who can make a deal on a handshake. Be honest, stick to your word. Do what’s right, even if it isn’t easy. Stand up for the weak and vulnerable. Put your family’s needs before your own. I believe these are more important than knowing how to whittle and spit.

Oh, and as far as shaving your chest and wearing skinny jeans, I’ll leave those decisions entirely up to you.

The Cardiff Giant, the Border Wall and Trump

*The phrase “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” Is attributed to American author and social critic H. L. Mencken (1880–1956) but not found exactly verbatim in his published works, so the source and original form of this expression are not known with absolute certainty. A nearly-verbatim paraphrase of: “No one in this world, so far as I know … has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.”Appeared in Mencken’s ‘Notes on Journalism’, in the Chicago Tribune on September 19th, 1926.

The phrase: “There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute” is commonly attributed to P.T. Barnum. However, many of his contemporaries say he never actually said it. A man called R. J. Brown asserted that it actually originated with a banker named David Hannum. It was in reference to one of Barnum’s hoaxes: a replica of the Cardiff Giant.

The Cardiff Giant was the creation of a New York tobacconist named George Hull. Hull, an atheist, decided to create the giant after an argument at a Methodist revival meeting about Genesis 6:4 which stated that there were giants who once lived on Earth. Hull hired men to quarry out a 10-foot-4.5-inch-long (3.2 m) block of gypsum in Fort Dodge, Iowa, telling them it was intended for a monument to Abraham Lincoln in New York. He shipped the block to Chicago, where he hired Edward Burghardt, a German stonecutter, to carve it into the likeness of a man and swore him to secrecy.

Various stains and acids were used to make the giant appear to be old and weathered, and the giant’s surface was beaten with steel knitting needles embedded in a board to simulate pores. During November 1868, Hull transported the giant by railroad to the farm of his cousin, William Newell. By then, he had spent $2,600 for the hoax (nearly equivalent to $48,000 in 2017, adjusted for inflation).

Nearly a year later, Newell hired Gideon Emmons and Henry Nichols, ostensibly to dig a well, and on October 16, 1869 they found the giant. One of the men reportedly exclaimed, “I declare, some old Indian has been buried here!” Newell set up a tent over the giant and charged 25 cents for people who wanted to see it. Two days later he increased the price to 50 cents. People came by the wagonload.

Archaeological scholars pronounced the giant a fake, and some geologists even noticed that there was no good reason to try to dig a well in the exact spot the giant had been found. Yale paleontologist Othniel C. Marsh termed it “a most decided humbug”. Some theologians and preachers, however, defended its authenticity.

Eventually, Hull sold his part-interest for $23,000 (equivalent to $456,000 in 2018) to a syndicate of five men headed by David Hannum. They moved it to Syracuse, New York, for exhibition. The giant drew such crowds that showman P. T. Barnum offered $50,000 for the giant. When the syndicate refused, he hired a man to model the giant’s shape covertly in wax and create a plaster replica. He displayed his giant in New York, claiming that his was the real giant, and the Cardiff Giant was a fake.

Hannum sued Barnum for calling his giant a fake, but the judge told him to get his giant to swear on his own genuineness in court if he wanted a favorable injunction. On December 10, 1869, Hull confessed everything to the press, and on February 2, 1870 both giants were revealed as fakes in court; the judge also ruled that Barnum could not be sued for terming a fake giant a fake.

Barnum went on to exhibit his giant as one of the, ‘Greatest Hoaxes Ever’ and got people to pay to see it.

**Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border did not come from security analysts following years of study or through evidence that a wall would reduce illegal immigration. Amazingly, for something so central to the current U.S. president, the wall came about as a “mnemonic device” thought up by a pair of political consultants to remind Donald Trump to talk about illegal immigration.

In 2014, Trump’s plan to run for president moved into high gear. His political confidant was consultant Roger Stone. “Inside Trump’s circle, the power of illegal immigration to manipulate popular sentiment was readily apparent, and his advisers brainstormed methods for keeping their attention-addled boss on message,” writes Joshua Green, author of Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Nationalist Uprising. “They needed a trick, a mnemonic device. In the summer of 2014, they found one that clicked.”

Joshua Green had good access to Trump insiders, including Sam Nunberg, who worked with Stone. “Roger Stone and I came up with the idea of ‘the Wall,’ and we talked to Steve [Bannon] about it,” according to Nunberg. “It was to make sure he [Trump] talked about immigration.”

The concept of the Wall did not click right away with the candidate. “Initially, Trump seemed indifferent to the idea,” writes Green. “But in January 2015, he tried it out at the Iowa Freedom Summit, a presidential cattle call put on by David Bossie’s group, Citizens United. ‘One of his pledges was, ‘I will build a Wall,’ and the place just went nuts,’ said Nunberg. Warming to the concept, Trump waited a beat and then added a flourish that brought down the house. ‘Nobody,’ he said, ‘builds like Trump.’”

The Border Wall, and the Cardiff Giant are alike in two ways. Both were disparaged by the knowledgeable and learned as fake, or ineffectual. And both were viewed by a portion of the general public as genuine or essential. In both instances someone will, or did, make a lot of money; and in both instances the American public was left holding the bag.

*special thanks to Wikipedia

**Where The Idea For Donald Trump’s Wall Came From, Stuart Anderson, Forbes Magazine

Halloween Memories

Uncle Rick’s Chrysler Imperial had fins like a rocket, and a push button transmission. My brother Joe and I were riding in it trick or treat along Twin House Road south of Cottonwood, Idaho. It was 1969, I was seven.

Rock chips splattered against the wheel wells. The sky was cloudy, and all I could see through the windshield was a gravel road and the edge of harvested wheat fields. A gray bird swooped through the headlights. I gasped. My brother jerked. The Chrysler slowed.

“What was that?”

Uncle Rick put his foot back on the accelerator. He flicked his cigarette in the ashtray. “An owl. It’s hunting for mice.”

“I didn’t know owls were that big?”

“They get to be pretty good sized.” He kept his eyes on the road.

I stared across the Camas Prairie at the scattered farmhouse lights. Peered up at the moon’s faint white smudge in the black overcast sky. When I looked back I noticed a small pinpoint of light in the darkness ahead. It got brighter as we drew near, Jack-o’-lanterns.

There must have been at least eight of ‘em. They were arranged against the fence corner at the turn to my Uncle Johnny’s. A burning candle flickering through each of their hollow eyes and gap toothed grins.

I thought back to the owl that’d startled everyone. The pinpoint of light in the middle of nowhere. The glow of the Jack-o’-lantern’s dancing flames. This, I thought. This is the way Halloween was meant to be.

I’ve never forgotten that Halloween. Since then, I’ve experienced Halloween in the movies, on television and at Disneyland. None of them compare to that car ride, and the welcoming glow of my cousins hand carved, candlelit Jack-o’-lanterns. That was pure Halloween.

Carving a Jack-o’-lantern is as important to me as having a turkey at Thanksgiving, or a tree at Christmas. My childhood rushes back when I pry the top off a freshly cut pumpkin. The smell. The feel of the cold slimy seeds.

I plop them out on a newspaper, or into a bowl. Flicking my wrist to free the sticky entrails from my fingers. Once most of the seeds are gone, I scrape. I use an ice cream scoop. I tilt the pumpkin sideways and rotate it. Scraping and dumping until the inside is clean and smooth.

Now the important part, the face. Triangle eyes and nose with a wide toothy grin? Round eyes and a mouth open in surprise? You could also use a store bought pattern. The options are endless. It’s up to you and your imagination.

Candles have lost favor to battery powered lights, or glow sticks. I’m a purist. Tea lights are the easiest candle to use. The kind in the little aluminum container. Store them in the freezer so they’ll burn longer, light them with a stick of spaghetti.

Let your candle burn about fifteen minutes and remove the Jack-o’-lantern’s lid. There should be a black mark, or warm spot. Cut it out. Make a chimney for the flame. You can enjoy your creation longer that way.

My favorite pumpkin story happened when I was in sixth grade. Buttery’s in the Lewiston Shopping Center had pumpkins for five cents a pound. My neighbor Mike, his little brother Doug, my little brother Jack and I decided to walk down and buy one. Mike and I were ten, Doug eight and Jack seven.

We left after school on a warm Indian Summer afternoon. It was a little over a mile, one way. Neither Jack or I remember the walk down NezPerce Grade, but we both remember the walk home. It was uphill all the way and the pumpkins got pretty heavy. Jack carried his by its stem like a suitcase. Then it broke. After that, all he could do was hold it in his arms.

NezPerce Grade used to have guardrails made of large concrete pillars with cables strung between. The cables were gone, but Jack made it up that hill one pillar at a time. Resting his pumpkin on each for a few minutes before taking it back in his arms and trudging to the next. Mike and Doug walked on ahead. I stayed with Jack. It was a long walk home.

When I drive up that grade around Halloween I still see us carrying those pumpkins. A childhood journey completed almost fifty years ago, but still not finished in my memory. A lot has changed. Halloween has changed. Now there are stores specializing in animated props, digital displays, costumes and decorations I could only dream of.

Then there’s that night. The night with the owl that swooped through the headlights. The orange pinpoint of light in the darkness. Jack-o’-lanterns stacked on the corner of a quiet country road. Candlelight flickering through their child imagined faces. Technology will never replace that. Nothing can, that’s the essence of Halloween.

Born in the USA

I was born in a little town in Idaho. I’m a 3rd or 4th generation American depending what side of the family you look at. My mother’s people were from Austria, my father’s from Ireland, then Canada. Everyone on the North American continent is an immigrant unless you an indigenous person. My relatives just happened to get here before there were real stringent regulations.

My wife is a Naturalized Citizen. She came here on a Work Visa. She followed all the rules, got her green card, paid thousands of dollars and eventually became a US Citizen. I wish everyone could get to know someone who is a Naturalized Citizen. Maybe then all the malarkey about illegal aliens would finely be dealt with.

Right now we rely on illegal aliens to do our dirty work. They have no protection under our laws, are paid less than the going wage and are trapped in a world of silence. They can’t complain to anyone or they’re out of here. All of this is part of a “wink, wink” economy. Everyone knows it exists, but nobody admits it.

If the truth were told, representatives from our Federal Government would tell you I’m right. Their maids, pool cleaners and gardeners are probably not legal citizens and they’re well aware of it. They pay them less, and work them harder with no repercussions, unless they get caught.

We don’t need a wall. We need to overhaul out Immigration Laws and Agency so we let more hardworking, taxpaying people into our country. Until we do the illegal immigrant circus will never leave town, and the clowns in Washington DC will never quit honking their horns of divisiveness.

I’ve got mine, and that’s all I care about.

My wife doesn’t understand how come I get upset. What’s happening in the United States really bothers me. I don’t care if unemployment is low, and the stock market is high. They don’t matter, we are destroying our future. I’ll use the Republic of Nauru as an example.

Nauru (pronounced NAH-roo) is the world’s smallest and most isolated republic. The island has an area of eight square miles, about a third the size of Manhattan, and it is so remote that the nearest island of any size is hundreds of miles away. But Nauru generates wealth that might make a few oil-rich potentates envious.

Thanks in part to what was left behind by the sea birds that have sought refuge here over hundreds of thousands of years, this island’s 7,500 people are among the richest in the world, at least on paper, because of phosphate mines that bring in tens of millions of dollars a year.

The phosphate, the product of fossilized bird guano and a primeval stew of marine microorganisms, is exported as fertilizer, most of it to Australia, Nauru’s former ruler.

Inch for inch, Nauru is the most environmentally ravaged nation on earth. So much of the island has been devoured by strip-mining begun 90 years ago that Nauruans face the prospect that they may have to abandon their bleak, depleted home.*

This is what we’re doing to ourselves. We’re being short sighted. We’re treating or allies badly. We’re treating our neighbors like they’re out to get us. We’re borrowing, and spending so much money we’re dooming our children and grandchildren to staggering deficits. We may make a few more dollars now. But we’re destroying ourselves doing it. Prosperity now, desolation and hopelessness later.

Nobody seems to care. That’s why I get upset.

*A Pacific Island Nation Is Stripped of Everything