Saturday, November 18, 2017

More Things Found in Books

Scored seriously when I found these three books at the Rexburg DI this morning:

First on the Moon, by Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin Aldrin, Jr. (which explains why he went by "Buzz";

Overlord, by Max Hastings;

Nixon" The Man Behind the Mask, by Gary Allen.

The Nixon book should prove interesting, as it's written for the crowd who felt Tricky Dick was too much of a squashy liberal, rather than the stone-squeezing conservative they wanted him to be. To wit, note the two bits of paper being used as bookmarks in this book:

Clearly, this book was being read by a patriot.

Note a few interesting things:

  1. State government took a bite of a whopping nineteen cents in 1972, from wages earned for 41.5 hours of work.
  2. This person earned $1.85 an hour (minimum wage then was $1.60 an hour). The wage represents just under $10 an hour in 2017 dollars.
  3. Rogers Brothers was a seed company that operated in Idaho Falls from 1911 to 1986 and was rather a mover and shaker in seed research nationally. I vaguely remember seeings signs for this company around town when I was a kid.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Friday Night

Friday night, my sister and I sat behind Mom’s garage, sipping diet sodas, watching stuff burn.

They were the last bulky objects to come out of the house and garage: A particleboard cabinet with a broken door, a wooden shelf from the basement suffering from a little rot and hasty craftsmanship. Albert’s truck was already full of junk and the transfer station was closed, so burning these objects – along with a small random collection of other wooden junk – seemed appropriate. The house is out in the county where no burn permits are required. The night was cool and windless, the patch of ground bare.

We sat on a log lumpy with burlwood, something Dad brought home from some adventure somewhere. It had always been at the house. I remember it posted in the back yard at our other house, near the sandbox. It had always been there. Now it was shorter, its bottom rotted. We probably should have thrown it on the fire too, but it was the only place to sit.

Everything else in the house and garage was either loaded up in cars and trucks or hauled off long ago.

The house is sold. The garage swept, the tools bundled up in my truck. The only resident of the house now, a lonely recliner that nobody had room for (my house, stuffed with stuff from Mom’s already looks like a consignment shop). A gift, then, for the new owners.

Footsteps, and a flashlight, to the side of the garage. I was standing because the burlwood was uncomfortable. We thought it was Albert, back from the dump.

“You got a phone? My radio’s not working.”

A sheriff’s deputy. Not Albert.

“Somebody saw your fire and called the cavalry,” he said. Indeed, across the field behind the house, we can see a lit-up fire engine approaching, sirens shouting into the darkness.

“I can see you’ve got a controlled burn here. Can I borrow a phone to call dispatch?”

I hand him my phone, and, like the rest of us, stumbles to dial the area code, a new requirement. He makes his call, hands back the phone, then wishes us a good night.

The fire truck arrives, lights still in Christmas glory.

I wander to the front to meet the deputy and a fireman coming back. The fireman, too, looks at our fire – much diminished from whenever the call was made – and agrees there’s nothing to worry about. “Just make sure you’ve got a shovel and a hose ready, just in case,” he said. They leave. I retrieve a shovel and a hose from the back of my truck, and we watch the fire grow dimmer.
The fire truck and deputy leave; the neighborhood has had its last bit of excitement from the Davidson family.

Mom, of course, died on August 18, seventeen years and seventeen days after Dad passed, or about seven years after he built the new house about a quarter mile from the one he built in the 1960s. We’d signed the paperwork to sell the house the day before the fire, and were there that day getting two sisters moved out and the rest of the stuff of generations boxed up and either taken home or to the dump.

It was my job to claim the tools. Should have been pretty simple, as Dad pared down the number of tools he had when he moved. But it took two loads in my tiny Toyota to claim it all, including the table I decided to take home to my own garage so I’d have somewhere to store all the new tools I’d collected. I am suddenly rich in socket sets and drill bits, and I need a place to put them.

So the tools are loaded. Next comes the bottles of automotive chemicals: Wiper fluid, fuel treatment, motor oil and paint polish. And can after can of spray paint. The county does a yearly chemical disposal day. I’ll have to store it all until then. I wanted to leave it to the new owners, but the drive now is to clear the garage of all but the bundles of shingles that match the house. So the chemicals come home with me. Maybe I can use some of them.

The firewood, too, is loaded up – Albert brings his trailer and his two boys, and we toss wood into the trailer until the garage is empty. Then with brooms native to the home and those brought from afar, we sweep the garage, inhaling dust from leaves and wind and mouse nests in the firewood. Far more dangerous than the fire that gets the fire department there. We throw the debris on the fire.

Albert and his boys leave. So does my sister. I sit in the dark behind the garage, watching the fire, embers now.

There’s the yurt. Albert and I agree it’ll probably be torn down by the new owners. That seems sad. But the round shed built by Dad, capped with half a five-gallon bucket, is showing stress cracks in its brick walls – Dad was a bricklayer, building a brick shed was natural. Inside it, a wheelbarrow. 

Between Albert and I, we have five wheelbarrows. So the wheelbarrow stays for the new owners.
The embers are dim. I’m tired of waiting. The hose from the truck won’t reach the pit, but I have a five-gallon bucket and I fill it ten times, dousing the embers. Then with Dad’s coal shovel I shuffle the coals to make sure there’s nothing glowing. Only a few little spots remain in the black beneath a sky washed of stars by the lights from the high school football stadium across the field.

I’m the last one at the house, and it’s quiet. The windows of the house are dark and the only light comes from the empty garage. I turn the lights off and drive my truck, loaded down like the Clampetts’ jalopy, home where, decades in the future, my own children will eventually have to do a similar cleaning out. I should probably teach a few of them how to use drill bits and socket sets, as I have plenty of those.

Monday, November 13, 2017

My Time

In a way – a big way – failing to weather this particular storm was my fault.

I felt it coming for years. But like the brave newscasters who have to get out from behind the desk to report the news when the hurricane is coming in only to get blown over or have to cling to a power pole as the winds buffet them.

So in 2005, about ten years after I entered the world of newspaper journalism, I left. Rear-end first. I screwed up a court story that could have landed the paper in hot water – partly because for years I’d been burned out on journalism, didn’t like the job any more, and didn’t care.

So to quit/be fired, was a relief – and was rattling.

I had a wife and three kids. My wife worked part-time as an office manager and was having her own struggles with difficult bosses. My job brought the health insurance and the bulk of our income. I should have stayed. Should have tried to fix my attitude.

But I walked away.

We were living in a town of just under 2,000 people, next to a town of about 20,000. Job prospects were few. So my brother, who was doing a brick job nearby, came by with a pizza. I didn’t want to see him, or anybody else for that matter. The copy of the paper announcing my rear-end exit was underneath the bed, and I felt its righteous indignation zooming at me through the mattress.

We ate the pizza. He talked to me about working, and jobs, and how God would help take care of us.

I didn’t even taste the grease. And I didn’t want to hear about God. If God cared, he’d have helped me feel better about being a journalist, rather than sending me to work all day feeling sorry for myself.

So I became a hod carrier again – a bricklayer’s assistant. My brother gave me a job right there. He didn’t have to. He did because I was his brother and I needed the job.

I still felt sorry for myself, though it meant I still could collect a paycheck.

That was April April first. And I was the April Fool.

He was working on a better job of his own. He’d worked before for a contractor making tank armor for the United States government, and it was looking good that he could get on with them again. That meant my reprieve from joblessness was temporary.

So I had to apply for lots of jobs. And soon.

On my own. Because, you know, God didn’t help me out before. So why bother him?

I applied for lots of jobs, both locally and out of state. Got invited to quite a few interviews. And always got to that spot where we talked about my employment history and I had to tell them what happened. I never got a call back.

My brother got his job making armor, leaving me jobless again.

I wasn’t jobless for long. Quickly, I was working mornings stocking shelves at a big box store and afternoons and evenings doing telemarketing. The first job showed me I might be able to organize things. The second job showed me there were things I was worse at than Journalism.

And God wasn’t part of my equation.

Especially the rainy morning when, on the way to the box, my truck broke down – turns out it threw a rod – and I had to call my wife using the last ounce of juice in the cell phone so she could come get me. And take me to my loser job and then pick me up from my loser job and take my loser self home to stew about getting the truck towed somewhere to get it fixed – though we couldn’t afford to. 


So I sat in that truck and talked with God. It was the first time I’d talked with Him since I lost my job. I wasn’t pleasant. As the rain splattered the windshield I had to tuck my glasses into my pocket to try to wipe off the tears.

As my wife pulled up behind me, I heard two words: My time.

My time.

My time.

I thought about those words on the way to work.

That was November.

December came. Still the big box and the call center.

January. Still the big box but a different call center, one with vastly better health benefits.

February. More jobs applied for, more jobs rejected for.

March. My wife saw a camper for sale. Three thousand dollars. We were still paying off the $1,500 for the rebuilt truck engine. Her Dad had to buy me tires.

Three thousand dollars, she said. We’ve got it in the bank. We can afford it.

I have two jobs that suck, I reminded her.

My time.

My time. The words kept coming. I hadn’t talked to God since that rainy day in November. I had no faith.

Mid-March. No job prospects.

We bought the camper. “It’ll work out,” my wife said.

I didn’t see how.

Then the blessed Tuesday. We walked our kids to school and decided, since I had the day off, to continue our walk in the spring sunshine. My wife had our cell phone with her. She decided to check messages – something she did only once or twice a month.

There was a message.

A job offer.

My time, the voice said again in my head.

I called the number and set up a time to talk. Friday, my next day off, wasn’t fast enough. So Wednesday, during my lunch break.

“The job is yours if you want it,” the man said.

If I wanted it? A job where I’d have health benefits, make 2 ½ as much as I was now, and have three-day weekends in perpetuity?

Damn hell I wanted the job.

We shook hands.

On the way home, the calendar popped into my head.

April Fools Day.

I was still a fool.

“I never stopped praying,” my wife said as we walked, after she checked the messages and after I made that phone call.

“I did,” I confessed.

“I know,” she said. “I talked to God about it. A lot. I knew you were hurting. But you kept going to church. You kept looking. You should have involved God more. But He never left.”

My time, I remembered the voice saying.

I’ve talked a lot with God since then. I don’t wait for the storm clouds to come any more.

I also thanked my brother for that pizza. And that job.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Keep Your Eyes Open

It is foolish to shut one’s self inside a wardrobe, even if it is not a magic one.

Lucy, from CS Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” knew this of course. That’s why she left the door partly ajar as they played hide-and-seek in the house of Professor Kirke that rainy afternoon.

And like Lucy, when she walked through the back of that wardrobe into the snowy forests of Narnia, I know it’s foolish, too, to step forward without looking back at least once or twice at the comfort  that is a snatch of wood from the back of the wardrobe door, glimpsed through snowy boughs.

But like the Pevinsies, listening to the warning of Professor Kirke after they returned, I know looking to go through that wardrobe again into that magical world won’t work again.

That’s not how Narnia works, he said. You’ll find your way back, but never again through that wardrobe.

Today, we signed the papers on selling Mom’s house, the one Dad built for hear in the early 1990s. We went back shortly after for one last time, to heave an antique piano – one that crossed the plains of the United States first on a train and then by covered wagon – to reach the shores of Bear Lake.

Never again. Through that wardrobe.

If I were to walk through a wardrobe into the past, however, it would not take me to the house on Romrell Avenue. Instead, it would take me here.

That’s the other house Dad built, back in the 1960s. That’s where I grew up.

And yet.

Never again. Through that wardrobe.

Because, though the house may still be there, its secrets were the people who lived there, not the bricks and wood and stone that make it up.

The house, the yard, the rooms – they seem big in my memories. To visit them again now, they’d probably feel small. And by the looks of Google Maps, a bit cluttered.

Gone is the garden.

Gone are the rock paths Dad built through the yard.

Gone are most of the trees, too. And the lilacs, the strings of lilacs.


Never again. Through that wardrobe.

Gone too are the people. Mom and Dad, gone and waiting. The others, still here, but scattered. I remember each of them in that house. One sister strumming the guitar while the other pulled fluff out of a mattress to throw at me. One brother scaling the garage wall to show off a basketball trick, the other in football uniforms, running plays.

And others – playing in the dirt, staying out until even the light of summer was dimmed.

Never again. Through that wardrobe.         
And yet. . .

“Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia,” said Professor Kirke. “ But don't go trying to use the same route twice. Indeed, don't try to get there at all. It'll happen when you're not looking for it. And don't talk too much about it even among yourselves. And don't mention it to anyone else unless you find that they've had adventures of the same sort themselves. What's that? How will you know? Oh, you'll know all right. Odd things, they say-even their looks-will let the secret out. Keep your eyes open.”

Keep your eyes open, he said.

I will. The magic will find me again.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Educational Paradox

As a parent, I see this:

Schools encourage parents to get involved with their kids’ education, to make sure homework gets done, to encourage them to study for tests, etc.

The minute we, as parents, get involved by having a question on a grade or an assignment, we’re labeled as helicopter parents and troublemakers.

As I read more about helicopter parenting, it’s clear we don’t fall into that category. We allow our children to fail. They face repercussions for their actions. And we don’t do everything for them.
But we do check on things.

Our schools send us weekly reports on grades. My wife goes over them with each child, noting any low grades or missing assignments (we have one child on the autism spectrum, so doing this is imperative, as he has a knack for completing homework but forgetting to turn it in). If we notice there’s a problem, we’re not immediately on the phone with teachers. We make it clear it’s our kids’ jobs to find out about late or missing work, and to make arrangement s with their teachers to get it done or suffer the consequences.

However – there are times we have to step in. And this is where the helicopter parenting label seems to get slapped on, and quickly.

We’ve pulled our oldest kid out of classes and got him with a different teacher when we could see the teacher’s style wasn’t going to mix with his cognitive limitations. And we let our youngest take a class from the same teacher, and thusfar, things have gone well.

We’re right now butting heads with a teacher/student teacher combination over rather vague language used in grading one of our daughter’s essays. The message we’ve received is that the teachers will cover this in class, and that since the discussion takes place in class, we, as parents, don’t need to be involved. Except that our daughter isn’t understanding the discussion in this advanced class. We’ve just asked for the definition of one concept – but we can’t get it. Because it was discussed. In class.
If seeking clarification over a bit of classroom jargon is helicopter parenting, I guess we’re guilty.
We’ve also had to fight to get our kids credit for dual enrollment and advanced placement classes. The school district and state have rather byzantine systems to get the students this credit, with only one person in the district trained clearly on the ins and outs. My wife ran up against roadblock after roadblock earlier this semester with this system, including secretaries who would never let her talk with the person in the know. She finally got his direct number and got things fixed within minutes.
(Thanks to one teacher, at least, who noticed for our oldest that the final button hadn’t been pushed the day before the deadline so we could get two classes taken care of.)

If penetrating the bureaucracy is helicopter parenting, I guess we’re guilty.


Before and After


I sit here thinking thoughts.

I was Scoutmaster for four years. That’s longer than the current bishopric has been in place. So my meeting with the stake president tonight (or a duly appointed representative) likely won’t be for that.
What is possible? Anything, I guess. But the law of averages tells me maybe something in the Elders Quorum – the current presidency has been in place for three years, and they tend to rotate through them faster. That’s my worst-case scenario.

Or maybe a quiet clerk’s job. Or maybe something connected with Sellers Creek, the new trek center up in the foothills. I responded to a stake survey many moons ago regarding possible talent that could be loaned to the center. I put down writing. You know, brochures and such. So maybe that. That right there would be the best-case scenario.

I sit here thinking thoughts, before I meet with You Know Who tonight.

Below, my thoughts afterward. Whether or not my lips will be numb in the telling is yet to be seen.


Membership Clerk. Details to follow.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

RINO in Repose

Somehow, I knew the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee was going to come into this story.

And because I offer anyone the benefit of the doubt, I will agree with the notion the “Businesses for Growth” and the BCRCC are separate entities, as this story indicates.

However, color me unsurprised if that separation is on paper only.

The BCRCC has taken a hard right turn over the last few years. Not quite into Kootenai County territory, but getting closer. They probably take this as a compliment.

Even better, the Post Register drills down to see who’s funding the group, finding perennial flies in the ointment Frank VanderSloot and (everybody’s favorite) Doyle Beck. (See screencap.)

They’re certainly entitled to spend their money any way they sound fit. But to hear Beck say he wants “transparency” while hiding behind a PAC like Businesses for Growth is kinda funny.

It just makes me wary. And weary.

For the record, I am a registered Republican. For reasons that stray far from party politics.
Also for the record:

1.       I voted in favor of turning Eastern Idaho Technical College into the College of Eastern Idaho (thus increasing my property taxes).

2.       I voted in favor of the bond to build Thunder Ridge High School in the Bonneville School District (thus increasing my property taxes).

Those two items alone brand me as a RINO per the BCRCC, because ANY increase in tax or fee is bad. BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD. And that’s fine. I’d never pass any purity test offered by any political party, so I’m not going to start with the Republicans.

But back to this billboard and Businesses for Growth.

Sure, you don’t like current Mayor Rebecca Casper for reasons.

But anyone but Casper? That makes me want to vote for Casper, and I can’t, as I reside in the city Businesses for Growth would rather live in. Neither VanderSloot nor Beck can vote for (or against) her either, as they don’t reside in the city. Which is why they want to buy city residents’ votes instead.
This is no nevermind, as Businesses for Growth kinda misses the boat on growth anyway. Paul Menser, writing at his Bizmojo Idaho blog, says it better than I ever could.

And if Businesses for Growth wants to talk about expensive water, they need to look at living in Madison County, where growth is spectacular along their lines but water is maddeningly expensive, relatively speaking. We lived up there for more than ten years and were thrilled to move to a place where water isn’t metered. Yet.