RIDIN’ THE RANGE RISKY ROUNDING UP NEWS

I learned early that journalism can be a hazardous career.

I’ve been called not-so-nice names, threatened bodily harm and criticized for news stories and editorials that I wrote.

More recently another journalist who is a friend of mine has received more deadly threats because of his role in helping keep the world informed about the occupation and aftermath of Zaitzthe Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon by armed anti-government militants.

Les Zaitz has the build of a linebacker and is tenacious in gathering information as an investigative reporter. He’s one of the best in the business at exposing corruption and illegal activity in public lives and places.

So, what else would you expect when Les, the journalist turned part-time cowboy, learns about the occupation not far from the ranch that he and his wife own and operate several miles north of the wildlife refuge. He knows the territory, the back story, the issues and the people who populate the area.

As he explained recently during a meeting of journalists, Les realized the importance of the story and drew reporters and photographs from The Oregonian, his parent newspaper 300 miles away in Portland.

What transpired after Jan. 2 has been covered by journalists worldwide, much of which was made possible by Les and other members of the Oregon press who camped out in Burns for several weeks. Continue reading RIDIN’ THE RANGE RISKY ROUNDING UP NEWS

PLANTING TREE MUCH EASIER THAN PICKING UP ROCKS

When I checked the calendar last week and noticed the event that is being celebrated worldwide today, I thought of the rock I used to pick up during the spring as a boy on a 40-acre farm in southern Missouri.

The freezing winter weather apparently pushed rock to the surface, which led to harnessing a team of horses and hitching the team to a wagon so family members could TREE:Ferguson:3:07move the rock from fields to fence lines. I always figured that is why we see so many rock fences in the Northeast.

Today is known as Earth Day. Not knowing what that means, I immediately associated it with the earth that I tilled and worked with as a boy. Apparently, I was closer to the target than I first thought.

Turns out that Earth Day is an annual event to demonstrate support of environmental protection.

Good idea, I thought. Might have something to do with climate change. Then I remembered that friends of mine are arguing about what may be creating climate change and how to deal with the problem.

So, what does this mean for a person who once picked up rocks on a Missouri farm and has witnessed the degradation of the environment for more than eight decades?

First, I checked world population figures. The earth supported about 2 billion people when I was born in 1929. Today, more than 7 billion walk this earth and another billion are expected to show up by 2014.

China tops the list with 1.4 billion, India follows with 1.3 billion and the United State ranks third with 324 million. We’re talking billions in the first two cases, and a lot of folks in those countries wear masks to cope with smog.

Meanwhile, we’re breaking daily high-temperature records in western Oregon, and some of us are concerned about whether enough snow has fallen in the Cascade Mountains to tide us over with water this summer.

During the next five years as Earth Day moves closer to its 50th anniversary, people around the world are challenged to plant 7.8 billion trees to help offset the effects of CO2.

Oregon was the first state to require restocking forestland after trees are cut. Two hundred trees per acre are required in the most productive areas.

Meanwhile, it is estimate that an acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of CO2 produced by driving an average car 26,000 miles. Last year, more than 3 million passenger cars were registered in Oregon. I have no idea how many miles they traveled.

These figures only suggest the challenges associated with reducing the carbon imprint not only on Oregon, but also on the world.

I have been fortunate to live for 87 years in places that enjoyed a pleasant environment. The challenges that face the world during the next 87 years are formidable.

Today, I’ll plant a tree, which is a heck of a lot easier than picking up rocks and tossing them into a wagon.

NEVER WRITE ABOUT SPORTS IF YOU’RE BACKING A LOSER

I am breaking a vow to never write about sports. I am doing so because I am once again disappointed with how the professional baseball team I’m stuck with has started the season — by losing — again, again and again.

For more than a decade, the powers-that-be have been unsuccessful in rounding up players who can hit, pitch and run. This year will be different, I vowed. Hasn’t happened yet. BASEBALL PLAYERProbably won’t based on the team’s performance during the first few days of the 2016 season.

No, I’m not a Cub’s fan, and I’m not talking about the St. Louis Cardinals, a team that I followed for years during my childhood.

I’m talking about a team that fires the manager after the team fails to measure up to the hype fanned by fawning announcers beholden to the front office. I must confess, however, these spokespersons do a commendable job of making sweet wine out of sour grapes. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to swallow the brew.

It wouldn’t be so heartbreaking if this baseball team were to post more wins than loses during the season, something that has only been accomplished two  out of the past dozen or so years. Better yet, how about qualifying for a playoff spot or in my wildest dreams, the World Series?

I’m trapped, however, because the games played by the team I have followed expectantly for more than a decade are televised locally. I could chose some other team if I Continue reading NEVER WRITE ABOUT SPORTS IF YOU’RE BACKING A LOSER

SCHOOL DIDN’T INTERFERE WITH MY UNDERGRAD ED

BOY SETTING TYPEAfter writing last week about how Louis L’Amour acquired an education without attending school, I thought it timely to confess that I also didn’t let my schooling interfere with my education during my undergrad work at Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State University) in Springfield.

For the record, I entered college in 1945 when I was 16 years old in an attempt to complete two years before being drafted. However, World War II soon ended, and I was afloat among a raft of returning servicemen who we referred to as “damned grade average raisers.”

Nevertheless, I buckled down and focused on a newfound love — economics — only to change majors quickly after receiving a D in the basic course. I floated around awhile in the music department, where I discovered that I created more discord than harmony.

Eventually, I settled on political science largely because of a professor who had just mustered out of the Army after leading a squad of infantrymen from Normandy to Berlin. He broke classroom convention by swearing during lectures and by bringing a radio to class so we could listen to 1949 presidential election returns. He challenged students to “think outside the box” and helped inspire me to become a teacher.

This was good stuff for an Ozark hillbilly who had spent most of his life milking cows and plowing corn and who had never traveled more than a hundred miles from home.

Meanwhile, I was working part-time in a print shop, acting as a Boy Scout leader, playing sousaphone in the symphonic and marching bands, building and flying model airplanes, running the half-mile as a track team member, helping organize a campus fraternity, leading a college class at my church and serving as editor of the college student newspaper during my senior year.

As a result, I didn’t spend a lot of time focusing on my class assignments, especially during my senior year when I met and courted a woman who eventually became my wife.

On one occasion during my senior year, my buddy, the campus newspaper sports editor, and I started to enter a classroom and realized we had failed to complete a written assignment.

“What should we do?” I asked my friend.

“Let’s go bowling,” he replied.

We did. We passed the course and eventually received our liberal arts degrees. In my case, I completed two years of required Latin without even a basic grasp of the vocabulary — and with D grades.

I did, however, complete my undergrad requirements with a C plus average, which was adequate for admission to grad school in those days.

Despite my sorry scholastic record, I figured that I received a valuable education during my four years in undergrad school.

Today, if I had it all to do over again, I would spend more time bowling.

SCHOOL NEVER INTERFERED WITH THIS GUY’S EDUCATION

      While eating breakfast in a Central Oregon cafe several years ago, I noticed used books perched on a shelf in an adjacent room where groceries are sold. Upon inquiry, I learned that the books were free. I took one by an author whose books I read.

Louis L ‘Amour was a storyteller, a writer of western novels. He died in 1988 but not before L'AmourI had an opportunity to visit with him during a book promotion tour in Eugene, Oregon, where I worked as a newspaperman.

When I read what I call “escape” literature, I often reach for one of L’Amour’s 86 novels. The plot and the characters are familiar, uncomplicated and predictable. “Conagher,” which was made into a film, is one of my favorites along with Hondo and the Sackett family.

The memoir that I discovered in Maupin was “Education of a Wandering Man,” which was published in 1989.

L’Amour ‘s views on education bear repeating because of their merit. They also reflect my philosophy as a former university professor, a profession I followed during the latter portion of my life. Keep in mind that L’Amour left school at age 15 when he was in the tenth grade.

“I left for two reasons,” he wrote. “Economic necessity being the first one. More Continue reading SCHOOL NEVER INTERFERED WITH THIS GUY’S EDUCATION