OuthouseTwo news stories that I read recently reminded me of something one of my grandfathers lived by: “Make do with what you have.”

The first story describes how a 17-year-old student in my hometown of Eugene, Ore., lived in a car with her mother last winter while attending school. She was one of more than 700 homeless students in the local district and one of more than 20,000 in Oregon.

The second story reported survey findings that 62 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts and that 21 percent don’t have a savings account.

I suspect that the homeless student would welcome a savings account of any amount and that those people who don’t have such an account could easily find themselves homeless.

The student’s story drew my attention because she persisted in attending school, maintained a high grade average and aspires to become a biochemical engineer, a veterinarian or an architect.

During those months before she and her mother discovered helping hands that led them to an apartment, they slept in a car on various streets in Eugene.

“The mental logistics of eating, drinking water, changing my clothes, going to the bathroom — everything but that base level of need becomes superficial,” she said. “Decisions become simple because they’re all about survival.”

You don’t have to be homeless, however,  to be concerned with “survival.”

I am certain that my parents were concerned about the future when dust storms blew across Kansas and erased any savings they may have accrued prior to the Great Depression.

I don’t recall that our family ever built much of a savings account during the years that followed. Most of our income met our needs from paycheck to paycheck.

Our father, however, often hid “extra” money around the house, including in envelopes pasted to the back of drawers. Unfortunately, he often forgot where he hid the money.

My wife and I maintained a checking account during much of our early married life and  began saving money when the four children left home.

Today, we would be among those people surveyed who don’t have a savings account of more than a thousand dollars. After all, who wants to stash money in a bank that fails to offer a decent interest rate?

So, we make do with what we have and smile when we recall the story about the rich man who showed up at the Pearly Gates dragging a gunny sack.

“You can come in, but not the sack,” Saint Peter announces.

“But I made a deal with God to bring it in,” the fellow replies.

“Let’s see what’s in the sack,” the old saint says. The man lifts a huge chunk of gold out of the sack.

“Oh,” Saint Peter says, laughing. “That’s just paving.”



American humorist Will Rogers thought campaigning was a waste of time, and during his mock campaign for the presidency in 1928, his only promise was that, if elected, he would resign.

Now that’s a campaign promise today’s presidential candidates should take seriously as they vie for support.

For those who didn’t know Rogers, he was a beloved American humorist, cowboy, will rogers fencevaudeville performer, newspaper columnist, social commentator and stage and motion picture comedic actor born in 1879. If you weren’t around at that time, you might recall reading that he died in 1937 while flying with Wiley Post in Alaska.

Rogers was known primarily because of his folksy commentary on a wide range of subjects, including his most famous epigram:

“When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: ‘I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I dident (sic) like.’ I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.”

Rogers, who was a member of a prominent Cherokee Nation family in what is now Oklahoma, traveled around the world three times and became known as “Oklahoma’s favorite son.”

One of his most widely quoted comments may be appropriate for today’s presidential campaign: “I am not a member of an organized political party,” he said. “I am a Democrat.”

His monologues on the news of the day followed a similar routine every night during his early vaudeville career. He would appear on stage in his cowboy outfit, nonchalantly Continue reading CAMPAIGN PROMISE MERITS ATTENTION IN TODAY’S RACE


My “little” brother was adamant. He had two nickels, and I needed change for a dime. He refused to make the exchange, arguing that two didn’t equal one. To complicate the matter, our parents had no change, and the family didn’t plan to go shopping in town until the weekend.

I don’t recall how my problem was solved, but my “little” brother refused to budge, which dean:gail photomay best illustrate how he dealt with many of life’s challenges during the 85 years that I knew him.

I was two years old when Richard Gail Rea was born on May 6, 1931 on a 140-acre wheat ranch near Glasco, Kansas. He was known as Gail until he joined the Navy where he was called by his first name. Although he let it be known that he preferred to be called Richard and later as Dr. Richard Rea, I refused to follow suit. He was, after all, my “little” brother.

I stuck with Gail because he was always attempting to “outdo” me in every facet of life. If I picked two boxes of strawberries, he would pick three. If I milked a cow, he would milk two. If I made a grade in a class, he would top it when he enrolled in the class.

His bedrock determination to succeed may have been influenced by a strong-willed mother and maternal grandmother and knowing that he nearly died when he was a boy.

I recall that Gail “got sick” as we called it in the Ozark Hills of southern Missouri, and a doctor came to sit with him during the night on our 40-acre farm. Later, we wondered if Gail suffered from a light case of infantile paralysis. That was the only time I recall praying that “my little brother” would live, which he did and battled back to walk again.

While I became the writer, my brother became the talker. I chose journalism and he chose speech as professions. I became an associate professor at the University of Oregon. He became a professor at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Continue reading MY ‘LITTLE’ BROTHER KNEW VALUE OF TWO NICKELS


Printer setting type

Can he hand-peg type? was the question that came to mind when I learned that a public relations specialist has been selected as the dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon.

Goes to show how ancient I am when it comes to communications. Not many people can set type, one letter at a time, in a composing stick and justify the line, then place the type in a form, surround it with furniture, tighten the quoins and place the form on a press.

Public relations was a “dirty” term when I began my newspaper reporting career more than a half-century ago when we were hand-setting a lot of the type that appeared in newspapers where I worked.

Of course, we also used typewriters, carbon paper, flash bulbs and Linotypes during that era. Public relations flacks showed up at Christmas bearing boxes of booze, hoping to influence news coverage.

All of that has changed, of course, but not necessarily for the better. Granted, public relations is now considered “more professional” even though it represents vested interests unlike those that form the basis for what I consider “journalism.”

I’m also a bit jealous because my first love, newspaper journalism, is being replaced Continue reading IF IT ISN’T HAND-PEGGED, CAN IT BE JOURNALISM?