Hats off!

Along the street there comes

A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,

A dash of color beneath the sky:

Hats off!

The flag is passing by!

— Henry Holcomb Bennett

A number of my friends have expressed concern about the future of our nation based on the outcome of the recent presidential election.

To them, I say:

  1. Our form of democracy was designed “to check and to balance” excesses by any branch of government, and we can “turn out the rascals” during the next election.
  2. So, stay involved in helping resolve issues of public interest and importance on all levels of government and in your community.
  3. Be confident that members of the press, although demeaned, denigrated and threatened, can be counted on to continue their traditional “watchdog” role of keeping governmental officials accountable.
  4. Meanwhile, be reminded by the words of former President Ronald Reagan, who said: “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance: it must be fought for and defended constantly by every generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and lost it have never known it again.”
  5. Finally, don’t be misled by the siren song of a leader who brags, “I will make American great again.” This is a government of the people, by the people and for the people whose true grit, grace and gratitude continue to make America the greatest nation on earth.

Hats off!

Along the street there comes

A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums;

And loyal hearts are beating high:

Hats off!

The flag is passing by!



The gift that I received when I was 10 years old always comes to mind when I think of Christmas.

I lived with my 8-year-old brother and parents on a rocky 40-acre farm in the Ozark Hills of southern Missouri. The electrical line hadn’t reached our house, so mom had to can everything we raised in the garden and orchard and slaughtered in the fall. Our only cash crop was the milk we squeezed out of a herd of Jersey cows every morning and evening.

So, money was scarce in 1939 when Christmas approached. We cut a tree and set it in the living room near the piano that my mother played most evenings while my father fiddled and my brother and I sang.

Christmas vacations were special, especially if it snowed and my brother and I could play games in the afternoon rather than attend school.

Our favorite pastime was to attach a string to the front of our 2-foot-long toy trucks and to drag them through the snow all over our farm. We studied a geography book in our family library and visited the Alps, which was the hill on the back side of our farm, Europe in the flat near the windmill and other areas of the world while pulling our toy trucks.

As Christmas of 1939 approached, my brother and I figured that most of our gifts would be a new pair of overalls, work mittens and maybe, just maybe, a candy cane or two.

We knew that the folks had to stretch the money even to buy sugar, salt and flour for the family and feed for the livestock.

I recall that my brother and I got out of bed early that Christmas morning and noticed that a new blanket of snow covered the ground.

We hurriedly put on our clothes and shoes and snuck into the living room that dad had warmed by firing up the wood stove.

There in front of the tree sat our toy trucks with new coats of paint. Each sported a bright red cab and a green truck bed, standing ready to accompany us on new adventures that — for me — continue to this day.




         When the thermostat screamed at 2 a.m., I knew that my wife and I were the latest victims of an ice storm that spread across western Oregon this week.

Early on, we stayed warm and escaped much of the damage that other homeowners suffered from falling trees and limbs. That changed, however, when I was awakened by the scream, which is the only way I know how to personify an inanimate object that voices despair so forcefully at 2 a.m.

Ironically, I was reading a historical book, “Out West,” by Tim Slessor when the storm began painting the landscape with ice, felling trees and branches and shutting off power to more than 21,000 households in the surrounding area.

My personal pity party about the inconvenience created by this winter wonderland began to thaw and to disappear as I read about men who sought beaver pelts in the west during the 1800s. Continue reading SCREAM IN LIVING ROOM CAPTURED MY ATTENTION


The medicine man has returned to main street U.S.A. Only he’s no longer traveling in a wagon and touting a cure-all in a bottle.

I know, because I recently received a front-page image of The New York Times as an e-mail attachment. The folio line carried a Nov. 9, 2016 date, which coincides with the day after the presidential election.


I recognized the fabrication immediately because the headline typeface was not the exact replication of the one used by The Times.

So, I went online and called up an image of the real front page of The Times on that date:


Fabrication of the news is becoming a standard practice online where an increasing number of people are reading news and comment that largely reflect their political, social and religious beliefs and biases.

What has happened to critical thinking? to people who gather information much like a debater, a person prepared to discuss the pro and the con sides of an issue? It’s called being well-informed.

Lauren Kessler, a writer, educator and friend, in a recent blog “Lauren Chronicles” discussed her reaction to the results in the Nov. 8 election and reminded us how we can be “fooled by fabrications.”

She wrote: “We did not insist, a decade or more ago, that Media Literacy be a required course in middle and high school. Or part of adult education in our communities. So we have hundreds of thousands, we have millions and millions of people who don’t know the difference between fake news and vetted, verified information, who don’t know the difference between opinion and fact, who can be fooled by fabrications, who know the world through tweets. Shame on us.”

Yes, I agree, “shame on us.”

I add, however, the obvious. If we are to sustain and to enjoy our freedom as a people and as a nation, we had better be prepared to identify “fake” news and to seek out and to defend those who attempt to present information in an accurate, fair and balanced manner.


My thoughts spun back to the fourth grade when I learned Tuesday that Mark Helfrich had been fired as the University of Oregon’s football coach.

Fortunately, I had an aggie (agate) shooter and could knock any marble from the circle marblesdrawn in the schoolyard dirt after shouting “dakes (marbles used as stakes) and dubs (doubles).”

I chose BIG, heavy, chipped and beat-up marbles to place in the circle. They were hard to drive out of the circle if you didn’t have an aggie shooter, a sure hand and a keen eye.

After Helfrich compiled a 37-16 record during the first four seasons as head coach, the Ducks took a nosedive this season with a 4-8 record and lost the final game to arch-rival Oregon State, 34-24.

Meanwhile, Helfich recruited one of the best shooters in the game, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound freshman quarterback sculpted in much the same mould as his predecessor, Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, who now quarterbacks the Tennessee Titans.

While Helfrich had a great shooter and a fair-to-middlin’ offense, he came up short on defense largely because he lost eight linemen during the season. What he needed were more BIG, heavy, experienced defenders to place inside the circle.

Granted, Helfrich walks away with an $11.6-million buyout. However, I know it still hurts when you play the game and lose your marbles, especially when you didn’t have enough BIG ones.