All posts by deanrea

DOG-GONE GOOD READING IN WEEKLY NEWSPAPERS

            “A neighbor’s dog came into the yard and killed our rooster” was reported to the sheriff’s office in an Eastern Oregon community in early May.

            A couple of “deceased chickens” also merited a call to police in another report.

            Meanwhile, a driver told a sheriff’s deputy that she swerved to avoid hitting  a deer and her car ended up in the ditch.

            These abbreviated reports often appear in weekly newspaper in summaries of fire and police reports. Some readers may question whether they merit publication because they seldom include names of people who make the reports. Readers, however, often recognize addresses and can guess who registered the complaint and who may be the victim.

            In any event, these fire and law enforcement reports are grass-roots examples of how newspapers inform as well as entertain readers about community events.

            As a reader of several weekly newspapers, I decided to share examples that appeared recently in reports by police departments and sheriff’s offices:

            Three male subjects are walking up the street knocking on doors.

            I have  two miles left of gas in my car. If  I run out of gas, I will need help.

            Someone is trying to put a knife under the door.

            A disabled semi is blocking the Lexington bound lane.

            A 62-year-old male fell. He doesn’t appear injured, but they can’t get him up.           

            Found a dead deer in garage. Door open.

            A male is sitting in the skate park drinking a 40-ounze beer and looks very intoxicated.

            My girlfriend attempted to commit suicide within the last 20 minutes.

            Five Black Angus cows are on my property.

            A neighbor came out with a frying pan and threatened her daughter with it.

            Two subjects argued for four hours last night, then the male flattened the female’s car tires.

            I’m being blackmailed by e-mail.

            A kayak is trying to come off the top of a car on the highway.

            A large yellow lab mix is on the front porch and is blocking the only entrance to my house.

‘imperial presidency’ poIsed on brinK of war

            As the United States considers going to war with Iran, we should re-read “The Imperial Presidency,” a book written by the late Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. published in 1973.

            Schlesinger reminded us that Congress controls foreign affairs and that Article VI of the Constitution grants this body the power to declare war.  The president, however, acting as the commander-in-chief, more often has usurped this power and has committed the nation to war as a matter of expediency.

            In other words, presidents are in a more favorable position to take action to protect what is conceived as a threat to national security than a collective group of individuals in Congress who may be less excited — and far less timely — in making such a decision.

            That surely is the case today when the Senate has been reluctant to oppose decisions made by President Donald Trump and when the president often has ignored or opposed congressional action.

            Anyone acquainted with public affairs knows that presidents have usurped legislative power on domestic issues as well as foreign affairs for decades. More recently this action has taken place through what is called the executive order. Schlesinger warned that we have much to fear from this type of practice, one associated with what he called the “Imperial Presidency.”

            Barrack Obama often used the executive order to bypass a Republican Congress. Trump followed suit bypassing a Congress that represented his own party during the first two years of his term and is now divided.

            In his book review Alfred C. Payne writes:

            “A chief problem seems to be that of the unification of the people versus the growing tyranny of the executive. Presidential primacy is needed, not Presidential supremacy. We need a strong, independent President, but not an ‘Imperial’ one.

            “The President, according to Schlesinger, needs to be able to take strong criticism and accept loyal opposition. He needs, too, a sense of humor and, of greatest importance, a respect for the Constitition and broad trust of the people.”

            Unfortunately, our nation is divided on the manner of conducting governmental affairs and whose people are debating — and eventually will decide — on how “imperial” the presidency should be.

EVERY PERSON HAS A STORY, BUT MANY WILL DISAPPEAR

            After moving into a retirement home a year ago, it soon became apparent that everyone here has a story to tell.

            My wife and I have heard these stories mostly told during a meal by more than a hundred people, many of them pushing 90 and a few shuffling past the century mark.

            Last summer I interviewed and wrote a story about a woman who still jogged up and down the hall here at the retirement home prior to celebrating her 102nd birthday in June.

            Unfortunately, many of these stories will soon disappear because no one has taken the time nor has made an effort to record them in some form.

            This led me to suggest that the five members of our retirement home writing group consider creating memoirs, maybe even self-publishing them.

            Previously we were being assigned a topic and writing several hundred words that we shared during our weekly meetings. Good exercises but after a year of this I wondered whether we should tackle something more meaningful.

            “Let’s each write a memoir,” I suggested.

            The response was positive.

            So, I suggested that each of us return to class next week with a list of a dozen or so moments or events that have impacted our life. This is another way of describing how the epiphany can be used to organize a memoir.

            In the weeks that follow, each of us can write and share a chapter about our life.

            Some of us have written memoirs based on various aspects of our lives. In my case, I wrote and self-published a memoir based on my three decades of teaching. “Confessions of a Professor” is still available via Amazon books.

            Although I have written about other aspects of my life, I decided to write a memoir based on my life from birth through high school.

            I was four or so years late in arriving on a Kansas wheat farm, decided to become a writer before I began first grade, made a life-changing decision at age 10, became a printer’s devil in junior high, learned to fly with eagles while leaning to type and skipped my senior year of high school.

            I figure that grist will more than keep me busy for a dozen or so weeks as I meet with retirement home writers during the summer.

            I discovered something else about writing during the past year in this retirement home: Many people have not written nor recorded information needed to create an obituary. (I’ve been asked to help write several.)

            You don’t have to write a memoir to accomplish this task, but for goodness sake — or for the sake of your survivors — record the names of your parents, where and when you were born, the date of important events in your life and the names of survivors. Then share that information with a family member before shuffling off this mortal coil, walking into the sunset, or whatever.

           

IF YOU’RE NOT COMMITTED, THEN YOU’RE NOT A DUCK

            As I watched the Oregon Ducks play softball during a windy but otherwise beautiful spring Sunday, my mind returned as it has so often to a what-might-have-been season.

            Rather than lose the third game in a series to Oregon State University, I envisioned the Ducks drawing the strings tighter on another Pac-12 championship and being in an excellent position to win the World Series.

            That won’t happen because Texas hired our coach. Then three of the nation’s top pitchers and many of the other players turned in their Duck uniforms. Some followed Mike White to Texas; others went separate ways.

            Granted, Oregon probably wasn’t flush enough with cash to match the $400,000 Texas offer, but I continue to wonder how the university can pay the men’s baseball team coach a half-million if money is in short supply, especially given the fact that the Ducks haven’t shown up lately in the World Series.

            Of course, matching the Texas offer would have created other challenges. For example, Oregon would have been faced with increasing the salary of the women’s basketball coach, who led the team recently to the Final Four and the team is ranked No. 1 entering next season.

            After rechewing this excuse for Oregon’s poor showing on the softball diamond, I was reminded that an even more important principle often is overlooked in the discussion: commitment.

            If the talented women recruited by While were truly committed to Oregon, they would have persevered and stuck with the program this season.

            Rather than voice disappointment when some challenge rears its ugly head and makes you want to quit — to get ever, to protest — consider what may be the most important element in being a team member.  

          If these varsity players were committed to play for Oregon, they would not have thrown in the towel. Respect White as a person and as a coach, but coaching also is a business. White chose the money. Let him go. Batter up. Play ball.

            A number of newcomers joined the Ducks this season. They stuck with the program and have competed well. Give the new coaching staff time and the Ducks may make another run for the Pac-12 crown and maybe bring home a Series crown.

            As I watched Sunday’s game, I was certain that the outcome would have been different if White’s entourage had truly been committed to play for Oregon?

Appleton annie

            The engine of a light airplane sputters overhead and stops as Annie Johnston, 20, casts a fishing line on the North Fork a day before she begins her junior year at the University of Oregon.

            The life of this red-headed, freckled, strong-willed woman will change in ways she never suspects as she jogs upriver in search of the plane and discovers a man who was taking a joy ride the day before his wedding.

                                                            * * *

            When I began writing this book of fiction on Feb. 15, 2015, I had little intention of completing it.

            Several years earlier I wrote two books of fiction about a newspaper family in the mythical city of Appleton in the northern Cascades. “Appleton Annie” was intended to be the third and final book in that series.

            Dust began to gather on the manuscript.

            In January 2018 I was invited to join four other writers who meet twice monthly and critique manuscripts of books of fiction we are writing. That is when I dusted off the “Appleton Annie” manuscript and resumed writing.

            The critiquing and instruction I received during these twice-monthly meetings has taught me much about the art of fiction writing. Note that “Appleton Annie” is written in present tense. It would have been more acceptable in past tense.

            My next book, “A Retiring Love,” which is set in a retirement home, is being written in past tense. I also no longer attribute every statement as though I were writing a news story.

            You can save some money by purchasing “Appleton Annie” in Kindle format.

            In any event, I believe that you will enjoy becoming acquainted with Annie as much as I have.

A writing assignment: want to be an animal?

            Even though the Lord created the critters, and even though they were somehow saved by marching two by two onto a boat built in the desert, I have no wish to follow in their footsteps.

            My first task as a farm boy was to take a pail filled with the most vile smelling fermented food scraps up the hill to slop the hogs.

            Of course, you had to wade through equally foul smelling byproducts of animal waste in the barnyard en route to the pig pen.

            Milking cows by hand did nothing to enhance my wish to be an animal who spent the day eating grass and cluttering up the field and then mess up a perfectly clean milking station in the barn. And not once did those critters volunteer to clean up their yucky mess.

            Horses were prized workers who pulled a plow and dragged me across fields during the day, but I found no redeeming urge to become a four-legged beast of burden dressed in leather and lathered in sweat.

            Sheep are cute, but dirty. Real dirty, especially after being dumped in a tank of vile-smelling stuff called “sheep dip,” which is concocted to kill lice and other creepies and crawlies. And I’m too embarrassed to describe the surgical process of castrating male lambs.

            Frankly, I wasn’t much impressed with the exhibits I observed prowling around zoos during my lifetime. Why would anyone want to be more of a monkey than most human forms, especially if you spend all your time scratching fleas behind bars?

            I thought I might like to be a rabbit when I was a toddler. You know those cute, cuddly stories about Peter Rabbit and how he grew. What they didn’t tell you was how Peter chewed on lettuce I planted in our garden. At that point, rabbits became fair game for target practice with my trusty .22 rifle.

            I suspect you could discover some redeeming quality in an animal, one that would catch my attention. A T-bone steak for example. Except when I begin to smell the meat sizzling on a grill, I remember how we always butchered a prize steer during the fall. You shot the beast between the eyes, bled the carcass and hung it from a tree limb, cut the hide away, stripped out the guts and began cutting steaks, roasts, ribs, etc. amid a cloud of buzzing flies.

            As the poet might say:

            You may choose to be a dog, a cat, a rabbit or a rat.

            As for me, I really don’t care to be an animal like that.

Newspaper Staff Formed After Dream Assignment

            Organize a newsroom and be prepared to begin producing a daily on-line newspaper in Eugene, Ore., by March 1, was the assignment that I received during a dream this morning.

            Staff members will be expected to work a four-day week, will be paid top guild wages, will receive two months of paid vacation and sick leave annually and will be covered for medical and dental expenses.

            No retirement benefits, however, because when you sign up you sign on for life.

            I immediately began shuffling through names of former Register-Guard staff members I worked with on the Eugene daily newspaper and who may still be alive:

            First, I chose Jacqui Banasynski as my editor. Although Jacqui has only worked for newspapers like The Seattle Times, picked up a Pulitzer Prize and taught journalism at the University of Missouri, she is obviously qualified to handle the editor’s job despite a bum knee and a penchant for communicating with journalists worldwide.

            I was going to invite her sidekick Don Nelson to handle county correspondence for our new paper in Eugene but realized that he’s holed up editing and publishing a weekly newspaper in Methow, Washington.

            The editorial staff selection was a no-brainer: Hire the best in the business: Jackman Wilson, Paul Neville and Don Robinson.

            If  Barrie Hartman declines our offer to return from Colorado to serve as our managing editor, then I’ll check with Dave Baker, who may prefer to serve as our public relations officer.

            Lloyd Paseman, who was city editor of  The Register-Guard for a zillion years, certainly knows how to handle a staff of reporters but may prefer to be the movie reviewer.

            Ron Bellamy tops my list of picks for sports editor. I am concerned, however, because he may spend most of his time golfing. I would hope that he could persuade Mike Stahlberg to return to Eugene from Hawaii and to serve as our fish and game columnist.

            Chris Frisella will serve as copy chief. Jeff Wright, Dave Emery and Ross Carletta may be available although Emery tends to throw too many commas in the hell box and Carletta tends to spend too much time fly-fishing.

            Tom Penix gets the nod for the designer’s position.

            Lisa Strycker, who is the fastest typist in the world, will serve as our research and development director.

            Bob Keefer, who creates magic with words and pictures, may be willing to leave his Creswell farm long enough to serve as our environmental editor.

            Cathy Henkle, who spent some time with The Seattle Times, may be willing to serve as the photo editor if she doesn’t spend all her time photographing sunsets.

            Carolyn Kortge, one of our all-time most outstanding lifestyle writers, will serve as editor of that department.

            Fred Crafts gets the nod as our arts and entertainment editor. He tends, however, to live in the past by producing a radio show.

            Steve Smith, an itinerant journalist, may be willing to leave his university teaching job long enough to serve as our ombudsman.

            We’re going to hire two of the best columnists in the business and turn them loose to roam the world in search of stories: Karen McCowan and Bob Welch.

            We’ll cover the region, as The Register-Guard once did, with bureaus headed by seasoned journalists: Larry Bacon, Oregon Coast; Doug Bates, Oakridge; Mike Thoele, Junction City: and John Thompson, Cottage Grove.

            Our reporting staff will include:

            Diane Dietz, investigative reporter

            Ann Baker Mack, higher education

            Don Bishoff, local government

            Randi Bjornstad, general assignment

            I probably have overlooked potential candidates for staff positions. Keep in mind, however, that I’m pushing 90, and I still live in the land of typewriters, carbon paper and paste pots.

            Keep in mind, too, that I dream a lot.