Monday, July 13, 2015

I Don't Understand Women

It didn’t take too many years on this planet for me to realize that in at least certain situations women and men do not act in similar ways.  For example, by the age of three I clearly understood that a man  does not invite another man to go with him to the bathroom unless, of course, he enjoys getting a fat lip.

After all these years I’m still baffled by the opposite sex.  For the life of me I don’t understand why my wife Bev has to show her friends every new piece of furniture, every  new appliance, and even every recently-purchased dress or blouse.  There must be some truth to that Mars vs. Venus thing, for I know for a fact that guys, at least the ones I hang with, wouldn’t be caught dead doing any of this.

A few weeks ago, within minutes after setting up our new bed, Bev was on the phone to tell a friend all the gory details: “Hello, Leah?  You’ll never guess!  No, I didn’t get rid of his golf clubs, at least not yet!  No, my mother isn’t coming for a visit!  Give up?  I’ve got the new bed!  It’s a dark reddish brown, with a beautiful headboard and it’s lower than the old bed.  You will have to see it!  How about coming over tomorrow about two o’clock?  Great!  Bring your camera.”

For the next hour or so she called numerous close friends, acquaintances, and even near-strangers to spread the good news and set up visiting times.  If I expected any privacy for the next two weeks I would have to  battle  bees, mosquitoes, ants and other various critters while taking my afternoon naps on the back deck.

A few months ago our ancient stove bit the dust, so there was no choice but to purchase a new one.  Within two minutes after the plumber had installed the gas line Bev was on the phone describing her newest possession: “Let me tell you, Gertrude, I didn’t really want a black range, but it has sort of grown on me!  Of course, it clashes with the yellow refrigerator, so I hope it dies soon so we can get a black one!  When can you come over to see it?  Let me check my planning book.  Yeah, two-fifteen will work.  Bye.”

Even clothing purchases become a big deal:  “Karen, you’ve got to see my new blouse.  It’s a cream color and has the cutest little kitten on the front!”

Can you imagine a real man like John Wayne acting like this?  “Hey, is this Roy Rogers?  It’s John.  You just have to come over to the stable and see my new saddle.  It’s cream-colored and has a drawing of the cutest little kitty on it.  Of course, it clashes with my black horse, so hopefully he’ll die soon so I can get a palomino.  Two-thirty?  Sorry, Roy; I’ll be fighting in the Alamo.  How about tomorrow at three?  Okay, see you then, Pilgrim.”

Incredibly, it’s not enough to merely see the new item; Bev and her friends have to make comparisons: “You know, Betty, I think my new bed is a few inches longer than that bed you bought last year.  Let’s measure it!”

Then the two ladies would scramble over to the neighbor’s house to take more measurements.  Maybe the lady with the longer bed was awarded a prize or at least received a congratulatory call from President Obama.

More often than not when looking at Bev’s new dress or  new blouse the visitor has to try it on.  I guarantee you that John Wayne and Roy Rogers never tried on each other’s outfits (perhaps Hopalong Cassidy and Johnny Cash did; both wore black).

My friends down at the local bar had a good laugh at all this and even shared similar stories about their own spouses.  We agreed that having a friend over to see your new bed, oven, or clothing is rather ridiculous.  On the other hand, we men only invite our buddies over to see the really important new stuff, things like barbeque grills, golf clubs, lawn mowers, and of course, automobiles.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Walking King

Until the last four months of her life my mother walked everywhere.  At the age of 77 she was still conquering both hills and valleys as she “hoofed it” to town and back.  In the early ’50s my impatient father gave her a brief driving lesson which consisted of one trip around the horse track at the fairgrounds.  After putting up with about three minutes worth of Dad’s nagging and criticism Mom declared that she would never again get behind the wheel, so she continued to walk.

Perhaps because of Mom’s influence  I walk at least a half hour every day.  About twenty years ago my cousin Rick and I trained for several weeks so that we could make a 55-mile journey on foot to the state’s biggest city.  The first half of that trip covered hilly terrain, but we were in great shape.  However, we awakened the next morning to discover painful blisters on our feet.  Needless to say, the second half of the trip took quite a bit longer than the first half, but we were determined to finish even if we had to crawl. 

But my family and I are mere amateurs in the field of walking when compared to one Edward Payson Weston.  Born in 1839, he perhaps more than any other person ignited a long-distance walking craze. 

IN 1860 Weston lost a bet when Abraham Lincoln was elected president.  As a result, he had to walk from Boston to Washington D. C. to attend the presidential inauguration.  He covered the almost five hundred mile trip in under ten and a half days, arriving late for the inauguration but in time to attend the inaugural ball. 

Turning professional, he won a $10,000 prize in 1867 for a walk of over 1,200 miles from Portland, Maine to Chicago, Illinois.  This took 26 days.  He and rival walkers were considered heroes, much as football and basketball players are today.

Usually he would eat while he walked, and he would take brief naps along the route.  Sometimes friendly folks  would invite him in for a meal and give him a roof over his head while he slept.

In 1869 he covered more than 1,000 miles through snowy New England in 30 days. He spent several years in Europe.  IN 1876 he defeated the English race walking champion in a 24-hour, 115 mile competition.  The Englishman quit after 65.6 miles, which he covered in 14 hours.  Weston, however,  continued for the full 24 hours, covering almost 110 miles.  He was victorious once again in 1879 when he won a 550 mile race against “Blower” Brown, the British champion.

In 1906 he traveled over 100 miles, from Philadelphia to New York, in less than 24 hours.  In 1907, although  nearing the age of 70, he once again completed the Portland-to-Chicago trip, beating his old time by more than 24 hours.  His last major walk, from New York City to Minneapolis, was covered in 51 days. 

Even in old age Weston continued to urge people to walk for the health benefits that it accrued.  He believed that automobiles were making people fat and lazy.

Ironically, in 1927 Weston was hit by a New York City taxicab, and as a result was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.  His long life ended in 1929.

Weston is correct; most Americans do need more exercise, and walking is a cheap and fun way to get it.  Thank goodness, however, one doesn’t need to walk from Portland to Chicago to reap the  health benefits.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

Mom, after battling cancer for several months you left us on New Year’s Day, 1997, just three and a half months after Dad had died.  Sometimes it feels like you’ve been gone just a few months; at other times it seems like an eternity.  Anyway, as I think about this special day  several memories flood my soul:

*I can still smell your wonderful homemade bread.  From my point of view, while still warm it was the best bread in the universe.  It had to be eaten in the first couple days, however, because after that it would dry out and fall into tiny little crumbs.  Of course, I did my best to see that it was devoured long before it began to crumble.

*Like your father, usually you were quiet and even shy, but deep inside lurked a volcano.  The relatively few times that you were angry were scary moments indeed.

*I’ll never forget when those pesky ants crawled into your cake mix while you talked to a friend on the telephone.  This was one of those rare times when you turned into the Incredible Hulk.  It was kind of funny when you tried to sift those varmints out of the mix;  little bodies were flying everywhere.  As I remember, out of pure stubbornness you baked that cake, but being equally stubborn, I refused to eat it.

*Whenever you were ticked off at one of my siblings or at me you pelted our backsides with a wooden paddle.  Remember the time , despite tugging and chewing on the string, you couldn’t extract the ball from the new paddle?  I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing while you pounded my posterior with that ball still intact.

*Remember how both you and your sister loved to buy and read those silly magazines that one sees at the grocery store checkout counter?  On more than one occasion you argued that those stories were true.  I remember one in particular, in which a tall green alien supposedly regularly  advised several presidents.  Maybe that explains why we’ve had some sub par leaders of late.

*You were a walking, talking encyclopedia.  Mom, you were the only person I knew who could remember so many details about so many things. 

*I still miss those jelly-filled cookies that you made. 

*Like you, I have a love of history, but I can’t remember nearly as many details as you did.

*Being the oldest child, you served a large family as an “assistant mom.”  Your siblings owe you big time for your sacrifices.

*I forgive you for letting my  sisters talk you into taking me along to those boring weekly sewing machine classes so that they could have the house to themselves.  Of course, it will take a few more decades to forgive them for such a fiendish act!

*Unfortunately, I never expressed  how much I love you.  Hopefully, late is better than never.

*Mom, you never expressed in words your love for us, but you always did your very best for us, and for that we are thankful..

*Mom, please forgive me for constantly teasing you about Harvey and other guys that you knew during your youthful years.  My excuse was that I was a stupid kid who didn’t know any better, and I’m sticking to it.

*So happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  Your kids love you, appreciate you, and most of all, miss you.  Rest in peace.

*May all our mothers have a wonderful day; we wouldn’t be here without you!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Useless but Interesting Facts

Useless but Interesting Facts
1. Sir John Harrington of England invented the flush toilet in 1596. 

2. An average dog has the intelligence of a two-year-old child.

3. The United States Constitution contains 4,400 words.

4. Abraham Lincoln had the largest feet of any president; his shoe size was 14.

5. Your stomach gets a new lining about every three days.

6. Originally high-heels were worn by men.

7. Barbara Millicent Roberts is the full name of the Barbie Doll.

8. Your nose and your ears continue to grow throughout your life.

9. After sex the Black Widow spider eats her mate.  Is this where the term, “one-night stand” began?

10. New-born babies do not have kneecaps.

11. Females blink more than males do.

12. The memory span of a goldfish is three seconds.  This is the same memory span that a husband has whenever his wife wants him to do some work around the house.

13. Elephants are the only mammals that cannot jump.

14. Even with its head cut off a cockroach can live for several days.

15. Starfish have no brains.  The same can be said for many politicians.

16. Finland banned Donald Duck comics because the duck doesn’t wear any pants.

17. Next to human beings, porpoises are the most intelligent animals on the planet.  However, after watching the evening news I’d drop human beings several slots.

18. Abraham Lincoln pardoned his children’s pet turkey so that it could never be killed and eaten.

19. Only the female mosquito bites.

20. Honey is the only food that will never spoil.

21. Two former presidents-John Adams and Thomas Jefferson-died July 4, 1826.

22. The most visited presidential grave site is John F. Kennedy’s in Arlington National Cemetery.

23. It takes 43 muscles to frown but only 17 to smile.  That’s why I smile so much-I’m lazy!

24. In 1890 Christmas became a national holiday in the United States.

25. Although George Washington tried several types of false teeth, he never wore wooden ones.

26. Both Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain were cat lovers.

27. Each person has a unique tongue print.

28. About six months of a person’s life is spent sitting at red lights.

29. “Aulophobia’ is the fear of flutes.

30. Robert Wadlow, who died in 1940 at the age of 22, stood 8 feet 11.1 inches.

31. In 2006 Manuel Uribe of Mexico weighed 1, 235 pounds.

32.Jeanne Calmet of France died in 1997.  She was 122 years and 164 days old.

33. Albert Woolson, who died in 1956 at the age of 109, was the last member of the Union Army during the Civil War.

34. Cats are the most popular pets in the United States.

35. The average dairy cow will weigh about 1,200 pounds.

36. The offspring of a donkey and a zebra is called a “zedonk.”

37. Mark Twain said: “Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”

38.  George Washington is the only president who never lived in the White House.

39. Peter Best was the original regular drummer for the Beatles.  He was replaced by Ringo Starr.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Advice for Husbands

There is nothing quite so blissful for a guy as sharing his life with a contented wife.  From my vast years of experience I can give you younger guys some sound advice:

1. Always put the seat down after using the toilet.  When she argues that you are inconsiderate for not doing so, you could counter that she is just as inconsiderate for not putting it up after she’s finished.  Your argument would be every bit as logical , but don’t go there!  No male has ever won that debate!

2. Never, and I mean never tell her that she is turning into her mother!  Your mother-in-law might be a saint (If so, you have the only one on the planet),  but your wife will never take such a statement as a compliment. 

3. If your wife asks if a new outfit makes her backside look big, always answer “no.”  Answer in the negative even if those new jeans make her  look like Shamu.  God will forgive you for this white lie; no doubt He would do the same thing if there was a Mrs. God.

4.  Never give your honey the nickname “Moose.” 

5. When you come to bed on a cold winter’s night, never stick your icy feet on her legs. 

6. Never try to compliment her by stating that among her many  attributes, she even has better in-laws than you do.

7. Sincerity is the key to a happy marriage.  Once you learn how to fake that you’ve got it made!

8. Try to stay awake at least ten minutes after a romantic interlude.  Don’t use those ten minutes to talk sports.

9. When you do something wrong, use those two magic words: “I’m sorry.”

10.  When you’re right but she thinks you’re wrong, use those two magic words: “I’m sorry.”

11. When she forces you to go shopping with her, pretend to be enjoying the activity.

12. Don’t ask her to fetch your beer.

13. Always make her wishes as important as your own.

14. No matter what she prepares for a meal, eat it and thank her for fixing it.

15. Even if your mother-in-law is a witch, treat her with the utmost respect (It’s okay, however, to imagine sending her on a one-way trip to Jupiter).

16. Always treat her as an equal in the marriage.

17. Even if it’s true, never tease her that she and her friends sound like a bunch of hens while playing cards.  In a related matter, never kid about looking for eggs after the card party is over.

18.  Be careful that you don’t tell her the same jokes more than three times.

19. Don’t kiss her until you’ve had that morning shave.  For some strange reason women do not like the feeling of sandpaper across their faces.

20. If she loves a pet you love it too.

21. Constantly remind yourself how lucky you are to be living with such a wonderful person.

22. Every now and then surprise her by serving breakfast in bed.  Do more than hand her a bowl and a box of cereal.

23. Make her feel that in choosing you she has hit the jackpot.

24.  And most importantly, at least once a day tell her how much she means to you. Tell her that you love her, and mean it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Happy Birthday, Mr. Davis

April 1st, 2015 would have been the 100th birthday of Bill Davis, a wonderfully gifted teacher who made a lasting impact upon thousands of students.  Here is one of my favorite Bill Davis stories:

Bill Davis, a U. S. history teacher, was unique, to say the least.  He certainly knew American history.  In fact, he shared with his students little-known facts about historical figures that almost magically transformed them from musty statues to real human beings, warts and all.  Mr. Davis was the total package: he was a proficient teacher, an extraordinary entertainer, and an excellent comedian.  I doubt that anyone ever fell asleep in his class, or even yawned, for that matter.

According to Mr. Davis, many administrators didn’t know what to make of him.  He just didn’t fit the standard description for a teacher of those times.  Perhaps even some of them wondered if it was a good thing that the students enjoyed his class so much.

Today there are several folks approaching the age of seventy who probably tell their grandchildren about the U. S. history teacher who, in advance of Election Day, could accurately predict the winner of a presidential contest.  In late 1959, a few months before the fight for the Presidency between Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy had ended, Mr. Davis announced to his classes that long ago, through painstaking research, he had developed a foolproof formula for figuring out who would win the Presidential sweepstakes.

To back his claim, he nailed a picture covered with newspaper onto the wall of his classroom.  He then announced that the day after the election, the newspaper would be removed, revealing the winner and proving that his formula was accurate.  As a result, the students became extremely interested in the election process, which was unusual for a bunch of thirteen year olds.

The day after the election, the excited students waited with baited breath to see if he was indeed some kind of prophetic genius.  As Mr. Davis slowly removed the paper from the picture, the students gasped.  To their amazement, hanging on the wall was a portrait of the next President of the United States, John F. Kennedy.

Like so many of Mr. Davis’s former pupils, I stayed in touch over the years.  One day he shared a secret with me.  Listening to the election results back in November of 1959, he had to wait until the wee hours of the morning to learn that Kennedy had won the election by a razor-thin margin.  Then, leaving home a little earlier than usual, he went to school, took down the picture of Richard Nixon that had been hanging there for months, and replaced it with one of JFK.

Mr. Davis’s stunt, more than anything else, got a bunch of teenagers interested in the political process.  That was no small feat.  So what if his formula needed a little work?

He’s gone now; hundreds if not thousands of his former students miss him and feel indebted to him. To me he was the embodiment of what a teacher should be.  His students learned the material and had a lot of fun while doing so.  In my book, that’s the mark of a great educator.