Saturday, March 10, 2018

It's about time...

            I don’t handle change well. I’ll be the second to admit that. My wife will be the first. So it is with much trepidation that I face the bi-annual time change that we experience every March and November. I never know for sure if we are going on daylight saving time or off of it, just like I can never remember if I am going to gain an hour of sleep or lose one.

            We have two clocks in our bedroom, one on the dresser that my wife is in charge of, which she changes twice a year whenever whoever decides such things decides it’s time to change it, and one by my night stand that never changes, regardless of what anybody else says. Part of the time the one on my night stand agrees with the one on the dresser, and part of the time it’s an hour ahead of it.

            I wake up about the same time every morning, regardless of what time either clock says it is. I use the one on my night stand to tell what time my body thinks it is, and the one on the dresser to tell what time the coffee shop opens. My Dad says that neither clock is right. He says we’re always one hour or two hours ahead of sun time, the correct time. Or maybe he said we’re one or two hours behind.

            Regardless, I’m glad we are entering the period where both bedroom clocks are the same, even if the clock in the wife’s delivery van won’t agree with my cell phone for the next few months. Every once in a while the federal government or the state government changes the rules about changing the time, and my cell phone and Susan’s car seem to know about the changes and adapt automatically, but my truck and that old van are at the mercy of whatever buttons I can figure out to push.

            The last time Indiana decided to go on daylight saving time, Mitch Daniels was governor, and he was concerned Hoosier manufacturers and retailers wouldn’t be able to do business with neighboring states if they switched time and Indiana didn’t. I guess he made a convincing argument, being that we switched and all, but then he ran over to Japan and South Korea to work out some trade deals with them. I wrote him a letter to explain that those countries weren’t on the same time as us, and sometimes they weren’t even on the same day as us. I never received a reply, though. I suspect he was too busy golfing after work with all the extra daylight he had saved.

            I’ve read reports that most people like daylight saving time, and I’ve read reports that most people don’t like it. I’ve also read reports that it saves energy and that it doesn’t, and that it’s healthier for us and that it isn’t. I don’t know who’s correct.

            But I’m going to go to bed when I get tired, and get up when it’s time to get up.

            And I’ll go get a cup of coffee when the coffee shop opens.

            And the government still won’t even know what time it really is.

            Some things never change.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Hey, whattaya wanna give for it?...

            My Uncle Hobart loved to go to auctions, and he brought home a lot of bargains when he attended one. His wife, my Aunt Eullillian, didn’t share his enthusiasm about auctions or the resulting bargains, but she tolerated his collections and commented whenever he brought a new treasure home, “Well, it will go good at the big sale.” The “big sale” she was referring to is the one our children hold to dispense of our extra, uh, stuff after we pass on.

            There’s not much to deny that I come from the same bloodline as Uncle Hobart. I don’t attend a lot of auctions, but I make up for it by saving a lot of, uh, stuff. There is a pull-down stairway to the attic of the shop, and for the last 30 years I’ve been putting the stuff I’ve saved for the last 60 years up there.

            But a little while back, it became apparent that I needed to rearrange some of the stuff in the attic so I would have room to save more stuff. That doesn’t sound like a daunting task, but it probably takes longer than it should because I can’t move a box without opening it and examining the contents. Old newspapers seem to take the most time, because I not only have to read the article that made the paper save-worthy, but I also have to check out the advertisements, and be reminded that at one-time in the not so distant past I could buy a new Chevy Impala for $2800.00, or a gently used one for $695.00. Or 4 loaves of bread for 98 cents. Or striped bell-bottom jeans at all.

            Sometimes I find a treasure that belongs to someone else. I’m not sure what it was doing in my attic, but I came across a life-sized stand-up cardboard likeness of James Dean. Apparently it was our daughter’s, and she thought it was lost. It wasn’t. It was simply in the attic. Like the pictures and homework from Millville Grade School, and the bottle from the Norton Brewing Company in Anderson, and the box of incense from Ayr-Way. It wasn’t lost, but simply filed away and forgotten for a while.

            It’s kind of like when we talk about our lost rights or lost freedoms. They’re not really lost. More like displaced, and sometimes forgotten. We’ve turned a lot of decisions over to the government, and things we used to take for granted and do naturally, now require permission, permits and a license from that government.

            I have a couple of friends who are getting married later this summer, but not before they trudge down to the courthouse and pay the lady $18.00 for a license to do so. I guess that’s better than the $60.00 it would cost them if they lived in another state and wanted to get married here, but I have to wonder why they need a license to get married in the first place. Probably because of some of the insurance, retirement, and other previously personal decisions we have turned over to the government over the years.

            We still have the right to get married without asking the government, just like we still have the right to live our lives in any way we choose, as long as we don’t violate someone else’s rights.

            While the government might be preventing us from exercising our rights and freedoms, those rights still exist for all of us. We just need to reclaim them, and we don’t even have to climb up to attic to do it.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Time out.....

       Well, it’s 2018. I’m sure that doesn’t mean a lot to the younger folks out there, but to those of us who thought making it to the year 2000 was a big deal, it’s a big deal. My Father was born in 1928, so it’s an even bigger deal for him. He mentioned the other day that if someone would have told him when he was a child that he would ever live in a house with indoor plumbing, reliable heat and electricity, he would have thought they were crazy. Of course, televisions, microwave ovens, and computers weren’t even on the radar then. Come to think of it, radar was barely on the radar then.

            Technology moves along pretty quickly once it gets started. They used to say that more technology has been discovered or developed in the last 10 years than has been discovered or developed in the previous 1000 years. I don’t know if that is the case, but I suspect it is. In the last few years the television antenna was mostly replaced by satellites and the internet. Then the new and improved antenna made a comeback, just in time for a lot of televisions to be replaced with laptops and smartphones. “Replaced” may not be the right word. Probably “added additional options” would be the more correct description. A lot of people in my generation and the one previous still carry flip phones. I think sometimes change is based more on generations than on years.

            This year will mark some personal milestones for me, just as I’m sure it will for many of you. 2018 marks 30 years since I’ve had a drink of alcohol, and 7 since I’ve had a Mountain Dew. I’ll have been married to same woman for 42 years if she keeps me around until June, and Bell Contracting has been around for 44 years. I thought we were the oldest continuously owned business in town, but then I discovered Dance with Cindy had been around for 48 years. While we’re both shooting for 50 years in business, I’ve conceded that she will probably get there first.

          So while we’ve reached some goals this year, I imagine there are more ahead. As I mentioned, Dad turns 90 this year, and he and Mom will celebrate their 70th Anniversary, if she keeps him around until September. A worthy goal, no doubt, but I’ll have to make it to 94 before we reach our 70th, and I’m not in any big hurry for that to happen, although I imagine if we make it, it will get here sooner than we think.

            Time has a way of moving a little faster as we get a little older. I suspect that’s because the older we get, the smaller percentage of our lives a year represents. 2017 was just 1/65th of my life. 2018 will be 1/66th of it.

            Some of what’s going to happen in 2018 is going to happen no matter what we do, but some of the goals we set for ourselves are going to take some time and effort. And concerning those goals that require time and effort, we had better get started.

            2019 will be here before we know it.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Since you asked...

       A good friend of mine recently became engaged. Before that came about, he asked his future bride’s father for his permission and blessing. It’s something men have doing for centuries, clear back to Old Testament times, I’m told. Sometimes the father would sweeten the pot with a couple of goats and some chickens, just to make sure his daughter’s suitor didn’t back out. I don’t think fathers do that so much anymore, and I’m not sure how many men still ask these days. I know I skipped that step when I was courting my wife, mostly because I was pretty sure her father would have said “Absolutely not!”, or possibly something a bit more colorful to express his displeasure. And I knew he didn’t have any goats or chickens anyway.

            But, regardless of my father-in-law’s thoughts and opinions (he often said the devil owed him a debt and paid him off with son-in laws,) I’m satisfied I made the right call in not asking. My wife and I have been pretty evenly yoked for nearly 42 years. It seems often times you’re better off asking forgiveness instead of permission.

            Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill recently decided (and Governor Eric Holcomb backed him up,) that cannabinoid oil, or CBD, is illegal in Indiana. CBD is a medicinal oil made from hemp, which is related to marijuana, and therein lies the rub.  Although CBD doesn’t contain THC, the active (or inactive) ingredient found in marijuana, it still has managed to incur the wrath of the pharmaceutical industry and by extension, the hierarchy in our Hoosier government. CBD has shown positive signs of healing or relief in many people from the symptoms of Parkinson’s, anxiety, seizures in adults and children, diabetes, and numerous other health problems some people face every day. Even if not every person benefits from its use, there is certainly enough evidence to allow people to use it if they feel it helps them or a loved one.

We shouldn’t have to ask the government’s permission to use a medicine or anything that improves our quality of life and doesn’t harm anyone else. If you stop and think about it, for a free people, we spend entirely too much time asking the government for permission in all areas of our lives.

            Luckily, we have a few options for relief until the politicians and their sponsors can be convinced to do the right thing. Whenever the government charges a person for doing something without permission, and puts that person on trial for their supposed offense, jurors have the option of finding that person not guilty, even if they have in fact violated a law. It’s called jury nullification, and the Indiana Constitution provides for it in Article 1, Section 19, stating “In all criminal cases whatever, the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the facts.”

            Thomas Jefferson said that it is the natural progress for liberty to yield and government to grow. We have no doubt witnessed that. It has become increasingly difficult to name three things that the government doesn’t tax or regulate, and with every session of congress the list of things that require government permission continues to grow. And some judges will rule that jurists don’t have the right to nullify bad laws.

            But you do, and you don’t even have to ask.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

All things considered...

        I had a stroke about a year ago, and the doctors who worked on me said it would probably take a year to get back to normal. I’m not sure what constitutes normal, but for the most part I’m doing pretty well, I think. I’m back to work, getting ready to start my 44th year in business. I still have some trouble speaking and swallowing, and my balance isn’t what it used to be, and I spend a lot of time (when I’m out of earshot of anyone) enunciating “chocolate milk truck” repeatedly, in an effort to strengthen the damaged muscles that affect my speaking and swallowing capabilities.

            But all in all, I’m not complaining. Some of the doctors I used to see every day, I don’t see at all anymore, and the ones I do see I don’t see as often. I’m taking 4 pills a day, down from the wheelbarrow full I was taking a year ago. And I know a lot of people who have had strokes that are a lot worse off than me. But on the other hand, there are a lot of people who have had a stroke, and people who haven’t, that are a lot better off than me.

            I realize everything is relative, but no matter where we are on the health scale, I don’t think there is anything wrong with aspiring to improve. I feel the same way about politics.

            I hear a lot of people defending our current president by claiming he’s not as bad as his predecessor was, or as bad as his opponent would have been if she had won.  While I wouldn’t argue either way, I’m not sure we want to choose our president based on the criteria of “He or she not as bad as he or she could be.” And I don’t believe we should be satisfied with a president just because they aren’t as bad as the last one or the next one. We’d be a lot better off as a nation if we expected our leaders to follow their oath to obey the Constitution, compared to what we expect of them now.

             And speaking of nations, the citizens of the United States take a lot of pride in being the “Land of the Free”, and certainly we enjoy freedoms that a lot of people in the world don’t. But we aren’t the freest nation in the world, and according to the Human Freedom Index, published by the CATO Institute, we’re dangerously close to slipping from the top 25.  Based on a study of personal, civil, and economic freedom, the United States has fallen from 16th place in 2008, to 19th place in 2013, to our current standing as the 23rd freest country in the world.

             While people might disagree on what exactly constitutes personal, civil, and economic freedom, it’s hard to argue with the fact that most people can’t name three things that government in this country doesn’t tax or regulate.

            I suppose we could be satisfied that we are more free than 172 countries in the world, but that is the kind of thinking that will keep us satisfied when we are more free than 171 countries in the world. Or 170.

             Our goal should be to be not only the freest nation in the world, but the freest nation with the freest people ever.

            I’m not willing to settle for 23rd, any more than I’m willing to settle for 2nd.

            I hope you aren’t either.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Slipping away....

              I suspect I’m not the only one with this problem, but things have a way of slipping up on me without notice. We have a metal roof on our shop that has been there for over 50 years, and every once and a while I have to give it a coat of paint. I see it every day, when I come home from working on other people’s buildings, and it fades and rusts so slowly that I don’t realize when it needs a little attention. This summer it got so bad that a couple of guys drove all the way up from Alabama and offered to paint it for me.

           After they stopped by, I decided it was probably time for a fresh coat of paint, but even then I didn’t know how bad it needed it until I climbed down for another bucket, looked up, and compared what was painted with what wasn’t. It looks pretty fresh now, but I’m sure if I live long enough, it will slip up on me again.

             That’s just one of many things that slip up on me. The other day our daughter-in-law told me that our Granddaughter’s basketball game was being played at the high school gym. When I asked if it was the old high school gym or the new high school gym, I was informed that there was only one high school gym.  I realized it had been the high school gym for 46 years, and the old high school gym had been the grade school gym for the same amount of time. That one slipped up in a hurry.

            I’ve also noticed that our government tends to slip into areas of our lives where it wasn’t before. Sometimes when we don’t realize it, sometimes when we realize it but don’t care, and sometimes when we realize it and care, but are too busy taking care of other things. Slowly but surely, it’s ended up in just about every area of our lives. It’s been a long time since most of us could name just three things that the government doesn’t tax or regulate.

            Last week President Trump scolded some NFL players for not standing when the national anthem was played before a football game, and then made a disparaging comment about their parentage. I don’t think it was anything official, but the people who don’t like the president thought it was a terrible case of government slipping in somewhere it didn’t belong, and the people who like the president thought he should  have slipped in a little more.  I thought it was more of an employer/employee squabble, and that they should work it out between themselves as best they could.

             But then someone said that since the taxpayers paid for the stadiums the NFL uses, they should have a say in what the players say and how they act during the game and pre-game.

            What? Taxpayers are paying for the stadiums that millionaire NFL team owners and millionaire players are using?

            Well, when did that happen?

Thursday, September 07, 2017


          The first car I ever drove legally was a 1965 Rambler American. My Dad bought it when my older brother Charles got his driver’s license, and I shared it with him when I got mine. We also had to share it with Mom when Dad was driving the station wagon, or with Dad when Mom was driving the station wagon. Mom and Dad had 8 kids, so we were used to sharing a lot of things, but when you’re 16, it’s tough to share a car with anybody.

            I don’t remember exactly how big the engine was, but I do remember it was somewhere under 200 cubic inches. I got a ticket for attempted speeding once, but as long as you came to a complete stop when you were supposed to, we didn’t have too much trouble with the local police.

            It also had a 3-speed manual transmission, with the shifter located on the steering column, as I believe God intended. That’s where shifters were found for years for the most part, unless you had a really fast car, or sometimes a truck. Then it was probably on the console or the floor board. Even when you graduated to an automatic transmission, the shift lever was usually still on the column, unless you had bucket seats, which were cool if you were cruising around, but not so cool if you wanted to drive with your arm around your girlfriend.

            I’ve been driving legally for 49 years, and my truck’s shifter is still on the steering wheel column, across from the turn signal lever. Sometime back they moved the dimmer switch off of the floorboard and incorporated it with the turn signal lever. I handled that change pretty well, and only got my foot tangled in the steering wheel a couple of times before I adapted to the new location. I think most dimmer switches are in the same place now, and all you have to figure out is whether you need to pull it towards you or push it away from you to change from bright to dim.

            Sometimes when we travel somewhere with Mom and Dad nowadays, I drive their car. They have an automatic transmission, but they have bucket seats with the shifter on the console. I suspect if they would have had bucket seats years ago, they wouldn’t have had 8 kids and I wouldn’t have had to share so much. Anyway, whenever I drive their car, I always reach for the lever on the steering wheel column and turn on the windshield wipers before I get the car in reverse and back out of the garage. I’m not sure Dad believes my explanation that I’m just checking to make sure the wipers work just in case it starts raining, but so far he hasn’t challenged me on it.

            My wife traded cars a couple of weeks ago, and as luck would have it, they moved the shifter again, and this time it’s not even a lever. It’s a knob on the dashboard, and every time she lets me drive I spend the first couple of minutes grabbing air where things used to be, reaching for a key that doesn’t exist, turning on windshield wipers that don’t need to be turned on, and dimming lights that don’t need to be dimmed.

            I read a story the other day about somebody working on a car that drives itself.

            I think I’m ready.