Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hope springs eternal.....


            I don’t know when Grandpa Bowman’s hair fell out. He was bald as long as I could remember, and even in his wedding picture. When I became old enough to think about such things, and when somebody told me that baldness is inherited from your Mother’s side of the family, I realized that someday I might be follicly challenged myself.  Grandpa had spent almost his entire life not knowing where to stop washing his face. I hoped the same fate wouldn’t befall me. And even though I hoped that it wouldn’t, I always expected that it would, and it did.

            I buy a couple of lottery tickets almost every week, hoping they will draw my numbers on Saturday night, and I will wake up a millionaire on Sunday morning. Truth be known, even though I hope I will win, I don’t really expect it, and so I always keep my alternative plan, which involves getting up and going to work in order to keep us fed, clothed, and housed.

            I imagine we all hope for some things with a reasonable expectation that they will come true. If you have children, you hope they will be successful and happy. We hope it doesn’t rain everyday of our vacation, and we hope our plane lands safely. We hope we have enough money to get through our retirement. With a little forethought and planning, none of these hopes seem to be out of reach. Except for the plane. Most of us don’t have any control over that. And the rain.

            And we probably all hope for some things we don’t really expect to happen, much like I hoped my hair wouldn’t fall out, or like my hopes of winning the lottery.

            The other day, I was chastised when I admitted that I didn’t have much hope of anything good coming out of the new administration in Washington. The only semi-reasonable expectation I have is that perhaps the anti-war left will awaken from its 8 year slumber. I had a brief but fleeting thought the left might come to a better and fonder understanding of the Tenth Amendment in light of some of the new president’s executive orders, but it passed quickly when I realized they probably realized they would be back in power in a few years, and they wouldn’t want that hanging over their heads when they were.

            I know I could be an optimist and hope our current administration would reduce the federal debt, champion individual rights, bring our troops home, and reduce the role the federal government has in our lives, but I don’t really have any expectation any of that will happen. I’m convinced my hopes would be better spent on lottery tickets and hair restorers.

            Just like when we buy lottery tickets, and hope doesn’t seem to be enough, we need an alternate plan when Washington gets out of control, which over last few years, seems to be all of the time.

            In his book, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein wrote  I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”

            We have reached the point where can’t expect much out of Washington, and we need to stop pinning our hopes on the federal government fixing anything. We need to take control of our lives, our hopes, and our expectations.

 I hope people understand that.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Happy New Year, I hope.....


My wife’s uncle Fred owned a bar in Hagerstown years ago, and up against the front wall sat a juke box. I don’t know if anyone has a juke box anymore, since you can listen to about anything you want to hear on your cell phone, but back then you could put a quarter in the slot and listen to three songs. I think towards the end of the juke box era, (and probably one of the things that contributed to people listening to music on their cell phones,) they raised the price to a quarter for one song. I also think when you had to pay a quarter for one people paid a little more attention to their selections.

A man came in about once a week and took out the quarters and split them with Fred, and sometimes he would put a new record or two in the line-up. The juke box had a mixture of some old and new country, and some old and new rock and roll. I thought it needed more rock and roll, but a lot of the more mature patrons thought it needed more country. Fred didn’t really care, as long as somebody kept putting quarters in the machine. He used to say “Different strokes for different folks,” which helped explain why he kept different brands of beer in the cooler and different brands of cigarettes in the cigarette machine.

Since I worked as a bartender, and spent some leisure time on the other side of the bar, I learned to enjoy some of the old country music, but I’m not sure some of the patrons ever came to appreciate the new rock and roll.

I’m sure different people still enjoy different things. Take 2016, for instance. I imagine Donald Trump will have fonder memories of it than will Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. The people that hit the $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot probably thought it turned out okay, as did Bill Gates, who was  the year’s and the world’s richest man with $75 billion.

It turned out to be a pretty good year for Cubs fans, but not so good for Harambe, who discovered that just sitting in a pen minding your own business can be fatal under some circumstances. I’ve heard people say the election in 2016 was the best we’ve ever had, and I’ve also heard people who are convinced it was the worst we’ve ever had. Whether it was the best or the worst, or somewhere in between remains to be seen. I prefer to think that while our choices were the worst ever, I’m more afraid they may only turn out to be the worst so far.

From a personal standpoint, I’ve had better years. I met my wife and started my business in 1974. That was a pretty good year. There have been years along the way when I got married, had children, had grandchildren, bought a home, made a profit, and wrote a book.

 But in 2016, we lost a sister and a sister-in-law to cancer. Our brother’s cancer reoccurred, and my wife lost 3 months to an illness the doctors couldn’t diagnose. I had a stroke, and Roy Johnson’s service station on Main Street in Hagerstown closed.

Trying to look on the brighter side, I googled “good things that happened in 2016.” My best advice to everyone would be “don’t do it.” Sure, the wild tiger population increased, and the Juno spacecraft made it to Jupiter, but other than that, it’s pretty slim pickings.

I don’t doubt that some people will look back on 2016 with great fondness, and on a personal level, some people may have had a good year, but overall, I’m ready to say goodbye to 2016, and good riddance.

Happy New Year 2017, and welcome.

Monday, December 05, 2016

The Wish Book...




Back in my Millville Grade School days, before there was an internet or cyber Monday, we had something called the Sears Roebuck catalog. Every December, my old buddy Stinky Wilmont and I, along with my brothers and sisters, spent hours going through that catalog circling what we wanted for Christmas. Since there were 8 of us kids, we also wrote our names by the items so there wouldn’t be any confusion about who wanted what. The really popular items usually ended up with several names beside them.

            Since we only had one catalog, we all had to take turns looking at it, and we couldn’t look at it while we were eating, since it also served as a booster seat for one of my little brothers or sisters then, or while we were getting a haircut. Still, by the time Christmas rolled around, there were names on something on about every page. I don’t know if they still make those giant catalogs. I haven’t seen one for a while. I think nowadays instead of writing your name by something you go on line and click “Add to wish list” or “Add to cart”. I don’t know what you sit on if you can’t reach the table.

            I know at the Bell household, and I’m pretty sure at the Wilmont household, nobody ever got everything they marked in the catalog. I don’t think any of us thought we would. But, there was a period of time, from Thanksgiving dinner until Christmas morning, when, much like Schrödinger’s cat, anything was possible. I never received a Mister Machine, although I wrote my name in great big letters by it every year. But one year I got a gas powered BB gun with a wooden stock. I had written my name by it, and even drawn a circle around it just to make sure Mom saw it, but I never really thought I’d get it. One of my little brothers wrote his name by it to, but I always figured he did it just to aggravate me, because I’m pretty sure he didn’t have any more idea he’d get it than I did. It remains to this day the best Christmas gift I ever got.

            There were 8 of us kids, and it seems like we always received at least one thing we had marked in the book, along with a couple things we hadn’t. And then there were always those socks, but what are you going to do?

            We just went through a contentious election, where it seemed few people were overly happy with the choices we had for president. I think a lot of people voted against a candidate instead of for a candidate, and we’ve seen some evidence that some voters chose a candidate just to aggravate the people who chose the other candidate.

            We’ve all heard predictions about how bad it’s going to be or how great it’s going to be when the new president takes office. I don’t believe it’s going to be all that bad or all that great. I think that like after every election before, everybody’s going to get something they want and something they don’t want, except for us Libertarians, who always get a whole lot more government than we want.

            So between now and inauguration day, just like at Christmas, we don’t know for sure what we’re going to get, but we can wish for anything, and it might come true.

            No matter what happens, I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, even if all your wishes didn’t, or don’t, come true.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I left my modesty in Richmond Indiana…




            November got off to a bad start at our house. I was on my way to Richmond when I got a funny feeling in the left side of my face. I found out later it was what they call a transient ischemic attack, or TIA. It’s a type of mini-stroke, I’m told. I’d heard of them before, but I’m pretty sure I’d never had one before.

            At any rate, I wound up feeling better in a short while, and continued on to my scheduled interview with a local reporter. In the course of our meeting, I had a couple more TIA’s, at least that’s what the doctor said, culminating with a full blown stroke as the grand finale.

            I kind of lost track of things after that. I regained consciousness long enough to realize that a bunch of guys had removed my pants and boots, and were in the process of cutting my shirt off. I also noticed Rachel the reporter had turned her back on the proceedings. I’m not sure if she did it for my benefit or her own, but I remember thinking I sure was proud that I had taken Mom’s long standing advice and taken the time to put on clean underwear before I left home.

             I came to again with somebody yelling “Stay with me buddy” in my face. I couldn’t really answer him, but I do remember thinking “Hey, you took my pants and my wallet, you cut off my shirt, and I’m strapped to a gurney in the back of an ambulance in my underwear somewhere in Richmond. Just where would I be going?”

            When I arrived at Reid Hospital, they ran some tests, and called a helicopter to take me to another hospital in Indianapolis. When the pilot asked me if I had ever ridden in a helicopter before, I told him 50 years ago I rode in one at Canal Days in Cambridge City for 10 bucks. He said this ride would probably cost a little more than that. I hoped the reason it was going to be more expensive would be because this helicopter was a little bigger and had a heater, because it was becoming apparent to me that I was going to fly from Richmond to Indianapolis on November 3rd in my underwear.

            The hospital I landed in was IU Methodist close to downtown Indy. When we arrived there they put me in the intensive care unit, and cut off the rest of my underwear. I tried to tell them it was probably my best pair, and that I had put on special for today, but I had lost my voice by that time, and besides, everybody seemed to busy sticking stickers on me and hooking wires to them to be concerned about my underwear. I was later able to get a note from one of the nurses verifying the condition of my late briefs, so at least I have that for Mom, even if I am short a pair of shorts.

            They had a lot of doctors in that hospital. They came into my room a lot. There were brain doctors and brain surgeons, heart doctors and heart surgeons. They all seemed to know what they were doing, but I was awfully disappointed that none of them knew where they were, or even what day it was. They asked me every time they came in. I didn’t really mind telling them every day (some of them I had to tell twice a day), but I thought surely somebody would remember at least once in a while, them being doctors and all. I think they appreciated my help, because they asked me when my birthday was. I told them it was March 12th, and figured they would probably get me something nice, but then I realized they probably wouldn’t remember when my birthday was either.

            I guess a hospital is a good place to be if you need to be there, but I wasn’t overly happy about all the tubes and hoses sticking out of places that weren’t really meant to have tubes and hoses sticking out of them. It was flattering, though, to have so many people suddenly interested in my bodily functions. Even passing gas brought reactions of encouragement and approval, although now that I am home, my wife Susan’s enthusiasm for it seems to have waned a bit.

            Still, I think there were some good things that have come out of this experience so far. I was lucky or blessed to be where I was when it happened. If I had been at home alone I probably would just have laid down to let it pass. I rediscovered how wonderful our community, my friends and family are when you need them. My sister-in-law reflected on my incident, and went out and bought my brother-in-law all new underwear, just in case. So we have that.

            I think I’m getting along pretty well now, doing therapy at home and at the therapy place. I still don’t have very good balance, and I can’t swallow or talk very well, and I missed out on two Thanksgiving dinners, but other than that, I think it’s going to work out.

            So thanks for all the thoughts and prayers, and to all of you who manage to keep society rolling along when some of us take a break. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I can come back and tell you that everything worked out fine.

Running on Empty...


          A couple of weeks ago I was running a business, running for governor, and running over to Richmond for an interview with Rachel at one of our local newspapers, the Palladium-Item. In the midst of all of that, I could swear that I was also run over by a large truck. As it turns out, what actually ran over me was a stroke.

     Thanks to some quick action by Rachel, the Richmond Fire Department, Reid Health and countless others, I am well on my way to running as well as I ever did, which may or may not have been as well as I hoped, or even as well as I remember.

      The business I run is a contracting company, and we were just finishing up one job and getting ready to start on another. Thanks to my brother Ross, who has been with me for 42 years, and some understanding customers who are also our friends, it looks like continuing to run the business may come off without a hitch.

       I spent election day and week flat on my back in a hospital bed in Indianapolis. It’s the first time in nine elections that I wasn’t standing at the polls asking for votes all day. And while I would have preferred to spend the day at the polls, it turns out the results were about the same wherever I spent the day. Much as I suspected, I didn’t win the election, just as most Libertarian candidates on the ballot didn’t win the election.

         Libertarians are running on a platform that most people don’t want to deal with. We advocate for a constitutionally limited government. I attended a lot of forums and meetings in my campaign for governor, and I found most people who want limited government only want to limit it in ways that benefit them. The general consensus seems to be “it’s only pork if someone else is getting it.” Believe me, I understand how seductive that line of reasoning can be when it goes up against the personal responsibility that is necessary for a limited government to succeed.

        Libertarians run for office because every election, more and more people understand why we run. More than 86,000 voters cast their ballot for me this year, and more than 4 million voters gave Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson the nod. Some because they value personal freedom and responsibility over the stifling nanny state, and some because they recognize the unsustainability of a system where more people want to ride the wagon than want to pull it, and the fallacy of a government that rewards sloth and punishes initiative.

         At one of the forums I attended, a sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives expressed his concern that people were being released from prison, and were then being forced to wait up to four weeks before they started receiving their government checks again. He promised to do something about it.

           I hope one of these elections you will promise to do something about it also. I know I have.

           Thank you all for your prayers and support.

            I’ll see you when I’m up and running again.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Orders of the day.....


            I buy a Powerball ticket every week, unless I forget. I know the odds of winning the jackpot are about 292 million to 1, but I also know if I don’t buy a ticket, the odds are even higher. I also buy a Hoosier Lotto ticket while I’m at the counter. The odds of winning the jackpot on that one are only 12 million to 1, so I don’t feel like I’m wasting my $2.00 quite as much.

            Last week when I stopped to get my tickets, the cashier accidently printed off a Mega Millions ticket instead of a Lotto ticket.  The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are about 176 million to 1, so I thought about telling the clerk about his mistake and exchanging for the ticket with better odds, but then I thought about how bad I’d feel if he had to buy the mistake himself, and about how much worse I would feel if he would have won with that ticket. Especially if both of mine lost. Which they did.

            Sometimes things don’t work out, but I figure most of the time we ought to ask for what we want, and get what we ask for. I usually don’t complain if I order my eggs over medium and they come out over easy. But if I order a hamburger and it comes out fish, I’ll probably point that out to the server. And I’ll probably take a little more time and make sure they understand what I want the next time I stop in.

            In my younger days, Mom and Dad used to load all of us kids in the car occasionally and take us down to Miller’s Dairy in Cambridge City for an ice cream cone. It was the only place in the area where I could get my favorite, pistachio ice cream. Unfortunately for me in my younger days, I also had a difficult time pronouncing pistachio. Even if I practiced saying pistachio all the way from Millville to Cambridge City, I invariably butchered the pronunciation when I ordered, much to the delight of the ice cream dipper, my brothers and sisters, and everybody in line behind me. I eventually decided it was easier to just order strawberry.

            This November, voters get a chance to order the type of government they want. And a lot of people aren’t too happy about what’s on the regular menu. I’ve heard a lot of people say they are voting for a presidential candidate they don’t like in order to make sure a candidate they like less doesn’t win. I guess that’s one way to look at it, but to me it sounds a lot like eating a fish sandwich when you could have had a hamburger. Or strawberry ice cream when you really wanted pistachio.

            I certainly understand the disappointment people are feeling with the choices the two old parties are offering this year. I’ve felt that way for a long time. I’m also happy that there is a third option, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. He hasn’t received as much attention as the other two, but if he does, I think most folks will find the other two a little harder to swallow.

            Admittedly, it’s not what most people are used to, but if you want to ask for a constitutionally limited government, you’re going to have to order off the menu.

Independence Day....


Whether you call it Independence Day or simply the 4th of July, it’s a day most Americans acknowledge and celebrate. When I was a kid at Millville, we looked forward to the fireworks that were launched at Memorial Park in New Castle. We seldom got to go to the park, but we discovered that if we watched out of the attic window on the west side of the house, we could at least see the rockets that made it past the tree line. I found out in later years there were also some ground displays involved in the show, but Dad never mentioned those to us, so we didn’t know we were missing anything.

            It was a little more exciting whenever I got together with my old buddy Stinky Wilmont around the 4th. Stinky’s Uncle Wilmer lived in Tennessee, and sometimes when he came up for a visit he would bring a trunk load of firecrackers with him. Firecrackers weren’t legal in Indiana back then, unless you had a permit and were putting on a show for everybody at Memorial Park or someplace like that. Later on I think you could buy them in Indiana if you promised you wouldn’t light them here, but I think a lot of people forgot what they had promised when they got home and it got dark.

            Anyway, Stinky always had some little firecrackers called Black Cats with the fuses all woven together, and sometimes we took them apart so we could light them one at a time and make them last all night. You could also light them all at once, and it made a lot of noise, and everybody hollered and ran away, but it didn’t last very long that way. He also had some bigger firecrackers called Cherry Bombs and M-80s, but I didn’t like them as much because they were awfully loud, and Uncle Wilmer was missing part of two fingers.

            I think you can buy a lot of different types of firecrackers in Indiana now, at least that is what it sounds like over at the neighbors. I kind of lost interest in them as I got older, and since we switched to Daylight Savings Time I’m usually asleep before it gets dark enough to appreciate them anyway.

            I did think it was kind of ironic that we celebrated our freedom with items our government told us we couldn’t have. And I guess I’m glad I’ll be able to buy them in Indiana if I want to, and that I won’t have to make up a story about where I’m going to set them off.

            Even though we’re allowed to buy firecrackers now, there are a lot of things we’re not allowed to buy. I was informed the other day at the county fair that I couldn’t buy raw milk. I learned if I wanted raw milk, I had to buy part interest in a cow. Then I could pay someone to feed her and milk her, and put the milk in a jar, and I could have a gallon a week. If I wanted more than that, I would have to buy more of the cow. I thought it would be a lot simpler if the government would just let me buy the milk in the first place, but that’s not how the government works.

            It all reminded me once again how difficult it is to name three things that our government doesn’t tax or regulate, and it made me wonder if maybe I ought to buy a few firecrackers while I still can, and before the government changes its mind again.

            It’s all well and good that we get to celebrate our freedoms on the 4th, but we might want to spend a little more time protecting those we still have, and maybe reclaiming some of those we don’t.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Just because...


              I started a construction business 42 years ago, and I’m still running it today. A couple of years ago, a woman called us about having some work done on her house. It was an extensive job, so I set up an appointment and met her one evening to discuss the project. About 15 minutes into the process, after listening to her complain about everybody who had ever worked on her house before, I silently decided that we weren’t going to do this job.

            I’ve opted out of more than one job in 42 years, sometimes because it didn’t fit into our schedule, sometimes because I didn’t believe the project was feasible, sometimes because of questionable finances, and sometimes, like the woman’s project I was telling you about, just because I had a bad feeling about it.

            Like most people who are in business for themselves, I hated to turn down a job, but I was happy there wasn’t anybody telling me I had to do a job I didn’t feel was in our best interest. I was also happy that a simple “No, thanks” on my part was all that was needed. No long winded explanation or excuse was necessary.

            Of course, on the other hand, I have figured on some jobs over the years that I would have loved to have done, but we didn’t get hired. Maybe because we couldn’t get there when the potential customer wanted, or maybe because our price was too high, or maybe because the customer thought we would be too hard to get along with. And whatever the reason, and whether they chose to tell us the reason or not, I knew I didn’t have the right to force them to hire us.

            It’s one of the rights we all share. It’s called voluntary association. Certainly people of every race, religion, and sexual orientation have the same rights. If the government offers a service or program to one person, it must offer the same consideration to all persons. Once we remove ourselves from the government’s realm, we get to choose who we will associate with, provided that person wants to associate with us. It has to be a 2 way street.

            I realize there are people who believe that government should reach into the private realm and replace voluntary association with forced association, out of fear that some people, or groups of people, wouldn’t associate voluntarily . There are a couple of reasons I believe those people are wrong.  One of those reasons is that I have owned my own business for 42 years, and it ain’t easy. Most businesses need every viable customer they can get. Think about the businesses you patronize, and look around the next time you go into your favorite store or restaurant. Then ask yourself if you would patronize a business that practiced discrimination. If you would, you’re in the minority.

            Another reason I believe forced association is unnecessary and wrong is that I am 64 years old. I’ve been around long enough to see how the level of acceptance existed and changed from my grandparent’s generation, to my parent’s generation, to my generation, to my children’s generation, and now to  my grandchildren’s generation.

            People who don’t believe it has changed should spend some time studying extended family pictures. Mine, like so many nowadays, are multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-sexually oriented.

            What government wants to accomplish by using force, we are already accomplishing as a society voluntarily. Our goal should be to be as free as we can be, and in matters of private association we should say “Hey big government, we’ve got this!”

Monday, May 09, 2016

Prince of thieves...


Having operated a construction and home building business for 42 years, I’ve seen and tried a few things that worked and a few things that didn’t work, and tried to abandon or make adjustments to the things that didn’t, and tweak the things that did. A few years ago, some ne’er-do-well cut the lock on our job trailer that was parked at a project we were involved with, and made off with several of our tools.

            In an effort to discourage such behavior in the future, we bolted and welded some larger and stronger hasps on the trailer and purchased some larger and stronger padlocks for the new and improved hardware. That all worked out well for a few years, until last spring when we arrived at a job site one to find the entire trailer had been stolen. When the trailer was later recovered in a cornfield 10 miles up the road, (in part because the mastermind behind the theft had apparently attempted to make the getaway with a 2- 5/16” coupler attached to a 1-7/8” ball hitch while speeding over a railroad crossing,) we discovered that the locks had been sawed on, pried on, and possibly chewed on to no avail.

             I couldn’t help but think if the crook had just slowed down a little for that railroad crossing, or had a deeper understanding of the mechanics of a ball hitch, our efforts at beefing up security would simply have resulted in losing more of our property instead of less. It also reminded me of our current tax system in this country.

            Last week, a song writer and singer by the name of Prince Rogers Nelson passed away. While I don’t know much about the man or his music, I suspect he was popular with a significant portion of the population, since his estate is estimated to be worth $300 million. You about have to figure a person with that kind of wealth is in the upper tax bracket, so he probably paid the federal government about $200 million in income taxes so they would let him keep the rest for a while. And depending on which state he lived in and where he made his money, he’s probably paid a few million in various state and local taxes along the way.

            While it might be hard to fathom that any one person would have over $200 million taken from them by the government, especially when they receive exactly the same services from the government that people who pay $2000.00, or even $200.00 receive, we also need to remember that the government isn’t finished with Mr. Nelson yet. Currently the government is licking its chops, and preparing to take another bite his earnings. Federal and state taxes will get another $150 million from the money he already paid over $200 million on to keep.

             As I said earlier, I don’t know much about the man, but apparently he worked hard enough and smart enough to provide a product that a lot of people wanted.  In a free society, that is how it is supposed to work.

             Our current tax system punishes hard work and success, and rewards sloth and failure. We can do better with a system of sales taxes and user fees to fund essential government services, and spread the cost to everyone that uses those services.

            I’ve heard some people say that as a nation we have lost our work ethic. I wonder if in fact, we have just allowed it to be taken from us.