Sunday, January 31, 2016

Plan B....


I didn’t win the Powerball jackpot a couple of weeks ago when it was over a billion dollars. I honestly didn’t believe I would, knowing the odds of that happening were about 292,000,000 to 1.  But I also knew if I didn’t buy a ticket, the odds would be even higher. And since winning the lottery is part of my retirement plan, I thought I better give it a shot. I buy a ticket every week as part of that plan. I call it “Plan B.” But I also put a little money in the bank, and invest a little in the stock market. So far saving and investing have worked out a little better than the lottery plan, but I still think it’s a good idea to have some diversity in accomplishing your long range goals, even if the odds of some of those plans working out are a little longer than others.

            I felt the same way when I started a construction business 42 years ago. While I stopped short of naming it the “We’ll Do Anything For A Buck Construction Company,” we did offer a wide range of services to keep us busy in case the public decided paneling and ceiling tile were no longer in vogue. While that philosophy has managed to keep the family clothed and fed for 42 years, I’m still buying that lottery ticket every Saturday. And keeping my options open.

            227 years ago some people got together and came up with a Constitution that spelled out what our newly formed federal government should be allowed to do. They started out granting it about 17duties in Article 1, Section 8 of that Constitution, and then the citizens added a few more over the years whenever they felt the need for one.

            I think a lot of them also knew, as Thomas Jefferson warned, that “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” And being aware of that, they also came up with a “Plan B.” They put it in the Bill of Rights, and called it the Tenth Amendment. It states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”  So that when the federal government started making laws it wasn’t authorized to make, like maybe about education or healthcare, the states and the people could nullify those unauthorized laws.

            While we may not all agree on exactly what the federal government is allowed to do, just about everybody agrees it’s doing some things it shouldn’t be doing. And a growing number of us think it’s doing a lot of things it shouldn’t be doing. And there’s a better than average chance that after the next election, it’s going to be doing a lot more things that a lot more of us don’t think it should be doing.

            It’s a pretty safe bet the federal government isn’t going to limit itself. That’s why it is so important that the states and the people understand the power they have in the Tenth Amendment, and use it to nullify the federal government back within the confines of the Constitution.

            After all, what do we have to lose?

                         

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Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy New Year,Again...


“Happy New Year!” That seems to be the popular greeting for the next couple of weeks. It replaces “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!”, which replaced “Happy Thanksgiving!” a month or so before.  After the New Year’s euphoria is over, we’ll probably go back to the more generic “hello” and “how’s it going?” until Thanksgiving rolls around again. I don’t know why “Happy Valentine’s Day!” never really caught on outside of our most intimate friends, and I don’t recall anyone ever wishing me a “Happy Memorial Day!” or a “Happy Arbor Day!”   I wonder if it’s because we have so many holidays, or maybe it’s because a simple “hello” doesn’t seem to require the obligatory smile the seasonal greetings do.

One of the many greetings I’ve heard in these parts for most of my life is “Are you staying out of trouble?”  I suppose, like most people, my answer to that particular question has changed over the years. In my younger days the answer most of the time would have been “no”.  As I grew a little older the answer changed to “I’m trying”, and eventually ended up as a “yes”, partially, I think, because I just don’t have the energy to get into trouble anymore.

I’ve also made a few adjustments in my lifestyle over the last 63 years, many times in the form of New Year’s resolutions, hoping to avoid different types of trouble. I gave up cigarettes and alcohol about 30 years ago. I replaced the cigarettes with chewing tobacco, and the alcohol with Mountain Dew, for a while, but eventually decided I could probably get by just fine without either of those vices as well. I read somewhere that if people who smoked and drank would add up all the money they spent on beer and cigarettes, it would be enough to buy a Mercedes-Benz. When I started they both cost 45 cents, so I probably would have to settle for a pre-owned model.

I don’t drive faster than the speed limit for the most part, and I try to obey most of the stop signs that I see. I got rid of our 40 foot extension ladder a few years ago, and last fall I decided our second story gutters on the house probably didn’t absolutely need to be cleaned out just because the first story gutters were full.

I don’t watch much television anymore, not necessarily because I made a conscious effort to stop watching, but more because it kept getting harder to find anything worth watching. Sometimes I still listen to it, but that’s not usually my choice or fault.

I decided to lose 30 pounds a few months back. I lost 20, but found 4 of them again after too many “Happy Holidays!” I think it will be easier to lose them again now that I don’t have to smile as much.

Last year my wife made a New Year’s resolution for me that I would see a doctor at least once a year. She also made an appointment with a doctor for me, and before it was all over I ended up seeing two doctors three times, and taking some pills almost every morning that are supposed to keep my heart beat up and my blood pressure down. I always thought one would just take care of the other, but everybody involved told me I wasn’t a doctor, and that I should just shut up and take my medicine, which I mostly do.

I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to give up or take up this year. There’s a distinct possibility I’ve reached the age where I just don’t have that much to give up. And I guess I’m just a little disappointed that with everything I’ve already given up, I don’t feel any better or have more money than I do. Or that I’m not driving a Mercedes.

At any rate, whatever New Year’s resolution you decide to undertake, I hope it all works out for you, and that you end feeling better or saving money, or both.

 And good luck with your Mercedes.

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Christmas Miracle...


So I stopped in to visit with Mom and Dad a few nights ago to get Mom’s Christmas decorations down out of the attic so that she wouldn’t try to climb the ladder and get them down herself, and Dad was still wearing his new pants and a new shirt that he had put on that morning because he had two doctor appointments that day and Mom won’t let him wear his comfortable sweat pants when he has a doctor appointment. But after we got the decorations down and while we were talking Dad decided he had to go to the bathroom, so he grabbed his walker and headed back to the bathroom, and while he was in the bathroom he decided he might as well go on back to the bedroom and change in to his sweat pants since he didn’t have any more doctor appointments that day.

            So I was still in the front room talking to Mom when we heard Dad call “Phyllis!, Phyllis!” from the bedroom. So Mom gets up and hurries back to the bedroom, and in a few minutes she hurries back to the front room, past me, and out in to the garage where she gets a pair of pliers and then hurries back to the bedroom again.

            So I think I’m probably better off to just sit still and mind my own business, which I did, until I heard Mom and Dad holler “Rex!, Rex!” from the bedroom, so I hurried back and saw Dad lying on the bed and Mom standing over him with a pair of pliers in her hand, and Dad explained that after he went to the bathroom he tried to zip up his new pants and got his new shirt caught in the zipper, but he managed to hold his pants up with one hand and push his walker with his other hand until he made it to the bedroom where he sat down on the bed and continued to pull on the zipper until he gave up and called to Mom to come help, which she did, but she couldn’t budge the zipper either, so she went and got some pliers, and I told them I already knew that part.

            So Dad asked if I could get the zipper unstuck, which I tried to do, but couldn’t, so I tried with the pliers, but I still couldn’t, and Dad said it would be a miracle if we ever got it unstuck, so Mom tried to help again, holding on to the pliers with both hands and her feet propped against the footboard of the bed, and I was holding on the pliers with one hand and the knob on the Grandma’s big dresser drawer that they hadn’t been able to open for years with the other, and Dad was holding on to the headboard like grim death, and we jerked and pulled until Dad lost his grip and ended up on the floor with the drawer that hadn’t been opened for years on the floor beside him, but not before we managed to tear off the little hangy-down part of the zipper, but it was still stuck on his new shirt.

            So we helped Dad back up on the bed, and picked up Grandpa’s false teeth that fell out of the drawer when it came open that nobody had seen for 40 years, and Mom went over to her sewing basket and brought out a great big pair of scissors, and I asked Dad if he had done anything to upset Mom in the last few days, and he said not to the best of his recollection, so he decided it would be alright for her to use the scissors around the zipper area, which she did, and cut a hole in Dad’s new shirt, so he could get his sweat pants on.

            Mom thinks she can fix the shirt, since the part she cut on will be tucked inside of Dad’s new pants as soon as he gets them, but I don’t think anybody wants to try to save those pants. But Dad thought it was indeed a miracle that we got the shirt loose from the zipper, and Mom said it was a miracle that we got the drawer on the dresser open, and I thought it was a miracle that we found Grandpa’s teeth, and we all agreed that was exactly what it was, a Christmas miracle!

            So Merry Christmas, and God bless us, everyone.

And I promised Dad I wouldn’t tell anybody about any of this, so I’m trusting that none of you will mention it to him. Thanks.

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Monday, November 30, 2015

I believe we ought to be a little worried....


          Santa Claus is coming to town! Maybe. My wife and I have seven grandchildren, and some of the older ones have been influenced by the naysayers at school, to the point that a mention of Santa by the younger ones brings on winks and rolled eyes. I knew it would happen sooner or later, although I must admit I was pulling for later, and grandchildren certainly make Christmas a lot more fun, regardless of what they believe.

            I know we don’t all believe the same things, and I know sometimes we change what we believe. Back at Millville Grade School, my old Buddy Stinky Wilmont believed he could predict the severity of the upcoming winter by the amount of black hair on a wooly worm. Of course, we all knew how silly that was. Max Hiatt up north of Mooreland was about the only guy around who could do that. But nobody said too much to Stinky about it, because it didn’t really matter what he thought, and we knew how to get ahold of Max if we needed to.

            Stinky also believed you could ward off arthritis if you carried a buckeye around in your left pants pocket. We had some buckeye trees in our woods, so I always gathered some up in the fall, both to pass out as gifts, and to make sure I always had one to carry myself. I believe it worked for 60 years or so, but here lately my knees have started aching pretty bad. I don’t believe buckeyes nowadays are as good as they used to be.

            Sometimes people worry about what some people believe more than they worry about what other people believe at other times. Most of the time I don’t worry about what other people believe, as long as they don’t try to force their beliefs on me, and as long as they let me believe what I want to believe, even if they don’t believe it.

            Right now, there’s a bunch of people who are trying to get nominated so one of them can get elected to be our president. Most of them are practicing Christians, (although some may be practicing more than others), which historically is a good thing if you want to get elected. A report from Pew Research last year showed that a majority of Americans would be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who doesn’t believe in God. But one of the candidates found himself on the hot seat when he stated he believed in Creationism. Apparently there is a limit on what you’re allowed to believe, even if you’re a Christian.

            Now, like I said, I don’t really worry about what people believe, as long as they leave other people alone. I do tend to worry about what they believe if they won’t leave other people alone. So far, every candidate out there believes they have some pre-existing claim to your income and property. They believe they know better than you how you should handle your retirement and your healthcare, and they believe they know better than you which people and what nations are worthy of your charity. They also believe it’s alright to use the force of government to take whatever they want and to make sure you do what they believe.

            That worries me.  

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Time and time again..............


Years ago, when I was still a kid on the farm near Millville Grade School, we raised a lot of our own food. While Mom was able to process about everything that came out of the garden or the chicken house, Dad would normally take the cows up to Willy Johnson’s packing house in Dalton where Willy would cut it up and write what it was on the white paper he wrapped around each piece. Then we would put some bushel baskets in the station wagon, and haul the meat home so Mom could arrange it in the freezer next to the hog meat that was already there.

            Dad took the hogs to the Knightstown locker plant when we had one butchered. I never knew why for sure, but I just figured Willy was busy enough butchering cows that he didn’t want to mess with hogs. Anyway, we picked up the meat from Knightstown the same as we did from Dalton, except that they put the meat in some cardboard boxes that had the name of the locker plant on it, so we didn’t have to take any bushel baskets with us. They also sent some cracklins back. Those were the pieces of hide that were left after the people at the locker plant had rendered the lard out of it and poured it into a big metal bucket. Even after they were fried and pressed, there was still enough lard left in the cracklins to seep through the sides of the brown paper bag that held them.

            As greasy as they looked, and as awful as they sounded, they were some pretty good eating, especially the crunchy ones, so we never paid much attention to Mom’s warning that if we ate too many they would make us sick. Besides, there were ten of us, so the chance that one of us would get too many was pretty slim.

            I’ve bought some stuff from stores over the years since then that claimed to be cracklins, but it didn’t have any lard leaking out of the bag, and I suspect they probably never had any lard in them to begin with. And I’m pretty sure they were never wrapped around a pig.  It’s one of those deals where, no matter what they call them, I may not know what they are, but I sure know what they aren’t.

            Speaking of cracklins, last Saturday night or Sunday morning, after I went to bed and was dreaming about them, the time changed again. I’m not sure if we went off of Daylight Savings Time or onto it, but according to my wife, we got an extra hour of sleep because of it. Hopefully it will make up for the one she told me we lost last March.

            People have a lot of different opinions about why we should or shouldn’t change time twice a year. During the Second World War it was supposed to save energy. The last time Indiana decided to do it was so it would be easier to do business with other states. I’ve never noticed that I have any more energy one way or the other, and I try to do most of my trading in Indiana anyway, so that never made much difference to me. I did read a study which claimed that while there are more car crashes after we move our clocks back an hour, there are also fewer heart attacks. Pick your poison, I guess.

            Long before people started inventing different ways to keep time, there was something called sun time. The way it worked was that when the sun was directly overhead, it 12:00 noon. When people decided it got daylight to early and dark to early, they moved the clocks forward an hour, and when they decided they wanted to sleep a little longer in the morning and play a little longer at night, they moved them forward again.  So now, even when we move our clocks back, we never really move them back where they belong.

             I know some people adjust to the time change better than others, but we’ve changed so many times I don’t know what time it really is. But I know what time it isn’t.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Shutdown, 2013....


I kept a journal on facebook when the government "shut down" in October of 2013. I had a few requests to put it together in one location, and this was the easiest place, so here it is.



Government Shutdown, 2013

Rex Bell’s Journal

Update, day 5 of shutdown.

 

Found a small group of citizens huddled around table at Early Bird Cafe. Some seemed sleepy and confused, as if they didn't know what to order for breakfast. Ben the waiter snapped at Larry when he tried to order blueberry crepes`. Coffee and bacon still in supply, but who knows for how long.

 

Road back to Hagerstown still open, but noticed some leaves are starting to turn different colors, and some are even falling on ground. Rain continues, and birds seem to be gathering on light wires.

 

Can't help but wonder what fresh hell the day will bring.

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Shutdown Journal, day 8:

 

Entering second week of shutdown. Amazed at the number of people who go on like they don't know what's happening. Don't know if they are just being brave, or if they really don't know. I'll try to warn them.

 

Our table was down to nothing but apple jelly at the diner this morning. Evelyn looked around for grape but couldn't find any. A stranger came in. Nobody knew who he was, but he seemed awfully interested in what was on the menu. Maybe too interested.

 

Heard from Rick Culberson yesterday that a couple of guys were taking his trash and throwing it in a big truck in Hagerstown. Someone got ours last night. Need to be more careful what we put in it.

 

Hoping to start room addition today if delivery truck can get through.

 

Will try to change oil in truck today, although it now seems pointless, much like haircuts.

 

Stranger found grape jelly. How?

 

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Shutdown Journal, Day 12:

 

Conditions worsening. Tried to show people pictures of the difference in Susan's flowers before the shutdown and after the shutdown. They look at me in disbelief, almost like they are in denial.

 

Crops appear to be dying in the fields. Many are turning brown. Some farmers have already given up on them and are mowing them down with giant machines. Heartbreaking.

 

Desolation everywhere. Trees appear to be dying even in town, as more and more leaves continue to fall. Saw people trying to save them by gathering them up with giant rakes. I wanted to tell them to just give up, that the leaves are already dead, that there was nothing they could do for them, and that they might as well just burn them. Decided it was maybe better to just let them have their fantasies in these last few days.

 

Going to look for coffee and jelly. Grape I hope.

 

 

 

Shutdown Journal, day 14, or maybe not.

 

Nights seem to be getting longer. Awakened by a distant train whistle at 3:00 A.M. Possibly it might be bringing in supplies. Jelly maybe. Grape.

 

As the train passes, coyotes are howling in the field behind our house. They sound hungry. Relieved that I parked close to the door last night.

 

Made it to the truck and went to the diner. Parking lot was dark, and none of the regulars were there. Nobody was there, not even Linda. Feared the worst. Maybe coyotes had been here. Realized it was 3:30. Never mind. Went back home and parked close to the door.

 

No rain for 5 days now. Constant worry about how long the water will hold out. Skipped bath last two days just in case.

 

School in Hagerstown has been strangely quiet this week. No sign of children. Not sure why. Drove by another school yesterday afternoon about 3:00. Children were being loaded onto big yellow buses. Don't know where they were being taken, or what will be there when they come back. If they come back. Wonder how much people will take before they cry out.

 

Susan made me sleep on the couch.

 

May have to take bath today.

 

 

 

Shutdown journal, day 13 or 15:

 

Coyotes in field eerily quiet this morning, like maybe their bellies are full. Probably full of raccoon and grape jelly. Despicable creatures. I hate coyotes.

 

Waited over an hour for Sunday School and Church to start this morning. Nobody showed up, not even preacher. Afraid people have given up because of this shutdown. Found really nice coat on coat rack.

 

Cars are still driving back and forth in front of house. Even saw trains going both directions on Hagerstown track this morning. Seems like people just don't know where to go. Stood in front yard and yelled encouragement.

 

Still no rain, but heavy dew this morning. Afraid not enough to save dying leaves, though.

 

Someone just yelled something back at me from the road. That was uncalled for. Tempers must be getting short.

 

 

 

Shutdown journal, somewhere in central Indiana:

 

More dark, more fog. Things even seem blurry inside this morning. Worst part is not knowing what might happen next.

 

Grandkids won 2 goldfish at fall festival yesterday. One didn't make it through the night. Second holding on, but doesn't smell very good.

 

Found glasses. Things looking a little better.

 

Went to a bacon party last. Quite a bit of bacon, but some people brought salads. Some people were even eating salads. Wondered to myself what would cause people to eat salad when there was bacon on the table. Must have been scared and confused.

 

Saw several people at party off to the side talking privately. Wonder what they were talking about. Probably about the people eating salad.

 

Surviving fish looks confused also.

 

So much confusion. When will it end?

 

 

 

Shutdown journal, sometime in week 3:

 

Losing track of days as shutdown continues and conditions continue to deteriorate.

 

Last goldfish passed. Would like to believe by natural causes, but seems odd that 2 would die in 2 days. Did they know something?

 

Coyotes are getting closer to the house. Found signs in yard this morning.

 

Delivery truck managed to get through with load of material for room addition. 2 x 4's only measure 1 1/2 x 3 1/2. Wonder what happened to the rest of them.

 

House smells of dead fish.

 

Tomato plants completely dead now. Eating plain peanut butter sandwiches now. Hope to make contact with Rick Culberson or Jeremiah Morrell sometime today about grape jelly.

 

 

 

Shutdown journal, still third week, Tuesday maybe:

 

Shutdown seems to be spreading. Two days in a row without mail. Even banks closed yesterday.

 

Awakened early by sound of people rummaging through trash again. Seems like it is becoming a weekly thing. Slim pickings this week, I'm afraid. Poor bastards. Looks like they took it all. I'll try to leave a sandwich next week.

 

Leaves and crops continue to turn brown. Hard to stay optimistic that any will survive. Try not to look, but seems like I'm surrounded by them.

 

Accidently tore tag off of mattress while making bed. At least I'm safe for now.

 

Found rebate check from Betty Crocker while looking for tomatoes in refrigerator. Hope bank reopens soon.

 

Neighbor Liz brought by some grape jelly. smile emoticon Tried to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but couldn't find the peanut butter. Or bread.

 

Looks bad for the trash guys.

 

 

 

Shutdown journal, October 2013:

 

Rained last night. Not a warm, nurturing rain. A cold, heartless rain. The kind of rain you get when the government shuts down.

 

Mail beginning to trickle in. Received advertising ink pen and gift certificate for Bath and Body Works yesterday. Good start on Christmas.

 

Drove by Amish market yesterday. Still had a lot of tomatoes. Must not know about shutdown. Somebody needs to tell them. Just can't bring myself to do it.

 

Somebody at coffee said tomorrow was final day. Might as well eat that jar of grape jelly, I guess.

 

Ink pen doesn't work. Drat.

 

A couple of women in my literature class seemed particularly testy last night. Probably didn't get any mail. May stop today and get them some tomatoes.

 

 

 

Shutdown journal, final entry:

 

As best I can tell, this is October 17th, the day the shutdown becomes complete. Could hardly force myself to get out of bed.

 

Sad to see everything end, but it was getting harder and harder to go on knowing total collapse was inevitable.

 

A car just drove by. Where could anybody be going now? Poor fool.

 

Finishing off last of grape jelly today, and then nailing plywood over windows.

 

Hope to see most of my family and some of my friends on the other side when

 

Huh? What? They did what? Oh.

 

Never mind.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Any way you look at it....


            I’ve never really been a big fan of “last chance” or “going out of business” sales. Even after the last chance ends, there’s a good chance you’ll have another chance to get the same item at another store the next time you’re in town. And most of the time, if a store that has something people really want goes out of business, another business will start handling that item. Barring that, I can always have one of my grandchildren get on the computer and order it online.

            Last week there was an event they called a “blood moon eclipse”, where the moon was supposed to glow red and have an eclipse at the same time. While blood moons and eclipses are fairly common, the conditions for both to occur at the same time hadn’t happened for 33 years, and according to some reports won’t happen again for another 18. I did a little figuring in my head, and decided that if I wanted to see a blood moon eclipse for myself, this might very well be a real last chance, so I made a conscious effort to stay awake long enough to go outside after it got dark and check it out for myself.

            As luck would have it, it was pretty cloudy over our house that night, and while I could see the outline of the moon and the eclipse as it moved across it, it didn’t really look any more red to me than it did on any other night. I did see some pictures people had taken from other locations, and the moon looked a lot bigger and redder, and the eclipse looked a lot sharper than it did from Hagerstown. I guess it all depended on where you were standing when you looked at it.

            Of course, when it comes right down to it, the moon didn’t really change at all. It’s still just a big ball of dirt and rocks orbiting around the earth, and it doesn’t change color or shape, unless a meteor slams into it and shoves some dirt and rocks around a little bit. But people have been watching it for a long time, and even staying up past their bedtime to check it out when the light and the shadows hit it just right, and make it look different than it looked the last time they looked at it.

            I suppose where you are has a lot of bearing on how you look at a lot of things. I’m sure the 18 years until the next blood moon eclipse looks a lot longer to my grandchildren than it does to me. I think where you are has a lot of bearing on how you look at government, also.

            George Washington said that “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” While a lot of things have changed since George made that observation, the fact that government uses force, or the threat of force, to carry out its policies, hasn’t.

             Part of that government force is used for transfer payments, where it takes money from one group of people and gives it to another group of people without any goods or services changing hands. That practice now consumes the bulk of the federal budget. If a person is on the receiving end of the transfer, they tend to see government a little differently than if they are on the paying end of the transfer. And no doubt a lot of people who are standing in the paying line are looking forward to the day they will be standing in the receiving line.

            It might be a good time to start looking at ways to involve government a little less in our daily lives, because the more people we have in the receiving line, the more force will be required to keep everyone else in line.

             That’s how it works, no matter how you look at it.