It was the summer of 1958. I assumed it would be another typical summer, until I heard some exciting news. My older cousin had been dating a boy for several months and talk of a forthcoming marriage was in the air. It was to be a lavish affair by Burt county’s standards, complete with a large church ceremony, a grand buffet, and a dance at the fire hall.
Being the only male cousin, I was asked to be an usher. I would perform my duties outfitted in a tuxedo complete with patent leather shoes, powder blue jacket, and cummerbund.
The other usher was the groom’s brother. He was about four years older than me and was considered to be one of the cool guys in high school. He seemed to know all about what duties were required of us and how to perform them. He also said his friends would be meeting us at the dance. I knew of these boys by reputation, and they were living legends. And now I’d get to hang out with them. What luck.
The wedding was super. It was a lovely event, and I was so flattered to be asked to usher. I loved wearing formal clothing, and I felt like a million bucks.
Everyone then reassembled at the fire hall, and at intermission my new friends and I left the dance. We piled into a car and headed out of town. We pulled into a cornfield and a bottle of Jim Beam appeared along with a pack of cigarettes. For the next 45 minutes I watched them smoke, drink, and talk about cars, sports, and girls. I soaked it all in. It was some pretty heady stuff for a thirteen-year-old kid.
Back at home, when I sat down for breakfast the next morning, my mom asked me, “How did you get mud on your shoes?” I simply replied, “It rained.” This was a fairly typical response for me at that age and stage. When dealing with my parent’s prying questions, I absolutely believed in brevity. The most they could get out of me were answers containing no more than two words, such as “wasn’t me,” “probably not,” “I forgot,” “maybe later,” and “not yet.” I considered three words or more a conversation (definitely something to be avoided at all costs).
As a result of successfully seating all of my relatives on the correct side of the church, not letting the wick go out when lighting the candles, and not stumbling while ushering my grandmother to her pew, I received a gift – a bottle of Avon Men’s Cologne. My mother dabbed a bit on her wrist, sniffed it, and remarked, “It smells so clean, so spicy, and so masculine.” I immediately felt older. It was as if I had now become a member of the club Men Who Wear Cologne.
The next fall, as I was getting ready for my first day back at school, I decided to splash on some of my new magic potion. The response was immediate. The girls asked me the name of it, and I said it was Avon Men’s Cologne, putting the emphasis on “Men’s.” The guys being guys asked me, “Phew! What’s that smell?” I could only chuckle to myself about their ignorance of one of the finer things in life. It was evident over the summer I had advanced far beyond them. Not only did I know about cologne, but I had actually gotten to hang out with guys who had drivers’ licenses.
If the weather’s a bit iffy, I’m required to make an informed decision on whether we will have dance classes. When I say an informed decision, I can never say with absolute certainty what the weather is going to do.
I always check several sources including the weather radar to see if there is a front rolling our way out of Wyoming or edging up out of Kansas or Colorado. I try to project where the front might to be at 6:30 PM. I also get reports on the probabilities of precipitation as well as other information.
The other day, according to the forecast, there was a 50% chance of snow in the afternoon and a 50% chance of snow that evening. I immediately told Dorothy I was going to cancel dance because it was going to snow. To my way of thinking 50% plus 50% is 100% leaving no chance of it not snowing. I was corrected by one of my friends who said that a prediction of 50% chance in the afternoon and a 50% chance that evening actually means there is a 25% of snow during that particular time period. When I thought about it, that line of reasoning also made perfect sense.
In forecasting the weather, as with forecasting many other things, statistics can really be confusing. All we are talking about is probabilities, so instead of percentages I think we should adopt the following scale:
No chance of snow unless somehow atmospheric conditions align Biblically.
Just not going to happen.
Could happen, but probably not.
Could actually happen.
Odds are fairly even that it might snow or it might not.
It’s probably going to snow.
It’s going to snow.
It’s going to snow – a lot.
It’s going to snow epic amounts requiring extra provisions, batteries and candles, so be prepared to hunker in.
I also have a problem with the ones who forecast the weather. I think they should be held directly accountable for their predictions in the same way that Terry, Howie, Michael, Jimmy, and what’s-his-name are each week on Sunday’s NFL Fox Sports. They actually keep track of their successes (or lack thereof) and report not only who’s in the lead, but list everyone’s ranking from first to last place. The Fox boys are held accountable, so why shouldn’t the accuracies (or inaccuracies) of meteorologists be reported.
For example, each day our local television news anchor could turn to the weatherperson and say, “Yesterday you predicted an 80% chance of snow, and we got zilch. It’s been brought to my attention that, because of your inaccurate forecast, Bob and Dorothy’s tango classes were needlessly cancelled. What happened?”
There’s about a 100% probability the weatherperson will blame the weather forecast models, so rather than take full responsibility for an inaccurate forecast, it’s the computer that will ultimately get the blame. But who hasn’t been guilty of something like that.
I had always dreamed of being one of Frank Sinatra’s boys. Not necessarily one of the rat pack (too fast for this old farm boy), but more like a close acquaintance. For example, I’d fantasize about being at a party where I was one of the listeners in a group where he’d be holding court. He would be regaling us with jokes and stories, and I was there at this party just hanging out with Frank.
Or we’d invite Frank and some of our friends over for dinner. When dessert was finished, and the coffee and cognacs were poured, we’d ask him to sing a couple of songs. After some coaxing he’d start with a song that swings easy, like “I’ve Got the World On A String.” The second song would be more technically difficult, where he would effortlessly handle the tricky syncopations in “The Best Is Yet to Come.” Then the ladies would beg him for just one more pleeeease, and he’d ease into a ballad like “Send in The Clowns.” He’d finish, and we’d be left utterly spellbound.
In my third fantasy I’d be sitting with some friends in a restaurant, and Frank would walk in with his entourage. After they had seated, he would scan the room, see me, and then either nod or give me his famous two-finger salute. Then someone at our table would say, “You..you..you know Frank Sinatra?” And I’d nod and answer in my best Hoboken goombah accent, “Yeah….me and Frank. We go back a long way.”
Making small talk and witty banter at social occasions is a very useful skill. I’ve picked up some pointers over the years, and I’d like to share them with you:
Try saying one of the following:
“I want to make sure to say hello to everyone here.”
“Well, it was great catching up with you. It was fun seeing you again.”
“You can say “Maybe I’ll run into you later” or “Maybe we can pick up this discussion later.”
“Let’s check out the buffet.”
Or simply bow out when others join the conversation.
If things are deteriorating and the person you are talking to ss becoming aggressive, you can say either:
“Hold that thought, I want to finish what I was saying,” or
“Listen, I’ve tried several times to change the subject or gracefully end this conversation, but I feel like you’re not hearing or understanding me. I don’t want to be rude, but I’d like to bow out of this conversation now. Thank you.” (And Move AWAY).
And Always Have an Excuse Ready If You Want to Take A Powder, such as:
“I’m afraid we’ve double-booked ourselves tonight. We need to stop by another party.”
“We’re bidding on an item on eBay.”
“We seem to have a wardrobe malfunction. Keep them guessing as to what that might be.”
You might try this: There is a new phone app called TICKLE that will generate a phantom phone call. Simply answer and say, “Dang that home alarm. Probably another false alarm, but you never know.”
Whatever excuse you give, brevity should prevail – don’t turn your adieu into a 30-minute departure. Just remember, your hosts have better things to do.
And no, this topic has absolutely nothing to do with wasteful government spending.
In the animal kingdom the pig gets no respect – it’s been labeled as the Rodney Dangerfield of animals. Well, that wasn’t the case on our farm. Roy and Edna and their siblings loved our pigs
As a matter of fact, we oftentimes used to bring pigs into our house. My mother would take the new-born piglets that were undersized (runts) and bring them into the kitchen. They would be placed in a box close to the stove, and she would bottle-feed them until they were sizeable enough to be put back in the pen with its siblings. This was not a rare occurrence.
So, in a sense I basically grew up living with pigs and thought nothing of it. This talk of having pigs in the house reminds me of the story about the farmer who says to his wife, “Should we bring the pig inside the house? It’s freezing out there.” “But it stinks,” says the wife to which the farmer replies, “Well, he’ll just have to get used to it.”
Being a farm boy, and being involved with raising pigs, I often watched my father walk among them and select the one for our consumption (the rest were sent to market). We would primarily look at the upper part of the back leg, so the pig that was the most muscled in this area was the one that we chose. As a result, I’ve spent lots of time in the hog yard with him checking out haunches. This may explain why I’ve always had a thing for Kermit’s girlfriend, Miss Piggy.
Regarding our pork consumption, it seems to me the majority of the really bad meals I’ve eaten over the course of my life have involved pork. I’ve choked down uninteresting, unpalatable, and barely digestible roasts, loins that couldn’t be saved no matter how much sauce was ladled over them, and chops that could have been better used as shingles nailed to the roof of a house. Quite simply, if pork is not cooked properly, it will taste dry, have very little flavor, and will be a tough chew. This is the result of either cooking the meat too long or selecting a cut that lacks enough fat to make it moist. In either case the outcome is less than desirable.
To get the desired moist and flavorful pork, there are several things one can do: Methods such as braising or slow cooking can take an inexpensive cut of pork and turn it into a delightful main course that is tender and flavorful. Another method is to cut the pork into thin slices (medallions) and quickly sear them before the moisture has a chance to cook away. And yet another method where bacon or prosciutto can be wrapped around the pork to lend fat which in turn lends moisture and flavor to the cut.
Pork can also be brined. This method will not only add moisture, but it also seems to add a bit more latitude to the cooking times (they needn’t be quite as exact if your selection has been brined). The down side to this is I think it adversely affects the flavor of the pork.
My new favorite way to cook pork is to purchase a roast in the form of a 5-bone rack. If you want to get fancy, have the butcher “French” the bones. It will make for a delightful presentation.
Pigs are supposedly one of the more intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom. According to “The Oatmeal,” they are outranked only by elephants, dolphins, chimps, and most humans (although not all). I’ve read this several places, but the articles always fail to mention how this was determined; however, I did find an instance which I think give credence to this:
First of all, pigs are not themselves picky eaters, and if you were raised on a farm, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Michael Pollan had a quote: “You are what what you eat eats.” If you like to eat pork, I wouldn’t ponder this at great length.
They are thought of as an unclean animal because of the living conditions they are forced to live in. So, shame on us.
A friend of mine was in a movie theater when he noticed what looked like a pig sitting next to him.
“Are you a pig?” my friend asks.
The pig says, “Yes.”
“What are you doing at the movies?”
The pig replied, “Well, I liked the book.”
There actually are a couple of things pigs can do better than their human cousins. One is mud wrestling and the other is finding truffles. In France pigs are trained to find and root out this expensive delicacy. Humans have been known to try this, but none could never quite get the hang of it. You know, there’s not a more thrilling site than to see a pig “pointing” a truffle.
There’s even more unique porcine features that aren’t generally known. Some examples are listed below:
A pig will recognize its name when it is only three weeks old (it took me years).
It can scream at about 115 decibels (a jet engine is about 113 decibels).
It can run a 7-minute mile,
And how many of you could measure up?
“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” ― Winston S. Churchill
If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled” – George Carlin
“Never try to teach a pig to sing. You waste your time, and you annoy the pig.” – Mark Twain
The pig, if I am not mistaken,
Supplies us sausage, ham, and bacon.
Let others say his heart is big,
I think it stupid of the pig. – Ogden Nash
While Jesus turned water into wine, a pig can turn vegetables into bacon. – Author Unknown
Give to a pig when it grunts and a child when it cries, and you will have a fine pig and a bad child. – Author Unknown
Whenever I was around our pigs, they would always give me that look, “You know … you haven’t fed me for at least an hour.
WE NEED A SET OF STANDARDS – THE POTATO CHIP FOR INSTANCE
According to legend, “A chef from Saratoga, New York, made a major contribution to American cuisine. It happened at Moon’s Lake House. The chef, George Crum, a man with a ferocious temper who would fly into a rage if anyone complained about one of his delectable dishes was working.
On a hectic night in 1853, a man sent back his French-fried potatoes demanding that they be cut thinner and fried crisper. George was not pleased. He proceeded to slice some potatoes paper thin, wrapped them in a napkin, and then covered them with chunks of ice. He waited a half hour and then threw them into boiling oil.
Once they were fried to a crisp, he sent them out to the table. A gesture of pure contempt backfired – for lo and behold, the customer loved them. George had just invented the potato chip, which for many years afterward was known as the Saratoga chip.”
Well, I researched this, and it happens that there are several legends out there, and no one really knows how or who invented the potato chip. Of all of the legends, I happen to like this one. So, this is my story, and I’m sticking to it.
In a book review I read by Jonathan Miles on the Meryl Gordon book, “Bunny Melon: The Life of An American Style Legend,” he said, “Studied imperfection was her style, and about it she was a perfectionist. Mellon’s mantra: Nothing should be noticed.”
“One of her entertaining treats was to set out a bowl of Lay’s potato chips for her guests. She would order her kitchen staff to remove all the broken chips so all would be in perfect chip condition.”
I personally have found that they are a perfect accompaniment to martinis during our cocktail hour. Their salty crackly goodness goes well with the crispness of vodka and vermouth. Their slogan, “Bet You Can’t Eat Just one,” has a kinship to the classical martini, in that it’s often hard to limit yourselves to just one – chip or martini.
It was early in our relationship that Dorothy informed me that there is really only one potato chip – Lays, and I found that to be true. It’s a mystery to me how they can be that much better than the others. When I read the package, the list of ingredients is basic: potatoes, vegetable oil, and salt. That’s it.
The second mystery is how the chips can arrive in my kitchen intact. When I open a bag, most of the chips are in perfect condition. This means careful handling is required by the manufacturer, distributor, grocer, and me. It should be noted that each bag has air in the top of the bag. This is called “slack fill” which helps keep the chips from breaking down.
I know I’m fussy about a lot of things, but I’m perhaps at my fussiest and nastiest if I see someone mishandling my bag of Lays potato chips. If you are a grocery checker and you jam my bag of Lays into a plastic bag, watch out. You may see “Ballistic Bob.” And can you blame me?
In our wonderful country everyone seems to agree that we need a certain amount of intelligence monitoring and gathering. The issue seems to be to what extent the surveillance is necessary. When does the National Security Agency cross the line and simply become the nation’s busybody poking around into our private affairs?
It’s too bad my Aunt Emma is no longer with us. She was the NSA of our community, and her ability to gather intelligence was legendary. With her network of snoops and spies she ferreted out much of the local mischief, and she did it quickly and accurately. Nothing seemed to escape her probing and prying ways. “How did she find THAT out?” was always my mother’s response which was mixed with both curiosity and a bit of envy.
I was lucky. At no time did I ever seem to be the object of her scrutiny, and I think it was because I would rave about her homemade bread. While every other housewife of that time was buying Wonder Bread, she was still baking those golden loaves of goodness. When I was in the army and I was to return home on a two-week leave, my mother asked me what I would like to eat. I said, much to her chagrin, that while I’m home I’d like to have some of Aunt Emma’s bread.
During one of my leaves, I stopped by her house and watched her make it. There was nothing fancy about Aunt Emma’s kitchen. Outfitted with modest appliances, lots of cupboards and counter space, and a phone close by (for intelligence gathering), it was always a noisy kitchen. Slamming doors, clanking pots and pans, and scraping skillets on the stove created the sound effects amongst all the hustle and bustle. She was not a French chef applying finesse and technique in the preparation of her dishes. Aunt Emma was a prairie cook preparing food with substance and doing it quickly and efficiently.
She was a small spry woman with wispy grayish-brown hair. Ringlets occasionally would fall down over her face, and she would blow them out of the way with a puff of air out of the side of her mouth.
She also had a big bosom, which I think helped her work the dough. She would start with a mound on her floured breadboard and then start kneading it. She’d literally attack the dough by pressing it with the heels of her hands until it stretched out. Then she’d fold it over and rotate it a quarter turn and then repeat the process. She didn’t quit until it was pliant, elastic, and smooth. It was her way of showing the dough who was boss – not unlike the approach she used on Uncle Emil. The process left the air full of flour dust and dough-like smells. The product would be turned out into a buttered bread pan, covered with a towel, and then set aside.
We would sit at her kitchen table drinking coffee while we waited for the dough to rise. She would then update me on her latest intelligence gathering. And she always had plenty of information about the improprieties of our small-town populace.
When the dough had risen to twice its size, it went into the oven to be baked and then out of the oven to cool a bit. While it was still warm, she would cut one of those thick slices, and I would slather it with her homemade butter. More coffee and more intelligence info, and then I was on my way, feeling safe in the knowledge that all the sins and dirty dealings in her realm would eventually be exposed.
I am so glad I don’t have to rely on fishing to feed my family. It’s always been high on my list of things I’m not particularly good at. In other words, if fishing were our sole source of food, Dorothy and I would probably starve to death.
As far as fishing for sport and recreation is concerned, I’m not the kind of person who embraces the great outdoors. I enjoy my creature comforts such as a comfortable chair, dry clothes, a flush toilet, and a thermostat.
And going fishing seems to be such a huge production. There’s hauling all of the stuff there and back home, which not only includes the requisite fishing gear, but there’s also the bottles of liquor, barware, glasses and ice so I won’t have to miss my 5:00 pm martini.
About a year ago I thought I’d try fishing one more time. I went with a buddy of mine, and I have to admit, it was idyllic and picturesque. We started fishing under this green canopy of branches, and I thought maybe this was what it was all about. I was breathing in clean mountain air and experiencing the camaraderie of Mother Nature and me, and then tranquility turned into disaster. I immediately wrapped my line around the branch of a tree, and then I snagged my own clothes, not once, but twice. I fished for about four hours, repeatedly casting and reeling in without even a nibble. I finally put the fly rod aside, and instead of fishing, I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the bank casting aspersions.
Fishing has gotten my best shot. At this point I feel I’ve resigned myself to the fact that any fish I prepare probably won’t be fresh. In other words, you won’t hear of me driving for ten hours to hike through the wilderness so I can fish that perfect trout stream, nor will I fly to Canada in search of the wily sockeye salmon.
What I will do is walk through the automatic doors, turn right just before I get to produce, and in the fish section of our grocery store I will carefully select the “day’s catch.” When I get home, instead of cutting, gutting, and scaling a fresh fish, I will be peeling back the plastic from the Styrofoam container the fish was purchased in, humbled but hungry and hopeful.
I do want you to know, in my quest to become a fisherman, I’ve become quite well read on the subject. Some of my books include:
I Fish: Therefore, I Am – Patrick McManus
Too Fat to Fish – Artie Lange
It’s A Whopper – Desi Northup
All Fishermen Are Liars – John Gierach
Trout Fishing in America – Richard Brautigan (something every man should read)
How to Fish – by Will Ketchum (folks, I’m not making this up)
Zen And the Art of Ice Fishing – Jason Nark (a website)
The Last Word on Lutefisk – Gary Legwold (my nod to the Swedes)
Fishing 101 – by Lefty Kreh (guys named Lefty have always given me good advice)
Fishing for Compliments – Scott Kreitzer
Magic Fishing Panties – by Kimberly J. Dalferes (a self-proclaimed king salmon slayer)
I think it’s always good to have a book along when you go fishing. This way, if the fish aren’t biting, you have a plan B.
Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it’s disgusting. – Dave Barry
No formula exists for success in trout fishing. – Loosely translated from the bible in John 21:3
Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit all day in a boat wearing a funny hat and be drinking beer. – Simply A Known Fact
Author Izaak Walton called fly fishing “The Contemplative Man’s Recreation”. He also said, “No man can lose what he never had,” which I think also can apply to fishing.
“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” – Henry David Thoreau
In my humble opinion, Thoreau got it wrong. Catching the fish is only half the equation – to me cooking and eating the fish is the best half. That’s why, when I go fishing, I GO TO CATCH FISH! I’ve never understood catch-and-release anglers. To me it’s like having sex and stopping after the foreplay.
With the array of physical challenges each participant is required to perform, the America Ninja Warrior Challenge seems to only be for the young and the very fit. I am aware at this stage of my life that I am neither, so I thought it would be interesting to have an over-65 edition of the program. A different array of events could be created so we could see how we stack up against each other. I would call it the American Senior Ninja Warrior Challenge (men’s edition). My proposed events are as follows:
Each participant is verbally given a list of five items (and you can’t write them down). You, the warrior, will have 30 minutes to go to the grocery store and return with as many items as you can remember. Each correct item you return home with will be worth 20 points.
Each warrior will start out with 100 points and 20 points will be deducted for each of the following:
If you thought of some extra purchases and ended up with more than ten items and used the express lane.
If you are writing or cashing a check.
If you use a coin purse for any reason whatsoever.
If you are using coupons to discount items.
Any searching for or organizing coupons during the payment transaction.
If you’ve forgotten something and you leave the checkout process to retrieve your item from the shelves, you will lose all of your 100 points regardless of what happens in the situations listed above
Each warrior will start out with 100 points and 20 points will be deducted for each of the following:
If parallel parking, the car is more than 24 inches from the curb.
If the tires are encroaching a yellow line in the designated space.
If the car is straddling a yellow line (as a matter of fact, if this happens deduct 40 points).
If you’ve parked in a “handicapped” space and you exit the car wearing a t-shirt that lists an event where you’ve finished a 10K run, deduct 60 points.
If you can’t remember where you parked the car, no deduction. This has been happening to me my whole life.
Each participant will travel up or down a flight of stairs 36 inches wide without hand rails while carrying a tray containing a bowl of soup and a glass of water. The event will be run in pairs:.
You get 20 points if you are the first participant to arrive at the top or bottom of the stairs.
You get 20 points if you didn’t spill the soup or the water.
Deduct 20 points if you accidently impede the progress of your opponent.
Add 20 points if you purposely impede the progress of your opponent.
You get 20 points if you have prepared a place to set the tray prior to your arrival at the top of the stairs.
You get 20 points if you remembered the soup spoon, crackers, and a napkin.
You lose all points garnered if you happen to drop the tray at any point in route.
As you need an item you have laundered, you retrieve it from the drier. This means you actually aren’t folding laundry. – 0 points.
You fold your laundry within 24 hours of the drier being finished – 20 points.
You fold your laundry within an hour of the drier being finished – 40 points.
When you hear the drier finish you immediately hop up and start folding – 60 points.
You not only fold your own laundry, but you fold the laundry for other household members – 80 points.
You not only fold the laundry, but you also iron the handkerchiefs – 100 points.
You fold all of the dried laundry items after you’ve ironed them. Really? You actually iron underwear? I don’t believe you – 0 points.
The type of phone you use to a large degree determines how comfortable you are with technology:
Exclusively use a land line with either a rotary or cordless phone – 20 points.
Flip phone – 40 points.
Touch screen – 60 points.
Blackberry – 80 points.
Smart phone – 100 points.
No phone – 200 points. This puts you in a whole -‘nother category, and in my eyes you are the Henry David Thoreau or our age.
For each the following words or phrases you have uttered in the last two weeks, deduct 10 points from your total: manicure, totes, veggies, Joy from The View, pee, kale, guru, Michael Buble’, or stretch jeans. Also, deduct 50 points each time you ask someone for directions. Wasting fuel and swearing is preferable to admitting you’re lost. Never lose sight of the fact that you’re a warrior – not a pussy.
Periodically I have to carry 4 bags (40 lb. apiece) of salt to the basement for the water conditioner. This challenge is set up relative to that, and your method for getting this done will determine your point total:
A company delivers the salt to your house, carries it to the basement and empties it in to the conditioner tank – 0 points.
You empty the bags into small buckets and then carry the buckets to the basement (multiple trips) – 20 points.
You pick up each bag and carry it to the basement in 4 trips – 60 points.
You pick up 2 bags and carry them to the basement in 2 trips – 100 points
You pick up all 4 bags and carry them to the basement – If you can do this you should be doing the actual American Ninja Warrior Challenge and not the senior edition.
If you ask your wife (or significant other) to do it for you, please hand in your paper and exit the room. You’ve been disqualified.