Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rusty Pails #10
Apple Pie on the Fly!

by Rocky Macy

Most usually I sleep soundly enough to fool the undertaker. The two a.m. freight train that thunders past my cabin each night sets the furniture to moving and the peacocks to screaming, but I snore on, dead to the pandemonium.

I don’t know exactly what happened last night, but something did – that’s for certain! I was dreaming that I was at an auction buying up all kinds of improbable treasure at ten cents on the dollar. Always ready to improve my library, I was perusing a stack of paperbacks when I suddenly noticed that the books smelled wonderful. And with each novel that I opened, the smell got better!

“Apple pie!” I yelled, sitting bolt-upright in bed. Somewhere close at hand a hot apple pie was calling out to me. My nose said so! The fragrance of juicy baked apples was laced with just a hint of melting homemade ice cream. If a danger alarm did try to go off in my old head, it was short-circuited by those heavenly odors.

Jumping from bed, taking time only to check the trap door on my longhandles, I rushed barefoot out onto the front porch. The cool night air beckoned me onward with the tantalizing scent of apple pie. I headed out across the yard and along the gravel driveway without giving a thought as to why my favorite flavor of pie would be roaming around my yard in the middle of the night.

I found the pie on a tree stump halfway between the tool shed and the henhouse. It was a glorious sight – a beautiful, golden-brown pie drenched in ice cream and moonlight. I stood in awe, my eyes fixed on the wondrous piece of high-calorie yard art.

It was the two a.m. train that brought me to my senses. It pulled alongside of my yard gathering speed as most of the boxcars made it through Sprung Hinge. The train’s light bathed the yard with a sudden illumination that caught two figures darting from the shed toward me and my pie. Instantly I spun around and saw two others charging from the henhouse. And there were some more heading toward me from the direction of the house.

Cut off on three sides by terrorists from the Sprung Hinge Sewing Circle and Bucket Brigade, and with the fourth side blocked by a rampaging train, I did what any twenty-five-year-old movie stuntman would have done – I scooped up the pie with one hand and ran for the train.

Running barefoot along the railroad bed wasn’t the hard part, and neither was grabbing the boxcar sliding door and swinging on board one of the last cars. The hard part was doing it all without dropping the pie. I leaned from the speeding train and waved my regards to Gladys Clench and the other ladies who obviously had enjoyed their big night out – to excess! Then I settled down on the gently rocking boxcar floor and dipped into the best late-night snack that I’ve ever had in my life!

Today I woke up four counties away from Sprung Hinge in a freight yard. I’ve been holed up in the same boxcar all day, waiting for the cover of darkness so that I can try to find a train back home. If I don’t get on the right one, we may have to rename this column. How about “Ridin’ the Rails with Rusty Pails”?!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I'm Fired Up - Ready to Go!

Barack Obama was in town tonight, and he was amazing! As I sit here trying to collect my thoughts of this spectacular event, I am hoarse from shouting and my hands hurt from clapping almost continually for over an hour.

The future President (and after tonight I am certain of that prediction) was accompanied by two very notable women. The first person to speak was Caroline Kennedy, the remaining heir to Camelot, and she talked about how Barack Obama had personally inspired her to become active in this race. She, in turn, introduced Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona. Napolitano is a barn-burner of a speaker, and she stirred almost as much excitement in her home state crowd as did Obama. Here is my second prediction of this paragraph: Governor Napolitano will be his running mate. Their chemistry bordered on being explosive! Prediction number three: Obama-Napolitano will crush McCain-Huckabee, even in McCain's home state of Arizona!

I've seen some world class political speakers - Nixon, Reagan, George Romney, Nelson Rockefeller, Bush Senior - but all of them pale in comparison to Obama! He was electric, and the crowd of 15,000 or more spent most of the evening on their feet cheering him on. He was exciting. He was all about the future, telling us about our potential for making America great again. He was empowering, he was charismatic, and he was ours for the evening!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rusty Pails #9

by Rocky Macy

The Sprung Hinge Community Bazaar is an annual doin’s loosed on our town by the ladies of the Sewing Circle and Bucket Brigade. The bazaar, or “bizarre” as me and my buddies call it, is judged successful if it brings more people to town than it chases off.

My share of the load is to run the concession wagon, with the house speciality being my nearly famous “Rustwich.” A brazen blend of baloney and onions sandwiched between thick slices of grilled rye and served up with a good dose of horseradish mustard. For the more daring, we also have the “Rustwich Supreme” which adds a layer of sauerkraut to the original recipe.

A “Rustwich,” says self-appointed food critic Esther Pearl, “is harder to swallow than one of Shadetree Mike’s fish stories. It’s the only food I know that tastes exactly like its name!” And the reviews ain’t always that complimentary!

The entertainment at our most recent bazaar was an evening of donkey softball. Donkeyball, which combines the glamour of mudwrestling with the finesse of roller derby, is a sport that should never be entered into lightly. I pondered that knowledge as Heck and Judge Rufus T. Redbone helped hoist me aboard a four-footed refugee from a mining camp. I knew then that it was going to be some evening!

We were playing the outfield, old “Sudden Death” and me, when he took the notion to amble over to the sidelines. Not wanting to be argumentative, and not knowing how to disembark gracefully, I went along for the ride. Sudden Death rummaged along the ground looking for a snack, while I tried to hang on and watch the game. I should have been watching the donkey!

Some durned fool had dropped a partially eaten Rustwich Supreme on the ground. I caught a glimpse of it as Sudden Death tilted his head and swallowed the treat in one gulp. Then things started to happen!

The old donkey, ears laid back and hooves a-flying, rounded the bases and headed out across the parking lot. The roar of the crowd and the screams of the rider intensified his terror.

I clung tight well into the next county, hoping that Sudden Death would expire before I did. I’ll never know which one of us would have triumphed because a low hanging oak branch jumped up and unceremoniously knocked me from my mount.

I walked back into town two hours later, and no one knows what became of Sudden Death. He should be easy to recognize though – I still have a clump of his mane locked in each fist.

Oh, well. I guess I’m not too old to take up house painting!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Another Dirty Word

Last November I mentioned the Wal-Mart model of ensuring employee impotency through a heavy reliance on part-timers. These individuals can be brought into the workplace without the needless expense of benefits such as health insurance or pesky retirement plans. Sam Walton’s model has been pervasive in the American economy for decades and it is even taught in business schools as a way to enhance the bottom line.

As profitable as the use of part-timers might be, it does have a couple of drawbacks. For one thing, it increases the actual number of employees which means more time lost in training and management. More employees necessarily mean more hiring, firing, counseling, and paperwork. It is also likely that additional employees would impact the overall consistency and quality of the work.

So what is a ruthless employer to do: save money by using part-timers, or opt for things running smoother by using full-time employees? Fortunately a new paradigm has emerged, one that continues to screw employees out of a fair living while letting the corporations use them on a full-time basis. These new victims of corporate greed are called permalancers.

permalancer (noun) : an employee who works full-time or nearly full-time hours for a firm without a traditional benefit package (such as medical insurance) and who is retained on a contract basis—from the combination of the words “permanent” and “freelancer."

That’s right, permanent freelancers! Two people in a company may do the same job, but one was hired before the concept of permalancers came about and works for regular pay and benefits. The other person, a contracted employee, works the same hours at the same job, but receives no benefits and can be terminated at any time without cause. What could be fairer than that? Clearly America’s largest employers have stumbled upon their ultimate wet dream!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pen, Paper, and Pistol

This past Friday a piece of legislation was introduced into the Arizona legislature that begs to question the sanity of its sponsors. State Senator Karen Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Thayer Verschoor are co-sponsoring legislation that would make it legal for persons with concealed weapons permits to take their guns to school. Any school: elementary, junior high, high school, college, public or private schools. Anyone with a permit: parent, teacher, coach, bus driver, janitor, even students. (Don’t criticize the lunch, the cook may be packing!)

Senators Johnson and Verschool, both Republicans, justify their wacko bill on the grounds of safety. Supposedly a potential school shooter would be forced to think twice, knowing that his or her targets might shoot back. The reality is, of course, that many school shooters are suicidal to begin with, and, almost certainly not acting in a rational manner. Any ensuing shootout would be much more likely to injure and kill more people than a lone shooter would, and when responding police are added to the mix, not knowing for sure which shooters are on which team, the carnage could grow exponentially.

Teachers need to be free to teach and students need to have the freedom to learn without worrying that some unintended provocation might unleash World War III in a classroom or crowded hallway. Guns aren’t about protection, they’re about machismo. They won’t cure bullying, they will simply reinforce it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Out and About in Arizona

A big red rose to the nice lady who carded me at a local Circle K before she would sell me a lottery ticket! It has been so many years since anyone asked to see my ID!

Super Bowl XLII is coming to town next weekend. Lots of locals are fluffing up their income by renting their homes out to the influx of football tourists. And these home rentals aren’t cheap! Today a car passed me that had a professional looking sign in the window saying “Rent your home for up to $10,000 per night for the Super Bowl.” I wonder if that includes breakfast!

A truck passed me a few minutes later and the young male driver, obviously responding to my Obama bumper sticker, yelled out his window, “F--- Obama!” Gotta love those Christian fundamentalists!

Later my little car took me to the Goodyear Flea Market. It was my first visit to this amazing marketplace. There were hundreds of vendors selling everything from art to plants, jewelry, books, and even parakeets! Food vendors were also in abundance peddling everything from kettle corn to cold beer. It was all very airy and clean – a great place to spend several hours with little chance of getting bored!

Tonight I was focused on the Obama victory in the South Carolina primary, followed by the season premier of Torchwood. All in all, it’s been a very pleasant day!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Rusty Pails #8
The Sons of the Saucer

by Rocky Macy

The ladies of the Sprung Hinge Sewing Circle and Bucket Brigade are notorious around these parts for some of their wild escapades, but lately tongues have been wagging over another group of adventurers: the Sons of the Saucer.

I had just returned from a particularly rough day of sitting in the shade at an auction when Heck Frye and the gang came bouncing down the lane in his old pickup truck. They were heading down to the drive-in picture show to watch a vampire film festival, and it didn’t take much convincing to entice Baker and me on board. After all, sometimes a fella just needs to unwind!

The Beau Jacks Drive-In sits in a pasture only minutes from downtown Sprung Hinge. Not many people mind the dairy cows that graze between the cars, and most folks know to wear boots and watch their step when they go to the concession stand.

We pulled in moments before dusk looking somewhat like a parade float honoring the Great Depression. Heck and the Judge sat in the cab flanking Baker, while Shadetree Mike, Truman Treetopper, and Old Rusty held down lawn chairs in the back. Heck drove our spectacle-on-wheels right up to the front row as a courtesy to Truman because he thinks he can hear better if he is closer to the screen.

But Truman can’t hear, even up close to the screen, so it wasn’t long before he turned his chair around and began perusing the cars further back with his opry glasses. Just as I had finished with my second or third root beer, Truman began tugging at my arm in an agitated state.

That’s when I saw it: out there, beyond the last row of cars, hovered an honest-to-goodness, lights-a-flashing, flying saucer! As I stared at the big chrome dinner plate, the thought struck me that the extra-terrestrial visitors were likely fans of B-grade movies.

And then the noise began! Truman took his cane and commenced to beating on the roof of the cab to alert Heck and the Judge. Baker, a dedicated fan of vampire films, joined the ruckus with a low growl as protest to Truman’s unwelcome drumming. Heck and the Judge poured out of the pickup expecting to find somebody in flames. They got a bigger surprise!

There we stood – four fools at a drive-in – staring off in the wrong direction. Before we could get anyone else’s attention, a Bovine Bessie stepped up to the truck door that Heck had left open and helped herself to his popcorn.

That was all Baker could stand! She set up a howl that folks heard back in town, and the frightened cow began running through the parked cars bellowing like she had just been branded. By that time horns were honking and people were yelling at everybody – but mostly at us!

The flying saucer kicked into warp-double-overdrive and disappeared at the height of this pandemonium, and I’ve heard from others that a couple of vampire bats flew off the screen and went hightailing it back to Hollywood.

And the worst part is that nobody believes us. Most folks blame it on the root beer, but me and my buddies know what we saw. Leastways, I think we do!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Basic Rights

While I’m not technically a member of the investor class, I do own shares of some mutual funds through a 401-K. My holdings are modest and currently disappearing faster than Bill Clinton’s folksy charm. The experience of having a 401-K, however, has been profitable in one important respect: I am learning how the stock market works, and to some extent how the American economy functions.

I check my stats every morning and occasionally shift resources from one fund to another. So far I have made good moves, but, alas, it is very difficult to swim against the tide in a rapidly declining economy. My plan is to get into as good of a situation as possible and wait out this “economic downturn.”

Fortunately, as someone who will be sixty in a couple of months, I have more to sustain me in my golden years than this diminishing account. I have four separate retirements (Missouri Teachers, Missouri Government Employees, Federal Employees, and Social Security) that kick in at ages sixty, sixty-two, sixty-four, and sixty-six, respectively. With those incomes, I should be able to manage my years of retirement in some degree of comfort while avoiding Alpo casseroles. It is lucky for me that I am not dependent on that 401-K!

But many others in my generation (Baby Boomer and Proud!) are not so lucky. We were here to bear witness to America’s industrial apex, and since then have been forced to stand by in relative powerlessness as those business giants raided pension funds and cut “guaranteed” retiree benefits. Many companies also found ways to eliminate employee benefits including health insurance. So, as the old saw goes, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer.

A big result of all of this corporate greed and thievery is that a lot of people are on the verge of retirement with a 401-K (if they are lucky) and social security. The 401-K is melting, and a certain stripe of American politicians are angling to de-fund social security by letting participants opt to put their contributions in the stock market – to “manage” their own retirements. Unstated, of course, is the notion that those contributors, many of whom have already been raped by corporate America, will now be ponying up their last hope for financial security and trusting it to the good people who stole and sold their hopes in the first place.

Health insurance should be a right, and people like my son shouldn’t have to put his life at risk while he struggles to find a way to pay for major medical treatment. Everyone should have a right to a secure and safe old age. Politicians need to be kept away from the social security accounts, and everyone should pay a percentage of their total income and profits into the system – with no caps to reward the ultra-rich.

Why must we always rally to defend privilege? Why must we always denigrate those in need? America should be a better place than that.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Missouri Politics

The news from National Public Radio wakes me up every morning. This morning it really woke me up, and the war hoop that I let out probably rocked a few of my closer neighbors out of bed as well! The big news was that Missouri’s wunderkind governor, Matt Blunt, had decided not to run for re-election.

Missouri, my home state, has a constitutional limit of two terms for governors, and young Mattie, currently thirty-seven and just beginning the fourth year of his first term, would seem to be a no-brainer for at least trying to get a second term. However, after striving hard to become one of Missouri’s worst governors ever, Mattie realized too late that his corporate masters were not going to be able to pull him out of the hole that he was still digging. (Examples of his governing style include shameful Medicaid cuts and a scandal revolving around missing emails from the executive branch.) His complete disregard of the needs of his state and his constituents has ended what was once a promising political career.

Governor Blunt is the son of U.S. House Minority Whip Roy Blunt. Roy represents my old district, Missouri’s 7th, which includes Joplin, Branson, Springfield, and all of southwest Missouri. Ol’ Roy is a family values Republican who, when he got to Washington, promptly divorced his wife of thirty-five years and married a tobacco lobbyist. His other son is also a tobacco lobbyist. It’s a small wonder that young Mattie turned out to be such a soulless lackey of the privileged class!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Spring Getaway

When I started working for the Missouri Division of Family Services in the spring of 1994 my first duty day was at training in Jefferson City, where I knew absolutely no one. It was a very intimidating experience. Fortunately, the trainer for our group was an agency veteran named Andy (Andrea) Cleeton who had a quick wit and profound knowledge of agency procedures and practices. As I was somewhat older than most of my group, Andy and I became good friends. A few years later I was one of seven workers from across the state chosen to go to the University of Missouri, free gratis, for two years to obtain my Masters in Social Work Degree. Andy was also in that group.

It was while we were at MU that Andy and I made our first trips together. During the spring of our second year, she and I rode Amtrak from Jefferson City to Flagstaff in order to visit my daughter in Phoenix. The month was March, and I did not know much about Arizona. Driving our rental car back from Phoenix to Flagstaff, Andy decided that we needed to see the Grand Canyon. While we were at the Grand Canyon a few snowflakes began to fall. Before we got halfway back to Flagstaff we were in the middle of an Arizona blizzard. It was an experience that neither one of us will ever forget, creeping down the interstate trying to figure out where the road was!

A few months later three students in our MU group, including me and Andy, went on a social work tour of Russia and Sweden. It was quite a learning experience. We were able to see the human tragedies that littered the sidewalks of Russia in the wake of the fall of communism, as well as the successes that a largely socialist system was having on Swedish society.

Several years later Andy and her mother and I went to England and Scotland. We headquartered in London at the apartment of my neice and her husband, and branched out to places like Oxford, Stratford-Upon-Avon, and Edinburgh.

Now we are planning a spring trip to San Diego. We will be staying at the beautiful Del Coronado Hotel (where Some Like It Hot was filmed), and then doing the famous San Diego Zoo, the beach, and the other tourists attractions.

I am looking forward to a spring break. It's always fun to see new places with old friends!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Rusty Pails #7
Baker Finds a Home

by Rocky Macy

The pink fringe of a breaking dawn had just begun to paint the horizon when the stranger lumbered down the lane and onto my doorstep. She came to the back door, which told me right away that the old hound had a fair amount of sense. The back door opens out from the kitchen!

The cracklin’ bacon and mindless static of a radio talk show didn’t keep me from hearing her soft whine and scratching as she begged sanctuary in the warmth of my kitchen. Somehow the old girl knew that Rusty Pails could always manage to throw together a meal for a weary traveler.

But she was more than just hungry. The big lady with the cold nose was also on the brink of motherhood. After breakfast I fixed her a box in the utility room next to the hot water heater. She climbed in and nuzzled the towels around to her liking before settling down for the wait. I thought quietly as I left the room that the old girl had probably taken to the maternity box many times before. She wouldn’t be needing any help.

Late that afternoon, after several grueling hours at the domino table, I came home and was greeted by the squealing harmony of newborn pups. Five sightless little mongrels were huddled in a corner of the box waiting impatiently for the arrival of more brothers and sisters. At bedtime the count was eight, and when the sun rose the next morning, I found the haggard mother feeding thirteen demanding youngsters their first breakfast. It was a Baker’s Dozen, and from that day to this the name “Baker” has stuck to that mama dog like those thirteen hungry pups!

Two months have passed. They have been filled with joys and aggravations that only a parent – or perhaps a school teacher – could appreciate. The litter tumbled out of their box and into the world of Rusty’s cabin, marking their trail with puddles, paw prints, and chewed furniture. It’s been fun – for all of us!

Heck Frye will be by later today and we’ll take Baker’s family to the big sale across town. It shouldn’t be hard to find a good home for most of the little nippers. Rufus the Yapper will make a first-rate watch dog, and Miss Lola has the curiosity of a hunter. Little Esther, with her love of dragging junk home, will pay her own way in life. The only one I’m worried about is Shadetree – that pup’s almost too lazy to eat!

But I reckon they’ll all get by, just like the rest of us here in Sprung Hinge. It’s the variety that makes life interesting. Leastways, that’s how I see it!

Auction Tip: Don't wear your Sunday shoes to a country auction. You'll probably have to park in a pasture!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

How to Build a Better Query

Genealogy and writing are two of my passions. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s those interests cross-pollinated into a newspaper column that was in publication in a number of small Missouri newspapers for over four years. During that time I also wrote articles for several national genealogical publications.

One afternoon in the summer of 1990 as I was digging through several letters that would be woven into my newspaper column, I had an epiphany. My sudden idea was that things would be so much simpler for genealogy columnists if our audiences knew a few basics of how to format a genealogical query. I began to compose an article on that subject and found that it literally wrote itself. I sent the article to a new publication that I admired called Southern Queries, and offered to let them use it free in exchange for a subscription to their magazine. They took me up on that offer. A few months later Genealogical Helper, a national magazine with a circulation of over 60,000, picked up that article and even sent me a nice check! Over the years I have found it reprinted in the oddest places, most recently in a publication put out by the Prince Edward Island (Canada) Genealogical Society.

That article, How to Build a Better Query, follows. I have taken one liberty with the original, and that was to add the surname of Elizabeth Taylor’s most recent husband.

How to Build a Better Query
by Rocky G. Macy

Genealogists are such exacting people, tackling research and documentation with a degree of precision that would shame a watchmaker. All sources are carefully sifted and every shard of evidence must be painstakingly analyzed and evaluated before being incorporated in the family history.

With all of the emphasis of correct procedure and absolute results, why is it that many of these same people often let their guard down when it comes to that old research staple –query writing?

As a genealogy columnist, I’ve seen many things that purport to be queries. Questions about ancestors have come on Christmas cards, postcards, and motel stationery. They have arrived with too much or too little information, minus a return address, and scrawled by a shaky hand using a leaky pen. People have sent stamps, money, recipes, and pictures of their kids – when all I really wanted were their clear and concise queries!

In an effort to thwart this flow of gobbledygook and preserve the sweet dispositions of genealogy editors, columnists, and other talented typists, the following guidelines for good queries are humbly offered:

1. Study the target publication. Employ its query style and format as much as possible. If the publication has its own query guidelines, use them – and disregard the excellent advice offered in the remainder of this article!

2. Type or print carefully. It will be an ordinary human being reading what you have written – not a pharmacist! The query must be legible.

3. Keep it brief. Stick to the basics, or as Sgt. Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts, Ma’am.” Avoid extraneous material that might confuse the reader.

4. Limit the use of pronouns. Too much reliance on these little demons can leave the reader asking “He who?”, “She who?”, “It what?” or “Huh?”

5. Upper case all surnames. That makes it easier to sort through the likes of Bob DYLAN, Dylan THOMAS, Thomas JEFFERSON, Jefferson DAVIS, and Elizabeth TAYLOR HILTON WILDING TODD FISHER BURTON BURTON WARNER FORTENSKY. (Those interested in shaking Bob DYLAN’s family tree will need to note that his surname is actually ZIMMERMAN.)

6. Avoid abbreviations. “Felix JOHNSON md Ramona SMITH might possibly refer to a capital crime instead of a marriage. Unless the specific abbreviations that a publication uses are known, spell the words out – and let the editors edit.

7. Target the readership area. This is particularly important when writing to localized publications. If the query involves folks from Peoria, send it toward Peoria – not Hoboken!

8. Check for historical accuracy. A query that has Grampa fighting with Stonewall Jackson at Yorktown will stand a good chance of landing in the circular file.

9. Safeguard privacy. Some people would resent seeing their name or personal history in print. Do not name living individuals in your query.

10. Double-check the basics. Is the query complete? If appropriate, has an SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) been enclosed? How about a phone number? Paying attention to details will ultimately speed the entire process and increase the odds of receiving helpful replies.

When the sky does begin to rain responses, remember to let the appropriate editors and columnists know. Your success is their success. It tells them that people are carefully reading their work – and that, Gentle Reader, is almost as good as a paycheck!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

No Third Term!

While it may be sometime before the dust settles in either party's race to the White House, Bill Clinton is already emerging as perhaps the most significant loser of this election cycle. The once God-like icon of the disadvantaged and down-trodden has left Olympus and returned to his Arkansas persona of Bubba the ruthless campaigner. No matter what the candidates may be doing or saying, it's Bill who's soaking up the spotlight with his whining, blustering, and thundering threats. Hillary may or not make it to the White House, but this much is certain - Bubba's legacy is heading for the crapper!

Can America possibly get it's collective head around eight more years of Bill and Hillary? Are we ready to crawl out from under the Bush administration and back into the Clinton drama? Michael Bloomberg is starting to look better and better!

I got a nice letter from Hillary today asking for a contribution. I will be sending her postage-paid envelope back, without a donation, and with these words neatly penned on the outside: "No Third Term!"

Of course, politicians have no pride. She'll write again!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Rusty Pails #6
The Happy Transporter

by Rocky Macy

I have a menagerie of friends here in Sprung Hinge, and sooner or later you’re going to meet them all. People are just naturally drawn to me, a fact that Judge Rufus T. Redbone blames on my “unmitigated gullibility.” When there’s a dirty job to be done, the word goes out to call Rusty - he’ll help. You’re putting together a goofball scheme, and it’s one goof short – call Rusty. If somebody’s breaking into your house in the middle of the night, it’s Rusty to the rescue!

So with my history of being the town’s most helpful citizen, it was not surprising when Heck Frye showed up on my doorstep last Saturday and asked me to take him to an estate auction over by the county line.

Heck is a retired railroad worker who lives down the lane from me. He is also one of unhandiest individuals in these parts. Heck explained to me that he had been changing the oil in his truck last night and ended up with parts left over. I told him that after the auction I would drive him home and put his truck back together!

(My old pickup, the Rust Bucket, has spun the mileage meter around so many times that I quit counting. Unlike Heck, however, I understand the basics of vehicle maintenance, so the Rust Bucket and I should have many more happy days bouncing along the back lanes of our quiet little community!)

I have two best friends. One, of course, is Heck. The other is Esther Pearl, the owner of the biggest junk store in Sprung Hinge, aptly called “Esther’s Pearls and Swine” because in addition to her endless stock of junk (her “pearls”), Esther also sells smoked hams and Razorback paraphernalia. Esther is the second best fisherman in Sprung Hinge. Modesty prevents me from mentioning the first best!

We had been at the sale long enough for Heck to wander off in search of some wayward waitress. I found an unoccupied lawn chair at the back of the crowd and had just gotten into the rhythm of the auction when I spied Esther working her way toward me through the crowd. She wasn’t too hard to spot, what with a nekkid lady mannequin over one shoulder and a pile of ladies’ clothing over the other.

“Rusty,” she said. “I need you to look after Sue for me. Truman’s been trying to ask her out.”

“Howdy do, ma’am,” I said, tipping my ball cap to be extra polite.

“Shut up, you old fool!” Esther snapped. She put her wide brimmed hat on Sue and began to cover her with the clothing that she had snagged off of a bargain table. “There! That should be enough to keep the drooling fools at bay. I’ve got to get back up front and bid on the costume jewelry and a couple of boxes of dishes.”

“Do you need any help getting your stuff back to the store?”

“My car is getting filled up. Would you mind giving Sue a lift?”

“My pleasure, I'm sure. But…she will have to ride between me and Heck.”

“Sue’s not that kind of girl!” Esther snapped. “Just put her in the back of the truck – by herself!”

As Esther turned and started to make her way back through the crowd, she must have caught one of my errant brainwaves because she suddenly turned and bellowed, “And don’t you even think about tying her to the hood, Rusty Pails!”

Some people just don’t want anyone to have a little fun!

Auction Tip: Set a limit on an item before the bidding starts and then stick with it. Don’t let the excitement of bidding lead you to a purchase that you can’t afford.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Generation Z

I have a good friend in Tennessee whose twenty-year-old daughter recently went out and acquired a job at a deli counter in a large grocery store. My friend sent me some of the comments that she has heard from her daughter regarding that job - along with permission to post them on this blog.

1) Going to school is easier. You can just sit there and not pay
attention if you want to.
2) I was never so thankful just for sitting.
3) You know, there's a lot of steps to making sandwiches.
4) Uh, is that a meat or a cheese?
5) They call that manager for every little thing. You only have to have
two years of college to be a manager. He only makes $30,000 a year.
(Mom told her, "It's enough to pay for an apartment!")
6) After a long series of training about cleanliness and food service,
she is told by a coworker: "They don't care about that, they just want
you to move the product".

Memo to Tim: I think there might be the germ of a good filmscript in there somewhere!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rusty Pails #5
Smilin' Jack Makes Lemonade

by Rocky Macy

Don’t bother coming to Sprung Hinge auctions if you’re looking for a car. Cars do sell at our local auctions, but seldom as bargains. And when one does go too cheap, it’s always to Smilin’ Jack Retread, the Kind of Cars.

Smilin’ Jack owns “CARS! CARS! CARS! and Salvage” – where just a few dollars down can put you behind the wheel of a pre-owned deluxe vehicle, guaranteed to make it off the lot and most of the way home.

Jack and I have been kicking tires together at sales since the days when my old “Rust Bucket” was mostly original. Over the years I’ve learned a thing or three about cars just by standing in the wash of his endless sales pitch. I’ve also learned a little about Smilin’ Jack.

The most poignant lesson was the summer before last. Smilin’ Jack got himself into a fierce bidding competition with a youngster over an old crate that didn’t look towable, much less drivable. To the utter disbelief of the auction regulars, Jack eventually captured the beast for several times what it was worth, sending his disappointed adversary home to the showers.

That evening as we sat around his small office whittling away life’s cares, I ask Jack just exactly why he had been so eager to squander his money.

“Heck, Rusty,” came the reply. “The kid’s getting married. He doesn’t need that car, he needs a good one!”

“Won’t he make the same mistake tomorrow, somewhere else?” I asked.

“Maybe, but next time may not be at an auction. We both know that sometimes bidding excites people and drives prices out the window. Besides, tomorrow’s car would almost have to be better than this one.”

“You did save that kid from a mistake,” I agreed, pointing through the screen door at what Jack had dragged home. I thought about adding, “Now who’s going to rescue you?” But I didn’t. Smilin’ Jack makes a habit of never losing too badly.

That weekend after carefully salvaging the few items of value that still clung to the old car, Jack set it out in the middle of his lot and held Sprung Hinge’s First Annual Semi-Serious Car Bash. The urge to plop down a dollar to swing a sledge hammer at the old heap was durn nigh irresistible. But I held onto my money and watched the other fools throw theirs to Jack. I’m a great watcher!

As the dust settled that evening, Smilin Jack Retread had turned a few dollars profit, added some pieces of salvage to his inventory, and still had a mutilated car to sell for scrap metal. To frost the cake, he had even sold a couple of used cars to people in the crowd. Smilin’ Jack had taken his lemon and used it to make lemonade!

Are you listening, Ermine?

Auction Tip: When the auctioneer holds up the item that you’re after, don’t appear too eager. People who have an interest in increasing the sale price may intentionally “bump” your bid if they have the sense that you must have what is being auctioned.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dead Pool Entries

The enthusiasm for this First Annual Dead Pool was somewhat underwhelming, but we're going to compete anyway: Here are the entrants, all five of them, with their lists. Please feel free to keep score as the year progresses!

Billy Graham, Fidel Castro, Mickey Rooney, Nelson Mandela, Kirk Douglas, Osama Bin Laden, Jerry Lewis, Art Linkletter, Miley Cyrus, and Walter Cronkite.

Betty White, J.D. Salinger, Mick Jagger, Larry King, Barbara Bush, Kirk Douglas, Bea Arthur, James Gandolfini, Jerry Stiller, and Rosie O'Donnell.

Amy Winehouse, Courtney Love, Dick Clark, Eminem, Ozzy Osborne, O.J. Simpson, Keith Richards, William Barron Hilton, Chuck Berry, and Bob Barker.

Pa Rock:
Prince Philip, Woody Harrelson, Betty Ford, Rudy Giuliani, Jack Lelane, Eartha Kitt, Angela Lansbury, Britney Spears, Bob Dylan, and Phyllis Diller.

Artie Lange, Michael Vick, Dick Clark, Dom DeLuise, Brian Dennehy, John Goodman, George Wendt, Jack Nicholson, Rose Marie, and Nancy Reagan.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Calgon, Take Me Away!

I’ve been hooked up with a gym here in Goodyear for a few weeks. The one feature that I really hoped to find while I was gym-shopping was an indoor walking track, something that I enjoyed immensely when I was a member of the YMCA in Kentucky. But, alas, indoor walking tracks don’t seem to be in fashion in Arizona. It’s hard to understand why that is, because it gets so damnably hot here in the summer that anyone with an IQ higher than that of a doorknob or Bill O’Reilly wouldn't even consider walking outside between May and October!

So, I have been relegated to doing my indoor walking on a treadmill. I haven’t subjected this to scientific inquiry yet, but I am quickly developing the notion that a mile on a treadmill is a lot harder, and perhaps considerably farther, than a mile of walking around and around a track. It certainly seems that way!

The rest of my new gym is basically nothing out of the ordinary, with one notable exception being the pools and spas, of which there are two each – and they are enormous! After hitting a couple of weight machines yesterday and beating myself half-to-death on the treadmill, I decided to try out one of the spas. I was expecting it to be a relaxing experience, maybe a nice respite for ten minutes or so. But the roaring, swirling waters carried me away to a place I hadn’t been in a long, long, time, and before I realized it, a half-an-hour had slipped away and I really had no desire to get out. I left those magic waters reluctantly, feeling a sense of calm beyond any easy description.

And today, twenty-four hours later, that sense of calmness is still with me. I feel wonderful! I will continue my regular treks to the gym, and pay necessary homage to the treadmills and stationary bikes and weight machines, but now I will do so knowing that they are only minor hardships on the pathway to nirvana.

The day will certainly diminish me, but the spa awaits for rejuvenation!


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rusty Pails #4
Judge Redbone Holds Court

by Rocky Macy

Like flies, grasshoppers, and other onery pests, local politicians can be counted on to swarm into sales in the weeks prior to an election. In a flurry of free pens, emery boards, matchbooks, and enough hot air to float the dome off the Capitol Building, these perennial backslappers and baby kissers descend on America’s bargain hunters with a degree of precision and daring that would have astounded General Grant in his prime!

Judge Rufus T. Redbone, Grand High Road Commissioner of Sprung Hinge, is one of my personal favorites. He holds court at the local auctions with such enthusiasm that his antics have been known to eclipse those of the auctioneer. The Judge, never one to be hampered by the facts, can soak up a situation and spit out a popular response before most of us even understand the problem.

I ran into this political artisan at an estate sale just last week. As I stepped into his entourage, the Judge was busy blaming the previous evening’s thunderstorm of the bureaucrats in Washington. When the others had been sufficiently enlightened on the politics of weather, he turned to me.

“Mr. Pails, how’s my favorite man of letters?”

Unsure as to whether he mistook me for a college professor or the postman, I politely told him that except for the occasional bout with rheumatism that I was fine. The Judge assumed the role of doctor without missing a beat and prescribed a home remedy that “Mrs. Pails” could concoct. I listened politely, not wanting to burden the Judge with useless information - like the fact that I am still in the prime of my bachelorhood.

”And your Missus,” the Judge continued, “can fix that nagging pain in no time. Keep me in mind come election, you hear?”

“You bet, Judge,” I smiled. “You can count on my vote.”

Well – at least he can count on the vote of my “Missus”!

Auction Tip: Plug in those appliances before making a bid. Get to a sale early enough to try everything out before the bidding starts.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hey, I've Voted!

My Arizona Democratic Presidential Primary Ballot arrived in the mail yesterday, and I cast it today at the Phoenix Obama Headquarters. Any guesses as to whom I voted for?

The Obama Headquarters, for all of you living in the Valley of the Sun, is located at 22 East Mitchell Drive. Mitchell is the first block north of Osborne between Central and Third Street. There is some road construction on Mitchell, so you have to come in from Third Street. They have bumper stickers, t-shirts, yard signs, and other assorted Obama gear. I visited with a very polite young man named Ken who was manning the table out front, and I saw a volunteer inside working who appeared to be about my age. Ken said that they always can use more volunteers.

Kudos to our governor, Janet Napolitano, for endorsing Barack yesterday! I have a notion that the really smart office holders are looking for someone to head the ticket who has coattails. We need to be building legislative majorities, not stirring up the same old drama.

Obama '08!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Rusty Pails #3
Truman Goes Shopping

by Rocky Macy

Truman Treetopper is a friend whose worth is beyond measure. If you don’t believe me, just spend the day with him sometime – like I did last Saturday.

Truman was on my doorstep just as the first pot of coffee was starting to perk. After being “coaxed” to help me put down a “fair to middlin” country breakfast and a second pot of coffee, he invited me to go into town with him for some weekend grocery shopping.

Now, first off, let me warn you that being invited anywhere with Truman means that you need to start looking for your keys. He has never driven in his life -- doesn’t need to if his friends will! Truman is not too quick in picking up a check, either. So his buddies know to carry a little extra US cash money when they're about to spend some quality time with Truman.

We arrived at “Groceries Galore," the big, new food store out on the highway, just at 9:00 a.m. It was my first visit to the giant food emporium, but I could tell by the pained expressions of some of the cashiers that Truman had probably shopped there before. After insisting on individual carts (a conscious effort on my part to keep our groceries – and grocery bills – separate), I followed Truman off into his big adventure.

Baked goods was the first stop. Truman carefully piled several loaves of bread onto the floor so he could reach a fresh loaf in the back. Diabolical deliverymen, he explained, always hid the good stuff! I carefully picked up the remnants of this assault and re-shelved them as Truman pushed off down the aisle. At “Jellies” he began to empty another shelf. This time he was looking for older merchandise, a jar of jam that some careless grocery clerk might have overlooked while raising prices.

After quickly restocking the jelly shelf, I hurried my cart around the corner and nearly ran over my friend. Truman had dropped his coupons and was down on all fours trying to collect and organize these money-savers. Even with my help, he managed to block all traffic in the canned vegetables aisle for fifteen minutes.

The butcher shop was memorable also. Service almost came to a standstill as the butcher had to open several packages for Truman and repack the meat into smaller servings. And the fruits and vegetables took a real thumping! There probably aren’t a half a dozen apples or tomatoes in Sprung Hinge that don’t bear a Truman Treetopper bruise.

We made it to the checkout stand right at noon, but it was nearly another half-hour before Truman successfully defended the last of his coupons. When the smoke cleared, his four bags totaled slightly less than my two did -- and, Truman’s bill was just a few dollars more than what he had in his pocket. It’s a good thing that his friend was there! Next Saturday I think I’ll take in an auction!

Auction Tip: Yard sales are a great place to uncover bargains. Smart shoppers arrive before the yard sale is scheduled to begin and pluck up the “real steals” while the competition is still snoring!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

World War I Blog

Thirty years ago I was a new high school history teacher at a large rural school in south central Missouri. Liberty High School of the Mountain View – Birch Tree R-III School District was a wonderful place to learn to teach and I was able to work in a fairly free manner. One thing that I remember doing was “first person” history, where the assignment would be to have students go out into the community and interview people about significant events that they had lived through. At that time there were still several World War I veterans living in the community, so when we got to that era of our nation’s history, these people were able to provide inquiring students with a personal insight into the “War to End All Wars.”

Today nearly all of the veterans of the First World War are gone, as are most of their children. It is an era that has been almost completely relegated to the interpretations of historians. Recently, however, that great conflict has been reopened in a most contemporary manner.

The war letters of a British soldier, Private William Henry “Harry” Bonser Lamin, are running sequentially in a blog as if they are current items. The letters are each being published ninety years to the day after they were written. It is an exciting form of personal history that has created a literal world-wide sensation. Readers follow Harry’s war travails not knowing how his story will end. Will there be another letter (blog entry) tomorrow, or will Harry become a war fatality without warning. It is very much like receiving daily mail from a relative who is in the war and fighting on the front.

Bill Lamin is Harry’s fifty-nine-year-old grandson. He found the letters when he was a child. Bill, an industrial technology teacher, came up with the clever idea of presenting his grandfather’s correspondence as a first person history in a blog. The project has been successful beyond his wildest dreams, with the web site receiving over half a million hits during one three-day period earlier this month.

If you would like daily updates from World War I, check out Private Lamin’s blog at You won’t be disappointed!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Presidential Primary Reform

Last night I was too depressed, and too tired, to write about the New Hampshire primary. Now it’s a new day, and the tiredness has passed.

The irony of New Hampshire lies in the fine art of crying. Forty years ago Ed Muskie was driven from the race after shedding some tears in public over the way his wife had been ravaged by William Loeb, the extremist publisher of New Hampshire’s largest newspaper. Crying was a sign of weakness, an unacceptable quality for a man who wanted to be the leader of the free world. Jump to the present: when Hillary’s eyes welled up with water it demonstrated her compassion and humanity. While an argument could be made that this favorable public view of crying politicians is nothing but sexism wearing a new coat of paint, I would like to think that we, as a nation, have finally matured to the point where we can allow our political leaders a modicum of emotional release. The tale will be told when a contemporary male politician produces some eye leakage in a public setting. Will he get the Muskie heave-ho or the Hillary bounce?

The plus from last night’s New Hampshire election returns, for both parties, is that it virtually insures that the suspense will continue at least through Tsunami Tuesday on February 5th. Millions more of us will have some actual input in selecting our party’s candidates, rather than just voting to ratify (or not) the de facto pre-selected party candidates. The race goes on!

The primary process is more democratic this year than ever before, but it still has some serious flaws. Why, for instance, are Iowa and New Hampshire still allowed to be first every election year, enabling them to garner so much candidate face time and campaign cash? Why should those two states always have so much impact on who is ultimately selected to head each ticket? One argument is that they are so representative of America, but that is just silly on its face. How does the average voter of Iowa equate with the average voter of Alabama, or Alaska? What do voters of New Hampshire have in common with the voters in California or Hawaii?

Unfortunately, the presidential primaries are the bastard children of the political parties and the state legislatures. The parties could, in theory, establish a rotating primary system that would be fairer than the mess that now exists. One sensible solution would be to set up three regional primaries, and every four years change the order in which those regional primaries are held. That would allow candidates to focus on one area of the country at a time, and marshal their energies (and money) to meet three deadlines instead of twenty or so.

But sensibility doesn’t play well in many state legislatures. Those who have always been first (Iowa and New Hampshire) want to retain the glory and cash that the process brings to their states. And other aggressive states (Wyoming, Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina, and Florida) want in on the act. Tsunami Tuesday is a big step in the right direction, but by the time it arrives, some candidates will have already been beaten into a penniless pulp by the early primaries.

What will it take to fix this mess and give all Americans an opportunity to have real input into the presidential nominating process? Apparently, as evidenced by the circus this year, it is beyond the ability of the national parties to fix the situation, and the states are understandably self-centered as they push to get ahead of each other on the calendar. Maybe it will require a Constitutional Amendment to rectify the situation, or, at the very least, a strong stance by Congress – of course, a strong stance by Congress is also silly on its face!

Oh, and my reaction to the New Hampshire results? I made another donation to Barack. There is nothing “free” about democracy!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Rusty Pails #2
The Great Escape!

by Rocky Macy

You can tell it’s Gladys Clench by her distinctive aroma – a tart little fragrance called ‘Last Mango in Paris.’ Unfortunately, the sudden breeze of the incoming storm caused me to miss the scent.

It happened at an estate sale late one afternoon just last week. The clouds in the southwest had begun to mass and darken, pulling the temperature noticeably downward. The auctioneer was rushing his show along in anticipation of the storm. As I sat in my lawn chair watching the activity and timing my exit for the last possible dry moment, I suddenly felt the hot hand of fate grab my wrist and bond it securely to the arm of the chair.

“Why, Russell,” my captor cooed, “what a wonderful surprise finding you here.”

Survival instinct pulled me to my feet, but the pain caused by the grip of Gladys soon settled my brittle bones back down into the lawn chair. Brawn was out…maybe brains would work!

“I’m certainly surprised, Gladys. I figured you’d have the depression glass staked out.”

“Depression glass is so depressing. I’d much rather stand here and chat with my favorite lonely bachelor.”

“Have you seen the books?” I was trying desperately to bait a hook and cast it to the far side of the crowd. “I understand there’s a table loaded with romance novels over by the Weenie Wagon.”

“I’m not much into fiction,” she said, smiling coyly. “My interests run more toward real life adventure.” Gladys gave a lusty laugh as she pulled me, chair and all, up to her.

There we stood - eyeball to eyeball. Just as I was contemplating chewing off my hand like a crazed animal caught in a trap, a wonderful thing happened. A peel of thunder, glorious thunder, roared through the valley and bounced from the hills. As the sound grew, Gladys, displaying the mentality of a box turtle, looked to the skies and released her grip!

I was halfway back to Sprung Hinge before the chair hit the ground!

Auction Tip: If you’re unsure as to what something ought to be worth, ask several regulars before the item is put on the block. People who go to auctions regularly have an uncanny sense of value.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Of Camels and Needles

I was listening to a story on National Public Radio this morning about the annual Consumer Electronics Show that is taking place in Las Vegas. This exhibition is where manufacturers show off all of their technological gizmos and gadgets and alert the public to where the industry is headed. Over the years Bill Gates has been a prominent fixture at this event. The radio journalist doing today’s story noted that this will be Mr. Gates last year at the show in his capacity as head of Microsoft, noting that he will leave management of the company this summer in order to work full time with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Gates Foundation is based on about 30 billion dollars of Microsoft money, and, thanks to a recent donation from philanthropist and businessman Warren Buffett, several more billions of dollars from his company, Berkshire Hathaway. Bill, Melinda, and Warren have an ambitious charity agenda that includes finding cures for twenty or more serious diseases, providing educational opportunities to minority students, bettering school libraries, and creating housing solutions for those in need.

It’s their money, and they are choosing to use it for good. That’s quite a refreshing change from the greed-heads that we often hear about – for instance, Leona Helmsley, the “Queen of Mean” who left 12 million dollars to her dog. Leona was a hotelier famous for saying that “only the little people pay taxes.”

Do you remember this Biblical admonition: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:24)

Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett may well get their camels through the eye of that needle, but Leona is probably toast! One hopes that her dog is more charitable!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Rusty Pails #1
Sprung Hinge, USA

by Rocky Macy

“Sprung Hinge, USA, is so laid back” brags a leading citizen, “it’s a wonder the streets don’t run sideways!” That appraisal comes from Rusty Pails, local auction expert and the town’s most entrenched bachelor.

Rusty and his steadfast hound, Baker, live in a comfortable cabin at the edge of town. It’s a simple existence, fueled by baloney and onion sandwiches awash in cold root beer, and punctuated with auctions, dominoes, and peculiar adventures. But Rusty wouldn’t get into much trouble, nor have much fun, if it weren’t for his buddies. Take for example…

Shadetree Mike. He might claim to own the “Pump and Git,” but it’s Ermine, the Missus, that does the work. Mike spends his days directing gossip at the domino table at the Pump and Git, and he is generally oblivious to his meal ticket, even in moments of intimacy – like when she lifts his feet to mop! Ermine has discovered that inviting her mother, “the Duke” for a visit will set Mike to moving – with bag and baggage – down the lane to Rusty’s cabin. And then there’s…

Heck Frye, another of Rusty’s cohorts. He occasionally falls from the grace of bachelorhood into the tar pit of marriage, but those bouts with matrimony are always short-lived. Heck has met many judges, but his favorite is…

Judge Rufus T. Redbone. Although Judge Redbone isn’t qualified to handle Heck’s marriages or divorces, the Grand High Road Commissioner of Sprung Hinge is adroit at chewing up local situations and spitting out popular responses. This seasoned politician is quick to blame Washington bureaucrats for any bad news, even the weather! No one, however, knows who to blame for…

Truman Treetopper, a senior citizen who stretches his meager means tighter than the head on the new town drum. Truman is continually broke. But it doesn’t cost anything to go along for the ride, and that’s where you’ll usually find Truman – barreling into trouble with Rusty and the rest of the boys! Sometimes their escapades are even co-ed. Just consider…

Gladys Clench and the ladies of the “Sprung Hinge Sewing Circle and Bucket Brigade.” These desperate females have only one aim in life – to hog-tie Rusty Pails and get him happily married, whether he likes it or not! Leastways, that’s how Rusty sees it, but then…

Rusty Pails does see things his own way. For a closer look at life according to Rusty, be sure to read Doin’ the Sales with Rusty Pails in this blog.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Doin' the Sales with Rusty Pails

Some friends and I started a small town newspaper in 1987. During that time I was an elementary school principal, so my work on the paper was limited to a few tasks. I sold advertisements, very poorly, every Saturday morning, and spent the rest of each weekend chained to a table in the darkroom getting photos ready for the weekly edition.

I also penned two columns for the newspaper. One was an Ozarks genealogy column called Rootbound in the Hills. That column was being published in fifteen small area newspapers when I finally retired it four years later. Eventually I will preserve the back issues of Rootbound in a separate blog.

The other column was an attempt at rural humor called Doin' the Sales with Rusty Pails. That column only ran for about a year until my involvement in the original newspaper came to an end. I have recently run across the old Rusty Pails columns (36 in all), and after airing them out for awhile and making some revisions and repairs, I have come to the conclusion that most would fit nicely into this blog. They will run on an occasional basis when things at Pa Rock's Ramble are slow. If Rusty Pails is well received, I may even scribble a few new ones. So, sit back and (hopefully) enjoy!

Pa Rock
aka Rusty Pails

Friday, January 4, 2008

The One That Got Away

While most people in America appreciate the protections of the law and the necessary existence of law enforcement and the courts, there is, it seems, a little bit of the rascal in many of us. Take, for example, our love affair with outlaws. It probably goes back to England – just as our law does. Don’t we view Robin Hood as the good guy and the Sheriff of Nottingham as his evil nemesis? Robin’s American heirs include such famous individuals as Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, and John Dillinger. True, they may not have been as altruistic as Robin Hood, or even altruistic at all, but each of these villains rose to the status of folk hero. They have been the focus of books, magazine articles, movies, and term papers. Not too shabby for a bunch of gun-toting, hardscrabble ne’er-do-wells!

(Patty Hearst, during her bank-robbing, gun-moll days may have been motivated by altruism, but she was brainwashed, so she doesn’t count!)

My favorite modern outlaw is the one who got away: D. B. Cooper. He boarded a Northwest Orient flight from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, on November 24, 1971. After the flight was airborne, Mr. Cooper (or whoever he was) gave the flight attendants a note saying that he had a bomb in his brief case and demanding $200,000 in $20 bills and two sets of parachutes. The plane landed at Seattle where the ransom and the parachutes were delivered. The hijacker then released the passengers and followed up with a demand to be flown to Mexico City. The plane flew low (10,000 feet) with the landing gear down like Cooper had instructed. Two US military fighter jets followed the passenger plane through the stormy night. It was the storms that prevented the pilots of the jets from seeing exactly where the hijacker, with booty in tow, jumped into the night.

Some of the money was found eight years later by a young boy who was gathering wood for a campfire near the Columbia River in southeast Washington, but most of the cash as well as the famous outlaw remain missing to this day.

D.B. Cooper is the only hijacker of an American plane to ever escape punishment. On the night of his disappearance J. Edgar Hoover was alive and running the FBI, albeit occasionally in drag, Richard Nixon was in the White House happily taping all of his meetings and conversations, and Elvis was still the King. It was a long, long time ago.

This past week the FBI reopened the D.B. Cooper cold case. They are now suggesting that Cooper probably did not survive the jump into the storm that night. The new push is to get someone to come forward and provide a positive identification to the illustrious D.B. Cooper so that the FBI can have some closure on this on-going agency embarrassment.

Maybe the answer will reveal itself, or maybe Mr. Cooper was a loner with no relatives to miss him and rat out his identity to the feds. I’m a romantic at heart, and I would like to hold out hope that D.B. Cooper and his ill-gotten gains spent many years together on a beach somewhere under a smiling sun with an endless supply of rum drinks and good times! An occasional happy ending is good for the soul!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Obama, Oh My!

I am enjoying the Obama victory in Iowa this evening. Barack Obama, a son of Kenya and Kansas, is on his way to the White House! It is truly the dawn of a new day in America!

Other observations:

 Hillary’s concession speech was more gracious than the one given by Edwards.
 Fred Thompson did better than I thought he would. I hope that somebody woke him up and told him that he is still in the race!
 The Democratic turnout was tremendous – which portends very well for November.
 Chuck Norris’s teeth are unnaturally white!
 Ron Paul’s people have been deluding themselves.
 Bill Clinton is looking really old!
 Mike Huckabee may be a gasbag, but he has a good sense of humor.
 Joe Biden is a class act.
 Barack Obama is the most powerful public speaker in America!

On to New Hampshire!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Political Season

I heard on the news tonight that John F. Kennedy announced on January 2, 1960, that he would be a candidate for President in November of 1960. Imagine how nice it would be to have the entire presidential election circus take place in a single year!

Most of this year’s presidential candidates announced months ago and have been in the campaign trenches ever since, and the first significant electoral process, the Iowa caucuses, will finally take place tomorrow. So now we are taking nearly two years to elect a president!

And then there is the subject of money. One estimate that came out today is that the candidates have spent over $30 million in Iowa alone. Those poor Iowa residents have had to endure over 50,000 television commercials for and against the various candidates in the last few months.

It is truly becoming the best democracy that money can buy!

My Iowa Predictions:

Democrats: 1. Barack Obama 2. John Edwards 3. Hillary Clinton 4. Bill Richardson
Likely dropouts: Joe Biden and Chris Dodd.

Republicans: 1. Mike Huckabee 2. Mitt Romney 3. John McCain 4. Ron Paul
Likely dropouts: Duncan Hunter and Fred Thompson

Now, on to New Hampshire!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Pa Rock's Dead Pool

Announcing Pa Rock’s 1st Annual DEAD POOL!

That’s right, all of you prescient prognosticators! I’m organizing a Dead Pool for the year 2008!

The Rules:

1. Make a list of 10 notable people whom you think will die in 2008. (The names should be readily recognizable to most people – politicians, royalty, celebrities, sports figures, etc)
2. Submit your list to or directly to Pa Rock’s Ramble.
3. Entry deadline is 15 January 2008 at midnight.
4. Sit back and check those obituaries.
5. The Dead Pool will end on 31 December 2008 at midnight.

What could be easier?

You will be awarded points whenever anyone on your list bites the dust. The number of points will be determined by subtracting the dearly departed’s age from one hundred. The younger the deceased, the more points you will receive. If an old coot on your list dies, the points will be much less.

There will be no entry fees and prizes will consist only of really classy certificates for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers.

Here is my list. You may borrow freely.

1. Prince Philip of Great Britain
2. Woody Harrelson
3. Betty Ford
4. Rudy Giuliani
5. Jack Lelane
6. Eartha Kitt
7. Angela Lansbury
8. Britney Spears
9. Bob Dylan
10. Phyllis Diller