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From On High



L'Chaim! To life!



Updated: 2017-10-30T20:36:53.907-04:00

 



Roanoke's Finest

2013-07-31T19:43:43.874-04:00

The alarm sounds. Conversation abruptly ceases. A scramble ensues. Controlled mayhem. Followed closely on by disciplined, practiced, unhesitating, focused preparation.Preparing to do what they do best. What they're trained to do. What's expected of them. What they demand of themselves. Roanoke's finest.Lives are at stake. In every case. On every run. Civilians' lives most importantly. Firefighters' lives always.Not to mention exhaustion. Dehydration. The potential for smoke inhalation. Injury. Worse.Every day.It comes with the territory. It's all part of a firefighter's accepted job duties and responsibilities: Be prepared to save lives and in the attempt, be prepared to risk your own. While most of us complain if the company coffee maker is broken or the wastepaper basket wasn't emptied overnight, firefighters hope their oxygen masks don't fail them. We want our work environment to be comfortable, air conditioned, and brightly lit. Firefighters hope theirs doesn't include combustible materials or explosives or toxic chemicals. Projectiles. A good day for most of us is one in which the boss doesn't give us a whole lot to do. For a firefighter, it's being able to go home at the end of the day. To be able to spend time with the children. To look in their little eyes and resolve to never let them know of or to witness the horrific sights they've seen. The anguish. The grief. The heartbreak. The mangled bodies.On this particular day, a fire erupted in a maintenance garage when a can full of gasoline ignited and set a bus on fire. When the fire department arrived, smoke was pouring from the windows and doors. I've been witness to some building fires in the past. I remember one in particular, many years ago, that engulfed a faculty office building at the university I was attending. It was very cool. Exciting. Fun. But I could stand at a distance with my classmates and watch the drama from afar. The smoke billowing up. The flames shooting through the roof. I could stand by and take pictures of the raging inferno. Firefighters are trained to run into its midst. Selflessly. Without hesitation. Without regard to the many hazards in store. Lives deemed more important than their own - somehow - are at stake. They act.I'm not sure I'm capable of such things. I doubt that most of us are. Sure, we all dream of performing an heroic act. Of saving a life. Of dragging the unconscious victim of that car wreck to safety. And of living to tell the tale on Larry King Live.These guys risk everything every day. And Larry King pays no notice. But they do it anyway. With pride. Determination. It's a calling. They deserve our everlasting and heartfelt thanks for being there and for protecting our loved ones - our children and grandchildren - from harm.The firefighter, by the way, pictured above with axe in hand heading into the flames is my son, Jarrod Fuhrman, Station # 3, Roanoke Fire/EMS.Photos courtesy of Lt. Rhett Fleitz, Roanoke Fire/EMS & Roanoke FirefightersClick on images to enlarge.[...]



On Veterans Day

2017-03-14T09:22:59.975-04:00

(Originally published on November 11, 2011.)This handsome young man, who - some say - bears a striking resemblance to his offspring, is being honored this day - Veterans Day - for his service to his country.Harold Fuhrman, son of Heinrich and Ida Majeske Fuhrman, joined the United States army in 1942 and became one of the legenday "Screaming Eagles" of the renowned 101st Airborne Division - made famous in both the movie, "Saving Private Ryan," and in the HBO mini-series, "Band of Brothers." The 101st Airborne first saw combat action the night before D-Day, June 5, 1944, just hours before the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. The division parachuted and glided into Normandy - northern France - behind German lines with the purpose of disrupting Nazi communications and preventing counterattacks when the naval assault on the Normandy beaches began the next day.According to military planners, because of the nature of the task before them - night attack, units scattered across the Normandy countryside, powerful German defenses in the immediate area, no support from the naval assault taskforce for at least a day or longer - it was expected that the division would suffer horrendous casualties in the assault. And it did. 1240 men were either killed or wounded in a matter of a few days and a considerable number went missing. Included on the list of missing in action, a dreadfully long list, was the name Harold Fuhrman. That assault proved to be Harold's one and only combat experience. He was captured near Ste-Mere-Eglise, became officially a Prisoner of War, and spent the next year being transferred from one German prison camp to another, all the while losing weight as a result of poor dietary conditions, losing some teeth as a result of unsanitary living conditions (eventually he'd have them all removed), but never losing his American spirit.Harold Fuhrman was liberated from a hellhole of a prison camp near Küstrin, on the German border with Poland in April of 1945 by the Russian army and, after walking from eastern Germany to the Black Sea in the Crimea in order to find transportation home, Harold made his way back to the USA.After the war ended, like millions of other veterans, Harold Fuhrman returned home and went back to work. He married Lorraine Riehle and eventually raised a fine family - three sons and a daughter.He rarely spoke of his war experiences. But when he did, the accounts were startling, the details sobering. He once related the story of the death of a soldier near him and the odd sound that a bullet makes when it impacts the human skull. Like a rock thudding into a pool of water.He also - once - revealed a scar near his knee that resulted from a wound that he sustained in battle, one for which he received no Bronze Star or Purple Heart. No handshake from the President of the United States. No interview with the news media. By the time he made his way back to his unit after being liberated, it had been long healed and - as was the norm in that era - it was a minor wound, one that didn't rise to the level warranting a medal. Those were indeed different times. As William Halsey said back then, "There are no extraordinary men ... just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with." Harold Fuhrman's wound was ordinary - in that extraordinary era - and he thought no more about it. Life went on.Harold also told the story of his trek across southeast Europe after he was freed and of his having come upon a field where a battle had taken place sometime previously. The field was strewn with the decaying bodies of German soldiers left to decompose where they lay; the Russians had more important matters at hand than to take the time to bury their dead enemies. Harold stripped the winter coat from one of the corpses and moved on. Such were the times.Harold Fuhrman lived a long life. A good life. Though he was never recognized for his service to - or particularly for his sacrifice for - his country, he was proud of that which he'd been able to contribute. He never ask[...]



A Soldier's Story

2017-10-30T14:45:55.756-04:00

Andrew Jackson Grayson was a miller by trade. He built and operated his place of business along Little Walker Creek here in Bland County, Virginia back before there was a Bland County. This area was sparsely settled and life was "hardscrabble," as it were. It is probably because his mill was frequented by all the farmers in the area who came to him to have their meager harvest ground into meal and he was, therefore, a familiar figure to everyone in the area, that when the Civil War broke out, Andrew Jackson Grayson was elected by the Confederacy's new recruits to the cause to be captain of the newly formed "Bland County Sharpshooters." The victory at Fort Sumter had occurred only a month before and the South was a'risin '. All over the country the call went out for recruits to join the army and defend against northern aggression. Young men from the area packed what little they had and made the journey over the mountain to Wytheville, the only town in the area, and to Narrows in Giles County to enlist. When the company had enough recruits, its official designation became Company F, 45th Regiment, Virginia Volunteers. What an adventure it must have been for these boys, most of whom had probably never been far from home, to be given weapons and "accoutrements" (and an expansion of their vocabulary) and to find themselves on the parade ground in Wytheville learning how to conduct themselves in battle, and about "Hardee's Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics." For the first time in their lives they were not only playing a part in something important, they were making history. And then they went to war. Their first encounter with the enemy was on a hilltop in Nicholas County in what was about to become, as a result of the South having seceded, the state of West Virginia in a place called Carnifex Ferry. Here they learned the word retreat. For after inflicting serious casualties on the advancing northern force, the Confederate army under General John Floyd slipped away and moved south. There is no record of the company sustaining any casualties but here the company of Bland boys got their first experience with that which killed the greatest number of soldiers north and south - sickness and disease. Though the company of recruits wasn't there long, when they left Nicholas County, they left behind a freshly dug grave containing the mortal remains of their first fatality, a young man who succumbed to a nameless illness, who died, and was buried - alone and with but a stone to mark his grave. Over the next four years the company of Bland boys saw war in far away locations in Tennessee, West Virginia, and finally in "the big show," in Virginia as a part of the Army of the Valley. They fought in many places that today don't even warrant mention in the history books. Places like Wolf Creek, White Sulfur Springs, Diamond Hill, Mossy Creek, and Talbot's Station. They also participated in many of the war's larger engagements at Winchester, Opequon Creek, Cloyd's Mountain, Monocacy, Fishers Hill, and Piedmont. With each encounter, the Bland Sharpshooters counted more dead. Upon leaving each encampment, Company F, 45th Virginia Volunteers left behind sick, wounded, and dying youth. For four years the boys from Bland County endured unspeakable hardship and privation. They lacked proper clothing in winter, were denied proper nutrition throughout, and often went days without food of any kind at all. In most of their encounters with the enemy, they were outnumbered by an army much better equipped and armed. But they endured. In the end, the company of Bland boys didn't go through the formal surrender ceremony that one reads about in history books or sees in famous paintings. When notified of Lee's surrender at Appomattox, the regiment simply disbanded - and what remained of the Bland Sharpshooters went home. Andrew Jackson Grayson enlisted in Company F on May 31, 1861 and became the company's captain shortly thereafter. When the company disbanded, "Captain Jack" was still the com[...]



Kaid Becomes a Man

2013-08-07T08:47:07.803-04:00

Two-year-old Kaid Fuhrman climbed up to my tree house this evening and, in the course of things, decided to relieve himself. He dropped his drawers and peed on the countryside below. Kaid is now a man. It brought tears to my eyes. Today peeing out of the tree house, tomorrow telling lies to some large-breasted woman in a smoke-filled honky-tonk. How quickly they grow up.

* Originally published on August 12, 2004.



Chaos and the Morning Feeding

2013-08-10T18:54:29.689-04:00

"For the love of God. Make them stop!" Terror set in as I tried to escape the churning mass of feline savagery. There have been few moments in my long life when I felt that I was in great danger but this was one of them. A feeling of impending doom swept over me and caused me to retreat to the corner of the kitchen - until I felt the microwave countertop against my back and I realized that my escape route was cut off. It was at this point that I cried out for God's mercy and for the Bland County Rescue Squad to save me from what was assuredly certain death. It was cat feeding time at the Fuhrman house. I know. You think of them as fuzzy, cuddly, purring little darlings curled up in front of the fireplace. Step into my kitchen at 6:05 in the morning and you'll step back with a bloody stump where your foot was attached only a moment before. These little monsters have a schedule and, by damn, you'd better adhere to it or there's all hell to pay. It's all my wife's fault. Paula thinks she is doing the world a favor by bringing stray cats into the home and providing for them in a manner that all the children of Sub-Saharan Africa would envy. She doesn't just feed them and wipe their tiny butts (OK. I'm exaggerating a bit). She has a schedule. And they know it. I should probably take the time to introduce the individuals who have turned our loving, nurturing home into San Diego Zoo East. I'm not sure I know all their names and Paula, being the sinister person that she is, sometimes sneaks new cats into the pile without telling me. If it weren't for the fact that I can now recognize each individual shriek they emit, starting at 5:55am, I wouldn't be able to tell one from another. That plus the fact that each has a discernable butt (I learned the hard way. If the shriek didn't work at 5:55, they do this odd butt rub in my face at about 6:00). But the ones I know of are named Tigger (Yes, I know. And the names only get worse), Lucky, Phobie, Mosby, Wheezer, Pippin, and Frodo (you'll never guess where those last two names came from; they were recommended by my daughter, another human hating cat loving she-devil who only brings cats home so as to bring torment to my poor son-in-law). If she were reading this, Paula would criticize me for misspellings. Fine. And for forgetting some cats. (No. I'll save the discussion regarding the BARN CATS for another day.) Now you would think that the stampede - and I do not exaggerate - don't be in their path - that runs from our bed to the kitchen at 6:05 would ease up AFTER A FEW YEARS once the little bundles of burning love come to realize that breakfast will be served on time - just as it is every other freaking day of every year. But no. They gallop. You'd also think, based on their velocity and over-all-obstacles trajectory, that they are starved for sustenance. Please. It's just that the TUBS of Kibbles and Bits and Kit and Kaboodle that are filled throughout the day are only cat meal. At 6:05am it's MEAT. See how the bloody stump comes in to the story? They want MEAT. They'll accept any one of your appendages. There was a point in time not long ago that Paula decided to go to Louisville to see her mother and sisters. She was going to be away - I swear - for a few days. The storage capacity on my Compaq computer is 80 gigobytes. All books ever written could be stored on 80 gigs. By the time she was done composing my instructions (I prefer to call it a treatise) on the proper-feeding-and-care-of-my-cats-while-I'm-gone, the hard-drive was exhausted. Leo Tolstoy would have been in awe of this document. NASA scientists who wrote the instructions on how to build Apollo IX would have bowed before her out of respect for her detail and clarity. You see, you don't just feed the cats. You can't just slop meat into a bowl. Each cat has a personality and, more importantly, a disposition. Some, like Phobie, will wait impatiently. Others (Lucky!) will climb your leg to get to their MEAT[...]



They Own the Night

2013-08-07T08:39:05.022-04:00

You're driving along a winding gravel road. The road itself undulates through a seemingly endless countryside. Your headlights scan skyward and then plunge toward the ground as your car crests atop one rise and begins its descent into the next valley. Except for the headlights, and the trees, weeds, and rocks illuminated by them, you see ... nothing. A landscape devoid of any distinction. Total uninterrupted darkness. You hear the crunching sound of tires on gravel - only. Nothing else. The darkness and accompanying stillness are reminders. You know you are alone. The only exception can be seen far off in the distance. You almost have to know where to look because the pinpoint of light is so faint as to be illusory; the more you try to fix your gaze on it, the more your eyes convince you that it is not really there. In part that is because the tiny beacon emanates from high upon a mountain three miles away and is the only sign of human habitation in a wall of blackness. On a moonlit night, the faint silhouette of the moutain itself - my mountain - can be discerned with some effort. On most nights though, when the evening mists form and the clouds take their sleep around the summit, nothing save the tiny glow from the porch light can be seen - for miles. My porch light. My home. To say that Paula and I live in isolation is no exaggeration. On a sunny day you can stand on our front deck and look down upon a vista that is right out of a JMW Turner landscape. Far off in the distance you can see the village of Bland with its distinctive Lutheran church steeple and nearby courthouse tower. Around and beyond the cluster of dwellings and small businesses, you see rolling pasture lands, punctuated with frequent woodlands and meandering ravines. Further away, you see an imposing Brushy Mountain. Directly behind our house rises our mountain, completely forested, uninhabited, since the beginning of time undisturbed. The Jefferson National Forest. Save for a few neighbors down below, we live alone. Except for a host of other creatures. If we cohabit during the day, they own the night. Paula was walking next to the stream that flows down the mountain and across our property the other day when she noticed something unusual laying on the bank. It was a claw. A large, curved, grayish brownish claw. At first, when she brought it to the house and showed it to me, I thought it had come from a bobcat. Although rarely seen in the area, I had spotted one last winter, when the snow was its deepest high in the mountains. He - or she - had come down to my neighbor's farm looking for food, I expect. I watched it trot across a snow-covered pasture, its long, sleek silhouette unmistakable against the pure white background. It was there and then it slipped into the woods; gone. But when I got to looking at it, I recognized that the claw had probably come from a bear. There are quite a few black bears in the forest above; so many that there is a hunting season established to keep the population down. One of them had come down to scavenge along the stream, perhaps. How the claw came to be there? Noone will ever know. Living in the wild, we witness considerable carnage. Red-tailed hawks and kestrils killing and eating doves and finches, insects eating other insects. The bear may have met up with a bobcat and the bobcat walked away from their confrontation. Last Spring, just after the snow thawed, I found along the same stream a rather fresh scattering of bones of a small fawn, probably caught and killed and eaten by coyotes. Out here you learn to read bones. Species. Age. Their fate sometimes. It's the coyotes that signal to humans on warm summer nights that we are not in control, if only for a matter of hours. You never see them. But you can hear them howl. And there are times late at night when you can pick up what sounds like a pack of coyotes playing with one another, seemingly yipping and racing around in the bla[...]



Slipping the Surly Bonds

2013-08-10T18:58:21.487-04:00

While I'm on the subject of flying, I wanted to mention the experience I had at 35,000 feet above the earth last night. Our plane had taken off from Greensboro, headed toward Atlanta. The sun had set by the time we had reached altitude but the western horizon was still aglow. The skies were clear except for a slight haze barely detectable off in the distance. It was a wondrous sight. One you can only find when you're soaring high above the earth.

A poem came to mind that I had seen displayed many years ago at the air force museum in Dayton, Ohio. It is entitled, "High Flight," and was made famous by President Reagan in a speech to a grieving nation after the Challenger disaster in 1986.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. 
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
The author, John Gillespie Magee, Jr., a pilot, was killed - at the age of 19 - during World War II.

* Originally published on September 1, 2004



Sorrow

2013-08-10T19:22:00.550-04:00

I wrote a few weeks ago about the bond that exists between a man and his tractor. I likened the relationship to that which existed between a cowboy and his horse back in the days of the wild west. In my effort to wax poetic about my beloved farm machinery, I failed to mention another bond that exists - that between a man and his dog. In this case, my little sidekick, Beazer. She came to us via the local dog pound probably 14 years ago as best Paula and I can remember. And she has been at my side - in spirit if not in body - every day for those many years. Until today. I buried Beazer this evening. Beazer is short for Beelzabub, the hound from hell. She was built like a pit bull - only she was smaller - and had the look of a bird dog. She was mostly black with a few white splotches and a white tip on her tail. We called her pedigree "All American Shorthair," which means, translated, that she was a mix of about every breed imaginable. She got her name because of her attitude toward strangers and her obstinacy. She had a particular hatred for the UPS man, and, in her younger years, I had to pull her away from him many times. Beazer didn't care for the vultures that soared past our windows here on the mountain either. Or the raccoons. Or possums. Or stray cats, chipmunks, squirrels... Beazer and I had a special relationship. I can't explain why. I was always tougher on her than either my wife or my daughter ever were. And Paula often accused me of ignoring her when Beazer came looking for some attention. But Beazer always came. If a number of us entered the house together, after having been away for a period of time, here Beazer would come to greet us. She had this annoying, ear-splitting yelp, yelp, yelp when she came up to people she knew - well, perhaps not so annoying anymore. But she would always come looking for me. She would work her way through the crowd, even as others were calling out to her, to greet me first. Only then did she devote time to the others. And there was another bond that Beazer and I had, although I'll not be able to explain it. She and I could go up the mountain together and, as dogs often do, she would disappear into the forest. I would lose track of her but keep on going. It was fascinating that, no matter in which direction I went, she would always find me. She was always there with me. When I sat here at my computer, she would come in and lay on the carpet next to me. If I moved into the living room, she would get up and move with me. There came a point several months ago when Beazer was no longer able to make it up the mountain. She got too feeble. Truth be known, I quit going up the mountain too. As you could imagine, it was because I couldn't leave ol' Beaz behind, knowing how much she enjoyed the adventure and knowing that she knew where I would have been heading. She always knew. And I couldn't disappoint her. Her health began to fail recently, and we knew the end was coming. I think this will be the last time I ever think of Beazer in her final years. From this point on, I'm going to remember her when she was young and in perfect health. When she could easily outrun me. When she ran in the yard in circles as I pretended to try to catch her. How she loved the attention. That I guess, when you come down to it, is what cements the bond between a man and his dog. I appreciated her companionship; she craved my attention. I am struggling with that thought as I write this. It's easy at this point to say something like, "Well, life goes on." But that doesn't quite work for me tonight. A part of my life is - forever - buried on Big Walker Mountain.* Originally published on July 18, 2004[...]



Twistin' To Toby's Toe-Tappin' Tunes

2013-08-07T08:41:17.522-04:00

Paula and I were doing a little Texas two-step the other day with our twin two-year-old grandchildren, Jayla and Kaid. They were having a blast swayin' to the poundin' sound of Toby Keith and his Easy Money Band playing "I love this bar." I'd like to think they were laughing hysterically out of sheer delight but it may have had more to do with seeing their "Jeramps" mixing a few country moves with some disco that Travolta and I perfected a number of years ago. But they did have great fun. To the point where they wouldn't let me quit. So we danced until I was finally completely out of breath.

I had thought for a moment that we should have gotten out the video camera and recorded the moment. But then that age-old adage came back to me and I decided that maybe it was best if we didn't. "White boys can't dance."

"We got winners, we got losers/chain smokers and boozers/And we got yuppies, we got bikers/We got thirsty hitchhikers/And the girls next door dress up like movie stars/Hmm, hmm, hmm, I love this bar."

* Originally published on September 13, 2004



Paula Declares War

2013-08-10T19:09:31.479-04:00

It takes a lot to get Paula angry. Since our children grew up and moved on, she rarely has need of raising her voice - except at me of course, when I step out of line. With the exception of the occasional fist-wave at semi drivers who decide they are going to seize her space on I-77 while she occupies it, she is very even-tempered. Meak. Docile. Centered. But you don't want to provoke her. You've heard expressions about the Biblical wrath of God? Well, Paula learned from the Master. And now she's mad. You see, it has to do with these three dogs. And Paula's effort to save the world's cat population. It began several months ago when Paula was driving by an abandoned house on the turnpike leading to our home. There on and about the sagging porch, scurrying in all directions, were several tiny furry newborn kittens. I will agree that they were cute. Way too cute. The saving grace from my perspective was that they were just old enough to know their station in life, for they were also feral kittens. We couldn't get near them without their running under the old house. To me, this was a good thing. We already warehouse ten formerly abandoned cats (make that formerly abandoned former kittens). We sure don't need more. I remember the last time we went through this. I was leaving for work early one morning and was racing along the gravel turnpike, heading for Bland and the highway that was going to take me into the world. The road crosses Little Walker Creek below our house and there, just as I came to the bridge, something on the side of the road caught my eye. I looked over and saw a little gray kitten. Its funny, looking back to that day, the only image I maintain of that first glimpse was of a mouth full of teeth. For this little kitten was about as forlorn as one of God's creatures could be. It had obviously been abandoned by one of God's lesser creatures, probably someone who had driven there from the city and tossed him from the car. I have this vivid memory of his teeth probably because this kitten was so upset, his mouth was so wide-open, it was the only part of him that I could see. But I've learned how to deal with situations like this over the years. If I were to stop and pick up the animal, it would immediately become a permanent member of the family. A burgeoning family. So I did what I trained myself to do. I drove faster. And left the little screaming kitten in my rear-view mirror. But then that little angel that one occasionally finds sitting on one's shoulder appeared and said, "You know you can't do this." "Oh yes I can," says I. "No. What would Paula say?" Damn angel. So I grabbed my cellphone and called Paula. I told her about the tiny gray kitten at the bridge and hung up. There was a day when I would have said something like, "Now, if you think we are going to keep this animal, I will pack my bags and ... whatever ... " I went to work knowing that a new addition had come to the Fuhrman family. Something odd about that kitten though. When I got home later in the day, I immediately noticed that it had gained a couple of pounds. I know Paula can work magic with animals but even she couldn't grow a cat that much in a matter of hours. Something was wrong. Then it came to me. This wasn't the kitten I'd seen at the bridge. Even though Paula said she found him right where I had told her to look, the one I saw was a good bit smaller than this one. And it came to me that if this isn't the one I saw earlier, the one I saw had to be... So we got in the car and drove to the bridge. No sooner did we stop the car and get out than out of the weeds came the frightened kitten, teeth bared, mouth wide, as if crying, "Help me. Help me." So we ended the day with two additions to the burgeoning Fuhrman household. Say hello to Frodo and Pippin. Getting back to this other batch of kittens, [...]



The Meanings of Christmas

2013-08-10T19:13:07.671-04:00

You hear a lot of talk this time of year about the "true" meaning of Christmas. There are the faint voices of a family of the faithful who believe - and celebrate that belief - in putting Christ back in Christmas. The holiday is to most people, however, a time to spend money on gifts, to make money off the the spenders, and to wake up on Christmas morning and receive from the spenders that which they purchased. I really don't have a big problem with this. It may be lamentable but you can't make the non-believer believe. But there is another side to the Christmas holiday; one you cannot fathom unless you have an ever-increasing number of years behind you. It is only with age that the melancholy side of the Christmas holiday grows profound; as more and more of those you love and had celebrated the holiday with in the past leave this earth and are no longer there to be with you to decorate the tree or to prepare the Christmas candy or string the Christmas popcorn - or to open gifts on Christmas morning. Ever again. Grandparents. Father. Friends. The ever-growing list includes, as well, the names of loved ones who were never able to be there to celebrate even one Christmas with you but who you've kept close to your heart - if not in your conversations - and for whom you had a lifetime of plans that were cut short. A daughter. I remember when I was very young, my grandmother would come over to our house to celebrate Christmas with my two brothers, sister, and me. The night before Santa came was a special night because she would help bake cookies and pies for the next day's feast. In the course of preparing the various foods for the Christmas dinner, she would take out a sifter and pour flour through it before using it to bake bread. It's funny how your memory holds on to tiny flashes of the past. It may have something to do with the fact that the sifter - and my grandmother - are fond memories. Cherished memories. Life is like that flour sifter in a way. When you're young, you gather an abundance of people around you with whom you hope to celebrate. As you age, however, more and more of your loved ones pass - like flour through the sieve - and become ... cherished memories. This is the melancholy side of Christmas. Along with the joy that I feel knowing that I'll be able to be with my wife, children and grandchildren on Christmas, I also long to celebrate - just one more time - with an ever-growing number of those from my past; those who are gone from this earth forever.And I look forward to the day when we will all be together as a family once again and celebrate Christmas as we did so many years ago. Grandparents, Dad, Jeri. What a celebration it will be. A CHRISTMAS OF LONG AGO By Morton Bryan Wharton I am thinking tonight in sadnessOf a Christmas of long ago,When the air was filled with gladness,And the earth was wrapped in snow;When the stars like diamonds glistenedAnd the night was crisp and cold,As I eagerly watched and listenedFor the Santa Claus of old. The forest was robbed of its treasures,The house was a mass of green,And I reveled in Christmas pleasures,At the dawn of Aurora's sheen;Some talked of the Savior's mission,But I of my pretty toys;Some knelt in devout petition - I romped and played with the boys. We went to the pond for skating,To the stable to take a ride,And we found new joys awaiting,To whatever spot we hied;But the climax of my storyWas that evening's fireworks show!Went out in a blaze of glory - That Christmas of long ago! But in sadness I think of that Christmas,For many then happy and gayHave gone to the realm of silenceAnd sleep in their beds of clay;The hands that filled kindly my stockings,I shall grasp in this world no more,But when at Heaven's portals I'm knockingThey'll open the beautiful door. They will lead me in te[...]



A Man and His Tractor

2013-08-07T08:44:27.585-04:00

I sometimes feel sorry for you city boys. You are destined to go through life unsatisfied. Even with your many accomplishments and all those degrees and awards, when "the role is finally called up yonder," you'll grudgingly admit that there was - your entire life - something missing. You can't define it because you've never seen it. You've never been able to verbalize it because it has always been ill-defined. Ethereal. But you know that there was something lacking in your life. An imbalance. A dark void in your being. And I know what it is. You see, I am centered. Among the many triumphs that I can look back on now and take pride in, and along with the wonderful family that God has been kind enough to bestow upon me, and with the worldly wealth and good physical health with which I am truly blessed, there is one event that towers above all others, and that has made me the man that I am today. I bought a tractor. They say that in the days of the wild west there was a special bond that existed between a man and his horse. Well, I have no way of knowing whether that was true or not, but I can relate the fact that there is an attraction between me and my tractor that transcends time and space. Wherever I go, my tractor is near me - in spirit if not in reality. And I take care of it just as in those moments, after a heavy rain or snow, or when the grass in the pasture is knee-high, or when I've got some heavy lifting that needs to be done, and I call upon my tractor for help, it has always been there for me. When we moved from Kentucky to the Detroit area in 1996, I left my beloved Ford 9N tractor behind, prompting my need for a new one when we got settled. After a short search, I came upon this Ferguson TEA20 in Ortonville, Michigan that the owner had fixed up and was attempting to sell. I say "fixed up" because it looked like it had been used as a battering ram over the years and was in pretty rough shape. I used the term "over the years" because the tractor was built in 1952. As any vintage tractor man can tell you, you are able to determine the age of your tractor from the serial number on the engine block (assuming the block has never been replaced), and thank God for the internet, there are sites from which you can find the year your tractor was built based on that number. The downside to owning this particular tractor was that it was built in Coventry, England for domestic (make that European) use. Which meant all the screws, nuts, bolts, etc. are metric (my guess is that the tractor was exported to Canada where they have no better sense than do the English when it comes to weights and measures). You can imagine how hard it is to come by parts here in the USA for a 52 year-old machine that was intended to be used in Europe. But a bond was quickly formed. As my wife can attest, the only vehicle that I own that is never exposed to weather is my tractor. It has its own building at the entrance to my property and is never left out at night. Unlike my trucks, ATV, and car, the mechanics of which I make no great effort to understand, I know my tractor. I know carburetion. I know hydraulics. I know the charging system. I know the starting system. And I've learned - begrudgingly - the metric system. In the eight years that I've owned it, I've completely rewired it, I've repainted it, I've upgraded parts on it, and I've kept it in excellent working order. And I've found joy in the process. I remember the time when I wanted to mount a rear tail light on the tractor - the original one had disappeared at some point in time in the past - and so I did what any self-respecting vintage tractor man does, I went to Ebay. Low and behold, somebody who had no idea what it was that he was selling (fool!), had listed one for sale as a "car brak[...]



The Christmas Spirit

2013-08-10T19:18:26.994-04:00

Helle Dale writes this morning in the Washington Times:Many of us long for simpler times, the days when you could wish your friends and family a "Merry Christmas" without a disclaimer of a hint of irony. Days of glowing lights, nativity scenes, full-throated caroling, collections for the poor, sermons about the infant Jesus bringing hope, joy and light to a world of darkness. Back then, actually not that long ago, Christmas seemed so uncontroversial. Fortunately, the above Christmas spirit has not disappeared entirely from view. It still exists in many communities across this nation. It sure does. Right here on Big Walker Mountain. We had a gathering of family - our first this holiday season - here at home on Sunday. My son, daughter-in-law, and the twins, Jayla and Kaid. Our son-in-law and little Chase. Paula was there as coordinator, referee, and chef; I provided the entertainment. We got together here to begin the celebration of Christmas a bit early because Paula and I wanted the grandchildren - all three are two years old - to see the house all decorated and lit up. They are at an age when Christmas, as with all other aspects of their lives, is full of wonder. And learning. They are in varying stages of potty training and consider their successful use of the toilet to be ... a wonderful thing. That is what they are told anyway. And they accept the praise. Ask their mothers. To them, it is certainly a wonderful thing. We will all be over at my daughter's house to actually do the gift exchange on Christmas Eve. We won't be getting together on Christmas Day because my son will be on duty - he is a Roanoke firefighter and will, unfortunately, be very busy that day - and we chose to assemble when all members of the family could be there. But we wanted to get together at Gramps's house too because my home is - as it should be - a magical place to the young ones. A place for them to play and to have fun. A place to explore. A large home for them to run in and to wrestle in and one where they could dance. Kaid said, after being here only a few minutes, "Want to dance, Gramps." He remembered having been here a few months ago and dancing with Jayla and me to Toby Keith's CD, I love this bar. So we danced around the den for a few minutes and then it was off on some other adventure. As you could imagine, the festivities were organized around the interests of the young ones. We ran - Chase loves to run and is fast as lightning. We played with cars in the Christmas village (What good is a room full of St. Nicholas Square buildings, figurines, sleighs, bridges, trees, ponds, boats and animals, if you can't play with them?). Greg and I took the three little ones outside (even though it was very cold and the wind was enough to make your face crack) and had a snowball fight. I must say that I probably won - if you measure success by the number of snowballs that connected - but Chase, Jayla, and Kaid won too, as children who are enjoying themselves can. Despite the bitter cold, they laughed and ran and threw missiles at their Gramps as fast as Greg could make them. I retaliated with snowballs of my own, always being careful to land a hit on their little backsides so as not to hurt them. I asked a number of times if they were getting cold. They would barely take the time to answer no, before running to get more ammunition. We played and played. That's what makes Christmas a special time. Greg decided after a while to go on a hike. So he and I, Chase, Jayla and Kaid climbed the hill behind the house and converged on the tree house. The four of them climbed the ladder up to the platform in the trees and proceeded to bombard Gramps with sticks. They had great fun watching me dodge their throws or to hear me how[...]



Who Is John Galt?

2013-01-04T05:11:39.716-05:00

Perhaps it was the fact that there are 23 million Americans out of work or underemployed, and that 59,621,436 voters didn't care.But I don't think so.Maybe it's that they are accepting of the weak economy that offers no hope for young people.  Accepting.Perhaps, but probably not.Or that those 59,621,436 voters don't have any particular interest in the research that shows ObamaCare to be the worst piece of legislation to have ever come out of Washington, new law that will make health care more costly and less effective.  And make us less free.  That they have no interest, as long as they get their free stuff.But I don't think it was that either.Perhaps the Benghazi mess, in which the President of the once-united states chose to go out and chat on "The View" rather than be president and be straight with the American people about what happened there and why.  The debacle that brought about the deaths of four Americans that 59,621,436 voters showed absolutely no concern over.But it's not even that.Afghanistan?  Where American soldiers will continue to be slaughtered for years to come?  With no mission? No goal?  No hope for victory?  No explanation as to why they're there other than to get out some day?  No understanding coming from the commander-in-chief as to what they are really doing?  Why they are being killed?  With an electorate - 59,621,436 strong - that has no interest whatsoever in their daily sufferings and deaths?No.Unfortunately.Is it that a way of life is being destroyed in the coalfields of Southwest Virginia - by government decree - and not one of those 59,621,436 gives a shit?Not even.Is it the lies Obama tells?Hell, he's been telling lies for years.  We all know it.  And those 59,621,436 people applaud him for it. It isn't that.Maybe it's Obama's open hostility to those of us who have made this country great.  We who have made the American Dream available to our children and grandchildren.  We who have hired employees and given them a chance to thrive, to prosper.  Perhaps it was that snarl, that "You didn't build that!" enmity that he's exhibited on too many occasions. That vile "God damn America" execration that he "didn't hear" in the pews of Trinity United Methodist Church over a period of twenty years.And the fact that when he says such things as "You didn't build that!", 59,621,436 bobbleheads nod in delirious, ignorant, vengeful unison.Yes.  Now we're getting closer to the mark.Barack Hussein Obama is the most divisive president in history.  And they are pleased.What ended it for me?   What broke that life-long bond?This: allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/6ZHMsivjr04" width="420">It was the day that Obama decided to make his reelection campaign all about revenge. But more than that, it was this:It was the day that 59,621,436 people cheered him on and voted for four more years of the last four years.And now for revenge.I ask: Revenge for what? What did I do to them that would make them hate me so?Is it that I'm white?(Don't shake your head no; I'm classified in many circles as being nothing more than one of those to-be-shunned "angry white males.")That's part of it.But more so, it's that I give 40% of my hard-earned income to government now and I'm excoriated for not appreciating the opportunity.  That I'm not doing my "fair share." While a sizable part of that 59,621,436 does absolutely nothing.  Whose share is squat.Over the years I've spent upwards of 4,000 nights away from home, away from my family.  My kids?  Never saw a recital, never saw my s[...]



No Hope

2012-11-07T05:11:55.393-05:00

No change.



CBS Knows No Shame

2012-11-06T07:29:24.746-05:00

The day before the election?  Really?  CBS News sat on the information until now?

This is disgraceful:

"CBS releases more video from 9/12 interview with President Obama: ‘Too early to tell’ if Benghazi a terrorist attack."

This despite the fact that Obama and his toadies have been claiming that he pronounced the attack to be an act of terrorism immediately.

Key word being toady.

As in CBS News.

Evidence released just hours before the election.

There are no words ...

- - -

Helle Dale:

"On Sunday night, a full 54 days after the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, CBS finally posted a critically important segment of the 60 Minutes interview with President Obama conducted on September 12.

"Unbelievably, it was left on the cutting room floor even as 60 Minutes aired a long segment with President Obama criticizing presidential challenger Mitt Romney over his remarks on protests in Egypt. Given the substance of what was left out, this editorial decision shows CBS as either shamelessly biased in favor of the President or hopelessly incompetent as a news organization."

- - -

Joel Pollak:

"In an astonishing display of media malpractice, CBS News quietly released proof--two days before the election, far too late to reach the media and the public--that President Barack Obama lied to the public about the Benghazi attack, as well as about his later claim to have called the attack "terrorism" from the beginning."



5 Million New Jobs?

2012-11-06T06:55:56.428-05:00

Every time I hear Obama make the claim that he's "created" 5,000,000 of them I shout - in so many words - at my TV: They're all part-time and minimum wage jobs, you idiot! What good are they?

In truth?  They're all part-time and minimum wage.  Welcome to Obama's America:
A Part-Time, Low-Wage Epidemic
The jobs gained recently by the U.S. economy are disproportionately low-paying, insecure ones.
By Mortimer Zuckerman, Wall Street Journal

As Americans head to the polls, they face a disastrous new normal: For the first time, the U.S. economy has shifted in the direction of a part-time, low-wage workforce.

The number of Americans now working part time has soared to 8.3 million—up 313,000 in the past two months alone. With economic growth declining or stagnant for quarter after quarter, many companies feel it is too risky to take on people full time.

This has created an army of "underutilized labor." America's narrow unemployment rate is 7.9%, but it is 14.6% when accounting for involuntary part-time workers. The number of Americans working full time has declined by 5.9 million since September 2007, while the number working part time has jumped by 2.6 million.

Over the same period, according to the National Employment Law Project, low-wage occupations have grown nearly three times as fast as mid-wage and higher-wage ones. Whereas lower-wage jobs were 21% of losses during the recession, they have accounted for 58% of new jobs since—and these have the highest proportion of part-time jobs. By contrast, mid-wage occupations were 60% of recession losses but have been only 22% of recovery growth. Higher-wage occupations were 19% of jobs lost and have been 20% of jobs recovered.

The lower-wage occupations that have seen the most growth include retail salespersons, food-preparation workers, laborers and freight workers, waiters and waitresses, personal- and home-care aides, office clerks and customer representatives. Over the past two years, the food service, retail and employment-services industries have added a total of 1.7 million low-wage jobs, fully 43% of America's net employment growth. [link]
The lower-wage occupations ... [account for] fully 43% of America's net employment growth.

And Obama talks about it like he's proud of it.

Instead of being ashamed.

The harsh reality?

There's no reason to think it's going to get any better.

We are rapidly becoming a nation of part-time minimum wage workers.  And welfare recipients.

How's that going to bring about a happy ending?

Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more ...



Step Back & Ponder

2012-11-06T06:38:52.952-05:00

Question: Why do we pay federal taxes?

Silly question, right?

The government can't operate without revenue.

Right?

Or is it right?

No.  It's not right.

In truth, nearly forty percent of the money Washington is spending today it never received.

The rest?

Nothing but paper.

Oh.  And that "good faith and credit" stuff.

And a promise to someday make it good.

So, here's my question: If the federal government can spend 40% more than it takes in - and the government doesn't collapse - why not 100%?

Why do we have to pay taxes at all?

40%?  100%?

Why doesn't the federal government simply back up all its expenditures with that oh-so-confident assurance of its resolve - and a big smile - and not bother collecting anything from us?

What brought this up is an article in the Wall Street Journal this morning written by Bret Stephens, entitled "Liberal Exceptionalism."  In it he lays out the bottom line for fiscal discipline:

"Great nations may have greater grace periods, but they don't get blank checks. Bills come due."

The reality of it is, though, the bill isn't coming due.

It's never going to come due.

We just keep adding to the federal debt.  And play this game in which we all talk about how that debt is going to have to be paid ... someday.

But someday never comes.

And we keep spending money we don't have.

And keep wringing our hands over it.

And we keep talking about paying that debt ... paying that debt.

And spending ... spending.

Neat trick, huh?

The stuff that would make Bernie Madoff proud.

So where is this going to end?

Well, it's not.  But ...

Expect the government of the United States of America - in the not too distant future - to simply write down that debt.  And give the Chinese a big kiss when it happens.

We are the USA, after all.  We can do that kind of stuff.  We're fiscally responsible.  And all that.

Then expect the government to start the game all over again.

We'll wring our hands in woe as we spend massive amounts of money we don't have.

Like drunken sailors with someone else's credit card.

Sweet.   Count me in.

So tell me again: Why do the American people have to pay federal taxes?






Why The Electoral College Should Be Axed

2012-11-05T07:13:26.224-05:00

The New York Times this morning:
"In the razor-thin 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy campaigned in 49 states. Richard M. Nixon visited all 50.

"The current contest is just as close and intense, but the candidates have campaigned in only 10 states since the political conventions. There are towns in Ohio that have received more attention than the entire West Coast."
Since California (and Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas) are locked up (the winner takes all electoral college votes in each), neither Obama nor Romney have reason to campaign there.

In a he/she-who-garners-the-most-votes-nationwide-wins kinda contest, you'd bet they'd be out there pushing for every vote they can get.

(And the good people of Los Angeles would have to endure non-stop TV advertising.)

* Yeah, it means Crazy Al would have been president in 2005.  But it is what it is.



The War On Coal Has Only Just Begun

2012-11-05T07:20:21.160-05:00

Is there a better reason to get everyone to the polls tomorrow?
November surprise: EPA planning major post-election anti-coal regulation
Conn Carroll, Washington Examiner

President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has devoted an unprecedented number of bureaucrats to finalizing new anti-coal regulations that are set to be released at the end of November, according to a source inside the EPA.

More than 50 EPA staff are now crashing to finish greenhouse gas emission standards that would essentially ban all construction of new coal-fired power plants. Never before have so many EPA resources been devoted to a single regulation. The independent and non-partisan Manhattan Institute estimates that the EPA’s greenhouse gas coal regulation will cost the U.S. economy $700 billion.

The rush is a major sign of panic by environmentalists inside the Obama administration. If Obama wins, the EPA would have another four full years to implement their anti-fossil fuel agenda. But if Romney wins, regulators will have a very narrow window to enact a select few costly regulations that would then be very hard for a President Romney to undo. [link]
Obama's EPA is on a rampage.  Its target is the coalfields of Southwest Virginia.  And everyone who tries to eke out a living there.

We have the chance to stop it.  To kill it.

But you're going to have to get off your dead ass and vote.  No excuses.



CNN Fudges The Numbers ...

2012-11-05T06:18:26.221-05:00

... and still can't get Obama in the lead going into tomorrow's election.

This is sad, in a way:

"Romney has gained 3 points since the last time CNN ran its poll, in late September, when Obama led 50%-47%. That is good news for the Republican ticket, especially since the poll was conducted after Hurricane Sandy.

"Yet there is something odd--and even ridiculous--in the poll's sample: of the 693 likely voters in the total sample of 1,010 adults polled, '41% described themselves as Democrats, 29% described themselves as Independents, and 30% described themselves as Republicans.'"

One wonders why those ... professional ... pollsters at CNN didn't go all in and interview only Obama supporters.  How encouraging the results would have been!

Dishonest.  Deceptive.  And Devious.

But at least they would have been able to get a good night's sleep.

At least for one more night ...



Imprison All The Environmentalists

2012-11-05T06:05:56.020-05:00

Before they hurt themselves:

Green-Energy Projects Face Opposition From Green Groups

And before my head explodes.






Are These The Same White People Who ELECTED HIM?

2012-11-05T05:47:46.888-05:00

I'm getting a bit peeved with this sort of nonsense:

"White men are supporting Mitt Romney to the exclusion of logic or common sense, in defiance of normal Americans.”

So, you white boys who see your country going to hell in a handbasket are to be considered abnormal.  Because, apparently to this scribe for Slate magazine, skin color should be more important to you than the fact that you have no job and no food or shelter.

Please.

Go away.  Just go away.