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Three score and ten or more

Monday, August 30, 2010

Graduation gifts

Almost everyone who graduates from high school gets some kind of graduation gift.  When I graduated, my parents gave me a Croton Aquamedico wrist watch which I loved dearly for about six years.  (I don’t think I have had any subsequent watch that lasted so long.  I have know student who received cars, watches, stereos, and a variety of sums of money.

One of the guys in my high school class received a gift that is probably unique, at least I have never heard its duplicate.   His father was a trucker, or contractor, or something like that.  He gave his son a great big, brand new, six wheel, diesel dump truck, with a belly dump.  He told his son that he should go to college if he wished, or go full time into the trucking business, but if he wished to sell the truck he had to wait at least six years.   By then the truck would either have become a permanent part of his life, or it would have financed four or five years of college.

At that time, the government was building a giant, earth filled dam across the Snake river called the Hell’s Canyon Dam, and, one way or another, my friend (I’ll call him Jack) was hired, or contracted to put the truck into use on the dam.  He asked around the class for guys who were licensed and knew how to drive his truck, gave each of them a “driving'’ test and took three guys, besides himself, up to Hell’s canyon. 

I passed the test, thanks to my work at the concrete products plant a few years before, and filled with the romance of trucking and the thought of big money, packed my sleeping bag and some clothing and was off to Hell’s Canyon.

This was one of the most difficult, exhausting jobs I had ever had, and I have to confess that I went to him after the second week  and told him that as soon as he could find a replacement, I wanted to quit.

It was exciting, and he was a good business man.  We went up there to work on shares, over and above expenses, and I made ten or twelve bucks an hour for the time I drove.  We basically kept the truck in motion all the time, with each of us driving an eight hour shift.   The only times the truck stopped running was when it stopped for fuel, lubrication, and to hose out the front seat.  We slept in a tent, and it seems like there was some kind of mess hall for food, though we might have just eaten in cafes (three score and ten or more affects the memory a lot).  It was a filthy grinding job.  The basic process (as I remember it) was to drive the truck to a loading location, where an enormous earth mover that looked like a giant monster would scoop up a mouth full of dirt and usually in one dump drop that dirt into the bed of that truck (and it was one of the biggest dump trucks I have ever seen).   The driver would then drive as fast as the law allows to the dump site which was a sort of a ramp thing that had two tracks  and an opening between them.   Occasionally there was a line of trucks at the dump site (out over the dam,) but most often you hardly had to stop at all until you got out over the dam.  You then dumped your load and went right back to the loading site.

The loading site changed frequently but, as close as I could tell, we basically took off a whole mountain to  and dropped in in the river.

It didn’t matter how often you got to a shower, or changed your clothes, you always felt dusty and could taste the grit of dust in your mouth, and in your eyes.    I was glad when they got me a replacement, though, at the pay we were getting,( I was better paid than anyone I knew, even my father) they didn’t have trouble replacing me.   My replacement was a  big guy about forty, who (If I remember correctly) brought his own camping trailer and lives in comparative luxury compared to me. I spent the rest of the summer working for the railroad and really appreciated going home to a bed each night.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Whata Mess?

I had intended to post a couple of things this week, but I got (almost literally) tied up with an earlier stupid action.  Back in April, I got most of my tax return finished. but foolishly I got a little tired so I asked for an automatic exemption.  (Old coots become, for the most part, master procrastinators)

Monday I sat down to the return figuring that I had about three hours work.   BIG MISTAKE.    I had never counted on the fact that I had refinanced both of my houses and rented one of them and that this would make things really crazy.

Even then, I Xed a box somewhere that made me subject to the standard deduction and wouldn’t “flow” the supplementary materials. 


YAAAAAAAAGH.   for three days, no matter what I did, i had a tax burden (federal) of about 3700 dollars and was beginning to look around for things or people to sell.

It was a fluke and whenever I finally unchecked the box, everytihing went swimmingly and the return floated off in a Turbo Tax E file.  I am slowly becoming sane again  and my family will quit hiding when I come our of the office.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

I apologize

I really apologize for stinking up the blogosphere with my whining in my last post.  Yesterday I spent most of the day walking upright like a homo-sapiens, did some work, some water aerobics and generally acted like a normal human being. 

As I did, I reflected that many people don’t get though the mid-poiint of their seventies and many of those who do (some of my acquaintances) wish they hadn’t.  Neither Janet nor I are confined to either assisted living (at least not formally, it would be tough without the assistance of my children who live nearby) or a nursing home.  We sometimes have a functional day of only  four or five hours, but I spend  those hour in the company of the most wonderful woman I have ever known, who has health problems much more debilitating than mine and never (well, hardly ever) complains.  

In short, as I read what I said last post, I am a little—well really a lot= embarrassed.  I won’t promise never to go off on a whining tear again, but if I do, chalk it up to an unpleasant or painful day or week, and know that I will be back to normal (that is, normal for an old coot) soon.

I don’t have a picture yet, but I will post one of one of the things that cheered me up.  I was walking across the newly mowed lawn in my back yard a few weeks ago, and noticed a spot of red at my feet.  I thought for a moment it was a spot of blood, but when I got my bifocals focused I realized that it was a very tiny wild strawberry.   I was in the midst of  planting tomatoes in five gallon buckets (fairly successful) and in upside down planters (good bushes, no tomatoes) so I put some potting soiil in a large pot, and asked my son to shovel up that little bunch of plants.  We    plopped them at the top of four or five gallon flower pot and let nature take its course.

When I was a Missionary in Finland in the fifties, one of our favorite sports during our free time was to wander the woods looking for wild strawberries.  They were amazingly sweet and delicious though small.

These new wild strawberries are not the same.  They are a little  like red crunchy  cheerios, with very little flavor, but their enthusiasm for their new home is amazing.  The have over grown their pot, and are reaching out for new places.  I was interested yesterday how much pleasure I have had from these yellow flowered (I know, domestic strawberries have white blooms) semi edible little creatures.  I hope God looks down on me and my minor accomplishments with half as much pleasure in just watching the growing.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Back to being old

It is hard to really comprehend some things.  In the past month, I have seen all of my doctors and they all seemed to be excited about how well I am doing but this week has been hellish.  I am so weak that I have trouble doing almost  anything.  Just standing up after having sat in a soft chair for awhile becomes a real project, complete with occasional profanity.

Using a cane helps, but I have so much trouble just walking across the yard.  My back aches quite exquisitely, and I am so weak in my legs that I worry about getting where I’m going.

It doesn’t help that this week is the week my renters move into my other house.   I had a lady and her friend come in and really clean the  place (The previous renters hadn’t left it really dirty, but still- - - -)and I felt the need to inspect the progress, which I did, in company with the new renters (I have a check in sheet in which we, together, identify all the problems, so that I won’t be tempted to  bring any of the current problems up when they check out next year)  Again,  just walking through the house was exhausiing.   I needed to fix the flapper on one of the toilets and a ten minute job took almost two hours.  I confess that I would sell the house pretty cheaply if a buyer came along.

Janet fell this morning and scared the heck out of both of us.   She was just picking up some things off the bedroom floor when she slipped down on one knee and couldn’t get up.  I don’t know how long she was there before I heard her calling, but it was awhile.  When I got her up (which in my weakened condition was easier said than done)  She was totally exhausted.  I  took her blood pressure and it was 190 over 114.  He cardiologist would have gone nuts.   Because of her aortal dissection, he tries to keep her blood pressure low, about 105 or 10 over about forty (which makes her tired, but keeps her alive.)

Getting old is probably better than not getting old, but it is easy to get tired of it.   Hopefully things will return to normal coot complaints in the next week or so, and I will go back to writing about my youth or complaining about politicians.  (This has been the kind of political week that would make and healthy person ill.)