Saturday, October 31, 2009

A political earthquake.....

I know, I know, I pay way too much attention to politics. Case in point; the Republican candidate in the upcoming New York 23rd Congressional election, Dede Scozzafava, has dropped out of the race, leaving the late-entering Conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman with a clear path to win the vacant seat.

Scozzafava, who in most other areas of the country would be considered a Democrat, was the choice of the local county Republican committee, after four internal ballots put her on the ticket as the GOP candidate for Congress. The local ranks of Republicans were outraged with the choice and decided to back Hoffman under the Conservative party banner. After the three-way race with Democrat Bill Owens tightened to the point where Hoffman was out polling Scozzafava, she decided she could not compete with the flood of cash coming into the race from Republicans across the country backing Hoffman.

I commend for getting out of the way, but her career in the GOP would have been over if she had stayed in and allowed a Democrat to win a seat that should go Republican. With Scozzafava's pro-card check, pro-union and pro-choice views, I would be willing to bet money that she will be back in NY politics soon, but maybe as a Democratic.

Newt and the GOP insiders were tone deaf in this race and the early backing of the RHINO Scozzafava should be a warning to leaders in the Republican party. The people will not blindly follow whoever the GOP sends up as a candidate. The candidates had better have the right ideas, not just an "R" behind their name....

Friday, October 30, 2009

Esparto Homecoming

The Spartans (from Esparto) played a great game. You could just see that with a four-man bench, the boys ran out of gas in the second half. Here are some highlights....

Aaron Rome going vertical, unfortunately in high school football, this is a penalty.

Here is Roman Reyes putting the Esparto boys up by 6 in the first quarter.

And it wouldn't be a football game unless you have the cheerleaders.....

That is it for the EHS home games. Kind of like a Cubs fans, there's always next year. Now I have to get ready for basketball season. Say a prayer tonight for the East Nicolaus player injured in the fourth quarter, looks like a few months in a leg cast for him.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dirty Jobs and other worthwhile endeavors

While walking through campus last week, I was swallowed up in a sea of students making their way from one class to the next. In this flood of young faces, you could imagine that many of these students will go on to become very successful. Likewise, it was not terribly hard to imagine that more than a few were just wasting their parent’s money or piling up a mountain on student loans with not a lot to show for it. Knowing a few students who have just graduated from UC Davis, as well as my wife who is an Aggie alum, I understand the hard work that goes into earning that diploma.

It does make me wonder how many of these successful young adults could actually survive a week of hard labor. Not a week behind the counter at Subway or Starbucks, but a week with a landscaping crew, a plumbing contractor, or working on a farm. Not that I am playing a game of class warfare, pitting blue collar workers against their white collar counterparts, I am simply wondering if people today understand the value of hard work.

If you ever wonder why I started working in the communications field, it was a direct result of my previous employment in the concrete cutting and breaking industry. I guess you could call me a hypocrite, but at age 30, I was standing on a scaffold, in the rain, operating a concrete saw thinking that there had to be an easier way to make a living. Fortunately, I found one. Whenever I start thinking that I have had a particularly tough day at work, I just remember those 12-hour days loading chunks of broken concrete into a wheelbarrow. My "tough day" seems to melt away with a little perspective.

It seems with all the technological advancements we have in our modern world, we still have not found a way to replace every hard or dirty job in America. That I think, is not such a bad thing. There is a feeling you get at the end of a long day, with your shirt soaked through and your boots covered in dust, which some people will never experience. That is a shame.

I worry sometimes that we are raising a generation who could not plant a tree from a one-gallon container without watching a YouTube video on the proper procedures, buying a new pair of gloves, kneepads, and a fiberglass handled shovel from Home Depot. Are we becoming a nation of people who have to call a plumber when the toilet backs up? Maybe there is a YouTube video for that too.

I guess not everyone has the everyday skills our parents had; maybe that is a good thing, maybe not. I guess if you make enough money, all the skill you need is the ability to find a handyman and write a check. That is a handy skill to have, if your bank account can back it up.

Having been raised on a cattle ranch I spent my youth chasing cows, stacking truckloads of hay and building fences, pipelines and barns. Doing these dirty jobs as a kid was wonderful experience when I went out into the world. Can you operate a backhoe? Yes. Can you drive a dump truck? Yes. Can you weld and run a cutting torch? You bet.

Many of you who grew up in the city had different experiences, and while you probably never had your arms inside a cow's private parts trying to pull a calf, I'll bet you have stories of helping your father re-roof or paint your house, or some other dirty job that you remember fondly. Well, you remember it fondly now, at the time I will bet your feelings were a bit different.

Being able to complete a hard task is a good thing, and I believe it may be something you just can't replace with success or income. I guess the more you earn, the less hard work you have to do, but there is that special feeling you get after you finish a hard job. If you have never experienced that good night's sleep after a long, hard day, you just won't understand.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Just because you can....

I am probably going to step on some toes here, but I would rather take some heat for putting my nose in your business than writing a flowery memorial service for a teenager.

You have to keep your kids from drinking. Even if they hate you for it.

Yea, I did it when I was a teenager, and I am damned lucky to be alive. You probably did it too, and you might say, so what, kids are going to drink anyway, you can't stop them. Well, maybe that's true, but if you condone or enable underage drinking, you are making a terrible mistake.

This issue came to everyone's attention at Esparto High School in the past few weeks and I do not want to stir that pot or even address that particular situation. The point I am trying to make is that teenagers are more than capable of making terrible decisions all by themselves, and adding alcohol to the equation increases the chance of a poor decision becoming a life altering or life-ending decision by a factor of ten.

If you have been around alcohol for any length of time, you have seen people, adults, make terrible decisions and do stupid things. If you were out with me in my younger years, you would have seen me make some stupid decisions. I also did some things that I am ashamed of to this day. The fact that I am here, and not dead or in jail does not mean that it was okay; it just means that I rolled the dice and my number did not come up. Others I have known have not been as fortunate.

I remember a couple who were three years ahead of me in high school. They were involved in a drunk driving accident where he was killed and she was paralyzed. She ended up graduating from a wheelchair with my class after the accident. I also remember the group of Woodland High kids who were involved in a graduation week accident at "second beach" out in Knights Landing. This is not a "valley problem" or a Yolo County problem, it touches every area, every race, every economic class, it touches everyone.

People aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. That is shocking, at least it should be. The younger kids are when they start drinking, the more likely they are to binge drink. Now that is truly frightening.

I remember my parents allowing me to drink in high school, and I thought at the time I could handle it. I was young, strong, bullet proof, and nothing bad would happen to me. Boy was I wrong. As my son has grown older and faces these decisions, I make sure he knows where I stand. I have told him on more than one occasion that if I lived my high school years over ten times, I would surely die in six of them. If just one of the thousands of decisions I made in high school went the other way, I would be dead or crippled or worse, I would have killed or injured someone else. I shudder just thinking about living with the knowledge that my mistake, my stupidity changed or took another person's life.

That is what we are talking about here, life and death. It's not that you allow your kids to have a beer when they are at home. It's the fact that by doing so, you tell them it is okay for them to drink. I don't care if you threaten them with a beating if you ever catch them drinking at a party, or getting behind the wheel after they have been drinking. The point is, you are telling them that drinking is okay under the right conditions, and for teenagers, it is not okay. You are also teaching them that you have to have a cooler of beer in order to have a good time. That is a lesson they take with them into adulthood; it's a lesson you don't want to teach them.

High school kids may have adults sized bodies, but their decision-making abilities are just not there yet. One drink leads to two, two drinks to three and so on. People do things under the influence of alcohol that they would never do sober. I am talking about boys and girls here. It may not be a car accident that changes their life, it might be giving in to teenage urges and teenage hormones, it may be giving in to the peer pressure of drugs, it could be a thousand things that they would never do when sober. A terrible decision once made, is made. There is not reset button.

But you say, it's only beer, or I only let them drink when I am here to watch them, or its better that they drink here than somewhere else. Talk to a parent who has lost a child as result of underage drinking. I'm sure they would say do everything you can to keep your kids from drinking. Even if it means that you are the bad guy, or you have to give up being your kid's friend. You are the parent, even if you are not the best role model when it comes to alcohol, give your children the chance to grow up and make their own choices, as adults.

If you say it's none of my business, you can tell me to get lost. But I do not want to see one of my friends lose a child, or start that child down a path towards alcoholism. Being a kid is tough enough as it is. Let them grow up.

Monday, October 19, 2009


All things are well at Casa de' Cowboy. Almost. My son seems to back to normal, or at least normal from him, but my wife and daughter came down with the bacon flu while I was hunting. I am trying to wash my hands often and have not kissed my wife since my return. Yea, I know, lucky for her.....

Thanks for all the prayers and support for my son and our family.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

1,000 miles and just down the street

Having just returned from my long awaited hunting trip/vacation to visit my family in north Idaho, I am drawn to the similarities between our two small towns. Although Bonners Ferry is a bit larger than Esparto, driving down the main street of Bonners is like driving through any small town in Yolo County, or America for that matter.

Esparto has our local eateries like the Burger Barn, Hog Canyon Deli and Los Tios, Bonners Ferry has the Badgers Den, the Chic-N-Chop and the Friday night all you can eat fish fry at the Three Mile Cafe. The vehicles you see in town are very similar, with the exception there are more white Chevy trucks than white Ford trucks in Bonners. I guess farmers like Fords and loggers like Chevys, or they need a Ford dealer in Bonners, or both.

Having traveled to quite a few small towns in my time, one can meet the people, look at the places and the scenery but never really connect, because you are an outsider. This trip was a little different, not only did I have my mom and sister to show me around, I had a guide, a local.

My sister's fried Roy is the very definition of a local. Roy knows everyone, and everyone knows Roy. Even though my family has been in the Bonners area for almost 15 years, they are transplants, Californian transplants. They get along fine up there, but not everyone does.

As you can imagine, there is quite a stigma attached to folks who move up to Idaho from the golden state, and with good reason. Californians looking to "get away" from the rat race, escape to small towns in other states only to find the simple life found in places like Bonners is just a little too simple for them. They want to have all the conveniences, amenities, and culture they are accustom to, in a town of 2,000 people.

The local population is not very interested in how things work back where you came from, in fact they would rather you keep your ideas to yourself. If things were so great back there, why did you move up here? Small town people have an independent streak in them. They are slow to embrace change; in fact they want nothing more than to be left alone. This is true in almost every small town in this nation.

Not every small town longs to be just like Davis, California or Madison, Wisconsin. They really don't care if you have a PhD in city planning and want the city to revamp the downtown for better flow. They would just like you to go back to your custom built home and learn how to shovel the snow off your roof so you quit calling your neighbor for help every time it snows. We got along just fine before you folks moved up here, thank you very much.

As I said, I was fortunate to have a hometown guy showing me around so I was not too worried about being pegged as a Californian. I tried my best not to say Dude, and I was wearing my Carhartt jacket and Wranglers along with my hunting boots. I even bought a package of Red Man chewing tobacco. My north Idaho camouflage was complete.

Together, Roy and I ran errands in town and like most small towns, you couldn’t swing a dead cat around without hitting someone Roy knew. I think I met at least 10% of the greater Bonners Ferry population. At Far North, the local sporting goods/gun store, I met Chris and the gang. On Wednesday evening, my sister Lisa and Roy took me to Mountain Springs Church. It was a very nice service and I met some of my sister's friends. She loves introducing me as her "baby brother", but she did cut my hair while I was there, so I was on my best behavior.

On Friday night after the fish fry at Three Mile Cafe, we all went to the homecoming football game. The weather had warmed up from the teens to the mid 50s and although it was chilly, we all stayed warm in the stands as the Bonners Ferry Badgers beat the team from Kellogg. The football game was very similar to a game at Esparto, only colder. The kids from the high school look just like the kids at any high school in our area. Sure, there are many kids in Carhartt coats and blue jeans, but there are many wearing Famous Stars or DC shirts and hats with skinny jeans and even a few Goth kids. I guess if you have MTV in your town, that sets the fashion, and everyone from Malibu to Montana dresses the same.

I came home this weekend to temperatures in the 70s and my wife and daughter just getting over the flu. I was glad to be home, but I was also a little saddened because I had such a great time with my mother and sister and my new friend Roy. I hope to be back next year for hunting season and to see the family again.

By the way, before you start looking at real estate ads, Roy said to make sure I tell everyone that the hunting stinks, the town is full of backwards rednecks, and it snows every day from August to May. You really would not like it…..

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The battles you fight on your knees

Anyone with children would probably agree, having a seriously ill child is one of the hardest things we have to deal with as parents. I cannot even begin to understand how the loss of a child would tear you up inside.

Experiencing a medical crisis of your own is hard enough. The thoughts of what would happen to your family if you were suddenly gone from the picture, the idea of your children not having both parents to help raise them, it is very sobering stuff. When it’s your child who is sick, the feeling of helplessness seems to overwhelm all others.

A while back I wrote about lines in the sands of time, and how there will always be another one of those days lurking out there, waiting. My advice was to live for today, let those around you know how much they mean to you. I think that advice is still sound. One thing I would add is to be thankful for the ordinary days. Those ordinary days are so easy to overlook. It's just Thursday, it's not my birthday, there is nothing important on my day planner, I am going to work, the kids are going to school, it's just Thursday.

Our son has been feeling pretty bad for two weeks now and we have been back and forth to the doctor a few times trying to find out what is making him so tired. Last Thursday my wife and I were told about a one centimeter "shadow" on our son's CT scan. It ceased to be just another Thursday right then. A million questions went through our minds; a thousand scenarios went through our minds as well, not many of them pleasant. It would have been easy to give in to those fears and allow them to take over the next few days, and I admit that they were always in the back of my mind, but I tried to stay in the moment. As we scheduled a follow up MRI for Monday, the uncertainty of our son's situation was the hardest part to deal with.

I can't imagine going through times like these without my faith. These are the battles that are better fought on your knees.

In the past I had used God like a 911 call. Hello Jesus, come quick, I'm in trouble. Then I would start to play “Let's make a deal” with God.

God, if you get me out of this, I will do whatever you ask. At that particular point in time, I meant it. If God would have faxed down a contract, I would have signed it. However, when the situation improved a bit, I would start to renegotiate the contract. Lord, I know that I said I would go to Borneo to do mission work, but my kids are in school, and I just got raise at work. I'll do what you want me to do later, okay?

While I still might make this plea today, having a deeper, stronger relationship with God helped me in ways I didn't understand, until now.

The one thing that kept going through my mind during those long days was a passage from the book of Psalms. "Be still and know that I am God." The knowledge that whatever happens, good or bad, God would still be there and He would still love me and my son was a great comfort. I don't know how I would have made it though without it.

One of the goals I had for this year was to take the family to Yosemite and for my son and I to go see a baseball game. We are now two for two. This past Saturday a large group of friends from the valley went to the last home stand of the Oakland A's. My son, who was still feeling very tired, said he was up to it and we spent a wonderful day tailgating and then sitting in the warm sunshine of the left field bleachers. The shadow on his CT scan was far from my mind most of the day.

Be still and know that I am God.

Some of my friends knew about our situation and we spent the better part of Monday emailing and taking calls from friends and family waiting for the results of the MRI. I did not tell many people because we didn't know anything, and I didn't want to have everyone worrying all weekend, sorry mom. We received the news late Monday that the MRI was negative. The relief we experienced was palpable. It was as if a large weight was taken of our chests ad we could take a deep breath again.

We are still awaiting more tests and so our relief is tempered, but as before, we will pull together and get through this. I know one thing, if we ever get back to that place where I start to think the days are ordinary; I hope someone will remind me that every day is a gift from God. It is up to each one of us to make it something special.