27 December 2007

NOT Wal-Mart, this time

No, this time it was Meijer flexing its corporate muscle in Michigan. Evidently after years of fighting with a township board to open a new Meijer store in the Traverse City area-Meijer managed to help fund a recall of the township board. Fortunately, it was a failed attempt to undermine our sacred democracy.

Who do these guys think they are? I guess when you boil it down, the same thing happened locally. A couple of fat cats, albeit local fat cats, threw their money at an election and got their way. I've decided to ban Meijer at our house now.......maybe I should hold the same standard with our local corporateers controlling my representational government!
What am I saying...........here in Indiana we throw our arms open to it. It is representational.

Terror at the Slots

Watching the news last night, you would have thought from the reporter hype that Northwest Indiana was a hot bed for terrorist activity. Evidently a man wanted in South America for terrorism (nothing linked to the U.S.) had used a fake driver's license to get into the Michigan City casino to play the slots. Thank goodness he was caught.

Now, I'm glad he was caught, but really...what's up with the hype?

I believe that when Evan Bayh began the downward gambling spiral in Indiana, some folks felt that casinos would become attractive nuisances for criminals. How right they were! And terrorists nonetheless! Maybe, ultimately, through the Daniels administration gambling will become so common place and diluted that there will no longer be criminal activity associated with it. Kinda like when Ron Paul is elected President, prostitution won't be outlawed-therefore it won't be a problem. The guy takes contributions from brothel owners and white supremacists and then calls Huckabee a fascist-well, I guess compared to Paul, Mother Theresa would be as well. I digress.

For some reason our local park department takes seniors to the boats to spend away their dough-so much for Depression era thinking. I'm not sure why......I guess it falls under "recreation". Why not Six Flags for the old folks?

We'll take Third

Finishing #3 in the country for the next great American band ain't so bad. Congrats to Denver & the Mile High Orchestra. I asked Adam Beck, trumpeter, to share in Sunday School his experience in California. He said he was not in a hurry to go back to Hollywood, that it seemed everyone was walking around trying to impress others. Not so back home. Denver & Adam, you've made your community proud! Now that Scott Skiles is out of the spot light-I guess that makes you two the most famous folks to come out of our town.

20 December 2007

Merry Christmas

Some recollections of Christmas past:

One Christmas Eve, when I was very young, our family drove into town and purchased some Christmas ornaments at the Big Blue Store. Dad said we could also each pick out a toy. At our Big Blue, you had to walk past all brands of tires to get to the rest of the merchandise. To this day, the smell of new rubber tires takes me back to that night when I was about 5.

Speaking of tires-my parents rented out our old house trailer from which we moved. My dad would buy Christmas gifts for the families who lived there, but would leave them on their steps anonymously. One year he decided the family needed new tires for their car and left them sit outside. The fellow showed dad the generous gift someone had left-which he placed in the bathtub for safe keeping. I don't think dad was happy about that.

My cousins and I thought we would be clever and give Grandpa a scare one Christmas day. We took smoke bombs, placed them in the barn loft, lit them and allowed the smoke to billow out the hay loft door. We informed Grandpa the barn was on fire.

One year I remember going to my grandparents on Christmas Eve without a flake of snow on the ground. Santa showed up to pass out gifts, with little black tufts of hair showing beneath his cap. My uncle asked "Santa, on what did your sleigh ride if there is no snow?" It marked the end of my childhood.

My great aunt called one Christmas Eve day and said she would be unable to make it to our house that night because the county roads were drifted shut. My brother and I wanted to see just how bad it was so we set out in my car. We got stuck within 200 feet of her house and had to call my dad to help get us out. It was a very silent night indeed.

Realizing I must add proof to the belief in Santa for our children, I concocted a brilliant scheme on the way home from my wife's grandparents on Christmas Eve a few years back. Outside our bedroom window I created what appeared to be reindeer tracks in the snow on the porch roof and left melted tootsie rolls in a neat pile. I told the kids on Christmas morning if Rudolph ever left a mess like that again, Santa would not be welcome at our house anymore.

From our home to yours, Merry Christmas & make some memories.......I'll be back next week.

18 December 2007

Holy Night

You know that red glow that appears on a white blanket of snow at the end of the day? Sunsets can be spectacular in any season, but it seems like some of the most colorful occur when the earth acts like a mirror; and while the earth below is cold, the fire in the sky warms the heart.

Consider for a moment what that holy night must have felt like, looked like......sounded like as the heavens were filled with voices crying out in joy.

I had a great conversation with a new friend who was asking a lot of questions about faith & God...and it seemed his most perplexing question was why.......why, if God knew that ultimately He would have to send His Son to earth........why did He create man in the first place? Divine intervention allowed me to answer. I said, I have to believe that God so desires to have a relationship with you, and I said his name, that the Sacrifice born in a manger was the only way to achieve it. Wow, where did that come from?

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

14 December 2007

last chance!

Tonight......should the votes have put them through tonight.......you have the last chance to vote to make Denver & the Mile High Orchestra (DMHO) the top American Band. If you haven't caught earlier posts-Denver Beirman and Adam Beck, lead singer and trumpeter in the band, are from our sleepy little town. Tonight on Fox you can vote them #1 in the country-9:00 EST. We receive email updates & pics from Adam regularly and it seems they are overwhelmed with the well wishes.

Best of luck guys!
attached is a pic sent by Adam with one of the Clark brothers

13 December 2007

911......cows on road

a three generation shot of Hoosier dairy farmers

That was a recent call from one of our rural county highways. Indiana.....home to the dairy farmer. I remember a cow vs. Fiero (remember those?) match on the highway several years ago. Neither cow nor car survived.

Dairy farms seem to be either phasing out operations or becoming giant cow milking sweat shops. We had some dairy farmer friends who sent their cows packing a few years back. I remember his comment was that if he ever won a million dollar lottery........he'd keep farming until the money was gone. My father-in-law grew up in the industry, but, evidently his wife put her foot down. Seemed he had the choice to be either married to the cows, or her.

Of recent concern is daylight savings time and the dairy farmer. Cows don't understand spring ahead and fall back. When it's time, it's time-and they aren't happy to wait around. Kudos to the farmers who keep the cows happy and provide me with whole milk.....none of that white water for me!

12 December 2007

Dismantling Indiana

It has been awhile since I took on any political issues, but, based on the direction it appears we are heading with the recommendations for government reform in Indiana.....I felt it was time to speak up.

Here are some key recommendations made by the blue ribbon panel to the Governor for streamlining Indiana government:

1. Getting rid of county commissioners and replacing them with one county executive
2. Having that executive appoint the county sheriff, auditor and assessor — those positions are elected now
3. Consolidating school corporations that have fewer than 2,000 students.
4. Consolidating libraries into a county-wide system.
5. Eliminating township governments altogether

Basically, while our Hoosier virtues tend to reflect Republican ideals......including local control....it appears we may be headed toward giving up local control to a consolidated, removed authority. This doesn't make any sense.......but then, inconsistency runs rampant nowadays.

1. If we replace a county commissioner board by one elected executive officer....the cost would probably be a wash and now, if you have a complaint-your representation and response will be cut by two-thirds.

2. Your single county executive appoints the sheriff, assessor and auditor.......again, removing your representation by election from the equation. Also smacks of good 'ol boy.....a scary thought especially in my county.

3. Consolidation of school corps with less than 2,000. Only one of seven school corporations in our county have over 2,000. Each community has its own identity and school pride......and again, local control of its schools.........and your going to take that away? Is this to save a few bucks (probably very few)? What about the quality of education, Mitch (smaller corps do better)? Or the value of hometown schools?

4. Consolidation of public libraries to a single county library corporation. Again, loss of control for towns who have done very well with their libraries.......the quality of which is bound to suffer and it certainly wouldn't make things cheaper.........look at the St. Joe County library system.

5. Township government elimination. Again, loss of local control........and again, won't make things cheaper. Someone will need to do the job of township assessors and trustees, so if they are consolidated under a county function additional employees will need to be hired. And those employees will not know the people of the township like local elected officials.

How unfortunate in Indiana Mitch Daniels has created an environment of knee-jerk governance that cannot be shown to benefit the state. Rather than developing the state into a place people want to live or invest financially, we seem to be rushing to initiate reform that does neither. Unless the Governor can prove that these reforms will make the Hoosier State a better place to raise a family-he ought to just leave things alone and worry about quality of life & marketing our state.

11 December 2007

big city architecture in Indiana

a detail on the outside of the Cummins office building

Columbus has a marketing line: "different by design", and if any of you have ever visited the small city in south central Indiana......you'd have to recognize something is different there. Columbus is ranked 6th in the nation for "architectural innovation and design" by the American Institute of Architects on a list that includes Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.. So how did this little bastion of architectural significance come to be?

The patron of architecture, like the Medicis of old, the Cummins Engine Foundation, offers to pay the architect's fee for a variety of public buildings such as schools, churches, etc. designed by an architect selected from a list supplied by the Foundation. World-known architects like Eero Saarinen, Harry Weese, Richard Meier, and I.M. Pei have left an impressive mark on the small city. I highly recommend a visit to Columbus. I'd recommend a summer visit though, so that you can walk the streets and parks and allow yourself to enjoy all of the public sculpture and architecture the city has to offer.

I like this statement from Columbus' web site: "No one will call a community "good," unless it looks like a "good" community. By American tradition, a good city must be defined as one which provides the "good things" for all its residents -- schools, parks, churches, civic buildings, programs that meet community needs, and events that entertain. There is a commitment in Columbus to save the best of the old and build for the future in a quality way that everyone will consider worth saving. " Would that all cities and towns take even the smallest hint from Columbus on how to "do" public art and architecture right-Indiana would be a remarkable place.

fence row in winter

Around much of grampa's farm he had installed board fence for the horses. It was fence I painted frequently; and today, I spend much of my time painting picket fence around our home. Therapeutic, I guess.

There was one stretch of board fence that ran along the north line of his property, along the truckpatch; and along this board fence he had planted red pine in the 1960's. I walked this section frequently to and from grampa's, our home and the truckstop. I found it interesting in the winter to study the wildlife that found shelter and food in the dense brush and pine.....the tracks on the snow that disappeared into little snow caves created by arching branches covered from a new snowfall.

My cousins from North Carolina would come home over Christmas and spend a few weeks at my grandparents. We had a couple of traditions. One was to set up gramma's outdoor nativity set in her front yard. well, two sets really, some pieces were missing from each, so we did the best we could, but one set was about half-scale of the other. It was a very big baby Jesus that was born to the Virgin Mary, but we made due-and would construct elaborate stables because there was plenty of bails of straw. Another tradition was to "skate" (really slide around) on the frozen swamp, just down the road from gramp's house.

But one year, we thought we'd start a new tradition and that was to cut down our own Christmas tree. The only available trees were along that board fence row. So, saw and sled in tow, a few of us set out to get the family tree. We succeeded in taking down the tree, strange-it looked more glorious in the fence row, than the house-which is probably why it didn't stay.

10 December 2007

Latest from the field

We blew-out the old bird watching record around our house this past weekend......maybe it was due to being confined by the ice and flu, at any rate-25 species seen. Not bad for living in town, a few blocks from the downtown. A friend and fellow birder wonders if it doesn't have to do with the river being close by-forming a continual habitat linking some wetlands. This could be-along with the railroad that runs through no more than a stone's throw from our feeders.

The official list:

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, F (back)
Red-Bellied Woodpecker, M, F
Downy Woodpecker, M, F
Hairy Woodpecker, F
Northern Flicker, F
White breasted Nuthatch, 2
Red breasted Nuthatch
Eastern Bluebirds, 3
Slate colored Juncos, 5
Song Sparrow
House Sparrows, 13
Goldfinch, 4
House finch, 6
Tufted titmouse, 2
Black-capped Chickadee, 2
Carolina Wren
Mourning Dove, 11
Cardinal, M, F
Blue Jay
Crow, 2
Mallard, M, F
Canadian Geese, 3
Rough-legged Hawk
Cooper's Hawk, F (flew right over our heads)
Starlings, 13 (not welcome)

and a Partridge in a Pear tree.

08 December 2007

Denver moving on!

I hope everyone had a chance to vote after Next Great Band last night. Denver and the Mile High is in the final four! Will he make it to 3? Those little kids need to go-it would be a travesty if they won! Watch next Friday and keep voting...........hometown boys making it big!

07 December 2007

Operation Skywatch

This friend and I would try to find obscure-out of the way places to visit during summer breaks from college. He suggested we find some strange tower outside of Lafayette....something that people used to stand guard at, identifying any low-flying enemy aircraft. This sounded like a strange place indeed....so we drove to Cairo, Indiana to find Delta-Lima 3 Green or the DL3-G post. A recreated tower and a monument to the men and women, and evidently children, who participated in "Operation Skywatch".

A product of the Cold War, Operation Skywatch found its roots during WWII when folks in the states would be on watch for enemy aircraft. The program evolved and in 1952 President Truman renamed and expanded it to Operation Skywatch, calling on all red blooded Americans to participate. Now, I didn't grow up with atomic bomb drills, but I always was suspicious of the Soviets.....remember them? So this did sound a bit foreign to me.

Evidently Indiana was a hot spot for guard duty. It was felt that the Soviets would fly their aircraft at low altitudes, over the north pole and across Canada and down Lake Michigan undetected, to power station targets in Tennessee. I wonder how many other of these towers existed across the Hoosier heartland? In a project I am involved in, in our tallest building downtown that served as a Lodge, I found records of airplane activity and aircraft identification charts.........appeared to date to the early 1950's. Maybe the Lodge's members participated in Operation Skywatch from the roof of the three-story building? Cool.

05 December 2007

we called it spookin'

My friends and I had this past time in highschool-being that there's not much to do for country kids-it was certainly illegal, but we were never destructive. We called it "spookin'". All you needed was a truck, a creepy abandoned house or school, and a little bit of courage. We would identify creepy old places in the country and take tours of them late at night. Probably a stupid thing to do, but it was how we passed time on Friday nights.

Our favorite place was this giant, leaning victorian house that was once connected to a brewery. Left furnished, with pictures still on the walls and books on shelves.........we made up terrific stories about what must have happened to the owners and why it was left to rot. Unfortunately, the old place is gone now. Still, great memories.

And no, before you ask, I wouldn't want my kids doing this.

waking up to snow!

This is why I love Indiana. 6" on the ground this morning......welcome winter! There's just something about waking up to a fresh snowfall that hangs on the trees and fences.

03 December 2007

busy bird weekend

We log the different species of birds we see each weekend, and I'm not sure if it was because of the small snow/ice storm that landed on Saturday-but we logged in 20 different species-tying a record from May, 2006. I'm careful not to count the same birds twice, we count based on how many we see at a single time, or if the difference between the males and females is obvious. We also confine our counting to what we see from our home, or within two blocks to the river.
So for you other birders out there........here's our list:
House Finch 3, House Sparrow 13, Goldfinch 4, Bluebirds 3M 2F, Red Breasted Nuthatch 2, Slate Colored Juncos 4, White Breasted Nuthatch 2, Crow 2, Black Capped Chickadee 2, Blue Jay 2, Hairy Woodpecker 1F, Downy Woodpecker 1F 1M, Cardinals 3F 2M, Canadian Geese 5, Mallards 3, Tufted Titmouse 2, Red Bellied Woodpecker 1M 1F, Carolina Wren 1, Mourning Dove 1, Pigeons 3. But no Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, not this time, but I did attach the picture of the sighting.

tree hunting at Lowes

Yes, that's right, you read the headline correctly. We went to Lowes for our Christmas tree-or Holiday tree-I can't remember what they call it now. At least we didn't go to WalMart.

the picture on the right is from more authentic times

In my defense, my brother's family sent word that the place our family has gotten our tree my entire life had closed. There's been a time or two when we would go to a different place to cut down a real tree.........but it was nearly always Klotz's-way out there in the country, down the bumpy county road, over the creek and past my great grandparent's place. Yes, those were the good 'ol days, walking through the snow until your fingers and nose were numb-trying to find that perfect tree.

Well, there was no numb fingers or nose this season. We found the first tree-which was almost purchased until my son noted the crown was broken-my grandparent's star wouldn't stay on that. So, we found another, put it on a big cart, pushed it past home and garden supplies, past door and cabinet hardware, past paint supplies, then finally past lighting to check-out. The clerk scanned the tag and wished us a Merry Christmas.

Something just didn't seem right about all this. I think we'll be looking for a new Christmas tree farm for next year. But none of those commercialized places-that's not quite right either.