Monday, February 28, 2011

I Got Flashed!

In our single-digit years, Brian and I were together daily. Each of our fathers had farm shops where they worked on machinery. We watched them weld many times while repairing equipment. We were cautioned not to look directly at the arc as the brilliant light would damage our eyes. Since we had caught glimpses of the flash in the past with no resulting damage, we thought the warnings were a little overdone.

             I might add here that the damage to eyes from welding is greatly multiplied if the welding is done at night or in a dark atmosphere. The pupils are dilated and allow much more of the damaging welding flash into the eye. This was a fact that I gradually learned over the years through multiple sessions of eye-broiling experiences.

One Saturday evening, Brian and I decided to try our hand at welding. We were 9 or 10 years old and alone in a welder-equipped shed. The shop had only one welding helmet. We were at my dad’s shop that particular night and I remember that we would trade the helmet periodically. We found that welding was actually quite simple. Turn the welder on, hook up the ground clamp to make a connection to whatever you wanted to weld and then stick the welding lead and rod next to the metal. A tremendous bright arc with a dangerous sounding buzz would occur and the metal joints would be welded together. This was pretty exciting stuff for two little boys. We were doing a man’s job without having so much as a minute’s worth of instruction from an adult.

The only problem was that one of us got his eyes fried. In this instance, it was Brian. The pain that accompanies welding flash does not occur immediately. It usually waits until one is tucked comfortably into bed, enjoys a couple hours of sleep and then... BANGO! The eyes pop open like an infected sore, screaming for relief. Tears flow to the little boy's pupils but they immediately turn to steam  from the super-heated eyeballs.

The victim wakes up with what feels to be a gunny-sack full of grainy, nasty sand in both eyes. For those who have not had the unique pleasure of the welder's flash experience, you are missing out! It is a most memorable experience, an absolute killer! There is nothing that can be done to stop the pain. If the victim gets up and turns the light on, the dreadful discomfort multiplies. 

The next morning was Sunday morning church meetings at the elementary school in Mesa. When I saw Brian, I immediately burst into laughter. He looked strange and out-of-place. He was wearing dark sunglasses, looking similar to a very young Tom Cruise on a Risky Business poster although in real life, Tom Cruise hadn't been born yet. I had never seen anyone wear dark sunglasses to church, especially a grade-schooler. At first, I thought he was trying to impress the pre-teen girls at church and I didn't have much empathy for him and maybe even a little jealousy.

He was a beginner-welder and not a happy camper. His eyes were killing him. He had been up all night with excruciating pain. He looked like he was trying to be a Hollywood movie star with the shades pulled down. I thought it was hilarious, only because I had not yet tasted the fruit of that particular malady. I must have not caught the rays of the evening before but I got my share many times after. 

Not long after this, since I had escaped the pain initially, I did a little welding on my own. As a beginner, it takes some practice to get the arc started and keep it going so one can weld. The old welding helmets contained a lens of very dark glass which makes it impossible to see where you are welding until you get the arc started. Since it was hard to see where the rod was through the lens, the problem was solved by popping the helmet up and watching the location of the rod as I navigated it toward the desired and as yet unwelded parts.

           The resulting flash would blind you for a few moments but there was no pain involved. You had to wait for the sun-like illumination to fade away for 20 seconds or so until you could see again. Then, you would strike another flash and wait another 20 seconds. It never hurt at the time but like a stealthy snake, it would strike with a vengeance with a fang in each pupil around the midnight hour.

Sure enough, I woke up with big piles of imaginary but painful sand in my eyes. I went in crying and told my folks what had happened. They scolded me for using the welder and sent me back to bed. It was one of the most miserable nights of my life to that point. Very, very painful.

The next morning, mom called the eye doctor and took me to town. Even though there was school that day, there was no way I could go. I was looking for pain relief, not book learnin'. I couldn’t stand to open either eye. She had to lead me wherever I walked. 
I was in sixth grade at the time. When mom led me into the doctor’s office, I soon learned from her that a girl in my class was also in the office. In the past, I considered this girl to be eye candy but had no interest in checking her out on this particular day.

Her reason for attendance at the eye doctor clinic was not nearly as glamorous as mine. She didn’t have welder’s flash, she was simply there for an eye exam. She happened to be my current crush at the time. I remember feeling a bit excited that she was there to view my suffering but I was much more excited about being immersed with the doctor's eye-drops.

The doc gave me medicine and some dark plastic glasses but it didn’t help. I suffered through the day. Many times since then I’ve gotten flashed, even as an adult. Often, the eyes take the brunt of the welder’s work. It's just part of the job, especially if one is as careless and prone-to-forget the ramifications of welder's flash as I seem to be.

I have since found that cutting a potato in half and pressing the cool white flesh of the spud tightly against each eye-socket does have some healing properties. I have also learned that when your eyes are burning, smacking a ball-peen hammer to the upper back part of your own head takes a little pain-attention away from the eyeballs. Your eyes may be closed but you can still see brilliant, bright and beautiful falling stars for a minute, even longer if it's a particularly hard hit.

These kind of remedies can be quite helpful and don't cost nearly as much as a doctor's visit.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Pond, The Problem, The Solution

                 Life for me as a kid almost ended in death. More than once. When I was 5 or 6, my dad had an irrigation pond on one of our farms. This was in about 1960 when farms were just getting developed and there weren’t many people out in the “blocks.” (The blocks were large areas of land containing future farms mapped out for identification purposes.)
The farmers who were there didn’t have much. A few had ponds, a reservoir for the irrigation pump to draw from. Farmers with ponds were the envy of the sparse neighborhood. Even though we were poor, we had a pond!

This is the exact pond I'm talking about. Except it is a quarter mile north of the spot of where the original pond was. Since I took this picture in the winter when the pond is dry, I had to photo-shop the water into it. And in the summertime, there aren't the tumbleweeds around it like in this pic. Other than those minor details, it's the same pond.

The kids in the area considered this dirty, algae-filled pollywog-infested pond a great luxury in the summertime. Most of them were older than I so it generated great excitement one hot afternoon when my dad dropped my sister and I off at the pond while he went back to work on the farm. I remember neighbors like the Cooks and the Goodsels were there with a few others; most were several years older than I.
My buddy Brian was my same age. He could swim like a fish. I couldn’t swim or even dog paddle. Most of the Cooks, including Brian, appeared to me to be Olympic-caliber swimmers. They even had webbed toes grown together for better water traction. Built-in flippers. That’s the truth! The flippers were natural, they came straight from the maternity ward like that. Brian was such a good swimmer that I sometimes suspected he had gills behind his ears.
Everyone was in the water or lounging around on the dirt sides of the bank. Brian took off swimming and I felt I just had to be out there with him, in case he got in trouble. Actually, I just didn't like feeling left out.

I found a wooden fence post lying nearby. I pulled it into the water, lay on my stomach on the top of it and paddled out in the middle of the pond. I enjoyed the newfound sensation of floating out there with the big boys. There was no realization of the danger involved. I don't remember being aware that the possibility of drowning even existed.
All of a sudden, the laws of physics kicked in. The heavy weight (me) on the top of the log met up with factors of gravity, weight and balance and the post rolled over. Instead of the continued enjoyment of basking on the top layer of the warm water and the bottom layer of the warmer sunshine, I encountered my first brush with the Grim Reaper. My enabler and makeshift flotation device, the post, was holding me under water. I was like a wrestler on his back with no clue how to keep from getting pinned.
This was a whole new experience for me. A half a century later, I can still hear the quiet yet deafening sound of the drowning water and see the light green hue of the underwater tomb. I didn’t know what to do. I let go of the log and hung suspended underwater in the middle of the pond. All of a sudden, I knew I was dead or at least in big trouble.
I had no idea how to swim and therefore had no options from which to choose. I was stuck. The only thing I could think of to do was pray and so I did. Thank goodness my parents were churchgoers and took me along for the ride! Immediately, inspiration came and not a moment too soon. The idea came to me I should push the water up with my hands, which would propel me to the bottom. I did this and soon was standing in mud about 8 feet underwater. My lungs were starting to hurt. I kept pumping with my arms to keep my feet on the bottom while slowly and carefully walking out of the pond.

It was a miracle that I knew which way to walk in order to reach the slope of the bank. I remember that I had to turn 180 degrees around to begin walking up the closest bank. I consider the  whole incident watched over by divine providence.
By the time the glorious air was reached above the water, I was about to burst. I was close to blacking out. A few seconds more and it would have all been over. If I hadn’t have been able to hold my breath as long as I did or if I hadn’t been inspired by the good Spirit to do exactly as I did and in that tight time frame, I would have drowned with no one on top the wiser. I lay on the bank for a long time after that just gasping for air and feeling very lucky.
I lay on the bank soaking in the sunlight and being so grateful for air and inspiration.
Many times in my life a Higher Power has watched over me. For me, this experience was a powerful witness that God does answer prayers. Sometimes immediately, sometimes in due time, always largely dependent on our faith .

If left on my own, there would have been a waterlogged corpse for dad to haul back home to mom on this particular summer day. I had been in big trouble. If not for divine intervention keeping me safe, he would have been in big trouble with mom. I believe that not only was my terror-inspired prayer was answered but at the same time the constant daily prayers offered by my good parents.
No one at the pond had missed me but I know that I was not alone under the water.

A year or two after my pond experience

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Look, Ma, No Hands!

At age 11, I wanted a gun. Real bad. I knew a real gun was out of the question with the folks. However, I felt I was ready to move up from the sidearm I was packing at the time which was a little green squirt gun. I weighed the possibilities and settled on a BB gun. My folks were struggling financially so I could see it was all up to me if I was going to get an upgrade. Thumbing through a Boy’s Life magazine one day, I saw an ad informing me that I could gain ownership of a BB gun if I would just sell some Christmas cards. 

What a deal! I ordered their sample pack and waited. Eventually I got the sample cards and order forms. I headed out on my bicycle cruising dusty gravel roads on a hot August day to remind my neighbors that Christmas was just around the corner. My neighbors were broke, few and far between but most were kind enough to listen to my spiel and a few even placed orders. 

      I ended up about 4 miles from home and made my last sale. I turned around and headed back. Besides being an excellent shot with my squirt gun, I had also honed my skills as a bicyclist. As I pedaled home, I found it easier to ride with no hands since I was not only packing my squirt gun (to provide for protection against anyone after my Christmas card monies) but also sales boxes, sample Christmas Cards and order forms. 

Having both hands and arms available to carry everything was helpful and doable since I considered myself a master at riding with no hands on deck.  Soon I was rolling with no-hands down a steep hill on a gravel road with my display items wrapped in both arms.  

Another “no hands on the handlebars” benefit that soon manifested itself was two girls a little younger than I,  who were watching me race down the gravel slope. They were standing at the end of their driveway at the edge of the road, halfway down the hill. I recognized that this was a perfect opportunity to show these young female acquaintances what a great bike rider I was along with my important position as a salesman, complete with all the sales tools I had in my arms. 

I was insane. Instead of putting one of my upper extremities back on the handlebars and conservatively and safely coasting down the grade, I threw caution out the window and reveled in the thought that I would really impress these blonds. I started pedaling as fast as I could. Even though it was a one-speed Schwinn, I had it cranked up to a good 25 mph, faster than any human has ever ran. Whizzing by the girls, I basked in the proud thought that they had probably never seen anyone ride down this hill at this speed, especially in the no-hands mode!

Just like me (without the Christmas cards and blonds)

 All of a sudden, the handlebars started shaking. As soon as the handlebars began their dance, I got a strong premonition that the next few minutes were going to be very painful. 

My mind quickly lost all the warm and fuzzy thoughts of the female adoration I had just been enjoying and began focusing on just trying to stay alive. I couldn’t do anything about the bike's theatrics as my hands were wrapped around the boxes of cards instead of the handlebars. The shaking got worse and in a few seconds, the front wheel made a 90-degree turn on its own which made for a very effective brake. The bikes' front tire dug a rut in the gravel for about 4 inches and then stopped. My cards and I reached the ejection stage right at that point and shot headfirst over the bike. 

On our way over, my left thigh hit the handlebar. I bent the steel bar and continued flying downhill on final approach until I touched down on all four landing gear, well, more like crashed on my hands and knees. I didn’t immediately stop but continued skidding down the hill with skin grinding on gravel before I slid to a halt. All four contact points were scraped and full of dirt and sharp little rocks. Blood was flowing and my thigh was killing me. I wanted to lie down on the hot, sun-baked road and die. 

Instead, the girls were watching so I had to do the manly thing. I postponed crying for my mommy and compensated by moaning and groaning under my breath. I got to my feet and hobbled around gathering up my Christmas samples. I clutched them to my thumping chest with one hand, caught a glance of the girls who were enthralled by my spectacle, and crawled on the bike to continue the trip home. 

              It was murder. I couldn't help but whimper. My left leg didn’t work. I had to push down on the right pedal with my good leg, hook my foot under the bottom of the pedal and pull it back up. This was how I covered the remaining 4 miles home on that hot, pain-filled day. I could only hold on to the handlebar with one bloody hand which cut my leverage/ power ratio significantly. My thigh had done a number on my handlebar, it was noticeably bent. I moaned every foot of the way. 

              I realized then that sales work is harder than it looks.

            My mom took me to the doctor the next day. He said I was not to do any exercises or running for a few months. I had a big blood clot on the thigh and he said it would calcify and leave a big, hard bump if I exercised that leg. A few years later, I would do even more major damage to that same thigh and femur, also while riding a bike. The injuries weren't related but the brilliant thinking was.

Call me if you need Christmas cards. I'll bike right over for the order.

            I did sell enough Christmas cards that I won a BB gun. One night I stayed over at my friend Scot’s place. We were bored so we went outside after dark and decided to have a BB gun fight. We were not thinking straight that night. 

We hid behind farm equipment in his dad’s yard and started shooting. This was long before paintball games and we wore no protective equipment. The BB’s were plinking and whizzing all around us. Periodically, one of us would score a direct hit and the other would scream in pain. It’s a wonder that an eye didn’t get put out. 
            Another night a few years later found us hiking down and setting up camp at the WA State Fish Hatchery at Ringold by the Columbia River. The next morning we grabbed our poles and walked over to the large hatchery pond. We threw our lines out and hundreds of fish started fighting over who could swallow our hooks first. We pulled fish out at will. 
            This fun frenzy went on for a few minutes until we heard a vehicle coming. We started running for cover but realized we were caught red-handed. The local game warden was patrolling in his pickup and watched us as we loped off the pond bank. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we didn’t have his fish hooked and swinging at the end of both our lines.    
             Amazingly, he let us go. He must have known we were local boys and a few missing fish weren’t going to hurt the hatchery output. These days, I’m sure we would have been charged with numerous state and federal felony offenses.  Our poles would have been confiscated and we would probably have been sent to Guantanamo Bay. It’s a given that we would not have enjoyed fish for lunch like we did back then. I can't remember if the game warden ate with us or not.
             Another evening after school when we were in 5th or 6th grade, one of my buddies asked if he could hold my BB gun. I gave it to him, he cocked it, aimed it back at me and told me to stand up against the back of my dad’s shed. He said he was going to shoot me if I didn’t. I did as instructed and yet several times he shot me, quickly recocking and forcing me to stay where I was. He thought it was great fun, holding me at bay and aiming at my zipper. It was a miserable experience, getting shot with my own gun, bought with the hard labor of Christmas card sales, especially if you throw in the bike wreck.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Early memories

                Good morning! It’s a nice bright sunny morning and 4:00. Ok, so it’s not so sunny. In an earlier post I talked about the early memories I have of life on the farm. I’ll share a few more. Please note the following for all future posts:
               At times I will joke and grouse about the efficiency and other characteristics of government employees. I am only joking. Absolutely none of my comments are founded in truth. I’m just speaking from past experience and I’m sure by now all the dead wood has been culled from the pile. To be honest, I know there are many hard working and well-intentioned folks working for the Man. So just take my comments as light-hearted jesting and nothing more. Maybe I’m just jealous I never made money off the government. To be honest, I just don’t have the mentality to take orders and not think.

               Also, I have had a lot of deals go south on me in the past. The unpaid bills I have been left with add up to around a million bucks. From time to time I may relate some of these experiences from my point of view because they were big deals at the time. 

               Some readers may think I am bitter. I am not. I may have been at times but I’m over the bad feelings and am just sharing the experience. Hopefully others will learn not to be quite as trusting and bone-headed as I. I know forgiveness is a most important attribute and even though I'm poor as dirt now, I sincerely hope the best for all who have prospered from my trusting transactions.

I wrote in an earlier post the beginnings of my family's life in the Columbia Basin. I'll share a few memories of those early years...

The only help dad had the first few years of farming was mom and I. Mom would often drive a tractor while cultivating or working ground and performing many other “man-jobs” around the farm. They worked from early morning until late at night. The two of them did the work of 3 or 4 regular individuals or 15 or 20 government workers. See, I can't help myself!

This was the early days of farming in the Columbia Basin with virtually no automation or comforts of home. Many settlers who came with far more resources than my folks had gave up after a year or less. Scorching sun, blasting wind, massive requirements of long and hard labor, few neighbors in the isolated desert, no infrastructure and rudimentary housing were but a few of the daily pressures on these farms. Some of our neighbors lived in tents. It was a hard life. 

Dad’s second farm (which I now own) consisted of around 100 acres of blow sand. He planted it into hay, which required harvesting 4 or 5 times a year. We had an old mowing machine, which had a long, moving serrated knife sticking out 6 or 8 feet behind the tractor on one side. The knife cut and laid the hay down. It was also hard on the legs of pheasants that hesitated a moment too long. (Nowadays, a swather is the farmer’s weapon of choice. The swather does triple duty. It cuts the hay and runs it through a conditioner, which smashes the hay stems allowing the hay to dry much quicker. Finally, as the newly cut hay exits the swather, it gets channeled into a windrow. Back then, the farmer dropped the hay and then came back several times to rake it into windrows and turn it so it could dry. Finally, after a much longer period of drying than is needed these days with the swather conditioners, the hay would get baled.

When I was 3 (1958), my motor vehicle driving career began. Mom heard the tractor start up one day. She figured it was my dad going out to work ground but after looking outside, decided she had an emergency on her hands. This would not be the last time she had an emergency on her hands when I drove.

I had started the tractor and after pushing the throttle as far forward as it would go, I sat on the seat and yelled: “I go to Ken Benson’s! I go to Ken Benson’s!” Ken was our one and only neighbor at that time and I guess I felt like he might be getting lonely. Luckily, I had pushed the throttle forward and not the clutch; otherwise, I might have gone and seen Ken Benson. She killed the tractor and probably wanted to kill me.

In the summer of my 4th year, my dad needed a driver for his truck so he could stack bales of hay on the back of it. Mom had her hands full with my three younger siblings, all under the age of 3, no running water or bathroom and stuck out in the middle of a dust bowl. Dad had just a couple of pieces of land at that time. One was a field full of hay bales with no one but my dad and I to bring them in. 

We had an old 2-ton Chevy flatbed truck and a ground-driven circular bale elevator that could be hooked to the side of the truck. As the truck motored forward, the elevator would hoist the bales up the side of the truck so a person standing on the truck bed or stacked hay could retrieve and stack the 110 lb. bales of hay. 

Still fresh in my mind is the day I first operated a motor vehicle. We drove a mile down to the field filled with hay bales my dad had just baled. Dad put me in the driver’s seat. I stood 3 or 3 ½ ft tall. There was no way I could reach the pedals so I knelt on the seat and peered over the dash to see out the window. Dad put the truck in gear, let out on the clutch, jumped off the step, hopped on the back of the truck and away we went. The truck had a hand throttle I could use to speed up or slow down. If I needed to stop, I was told to shut the key off.  The only thing I had to worry about was guiding the truck past the bales and into the chute so the elevator could catch and scoop them up.

            As was the case with most farm kids of that era, I was driving tractors and trucks on a regular basis by the time I hit first grade. It was necessary back then as there was so much work to do and the finances of the times usually didn’t allow the luxury of hired help. The vast, modern, heavy-handed regulations and sticky-fingered revenue collecting appetite of the government had not entered our free enterprise system like it has today. One of the benefits to the family farm was that the kids could work and help with the overwhelming workload. The farmer’s offspring pitched in without Big Brother’s intervention. In other words, we worked our butts off. I didn’t like it much then but I am glad now that I had the experience.

            Just before Christmas when I was 4 or 5 years old, my Grandpa Riggs told me a story about a little boy who wanted a pony for Christmas. Like the boy in the story, I also wanted a pony. Grandpa told me that on Christmas morning when the boy put his hand in his stocking, all that was in his hand when he pulled it out was horse manure. The little boy looked at it for a minute and then said “It looks like the pony got away.”

           So on Christmas morning when I got up, my grandpa steered me toward my stocking. He was more excited than I was for me to stick my hand in the stocking to discover its contents. I jammed my hand and arm down the big sock and when I pulled it out, I was clutching a big gob of horse manure, just like the little boy in the story. However, I had a little different reaction. I instinctively threw the green, smelly substance as fast and as hard as I could to get away from it.

              Grandpa howled with laughter. My folks were mortified and jumped on my case. Green horse crap was scattered on the ceiling, walls and floor of our humble abode. The only one who was happy was grandpa.

           After they got the mess cleaned up and my grandpa calmed down, they took me outside and showed me a Shetland pony tied to the fence. I guess he didn’t get away, after all.

Sandy, me and mom

         We had the pony for several years but he was more trouble than he was worth. He was “corral bossy” which meant that at any moment while you were riding him, if he got a notion, he would turn and start running for the corral (his home) as fast as his stubby little legs could go. Once we arrived in the vicinity of the corral, he wouldn’t hit the brakes until he got right to the fence and then lurch to a sudden stop, similar to hitting a brick wall.

        I had little control over the stubborn animal while riding him which immediately downgraded to absolutely no control once he got into his “homeward bound” mode. Whenever he decreased his momentum at the fence, my momentum felt like it increased and continued forward until terra firma or a fence plank halted my progress. My initial love for “Sandy” decreased in direct relation to the number of times he helped me dismount at the Not-So-OK Corral.

           I quit riding him. He got out of the corral one day and happened upon some grain that was stored in a small shed. This horse then made a pig out of himself. He foundered (excess consumption of grain causes their hooves to grow out of control) and soon was useless. Dad got rid of him. Toward the end of his existence, I felt a little better toward the stubborn horse. I liked to think that when I went to kindergarten, it’s possible he helped me hold my schoolwork together whenever I applied Elmer’s Glue to my homework.

             I was eight in the summer of 1963. President John F. Kennedy came to town. He was invited to dedicate a nuclear reactor out on the Hanford Atomic Energy Range, which was just across the Columbia River from our farm. The dedication site was probably 10 miles away from our home as the crow flies.

            Since there were no crows big enough to haul our entire family to the engagement and no bridge in the area we had to drive some 60 miles to get to the site via the Tri-Cities. I remember it was very hot and there seemed to be a countless number of people attending. I looked back and there were over 30,000 people standing out in the hot sand and sun.

           We hung around in a large crowd, hot, sweating and waiting to see the President. He was late but finally arrived in a helicopter. It was an exciting day for our family in spite of the heat and all the traffic and waiting. My mom stood up on a camp stool so she could get a better look until it folded up and she came crashing down. That was the highlight of the day for me.  A few months later Kennedy was assassinated.

          I was in third grade when Oswald did his thing. We were sitting in Mrs. Hayes classroom when the neighboring fourth grade class came bursting in and yelled that the President had been shot. They had been listening to a radio program when the news came on. I'm quite sure no one picked it up off their i-phone.  
Even though he was a Democrat, I remember feeling bad. It was all we could talk about the rest of the day, even on the bus ride home.

           I keep hearing mostly nice things about this blog. I'd like you to spread the news. Just for today, email the blog link or call somebody and tell them to get hooked up. They can Google Ben's Risky Business and that should also get them here. Thanks for your kind words!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Internet Down!

Our internet went down yesterday afternoon at 4:00. I was in the middle of sending an email and looking at the clock so I had the time well documented. Since we’re with the same company as our blood-neighbors next door, I called my brother-in-law Bret and asked him if his internet was working. He said it was.

Oh, great. It was in my equipment.

I rebooted the computers, unplugged and plugged modems, disconnected and undisconnected routers, started refragging the hard drive on one machine and ran several trouble shoots on the other. Finally, just to feel better I smashed a couple of what used to be known in the business as floppies that were gathering dust on the desk. Nothing worked.

An hour had passed since the cataclysmic event occurred. I was lost at sea. My lifeline was offline. There are not many things more terrifying or infuriating. I knew I had a problem with my equipment since Bret does not lie and he said his link was working.

Next on my list of possibilities was thinking the stoppage was a pesky virus. But how did it get into both machines in the same instant? This is a question I can't answer. I am not a geek and the only nerd in my family is my son Will who is in North Carolina on a church mission right now and has no contact with the virtual world. In many ways he is a lucky man.

Many is the time that I've lost hard drives, large blocks of time, bucks, aggravation and information to these bugs and the so and so's who breed them. Personally, I think whenever they catch a hacker or virus varmint, they ought to chain them up in the village square. Personalized invitations should then be sent out to everyone who has been affected by the scoundrels and invited to the square and allowed to do a little hacking themselves. I guarantee the line waiting to readjust the bugger's destructive outlook would be a long one. I'd wait in line twice.

I restored both machines to an earlier date and crossed my fingers that maybe I had dodged a couple of big bullets. Maybe I had stopped the bug before it did too much damage! Just to be sure, I sprayed 2 cans of Raid into the vent holes in the back of each machine. I don't think any bug, computer or otherwise, could live through my style of virus control.

But even that didn't work!

I got frantic. As a last resort, I called the phone guy to see if their service was down. However, like they all do, he started with the assumption that my stuff was to blame. He started giving me steps I had to follow. I told the nice man I had already done all those things but he said he had protocol to follow. If I wanted my problem solved, I would do as he said.

We took another 45 minutes going through the same redundant exercises with my computer and related equipment that I had already done. I believe they make the customer jump through all the hoops just to put them on the defensive and establish the mind set that the customer should be ashamed that he even called.

None of the hoops I had to jump through worked. I knew from the get-go that this guy's protocol was a smoke screen.

Finally he asked me what state I lived in. He should have already known my location. I’d given him my phone number an hour earlier. I bit my tongue so the conversation would stay civil. After a few seconds he said "Oh, you're in the 509 area code, aren't you? Sorry about that. Washington State is down.”

We could have saved the last hour of rebooting if only he'd initially used that thing his headphones were wrapped around.

So now he was telling me Washington State was down. I decided to waste a little of his time since he had killed an hour of mine.

I said “I know Washington State is down. I think at the moment they're short 4 or 5 billion dollars. The state has been suffering extremely large deficits for several years now but that’s their problem. Personally, I blame it on the governor and her cronies. Anyway, that’s beside the point. I didn’t call you for political observations. I just want my internet to work!”

He started to get a little nasty. “Sir, I’m telling you there is a technical issue in the State of Washington that is affecting your internet capability.”

"Oh," I said with a touch of sarcasm, "I get it. In other words, some contractor in Sequim had 2 extra beers for lunch and got a little too rambunctious with his backhoe around 4:00. That was the technical issue."

It was 6:00. I hung up the phone, put my slippers on and slipped on over to see the miraculous computer that Bret claimed could still trade info even though the internet was out.

His computer wasn’t working. My guess is it hadn't worked since 4. Bret’s brain wasn’t working either. It checked out about the same time the computer did. I guess he figured everything was ok and online if the little green light on the box was lit. Where’d my sister come up with this guy, anyway?

I called the phone company misleading service provider again around 8:30 and asked what was up with my service and when would it be back on? She said they had just been informed that there was an internet issue that had occurred at 8:00 and they would soon have it up and running.

The telephone company must have a rule that they don’t hire anyone who wasn’t a politician first. The line went down at 4:00 cause I watched it happen.

It’s 7:00 the next morning and my internet is still dead. I’m thinking there might be a more serious issue and this could be the end of the world. But how would I ever find out the details?

My internet is down.

Cultivator Blight

Growing up on a farm, one of the jobs my father gave me was cultivating corn. As I carefully steered the tractor down the rows of corn, it was entertaining to watch the ground move past the rolling tires. Millions of little weeds were bounding out of the soil in anticipation of choking and stunting the valuable corn crop that had been planted just a few weeks before. 

Cultivating requires driving the tractor straight down the rows, always keeping your tires steered in the bottom of the correct rows. Dad taught me steering correctly kept the cultivator knives and shovels in the proper positions, causing major turmoil in all areas except where the corn plants were as the tractor sped along. All the weeds growing in the wide spaces of the furrows were covered with dirt, their roots cut and their days ended. 

If you did a good job, the weeds disappeared and the only thing left was fresh soil and the rows of corn left to grow without competition from the weeds for nutrients, water and sunlight.

However, you had to be on your toes. You could not let the tractor deviate from the precise path required in order to keep the cultivator tools eliminating the weeds. If you drifted one way or the other, the cultivator knives and shovels tore out the valuable rows of corn and left weeds to take over the vital growing space. It was gut- wrenching to be cultivating along, lost in a daydream of inattention, then look behind and see a wide swath of destruction of what used to be young and promising green corn stalks and leaves. An area of the field that suffered this type of driver inattention was jokingly referred to by observing neighboring farmers as “cultivator blight.”

Living correct principles is like cultivating corn, always steering your life in the right rows.

The weeds in the fields are similar to the nasty habits and addictions we deal with in life. We don’t need them. They are not productive. They stifle growth. They ruin crops and lives.

If we get careless, we will veer off the correct rows or path and start tearing out life’s valuable crop while letting the weeds run amok.

Hold to the rod. Stay on the path. Keep in the right rows. Grow the crop, kill the weeds.

Each of us owns a field of corn and a tractor. We have the steering wheel of life in our hands. We do not want to leave a big ugly swath of destruction behind us.

Life is even more unforgiving than a crop of corn. A damaged corn field lasts but one season of a few months. The next year, we can do a better job of cultivating.

However, life is a much longer season. Once we cease traveling in the right direction in life, it is much harder to get back in the right track. 

Turning the steering wheel becomes much harder. Our brain has a constant tendency to quickly become cemented in, following wrong directions and habits if we don’t stay vigilant.

We each are dealing with weeds and corn, forces and influences, good and bad. Advertisements, movies, music, peer pressure, priorities, entertainment, brain cells looking for habits to hook up with, personal weaknesses and traits, the internet with all its good and bad, drugs, alcohol, and chemicals in the brain that can cause wonderful experiences or raise havoc. 

Everything around us influences or moves us one way or the other. Most of these forces are in front of our ever-moving tractor of life and we are constantly steering through the field with our choices. We are always tearing out either weeds or corn. 

The farther we get off our correct rows, the harder it is to get back on. The longer we drive off the row, the less our power-steering works and the harder it is to turn the wheel. Many in this life have quit trying to steer, letting the tires and cultivator knives and shovels tear out the good and leave the bad.

Good habits, constant vigilance, repentance, prayer and scripture studying are essential cultivating tools to keep us from doing permanent damage to our one and only season. 

I have done a lot of tractor driving in my life. I have done a great job at cultivating acres and acres of life’s corn and feeling good about my work. However, I have also torn out many good stretches of the same crop. I have had to stop my tractor, wasting valuable moments of sunshine, backing my tractor up, attempting to stand the corn plants up and push the dirt back around the roots. Many times I’ve had to just move on and wish I had done better, realizing that the damage was done. Each time I got off the row, regret and lost opportunities lessened my yield and jeopardized the promise of a bumper crop. 

Sometimes, I have not been able to undo the damage. Often I have been able to rectify the situation but at a great loss of productivity, time and potential. How much easier it would have been and how much further down the rows of life I would be if I had been more careful at the wheel.

I know people who have always seemed to keep their steering wheel pointed in the right direction. They are always at peace. 

I’ve known others who, for various reasons, have gotten in the habit being sloppy and driving helter-skelter through their field of life. It is never good. They never enjoy solid happiness. The weeds of misery haunt their fields. They allowed their direction to drift off course and are left with the results. The good things of life that bring harvests of happiness are torn out and the encroaching thistles and weeds that bring misery and emptiness are allowed to remain and grow. 

A close and wonderful relative of mine got off the right rows at an early age and before he was 50 he had lost his family, was saddled with crushing addictions and prematurely ended his cultivating life with a bullet. Others I’ve known have not ended that desperate but their lives are still barren in many spots because of improper cultivating.

Thankfully, the Savior has provided a means for us to stop our tractors, back up, get ourselves situated correctly and start again down the right rows.

Wise cultivators always watch and work to make sure their field doesn’t suffer from cultivator blight.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ben Jr.

BJ and I at Edgar Alan Poe's former abode at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA

BJ is my oldest son. He filled an LDS Church mission to Japan and graduated in electrical engineering at BYU. Toward the end of his schooling, he was trying to decide if he wanted to stay in that field or do something else. On a whim, thinking of my need for patent legal work and how a law school education might broaden his horizons, I suggested he become an attorney. He fasted and prayed about his decision for several months. One night he called and said he was going to go to law school.

As he applied for admission, he submitted the following story for the essay portion that was required for his entrance. I thought it had some good thoughts so this is my Sunday post:

“One summer afternoon I was driving to a football game with two of my younger cousins. Upon cresting a hill, I found that a large truck carrying alfalfa hay was in my lane moving slower than molasses. Assuming that the truck had just pulled onto the road, I moved into the left lane and hit the gas. All of a sudden my cousin looked at me with wide eyes and yelled, “BJ!” The truck was not accelerating, it was turning left. I quickly hit my brakes and swerved out of the way. Unfortunately, a large wooden fence pole aided my stop. I got out of my vehicle and immediately noticed that my car’s front end was ruined.

To teach me a lesson about cautious driving, my father fixed the car up in a comical fashion. The new bumper was constructed of muffler tubing, there was chicken wire in place of a grill, and I recognized that the new right headlight had been stolen from one of our old tractors. My dad was tickled with himself. I was mortified. Due to my conspicuous position on the high school math team, I felt that my stock with the ladies was already low. This would be the final blow. I had to come up with a solution. After racking my brain for a couple of hours, I approached my father with my fingers crossed. I was scheduled to take the ACT in a month. I asked my dad if he would fix the car up in a conventional manner if I earned a score of 35 out of 36. He agreed and I went to work.

I visited a bookstore and bought some preparation guides. After getting my hands on every practice test I could find, I spent my bus rides and weekends cramming through study materials. Test day came and I gave it everything I had. When the results arrived a few weeks later, I anxiously ripped open the envelope. Upon seeing a “35” in the box labeled “composite score,” I filled the house with a triumphant shout. Mission accomplished!

A few years later I found myself facing another challenging situation. I had been a missionary in Japan for about ten months when I was assigned to work with a young man from northern Japan named Hiraku. I soon realized that Hiraku suffered from depression and a lack of motivation. One morning, as we were planning for the upcoming week, Hiraku went into a funk. He slumped over in a chair with a disconsolate look on his face and would not reply to my questions. We had a lot to do and I was frustrated with his lack of responsiveness, but I held my tongue and told him to take some time off. I began thinking about what I could do to help him.

My father is bipolar and I had observed that he responds positively to honest compliments when in a depressed state. After careful contemplation, I wrote down Hiraku’s strengths and talents. I knocked quietly, opened his door, and knelt by his side on our tatami floor. I handed him my findings and he looked at me in disbelief. Shortly thereafter Hiraku cheered up and we resumed planning.

In the ensuing weeks I offered support, allowed him to progress at his own pace, and did my best to be patient and understanding when he was down on himself. A few weeks later I transferred to a new city and did not hear from Hiraku for a while. Six months later I was surprised to learn that Hiraku had been called to a mission leadership position in which he was responsible for the periodic training of about twenty missionaries. I was later informed by the president of our mission that I was the first missionary to work with Hiraku who did not give up on him. I was thrilled to see that my faith in Hiraku had strengthened his confidence and bolstered his morale.

Another experience in Japan showed me that a positive attitude enables one to rise above any demoralizing situation. I spent the last six months of my time in Japan in the city of Hiroshima. While the city has been completely rebuilt, the devastation of the atomic bomb remains in the minds and hearts of those affected by its wave of destruction.

I remember two faces. The first is the hot red face of an older gentleman. I met him in the parking lot of an electronics store. The bomb had caused him a great deal of pain. He seemed intent on forcing me to feel that pain. I made an effort to calm him down, but he remained incensed. Each time I tried to interject or change the subject his voice grew louder. The graciousness that is normally embodied by the Japanese people was nowhere to be found in this man. I finally had to give up and walk away.

The second face I remember was kinder and softer. It was that of an elderly gentleman employed as a guide at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. I asked him what he thought about the bombing. His eyes were sad as he replied that it was very unfortunate. He expressed regret for the events that led to this horrible incident. He told me that he had been in Hiroshima when the bomb went off. After guiding me around the museum, he stopped and looked at me with hope in his eyes. He announced that we must learn from the past, forgive, and move on. I have never forgotten this powerful example of hope and attitude. I am convinced that it was this spirit that rebuilt Hiroshima.

These three experiences have taught me to move forward when adversity strikes and to make the best of every day. As there is a silver lining in every cloud, there is a creative solution hiding in every grim situation. My car wreck, Hiraku, and the gentleman at the museum taught me that patience, hard work, and a positive attitude facilitate the finding of those solutions. I want to solve problems and help others. I am convinced that law school is the best venue for me to learn how to do this. I am excited to learn how those who came before me approached the dilemmas of their time and to see how their solutions affected mankind. I look forward to the challenges, relationships, and experiences that lie ahead.”

BJ went to the University of Virginia Law School and now practices law on the East coast.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I'm In The Mooney Now!

Newspaper ad from friends about an earlier plane wreck

Once in a while, I should just take some advice. I get a little too independent and look what happens! But first to preface...

Back in the 80's, my brother Brent (who was still in high school) and I bought an older Beechcraft Musketeer airplane. It was a four-seater low wing and was adequate for getting us up into the wild blue yonder. I started racking up some hours and experience in it in order to prepare to get my license. To make a long story short. I wrecked it. That incident will post on another day.

After my wreck in the Beechcraft, I took a short hiatus and then bought an old Mooney. My 1963 M20-B Mooney was a relatively fast 4-seater plane that provided lots of opportunity for trouble. It had a variable pitch prop and retractable landing gear so it was faster than most other small airplanes. The landing gear was activated by grasping a big handle in the middle of the console and manually pulling it back or pushing it up to lower or raise the landing gear. It was dependable and fun to operate.

Eventually, I obtained my pilot's license.

This is not my airplane but very similar including the paint job

I flew at every opportunity that materialized when I needed to go somewhere, provided there was someplace to land upon arrival, and that didn’t even stop me sometimes.

One evening my wife was out of town and I had work to do so there was no one at our house to babysit. She previously had made arrangements for me to take our 3 young kids down to my folks for my brother to babysit. She neglected to specify to me as to what mode of transportation I should use so we flew. It probably took me longer to warm the plane up that it would have to drive the kids to my folks and back again in the car.

What the heck, a reason to fly! I threw them into the plane and flew the 6 miles to my folk’s house, delivering the cargo to my brother after a fairly risky landing in a hayfield. But I digress.

Meg, myself, Derek and Hauni right about the age when I drove them 6 miles to a babysitter in my airplane

Now, for the example of a time when I should have just gone along with good advice…

In the 80's, I got involved in developing a product that looked promising but ended up being a bust. The company name was Benzco. I had 2 partners who lived in La Grande, Oregon so that's where we set up shop.

One day after a meeting in La Grande, one of my partners took me back to the airport. He was a former pilot and had owned the Ford dealership in La Grande for many years. The wind was howling in 40-50 mph gusts. As I got out of his Blazer, he said: “Now make sure that you take off against the wind.”

Since there was no control tower, Claude must have thought I needed someone to tell me which direction my nose should be pointed and which runway to take off on. It struck me as unnecessary advice and borderline condescension. Since it bugged me a little, I said “Claude, don’t tell me what to do. I know which way to take off so you don’t need to tell me.” For heaven’s sake, I had several hundred hours of flying under my belt.

Well, Claude repeated his instructions. I felt like I was getting a lecture I didn’t need. I then told him that he should have known me well enough by then that if someone tells me to do something in a particular way; I would do the opposite just to show them.

If he wanted to verify this, he could call my dad. This had always been a unique and usually unhealthy trait I picked up as a toddler. If my dad told me to jump, I would say no. If he told me not to jump, I would say “How high?”

Claude kept harping and didn’t stop the impromptu flight school discourse so finally I said “All right, Claude, I’m going to take off with the wind just to show you.”

He started swearing at me and my stupidity so I told him thanks for the ride and to be sure and stick around for the brief airshow coming up. I climbed out of Claude’s rig, walked across the tarmac, warmed the plane up and headed for the evil runway that had all of a sudden become a challenge I would pursue.

Approaching the La Grande runway where I started my take-off run.

I have always been a dare devil but I didn’t have any idea how near a fatal accident I was about to brush up against.

The runway was nice and long, about a mile in length. A natural optimist, I didn’t consider there would be any problems because I had so much runway in front of me. I taxied to the very end of the wrong runway, stomped on the brakes, wound the engine up, released the brakes and let ‘er rip.

I kept the flaps off because I didn’t want anything impeding my acceleration until I reached flying speed. The wind was pushing me hard from the back end. This would have been a good thing if we were talking about sailboats but it’s not when you’re trying to take off in an airplane.

A short primer for those who don’t know a lot about flying:

An airplane must have headwind in order to fly. This “headwind” air speed provides the lift necessary to keep the plane in the air and also provides the pilot the luxury to control the craft. To be safe, an airplane must always take off and land into a headwind. If it is done in a tailwind, the pilot is flirting with major disaster.

You want airspeed. It is essential. You don't want ground speed. The runway magically shortens up with every mile an hour of tailwind. Conversely, the stronger the headwind, the quicker liftoff occurs. If you were taking off into a 70 or 80 mile an hour headwind, your airplane could take off and fly without any kind of a takeoff run.

Stalls, spins, collisions with the ground and other immoveable objects usually occurs with loss of or not maintaining enough airspeed. I believe most airplane crashes occur from the root cause of inadequate headwind (or airspeed) and resulting loss of control. Pilot inattention and error, weather conditions and engine problems can all lead to inadequate airspeed and loss of control.

Back to the problem at hand…

I started picking up ground speed quickly, the pavement was soon zipping by. But my, oh, my! I soon realized I wasn’t picking up appreciable and necessary airspeed. The airspeed indicator was still stuck on 0 and a quarter of the runway had already passed under my tail. Beads of sweat appeared on my brow and every body orifice I owned began contracting. Pride kept me forging onward.

If I had taken off on the other end of the runway into the wind, I would have been flying in 10 or 15 seconds, lifting off after a few feet. But this was not to be because I was going to show Claude.

Passing the half way point on the runway, I finally saw the wind speedometer start to move. It showed 10 mph while I was actually tripping along at 60 or 70 mph. The runway was getting shorter in a quick hurry. My airspeed was about half of what the ground speed was. Soon, my Mooney and I were screaming over the pavement at a hundred miles an hour. If I had wet my finger and stuck it out the side window, I would have felt a slight whiff of air floating past. I could have kicked the door open and flown a kite in the gentle breeze. However, I had no time for fun and games such as these.

I was in Trouble with a capital T for sTupid.

My airplane had never gone this fast and not been flying. In fact, I'm sure very few airplanes this size and vintage have achieved such ground speed while still earthbound on the asphalt. It started shaking like the wheels were going to come off. I realized my plane and I were in uncharted territory. I could see the end of the runway looming larger and larger; every instant seemed to be hammering another nail in the coffin of Ben. The current Ben was soon going to be a has been.

I pulled back on the stick and got no response. I wanted to stop this nightmare but it was much too late. If I tried to abort the takeoff, I would have hit the end of the runway at 120 mph with the gusting tailwind undoing any effects of the brakes and screeching tires. The point of no return was now a long way behind me.

There was a ditch, fence, pasture, cows and trees just off the end of the runway that I was racing toward. With just a few feet left before the end of the asphalt and the beginning of the cow pies, I jerked full flaps on, pulled the wheel up and rammed the landing gear into the wheel wells. These actions gave me the only chance of getting off the ground and cleaning up the airplane aerodynamics in order to give me a gnat's eyelash of a chance of getting and keeping the plane in the air at this late date.

The plane sluggishly rose from ground effect, bouncing up and down from the gusts of wind around us. We finally started to crawl upwards into the air, inch by most welcome inch. The gusty environment bounced us around. I didn’t mind the bounces up but I didn’t care for the times we dropped.

The rough ride didn’t bother me. I was just ecstatic I wasn’t planted nose first in the far bank of the ditch or in an inverted position trying to pull tree branches out of my pitot tube. I’m sure at the high speed I was traveling, it would have been a fatal wreck.

There but by the grace of God go I.

The next day I got a call from my partners in La Grande. Claude was livid. He started cussing me out for my stupidity. I agreed with him. I knew I had made a really bad decision. I admitted he was right and promised I would never do it again. Do you think that satisfied him? Not a chance. He continued to rant and rave and call me every name in the book. After about 10 minutes of this abuse, I finally told him to lay off and let’s get back to the business at hand.

I think I was a little upset that Claude didn’t at least compliment me on my excellent flying skills. Besides that, I was the president of the company. What right did he have to talk to me like that?

Whenever I think of this experience, I marvel at the ground speed my Mooney and I achieved before we finally scratched and clawed our way into the air, inches above the cows and ditches just below.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Now Comes The Big Lie

I'm always brainstorming. It drives my wife crazy. Which fascinates me.

(the brainstorming, that is.)

Crazy Michele should always be kept belted in.

Now is the time to warn my readers. Unlike most all the other stories in this blog, part of the following experience DID NOT happen. With 25 years in the tire business, I've had tires blow up in my face before but never quite as depicted here.

From time to time, I think about sprucing up my business website a bit with catchy stuff. Today I got a new idea I just knew would drive hordes of traffic from my business website right straight to my blog.

I invent and sell equipment for tire dealers and propane marketers. That's what my website is all about.So how could I increase my blog traffic? Simple. Entice my website traffic to mosey on over and spend some time on my blog, thereby bumping up my blog traffic. I needed something catchy that would pull them in. So, I concocted the following story for both tire and propane guys. I knew the heading would have to interest both industries so I titled it as follows:

Propane-Filled Tire?

Now most tire busters and all propane pumpers know you just simply do not put propane in tires. Propane blows up. Tires blow out. The only thing that could make those two situations worse is to combine them. So I'm thinking this would be enough to get their attention.

After they clicked on the heading, they would get this...

Who in their right mind would put propane in a tire?

Then I would say something like...

Ummm, let's see. Oh yeah! Ben would. Let's read his journal entry from a few weeks ago (now comes the big lie) :

Well, it was an exceptionally bad day, even for me. I got a flat tire on my way home from work and called my wife to come get me. She picked me up and we went back to the shop to get my compressor to pump it up. Only then did I remember it needed a new belt for the compressor.

I needed a method of tire pressurization NOW! My truck was roadkill at the moment. It was probably getting clipped to the tow truck as I gazed impotently at the beltless compressor.

I did not want to have to crawl under the back end of the truck, winch down the spare, jack the truck up, smash a finger, get the back of my shirt all dirty, change the tire, cross thread a couple of studs and nuts while screwing the wheel back, I simply needed to pump the flat up until I could get it to a tire store.

Looking around for something, anything with pressure, I walked over and looked at my garden hose. It undoubtedly would pump the tire up but I didn't have quite enough hose to stretch the three and a half miles back to my truck.

Then I saw it. A nice, handy, portable little tank. The minute I saw it, I knew it would work! So, I grabbed my recently-filled barbecue tank and an air hose. I carefully put my dunce cap on and hustled back to my wife waiting in the car.

After arriving at the truck, I duct taped the hose to the tank valve and pumped the tire up. I'm telling you, propane does more than just cook your steak or fuel your water heater. That tire stood prouder and taller than any other tire on the truck.

The tire was up plenty, maybe a little too much. I put my gauge on the stem and it registered 120 psi with a slight whiff of propane to boot. Whoops! I decided I better release a little excess pressure just to be on the safe side.

Knowing it would take a bit of time to free the excess air/gas mixture, I sat back and relaxed as the pressure began coming down to the manufacturer's suggested list price, I mean pressure. While I waited, I started to notice the strong odor of propane. Well, at least the smelling part of my brain was working.

After a few moments of thought, I figured it might be a good idea if I engaged the rest the equipment under my cap. All of a sudden I began wondering if propane was an approved substance for filling light truck tires. The cautious man that I am, I decided to check the safety precautions that are always written in miniature print on the sidewall. Black writing on black tire. Hard to see.

It was getting dark and I didn't have my reading glasses. I pulled out my lighter to brighten up the sidewall lettering when...

Well, you'll just have to read the blog for the rest of the story.

(Back to reality)

So that would be the end of my story on the website. I would then follow it with a link to this blog. I figured tire busters and propane pumpers alike would be flocking to my blog to find out what happened. Who knows, someday they just might need the knowledge I was about to impart.

However, since it was made up, there's be nothing more to tell. Kind of a bait and switch tactic. But my job would be accomplished. They'd end up here.

This great story never got listed at . Here's why...(this next part really happened)

I called my wife in to look at the story. She read it and said "I don't remember this. When did this happen?"

"Hun," I lovingly replied in a condescending and incredulous voice. "This never happened. I just made it up to generate some additional interest from potential customers and help the blog out at the same time."

I was then informed by a familiar and stern voice that this scenario would not come to pass. The reasons? Since all my other blog stories are true, this false account would render suspicion on my other experiences. And, my business customers would read my blog and quit buying product from me because they would think I was a couple of marbles short of a full bag.

Bottom line--there will not be Risky Business blog links listed on

By the way, once again, the above story is not true. At least the part about the tire blowing up. The wife blowing up? No comment.

An aside to the tire story...One of my brothers is a very inventive guy. Some 25 years ago Brad had a flat tire on his pickup at his house. He had no air compressor at the time. He lived a long 5 miles away from my tire store. He decided to invent a way to get out of the work normally involved with this type of predicament. (He's usually pretty lethargic when it comes to manual work like changing a tire.)

Since I owned the local tire store, he called for help but I was busy and didn't have time to drive up and pump his tire up. I was surprised when he showed up at my tire store a bit later and asked me to fix the flat on his truck. Knowing him, I figured he must have sent his wife out to change the tire. He flatly denied that had been the case.

.....................................My brother Brad

"How'd you pump it up, then?" I asked him.

"Easy, I just stuck the garden hose on the stem, turned the faucet on and filled it with water pressure."

I wouldn't recommend this for several reasons.

  • There is no shock absorption or flexibility of the tire if it is filled with water like there is when filled with air. It's a good way to ruin a tire or have a wreck.
  • The tire can be rendered severely out of balance when filled with water.
  • People will laugh at you for decades after. (Just ask Brad)

    Brad claimed it was less work than putting the spare on. I have to admit. It got the job done.