Monday, March 27, 2017

Looking Back



Up here at the Old Place we appreciate the way things were.  Oh we have our concessions to modernity: land-line telephones, nice stereos, weather radios, and hey a couple of us even have those new-fangled non-polluting electric outboard motors.  Generally speaking though we like things the way they were.  Not that we are living in the past mind you, but we do indulge ourselves in a little looking back.  In fact, it is not only important to look back, but knowing just how to look back can sometimes make the difference between life and death.

Most of our mornings start off pretty much the same: after a good breakfast and a cup of that great River Roads coffee, we climb into our vehicle, back out the carport and head off to work.  If however your teenaged driver took the car out over the weekend, chances are the mirrors are no longer adjusted to your liking.  Now wait a second, just how should mirrors be set?  Hmm.  Most drivers have them set so that they can see the sides of the car but is this the best angle for safety?  Maybe for backing up but not for driving forward.  Have you ever attempted to “slowly and safely” change lanes only to be rewarded with the shrill blast of a horn from another driver riding blissfully in your blind spot or worse by an expensive crunching sound?  So what is best for safety?  First off remember, the inside rearview mirror is used to keep an eye on what is coming up from behind, while the outside mirrors reflect the area outside the view of the inside rearview mirror.

Now, adjust the mirrors outward until the viewing angle of the side mirrors just overlaps that of the inside rearview mirror.  When correctly positioned, the mirrors can eliminate your vehicle’s blind spots. As a bonus, you will no longer need to look over your shoulder in order to change lanes safely.

As a final note, many new cars come equipped with something called, Blind Side Information Systems (BLISS).  This is a radar based system that “watches” out the side and warns the driver when another vehicle has come up on the side.  The challenge is, not all cars have this system and then what happens when it fails?  Learning how to set up your rearview mirrors will one day prevent a crash and could just keep you alive.

Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place I am, Col. Jim.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Not Quite Spring Cleaning



We have not made it up to the Old Place for quite a while.  There is always some work to do but as often happens when neglect sets in, there is a bit more than the last time.  That loose shutter is now hanging forlornly by one hinge, looking like nothing so much as a bird’s broken wing.  We never leave food behind, unless it is in a jar or can but the box of old toys, and some newer ones, apparently gave the local masked bandits no end of fun!  They were scattered all about the front room, not broken but obviously played with.  After pulling on an old pair of White Mules, I take a moment to open the flapper, clear the leaves and chimney swift nests out of the floo and start a fire.  The Old Place starts to warm up.  Soon the pot is whistling and I settle down to a hot cup of Moroccan gun powder tea, so named because the flavor, “explodes” in your mouth.  I do not know what it is with this schizophrenic weather.  The cold normally does not bother me but lately MaMie’s old shawl is needed to keep the chill out.  After tea, I go outside and engage in a little yard work.  Raking leaves never felt therapeutic before but there is a certain satisfaction to it today.  I slide over to tractor shed and pull the cover off Dad’s 1947 Ford 8n; we call him, “Fezzie.”  Because of the recent heat, you know the “wahses” are there but the current chill has made them sluggish and easy to deal with.  I had drained the gas out of the tank and carb back on Thanksgiving and changed the oil, so there is not all that much he needs.  All that needs doing is pouring in fresh fuel, sanding the gaps on the plugs and shining the points on the magneto (No, not that Magneto).  A new 6 volt battery spins the old grandpa over smartly and after blowing some carbon outa his “zause pipe” he chugs to life.  While he warms up I go around and hit all the grease points.  There is no real hoggin’ to do yet but old men need their joints loosened up before any serious activity.  Soon we head out on our trek around the lake.  I stop every so often to toss fallen branches for the wood pile onto the bush-hog.  Ruth, our retired Marine comes off her porch at the sound of our approach.  She is sharing an Irish coffee with Tim, our game warden.  I guess the cold is testing everyone today.  Amid squeals and cries of, “come see Gramma!” three young rascals come pelting up the path from the lake.  To the best of my knowledge, Ruth never married, so. . . sometimes it is better not knowing.  The youngsters ask for a ride, big surprise there.  Fezzie is on level ground but I do not have the extra seat and belts mounted.  It is safe to just shut him down, drop the hog and let them pretend.  I learned to drive on ole Fezzie, so did Hannah, maybe one day this bunch will follow in our tracks but not without that second seat!  You knew safety was going to find its way in here somehow but did you catch them all?  If you know what White Mules are, you got the hand safety reference.  Clean out the chimney?  That was Carbon Monoxide and fire prevention.  Spraying the wasp nests was next.  Warming up and stretching muscles and joints on a cold morning will protect us and ole Fezzie from strains and sprains.  Although not as obvious, but hey, not being nosy about a mature single woman’s ‘personal indulgences’ shall we say (especially when she is a Marine) is also very good for self-preservation.  Hannah is 21 now, so it will not be long before I pass the keys to the Old Place on to her and hand over the “reins” to Fezzie. Life rolls on; the safer you are the longer it rolls.

Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place I am, Col. Jim.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Gettin’ Closer



It’s a beautiful day up here at the Old Place. Of course every day is a beautiful day.  People ask me all the time, “Col. Jim what is it about the Old Place anyway? It’s a long drive up there, there isn’t a movie theater and the phone reception is terrible.” I tell them, I just feel closer to my Lord up here. When the Our Lord raised his good friend Lazarus, the Gospels tell us that Jesus "groaned in spirit." Jesus' pain comes from his identification with his flawed, sinful, human brothers and sisters, us.  He goes all the way to the bottom of it, letting this truth deeply affect him. Jesus does not just love us abstractly or from a distance. He comes close to us.  So what’s it got to do with safety?

This groaning of Jesus is the pain of our own imprisonment, not within the tomb but within ourselves. When we risk injury or death by working in an unsafe manner or using unsafe tools, does Jesus groan any less for us?  It is the same groan made by our loved ones when we are injured or killed because we committed an unsafe act. "Why did he do that?  He knew better!"  Bringing this closer, Jesus wept for Lazarus. It is heartbreaking for it is the only time in the Scripture that Jesus is described as weeping. Whatever the result of the unsafe act: be it physical injury, death, psychological trauma or spiritual loss, it is something deeply troubling to our friends, families and to God Himself.

There is another telling moment in the story, when Jesus asks Lazarus’ sister, "Where have you laid him?"  Just as Adam and Eve hid from God, so Lazarus is hidden from Jesus, by the depth of his own grief. While sin alienates us from Our Father, making us strangers to Him, the unsafe act alienates us from ourselves and others.  We effectively move further away when we create the danger ourselves and in effect, hide it. Closeness comes when refuse to commit the unsafe act. The danger is removed by never having been created.

Finally, Our Lord walks up to the tomb. The stone is rolled aside and he shouts, "Lazarus, come out!"  Are there any more stirring words in the whole New Testament? When injury or death occurs due to an unsafe act we committed or failed to stop, we can become locked in the tomb of our own guilt, anxiety, sadness or fear. God, however, gives us a power, a divine power, sent into this world.  A power whose very purpose is to break the stones, deny the tomb. . . to save a life. We can say, “Lazarus, STOP, let me hold that ladder for you buddy; hey turn off that weedeater and lets get you some safety glasses; turn that pot handle in so it doesn't get knocked off the stove and burn someone.

"And the dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth." So Jesus said, "Untie him and let him go." Unsafe acts bind us and blind us.  When we choose to work safe, our work brings us closer to God. 

Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place, I am Col. Jim.