Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Load, Overload, Unload

As the sun edged below the horizon, mounted on his Appaloosa, Rowdy squinted as Spotted Ash trotted past the crooked and weather-beaten sign. Camouflaged among the trees it had a name on it; Whispering Flats, wonder why they named it that?

He tugged on the reins and his steed slowed to a walk through the trees.

Rowdy took off his misshapen felt hat and shook off the dust. The only lights in Whispering Flats came from a building at the end of the street that had horses in front.

Bet that’s the light I’m looking for. His boot nudged his horse and they headed that direction.
On the way, above one dark building, he saw a sign that said Hotel. Bet the owner’s where I’m going.
He passed a supply store, barber shop, telegraph office, livery stable, a church, and what looked like a school. He saw other dark buildings with no signs. Maybe they’re people’s houses? If so, they sure roll up this burg early.

As they neared their destination, he nudged his horse with his knee. Like a homing pigeon, Spotted Ash found an open spot at the hitching rail. Rowdy dismounted and patted Spotted Ash on the neck. “If I’m not back in an hour come in and get me. Ok?”

As if to say ya, I’ve heard that before, his horse neighed and shook his mane. Rowdy laughed and walked inside.

At the bar he ordered a beer and joined the group watching a poker game. Even with an open seat at the table he resisted the urge. If I’m still in town maybe I’ll come back tomorrow night. He nudged the person next to him. “Need a place for me and my horse. Livery stable and hotel owners in here?”

“Ya, they’re one in the same. He pointed to a man at the end of the bar.”

Rowdy walked up to the person. “Say, need a place for me and my mount. Can you help me out?”
“You bet. Need more than one night or are you just passing through?”

“Just passing through.” He gulped his beer and followed the man outside. “I’ll grab my horse and catch up with you.”

In less than an hour, replete with fresh oats, Spotted Ash rested in her clean and dry stall in the livery stable. While in the hotel across the street, Rowdy lay on clean sheets and chewed hardtack. He’d eat better tomorrow; tonight, sleep outpointed nutrition.

Rowdy closed his eyes and the familiar haunting whisper began. I’ve told you that you can’t get away. Rowdy grabbed the extra pillow on the bed and covered his face. The undertone started again. You took my life. Now I’m buried in your consciousness.  You’ll never find peace.

Rowdy’s shoulders heaved. When are you going to leave me alone? It was a fair fight. I told you not to draw; I didn’t want to kill you, but you drew anyway; I had no choice. The jury found me innocent.

The rustle repeated. You’ll never find peace.

The next morning Rowdy climbed out of bed and looked in the mirror above the dresser. His bloodshot eyes said more than he cared to hear.

At breakfast he stared at the eggs, pancakes, hash browns, and coffee. He pushed them away, threw more than enough money on the table and walked out of the restaurant. 

Not steady, almost like a drunk, he walked across the street to the livery stable. He saddled Spotted Ash. He’d paid for the night in advance so he rode out of town the opposite direction he rode in. Immediately, the forest encompassed them and the whisper again cavorted in Rowdy’s head. Hahahaha, you’ll never have peace.

He slapped his Appaloosa’s flank and he broke into a trot. The horses mane, and his hat flopped in the breeze. You can’t outrun me. Hahahaha..

Rowdy saw a trail that veered into the woods; he yanked Spotted Ash’s reins and the two of them disappeared into the trees. Soon, he spotted a clearing and he slowed his mount down. When they reached the area he tugged the reins, His horse stopped and he dismounted. 

He walked around the parcel and pulled his gun out of its holster. Yes, yes, pull the trigger. It’s the only way to peace. Rowdy pulled back the hammer.

If someone pulls the trigger in a forest and no one’s around to hear it, did anything happen?   

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Homecoming and a Pep Band

From the time I opened my eyes Friday morning until I walked towards the football field that evening, it was a normal Friday.

But once I left my humble abode the atmosphere changed. Something felt different. More than the heavier-than-normal stream of traffic headed towards BHS, more than the normal aura of a football Friday, even more than the exhilaration of walking. Yes, something felt different.

Then the sensory inlets that lead into each side of my head caused me to pay attention to the energetic sounds of rhythm from the drums, brass, and woodwind sections of Bayard’s Pep Band. (If I missed a section or used the wrong terminology I apologize, but those three designations exhaust my musical competence.)

Nevertheless, those sounds proclaimed to a sleepy Bayard-berg that it’s time to wake up, take notice, and come fill the bleachers with Tiger-support.

Walking into the stadium and past the impressive Donors Row and elevated section for wheelchairs, I encountered the couple three steps up to the bleachers. I stopped, watched, and listened.

I saw a sea of bobble-heads. Pep Band member’s bobbled to the cadence their instruments produced. Seated fans bobbled as they talked to those sitting around them. Heads bobbled from those surveying the bleachers looking for a seat, or from those who bobbled towards the concession stand.

My head bobbling, I looked for a place to sit.

Nevertheless, the Pep Band continued to charge the arena with musical Tiger-energy.

Then silence. The sea of bobbling in the grandstand ceased, and, in unison, turned and faced the football field. The candidates for Homecoming King and Queen, and their parents, were introduced.

After the Pledge of Allegiance, to the cheers of an enthusiastic wave of bobble-headed Tiger fans, Bayard’s football team charged onto the field.

You ready for some football?

During the game, the Pep-Band continued to buoy emotions with their repertoire of action sounds, and the drums beat out pulses of enthusiasm. With their attention rooted into the action on the field, for most fans, the sounds from the Pep Band melded into the climate of the game.

That’s a professional Pep Band. Unless they weren’t there, most fans don’t realize they’re there. It’s supposed to be that way. The reverse of old proverb: A Pep Band should be heard but not seen.  

Shortly before the end of the first half, basically unnoticed, a procession of drums passed in front of the grandstand and set up behind Bayard’s team bench. The drummers waited for the horn to signal the end of the first half; then they began a steady outlay of rich and dramatic drum tones.

The even rat-a-tat-tats brought a sense of saneness that counteracted the furor in the bleachers. If possible, it un-bobbled the bobble-heads before springs were sprung.

I shoved money in someone’s hand to get me some popcorn; that way I could stay sat and bobble to the drum beats.

Also, as part of Homecoming night proceedings, well deserved and prestigious academic awards were given to a group of deserving students.

As the football teams filed back onto the field, as silently as they set up, the drum ensemble dissipated and melded into an atmosphere of post-performance glow.

The third and fourth quarters of the football game played out, however, after the game attention remained focused on the field. The Homecoming King and Queen nominees were front and center.
Femininity mingled with blood, sweat, grime, and greasy hair. Tension mounted as the proverbial envelope opened and announced the winners.  

The procession left the field and, after showering and a change from warrior into civilian clothes, boy meets girl. Plans were finalized for Saturday’s Homecoming events.

In the meantime the Pep Band packed their instruments and, along with the variety of drums, they’re secured inside a locked school house until later. It’s kinda like a closed, dark, museum. Nobody knows what goes on when the lights are out.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Making of a Football Team

With around 5 seconds left in the game, on about the 5 yard line, behind by three points, the Bayard's Tiger’s opponents had the ball. After completing a long pass they were in control of the adrenaline factor. Like their teammates on the sideline they couldn’t stand still, and they jumped up and down and all around.

They were about to pull off one of the most exciting things in sports; a win as the time-clock ticks off the final seconds of the game.

On the other side of the ball, with the shadow of their opponent’s goalposts looming close behind them, the Tiger’s tail drooped and dragged in the grass. Heads bowed as they stood with their hands on their hips. They’d played their hearts out. They’d grabbed the lead in the first half and, doggedly, held on to it for the entire game. Only 5 seconds, one play, stood between them and their first win of the year.

A timeout.

While one team bounced to their sideline to discuss the winning play, the Tiger’s looked at their coach for a miracle. 

An official blew his whistle and the two teams lined up for the games last play.

With sugar-coated touchdowns dancing through his head, the opposing quarterback confidently barked-out the count. Taking three or four steps back he cocked his arm and unleashed a leather bullet aimed at his receiver’s outstretched arms, but the ball missed its well-choreographed target.

Incomplete pass, ballgame over, the Bayard Tigers win. Suddenly the scene on the field flips scenarios. The Tiger’s tails swish back-and-forth in victory arcs, while their opponents realize their dreams were but hallucinations.

In Tiger-land, an upright and dynamic #1 replaced the emptiness of the 0 in the win column.

This is how teams are made. Teammates remember these feelings, the bonding, the ecstasy, the elation, and the relief. Yes, discouragement may bond, but elation binds that bond and propels student athletes forward as one team.

Way to go guys, now that you’ve experienced the feeling you know what it takes.

That was on a Friday night, and, along with parents and other grandparents, I was at the Carpenter Center, in Scottsbluff, Saturday morning to watch a 5th grade football game. It didn’t have the precision, or drama, of an under-the-lights game, but it was the forerunner of teamwork that will shine under the lights in a few years.

Muscles will then fill the uniforms, helmets won’t wobble as much, and shoe sizes may be more consistent from year-to-year. Nevertheless, the rags-to-riches, or vice-versa, phenomenon of sports will continue. These boys are getting a glimpse of what’s in store, but, for now, they’re learning the basics of teamwork.

For many of them, they will carry some memory of some sports experience their entire lives. They may show their grandchildren their picture in the sports section of a high school annual, or maybe an ancient article from their hometown newspaper, or simply relate game experiences.

No one’s around to contradict Grandpa’s story.

But, no matter what the sports story is, it will be part of a team effort, and teamwork is a propellant for a myriad of life’s experiences. Enjoy your place on whatever team your life is part of.



Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Voice of Bayards Police Department

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with Bayard’s Police Force. (I received a verbal invitation sans any warrant or handcuffs.) I had the pleasure to witness their firearms and bean bag training course, and to accompany them to the City Dump for target practice.

Officer Stan Tavenner, the Less-Lethal Impact Munitions Instructor Certified led the session

When one thinks about firearm training, it’s easy to think of a made-for-TV setting with action and tough man-talk. Target practice would be the reincarnation of the ‘Gunfight at OK Corral.”

However, at target practice they shot bean-bags, not live ammunition.

In all phases of the training I witnessed sober-minded responsibility. The training focused on saving lives; the assailants, bystanders, and themselves.

I listened to them discuss different situations they may encounter while on duty. I watched body language and listened to the tone of their voices. Through those showcases, I understood the situations they mentioned were viable and serious. If not handled appropriately, they could result in serious injury or loss of life.

At target practice I witnessed cohesiveness and concentration. Individually, they stood about 20 yards from the target and called out, “This is the Police. Stop, now, or I’ll shoot.” They each pumped three rounds of less-lethal beanbags into a target. Afterwards, together, they looked at the holes the not-as-lethal ammunition put in the target, and discussed shot patterns.

Police Chief Douglass handed me one of the beanbags, “They come out of the shotgun at 184 mph. They’ll stop you.”

Still, some scoff and say, “This is Bayard, Nebraska and violence doesn’t happen here.” 
Unfortunately, though, violence does rear its ugly head in the Bayard’s of the world. When it does, don’t you want well-trained-level-headed Law Enforcement Officers handling the situation?

The attitude of Bayard’s Law Enforcement Officers; that’s the point Bayard’s citizens should glean from this article.

During the training I heard no macho bravado. Our Police Force is a nucleus of mature, experienced, and dedicated individuals. They’re married, they probably kiss their wives when they leave for work, some have children, some are veterans, they have future family plans, and they more-than-likely have retirement accounts.

They want to go home after their shift. As you, they want to live to enjoy the fruits of their retirement accounts.

But they wear badges, carry guns, and drive City vehicles with the word POLICE on the side. This makes them a target; this involves them in any fracas that arises in Bayard, or vicinity.

After spending the afternoon with them, and have them patiently answer my questions, I know they respect those they serve. The safety of Bayard’s residents is their main concern. These five officers take their jobs seriously, and they’re proud of what they do and how they do it.

They understand that oftentimes their reactions are spontaneous; there’s no time to think right, wrong, or indifferent. They’re Bayard’s finest, they sense the immense responsibility behind their badge, and they care more for your safety than their own.

The voice of Bayard’s Police Department is “middle C.” The ‘C’ that stands for care, concern, consideration, companionship, and camaraderie, and they’re in the middle of anything that threatens their ‘Cs.’ 

Support them.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Value of Humor

In his opening monologue at the high school library, Barry Carlson told Bayard’s Public School staff that “It’s all in your mind and don’t plan for good or better; plan for awesome.”

Then he spent the next hour, or so, letting his audience experience the value of humor, which, in this case, amounted to old fashioned, gut-level, unashamed belly guffaws. Throughout the room peals of laughter energized positive feelings and the blissful perceptions humor brings.

The troubles and stress of a new school year…forgotten; the strain of being a new teacher in a new school system… forgotten. It was time to laugh.

Moving about the front of the room Carlson talked, and his voice reverberated truth. “People feel younger when they laugh. Did you know the average child laughs 200 – 400 times per week, while an adult laughs 20 – 40 times per week?”

You could sense people mulling that statement through the chasms of their mind.

Changing one train of humor for another Carlson explained, “We don’t stop laughing as we get older, we get older because we don’t laugh.”

He paused to let that reflection sink in as he switched trains. “I played football in high school, and my senior year we didn’t win a game. You know why? The quarterback stuttered and the center was ticklish.”

He stopped to let that picture form in the psyche of his listeners’. Then, with the rest of us, he laughed at its absurdity. He knew he had his audience in the palm of his hand, like soft putty, to mold any way he chose.

Words of wisdom poured from his well-rehearsed routine. “Your sixth sense is a sense of humor so let your attitude define your humor.

“Has your life brought joy into someone’s life, and vice versa?

“It’s hard to worry and have fun, and it’s hard to have fun when worrying.

“Positive attitudes and humor go hand-in-hand.”

The statements were food for thought seasoned with laughs.

His closing statement said it all. “Here’s to the holidays, all 365 of them.”

Barry Carlson’s remarks were to Bayard Nebraska educators, but what would happen to our lives, and the lives of the ones we live with, if everyone put this article on the refrigerator and read it every morning?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Whattya Mean I Talk to Myself?

When what’s on top thins and what’s in the middle thickens, we blame it on age. But when someone tells us we talk to ourselves, we usually respond with a dignified denial.  

But, unfortunately, it’s part of the cycle. It goes along with the mysterious out of nowhere aches and pains, the wrinkles, and the perplexing lapses of memory. Then, as if to put a lid on it all, the talking to ourselves syndrome stalks us, especially if we live alone.

That’s ok, though, I’ll bet there’s a study somewhere, by some super scientist, who’s found that when we talk to ourselves, with anything that’s handy, we’re talking to a grown-up rendition of our early-childhood imaginary friend. Remember, the one we confided in that never told anyone what we said? (That type person is definitely imaginary.)

Anyway, with whatever, talking to ourselves is easy, natural, and comfortable. God created a world full of things we can talk to. For example, we talk to our pets. Whether it’s a dog, cat, fish, bird, worm, or whatever, we often talk to them about things other than their potty time or chow. 

Moreover, studies show some plants grow better when we talk to them, both inside and outside varieties. (If you talk to plants, please don’t talk to dandelions. They do well enough on their own.)

Nevertheless, I admit to having two roommates I talk to; my “C” friends. One is “MC”, which stands for “My Cat,” and the other is my computer, whose many names are generally not fit for publication. 
For me, my computer is strictly a “yes sir,” “no sir,” “it’s your way” relationship. However, if I had invented them, I’d have made sure they could spell and punctuate sentences.

MC responds to me with meows, purrs, and occasional pfffts. Like most cats, the meows and purrs are positive and the pfffts aren’t. Thus we’re on the same wavelength, and she gets fed.

However, I occasionally, frequently talk to myself through them. Like asking the computer why it forgot a comma, or MC if it’s time we go to bed.

When I realize I’m talking to an inanimate object, or a cat, I throw back my shoulders and defiantly pffft that “I’m the only one around here who’s intelligent enough to carry on a conversation with me, through them.”

A Perspective: The Morrill County Fair

A reliable indicator to the number of split-screens it takes to watch the Morrill County Fair unfold depends on how many whys you went in the first place.

Personally, I needed one split screen. I watched wascally wabbits on one and on the other I witnessed the ominous results of sending three polite little pigs to the market without a chaperone to bring them home.

The young participants in the rabbit arena gently, but firmly, held their rabbits somewhat still as they recounted their hares family tree. Also, each showman gave a four-sided, i.e. front, rear, and both sides, display of their rabbit that included all features and perfections or imperfections.

While holding a nervous rabbit relatively quiet, the dissertations were nervously expounded with eye-to-eye contact between the speaker and the judge. Even with distractions from the rabbit, the crowd, and their anxiety, each participant did well. After each presentation the judge asked a question that tested the participants overall knowledge about rabbits.

Overall, the arena where the participants discussed the wares of their hares was relatively quiet. In my opinion this meant extra pressure on the show person because their every move and word was under scrutiny.

After the show they received their plaques and ribbons to well-deserved applause.

On the other screen I watched the hogs do their thing, which was the polar opposite of the rabbit show. Grunting and squealing the hogs were herded into the arena. Cleared of the serenity of the rabbit show, the hogs turned it into their own personal place of pandemonium.

The object: Each participator steered their overloaded with poundage creature past the judge. To direct these devoid-of-manners-flat-nosed creations the guides used fiber glass batons.

The picture: An undersized pathfinder led their oversized hog past the judge with the hog between them and the judge. This was so the judge had an unobstructed view of the hog. He called the process a “ham sandwich” because there were two humans on the outside and the hog in the middle.

More interesting was the way they simply tapped the hog with the baton to get it to respond. If the hog stuck its snout into the dirt, the guide would tap the hog under its chin to get it to lift its head. To get it to turn right, or left, the guide would tap it on the respective shoulder.

If the hog stopped they’d tap it on its buttocks.

I stared in wonder as this process worked, not always with precision but it worked. I fantasized a young trainer one-on-one with his or hers hog in a pen somewhere in the country. I’m sure the trainer had a flip-chart to show the hog how to respond. After the presentation and tryout, the trainer and hog would have a question and answer session to make sure both understood the script.

They were ready for the fair.

As an important passing point of interest, adult males were in the arena with the hogs and kids for a protective presence should one or two of the hogs get ornery. The young hog attendants were never left on their own.

The hog display ended with the awarding of plaques and ribbons.

Two aspects of the rabbit and hog show impressed me: First, for the rabbit show, is the time involved memorizing presentations, and, for the hog show, finding a comfort level of walking next to a cantankerous hog.

The second, regardless of individual success, the majority of the kids will return next year with hearts again full of positive expectations.

They learn that rewards are related to the amount of excrement they step in and clean, and clean again, from their shoes.

Congrats to all and thank you for displaying your handiwork. The pleasure was mine and I look forward to seeing most of you again next year.