The emigrants who plied the Oregon Trail lacked all sorts of amenities, but one thing they had in spades:
Now I understand that crossing half a continent without
air-conditioning sounds like an unpleasant way to pass the summer, and
Not to mention the absence of an iPod jack on any prairie schooner’s dashboard.
(No dashboard at all, come to that. Or iPod.)
But it seems to me that too little attention has been given to how
fortunate our forebears were in being able to roll right over boulders
that would yank the oil pan clean off pretty much any of today’s
four-wheel drive rigs.
Including the ones with tires that are tall enough to hide a third-grader and that each cost as much as a used Pinto.
(The tires, that is, not the third-graders.)
Those metal-rimmed, wooden wagon wheels rode a tad rougher than a modern steel-belted radial, of course.
But a sore back beats a ruptured radiator.
If you ask a traveler who has recently visited a small town what it is that best symbolizes the spirit of the place, he’s apt to name a prominent building, or perhaps a park.
I like to have a look at the local high school’s football field.
It’s commencement season and we are obligated, those of us who have passed this milestone, to dispense nuggets of our hard-earned wisdom to the graduates.
Well, here’s my advice to you in the gowns and mortarboards.
You don’t need it.
You’re pretty smart already.
There’s lots you don’t know, sure.
But you’ll figure all that out along the way.
Most of it, anyway.
As a person who has mastered little besides the repetitive pattern of respiration required to survive, I’ve never been especially annoyed at how often I dream about failing at some task.
It seems, based on my conversations with other people, that I’m plagued by an inordinate number of these nightmares.
Although I suppose this might be an illusion, the result of these unpleasant dreams being so abnormally vivid that they linger a good while and thus seem more frequent than they actually are.
I recently watched an excellent Oregon Public Broadcasting
documentary about the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of several
alphabet soup public relief agencies President Franklin Roosevelt
created during the Depression.
This was a time, of course, when soup of any flavor was hard to come by except those recipes simmering in government kitchens.
The topic, despite the grainy black-and-white patina of the film,
seemed more relevant than you’d expect of something going on 80 years
In particular the show, a 2009 episode in OPB’s “Oregon Experience”
series, got me to thinking about a current controversy over a state aid
program that bears a passing resemblance to the CCC.
The program is called Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF). As its
name implies, the program gives public money to families — 30,000 of
them, roughly, a total of 52,000 adults and children.
I’ve gotten my rig stuck probably a dozen times, but never for a good reason.
And that’s even allowing for an especially generous definition of “good reason.”
Forget such legitimate excuses as “I was carrying life-saving serum to diphtheria patients,” or “my passenger just had a heart attack.”
I can’t even make the understandable, albeit silly, claim that I got high-centered on a snowdrift or mired in a mudhole while taking a shortcut because I was late for my kid’s ballgame or a friend’s wedding.
Say what you will about President Obama’s economic policies, but the man’s capacity for secrecy is absolutely Nixonian.
And I’m talking about real secrets here, not ludicrous claims involving Kenyan hospitals and doctored documents.
The clandestine affair that has burnished Obama’s reputation has to do with a death rather than a birth.
Specifically, it has to do with America’s pursuit of Osama bin Laden.
I’m a registered independent but I have considerable respect for the Republican Party’s electoral acumen.
The GOP, after all, has won seven of the past 12 presidential elections.
And in the past 18 years the party has amassed a level of legislative power, particularly in the House, that had eluded it for decades.
But lately I’ve begun to wonder whether the Republicans, or at least a significant percentage, are going a little soft in the head.
Although I rarely go anywhere unclothed, I have no particular objection to nudity.
You don’t see much of it around here anyway, what with sub-zero weather common, and a potentially carcinogenic solar index for half the year.
But though I don’t care whether people bare a little skin or a lot when they’re at home or in a public setting where children aren’t allowed, I am a trifle troubled when brazen displays of flesh are made the measuring stick, so to speak, for how well America is living up to its reputation as a bastion of freedom for the individual.
I’ve just finished re-reading, for the first time in several years, one of the more frightening non-fiction books written in the 20th century.
It’s called “The Warning.”
The authors are Ira Rosen and Mike Gray.
Published in 1982, the book chronicles, in exhaustive detail, the infamous 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.