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Saving dimes and trashing soda cans

I found a dime in the bottom of my backpack, its silvery sheen concealed by a Three Musketeers wrapper and a handful of .22 shells.

I fished the dime out and flipped it into the ceramic dish that sits on the window sill next to the kitchen sink. This is the temporary resting place for most of our loose change, the pennies going in one dish, the larger denominations in a smaller one, and all of the currency afforded a pleasant view of the Eagle Caps on fair days.

Not long after — it might in fact have been the same day — I tossed a couple of soda cans into the trash can beneath the sink.

I thought nothing of this at the time.

But some days later, while I was standing at the sink, clutching a soapy sponge, I noticed, as though for the first time, the proximity of the coin dish and the trash can. I doubt there’s more than four feet between the containers.

This revelation — it was very nearly an epiphany, actually — hit me in that powerful way unique to those instances when I realize the level of idiocy to which I am capable of descending.

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Elk season arrives, and with it the excuses

The elk hunt commences one day hence and I have been hard at it, gathering my woolen garments and my excuses.

In this way I hope to protect my skin as well as my ego, although I’m too pragmatic to expect much as to the latter.

I do own a closetful of coats — enough insulation, probably, to keep several versions of myself toasty in all but the most frigid weather. Except probably it will just rain.

As for the actual hunting, I lack anything like the creativity necessary to conjure tales that would diminish, in any meaningful sense, my incompetence.

To begin with I’m not what you could call stealthy.

I can usually stay upright, even on uneven ground. The trouble is I tend to snap twigs and kick stones and snag low-hanging limbs with my sleeves and in general upset the normally tranquil woods with the sort of cacophony which not even the most naive elk will tolerate.

Last fall I didn’t see a single elk. I don’t know if this is because there weren’t any elk around, or because I made such a racket that all the elk heard me before I was close enough to see them, but I suspect the second theory is a lot nearer the truth.

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After this election day, even the losers win

I feel especially proud today to be an American.

Not because my candidate won.

I voted for John McCain, and he lost.

His defeat disappoints me because I think McCain would be a better president than Barack Obama.

But I’m hardly inconsolable, because I also believe that Obama could be a pretty good president.

And I hope he fulfills his immense promise.

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The little-known link between campaign sign thieves and lima beans

Politics are notorious for provoking people to embarrass themselves, but for sheer stupidity there are few acts, it seems to me, that surpass the stealing of campaign signs.

Except for the burning of campaign signs, which besides being illegal could lead to skin grafts or even death.

And yet, every time we as a nation go about picking those who will represent us — and in particular when the presidency is at stake — the papers and the TV become infested with stories about people whose campaign signs have gone missing.

Or gone up in flames.

I’m sure some of these instances can be explained as pranks — the work of vandals who are wholly ignorant of politics.

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And now, a brief interlude of optimism

I have long believed that my personality inclines rather steeply toward pessimism, but recent events have prompted me to reconsider.

The thing is, I can’t rouse myself to a respectable pitch of despair about the economy.

I don’t feel right about this.

The overwhelming consensus in the country seems to be that this current crisis ranks as America’s most severe since the Great Depression.

I’m pretty sure that’s true.

The stock market numbers, which are spinning with the speed of a slot machine, bear it out anyway.

Yet the implication of our collective hand-wringing, or so it seems to me based on what I’ve read and heard from myriad sources during the past month, is that our nation teeters on the brink of Depression No. 2.

I’m pretty sure that’s not true.

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With a baby, you bare it all when nature calls

One of the great things about being the parent of a toddler is you can buy products with names such as “Butt Paste” without blushing when the cashier gives you one of those looks.

Remove the baby from the equation, though, and I regress 25 years.

I become the equivalent of a teenage boy whose mom has sent him to the store to buy a box of what the marketing majors, those masters of inoffensive euphemism, describe as “feminine products.”

If I need, for instance, a salve to soothe the nether regions of my body, well then I’m loitering in the magazine aisle and leafing through “Four Wheeler” until I see a checkout with no customers and a clerk who appears to be dozing.

And I’ll linger for hours if I have to, or at least until someone starts turning off the lights.

Even when the way is clear I’ll hide the ointment under a couple one-pound bags of M&M’s and maybe a six-pack of Hamm’s. This is of course a pathetic attempt to deflect the checker’s attention from the true nature, and location, of the affliction which prompted my visit.

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Buster makes an appearance in Baker

A famous visitor walked into my office the other day and he came right over and licked my hand.

I have so few famous visitors, and no previous one had ever licked me, and so this incident, despite the saliva, made a routine day mildly interesting for me.

My guest was Buster. He is the most heavily publicized English bulldog I know.

He’s also the only English bulldog I know.

This is not of course any fault of Buster’s, and I don’t believe my inability to get acquainted with multiple bulldogs ought to diminish Buster’s celebrity.

Buster, as you might recall, was the subject of several headlines around here during late May and early June of 2007.

Buster’s owner, Forrest Keller of Vashon Island, Wash., rode to Baker City during a Memorial Day weekend motorcycle tour.

Unlike most motorcyclists, Keller doesn’t mind riding with a bulldog strapped on the gas tank.

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Tired of adjective-toting pundits


Could I please read one story about Sarah Palin that does not describe her as either “gun-toting” or a “hockey mom” or both?

Thank you in advance, anonymous writer who eschews inane adjectives.

I mean adjectives.

Palin’s been all over TV these past two weeks and I’ve yet to see the butt of a revolver protruding from her jacket, nor the telltale bulge of a semi-automatic tucked into a shoulder holster.

Anyway it’s not as though reporters and pundits need to plunder a thesaurus to uncover descriptions of Palin that are more relevant than which weapons and which sports she prefers.

I don’t much care that she hunts, or that her kids play hockey.

Proficiency with firearms is not, after all, a prerequisite for the office she is seeking.

Not after Dick Cheney’s tenure, it’s not.

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Still trying to do my teacher proud

I’ve been making my own bread lately, in an effort to do more cooking from scratch. Bread, however, requires kneading — a skill many don’t need anymore thanks to the bread aisle.

The other day I was making dough, and dumped the gloopy mess on the counter to “knead until elastic, about 10 minutes.”

I set to it, molding the dough into a ball and then kneading with a motion of fold, push, fold, push, then add more flour to keep it from sticking.

My mind wanders during repetitive tasks such as this, and I remembered something from about five years ago when I took my first pottery class at Crossroads Art Center.

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Does the Constitution protect our busted lawnmowers, too?

Summer broke the other day and I went out walking in the damp dusk, sort of a lonely wake for the beloved season.

The wind had swung around to the northwest and it blew brisk and heavy with the sharp sweet scent of mint almost ready for the harvest. A versatile crop, mint — its oil adds the tang to both the chewing gum which attacks our teeth and to the fluoride-laced paste which defends our enamel against all manner of enemies.

In the field by the junior high a dozen or so kids, elementary age by the look of them, scurried about, clad in helmets and full pads. The shoulder pads, in particular, gave them ungainly and odd proportions — the broad upper body of a mature weightlifter attached to the skinny and short legs of the pre-adolescent.

Anyway it was pleasant to walk past and hear the inimitable clap of plastic pieces colliding.

Football, it seems to me, announces the imminence of autumn at least as reliably as the calendar.

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