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A Marine reminds us that even amateur poetry can possess power

It’s all too easy to sulk these days, so dire are the dispatches which daily pummel even the casual consumer of news.

The news business depends on bad tidings, of course — the assorted awfulness that afflicts our world is as essential to the media as forage is to the cattle rancher.

People complain that they’re bludgeoned by this onslaught of negativity but I think they’d miss it if went away altogether. We are, most of us, attracted by stories of disaster and despair — mainly, I suspect, because they remind us that no matter how rotten we thought things were going for us, we’re better off than those poor people who were just on TV.

This is at best a meager and brief sort of solace, but accept it.

The tenor of things has turned particularly pessimistic, it seems to me, during the second half of 2008.

There has been but little respite since the start of summer. First fuel prices rose to unprecedented heights, then the housing and financial markets sunk to levels unimaginable mere months before.

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Remembering Jeff Rogers

If you read the obituaries in Friday’s Baker City Herald you will know that Jeff Rogers died last Tuesday.  You might also have noted that he delivered newspapers for the Baker City Herald.

What you might not have known, unless you knew Jeff, was that he was a special kind of guy — the sort you just don’t come across often anymore.

For as long as I’ve known him, Jeff had battled kidney disease and its complications. Most people would accept that having a chronic disease, and the frequent dialysis and doctors appointments that accompanied it, would end working at any job.

But Jeff was not most people.

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Bass Pro Shops gift runs into a minor snag

Bass Pro Shops sent me a Christmas gift, which struck me as a pretty thoughtful gesture considering it’s been at least a year since I hooked a bass.

And I landed that smallmouth without the assistance of any of Bass Pro Shops’ quality products.

They didn’t pay me to write that.

Truth be told, I’ve never bought anything from the company. Not even a little bag of those black rubber worms. I’ve heard bass go for those worms almost every time. Although I suppose if you’re a famished bass there is only one time, unless you come across an angler who believes in catch-and-release. That’s the bad thing about being a fish — the likelihood that your last meal is fake.

Well, that and all the swimming.

Anyway I felt guilty as soon as I opened the envelope and read the letter from Bass Pro Shops announcing, and here I’m quoting: “We are pleased to enclose your 2009 Bass Pro Shops Media Discount Card for catalog or retail purchases.”

With all those capital letters I knew right off this was a heck of a lot better present than a Chia Pet.

Except maybe for Chia Scooby Doo.

Bass Pro Shops even spelled my name right, both on the letter’s salutation line and on the discount card (I mean Discount Card). That’s a feat rare enough that it qualifies as its own little stocking-stuffer.

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Oregon cleans up on poker, and other matters involving hands

I’ve been aware for some years that the government harbors what seems to me an unhealthy fascination with my life.

And with yours.

(I mention this only to avoid implying that there’s anything special about my life that has attracted the government’s attention. There isn’t. My exploits are, in fact, rather routine.)

Still, I was taken aback to learn that the government’s curiosity about our habits extends even to the proper care of our hands.

This has got me a little worried.

I haven’t analyzed my lathering technique in a while, for instance.

And I’m pretty sure I don’t scrub with anything like the violence necessary to dislodge every germ.

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Bend might be worthy of bypassing, but its beauty has endured

A couple decades ago you could bypass Bend if you wanted to, except you never did.

In most years during the 1980s my family traveled east every Thanksgiving from our home in Stayton, over the North Santiam River and through the Cascades to Sunriver, where we rented a house for the long weekend.

Back then Bend was small enough that the one main route through town — Highway 97 — was sufficient to handle even heavy holiday traffic. There were an awful lot of signals, sure, but the delays were of a tolerable duration.

If anything, the brief interlude as we traversed Bend only heightened my sense of anticipation for Sunriver and its fabulous (to a kid and, occasionally, to an orthopedist) sledding hills and sleeping lofts. I remember how my heart would beat a little faster when our car cleared the last intersection and the roadside pines appeared and the sign for the High Desert Museum loomed out of the darkness (it was almost always dark, because we left after school on the day before the holiday).

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It’s Civil War week: What better time for a little harmless hatred?

I quite severely, and with considerable malice aforethought, do not much care for the Oregon State Beavers.

Forgive me my lack of directness.

I strive as a rule to avoid murkiness in my writing, although I know of no filter that can grab every bit of grammatical grit before it fouls the page.

But it is, after all, the holiday season.

And it occurs to me that this is perhaps not the most appropriate time to employ unequivocal yet unfriendly verbs such as despise, detest and abhor.

Except it is Civil War week as well as Thanksgiving week.

And I graduated from the University of Oregon.

And the subject, after all, is only football.

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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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